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Everything I Ever Learned About Leadership I Learned from NCIS

Talbot School of Theology - 2 hours 51 min ago

In the top-ranked TV show, NCIS, special agent Tony Dinozzo is on assignment in Marseille, France, charged with bringing home to the USA the grown daughter of an Admiral, who is one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both of their phones have been destroyed or compromised, so Tony has limited contact with his Boss, Leroy Jethro Gibbs ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Top 20 Christ-centered expository preaching checklist


  1. Preach the text/Preach Christ and His Kingdom (redemptive history, epoch, person & work of Christ, eschatological fulfillment in the Kingdom of Christ)
  2. Honor the Authors of the text
  3. Apply the text in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  4. Preach with authority as an ambassador of Christ
  5. Understand preaching as an eschatological act of spiritual war that demands prayer and Spirit-given unction
  6. Preach the sermon and not the outline
  7. Remember the outline is primarily for you and not the congregation
  8. Prepare sermon notes in thought blocks with orality mind
  9. Keep your audience in mind as you prepare
  10. Concretize illustrations and application bringing theological truth down the ladder of abstraction
  11. Use an illustration like a window not like a painting
  12. Start strong. Do not slowly ramp up. Finish strong. Do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion
  13. Do not narrate your sermon moves and make sure sermon moves are connected and not abstracted from one another (why I prefer to say moves and not points)
  14. Avoid statistics and lists (if used—personalize)
  15. Do not lose the text or allow the congregation to lose the text as you preach
  16. Do not lose the genre as you preach
  17. Make sure the sermon honors the form and the feel of the text
  18. Always bring the gospel to bear on religious Pharisees, Sadducees and idols
  19. Remember that the Gospel is the key to justification and sanctification
  20. Ask – Did Jesus have to be resurrected for this sermon to work? If not, start over


David Prince serves as assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary. Is is also the pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington Ky. You can read more by David Prince at his blog: Prince on Preaching. Also follow him on Twitter at: @davideprince. This article originally appeared on his blog.


Preaching is not an advisory role based in religious expertise but a prophetic function whereby God speaks to his people. For this reason the Expositors Summit is designed to strengthen and instruct preachers and students for the glorious task of expository ministry. You’re invited to join R. Albert Mohler Jr., John MacArthur and H.B. Charles Jr. for the explication of God’s Word and gospel fellowship.

“When a man is apt in teaching the Scriptures there is a power to move men, to influence character, life, destiny, such as no printed page can ever possess.”

- John Broadus

Categories: Seminary Blog

Reflexiones Sobre El Matrimonio En Nuestro Aniversario / A Few Thoughts About Marriage On Our Anniversary

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00

La semana pasada mi esposa, Angélica, y yo celebramos 16 años de casados. Angélica es, sin duda, la mayor bendición que he recibido y nuestro matrimonio ha sido el mejor y a la vez el más difícil tiempo de mi vida. Estoy profundamente agradecido por la dicha de haber encontrado el favor divino en mi esposa y puedo asegurar con toda certeza que soy feliz a su lado. También he de reconocer que el matrimonio no es fácil y caminar por la vida junto a otra persona por momentos pareciera una carrera de obstáculos. Esta combinación de realidades, aunque parecieran contradictorias, reflejan acertadamente mis años de casado y estoy seguro la de la mayoría de los matrimonios entre seguidores de Cristo.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A New and Legitimate Way? David Moffitt’s Reading of Hebrews

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 07:00

Earlier this summer I had a chance to read and review a new and increasingly-influential book on Hebrews by David Moffitt, assistant professor of NT at Campbell University Divinity School. The review’s slotted to be published in the Fall edition of Trinity Journal. Here, however, I wanted to post a lightly revised, pre-publication version, principally because I think the book’s fundamental thesis is just plain wrong. I’ll explain why. But, first, a summary.

Summary. Moffitt tries to overturn two common assumptions in Hebrews’ scholarship. Against those who argue that (1) Jesus’ resurrection is unimportant for Hebrews and (2) Jesus’ resurrection has been conflated with his exaltation, he insists that Jesus’ resurrection should be distinguished from his exaltation and that Jesus’ resurrection stands at the center of Hebrews’ theology. He supports this intriguing thesis with three arguments.

First, he argues that Jesus’ human presence in heaven is what makes him greater than angels, which, therefore, presumes his bodilyresurrection (and ascension). The argument of Heb 1 turns, in other words, on ontology: the son, as an exalted human, is greater than angelic spirits. The focus on Jesus’ humanity in Heb 2, then, is less on humiliation than it is on eligibility and eschatology. The son became “like his peers” and, thus, eligible for the sort of eschatological exaltation described in Heb 1 and anticipated, according to Heb 2, in Ps 8. Second, Moffitt argues that Jesus’ qualification for priesthood—his perfection—required his resurrection. After all, Jesus’ appointment as heavenly (Melchizedekian) priest (Heb 8:1–2, 4) required death (Heb 2:9–11; 5:8–10) and an “indestructible life” (Heb 7:16). Jesus perfection, therefore, “st[ood] between [his] death and elevation to the heavenly priesthood” (p. 199). Third, Moffitt argues that Jesus’ resurrection, rather than his death, is at the center of Hebrews’ atonement theology. Hebrews, he insists, consistently presents Jesus’ offering as taking place inheaven, not on earth (e.g., Heb 9:11–12, 23–25), and Jesus’ offering as his offering of his resurrected, not bloody body (e.g., Heb 10:5–10; 13:12). Were it otherwise, the author’s Day-of-Atonement typology would be undone. Hebrews would bring to the center—sacrificial slaughter—what Leviticus leaves on the periphery. Jesus’ death, instead, serves as a model of exemplary suffering and, moreover, as a necessary, if still preparatory step for his (heavenly) atoning work (p. 294).

