Why Westminster Is Independent (even if Scotland isn't)

From Mr. Murray’s own typewriter (included in the OPC Report of the Committee on Theological Education, Minutes of the General Assembly, 1945, 79-80)

The conclusion at which we arrive, therefore, is that certain phases of a seminary curriculum fall quite properly into the category of the theological education conducted by the church an: that other phases of such a curriculum are no part of the church’s responsibility.

It is highly important to remember, however, that though the church is obligated to teach the whole counsel of God, it does not follow that the teaching of the whole counsel of God may be given only under the auspices of the church. There are other auspices under which it is just as obligatory to teach and inculcate the Word of God. Such teaching should be given by parents in the instruction and nurture of their children. But the life of the family is not conducted under the auspices of the church. Such teaching should also be given in the Christian school in all of its stages and developments. The Christian world and life view as set forth in Scripture is the basis of the Christian school, and so the whole range of Scripture truth must, in the nature of the case, be presented if the education given is to be thoroughly Christian in character. But the Christian school, whether at the elementary or the secondary or the university stage, should not be conducted under the auspices of the church. The teaching of the Word of God given in the family and in the Christian school will indeed, as regards content, coincide with the teaching given by the church, but this coincidence as regards content does not in the least imply that such teaching should be given under the auspices of the church.

In like manner a theological seminary should teach the whole counsel of God. A great deal of the teaching must therefore coincide with the teaching given by the church, and, furthermore, a great deal of it is the teaching that may properly be conducted by the church and under its official auspices. It does not follow, however, that the teaching of the Word of God given in a theological seminary must be given under the auspices of the church. The mere fact that, in certain particulars, the type of teaching given is the type of teaching that may and should be given by the church and may also properly be conducted under the official auspices of the church does not rove that such teaching must be conducted under the auspices of the church. This does not follow any more than does the-fact that the teaching of the Word of God given in the home and in the school is in content the same as may and should be given by the church prove that the family and the school should be conducted under the auspices of the church. A theological seminary is an institution which may quite properly be conducted, like other Christian schools, under auspices other than those of the church, and a great deal of its work is of such a character that the church may not properly undertake it.

It is highly necessary that the theological discipline preparatory to the discharge of the Gospel ministry be as comprehensive as that provided by the curriculum of theological seminaries. But the church may not properly undertake the conduct of such comprehensive, theological education. In the interest of the most effective instruction, however, it is well that the comprehensive course of study be conducted under unified auspices. Since comprehensive theological education may not be conducted under the auspices of the church and since it may properly be conducted under auspices other than those of the church, it follows that a theological seminary, affording comprehensive theological education under
non-ecclesiastical auspices, is not only highly proper but also promotes the interests of effective theological education and guards the principle that the church must limit itself to those activities which Holy Scripture defines as its proper function.

Let’s see the anti-republicationists and pro-hymn singer deal with that.

24 thoughts on “Why Westminster Is Independent (even if Scotland isn't)

  1. Wow. Did Murray just call it for a Christian w-w “as set forth in Scripture”? And did he make the call that the education of ministers of the gospel under non-ecclesiastical auspices is “highly proper”? Time to delete 2 Tim 2:2 from my ESV Study Bible.

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  2. Sphere sovereignty at its finest. My Kuyperian inclinations come from drinking deeply from the OPC fathers (and their GA reports and decisions).

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  3. Did Murray charge by the word?

    Does the OPC have fathers? Is there actually anyone in the OPC who, like, didn’t personally know Machen?

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  4. Dave- I think you should be deleting ESV from your Bible. Well, the ES anyway.

    Drop by for a chat sometime. We sell books even a Baptist might like

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  5. Alexander – the penny has dropped for me 🙂 I will never be able to read your comments in quite the same way. See you soon I hope.

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  6. “The teaching of the Word of God given in the family and in the Christian school will indeed, as regards content, coincide with the teaching given by the church”

    Says, who?

    Is this working in Catholic colleges & universities?

    Does it work when a Reformed family sends their kids to an evangelical or Babdist school?

    Murray should have known better.

    I suppose it depends on the definition of “coincide”.

