The Calvary Chapel Chronicles: Seminary or Cemetery?
The email was advertising a new partnership between Western Seminary and the Calvary Global Network.
That’s Western Seminary, not Western “Cemetery’…as Chuck Smith used to mock institutions of higher theological learning.
Back in the day, training for a Calvary Chapel pastorate centered on listening to one of Chucks “through the Bible” tape sets and perhaps reading a couple of Smith’s books.
It was who you knew, not what you knew that mattered if you wanted to be a CC pastor.
There has always been an anti-intellectual influence in American evangelicalism and fundamentalism, created at the turn of the 20th century by the reaction to German liberalism and the advent of the theory of evolution.
Calvary Chapel embraced that anti intellectualism and wore it as a merit badge…what mattered was that you were anointed…the Holy Spirit (and Chuck’s tapes) would enable you to teach.
It worked at the time…the assumed authority of the pastors and the lack of theological education in the pews made it so.
It also created hostility toward education and toward any “science” that seemingly contradicted “simply teaching the Bible simply “.
Psychology, psychiatry, and any earth science that didn’t fit with a literal interpretation of Genesis were frequent whipping boys.
People suffering from mental illness were simply willful sinners, a topic we’ll address at a later date.
As I said, it worked at the time…but times changed.
The internet brought different theologies and different traditions directly into peoples homes.
Pastors were asked to defend their doctrines against challenges posed online…many were unable to answer those challenges.
This often led to people asking those questions being labeled divisive or in rebellion.
Those pastors unwilling to start educating themselves on the greater Christian world hardened their stances and majored on the “distinctives”…the doctrines that were distinctly Calvary and could hold the attention of the people.
When the Rapture could happen today, why go to school?
This led to further insulation from the Christian world at large and was, I believe, a factor in the Calvary Chapel split.
Brian Brodersen was exposed to other traditions and writing outside the Orange Curtain…and celebrated the differences instead of demonizing them.
The old guard fell back on old prejudices…and this become another charge against Brodersen.
Things have changed in the last few years…some of the CC guys went back to school, some like Dave Rolph, now have earned doctorates.
Our own pstrmike has two masters degrees and is working on his doctorate as we speak.
Now, at least CGN is playing catch up with this partnership with Western.
Pete Nelson and his Expositors Collective is helping the younger pastors learn to preach Christ centered sermons.
Some of the older pastors feel left out…
Times are changing…for the better…on at least one side of the split.