Critique. Moffitt’s thesis, while nicely argued, is nevertheless untenable, primarily for two reasons. First, Moffitt’s understanding of Jesus’ priesthood is reductionistic. Moffitt forces precision where Hebrews simply will not allow it. Hebrews—however frustratingly—never gives us a clear idea when Jesus became a high priest. While it could suggest that Jesus’ priesthood began only after his resurrection (Heb 7:16) or only once Jesus entered heaven (Heb 8:4), it could also suggest that Jesus’ crucifixion—his voluntary death—was itself a priestly act. After all, while one might, with Moffitt, separate sacrificial slaughter from atonement, no one—especially anyone familiar with the Day-of-Atonement ritual—would suggest only the latter was a priestly activity (see, e.g., Lev 16:11, 15). Second, Moffitt’s understanding of atonement is reductionistic. Whether or not sacrificial slaughter—death—is less central to atonement than the presentation of blood/life can presently remain an open question. Neither Hebrews nor the OT, however, will allow death to function simply as the preparation for atonement, which is to say, as simply the preparation for the atoning manipulation of blood in God’s presence. This sort of conclusion would make nonsense of those instances in the OT where atonement is secured by death alone, without any reference to the Levitical cult, much less to the ritual manipulation of blood (see, e.g., Exod 32:30–32; Num 25:13; 35:33; Deut 21:1–9; 2 Sam 21:3ff. et al.) or, related, to those cultic contexts which accent the atoning value of some ritual element other than manipulation (see, e.g., Lev 1:4; 4:26). Moffitt’s reading, moreover, is also out of step with a more traditional and, arguably, convincing reading of Lev 17:11, which emphasizes death—life given in the place of another’s life—rather than life released and, therefore, available for atoning purgation. Much the same, in fact, could be said for Hebrews, which stubbornly refuses to view Jesus’ death as simply preparatory for and, thus, “peripheral” to atonement (cf. p. 276). Rather, it is Jesus’ death itself that restores humanity’s lost glory (“because he suffered death,” Heb 2:9), frees humans from the devil’s grip (“by his death,” Heb 2:14), and provides the forgiveness necessary for the inauguration/mediation of the new covenant (“now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from…sins,” Heb 9:15; et al.). None of this, of course, requires a metaphorical reading of Jesus’ archetypical blood ritual, which is to say, none of this undercuts Moffitt’s more fundamental point about the literal nature of the Day-of-Atonement antitype. What does, however, is Hebrews’ one explicit reference to Jesus’ resurrection in 13:20. There the author says that Jesus was raised because of the efficacy of his covenant-inaugurating—and, thus, atonement-securing—death (“through the blood of the eternal covenant”). In other words, Jesus’ death—his blood—had atoning virtue prior to his resurrection and, thus, prior to the moment at the center of Moffitt’s thesis.

In sum, in an attempt to interpret Jesus’ priesthood consistently and his atoning presentation non-metaphorically, Moffitt has overcooked his evidence and, thus, misread Hebrews. Hebrews simply will not allow Jesus’ sacrifice to be separated from his priestly, atoning work.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Help My Unbelief

Southwestern Seminary - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 07:00

Most of us can readily identify with the man who came to Jesus one day with a tragic, seemingly impossible situation. The man’s son was afflicted with demonic possession. The father’s description of the symptoms is heart-breaking: “A spirit …has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid,” (Mark 9:17-18). Previously, the father brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they were powerless to help. Now the dad stands before Jesus with the frantic plea: “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v. 22).

Interestingly, Jesus responds with a bit of a rebuke: “What do you mean, ‘If you can’?” Jesus must be amazed, even amused, at our doubtful “ifs.” But then Jesus issues a powerful declaration: “Everything is possible for him who believes” (v. 23).

There you have the towering truth. God has all power, and Jesus was a pure conduit through which that power flowed on this earth because He lived in perfect trust (belief) in His heavenly Father. Everything is possible for the almighty God/man. But Jesus’ statement is essentially an invitation to this hysterical father: If you will believe in Me, it is possible for your son to be delivered.

As soon as those words fell on the man’s ears, he uttered a statement to which we all can relate: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (v. 24). So it is with most of us; we have this strange mixture of faith and doubt. Perhaps it’s only an intellectual faith that we possess. We know in our heads that Jesus has all power and can do all things. But that intellectual faith hasn’t soaked down deep enough into our souls to where it keeps us from panicking when we face a crisis.

So it is with most of us; we have this strange mixture of faith and doubt. Perhaps it’s only an intellectual faith that we possess. We know in our heads that Jesus has all power and can do all things. But that intellectual faith hasn’t soaked down deep enough into our souls to where it keeps us from panicking when we face a crisis.

I admire this man’s honesty and humility; and apparently Jesus did too. Jesus rebuked the demonic spirit that had wrecked the boy’s life. The spirit departed immediately, never to enter the boy again. The son was left in a heap on the ground; the people around thought he was dead. “But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up” (v. 27). The boy’s life was changed forever … and so was his father’s faith.

