Daniel Kirk, Fuller, and the Problem that Continues to Plague Us (Skinner)

I just finished reading Daniel Kirk’s most recent blog post, which, though written in an irenic tone, spells out fairly explicitly the theological and social divide(s) that exist between him and some of his senior colleagues at Fuller. I am disappointed to hear him say that this upcoming year will be his last at Fuller Seminary. Awhile back I read and reviewed his very helpful book on Jesus and Paul, and have interacted with him several times over the years to express my appreciation for his scholarship.

Of course, I am not on the inside of his situation vis-a-vis the administration and senior colleagues at Fuller, so I don’t know the particulars of the situation beyond what he has shared on the blog. However, as one who was nurtured in the cradle of American evangelical Christianity (and who no longer finds that label a helpful or positive personal descriptor), I continue to be disappointed (though not surprised) by the high profile departures of evangelical scholars who, in my opinion, are: (1) not afraid of the difficult questions; (2) not afraid of the answers that emerge from those questions; and (3) are genuinely committed to dialogue and living in the midst of theological tension. I don’t need to provide a list for you. If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you know exactly which professors I’m referencing.

At this point, it really doesn’t help to lament much more than many of us have in recent years. I guess I can only wish the best, both for Daniel and for Fuller.

6 thoughts on “Daniel Kirk, Fuller, and the Problem that Continues to Plague Us (Skinner)

  1. Hi Chris,
    I wish you had provided a list of examples of these “high profile departures” so as to more precisely characterize the trend you are alluding to better. I agree with you that it is always a matter of regret if and when a scholar feels unable to continue within a particular educational setting due to clashes over ideological and theological matters.

    On the other hand however, we must try not to offer too many special pleadings on behalf of biblical theological scholars of seminaries as if they were exempt from the normal pressures and frictions of fitting into a working team with a common purpose, commitment and aims. Even in non-theological settings, university professors are having to conform themselves within certain boundaries, else funding to their departments and research portfolios suffer. I see little evidence that the situation should be different for teachers in Christian institutions with explicitly stated ideologies and doctrinal commitments.

    It seems to me therefore that for professor to pursue a line of academic discourse which ultimately would appear to contradict the beliefs, traditions and ethos of her employing institution, especially when that institution is specifically set up to train evangelical pastors and ministers is an unattainable utopian ideal.

    1. Annang,

      When you have time, Google the names of Peter Enns, Bruce Waltke, Anthony Le Donne, Christopher Rollston, Thomas Jay Oord and type in the word “controversy”…..and these are just for starters. Then you will understand why (for many who read my blog), I didn’t need to be specific about the endless stream of high profile dismissals in recent years. In most cases, these professors were not dismissed for disagreeing with the school’s established confessional and/or doctrinal standards. They just made people (usually people in power or people with money…..or BOTH) uncomfortable.


  2. It’s a fine line. I suspect that as the culture continues to change, gay marriage will also be an issue that becomes a shibboleth, not unlike evolution.

    1. Three out of the five (Enns, Waltke, and Oord) had a link to the fundamentalist shibboleth, evolution, which makes sense as Enns and Waltke are OT scholars.

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