Monday, March 27, 2006

Follow up on Philadelphia ETS trip

The ETS trip to Philadelphia was a whirlwind. Hannah and I left Thursday early afternoon and got back after midnight Friday. By the way, we listened to 4 of the 17 (!) audio CDs of "Little Women" along the way.

Highlights of the Friday ETS meeting: First, this was my first trip to Westminster Seminary. The campus is modest, situated in a rather affluent neighborhood. The meetings were held in the Van Til building.

The sessions I attended:

Session 1: Mark Karlberg, Theological Writer-at-large, Paul Elliot’s Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: Drama in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Karlberg, a former Westminster PhD student under Norman Shepherd, traced what he believes to be Westminster’s compromise on justification related to the teaching of Gaffin and Shepherd. Karlberg went so far as to speak of the "The Babylonian captivity of WTS and the OPC."

Session 2: Robert C. Newman, Biblical Theological Seminary, They Saw Jesus … Centuries in Advance.

Dr. Newman, a long time apologist who teaches at BTS and also with the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, made a presentation of Jesus’ fulfillment of OT prophecy.

Plenary session: Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Dallas Theological Seminary, Making Sense of Prophecy: Contingency and Contextualization.

Chisholm argued that much OT prophecy should be considered "dynamic not performative; contingent not conditional."

Basically he was trying to come up with an orthodox explanation of why some OT prophecies supposedly are "unfulfilled."

He listed four examples of "unfulfilled prophecy" in the OT:
1. Huldah’s prophecy of Josiah’s peaceful death (2 Kgs 22:19-20).
2. Ezekiel’s prophecy of Babylon’s defeat of Tyre and Sidon (Ezek 26).
3. Haggai’s prophecy of renewed glory.
4. Mesha the Moabite’s aversion of destruction by the sacrifice of his sin (2 Kgs 3).

These were explained as "dynamic" prophecies.

I was bothered on two levels by this explanation. First, it raises questions about God’s knowledge and decrees. Second, it raises questions about the inerrancy of Scripture. Are not what Chisholm calls "unfulfilled prophecies" what liberals call "errors"? Can we not seek an end for these prophecies that harmonizes with the character of God and with inerrancy?

Session 3: Stephen J. Nichols, Lancaster Bible College, My Jesus and Me: Forrays into American Evangelical Christology.

Nichols traced the christology of liberal early 20th century preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick which pictured Jesus as a model of self-sacrifice but then traced how this view is propogated in modern American evangelical "parallel institutionalism" (a phrase borrowed from Hunter) like evangelical entertainment. He chose examples from Christmas themed "Adventures in Odyssey" and "Veggie Tales" where the "moral lesson" of the story of the birth of Jesus is mere altruism (the "true meaning of Christmas").

The last session (4) was my own presentation on Piper's Baptism and Membership Proposal.
It went well. One attendee was a WTS student who is a member at Bethlehem. We had a good conversation afterward about baptism and church life.

Other reflections: Ran into Mark and Karyn Traphagan, former C-ville residents who are seminarians at WTS. Mark works in the bookstore. WTS, by the way, has a phenomenal bookstore with potential to bust the budget of any theologue. Also got to talk with fellow pastor Jason Poling of New Hope Community Church in Baltimore. For the second straight year ETS scheduled our papers in the same session so I did not get to attend his.

No comments: