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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.

The post The blessing of busyness appeared first on Southern Equip.

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.

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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

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Part 3: Moralism, Pluralism, and Exclusive Grace

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 13:02
We live in a world that is religious/spiritual but not Christian. A few years back, I mentioned in class the Sermon on the Mount. The blank stares caused me to accuse them of laziness, until it was revealed that not one of those 32 students had any idea what the sermon said or who delivered... Read More
Categories: Seminary Blog

5/2/2018 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Ben Klaus

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 13:47
Pastor Ben Klaus, graduating senior, delivers his senior sermon from 1 Corinthians 9. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

The Vision Thing: Necessary or Optional?

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 09:30

Proverbs 29:18a, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,” refers to supernatural revelation. The word translated as vision also appears in Jeremiah 23:16b in a warning about false prophets: “They are leading you into futility; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Today, some popular Christian writers use the word in the same sense that it is used in the secular business world. Their definitions differ slightly, but generally speaking, they describe vision as an imagined picture or dream of a church’s preferred future that they hope will actually occur. They cannot guarantee that such a vision will come to pass, whereas supernatural revelation about the future always comes to pass. Nevertheless, they consider their type of vision and vision casting to be essential.

Vision statements are also found on the mission field. When I went through team leader/strategy coordinator training as an IMB missionary in May of 2000, I was required to put together a three-year master plan built upon a detailed “endvision” that included a church planting movement. The endvision was the key component of the master plan, and after describing this vision, I was instructed to work backward and list action plans needed to achieve it. Our team completed some of the action plans, but we did not achieve the endvision.

A church can obviously benefit by having an envisioned goal that is designed to carry out the Great Commission in the unique context of that church. When I served as a pastor in the late 1980s, our church utilized a school gymnasium for our youth program on Wednesday nights, and our senior adults used it at other times. The school permanently closed, and we no longer had access to a gym in the town. Over time, momentum grew in our church to build a Family Life Center. We did not experience a Macedonian vision (Acts 16:9), but we believed that we had discerned God’s will. We prayerfully applied biblical principles to our situation as we deliberated, and we judged that we should construct the building and utilize it for evangelism and discipleship. After a two-year period during which our members sacrificially gave to the building fund, we began construction in the early 1990s. The building was eventually completed and utilized for God’s glory.

Vision casting is not a requirement for pastors. Scripture is sufficient, and vision casting is not listed as a qualification for pastors (overseers) in 1 Timothy 3. In that passage, Paul mentions leadership, but it is not the CEO type of leadership; rather, it is servant leadership in the family context. In 1 Timothy 3:4, Paul says that the pastor “must be one who manages his own household well.” Christian entities such as churches and mission agencies should be more like families than corporations, and Christian leaders should be more like fathers than CEOs.

A good pastor is like a good father. Both men are involved in loving discipline when necessary. Both men equip the people who are under their care. This equipping process involves setting a good example. Church members should hear their pastor talk about his evangelism and discipleship experiences. Even better, they should see him obeying the Great Commission. A good pastor and a good father both practice what they preach. Good shepherds lead their sheep from the front rather than driving them from behind.

Use of the word “vision” is fine in some circumstances, but some cautionary notes are in order. First, when a Christian leader uses that word, he should thoroughly define what he means by it. When a biblical word is repeatedly used with a non-biblical meaning, the person using the word should repeatedly clarify the meaning to avoid confusion.

Second, Christian leaders must realize that when they present a vision of the future that they supposedly received from God, they will lose credibility if the vision does not happen. Some followers may mistakenly think that the leader’s vision carries as much authority as Scripture, and when the vision does not come to pass, they may accuse the leader of false prophecy. Here’s an extreme example: Years ago, I met a man who had been a follower of a prosperity preacher. He told me that when the prosperity preacher’s vision changed from a new building to a private jet, he became quite disillusioned. If, after much effort, a group does not see its vision achieved, it will likely experience discouragement and a sense of failure.

