Seminary Blog

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Part 5: Who’s the Boss?

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 09:54
God is like someone who is always there for you; I don’t know, it’s like God is God. He’s just like somebody that’ll always help you go through whatever you’re going through. When I became a Christian I was just praying, and it always made me feel better. (fifteen-year-old Hispanic conservative Protestant girl from Florida... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

Is there anything worse than sin? Jesus says so

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 13:32

Is God more displeased when you cause another person to sin than when you sin yourself? Or are all sins the same? This issue arises when we think of a verse like Matthew 18:6. Jesus said:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” (CSB)

Is there a greater punishment for someone who encourages and leads others to sin?

Answering a question like this is tricky since it depends on what we mean by “worse.” Worse in what way? If we commit sin and don’t repent, we will suffer the second death, the lake of fire. If we cause others to sin and we don’t repent, we will suffer the second death, the lake of fire.

We could say, then, that neither is worse than the other, for in both cases the end result is hell. Sin is sin, and sin leads to judgment. So in one sense, no sin is worse than another if we think in terms of our final destination—of whether we go to heaven or hell.

Yet some sins are worse in terms of their consequences, at least in this life. Jesus taught us that anger is as bad as murder in that both lead to hell (Matt. 5:21–22), but the earthly consequences of murder far exceed that of anger. We certainly wouldn’t say to someone, “Since anger and murder both lead to hell, there’s no difference at all between them. You might as well murder someone you’re angry with.”

The same logic applies to adultery and lust. Again, Jesus taught that both lust and adultery may lead to final judgment (Matt. 5:27–30), but it would be foolish to say that if you lust you might as well commit adultery. When you commit adultery, another person participates in sin with you, and the consequences of the sin are more far-reaching than in the case of lust. A whole web of relationships is affected when one commits adultery.

Grave sin

Circling back to Matthew 18:6, it’s evident that causing a little one who trusts in Jesus to fall away warrants severe condemnation. Actually, the word “fall away” here has to do with departing from the faith, with committing apostasy—apostasy that leads to destruction.

Space is lacking to explain why no true believer ends up committing such a sin. I suspect the language of belief here is phenomenological—the little one gave every appearance of believing in Jesus.

Causing another to fall away is an exceedingly grave sin. No wonder Jesus’s next words are, “Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses will inevitably come, but woe to that person by whom the offense comes” (Matt. 18:7). Both the one who falls away and also the one who causes the falling away will end up in hell. But surely the one who incites another to sin bears a heavier responsibility, which explains why a millstone should be tied around his neck.

Another fascinating text surfaces in Jesus’s trial. Pilate asks Jesus about his place of origin, and becomes angry when Jesus doesn’t answer (John 19:9–10). Jesus reminds Pilate that the authority Pilate exercises is from God, and yet the one who handed Jesus over to Pilate “has the greater sin” (John 19:11).

The person who has the greater sin could be Annas, Caiaphas, or even Judas, but for our purposes it doesn’t matter. Jesus clearly thinks the person who handed him over committed a worse sin than Pilate did. Both Pilate and this other person sinned, yes, but some sins are worse than others. The one who betrayed Jesus to Pilate took the initiative to do away with Jesus, while Pilate reacted to a situation he found himself in.

We can also think of the kings in Israel and Judah. One of the messages of 1–2 Kings is that the nation goes as the king goes. A godly king has a good effect on the nation, but a wicked king drags a nation down and oppresses it. As Proverbs 28:15 says, “A wicked ruler over a helpless people is like a roaring lion or a charging bear.”

In 1–2 Kings, the downfall of Israel has many causes, but the author repeatedly returns to the sin of Jeroboam, son of Nebat. He bore a special responsibility as the first king, the one who led the nation into idolatry and wickedness. Surely rulers who lead their nations into sin bear a special responsibility. We can think of the horrific consequences of the rule of men like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong.

Or consider the many pastors who have abandoned the gospel and led churches down a path where orthodoxy is repudiated. Our country is filled with churches presided over by clergy who teach a false gospel, and they are leading people to eternal ruin.

Different levels of judgment

In the end, the quiet and nearly invisible unbeliever who doesn’t seem to affect anyone else, and the leader who turns many away from God, both end up in hell. Yet it seems those who cause others to sin bear a special responsibility, and are uniquely guilty for turning people from righteousness.

We do have some indication from Jesus that those who sin more grievously will endure a greater punishment:

“That servant who knew his master’s will and didn’t prepare himself or do it will be severely beaten. But the one who did not know and did what deserved punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected.” (Luke 12:47–48)

It seems fair to deduce from these verses that there are different levels of punishment in hell. Those who have sinned more grievously—which surely includes those who incite others to sin—bear a heavier responsibility.

The most fundamental issue is one’s eternal destiny: heaven or hell. Still, for those who have led little ones astray—who have caused others to renounce the gospel—their punishment will be more intense in some way.

God is just, he does all things well, and his righteousness endures forever.

Editors’ note: This article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition.

The post Is there anything worse than sin? Jesus says so appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

An Incredible Name

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 09:30

One of the most interesting discussions you can have with Muslims has to do with their 99 names for God. They are supposed to continually think about these names as a way to worship and also understand how magnificent God is. I like to ask them to explain some of the names and to tell me which are their favorites. This opens a door for me to discuss my names for God, and so I go directly to a very specific and special name for God found in Matthew 1:23—“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.’”

I then ask them if this is one of their 99 names and if they have ever heard of this name. The answer is always negative to both questions, which then allows me to explain what this name means and why it is so special. Immanuel—God with us—what an incredible name! We often take the incarnation for granted, but what an amazing truth we have in our Christian faith.

A popular idea in the tolerant world in which we live is to conceive of God sitting on top of a mountain for which there are many roads that lead to the top, one for each religion. We are quick to respond that there is only one road up the mountain—one way! But Immanuel blows this analogy away. God is not sitting on a mountain waiting for us to climb up to Him. He has come to us!

Through the incarnation, Jesus came, and as fully God and fully man, He dwelt with us. My purpose is not to climb the mountain as best I can in the hope that I will find Him. I need to recognize Him as having come to us and that His death, burial, and resurrection have given me a relationship with God.

An essential principle in all other religions is that a person must make a lifetime of continual effort in order to get to God. These religions may have many different names for God (or many gods), but without exception, the name “Immanuel” will be absent. What a great tragedy! How is it that this most special name for God is unheard of?

Immanuel is a name that is full of so much good news for all peoples of the world. Think how this name even connects all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sin, they hide from God. Instead of them going to God, He goes to them. He seeks them out while they are in sinful rebellion.

Sadly, this name has lost its awe and wonder even where it has been heard. We reduce it to a line in a Christmas carol and then pack it away until next Christmas. It is good news at all times even where it has been heard. Do not ever get over the wonder that God came to us and, by the Holy Spirit, continues to be with us!

Do you wonder about how to start a witnessing conversation with people from another religion? Try asking them about the names of their god and then tell them about Immanuel. Make it personal by explaining how God with us became God with you.

Categories: Seminary Blog

More than Flowers, Please

Southwestern Seminary - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 09:30

It comes once a year. A time we dedicate to honoring mothers. Most often on Mother’s Day, these revered women will receive a phone call, a card, and a vase of flowers. Such expressions of love are no doubt important and heartfelt. For those of us who have faith in God, however, we would do well not just to make culturally conditioned gestures, but to consider what Scripture says about caring for our mothers.

The book of Proverbs puts forth a simple yet profound idea of how to honor one’s mother: live a life of wisdom. No title, monetary income, or material possession brings honor. No, a life full of wisdom is what honors a mother. After all, titles, income, and stuff can be acquired through knowing the right people, cheating people, or simply dumb luck. Wisdom, however, can never be achieved by chance or manipulation. Wisdom is a slow process of maturation, and one that the book of Proverbs describes as having a direct effect on mothers.