“Help me overcome my unbelief.” We all struggle with doubts that keep us from fully trusting God in the face of trials and temptations. Just like this dad, we need to understand that grace imparts faith. We need the help of God to believe. And we should feel completely free, even compelled, to cry out for the grace to believe.

I find great encouragement and inspiration in the recorded prayers of the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon. From the pulpit of London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle on November 4, 1877, Spurgeon prayed:

“We trace therefore our faith to that same God who gave us life, and we ask now that we may have more of it. Lord, maintain the faith Thou hast created; strengthen it, let it be more and more simple. Deliver us from any sort of reliance upon ourselves, whatever shape that reliance might take, and let our faith in Thee become more childlike every day that we live; for, O dear Saviour, there is room for the greatest faith to be exercised upon Thy blessed person and work. O God, the Most High and All-sufficient, there is room for the greatest confidence in Thee. O Divine Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, there is now sufficient room for the fullest faith in Thine operations. Grant us this faith” (The Pastor in Prayer by C.H. Spurgeon, p. 8).

Or in the words of the great hymn of our faith: “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him. How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. O for grace to trust Him more.”

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Importance of Spiritual Formation - A Personal Story

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00

Each August the Hellermans spend several weeks vacationing in the mountains, in Mammoth Lakes, CA. One afternoon, on one of our getaways, our oldest daughter (then thirteen years old) came out of her room with a play she had written. Rebekah has always been into drama. She had participated in a number of children’s theater productions at our previous church. On the home front, Rebekah recruited neighborhood friends and staged “plays” before a captive audience of indulgent parents ... So began an adventure that continues to unfold today, sixteen years later.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Can Jesus heal mental illness? — Part 1

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 07/29/2014 - 09:45


One of the questions we get asked a lot in the biblical counseling movement concerns whether Jesus can heal those with a mental illness. The question is asked by people who are concerned about Scripture’s sufficiency and Jesus’ relevance to deal with the most difficult problems that people face. Before we can answer the question we need to know what we are talking about. That means we need to know what mental illness is.

Defining Mental Illness

Defining mental illness is harder to do than you might imagine. That is because psychologists don’t really know what it is. There are scores of books on my shelves full of secularly trained professionals debating what mental illness is and whether it exists. Interestingly, even the writers of psychology’s authoritative manual on mental illness, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), cannot agree on what constitutes a mental illness.

There has been a lot of attention in the psychology community over the fact that the most recent edition of the manual, DSM-V, made a substantial change to the definition of mental illness included in its previous edition, DSM-IV. I won’t take the time to quote them here, but you can see the definitions here.

Writing in Psychology Today, psychologist Dr. Eric Maisel points out in fascinating language the difficulty of being able to change a definition so easily.

Related: Join Heath Lambert at the Counsel The Word conference at Southern Seminary September 18-19. Early registration deadline is June 20th

The very idea that you can radically change the definition of something without anything in the real world changing and with no new increases in knowledge or understanding is remarkable, remarkable until you realize that the thing being defined does not exist. It is completely easy—effortless, really—to change the definition of something that does not exist to suit your current purposes. In fact, there is hardly any better proof of the non-existence of a non-existing thing than that you can define it one way today, another way tomorrow, and a third way on Sunday.

The definition of mental illness can be changed so easily because mental illness does not really exist.

So, What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is not a disease in the way that tuberculosis or hepatitis is. Mental illness is more in the realm of what social scientists call a construct. A construct is not an object like a tractor or table. It is an idea like beauty or relevance. A construct is a relatively abstract idea that gets informed by the shifting opinions of various people. Mental illness is a construct. Psychologists Herb Kutchins and Stuart Kirk have each served on the DSM committees, whose votes decide what is and is not a mental illness. They say,

The category of [mental illness] itself is an invention, a creation. It may be a good and useful invention, or it may be a confusing one. DSM is a compendium of constructs. And like a large and popular mutual fund, DSM’s holdings are constantly changing as the managers’ estimates and beliefs about the value of those holdings change.

Mental illness is not really a thing. It is a shifting idea that different people fill up with different categories at different times. For the most part it is a category that gets used by secular psychologists to describe behaviors that are outside the range of normal. I have described elsewhere that, for Christians, our standard is not normalcy, but righteousness.

Mental Illness and Worldview

Before we can answer whether Jesus can heal mental illness, we need to be sure we know what we are talking about. Understanding that mental illness is a construct means that Believers have a responsibility to fill up that category with their biblical worldview, rather than a secular one.

Related: Balancing family and ministry 

Psychology informs the construct of mental illness with a secular, materialistic worldview. They do not believe that people are spiritual beings who live all of their life under the authority of a God who made them and holds them accountable. Denying the Divine and the spiritual requires them to see all problems as physical and organic in nature. Worry isn’t sinful; it is an organic mental illness that requires medical intervention. Sorrow isn’t spiritual; it is a medical problem that requires a pharmacological solution.

As Christians we know better.

Jesus teaches that these problems—and thousands more like them—are spiritual problems that grow out of the heart of man (Mark 7:14-23). Certainly they impact the body, and the body can have its own problems as well. But the assigning of spiritual problems like anger, worry, and sorrow to the medical realm is unbiblical, unchristian, and a rejection of the clear statements of Jesus about the problems people have.

Mental Illness and Jesus

Mental illness is a label secular thinkers assign to spiritual problems discussed in the Scriptures. In Part 2 I’ll talk about what Jesus and his healing have to do with all of this.

