Seminary Blog

Last Days of Jesus: An Interview with Matt Williams

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 12:00

Up until about ten or fifteen years ago, Bible scholars mostly wrote for other Bible scholars, rather than for the church. In creating these Bible studies, I wanted to take the knowledge that we Bible scholars know and deliver it directly to the church in a creative and understandable way ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Can You Sneak Out Of Church?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 10:19
You casually hear another church member’s name in discussion and you realize, “I haven’t seen [that person] in ages.” You do a little Facebook stalking–but to no avail. Who posts about church on Facebook, anyway? (People post on Facebook in church, but not about being at church!) You ask a mutual friend who tells you,... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

The time has come to read old books

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 09:30

Each fall, when I begin my survey of church history, I take the time to read and discuss C.S. Lewis’ now famous introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation. Lewis is fascinated by this classic treatment of the incarnation from one of the champions of fourth century Christian theology. As he navigates through the Greek text, Lewis recognizes immediately that it is nothing short of a “masterpiece.”[1] Only a cold, hard heart would not sing when, in the second book, Athanasius brings his argument into focus, proclaiming:

Even so it is with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.[2]

The Word of the Father, through whom all things were made, has condescended and entered our world to become like us. He thusly thwarted the devil’s schemes, overturned death, and leads the way to true life. What Lewis finds in Athanasius’ work is a glimpse into what he calls “mere Christianity” that comprises the “great mass of common assumptions” shared from one Christian generation to the next.[3]

Lewis is certainly not the first evangelical to advocate for the value of engaging early Christian thought. Many, many Protestants arising from the various streams of the post-Reformation world often returned to the fountainhead of the fathers to confirm their own theological perspectives.

But the problem in the modern period, as Lewis goes on to say, is that more often than not, the great works of Christian past are set aside in preference for more contemporary books. In the modern world, what is newest is best. Why settle for version 1.0, when 2.0 is already out?

Lewis describes this kind of modern presentism, or chronological snobbery, saying, “There is strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”[4] A few lines later, he adds that this “mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.”[5]

In Lewis’ diagnosis, the modern anxiety of ancient books “springs from humility” because the contemporary Christian thinks himself or herself woefully inadequate to grapple with the intellectual giants of our theological heritage.[6] I have no doubt that this is true, at least in part. But I fear there are other, less virtuous and more pragmatic reasons for this kind anti-ad fontes that privileges the modern over the ancient.

But whatever the reason, Lewis rightly offers the antidote in a clarion call for Christians to pick up and “read the old [books].”[7] A new book, in Lewis’ thinking, is potentially even more dangerous and more deceptive than an ancient one. He argues that those who have no acquaintance with classic Christian thought have no grid (or rule of faith) through which to filter the errors of contemporary books. He writes:

A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.[8]

Lewis is right. It would take little effort to list a horde of modern books that have captured the hearts and minds of contemporary Christians and directed them off the straight and narrow path.

Lewis makes the poignant observation that the modern Christian has a particular vantage point, and our perspective is “especially good at seeing certain truths and especially liable to make certain mistakes.”[9] The reality is, as Lewis contends, where old books are true, they will help confirm for us the very convictions we already held or even correct some of the blind spots in our own theological reasoning. Where they are false, they will warn us from falling for the same errors and help us steer clear of pitfalls as we navigate the Christian life. Lewis even rounds out his argument with the practical advice to “never … allow yourself another new one [book] till you have read an old one in between.”[10]

The early church was, of course, in no way infallible, as any good student of patristics will be quick to point out. They certainly made their fair share of mistakes. But more often than not, as Lewis recognizes, they did not make the same mistakes.[11] Many recent studies of the evangelical ressourcement of the early church are right to fear any glossing over of the egregious errors of our ancient forbearers.[12] Recovering the theology and exegesis of the early church is not an exercise is idolizing them, but learning from them.

In recent years, it is easy to see how Lewis’ apology for studying early Christian theology participates in a larger movement within contemporary Evangelicalism to recover the theology of the early church. Thomas Oden, who, in many ways, advocated for and accelerated this renaissance, writes, “The sons and daughters of modernity are rediscovering the neglected beauty of classical Christian teaching. It is a moment of joy, of beholding anew what had been nearly forgotten, of hugging a lost child.”[13] A litany of recent evangelical publications evidence Oden’s assessment.[14]

Within this context, Southwestern Seminary is pleased to announce a new center dedicated to the study of the ancient church called the Southwestern Center for Early Christian Studies. The seminary, in fact, has a long track record of research and publications in early Christianity, but now it meets with a heightened focus and attention. A new website, special lectures, patristic reading groups, regular graduate and postgraduate seminars, and a group of faculty and students dedicated to researching the early church will all be features of this new initiative.

I have the privilege of directing this center, but I share this venture with a host of faculty who contribute a wide range of expertise in early Christianity. Anyone interested in studying the early church will find at Southwestern a vibrant academic community interested in recovering what is best from the voices of the past and serious about engaging the fathers for the sake of the church and proclamation of the Gospel.

We are excited about this new initiative and the prospects it holds for future research and teaching at the seminary. For any prospective students or researchers in early Christianity, I encourage you to check out our website and subscribe for regular updates.

Most of all, through the work of the center, we will strive to read more old books and, in the words of Lewis, “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.”[15]

[1]C.S. Lewis, “Preface,” in St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, On the Incarnation: Greek original and English Translation, 11-17 (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 16.
[2]Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 2.9.
[3]C.S. Lewis, “Preface,” 12, 13.
[4]Ibid., 11.
[5]Ibid.
[6]Ibid.
[7]Ibid., 12.
[8]Ibid.
[9]Ibid.
[10]Ibid.
[11]Ibid., 13.
[12]See, for example, Paul Hartog, “The Complexity and Variety of Contemporary Church—Early Church Engagements,” in The Contemporary Church and the Early Church: Case Studies in Ressourcement (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2010), 1.
[13]Thomas Oden, After Modernity—What?: Agenda for Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 14.
[14]See for example: D.H. Williams, Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005); Mark Husbands and Jeffrey P. Greenman (eds.), Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future (Grand Rapids, MI: IVP, 2008); and George Kalantzis and Andrew Tooley (eds.) Evangelicals and the Early Church: Recovery, Reform, Renewal (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011).
[15]C.S. Lewis, “Preface,” 13.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Follow Spurgeon’s example in reading good books

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 03/14/2017 - 09:07

What did Spurgeon read? He read all sorts of books. He read the Bible, the newspaper, Christian classics, history, biography, and fiction. He averaged reading six substantive books each week. Most of those books were weighty Puritan works. John Piper writes:

I think one of the reasons Spurgeon was so rich in language and full in doctrinal substance and strong in the spirit, in spite of his despondency and his physical oppression and his embattlements, is that he was always immersed in a great book—six a week. We cannot match that number. But we can always be walking with some great “see-er” of God. I walked with Owen most of the year on and off little by little and felt myself strengthened by a great grasp of God’s reality.

