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Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 4a)

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/21/2015 - 07:00

We come now to the heart of this series, viz., a discovery of the “received laws of language” that we as humans unconsciously use every day as we engage in ordinary communication with one another. The material here is not new with me, but rather is a distillation of an article published in 2002 by Rolland McCune, “What Is Literal Interpretation?” that he contributed to a start-up journal published by a missionary with whom he was acquainted, Sola Scriptura, issue #3. It is unfortunate that the study has not been circulated more widely.

The first of the hermeneutical rules he proposes is the Univocal Nature of Language. By univocal is simply meant “one voice.” By saying that the Bible speaks univocally we mean that its statements can have only one signification in any given context. To this I add the following qualifications: (1) while we must concede that many words have wide semantic ranges, we would insist that they bring but one meaning to any single propositional context; further, (2) while we admit that some people occasionally use double entendres or puns to deliberately connote two things at once, we would argue that such figures only “work” when hearers successfully incise the play on words: a communicator who uses puns that his audience doesn’t “get” is a failure. To summarize, no system of language/thought can survive solely or principally on such clever ambiguities. They are incidental exceptions that prove the rule.

As a transcendental rule, this seminal principle of language is axiomatic—it must be assumed true in order to be disproved. To assert otherwise would require words that follow this rule, or else the argument would fall apart into meaninglessness.

Applied to Bible study methods, this principle means that the Bible, since it is written in a “normal” manner with respect to grammar, syntax, genres, figures, etc., and was written for the express purpose of revealing truth, contains no additional, hidden meanings that were “missed” by the original writers/readers using standard grammatical and syntactical hermeneutical methods. A statement made in the OT had precisely the same meaning to its immediate readers that it has to its modern readers. To cite Fee and Stuart, “A text cannot mean what it never meant.” True, later revelation often clarifies or expands what was known by earlier revelation, but it never divulges hidden messages unknown to the original communicators, much less those that resignify the text.

To affirm otherwise, I would argue, is to introduce uncertainty to the whole of Scripture. In Milton Terry’s words, “The moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense we introduce an element of uncertainty in the sacred volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation.” Who knows? Perhaps the plain meaning of the precious New Testament promises of eternal life, heaven, and eternal reward will one day yield to some new meaning that rises to replace it! We surely cannot countenance this scenario, and so it follows that we cannot countenance any scenario that does this to any text of Scripture. To use transcendental terms, the Christian system cannot survive the implications of a Scripture that allows for the possibility of evolving, surrogate, or alien meanings anywhere within its leaves.

As such, a literalist resists hermeneutical models specializing in “mystery”—models that boast hidden meanings, whether they be twofold (the Apostolic Fathers), threefold (Origen), fourfold (Cassian), or the more domesticated typological/Christological school popular today. Instead, the literalist does not rest until he discovers an exegetically plausible and “normal” explanation for each difficult text of Scripture, viz., one that preserves the univocal nature of language.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Peril of Moral Performance

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 12:00

As with anything we touch, even good behaviors and initiatives can be twisted to harmful effects in our lives. The Bible holds out many precepts and instructions for right behaviors that are “acceptable” and “pleasing” to God. These guidelines are helpful for Christians to discern how to make choices in harmony with God, instead of in violation of God. The twist is when we mistakenly attempt to leverage the good actions we might do to prop up our sense of our acceptability before God. Many children learn from parents’ responses that behaviors can evoke positive and negative responses; how much of this learning is projected onto our relationship with God, our father in heaven? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Giveaway and Some Summer Reading

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/18/2015 - 07:00

In a few days, we’re going to give away a couple of books to one of our readers. The books we are giving away are Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy and Four Views on the Historical Adam, both in the Counterpoints series published by Zondervan. In order to enter the drawing for these books, you need to leave a comment below. In your comment, please list two or three books you are hoping to read this summer.

I’ll start the ball rolling by offering a few titles from my summer reading list:

Baptists in America: A History by Thomas Kidd and Barry Hankins

Nothing: A Very Short Introduction by Frank Close

Perspectives on the Atonement: Three Views edited by Andrew Naselli and Mark Snoeberger

In order to be eligible for the drawing, comments must be posted before 11pm (EST) on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. The winner will be announced on the blog the following day.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Why Christianity rather than Judaism or Islam?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:00

Hello Dr. Craig,

I have always wondered about your claim that Christianity is the only true religion (based on historical evidence as you say). But how can you be so sure when Islamic and Jewish scholars claim the same claim?

As a former atheist and now an agnostic, the question of which religion to choose is essential. I'm very well acquainted with Islamic Theology and unlike your claim. Islam affirms that Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same god ("Allah" is not a special god for Muslims rather it's the term for god in Arabic).

So what is your position on Islam? (And I would really like to know from who do you get your information on Islamic theology).

I also would to invest some time in Christian theology, would kindly recommend some introductory books?

Categories: Seminary Blog

Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 3)

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:00

This blog post is fairly ambitious, seeking to answer two questions:

  • How can we prove the existence of universally “received laws of language”?

And, assuming they exist,

  • Who gets to decide what those laws are in the absence of an explicit biblical statement of those laws?

My answer to the first question may seem a bit unnerving, but hopefully I can make a recovery with the explanation. My answer, simply, is that we can’t prove the existence of universal laws of language. That’s the nature of a transcendental—it can’t be proven, only assumed. But what we can do is to demonstrate that people universally observe certain laws when they use the medium of human language; in fact, they cannot cogently do otherwise. This is what logicians sometimes call “transcendental” argumentation.

The idea of transcendentals is often traced to the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, who ostensibly coined the term and established “the one” as their principal and only absolute transcendental. Plato also developed, however, several subsidiary transcendentals that flow from “the one,” viz., “the good, the beautiful, and the true.” (Other transcendentals have been floated over the years, but these have proved the most resilient proposals.) We err, however, if we conclude that the idea of transcendentals is of Greek vintage. The Bible itself makes certain transcendental assumptions. First among these is the ontological assumption of God’s existence with which both testaments begin (Gen 1:1; John 1:1). The Scripture writers nowhere seek to prove that the Christian God exists; rather, they assume that he exists. Further, they demonstrate conclusively that humanity universally presuppose, indeed must presuppose, God’s existence for their very survival (so Acts 17:24–28; Rom 1:18ff; etc.): God alone supplies the requisite preconditions of intelligibility in our universe, and no one can survive the absurdity of a universe without God. In short, since the creation of the world, everyone everywhere knows and needs God. Humanity needs no “proof” of God beyond this demonstration.

