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Archive for the ‘Knox Seminary’ Category

A glance at the website of Knoxt Theological Seminary (hereafter, Knox) reveals that the Fort Lauderdale based school, founded in 1989, is celebrating its first 25 years by “Honoring the Legacy.” The school certainly seems to be doing well. The website is attractive and up to date. According to one of the banner headlines on the website, Knox was named as one of the “Top 20 Theological Seminaries in the U.S.” by Sharefaith Magazine. This, or course, may very well be true. But it leaves open the question whether Knox actually teaches the truth in its classrooms, which is the only real test of whether the seminary is, in fact, actually honoring its legacy.

Princeton Theological Seminary was, until taken over by the liberals in the first few decasdes of the 20th centry, long the foremost bastion of reformed teaciing in the United States. When he founded Knox in 1989, Dr. D. James Kennedy envisioned that the school would serve as a New Princeton. A school that combined both the Biblical faith and rigorous scholarship that were the hallmarks of the Old Princeton. This was the original vision and true legacy of Knox.

Coming back to that “Top 20” ranking by Sharefaith, a qucik glance at the complete Top 20 list raises the question whether the Knox of 2014 is truly honoring its legacy or simply living off its reputation . For listed right along side Knox on the Top 20 list are such bastions of Biblical truth as Fuller Theological Seminary, The University of Chicago Divinity School and the University of Notre Dame. Does anyone familiar with original vision for Knox really think that the school’s legacy is honored by comparing it to Fuller, the University of Chicago or Notre Dame? If not, why does the Knox administration think so? The answer is simple, the current vision for Knox is not the original vision, but those who run the school hope you won’t notice the difference.

I’ve written at some lenght about Knox in the past (see, here, here, here, here, here, and here). For those unfamiliar with Knox, the history of the school falls into two distinct periods: 1989 through September 2007, post-September 2007. I use this framework, for it was in September 2007 that the original vision for Knox as a New Princeton was supplanted by a new, decidedly different vision. Those intersted in the details may follow the links at the top of this paragraph. But for an apples to apples comparison that makes manifiest the radical difference between the true legacy of Knox and the current school, one could hardly do better than comparing the Academic catalogs of the old and new Knox.

Having attended Knox in the Fall of 2006, I will let my copy of the 2006 Academic catalog stand for the Old Knox. For the new Knox, please reference the electronic version available on the Knox website.

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Puritans!

I’m always amazed at how the terms “Puritan” and “puritanical” have become universal pejoratives applied to anyone or anything the speaker or writer deems a killjoy. Those who so easily hurl these terms about, have they ever read a puritan writer? Do they know anything about the puritans? I mean anything apart from pop culture references or their memories of reading The Scarlet Letter in 10th grade English class?

I was happened upon a financial commentary today by Art Cashin, a well know Wall Street figure. I don’t claim to know Mr. Cashin, but he seems like a decent sort of fellow. Today, however, he wrote something in his market commentary that irked me a bit, Cashin wrote, “To celebrate stop by the Boston Grog Inn and explain to the Puritan on the next stool that sugar can be dangerous before it’s distilled,” as though the Puritans were a bunch of teetotalers. Cashin seems to be confusing the Puritans, who were by no means teetotalers, with 19th century prohibitionists, who were by no means Puritans.

Of course, I can’t be too hard on Mr. Cashin. Even in supposedly Evangelical circles, the Puritans are often slandered. When I was at Knox Seminary, which advertised itself as a Presbyterian and Reformed school, I had a professor who took shots at the Puritans, whining about how they shut down theaters in England and lacked poetic imagination. Of course, since we all know how morally upstanding the theater is, I can’t imagine why any group of Christians might be concerned about it. As for poetic imagination, this technique was the basis for the professor’s method of biblical interpretation. Which went something like this: Develop a slick sounding narrative that’s to your liking and then impose it on the text of Scripture regardless whether the actual Biblical text supports it. So yes, my Knox professor was entirely correct. The Puritans did indeed lack poetic imagination. They actually attempted to interpret the Bible faithfully, horrible people that they were. It would seems as with Balaam and the Israelites, in seeking to curse the Puritans, my Knox professor blessed them instead.

