Nullifying the Word of God for the sake of academic reputation...

This is a post showing how (it seems to me) shame over the Bible's history of Creation has led to the (maybe) decline of Covenant Theological Seminary. But first, a short back-story...

Some time back I had a man in my congregation who had grown up Baptist and was pursuing graduate studies in science. One weekend he was home visiting his childhood church and he came under the influence of John Armstrong who--whether through preaching or conversation, I don't know--convinced him to stop graduate studies in science and begin graduate studies in theology. Being PCA at the time, I encouraged him to go to the PCA's Covenant Seminary over in St. Louis and he matriculated there a year or so later.

Watching him across the years is part of the reason I've warned people to avoid Covenant. There's more to say than this, but two things are worth highlighting... 

First, after a year or so at Covenant, this young man let it be known that he intended to teach on the seminary level. My brother and I are of the conviction that almost no one should teach on the seminary level who has not served faithfully in the work of the ministry for a number of years. The Church doesn't need more scholar-scholars training shepherds, but pastor-scholars. Or rather scholar-pastors. So I warned this young man not to let the scholarly world turn his head as it's turned so many young men's heads these past fifty years. I encouraged him to go and work as a shepherd for a decade or so. Then, if God has blessed you with fruitful ministry, think about returning to the seminary as a teacher where you'll teach, not with the heart of an academic but the heart of a shepherd.

This was my theme in several conversations we had during his first couple years of seminary, but each time he was resistant to my counsel. He explained he didn't need to be a pastor to do a good job training men for the ministry. It might be helpful for me to add that my counsel was not disconnected from my knowledge of this man's strengths and weaknesses. Although I believe the principle of serving in the ministry prior to teaching in a seminary is generally true, I admit to certain exceptions. Yet as his pastor, it was clear to me this man was not one of those exceptions.

Second, a couple years later I called this young man to ask if any professors at Covenant would be willing to work with a team of scholars and pastors who were opposing sex-neutered Bibles? At the time we were putting together a coalition to warn Christians of Zondervan's neutering of the New International Version which, back then, was almost the only Bible used in Evangelical churches. We also had started working to get the copyright for the Revised Standard Version so we could issue a new Bible version that would not cave to the feminists on the male inclusive.

This young man recommended a Covenant prof who had influenced him quite a bit named Jack Collins. He said Jack might be willing to join the fight, so I contacted Jack and he became part of the team. Some wealthy men who had been supporting our work at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood agreed to fund the work of editing the RSV and Jack joined that work also. (A few years later, Lane Dennis's publishing company in Wheaton issued the revised RSV under the name English Standard Version.)

Over the years I've asked myself why men choose the academy over the pastorate? I've worked closely with a lot of Evangelical Theological Society scholars and it seems to me a number of those men have a jealous disdain for the ministry. Jealous in that they lack the love of souls that motivates shepherds to continue to feed and admonish wayward and unruly sheep (such as ourselves). They wish they were lovers of souls, but they know they're not and this produces some envy of those who are gifted with this leadership.

But there's also a disdain and this is more visible. Like many of us, scholars are in love with their strengths and prefer to get their paychecks using their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Further, they have spent years listening to preaching and teaching from men they consider loveable ignoramuses and they find it a terrible embarrassment. Their primary orientation is the Academy and they die a thousand deaths over the shame pastors cause them when pastors aren't sufficiently nuanced in what they say or write. So they set out to change all that by training future pastors what not to say and how not to say it.

Did I mention this young man was a strong advocate of evolution? A number of times he told me of his intense opposition to those who believed the Bible's history of God creating the heavens and the earth. (Of course he'd nuance that statement quite a bit if he were the one writing it.)

All the above is prelude to the following.

Firing professors is a mark of a seminary that's still alive just as excommunication is a mark of a church that is still alive. A few years ago Westminster Theological Seminary in Philly fired Peter Enns for (as I see it) rejecting the authority and inspiration of Scripture.

