Open Letter to Northwest Nazarene University

May 13, 2022

Northwest Nazarene University

May 10, 2022

To the friends of Northwest Nazarene University,

Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am Sean Killackey, a recent graduate from NNU (B.A. Religious Studies). During my four years at NNU I carefully considered how to address concerns I have had about what is taught in the College of Theology and Christian Ministries. Numerous conversations with faculty did not produce the outcome I desired but only tended to confirm my assessment about the alarming things that are taught by faculty within this college. Therefore, I set about to write this letter. What you have before you is the final product of this process: the definitive revision of this letter.

While not exhaustive, this is an extensive critique of the College of Theology and Christian Ministries. It can be divided into four major headings: (1) Sexuality, (2) Religious Pluralism, (3) the doctrine of the Atonement and related matters, and (4) the Authority of Scripture. The Dean of the College of Theology and Christian Ministries has characterized this letter as “serious libel”. As of yet, however, he has not informed me of any factual errors I make in this letter, though I have asked him at least twice to do so. On the other hand, I can substantiate my claims. They should be taken seriously. In many cases I have email correspondence which supports what I say. In other cases the word of one or more students besides my own can be provided to establish my report. In a few instances, one can simply consult the published work or publicly available statements made by faculty members in order to demonstrate the veracity of what I’ve claimed.

I urge you to consider what I say, see the evidence I can present, and compare what professors are teaching with Christian doctrine, such as can be found in the Articles of Faith. This doctrinal standard is normative for the ministers of  the Church of the Nazarene. Moreover, as the Faculty Policy Manual (p. 83) states, “All faculty members shall demonstrate respect for, and shall refrain from endorsing views contrary to the Articles of Faith and the Community Lifestyle Covenants.” Judge for yourself whether or not the College of Theology is living up to this standard and what might be done to remedy this long-standing problem should you, like me, conclude that there is a serious problem to be addressed. For instance, ask yourself, “Have prior conversations about previous concerns really brought about the reform and conformity to Nazarene doctrine that is most urgently needed?” It might be worth considering urging the relevant university and denominational authorities to submit a questionnaire to the theology and philosophy faculty, perhaps something that looks like this, so that what faculty believe and teach on such matters might be clearly articulated and appraised accurately. Then appropriate action can be taken in response.

 

Sexuality

Dr. Bankard, who long had a rainbow sticker on his office door,[1] once said to me after a class session of “Contemporary Philosophy” that some homosexual marriages are probably fine. He had some connection to a group of students who prepared and distributed a pro-LGBT tract on campus.[2] This tract argued that some homosexual practices are fine and that NNU should change its policies with respect to homosexuality. When I contacted the anonymous email listed on the tract, the student I interacted with, who identified herself, responded to my questions and concerns by sending me to Dr. Bankard. She wrote, “I’m going to go ahead and pass this off to my good friend Dr. Bankard, who I’m sure you know well.” Given her description of Dr. Bankard as her good friend and that, as I was informed by a reliable source who knew her, she came to NNU with conservative theological beliefs, it seems reasonable to conjecture that Dr. Bankard had some influence on her pro-LGBT views. In any event, Dr. Bankard and I did meet. During this meeting he told me that he had offered to speak with the trustees on behalf of the students who produced this tract.

He is quoted in an online news article from 2019 expressing disapprobation that the United Methodist Church offically reaffirmed its prohibtion on gay marriage and practicing homosexual clergy. He stated:

I’m disappointed with the UMC’s vote. . . . At Collister UMC we work hard to welcome and love everyone who walks through our doors. The UMC vote will not change how we do business. We will continue to welcome and integrate all interested persons into our church family. This includes the LGBTQ community. With all of the publicity focused on the UMC excluding LGBTQ persons, I want to make it clear that here at Collister we have open arms, open hearts and an open door.

This is not surprising given what he says in his sermon “Why the Church Divided Over Homosexuality” (May 21, 2017).[3]

In this sermon he makes clear that he is pro-LGBT. He twice praises[4] Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian who, contrary to United Methodist Church law, was elected as a bishop. In case his comments about what it means for his church to “welcome and integrate” the so-called “LGBTQ community” were unclear what he says in this sermon removes all uncertainty:

On the other side [of the current debate on homosexuality within the United Methodist Church], you have people who believe that this policy is short sighted and should be changed and that the United Methodist Church should be inclusive of gay and lesbian individuals fully, meaning that not all sexual activity is sinful, that homosexuals can be in a loving relationship that is not sinful and that, therefore, they should be allowed to be ordained in church leadership, elected to bishop, and whatnot.[5]

It seems that for Dr. Bankard, part of accepting practicing homosexuals means approving of at least some homosexual relationships. This is deeply problematic.

To return to a more direct consideration of the practical impact of this on students, consider this. I had a friend who, in 2018, took Dr. Bankard’s “Cornerstone” course. Part of this class consisted of trips to Grace Episcopal Church, a church that is actively pro-homosexuality. By the end of this class she did not see why homosexual practices are wrong. Fortunately I was able to explain to her why homosexual practices are wrong. But, imagine if she had homosexual desires and had decided to ask Dr. Bankard for advice.

If what he says in his sermons is any indication,[6] it would not have been good advice. Consider, for instance, what he says in this sermon[7]: “If your kid is gay, buy a rainbow shirt and invite his boyfriend over for Thanksgiving.” If he is advising his congregants that it is praiseworthy to do these acts that, at the very least, clearly convey tacit approval of homosexuality, it is only reasonable to conclude that any advice he would give to students would be equally if not more spiritually ruinous.

I’ve spoken hypothetically so far (“imagine if”), but do not think that it is merely probable that sooner or later that students will come to him for advice on their sexuality. It has already happened at least once. Dr. Bankard relates a time when a student came out as gay to him in one of his sermons, “Hide and Seek: Say No to Fear (September 24, 2017); while he glosses over how he advised her, there is every indication that he affirmed her in this sinful lifestyle.

Dr. Smerick has expressed support online for those advocating for, among other things, LGBT professors at Seattle Pacific University.[8] In the course “Relativity and Disaster” she positively mentioned homosexuality or transgenderism fairly frequently. It is not hard to discern her probable motive in doing this, namely, to convey the impression that homosexual practices and transgenderism are acceptable. That she would do so is not surprising given that she has a child who is gender non-comforming, whom she referred to as “they”.[9]

Consider the following. She casually spoke of a certain author who “said to her wife, ‘I wish I could own all the dogs and read all the books.’” On two occasions she has condemned Dave Chappelle’s recent comedy program for hate speech because of his remarks about transgenderism. (It is unclear whether she makes a distinction between his insistence that men are men and women are women or the particular manner in which he said this or the jokes he made in connection to it. In our current time, many would lump all of these under hate speech: see here, and here.) And in doing so she spoke of him dismissively as having become “like a white Ohioan male”, as if that were a bad thing. At another time she casually recommended that we watch a music video by a rapper who goes by the name “Lil Nas X”. “Unless,” she said, “two men making out would gross you out.”

In one class period, I had commented on several positive developments over the last century for race relations, such as increased acceptance of interacial marriage. She replied, “And things are getting better. When I was younger there were some things that we couldn’t even talk about, such as homosexuality, let alone transgenderism.” In the context of this conversation it seems fairly obvious that she was indicating that increased acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism is a good thing.

Toward the end of the semester, she said that gender is historical not universal, inherited not essential, that a gender binary is not biologically supported, that gender is a colonial imposition, and the like. Then she claimed that 1-4 percent of people are intersex in order to undermine, it seems to me, the very idea of an objective, recognizable biological sexual dichotomy. (If, after all, the category of biologic male isn’t objectively true, there is no sense in asking, for instance, how ought males act qua male. Any Christian ought to regard such claims with abhorrence, since they are the conceptual justification for homosexual practice and transgenderism.) I responded to these claims (see: here).[10]

It is also worth mentioning that in “Philosophy of Religion”, in response to a student’s presentation, she said, “You can’t oppose Planned Parenthood and be for black women’s health.” This remark is not explictly pro-abortion, but it is hardly a stretch of the imagination to see that this is the significance of her statement. This is further confirmed by her liking a tweet that condemned Texas’ recent law banning most abortions.[11]

Dr. Riley, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, once suggested to me that perhaps Paul’s teaching that ‘it is better to marry than to burn with lust’ could be applied to homosexuality with the conclusion that some homosexual marriages are permissible. ‘Whatever you think about the issue,’ he said to me and another professor who was at the table with us, ‘perhaps this is something worth considering.’ Additionally, he has taken to calling one of his sons his daughter (e.g., here and here), as can be easily demonstrated. Likewise, he has liked or retweeted several pro-LGBT tweets, such as this one.[12]

Dr. Peterson told students in a ministry class, “You know our Church’s position on the matter. If you disagree with that, you’ll have to learn to navigate that.” Both I and another student can testify to this fact. And in that class session and my email correspondence with him following it he emphasized his position that we cannot say definitively whether or not homosexual practices are sometimes permissible, that is, whether or not Scripture condemns homosexual practices as such. We can, however, hold an opinion provided that, for instance, in pastoral practice we emphasis “I think that the Bible condemns homosexual practice, but other Christians reasonably disagree.” This seems to undermine sound pastoral practice. Moreover, this relativistic and tentative position is not the position of the Church of the Nazarene.

It is also useful to indicate that in this class session many students were openly confused about homosexuality to one degree or another. One student thought it was an insightful question to ask, “If animals can engage in homosexual behaviors, why can’t humans?”[13] And another said, “Jesus never commented on homosexuality,” which is only true in the least interesting and most narrowly technical sense.[14] In response to this did he lay out the biblical and/or natural law rationale for the impermissibiliy of homosexual acts? No. Instead he did what he could to undercut my effort to do just that.[15]

This is very much reminiscent of a discussion in another ministry class two years prior. The issue of homosexuality came up there. Dr. Peterson was leading a discussion on the issue. I explained the Scriptural view to which he responded, “Well, that is your opinion.” I countered, “It is not just my opinion.” Afterward I asked him, “Would you say that is a true opinion?” He did not answer on that occasion.