As we begin reading the book of Proverbs, we are confronted by a familial context. The directives are simple: listen to the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother (1:8). While at some level we might all nod our heads in agreement that obeying parents is important, many of us distance ourselves from these wise sayings. We tend to think that instructions like these are for the young, inexperienced boys and girls of the world. To be sure, it is reasonable that these teachings are for the young, but there does not seem to be any hint that these words are only for the young. For example, Proverbs 23:22 reads, “Listen to your father … and do not despise your mother when she is old” (emphasis added).

Understanding that we cannot push off these wise sayings to the young only, we should look at the effect that our wisdom or lack thereof has on our mothers. Proverbs 10:1 tells us that a wise son makes his father glad. In contrast, a son who acts foolishly brings only grief to his mother. The fool here is not necessarily one who lacks knowledge but a smug person who is unwilling to consider consequences. His lack of concern for consequence brings ruin on his mother.

Desiring to honor our mothers with a life full of wisdom is good. To live out that desire, however, we must discover what a life of wisdom looks like. According to Proverbs, a wise son or daughter is one who speaks at the right time (15:23), works hard (26:13-16), remains calm (27:4), resolves conflicts rather than creates them (10:12), plans appropriately for the future (16:9), accepts criticism (9:7-9), protects the vulnerable (23:10-11), refrains from gossip (26:20), and listens more than speaks (17:27). This brief survey of the book of Proverbs demonstrates that wisdom and ethics are inseparable. The effect of wisdom being lived out is not lost on our mothers.

So this year, in addition to the cards and flowers, let us honor our mothers with lives full of wisdom. Instead of just thinking about what to get your mother, consider how you live to be a larger, more substantive gift for your mother. May our actions, attitudes, and speech bring joy to our mothers!

Categories: Seminary Blog

4 reminders from Galatians every pastor needs today

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/11/2018 - 08:25

One of the central blessings of pastoral ministry is saturating your mind with the Word of God. Pastors have the privilege of devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. Over the last several months, I have been renewing my mind through studying the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians as I preach through this critical book. What I have found often has direct application to my own ministry.

Following is four key insights that I have learned from Galatians.

1. The message of our ministry is the gospel

Paul had originally traveled to the region of Galatia preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He came to those who were enslaved to Satan in sin and announced their freedom through Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. Christ lived the righteous life they refused to live and then suffered the condemnation of death they deserved to die. In taking the place of his people, Christ triumphed over the curse of sin through his resurrection from the dead. We share in this eternal life through our faith in him as our Savior and Lord. We are justified by faith alone, declared righteous by God because we receive Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness.

It is this hope in Christ that we freely offer to all as we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! God has raised us up as pastors to proclaim this message of good news to our communities and to the nations. So we are constrained to deliver this message and no other. We are not in ministry to share our own spiritual insights or to coach others with practical tips for living. We are called to preach Christ and him crucified!

2. The challenge of our ministry is opposition

But we also face challenges in our ministry. Once Paul planted the churches in Galatia and continued his mission work, professing Jewish Christians came in with a false gospel. They taught that Paul’s gospel of grace was incomplete. While you need to believe in Jesus to stand justified before God, you must also become one of God’s people by receiving the covenant sign of circumcision and keeping the law God revealed to his people through Moses. So these false teachers undermined Christ’s work on the cross and led these Galatians to trust in their own obedience in order to satisfy God.

These Judaizers are just one example of those who oppose the gospel ministry. There are false teachers outside of our churches who will twist Scripture and use slick speech to try to reverse our congregation’s faith in Christ. But there are also false teachers who will rise up from within our churches and seek to persuade the flock to join with them on their own spiritual journey away from the cross of Christ. And because of the remaining sin in a believer’s life, it is natural for them to follow these false teachers with their pursuit of works-righteousness. So we must not only preach the gospel in our ministry, but we must also defend the gospel against opposition. This defense comes through reminding our churches of the gospel that saves by giving instruction in sound doctrine as well as rebuking those who contradict it. Pastoral ministry is not easy. It is a hard life of sacrifice and trials against opposition.

3. The motivation of our ministry is love

Paul could not simply stand by while the Judaizers were marching these churches to their destruction. He had to act! So he writes this letter with urgency and passion. As you read it, you quickly see how much love he has for the Galatians. This is a man distraught over the dangerous situation that has developed among them. He pours out his heart to them through this letter so that they will wake up from their spiritual slumber and recognize their need to repent of their sin and return to their Savior.

Paul’s love for them comes through most clearly when he writes: “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (4:19). He pictures himself as their spiritual mother who gave them birth in the gospel. But now he fears they have returned to their former slavery to Satan by looking to God’s law and circumcision for their justification and salvation. So he feels like he must go through the birthing process again so that they will once more experience the freedom that Christ has purchased for us through his shed blood. Let us think about this imagery for a moment. Laboring to give birth is incredibly painful. But what mother is not willing in love to endure the suffering for her child to be born? She bears the curse of sin in childbearing in order for her children to have life. This is the kind of sacrificial love that all pastors should have for those God has entrusted to our care!

4. The goal of our ministry is Christlikeness

We also see from this verse the goal of pastoral ministry. Pastors serve the church until Christ is formed in our people. Therefore, our work is not complete until Christ is formed in them. The goal of ministry is not conversion but Christ-likeness! So our work isn’t complete when an individual believes in Christ and joins the church—our work has just begun! This is a long term ministry that will continue through our lives. Our goal is the sanctification of all of the members of our congregation, and it is through our prayer and our preaching the Word that they will grow in Christlikeness. By faithfully shepherding their souls in love, Christ will be formed in them.

Why do we continue in pastoral ministry? Because Christ has not been fully formed in them. What hope do we have to be faithful in this awesome responsibility? That Christ is at work in us as well. In our own strength, we would fail. But through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God’s sanctifying work in His people will be successful. The gospel that we preach is also the gospel that we rely on for our ministry. As Christ promised his church, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. As a result, we minister with our confidence in Christ and knowing that he will accomplish the renewal of his people. What a privilege it is to serve our Savior as a pastor!

The post 4 reminders from Galatians every pastor needs today appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Are you called to ministry?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:34

Join Albert Mohler on May 15 for Ask Anything Live. Dr. Mohler will be answering your questions about the call to ministry. Learn more here.

Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do.” (1 Timothy 3:1) Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you?

First, there is an inward call. Through his Spirit, God speaks to those persons he has called to serve as pastors and ministers of his Church. The great Reformer Martin Luther described this inward call as “God’s voice heard by faith.” Those whom God has called know this call by a sense of leading, purpose, and growing commitment.

Charles Spurgeon identified the first sign of God’s call to the ministry as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” Those called by God sense a growing compulsion to preach and teach the Word, and to minister to the people of God.

This sense of compulsion should prompt the believer to consider whether God may be calling to the ministry. Has God gifted you with the fervent desire to preach? Has he equipped you with the gifts necessary for ministry? Do you love God’s Word and feel called to teach? As Spurgeon warned those who sought his counsel not to preach if they could help it. “But,” Spurgeon continued, “if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.” That sense of urgent commission is one of the central marks of an authentic call.

Second, there is the external call. Baptists believe that God uses the congregation to “call out the called” to ministry. The congregation must evaluate and affirm the calling and gifts of the believer who feels called to the ministry. As a family of faith, the congregation should recognize and celebrate the gifts of ministry given to its members, and take responsibility to encourage those whom God has called to respond to that call with joy and submission.

These days, many persons think of careers rather than callings. The biblical challenge to “consider your call” should be extended from the call to salvation to the call to the ministry.