Heath Lambert serves as assistant professor of biblical counseling as well as the department coordinator of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College. In addition Dr. Lambert serves as Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has authored several books including FinallyFree: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan), The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway), and the editor (with Stuart Scott) of Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (B&H). You can connect with Dr. Lambert on Twitter and Facebook. This article was originally published on the ACBC blog. (Used with permission)


Categories: Seminary Blog

52,000 Immigrant Children and the Call to Love Outsiders

Criswell College: For Christ and Culture - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 09:58

Over at the ERLC, our new president, Barry Creamer, joins Brandon Smith in discussing the U.S. immigration problem and the way in which Scripture addresses our attitudes toward it. Here’s a snippet:

As Christians, we simply need to be more like Christ in how we respond. The children are here and need care.  Let’s not shout from the rooftops, “Send these criminals back!” Such a calloused response is irresponsible and inconsiderate; it simply won’t do.

We don’t punish the children because their parents may have acted negligently or naïvely; we love children that God brought into the world, no matter how they got here. If a woman gives birth and then gives her child away, we don’t say, “That mother is irresponsible! Let the kid suffer!” No, we adopt the child. This situation is no different.

A Christian immigration policy does not have to be an open border policy. Don’t misunderstand me. But the Lord will not punish anyone for taking care of children, even ones we erroneously think don’t deserve care. Kudos to anyone seeking to take care of them–even an administration that we regularly disagree with on a variety of subjects.

Read the whole thing here.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Functional Obedience

Southwestern Seminary - Mon, 07/28/2014 - 07:00

In her recent book, The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce, Shaunti Feldhahn, a Harvard-trained researcher, confutes the widely held belief that the divorce rate among Christians is generally the same as that of non-Christians. Indeed, her eight-year investigative study, which analyzed multiple sources dating back for decades, dispelled a number of widely held myths about marriage. Among the notable findings from her work are: the divorce rate is not at 50% and never has been; the divorce rate has been steadily declining since its height in 1981: and the divorce rate is significantly lower among Christians who regularly attend church, pray, and read their Bibles.

So, let’s stop believing and disseminating bad information.

Let’s stop believing and disseminating bad information.

Feldhahn’s research also revealed that the one common denominator among failed marriages is a loss of hope. She concludes that the dismal marriage statistics that have erroneously been heralded by everyone from the media to the clergy have created a pessimistic outlook regarding marriage that is unfounded and contributes to the negative perceptions many people have about marriage.

It is certainly nice to hear, though not at all surprising, that following biblical mandates leads to more stable marriages. Of course, even at the more realistic figure of 30% that her research has revealed, the rate of divorce is still unacceptably high.

However, despite the renewed confidence that following our Lord’s instructions leads to more stable marriages, we must be careful not to allow that to be our driving motivation. Our rally cry isn’t, “Follow God’s instructions because they work better than those of the world.” God has not given us His Word to make us more happy. Those things may be true, but they are at best only secondary.

God has not given us His Word to make us more happy.

To be sure, following God’s guidelines would be wise for Christians and non-Christians alike. But, our obedience must be based on more than just pragmatic negotiation. We don’t follow God’s instructions simply because they work out best for us; we follow them because He issued them. Otherwise, when the world proposes something that “works better,” we may find ourselves enticed by ungodly alternatives.

Even if we were still lumbering under that oft-repeated marriage misperception, the answer would not be to stop following God’s prescription for marriage to look for something better. Because, as His followers, we don’t base our obedience on expedience, functionality, utilitarian logic, or even, dare I say it, Supreme Court validation. Instead, we passionately pursue God’s directives because He said them.

We don’t follow God’s instructions simply because they work out best for us; we follow them because He issued them.

Even as Commander Norrington refused to believe Jack Sparrow, “because it was Mr. Sparrow who said it,” we as Christians follow our Lord’s Word because it was He who said it. That way, we’re not unbalanced by the passing fancies of statistics or over-published pessimism. Instead, my hope is built in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Christian Life Is No Picnic

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Sat, 07/26/2014 - 07:00

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260–c. 340) is generally considered the church’s first real historian. Although he provides invaluable insight into the history and workings of the early church, Eusebius is often criticized for his selective record and especially for his rather generous depiction of Emperor Constantine (c. 272–337). Shortly after the emperor’s death, Eusebius wrote a panegyric in which he described Constantine in very positive terms while omitting some of the more negative details about his character and domestic life. In addition to his book on Constantine, Eusebius also wrote several other works including an account of the church’s first three centuries titled Church History. This too was not strictly speaking a critical work, but it is the earliest chronological description of the church in this period which is still extant. Without it, we would be much the poorer.

In his Church History, Eusebius covers the time from Christ to Constantine. He describes the persecution which many early believers faced at the hands of Roman authorities. He tells of Ignatius of Antioch the early second century bishop who was martyred in Rome and “became food for wild animals because of his witness to Christ” (3.36). He records the conflict which surrounded the various heresies which the early church was forced to confront and the difficulties which notorious heretics caused within the church (e.g., 4.7; 5.14–20). And he recounts some of the terrible events which took place during the Diocletian persecution of his own day (8.1–13).