Concerning transgenderism, Dr. Peterson has said in an email to me: “I would say it wrong [sic] to speak of transgender issues as sinful at this time.”[16]

Dr. Kipp, in email correspondence with me (see: here, and here), never answered my question as to whether he thought homosexual practices are impermissible. (His in-class instruction and other comments make it difficult for me to tell what his belief on this matter is; the phrase “whatever you [i.e., ministry students] think about this . . .” characterized his instruction.) But in this email correspondence, he did say, “Wesleyans have a wide range of views of marriage (‘gay marriage’),” and, “I’m confident that our OT and NT scholars in CTCM will not agree, wholeheartedly, that St. Paul or the writer of Leviticus, is describing the same behaviors that a same-sex marraige would include.” I do not think these are the remarks someone who believes homosexuality is wrong or who takes the scriptural doctrine with seriousness would say.

Dr. Gorman has recomended the work of the pro-homosexuality Jesuit, James Martin, entitled Building a Bridge. It is odd to recommend the work of someone who openly promotes homosexual marriage within the Church of Rome for insight into how to engage with the so-called “LGBT Community”.

I do not know what Dr. Akkerman’s opinion on homosexuality is. But the following account is useful to highlight why there is so much confusion among students at the school. In early 2019, I and two other students went to the now defunct “Festival of Young Preachers”. Dr. Akkerman organized the trip and was also there. I preached a short sermon, which can be found on YouTube, in which I argued that the world was overcoming the Church in several aspects; I condemned materialism, doctrinal illiteracy, the acceptance of homosexuality (including by certain denominations), and abortion. After reviewing my manuscript he wrote: “I recommend you cut most of your content that focuses on specific topics that are not currently agreed upon by widely [sic] Christians from various traditions.” This was not the opinion of three of my friends with whom I shared this sermon, two of whom are pastors. They thought it was fine to include, since it was true and could be helpful to those who heard. (As it turned out, one of the schools, Brite Divinity School, I believe, had a rainbow banner at their booth; and many students from these schools identified as transgender or as homosexuals. So my message was most apt.)

One of the students from NNU who was there, Y, commented after dinner the first night that there was someone at his table who identified as gender non-binary. (She ended up offering a prayer for the entire gathering on one of the following nights.) And he was quite pleased as he told us, “There was no judgment at the table,” which, given his attitude, seems to imply that no one at that table, himself included, thought anything was amiss about such a self-identification. (As opposed to merely the fact no one harassed or mocked her.)

Dr. Akkerman, X (the other student), and I were there as he told us that. Neither of them seemed in the least alarmed by this or by Y’s apparent, tacit approval of that young woman’s sinful choice. This young woman, by the way, was par for the course inasmuch as pro-LGBT messages were common from many of the students there, many of the representatives from the schools who sent students, and from the organizers of the event. Whereas Dr. Akkerman thought it good to give negative feedback on my sermon as related above, he did not, as far as I know, comment negatively about any of these pro-LGBT messages to any of us. This seems to me to be a wasted opportunity to articulate and defend the biblical teaching on sexuality, which is why I relate this account.

Dr. Thompson, who is professor of New Testament, appears to hold a less extreme view than either Dr. Smerick or Dr. Bankard. However, he does not confidently say that homosexual practices as such are impermissible.[17] Rather, when Romans 1 came up in his “New Testament Letters” course he ended his comments on Romans 1 and class that day by saying, “But perhaps it does not apply to sexual relations in a commited homosexual relationship.” (This seems to confirm Dr. Kipp’s statement reported above.) I responded by noting that such a needless qualification (based in part on the misleading, irrelevant, and factually dubious idea that the ancients had no notion of sexual orientation) doesn’t fit Paul’s argument in the passage. I gave a few reasons. He seemed somewhat resistant. For instance, I appealed to contra physin (contrary to nature) as it is used by Philo and Josephus and how its Aramaic equivalent is used in other Jewish sources to show that Paul was condemning homosexual practices as such. He replied by saying that ‘it has a variety of meanings’, which may be true as a technical point but doesn’t interact with the argument I made about how it is used in Romans 1 and similar contexts. Anyone who has read Robert Gagnon is well equipped to see through such evasions.

This fits with his comments concerning how one’s view of inspiration connects to one’s views on other matters, which he made to me while we met for what was supposed to be my interview for ministerial standing. Concerning homosexuality, for instance, he said, ‘If there are enough loving homosexual persons in commited relationships, then perhaps what the Scriptures means for us now needs to be reconsidered.’

Dr. Leclerc, I think, believes that homosexual practices are wrong, but that this matter is not so vital. For instance, I heard these remarks while I was in “History of the Christian Tradition II”. In a lecture wherein she mentioned LGBT liberation theologians she said, “For some reason some people think that you can’t be both.” By “both” I believe she meant approving of or practicing homosexuality and Christian. The way she expressed this seemed to indicate that she disagreed with those who thought that you could not be both. My impression of her remarks was confirmed to me the following academic year. A friend of mine who took a class from her told me that on the same point she said the following: “There are some who claim to be Christians,” at which point she paused and said, “There are Christians who are LGBT liberation theologians.” I am inclined to regard this report as credible. Besides fitting with what I heard the previous year, my friend related it to me the day of the lecture wherein she made this claim or the day immediately following it.

From what I was told by other students, in a different class she did make some comments in defense of Nazarene teaching on homosexuality in response to another student’s question. So I do not claim that she thinks homosexuality is good or permissible. But what these remarks indicate to me is that she regards the matter as unclear and/or unimportant. And it is this position and its effects on her instruction that I find troubling. For it seems to me that when Scripture says that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the Kingdom the issue is of utmost importance. Therefore, to say that those who promote homosexuality and transgendeirsm can be Christians is worrying to me.[18] This will not enable students to counter the teaching of other faculty who are pro-LGBT, such as Dr. Smerick; if anything, it will incline them to accept what Dr. Smerick or Dr. Bankard might say to them in class and on other occasions.

In Fall 2021, Dr. Daniels gave a presentation to each “Ministerial Practicum” class on the Manual’s statement on human sexuality. Since this was done as a corrective response to an earlier draft of this letter being sent to the District Superintendents, I wish to note what I believe to be a serious deficiency in it. Stronger measures are urgently needed.

I want to make clear that I am not claiming that he thinks homosexual practices are permisisble. Nor does he hold the Nazarene position relativistically or tentatively: true for us, or in serious doubt. Rather, he has said to me in an email, “We – as a denomination – don’t think that this is an adiaphora position, or we wouldn’t exclude someone not in agreement from ordination.”[19] While I think he could have expressed this sentiment more firmly in the presentation, I see no reason to doubt that he holds it.

The basic problem with his presentation as a response by the College of Theology and Christian Ministries was that it was insufficient. It was a welcome change from the other sort of remarks I’ve heard over the prior three and a half years at NNU, but it hardly will suffice to provide a bulwark against what other faculty and what the culture at large are saying. For a star to not go nova it needs more than just some nuclear fusion. It needs enough to counter the force of gravity. Anything less will not do. Likewise, an one hour long presentation that is not able to refute objections against the position articulated in the manual on homosexuality will not be able to equip ministry students to hold firmly to sound doctrine. One student said during this class period, “I think the Church of the Nazarene ought to be more open minded about this issue.” Do you think this student will be persuaded by a presentation that only articulates what we hold on homosexuality but does not address the many popular arguments against this position?

Religious Pluralism

In “Virtue Seminar”, Dr. Bankard said that he would feel no need to convert virtuous Budhists. He made a very similar remark in one of his sermons[20]:

I think I’m here to spread the Good News to people who don’t have much hope, who are lost and isolated and broken. And I want to say, ‘You don’t need to live like this. I’ve got a community you can be a part of.’ But I have a hard time going to people who live wonderful lives, are filled with hope, have passion and a purpose but who don’t happen to be Christian. I don’t feel the need to convert them. I feel the need to join with them, to link arms to make the world better for the Kingdom of God. (Italics mine.)

In class, he has also said, “I don’t think it makes sense to say that Gandhi is in Hell.” While it is possible that Gandhi converted, the context of Dr. Bankard’s remark made it clear that it was because Gandhi was a decent man and did good that he said what he did. That Gandhi knew of the Bible, the Gospel, had several Christian associates, and for all his life, as far as we know, rejected Christianity did not feature in Dr. Bankard’s analysis. That Dr. Bankard’s position, as expressed in classroom instruction, leads him to deprecate the Gospel in this way is what makes it troubling.

Dr. Gorman wrote an essay in which he argued that people of other religions can be saved in and by those religions. He suggested that we read this essay in his “Introduction to Christian Missions” course. I did. I wrote and submitted a response to this essay, wherein I critiqued some of his conceptual confusions and found fault with his position as unbiblical, a position I regard as functionally equivalent to religious pluralism. In this class, toward the end of the semester, I asked him if he thought a worshiper of Baal could have been saved in Baalism. His answer was, “Possibly.” Elijah would be surprised indeed! This sort of statement fits very well with his mostly negative appraisal of the martyred missionary John Allen Chau, who was killed by the inhabitants of the North Sentinel Island; this criticism included the following remark: “Perhaps they did not need a missionary to come to salvation. Prevenient grace could have been enough.” I responded, “Prevenient grace was at work, for God had sent them a missionary.”

Having talked with several students who have taken his “Introduction to Christian Theology” class, I should note that a common impression is that he is a universalist. I have not taken this course, so I do not mention this to prove that he is a universalist.[21] But I do wish to make this comment in that regard: it is not good when students walk away from a course thinking that the professor is a universalist. For instance, even if he does not hold to that position, others who think he does might be persuaded for that reason to adopt it for themselves. This is especially concerning since it is not hard to avoid the appearance of teaching universalism.