John Newton, famous for writing “Amazing Grace,” once remarked that “None but He who made the world can make a Minister of the Gospel.” Only God can call a true minister, and only he can grant the minister the gifts necessary for service. But the great promise of Scripture is that God does call ministers, and presents these servants as gifts to the church.

Consider your calling. Do you sense that God is calling you to ministry, whether as pastor or another servant of the church? Do you burn with a compulsion to proclaim the Word, share the gospel, and care for God’s flock? Has this call been confirmed and encouraged by those Christians who know you best?

God still calls. . . has he called you?

The post Are you called to ministry? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Part 4: Happiness and Holiness

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/08/2018 - 09:45
I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God – I mean, that’s one way to look at it – we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy….So I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

How much is too much? Consumerism and Happiness in an Age of Plenty

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/08/2018 - 09:30

“I shop, therefore, I am.” “You are what you own.” “He who dies with the most toys wins.” “The only value is market value.” These pithy slogans, and many more like them, capture the sentiment of many today, especially in America. Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are the new holy trinity of modern America. The sporting complex is the new community center. Endless (and, all too often, mindless) movies, television, and concerts fill up the periphery of our lives. Social media beckons us too, even in our work, to escape to a virtual world where our sense of worth is shaped by the collective “other” through likes, comments, and pictures of the “best selves” of those enjoying material goods and pleasurable experiences ad infinitum.

We might ask, what is the driving factor behind these pithy slogans and the relentless pursuit of more stuff and more experiences? The idea is that somehow things and experiences will make us happy. They will satisfy. The “good life” consists in the accumulation of stuff and experiences.

The problem with this picture is twofold. First, statistics reveal that while modern Americans have more stuff and more leisure than ever before, we are a profoundly unhappy people.[1] It simply is not the case that things and experiences make us happy in the long run. Second, the issue is complex, and as it turns out, there is truth to be found in the middle of all the excess. Material things are not, in themselves, bad. Many experiences—including entertainment—are not, in themselves, bad. The problem begins when we try to squeeze more out of these things and experiences than they were meant to provide. The problem, then, is one of context.

In his chapter on “hope” in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explores the human quest for happiness by describing three kinds of lives.[2]

The fool, according to Lewis, is the person who blames the object or experience itself when he realizes that it was not the thing he really wanted. As Lewis puts it, “He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after.”[3]

The fool, according to Lewis, is the person who continues to think the deeper longings of the human heart can be satisfied by things that have already been tried but found wanting.

The disillusioned “sensible man” is the man who gives up on the search for a deep and abiding happiness. As Lewis describes this man, “He soon decides that the whole thing is moonshine. ‘Of course,’ he says, ‘one feels like that when one’s young. But by the time you get to my age, you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.’”[4]

If there is nothing more to reality than the physical world, then this is the best we can expect, according to Lewis. Perhaps most today are disillusioned as Lewis describes it. It helps us understand and have compassion on those who seem to be in constant need to fill their lives with new things and new experiences. If this life is all there is, then by all means let’s squeeze as much out of it as we can, even if we have deeper longings—for meaning, purpose, value—that we cannot satisfy.

Lewis, however, asks: “But suppose infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end?”[5]

What then? If there really is “infinite happiness” and we miss it, that would be a pity. This leads to Lewis’ third kind of life, what he calls “The Christian Way.” Lewis states, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[6]

Lewis’ point is this: We find some desires—for example, our desires for meaning, purpose, significance, truth, beauty, goodness, unconditional love and more—that ultimately cannot be satisfied in this world (he lumps all of these together as a kind of desire for transcendence, or heaven, or for God). That these desires for meaning, purpose, and value cannot be satisfied by things in this world does not mean the world is a fraud; it just means the things of this world were not meant to completely satisfy, but only (as he says) “to arouse and suggest the real thing.”

The Christian story helps us to see that true happiness is ultimately found in union with God. This is why the Christian life is to be characterized by hope. One day, all human desires will be satisfied, and man will truly and fully be happy. The good news is that genuine happiness is available to all now. Jesus said it best: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10, NIV). Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him and offers us the fullness of life both now and for eternity.

In the Christian story, material possessions and entertainment are not bad in and of themselves. In fact, when properly situated, they are best understood as gifts, things provided to us for our enjoyment and satisfaction, but also suggestive of something deeper.

How much is too much? Here are some questions to ask yourself: In what am I finding life? Where do I place my hope? What is the basis of my identity? If your answer to any of these questions includes things or entertainment, then it is possible that material possessions and the entertainment complex have become idols in your life. My encouragement is not to reject material things or entertainment, but to locate them within the Gospel story as gifts. Then we will not only find pleasure in them, but they will awaken us to the deepest longing of our heart to be united with the Giver of all good things.

[1] For a good summary of some of these statistics, see John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, A Practical Guide to Culture (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2017), chap. 12.
[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2000).
[3] Ibid., 135­–36.
[4] Ibid., 136.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., 137.

Categories: Seminary Blog

3 reasons every pastor needs to be a theologian

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/08/2018 - 09:25

While it may be difficult to believe in our current cultural setting, there was a time when the pastor was viewed as a town’s leading intellectual. Pastors of what seems like a long-lost era were doctrinally grounded and biblically saturated, to be sure; but they were also well-read in other important branches of study—literature, economics, politics, philosophy, and science—and were therefore able to apply biblical truth to these areas of inquiry with keen spiritual and intellectual skill, helping their people think theologically about major trends within the church and the greater society.

Most importantly, the pastor was a theologian. Today, however, the pastoral office is no longer viewed in such categories. At worst, the title “pastor-theologian” is a contradiction, for to be a pastor is to be one whose primary work is people and their spiritual well-being; to be a theologian is to labor away from people among books, and mainly in the area of academic scholarship.

The pastor-theologian, despite what history may tell us, appears to be an ecclesiastical impossibility in our current age.

This is due, at least partially, to the fact that the larger contemporary church has loaded the pastoral role with responsibilities and expectations that hinder if not altogether prohibit the work of theology. As Owen Strachan asserts, the pastor is seen chiefly as a “leader, organization builder, administrator, coach, inspirer, endless problem solver, spiritual pragmatist, and so much more.” For a pastor to consider how he might engage in important doctrinal discussions and cultural issues, pursue some form of theological writing, and make scholarly contributions to the larger Christian academy is to indulge in pointless fantasy: his role and his time preclude these kinds of endeavors.

The Enlightenment changed pastoral ministry in Europe

But the popular reshaping of the pastoral role is also a symptom of the massive rift that has slowly but surely formed over the past 300 years between the church and the academy (i.e., the university). Due to the Enlightenment’s (c. 1685-1815) detachment of biblical authority from rational inquiry, the contribution of the Christian pastor in any realm other than religion was greatly diminished. As the Enlightenment’s suspicion of authority pervaded Europe, Christian theology was soon viewed to function only within the realm of “faith;” other areas of inquiry—especially science—functioned within the realm of “reason.” Faith dealt with that which was private and non-falsifiable; reason traded on that which was public and empirical. Autonomous reason, unaided by divine revelation, was now valued as the chief means by which all people would be able to arrive at universal knowledge.

Theology, therefore, no longer referred to objective truth about the Creator and His ways, but as a collection of improvable propositions that have no authoritative bearing on other areas of study. The separation of faith and reason led inevitably to the detachment of the church and the academy. “Over the space of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson observe, “the universities [in Europe], which had been largely conceived and reared in service of the churches, gradually became institutions of the state.” The sociological fruit of this institutional rending was that the pastor was now marginalized in terms of intellectual contribution to the greater society. The scholar, however, was lionized.

Three factors changed the role in North America

While not dismissing how the Enlightenment served to undermine the pastoral role in North America, the factors that led to the separation between the church and the academy are slightly different than in Europe. The three major features of colonial and post-colonial life that sharpened the divide between pastoral ministry and the work of theology were (1) urbanization; (2) the Revolutionary War; and (3) the development of divinity schools.

