Saturday, January 04, 2014

Reasons and Specifications for the dismissal of Norman Shepherd

Dr. R Scott Clark has put on his website a copy of the Reasons and Specifications by Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia (WTS-P) to dismiss Norman Shepherd back in 1981, which can be read here. The document is very interesting. Here are two excerpts:

The Executive Committee, at the direction of the Board, prepared a brief statement of the reasons for the action. The statement said that: “The Board makes no judgment whether Mr. Shepherd’s views as such contradict Westminster Standards.” But the statement also alleged that “partly because of deep inherent problems in the structure and the particular formulations of Mr. Shepherd’s views, partly because of Mr. Shepherd’s manner of criticizing opponents as non—Reformed rather than primarily incorporating their concerns more thoroughly into his own position in response, too many people in the Seminary community and constituency and the larger Christian public have come to judge that Mr. Shepherd’s teaching appears to them to contradict or contravene, either directly or impliedly, some element in that system of doctrine taught by the Standards.” (p.1)

...Mr. Shepherd would make obedience the central and embracing category for our response to God and thereby question the restrictions that the Reformed standards have put on the place and function of our good works. He urges that this can be done without danger since this obedience is not meritorious and therefore cannot become the ground of our salvation. But the very simplicity of this solution creates its danger. There is a vast and crucial difference between fleeing to Christ for salvation and serving God acceptably in new obedience. Close as the relation must be between faith and works, the distinction is central to the gospel. Mr. Shepherd does affirm a distinct function for faith, but his concept of the “dynamic” of covenantal relation effectively subordinates faith to obedience and shifts the balance in a sensitive area of great theological importance.

This distinctive aspect of his thought has been the troubling factor in these seven years of controversy. While the Board has not judged that his views are in error, the Board has come to the conviction that his views are not clearly in accord with the standards of the Seminary; for this reason it has acted within its authority to remove him from his office for the best interests of the Seminary. (p. 18)

I wasn't aware there is any substantial difference between something contradicting the Westminster Standards, and something not in accord with those Standards.

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