Archive for June, 2012

“It needs to be remembered that Martin Luther [and several of the leading Reformers] had earned a doctorate in theology. According to the academic regulations honored in his day, that accorded him special privileges. Those who had only earned lower degrees could teach, but they were restricted to the enunciation of the major text–in biblical instruction, Scripture itself; in theological studies, Peter Lombard’s Sentences, the chiefhandbook of medieval theology in Western Christendom–and to the glosses which respected scholars of bygone days had added to the text. Such instructors were strictly prohibited from adding their own interpretations or glosses to the material presented to the students: that privilege was restricted to those who had earned a doctor’s degree [not just a master’s or “magister’s,” i.e. “teacher’s” degree]. Thus, when Luther set forth his perspectives, often enough in contrast to the words of earlier scholars, he was using the privilege he had earned by his extensive studies. . . . It is, consequently, difficult to make the charge of subjectivism stick for Luther: his degree and his position (as a professor of Bible) authorized a certain degree of independence in his teaching and assertions” [one that Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed churches have generally recognized since the Reformation: those ordained as pastors and doctors in the church have the office and authority for biblical interpretation that individual congregants do not possess].

—-James R. Payton, Jr., Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings (IVP Academic Press, 2010), pp. 137 (in Ch. 6: “What the Reformers Meant by Sola Scriptura“)


‎”For Luther, the Scripture was norma normans–the norm that norms. In comparison, the church fathers, the ancient creeds and the doctrinal decrees of the ecumenical councils were normae normatae–normed norms. As evaluated and approved from Scripture, they were authoritative. Sola Scriptura thus meant for Luther that Scripture was the only unquestioned religious authority. It did not mean that Scripture was the only religious authority–as has often been assumed or misunderstood in subsequent Protestantism. As church fathers, ancient creeds and the ecumenical councils’ doctrinal decrees passed the test of and thus stood faithfully with Scripture, they were regarded as subordinate religious authorities which must be respected and heeded.”

–James R. Payton, Jr., Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings (IVP Academic Press, 2010), pp. 142 (in Ch. 6: “What the Reformers Meant by Sola Scriptura“)

Came across this insightful observation from John Milbank on the problem of community in our post-Socialist, secular libertarian world. His comments actually fit quite well the problems of our upcoming presidential election and the recent universal healthcare debate.

The socialists-who-can’t-let-go-of-their-utopian-post-capitalist-dream cling to the vain hope that government aid somehow will provide some form of communal aid they lack to actually care for one another, like families and churches in true community. On the other hand, the libertarians-who-have-put-their-faith-in-free-markets-and-free-life-choices cling to the vain hope that they’ll somehow find community in their personal support groups and free consumer choices.

Both socialists and libertarians are, as Milbank points out, doomed to failure:

“Despite growing uneasiness about the economic and social consequences of the free market, today socialism, like religion, exhibits merely a spectral reality. It no longer seems either plausible or rational, and it has been consigned to the realm of faith. Yet, as with Christianity, socialism still haunts the West because nothing has emerged to replace it. Just as the story of a compassionate God who became a man was seen as the “final religion,” so the hope of a universal fraternity based on sharing was seen as “the final politics.” With its demise, all that seems to remain is something more secular than politics — a future of infinite utilitarian calculation by individuals, states and trans-national corporations, of possible gains and losses, greater and lesser risks . . . .

“While libertarianism insists that the future lies with the isolated ‘reflective’ individual manipulating a plethora of life-choices, it also claims that civil society is sound and that new forms of community are emerging: sport associations, women’s support networks, single-issue groups, etc. But all of these, however worthy or unworthy, are rather evidence of lack of community. Continue reading

This piece of advice for new graduate students from The Chronicle of Higher Education:  How New Graduate Students Should Spend Their Summers.

New Saint Andrews College has been included in yet another list of “best” institutions. This time it is numbered among‘s new list of The 25 Best Colleges for Homeschool Graduates. According to Dr. James A. Barham, the site’s general editor, BestSchools is “an independent organization with no ties to any educational institution.”

The site’s comments about NSA are mostly accurate and not just puffery:

14. If You Want a Classical Christian Education: New Saint Andrews College (Moscow, ID)

Founded in 1994 by theologian Douglas Wilson(i), New Saint Andrews College is a young member of an elite group of schools dedicated to classical Christian education. NSA has come a long way in a short time, by offering a bargain-priced Classical and Great Books education within the Reformed theological tradition.

NSA offers a unique, single integrative program for associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, eschewing the typical divisions into distinct “majors” and “minors.” The result is a truly liberal arts education on the Classical Greek model. It does diversify at the graduate level, offering Master’s degrees in Theology and Letters and Classical Christian Studies. Students intent on graduate school, or who prefer holistic rather than vocational training, can suit their tastes at NSA.

NSA has only TRACS accreditation(ii), thus undercutting some of the academic prestige otherwise commanded by their stark Classical curriculum. The school is tiny, with only 155 students(iii), and a single building as its campus. The tuition is also small, at $8,500(iv), with no on-campus housing.

Despite its underwhelming campus, youth, and narrow range, the school was named among the top 50 conservative schools by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and was on the Super Scholar top-10 list of “Best Colleges for Homeschoolers.”

Corrections and Clarifications to the BestSchool’s Statement:

(i) The College was established by the elders of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, who continue to serve as the Trustors of the College Trust. Doug Wilson was one of more than a dozen Christ Church elders who “founded” the college in the early 1990s. See NSA’s history on its website.

(ii) TRACS, the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, the same agencies that certify all regional and specialized accrediting bodies in the USA. This comment about TRACS accreditation reveals an unwarranted prejudice on the part of BestSchools about the supposed, but unsubstantiated superiority of regional accreditation over national accreditation that neither the Department of Ed nor CHEA recognize.  

(iii) Total enrollment (headcount) in fall 2011 was 182 students. Full- and part-time enrollment was 161. The college is, by design, a limited enrollment institution. It admits between 50 and 60 new full-time freshmen each year to its undergraduate programs. Graduate admissions to the M.A. program targets about 10 new graduate students each fall. The Classical Christian Students graduate program has a rolling admissions process and can take up to about 15 new students per annual cycle. For more enrollment figures and admissions details, see NSA’s UCAN report. (Note: total institutional enrollment figures may vary depending on how different organizations and government agencies account for part-time student enrollment in their totals).

(iv) Undergraduate tuition for fall 2012-13 is $10,750. Graduate program tuition is $450 per graduate credit hour (i.e., $900 per 2-credit course). For more details, see the NSA financial information on its website .