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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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Billy Graham

The body of Rev. Billy Graham, who died February 21 at age 99, lies in the Capitol Rotunda as President Donald Trump, officials and dignitaries pay tribute to America’s most famous evangelist, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Washington.  (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press) 

In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king…And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like his father David (2 Kings 14:1, 3).

Judge not, lest you be judged! How many times have Christians had that verse flung in their face when discussing some point of doctrine, usually with an unbeliever. This verse, wielded as if some all conquering shut down argument, seems to be the only passage of Scripture that many people know.

Now if Jesus actually meant what these people seem to think he meant – that all judgment of every sort by anyone is always wrong – ironically they also condemn themselves, for by speaking as they do they are judging Christians and telling them they are wrong to find fault with the words or actions of another.

But Jesus did not mean to condemn all judgment. He intended to condemn unrighteous judgment, that is to say, judgment by the wrong standard. This can be seen elsewhere in Scripture where Christ told his followers to “judge with righteous judgment.”

Further, in writing to Timothy the Apostle Paul advised his younger colleague that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for,” among other things, “reproof [and] for correction.” That is to say, Scripture is to be used to judge the actions and the words of men.

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Lew Rockwell_LRCLewRockwell.com was at it again this weekend, publishing another hit piece on the Reformation.

Now some readers may be asking themselves, just what on earth is LewRockwell.com and why should I care what they publish or whether they attack the Reformation.

Fair questions, those. So before talking about their latest attack on the Reformation, a little explanation is in order.

By number of unique monthly visitors, LewRockwell.com (LRC) is one of the largest, perhaps the largest, Libertarian website in the world. Now by percentage of the population, Libertarians are a fairly small group, so it may be tempting to dismiss LRC as a big fish in a small pond and move on.

The LRC website describes itself thus, “The daily news and opinion site LewRockwell.com was founded in 1999 by anarcho-capitalists Lew Rockwell and Burt Blumert to help carry on the anti-war, anti-state, pro-market work of Murray N. Rothbard.”

From this description, we see that LRC, in addition to being Libertarian also calls itself “anarcho-capitalist, anti-war, anti-state, and pro-market,” and indicates that Murray N. Rothbard is its primary intellectual influence.

So why should you care about any of this? For one, in spite of their relatively small numbers Libertarians are a vigorous intellectual force in the fields of economics and politics. Unlike most schools of thought in our decadent age, Libertarians actually take logic seriously. Further, they defend individualism and private property against the statist big-government philosophies that dominate our age.

A second related reason is that although Libertarianism ultimately fails the test of Scripture – central to Libertarian thought is the ethical doctrine known as the Non-Aggression Principle; Christians, on the other hand, locate their ethics in the Law of God, and these two systems are incompatible – its respect for logical consistency and individual liberty make it attractive to Christians.

And it is because Libertarianism in general and LRC specifically take ideas and liberty seriously, that I have read the website for years, and know of other Christians who do so as well.

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The Jesuit “mafia” and fog, both literal and figurative, in the churches. These were some of the discussion points brought up by Dr. Paul Elliott in his talks on Day 2 of The Trinity Foundation’s Reformation conference. Dr. Elliott gave two presentations on Saturday 10/28, both of which I would strongly encourage you to listen to when the recordings become available.

The Reformation Is Not a Return to Pre-Reformation Positions

By way of introduction to his opening talk on Saturday, Dr. Elliott mentioned that he is working on a tree volume set on the subject of the corruption of the text of the new testament. As part of his research, Dr. Elliott noted, more often than not, he found that the hand responsible for corrupting the Greek text of the New Testament used in modern translations is, more often than not, that of the Jesuits. He also included a comment by a friend of his warning that his work exposing the Jesuit efforts would not go unnoticed and that it was “dangerous territory.” Dr. Elliott did not use the word “mafia,” but the implication of his words is that there exists something like a Jesuit mafia that seeks to silence the opposition, and do so by violence if necessary.

Dr. Elliott contends that there are forces in the Evangelical movement that are seeking to give Protestantism an “extreme makeover” of the sort one sees on various TV shows, and that the effect of this makeover is that, “the vast majority of the nominally Evangelical church today is rapidly returning to the pre-Reformation position.” Dr. Elliott identified four things that characterized the pre-Reformation church.

First, there was Biblical illiteracy. In the middle ages, Christians did not have access to Bibles in their native language. Today, the problem is that, while “Bibles” are readily available, so-called modern translations such as The Message are corrupt paraphrases, not translations at all. Because they do not faithfully translate the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, they leave people without the Word of God in much the same way as medieval church goers whose only Bible was in Latin, a language that most of them did not understand.

Second, Dr. Elliott identified the problem of Church as an Experience. The Reformation has always emphasized the primacy of preaching, the expositing of the Word of God in understandable, clear language. On the other hand, the Roman Church-State has always made an appeal to the senses with its “smells and bells.”

And just as the pre-Reformation and current Roman Catholic Church emphasized experience over doctrine, so too do neo-evangelicals in the emerging church movement. Dr. Elliott noted that as an observer he attended a trade show dedicated to the “worship market” which, “is now a multi-billion-dollar business.”

Dr. Elliott noted that, “The most popular product in this big exhibit hall was fog machines!,” which allowed churches to generate “different colors of fog” to set the right mood. As Dr. Elliott wryly commented, “Those fog machines were a metaphor for the entire so-called worship conference.”

Third, Dr. Elliott took up the problem of pluralism. By way of example, he cited Timothy Keller saying there may be some “back door way to Heaven” apart from Jesus.

More subtle is the case of John Piper, whom Elliott quotes as saying that we are made right with God by faith but enter heaven by our works.

Finally, Dr. Elliott speaks of the current emphasis on Deeds Instead of Doctrine. As Rick Warren has said, “You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was about creeds…[the new reformation that we’re bringing about through the Purpose-Driven church] will be about deeds…The first one was about what the church believes…This one will be about what the church does.”

How is the different from what Rome teaches? In truth, not much, if at all. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that Warren is also hard at work trying to re-united Protestants and Romanists. Dr. Elliott reported that Warren was the keynote speaker at Pope Francis final Sunday service when he was in Philadelphia in 2015. Warren, a Southern Baptist, referred to the assembled cardinals, bishops and priests and the pope himself as “brothers.”

Dr. Elliott closed his talk with an encouragement for Christians not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed. We are to be outwardly what we are inwardly. This requires that Christians, “Never be afraid to admit it when you find yourself, or the church, deviating from Scripture in even the smallest point.”

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