I took a cargo boat from Liverpool to the USA in August 1961. We were only four passengers, and we dined at the captain’s table. We arrived on Labor Day, sailing up the Chesapeake Bay through the water skiers and past the beach barbeques. I would spend the next three years at Westminster Seminary. It is all so distant and quite unbelievable. Had I really gone there? Surely it was to Narnia Seminary I’d flown in my dreams! The staff were all in their prime, but it is students I want to mention.
John Frame and I began our studies and graduated together. He almost immediately began to teach theology and write. He was a brilliant student and a fine pianist, unique in our year in his academic excellence. He conducted a student choir singing pieces from The Messiah. It was the only time I was to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. No-one I’d met in Cardiff University compared to this godly man. He was not a natural preacher — but what a gift he has been to the church with his many lucid volumes. His books are standard texts everywhere. We are still close friends. I stand in awe and the utmost respect of him.
Palmer Robertson was the student president at Westminster in my first year, the first Southern Presbyterian to have his theological education in the north. He welcomed us, speaking of the delights ahead, playing ping-pong in the basement with Cornelius Van Til in his blue suede shoes. What a fascinating life he has lived, teaching in most American Presbyterian seminaries and leading the development of Christian universities in Malawi and Uganda. I was best man at his second marriage. His books on the prophets and wisdom books are standard reference books in American seminaries. He loves God and loves his Word and gently chides me for not keeping up with my Hebrew.
Will Metzger became a worker for Inter Varsity Fellowship. That was his whole life. He married the lovely Suzie — what a partner she was in his work and how she understood and helped him in his battles with little bouts of depression throughout his life. How Will has missed her since her death. No student carried his piety and awesome godliness like Will. He wrote a book on personal witnessing called Tell the Truth which should never go out of print. It is as lucid and sincere as its author.
Walter Chantry was a Reformed Baptist and among the first of our generation to devise a credible alternative to the paedobaptist interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant. He took the best of the Seminary and looked at children through new covenant eyes. David Kingdon developed it even further. Walt had a long, rich ministry in one congregation, and his son also became a fine preacher. Walt’s book Today’s Gospel sold in its thousands and has helped many understand the deficiencies in some evangelistic preaching. Not a month goes by without an exchange of letters between myself and Walt and his wife, Joie.
Robert Marsden, editor of Trinity Hymnal, was a student of J. Gresham Machen and identified wholly with Machen’s stand for Christ and his truth. Robert was one of the founders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. All the history books his son George has written are worth reading. I loved his biography of Jonathan Edwards, which needs to be read alongside Iain Murray’s. George’s history of the move away from orthodoxy at Fuller Seminary also makes salutary reading. I’ve recently enjoyed his book on C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. The BBC was savaged for allowing the radio to be used to promote such old-fashioned Christianity. It gave me a new appreciation for Lewis. I don’t suppose George and I will agree over the opening chapters of Genesis, any more than I can accept John Stott’s view of Romans 5, but brilliant men like these can be of mighty help in other ways.
What endearing friendships came out of my years at Seminary.
Next in this series: Coming home to Wales »