The Scriptures also assume ethical transcendentals subsidiary to the principal fact that “God is.” These transcendentals are no less true than the fact that “God is,” but they are subsidiary in that their truth exists only because of the more primary fact that “God is.” The Apostle Paul weaves certain of these transcendent ethical principles into his broader demonstration of God’s existence in Romans 1­–2, assuming certain inescapable standards of morality, known by all, without which the natural order will fail—laws written upon the heart and universally understood to be the basis by which judgment will occur.

I would argue that there are other transcendentals that may be known the same way. For instance, we know that there is an epistemological transcendental of “truth” that flows from God’s being and is expressed in his revelation. And in order for mankind to receive that truth, there must be some universal medium whereby that truth may be transmitted and received: the received laws of language and logic often headed by the label Hermeneutics.

The difficulty with this final category of transcendentals is that God never explicitly defines them. This puts it in a class slightly different from the transcendentals of God’s existence and moral law, which God does not leave in the realm of assumption. Knowing that depraved people will attempt to exchange these transcendentals for incongruous alternatives, God offers an enormous amount of explicit, propositional data about his ontological nature and ethical perfections in the Bible. But when we start to talk about transcendentals in other spheres (epistemics, aesthetics, etc.), the absence of explicit revelation leads to controversy. There are three basic approaches to this dilemma:

  • Some conclude that hermeneutical transcendentals do not exist or are subject to change, and that human language is thus an inadequate vehicle for revealing God. At best, God may be known by an existential encounter “above” the text. This most serious error is beyond the scope of this series.
  • Others suggest that hermeneutical methods are not universal/transcendental, but are instead provincial and utilitarian expressions of diverse cultures to which God’s method may or may not conform. This error is not so serious as the first, but still quite troubling, suggesting that even when the Bible is available, its message is inaccessible to anyone who has not learned (by some sort of illuminating work) its mysterious hermeneutical key. Perhaps the most obvious example here is Gnosticism, a movement ostensibly quashed by the Ante-Nicene Church, but the ideas of which certainly live on.
  • A third response affirms that universal hermeneutical principles exist as shared transcendentals, rendering the Bible a “normal” book accessible to all without distinction via the received laws of language. This response leads to the grammatical-historical model. But until the various proponents of this ideal define these laws, they remain vulnerable to fragmentation—not all grammatical-historical hermeneuts are literalists.

So who determines these rules and how? For many, the answer is that exegetes learn these rules discursively: we learn how language works by the analogy of subsequent Scripture or by the hermeneutical example of Christ himself. IOW, the treatment of earlier Scriptures by later Scripture-writers (with priority sometimes accorded to Christ’s own use of earlier Scriptures) divulges the hermeneutical paradigms by which we read Scripture as a whole.

In many senses, this approach is quite reasonable—surely God in Christ or God via inspiration will not violate his own laws of language! And we would be fools to abandon the value of the analogia fidei in our study of the Scriptures (although privileging later Scriptures is not so easily defended [see Kaiser]—and more on this later). But in another sense, this approach leaves serious holes: first among these is the fact that God communicated to humans quite successfully long before they had the NT Scriptures ostensibly necessary to discovering the laws of language. In short, since the creation of the world, everyone everywhere knows and needs these laws apart from their exegetical demonstration. They need no “proof” of these laws beyond this. But second, this approach (which in keeping with my last post, is a correspondence approach) offers no check for coherency. That is, it does not ask whether  tentatively proposed hermeneutical rules, gleaned by exegesis, can survive the rigors of ordinary communication. It does not demand that we demonstrate that we can live credibly with the implications of those derived laws in our everyday use of language. It is this problem, I would argue, that the “literalist” is best suited to surmount.

Next time: A summary delineation of the seminal laws of language and the means of testing them.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 moves to integrate theology into your ministry

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:00

 

1) Saturate your preaching and conversation with Bible truth.

If, as Paul says, those Old Testament stories were given to us as examples, then we should use them that way. When you are addressing deacons, elders, students or any group in the church, learn to work in Bible narratives and show how they apply to everyday life and decisions.

2) Address the situations that everyone is talking about.

Do not, in the name of being faithful, stick to your preaching plan so rigidly that you fail to speak truth into significant events that shock or affect the sensibilities of your congregation. The death of a local teenager, the closing of the town’s largest employer or a 9/11-type national tragedy all demand biblical answers to the questions in everyone’s mind. Show them how the Word of God addresses those types of events and how the gospel is the ultimate need.

3) Make them fall in love with Jesus.

Being in ministry means learning to live with the disappointment of people. Sometimes you will genuinely let them down because of your shortcomings and failures, and sometimes they will have unrealistic expectations. If you build your ministry on yourself and on your abilities, this disillusionment — both yours and theirs — will be crippling. If, on the other hand, you show them that Jesus is the only one who never disappoints, that our hope is in him and that he alone is our standard and our strength, then their hope rests on Christ alone. Talk constantly about Jesus, about his attributes and about his grace and truth. We see more of God’s glory in Christ than Moses ever saw on Sinai. Jesus is lovely and he is ours.

4) Pivot to the gospel.

Just as all the Scripture ultimately relates to Christ, so does all of life and knowledge. Ministry is usually done in the context of hurt, tragedy, sin and sin’s effects. In every one of those situations, comfort the hurting with soothing words of genuine pastoral affection, but find the way to turn toward how the gospel addresses this kind of situation with redemption, salvation, forgiveness and the resurrection.

5) Stay there.

If you want a church to be saturated with truth, then stay there and walk through life with them. It takes time to lay the foundation, and more time to build the superstructure. Plant your life. Show them what a gospel-centered marriage and family looks like. Preach the Word — both testaments, law and gospel, all genres, creation, fall, longing, fulfillment, consummation. They won’t get that strategic grasp of the scriptures from six consecutive pastors, but they might from one who stays and lives life in community with them.

 

**EDITOR’S NOTE: Hershael W. York is Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary and senior pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. 

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Hershael York serves as professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary. He is also pastoring Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort Ky. You can connect with Dr. York on Twitter.

