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surprised (blindsided) by compassionate Reformed Theology June 14, 2008

Posted by peterong in City Seminary, Reflections.
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I just got back from my week long intensive classes at Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS)as part of my City Seminary degree. I had a mix bag of emotions coming into this week; a part of it was the turmoil at WTS in light with Peter Enn‘s dismissal due to his book Inspiration and Incarnation (a list of articles here) and the other part was of excitement to be at the school that has been part of Dr. Timothy Keller and my pastor, Stephen Ro.

I am an ambivalent Reformed pilgrim, there is so much good in the relentless pursuit of truth but somehow I am always moved to pause by the pride and corrective postures so many Reformed people take. They are spiritual naggers. But yet, I love the historical orthodoxy that it comes with and it has been part of my tradition through my years at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and also through my reading lists online as well as my home library that are riddled with Calvin, Murray, Owen, Luther, Van Til but yet I occupy this space where I am friendly to the emergent church, the postmoderns and I revel at Driscoll, Mclaren (much less so nowadays), Campolo. So I swing between two worlds of theological underpinnings…I feel like a spiritual mixed breed. or a traitor o sorts to both camps. But as I thought this out, I feel that there is a third way, and it is a conversation that will continue to mold me. Not to be polarized by the two but rather to focus on wrestling through the gospel.

As I sat in Van Til Hall waiting for the other City Seminary students to arrive, I prayed and asked for God to allow my heart to focus on broadening my mind and my heart. It was the week of th PCA General Assembly and the issue of an exploratory study on the issue of women deacons were up for a vote, the turmoil at WTS and being away from my wifey and our in-utero “thumper” was just too much. So I just wanted to be an offering this week.

Dr. Doug(las) Green‘s class on Biblical Theology just rendered me in moments of haunted inspiration of what scripture could be when seen through an arch of redemptive historical story. I intuitively knew this. But as Dr. Green brilliantly exposed the narrative of redemptive history throughout scripture but specifically in Genesis 1, Genesis 22, Psalm 23 within the framework of exile, kingship and climactic picture of restoration, it felt as if a part of my theology was freed from timidity. In so much of what I know and express are moments of intuitive knowing but to have a deeper theological foundation that affirms my intuitive thoughts. But more than the teaching, Dr. Green represented to me the character of a man who is humble, great sense of humor and also deeply compassionate about how academics are just a means for us to transform people through the gospel. Despite spending decades on a study of a text, he is open to discussions and self correction as well as self-examination. He is has this gospel confidence that there are things that we have to wrestle through as God reveals His story in scripture. But with that, I was moved mostly by his mourning for Al Groves, a WTS professor who passed away (and how despite Green’s confidence of the resurrection, he is moved to tears when he sees Groves’ family). To know that there are scholars with a heart of flesh. In some ways, he not only taught with integrity of looking at scripture but with a life that is filled with gospel reality.

In Leadership and Mentoring in the Local Church, Dr. Rev. Manny Ortiz and Dr. Susan Baker shared their years of insight with us and it gave me a chance to hear stories of how God works through the church and exhorted me to move in a deeper sense of leadership but also through a realistic examination of my own heart. One of the lines that Dr. Ortiz said was, “the gospel is lethal.” I loved that.

I also loved spending time with the students, Ade who was my PIC (Partner in Crime) made me laugh as he encouraged me everytime I spoke in class, he would say “Say it Peter!” or “Yes, that was good.” Seeing Sony raise her fist and pointing (ala Joyipster) during a heated discussion, or even better when her hubby challenged the integrity or purity of David, and would yell out his thoughts on David’s integrity “you think? ADULTERY? (pause), MURDER?” and of course one cannot forget Neil’s first day of class using “horsesh*t” or his recapitulation of “hand under the loins.” as he got all prophetic on us or what Manny said was “Pauline.”

In the end, it was a time where I feel like I made a turn and it has been a long time since I just felt that I was ministered to. No obligations. No expectations from me. Just pouring in. and in the end, as I drove back to New York, my cup overflows. He is so good. Now and Forever.



1. Karle Weiderick - June 14, 2008

One of my former pastors calls it living in the radical middle. Love it when we obediently go somewhere when we don’t really feel like it, and then God shows up and gives us what we need. Yeah God!

2. Mark Traphagen - June 14, 2008

All of us who have had Doug Green for classes at WTS would heartily agree with your assessment. Enjoyed your post!

3. zoecarnate - June 22, 2008

It’s always good when you find grace in (supposedly) ungracious places. I’m curious as to why you’re ‘much less’ reveling Brian McLaren’s ideas lately; I know its fashionable to bash him these days as the poster/whipping boy for all of conservative evangelicalism’s fears, but…I dunno…after reading Everything Must Change, I came away with a renewed appreciation for Brian’s commitment to the good news of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world. I know that some have their concerns, though. Did you ever read Andrew Jones’ dialogue with him, Brian McLaren Responds to Everything Must Change Concerns?

4. peterong - June 25, 2008

dear zoecarnate, thank you for your words, it is true that I haven’t read Mclaren’s newest book and I have been meaning to pick it up sometime soon. I just felt that part of his posture in the last few years have been geared towards being provocative versus illuminating. I do feel he has commitment to the gospel but the concern I have is which gospel he is referring to. I am glad in his conversation with Andrew Jones, he is being more clear about his theology. I have gained a great deal from Mr. Mclaren and also have had to work through some of the murkiness he sometimes espouses. But thus is the call for us in community…we wrestle through these issues.

5. Mick Turner - July 5, 2008

I, too, often feel caught in that “murky middle” between two or more camps. It is uncomfortable at times to say the least. Still, I have found that often God finds a way to use this dilemma to further enhance my theological understanding. As for McLaren, I have found his work quite inspirational. I don’t always agree with what he says, but I believe he is one of the “spiritual pioneers” of this age. The life of a pioneer is often confusing and a bit murky. I guess that’s why some folks have big problems living on the “frontier” – by that I mean the spiritual frontier. I think McClaren is searching for new ways to express old truths – the eternal truths of the faith. In doing so, he is bound to make mistakes from time to time. And, he is also bound to have many critics.

6. sandrar - September 10, 2009

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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