Seminary Blog

Five terrible reasons for surrendering to vocational ministry

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 07/04/2017 - 06:00

Perhaps “launch” is not the best term, because they may stay in ministry for many years. But they never seem to do well. They never seem to have a peace. They seem like they are always trying to prove something.

I recently went through my old seminary pictorial directory. I was able to locate 47 people I knew in seminary who I know where they are today. Of that 47, only eight remained in ministry. If you are doing the math, that is an 83 percent dropout rate.

Vocational ministry is a calling. It is not just another vocation. If you enter ministry for the wrong reasons, you will not likely do well. Indeed, you will not likely make it.

What are some of the terrible reasons to enter vocational ministry? Here are five of the most common failures:

  1. Escape from a secular job

    I know a man who has a huge desire to work fulltime in ministry for a church. But the only reason he ever articulates is his hatred of his middle management secular job. He sees ministry vocation only as an escape from the problems of corporate work. I hope his heart changes before he makes the leap.

  1. Fulfilling family expectations

    About one-third of my peers who dropped out of ministry came from families in vocational ministry. Don’t hear me wrongly. It is admirable to see multiple generations in ministry for the right reasons. But too many in ministry feel compelled to enter that world because of family pressure. One peer of mine told me, “Dad called me into ministry, not God.”

  1. When your spouse is not supportive

    Vocational ministry is demanding and can be exhausting. If ministers do not have the support of their spouses, their lives will be miserable from the point of entering vocational ministry. For those of you who have supportive spouses in ministry like me, count your blessings.

  1. Not theologically prepared

    I recently heard a man preach a sermon that had, sadly, several biblical and theological errors. Those errors did not go unnoticed by many members in the congregation. The role of teaching and preaching in ministry is not to be held lightly. Do not enter ministry theologically unprepared.

  1. Skewed views of the demands of ministry

    I was in a conversation with a 30-something pastor who came into ministry from the secular world. His conversation went something like this: “I had this idea that I would have all this free time and short work weeks. Ministry seemed like a piece of cake compared to the world I was coming from. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is unbelievably demanding. I am on call 24-hours a day whether I admit it or not.”

For those who enter vocational ministry for the right reasons, the work can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. For those who don’t, the frustration will seem unbearable, and the failure rate is high.

This article was originally published on Rainer’s blog.

The post Five terrible reasons for surrendering to vocational ministry appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Who Is the True Jesus? An Interview with David Limbaugh

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:00

David Limbaugh is well known for his political commentary. Yet recently he has utilized his legal training to defend historic Christianity with his New York Times best-selling books The Emmaus Code and Jesus on Trial.

His most recent book is The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels. David gave me the opportunity to endorse the book and I was pleasantly surprised at how readable it is, but also his depth of research. You can see David discuss the book on Hannity.

David was kind enough to briefly answer a few of my questions about his newest book. Enjoy! ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Are My Theistic Arguments Dependent Upon a Metaphysical System?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:00

Hi Dr. Craig,

For about the last decade I've studied the question of the existence of God. I was raised in a Christian family and became interested philosophically in the existence of God in my mid-teens. I have read several of you books and many articles, as well as watching numerous lectures and debates. I have considerable respect for you work, mainly because it is meticulous - in contrast to most discussion of the subject that is readily available on the internet. I regard your defence of the kalam argument to be one of the best defences of God's existence I have read. I would describe myself as a 'philosophical theist' ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

This summer, read two old books for every new one

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 06/30/2017 - 09:11

S. Lewis famously said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

Similarly, J. I. Packer urged Christians to read two old books for every new one. This summer, we hope you are resting and reading some good books.

Matthew Hall

Dean of Boyce College

New: The Blood of Emmett Till  (Simon & Schuster) by Tim Tyson. Tyson is one of those historians who is always worth reading and who is a master of prose. His newest book is beautifully written and meticulously researched, but often painful to read. Our country has buried too many black and brown boys. Reading this book is a needed reminder of the complex and far-reaching reality of sin, depravity, and evil in a racialized society.

Old: The Negro: His Rights and Wrongs, the Forces for Him and Against Him (Cornell University) by Francis Grimke, 1898. A friend recently gave me a copy of this and I was delighted to know of its availability in print. Originally delivered as a series of sermons in 1898, Grimke’s biblical call for justice and hope still rings out with hope.

Old: David Walker’s Appeal (Hill and Wang) ed. Sean Wilentz. Written in 1829, Walker’s abolitionist manifesto remains a remarkable testimony to the power of biblical truth to demolish the “principalities and powers” of injustice. Walker’s devastating critique of slavery and his call for repentance was one framed and filled with Scripture. Any Christian who wants to be better equipped to engage with the ongoing challenge of racial injustice and inequality in our nation, and in our churches, would do well to pick it up.

Michael Haykin

Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality

New: William Grimshaw of Haworth (Banner of Truth) by Faith Cook. A gem of what revival Christianity looks like—despite his eccentricities (which this reader found utterly endearing), Grimshaw epitomizes the heart of 18th century Evangelicalism. A cure for wimpishness!

Old: The Memoirs of Samuel Pearce (Kessinger) by Andrew Fuller. In this work, Fuller sketches the life of his close friend Samuel Pearce (1766-1799), the mutual friend of both Fuller and William Carey. Pearce stands for Fuller as a model of “holy love” and missionary piety, and was regarded as such by many in the 19th century, the age of missionary globalization. 

Old: A Breviate of the Life of Margaret Charlton by Richard Baxter. In this brief work, the famous Puritan leader Richard Baxter outlines the life of his wife Margaret Charlton and the major contours of their marriage, a quintessential Puritan union of intimate allies.

Rob Plummer

Professor of New Testament Interpretation

New: A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (IVP Academic) by Thomas C. Oden.  This autobiography gives you an inside look at a mainline Protestant’s fascinating journey from a liberal, social gospel to Christian orthodoxy. I read this book at the beach this summer and found it both enjoyable and spiritually nourishing.

Old: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Dover) by Robert Louis Stevenson. We’ve all heard of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” but have you ever actually read the captivating book? I listened to the audio book after hearing Tim Keller reflect on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Presbyterian background and what the book teaches about depravity.  There’s a good free audio version available via the LibriVox app. (I recommend the version read by David Barnes.)

Old: The Wealth of Nations (Bantam) by Adam Smith.  Published just prior to the American Independence in 1776, this book is foundational for understanding economics, free trade, division of labor, etc. Parts of the book are boring and dense; others are lively and fascinating, with immediate application to current political debates. I’ve been listening to the free audio version of the book read by Stephen Escalera, available via the LibriVox app.

Tom Schreiner

Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology

New: Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University) by Larry Hurtado. In this excellent book, Hurtado shows how Christianity stood out in its cultural environment in the first centuries. It was considered odd and strongly opposed in the Roman world. Hurtado’s book is helpful for us today as we are relearning what it means to be a Christian in an alien culture.

