June 17, 2003
KANSAS CITY – Current faculty members at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said there are many lessons to be learned from the 1963 Ralph Elliott controversy.
“I would hope that we have learned that the SBC’s true treasure is not our ‘intelligensia’ or our bureaucrats who keep the SBC running,” said Ron Rogers, missions professor. “Rather, our true treasure is our ‘grassroots’ people. Trust the ‘grassroots’—they are not as ignorant as some have tended to think.
“We academics are prone to elitism. We are susceptible to intellectual snobbery. Those of us who are conservative are no less open to such a sinful attitude. Knowledge puffs up. The Elliott controversy reminds the scholars/academicians among us to add humility to our knowledge, and to submit our knowledge to the scrutiny of our Lord and His Word. I think it is very interesting that when the chips were down, the elite at the top tended to try to protect each other instead of protecting the truth.
“We learned that we cannot trust the elite always to maintain vigilance over our doctrinal integrity interests. The 2000 statement of faith and its use indicate that we are learning much in this area. I think some of the unwillingness to sign the 2000 statement or to request ‘oral’ support for truth instead, is in part a throwback to the era when we tended to trust folks who were entrusted with the stewardship of the truth and to take them at their word when they assured us they were orthodox and historic Baptists. We have learned that our primary trust must be in the truth itself and that we must be willing to acknowledge our allegiance to that truth as encapsulated in a confession of faith.”
Mark DeVine, theology professor, said higher critical methodologies such as source, form, and redaction criticism (which Ralph Elliot used) were not products of Protestant Liberalism as such, but were particularly attractive to liberals and “progressivist” evangelicals because of their attempts to go “behind” the texts of Scripture to some supposedly more pure or more original religion underlying extant writings.
“Such procedures opened to door to the demythologizing of Rudolph Bultmann in which he, like other liberals, claimed to recover the nut of the pure gospel from the husk of mythology. The nut however ended up looking too often like the results of man’s own projection of his highest hopes, dreams, and fantasies into the metaphysical realm as Ludwig Feuerbach had charged and Barth had warned.
“The point is that the higher critical methodologies which held themselves out as objective, scientific, dispassionate quests for the historical truth soon displayed their subjective captivation to the proclivities, idiosyncrasies and blind spots of the particular scholar employing them.”