As David Wells points out, before the small and scattered towns of the fledging American colonies started to see significant population growth, it was usually the pattern that each town had one church with one pastor, with the church at the center of the town’s spiritual and social life.5 Because of this societal structure, the pastor’s engagement in and influence on the town’s religious and civic life would have been significant. The pastor would have likely been the most educated person in town, and training for the ministry would have taken place primarily within the ecclesial setting as young men learned theology and ministry skills from the pastor himself.

As these towns grew in number, they soon became too large for only one church. The pastors who once enjoyed substantial political and cultural influence soon found their authority and social status reduced. Furthermore, the spirit of democracy and societal egalitarianism generated by the Revolutionary War had persuaded a new generation of would-be spiritual leaders that theological education—in the church or elsewhere—was no longer needed for ministry. True piety, they claimed, was only hindered by much theological learning; all that a minister needed for gospel proclamation and growth were the Spirit and the Scriptures, and sometimes not much of either.

The early 19th century also saw the establishment of several divinity schools in North America. Whereas theological education in colonial America was previously the domain of the local church, with the development of divinity schools the primary sphere for pastoral training was now located in an institution outside the church. “By the mid-nineteenth century, the pastor theologian in North America had been replaced by the professor theologian.”

The fracture between the role of the pastor and the work of the theologian has only widened and deepened since the separation began in Europe and North America over four centuries ago. But this development is neither healthy for the church or the academy.

As pastors increasingly view their role as managers, spiritual coaches, corporate executives, and social coordinators, and professional theologians drift further from the needs of the church into more refined areas of expertise (intelligible to only a handful of highly-trained scholars), both institutions will suffer. Here are three reasons we need to recover a robust vision of the pastor-theologian for the local church.

1. The pastor-theologian model is biblical

Because of its detachment from theology, the church has grown spiritually weak, socially compromised, and susceptible to hazardous doctrinal trends. Likewise, due to a decreased interest in and connection with the genuine needs of Christ’s church, the Christian scholar is in danger of producing material of little spiritual and theological benefit for the most important institution in the world, the body of Christ. And what is most concerning about the present situation is that this cycle is self-perpetuating: unless something foundational changes in the culture of the church and the academy, the rupture between the pastor and theologian can only worsen as time goes on.

But for the sake of Christ’s bride, we cannot throw up our hands in resignation. We can, one church at a time, one pastor at a time, recapture the glorious office of the pastor-theologian for the glory of God and the eternal good of his people. We will be aided in this endeavor by first reminding ourselves that the model of pastor-theologian is biblical. It’s not enough to point to historical precedent and start framing our vision around early church or 17th century ideals. We have to first be convinced that God calls the pastor to be first and foremost a theologian.

This does not imply that a pastor must be skilled in every conceivable branch of technical theology or broader areas of learning—although he should have some interest in these fields. Rather, to be a theologian is to first be concerned with the study, preservation, and proclamation of historic Christian doctrine at the local church level (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6; 6:3; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 1:9; 2:1; 4:2). The pastor is tasked with shepherding the flock among him (1 Pet. 5:2), so his work of theology is first and foremost for his people. This labor will be expressed in preaching, teaching, discipleship, counseling, and writing as the pastor thinks carefully and rigorously about how to apply the truth to his people in their present setting.

But the very nature of this work requires that the pastor be well engaged with broader theological discussions and trends so that he can guard his people from what is wrong and unhelpful and inform his people of what is true and useful. We see this modeled by the authors of the New Testament epistles as their teaching dealt directly with contemporary false doctrine and false teachers (Gal. 1:8-9; 3:1-2; 4:7; 2 Pet. 2:1ff).

Practically, then, the pastor-theologian will keep his mind attuned to the ideas that are percolating at an academic level through regular reading, conference attendance, intentional research, and other means. Yet, this kind of study and research is no mere intellectual hobby for a pastor. A theologically indifferent pastor is like a shepherd who has no interest in wolf taxonomy. He may prefer to avoid these subjects, but precious lives are at stake, so he must find a way to remain current with trends in the greater theological world.

2. The pastor-theologian model is historical

We must see that the pastor-theologian model is historical. Although the pastoral role is no longer viewed, by and large, as the primary place where a theologian would ply his craft, the truth is that this recent trend is contrary to historical precedent. “Throughout most of the church’s history,” Hiestand and Wilson comment, “the pastoral vocation was a primary vocation for theologians and biblical scholars. One need only to think of history’s most important theologians to be reminded that the pastoral office was once compatible with robust theological scholarship.”  But not only was the pastor viewed as a theologian; he would conduct his labor of theology within the context of the local church and his ministerial duties. Owen Strachan explains:

[Early church pastors] did not separate from the people and the ministry to learn theology but instead tilled the rich soil of Scripture in the context of pastoral work . . . it would have been unthinkable for these early pastors to give up the grind of weekly Bible exposition in order to sequester themselves in theological meditation to mine more deeply into the Bible’s doctrine. On the contrary, reading the Bible for sermon preparation was itself an opportunity for real theological work, a glorious exegetical grind.

Yet, when it was necessary, these pastor-theologians would engage rigorously with contemporary theological and cultural issues, expending significant energy and time to write, teach, even attend conferences in order to set things in order and give doctrinal aid to the greater church.

With varying degrees of consistency, this model of pastor-theologian held sway in the early and medieval church and through the Reformation. The post-Enlightenment aftermath, as we saw, successfully dismantled the connection between the pastor and the theologian for much of Europe and North America. But for most of church history, this was not the case. To recapture the ideal of pastor-theologian, therefore, is not only to reinstall the biblical model; it is to return to the historical one as well.

3. The pastor-theologian model is necessary

We must see that the pastor-theologian is necessary. Foundationally, a pastor is a preacher and teacher of Christian doctrine for his local congregation. He shepherds his people, in large measure, by attending to biblical exposition in the pulpit, the lectern, and the counseling session. His primary labor of theology, therefore, will be located in his weekly sermon preparations and in his teaching, preaching, writing, and counseling ministry. He will also take careful note of recent scholarship in order to protect his people from dangerous theological trends and to remain well informed of useful new resources for his people.

But the pastor-theologian is also necessary for the greater church. Beyond his labors among his immediate flock, the pastor-theologian should be encouraged to take his pastoral experience, intellectual rigor, and broad knowledge of various biblical and theological topics to the academy as well. So long as academic specialists are allowed to constantly refine and narrow their areas of expertise, they are in danger of losing a sense of the true nature and purpose of theology.

Indeed, some of the most unbiblical theological statements I’ve heard have come from theologians who have so narrowed their scholarly interests that they’ve lost their grip on the whole counsel of God’s Word or so sequestered themselves in their technical reflections that they have little awareness of the spiritual needs of ordinary Christians in the local church setting. The pastor-theologian, working primarily in and for the local church, can take his skill as a generalist and his insight as a shepherd of people to the guild in order to help the academy produce better resources for the greater church.

How do we recover it?

How can the local congregation partner with and encourage their local shepherd to start or continue his pursuit of becoming a pastor-theologian? Most importantly, once you are convinced that this is the biblical, historical, and necessary role of the pastor, you can pray that your shepherd makes the work of theology a priority in his daily ministry preparations and labors and has the time to do so. You can also pray that your pastor has the opportunity to engage the greater academic community at some level.

Above all, value the role of the pastor-theologian. When a pastor takes some time, after fulfilling his immediate pastoral duties, to engage in theological reading, writing, and, if the Lord wills, publication, he is not participating in mere ivory-tower banter that has no bearing on the life of the church.

Rather, by utilizing his gifts and experience in this way your pastor-theologian is acquiring greater skill to better serve his flock while also supplying the academy with a much-needed pastoral perspective on its work of theology. Perhaps with some effort and much prayer, we can recapture the vision of the pastor-theologian for the glory of Christ and the health of his bride.