Old: A Bruised Reed (Banner of Truth) by Richard Sibbes. This book is a gospel balm for to heal our wounded and hurting souls.

Old: Pensées (Penguin) by Blaise Pascal. Pascal never finished the book he intended to write, but the notes he collected continue to be read four centuries later. Pascal speaks to modern people searching for meaning and for life. 

Donald Whitney

Professor of Biblical Spirituality

New: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (Penguin) by Tim Keller. If there’s a more comprehensive volume on prayer, I’m not aware of it. Deeply rooted to Scripture, with healthy, helpful doses of theology and Christian history, Keller’s well-written book is also intensely practical.

Old: The Pilgrim’s Progress (Desiring God) by John Bunyan. An allegory of the Christian life, Bunyan penned this masterpiece in the Bedford, England, jail where he was imprisoned for his rejection of the law that preachers must be licensed by the state. Published in 1678 and never out of print, it is often regarded as the all-time bestselling book in English other than the Bible. Spurgeon claimed to have read it 100 times. Enough said. Make sure to get an edition with parts 1 and 2, and avoid modern-language versions, which invariably modify the theology. The inexpensive Oxford University Press paperback is a good choice.

Old: George Müller of Bristol (Waymark) by A. T. Pierson. Written in 1899 following Müller’s death the previous year, it recounts the life of the man considered by many the most remarkable person of prayer and faith since the New Testament. With more than 50,000 specific recorded answers to prayer in his journals—30,000 of which he said were answered the same day or hour he prayed them—Müller’s life reads almost like a continuation of the Book of Acts. I devoured this biography when I was in seminary, and it changed my life.

Shawn Wright

Professor of Church History

New: God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught . . . and Why It Still Matters (Zondervan) by Matthew Barrett. Every generation of evangelicals must take a firm stand on the authority and sufficiency of holy Scripture against not only the overt onslaughts of secularism and liberalism but also our own sinful facade of self-sufficiency. Now Matthew Barrett has done the church a service by building on both of these great thinkers and by showing us that the Bible is able to withstand all attacks from anti-God forces. God’s word has authority and sufficiency for God’s people because it is the very word of the triune, covenant-keeping God to his people.

Old: It Says, Scripture Says, God Says, by B. B. Warfield. Warfield’s classic essay demonstrates the inerrancy of the Bible based on an in-depth inductive study of the Bible’s treatment of its own words. 

Old: Fundamentalism and the Word of God (Eerdmans) by J. I. Packer. Packer’s book from the mid-20th century follows Warfield but also also employs Calvin’s notion that the Bible is self-authenticating since it the production of the Holy Spirit himself.

Hershael York

Professor of Christian Preaching

New: Learning from a Legend: What Gardiner C. Taylor Can Teach Us About Preaching (Cascade) by Jared E. Alcántara. Not only is this a book about preaching, but also an examination of a preaching life. Gardiner C. Taylor was one of the greatest masters of the pulpit of the last 100 years and this book strikes gold at the intersection of biography, history, homiletics, and rhetoric.

Old: How to Preach without Notes (Baker) by Charles W. Koller. This reprint actually combines two of Koller’s books, Expository Preaching without Notes and Sermons Preached without Notes. While the title is actually a bit of a misnomer, because what Koller actually teaches and advocates is preaching with very brief notes more than none at all, but his masterful instruction will liberate a preacher from the albatross of dependence on a manuscript and enables him to preach from the overflow of the study of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Old: Cadences of Home: Preaching among Exiles (WJK) by Walter Brueggemann. Though a word of caution is in order—Brueggemann does not hold my theological convictions—he correctly argues that to preach today is to proclaim the Word of God to people who are not at home in this world. Written in the 1990’s, his word to preachers is even more relevant today in a culture increasingly at odds with historic Christianity. In addition, Brueggemann is a master of verbal imagery and his evocative manipulation of language stands as both inspirational and instructive to anyone who wants to use the language well in order to proclaim the excellencies of Christ.

The post This summer, read two old books for every new one appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The Superb Right and Tragic Wrong of the SBC Alt-Right Resolution

Southwestern Seminary - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 14:41

Never is it wrong to state a firm case for racial justice in America. If racism continues to be problematic the world over; at least not in America, and certainly not in the SBC, should we ever tolerate the raising of the ugly head of injustice or the unkindness that accompanies any racial intolerance. God is the Creator of all men, and He said that all that He created was “very good.” We, as Baptists, are entitled to no other view. The denunciation of the racism of the “alt-right” is most certainly in order.

As Southern Baptists were voting their approval of the resolution against the alt-right, Congressman Steve Scalise was in the gun sight of a rabid member of what might be fairly styled “the alt-left.” And make no mistake, that angry man did not mean to wound but rather was determined to kill – all the Republicans that he could. That is why the resolution against the “alt-right” was superbly right and tragically wrong at the same time.

The free speech guaranteed by our Constitution has been abrogated on numerous college and university campuses. The president of the United States has been threatened with assassination as public entertainers have resorted to the coarsest of language to badger those, like the president, with whom they disagree. All the while, innocent infants in the “safety” of their mothers’ wombs continue to be slaughtered under the moniker of “women’s health.” And an astonishing percent of these precious little ones are from the African American community!

The point is that while the “alt-right” is guilty of much violence, they are hardly alone. In fact, many reasonable assessments of the circumstances in America suggest that what has played itself out in the last several months is an argument that the “alt-left” is as guilty as anyone.

Baptists, as those who refrained from violence, have always differed with their “cousins in the faith” from most other communions. Baptists have insisted on freedom of speech, open discussion, kindness and graciousness as something owed to all in the light of God’s extension of grace to us. Our Anabaptist forefathers suffered gallantly for Christ and made no effort to confront the violence of both Catholics and Protestants. Instead they followed the instructions of Peter, who said,

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow in His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Southern Baptists must walk a precarious tightrope, which will make the feats of the famous Wallendas seem insignificant in comparison. Every form of human violence must be opposed on the right, on the left, or in the center. Even when a “just war” must be waged, as Augustine outlined, Baptists must rue the violent death of every person, do what they can to limit and relieve any suffering, and constantly seek the Spirit of God to purge their own hearts of all but forgiveness and mercy.

In fact, emphasizing this principle is how we advance the Kingdom of Christ. Following the teachings of our Lord, appropriate attitudes and behaviors must ensue. And when we speak against something, as we sometimes must, we do have to be fair. God give us the grace to walk carefully this tightrope.