 

See also:

 

Categories: Seminary Blog

I am the Very Model of a Doctor of New Testament

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 01:48

I am the very model of a Doctor of New Testament,

I exegete pericopae in weather fine or inclement,

I know the difference between a codex and a Chester B,

and even if a manuscript is Byzantine or Westerly.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Lecciones de un “Estorbante”

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 12:00

Me encanta la primavera, pero en esta temporada tengo que hacer lo que tanto lamento y pienso es una maldición que viene unida a la hermosura primaveral.  Junto con las flores, árboles e incluso el césped, la hierba mala hace su aparición en mi jardín cada año a pesar de que nunca es bienvenida en mi casa. Me gusta mucho ver crecer las flores, los árboles y escuchar el sonido de los pájaros que visitan nuestro vecindario. Si bien pienso que cortar el césped es un mal necesario que tengo que hacer, realmente sería un poco más atractivo hacerlo si no tuviera que cortar también la hierba mala que piensa que está en competencia con el césped para ver quién crece más ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Learning from History: Orwell’s (Prophetic) Proposed Preface to Animal Farm and Freedom in Society

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/11/2015 - 07:00

Animal Farm, George Orwell’s satirical story criticizing Stalin and the Soviet Union, was first published in 1945. What may be surprising to some is the difficulty Orwell had in getting the book published. At the time, many in Britain were enamored with Stalin and the USSR, especially those who worked in the publishing industry. Orwell’s manuscript was rejected by multiple publishers, in large part because of its message. When it was finally published, Orwell prepared a preface to the work that, for some unknown reason, was not included. The preface was discovered in 1972 and published as an essay titled “The Freedom of the Press.” I’d like to highlight some portions of his essay as they bear on our current situation (that I noted recently) where it is no longer acceptable to state certain ideas that are deemed intolerant.

In discussions about freedom today (including both freedom of religion and freedom of the press), it is common for people to excuse the acts of silencing and oppression by arguing that the oppression is not coming from the government. Thus, there is no violation of freedom. Orwell begins by noting that it was not the government that was threatening freedom in his day but the fear of public pressure.

But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the [Ministry of Information] or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion…. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban.

The problem was not government censorship but self-censorship. Though secular media like to give the impression that they are objective, they bind themselves to certain ideas that they deem true. Then they refuse to consider an opinion that contradicts their widely-held truths.

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it…. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals. (emphasis mine)

Orwell noted the hypocrisy and intentional blindness created by this rabid devotion to the current ideals. Any piece of information that fit the prevailing narrative was championed, while evidence to the contrary was suppressed.

The English intelligentsia, or a great part of it, had developed a nationalistic loyalty towards the USSR, and in their hearts they felt that to cast any doubt on the wisdom of Stalin was a kind of blasphemy. Events in Russia and events elsewhere were to be judged by different standards. The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famines when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine. And if this was true before the war, the intellectual atmosphere is certainly no better now.

Their devotion to the orthodoxy of the day led them to violate their professed allegiance to freedom of speech. They gave lip service to the idea but rejected it in practice when it violated their cherished beliefs.

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular—however foolish, even—entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say “Yes.” But give it a concrete shape, and ask, “How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?”, and the answer more often than not will be “No.” In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses. Now, when one demands liberty of speech and of the press, one is not demanding absolute liberty. There always must be, or at any rate there always will be, some degree of censorship, so long as organised societies endure. But freedom, as Rosa Luxembourg [sic] said, is “freedom for the other fellow.” The same principle is contained in the famous words of Voltaire: “I detest what you say; I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilisation means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way. Both capitalist democracy and the western versions of Socialism have till recently taken that principle for granted. Our Government, as I have already pointed out, still makes some show of respecting it. The ordinary people in the street-partly, perhaps, because they are not sufficiently interested in ideas to be intolerant about them-still vaguely hold that “I suppose everyone’s got a right to their own opinion.” It is only, or at any rate it is chiefly, the literary and scientific intelligentsia, the very people who ought to be the guardians of liberty, who are beginning to despise it, in theory as well as in practice. (emphasis mine)

In a sad irony, those who claimed to champion freedom and tolerance sought to promote and defend it by crushing those who seemed to oppose it. The campaign against the enemies does not only address actions but also targets ideas that are deemed harmful.

One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal. Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that “bourgeois liberty” is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods. If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crush its enemies by no matter what means. And who are its enemies? It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines. In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought (emphasis mine)

Orwell’s essay also points to two truths that are important to grasp in combating the present moves to destroy freedoms. The first is to recognize the danger of buying into a current cultural orthodoxy. We look back and find it appalling that people supported Stalin and excused his crimes, whose brutal dictatorship led to the loss of millions and millions of lives. But isn’t it shocking that those who had the willingness to stand up and warn about the coming danger were marginalized and silenced? The world needed voices to cry out that Stalin’s regime was not progress but was destructive. It needed voices to challenge the current orthodoxy. It needed unpopular opinions to be expressed.

And this tolerance or [sic = of?] plain dishonesty means much more than that admiration for Russia happens to be fashionable at this moment. Quite possibly that particular fashion will not last. For all I know, by the time this book is published my view of the Soviet régime may be the generally-accepted one. But what use would that be in itself? To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.

We can look back now and be baffled at how people could support Stalin. But what widely held opinions in our day will people be baffled at 80 years from now? And how are we suppressing opinions that are unpopular in our day but will eventually be shown to be right?

How can we guard ourselves against becoming captive to such a widely-held but horribly wrong opinion? Because Orwell is making a secular argument, the most he can stand on is western tradition.

If I had to choose a text to justify myself, I should choose the line from Milton: “By the known rules of ancient liberty.” The word ancient emphasises the fact that intellectual freedom is a deep-rooted tradition without which our characteristic western culture could only doubtfully exist.

Orwell is correct that liberty is a foundational truth of western culture. And, as he goes on to say, “if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

But the ultimate solution for wrong-headed group-thinking is not western tradition but biblical truth. We must not allow the current cultural opinion to move us to discard the truth of the Bible when it conflicts with the current orthodoxy. We have to allow the Bible to move us to discard current orthodoxy and hold fast to biblical truth when they conflict. If we are not going to fall into horribly flawed ideas like supporting Stalinism, we have to let the Bible challenge our current way of thinking. Only if we allow our thinking to be challenged by God’s Word can we be sure we are not bound to the cultural winds of the day.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Praying for Southern mission teams

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 16:06

A Bible, passport, some gear and a change of clothes. That’s about all Southern Seminary and Boyce College students need as they venture out to support missionaries serving throughout the world.

For ministry leaders in training, missions teams are not tourism, they are training, they are not vacation but preparation for a vocation, less about observation and more about participation. Each year, the day after Boyce College graduation begins the mission team season for Southern Seminary. From East Asia to South America, students venture out to advance the work of Christ and support the missionary effort of alumni and friends across the world. For some students, this experience will cement the missionary call God has on their life. For others, it will be equip them to be a tenacious advocate for global Great Commission.

