20 May 2010

What RTS Believes . . .

"What RTS Believes: An Affirmation." That's the title of the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Reformed Theological Seminary's quarterly magazine, Ministry & Leadership. When I reflexively rolled my eyes upon seeing it, the light hit the cover at just the right angle and I noticed a textual hologram embedded just underneath the subtitle. It read, "In Contradistinction to What Bruce Waltke Said Last Month."

As you can see, the cover depicts, maybe a tad piously, an open Bible, suggesting that the "Affirmation" will have something to do with RTS taking the Bible seriously. And so it should. The other, somewhat ironic, thing you'll notice is that the "Affirmation" coming from this Reformed seminary is taking place within the walls of a rather ornate sanctuary. Folks, if that's not traditional Anglican, it's Roman Catholic. Nevermind that the writers of the Confession this seminary confesses would roll over in their graves at the sight of all those "idolatrous images."

At any rate, the article, written by Chancellor Ric Cannada, covers the suspected ground—"The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides an excellent summary of biblical truth" (p. 4). And what biblical truth would he/they like to highlight? Unsurprisingly, questions 9 and 16 (question 33 is also included, but it's more of an appendix in this article), both of which deal specifically with the work of creation and the doctrine of original sin and its relationship to the covenant of works. There is no way that those two questions would have been chosen (if such an "Affirmation" would have even been undertaken) had not the Waltke row erupted last month. After quoting WSC 9, Cannada writes:

Among our RTS constituency and also among RTS faculty members we have different understandings of the length of those "days" and such things as the age of the earth, but everyone at RTS clearly affirms God as creator and also the special creation and historical reality of Adam and Eve, including their fall into sin that affected us directly as their descendents. (pp. 4–5)
Of course, as I've written elsewhere, Waltke also appears to affirm these points, though admittedly Cannada's emphasis on the "special creation" of Adam and Eve is meant to preclude, I assume, an evolutionary process, instead of an act of sudden creation in time and space. If that's the case, then I guess theistic evolutionists are flat-out precluded from teaching at RTS.

This isn't a criticism, however. RTS can and should restate its commitments to certain doctrines in light of circumstances that could have been perceived by its constituents (and potential seminarians) to be undermining those doctrines. It's simply interesting to me to see the extent to which this institution has gone to counteract this particular episode revolving around Waltke and evolution.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The joys of stock photos!

Chris Donato said...

As an editor, I know that joy all too well!

Kevin Davis said...

Yeah, the altar with the crucifix and the images of saints around the dome...not very Reformed. And, I'm pretty sure that's a large mosaic of Mary above the altar. Very funny.

John Schaefer said...

Stock photo or no stock photo, approving the image was an aesthetic decision that must yield to some cultural logic. Is it yearning for European "old money" religion? That's what I think when I hear about new colleges and their "great books" curricula, homeschoolers teaching their kids Latin, and hippie activists who convert to Greek Orthodoxy...

Chris Donato said...

I'm not sure how conscious that yearning is, John, but I agree that that may have something to do with it. And I was tracking with you until the hippie/Orthodox thing. For the past 1000 years or so, there's been nothing "old-money religion" about Orthodoxy (if by that we mean ascendancy, power, influence, etc.). At any rate, it's spot on to suggest that the whole home-schooling/classical schooling phenomena plays into that.

I think on the surface, speaking as an editor, the image is simply meant to depict Tradition. The seminary wishes the reader to see that it is not leaving the hallowed halls of Tradition (nevermind that the tradition depicted on the cover is quite opposed to the tradition of the seminary), despite one of its OT professor's remarks about evolution.

I'd like to hear more about what lay underneath is this choice of theirs, but I'll have to leave that to the sociologists/anthropologists.

John Schaefer said...

It's not a simple desire for the religion of the powerful. It's more of an attempt to find a safe alternative that sounds similarly "old" and culturally authentic. Look, nobody in the Ivy League, Chicago, Duke, or Stanford cares about Latin or the Great Books, outside of a few specialists. But yet you find Evangelicals in Idaho or Arkansas who want to start teaching them. Are such folks headed toward great power in the same way a Princeton student is? No way! But by reading Virgil in the manner of 19-century undergrads, they approximate some alternative track to authenticity. It's the same with the Greek Orthodoxy. If they really wanted to adopt the exotic religions of the elite, they would convert to watered-down Tibetan Buddhism. But Greek Orthodoxy offers them an alternative track to a similar product.

 
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