Dr. Riley seems to be sympathetic to religious pluralism or a similar position. Anyone who has taken his “Eastern Religious Traditions” course can testify to that. But I wish to focus on just one point. Part of his class required that we attend and observe some religious services (of Hindus or Buddhists, say). When he introduced this assignment he went further than saying we should observe these. Rather he said, “You can go to the Hare Krishna center in Boise. They are very hospitable there. They’ll even offer you to join them in worship and prepare a vegan meal afterward.” Then the following week when discussing the assignment Dr. Riley said, “Participate as much as you want, but don’t violate your conscience.”[22] I think it should be obvious that a Christian’s conscience would not permit any participation in pagan worship.

Dr. Peterson seems to share a similar view to Dr. Gorman. A friend of mine who took his “Theology of the Church” class told me that in one session, Dr. Peterson said that “people in other religions can be saved.” I am not sure how you square that with the letter to the Hebrews or Scripture’s condemnation of idolatry as damnable, but that is what he said. If you would consult the essay I wrote in response to Dr. Gorman’s essay, which I mentioned above, you’ll see that I call this position “thick inclusivism” as opposed to a less objectionable view I label “thin inclusivism”.[23]

Dr. Smerick is also probably some sort of religious pluralist. In a class entitled “Relativity and Disaster” she said that she is fine talking about truth provided we think of it as “relative and uncertain”. She is a relativist. “Turtles all the way down,” she said, indicating how, in her view, we cannot attain a confident grasp of objective truth.[24] It is not hard to see what this view entails about the Gospel.

In her “Philosophy of Religion” course, I commented about how I personally derive great benefit and assurance that Christ is my mediator and that in prayer I plead not myself but the Name of Christ. She said, “As a Jew, Martin Buber doesn’t think he needs a mediator with God.” I replied, “He is mistaken.” She replied, “Well, actually the old covenant is still in force. This is the view of the Catholic Church, of some Lutherans and some others.”[25] It would be false to claim that the Jews who lived under the old covenant, which was done away with per the Epistle to the Hebrews (8:13), did not have Christ as a Mediator. To suggest that Martin Buber, a Jew who knew of the Gospel but never accepted the Lordship of Christ, had no need of Christ as a Mediator is most problematic.

On a different day in the same course I had expressed one of the concerns I have with feminist theologians, namely, that many of them end up affirming various Christological heresies, such as Socinianism. If I recall, she replied, ‘I have a fairly wide range of what views are acceptable.’

I was told by two students in the course that during one of the first class periods of “Western Religious Traditions” she said that all religions are just human interpretations of the world and that there is no correct religion.[26] When I and a few other students heard of this, we wished to see if what was told to us was accurate and, if it was, to ask her opinion of some concerns we had. However, instead of responding to our email, she wrote an email to her class rebuking them for sharing their concerns with us. Given that the report we received was given only a few days after the lecture and in response to a request to be as specific as possible in reporting what she had said, I am inclined to regard it as being reliable. At least, it warrants further attention.

The Doctrine of the Atonement and Related Matters

Preface: To aid in understanding this section I want to explain two important Scriptural doctrines that are affirmed in two Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene, Vicarious Satisfaction (Article VI) and the Historical Fall (Article V). I will also touch upon issues relating to eternal judgment (Article XVI). I supply most of the theological reasoning behind my expositions of these Articles in supplemental resources. I suggest that you consult them. If you do so, I believe that on the basis of the factual claims I make in this section (about what professors teach) you can see that several faculty deny one or more of these Articles.

In addition to anything else Article VI affirms, it affirms Vicarious Satisfaction, which I define as follows:

  1. God willed the death of Christ
  2. Christ dies in our place.
  3. The death of Christ is the basis upon which God justly pardons sins
  4. The death of Christ is necessary for this purpose.

Besides reading Article VI yourself, you can consult this white paper I have written defending the claims that these statements, which are part of historic Nazarene teaching on the Atonement, are required to affirm Article VI. Also you can read my honors thesis where I defend this claim at greater length. Doing so, I think, will help you see past any red herrings that might be used to suggest that the teaching of several faculty is not inconsistent with Article VI.

With respect to Article V, I argue that it requires one to affirm the Historic Fall, which I define as follows:

  1. Adam and Eve are historical persons.
  2. Adam and Eve were created with an unfallen nature.
  3. Adam and Eve are the sole progenitors of the human race.
  4. Through the sin of Adam and Eve the human race fell from our original state.

To deny any of these is to deny what Article V requires. Or that is my contention. Read the Article and judge for yourself. I would urge you to consult this white paper on Article V, too. If I am correct, please note that even if theistic evolution is consistent with this Article anyone who would affirm some variant of this theory and who wishes to affirm this Article must affirm these claims.

I suggest that you read these comments related to Article XVI.

Dr. Peterson has on several occasions denied at least some of the four claims I define as Vicarious Satisfaction.[27] For instance, in class he has denied that Christ’s death is the basis upon which God pardons sins (claim iii). I explicitly asked him, “Would you say that Christ’s death is the basis upon which God offers pardon?” He said, “No.” Likewise, he objected strongly to the claim that Christ’s death was necessary for the remission of sins. I brought up several passages to establish this point, including Hebrews 9:22, which says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” He responded to the classic proof text by saying, “One passage does not a good theology make.” Moreover, he refused to interact with scriptural objections to his apparent denial of this biblical doctrine or with historical objections to his position I brought forward, such as the fact that every Nazarene systematic theology[28] I have been able to consult affirms claims (i) – (iv).

It is worth observing that often his response has been to say that the Church of the Nazarene does not require any particular theory of the Atonement. But this is a red herring. I’ve often commented to him that, following Methodist theologian John Miley, this is an issue about facts of the Atonement, which any biblically adequate theory of the Atonement must explain.[29] Several theories are compatible with claims (i) – (iv).

Additionally he undermines Article XVI, sec. 2 (“The finally impenitent will suffer eternally in Hell”). He does not explicitly deny this article as far as I know, but various beliefs he holds and various claims he has affirmed in class severely undermine this doctrine and point toward universalism. Contrary to orthodox Arminianism, he seems to hold some form of open theism. In an email to me he expressed a somewhat friendly attitude toward purgatory. Moreover, in class he taught that Hell is not retributive; the sufferings of the damned being, apparently, merely the consequence of sin (and not also the penalty of sin) or potentially restorative. He claims that God continues to woo everyone always, even in Hell; that is, he gives prevenient grace to them, grace that enables a salvific response. If you do not see how these undermine Article XVI, sec. 2, you can consult the notes about Article XVI I have prepared. These ideas, some of which he has expressed in class, tend toward universalism rather than to an affirmation of Article XVI, sec. 2.[30]

He appears to reject Article V in two ways. First, he seems to reject at least some of the claims that comprise the Article’s teaching on the Historical Fall. When asked about whether I had erred in the position I articulated in my white paper on Article V, he said, “There is much I can agree with, some claims I would alter and change.” And, in addition to his disagreement with the truth of at least some of these claims, he also denies that at least some of them follow from Article V. If, however, they do follow from Article V, this would be to undermine the Article even if he agreed with the truth of these claims. (If you deny the Divinity of Christ, you deny the Nicene Creed. If you affirm the Divinity of Christ but deny that the Divinity of Christ is required by the Nicene Creed, you deny the Nicene Creed.)

It is not clear to me which of the claims he denies, since he has refused to answer my questions on this point. Instead he returns to the claim that theistic evolution is consistent with Article V. I found this puzzling, both because it would have been quite simple to say whether he agreed with each statement or not, and because I had on several occasions granted for the sake of argument that theistic evolution is consistent with the article. You can read this email correspondence to see the truth of what I’ve reported.

Dr. Bankard, in an article for BioLogos[31] and in email correspondence to me, denies the four claims by which I define Vicarious Satisfaction, which I believe comprises a core element of the Christian doctrine of the Atonement and which is required by Article VI. Consider this statement from his essay, for instance:

“Does substitutionary atonement give an accurate portrayal of the God of Scripture, and the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ? I would argue that it does not.”

Additionally, he denies that the Fall actually happened in history, which is required by Article V.  Consider this statement he made to me in an email:

The evidence strongly supports the truth of evolution. But once I (or anyone) accepts this, certain theological tenants get called into question. For instance, the Biblical narrative of the first two humans being created in a setting of paradise no longer holds [Denies i, ii, iii]. This calls into question the historical understanding of the fall, original sin, etc.. No longer can we blame the free choices of Adam and Eve. Instead, death precedes human sin. Death is a part of God’s intentional design. Also, sin is inevitable given human nature (animal nature) the state of the world humans would evolve into, etc.. If there is no historical fall [Denies ii, iv], then Jesus doesn’t die on the cross to correct original sin or original guilt. (Brackets mine.)

This fits well with what I’ve been told by one student in his Spring 2022 course “Science and the Christian Faith”. In that course Dr. Bankard said, ‘If humans evolved, there could not have been just Adam and Eve. Evolution wouldn’t have produced just two human beings at a time.’

From comments he has made in a sophomore “Honors” course, I suspect he holds a similar view of Hell as does Dr. Peterson. My own memory is somewhat dim, but I do recall him expressing some level of disagreement with the retributive nature of Hell and indicating some approval for the idea that Hell is not necessarily eternal but might be restorative, at least for some. A friend of mine who took the class the following year is of a similar opinion, and his memory (which is more specific) tends to confirm this; you can see his email to me about this.

Our memories are quite accurate judging by remarks he gave in one of his sermons, “Refiner’s Fire”.[32] In this sermon he rejects hell as “eternal damnation”, which he calls the “version of hell I grew up with”, and annihilationism, because both are committed to “eternal separation”. Instead he commends “a third view, which I’m going to advocate, which is hell as a place of formation and/or transformation: that hell is like the discipline we give children.”