A primary reason that Spurgeon was such a great writer was due to his reading habits. W.Y. Fullerton in C. H. Spurgeon: A Biography recounts,

The whole Spurgeon Library, therefore, taking no count of tractates, consists of no less than 135 volumes in all, or, including the reprints, 176! If we add the albums and the pamphlets, we get an output of 200 books!

Fullerton says of Spurgeon’s personal library: “At the time of his death there were 12,000 volumes in Mr. Spurgeon’s library, in addition to those that he had sent to furnish the well-filled shelves of the library at the College.”

12,000 volumes provided the foundation of his library but, as Fullerton indicates, Spurgeon had even more books.

Spurgeon wrote, read, reviewed, distributed, and treasured books. Fullerton asserts, “To listen to his talk on books one would think that he had done nothing but read in the library all his life, and to mark his publications would fancy that he had done nothing but write.”

Yet we know that Spurgeon did much more than read and write. He was a pastor; he was an itinerant preacher, he led numerous institutions, and his services were constantly in demand.

We can distill down from Spurgeon’s reading habits several helps that we can employ.

1. Find good books. In Spurgeon’s library there were many used books that he found in the catalogues of second-hand-bookstores. Whether used or new, find good books. Especially find hardback books that will last through the years and can be passed on to your children.

2. Read good books. Books look beautiful lined across oak shelves. However, books are meant to be read. Spurgeon exhorted: “Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”

3. Read a variety of books. It is assumed that you will regularly feast on the Bible. Beyond that, read history, biography, hymns, classics, and good fiction. Spurgeon asserted:

We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’ — join in the cry.

4. Read as much as you can. Spurgeon was a uniquely gifted man. You are not Spurgeon, but it is likely you can read more books than you are presently reading. Start somewhere. Attempt two pages per day. In a month you will have read 60 pages and in three months you will finish your book. Start somewhere and then grow in your reading.

 

The post Follow Spurgeon’s example in reading good books appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Executive Leaders Journey: Integrating Spiritual Practices into the World of Business, Part 5

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 03/13/2017 - 12:00

This is the fifth part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Need for a Multi-Faceted Atonement Doctrine

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 12:00

Dr. Craig,

Thank you for your work in philosophy and apologetics. I’ve learned much from you. I’m glad to know that you are currently studying the doctrine of the atonement!

It seems to me that no single theory has yet been articulated which is sufficient to address all aspects of the atonement. For example, the Penal Substitution Theory (PST) seems necessary but not sufficient for a complete atonement theory. PST explains (1) Christ’s death in the place of sinful humans, and (2) the satisfaction of the demand for justice. But PST doesn’t sufficiently address the life, work, and teaching of Christ, nor does it sufficiently address the importance of sanctification as a part of atonement. Moreover, since PST holds that Christ bore the punishment we deserve for our sin, the punishment we would have suffered had Christ not volunteered in our place, PST seems to suggest that the justly deserved punishment for sin is not mere death; rather, it is death by crucifixion ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Is it okay to use movie clips in your sermons?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 09:24

I had been a pastor for just a few months when a faithful church member sought me out to discuss the use of media in the services. He had led previous pastors to incorporate video and sound clips, and he wanted to be of help to me. He started off with a question kind of like this:

“So, what do you think about movie clips in the services?”

“Well, I really hadn’t planned on using media in the services.”

“Really? I’ve been involved in worship for quite some time, and it’s a pretty effective way to communicate.”

“Yeah, I don’t doubt that. But I’m afraid it might distract people from the heart of the service, the singing, preaching, and praying of the Word.”

“I wouldn’t think of it as a distraction, more of an addition, it makes the whole service better.”

“You might be right, but I really want our focus to be on the power of God’s Word to engage and excite us, so I’m going to stay away from movie clips.”

That’s about how the conversation ended. We were two grown men who both love the Lord but with different viewpoints on what would most honor God and be helpful to this local church. If you were in my shoes, how would you have answered his question?

Over the years, I’ve been asked to weigh in on many such issues related to our Sunday morning service.

Should we have Independence Day bunting? I said no, after figuring out what bunting is.

Christmas decorations? I said yes.

Dramatic Scripture readings? No.

A children’s choir? Yes, a couple times a year.

A collection box in the foyer? No.

Handbells? Yes.

Movie clips? See above.

As you can probably tell from these examples, I came to an established church with its own customs and traditions. If you are planting a church, I suppose you are more likely to be asked your opinion on incense, an art gallery in the foyer, and cutting edge or even secular music.

I’m less concerned that you reach the same conclusion I have on any of these examples. What I do want you to realize is that Scripture is not silent about corporate worship.

Five guidelines for biblical worship

The regulative principle helps me answer these kinds of questions. The regulative principle says that Scripture regulates what is permissible to do in public worship. And those who hold the regulative principle will approach each question carefully, asking not merely “What will God allow?” but also “What does God prefer?”

The following five guidelines, rooted in the regulative principle, have helped me to address which practices appropriately honor God and help his people in our weekly gatherings.

  1. Corporate worship is Word-centered.

First, corporate worship is Word-centered. After Paul told Timothy of Scripture’s power to change lives (2 Tim. 3:16-17) he offered this simple exhortation: “preach the word” (4:2). My most important pastoral duty is to lay Scripture before my church, confidently knowing that the Spirit can apply it to people’s lives and produce spiritual maturity.

A Christian gathering should not be merely “biblical” in some general, abstract sense. It should be so saturated with Scripture that it is obvious to everyone that we believe God works powerfully through his Word, as we preach the Word, sing the Word, and pray the Word. I don’t want to endorse anything that will distract us from Scripture.

  1. Corporate worship is gospel-centered.

Second, corporate worship is gospel-centered. Paul boasted in the fact that he preached Christ: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). To proclaim Christ means to unveil the gospel before the church. A dull saw can’t cut down a tree, and a gospel-less service can’t produce spiritual maturity. Corporate worship should lead every participant to revel in the accomplishment of Christ for sinners.

  1. Corporate worship is congregational.

Third, corporate worship is congregational. Once again, Paul gives clear instructions: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart” (Eph. 5:18-19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). I’m struck by the congregational nature of these commands. We, the church, are commanded to sing songs to “one another.” It reminds me of how the first chair violinist in an orchestra plays not only for the audience, but for the other violinists, and how the others listen to the first chair. So members of the congregation minister to one another throughout a church service, even as they pray and sing to God.