Since leaving Westminster, Peter Enns has been out there preaching the Gospel of Scripture's errors, and (we see below) focussing on those most embarrassing to intellectuals contained in the first few chapters of God's Word. Peter Enns thinks Christians should give themselves to a new metanarrative concerning Gaia's origins. (Of course he doesn't actually call it "Gaia.")

Enter the PCA's Jack Collins who has written a book titled Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Peter Enns recently reviewed Collins's book and here are a few things he says about (what I see as) Jack's apologia for evolution:

I commend Collins for attempting to bring under one roof the truth of evolution as the proper paradigm for explaining human origins and the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

You see where this is headed, right? Question: is Collins's "one roof" the roof of the Church or the roof of the Academy?

Collins is professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, the denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church of America (in which he is ordained). The document that governs their theological deliberations is the seventeenth-century Westminster Confession of Faith, which clearly stipulates a first couple. I commend Collins for the courage to engage this group in a conversation about evolution.

Question: just yesterday, wasn't Enns doctrinally subscribed to the Westminster Confession of Faith? How is it, then, that he's now referring to the Wesminster Confession as "their" and "this group's" commitment? Are paychecks this powerful in changing a man's confession of faith?

Collins's synthesis requires an ad hoc hybrid "Adam" who was "first man" in the sense of being either a specially chosen hominid or a larger tribe of early hominids (Collins is careful not to commit himself to either option).

Question: was the Apostle Paul wrong when he wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)

Was he also wrong when he wrote,

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21, 22)

But bright men assure us that "one man" Adam (Peter Enns reports) could well have been a "tribe of early hominids."

Peter Enns sees the dance and names the tune:

Although I am sympathetic to Collins's efforts to blaze such a path... I do not see how such an ad hoc Adam will calm doctrinal waters, since the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple [Adam and Eve] read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul, and therefore entails a clear rejection of evolutionary theory.

Question: if the man relieved of his duties at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia is able to see and name (what he sees as) the betrayal of Scripture and the Westminster Standards by Jack Collins, why is Jack still teaching at Covenant? Surely there's no lingering doubt about Jack's views being incompatible with Biblical faith. Why should Covenant allow errors that Westminster repudiates?

...this type of hybrid "Adam," clearly driven by the need to account for an evolutionary model, is not the Adam of the biblical authors.

Peter Enns shows great perspicacity concerning Jack Collins's denial of the perspicacity of Scripture.

Ironically, the desire to protect the Adam of scripture leads Collins (and others) to create an Adam that hardly preserves the biblical portrait. Evolution and a historical Adam cannot be merged by positing an Adam so foreign to the biblical consciousness.

"The Biblical consciousness?" This is simply awful. There is no Biblical consciousness. There is the Holy Spirit of God--He is everywhere in and through and around the Word of God. Again, note how easily Enns recognizes Collins's repudiation of Scripture.

Then we're off to the flood story:

Collins spends much time discussing the mythicized history of the flood story.

Can anyone be surprised that the man who (as reported by Enns) argues Adam may be a tribe of hominids also "spends much time discussing the mythicized history of the Flood" contained in "the flood story?"

That sneaky little word 'story' shows which side of the oxymoronic "mythicized history" Enns and Collins fall on.

...the hybrid "Adam" Collins leaves us with is most certainly not the Adam of these biblical authors (Enns's emphasis)

Again, such clarity on the part of the man relieved of duties at Wesminster concerning the doctrinal commitments of Covenant's Old Testament prof. Why couldn't it have been another Covenant prof blowing the whistle? Why couldn't it have been Covenant's president? Or Jack Collins's presbytery? Or even one of Covenant's trustees?

Collins ...finds creative—but unconvincing—pathways through various scholarly terrains to support a first pair of some sort... (and the) possible plausibility of the traditional position.