During the school year, the mission team participants have diligently trained and prepared their hearts and minds. Now with the academic demands of the semester behind them, they are set to deploy. You may not be able to go with us this year, but you can join us in prayer. Below are a few ideas to help structure your prayer:

  1. For the Southern Mission Teams
  • That God will be glorified in how the team members love and serve each other
  • For discernment in how to serve and support the career missionaries
  • For the inevitable disruptions to yield unexpected opportunities for evangelism
  • For humility and flexibility with changing plans and health challenges
  • For teachable hearts that are ready to learn from those with whom we partner
  • For perception to anticipate and respond to any need at any time
  • For timeliness in knowing how to communicate the gospel effectively
  • That God will clarify His calling on team members lives to missionary service
  • That God will watch over the families of those traveling

 

  1. For strangers we will meet
  • For God to go before us, preparing hearts to hear the gospel
  • For the salvation of many and the listening ear of all who will hear
  • For boldness, courage and kindness in talking to strangers about Christ
  • For opportunity to connect them to the career missionaries & local churches
  • That they will see the love of Christ through our efforts

 

  1. For the believers we will serve
  • That they will be encouraged by the reinforcements
  • That they are able to express the challenges they face so that we can better support their work
  • That they will be well served by the efforts of the team
  • That their needs will be met as a result of our service
  • That they will recover quickly from the exhaustion of hosting our team

Overall, pray with us that God will be glorified, that Jesus Christ will be proclaimed, and that His Spirit will work mightily in the hearts of all who are involved.

Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. (Spurgeon, C.H. 11).

For more information on SBTS mission teams please visit the Bevin Center’s webpage. To keep up with the mission teams on Twitter follow #SBTSmissions2015.

Jim Stitzinger serves as the associate vice president of Institutional Advancement and director of the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization at Southern Seminary. Previously he has served as a church planter and pastor in SW Florida and as the pastor of local outreach and evangelism at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, CA.

__________________

– Are you interested in pursuing your seminary education? Did you know Southern has a fully online M.Div.? There are a variety of options available through Southern Seminary’s Global Campus.

– Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Should Christians Accept Intelligent Design?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 12:00

I'm taking a philosophy of religion course right now, and it is very fascinating to me. I'm taking the course because I am interested in Christian Apologetics. One aspect of Christian Apologetics is to argue for intelligent design. To my surprise, my professor, who is a Christian, does not believe in intelligent design (ID). I also wanted to point out the fact that in an astronomy class my girlfriend is taking, the professor lectured on how most Christians do not believe in ID.

As I'm pondering on why my Christian professor doesn't believe in ID and how an astronomy professor lectures on how most Christians don't believe in ID, I start to question if I even know what ID really is ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Whatever Happened to Literal Hermeneutics? (Part 2)

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/08/2015 - 07:00

When evaluating the truth or error of any proposed theological statement or system, there are two primary questions that the theologian asks: the question of correspondence and the question of coherence. In using these two terms, I am using two recognized philosophical categories, but not necessarily as all users would define them. In suggesting that we must test a given theological statement or system for its correspondence, I do not mean, as many do, that we ask whether or not it corresponds to “reality” as variously defined in the marketplace of ideas; instead, I mean that we ask whether or not it corresponds to God’s reality as he has defined it. In short we ask, “Does this theological statement/system agree with what God has said in the Christian Scriptures?” In developing any truly biblical system of theology, we spend the lion’s share of our time answering this question. That is because the Christian Scriptures are the Norma Normans non Normata, the governing norm of truth that may not be subjected to manipulation or modification. Bottom line: If a given theological statement/system contradicts the Bible, then that statement/system, however clever, is invalid.

The question of correspondence is not, however, the only question that concerns the systematic theologian. He must also establish the coherence of his system: the system must agree with itself. If a theological system can survive only by patching up its violations of the received laws of logic and language with appeals to “mystery,” then it is compromised. For example, assuming a non-equivocating definition of the term omnipotent, a valid theological system cannot countenance a God that is mysteriously both omnipotent and not-omnipotent at the same time. Or, assuming again a non-equivocating definition of the term justification, a valid theological system cannot permit justification to be simultaneously both by works and by faith alone. Any system that permits such absurdities breaks at least one and often several fundamental laws of logic (in this case, viz., the law of identity [A = A] and the law of contradiction [A ≠ not-A]). For this reason, a systematic theologian must spend time harmonizing texts that seem to contradict (e.g., Job 42:2 with Titus 1:2 and James 1:13 for the issue of omnipotence; Galatians 2:16 with James 2:24 for the issue of justification). At times he is obliged to scuttle his theories; sometimes, however, he is able to tweak and strengthen them by exploring exegetical options and by crafting out carefully nuanced definitions that render his system coherent. Bottom line: If a given theological statement/system contradicts itself, it is invalid.

The question of record for this blog post is whether the theologian’s hermeneutical method is a matter of correspondence or a matter of coherence: are hermeneutical principles (1) something to be discovered in the Bible itself and constructed inductively from what I find there? Or are hermeneutical principles (2) something to be settled as a matter of transcendental presupposition before I can even start reading the Bible? My answer (and what to me stands at the centerpiece of the concept of “literal” interpretation) is that the latter option is of necessity true. The laws of language are received by divine grant and are a priori axioms necessary to the coherent, intelligible reading of anything: they must be assumed before they can be demonstrated. Apart from this axiomatic premise, coherent communication would fail us and linguistic anarchy would prevail. In fact, in order for someone to disagree with this position, I would submit, he would have to assume the position in order to express his disagreement with it (which is why I have labeled it a transcendental argument).

Those who use a non-literal (typological/allegorical/spiritual) hermeneutical method do not make this assumption, or at the very least not to the same degree I do. Instead, their hermeneutical method is in part a matter of exegetical discovery. So, for instance, when a non-literalist sees in Matthew 2:15 and 18 the use of a fulfillment formula in connection with two improbable Old Testament historical narratives (Hos 11:1 and Jer 31:15, respectively), he stands quite ready to humbly allow exegesis to correct his presumptive hermeneutic. What’s more, the non-literalist can also argue that since Matthew has validated this appealing new hermeneutic under inspiration, the contemporary reader now has exegetical warrant to interpret other texts in the same way.