Can I be both a pastor and a scholar? (Tom Schreiner)

Am I a pastor or am I a scholar? (Jeff Robinson)

The post 3 reasons every pastor needs to be a theologian appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

‘Reading Rightly’

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:52

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below, Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, talks with Towers writer Sarah Haywood about his new book, Christ from Beginning to End, co-written with Trent Hunter.

SH: What prompted you to write the book?

SJW: The book came about over a long period of time. It’s basically designed to be a popular version of helping people think about how the Bible fits together. So I’ve been teaching this for years and doing conferences for churches. I used to call it a “bird’s-eye view of the Bible,” because when people read Scripture, they often don’t know how parts fit with the whole. I was teaching this at Ninth and O Baptist Church in a Sunday School format. The co-author, Trent [Hunter], was a student at Southern and helped me lead that class. He suggested, “Hey, we’ve got to get this out. You’re writing these things at an academic level.” So with my colleague Peter Gentry, I wrote a larger book called Kingdom through Covenant and that was for the more the academy. This is more for the everyday person in the church — for hopeful pastors and Bible study groups, to help them think through how the Bible fits together. So it came out of classes and speaking in churches. It came out of the desire to see something written that people can pick up and use with their families.

SH: What is the value of having this material available at a popular level?

SJW: What I mean by “popular” is that it’s written at a level where I think somebody can probably understand it by the end of elementary school. Learning levels all the way up to pastor of a church might want to use it for a Bible study, Sunday School classes, Bible study fellowships, those kinds of things. It’s not trying to be too technical but still seeks to be accurate in helping them
read Scripture.

SH: You say to read the Bible as a divine book and human book. Can you talk about how those are different and how we should think of both?

SJW: We’re starting from the conviction that all Christians should start from, which is that we read Scripture, we interpret Scripture, according to what it is. So that raises the question: “What is it?” According to Scripture’s own claim, it is God’s Word, it’s a divine book. It’s unfolding God’s eternal plan. But that book comes to us not divorced from history and time. It comes through authors, so that this is our doctrine of inspiration. God speaks through human authors so that what those authors write is God’s Word. That’s where the divine and human come together. So what that means is we are now reading Scripture for an ultimate unifying message, a coherent message.

There’s one sense in which you read the Bible as you’d read any other book, yet it’s not any other book. We do look at how Isaiah has put together the prophecy of Isaiah. It’s a literary unit. It is treated as a literary unit, so then we read it like other books created by human authors. Typical books can have contradictions and errors, but that’s not the Bible because it’s God’s Word. Overtime, we’d be hard-pressed to find 10 people that would agree with one another, especially over a period of time.

Yet we have 40 authors or so who write Scripture, and in our English Bible of 66 books, they are unified. Each one will fit in terms of a larger whole.

If you pick up a jigsaw puzzle, you don’t start with the assumption that all these pieces don’t fit. You start with the assumption that because it’s God’s Word, it’s all going to fit. Ultimately, God is speaking through all those authors, but we must understand what he’s saying in terms of the whole Bible.

SH: In reading the Bible, what mistakes do we make?

SJW: We often take it out of context. You’ll take passages of Scripture, you’ll read them isolated from where they fit in terms of the Bible, then you’ll make those passages say, mean, and apply all different ways than the Scriptures are actually saying. So the goal of this book is to help people think about the context of every passage, what it means in its immediate or direct context, and how it fits with an unfolding plan. Scriptures come to us over time.

So if you’re reading Isaiah, Isaiah doesn’t just come out of nowhere, he builds on what’s previously written. That’s a big mistake that people make, and that results in the biggest problem that we face, which is that we’re pretty familiar with the New Testament, but we don’t know how the Old Testament fits. We should take seriously 2 Timothy 3, where Paul says to Timothy “All Scripture is God-breathed,” and in context he’s talking primarily about the Old Testament because the New Testament is being written. That Old Testament is useful for doctrine, correction, reproof. We want to rightly know how to apply Scripture.

SH: How can we read the story and lose sight of Christ?

SJW: By not seeing how the entire story — from creation, through fall, the plan of redemption to the Old Testament — is centered in him. Instead of saying, “Well, this is an interesting story about the Israelites and the wilderness,” ask instead: “What is this doing here, and how does it contribute to our understanding of the coming of Christ, who he is, why he must come, what he has done, and what he has accomplished?” If you read isolated parts of the Bible, you miss how it all culminates in Christ.

SH: What was it like co-authoring?

SJW: Every time you co-author, it has a set of challenges. Because I had done similar studies like this for churches, Trent then took my audio lectures and notes and agreed to put them into chapters, and that became the backbone of the book. So he did that first, and then I came back on my sabbatical a year ago and worked through it thoroughly. Then it went back-and-forth from there. It truly is an integrative co-authored work that way.

SH: What do you hope that readers take from it?

SJW: I hope first that as people read it, their own study of the Bible would improve. The goal is that as they go back and read the Scriptures themselves, they would have a better grasp of how Leviticus, Numbers, and the Old Testament fits with the New, that they wouldn’t get lost in all the details, but perceive the big picture.

Ultimately, as the title of it conveys, the unified message of Scripture leads to understanding who Jesus is, that he is central to the Bible story. He’s found through all of Scripture. I hope this book leads to being rightly Christ-centered in our reading of Scripture, rightly seeing how God has put together his plan and how Scripture unfolds that plan.

The post ‘Reading Rightly’ appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Book Reviews: ‘Creation Care’; ‘How to Ruin Your Life’; ‘Resurrection Letters’; ’15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me’

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:52

Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World by Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo (Zondervan 2018, $22.34)

Review by Gabriel Reyes-Ordeix

The term “creation care” is a buzzword. It refers to human ethical responsibility toward the non-human world, but is often left vague and highly politicized. Creation Care, written by Douglas and Jonathan Moo (father and son) seeks to prove that this ethical commitment to caring for the planet is much more than a passing fad. It comes from Scripture itself. “We care for creation because we care about creation,” they write.

The Moos argue that the understanding of this stewardship is not isolated from one’s theology. Rather, creation care is interrelated with the doctrines of God, creation, man, and subsequently with the gospel itself. They write: “Our inquiries about how to care for creation confront us with central questions about God, the world, and ourselves and cannot be separated from the rest of the Christian gospel.”

The book gives three foundations for the Christian’s involvement in creation care: first, a need to address the present “environmental” problems; second, to become active in creation care is to be faithful witnesses to Christ; lastly and most importantly, “talking about creation care is needed because it is taught in Scripture.” Creation Care presents a faithful and balanced vision of the created world, and why Christians should care about it.

How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do by Eric Geiger (B&H 2018, $16.99)

Review By Grant Mitchell

David ruined his life. If “the man after God’s own heart” can do that, so can all of us. That’s why Eric Geiger published his newest book, How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do. The book draws on David’s life as an example from which all Christians need to learn. How to Ruin Your Life opens looking at what an imploded life looks like, drawing on Geiger’s own experience watching friends and colleagues make catastrophic decisions.

Of course, David’s life didn’t stay ruined. And Geiger, a vice president of LifeWay and an alumnus of Southern Seminary, doesn’t think yours has to either. “No matter how great your sin is, his grace is greater,” he writes. Christians often fear being “disqualified,” but Geiger shows that all Christians are disqualified in their sin. But the gospel promises they can repent, be made new, and qualified again.

Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1 by Andrew Peterson (Andrew Peterson 2018, $8.99 on iTunes)

Review by Matt Damico

In 2008, Andrew Peterson released Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2, leaving fans to anticipate when they’d hear volume one. Here we are, a decade later, and Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1 is upon us.

