R. Scott Clark and D. G. Hart have been hammering home for years that the term “Reformed” must derive from the confessions of the Reformed churches. This matters because if the definition of Reformed becomes muddied, then those in the “old” Reformed world are less likely to appropriately scrutinize those who in the “new” who apply the label to themselves.
I was thinking about this definitional struggle when I read this article by Stephen Wellum, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, “3 Reasons Sunday Is Not the Christian Sabbath.” Wellum is a proponent of “progressive covenantalism” and “new covenant theology”, a hermeneutic on which he recently wrote a large book. Progressive covenantalism essentially divides the administration of God’s mercy into two eras: old covenant and new covenant, the old covenant encompassing the entirety of the Old Testament. The old covenant prefigures and anticipates the new, and never shall the twain meet. In contrast, Reformed, covenant theology holds that God’s covenant of grace is one throughout postlapsarian history, only administered differently in different eras.
Wellum’s article underscores this difference significantly: He rejects that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance, holds that the Mosaic administration of the Sabbath is a uniquely old covenant relic, and that Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath means that requirements of its observance are now abolished. All of these things are contrary to the Reformed confessions, the divergence springing from the difference in hermeneutics. What is notable is not that a Baptist is making the case for a non-Reformed understanding of the Sabbath, but that recently the president of Indianapolis Theological Seminary, which employs Wellum as an adjunct professor to teach hermeneutics, insisted to me that he is “basically” a covenant theologian and is soundly Reformed. This is an example of definitional slippage, and why “Reformed” ought to mean “confessional.” Otherwise you end up thinking that you are being educated in Reformed hermeneutics, only to discover later that in reality you were trained in a different traditions masquerading as your own.
R. Scott Clark comments on the Distributed Education (DE) seminary model, which instead of having students come to a campus sends the professors to the students. It is primarily a response Tim Keller’s suggestion that the current seminary model is now inadequate and a different approach is needed.
Until parishioners are prepared to see physicians or surgeons who earned their medical degrees online, they should not accept ministers who have only an online degree. There is a reason why we send physicians to brick and mortar schools, because we know from experience that to do otherwise is to cut corners and we are not prepared to do that with our physical health. Why then are we willing to consider training the physicians of our souls with less care?…
Students traveled to them for a reason: education is not a consumer product that can be distributed by Amazon. Education is a process. It is a culture. It is a habit that is formed in community. It takes time in a community of scholars…Distributed education seeks to disconnect the outcome of education from the process: initiation into a culture and the formation of habits. It assumes that education is what happens when a prof travels to a church and delivers lectures thereby transmitting information. That is not itself education. The lecture is only a beginning of education for the student. Lectures are clues to a world of learning but they are rudiments, bread crumbs that invite the curious to continue learning.
Clark’s whole post is worth reading, and there are a few points I think are worth adding.
The first is that DE disconnects students from other students. The community aspect of education is not just student-to-professor, but peer-to-peer…