The literalist, on the other hand, while not unmindful that depraved minds can distort the received laws of language, is much more disposed, based on his view of the transcendental nature of the those laws, to think that his interpretive errors will be resolved by exegetical adjustment than by a radical overhaul of his whole hermeneutical method. And so, rather than acceding quickly to unique hermeneutical models unknown outside the biblical corpus, he will expend enormous effort exhausting all the possible exegetical options available to him within the bounds of a “normal” hermeneutic. And even if he fails, he is reluctant to concede the existence of a whole new hermeneutical method, much less a prescriptive one. He is reluctant because he knows that appeals to exegesis as a precedent for a unique and non-literal hermeneutical method potentially undermines not only (1) the received laws of language, but also (2) the accessibility of the Scriptures to all who are not apprised of the special method, and (3) the perhaps even the integrity and authority of the Bible itself.

This, I would submit, is the heartbeat of literal interpretation.

Next time: What are these “received laws of language” of which I speak? And if we cannot trust Matthew or Luke or Paul to delineate these laws, why should we accept the doodlings of some 21st-century chump?

Categories: Seminary Blog

‘A flame of pure and holy fire': The life and ministry of George Whitefield

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/07/2015 - 14:11

In 1835, two prominent English Baptists traveled to Newburyport, Massachusetts, to view the tomb of George Whitefield. The “grand itinerant” had died on Sept. 30, 1770, at the home of Jonathan Parsons, pastor of the town’s First Presbyterian Church. Whitefield had been interred two days later in a vault below what is now the center aisle of this church, where his remains were on display all through the 19th century. As Francis Alexander Cox and James Hoby descended into the vault, they recalled that “deep expectant emotions thrilled our bosoms.” They “contemplated and handled the skull,” while they “thought of his devoted life, his blessed death, his high and happy destiny.”

Of all the great preachers raised up in the transatlantic Great Awakening, none gripped the public mind and imagination more than Whitefield. Benjamin Colman and William Cooper viewed Whitefield as “the wonder of the age” and were convinced that “no man more employs the pens, and fills up the conversation of people, than he does at this day.” Shortly after the evangelist’s death, Augustus Montague Toplady, author of the famous hymn “Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” remembered him as “the apostle of the English empire.”

‘A ray of divine life’: The pathway to conversion

Born Dec. 16, 1714, George Whitefield was the youngest son of Thomas Whitefield, the proprietor of the Bell Inn, at the time the finest hotel in Gloucester, England. George’s father died when he was two and so he was raised by his mother Elizabeth. His school record was unremarkable, save for a noticeable talent for acting. As he later said, “During the time of my being at school, I was very fond of reading plays, and have kept from school for days together to prepare myself for acting them.”

But his mother longed for something better for her son. Her persistence and the kindness of friends enabled him to enter Pembroke College, Oxford University, in November 1732. It was here in the following summer that he first met John Wesley and his younger brother Charles, who were regularly meeting with a group of men known to history as the “Holy Club.” This was a company of men who were trying to live religious lives in an extremely dissolute age.

Whitefield, like-minded and longing for spiritual companionship since starting at Oxford, joined them. He engaged in numerous religious exercises such as fasting, praying regularly, attending public worship, and seeking to abstain from worldly pleasures. Despite the evident zeal he brought to these religious activities he had no sense of peace with God. He was, though he did not know it at the time, treading a pathway similar to the one that Martin Luther had taken over 200 years earlier. And just as Luther’s conversion was the spark that lit the fires of the Reformation, so Whitefield’s conversion would be central to kindling the blaze of the 18th-century Great Awakening.

Conversion came in the spring of 1735 after Charles Wesley had given him a copy of The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal. This book was a challenge to Whitefield’s endeavor to create a righteous life that would merit God’s favor. As Whitefield recalled in a 1769 sermon: “O, says the author, they that know anything of religion know it is a vital union with the Son of God, Christ formed in the heart; O what a ray of divine life did then break in upon my poor soul.”

Awakened by this book to his need for the new birth, Whitefield passionately struggled to find salvation along the pathway of extreme asceticism but to no avail. Finally, when he had come to an end of his resources as a human being, God enabled him, in his words, “to lay hold on His dear Son by a living faith, and, by giving me the Spirit of adoption, to seal me, as I humbly hope, even to the day of everlasting redemption.”

‘The open bracing air’: The life of a preacher

Always the avid reader, it was Whitefield’s prayerful perusal of the Puritan biblical commentaries of William Burkitt and Matthew Henry a few months after his conversion that led to his becoming convinced of “free grace and the necessity of being justified in [God’s] sight by faith only.”

Following his ordination as deacon in the Church of England the next year, these Reformation doctrines came to occupy a central place in his preaching arsenal. Dated August 1739, a contemporary observer states that Whitefield preaches “continually about inner regeneration, the new birth in Jesus Christ, the movement of the Spirit, justification by faith through grace, the life of the Spirit.”

Whitefield’s preaching on the new birth, though, was not at all well received by the Anglican clergy in England, and churches were barred to him. Whitefield, however, was not to be deterred. On Saturday, Feb. 17, 1739, he made the decision to take to the open air and preach to a group of coal miners in the district of Kingswood. These men with their families lived in squalor and utter degradation, squandering their lives in drink, violence, and sex. With no church nearby, they were quite ignorant of Christianity and its leading tenets. It was a key turning point in not only his life but also in the history of evangelicalism. The concern that has gripped evangelicals in the last 200 years to bring the gospel message directly to ordinary people has some of its most significant roots in Whitefield’s venture to preach in the open air.

From this point on Whitefield would relish and delight in his calling as an open-air preacher. He would preach in fields and foundries, in ships, cemeteries, and pubs, atop horses and even coffins, from stone walls and balconies, staircases and windmills. For instance, referring to this calling in a letter dated Dec. 14, 1768, he wrote, “I love the open bracing air.” And the following year he stated: “It is good to go into the high-ways and hedges. Field-preaching, field-preaching for ever!”

It should also be noted that Whitefield never confined his witnessing about Christ to preaching occasions. He took every opportunity to share his faith. “God forbid,” he once remarked, “I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them.”

At that first open-air service in February 1739 there were 200 people. Within six weeks, Whitefield was preaching numerous times a week to crowds sometimes numbering in the thousands. Whitefield’s description of his ministry at this time is a classic one. To visualize the scene in Kingswood, we need to picture the green countryside, the piles of coal, the squalid huts, and the deep semi-circle of unwashed faces as we read his words:

Having no righteousness of their own to renounce, they were glad to hear of a Jesus who was a friend of publicans, and came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The first discovery of their being affected was to see the white gutters made by their tears which plentifully fell down their black cheeks, as they came out of their coal pits. Hundreds and hundreds of them were soon brought under deep convictions, which, as the event proved, happily ended in a sound and thorough conversion. The change was visible to all, though numbers chose to impute it to anything, rather than the finger of God.