  1. Corporate worship is for the church.

Fourth, corporate worship is for the church. Let’s face it, there’s a serious difference of opinion today about the primary purpose of a church’s corporate gathering, and that’s going to affect how you structure your service. Many churches stress that they exist for non-Christians. They tailor their music (secular) and their messages (short) to appeal to the lost.

Other churches, like mine, recognize that they will often have unbelieving visitors, but they focus on equipping the saints to reach the lost. And I believe we see the latter approach in Scripture. New Testament churches focused on edifying the body (1 Cor. 14:12, 14, 26), building unity in the body (1 Cor. 11:17-22), and encouraging members of the body (Heb. 10:24-25).

As someone leading our services, I try to make non-Christians feel welcome by explaining to them what’s happening throughout our time together, by addressing potential objections to Christianity in the sermon, and by winsomely and clearly sharing the gospel.

Nonetheless, when I think about what we should do when we gather as a church, I’m not fundamentally concerned with attracting unbelievers. The church gathered is to honor God by edifying the body of Christ. The church scattered is to honor God by evangelizing the lost.

  1. Corporate worship is led.

Fifth, corporate worship is led. Elders should shepherd under God’s authority without domineering over the flock (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Congregations should follow them, striving to make their jobs easier (Heb. 13:17).

What a gift godly leadership is (Eph. 4:8ff.)!

I’m thankful to lead with a body of elders who see our corporate worship service as part of the teaching ministry of the church. We know that the decisions we make may not always be popular. Some want a choir. Others want contemporary music. A decision must be made.

It is important, therefore, to find godly men who can think through what is most honoring to the Lord and most edifying to the congregation, and then to trust them to lead accordingly.

Test Cases

It’s time to crawl into the batting cage to see a few of the pitches that might come our way.

  1. Is it appropriate to have visual arts, like skits, in a morning worship service?

In the best-case scenario, a skit is a dramatization of a scriptural passage. In the worst-case scenario, it is a shameless attempt to grab the congregation’s attention. I would treat the latter like nuclear waste—don’t get near it! As for the former, I’m open but cautious.

The danger is that dramatizing a passage pulls the rug out from under the plain power of the spoken Word. Ravi Zacharias made a statement I’ll never forget: “In the beginning was the Word, not the video.” Congregations should rely upon the spoken Word because God has always used his Word to build his people and grow his church—this is obvious from Genesis to Revelation.

  1. What about baby dedications?

Once a year, our church recognizes new parents during the Sunday morning service. As a church, we want to encourage parenthood and pray for the salvation of these little ones. Nonetheless, because corporate worship is congregational, we also ask the members of the church to publicly promise to hold these parents accountable to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

  1. How much should we recognize cultural holidays like the Fourth of July?

I approach this question with the conviction that our gatherings are for the church, and the church consists of believers with one thing in common: salvation by faith in Christ alone. Therefore, I don’t plan services around cultural themes. Though I’m sure to thank God for religious liberty on the Fourth, and though I always pray for moms on Mother’s Day, I don’t lead us to have a Fourth of July or Mother’s Day service.

  1. Should a congregation recite creeds together?

There are many good reasons to incorporate orthodox statements of faith and church covenants into our public services. They remind us that God has been at work for centuries, making his Word clear. And in a world where truth is considered relative, it’s helpful for congregations to go against the grain and publicly unite around biblical teaching.

If creeds are incorporated into a corporate worship service, it has do be done in such a way that the authority of the Bible is emphasized. A service leader might say something like, “This morning, we want to confess our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, joining with Christians throughout the centuries who have understood the Bible to teach that Jesus is, and always has been, God.”

  1. Should we have multiple services divided by musical preference?

For example, should we have an early morning “traditional” service, mid-morning “contemporary” service, and late-morning “modern” service? Leaving the ecclesiological question of multiple services aside, I do have concerns about the prudence of dividing the congregation based upon musical preference. A gospel-centered service should bring believers together. If we are willing to divide over the style of music, what does that say about the power of the gospel to unite us? My fear is that it says the gospel is not enough.

By God’s Grace, We’re Not Free

Not everyone is going to like how I swing at these pitches, and that’s okay. The nitty-gritty details of church life and corporate worship will undoubtedly vary from context to context and church to church. Those who hold to the regulative principle will undoubtedly disagree over some of the details.

Yet we need to keep in mind that we are not free to do whatever we want, whatever works, or whatever the people ask us to do. For our good, God has given us parameters. Corporate worship is to be Word-centered, gospel-centered, congregational, for the church, and led.

_____________________

Aaron Menikoff earned both a master of divinity and Ph.D. from SBTS. He serves as senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to 9Marks, where this article was originally published.

The post Is it okay to use movie clips in your sermons? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

3/9/2017 DBTS Chapel: Pastor Ben Edwards

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 14:17
How do Christians conquer worry in an anxiety-filled world? Pastor Ben Edwards preaches a comforting and reassuring message from Matthew 6:25-34. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

Evangelical Theological Society Midwest Region

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 08:37
While most people know about the yearly Evangelical Theological Society Conference, perhaps less know that there is also a smaller, yearly meeting for each geographical region. This year the Midwestern Region is meeting in Wheaton, Illinois, and I have the pleasure of hearing one of our students present a paper. Jon Moreno’s entered his work... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

From a 540 to the 10/40: A skateboarder’s journey to SBTS

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:58

Freddy Sinarahua almost didn’t make it to the meeting he thought was a job interview because he had plans to be hungover that morning. He’d just finished college and now passed his time partying his life away as a semi-pro skateboarder in Lima, Peru. He spent his days giving lessons at the skate park and representing his brand — and his evenings drinking, smoking and partying. For some reason though, he couldn’t bring himself to go out and party the night before.

“Freddy, you need to get a job,” his mother had been telling him. “You went to college for five years. It’s not possible that you’re going to keep doing what you are doing right now, which is nothing.”

Figuring he might be able to get a job as an interpreter, Sinarahua attended a meeting where Brian Henderson, an International Mission Board missionary, told him they didn’t have any such jobs for him. But Henderson said Sinarahua could attend their English lessons and get to know a few of their interpreters.

Sinarahua was angry to have his time wasted, and was not interested in waking up sober every Saturday morning to attend English lessons. Besides, between the time he’d spent studying abroad in the United States, fine-tuning his English, listening to American music, and communicating with American skaters, he was proficient in English.

“No sir. Thank you for your time, but this is not for me,” Sinarahua said, and forgot all about the meeting.

Two weeks later, his mother’s words came back to mind and he found himself reluctantly attending an English class just to tell his mother he was looking for a job. This class, though, was different. “They were opening the Bible, reading one chapter, and just going through all the words and taking them and putting them in different contexts and things like that,” he recounted.