Paige Patterson, President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

Categories: Seminary Blog

Coming Soon: The Revised Apologetics Study Bible for Students

Talbot School of Theology - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:00

I have had the privilege of being part of many writing and curriculum projects. But there are a few that stand out in terms of how fun and impactful those projects have been. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students is at the top of my list. There are a few reasons why ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Can There Be Forgiveness Without Repentance? Part 2

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 12:00

In Part 1, I observed that Christian forgiveness includes several conditions leading to reconciliation of a relationship that was violated by one person sinning against another. Jesus’ commands that the person wronged must “show him his fault” (Matt 18:15) as the first condition, to be followed by his repentance, and then we may respond by forgiving him. Common Christian talk about forgiveness tends not to include the necessity of repentance; consequently, many Christians attempt forgiveness and yet fail to live in it. Along with this claim that repentance is necessary to forgiveness, I am aware of the need for at least four caveats ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

How do I overcome my fear of evangelism?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 06:00

In terms of dealing with fear and evangelism, I think the starting point is to realize that not all fear is bad. Fear reminds us of the significance of the task of sharing the gospel. It’s not something we should take lightly, and it also forces us to depend on the Lord, and in that case, fear can be a very helpful thing. But most of the time when people talk about fear and evangelism, they’re talking about a fear that keeps them from sharing.

Three common fears that I’ve observed. The first is not knowing enough. They’re afraid they’re going to be asked a question that they can’t answer, and I tell people, you don’t need to be afraid of that. That will happen. I have two Master’s degrees and a PhD in theology and my own kids ask me questions that I couldn’t answer. I would just stand up tall and clear my throat and say, “Go ask your mother.” It’s okay to say, “I don’t know the answer,” to a question or, “Let me research that and get back to you.”

A second common source of fear, people are afraid of the fear of failure. They’re afraid that they might do more harm than good, but whenever I hear someone share that they’re afraid they’ll do more harm than good, I always think, “That’s not your problem.” They’re a sensitive person. They’re not going to come across like a bull in a china shop. It’s the person that never gives sensitivity a second thought that may come across as aggressive, but when someone says, “I’m afraid I’ll do more harm than good, that’s not their problem. They don’t need sensitivity, they may need boldness.

I love Dr. Bill Bright’s definition of evangelism. He said, “Successful witnessing is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results up to God. We can’t change anyone’s heart. Successful witnessing is when we share the good news.

I guess the greatest source of fear, if people were really honest, is fear of rejection. They’re afraid, “What will this person think about me if I identify with Christ? I think of the rulers that John talked about in John 12. Many of the rulers believed in Jesus, but because of the Pharisees were not confessing him lest they be cast out of the temple. And then in John 12:43, he gives this epitaph, For they love the approval of men more than the approval of God.

We have to confront that our fear of rejection is really loving the approval of men more than the approval of God. We need to love those who don’t know Christ more than we love ourselves. In Acts 4, we see that the disciples were afraid. They’d been threatened, and they were afraid, and so what did they do? They prayed for boldness. I believe that’s a prayer that God delights to answer. When we’re afraid, we simply acknowledge that and say, God I’m afraid, I’m scared right now. Would you fill me with boldness? That’s a prayer that God loves to answer. Someone described it in this way. Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, and there was no one there.

The post How do I overcome my fear of evangelism? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Now What?: Reflecting on the theme of Prayer from this years SBC

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:30

In preparation for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, SBC President Steve Gaines penned a letter to Southern Baptists encouraging them to pray and fast for the forthcoming meeting. Gaines reminded Southern Baptists, “God does things when we pray and fast that He does not do if we don’t pray and fast.”[1]

The theme of prayer carried over into the meeting itself, which had the theme, “Pray! For such a time as this.” Gaines, in his presidential address derived from Acts 13, encouraged those present to minister to the Lord through prayer and worship in order to see the power of God.

The theme of prayer and petitioning God was ever present in this year’s convention. From the podium and throughout the auditorium, prayers were lifted for our Lord to do a mighty work in our land. It was a beautiful time of worship and a reminder of what unites us as Southern Baptists. Now I ask: Since we have gathered to pray and been encouraged to pray, what must we do to see the power of God move—like we prayed for?

To that question, I would provide two answers:

1. Keep Praying[2]

History is rife with examples of the influence of persistent prayer on spiritual awakenings. There is perhaps no greater example of the power of prayer to spiritual awakening than the Laymen’s Prayer Revival of 1858.

Jeremiah Lanphier, a Dutch Reformed city missionary to New York City, began his ministry with a simple prayer: “Lord, what will thou have me to do?” Lanphier, convinced of the power of prayer and seeing the spiritual and moral decline in the city around him, felt compelled by God to establish a prayer meeting in the city. To attract attention to his prayer meeting, Lanphier dispersed a handbill embossed with the words, “How Often Shall I Pray?” The handbill answers,

As often as the language of prayer is on my heart, as often as I see my need of help, as often as I feel the power of temptation, as often as I am made sensible of my spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit. In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity and intercourse with men for intercourse with God.

Lanphier’s prayer meeting was initially met with little interaction. On the first day, Lanphier began the meeting alone and attracted only six attendees by the end. In the second week, 20 showed up to pray, and by the third week, 40. On October 14, after having decided to meet daily, there were more than 100 in attendance.

As the meeting continued to grow, scores of individuals became convinced of their need for Christ and turned to Him. As the prayer meeting grew, similar meetings sprung up across the city, the state and, ultimately, the nation.

As the meetings spread, so did the conversions. The growth of the prayer meetings prompted evangelistic services and meetings throughout the nation. Over a two-month period, more than 3,000 individuals were converted in Newark, New Jersey. In New York City, more than 10,000 turned to Christ. The revival ultimately spread throughout the nation and into towns, cities and universities where many were engaged in intense prayer and thousands were converted to Christ.

God’s work through fervent prayer is evident in the Laymen’s Prayer Revival, and I must say God can surely do it again! Gaines’ call to prayer at the SBC meeting is but a starting place for us as individuals and as a convention. If we harken back to Lanphier’s original handbill and ask ourselves, “How often shall I pray?” certainly the answer is, “More than we already do.”
If we were also to ask, “What should we pray?” I think the answer would be Lanphier’s original prayer: “Lord, [if we are to see awakening in our churches and nation,] what would you have me to do?”

As the Lord answers this prayer, I would encourage you to start preparing yourself and your churches for whatever the answer is.

2. Start Preparing

Every season of spiritual awakening has begun with a season of spiritual preparation. Surveying the history of spiritual awakenings, awakening leaders always prepare their hearts for service and their minds for action.

John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitfield—all stalwarts of the first Great Awakening—studied together at Oxford University. As they studied, these men sought to encourage one another in their studies as well as in their spiritual lives. United together in what was called the “Holy Club,” they prepared their hearts for faithful service to the Lord.