Enns reports that a prof of Old Testament who helped pull together the ESV is arguing for a first pair of some sort and the possible plausibility of the traditional position on Creation.

Let us remember that, after praying all night, our Lord chose long-haul truck drivers and Gloucester fishermen and IRS agents as His Apostles. And trembling, let us keep in mind His terrible warning concerning the elders, pastors, preachers, seminary professors, and Bible scholars of His day:

"'But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men." (Jesus) was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition" (Mark 7:7-9).

(TB)

Comments

To paraphrase Leonard Ravenhill, "We keep sending young men off to cemeteries (I mean seminaries), where they get fat heads and shrunken souls".

Does it have to mean he was wrong, just because he didn't want to take your advice?

>>Does it have to mean he was wrong, just because he didn't want to take your advice?

No, I could well have been wrong. And maybe I am, still--judge for yourself.

Love,

The passage from Mark 7 sums it up nicely.

I'm reminded of the "pro-choice" Catholics who protest "the church" position on abortion. If they don't believe what "the church" teaches they should leave.

In the same manner, if professing Christians don't believe what the Bible teaches in Genesis, Romans and elsewhere they should leave and call themselves by another name.

"... if professing Christians don't believe what the Bible teaches in Genesis, Romans and elsewhere they should leave and call themselves by another name."

No, no, no.

That would mean starting all over again. From scratch. No way, that way, to cabbage on to the endowments (money, dontcha know!) that attach to historic congregations and institutions (semenaries, colleges, and the like).

And how 'bout those historic chairs of theology and Bible exposition? Can't give those up. They're just chock full of status, reputation, social standing, and all that sort of thing. You know ... the stuff that takes generations of polishing before the candlelight glows in the patina on the silver.

Oh, yes, that made me remember the wine cellars! Can't give those up. Why there's cases of 100-year old port down in the sub-basement! Of course, if you're Baptist liberals, you won't have any wine cellars. Maybe not if you're Presbyterian. But, we Anglicans ... we know a thing or two about fine old port. Sherry too.

The point: never begin to build that sort of thing in your own lifetime. You'll never live long enough to see it. Far, far better to co-opt the fine stuff from those clueless fundamentalists, who can always be persuaded to compromise, or to abandon these fine things. Let THEM start from scratch!

Read James Barr's Fundamentalism, as see that the so-called conservative evangelical scholars are all Liberals when they are with their guilds, that is, away from their churches. They just keep silent about their real allegiances when they are with ordinary Christians..

For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will nullify."

Where is the learned?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.

Fr Bill,

I gave a similar answer to those who wondered why the Re-Imagining Crones didn't just start their own religion/denomination back in the 90s. Coincidentally, both they and CBE had offices in the same building.

#5, #6

There's a wider debate to be had about what the best way is to train ministers, and whether two years in a Bible College is enough, as it generally was for the Pentecostal church I grew up in; and a lot of their better pastors didn't even have that. When do diminishing returns kick in?

Not so co-incidentally, there's a row going on in the Fundamentalist community at the moment as to whether *their* equivalent institutions are losing the plot in much the same way as you outline here.

This almost made me laugh. You're criticizing Jack Collins for writing a book, which defends the orthodox position and the biblical text on the historical Adam issue, based on an unfavorable review by Peter Enns? As Dr. Collins is known to say in class, "Don't hear what I'm not saying." Missing from what seems to be a lovely ad hominem attack on a fellow PCA TE is actual description of errors in Dr. Collins' book, since all you have is innuendo regarding his orthodoxy. I recall months ago when Dr. Collins' remarks weren't controversial enough to be included in an NPR report, when Christianity Today had their front page story on this issue. Is this the strategy, then, of questioning anyone whose position differs from you?

>>anyone whose position differs from you?

Dear Kenneth,

The question is not my opinion, but the written Word of God. It is revealing for you to summarize this post as being about personal opinions when the central issue is the historicity of Adam. Turn back to Scripture, dear brother.

