Honoring Dr. Gaffin

July 16, 2012

Dr. Lillback in WTJ

Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., began teaching at Westminster in 1965.  Three years prior to that, he earned a Th.M. at Westminster.  At commencement this past May, Dr. Gaffin was honored along with fellow 50-year graduates.  This past June, Westminster's President, Dr. Peter Lillback, honored Dr. Gaffin with an article in the Westminster Theological Journal.

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The Orthodox Presbyterian Church's Ordained Servant Online has an abridged version of the article as it appears in the WTJ.  See below for an excerpt of the article, or click here to read the article on the OPC's website.

The Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.: Sancti Libri Theologicus Magnus Westmonasteriensis

Peter A. Lillback

While Scripture forbids us to venerate any mere mortal (Rev. 19:10), Paul in Romans 12:7 declares, “Pay to all what is owed to them…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” There are many reasons that warrant a tribute to the Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. in 2011, the seventy-fifth year of his fruitful life. These reasons include his godly and gentlemanly character, his extensive academic contributions, his faithful and scholarly churchmanship, and his gracious humility that permeates his productive writing. Here we honor Dr. Gaffin in the spirit of Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

A Summary of the Impact of the Ministry of Dr. Gaffin

Dr. Richard B. Gaffin Jr.’s ministry is interwoven with Westminster Theological Seminary[1] and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.[2] Indeed, 2011 is the seventy-fifth birthday of both the OPC and Dr. Gaffin. Further, 1965 is the year of Dr. Gaffin’s ordination in the OPC as well as his first teaching year at Westminster. And January 1, 2012 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of J. Gresham Machen,[3] the founder of Westminster[4] and the moving force for the establishment of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.[5]

Dr. Gaffin was born in 1936 in Peiping, China, modern day Beijing, to parents serving as missionaries with the Independent Board of Foreign Missions and soon thereafter until their retirement with the Committee on Foreign Missions of the newly formed Orthodox Presbyterian Church.[6] His father-in-law was the accomplished Westminster Old Testament professor Dr. E. J. Young.[7] As a Westminster Seminary student and the twenty-second professor to have signed the faculty book at Westminster, he knew five of the original faculty: Van Til, Kuiper, Stonehouse, Woolley, and Murray.[8] Wilson and Machen had died; MacRae and Allis had resigned. Gaffin knew Kuiper when he was a student at Calvin College and Kuiper was President of Calvin Seminary. The young Richard Gaffin also encountered Westminster’s other early faculty members that preceded him (Young, Skilton, Kline, Clowney, Knudsen, Shepherd, Adams, Davis, Sloat). Beyond these, he has known all of the fifty-four professors whose signatures follow his.[9]

His focus on biblical theology has enabled him to excel in New Testament biblical exegesis as well as systematic theology. He occupied the Charles Krahe Chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology until his retirement. His forty-five years of teaching at Westminster have impacted some 3,000 students. He has been honored as an emeritus professor by the Richard B. Gaffin Lectures on Theology, Culture, and Missions that have been endowed in perpetuity. His teaching has taken him around the globe to numerous academic institutions and missionary centers. His students, friends, and colleagues have honored his vast and important contributions to their lives and to Reformed theology with the publication of a festschrift, Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church.[10]

His service as presbyter in the OPC has been faithful, extensive, and marked by high standards of quality, setting a record in length of committee service that will not soon be matched. He was elected as moderator of the Fifty-first General Assembly of the OPC in 1984 and has served well over twenty times as a commissioner. He has been a longstanding member of both the OPC’s Committee on Foreign Missions and its Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.[11]

Dr. Gaffin has written over one hundred published articles and written or edited ten books.[12] His teaching and writing have been marked by an extensive integration of orthodoxy and Reformed confessionalism with a thoroughgoing biblical theology and rigorous exegesis. His appreciation for the importance of historical theology is seen in his studies of Calvin and the Dutch theologians Kuyper, Bavinck, Ridderbos, and Vos. He has been a perceptive critic of liberal theology in the arenas of hermeneutics, Gospels and Paul studies, systematic theology, biblical theology, and New Testament introduction. His theological contributions have touched a wide range of theological concerns including union with Christ, justification, the Holy Spirit, the Sabbath, resurrection, and eschatology. He has sought to apply biblical theology and Reformed theology to the Christian life, to the church, and to missions. He has been a vigorous participant in the theological debates that have made an impact on Westminster, including the controversies over the doctrine of justification, theonomy, and the doctrine of Scripture

Read the rest of the abridged article at the OPC Ordained Servant Online site, or subscribe to the Westminster Theological Journal