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A Letter to the Editor About John Frame’s Book

February 14, 2012


Dr. Godfrey & Faculty,

I was deeply saddened last weekend to hear of the publication of The Escondido Theology. I have appreciated the firm yet controlled responses posted by Dr. Godfrey at the seminary website and by Dr. Horton at his own website.

As a student from 1992 to 1995 I was present near the conclusion of Mr. Frame’s time in Escondido. I can only say that I do not recognize the campus which he apparently describes. Any theological school, like any church, ought to subject its theology and practice to periodic review. Criticism can be helpful, but only when it is reasonable and charitable. WSC could be criticized in some particulars; I suppose I could have offered a few criticisms of my own. However, to suggest that the school has abandoned fundamental tenets of the Reformed faith defies all reason and common sense.

What particularly disturbs me is the insinuation that WSC is dismissive of Christians who do not hold its particular confessional commitments. During my time in Escondido I was, as I am today, a confessional Reformed Baptist. I am, in other words, deeply committed to the value of confessional statements, but I do not hold yours in all particulars. The most remarkable aspects of my seminary experience were the catholicity of spirit and the simple generosity of Westminster towards students like myself who were of other ecclesiastical backgrounds. I could count on one hand the persons I encountered who looked on non-Presbyterians as second-class citizens, and they were all first year theological students. Such an attitude was unknown in the faculty.

I do not pretend to know anything about Mr. Frame’s departure from Westminster; it happened after I had graduated. I can only say that it does not surprise me that the experience of a faculty member with lagging confessional commitments would be very different from that of a student from another tradition. In fact, I would expect that the standards would be rather higher. No church and no seminary can survive if it fails to hold its leaders to a greater doctrinal standard than the simple profession of faith on which we extend Christian fellowship. It seems evident to me - and no doubt to most of your alumni - that Mr. Frame has confused two very different questions: “What is a biblical Christian?” and “Who is qualified to teach at Westminster Seminary in California?”

Confessional Baptists have long been the poorer cousins of Presbyterians, but that is not at all a bad position in which to find ourselves. Lacking a long history of strong confessionalism in our own churches, we have often relied on your theological heavy lifting for our own strengthening. WSC has played such a role in recent years. My circle of friends and influence is rather small, but we appreciate you. We appreciate your robust confessionalism, your emphasis on the centrality of the cross in preaching, your focus on the place of proper worship within a biblical system of ethics, your insistence on the necessary distinctions between church and culture, and the generosity of your fellowship with other Christians.

Know that my prayers are with you at this time. If I can be of service to you in any small way I hope you will not hesitate to ask.

In Christ’s service,
Tom Chantry, Pastor
Christ Reformed Baptist Church
Milwaukee, WI