It says, Scripture says, God says.

Love,

kennethos,

To be sure, we should give men like Dr. Collins all the credit they deserve and judge them on their own merits rather then by their critics. On those terms, we still observe that Dr. Collins hedges on whether or not Adam was the first created human being and suggests that Adam might be considered merely the head of a tribal confederation of proto-humans. This may be upholding an historical Adam, but it denies the biblical, confessional Adam. We may laud Dr. Collins for seeking to gain support from fellow scholars on a historical Adam, but I would suggest that Enns' response indicates that little has actually been gained. The reality is that evolution cannot be arrived at from the biblical text but must be imported into the text from the (apparently) higher authority of secular science. Once this maneuver is completed -- as it must be for Christians who deny the biblical and confessional view of Adam in deference to evolution -- the authority of Scripture is gone, except where secular culture grants it permission to speak. We may think that for the present we have only lost a little matter of the biblical Adam, we should realize that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is no more acceptable to the now-superior standard of secularist dogma. If we really want credit from the culture for being cooperative with science, I am afraid the resurrection will also have to go. What Christianity will we then have left?

>>we should give men like Dr. Collins all the credit they deserve and judge them on their own merits rather then by their critics.

Actually, our problem isn't that we fail to give credit as men deserve, but that we fail to honor God and His Word as is His due. And lacking zeal for God and His Word, we fail to give men like Dr. Collins all the discredit he deserves.

Speaking of which, Peter Enns is no critic, but an admirer of Jack Collins.

Love,

"The question is not my opinion, but the written Word of God. It is revealing for you to summarize this post as being about personal opinions when the central issue is the historicity of Adam. Turn back to Scripture, dear brother. It says, Scripture says, God says."

When I read the blog post, it was interesting to see that you did not interact with Dr. Collin's work, but rather a review of it. Then you criticized the man, not his words. This indicated to me that it was about your views of him, and not the historicity of Adam, which he was defending. If I have mistaken the intent of your post, I apologize, perhaps it was not clear enough in not being an attack on him, but something else.

>>you criticized the man, not his words...

Bait and switch, sir. Earlier you complained of my "questioning anyone whose position differs from (me)," but now you're complaining that I'm criticizing the man rather than his position. So which is it?

"The man?"

Or the man's "position that differs from me?"

And if you want to change from the second to the first, that's fine as long as you admit that change.

Love,

Guys, this ain't rocket science. It's old as the hills and three times as dusty. It's yawn-inducing. It's positively soporific.

But for those who have cultivated their ability to miss the obvious...

Either the PCA is a confessional community that allows men to posit Adam as a tribe of hominids, or it doesn't allow it.

This position Jack posits in his book is no novelty to the PCA. If my esteemed colleagues will allow me to point it out without having paid to sit through his Adademy for Christian Thought lectures at Redeemer, this has long been Ron Choong's dogmatic position which he says Tim Keller's been fine with for well over a decade, now:

***********************

All my views about Adam and Eve have been published for more than 10 years and Redeemer as a church as well as Dr Keller as a minister have never had any objections to my non-doctrinal interpretations. This means that while I hold to a certain view of who Adam might mean, no church doctrine in the history of the church has ever made this a litmus test of faith. No one should get their knickers in a twist over whether Adam was a collective or a singularity. We simply have no idea, so we go with evidence from as broad a compass as possible. To cite 'biblical evidence' is naive. The Bible does not offer evidence. It offers trustworthy 'accounts' by those who believe and should not be degenerated to become 'evidence. This cheapens the high view of scriptures that we ought to hold...

For me, that Adam is a collective name is so satisfying because it explains a great deal about the loving God whose mightiness science is only just beginning to appreciate. I hope one day, you too will marvel at the greatness and goodness of God.

Indeed, anyone who has attended any seminary will soon learn that no creedal statements about the specific identity of Adam exists. The name is not mentioned in any ancient creed and Paul uses the word metaphorically (it is a good idea to do some real, reputable reading of the NT commentaries)."