Over the 34 years between his conversion and death in 1770 in Newburyport, it is calculated that he preached around 18,000 sermons. Actually, if one includes all of the talks that he gave, he probably spoke about a thousand times a year during his ministry. Moreover, many of his sermons were delivered to massive congregations that numbered 10,000, some to audiences possibly as large as 15,000.

In addition to his preaching throughout England, he regularly itinerated throughout Wales, visited Ireland twice, and journeyed 14 times to Scotland. He crossed the Atlantic 13 times, stopping once in Bermuda for 11 weeks, and preached in virtually every major town on the Atlantic seaboard. What is so remarkable about all of this is Whitefield lived at a time when travel to a town 20 miles away was a significant undertaking.

In journeying to Scotland and to America he was going to what many perceived as the fringes of transatlantic British society and culture. And yet some of God’s richest blessings on his ministry was in these very regions. “So pervasive was Whitefield’s impact in America that he can justly be styled America’s first cultural hero,” wrote Harry Stout in Christian History. “By 1750 virtually every American loved and admired Whitefield and saw him as their champion.”

‘An insatiable thirst for traveling’: Taking the Word over land and sea

In the early years of the revival, Whitefield’s itinerant, open-air preaching was often paraded as evidence of his “enthusiasm,” or fanaticism. Part of Whitefield’s response was to go back to the example of the Apostle Paul as found in the Book of Acts. “Was he not filled,” he asked his opponents, “with a holy restless impatience and insatiable thirst of traveling, and undertaking dangerous voyages for the conversion of infidels?” Here Whitefield reveals the spiritual passion that spurred his own incessant traveling over land and sea: the longing to see sinners embrace Christ as Lord and Savior and find their deepest spiritual thirst and hunger satisfied in Christ alone.

Criticism of the wide-ranging nature of his ministry also came from such ardent evangelicals as Ebenezer Erskine and his younger brother Ralph, founders of the secessionist Associate Presbytery in Scotland. The Erskines had invited Whitefield to preach solely in their churches. But Whitefield refused to be pinned down and insisted on preaching wherever he was given a pulpit in Scotland. He told the Erskines that he was “more and more determined to go out into the highways and hedges; and that if the Pope himself would lend me his pulpit, I would gladly proclaim the righteousness of Jesus Christ therein.”

His reply reveals his passion for the salvation of the lost wherever they might be. As he told the Scottish Lord Rae a few days after this discussion with the Erskines, the “full desire” of his soul was to “see the kingdom of God come with power.” He was, he went on, “determined to seek after and know nothing else. For besides this, all other things are but dung and dross.”

While the surrounding scenery is different, this passion burned as bright as ever during his third preaching tour of America. “Oh that I was a flame of pure and holy fire, and had [a] thousand lives to spend in the dear Redeemer’s service,” he told Joshua Gee, for the “sight of so many perishing souls every day affects me much, and makes me long to go if possible from pole to pole, to proclaim redeeming love.”

“Had I a thousand souls and bodies,” he noted on another occasion, “they should be all itinerants for Jesus Christ.”

Nothing gave Whitefield greater joy than to report to his friends that God was blessing his preaching. Writing from Pennsylvania in May 1746, Whitefield informed a correspondent in Gloucestershire, England, that Christ “gives me full employ on this side the water, and causes his word to run and be glorified. … Everywhere the fields are white ready unto harvest. I am just now going to tell lost sinners that there is yet room for them in the side of Jesus.”

Michael A.G. Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality and director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article is adapted from a March 25, 2014, keynote address delivered at Tyndale Seminary’s sixth annual Wesley Studies Symposium and originally appeared in the November 2014 Towers Magazine

__________________________

– Join us for the Expositors Summit October 27-29, 2015. The Expositors Summit is designed to instruct and equip preachers and students for the glorious task of expository ministry.

– Are you interested in pursuing your seminary education? Did you know Southern has a fully online M.Div.? There are a variety of options available through Southern Seminary’s Global Campus.

– Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Wisdom for the World of Work

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 05/06/2015 - 12:00

... At one time or another, most of us have encountered situations at work that, for one reason or another, are troublesome and don’t seem to have a clear resolution. Discerning the right thing to do seems complicated, with each possibility appearing to have an equal number of strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the issue at stake is more on the level of personal business ethics, as is the case in the story above. Sometimes the issue is one that is on a broader level and affects the business as a whole. For example, what does a business do when there is a tension between paying a higher wage or providing better benefits, and charging prices that will allow the business to remain competitive? Where is the line between marketing that allows the consumer to make a more informed decision and marketing that manipulates consumers into buying products they don’t want or need? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Adoniram Judson and the Question of Baptism

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 05/06/2015 - 07:00

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the country of Burma was almost 100% Buddhist, but such is no longer the case. According to the 2010 edition of Operation World, Burma (now called Myanmar) currently contains a sizeable minority of Christians including about 1.7 million Baptists, making Baptists the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The reason for this significant pocket of Baptists is in part due to a voyage that took place in 1812 and the doubts that began forming in the mind of a young missionary as he translated the Scriptures.

In August of 1788, Adoniram Judson was born in Malden, MA to a Congregational minister and his wife. As an infant he was sprinkled, and he grew up assuming that infant baptism was the NT pattern. Upon reaching early adulthood, Judson was determined to become a missionary to the East, and in 1812 Judson and his wife, Ann, set sail on the Caravan headed for India just a week after their wedding.

During the four months’ voyage, Judson translated parts of the NT, and as he did so, he began to suspect that immersion was the correct mode of baptism. He had been sent by the (Congregational) Board of Commissioners, and he would soon be interacting with William Carey and other Baptist missionaries in India so he knew this was an issue he needed to resolve in his own mind.

Upon arriving in Calcutta, Judson continued his study of the subject. He read books both for and against infant baptism, and his wife joined him in studying what the Scriptures say about the subject. Within a short time they both became convinced that the Baptists were correct about both the mode and the proper recipients of baptism. As Judson put it,

In a word, I could not find a single intimation in the New Testament, that the children and domestics of believers were members of the church, or entitled to any church ordinance, in consequence of the profession of the head of their family. Everything discountenanced this idea. When baptism was spoken of, it was always in connection with believing. None but believers were commanded to be baptized; and it did not appear to my mind that any others were baptized (Letter to Third Church, Plymouth, MA, 20 August 1817).