In describing the persecution which some second-century believers faced, Eusebius preserves the following account from the church in Gaul:

In addition to all this, on the last day of the games Blandina was again brought in, with Ponticus, a lad of about fifteen. Each day they had been led in to watch the torturing and were urged to swear by the idols. Furious at their steadfast refusal, they showed no sympathy for the boy’s youth or respect for the woman but subjected them to every torture. Ponticus was heartened by his sister in Christ and bravely endured each horror until he gave up his spirit. Last of all, the blessed Blandina, like a noble mother who had comforted her children and sent them on triumphantly to the king, rejoiced at her own departure as if invited to a wedding feast. After the whips, the beasts, and the gridiron, she was finally put into a net and thrown to a bull. Indifferent to circumstances through faith in Christ, she was tossed by the animal for some time before being sacrificed. The heathen admitted that never before had a woman suffered so much so long.

Not even this was enough to satisfy their maniacal cruelty. Goaded on [by Satan], they threw to the dogs those who had been strangled in jail, watching day and night that we did not tend to them. Then they threw out the remains left by the beasts and the fire, torn and charred, while a military guard watched the heads and trunks of the rest for many days, denying them burial. Some gnashed their teeth at them; others laughed and jeered, glorifying their idols for punishing their foes. The more moderate, with little sympathy, taunted, “Where is their god?” and “What did they get out of their religion, which they preferred to their own lives?” (5.1).

At times Eusebius’s account is quite interesting, and in many places, such as this, it is quite troubling. One of the great values of Eusebius’s record is that it reminds us that the Christian life bears more resemblance to a battlefield than it does to a park intended for family picnics. Eusebius and the experience of many early Christians illustrates the fact this world is not our home; everything we see here will ultimately burn. Thankfully, the believer’s hope lies not in this world, but in the next.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Anti-Platonism and Moral Realism

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 13:10

"Can you be an anti-realist about some things and a realist about others? For example, do you no longer give the realist resolution to the Euthyphro Dilemma, no longer ground the Good in God's nature? Couldn't abstract objects be grounded in the Logos (divine, rather than Platonic, essentialism)?"

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Gospel and adjusted math: Taking gospel love seriously

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 08:00


Perennial Bible scholar D.A. Carson, calls it “divine mathematics.” And that sounds about right to me. Although the New Testament is not a mathematics textbook, when it does speak to the issue it doesn’t follow conventional theorems or formulas. Under normal convention, five minus one equals four – obviously. Not necessarily so with God’s math.

Look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).

Paul presents five specific gifts. Subtract love, and he concludes that equals zero. Paul presents an example of divine mathematics: Five minus one equals zero. It doesn’t follow conventional wisdom, but is wisdom supreme?

The Corinthians had a problem – okay, a lot of problems. Perhaps the most ominous issue was that they had big heads and little hearts. You remember the Ephesians had the same problem. They were steadfast, always toiling and doctrinally accurate – a church many of us would hasten to join. But Jesus accuses them of leaving their first love. This is exactly the case in Corinth.

Related: As for me and my house: taking gospel parenting seriously

From 1 Corinthians 1:7, we see that the Corinthian church lacked no gifts. But the church didn’t couple the gifts with grace. The church did not understand what New Testament love looks like. The Corinthian church didn’t understand that the Gospel calls believers to love one another.

In response, Paul crafts 1 Corinthian 13. This is a profound chapter, and probably the most important chapter on Gospel love in the New Testament. Jesus said we are to love one another, and God takes love seriously. And He expects Christ’s followers to demonstrate what it means to love one another.

We know that God commands us to love. The question is, “How?” And this question is the subject the first section in 1 Corinthians 13 addresses. The reader should think through what this Gospel love looks like. How does love impact the believer’s life?

Remember Paul also said that the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). And so it’s my case that one of the chief implications of the Gospel is the expectation for us daily to represent what it means to love one another.

Paul takes five highly esteemed gifts, creates hypothetical scenarios and then applies an identical principle to each. He looks at the top five things prized in Corinthian culture. He brings them to the forefront and he creates these hypothetical situations, areas that are matchless in value. He uses the word “if,” and it’s interesting why he uses that word. He is creating the hypothetical and trying to get you to pause and think about this topic of love. So he’s saying, “Just suppose for a minute,” and he repeats it with each of the five (see graphic below).

Related: A Guide to Expository Ministry by Dan Dumas | Download the free PDF

We like to use these verses at weddings as a kind of biblical mushy talk, but I think that’s missing Paul’s point. He makes these statements to correct and instruct the Corinthian church as to the importance of Gospel-centric love. Love is the implication of God’s love shed in the believer’s heart. Every single day of our lives, God expects us to live out this personal self-sacrificing, living-for-others kind of love.

Jesus said that same thing in John 13, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, when you have love for one another” (v. 35). We preach the Gospel with our lives when we love one another, and when we have that kind of affection and understanding and deep love. It affects everything we do. Paul strongly emphasizes the necessity of this love because of the confusion and misinterpretation surrounding the gifts in the Corinthian church.

A man or a woman with great gifts, a supreme intellect, an ultimate giver, is nothing without love. So if I write the greatest article in history, but I do it without love, Paul says it profits nothing.

Five minus one equals zero when God does the math, because He sees the heart. Without love, all we do is offend others. Without love, I’m nothing. Five minus one equals zero.


Dan Dumas is senior vice president for institutional administration at Southern Seminary. He is a church planter and pastor-teacher at Crossing Church in Louisville, Ky. You can connect with him on Twitter at @DanDumas, on Facebook or at DanDumas.com. This article originally appeared in A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care.


