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KTS_Night

Today’s post represents the third in a series of posts about my time as a student at Knox Theological Seminary (KTS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I originally wrote about KTS and the controversy concerning Warren Gage in a 2008 book published by the Trinity Foundation titled Imagining a Vain Thing: The Decline and Fall of Knox Seminary.

In the ten years that have elapsed since I wrote the book under the guidance of the late Dr. John W. Robbins, my conviction that what I wrote was correct remains unchanged. I stand by the book, all of it.

That said, ten years is time enough for further reflection, and it seemed good to me to write a series of posts to share with readers some of the big-picture lessons that can be taken from the disaster that overtook KTS in the fall of 2007.

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KTS_Night

As a continuation of last week’s post, I’d like to look a few more larger lessons that can be drawn from the events surrounding the decline and fall of Knox Theological Seminary (KTS). As a student at the school in the fall of 2006, my stay there, however brief, allowed me to witness part of the drama firsthand.

Last week, I outlined a couple lessons, the first of which was that God is faithful to his people, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a personal testimony to this, I related how my stay at KTS allowed me to meet John Robbins and, with his guidance, to write the manuscript for what would become the book Imagining a Vain Thing: The Decline and Fall of Knox Seminary. To that point in my life, it never once occurred to me that I would ever be an author. The fact that this actually happened is something that still to this day strikes me with amazement. I didn’t go to seminary planning to write a book. I had gone there to study for the ministry. But God had a different plan.

A second lesson Christians can take from the problems at KTS is the danger Roman Catholic trained faculty pose to Protestant institutions of learning. Dr. Warren Gage, the central figure in the decline and fall of KTS, nominally was a Presbyterian, but his cast of mind was distinctly Roman Catholic. In part this can be attributed to the fact that he took his Ph.D from the University of Dallas, a Roman Catholic school. But Dr. Gage is certainly not the only professor at a Protestant school to have received his professional training at a Roman Catholic or Jesuit university. These Romanist trained teachers pose a genuine threat to the doctrinal soundness of the Protestant colleges and seminaries where they are employed.

But as important as these lesson are, they are not the only ones that can be taken from the unfortunate events at KTS. So let us move on to continue some additional points.

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KTS_Night

Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This past week I had the privilege of recording a podcast interview with two new friends and brothers in Christ, Tim Shaughnessy and Carlos Montijo, the hosts of the Semper Reformanda Radio
podcast.

The subject of our interview was a book I wrote – unbelievably for me to think this, ten years ago – titled Imagining a Vain Thing: The Decline and Fall of Knox Seminary. As the title states, the subject of the book is about the events that transformed Knox Theological Seminary (KTS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a school founded by D. James Kennedy and subject to the session of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC), from a school noted for its fidelity to Scripture to an institution that speaks forth quite a different message.

In the book, I recounted the events in some detail. Here, I’ll give you the short version, which runs something like this: Contrary to Dr. Kennedy’s best judgment, in 2002 the school hired Dr. Warren Gage to teach Old Testament and head the schools new Culture and Christianity program. Dr. Gage, who had recently taken his Ph.D from the Roman Catholic University of Dallas, had a distinctly unreformed view of hermeneutics and typology, ideas which he had expressed very clearly in his doctoral dissertation. Further, Dr. Gage carried these ideas over into this teaching at KTS. Although the school officially backed Gage’s distinctive, and Roman Catholic influenced, teaching, there was an undercurrent of resistance.

In May 2007, a graduate of the school approached Dr. R. Fowler White with her concerns about Gage, prompting an investigation by Dr. White into Gage’s teaching. The report resulting from White’s investigation concluded, correctly I must emphasize, that 1) Gage taught, contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith, that individual passages of Scripture have more than on meaning, and 2) he regularly disparaged logic and systematic theology in the classroom.

As a result of the report’s findings, the Executive Committee of the KTS Board of Directors wanted to terminate Gage’s employment at the school.  This was the correct decision, which it had stuck, likely would have saved KTS.  Unfortunately, the full board voted to suspend Gage with full pay rather than to fire him.  During his time away from the school, Gage was supposed to “contemplate his willingness to subordinate himself fully to the doctrinal standards of the Seminary and the P.C.A.,” according to a letter written by R.C. Sproul, Interim Chairman of the Board of Knox Seminary, to the Session of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

But instead of taking time to think about, and repent of, his many glaring theological errors, Gage, a trained lawyer with many years of practice to his credit,  used this opportunity to overturn his suspension by making appeal to the Session of CRPC.  Gage’s five years at the school had allowed him to insinuate himself into the KTS community, and, with the help of his supporters, not only was he able to have his suspension reversed, but, quite remarkably, was able to oust all those who had opposed him, both on the Board of Directors and among the faculty 

After the remarkable events in the fall of 2007, Dr. Gage went on to teach at KTS through the 2013-2014 academic year, retiring from the school in the spring of 2014. One ironic twist to the story is that during this nearly seven year period, Gage went on to serve as Dean of Faculty at the school that had once very nearly fired him.  

