June 15, 2014

Calvary Baptist Seminary: “They are Accountable for Failure and Won’t Own Up to It

I don’t ordinarily pull a comment from an article for posting on the main page, unless it is IMO highly noteworthy.  The following is one of those noteworthy comments.  It appears under my article, The Closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary: Predictable and Repeatable, which follows here.
I saw the transformation of Calvary seminary firsthand and this article [The Closure of Calvary Baptist Seminary: Predictable and Repeatable] is spot on. Unfortunately the leadership you mention seemed to be more interested in being validated by some of the mainstream evangelicals than sticking with the principles they were trained under and passing them on to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). 
I was there when Sam [Harbin] was taking a class with Haddon Robinson and he was star struck like he had just met Elvis. A culture began to spread that we all needed to go to Westminster or another “accredited” seminary to learn what the “experts” were doing. I remember thinking “If I wanted that why would I be here?” Regardless, the desire to get the validation of the brightest and the best of the mainstream thinkers seemed to begin to drive the decisions of the seminary and even the church. 
My opinion is that these men fell prey to the desire to be somebody and became very focused on their own motivations and what they wanted out of life. Unfortunately they’ve gotten the outcome of what happens when you do things that way. It’s obvious they are upset about the failure and they have tried to put the best face forward on the closure by calling it a success or celebration. 
The reality is that they are accountable for the failure of the seminary and just won’t own up to it.
Instead they in effect blame God by saying that He has other plans. They also say that Dr. E. R. Jordan would have been on board, but there is no way Chief would have ever agreed to bring on a Calvinist professor, and this desperate move right before closing for good shows just how off the focus has been and the disregard for what Calvary has always been. There was even a letter that was sent to Alumni when that decision was made stating that Calvary “had always leaned more towards Calvinism,” and that this wasn’t a bad thing. Regardless of your views on the subject this was an outright lie, and misrepresentation of the historic position of the seminary, insulting to the alumni and the memory of Chief. 
In the end I believe a lot of these men, especially Harbin and McLain, whether they realized it or not, saw the seminary as serving them instead of the other way around. They remade it in their image and the outcome was a small group of relatives and yes men organized in a mutual admiration society. No one will pay good money to be trained under that system- where insiders get preferred treatment and outsiders get shunned or made to feel inferior. This is a tragedy and a direct result of losing focus on what the seminary was supposed to be. 
Chief, with all of his eccentricities, loved people and was passionate about training young men for the ministry and about leading people to Christ. Unfortunately the men who followed him thought they were smarter, and could do it better, but clearly they were wrong.

The comment was posted here in the Closure of Calvary Seminary discussion thread.


  1. The above was my comment so allow me to clarify a few things if you don't mind. First, I want to be clear that I believe that Sam Harbin, Tim Jordan, Charles McLain, and the other men leading the seminary are spiritual and caring men who would never intentionally do harm to the work of Christ. That said, there has been a definite and undeniable shift of the ministry over the years which frankly, although I'm an alumni and former long time church member, I don't believe is any of my business. I believe in the independent local church under the authority of the pastor and Calvary is no longer my local church. I'm only offering my comments here as a warning to other men in ministry so they can hopefully stay the course without making the same mistakes that were made by these men. Further, if the men themselves ever do read this, hopefully they will stop dismissing the concerns of long time church members and friends who have been trying to reach them for a long time and can course correct before they destroy what's left of the ministry. Anyway here is my opinion of what happened at CBTS. Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary used to be a place where men were trained to be church planters and missionaries. Somehow starting in the 1990s it began to morph into a place to "discern your spiritual gifts" and train for "vocational ministry". It also simultaneously began to lose focus on the primacy of the local church (and its propagation through the "mother/daughter church planting method") and rather began to focus on being credible academics, influencing Christianity and being relevant to the next generation of fundamentalists. Again, I think the conscious motives were pure (or perhaps they were just rationalizing it for themselves) but regardless they drastically over reacted against what they perceived to be the historic errors of fundamentalism although frankly there are some of those. For example, I have a copy of a message preached at Calvary back in the day titled "The Home: Fellowship or Battleship" which endorses spanking your wife if she doesn't submit to your authority. Pretty ridiculous and no it wasn't preached by Chief. So, lets be honest that yes, the cultural expression of fundamentalism can evolve over time and we are all influenced by society to some degree (or there wouldn't be so many Republican fundamentalists) but I digress. There is a difference between acknowledging and correcting historical mistakes and using those mistakes as an excuse to flush your entire heritage down the drain and running full tilt towards new evangelicalism. In the end I stand by my belief that these men were influenced by the desire to be somebody important within mainstream Christianity and that they in arrogance took the church members and seminary students for granted. Frankly, they took Chief for granted and from the 90's on a lot of them thought he was old school and out of touch and would say so. Let me say this, Dr. E.R. Jordan was one of the most godly men I've ever met and one of the single greatest influencers on my life. Actually he was probably the most godly man I've ever met and I have tremendous respect for him. If he were here he would tell me that before I post on a blog I should first pick up the phone and call these men and try to talk through it with them. Well, I've done that and they chose to not return my calls. Many others have done that and have ended up leaving the church. I'm not talking about new believers, I'm talking about former professors, long time church and administration members that supported the ministry for decades. Their concerns fell on deaf ears, I suppose because they have become confirmed in their view which I think is influenced by their families and each other. Regardless, My prayer is that they and we would be what we were taught to be at Calvary back in the day- Self Critical, Self Correcting, and Historically Self Conscious. God bless you all.