Categories: Seminary Blog

On Choosing Books: Reading from the Other Side

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 07:00

It’s that time of year again when I have to submit book requests to our campus bookstore for the upcoming semester (technically, it is past time, but the bookstore is always gracious to those of us who miss the initial deadline). For many of my classes, I have developed a standard list of books that I revisit every couple of years to see if there are any better ones. However, each of the last few semesters, I have taught at least one class that is new to my teaching repertoire. This fall it will be Selected Issues in Life and Death—basically a class dealing with various cultural issues of life and death, such as abortion, euthanasia, and human genetic engineering.

When selecting books for this class, I have decided to do something a little different. I have chosen a significant text edited by someone with whom I ardently disagree on these issues. My goal is to have students interact with and engage the best thinkers on the other side of the debate.

I have chosen a significant text edited by someone with whom I ardently disagree on these issues. My goal is to have students interact with and engage the best thinkers on the other side of the debate.

I generally survey fellow ethics colleagues at other seminaries before choosing books for new classes just to see if I am missing a key text. While interacting with my PhD mentor on my selection of texts for this class, I mentioned the book I planned to use from the other side of the debate and told him the names of some of the contributors. His response was priceless. He said, “I really like the names you’ve listed for your purposes. [Author X] is scary. Thus a good read.”

For most of my academic career, I have heard Dr. Paige Patterson (president of my seminary) say that students need to know the arguments of the best thinkers who disagree with our positions. My approach to this in the past has been to bring in their works and read/present selections to the students in class. This is the first time I have made a concerted effort to ask my students to buy and read something so diametrically opposed to a Christian perspective on an ethical issue.

By the end of this class, my students will understand the arguments of those who want to promote abortion at any cost, euthanize the weak and poor, and produce designer babies.

By the end of this class, my students will understand the arguments of those who want to promote abortion at any cost, euthanize the weak and poor, and produce designer babies. With appropriate guidance from their professor, I hope they will also be able to critique and combat those arguments.

Far too often Christians find themselves wrapped in their bubble of Christian books and Christian arguments hearing tales of what people on the outside believe. I want my students to read firsthand what people outside our Christian bubble think. That is the only way we can truly know how to engage the culture.

The task will not be easy, but it should be a fun ride. As one of my former professors used to say, “Strap on your helmets, boys, we’re going to war.”


For those of you wanting to know, the book I chose is Bioethics: An Anthology edited by Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer. Singer is famous for believing that humans have no right to life until at least 6–12 months in age (but possibly as late as 3 years). At the same time, he believes we could control the population by euthanizing all the elderly and infirm. And his is not the most extreme view in the book.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Some Thoughts on Work

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:00

I am all for weekends (even when I have to work, such as doing lesson planning, grading, or writing a blog post!). But sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking of work as the negative and leisure or rest as the positive aspect of our lives. Work can become something we need to “get through” in order to make it to the weekend; Sundays are our “spiritual” days as opposed to our “working” days that begin on Mondays, and so forth.



Categories: Seminary Blog

Christ in the Old Testament

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 06:00


When we study, preach or teach the Old Testament (OT) should we talk about Jesus Christ? Is it hermeneutically sound to see Christ in the OT? Let’s hear the words of the best interpreter of the OT in history. When Cleopas and his companion were doubting that Jesus was the Messiah because He suffered on the cross, Jesus said to them, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27).  According to Jesus if we don’t see Him when reading Moses and the Prophets, we are foolish. Jesus spoke to the disciples along the same lines, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (24:44). Jesus Himself tells us that the whole OT points towards Him.

When we read the OT, therefore, we must read it christologically. We must interpret it the way Jesus and the apostles did, and their own interpretation of the OT functions as a pattern and guide for us. Neither do we believe that every stick in the OT refers to the cross, nor do we arbitrarily and capriciously see strained references to Jesus. But we do see in the OT story predictions and types of Jesus the Messiah.

Related: A Word-Centered Culture Instead of a Man-Centered Culture

The great promise of Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Jesus is the offspring of the woman who crushes Satan under his feet (cf. Rom 16:20). God appeared to Abraham, promising him that the whole world, the very ends of the earth, would be blessed through him and his offspring (Gen 12:3). The New Testament (NT) teaches that Jesus is the offspring of Abraham through whom the curses introduced by Adam would be overcome (Gal 3:16). Moses spoke of a prophet that would come after him to reveal the will of the Lord (Deut 18:15), and Jesus is the final and definitive word of God to us (Heb 1:2). Joshua gave the people earthly rest in the land, but there is a better rest in Jesus, a heavenly rest that will never end (Heb 3:12-4:11). The OT sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins, but Jesus offers a far better sacrifice than animal sacrifices, and He is a far better priest than the Aaronic priests. As the Melchizedekian priest and the Son of God, His sacrifice for sins secures forgiveness once for all (Heb 7:1-10:18).


God made a covenant with David, the man after God’s own heart, promising him an eternal dynasty that would never end (2 Sam 7). If we read 1-2 Samuel and the Psalms, we see both David’s suffering and exaltation. Still, David was not the ideal king, for he sinned egregiously against the Lord (e.g., Uriah and Bathsheba). David himself needed atonement for his sins. The prophets often predicted the coming of a new David, a David who would shepherd God’s people (Ezek 34:23-24) and in whom Israel would place its trust (Hos 3:5). Jesus of Nazareth, according to the NT, is the new David anticipated and prophesied in the OT. Just as David suffered and then was exalted, so too Jesus suffered and then entered into His glory. When we read the Psalms about David, it is legitimate to see David as a type of Christ. Is the book of Proverbs about Jesus? Space forbids a full examination of the book, but Jesus is the wisdom of God. He is the only one who lived as God’s obedient son. He is wiser than Solomon (Luke 11:31), and all wisdom resides in Him (Col 2:3).