The album puts all of Peterson’s genius on display: provocative, moving, and richly biblical lyrics set to attractive and accessible melodies and hooks. The song’s opening track, “His Heart Beats,” is a pulsing exploration of the physical nature of Christ’s resurrection and victory over death that features some classic Petersonian writing: “He rises and his work’s already done, so he’s resting as he rises to reclaim the bride he won.”

Another standout track is the pre-released “Is He Worthy?” which uses a small choir to carry out a call-and-response format with Peterson. “Remember Me,” in a nice change of pace, riffs on the cry of the thief on the cross with a rhythmic, almost Bob Dylan-esque delivery that works surprisingly well.

If you’ve liked Peterson’s music in the past, you’re going to like this album. It’s Peterson through-and-through, and in the best way possible.

15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, eds. (Crossway 2018, $17.99)

Review by Andrew J.W. Smith

For many students, seminary is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the leading scholars in systematic theology, biblical studies, and missions and evangelism. Many describe it as “drinking from a firehose” — a completely overwhelming and immensely satisfying four-to-six year experience.

Many graduates leave their seminaries armed with a Greek New Testament in one hand and a 900-page tome on church polity in the other, ready to make a difference for the kingdom in their first church. Then, harsh reality hits. A seminary graduate’s first pastorate often forces him to come face-to-face with situations his seminary education couldn’t have prepared him for.

In a new Crossway book edited by Jeff Robinson Sr. and Collin Hansen, veteran pastors and leaders offer their own stories from the front lines and even show a few battle scars.

“Seminary did not teach me how deeply ministry could wound,” writes Robinson in the book’s opening chapter. “But it couldn’t teach me that, for seminary is to ministry what basic training is to combat: a training ground, a relatively safe place to acquire the tools of ministry — Greek, Hebrew, exegesis, homiletics, systematic theology, church history, and much more. Basic training is not war, and seminary is not local church ministry. Nothing but the battlefield of ministry could have prepared me for the pain ahead.”

In his introduction to the book, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. compares pastoral ministry to a general on a battlefield, noting that graduating at the top of one’s class at West Point does not prepare a man for war like experience in a real battle can. Whereas there are things even West Point can’t teach a young military man, Mohler writes, so seminary is necessary but insufficient to prepare a young man to preach and minister to a church.

The book provides helpful words of wisdom about how the seminary student can prepare for the rigors of day-in, day-out ministry. It addresses very practical situations like what to do when no church hires you, the constant temptation of pride and self-absorption, and how to handle church conflict. The book will benefit current seminary students who hope to one day be pastors, but will be an oasis of wisdom for anyone currently pastoring a church.

“I would read the What West Point Couldn’t Teach Me book with genuine interest,” writes Mohler in his introduction. “You will read this book with nothing less than urgency. Don’t miss a single lesson to be learned — but keep in mind that every pastor learns the most important lessons only through years of ministry. At the same time, learn as much as you can before you hit the battlefield alone. It matters.”

The post Book Reviews: ‘Creation Care’; ‘How to Ruin Your Life’; ‘Resurrection Letters’; ’15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me’ appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

The blessing of busyness

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:50

Kyle Claunch is busy. Yes, he’s been teaching Systematic Theology and electives on the Holy Spirit and salvation for the last nine months at Southern Seminary. But the opportunity to teach at Southern is not the only — or even biggest — responsibility he’s juggling right now.

He’s also the husband of Ashley, the father of Josiah, Micah, Samuel, Alexandria, and Lila — a two-year-old with a severe hearing impairment who they just adopted in January. On top of that,he’s the senior pastor of Highland Park First Baptist Church in Louisville. Being a husband and father provides as many daily challenges as the classroom.

Claunch, who graduated from Southern with his Master of Divinity in 2011 and his Doctorate of Philosophy in May 2017, finds balance through prayer.

“There’s just this disposition that prayer puts in your heart that you just say, ‘Lord, who is sufficient for these things?’” he shared. “I look at the task ahead of me on all three of those fronts and I just say, ‘These things are holy, and they are way too precious to be dropped. And I’m going to drop something. I know I am not sufficient for this, but you’ve called me to this, so I’m looking to you for help.’”

Still, he says he hasn’t “ever gotten the balance right. I feel like I’m always living in an adjustment.” He’s thankful, though, for his time as a student at Southern, because it was during those times that he learned the weight of family responsibilities and the weight of pastoral responsibilities.

He sees his role not just as a pastor, but specifically as pastor of Highland Park, as an anchor for his professorship. Claunch says he values his real-world ministry experience, because it shapes the way in which he approaches the classroom. His students have noted that he approaches teaching in a very “pastoral” manner.

“I hope what that means is I’m just deeply aware of how these truths, these rich and glorious truths, really forge the way forward for the life of the church and they lay the groundwork for real Christian discipleship for the people in the pews,” he said.

Claunch also noted that ministry experience is something Southern champions, and for that, he’s thankful. And because he was so recently a student, he feels that helps him connect with his students.

“I had a student last night tell me he was just called to be a pastor,” he said. “I was able to look at him and say, ‘Let’s get coffee.’” This student is a new M.Div. student, newly married, and Claunch knows “a little bit of what he’s about to embark on,” he said.

He hopes to be a source of encouragement to that student. “I delight in being able to do that and being able to invest in that way. It’s a real privilege,” he said.

This juggling act has also helped him and his church have a “kingdom vision,” he explained.

Although his church makes sacrifices for him to be a professor, too, many times in just accepting that it may be another member of the pastoral staff visiting them in a hospital, this is worth it.

“I have just been so rewarded to think about training future pastors, missionaries, church planters and just the kingdom impact that a place like this has,” he said.

“It is overwhelming thinking about the exponential impact on the kingdom of heaven from the people who are part of this place.”

He is excited that Highland Park seems to have “caught that vision.”

But even in the midst of chaotic days, he still finds time for family. “I protect that time like I would a meeting,” he explained of his family time. And he knows that the life he has now wouldn’t be possible without his wife’s dedication. “I truly rise up and call her blessed,” he added.

He makes time to take his daughters for dates, raise a turtle farm of sorts with his sons, and enjoy late night talks with his wife. When people ask him when he has time to live his life, he says, “This is it. This is life.”

“Looking back across my life at the way he’s orchestrated the details that led me to this point, I just think if he can just take my life and put me in a place to have an impact like this then, I tell others, just follow him. He wants to put you in a place where you can maximize your effectiveness for his kingdom. He delights in that. And it may be costly. But that’s where he’ll lead you if you’ll follow him.”

“I pinch myself all the time and think, ‘Wow! Do I really have this opportunity?’” he reflected.

The busyness is worth it.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Pitfalls of the novice minister

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:47

We’ve all heard the story — a freshly minted seminary graduate goes into his first pastorate and, in short-order, finds himself in serious trouble of his own doing. One such student, whom I know personally, decided right off the bat that he would begin a series in Romans on Sunday mornings, a series in Genesis mid-week, and lead his deacons through a study of biblical ecclesiology (i.e., “We need elders ASAP”). Long story short, he quickly learned there was one expendable member in the congregation: himself.

In less than a year, that young pastor was looking for another pastorate.

Of course, preaching through Romans and Genesis is a great thing to do, and biblical ecclesiology is essential for a healthy local church — but all at once, and without much pastoral or preaching experience? Admittedly, not every problem young ministers face is due to a lack of wisdom and experience. I’ve never forgotten what a former student told me about the very first Sunday he walked in his church to begin his pastorate. An elderly man, serving as a greeter that morning, approached him virtually the second he opened the door, shook his hand, and said, “I’ve seen young preacher-boys come and go and I’m still here, and I’ll still be here long after you’re gone too.” It took about two years and, sure enough, the young minister was gone.

Inhospitable receptions aside, there is one thing that every young would-be pastor must know: Until your people come to know and trust you, you need to put your agenda for large-scale reform aside and simply minister the Word in love and humility. They need to know you are there for them.

