Friday, May 2, 2014

One Body, One Spirit, One Lord, One Faith

Academic Freedom vs. Collegiality

At Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the issues of academic freedom, plurality of thought, and diversity of viewpoint that are prominent within most halls of higher learning are of little or no concern. Within our halls, men of learning ― both faculty and students ― are uniquely united under a subscribed set of standards which govern all we teach and think. Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, with Christ as the Cornerstone, the academic edifice at GPTS has as its architectural framework the brilliant wisdom of the historic creeds of Christendom and the confessions of the Great Reformation of the church. Chief among these are the Westminster Standards: The Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. We cherish as well the Reformed doctrinal standards known as “The Three Forms of Unity.”

This commitment sets the stage for a praiseworthy cooperative relationship among colleagues ― the very definition of collegiality and a force for harmony around the Word of God and shared values of a sound theological education.

We readily bear the label of “Old School Presbyterianism.”

Unifying Principles 

Believing that the Church is constantly in need of a sound ministry committed to the Bible and the Confessional Standards of the church, Greenville Seminary is dedicated to the following distinctive and unifying principles:

  • Belief in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture resulting in an inerrant Word as it was originally given by God, and, therefore, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.  We take God’s Word seriously.
  • Belief in the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Seminary stands firmly on these historic standards as they set forth the biblical faith. Full subscription to the whole of these Standards is the Seminary’s position.
  • Belief that the biblical form of Church  government is Presbyterianism, which is essential to the well-being of the Church, though not necessary to its being.
  • Belief in the Great Commission as the one and only mission of the Church. Christ gave but one Great Commission to the Church, namely to evangelize the world and to teach all things that He taught. The Christian individually and in association with others, has obligations to function in all spheres of life by developing and practicing the full implications of the Christian world-and-life view in every human relationship and in all aspects of life and society under the Lordship of Christ. The Church, on the other hand, should not presume to enter into spheres of activity where it has neither calling nor competence.

Statement of Covenant and Belief

To guarantee that Greenville Seminary will maintain its theological position, each member of the Board of Trustees, Faculty, and Teaching Staff is required initially and annually to subscribe to the following Statement of Belief and Covenant:

  • “Believing that there is but one, the living and true God, and that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the  Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory, and with solemn awareness of the accountability to Him in all that we feel, think, say, and do, the undersigned engages in and subscribes to this declaration:
  • “All Scripture is self-attesting, and being Truth, requires the human mind whole heartedly to subject itself in all its activities to the authority of Scripture complete as the Word of God, standing written in the 66 books of the Holy Bible, all therein being verbally inspired by Almighty God, and therefore without error in the original autographs.
  • “Reformed Theology as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith & the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as adopted by the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is the system of doctrine taught in Scripture, and therefore is to be learned, taught, and proclaimed for the edification and government of Christian people, for the propagation of the faith and for the evangelization of the world by the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • “And I do solemnly promise and engage not to inculcate, sanction, teach or insinuate anything which shall appear to me to contradict or contravene, either directly or implicitly, any element in that system of doctrine.
  • “Now, therefore, the undersigned, in the presence of God, states and signifies that he consents, agrees, and binds himself to all of the foregoing without any reservation whatsoever, and that he further obligates himself immediately to notify in writing the Board of Trustees should a change of any kind take place in his belief and feeling not in accord with this Statement. AMEN.”

A Case in Point

Illustrative of the like-mindedness of scholars at Greenville Seminary is the Faculty Statement on Creation, an issue we find to be fundamental to Christian belief and critical to orthodoxy. While individual faculty members at other seminaries may share our commitment, few seminaries have demonstrated sufficient unity to take a united institutional stand on this doctrine that has been under prolonged attack for more than a century. The statement concludes, “Even should other fine men differ with us on this subject, we hereby announce our intent to remain faithful to the teaching of the Westminster Standards and other Reformed confessions…. To God alone be glory.” (Full text may be seen here.)