Whitfield remarked about the Holy Club:

Never did persons strive more earnestly to enter in at the strait gate. They kept their bodies under, even to an extreme. They were dead to the world, and willing to be accounted as the dung and offscouring of all things, so that they might win Christ. Their hearts glowed with the love of God and they never prospered so much in the inner man as when they had all manner of evil spoken against them. … I now began, like them, to live by rule, and to pick up the very fragments of my time, that not a moment of it might be lost. Whether I ate or drank, or whatsoever I did, I endeavored to do all to the glory of God. … I left no means unused which I thought would lead me nearer to Jesus Christ.[3]

The preparation and example of the Holy Club illustrates for us what must happen if we hope to see Spiritual Awakening in our churches and nation. We must prepare our hearts and live in such way that we reflect the glory of God instead of our own worldliness. As Lewis Drummond notes, “A spiritual awakening is no more than God’s people seeing God in His holiness, turning from their wicked ways, and being transformed into His likeness.”[4] Our only hope for seeing spiritual awakening is preparing our hearts by patterning our lives after the example of Christ.

The example of Whitfield, the Wesleys and the Holy Club shows not only the preparation of their hearts, but also the preparation of their minds. The Holy Club, with its founding at Oxford University, comprised a group of men committed to studying and preparing their minds for great service to the Lord. In addition to the Holy Club, William Tennent’s Log College exhibits the preparation that has often been a part of great spiritual awakenings.

In the early 1700s, William Tennent came to America and built a Log Cabin to serve as a theological training center for his sons. Burdened by the state of the church, Tennent found it necessary to educate his sons and eventually other young men in language, logic and theology. In addition, Tennent instilled in each of these young men a passion for preaching the Word and reaching others with the Gospel.

George Whitfield, having visited the school, remarked, “From this despised place seven or eight worthy ministers of Jesus have lately been sent forth; more are almost ready to be sent; and the foundation is now laying for the instruction of many others.” Whitfield would later call Tennent’s eldest, Gilbert, and other graduates of the Log College the brightest lights for the Gospel in the whole Colony of Pennsylvania.

These men set out from the Log College having prepared for Gospel ministry and were used mightily in the time of revival known as the first Great Awakening. The preparation by those involved with the Holy Club as well as those who attended the Log College allowed them to have a fruitful ministry during the awakening. I would say to those of us who are praying for awakening that we must also prepare for awakening by devoting time to preparing our minds for Gospel action.

For some, like Tennent, the Wesleys and Whitfield, this preparation requires engagement in formal theological education. In our context, formal theological education most often takes place in a theological seminary. Devoting oneself to the study of theology helps prepare both the mind and the spirit for service to the Lord. Armed with a formal theological education, a young minister seeing the fruits of revival is able to rightly apply the truth of God’s Word to the world around him, and he is able to protect the church from any sort of doctrinal drift that may arise and seek to disrupt a vast movement of God. As a map lays out a proper route for a trip, so a formal theological education guides the life and work of a minister. Though a map may not indicate every roadblock that is in the way, it will always indicate a way forward. Though a theological education may not provide every answer a minister needs, it will provide the right resources to indicate the proper answer and prepare them for whatever ministerial roadblocks they may face.

Vital to an awakening will be individuals who have prepared for service via formal theological education. For some, this should serve as a call to begin preparation for ministry at a seminary. For others who have already completed their time in seminary, this should serve as motivation to “call out the called” and encourage them to begin the pursuit of theological education, not for their own sake, but for the sake of the Gospel and for the purpose of seeing awakening in our world. Should God choose to send an awakening, will He find individuals formally prepared for service to Him? This will depend on commitment to participate in or call others to participate in formal theological education.

For others, who may have already completed their formal theological education, preparation for awakening requires a commitment to training others for Kingdom service. Just as William Tennent used the training he had received to train others, so should those who have been blessed with the opportunity to receive a theological education use what they have received to train others. Certainly, every sermon and lesson is training, but what if, as a pastor or leader, you endeavored to work closely with a small group of individuals who seem passionate about serving the Lord?

What if, with the training you have received previously, you instructed a small group in evangelism, apologetics and theology? What if you were able to send out from your church into the work force and world a group of individuals who were fully prepared to share, defend and disciple others in the faith?

A ministry like this will look different from church to church and from pastor to pastor, but if we really want to see awakening in our churches and communities, we will not be able to do it alone! Training others to assist in the work of the ministry will be vital if we hope to see an awakening in our time.

John Wesley was himself convinced of the importance of small groups training for lay ministry. Wesley, quoting from The Country Parson’s Advice to His Parishioners, remarks:

If good men of the church will unite together in the several parts of the kingdom, disposing themselves into friendly societies, and engaging each other, in their respective combinations, to be helpful to each other in all good Christian ways, it will be the most effectual means for restoring our decaying Christianity to its primitive life and vigor, and the supporting of our tottering and sinking Church.[5]

Inspired by this quote, Wesley founded his own group of select brethren in which he trained them in doctrine and commissioned them as ambassadors for Christ. These individuals served as the leaders of the Methodist movement and helped spread the awakening message of Wesley throughout England.

If we truly wish to see revival and awakening in our midst, banding together in prayer and in preparation is our best hope. If we really believe that God hears and will answer our prayers, we must begin even now preparing our communities and ourselves for God to do a mighty work. If we really believe Ephesians 3:20, that God is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or imagine, we must commit ourselves to faithful prayer and preparation until we see God start an awakening in our land.

[1]http://www.bpnews.net/48889/gaines-calls-for-21day-fast-before-phoenix-sbc
[2]Much of the historical information and figures throughout the article have been taken from: McDow, Malcolm, and Alvin L. Reid. Firefall: how God has shaped history through revivals. Enumclaw, WA: Pleasant Word, 2002.
[3]Dallimore, Arnold A. (2010-03-04). George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century (Kindle Locations 178-183). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
[4]Drummond, Lewis A. Eight Keys to Biblical Revival. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1994. pg. 107
[5]Henderson, D. Michael (2016-02-10). John Wesley’s Class Meeting: A Model for Making Disciples (p. 101). Rafiki Books. Kindle Edition.

Categories: Seminary Blog

How to remember the Bible passages you memorize

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:10

The discipline of memorizing Bible verses pays great dividends in the life of a Christian. Having Scripture stored up in our hearts helps us to remember God’s promises in tough times, flee from sin in moments of temptation, possess greater confidence in sharing the gospel, and give fresh words of encouragement to struggling Christians.

The problem for us is that while memorizing a verse presents a challenge, remembering it in three months is a great difficulty. We often find ourselves wanting to quote something we spent two days memorizing but cannot remember the exact wording of the verse or the precise reference to save our lives.

How can we remember the Bible verses that we memorized a week, a month, or a year ago?

For the long haul

We often fail to learn Bible verses well the first time we memorize them. We can’t remember them a month later because we never really got them into our minds and hearts.

When you memorize a Bible verse, make sure that you are learning the precise wording of the verse and the exact reference. Do not be content with forgetting whether the verse says “so that” or “in order to.” The scholars who worked on the translation that you use made the choices they did for good reasons, so learn it as it is printed on the page.