***********************

Elsewhere Choong, a Teaching Elder of the PCA's Metro New York Presbytery, tells us his work as a "philosophical theologian of science (paleoanthropogenesis and neuroscience of consciousness and memory) is based on this view that a philosophical convergence between science and theology lies at the heart of responsible biblical interpretation."

We all have to admit where he's coming from, right? And Covenant throws its weight behind Redeemer.

So then, which is it, fathers and brothers?

If it's allowable to posit Adam as a tribe of hominids, then Jack's in the right place and doing quite fine, thank you.

If it's not allowable to posit Adam as a tribe of hominids, then Jack's in the wrong place and needs to be fired, thank you.

Love,

If Adam is not a historical figure and a singular man (as opposed to a group of hominids), then the genealogy of our Lord found in Luke is nonsense, for it reads (3:38) "the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God." Are all the members of the lineage up to Adam specific individuals, while Adam is but a group? If "Adam" is a group, which of the group sired Seth? Or maybe Seth was a "group" too, and maybe even Jesus himself was not an individual, but a stylized symbol of something or other. The fact is, once you start dissecting Scripture in this way, there is no logical stopping point and you might as well pitch the entire thing.

Pastor Tim asked in a recent sermon why institutions such as Harvard and Princeton--bastions of orthodoxy when they were founded as seminaries--went bad. Scripture itself provides the answer: I Cor. 8:1.

It does my faith irreparable damage to accept Jesus of Nazareth as my 2nd Adam while simultaneously accepting a collection of hominids as my 1st Adam. Is Jesus' righteousness a collective righteousness?

In that case, Scripture is wrong, Jesus dies only for Himself, and we are yet in our sins. By such compromises the Christian faith is thrown under the bus by very unfaithful men, who themselves are supported by unfaithful men.

Thanks, Baylys.

What's with the "it seems to me" and the "maybe"?

"was the Apostle Paul wrong when he wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?"

Enns answer is yes, Paul was wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_daT7chLPZE

Tim & Dave,
Don't malign Jack Collins from a Enns review. I attended the wedding of Jack's daughter, and he gave copies of the book to all of us. I read it and did not find him advocating a "group Adam" in the book. This is Enns' straw man with which he contrasts his "mythic Adam" in his book. And Enns was a wolf in sheep's clothing at Westminster Seminary, so his "coming out" at Biologos (before they fired him) is closer to his real character. In other words, Enns has been misrepresenting himself and others for a very long time, so you should not draw any great conclusions from his review. I read Enns review and it made me so mad, I was about to write my own review of Collin's book. My feeling was that it was very "snarky".

And there may be many bad things about Covenant that I don't know about, but I don't think Collins is your opponent. All indications are that he's one of the good guys.

Finally, evolution is less compatible with the Bible than egalitarianism. And evolution is even less compatible, if possible, with pastoring than it is with the Bible, because evolution makes even less sense for people than Skinnerian psychology--another materialist philosophy. So in one sense, if your friend is a evolutionist, the only place he can go is into the academy. That is the only safe place for evolutionists, because only in the ivory tower can Darwin's armchair biology make any sense.

>>I don't think Collins is your opponent.

Dear Brother,

This is nothing personal. It has to do with God and His Word, as I've said again and again. If Jack is faithful to the words of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, then he's the enemy of science. If he's unfaithful to the words of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, then he's the enemy of God. Concerning Adam, there's no middle ground and it's hard to imagine Jack writing a paper, let alone a book, without making it clear which side he stands on.

And the members and elders of Christ's Church will know which uniform Jack is wearing even if the pastors claim not to recognize it due to firm allegiance to their alma mater.

For myself, I have no question that Jack's work will end up leading believers away from greater trust in the Word of God even while he claims to be leading other intellectuals toward greater openness to the Word of God.