Related: Learn from Thomas R. Schreiner in our Master of Divinity program with a concentration in Biblical and Theological Studies.

Israel was called to be God’s obedient son (Exod 4:22-23). Just as Adam was called to be God’s son who trusted and obeyed him, so too was Israel. But Israel, like Adam, failed to carry out God’s instructions. Things got so bad that both Israel (722 B.C.) and Judah (586 B.C.) were sent into exile. The prophets denounced Israel and Judah for their sin, threatening judgment if they did not repent and turn to the Lord. When the people failed to turn, the exile, which Moses saw long beforehand (cf. Deut 27-32), became a reality. But the prophets assured the people that exile was not the last word. God would restore His people. Just as the Lord liberated His people from Egypt, there would be a second exodus. A new David would come, and God would make a new covenant with His people and pour out His Spirit on them. Then the promised new creation would come. The victory over the serpent promised in Genesis 3:15 would become a reality in a most unusual way. The Servant of the Lord, the true Israel, would liberate His people from exile by forgiving their sins, by taking the punishment they deserved upon Himself. But suffering was not the last word, this Servant is also the triumphant Son of Man who would rise from the dead and receive the kingdom for the sake of the saints.

All the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20). The narrative of the OT is realized in Him. He is the second Adam, the true Israel, the prophet of the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of Man, and the Servant of the Lord. He is Immanuel and the Lord of all. Through His atoning sacrifice, He forgives our sins and pours out His Spirit upon us. And through Him we enter the new creation where we glorify God, as John Piper says, by enjoying Him forever.


Thomas R. Schreiner is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and  professor of biblical theology. He also serves as associate dean of the School of Theology at Souhtern. He is the author of  many books including, most recently, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Follow him on Twitter at: @DrTomSchreiner.


Categories: Seminary Blog

Some Life Lessons from Mom & Dad – Part Three

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:00

I gleaned more wisdom from my parents than any blog could contain, but here are three more lessons that stand out in my mind and heart as I remember Bob & Reka, lovebirds to the end.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A REACHing Church

Southwestern Seminary - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 07:00
The Power of a Simple Invite

A study produced by LifeWay Research last year found that 80% of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a “personal responsibility to share their faith.” On the surface it seems that our churches are doing a good job of communicating the need for evangelism. If you continue looking at the research however, it goes on to show that while people agree there is a need to share the Gospel, rarely do they actually do it! (Churchgoers Believe in Sharing Faith, Most Never Do by John D. Wilke)

In this study of more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers, 61 percent have not shared how to become a Christian with anyone in the past six months, and 20 percent confessed that they rarely/never pray for people who are not professing Christians.

Using a REACH Card to Share One’s Faith

As a church, we decided to combat what this research suggested by developing a simple way for our people to be held accountable for sharing their faith. We call this our “REACH card.”

We believe that evangelism is a process (Matthew 13, the Parable of the Soils). Some people we share with are eager to hear the Gospel and ready to receive Christ. Others may have never heard the name of Jesus, or have preconceived ideas that we inevitably have to work through with them.

The REACH card helps people in our church begin to strategically think about who needs to hear the Gospel that they can be praying for and it engages them in the evangelism process.

It’s a simple, practical way to keep the need to reach others for Christ at the forefront of the minds and hearts of people in our church. Below is the process:

  1. The first step in the REACH process is for them to MEET a person who needs Christ. Sadly, some Christians have no relationship or friendship with someone who doesn’t already know Christ. Certainly Jesus taught us the value of “spending time with sinners”?
  2. The second step is to begin to SERVE that person. Often it is tangible acts of service that enable a friendship to develop and flourish. We often encourage our people to serve others in such a way that it makes them ask, “Why?”
  3. The third step is to INVEST in that person. Perhaps it is having that person over for a meal, going to an event together or simply sitting down for some in-depth conversation. This step takes the most time, but will also prove to be the most fruitful.
  4. At this stage in the REACH process, people are ready for the fourth step, which is to INVITE the person with them to church to hear the Gospel, and they may even be ready for the fifth step.
  5. The fifth step is to SHARE the Gospel personally with the one whom they have been praying for, serving and investing in.

If we want people in our church to share their faith and reverse the trend we see in this LifeWay study, then we, as leaders, must model this and share stories of how reaching others really does work!

Hollie Taylor’s life has forever been changed because of a few Christians meeting her … serving her … investing in her … and sharing the Gospel with her. Watch her story.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Short Book Review of One of the Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:00

After six months of on-and-off reading, I have just completed N.T. Wright’s book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God.  The book is 1660 pages long if you include the bibliography and indices.  (If you don’t it’s only 50 pages long…just kidding.)  Here are three things I liked about this two-volume book, and two things that I struggled with.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The hero story

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:10


Have you heard the ballad of the hoped-for hero? Ancient prophecies foretell his coming. Not altogether clear, shrouded in mystery, but enough to kindle hopes and keep the flickering flame alive. Everything depends on his coming. In fact, if these prophecies aren’t realized, there is no final defense against evil. No ultimate hope. No redemption. No restoration. Curiously, some think that the veiled and wispy nature of the intimations that he will arise amount to nothing at all. If they are correct, is there any basis for the claims that the prophecies have in fact been fulfilled?