A call to serve

The Apostle Peter sums up the character and responsibility of pastoral ministry as succinctly and thoroughly as we could want:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4).

First of all, every Southern Seminary student called to pastoral ministry should stop what he’s doing and commit this passage to memory (if you memorize one verse a week, you’ll have it in a month). There is a treasure trove for a minister here: Look specifically at how a pastor is to go about fulfilling his calling. Pastors should undertake their ministry “willingly.”

One of the first questions a seminarian should ask himself is, “Why do I want to be a pastor?” Is it because of a deep sense of God’s leading — the true foundation for “eagerly” pursuing pastoral ministry — or for some other motive? Peter’s phrase “shameful gain” applies to lots of things, not just money. It includes any motivation for personal position and advancement, making a name for yourself, setting your sights on a powerful or prestigious pulpit, becoming the next first-call platform speaker at famous conferences, or styling yourself as a great church reformer. Too many young pastors see themselves as God’s chosen remedy for what’s ailing the church. All of these count as shameful gain.

Instead, pastors should “willingly” take on the role of a shepherd who, in the footsteps of the Great Shepherd, is willing to give his all for his people (John 10:11) and who leads the way in exemplifying the mind of Christ by putting the interests of his congregation before his own (Phil. 2:4). If that description matches your own vision for pastoral ministry, then you’re on the right road. If not, then find something else to do.

The nature of true leadership

It’s clear that Peter styles his view of ministry on what he learned from Jesus. In the context of teaching on his own suffering, Jesus said to the disciples:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all (Mark 10:42-44).

In the same way, Peter says the pastor is not to be “domineering.” One way to apply this is to think about your pastoral agenda. You might have great biblical and theological hopes and plans for your church (hopefully you do!) but how do you plan to carry them out? It’s not enough to identify a problem and have the correct theological solution. Your theology of pastoral ministry, based on texts like this one from 1 Peter, must be as important as every other aspect of your theology. If you want to lead your church in, say, biblical ecclesiology, you need to be able to lead them into biblical truth, not push them. Leadership requires your people to trust you, and building trust takes time.

When you begin your ministry after seminary, take time to live with your people and get to know them. Just as importantly, give them a chance to get to know you. This will take years, not just days or months. Faithfully minister the Word of God to them in preaching, teaching, and living. Be there to share in their joys, sit with them by the deathbed of their loved ones, rejoice when they rejoice, and mourn when they mourn. If they know you love and care for them, if they know you and trust you, then you will truly lead them and be their shepherd.

As a pastor — a shepherd of the people God himself places under your care — lead your congregation with the expectation of seeing the chief Shepherd face-to-face, the one from whom you will receive “the unfading crown of glory”: eternal life.

Brian J. Vickers is professor of New Testament interpretation and biblical theology at Southern Seminary.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

William Whitsitt’s private grudges

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:46

One of the most tumultuous chapters in the history of Southern Seminary was the presidency of William H. Whitsitt. In 1872, Whitsitt became the second professor hired by the founding faculty, and the seminary trustees elected him as the institution’s third president in 1895, following the death of John Broadus. Whitsitt was a cultured man of many gifts, and at the time of his election he held great respect among Southern Baptists as a church historian and denominational leader. However, his tenure as seminary president was beset with controversy, which culminated in his resignation and departure from the seminary in 1899.

The nature of the controversy surrounding Whitsitt centered upon his writings on the historical origins of Baptists, in which he claimed the baptismal practice of immersion had not existed between the apostolic age and the emergence of an organized Baptist denomination in England in the early 1640s. A large number of 19th century Southern Baptists rooted the rightness and distinctiveness of their religious identity in the belief that Baptist churches had existed in an unbroken line of succession since the apostolic era. Further complicating matters for Whitsitt was the fact that he had written some of his scholarly claims anonymously in non-Baptist publications, feeding into a public perception that Whitsitt was guilty of secrecy and deception. His removal from the seminary allowed some to perceive him as a martyr for academic free thought, but his private writings reveal a more troubling side of the seemingly soft-spoken scholar.

Whitsitt practiced the discipline of journaling extensively, but he often took the opportunity to record his frank, unflattering thoughts about his peers and acquaintances. As a young professor, Whitsitt respected his elder faculty members, but that did not spare them from being referred to in highly critical terms. Whitsitt held the teaching abilities of Basil Manly, Jr. in low regard, alleging that he “pretended to know Hebrew” and “he delights to have a finger in every pie; to attend to everything except his teaching.” The root of Whitsitt’s frustration with James P. Boyce likely owed to his dissatisfaction with his salary relative to older professors, and in his diary he referred to him as “a dunderhead” and “a very uninteresting person . . . without any kind of importance.” A failed marriage proposal to Boyce’s daughter Elizabeth only added to the sense of enmity between the men, as Whitsitt admitted his own pride left Miss Boyce “in her single misery.”

Though fraternally closer to Broadus throughout life, Whitsitt suspected his mentor of colluding to entrap him in heterodox charges concerning his view of biblical inspiration on the heels of C. H. Toy’s resignation for the same matter. His diary suggests this notion compelled Whitsitt to limit his associations with his older peers: “I keep to my side of the house and allow Boyce and Broadus to keep to their side of the house. . . . I desire to cultivate no other relations with them.” Curiously, Whitsitt even recorded unflattering remarks about Broadus’s walk, noting his “ungainly figure.”

Whitsitt also soured in his estimation of his own pastor T. T. Eaton, whom he came to view as too rigid in his denominational fervor. Despite a lifetime of shared experiences and common labor on behalf of Baptist causes, in 1895 Whitsitt privately wrote that God should take the life of Eaton immediately: “His usefulness is about over. . . it would be a mercy of the Lord for him to die now.” Eaton lived until 1907, but the men’s relationship turned into one of antagonism and distrust, exacerbated by the controversy over Baptist origins and its fallout.

The harsh private thoughts of Whitsitt recorded in his diary give the appearance of a man who harbored uncharitable resentment toward his fellow workers. Despite the fact that Whitsitt would often speak highly of the same people in public, his private opinions might also suggest a degree of hypocrisy which even he might not have been fully aware. Whatever legitimate grievances Whitsitt might have had with his co-laborers, the recorded evidence suggests he hardly handled those criticisms constructively. History cannot positively instruct subsequent generations how Whitsitt’s life (and the history of the seminary) might have played out differently if he had pursued reconciliation and the mending of relationships damaged by misgivings, whether perceived or real, through mutual forgiveness.

A large collection of Whitsitt’s manuscripts and personal library are available for research in the Archives office in the James P. Boyce Centennial Library.


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Categories: Seminary Blog

Christ from Beginning to End Trent Hunter and Stephen Wellum

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Mon, 05/07/2018 - 14:46

Not everyone will study theology. But everyone should be able to study the Bible the right way. This is why Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, and Trent Hunter wrote Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ. This book helps readers to read the Bible rightly and to keep God’s purpose in mind throughout the entire story.

Christ from Beginning to End grew from a teaching partnership between Hunter and Wellum at Ninth and O Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Wellum had long been teaching the concepts presented in the book and Ninth and O and in the classroom at Southern Seminary. This book makes that teaching available to all.

Hunter and Wellum liken reading the Bible to a puzzle: “You know that the Bible is a book about Jesus, but when you crack it open and poke around inside, you’re not quite sure how it all fits together.” And they encourage readers to not give up on reading the story. It’s complex, and sometimes intimidating, but each chapter, from the Old Testament to the New, reveals more of Christ.

“We want you to see Christ in all his glory in all of Scripture — in the cracks, corners, and turns of the Bible’s complex and scenic story,” they write.