As best as I can tell in this sermon he affirms universalism. For instance at one point in the sermon he says:

If God can’t achieve God’s goals, like all be saved, are we saying simply that God isn’t all powerful, that there are just certain things God can’t do? That sin is more powerful than God’s grace? Like, ‘I want to gather all of my chicks, I want all of my children to be saved, but I just can’t do it. Sin is more powerful than my grace and my forgiveness?’ That seems odd. I don’t want to say that about God.

Later he says:

What if Hell is like a refiner’s fire, a fire that purifies? Because all of us have this line that divides where there are parts of us that are holy and pure and we desire what God desires and there’s a part of us that does not, that is selfish and angry and bitter. And I think that Hell is something like putting in the metal and all the dirt and gunk getting – melt away and what is left is pure and holy. Now some of us will have an easier time in the refiner’s fire than others. Some of us have less to be burnt away.

There is perhaps some ambivalence in his sermon. For instance he says somewhat later, “And yet there will be people, I believe, who are so filled with pride, sin, evil, greed, that they won’t [enter the Kingdom of God]”. Is he saying that they will never enter the Kingdom or that they will not enter it for some indeterminate but finite period of time? While I would argue that the context favors the latter interpretation, it may be that he stops short of affirming a confident universalism. And yet, for the same sort of reasons I mentioned previously in connection with Dr. Peterson, this position, which he has expressed on some occasions in class, tends toward universalism and, consequently, toward a denial of Article XVI. Another way of putting this critique is that, if Dr. Bankard refrains from endorsing universalism, it is an arbitrary move. It does not seem to follow from his opinions that he has expressed here or elsewhere.

Article XVI gives the terminus ad quem for repentance at death. “We believe in future judgment in which every person shall appear before God to be judged according to his or her deeds in this life.” (Sec 2. Italics mine.) And the fullness of reward or penalty is given when “the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits”. Otherwise, it would not make sense for this Article to refer to the resurrection of the latter group as “the resurrection of damnation” and to speak of these as them that “shall suffer eternally in hell.” Certainly, Dr. Bankard’s comments do not seem to fit with this doctrinal standard.

Dr. Bankard appears to hold this universalist or universalist-adjacent position tentatively. He claims not to know whether it is correct or not.[33] “I don’t know about the afterlife,” he says, “I don’t know what happens and I’m sure that anyone who says that they do is going to be wrong.” (Italics mine.) But tentatively affirming something that is opposed to one of the Articles of the Church of the Nazarene and sometimes expressing this view in classes is not the thing as refraining from undermining Article XVI.

From what I have been told by others concerning Dr. Gorman, it seems he might also deny at least several of the claims listed above. When I had explained what Dr. Bankard had clearly published in his essay as well as had told me via email correspondence, my friend, who had taken Dr. Gorman’s “Introduction to Christian Theology” course, told me, “This sounds like what Dr. Gorman says.” Given Dr. Gorman’s affinity for emergent church figures, this fits.

But there is more than indirect evidence to suggest that this is correct. For at least the last two years, Dr. Gorman has given his “Introduction to Christian Theology” courses a recorded lecture on the Atonement, which I have listened to. Several statements strongly indicate that he would reject Vicarious Satisfaction, that is, some or all of claims (i) – (iv). If my interpretation of Article VI is correct, it means that his teaching undermines Article VI.[34]

He discusses several “models” of the Atonement. While he initially appears to suggest that there is truth in all of the models he discusses,[35] when it comes to actually discussing “propitiation” he speaks against it in very negative terms.[36] For instance, he says of it, “I don’t think it’s good theology,” and argues that Nazarenes or Wesleyans who are “really listening and paying attention to our theology” would reject this model of the Atonement.[37] So, what does he mean by “the Cross as satisfaction or what’s also been known as propitiation”, this view he thinks we should reject?

His primary reference is Anslem, whom, he says, argued that “Christ satisfies God’s wrath toward sin.” He says, “Sin offended God’s honor, God’s wrath must be turned aside, satisfied, or appeased.” Appeased in what fashion? He says that on this model Christ pays our debt and is punished. He describes “the Cross as substitution” in nearly identical terms, saying, “So it affirms human sin. Therefore, a debt must be paid for sin. Christ pays a debt we owe to God. Christ takes our place and he dies the death we deserved.” This last point is important, because it helps show what he is arguing against and, given his earlier comments, apparently rejects as bad theology.

The particular objections to “the Cross as satisfaction” he introduces, which seem to apply equally well against what he calls “the Cross as substitution”, also indicate that he rejects some of claims (i) – (iv) that comprise what I call “vicarious satisfaction”. For instance, he says, “So, some other, you know, points against this are: if we believe that God punishes for sin, then it becomes permissible for humans to punish for sin.”[38] This seems to, at least, constitute a rejection of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which is one prominent way of articulating claims (i) – (iv).

He also says, “And then the kind of the last thing against this model is that, it’s that God only forgives because the debt of sin has been paid, not because God loves us.” This seems to be a rejection of (iii): that the death of Christ is the basis upon which God pardons sins, i.e, consistent with his justice. For this reason, his claim also appears to undermine (iv): that the death of Christ is either absolutely necessary or relatively necessary for the pardon of sins. He objects to this view because it claims that God only forgives because a debt has been paid, that is, would not have forgiven otherwise.

Now, any student of theology should recognize that those who affirm the propitiatory element of the Cross do not say that God only forgives because the debt has been paid. God’s justice must be satisfied in order for the remission of sins, but that God would set about to satisfy His just claims apart from our destruction is due to the love of God. As the great seventeen century Remonstrant theologian Hugo Grotius says: “God was moved by his own goodness to bestow distinguished blessings upon us.” (A Defense of the Catholic Faith Concerning the Satisfaction of Christ, p. 1).[39] Still, it seems that Dr. Gorman would reject this claim, too, namely, that God’s justice must be satisfied for him to pardon our sins. That is why I conclude that he rejects at least claims (iii) and (iv) and thus undermines Article VI in his classroom instruction. If he would extend his rejection of “the Cross as satisfaction” to “the Cross as substitution”, as the similarity in the way he describes both ‘models’ suggests, it is reasonable to conclude that he also would reject claim (ii): that the death of Christ is substitutionary, i.e., he died in our stead.

I have only heard Dr. Leclerc make a few comments about the Atonement. Of these, only one stands out. In “History of the Christian Tradition II” she claimed, “Wesleyans prefer subjective theories of the Atonement.” I would disagree with this claim (see: here). And while it aroused suspicion in my mind that she would reject some of the claims by which I’ve defined Vicarious Satisfaction, since objective theories of the Atonement of their nature affirm most if not all of these claims whereas subjective theories do not, it was hardly conclusive. In August, 2021, I sent an email to Dr. Leclerc about my concerns with Dr. Bankard’s essay on the Atonement. She never responded. But this is not conclusive of anything either.

Moreover, she makes certain comments in Discovering Christian Holiness that at least suggest she would affirm these four claims. For instance, she writes:

“To be justified by God implies that our sins are forgiven. The guilt of our sins is taken away. God no longer condemns us for our transgressions. This is at the heart of the theme of the Reformation. Again, Luther was separated from his Catholic counterparts by his declaration that we are saved by faith alone. We call this his doctrine of justification. It is sometimes called a forensic view of salvation. We are guilty. We deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ takes the punishment for our sins upon himself. Thus God as judge is able to say that we will no longer be held accountable for our past sins. The guilt is atoned for.” (Discovering Christian Holiness, p. 174)

However, more recent, more extensive, and arguably clearer comments that she and Dr. Peterson make in a forthcoming book, The Backside of the Cross, give me reason to reconsider my initial assessment.[40] It may very well be that in statements like the one quoted above she is either summarizing a traditional view without affirming it or simply utilizing conventional language in order to express her own view without accepting all or even most of what usually is signified by it. Possibly, her views have shifted since 2010, when Discovering Christian Holiness was published.

This book by Dr. Leclerc and Dr. Peterson, which Dr. Leclerc assigned in “Christian Theology I”, I would argue, clearly denies claims (i) – (iv) and, therefore, expresses claims that undermine Article VI. But before proceeding to direct consideration of this point, I wish to comment on the quality of argumentation this book displays.

Most of the objections they bring against “substitutionary theories of the Atonement” have been refuted often over the course of many centuries. Indeed, their presentation of such theories, such as Penal Substitutionary Atonement or Moral Governmental Theory, are inadequate and biased. For instance, they write that on these views “God purposely misdirects his wrath” and claim that doing so “almost (if not altogether) requires a split in the Godhead.” (p. 64; italics mine) This question begging and unsupported assertion, I would argue, doesn’t do justice to either Penal Substitutionary Atonement or Moral Governmental Theory. Take the latter claim, for instance. Since on either of these two particular articulations of substitutionary Atonement the (retributive or public) justice of the Son as much as of the Father and the Holy Spirit is satisfied by the voluntary offering of the Son to the Father through the eternal Spirit, it cannot be reasonably claimed that these views imply that there was a “split in the Godhead”. Further, they seem unaware that in Moral Governmental Theory it is not God’s retributive justice that is satisfied, but rather God’s public justice instead of his retributive justice. John Miley, one of the most prominent nineteenth century Methodist theologians, and A. M. Hills, the first Nazarene to write a systematic theology, expresses this quite clearly.[41]

What is most relevant, however, to the purpose of this letter is to see whether this book gives any evidence that Dr. Leclerc and Dr. Peterson undermine Article VI. I believe it does. They explicitly reject the claim that God willed the death of Christ. “The will of the First Person into which Christ submitted in prayer from Gethsemane to Golgotha . . . is not that Christ be killed.” They strongly object to the claim that Christ’s death is either a substitute for our punishment or that he bears our punishment as a substitute, which is what I mean by claim (ii). On p. 63 they write, “But what if we question the morality of this claim?” They proceed to question, that is, reject, this claim, opting instead to see Christ’s death as accomplishing something else. Moreover, they apparently reject claims (iii) and (iv) because they think these claims would make God out to be a punisher instead of essentially loving. (p. 64) They cite Isaac Wiegman positively, “The crucifixion actually reveals that substitution is not a morally required transaction, and that the system of retributive punishment for transgressors is itself morally bankrupt.” Consequently, they conclude, “This makes satisfaction and substitutionary Atonement theory at the very least misguided, if not altogether ‘unchristian.’” (p. 66)

They do not merely refrain from teaching that, since it was necessary for Christ to suffer and die in our place in order to free us from penalty consistently with divine justice, God willed the same, which is what claims (i) – (iv) amount to. They deny these claims. Again, it is not merely that they propose something else alongside these claims – though, I do not think their positive proposal is particularly well-founded – but that they propose this instead of the claims that comprise the doctrine of Vicarious Satisfaction (pp. 58, 66).

