27 November 2010
I continue to receive queries about this topic because of an anonymous YouTube post. So, I re-post what I wrote in July, 2008. In what follows I am not speaking in any official capacity nor am I speaking on behalf of Westminster Seminary California. I’ve updated the older post to reflect publications since July 2008.
Originally Posted July 28, 2008
In February of 2008 I became aware of an insinuation about Westminster Seminary California made by someone who should know better. Incredibly, I’ve been contacted about this more than once and again today. The insinuation is that, because some of our faculty did their PhD research at Roman Catholic institutions the Roman Catholics now have secret influence over WSC. The name of the latest correspondent is omitted to spare him embarrassment.
What you saw was originally an insinuation found on the website of Robert Morey (the original links no longer work. I can find no site for the “California Biblical University and Seminary.” Its Wiki page has been taken down. The last entry in the Wayback Machine dates to June 2008). He alleged that, because some of our professors took their doctoral work at Roman Catholic schools that somehow there is Roman Catholic influence at WSC.
A few facts (not that should get in the way of a good rumor):
1. Westminster Seminary California is confessionally, constitutionally, heartily, and morally committed to the inspired, inerrant Word of God and to the Reformed faith as confessed by the Three Forms of Unity (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort) and the Westminster Standards (i.e., the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms). All our faculty members swear an oath before God to uphold heartily and teach the Reformed faith and to refute contradictions of the same.
2. Our founding president, the Rev Dr Robert Strimple, did his PhD on a contemporary Roman Catholic theologian, was a member of a Catholic Theological Society, and was nevertheless chosen by Prof. John Murray to succeed him at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Either Mr Murray was also a Roman Catholic spy or he didn’t agree with this sort of logic. Of course, anyone who knows anything about John Murray would know how ridiculous it would be to think anything but the best of Mr Murray. We might as well suggest that Mr Murray had a glass eye because he traded an eye in a deal with the pope. (Before the rumors start, he lost it in battle in WW I)
3. If, because some of our faculty did research at Roman institutions it means that, as one person put it, “the Jesuits have a man” on our faculty, then on that reasoning so do the pagans, the latitudinarians, the evangelicals, and other groups since our faculty members have taken PhDs from institutions from a variety of backgrounds.
Of course to write out such stuff is to expose its fallacy: guilt by association. If I attend a fantasy baseball camp does that make me San Diego Padre? Gasp, they’re the “Padres“! Get it? More secret Roman infiltration into Major League Baseball—though judging by their performance this year (2008; they did better in ’10 though they collapsed at the end of the summer), maybe they ought to consult the Vatican to find a new pitching rotation and hitters who fit Petco Park? I did my BA at the University of Nebraska, but that does not make me a running back. If a student studies with conservative Baptists, does that make him Tim LaHaye? Does listening to Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers make me Mario Andretti or an MIT physicist?
Where one takes a PhD does not determine his theology. Those faculty who did doctoral research at Roman Catholic universities did not learn their theology there any more than John Calvin learned his theology at the University of Paris, which was a “Roman Catholic” (speaking anachronistically) institution when he studied there. They did research in those institutions. There’s a difference between learning one’s formative theology and doing historical, theological, or exegetical research.
4. The most bizarre thing about this insinuation is that there may be no more staunchly and confessionally Protestant seminary in the USA. Our faculty is completely committed to the Protestant Reformation. Michael Horton and Bob Godfrey are well-known for the advocacy of the Reformation. Dr Horton edits a magazine called Modern Reformation Horton and Godfrey were leading critics of Evangelicals and Catholics Together in 1994 and following. They participated in a 1995 debate, to defend the Reformation, with leading Roman Catholic apologists. When the Evangelical Theological Society needed someone to come to defend the Protestant Reformation in Orlando, they called on Bob Godfrey to do it. Most recently Mike Horton was at the 2010 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society to defend the Reformation doctrines against the NPP.
5. Not long our entire faculty published a book in defense of the Protestant doctrine of justification: Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. Before that we published a Testimony on justification. Most recently Mike Horton and Ryan Glomsrud (who joins our faculty full-time in July) just published a collection of essays in defense of the Reformation. David VanDrunen, who did his doctoral research on a medieval theologian at a Roman Catholic University, was on the committee to help the OPC write their report on the doctrine of justification. He has also criticized Norman Shepherd’s doctrine of justification as inconsistent with the Reformation doctrine.
6. There are 186 HB posts on the doctrine of justification. There are 31 HB posts on law and gospel. There are 160 posts under “Reformation Resources.” There are 256 posts touching on some aspect of the covenant theology and justification sola fide.
7. One might suppose that all this literary and electronic defense of the Reformation is part of a giant conspiracy to throw the dogs off the scent, to allow us to be more effective in seducing the naive into becoming Romanists. The universe as we know it might also be the product of the imagination of a cosmic red beetle. Neither is very likely. Look, according to our FV/moralist critics we’re crypto-Lutherans and now, according to this conspiracy theory we’re crypto-Romanists. We can’t be both. Maybe our critics should get together and decide which we’re supposed to be?
8. If anyone has questions about what our faculty teaches, he is welcome to actually read for himself what we write (Here is a fairly complete list of faculty publications). If, after actually cracking open a book or even clicking on a website, questions remain, anyone is welcome to contact the seminary.