In addition, think of memorizing Bible verses as a multi-day task. Too often, when we memorize a Bible verse, we work on it for one day, say it somewhat correctly, and then move on to the next verse. If you struggle to remember a verse a month after you memorized it, work on memorizing it for three days instead of just one day. The first day, read it repeatedly until you have the flow of the verse. On the second day, read the verse out loud several times again, then cover up the verse and say it at least five times, only looking at it to make sure that you said it correctly. Use the last day to read the verse out loud again. Then say the verse multiple times without looking at it. If you memorized it correctly, move on to the next verse you want to learn. If not, work on it one more day to make sure that you have it down.

Memorize in context

Often our Scripture memory consists of individual verses we learned from many different books of the Bible. We struggle to remember what they say because we plucked them out of their context and we have no frame of reference for remembering what the verse said.

One tactic that will help you down the road is memorizing the entire paragraph where the verse you want to memorize is found. For example, let’s say you want to memorize Romans 3:23. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That seems easy enough to remember, but our minds are clouded with lots of information. So, in order to better recall the verse in the future, memorize Romans 3:21-26 instead of just Romans 3:23.

This approach has practical and theological advantages. Practically, you get into the flow of how Paul wrote the letter and this always helps recall move more smoothly. You start with the first few words of a paragraph and the rest has a way of coming back to you as you pick up momentum. Theologically, this method helps you to keep Bible verses in their proper theological context. You won’t quote Philippians 4:13 to get your team psyched up for the baseball game when you remember that Paul was initially speaking of his learning to be content in whatever position he found himself.

Use a schedule

In order to remember the Bible verses that you memorize, you must get on a review schedule. Ideally, you would spend a few days memorizing a verse and then the next couple of days reviewing it. Then, let it sit for a couple of days and review it again. After that, review it next week, the in two weeks, and then in a month. Determine the maximum amount of time that you can allow between reviews to keep the verse fresh in your mind. (For me, it’s three months. And honestly, this may be too long. I worked back through some verses I had not reviewed in three months and struggled with them mightily.)

Here is one area where our smartphones can be an aid to our devotional lives, as there are several helpful Scripture memory apps on the market. Both Fighter Verses and Verses have great interfaces and use multiple types of interactive quizzes to memorize Scripture. (Fighter Verses also has music and other resources to aid in memory.) My personal favorite, though, is ScriptureTyper. For me, ScritptureTyper allows me to keep verses in collections the way I prefer to have them and puts verses on a review schedule. You can manually set the maximum time allowed between reviews.

Put it in a “microwave”

Using a review schedule to keep our Scripture memory fresh will reveal verses that have slipped from your grasp. You may stumble through portions of the verse or have forgotten it completely. When this happens, you need to pull this verse out and treat it like you are memorizing it for the first time. Think of it as sticking leftovers in the microwave. (I borrowed this terminology from my father-in-law, Mark McCullough, who is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Frisco City, Alabama.)

The first day you put the verse in the microwave, read it out loud multiple times and then cover it up to try to say it from memory. On the second day, read it out loud a few times and say it from memory again. The final day should consist of ensuring you have it fully memorized. After you have done this, review it once a week for the next month to ensure you have it down before putting it on a less consistent review schedule.

I know this sounds like a lot of effort. It is, and it is worth every second to have God’s word stored up in our hearts.

 

The post How to remember the Bible passages you memorize appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

If God Has Done Such Great Miracles, Why Don’t More People Believe?

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 12:00

Some time ago I was speaking on the evidence for intelligent design at a family camp in Michigan. Immediately after my talk—in which I discussed the evidence for design from DNA, fine-tuning, and more—a woman approached me and asked, “The evidence is really powerful. Do you think we will ever get to a point when people will have to concede there’s a God?” ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Did God Overlook China?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 12:00

Dear Dr. Craig,

I'm originally from China and have lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Through a Christian friend, I've been introduced to your books and debates online. I've been going to church for two years now, getting very close to becoming a Christian. Your work has been instrumental in helping my "engineeringly" wired brain making sense of god, slowly but steadily building up my faith. For that, I'm very grateful and want to give my immense gratitude and appreciation.

I find myself uncontrollably talking about god with my Chinese friends, urging them to spend more time in pursuing their spirituality in Christ. Some were interested and some weren't. Pretty consistently, most of them challenge me with the same type of question, "China has thousands years of history, rise and fall of many great dynasties. Where was god? Why didn't Chinese people document the same god? How did Chinese culture enjoy so much brilliant inventions, literatures, and prosperity, without even knowing anything about god? Why didn't god even bothered to love or making himself known to Chinese people for thousands of years?" I tried to research and come up with answers myself, unfortunately, none of which were very convincing to my Chinese friends. I would use your five arguments (origin, fine-tuning, objective moral values, death and resurrection of Jesus, and personal experience) to challenge them, but find it very hard to get past that initial resistance and make the personal connection ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Hope for the weary preacher

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 05:00

Joe thought he’d be a better preacher. Did you?

I don’t mean he had pretensions to glory, necessarily. Just that of the range of things he knew he’d have to do once he started ministry, he figured preaching would come easiest. It’s what drew him to ministry in the first place, after all. He loves study, organization, communication. He listens to Keller and Piper when he jogs. He’s got bios of Spurgeon and Whitefield on his night stand.

Coming out of seminary, he knew counseling would be a challenge, that administration would take on-the-job training, that he knew little about effective marketing, that managing staff or volunteers wouldn’t be natural at first. But he figured if there’s one thing he can do well, it’s understanding and explaining the Bible in an engaging way.

And good thing too, he thought, because biblical preaching is the lifeblood of the church. He believes that if everything else has to fail so preaching can go well it’s a worthy cost. It’s a cost Joe’s paying. Balls are dropping all around him so he can spend his 20 hours prepping.

All of this amounts to a huge existential burden that each sermon has to carry. Joe feels like he’s got to hit a home run to justify mediocrity in every other area of his job. But his sermons rarely feel like home runs.

And there’s more. Joe knows from his pastoral care that his context is far removed from the class full of seminarians where he delivered his first sermons. He’s not working with theory anymore. He’s speaking into the lives of real people—people he knows and loves and desperately wants to help. He knows they need more perspective on the hard things in their lives. More confidence in their faith that Jesus is true. More urgency while facing the problems in their marriage. He knows what they need is so great and so specific to the circumstances of each one of their lives he can’t imagine how a single sermon could get the job done. But Joe’s trying his hardest. He carries that weight in his study all week; it’s on his shoulders every time he steps into the pulpit.

Sound familiar?

To whatever extent this description reflects your experience, your experience reflects mine. In more ways than I’d like to admit, I’ve been Joe. Weekly preaching is a tremendous emotional, intellectual, and psychological burden we carry with us all the time. Some of that is in the nature of the beast. Some of it stems from the idol factories we nurture inside. It’s a complicated burden and it can deal a deadly blow to ministry longevity.