In case it might be supposed that this portion of the work is more or less just the product of Dr. Peterson, who, as I have already shown, does deny Vicarious Satisfaction”, and not also that of Dr. Leclerc, it is useful to note the use of the exclusive “we” in the chapter. “While respecting the depth and breadth of [mimesis’s] function in these areas, we intend to use the mimesis theory here in a similar fashion to Luce Irigaray, who advocates that one use oppressive models – in her case, misogynistic views of women – and embrace them for the very purpose of undermining them, indeed transfiguring them into new, liberated sets of meaning.” (p. 58; underline mine) They, that is, both Dr. Leclerc and Dr. Peterson, are advocating that we should “accept” in some fashion elements of traditional Atonement theories, among which they include substitutionary theories of the Atonement, in order to undermine and replace them. This appears to be as much Dr. Leclerc’s project as it is Dr. Peterson’s.

Biblical Authority

Besides the general observation that what I have reported above shows that several faculty overturn biblical authority, I wish to cite further instances.

Dr. Riley said in his “Eastern Religious Traditions” course that just as in Hinduism the worship of various gods were conflated together, Yahwehism grew out of the worship of “the gods of the fathers”. This warrantless claim would overturn much of redemptive history, to say the least. Or, to quote the Nazarene theologian A. M. Hills, “It is precisely such drivelling foolishness as this that is tinkering away at our Bible.” (Fundamental Christian Theology, Vol. I, p. 187)

Besides this, it is the opinion of many students that Dr. Riley has a low opinion of the historical reliability of much of Scripture. If the foregoing comment is any indication, this opinion is not held warrantlessly. Another indication of this is where a friend of mine objected to some of what the assigned reading said about the historicity and moral licitness of events narrated in the book of Joshua, such as the destruction of Jericho. Dr. Riley’s feedback deprecated his well placed objections. In part he wrote:

I wonder if one of the things we should talk more about together there is do we trust the Bible or do we trust the god that the Bible points us toward and what I mean by that is the Bible points in a lot of different directions and there are things that archaeology and Science and other disciplines have clearly pointed out that the Bible is a product of it of its own time and context and if we have to have the Bible be accurate in all areas all disciplines for to be trustworthy and perhaps were fighting a battle that’s going to be really hard to overcome.[42]

If these comments are characteristic of his opinion on the historicity of the Scriptures and are indicative of his instruction to students, I find it very worrisome. And to some extent it must be indicative of his own position and teaching. As I was told by one of his students, while he affirms some sort of exodus sans many biblical details, he believes that Jericho was uninhabited at this time and, consequently, the Israelites invented the account to explain what they observed. Moreover, Dr. Riley claims that God would not have commanded the destruction of the Canaanite nations, something he regards as immoral.

Some time after that, I and several other students wrote to Dr. Riley asking him to clarify his opinion on the historicity of the Scriptures. We asked him if he believed certain significant events in creatio-redemptive history happened. I wrote the email we sent and in doing so patterned my list off of one given in Exploring Our Christian Faith, a Nazarene systematic theology.[43] He has not responded to this email.

Dr. Bankard: In “Virtue Seminar” I had commented that for Paul (in Romans 1) atheism or unbelief in the true God is culpable, at least in most people. That God exists and is to be worshiped and thanked is obvious and yet people fall into false religion and idolatry. He said that he did not see how unbelief could be culpable for most people. “If someone was raised in an idolatrous religion and never went outside of his village, I don’t see how he could be blamed.” So, he said, “I guess I disagree with Paul, at least as you interpret him.” But what I said (if not, as I think, the stronger statement that every unbeliever is culpable for his unbelief) must be what Paul means or his argument that the entire world is made liable to God’s judgment does not make sense.

I relate this to indicate three things. First, Dr. Bankard seems perfectly fine with rejecting the (obvious) meaning of this passage because it conflicts with what he thinks to be true. Second, in doing so he appears to be indicating that Scripture does not inerrantly reveal “the will of God concerning us in all things necessary for our salvation”. If idolatry is damnable and, consequently, repentance of it is requisite for our salvation, as the passage and others like it teach, then one cannot deny this and affirm Article IV. But, Dr. Bankard does deny this claim. Therefore, it seems he denies Article IV. Third, I believe this is illustrative of the manner in which Dr. Bankard deals with other passages of Scripture that, because of his pro-LGBT beliefs and denials of Article V, VI, and XVI, he has to ignore or distort. If he can read Romans 1:18,19, which says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people . . . since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God made it plain to them,” and make the remark that he did, is it a wonder that he finds the Scriptural teaching on homosexuality, for instance, to be obscure?

Several times, such as in “Ethics”, which I took during my freshman year, he has talked about how the Bible’s report of the invasion of Canaan might be morally faulty. At that time, I was not sure what his own opinion was. However, his opinion of accuracy of the Scriptural account of the invasion of Canaan, other acts of judgments, and the portrait of God given in such accounts, can be easily ascertained from remarks in one of his sermons, “Theological Questions” (April 15, 2018).[44] There he plainly rejects these as being the mistaken impression of the Israelites.

When asked how he would reconcile the supposedly discordant portraits of God given in the Old and New Testaments, God as violent and God as merciful, he says, “Human beings wrote [the Bible]. God inspires it. But not everything written in Scripture is a hundred percent accurate.” And he argues that accounts such as the invasion of Canaan do not fit with the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the people of Israel “were wrong about God’s command to wipe out every living thing in the land they were given”. In fact, he expresses the marcionite sentiment that those who affirm the accuracy of such accounts, “have to live with a God who has a character that looks a lot like Satan.”[45]

I explain why rejecting the historicity and moral rectitude of the invasion of Canaan and similar Old Testament judgments undermines the authority of the Scriptures more fully in this essay. The essence of the problem is that this position would render so much of what the Old and New Testaments say about God’s acts and moral perfections false. Consequently, we are left with a Scripture that cannot be said to reliably reveal God’s character or redemptive history. And this is supposed to be our guide that inerrantly reveals the will of God concerning us in all things necessary for our salvation, as Article IV states? It cannot function this way if what Dr. Bankard teaches is correct. Fortunately he is wrong. As Paul says, “The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking from a human viewpoint.) Far from it! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?” (Romans 3:5, 6)

Dr. Gorman also made similar remarks on the invasion of Canaan. In the same week, in fact. That is part of why I found it so remarkable at the time, which was Spring 2019. In “Introduction to Christian Missions” he asked us, “Do we really want to say that God commanded the Canaanite Genocide?” He did not, as far as I recall, answer the question, though, the impression I had was that he would answer, ‘No,’ or at least wish for us to consider it a question with an uncertain answer.

Part of why I think that he would answer, ‘No,’ is his affinity for emergent church figures. For instance, consider what Brian McLaren writes: “For me, today, the Noah story, in which God wipes out all living things except one boatload of refugees, has become profoundly disturbing,” (New Kind of Christianity, p. 108) and, “a god [sic] who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship” (p. 109). While Gorman does not use this book by McLaren, he does use McLaren’s other, similarly titled New Kind of Christian. I recognize that this particular point is circumstantial evidence. But, provided that you regard my criticism of rejecting the historicity or moral licitness of Old Testament judgments as sound, it warrants further investigation. And, at least, it raises the question of why Dr. Gorman is using the works of such a lamentably inept author such as Brian McLaren in his “Introduction to Christian Theology” courses.

Dr. Peterson: It is hard to see what use there is in saying Scripture has authority if for any controversial topic we must only say, “I think” and “This is just my opinion.” And, for what it is worth, in “Worship Theory and Development” he said that the Wesleyan Quadrilateral reduces to reason, which is a conceptual confusion. Simply because we reason about what Scripture, tradition, and experience present to us does not mean these things are reducible to reason or their authority is reducible to reason’s authority. Scripture is the supreme authority, the norm that norms all other norms.

Two other instances, out of several from which I could choose from, are worth noting. When giving feedback on my Advent homily, Dr. Peterson told me: “By the way Isaiah 7:14 most scholars and [sic] say that it’s not about Jesus.”[46] Likewise, in “Christian Theology II” he seemed to be opposed to the idea that, when written, Isaiah 53 was a prediction about Christ.[47] These statements about Scripture do not seem to fit the teaching of Scripture (1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20,21). And these statements undermine the authority of the Scriptures by removing or downplaying the element of predictive prophecy.

He also appears to reject the morality of many, if not all, of the Old Testament judgments, such as God’s command to Israel to invade Canaan.[48] This is evident from his remarks in The Backside of the Cross. On p. 118 of the unpublished manuscript, he writes, “It is impossible to continue imagining God as violent if interpreted through the lens of a non-violent Christ. Either God is schizophrenic, or God-in-Christ’s nature is the hermeneutical key.” In this context he has in mind “texts that ascribe to God commands that the Israelites inflict violence upon others” and New Testament passages such as the account of the Holy Spirit’s killing of Ananias and Sephira, which he considers “just as problematic”. He evidently misses the irony that he makes the same fundamental mistake as Marcion, from whom he attempts to distance his own position. As I mentioned above, I address these claims in this essay.