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  7. And to think that the OPC considered merging with the CRC. How would they have reconciled the differences between Westminster Seminary & Calvin Seminary with regards to church control?

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  8. Independent seminaries teach, churches (classis or presbytery) examines the candidate for ministry after he’s graduated. In the CRC I assume the examination is perfunctory (if there is one). After all, if the church ordained seminary passed them, what concern could the church have? Then liberal professors capture the seminary and it’s “look out!”. I think CRC ministerial candidates are even admitted to the ministry by Synod, not Classis, no? Hardly the body to administer a serious, lengthy exam.

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  9. Oh My.

    It is highly important to remember, however, that though the church is obligated to teach the whole counsel of God, it does not follow that the teaching of the whole counsel of God may be given only under the auspices of the church. There are other auspices under which it is just as obligatory to teach and inculcate the Word of God.

    What church? Whose church? Whose “auspices?” In what schools? Whose schools? Gibberish, Darryl. You gotta get right with Machen on education. JGM died before

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everson_v._Board_of_Education

    Write that one up, Dr. Hart. Reconcile Machen with Everson and you’ve got something here.

    If there were no such thing as children, I would never have darkened your “Two Kingdoms” door, Darryl. In theory our government defends our children, but in the current crisis, we must defend our children from our government.

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/09/25/las-vegas-school-district-proposes-masturbation-coursework-for-kindergartners/

    We need some serious Machen these days and all we get is piffle. Dude.

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  10. If the unique realm of the church is ministry of Word and sacrament, and if the preparation of ministers is for ministry of Word and sacrament, and that preparation does not fall under the auspices of the church, it is hard to see how much of anything does.

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  11. @Bill Smith – Is it clear that Word and sacrament being the unique realm of the church implies that Word and sacrament are the only proper functions of the church? If I understand the case correctly, the functions of the church should be limited to what the scriptures require. These certainly include Word and sacrament, but also mercy ministry and supporting missions. I’m not sure if the OPC made the right call about seminaries (I need to think about that more), but I think they were taking the right approach about how to think about this. This approach would be a helpful corrective for conservative protestants more generally in my estimation.

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  12. Bill – If the unique realm of the church is ministry of Word and sacrament, and if the preparation of ministers is for ministry of Word and sacrament, and that preparation does not fall under the auspices of the church, it is hard to see how much of anything does.

    Erik – The trick is that ministerial training is, at least in part, technical training. Learning Greek, learning Hebrew. The church is governed by elders, which can include unlearned men (think farmer in the Dutch churches). If this minister is full of crap after receiving his technical training, the wise farmer will probably sniff that out, but the farmer doesn’t have to oversee the technical training to be able to do that.

    And yes, I do realize that some farmers are learned.

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  13. If the church is in charge of training ministers, why the requirement to possess a college degree (in any subject) before pursuing seminary training? If the church is overseeing seminaries, shouldn’t they be overseeing colleges and K-12 schools, too?

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  14. I don’t think the church needs to be involved in colleges and other schools that provide a general education. Seminaries, however, are specialized educational institutions. They provide the education the church requires for ministers as ministers – the preparation the minister must have to be a minister of Word and Sacrament. That is true of the languages, church history, and of every department of the traditional seminary. To be ordained the minister must give evidence he knows the languages, must undergo examamination in church history and polity, as well as show proficiency in exegesis, confessional and systematic theology, preaching, etc. If a candidate is lacking in one or more of these areas because of his education/training, then the church requires him by some means to gain the knowledge/proficiencies it requires. If these things are what the church requires for ordination, then it seems to me the church should oversee that training. I am somewhat surprised that it is controversial that the preparation of ministers, including the content of education and training, should be under the authority of the church. That we are not there and not likely to get there is another matter.

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  15. Bill, I tend to agree. If you need to teach Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, or church history (it’s not the word of God after all), why not hire out independent professors rather than making the entire seminary independent?

    At the same time, I’m tempted to say that if WTS had not been independent, it would not have had the problem of hiring non-ordained people (read Enns). Then again, the ordained people are sometimes no picnic (read Shepherd).

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