“At the very end, the guy said, ‘Okay, before we leave, Arturo is going to pray.’ I remembered that praying was folding my hands and saying the Lord’s Prayer like a good Catholic. I was ready for it,” said Sinarahua, who grew up Catholic but hadn’t prayed since he was 15.

But Arturo prayed differently than Sinarahua had ever heard. He had a conversation with God. “Dear God, thank you so much for everybody. Go with them as they go back home. Be with them. Let them come next week,” he prayed. Sinarahua opened his eyes out of curiosity. “I thought it was very cool. That was something that kept me coming back.”

At the invitation of his new friends and because they told him there would be American food (he says that he never turns down food), Saturday morning English lessons turned into Tuesday night Bible studies. Soon after, those extended to Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Before long, Sinarahua had gone from his life as a 24/7 partier to spending hours each week studying Scripture. But he still wasn’t a believer.

Seven months later, he sat in Bible study. “Freddy, tell us, when did you come to know the Lord?” Felicia, Henderson’s wife, asked. “What do you mean, when did I come to know the Lord? I don’t think I’ve been introduced to this Lord you’re talking about,” he replied. Clearly stunned, Sinarahua recounts, she looked at his friend sitting beside him, “Say what? Freddy has been coming to all the English lessons and Bible studies, and he’s not a believer yet? What’s happening here?”

“It was the truth, you know,” he says now. “I was there, but I was not a believer. I was experiencing all these things, but I was not a believer.” He was a “good person,” he explained. He was kind to those who showed him kindness. He was a “cool guy at the skate park,” but at night, he had also been the guy who would party hard with his skate buddies.

Felicia immediately opened the Scriptures and “everything that I started to learn with all these English lessons and Bible studies and all the time I spent with these people, it started to make sense to me,” he said.

Sinarahua was “convinced by the Scripture,” and everything that he had been taught took on new meaning. “Yes, I want to become a believer! I want to follow Christ! I want to do that,” he pled. “I prayed myself, then they prayed for me, then we all prayed. We kept on praying. Then we had a party — not like the parties I was used to.”

‘A different person’
Now, less than five years later, Sinarahua is in his third semester at Southern Seminary. His location, lifestyle, and life purpose have drastically changed from when he started his undergraduate degree in Lima, Peru.

After Sinarahua became a believer, his day-to-day lifestyle changed dramatically. He began to pour his time into mission trips, working as an interpreter with groups that would come from the states. A mere two weeks after professing Christ, Sinarahua met a group from Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, Kentucky — the church that would eventually become his sponsor in America.

Todd Meadows, the youth pastor at Grace, immediately saw that Sinarahua was “unique” and a “self-starter.”

“I really felt like from day one he didn’t see himself as a hired gun for interpreting,” said Meadows, who was instrumental in encouraging Sinarahua to go to Southern and now considers him to be part of his family. “He understood that God had called him to share the gospel. When our teams came down, we were the same. We were both missionaries. We were both going to take the gospel to the people of Peru.”

There were times during their mission trip that Meadows would see Sinarahua sharing the gospel independently in situations where he wasn’t even interpreting for the team. Later, when Meadows would ask about the conversation, Sinarahua would reply, “Oh, I shared the gospel with this lady and she was telling me about her past.”

“He just naturally had a concern for people and their condition as being lost. He knew the good news. He had a desire to tell them,” Meadows said.

After dedicating a lot of time to mission trips and only a little to skateboarding, Sinarahua returned to skating with intentions to start a ministry for skaters. He had high hopes of using the respect that his skills demanded in the world of skating to reach other skaters. Yet, while attempting to land a trick at his first competition back, he ripped his ACL, resulting in his not being able to walk for a short time and, he thought, never being able to skate again.

“I was very mad at God,” Sinarahua said. He asked, “God, how are all these other guys partying and drunk and on drugs and they keep skating, and now that I want to serve you and start a skate ministry, you just take the ability away from me?” However, Sinarahua said that in God’s goodness, he put people in his life to show him that his skating ministry didn’t have to be over.

Through just going to his skate park and faithfully teaching others, sharing trick tips, and giving away much of his gear, he began to form relationships. “I finally understood that my desire was to reach out to the skateboarders but I was doing it the wrong way,” Sinarahua explained. “I thought, because of my ability with the skateboard, the kids are going to listen to me – to me, not to the gospel or to Christ.” But he began to understand that simply being faithful and investing in others was the way God would open doors for him to spread the good news. Soon, he was not only mentoring a 9-year-old boy, but he was also having “intimidating” skaters in his home to share Bible stories. Through the time they spent together, God started to work in some of their lives.

Two years later, Sinarahua received the opportunity to come to Kentucky to get his ACL repaired. While staying with the Meadows family, he visited Southern Seminary for a pastor’s conference. Unbeknownst to him, his friends had set up an interview for him. Sinarahua loved the school, but was still very unsure about the idea of seminary. “Well, Freddy, it’s up to you now. You decide,” they challenged.

Although Sinarahua prolonged the application process and had to wait for God to provide funding to move to the states for his M.Div., he saw God work in “miraculous” ways to bring him to Kentucky, and he finally started school at Southern in January 2016.

Now he is preparing to go overseas to work with Syrians.
“My heart right now is set on the Middle East,” he said. But it wasn’t until recently, though, that he realized that Louisville is home to around 7,000 Syrian refugees. “I always thought I was going to go there (Syria) because I’m passionate about the Syrians and there are Syrians coming here!”

He is now using his passion for the Syrian people and his desire to share the gospel with the lost to plug into a ministry that reaches out to Syrian families and refugees while he’s studying in Kentucky.

“It’s pretty cool. I just realized that God didn’t only bring me to Southern Seminary, but he brought me to Louisville because all of these people that I want to work with are here already. That for me is confirmation that I am in the right place.”

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Categories: Seminary Blog

3 Questions with Raleigh Sadler

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:57

3 Questions with Raleigh Sadler, Founder, Let My People Go; director of justice ministries, Metropolitan New York Baptist Association

What books would you recommend for seminary students to learn about social justice issues?

In the context of the local church, Tim Chester’s Good News for the Poor and Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy capture gospel-driven justice and mercy. And then there’s another book by Jim Martin at International Justice Mission, The Just Church. Our strategy for equipping the local church to fight human trafficking through loving vulnerable people has flown out of those books and the reading of Scripture.

What passages of Scripture drive and sustain your vision for justice ministries?

2 Corinthians 11:30-12:10 shows me God works through our weaknesses. This hermeneutic of vulnerability reminds me that God is at work. On vulnerability, also Isaiah 1:17 and Matthew 25. On the justice of God: Isaiah 61:8.