In addition to the book and the 2014 Trinity Review I wrote at the time Gage retired, I have on occasion published blog posts on KTS (see here, here and here). But until last week’s interview, admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve publically commented on, or privately thought much about, KTS. Yet after talking to Carlos and Tim, I realized that there are some aspects of my time at KTS that are worth reviewing. Specifically, I believe there are important general lessons that Christians can take from my experience at seminary and the larger events that upended KTS back in 2007. I’d like to take this occasion to set them forth.

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Foreign Policy_Syria2

Before and after in Aleppo.

The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us.

– Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States , 1850 State of the Union Address

Back during the 2012 Presidential campaign, I wrote a post critical of an article by Uri Friedman, who showed his utter disdain for candidate Ron Paul by accusing him of invoking the Millard Fillmore doctrine, which as the quote above indicates, is the application of the Golden Rule to foreign policy. Fillmore, notes Friedman, was “undistinguished” and “uninspiring” and self-evidently not worthy of emulation in any respect. Friedman goes on to write that Paul was both booed an laughed at when he presented his version of the “Golden Rule” approach to foreign policy on the campaign trail.

It is absurd to think that the Golden Rule has anything whatsoever to do with foreign policy, so opines Friedman. And not only is it wrong to suggest that it does, but it’s actually laughable. This we know because Millard Fillmore believed the Golden Rule was the standard for a proper policy and it’s just obvious that Millard Fillmore was a dunce, a boob and a fool. What is more, so are all those, such as Ron Paul, who follow him. That’s the sum of Friedman’s argument, who, as one writing in Foreign Policy, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, could be said to be echoing the views of the American foreign policy establishment.

Perhaps if the accomplishments of America’s foreign policy establishment – dating back to the Spanish American War at the end of the 19th century, America’s leaders have rejected the nation’s original foreign policy of staying out of foreign wars in favor of a policy of interventionism – were more impressive, it would make sense to give ear to Friedman’s snarky dismissal of Fillmore and Paul. But after more than a century of foreign wars that seem only to set the stage for the next conflict, perhaps it’s worth asking just how much the sages at the Council on Foreign Relations actually know about foreign policy. It seems the this author that the answer is, not very much at all.

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John RobbinsThe following sermon was preached by John Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi Tennessee. Last week I featured part one of this sermon.  Today, I present part two. To read part one, please click here. The transcription is my own.

– Steve Matthews

Well, Luke continues in verse five,

Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee.’

Well, these women are terrified. These men suddenly appear, and the women are terrified. Luke says they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. And the angels speak to them and say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

This reminds you of the opening chapter of Acts, where Luke is telling about the apostles watching Jesus being assumed into heaven. And two men again appear, maybe the same two angels, and speak to the apostles, and they say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here staring up into heaven?” They ask them a question again. And here the angels ask the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. And then they tell them, “He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke to you.” And this makes it clear about the important of words. See, we’re told in the first chapter of John that the Word preceded the visible creation, that everything that was created was preceded by the Word. The Word comes first, the Logos comes first. And many people get everything backwards, they think events, or history, or creation come first, rather than the Word.

But notice here no one witnesses the resurrection event. And what the women receive are words from the angels. They’re told specifically, “He is not here. He is risen. He is living. He’s not among the dead.” And then the angels remind them of Jesus’ own words that he spoke while he was still with him. Their faith rests on the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of the angels. The women did not see the resurrection event, but they received these words from Christ and from the angels.

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John Robbins

John W. Robbins

The following sermon was preached by John Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi Tennessee. Please click here to read part two.  The transcription is my own.

-Steve Matthews

And now Luke moves on in his narrative to the resurrection. Then he begins by saying it happened on the first day of the week. And there’s a Jewish idiom here, it’s the first of the Sabbaths. And it’s a phrase that appears in the Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1 and Luke 24:1, it’s called the first day of the Sabbaths or the first of the Sabbaths. From now on this will be the important day. This is what John calls the Lord’s Day. This is why we meet on Sunday and not on Saturday, because this has taken on the characteristics of the most important day of the week. This is the day that Jesus rises from the dead.

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning,” Luke says, “they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb brining the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” Christ had dies on the sixth day of the week, on Friday, he was in paradise that day and the entire next day, and then early in the morning on the first day of the week he rises from the dead.

Luke says these women, and they’re named in the previous chapter, they go very early in the morning. John says in John 20 verse 1 that they leave when it is still dark, yet dark. And some people have, again, tried to make contradictions in the Bible by saying the various evangelists say well it was at dawn, and John says it was while it was still dark, and another Gospel says it was when the sun was rising. Well, these women had to travel. And they left when it was still dark and when they got there the sun had risen. And it’s very easy. If people would just think about what’s going on in these narratives, all these so-called contradictions and problems would disappear. The women can’t transport themselves like they do on Star Trek from one place to another instantaneously. It takes a while for them to travel, to get together, to pack up their spices and to arrive at the tomb. And so you would expect a variation between the time they leave to the time they arrive there. Which is what the four narratives say.

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