As an object of ridicule, the Puritans have few rivals. That the world would hate and disrespect them should come as no surprise. Such has always been the reaction of carnal minds to those who seek to honor God and live by his word. As Christians, let us take care that we not adopt the prejudices and vocabulary of the world. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “puritanical” as “having the character of a Puritan.” Though usually meant as an insult, among Christians the word ought to be held in high esteem.

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“At the same moment that Jesus is being proclaimed king of Israel by the multitudes on Earth, the seventh trumpet is sounding in Heaven by an angel and a multitude of voices cry out, ‘the kingdoms of this world…’ And while there is all this noisy praise that is going on to Jesus Christ in Heaven there is all this noisy praise with the loud hosannas that is occurring at the triumphal entry on Earth. The proclamation in Heaven is accompanied with loud voices and peals of thunder. And it’s here that the heavenly and earthly scenes begin to merge…” – Steve Carpenter comparing the events of John 12 with the events of Revelation 12 during Session 4 of the January 2006 Unlocking Revelation II Conference.

When I was researching my book about Knox Seminary, one of the stranger teachings I discovered in the John-Revelation Project (JRP) – a series of “study papers” apparently co-authored by Knox Adjunct Lecturer Steve Carpenter – was its assertion that both the Gospel of John and Revelation tell the same story but from different perspectives. In other words, the authors of the JRP would have us believe that the events that take place in John are the very same events that take place in Revelation, but that John gives the earthly perspective, and Revelation the heavenly perspective on these events.

The Steve Carpenter citation at the top of this post is from a seminar that was held at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in January 2006 and was used as a forum to present material from the JRP to the general public. This, however, is not the only time that the authors of the JRP – whose leader, Warren Gage, is Dean of Faculty at Knox Seminary – have made this assertion. In JRP Study Paper Number One they wrote,

Taken together, the Fourth Gospel and Revelation constitute a literary diptych…the two books of John offer a spatial horizon depicting the creative struggle of Jesus both from the perspective of Earth (John) and of Heaven (Revelation)

The Fourth Gospel’s Joshua typology largely tracks the account of the conquest of Canaan, beginning with the crossing of the Jordan and depicting two campaigns, one in the south (Judea) and one in the north (Galilee). The climactic battle involves the struggle of Jesus as the True Joshua against the confederated enemies of God, led by Jerusalem. This epic struggle occurs, from one perspective, on Earth, depicted in the Gospel of John. Revelation portrays the same struggle from the perspective of Heaven.The Knox Seminary Faculty, JRP Study Paper No. 1, (2006); quoted in Steven T. Matthews, Imagining a Vain Thing, (Trinity Foundation, 2008), 42. Italics added.

This statement suggests that the JRP authors, Steve Carpenter among them, are Full Preterists, those who assert that all eschatological events in Revelation have already been fulfilled. I say this, because, if the authors believe that all the events in the book of John have already taken place, and John and Revelation tell the same story, by good and necessary inference the JRPers must believe that all the events in Revelation already have taken place. But the JRP authors inconsistently reject Full Preterism, claiming that there are certain passages in Revelation that pertain only to the future.

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A few months back, Stephen Welch broke the story that Knox Seminary had hired John Armstrong and Peter Leithart as adjunct faculty members.  Apparently the public outcry got the better of the fine folks in Fort Lauderdale and the school dropped the names of Armstrong and Leithart from its website.  To this day I still don’t know either one is teaching there, and, in a way, it really doesn’t matter.  The school has tipped its hand as to its theological direction, and even if the dynamic duo of Leithart and Armstrong never set foot in the school, there’s every reason to believe that KTS will manage to dredge up someone else just as offensive in the near future, all the better to advance the cause of the school’s unique brand of “reformed” theology. 

But then, I do KTS too little honor.  For in fact, this very thing has already happened.    

