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WRF Member Clair Davis Asks "Is Westminster Seminary Tending Toward Eutychianism?"

WRF Member Clair Davis Asks "Is Westminster Seminary Tending Toward Eutychianism?"

In Washington, Iowa, where I grew up, we had three Presbyterian churches: the big United Presbyterian with 900 people, my PCUSA with 350, and an Associated Presbyterian (Seceder) with about 60. There were 4 AP churches then in the USA, 2 around Pittsburgh, one in Kansas, and the one in Iowa.

In 1969, they united with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Covenanters) which now has a denominational membership of about 7000. The Covenanters were sure that they shouldn’t vote since the Constitution didn’t recognize Jesus Christ as our King. But the Seceders were more precise than that: Jesus is the ruler of America as God but not as Mediator, so go ahead and vote. That’s helpful, but now they decided they could agree.

I was a Dispensationalist once . . .  weren’t we all? Legalism is always a problem, and we Dispies were proud that we could tell the difference between the law of the OT and the grace of the NT, and were careful ‘not to read someone else’s mail.’  But wait a minute, wasn’t there still law in the NT, since in the new church after Pentecost even in the book of Acts the message is ‘repent and believe’?  But by the end of Acts it’s only ‘believe,’ PTL! Where and why did ‘repent’ get dropped?  To get that straight was the proud calling of my O’Hair group and we really worked at it.  I had many great conversations with J. C. O’Hair himself and he gave me all of his books.  But that was over 60 years ago and by now Dispensationalists have learned to look at ‘law and grace’ the way we all do. Nobody is an ‘O’Hairite’ any more.  What happened to our prized distinctive? (Read Todd Mangum, The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift).

I’ve always wanted to be special myself.  I have pure unadulterated Welsh blood and know some Welsh words and can really do the accent. I can call a dog in Welsh, tid yma ci! (Too bad that since our old dog Buster passed on I can’t find any Welsh dogs to practice on). I know that my real distinctive is that Jesus loves me and I love him. I share that with millions of people and that’s fine. 

Our conversation with Westminster Seminary over the ‘retirement’ of Prof. Doug Green seems to be over, and the Westminster responses still don’t address what the problem is with Doug himself and I suppose they never will.  So I guess we ourselves just need to keep on reading the Westminster Confession and the two Doug articles Westminster mentions.

But it is now becoming clearer what WTS stands for. That Bill Evans, he can coin a phrase can’t he? Bibliological Eutychianism! Not the Eutychus who fell out the window when Paul’s sermon went long, but the later theologian who believed that the humanity of Christ was more or less swallowed up by the deity so that it was no longer consubstantial with ours.  Minimize the humanity, maximize the deity!   In the early church some overreacted to Nestorianism (the undue separation of the divine and human in Christ) by lurching into Eutychianism. Finally the Council of Chalcedon got it right, doing justice to both deity and humanity, and to the relationship between the two.

Which brings us to today, as some conservatives have reacted to those who seem to unduly separate the divine and human aspects of Scripture by overemphasizing the divine at the expense of the human. Thus, in response to some recent controversies, WTS is tending Eutychian, insisting that the OT writers knew already almost everything about the Messiah. Is Doug himself Chalcedonian? I think so.

This is the issue for me. There are indeed different helpful points of view on just about everything.  Can a church or a seminary include many perspectives within a loving community? Of course that depends, and it’s not easy to tell apart the majors from the minors. It can take a while. Those Seceders and Covenanters were able to do it, so were the different varieties of Dispensationalists. To me it seems clear that Westminster should be able to, on this issue of what the OT writers didn’t say but still knew. I hope so, very much. 


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