Friday, November 07, 2008

Justin Taylor on Steve Lemke's scholarship

Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and featured speaker at this week's "John 3:16 Conference," recently published an article in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (vol. 5, no. 2, Fall 2008), entitled, "What Is a Baptist? Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians." I read the article shortly after it came out and was greatly disappointed. Much of what he included in the article has appeared before and I have already interacted with it here, here, here and here. I resisted dealing with the new article for many reasons. Tim Brister has interacted extensively with the article.

Instead of writing about it, I emailed Dr. Lemke and asked if we could talk about what he has written. I am confident that Dr. Lemke has no desire to misrepresent anyone's theological position nor any historical record. But he has. Due to his busy schedule we have not been able to talk, yet, but I genuinely look forward to the opportunity--not to try to "win" an argument. I quit caring about that long ago. My desire is to understand how he and I can read the same sources and come to such radically different understandings of what they actually say.

Justin Taylor has offered a critique of Lemke's article that is both even-handed and cool-headed. He writes as an "outsider" to the particular SBC angst that exists in some sectors over the rise of reformed theology. He also writes as an accomplished and recognized scholar, whose recent editorial work on the ESV Study Bible will serve evangelicals for generations. Beyond that, Justin is a very well-informed, gracious Christian brother. He has no axe to grind.

His critique of Dr. Lemke's article, though far from exhaustive, is revealing. Upon reading it I was reminded of J.I. Packer's commendation of John Woodbridge's book, Biblical Authority, which is a critique of the popular "Rogers/McKim proposal" on biblical inerrancy. Packer wrote that "exposing shoddy scholarship" is an "unpleasant task" but that Woodbridge's book was "a nasty job nicely done." Justin's critique of Dr. Lemke's article was no doubt an unpleasant task, but it has been carried out in an exemplary manner.

Read it. First read Dr. Lemke's article. Then read Justin Taylor's critique.


wkelly said...

Pondering the irony of having an ad for a Reformation tour on the page facing Dr. Lemke's article.

chadwick said...


Behold, I was "grinnin' like a mule eatin' briars" as I read Taylor taking Lemke behind the blogosphere woodshed! :D


SF said...

@wkelly But its ok, as they are visiting anabaptist sites too.

Jason Gray said...

I think it is time that Lemke's "scholarship" get torn apart. He's been doing this for years, and it is offensive and a disgrace to true Christian scholarship. Plus it reinforces the non-SBC idea that SBC scholarship is weak. It's hard to support anything from NOBTS as quality work.

Tom, I think you are much more gracious with Bro. Lemke in saying he doesn't want to purposeflly misrepresent anyone. He's been doing it too long for it to be unintentional. Plus, it's just not that hard to look up and study what people actually believe and teach. There is no doubt it is poor scholarship, but it seems to be purposeful as well.

n6okj said...

Why read Lemke when you, Taylor, and Brister are united in showing him to be at best a sloppy exegete? BPNews shows him to be a false teacher: "Salvation is tied in some measure to our response." From:

Lemke is confused over salvation, covenant theology, double predestination and the gospel. What benefit is there in reading this teacher of falsehoods and misrepresentations? We are taught in Scripture to avoid such persons ~ Romans 16:17-19; Psalm 101:6,7, etc.