If I am correct in the position I defend in that essay, those who embrace this neo-marcionite position cannot have the high view of Scripture’s authority that is required by Article IV. If vast sections of Scripture so severely distort the character of God, as Dr. Peterson’s position entails, then it simply cannot be trusted. In other words, if they are consistent they cannot affirm its role to inerrantly reveal “the will of God concerning us in all things necessary for our salvation”.

Dr. Leclerc, again, is the co-author of this book in which these remarks were made. For that reason it seems very plausible that they reflect her view as much as they do Dr. Peterson’s. This is also suggested by the fact that such statements fit very well with some remarks she made in Discovering Christian Holiness:

“Adopting a hermeneutic of love is not without its difficulties, however, especially when reading the Old Testament. There are many passages where God seems anything but loving; consider the commands of God that condone genocide. . . . Wrestling through such difficult passages such as these can be challenging but not impossible.” (p. 54)

I first read these remarks in Fall 2021 for the course “Theology of Holiness”, in which this text was assigned. (From what I have been told, Dr. Bankard assigns this text in his sophomore “Honors” course as well.) I suspected that she would reject these scriptural accounts as immoral, but I was not certain. She did not explicitly state her position in the following pages. However, because I read the remark just quoted, I was not surprised when she and Dr. Peterson made the claims related previously.

Dr. Smerick will dismiss any explanation of Scripture she disagrees with by vague allusions to the context in which this or that passage Scripture was written. For example, in “Philosophy of Religion” I asked how a Christian should view what Martin Buber, an unbeliever, says about God given that Paul says that unbelievers are separated from God’s life because of the ignorance that is in them. She did not bother to answer the question but, evidently, criticized the idea that unbelievers are in some substantial sense separated from the life of God. (Whether or not this rules out useful contributions from unbelievers in the philosophy of religion is besides the point as concerns this letter.)[49]

Without noting particulars of the passage itself, she said, “I think Paul would hate to see his letters, which he wrote to particular churches for particular reasons, standing alone and used without regard for their context.” Of course, much of what Paul says does not require much understanding of the historical context of, say, Ephesus. And she didn’t bother to explain how what I quoted from Paul was irrelevant to Buber. Indeed, I observed that Paul says this in several letters. She did not respond further. While the relevance of this example may not be immediately clear, I bring it up to illustrate her attitude toward Scripture. I am sure you can see how easy it would be for her to use this same strategy for homosexuality or any other issue.

The book edited by Dr. Oord and Dr. Thompson, The Bible Tells Me So, on the whole very much undermines biblical authority. If anyone wishes, I can supply several essays I have written responding to some of the essays it contains, particularly those that touch upon inspiration and authority.[50] There are several problematic statements in Dr. Thompson’s essay “Authority Is What Authority Does”. Consider this, for instance:

Early Christians turned to these Jewish sacred texts composed originally for Israel as holding unique status within the church. These texts provided various witnesses to God’s self-revelation and saving activity that redeemed and created a people belonging to God. Christians understood these texts were written and preserved for others.[51] But they also read them in continuity with their understanding of [Christ’s life, death, and resurrection]. Such appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures granted these texts authoritative status, because they provided lenses through which to see, understand, and respond to God’s actions within [Christ’s life, death, and resurrection].” (p. 50; italics mine.)

This passage, as well as the larger context of the essay, seems to suggest that these texts only have authority and the christological meaning we take them to have because Christians decided to use them in this fashion. This seems to entail that the meaning of Scripture is not determined by the text itself, but is changeable. I would argue that this is also an implication of Dr. Thompson’s remarks about homosexuality and inspiration, which I related above.

This dangerous idea is very much at odds with what the Scriptures teach. For instance, Christ, the apostles, and their companions who wrote the New Testament often say that this passage of Scripture is about Christ or that this prophet wrote (i.e. past tense) about Christ; that is, Christ was foretold or typified in the Old Testament already. They don’t treat these christological claims as something that needs to be added later or as things which were not always there. When Christ teaches the disciples on the Emmaus road, he is not waiting for community consensus to grant the Law, Psalms, and Prophets their Christological meaning. Rather the way the New Testament speaks about the Old Testament shows the latter to be authoritative simply because it is God’s word and to always have proclaimed Christ because that is what God, the ultimate author of Scripture, meant. Nothing was needed to be given to these texts by Christians.

Back in January, 2021, I wrote to Dr. Thompson about this essay, including about the statement I quote above. But he never responded to my comments and questions.

It is interesting to observe that his view, which seems to be shared by some of the other authors of the book, bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Peterson’s view insofar as Dr. Peterson’s view can be discerned by his statements about Isaiah 7:14 and chp. 53.

I would argue that the tendency among professors in the College of Theology and Christian Ministries to deprecate the regular use of masculine terms (e.g., “he” or “Father”) for God undermines the authority of Scripture. I will explain why after I briefly describe how this tendency manifests itself.

First, consider the relevant portion of the College’s “Respectful Language and Conduct Policy.” There it reads:

In light of our history, theology, and understanding of Scripture, we expect professors and students alike  to write and speak inclusively, e.g., using the terms “humankind,” “humanity,” or “human being” instead  of “mankind” or the generic “man”; and using the pronouns “he or she,” “his or her,” “they” and “their” instead of masculine pronouns only. Such language accurately reflects all human beings’ equal status as  persons.

When referring to God, we suggest using a wide variety of images found in Scripture, such as rock (Ps 89:26), light (1 John 1:5), eagle (Deut 32:11), shepherd (Ps 23:1), mother-hen (Luke 13:34), creator (Isa  40:28), father (Matt 6:9), and so on. By drawing on such biblical images, we hope to deepen our understanding of God and become a more inclusive community.

I’ve included the first paragraph to provide context that shows that when the policy concerning references to God is given, this represents a move away from the consistent use of masculine terms for God. I am not suggesting that this policy requires or penalizes students to reject the consistent use of such terms for God. On the contrary, this is not so. And, one former professor who attempted to do this, Dr. Wolff, is no longer at NNU. Dr. Leclerc even referred to Dr. Wolff’s policy (albeit somewhat obliquely) as “stupid”. However, several faculty engage in practices that I think are worrisome. Some more or less strongly deprectate masculine terms for God, or indicate that we can with as much propriety refer to God in the feminine.

In Spring, 2022, Dr. Leclerc gave a lecture in “Christian Theology I” in which she strongly encouraged students to refrain from using masculine language (e.g., “He” or “Father) for God. Four students in that course were able to relate to me what she stated, both the arguments she gave for her admonition and the admonition itself. For instance, she said that since most child-abusers are male and many people have abusive fathers we should refrain from calling God “Father” as doing so might trigger their PTSD. She also argued that since God in his Divinity is not gendered we should not call God “He” or “Father”. She also argued that the Scriptures only employ masculine pronouns for God with such ubiquity because they were written by humans living in a patriarchal society. While she said that it would be inappropriate to change the Lord’s Prayer, she deprecated its use. Needless to say, I do not find these arguments particularly convincing. I omit their refutation for the sake of time.[52]

Besides the weakness of these arguments, there are three negative theological implications of rejecting the consistent practice of referring to God by masculine terms, which the Scriptures and Church have always done. First, it undermines the reliability and sufficiency of Scripture. Evidently Scripture has led us astray by a practice that is actually more harmful than it is worth. This raises the question: where else might it have led us astray? Her novel methodology provides no limiting principle to this, I fear. Dr. Leclerc attempts to correct the commands and approved examples contained in the Scriptures by something external to the Bible. This undermines its sufficiency as our rule of faith. Someone who affirms a genuine formulation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, I think, should not do this. Second, it has troubling implications for Christian sexual ethics. It is no secret that, for instance, God is said to be the Husband of Israel. But if we should not consistently refer to God with masculine language, this throws a wrench into human sexual ethics. For instance, if we can with as much propriety refer to God as “she” then it seems we are left with a tacit approval of homosexual marriage. Third, we cut ourselves off from what God wishes to reveal about himself by these self-chosen terms. If Scripture is not given to us in vain but is for our profit, then we cannot imagine that abandoning the consistent use of masculine terms for God such as “Father” can be done without loss to ourselves.

She is not the only professor to make remarks along these lines. A student in one of Dr. Gorman’s classes told me that Dr. Gorman had said, “God, he or she . . .”. I have heard others, such as Dr. Peterson and Dr. Bankard, encourage basically the same idea. Whether or not they consistently refer to God in the feminine, they seem to regard it as something that is no less improper than referring to God in the masculine. From time to time they give indication to students that this is their view. Consequently, I think the three theological criticisms I gave above apply to them, too.

As a result, there is a significant deprecation of the use of “himself” for God. “Godself” is the preferred term of faculty and many students in the College, though there have been several ministry students who regularly use feminine pronouns for God without any correction from faculty in the College of Theology and Christian Ministries.

Thank you for your consideration of my letter. Please, assess the veracity of the claims I make. I believe many of the claims to be irrefutable. The rest I think are true and are sufficiently credible to include in this letter. It is not inconceivable that I should have erred in relating this or that fact or in forming this or that conclusion. But the description given of this letter by Dr. Thompson as “blackmail”, or Dr. Peterson’s description of it as “serious libel”, or Dr. Leclerc’s description of it (as related to me by another) as “a pack of lies”, I think, shows they are not speaking in good faith. I arrive at this conclusion for another reason, too. I have been told that I have taken professor’s comments out of context. Yet, when I ask for specifics to show that this is what I have been done, there is an odd silence.

Does this prove that I have not done so even once? No. But, just read the section on human sexuality and see whether it is likely that I have taken the statements of the professors mentioned therein out of context. I think this holds true of the letter generally. In other words, I have attempted as far as I am able to ascertain as precisely as possible what professors believe and teach. I believe that I have succeeded in this goal. Therefore, there is something that requires urgent attention by denominational and university officials. Where there is smoke, there is fire; and I have even seen flames.