The authors organize the books in two parts. In part one, they answer the first question we ask when we read the Bible: What is it? And within they answer three central questions: (1) Who wrote the Bible? (2) How does the Bible come to us? and (3) What is the Bible centrally about?

“While the Bible is written with words like any other book, the Bible is not like any other book,” they write.

It’s not like any other book. It’s both a divine book and a human book, they write. God, through human agency, is the author of the Bible. “If we are to read the Bible on its own terms,” they explain, “we must read it as a divine book, a book authored by the triune Lord.”

Because the Bible essentially has one author, readers can assume that the story is unified. To see the unified story, it must be read in context — as part of a whole. Hunter and Wellum provide three contexts to keep in mind as readers study each passage: the close context (the passage on the page), the continuing context (the passage in light of what has come before), and the canonical context (the passage as a part of the entire storyline).

“Because the Bible is a puzzle, we must discern how the pieces are intended to fit together,” they write. In part two, Hunter and Wellum examine the story itself and demonstrate just how to read each part as one small piece of the entire puzzle. The story of Moses, for example, is the story of Israel. It’s also a continuation of covenant between God and his people pointing back to creation. And it’s the story that “God alone saves,” pointing to Christ and his covenant in the New Testament.

This portion of the book addresses some of what Wellum wrote with Peter Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, in Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants in 2012 for the academy. In Christ from Beginning to End, this theme is easily understood.

Hunter and Wellum lead the reader through creation to David, the prophets, Jesus, and revelation and the new creation, and how each piece points to Christ and reveals his glory.

“Books that discuss how the Bible is about Christ from beginning to end are not merely for academic interest but for the entire church,” they write. To that end, Christ from Beginning to End is an approachable companion to Bible study, teaching its audience to read the story rightly in order to see Christ’s throughout.

(Zondervan 2018, $22.99)

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Categories: Seminary Blog

Can we really trust the Bible if the manuscripts have mistakes?

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 05/04/2018 - 07:00

I slumped in an unpadded pew, half-listening to the morning Bible study. I wasn’t particularly interested in what the Bible teacher in this tiny Christian high school had to say. But, when the teacher commented that the New Testament Gospels always reported word-for-word what Jesus said, I perked up and lifted my hand. This statement brought up a question that had perplexed me for a few weeks.

“But, sometimes,” I mused, “the words of Jesus in one Gospel don’t match the words of the same story in the other Gospels—not exactly, anyway. So, how can you say that the Gospel-writers always wrote what Jesus said word-for-word?”

The teacher stared at me for a moment, stone-silent.

I thought maybe he hadn’t understood my question; so, I pointed out an example that I’d noticed—the healing of a “man sick of the palsy” in Simon Peter’s house, if I recall correctly (Matthew 9:4-6; Mark 2:8-11; Luke 5:22-24, KJV).

Still silence.

Finally, the flustered teacher reprimanded me for thinking too much about the Bible. (In retrospect, this statement was more than a little ironic: A Bible teacher in a Bible class at a Bible Baptist school accused me of thinking too much about the Bible!) What I was doing, he claimed, was similar to what happened in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent asked Eve if God had actually commanded them not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

I didn’t quite catch the connection between my question and the Tree of Knowledge—but I never listened to what that teacher said about the Bible again. I knew that something was wrong with what he was telling me. Still, it took me several years to figure out the truth about this dilemma—-a truth which, just as I suspected, had everything to do with the teacher’s faulty assumptions about the Bible and nothing to do with Eve or the serpent. What I learned later was that the idea of word-for-word citations and quotations is a modern notion that would have been foreign to the authors of Scripture.

Here’s what my Bible teacher assumed: If the Bible is divinely inspired, the Bible must always state what was said word-for-word, with no variations. To question this understanding of the Bible was, from this teacher’s perspective, to doubt the divine inspiration of Scripture.

Oddly enough, when it comes to differences between biblical manuscripts, some skeptics seem to pursue a similar line of reasoning to the one my teacher followed when I asked the differences between the Gospels. “How does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don’t have the words that God inerrantly inspired,” one such skeptic claims, “but only the words copied by the scribes—sometimes correctly but sometimes (many times!) incorrectly?” In other words, if there are variations among the many thousands of copies of Scripture, how can anyone reasonably claim that the Scriptures are inerrant?

Three critical facts

So how can Christians respond to such suppositions?

Let’s look together at three crucial facts that can equip you to take another perspective on these skeptical claims.

1. “Inerrant” describes the original manuscripts, not the copies.

First off, inerrancy has never meant that every copy of Scripture throughout history has been identical! The word “inerrancy” refers to the original autographs of Scripture, not to every manuscript and printed copy made afterward. God inspired the authors of Scripture and safeguarded their words from error. God did not, however, prevent the thousands of copyists across the ages from making mistakes as they copied the manuscripts! As a result, the surviving copies of Scripture are sufficiently accurate for us to recover the inerrant truth that God intended and inspired, but they have not always been copied with perfect accuracy.

2. The differences between the manuscripts are real.

Is it true, then, that the biblical manuscripts differ from one another?

Of course they do!

The copyists were human beings, and being human means making mistakes. God did not choose to override the copyists’ humanity as they copied the New Testament; as a result, these human beings were every bit as prone to short attention spans, poor eyesight, and fatigue as you or me. What’s more, they had no eyeglasses or contact lenses to sharpen their vision, and they relied on the flickering light of lamps to see. Since God did not “re-inspire” the text each time it was reproduced, the copyists occasionally miscopied their sources. Once in a while, they even tried to fix things that weren’t broken by changing words that they thought might be misconstrued. The result is hundreds of thousands of copying variants scattered among the New Testament manuscripts—but these variations in the manuscripts are only one part of the story.

3. The New Testament text is highly reliable, and none of the variants affects any essential truth that Christians believe.

One popular skeptic’s much-repeated soundbite is that “there are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament”; this statement is technically true but—unless his listeners are aware of the vast number of New Testament manuscripts that survive today—it’s also a bit misleading. There are around 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, and around a half-million variants can be found scattered among the Greek manuscripts—but that number of variants comes from estimating every difference, not including spelling variations, in every surviving manuscript from the Greek New Testament. Well over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts have been preserved as a whole or in part—more than any other text from the ancient world! With millions of words in these fragments and manuscripts, it doesn’t take long for the number of variants to exceed the number of words in the Greek New Testament.

If only one manuscript of the New Testament had survived, there would have been zero variants (and this single manuscript would probably have become some sort of idol!). But early Christians believed that all of God’s Word should be accessible to all of God’s people. And so, each congregation of Christians seemed to have possessed its own codexes of apostolic texts—and that’s why more than 5,000 whole or partial manuscripts survive today.

Spread across millions of words in more than 5,000 manuscripts, the variations represent a minute percentage of the total text. According to scholars’ best estimates and analyses, the New Testament text is more than 92% stable. In other words, all the variants affect less than 8% of the New Testament text!

But there’s another fact that’s even more significant than the number of manuscripts or the overall stability of the text: no variant in these many manuscripts changes any essential belief that Christians hold about God or about his work in the world. The overwhelming majority of the differences have to do with words that are misspelled or rearranged—differences that have no impact on the translation or meaning of the text. The remainder are noticeable in translations, but they do not alter any tenet of the Christian faith. What this means practically is that the text of the New Testament has been sufficiently preserved for us to be confident that we can recover the meaning that God intended and inspired in the original text.

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Editor’s Note: Some portions of this articles were taken from Timothy Paul Jones’ book, How We Got the Bible.

The post Can we really trust the Bible if the manuscripts have mistakes? appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5/3/2018 DBTS Chapel: Dr. David Doran

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 13:56
For the final chapel of the 2018 Spring semester, Dr. Doran preaches from 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. He challenges pastors not to be controlled by others’ evaluation or be cocky about their own evaluation, but be content to leave their evaluation to the Lord. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog


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