What TV shows and movies best reflect your experience of living in New York City?

movies: Every now and again, I see how true Seinfield is. How I Met Your Mother also speaks to certain social and cultural dynamics of living in NYC. The indie movie Paterson, directed by Jim Jarmusch, focuses on nearby Paterson, New Jersey, and reminds me of how the confluence of cultures in NYC impacts my daily life.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

A.T. Robertson’s unsinkable Greek grammar

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:57

T. Robertson’s most influential academic accomplishment was the publication of his Grammar of the Greek New Testament in 1914. This work elevated his scholarly reputation around the world and established him as a perennial authority for the study of biblical Greek. Totaling over 1,300 pages, the book was an impressive magnum opus, but it would never have come into existence apart from great personal struggle.
 
The dream of a new grammar of the Greek New Testament began with John A. Broadus, one of the seminary’s founders and Robertson’s father-in-law. Broadus’ initial goal was to recruit Robertson to help him revise George Winer’s 1825 grammar, but Robertson recognized even a substantial revision would be an insufficient solution. The world needed an entirely new work, and Broadus blessed Robertson’s effort to fill the gap.
 
Robertson composed the entire manuscript by hand, resulting in a three-foot-tall stack of manuscripts. Robertson possessed notoriously messy handwriting, making his manuscripts exceedingly difficult to decipher. This problem was compounded by the fact that the nature of the project included a plethora of ancient Greek terms unfamiliar to potential publishers who did not share his detailed understanding of the biblical languages. Considering the uncertainty as to whether so technical a book would sell well and the added difficulty of typesetting the work, Robertson’s masterpiece sat dormant for nearly two years and was at risk of floundering in unpublished obscurity.
 

 
Eventually, Robertson found a New York-based publisher willing to take the financial plunge but only upon the condition that Robertson himself would raise endowment for the typesetting plates. Robertson soon discovered this process would entail a titanic personal cost, one beyond his initial estimations. After accounting for corrections and multiple type resets, the total charges approached $10,000. Determined to share his creation with the world, he set to work raising capital anywhere money could be found. He implored bank presidents and wealthy friends to join a coalition of patrons to endow the project. He even borrowed on the full value of his life insurance policy. Robertson reportedly became so frustrated at the growing expenses and frustration that he wished his unpublished Grammar sink to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Coming to Robertson’s rescue was the Norton family, as several members shared Robertson’s Baptist convictions and possessed both wealth and a philanthropic spirit. Southern Seminary trustee George W. Norton Jr., together with his sisters Lucie and Mattie, happily wrote Robertson a $1,500 check once they understood his need to endow the Grammar’s plates. With the cooperation of President E.Y. Mullins, the seminary also advocated on Robertson’s behalf, encouraging donors to help bring the Grammar to print, and created a faculty publishing fund. Additionally, Robertson’s publisher encouraged him to make a strong appeal to ministers to order advance subscriptions of the Grammar at “the very low selling price” of $5 per copy (approximately $120 by contemporary standards).
 
All the perseverance paid off once Robertson’s Grammar finally saw print on June 12, 1914, nearly 400 years after the initial publication of Erasmus’ historic Greek New Testament. It received high critical praise and enduring popular success, setting a new standard for the study of biblical Greek in the 20th century. The first edition nearly sold out by the end of the year, and over the next nine years it was continuously re-released through four editions.
 
In addition to the A. T. Robertson Papers, visitors to the SBTS Archives & Special Collections are invited to view Robertson’s original handwritten manuscripts and a first edition copy of Robertson’s Grammar which he personally signed for the Lucie and Mattie Norton.
 

¹Everett Gill, A. T. Robertson: A Biography (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1943), 161 – 62.
²Gill, A. T. Robertson: A Biography, 161.
³Walter Petersen to A. T. Robertson, June 11, 1914, A. T. Robertson Papers, Box 3. SBTS Archives & Special Collections.
4S. S. Broadus to A. T. Robertson, October 27, 1913, Robertson Papers, SBTS. W. C. Bittiny to A. T. Robertson, November 13, 1913, Robertson Papers, SBTS.
5Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859 – 2009 (Oxford University Press, 2009), 269.
6Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 269.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Reviews: ‘Engaging with Jewish People’;’A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament’;’Among Wolves’;’The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon’

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:57

Engaging with Jewish People: Understanding Their World Sharing Good News by Randy Newman (The Good Book Company 2016, $11.99)
Review by Annie Corser

In Engaging with Jewish People, Randy Newman tackles the challenge of sharing the gospel with Jewish people. Raised in a Jewish family, Newman outlines who Jewish people are, pieces of their history, and what they believe.

The book is a solid starting point for Christians to begin thinking through how to engage Jewish people. Many are resistant to Jesus and to Christians. After listing a few basics about Jewish culture, Newman writes that prayer is the “most important aspect of evangelism.” He reminds believers that without prayer, Christians may think salvation depends on them.

Newman encourages believers to remember that God has not forsaken the Jewish people when he writes, “There will be many Jewish believers in the Messiah in the crowd who gather around the Lion of the tribe of Judah, singing his praise forever.”

A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament by Charles Lee Irons (Kregel 2016, $39.99)
Review By S. Craig Sanders

If you’ve used a Reader’s Greek New Testament, then you know you’ll often still need help with syntax and translation. Charles Lee Irons’ Syntax Guide is an essential tool to keep you reading and prevent the interruption that would arise for you to track down a bulky syntax work. Irons’ resource provides verse-by-verse analysis of the New Testament, analyzing key syntactical issues and offering translation glosses, in addition to cross-references to other passages in the NT and Septuagint.

“One of my aims in creating this Syntax Guide is to encourage students, pastors, and others to devote themselves to reading large portions of the Greek New Testament and, ideally, all of it,” Irons writes.

This sturdy and compact volume is a must-have addition to your library, especially if you commit to reading and translating the Greek New Testament on a daily basis.

Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City by Dhati Lewis (B&H 2017, $15.99)
Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

As the world’s population continues to move into cities and exhibit dramatic racial and cultural diversity, the church must prioritize making disciples, writes Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia, in Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City.

With both population diversity and density in urban areas increasing, the church must raise and guide indigenous leaders from within cities to lead the people of God, much like missionaries and church planters in foreign countries, Lewis writes. Using the Gospel of Matthew as a guide, Lewis walks the reader through eight “movements” of Matthew, from calling to teaching to sending.

“Christianity is simple in its message, but supernatural in its application,” Lewis writes. “The reason it’s hard to live authentically Christian in the urban context is because we are called to supernaturally love those who don’t look like us, talk like us, or act like us.”