If you agree with my assessment of the situation, I ask that you carefully consider what might be done to rectify the current situation. I believe that respectfully informing the relevant denominational and university leaders of your concerns is one thing that you can do. Prayer, also, is vital and very much to be commended at all occasions, this being no exception.

And for those of you who are parents, I would suggest that you consider not sending your children to this school. Or at least you must be sure to instruct them well in sound doctrine so that they might be able resist the falsely so-called knowledge taught in the College of Theology and Christian Ministries. Only know that it is not uncommon to hear of students who become atheists after taking one or more courses in the College of Theology.

Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause!

 

Grace and peace,

Sean Killackey

[email protected] or

[email protected]

[1] He is not the only professor to have had a pro-LGBT sticker on his office door. Dr. Van Essen, a professor in the English department, has one on her door.

[2] He is not the only professor who had some involvement with the students who produced this tract. Dr. Kinsman, an art professor, who spoke in chapel on March 8, 2021, positively mentions the students’ efforts and quotes from the tract (32:11). Moreover, he made several pro-LGBT statements, including: “Imagine if members of the LGBTQ community felt this [NNU] was a safe space, that they were accepted for who they are and who they love without judgment.” (41:16)

[3] I’ve transcribed it entirely (see: here). Needless to say that I consider his presentation of the orthodox position to be woefully inadequate and his attempt to prop up the pro-LGBT a failure.

[4] At 1:45 and 17:10.

[5] Shortly after 4:40.

[6] See here. (E.g., “Enemies”, March 3, 2019; “How Long, Oh Lord, Must We Wait”, May 10, 2020; “Spirituality and the Justice of God”, January 30, 2022.)

[7] “Little Miss Sunshine” 20:58 (May 10, 2020). He is quoting approvingly from an essay by a woman he identifies as Samantha. This statement is part of a rather lengthy quotation from that essay. Given that he quotes from this essay approvingly and without any critical comments it seems reasonable to conclude that he also considers this good advice. After quoting from the essay, he makes clear his basic agreement with the author’s comments, which provides further confirmation of this suggestion.

[8] See here, here, here, and here. It is also worth nothing that her Twitter bio lists her pronouns: she/her. This practice is adopted almost exclusively by those who support transgender ideology.

[9] My fairly clear recollection of what she said in class was confirmed to me by another student who had taken this course. Had she not mentioned this in class, I would not have included this information. But, since she saw fit to mention it in a way that, to me, suggests tacit approval of LGBT claims I do not think it is amiss to include here.

[10] When I had asked her (12.21.2021) about my responses either to relativism about truth or about gender in particular she replied, “I do want you to recognize that my task in class is to present others’ theories as vigorously as possible.  The course was called “Relativity and Disaster” and we discussed many theorists who advocated such views.  My job is to explain these views in a way that makes sense to my students.  To assume that therefore I hold those views is a leap that is unwarranted.” I think this is dissembling on her part. Among other things, the transcript of the in-class discussion, and in particular her concluding remarks, I think show that I have more or less accurately described her position. It is also worth noting that she has refused any further attempt for me to clarify her position. Judge for yourself whether I have correctly grasped her views on the nature of truth or gender.

[11] She liked two tweets. One called for banning state travel from California to Texas in light of their law banning most abortions. The other celebrated California’s ban on state travel to Ohio because of an Ohio law allowing physicians to refrain from certain procedures that violate their conscience. (This law is similar to other provisions that allow physicians or hospitals to not offer abortions, contraception, to particiapte in so-called medical procedures that mutliate the bodies of people suffering from gender dysphoria, or to recommend another doctor to someone attempting to have such a “surgery”.) You don’t celebrate such things if you think abortion is a grave moral offense, a species of murder, or if you think that so-called “surgeries” that attempt to erase a person’s God-given gender are wrong. Dr. Smerick, however, by liking tweets that celebrate punitive action by California to these other states seems to do just that. So it is clear, in my opinion, that she does not think abortion is sinful or that transgeder ideology is sinful.

[12] His Twitter bio also lists his pronouns: he/him.

[13] When Dr. Peterson and I met to discuss his comments on homosexuality, he made a simmiliar comment. He asked me why I thought homosexual practices were immoral. I answered, “There are two reasons. First, the Scriptures condemn them. Second, because it is contrary to the Natural Law.” He replied, “Natural? Animals sometimes engage in similar acts.” It is evident to any one familiar with the rudiments of Natural Law Theory that Dr. Peterson has failed to grasp what “natural” means. It is “that which accords with what a thing is”, not “happens in the world” or the like. Timothy Hsaio, an evangelical philosopher, and Edward Feser, a Roman Catholic philosopher, have written good explanations of Natural Law theory, as well its application to homosexuality. Robert Gagnon also connects Scriptural teaching with natural law reasoning in some of his work on the subject.

[14] Interestingly, in an email from March 18, 2021, the former chaplain also made this same claim to me, writing: “Jesus doesn’t say anything about homosexuality.” What makes this statement problematic is the implication that Christ did not inspire the rest of Scripture and that what Jesus did say during his earthly ministry on sexuality has no fairly straightforward entailments concerning homosexual practices.

[15] Indeed, in a semester that was in large part dedicated to discussing homosexuality there was never one time when the position of the Church of the Nazarene was clearly articulated and defended. But this is more reflective on Dr. Kipp, who taught the course and for whom Dr. Peterson was filling in that day.

[16] In response to the email where he stated this, I sent this response in an attempt to converse with him about this point. He never responded.

[17] This is not the same thing as saying that homosexual practices are permissible. Saying that maybe they are permissible is bad enough, but it is not the same thing as saying that they are permissible.

[18] I would like to add this clarifying note. I do not rule out in principle that there are some Christians who, because of invincible ignorance due to having never been properly instructed on the matter, approve of homosexuality or transgenderism. To borrow a category from Roman Catholics, they would be material heretics: they affirm what is a heresy or departure from the faith but in excusable ignorance. I suspect that this group is small. After all, most know what the Scriptures state and are aware of what the Church has always taught. But if there are any, this group would be like those in our pews who because of ignorance fall into many christological heresies. Can we say that all of them are not Christians? I hope not. But we can and should regard an Arius or a Socinus as heretics – not Christians. So too, it seems to me unlikely that any LGBT liberation theologians are Christians. Do they not know what the Church has always taught on this subject, what is clearly disclosed in the Scriptures? Yes. And yet they stubbornly teach otherwise. To again borrow from our Catholic friends, they are formal heretics: they know or ought to know that what they stubbornly affirm is a heresy but go on teaching it.

Certainly many of the claims of LGBT liberation theologians, including support for transgenderism and homosexual practices, are anti-Christian and must not be given any support. They ought to be called out as such and refuted. I think this is the proper response of any Christian leader. To refer to those who teach such claims as Christians accomplishes precisely the opposite ends.

[19] No wonder Dr. Peterson suggested to students who disagree with our Church’s position that they will need to learn to “navigate” this issue!

[20] “Lessons from Goats” 12:12 (November 22, 2020)

[21] I don’t know if he is or not. I think these students are responding to the kind of remarks I noted above albeit in a less precise way than I am.

[22] Another student who took that course with me recalls these remarks, though, with less specificity.

[23] I have also written some essays that critically respond to several chapters in Al Truesdale’s With Cords of Love, which defends a view very similar to the one Dr. Gorman expresses in his essay. Upon request I can supply these to anyone who wants them.

[24] See ftn. 10 above.

[25] It is possible, but I don’t think likely, that she meant the covenant with Abraham, and not the covenant at Sinai. But “old covenant” in Scripture and Christian theology refers to the covenant at Sinai. Moreover, I don’t know of anyone who says that the covenant with Abraham has been annulled, so saying that the covenant with Abraham is still in force is not really a correction of anything. And it wouldn’t do anything to undermine my point that Buber was wrong in supposing he did not need a Mediator. Since she seems to be trying to correct what I had said, she is probably not referring to the covenant with Abraham but, rather, to the one that was established with Israel at Sinai.

[26] For instance, from one of the students I received this email.

[27] Since the time I sent out this letter originally (10.8.2021), Dr. Peterson has seemed to claim that he does not deny (i) – (iv). For instance, when we met in person, besides telling me how influential he was in our denomination, he has told me, “When I read your letter, I thought to myself, ‘How can he say that he knows my opinion?’”

The answer to this question is that I have arrived at this conclusion by considering what he has said in class, one on one, and via email. His apparent incredulity as to my claims about his teaching on this point notwithstanding, it is not hard to demonstrate this. In other words, his protestation should not be taken as indicating that Dr. Peterson affirms Article VI, at least if I am correct that (i) – (iv) are required by that Article. Concerning (i) – (iv) he has said via email, “I agree with some but not all of your claims.” What does he mean in particular? Here it would be useful to consider what he has said in another email.

With respect to (i) and (ii) he says, “I think I agree that Scripture does have verses that support 1 and 2.” But unless he is the rare theology professor at NNU who thinks that Scripture speaks with a consistent voice or that we must acknowledge what it says whenever it makes claims about doctrine, this seems to me to be an evasion to my question: what do you think, is this claim true? Dr. Bankard, for instance, has said that Scripture does teach certain things concerning the Atonement that he does not think are ‘helpful, provocative, or true’ and which, consequently, do not feature in his teaching on the Atonement. I believe I can show that Dr. Peterson does not affirm claims (i) and (ii)

As I already noted, he did deny (iii) in class. And the best he can say of (iv) as of now is: “I am not sure it can be fully and definitely declared one way or the other.” (Italics mine.) This statement, which falls short of the affirmation that Article VI requires, seems to me to be at best a moderation of what he has said earlier or perhaps it is simply an evasion. He appears to avoid outright rejecting the claim, although what he expresses is still consistent with a more tentative rejection of this claim required by Article VI. Whether he simply refrains from accepting it or does, in fact, reject it, he falls short of what Article VI requires.