Where can we find the perspective we need to keep pressing on? How do we learn to live with the fact that no sermon will ever measure up to the depths of our text, to the needs of our people, or to our ideal images of ourselves? What does success look like when you know your preaching will never be good enough?

John the Baptist

A while ago I was pressing through a season of discouragement in my preaching at the same time I was preparing for a new series on John’s Gospel. The way the Evangelist describes the ministry of John the Baptist was incredibly helpful for me then—and it’s a perspective I’ve been seeking to grow into ever since. There are three places the ministry of the Baptist shows up, and in each case there’s a message we need if we want to preach with confidence, freedom, and joy.

  1. “I am not the Christ” (John 1:19-28).

We first hear John speak when the priests and Levites come down from Jerusalem for an up-close look at his ministry. The Evangelist doesn’t fill in many details of John’s style or his popularity, but given the way other writers describe him it’s not difficult to imagine what these Jewish leaders expected to find.

They come asking, in essence, who do you think you are? They’d surely heard about his bohemian dress, his eccentric diet, his outlandish statements. They probably expected a guy who was full of himself. But John’s answers only speak to who he’s not: “I am not the Christ” (1:20).

John isn’t trying to protect himself and deflect attention. This isn’t an Obi Wan, these-aren’t-the-droids-you’re-looking-for evasive move. He’ll give up his life soon enough. Here, though, he doesn’t want to talk about himself because he knows and loves the fact that he’s not the point. He’s not the solution. He’s not the hero. He can’t save anybody. He’s not the one you’re looking for. And he not only accepts this reality—he embraces it.

There’s great freedom for us when we as preachers embrace that, too. There’s no denying our sermons will never be able give our people what they really need. Thank God I am not the Christ.

Of course, it’s essential that we bear the burdens of our people alongside them. It’s unavoidable that we carry those burdens into our pulpits, but it is not left to us and our sermons to deliver our people from those burdens. Only the Christ can do that, and it’s precisely what he came to do.

Consider this prayer as you rise to address your people this week:

Thank you God that you have given them—given me—a far greater Savior than I could be. Thank you for Jesus, whose work is finished, and for your Spirit, who knows how to apply it.

  1. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:22-30).

The next time we hear from John the setting is somewhere out in the Judean countryside, a place where there was plenty of water. Jesus and his disciples are in the area performing baptisms, and John was nearby doing the same thing. The dialogue opens with John’s followers who come to him with an all-too-human concern. They’re worried that John’s ministry has been eclipsed by Jesus’. Jesus was a nobody before John talked him up, they imply, but now look what’s happened. Their exaggeration makes their frustration clear: “Everyone’s going to him” (3:26).

John’s response offers remarkable clarification for our goal in preaching. It follows directly from the fact that we’re nobody’s Christ. Our job is to set people up with the one who saves and then to get out of the way.

The metaphor John uses with his friends still speaks powerfully today. He refers to the bridegroom—that’s Jesus; the bride—that’s his people; and the friend of the bridegroom—that’s John. “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom,” John says. But the friend of the bridegroom isn’t jealous. He was looking to make the introduction, not looking for a bride of his own. He was looking to set his buddy up, and he “rejoices greatly” that the job is done (3:29).

From one perspective, John’s ministry—his life’s work—is fizzling out. In a matter of months he’ll have his head served up on a platter. Surely he can read the signs. But, far from despairing, he claims “this joy of mine is now complete” (3:29). He faces obscurity and death with joy because the aim of his life and ministry was focused and fulfilled: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).

That’s a liberating manifesto for preaching ministry, isn’t it? For a while I kept the phrase on a sticky-note attached to my office computer where I write my sermons. Where I struggle with disappointment over sermons that aren’t what I wish they were. Where I’m tempted to write in content that will make me look good. It’s good to be creative, insightful, vivid, and winsome. But in the end, there’s one main question we must ask of our sermons, one metric for judging their effectiveness: is the beauty of Jesus accessible?

Lord, help me believe that the most important thing about me is the Jesus I proclaim. My only glory is his, shared with me as a gift because I’m one with him.

  1. “Everything that John said about this man was true” (John 10:40-42).

The final reference to the Baptist in John’s Gospel comes in chapter 10. He’s been executed by this point, and Jesus has come to an area where John had done much of his ministry. Many of those who had heard John’s preaching now encountered Jesus for themselves. Here’s their conclusion: “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true” (10:41).

How’s that for an epitaph? Would that work for you?

Let’s imagine this is said of Joe, our melancholy preacher:

“You know, I heard plenty preachers more engaging. Others were funnier, more thought provoking and memorable. Joe did no sign. But everything he said about Jesus was true. We’ve seen it for ourselves.”

There’s the epitaph we want, brothers. And by God’s grace, so long as we’re faithful to his Word, it’s in reach for all of us. So let’s cast off our fears, our insecurities, our disappointments—and go for it.

Father, as I preach, guide me in truth. Protect me from error. Show them he’s true. Let them taste of his beauty.

This article was originally published at 9Marks.  

The post Hope for the weary preacher appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Can There Be Forgiveness Without Repentance? Part 1

Talbot School of Theology - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:00

The problem I notice is that many times Christians have ongoing difficulty in forgiving those who have wronged them. The strain may go on for many years even as they keep trying to forgive. They frequently assume that there is something wrong with them as being hardhearted and otherwise unloving. They fault themselves for not being able to forgive others. Perhaps these unforgiving Christians are trying to do something that God has not called them to do. Perhaps one-sided forgiveness is actually impossible in the absence of a necessary condition for forgiveness ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Jesus in Genesis 3:15?

Talbot School of Theology - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 12:00

In a post on his blog, "Jesus Creed," eminent New Testament scholar Scot McKnight seems to agree with some of the findings of Claude Mariottini's book Rereading the Biblical Text: Searching for Meaning and Understanding which argues that Gen. 3:15 is not in fact messianic. McKnight further points out that such a conclusion agrees with Old Testament luminaries Gordon Wenham and Gerhard von Rad as well as some translations. These, says McKnight, conclude that the “seed” mentioned in Gen. 3:15 refers to not an individual, but rather the sum total of the descendants of both the woman and the serpent ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Should I go to seminary?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:46

I was on the patio of a Starbucks when I decided I was going to seminary. My wife and I were there with a local pastor to pick his brain on the pros and cons of theological education and before the conversation was over, I knew we were going. By this time, I had been considering seminary for a while. I was serving as a youth minister and felt called to spend my life pastoring, but I also felt ill-prepared for the task. Now, six years later, I’m sitting at a Starbucks again. I’ve just graduated from SBTS and am preparing to begin serving as a pastor in a church in North Carolina.

Perhaps you are considering seminary. You want to be used by God and you want to serve the church, but you are sensing that you, too, might need more training. You might also be wondering if it’s really worth it. After all, seminary requires lots of time and money. Should you go? Which degree program should you choose? Wouldn’t it be easier just to stay put and read a little more? Allow me to offer you a few pieces of advice. Just as God used that pastor to clarify my calling, I pray this would help do the same for you.