The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 Edited by Christian T. George (B&H Academic 2017, $59.99)
Review by S. Craig Sanders

In the first of a 12-volume set, The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon features a series of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s early sermon notebooks he first attempted to print in 1857 but were since lost to publishing history. Spurgeon scholar Christian T. George notes in his editor’s preface the great irony that, though Southern Baptists largely opposed Spurgeon during that time due to his anti-slavery stance, the publication of this project finally comes to fruition at a Southern Baptist publication house.

“Charles Spurgeon has come to America,” George writes in the series preface. “Through the rotations of a thousand gears of grace, his early sermons have spanned a century and a sea to be read by new audiences. … Future historians will be right to see the publication of his Lost Sermons as belonging to an extraordinary and unexpected narrative of redemption.”

Readers won’t find full sermon manuscripts, but when completed the collection will add 10 percent of literature to Spurgeon’s canon, according to George. Each of the 76 sermons contained in this volume feature a facsimile of the notebook page with the text reprinted on the facing page. While Spurgeon wrote only sermon titles, Scripture text, and sermon outlines in his notebook, George adds footnotes that explains the sermon’s relationship to Spurgeon’s theology and his 19th-century setting.

The beautiful hardcover edition captures the gem found inside of Spurgeon’s early work, never before available to the public. Even more valuable are George’s introductory essays, describing the common traits of the notebook’s sermons and exploring the young preacher who began his remarkable ministry at 16. It’s a steep price, but a worthy investment for the pastor and student indebted to Spurgeon’s rich preaching.

The post Book Reviews: ‘Engaging with Jewish People’;’A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament’;’Among Wolves’;’The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon’ appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Feature review: Work and Our Labor in the Lord

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:57

Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton Jr. (Crossway 2017, $14.99)

While Christians are surrounded by a secular culture that views work improperly — either as a demanding god or mind-numbing duty — the biblical storyline invites believers to see work as part of the very purpose of God’s image bearers, writes James M. Hamilton Jr. in his book, Work and Our Labor in the Lord.

In his contribution to Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary, lays out a robust biblical perspective on human work, detailing how it changes in each epoch of redemptive history. He describes work’s original intention (Creation), corruption (Fall), and ultimate fulfillment (Redemption and Restoration).

“Work is therefore built into the created order, right from the start,” Hamilton writes. “God gave men stewardship of the land and all life on it. All tasks man undertakes in God’s world can be seen in relationship to that original commission. Some jobs deal directly with plants and animals. Other jobs enable the stewardship of land and life. All jobs relate to those great tasks. The making of roads and markets enables us to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over the animals. The tasks related to helping other humans to flourish intellectually and spiritually enable people to deal with the land and living creatures. Arguably every righteous task in the world — from that of the farmer or rancher to that of the engineer, the software developer, or the nuclear physicist, from that of the ditchdigger to the physician, from the coach to the pastor, the zookeeper to the politician, the sergeant to the mailman — every task in the world can be seen in relationship to the subjection of the earth and the exercise of dominion over the animal kingdom.”

The story of the Bible opens with God working, affixing to work its identity as an “exalted, Godlike activity,” Hamilton writes. When the world fell because of sin, every part of Creation was affected, including work.
“[In the fall], God made the woman’s tasks of bearing children and helping the man more difficult, and he made the man’s task more difficult by cursing the ground, making toil painful and sweaty, and expelling man and woman from the garden,” Hamilton writes.

God did not simply create the world and let it operate on its own, but he continues to work in the midst of his creation, ultimately through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ work on his Father’s behalf (John 5:17) extends God’s activity from Creation through all history, ultimately culminating in a redeemed humanity that can live out the Edenic ideal for healthy work.

“As we wait for the redemption of our lowly bodies and resurrection from the dead, Christians are to work in ways that show love for God and neighbor,” Hamilton writes. “So doing will enable us to live out the image and likeness of the true and living God.”

Hard labor is not the only thing endorsed in the Creation Mandate. Since God himself worked in creation through speaking words, it validates all forms of work — even the sort of labor that is intellectual and communicating.

“God works by speaking words,” writes Hamilton. “Among other things, this validates all kinds of knowledge work in which the hard work of thinking and communicating accomplishes that those made in God’s image have set out to do.”

At the end of human history, when God remakes the world, transforming it from sin-stained to fully glorified, mankind will not enter a relaxed, easy, unworking state. Instead, the human race, fully restored and enlivened in the image of Christ, will be working in the way it was meant to from the beginning — without the pain, loss, and futility of work in a fallen world.

“We can scarcely imagine it, but everything that makes work miserable here will be removed. All our sinful concerns about ourselves will be swallowed up in devotion to the one we serve,” writes Hamilton. “All inclination to evil will have been removed from our hearts, so we will enjoy the freedom of wanting to obey, wanting to serve, wanting to do right.”

A helpful contribution to growing popular-level treatments of biblical theology, this volume provides practical instruction on work and demonstrates a strong hermeneutical method.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Working with purpose: Hamilton discusses new book on biblical theology of work

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:56

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary talks with Towers writer Andrew J.W. Smith about this new book, Work and Our Labor in the Lord.

AS: Why is a healthy, biblical theology of work so important?
JH: Growing up, I was under this misconception that the really important work was missions and then second to missions was full-time vocational ministry. And I was in a low ecclesiology setting, so that didn’t necessarily mean church. Once I got serious about the faith I had the impression that other people who were serious about the faith thought that way too. If you were really going to pursue the Lord, then what you were going to do was go into full-time vocational ministry, whether that was some form of campus ministry or church ministry or you were going to really lay it all down and go to the mission field. And there were no doubt traditions where that misconception is not burdening people’s consciences and places where they have a high view of vocation, and in some ways have done a better job in preserving their theology and then communicating that theology to the laypeople. So all this to say, I don’t think the Bible presents the matter as, “If you’re really going to be useful in life you’re going to serve the Lord.” I would say: If you’re going to be useful, you’re going to serve the Lord doing whatever he has built you to do. I think that’s the appropriate biblical response to it. And having come to that, out of this other misconception, I was eager to get the opportunity to try to think through what the perspective of the biblical authors is when it comes to the work that we do. That was kind of the problem that led me to it.