Moreover, as I note below in connection to Dr. Leclerc, the book that he co-wrote with her, The Backside of the Cross, clearly denies claims (i) – (iv). This, I believe, shows that Dr. Peterson was being duplicitous with me in suggesting to me that I did not accurately understand his position. I had not read the book before he and I met in late 2021. Even then, it was apparent to me, because of the sort of points I make above, that I had accurately understood his position. Reading this book, however, removes all doubt.

[28] It is also worth noting that  these claims were taught since antiquity.

[29] “Are the vicarious sufferings of Christ the ground of forgiveness and salvation? In what sense are they such a ground? The first concerns the fact of an atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; the second concerns its nature or doctrine. Nor does an affirmative answer to the first question determine the answer to the second. Were this so, all who hold the fact of an atonement would agree in the doctrine. But such is not the case. Different schemes of theology – and of evangelical theology – while in the fullest accord on the fact, are widely divergent respecting the theory.” (The Atonement in Christ, p. 17)

[30] I attempted to converse with him about these concerns, but he never responded to my email where I brought them up.

[31] When Dr. Peterson and I met on 10.18.2021, he said to me that he had received several questions or concerns over the years about Dr. Bankard’s essay. It is therefore interesting to observe how Dr. Peterson describes this essay. In an email (11.15.2021) he wrote, “Dr. Bankard is exploring some options the church might be willing to consider in light of the evolutionary theory. As an academic piece he’s exploring possibilities without making definitive statements. That is what scholarship is all about.”

If you read the essay, I think you will find that Dr. Peterson’s description is woefully inadequate. I do not mean to claim that Dr. Bankard is claiming with absolute certainty that his claims that contradict Articles V and VI are correct. But that is hardly necessary for him to affirm claims (something he explicitly says he does) that undermine these Articles. Moreover, academic freedom is limited in the Faculty Policy Manual by the Articles of Faith. Not all faculty at NNU are Nazarenes, but none are allowed to undermine the Articles of Faith. Dr. Bankard does this.

[32] January 8, 2017

[33] You can, of course, believe something that you do not know or are not certain about.

[34] I had sent an email to him with some questions about his lecture, but he has refused to respond to me.

[35] I more or less agree with this sentiment. It depends somewhat on whether we think of Atonement in the narrow sense of “how guilt” or “liability to punishment is removed” or in a broader sense, namely, “how reconciliation to God in its fullness is procured”. I would not consider some of the “models” he discusses to be properly about the Atonement. Like John Miley and A. M. Hills, for instance, I do not regard Moral Influence Theory as, properly speaking, a theory of the Atonement. Though, I think it’s basically right; it’s just not part of the Atonement in the more narrow definition I prefer to us. But that caveat about taxonomy aside, I agree with this claim. I wish that Dr. Gorman would have affirmed it consistently and not rejected the propitiatory element of the Atonement.

I also wish that his division of the models of the Atonement were more refined. For instance, given that the Old Testament sacrificial system was propitiatory, why distinguish “the Cross as sacrifice” from “the Cross as satisfaction”? And since his descriptions of “the Cross as satisfaction” and “the Cross as substitution” are indistinguishable, why discuss them separately?

[36] Compare this to H. Orton Wiley, for instance, who argues that propitiation is one of the leading aspects of the Atonement. “Hold firmly to the nature of God as holy love, and propitiation becomes the deepest significance of the atonement.” (Christian Theology, Vol. II, p. 274)

[37] It is a shame that Arminians and Wesleyans, including Methodists and Nazarenes, from the last four hundred years – including Arminius, Grotius, Wesley, Hills, and Wiley – never got this memo. See here. Not to mention Christians of other traditions, including before the advent of Arminian theology. See here and here.

[38] It is an obviously false claim. Consider, for instance, that the fact that God does punish sins is given to us by the Scriptures as a reason to refrain from personal vengeance (Romans 12:19).

[39] This statement from Richard Watson, an excellent nineteenth century Methodist theologian, is most appropriate:

In order to give plausibility to their statements, they pervert the opinion of the orthodox, and argue as though it formed a part of the doctrine of Christ’s propitiation and oblation for sin to represent God as naturally an implacable and vengeful being, and only made placable and disposed to show mercy by satisfaction being made to his displeasure through our Lord’s sufferings and death. This is as contrary to Scripture as it is to the opinions of all sober persons who hold the doctrine of Christ’s atonement. God is love; but it is not necessary, in order to support this truth, to assume that he is nothing else. He has other attributes, which harmonize with this and with each other; though, assuredly, that harmony cannot be established by any who deny the propitiation for sin made by the death of Christ.” (A Biblical and Theological Dictionary, pp. 858-859 “Propitiation”)

Or consider how Athanasius, who died 660 years before Anselm was born, describes the atonement:

“It were monstrous, firstly, that God, having spoken, should prove false – that, when once He had ordained that man, if he transgressed the commandment, should die the death, after the transgression man should not die, but God’s word should be broken. . . . Again, it were unseemly that creatures once made rational, and having partaken of the Word, should go to ruin, and turn again toward non-existence by way of corruption. . . . What was required for such grace and such recall [was] the Word of God, which had also at the beginning made everything out of nought. For His it was once more both to bring both the corruptible to incorruption, and to maintain intact the just claim of the Father upon all. For being Word of the Father, and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father.” (On the Incarnation of the Word, sections 6, 7)

[40] Dr. Peterson’s Curriculum Vitae says that the book is “Forthcoming Summer 2021”. So there appears to have been a delay in publication.

[41] This is not to say that every theory that incorporates “the governmental idea” rejects the claim that God’s retributive justice is satisfied by the death of Christ. Some expressions of Penal Substitutionary Atonement incorporate this element of Moral Governmental Theory. But Moral Government Theory per se, that is, as distinguished from Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which seems to be how Dr. Leclerc and Dr. Peterson treat it, does deny that it is God’s retributive justice that is satisfied in the Atonement.

[42] My guess is that Dr. Riley used speech-to-text software to produce this comment and that this would account for its awkward prose.

[43] “One recent writer names five historical events as of most importance in the framework of the Old Testament. These are (1) the call of and promise to the patriarchs; (2) the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt; (3) the covenant made at Mount Sinai; (4) the conquest of Canaan; and (5) the government of David. On each of these key events, archeology and historical study shed much light. Two others should be added to make the list complete: (6) the judgment on idolatry in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles; and (7) the restoration of the remnant from exile.” (Exploring our Christian Faith (1960), p. 63, W. T. Purkiser et al.)

[44] He also makes similar remarks in the identically named sermon, “Theological Questions (November 25, 2019).

[45] Besides finding the invasion of Canaan to be immoral he gives a second reason for why he rejects the biblical account of God’s command to invade Canaan. The other reason is that the purpose Scripture gives for the invasion of Canaan “doesn’t actually come to fruition”, namely, to prevent Israel from intermarrying with the pagan peoples and following other gods. He says that Israel did wipe them out and yet the thing to be avoided still happened. “So, I’m unconvinced,” he says. Any attentive reader of Scripture, however, will observe that Israel failed to carry out the command. Consequently, the seven nations remained and, per God’s warning, were a snare to Israel. The warning was quite accurate. And, along with the corporate judgment God made against the nations of Canaan, this warranted God’s decree to destroy them.

[46] I was told by one student who took “Introduction to Biblical Literature” with Dr. Thompson that Dr. Thompson holds the same position with respect to Isaiah 7:14.

[47] Compare what J. Kenneth Grider says: “Some seven centuries beforehand, Isaiah had foretold that Christ would suffer death on our behalf (chp. 53).” (A Wesleyan Holiness Theology, p. 322)

[48] His claim that God is “non-violent” clearly manifests itself in his non-retributive view of Hell as reported earlier.

[49] I don’t think it does rule out useful contributions from unbelievers, at least not totally.

[50] One remark, which is as much indicative of poor scholarship as it is of theological error, that comes to mind is C. S. Cowles’ claim that since Satan is quoted in the Bible, the Bible can’t be all God’s inerrant word. (p. 78) Contrast this with previous – and more competent – Nazarene theologians. Exploring Our Christian Faith (ed. W. T. Purkiser) gives a much better comment concerning such phenomena. “It is true that the Bible quotes Satan and wicked men. In these cases complete inspiration obviously means, not that the words spoken are true, but that they were truly spoken as reported.” (p. 74)

It is also interesting to note that, like Wiley, Purkiser et al. seem to view Article IV as affirming inerrancy. I would agree with them. At any rate, it should since inerrancy – the claim that whatsoever the Scriptures affirm to be true is, in fact, true – just is the catholic doctrine: taught in the Scriptures, handed down through the ages, and still enjoys majority support from most Christians.

[51] I don’t know how you can square this statement with these passages of Scripture: Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Peter 1:12.

[52] Dr. Leclerc has not responded to an email wherein I and a few other students have asked her if what I was told by these students was an accurate description of her statements and, if they were, what she made of the concerns I have. She has, however, sent an email to all the students in that course wherein she expresses her displeasure that students would go to someone else before they went to her about their concerns. She is under the mistaken impression that the students from whom I heard about her lecture came to me or had concerns about her lecture. Only one student came to me, and only two were troubled by her remarks.

The only statement she made in this email that is germane to my attempt to converse with her about my concerns is: “Besides misquoting me, the letter shows truly bizarre logic.” She did not state in what way my email had misquoted her, however, and two of my sources reaffirmed that they had accurately reported what she stated. I am inclined to believe them, for not only did their independent accounts confirm each other but they also fit well with what Dr. Leclerc and Dr. Peterson write in their forthcoming book:

“And yet, using “Father” language in a book about victims of abuse would be, to put it bluntly, re-traumatizing for some who have suffered at the hands of fathers or father figures in their lives. To do so would betray the very essence of our subject matter, since so many of the abused and abandoned find male, and male familial language can [sic] be extremely problematic when applied to God.” (The Backside of the Cross, pp. 27, 28)

Still, I include her comment so as to render you more able to form your own judgment.

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