Bruce McCormack has posted a two-part response (1 & 2) to his critics on Art Boulet’s blog. He plans to engage questions and concerns put to him, responding to comments on that blog. This is part of the outcome of the challenge McCormack issued in his open letter to Lane Tipton, which McCormack posted on Art’s blog on June 4th. Though I give some of the background below, at the start of Part 1 McCormack provides some details of his interactions with Tipton and others after posting the open letter.
Back in May McCormack posted a short essay in which he argued the Christology of the HTFC paper was not actually Reformed. Following some internet (blogging and email) activity and criticism, McCormack posted a short reply to R. Scott Clark’s criticisms. Eventually a member of the HTFC was officially heard from when Lane Tipton dismissed McCormack, labeling him a “revisionist,” in footnote 4 of an essay in the OPC’s (usually) monthly journal for church officers, the Ordained Servant (an online version can be found here).
Tipton did not engage any of McCormack’s substantive points either in the footnote or in the rest of the article, one devoted to a proper Reformed understanding of the incarnational analogy. It is quite possible Tipton completed the bulk of the essay prior to McCormack’s original reflections having been made available. At the same time, as McCormack points out in part 1 of his response, “…those responding to my brief analysis of the Christology presupposed in the HTFC report have shown an uncanny ability thus far to shift the ground of the debate from the topics I placed on the table for discussion, changing subjects abruptly, passing by in silence the questions which I posed to them, etc. Dr. Tipton’s ‘response’ to my response to the HTFC report was no different in this regard…”
Along these lines, when McCormack posted his original reflections and also his response to R. Scott Clark, no one among his critics really engaged McCormack’s actual historical and theological points. R. Scott Clark’s post was, in some ways, one of the rare exceptions. Instead, for most, calling McCormack a Barthian and dismissing him as someone who has denied X and Y of the Reformed tradition carried the day. Interestingly, when I did a post on this, McCormack’s critics and the HTFC’s defenders still failed to engage McCormack’s points and/or to recognize the need to do so when responding to him.
Perhaps this time around members of the HTFC, those who agree with the HTFC, and McCormack’s critics, will engage McCormack in honest charitable dialogue, discussing the questions and issues he puts on the table without (1) aggressively misreading him, (2) shifting topics erratically, (3) saying they already know him better than he knows himself, etc.
Even if one disagrees with McCormack, it seems to me we should all thank him for his willingness to devote his well-respected scholarly time and energy to addressing the discussions of the Westminster Theological Seminary community. As best I can tell, McCormack has long sought to cultivate better working relationships between Princeton Seminary and Westminster. Hopefully this attempt of his will spawn an edifying Christian-scholarly interaction with fruitful results for all involved.