Shortly after concluding this, Judson and his wife declared their belief that scriptural baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, and they requested baptism from the Baptist missionaries serving in India. Before continuing on to Burma, Judson preached a message on baptism that Carey described as the best exposition of the subject he had ever heard, and, in fact, Carey encouraged Judson to have it published. That sermon together with a letter to the Third Church of Plymouth and an additional address on the mode of baptism were eventually published as a book titled Christian Baptism (Kindle). This little volume remains an interesting account of how an early American missionary changed his mind about the question of baptism.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Honor Your Parents: Spiritual Formation Assignment 6

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 12:00

The study of how to interpret biblical laws and apply them to our lives today (the text we study in class is the command in Deuteronomy 22:8 to build a parapet around your roof!) results in many opportunities to talk about issues related to spiritual formation, including such areas as celebrating the Sabbath, helping the poor, and identifying legalism. One interesting area we examine is how to honor our parents.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/04/2015 - 07:00

If you notice the header of this blog, you will see a tab marked “Journal,” which if selected will take you to the web page for our seminary journal. Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal began in 1996 and is published annually in the fall of the year.  At the web page you will find the table of contents for all the back issues as well as free pdfs for all articles prior to 2013.

Here are links to a few of the articles from 2007–2010 that you may find of interest:

The Immanuel Prophecy in Isaiah 7:14–16 and Its Use in Matthew 1:23: Harmonizing Historical Context and Single Meaning

Weakness Or Wisdom? Fundamentalists and Romans 14.1–15.13

The Meaning of Fellowship in 1 John

D. A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited: A Reflection and a Response

Tongues: Are They for Today?

“His Flesh for Our Flesh”: The Doctrine of Atonement in the Second Century

An Old Testament Sanctifying Influence: The Sovereignty of God

 

Categories: Seminary Blog

The gospel is better than amnesty

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 14:53

Good paintings tell stories.

Think of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It tells the story of Jesus and his disciples sitting down for the final meal before the crucifixion. Jesus would drink the Passover cup before being sacrificed as the Passover lamb.

The good news of Jesus is more than a story. But it’s not less. It is the most important story on the planet. And it is the truest of true stories. Many have attempted to paint pictures that rightly tell the story of the gospel. Sometimes these paintings are painted with words, instead of paint and a canvas.

These gospel paintings are often necessary because the gospel must be explained. It is a message made up of propositional truth. That means it must be understood. John Piper writes, “the gospel is not only news. It is first news, and then it is doctrine. Doctrine means teaching, explaining, clarifying. Doctrine is part of the gospel because news can’t be just declared by the mouth of a herald—it has to be understood in the mind of the hearer” (Piper, God is the Gospel, 21).

In order for hearer’s to understand the gospel, a number of different word pictures have been painted. Some compare the gospel to paying your speeding ticket, or serving your prison sentence. Like creation itself, the word-pictures available are gloriously endless.

One such picture is that of amnesty. The good news of Jesus is compared to a government, possibly a king, declaring amnesty to those who have committed a crime against the state. The question is whether or not the picture of amnesty is the best picture to paint.

 

Defining Amnesty

 

According to Merriam-Webster, amnesty is defined as “a decision that a group of people will not be punished or that a group of prisoners will be allowed to go free.” Most often this term is applied when the group declaring amnesty is a form of government. So, Merriam-Webster offers a second definition: “the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.” The government forgets the crime and offers absolution.

The Encyclopedia Britannica offers an online article that further develops the picture:

“Amnesty. in criminal law, sovereign act of oblivion or forgetfulness (from Greek amnēsia) for past acts, granted by a government to persons who have been guilty of crimes…Technically…amnesty differs from a general pardon in that the latter simply relieves from punishment whereas the former declares innocence or abolishes the crime.”

Amnesty, as commonly understood, is a declaration by an authoritative body (e.g., Congress, or King, or President) to abolish a crime (or crimes) and forget that it had ever occurred. There are no penalties or punishments or justice to be meted out for crimes committed.

 

Amnesty and the Gospel

 

If amnesty means that there is no punishment, penalty, or justice meted out, can we assume that this word-picture is a good explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Well, it is a picture, and it paints some of the truth. But, as with all attempts to paint the gospel-picture in words, it is an incomplete picture at best.

There are positive elements to the amnesty picture. The gospel is news that the Great King of the universe has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). God has declared that rebels will roam free. He has mercifully decreed that his people will not be punished. God has spoken the verdict of “not guilty” over law-breakers in his realm. As far as amnesty helps us to see these gracious truths, then it’s a good picture and tells a good story.

However, the picture amnesty supplies is incomplete. The painting isn’t finished because it doesn’t tell the whole story. More paint needs to hit the canvas. What is missing from the picture is the concept of justice. When the government offers amnesty, they offer absolution without the exercise of justice. No payment is rendered, no punishment experienced. The crime is simply not addressed. If justice is red, then the amnesty painting lacks redness.

The gospel, however, is stunningly different on exactly this count. The picture of the gospel includes both absolution and justice. In the gospel, mercy and justice come together. Our Sovereign Lord has taken our sins and placed them on the shoulders of another (Isa 53:4, 5; Matt 8:17; 1 Pet 2:24). The substitute bears the penalty for our crimes (i.e., sins). Justice is upheld.

Do you see the difference? The gospel is a fuller, brighter picture than amnesty. Amnesty lacks color because it fails to include the redness of justice. The redness of justice makes its way onto the canvas in a true and complete picture of the gospel. And in the painting of the gospel, justice is painted onto the shoulders of Jesus. This is why Paul can write that God is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).

 

The Cross: Where Justice and Mercy Meet

 

In the gospel we announce to the world that there is freedom and full forgiveness for crimes committed against the King of the Cosmos. We declare to the prodigal son and the proud older brother can both find grace and mercy with no cost to them. Yet, as we consider the doctrine of the atonement and the source of our pardon, we must remember the cross is where grace and justice meet.

Freedom and forgiveness come at a high price. A price the Great King has paid. He set forth his own Son to pay the penalty by dying in our place. Our wrath-inducing guilt cannot simply be whisked away as the amnesty may lead some to believe; it must be propitiated. And on the cross, this is exactly what Jesus did.

He satisfied the justice of God by demonstrating the love of God by dying in the place of sinners. That’s a fuller and brighter picture of the gospel.

It is a picture that includes colors of absolution and justice.

A picture worth painting with ten thousand words.

 

Jonathon Woodyard is a Boyce College graduate, a student at Bethlehem College and Seminary, and a staff member at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. This post originally appeared here

____________________

– Join us for the Expositors Summit October 27-29, 2015. The Expositors Summit is designed to instruct and equip preachers and students for the glorious task of expository ministry.