While surfing the Knox website this evening I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before.  A new name on the Adjunct Faculty page:  Steve Carpenter.  “Steve Carpenter, Steve Carpenter,” I thought to myself, “why does that name sound familiar?”  Then, as if in a mystic vision, it dawned on me.  That guy!  He’s one of the fellows who helped Warren Gage develop his ideas on typology, the same ideas which Gage used in his doctoral dissertation, the same ideas which he repackaged as the John-Revelation Project, the same ideas which in 2007 blew Knox Seminary apart. 

Here are few things worth noting about Carpenter and his past involvement with Gage,

  • Gage publically thanked Carpenter on the Acknowledgments page of his dissertation, writing, “Randy Beck and Steve Carpenter joined with me in this labor from the inception. Their encouragement and prayers were given to me at every step. Their insight and contributions are found on every page. What an adventure we have shared!”
  • Several of the Study Papers that comprise the John-Revelation Project list Steve Carpenter as a copyright holder, see here, here and here for examples of this.
  • Carpenter spoke at the both Unlocking Revelation conferences held by KTS. It was at these conferences, one in January 2004 and one in January 2006, that Gage – with a little help from his friends – presented his heretical typology to the general public.

“This is amazing stuff,” I thought. But then, after a little reflection, it occurred to me, “what if the Steve Carpenter on the Adjunct Faculty page is a different Steve Carpenter from the one who worked with Gage?” A little digging on the internet put that question to rest, for Steve Carpenter’s LinkedIn page identifies him as Executive Director of Word and Spirit Ministries and Adjunct Professor at Knox Seminary. From my research on Imaging a Vain Thing I know that the Steve Carpenter who helped Warren Gage write his dissertation is the same Steve Carpenter who’s with Word and Spirit Ministries, so this is for certain the same individual. Carpenter’s LinkedIn page also helped answer another question, How long has Carpenter been at Knox? According to the information posted there, Carpenter joined the faculty in 2010, so he’s a definite newbie at KTS.

None of this is really surprising. Warren Gage is nothing if not resourceful, energetic and focused. For several years now he’s had free rein to remake KTS in his own image, and the project is well on the way to completion. That being the case, there’s really nothing shocking about him bringing his posse on board. I can hardly wait to see his next move. Who knows, maybe a new and improved version of the John-Revelation Project is in the works. I can only imagine.

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– NB Last week when I began writing this post, the names of Peter Leithart and John Armstrong appeared on the Adjunct Faculty page of Knox Theological Seminary.  Since that time, perhaps in response to public outcry, these names have been scrubbed from the Knox website.  It seems that erratic administrative behavior is one of the few constants at Knox. For during the 2007 controversy involving Warren Gage, the school was treated to the absurd spectacle of the firing/suspending/and rehiring of Dr. Gage in a whirlwind of activity that was nearly impossible to follow.  In another context the Keystone Kops routine might have been funny.  But there was nothing funny about what happened at Knox.  For a seminary died, and the institution doing business under the same name is a grotesque parody of Dr. Kennedy’s dream of a new Princeton Seminary in south Florida.  Given Knox’s spastic history, I have decided to publish this post under the assumption that Leithart and Armstrong will be teaching at the school.  I could be wrong, but even if I am, Knox has tipped it hand regarding its vision for the future.  And that vision is Federal.    

Stephen Welch did us all a favor with his article Knox Theological Seminary:  A New Haven for Federal Visionists.  As a former KTS student, I’m thankful that there are discerning graduates of the school who care about the truth and are willing to state their objections to the ongoing disaster that is Knox Seminary.  But the article wasn’t the end of it.  Wes White posted it on his Johannes Weslianus blog, and this resulted in a number of interesting comments.  One in particular stood out.  Lauren wrote.

I think the FV got their foot in the door of Knox when they held the colloquium in 2004. Remember, Jesus tells us to beware of the “yeast” of the Pharisees. Paul in Galatians gives a strong warning against those who would preach another gospel. Inviting false teachers to the table and giving them a venue to spew their poison is a recipe for disaster.