    1. On behalf of my readers, and myself, thanks for the extended continuation of your original.

      You wrote, "I'm only offering my comments here as a warning to other men in ministry so they can hopefully stay the course without making the same mistakes that were made by these men."

      Well said, but sadly too late for Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Tennessee Temple, Northland International University, and of course, Calvary, Lansdale I suspect that Central Seminary (MN) will not endure for some of the same reasons as the others.


  2. Thanks Lou and the writer for bringing this assessment to light. Sadly, there has been within fundamentalism a segment which has sought "education" as the means of "power" and "influence" rather than letting the power of God be evident in our lives. I'm not an anti-education kind of guy, I have a bit of that "alphabet soup" behind my name but education is not the end, it forms just a part of the means to get us to the end. The end being having God's power resting on us in our service to Him. Far too many have said, "get as much education as you can and then you'll be somebody," "people will listen to you because you have 'Dr." in front of your name." As such we hurt the cause of Christ in His church and the world because the emphasis has been misdirected. The church is weak and anemic, it is evident that "educated" pastors has not been the answer. We need Spirit-empowered preachers to stand in their pulpits and boldly, without apology, proclaim the whole counsel of God.
    If a guy can get a doctorate, great, go for it. If only an M.Div, great, go for it. If only an M.A., great, go for it. If only a B.A., great go for it. Just remember, education is no substitute for time spent with God in His Word and in prayer seeking Him for His power to stand in the pulpit. Chief, had that and sought to instill that with those he ministered to, giving to the next generation the tools necessary to see them be successful. Too bad, many of them set aside those tools given to them from him.

    1. Brian:

      Thanks for the commentary. You wrote, “Far too many have said, ‘get as much education as you can and then you'll be somebody,’ ‘people will listen to you because you have “Dr.” in front of your name’.”

      Like you I am not against education, not against advanced education. I think a man ought to take as sharp a sword as possible into the ministry. That said- the first thing that came to my mind, however, was the very first (critical) article I ever wrote on Dr. Kevin Bauder. I’ll direct you there. It is titled, Theological Pedigree to Gain a Hearing, and is right in line with your thoughts above. Following Bauder’s logic for today would have meant for men like Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Moody, Ironside, et,al., to have sat still, be seen and not heard.

      Seems to me that in some circles- educational pedigree, impressive scholarship, circles men run in and name recognition has supplanted seeking out men with the power of the Spirit of God upon them for His service.


  3. Thank you Lou for the reminder of what happens when you replace the plain teaching of the Word of God with any substitute! It is no surprise that the leadership of Calvary find no fault with themselves. They join with Pilot to wash their hands of any guilt, but when they stand before God it will be a different accounting. May God help us all to stay humble and flexible in the hands of God's Spirit and not seek to supplant what the Bible says in II Timothy 3:14, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and has been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." Today, few continue in what has been learned from the Scriptures. Anything new and radical is acceptible. Keep up the good work, Lou!

    1. Ps. Brainard:

      Thanks for the commentary and encouragement.