The Early Church didn't do apologetics in this way and God honored her. The spat between Roman Catholic Collins One and PCA Collins Two is not demonstrating any sort of zeal or witness or faith like that of the Church fathers.

Well over ninety-nine percent of believers today haven't the slightest problem believing the actual words of the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1 and 2, and I'm trusting God to be faithful through His shepherds' work guarding His flock, that they will use their rods and staffs to run Jack off before he convinces the sheep otherwise.

Love,

Dr. Collins' purpose for being at Covenant is presumably to train pastor/teachers of God's Word who will in turn teach the bread of life to pilgrims in this land. Just came across this from J.C. Ryle which puts this whole business in pastoral perspective:
"Let us regard all who would damage the authority of the Bible, or impugn its credit, as spiritual robbers. We are traveling through a wilderness: they rob us of our only guide. We are voyaging over a stormy sea: they rob us of our only compass. We are toiling over a weary road: they pluck our staff out of our hands. And what do these spiritual robbers give us in place of the Bible? What do they offer as a safer guide and better provision for our souls? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Big swelling words! Empty promises of new light! High sounding jargon; but nothing substantial and real! They would willingly take from us the bread of life, and they do not give us in its place so much as a stone. Let us turn a deaf ear to them."

If men want to engage in the free and unfettered exploration of their intellectual curiosities perhaps the pastor's college of a confessional church is not the place.

This doesn't make any sense:

"If Jack is faithful to the words of Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, then he's the enemy of science."

I could see how fidelity to the Word could make him an enemy of most scientists today, or the "scientific consensus," as such that it exists, but an "enemy of science" itself? Isn't science merely the discovery of the ways in which God has ordered the universe? How could any of us be an enemy of that? Your blanket statement makes you sound like a hole in the ground fundamentalist, which I know you're not. We mustn't fear science.

I think that Pastor Tim meant that a man who is faithful to the words of Scripture is an enemy of Scientism--which is the idolatrous worship of Science, as opposed to science itself. Evolution being the lynchpin of the Scientistic system, an attempt like this to reconile God's Holy Scripture with Scientism's holy empirical speculations (evolution) is like trying to reconcile light with darkness. It's a fool's errand, and there's no middle ground. You'll either honor the Holy Word of God, or the holy writ of Science.

Dear Mr. Jones,

Please note the qualifier--"concerning Adam, there's no middle ground." In other words, Jack's hard work to get God's Adam to fit man's Scientism (thanks Abram) is utter foolishness and leaves both Godism and Scientism behind. Enns nails this.

Love,

No quarrel there. I like Abram's phrase "holy empirical speculations." I don't know why so-called defenders of science can't recognize that "holy empirical speculations" aren't science at all. If science stuck with what is actually empirically quantifiable, there'd be no friction at all.

How does this align with the whole debate with Galileo about the earth moving around the sun? Are we cheapening our faith in Scripture by reading into it that the sun actually didn't stand still in Joshua, and rather making our interpretation fit with scientific discoveries? How do we determine that one is wrong, but that the other is acceptable?

If confidence in the Word of God means that I must believe that the earth is still, I will do it. I have heard this argument against trusting the words of God before and looked into the matter, and I have not found an objection to the earth standing still that holds up. I am not impressed with what I've read of the history of the world's change of opinion on the matter either (not a lot of science going on).

Mr. Codling, you may know that there is a lot of baggage and a lot of assumptions involved when you start talking about the "Eppur si muove" question. If you or anyone wishes to start tossing some It-can't-be-so-becauses or Well-then-you-must-also-believe-this-clearly-absurd-thingses, I'll be happy to bat them as long as I can till I get to the end of what I've studied.

On the other hand, if we refuse to consider the question because of what men will think of us... may the Lord give us more courage than that.

My scariest moment so far was the day I told my wife. Turns out though that she doesn't really care what's at the center of the solar system. Matters more to her whether I'm loving her and how the kids are doing day to day...

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