The call to ministry is a call to prepare

So, should you go to seminary? That depends on if you want to be prepared for ministry or not. Over and over in the Bible, when God calls a man to ministry he first sends him into a season of preparation. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Paul, even Jesus—they all spent time being equipped for the task they were called to. You are not an exception. If God has called you to pastor, then he has by extension called you to prepare.

Could you imagine running the Boston Marathon with no training at all? Of course not. A marathon is a grueling test of physical and mental fitness that takes quite a while to work up to. A lifetime of ministry is similarly grueling. You could jump right in and start running, but your chances of finishing improve considerably if you take the time to train before you begin.

What if I’m not academically inclined?

One of my big reservations was that I’m not really a “school” guy. I don’t love studying, reading, writing, etc. Seminary seemed daunting to me. Many of the guys I knew that pursued theological education study as a hobby. Me, I just wanted to work with people. Is that you? Then you definitely should go.

Because study doesn’t come naturally to me, the structure of a degree program forced me to learn what I would have otherwise avoided. I might have read a preaching book on my own, but without seminary I just wouldn’t have studied church history or systematic theology. It turns out, however, that pastoral ministry requires a working knowledge of both. If you’re not the kind who will study theology on your own, then by all means please go to seminary!

OK, but which degree?

Imagine you’re sitting on the operating table. The doctor hovering above you with a scalpel is about to perform open heart surgery. He seems nice, caring, and zealous for the task at hand. Reassuring, right? Now imagine that doctor only has a high school diploma. All of a sudden, you’re a lot less concerned with how genuine he is. Why? Because the job he’s doing is serious and he needs more than good intentions to do it well.

Pastors also have a very serious job to do. Just as patients need a skillful doctor, so too do our church members need skillful pastors. We hold doctors to the highest educational standards. How much more important is the work of a pastor? I know how tempting it is to rush seminary. At one point, I considered bailing on the M.Div.(designed to be a minimum of training for pastors) and getting an M.A. instead. But God had call me to pastor, and I was never comfortable cutting my training short. Put in the work and leave seminary trained for the task at hand. Don’t shortchange yourself or your ministry.

More than academics

I am convinced seminary is one of the primary ways God builds character into his ministers. While everyone’s path through seminary is different, none of them are easy. For me, seminary meant working full-time and fitting classes into the margin. It meant working hard to prioritize my family. It meant working harder than I thought I was capable of. In other words, seminary didn’t just build my mind, it helped build my character.

Now, I know no one chooses seminary because they want to suffer. But you should know that the challenges involved are not something you should avoid. They are tools in the hand God used to shape you into the pastor he’s calling you to be. Do you desire to be a man of character? Of discipline? Of perseverance? Seminary will help.

What are you waiting for?

So should you go to seminary? If God is calling you to pastor, then yes. You should enroll in a master of divinity program right away. You should know that it will challenge you and it will stretch you. It will teach you to think and argue and study so that you are prepared for the ministry ahead of you. It will be hard and it will be long. But it will be worth it.

 

The post Should I go to seminary? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

A Look at the Unity of Isaiah: God’s Case Against the Idols

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:30

Until the late eighteenth-century A.D., the overwhelming majority of Jewish and Christian interpreters believed that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, who ministered in Jerusalem during the eighth century B.C., authored the entire book that bears his name. However, German historical-critical scholars Julius Döderlein (1789), Johann Eichhorn (1783), and Wilhelm Gesenius (1819) began to conjecture that Isaiah 1-39 and 40-66 were two separate works written by two different authors about 150 years apart.[1] These scholars did not believe in the supernatural claims of the Bible because they had been influenced by the Enlightenment. Due to their anti-supernatural presuppositions, they rejected the biblical teaching that Scripture was inspired by God (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). As a result, many proponents of this view claimed that Isaiah 1-39 and 40-66 had to be from two separate authors because 1) the internal evidence appeared to show that chapters 40-66 was written in the Babylonian exile, 2) the style between both sections appear to be different (i.e., the writing in chapters 1-39 is terse and solemn while chapters 40-66 are more developed and its ethos warm and passionate), and 3) the theological viewpoints appear to be different in both sections.[2]

Each of the reasons for propagating that an alleged “Deutero-Isaiah” anonymously wrote chapters 40-66 during the exile, however, is unconvincing.[3] The internal evidence actually supports the view that Isaiah received the entire contents of the book as a direct revelation from God and had prophesied of the coming Babylonian exile in Isaiah 1-39 such as in 1:7-9; 5:13; 14:1-4; and 35:1-4, just as it is in chapters 40-55. Moreover, the argument alleging different writing styles falsely assumes that a writer may not change his writing style when he addresses a different subject or that a writer’s style may not change over time, especially since Isaiah prophesied for over 40 years. And finally, the theological argument is completely subjective because the purpose of chapters 1-39 deal mostly with God’s judgment against Judah and the nations, whereas chapters 40-66 emphasized God’s consolation. Therefore, the differences between the two sections with respect to their theological themes are plainly related to the book’s overall argument and not to a hypothetical second author.

One of the main reasons that critical scholars denied that Isaiah wrote chapters 40-66 is because Cyrus is mentioned about 150 years before he came on the scene. Again, they made this claim because they disallowed supernatural miracles and divine intervention, as well as alleging that prophecy did not function that way because prophets always addressed their contemporaries. Instead, they drew upon the principle of vaticinium ex eventu (Latin: “prophecy from the event”) because it explains how Cyrus’ name could be recorded in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1 without resorting to divine inspiration.[4] The principle conveniently circumvents any talk of divine intervention and, ultimately, makes biblical prophecy fraudulent since it was written after the prophesied event had already taken place which would make it a deceitful, blatant lie.

This wrong-headed assertion, however, does not satisfy all of the prophetic data contained in the book. It does not account for the fact that the Suffering Servant is none other than Jesus Christ, who fulfilled Isaiah 52:13-53:12 to the letter—not to mention many other messianic prophecies that He fulfilled from the book of Isaiah, such as in 7:14; 9:6; 11:1-2; 49:6; and 61:1-3. Furthermore, Isaiah prophesied of the millennial reign of Christ as well as the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and New Earth in passages such as 2:1-5; 4:2-6; 9:7; 60:10-22; and 65:17-25. These passages have their counterparts in other prophetic texts such as the book of Revelation. For example, compare Isaiah 60:10-22 with Revelation 21:22-27. The Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John saw the same vision regarding the New Jerusalem. Therefore, the fact that Cyrus is mentioned by name is not the only prophecy in Isaiah that the critics have to deal with. They must also explain why the prophecies related to Christ as the Suffering Servant (as confirmed in Acts 8:26-36) and the New Jerusalem are also in the book. What is patently clear is that their explanations are reductionistic and woefully insufficient because they do not fully account for the entire prophetic data nor their future fulfillment.