– Are you interested in pursuing your seminary education? Did you know Southern has a fully online M.Div.? There are a variety of options available through Southern Seminary’s Global Campus.

– Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Incarnation and Theodicy

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 05/01/2015 - 12:00

Hi Dr. Craig,

Let me first say that while not a Christian myself (although I've somehow ended up doing a theology degree...) I am a very big fan of your program of presenting rigorous and rational justification for Christian doctrine - in particular you have thoroughly convinced me on the cosmological argument! However I am unwilling to move beyond belief in a minimalist Deist creator God for several reasons, among which is the question of:

Is the incarnation compatible with theodicy? ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Letter to young women interested in going overseas

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 04/30/2015 - 22:31

So you’re interested in overseas missions? You aren’t sure, but have a sneaking suspicion that God has called you to a life of serving him overseas? Do you have a strong desire to live outside of America? Would you like to spend your short days living in light of eternity? If any of these admirable thoughts have crossed your mind, I’d like to share a few more with you.

If missions excites you, then you should rejoice! That should be the heart of everyone who has been redeemed. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is a command to all believers to go and make disciples. So if you’re ready and willing to follow this command no matter the cost, this means that you are an obedient Christian. Everyone should be passionate about missions.

Wait, you wonder, aren’t some senders and some goers?

Regarding physically going overseas, yes. Missions demands a full effort of all believers, senders and goers. And while not everyone should leave America, everyone should be actively making disciples, no exceptions. Therefore, everyone is called to missions.

Question 1: As a young woman, if you have a desire to make disciples outside of America, does it mean you are called specifically to overseas missions?

Maybe, but not always. A desire should not be misunderstood as a calling. It may simply be a feeling. This feeling may be from God, or it may be an impulse of your own heart. What is clear is what is revealed in God’s Word.  Before looking at your specific calling, let’s look at God’s calling for women in general. According to God’s Word, God’s highest calling for most women is being a wife and mom (Genesis 2:18; Titus 2:4). As a wife, I am designed to help my husband be the best man he can be as he lives out his calling to make disciples. So this means that if I am married, I can be confident that I am following God’s calling when I support my husband in his calling. If you are called to singleness, you are still created to be a helper in a general sense to the body of Christ, but you are also able to maximize your giftedness in a unique, devoted way (1 Cor. 7:32-35). So if you are single, I would encourage you to find a ministry that you love with leaders that you can work under and help. Then devote yourself to helping them be the best they can be as they further the kingdom.

Question 2: What if my husband has a different calling than overseas missions? Or what if he wants to do overseas missions when we are dating, and after we get married, decides to stay in America? Did I marry the wrong person? Is he in sin?

If you choose to get married, you are choosing to help a man fulfill his God-given calling, wherever that may be. Your calling of helper trumps your own ministry calling or desires. Your subjective calling (what you feel led to do) will never override God’s objective calling (the clear leading in his Word).  One question every woman must ask herself is: Am I willing to commit to help a man, even if his calling doesn’t match my own desires? Are you willing to give up your own desires of overseas missions? If not, it would be better to stay single instead of pressuring a man to follow your desires. When you are willing to give them up, you will be pleasantly surprised to see where God will take you. Here’s a thought to consider: sometimes we think we are “surrendering all” when we are actually creating a tightly constructed box made of how we want to serve him. We mistake serving God for serving our own desires. As a follower of Christ, I must be willing to serve him in any capacity he wants, even if it means staying in America.

Question 3: So what if the guy I’m dating doesn’t share my desire for missions?

If the guy you are dating doesn’t share your specific desire for missions, then you need to evaluate whether you are willing to give up your desire to serve his. But if the guy you are dating does not share a desire for reaching the lost in general, then beware! This isn’t an issue of calling; this is a spiritual maturity issue. He needs to grow in his passion of the Great Commission before you continue your relationship. But that doesn’t mean he needs to go overseas in order to obey the Great Commission. God may intend for him to be better utilized as a sender. A missionary is no more important or more spiritual than a businessman. It is how we choose to maximize our opportunities for the kingdom that matters. Of course you wouldn’t marry someone based on his career choice (which is subject to change), but would choose your husband based on the condition of his relationship with the Lord.

Question 4: So how do I know if I’m called to overseas missions?

If you are married, and if overseas missions is your husband’s desire, then it is automatically your calling, too. You are called to missions because you are called to your husband.

If you are single and walking obediently to God’s Word, then evaluate the following:

-Am I already actively making disciples where I am?

-Are my mentors affirming my desire to go?

-Is there a specific ministry where my giftedness can be utilized or am I simply fascinated with a certain geographical location or people group? (God doesn’t limit His calling to a certain location, meaning that you shouldn’t feel guilty if you didn’t end up where you thought he told you to go)

-Am I content with my circumstances now? (If you think that you couldn’t be happy living out the rest of your days in America or want to escape the bombardment of American temptations and distractions, then you need to learn the secret of contentment in Christ, Philippians 4:13, no matter where you live. Discontentment should not be confused with a calling.

-Are my motives for overseas missions truly to build or strengthen God’s church? Many end up on the mission field excited about the prospect of doing something exhilarating or that will make them feel good about themselves. Even unbelieving philanthropists feel called to fulfill their charitable efforts. Watch out for selfish motives even in missions. All missions should either be working toward establishing God’s church or edifying it. That is God’s design in missions.

-What is my giftedness? Which skills would I like to utilize overseas? Have I received maximum training in my field? Or is my skill set better equipped for American service?

-Have I evaluated the organization I will be serving? Is the ministry I am looking at  gospel-centered or merely humanitarian aid? We need both. But humanitarian without solid gospel isn’t missions. Remember, in light of eternity, helping physical needs alone misses God’s mission. Humanitarian aid connected with gospel discipleship is God’s mission.

So, my young friends who are interested in missions, I hope that you have gained a clearer understanding of missions. I hope that you have been able to decipher the difference between God’s calling and noble desires. Maybe God is leading you overseas. But remember: no matter where you live, you are called to personally carry out the Great Commission.

Danielle serves with her husband Shannon and their five children in Uganda, where Shannon serves as the director of Sufficiency of Scripture (SOS) Ministries. They have been a part of D3 Youth Conference since its beginning in 2010.

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– Join us for D3 Youth Conference 2015 as we learn what it means to trust God and walk by faith. At D3 you will hear from God’s Word as you participate in one of three tracks: leadership, worldview, or missions.

– Are you interested in pursuing your seminary education? Did you know Southern has a fully online M.Div.? There are a variety of options available through Southern Seminary’s Global Campus. 

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