AS: What was God’s original vision for work in creation?
JH: It’s fascinating when you look at Genesis 1:28, God creates this massive world, then he starts with two people, and the first thing he commands them to do is be fruitful and multiply. Then every successive imperative in Genesis 1:28 is going to build and grow out of the “be fruitful and multiply.” So they’re to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” with people, and “subdue” the earth, and then “have dominion” over all the animals. That’s their responsibility. They’re not going to be able to either subdue the earth or have dominion over the animals unless they fill the earth. And they’re only going to be able to fill the earth if they are fruitful and multiplying. There’s this logical progression here from one command to the other that implies that even if they’re fruitful and multiply but they don’t train those kids, if they don’t disciple those kids, they’re not going to be able to subdue the earth and have dominion over the animals. So, that is to say, the first thing is they’ve got to do is have a great marriage. This couple, Adam and Eve, their marriage is crucial to the whole task. They’ve got to have a healthy marriage that produces children, and then they’ve got to be great parents. Because what Genesis 1:28 is growing out of is in Genesis 1:26, God makes man in his own image and his own likeness, and then male and female in verse 27, and then in Genesis 1:28 he tells them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. If you just go with that progression, this means that God wants the earth full of people who reflect his image and likeness, which I think means God wants the earth full of his glory, and the way that the man and the woman are to image God is that they are to bring his character and authority and way of doing things into all creation. It’s a whole life thing where there has to be this balance between marriage and parenting and work and the ultimate significance of it is the glory of God.

AS: How would you say work is tied to the purpose of creating humanity?
JH: If we take a step back and look at God himself, you’ve got God doing this work at creation, and then you’ve got Jesus saying things like, “My Father is working until now and I am working,” when they’re disputing with him about what is going on on the Sabbath day. Then you have passages like Hebrews 1 speaking of the way that Jesus is upholding all things by the word of his power. So God is a worker. And he makes man in his image and likeness, and one aspect of that is that we also are to be workers.

AS: How is that purpose then marred or affected by the fall? Where does it go wrong?
JH: I think at the most basic level, the rebellion is a failure to trust God. Satan makes these suggestions about how God can’t be trusted and they believe Satan and they don’t trust the Lord. This introduces alienation between man and God, alienation between man and woman, alienation between man and his environment. Then God speaks words of judgment over the tasks given first to the woman and then to the man. So he makes the work they were created to do more difficult because of their sin. And I think if we were to just read the first five chapters of Genesis, maybe even the first four chapters of Genesis, I think a valid conclusion we can draw is every time someone sins, their work gets harder. So God’s judgment against man’s sin makes the work that God gave man to do harder. It introduces a curse on it.

AS: Often in our circles, students might feel frustrated by a paper they have to write, or a job they have to show up for. We often think of work itself as a curse.
JH: Yeah, work is not a curse. Adam and Eve were both given work to, do in the Garden of Eden and in the new creation we’ll be doing work. There will be work in the new heavens and the new earth. Work is not the curse. One major aspect of the curse is that we were driven out of the land of Eden, so we’re out of the direct presence of God and we don’t enjoy all the blessings that the presence of God brings to the Garden of Eden. So the blessed land is closed off to us. I think also in the words of judgment that are spoken, particularly in Genesis 3:16 to the woman and in 3:17-19 God has frustrated what he created us to do. He’s made that more difficult and painful. So the woman’s going to have pain in childbearing, and the man is going to have painful toil on the ground. The world’s not going to cooperate with us any more and our bodies are not going to cooperate with us any more. So that makes work hard.

AS: About the new heavens and the new earth, will the eschatological renewal of work be like a return to Eden, almost a rediscovery of that original intention?
JH: Right, I think it will be a created world, a new heaven and a new earth. And I think the best interpretation of the relevant passages indicates this is going to be a renewed version of this world. It’s going to be a renewed physical world and there will be no temple: God and the land will be the temple. God’s blessed presence will be enjoyed by everybody. So everyone and everything will enjoy the blessed presence of God because of it’s proximity of him. And then we will work to God’s glory. We will steward what he has given. Jesus speaks on various occasion of people reigning in the new heavens and the new earth. Paul says we will judge angels, so there will be decisions made. I think the subduing the earth and the exercising dominion is going to continue.

AS: Will we have jobs in the new earth?
JH: It’s a great question. In some ways, it’s hard to know when Jesus for instance is telling a parable about someone whose master comes and the master says, “You have done well; I will set you over five cities,” can we take it to indicate there will be cities? We know there will be a new Jerusalem. That seems to indicate there will be people in those who exercise authority in those cities, and I think that indicates that we will have various kinds of responsibilities and there will be hierarchies of authority. It’s hard to project what life is going to be like in the new heavens and the new earth from the text.

AS: Based on this theology, how would you challenge or admonish a Christian who tends to be a little more lazy or unproductive?
JH: I would want to do two things. First I’d want to sketch in the whole Bible picture: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. You’ve got work in the original creation, work was made more difficult through the fall, through Christ our work can be renewed, and then in the new heavens and the new earth we will do work. Having sketched in that overarching schema, assuming this is a believer, I think you can do a carrot and a stick. The carrot is, “Whatever you do, do with all your heart as for the Lord and not for men.” The stick is, “If any man will not work, let him not eat.” That indicates that we have a responsibility to work. And if we are not upholding our end of the bargain, other people should not provide for us. There is the accountability that if you’re not going to work, we’re not going to feed you.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

GREEKONOMICS: How to set goals, manage your time, and grow your Greek

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 14:55

Picture your Hebrew and Greek education as a parable of walking along the beach. You hear a voice that says, “Pick up some stones and put them in your pocket. Tomorrow, you will be both happy and sad.” You pick up the stones, put them in your pocket, and the next day you find they have transformed into a handful of diamonds. You would say to yourself, “This is so valuable. I wish I could go back and get more.”

Perhaps you find yourself at the end of your languages education. You still have a solid (or not-so-solid!) grasp of the basics of Hebrew and Greek, but you want to make sure you maintain all you have learned. If so, it’s never been easier to both maintain and grow your Greek skills. Think of John Brown. When his parents died when he was 11 or 12, he barely knew how to read English. He taught himself Latin during his break from shepherding work, and taught himself Greek by comparing Latin and English with a Greek New Testament he borrowed. Now, life’s a lot easier than it was 300 years ago. Think also of Heinrich Bitzer, whom John Piper writes about in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. He was a full-time banker, working from 50-60 hours a week, but he loved the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. He even wrote a devotional book full of both Hebrew and Greek entries. It’s easier for us, with all our resources and tools, than it has ever been.

But perhaps you find yourself in a different situation. You don’t need your Greek merely improved; you need it resurrected. When I recently taught a Greek Review course, I was very pleased to meet people who were not afraid to say, “It’s been a long time since I had Greek. I’ve forgotten so much, but I’m committed to relearning it.” I had a student who took Greek 20 years ago, and when he took Greek with me a year or two ago, he told me, “I’ve forgotten the alphabet.” He had to relearn the alphabet before he took the class! He took a week or two off work, had a friend tutor him, took Greek review, and watched some old videos online. In about three weeks, his Greek was back up and improving at a steady pace. It is possible to do this. But how?