A better way to understand the data is to see the argument contained in chapters 40-66. Passages such as Isaiah 40:18-28; 41:21-25; 42:8-9; 43:10; 44:6-45:7; and 46:18-22, all address the LORD, as the sovereign God over the nations and their idols. In these key texts, God challenges the false gods/idols to a contest. For example, in Isaiah 41:21-29, the LORD demands that the idols tell the future. They cannot because they are less than nothing, but He alone can tell the future and of the coming of Cyrus:

“Present your case,” says the LORD. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.

“Tell us, you idols, what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds so that we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are worthless; whoever chooses you is detestable. So I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes [i.e., Cyrus of Persia]—one from the rising sun who calls on my name. He treads on rulers as if they were mortar, as if he were a potter treading the clay. Who told of this from the beginning so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’? No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you. I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’ I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news [i.e., Isaiah]. I look but there is no one—no one among the gods to give counsel, no one to answer when I ask them. See, they are all false! Their deeds amount to nothing; their images are but wind and confusion.”

After Isaiah prophesied of the Persian king, Cyrus, by name in 44:28 and 45:1, 13 regarding what His “anointed” will do in rebuilding Jerusalem (44:26, 28; 45:13), the temple (44:28), and restoring His people to Judah (45:13), the LORD once again challenged the false gods/idols:

“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations!

They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.”

Thus, it is evident that within the argument of the book that chapters 40-66 address the future exiles in Babylon in order to declare to them hope and comfort because the LORD had forecasted for them a coming “anointed one,” named Cyrus, who will release them from their captivity and assist them in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple. God also declares that only He can prophesy of future events and people—naming them by name (!)—because there are no other gods, but Him alone.[5] The sovereign LORD, however, does not stop there. He goes on to foretell of the coming “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 who will be a substitutionary atonement for us as well as describing the forthcoming New Jerusalem and the New Heavens and New Earth in Isaiah 60:10-22 and 65:17-25. The context of the book, thus, matches the superscription of Isaiah 1:1 and the single call narrative in the entire book which appears in Isaiah 6. There was only one prophet that God called in the book of Isaiah, and he alone saw the vision recorded in the book that the LORD had given him during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

[1]Eugene H. Merrill, Mark F. Rooker, Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), 367.
[2] Ibid., 368.
[3] Ibid., 369-70. The arguments for this section are from Mark Rooker in the pages noted.
[4]The Latin phrase is translated “prophecy from the event,” meaning that the prophecy was written after the event had already occurred.
[5]Note that the man of God in 1 Kings 13 also prophesied of King Josiah by name and gave specific details regarding what he would do centuries before he came on the scene (cf. 2 Kings 23:16-18).

Categories: Seminary Blog

Critical Tactic: Surfacing the Question Beneath the Question

Talbot School of Theology - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 12:00

One difficult lesson I have learned in apologetics and evangelism is to identify the question beneath the question. To be honest, I have spent considerable time answering questions I thought people were asking, but because I was operating under false assumptions, I missed the heart of their query. Have you ever made this same mistake?

Here are three examples from my own life and ministry, and the brief lesson I learned from each of them ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

How Can We Be Commanded to Believe in God?

Talbot School of Theology - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:00

Dear Dr. Craig,

Thank you for your work in theology. I am grateful for your broad contributions to discussions about theology and religion in public life. Your philosophical and theological ventures are welcoming, thoughtful and substantive.

My question concerns a remark you made in a recent podcast. You mentioned that God commands us to believe in Him. God commanding us believe in Him seems problematic. It is notably articulated by Hasdai Crescas ...

Categories: Seminary Blog

Wherever he leads, I’ll go . . . will you?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 06/16/2017 - 09:40
My prayer

In my family church where I grew up, we often sang the hymn, Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go. In my mind, I think I actually meant the words when I sang them. I can clearly remember the mood of the congregation as we sang and the sound of the music from the organ as my mother played. Interestingly, I have no memory of ever thinking that He’d lead me anywhere other than where I was at the time. Although I had gone through the motions of walking the aisle and getting baptized, I was in my mid-twenties before the Lord drew me to Himself and saved me. My life changed completely—radically, 180 degrees, inside out, pick one and it fits. After coming to Christ and being born again, I began to sing that song and meant it with all my heart. It was only then that I realized I had never really meant it before. With the change that salvation brought, I remember my morning prayers being something like, “What is it that is not being done, that ought to be done, and if it were done, it would result in greater glory to God and extension of His kingdom?”

A calling

I began to think God was leading me to missions. With my life firmly established, making good money, and a young family to provide for, I still felt that God was calling us to leave it all and go. I just didn’t know where. Mary and I began to explore His call on our lives, first through reading missionary biographies, then going on short-term mission trips with our church. God began to make it plain that missions was his plan for our lives. On a mission trip to Ecuador, he confirmed the call and showed us the place.

Abandon it all

Like anyone making such a massive life change, we were nervous and continued seeking confirmation that we had heard him clearly about the when, where, and what he had for our lives. In our nightly family worship time, we prayed through a book that listed and described the work in all the countries where our denomination’s missionaries were serving. If God wanted to point us somewhere else, we wanted to know and not rush into a decision without Him. I even went on a vision mission trip to another country to discern whether we felt strongly about Ecuador just because we had been there before. It was disconcerting to sell our home and get rid of most of our belongings to go to seminary for preparation while still praying for confirmation of where we would go next. Yet downward mobility and walking by faith was a rich and faith-growing time of entrusting every moment to God.

We all have a role

“Ready to go, but willing to stay,” has been my heartbeat ever since the Lord led us back to the USA, but I confess that I do not always say that with a joyful heart. My prayer is that this is just a season of preparing and sending others, but that it will be followed by another season of being one of the sent ones. I cannot get my head and heart wrapped around the thinking of some who say, “No, not me. I would never go to the mission field.” God has called us all to go or give, to send or be spent, and He will have His way – ask Jonah when you get Home.

Who is Lord?

You can say, “No,” and you can say, “Lord.” But you cannot say, “No, Lord.” The moment you do, he’s not; you are. What’s the attitude of your heart? What will you be thinking the next time you hear, “Let’s stand and sing, Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go?”

“Take up thy cross and follow Me,” I heard my Master say;

“I gave My life to ransom thee, Surrender your all today.” 

Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

He drew me closer to His side, I sought His will to know,

And in that will I now abide, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go. 

My heart, my life, my all I bring to Christ who loves me so;

He is my Master, Lord, and King, 

Wherever He leads I’ll go, Wherever He leads I’ll go,

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever He leads I’ll go.

 

Wherever he leads I’ll go. Will you?

 

The post Wherever he leads, I’ll go . . . will you? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Pages

Subscribe to Bible.org Blogs aggregator - Seminary Blog