Evangelical Theological Education

Calvin BrownCalvin Brown is a former Executive Director of The Renewal Fellowship.

It's good to be in from the cold!

After several decades of having competent evangelical candidates passed over by the Theological Colleges, it was with great joy Assembly unanimously appointed Dr. John Vissers, a self-confessed evangelical, as the new Principal of Presbyterian College, Montreal. It gives a strong message that the church once again is looking to recover its nerve in being a clear witness to the unchanging, saving gospel of Jesus Christ. It hardly took a genius to see that the professional church leadership — which in the main was embracing a lukewarm, liberal ecumenical, pseudo-academic stance that the Colleges were promoting — was simply not able to even maintain the church as institution. The deception many in the Colleges had fallen into was to adopt left-wing politics and left-wing theology in an essentially conservative church and think that voice was prophetic. There are still some who hold to such antiquated liberal notions but more and more see that the denominational decline (this year another 5% loss in membership) can only be reversed by renewing the essentials that have marked the life-giving faith and witness of the church in every age.

The kind of renewal I speak of is the rekindling of the evangelical faith that leads to true acts of courage which we see demonstrated by many of our third-world church members who put their lives at risk for the sake of Christ's kingdom's truth and values (see Mr. Njoya's article).

This is not to say that evangelicals and moderates cannot learn from other perspectives. In fact other perspectives have often been a corrective in the church for evangelical blind spots. Having said that however, it needs also to be said that evangelicals in our church have for too long been beating their chests with recriminations for our failures and non-evangelicals have been using the evangelicals in our church as "whipping boys" who were blamed for holding back progress.

We have been a church in reaction to traditional evangelical (classical Protestant) theology to such an extent that while we have usually managed to maintain orthodox biblical stances in formal church statements, by our neglect and lukewarmness, we have also undermined confidence in the tradition so that few Presbyterians know any longer either the strengths of our theology, the ecumenical creeds that express basic biblical faith, or confidence that church discipline is anything more than self-serving institutional manoeuvring. Paradoxically many even wince at being called evangelicals, although that was the common name we Presbyterians proudly used, along with other Protestants, in earlier times.

Getting one evangelical appointed to a College and encouraging the moderates (both outside and inside the Colleges) to be bold in renewing their commitment to the Reformed faith is not the answer to all of our problems. But it is a beginning step for the renewal of the church. Without solid leadership that grows from a confident commitment to biblical truth and a deep infilling of the Holy Spirit that produces bold witness, we shall not know the spiritual renewing that will bring us to be used of God in leading our nation to the abundant life Jesus promised to all who follow him.

I pray we may be encouraged by this new sign and in the days ahead be bold in "speaking the truth in love" and encouraging one another in evangelical witness.