01 Develop habits


In his book What’s Best Next, Matt Perman points out that one of the best things we can do for our productivity is build habits and routines. We need to deliberately develop such patterns to show what we really value. I think that’s good advice. A 2009 article in the European Journal of Social Psychology followed people to determine how long it took them to form a habit. It varied greatly, but the average was 66 days. Some people were able to form a habit and stay with it after 18 days, but the longest amount of time was 254 days.

In January, some of us made resolutions about what we were going to eat or what we were going to read. It’s so easy to see our new habits slip after two or three weeks. We realize ultimately that it is only God who changes us from the inside and gives us the strength to do these things, but if these habits are not able to take hold in our lives, it’s no surprise our Greek skills slowly wander away. Greek is like the neighborhood cat — if you don’t feed it, eventually it will leave. So we want to be people who are feeding it, who are reading it regularly.

02 Eliminate distractions

Another practical tip is to be radical in eliminating distractions. I heard a speaker say once, “If I printed out all the stuff I look at on the internet — all the pictures, all the articles, all the videos — and I put it in a book, it would be the worst book ever.” In other words, we’re spending our time on things we do not value that much. There’s an article in the Harvard Business Review by Hugh McGuire showing that Twitter, email, and smartphone technology trigger a patterned dopamine reaction in your brain. The activity becomes almost numbing.

Ask yourself: “Where am I spending my time?” Be willing to radically intervene and to take steps to reverse that addictive process. You could also try something called a little bit of theological jiu jitsu. The Brazilian martial art jiu jitsu is where you use the force of your opponent against them. Technology can be addictive, so we take our phones and remove those addictive apps (Facebook, Instagram, wherever you’re wasting your time) and you put things like Bible vocab and Biblearc (the digital Greek New Testament) on there. Put apps on your phone that you want to value more than Star Wars “Bad Lip Reading” videos.

03 Write down your goals


If you set a goal, write it down. If you’ve ever set a goal for yourself, chances are good you did so around New Year’s Day. The literature about goal setting says there are two reasons most people don’t keep their resolutions: Their goals are not realistic and they are not measurable. Someone recently told me they were going to go work on Greek an hour every day. It won’t happen! You won’t do it. Start at 5-10 minutes, and you will certainly do it, and that can grow. Start with a habit that is realistic. I’m going to give an inspirational word next: Aim low. Set realistic goals. Why do I keep my “Daily Dose of Greek” at two minutes? Because research shows people stop watching videos at 90 seconds. You’re not going to do all of this. This is overwhelming; don’t do all of this. But pick one of these things, and say, “I can do that.”

04 Motivate yourself


Another practical suggestion is to include incentives and disincentives. This is one reason that good intentions never take hold. When I have to write a lot, I tell my kids, “When I come home, ask me if I did anything other than write. If I did, I owe you each five bucks.” I’m so cheap, I don’t want to lose $15! Find something unpleasant that you don’t want to do. Commit to reading the Greek New Testament five minutes a day, five days a week. Put a chart on the fridge and tell your wife, “If you ever catch me on a day when I don’t do it, I’ll clean all the bathrooms that weekend.” She will check the chart, and if she catches you, you probably won’t do it again.

05 Get expert help

When you’re really sick, you go to the doctor. When your car is broken, you go to the mechanic. When something is wrong with your plumbing, you go to the plumber. What does it look like to seek expert help for your Greek? It could be taking a class at the seminary, it could be hiring a Ph.D. student to Skype with you and help you with your Greek once a week. Why do people pay a personal trainer when they could just go exercise? Because it really helps to have someone there with you who knows what they’re doing and is pushing you, and that’s just as true academically.

There was a Freakanomics podcast, “How to Be Great at Just About Anything,” which looked at research of the psychologist Anders Erickson. He studied athletes, doctors, and artists who were at their peak performance to discover what made them excellent. Malcolm Gladwell, who popularized his work, wrote that 10,000 hours will make you great at anything. When they interviewed Erickson, it was not just the amount of time you invest. It’s also dependent on deliberate practice. It requires working on areas to improve your skills, often with an expert’s guided assistance. So, don’t just do something over and over again, but do it deliberately, especially with expert help.

06 Visualize the future

God has given us imaginations so that we can imagine what the future could be. Boyce and Broadus over 150 years ago imagined what the future it could be for the seminary and here we are — beyond anything they could have expected. We see this in sports with people like Michael Phelps; before he swims, he sees the whole race in his mind. God has given us visual memory to inspire and keep us on track.

In a recent Guidestone retirement newsletter, they reported a study where half of the people in a group were shown age progression software to show them what they would look like when they were 70 or 80 years old. Participants who saw the age progression were told, “This is what you’re going to look like. Your body looks frail. Imagine you need money, so you get up at 4 a.m. to work at the grocery, stocking shelves, to get food on the table.” The other half of the group received no coached vizualization of the future. It’s no surprise that the people who envisioned themselves in retirement ended up saving twice as much money as the control group because they emotionally connected with a vision of the future they did not want to have.

We could say the same thing with your Greek. Imagine that your grandkids are pulling your books off the shelf and they say, What’s this book that’s all dusty? “Oh that’s my Greek New Testament?” Do you read Greek? “No, I used to.” Why can’t you read it? Can you read this, Granddad? Can you read this one word? “I can’t read that word.”
On the other hand, imagine that you’re 85, and that you have a Greek New Testament with the cover torn off and every page is crinkled with sweat and writing. And when you want to pick up the New Testament, you don’t pick up an English Bible but you pick up your Greek New Testament, which you’ve read through many times. Which vision do you want to your life to be about?

This article was adapted from the opening plenary session of the Jan. 13-14 Alumni Academy on “The Minister and His Greek New Testament,” presented by Robert L. Plummer, professor of New Testament Interpretation and co-author of the forthcoming book Greek for Life, which releases in August through Baker Publishing Group.

The post GREEKONOMICS: How to set goals, manage your time, and grow your Greek appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Executive Leaders Journey: Integrating Spiritual Practices into the World of Business, Part 4

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 12:00

This is the fourth part of a five-part series of blogs that chronicle the journey of a cohort of business leaders who together pursued deeper relationships with God and the integration of the resulting spiritual transformation in their personal lives into their roles as leaders in their businesses, and ultimately into the culture of their businesses as a whole ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

3/8/17 DBTS Chapel: Pastor Ken Brown

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 08:03
The world is filled with worry. Mankind desperately seeks peace but only finds emptiness. Pastor Ken Brown speaks to us from Philippians 4 and shares with us the peace that only comes from God. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

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