The sprawling, ramshackle narrative of the Old Testament is the one true hero story on which all the others are based. Oh sure, it may not always seem that the texts are concerned with the hoped-for hero, but these books can only be understood in light of the back story that informs them. The hero is the driving force of that narrative undercurrent, so even when we are not reading prophecies about him or statements of hope that he will come, we nevertheless read authors who portray a world and a people whose future depends on the promised champion.

The true story of the world is the prototypical work of art that has been imitated by all myth-makers and storytellers. Did you read of Heracles slaying the Hydra? The mighty deliverer achieved expiation by slaying the snake. Then there’s Odysseus coming in wrath at the end of the Odyssey to rescue his bride. It’s positively apocalyptic.

Related: The journey into the 'interpretive perspective' of the biblical authors: A conversation with Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr.

We could go on and on with such examples. If a myth is an archetypal story that explains the world and provides hope, this hero story is the world’s one true myth. Justin Martyr said that the demons had salted the world’s religions with tidbits of the true story to inoculate people against the world’s one cure. And in stories influenced by Christianity you have imitations and approximations of it: Beowulf slaying first the one who descends from Cain, Grendel, and then the dragon. St. George, too, kills a dragon. These are but reflections and refractions of the light of the world, the ancient hope for the prince of life who comes to crush the head of that ancient serpent, the dragon, who is the Devil and Satan.

When we consider the Messiah in the Old Testament, our minds are confronted with the answer to the world’s questions, the fulfillment of all yearnings, the satisfaction of the universal desire for beauty and joy and peace and, and well, everything. You could say it’s Hitchcock’s McGuffin – something everyone wants, needs and looks for at all costs – but the McGuffin may not be profound enough to capture the weight of this, the real thing. Jesu joy of man’s desiring. Indeed. Jesus is the ultimate object of C. S. Lewis’ Sehnsucht – he is the one who fulfills the inconsolable longing for we know not what.

Swathed in cryptic hints and echoes from the distant past, hidden in shadows and faintly perceived from whispers subtly woven through the Old Testament. Soft impressions seen through a glass darkly, the trace of an outline, the kind of thing that almost has to be pointed out before you see it clearly, but then once you’ve seen it, you can’t see anything else. You don’t want to see anything else.

The promises of the coming seed of the woman all partake of a haunting, hopeful melody, to which the Old Testament’s composer returns again and again. The delay between these prophecies only increases the pathos, adds to the beauty so pure it’s painful. The next oracle almost sneaks up on us, and at points we only recognize it after it has passed us by. Suddenly the words ignite and we read and re-read the promise of a seed who is a lion who wields a scepter who will be a son to the Most High. Each installment in the interweaving of prophecy and pattern comes like a familiar rhythm, or a restrained suggestion, hearkening us back to something earlier in the music. The artist who orchestrates the living production in real time threads the line of promise lightly – but thoroughly – through the whole symphonic poem of the Bible.

Related: Learn from James M. Hamilton  in our Master of Divinity program with a concentration in Biblical and Theological Studies. 

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are ravished by a beauty better than all else they might desire. They lean in close, straining to hear and see, longing, yearning, hoping, as they earnestly attend to past promise, and watch for what they hope will be reiterations and expositions of it. The shadows may be long and the clouds thick, but a conviction has seized them that the heavens will be rolled back when the star shines out of Judah.

Then come the “experts.” They huff and snort that there is no theme that has been resumed. They deny that this rhythm sounds like that one. They insist that when these notes in this melody are taken apart, they bear no relation to one another. They explain that this beat cannot possibly be related to that one, and that the meaning some heard in that first syncopation was never there in the first place.

But we’ve heard the music, and for all the seeming intelligence of their explanations, we know what the music does to us. Those notes may be nothing in isolation, but in aggregate they form a song more lovely than the lectures of learned unbelievers. We know this melody is meant to evoke earlier ones, and as soon as we hear the music again, the denials of experts lose all power to compel. The strains of hope and longing that we have heard awaken faith and conviction and boldness, even as the academics drone on in their boring refusal to enjoy the music.

The one who wrote the music and conducted the orchestra came, and still people refused to hear his song. They did not recognize the one who was foretold, whose pattern was prefigured, whose destiny it was to unlock the door to life, lay the foundation for faith, design the theater for God’s glory, and build the temple of the Holy Spirit, but the hoped for hero really has come. And he’s coming back. He came the first time as a man of sorrows to be acquainted with grief. When he comes again his robe will be sprinkled with the blood of his enemies who lie trampled beneath his feet. He will accomplish God’s purpose and fill the lands with God’s glory like water fills the seas.


James M. Hamilton Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary. He has written and contributed to a number of works including, most recently, Exalting Jesus in Ezra-Nehemiah (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) and What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and PatternsYou can read more by Hamilton at his blog Jimhamilton.info. Also, follow him on Twitter: @DrJimHamilton. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Southern Seminary Magazine


Categories: Seminary Blog

Basic Library Booklist

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 11:02

For a number of years the Seminary faculty has produced the Basic Library Booklist. It is updated every few years, and you can find the 2014 edition here. The Booklist has been specifically designed to answer the question of which books are the best on a particular book of the Bible or theological subject. In the case of commentaries, best means those that are the most helpful in exegesis and exposition, as well as understanding the overall argument of a book. The books are listed in order of importance. The first book listed is the one that should probably be purchased first, though it is doubtful that one commentary would be sufficient for adequate sermon preparation.

Besides commentaries the Booklist also rates books in systematic theology, historical theology, and practical theology. Check out the Booklist and let us know what you think.

Categories: Seminary Blog


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