The colloquium to which she refered was The Knox Theological Seminary Colloquium on the Federal Vision held in Ft. Lauderdale in August 2003.  And although Lauren made a factual error by stating that the event was held in 2004, the rest of her statement is excellent and shows a genuine insight regarding what the Bible says about the dangers of associating with false teachers and false teaching.  But not everyone sees it that way.  Dr. Calvin Beisner, who organized the colloquium and edited the book produced from the colloquium sessions titled The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros & Cons Debating the Federal Vision, replied to Lauren,

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the colloquium was the FV’s first step into Knox–other than that it was there that Gage and Leithart met [this is a reference to Warren Gage, current Dean of Faculty at KTS and Peter Leithart, noted Federal Visionist and new KTS employee]. Rather, the colloquium was where FV proponents really got called out, had to let their true colors fly, and the resulting book has provided many scholars with some of the most important primary data as to what the FVers say, as well as what some of their toughest critics were saying at that early stage.

Now this is a remarkable thing for Dr. Beisner to say, for it amounts to an admission of Lauren’s point couched in the form of a denial, “it was there that Gage and Leithart met.” But there’s more to it than that. It wasn’t as though Gage, who’s now Dean of Faculty at Knox, just happened to show up at the colloquium and run into Peter Leithart.  No, Gage himself was an active participant in the program, presumably with the blessing of Dr. Beisner.  Not as a one of the session contributors as was Leithart, who was there explicitly to promote the Federal Vision, but as worship leader – court jester would be more accurate – preaching at services held between colloquium sessions.  Dr. Beisner described Gage’s activities in these words,

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Last week Stephen Welch blogged a post titled Knox Theological Seminary:  A New Haven for Federal Visionists.  If you haven’t already done so, check it out.  It’s a good post.  The article, which also appeared here on The Aquila Report site, breaks the news that Knox Theological Seminary (KTS) has hired Federal Visionists John Armstrong and Peter Leithart.  This is certainly big news.  But to some pre-2007 KTS students , it’s not especially surprising.

At the height of the fall 2007 controversy centering on OT professor Warren Gage and his –  uh, how shall I say it – unique brand of typology, my friend Jason Grabulis started a blog focused on providing accurate news and commentary to KTS students, who had largely been kept in the dark by the administration about the details of the Gage firing/suspension/rehiring circus. Jason, writing on his now defunct Stuff That Matters blog – the administration at Knox out of their concern to keep students up to date and preserve the free flow of information forced Jason to take down the blog on pain of losing his scholarship, the truth may set you free, but at KTS it also gets you the left foot of fellowship, not to worry, though, you can find the full contents of Jason’s blog here – made the following statement on November 10, 2007,

Since some Federal Vision (and some NPP) advocates appear to endorse Dr. Gage and his hermeneutic (for instance, Peter Leithart) – since Dr. Gage’s hermeneutic does provide an exegetical basis for their theology – then will the Federal Visionists see this as an opportunity to move into Knox Seminary and establish a Federal Visionist and New Perspective on Paul institution and ministry?

Good call, Jason.  That’s insight.  Now what do you think about the odds of NT Wright being the next Knox guest of honor?  For my part, I imagine they’re pretty good.  If nothing else, the weather in Ft. Lauderdale’s got to be better than in St. Andrews.

At about the same time another former KTS student, one of Jason’s classmates, made a similar comment,  writing,

Now that Gage and his Federal-Vision-friendly teaching are firmly ensconced at Knox Theological Seminary, and his opponents Beisner, White, and Reymond, who also were opponents of the Federal Vision, are now gone from the school, Knox Seminary is in danger of becoming a bastion of Federal Vision/New Perspective on Paul teaching.  And this danger extends to the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as well.  – Imagining a Vain Thing, p.104, n.10

The predicted chickens have finally come home to roost.  And while there’s some satisfaction in being ahead of the curve regarding the doctrinal direction of KTS, that satisfaction is more than offset by the knowledge that the transformation of Knox into a Federal Vision school is no longer a future event, but a present reality.

All this raises an interesting question, now that KTS has gone FV, whither Coral Ridge?  It’s separated from Knox by no more than the breadth of N. Federal (Vision) Highway and wide open to an FV takover…if that hasn’t happened already. 

May the Lord defend the truth of his Gospel.

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