fundamentalists and ETS

Over at Theologically Driven, John Aloisi makes these remarks:

Trueman believes that the main problem with the “evangelical mind” is not that Christians are absent from the academy, but rather that both within and without the academy “evangelicals” lack any agreed upon gospel.

… In light of where I acquired my copy of this book [the recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society], I thought it rather ironic that Trueman singles out the ETS for special criticism in this area. He notes that the society’s innocuous 43-word statement of faith could be affirmed with integrity by conservative Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Eastern Orthodox people alike. If such is the case, why call it the Evangelical Theological Society?


I have long argued that the ETS is no place for fundamentalists. Trueman’s observation is absolutely correct, the ETS has a very minimalist doctrinal statement that almost any professing Christian, of almost any stripe, could sign without any twinge of conscience.

I suppose there may be some tacit, unwritten understanding about the nature of the ETS, since once-president Francis Beckwith resigned his membership and position upon re-converting to Catholicism. In a statement, Beckwith explains that he doesn’t think the ETS doctrinal statement is inconsistent with his Catholic beliefs. He says:

One may ask why I waited six days after my public reception into the Catholic Church to resign my ETS presidency, and eight days to resign my membership. I did so because I did not believe that the present ETS doctrinal statement is inconsistent with my Catholic beliefs. My resignations were motivated entirely by my desire not to cause needless offense to my brothers and sisters in Christ from whom I have learned so much in my over three decades in the Protestant world. Nevertheless, I still believe that the ETS doctrinal statement is broad enough to allow Catholic members. (In fact, I remain a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society [EPS], which has an identical doctrinal statement.)

Again I ask, what business to fundamentalists have belonging to and participating in the Evangelical Theological Society? Why do the leaders of fundamentalist educational institutions allow their faculty members to participate? What wisdom are they communicating to their students by their excitement over attending, the heady intellectual atmosphere, the name-dropping glow of saying things like, “I spoke to Dr. X over at the ETS last week”?

Really, how are we to build up young men into fundamentalist leaders with this kind of leadership?

Over at Theologically Driven, I made a brief comment to that effect. It appears that those involved in the blog are simply “studiously ignoring” it.

Finally, I am not just aiming at the usual suspects in the skirmishes we have been having on this blog and elsewhere. My own alma mater allows its faculty to participate in ETS. They really need to put a stop to it.

Beckwith concludes his statement with this:

But within ETS there is a wide variety of Christian perspectives that can legitimately claim the label “Evangelical.” So, if the term “Evangelical” is broad enough to include high-church Anglicans, anti-creedal Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, the Evangelical Free Church, Arminians, Calvinists, Disciples of Christ, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, open theists, atemporal theists, social Trinitarians, substantial Trinitarians, nominalists, realists, eternal security supporters and opponents, temporal theists, dispensationalists, theonomists, church-state separationists, church-state accomodationists, cessationists, non-cessationists, kenotic theorists, covenant theologians, paedo-Baptists, Anabaptists, and Dooweyerdians, then there should be room for an Evangelical Catholic.

He is right. And since he is right, what business to fundamentalists have participating in ETS?



  1. I’ve had this explained to me, Don. The argument is that Biblical teaching on separation is for the church, and ETS isn’t a church, so it is just fine. Which makes one wonder why those who make that argument believe in a universal church.

    But this approach zaps any argument for separation for schools or mission boards It’s hard for me to see any Biblical distinction between platform sharing at ETS and platform sharing at a school. Neither is a church. For that matter, a city-wide evangelistic meeting / crusade isn’t a church, either, is it? Or a World Council of Churches convention…. Might as well go along to the WCC for the “fellowship” with those believers that are there, and maybe you can learn something from the apostates as well. Just like ETS.

    No, I don’t get it, either. Ockenga would have loved it. But you are only a lonely troglodyte over there because this lonely troglodyte has opted out of commenting there any further. So I’ll cheer you on here instead. :)

  2. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Yes, Don, this is a head scratcher and the answers justifying the fundamentalist’s participation at ETS rings very hollow, Scripturally speaking. This push for academian acceptance by supposed fundamentalist professors has an echo of New Evangelicalism about it. It is a sound that is disturbing to this preacher.