Third, popular writers admit that vision statements need to change as circumstances change. Our world is changing at an ever faster pace, and thus vision statements must change at an ever faster pace. The prediction of future circumstances is difficult. James gave a relevant warning: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that’” (James 4:13-15). Rather than spending a lot of time imagining a preferred future while constantly revising vision statements, we should concentrate on the mission statement that we were given in Matthew 28:19-20 and apply it as best we can to our current situation.

God gave John supernatural revelation about the future. Part of that vision includes the description of “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). That vision should grip Christian leaders, and it should motivate them and their followers to obey the Great Commission and be part of God’s glorious plan that will certainly come to pass.

Categories: Seminary Blog

5 tips for changing your church’s leadership structure

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 08:08

Any transition in a local church can likely upset the congregation’s equilibrium. Familiar practices feel like a well-worn pair of jeans—they’re just too comfortable to change to something new. So why bother? Well, for one primary reason: we want to follow the teaching of God’s inerrant Word. If he has given us the authoritative Word that we confess is sufficient for life and practice, then we must take that seriously. Everything that we are and do as a church should be regularly evaluated in light of Holy Scripture.

Yet in evaluating ourselves in light of the Word, and then moving toward change will also likely stir up a few hornets’ nests! We resist change. It battles our pride and comforts, and challenges complacency. Yet we must do so if we’re to be faithful as churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One area receiving a lot of attention in the past few years is the matter of elder plurality leadership in a congregational setting. Maybe you join me in being convinced that plural elder leadership has its roots firmly planted in New Testament practice. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in our congregations hold the same views. So how do we transition from the more typical deacon-led structure to plural elder leadership? Let’s consider five things to remember in this transition.

1. Never take transitions lightly

Old wineskins, to use Jesus’ analogy about the transitions to his kingdom practices from Jewish traditionalism, are not easily parted (Mark 2:21–22). Patterns get firmly set in a congregation’s thinking. They get into a comfort zone that has lulled them into the least effort in exercising thought and making changes. Then suddenly, a pastor calls for a completely different polity. Not only have they given no consideration to such a change but the fact that a pastor suggests it calls into question previous, long-standing decisions. Pride raises its head. Tempers flair. Standards and ideas considered firmly set in concrete feel threatened by replacement.

So don’t take this lightly. Keep in mind three things:

  • Be convinced that Scripture teaches what you’re proposing. In other words, don’t just read a book on elder plurality or see another church doing it and jump into action. Understand what Scripture teaches before you move.
  • Be sensitive to the Spirit’s timing and leadership. Not every idea of transition is ready for daylight at the drop of a hat. Lay a foundation before starting the structure.
  • Be steadfast in prayer. You not only face an educational challenge but also a spiritual battle. The enemy loves nothing more than to divide a church over biblical teaching.
2. Show love and respect for those in the current leadership structure

If you’re leading the transition, show honor where honor is due. Others have gone before you in establishing leadership structures. While you may disagree with their interpretation of Scripture you need to guard against challenging their commitment to Christ. You don’t want to come across as one engaging in guerilla warfare. Honor the office of deacon while laying biblical groundwork toward transitioning the roles of deacons and establishing elder leadership.

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Certainly, this is no small task. I’m recommending that you begin the transition by gently and yet firmly moving the deacons to see their biblical roles as the elevated servants of the church. While all Christians are called to serve, the deacons set the standard—or should. Help them to see this biblical practice so that they relish the opportunity to serve the congregation. In doing so, you seek to avoid an Us v. Them mindset. They are brothers in Christ who may not have been exposed to teaching on biblical church leadership. They need your patient guidance, not pounding, ultimatums, and demands.

3. Start small, then spread to broader circles

When our church transitioned to elder plurality we began with a long process of taking key leaders and working through the Scripture. For about 15 months (not every week!) we slowly walked through every passage in the Bible that dealt with decision-making, leadership, church polity, and biblical offices. Only after that process did we broaden the study with the congregation. Mark Dever, likewise, when leading Capitol Hill Baptist Church toward elder plurality, started with a small group and then gradually worked out with concentric circles of leadership until time to present it to the congregation.

What you’re modeling in the process is reliance upon the sufficiency of Scripture. You’re discipling that small circle in how to faithfully interpret God’s Word. You’re showing through the repetition of walking through the Word the consistency of how biblical polity works and plural elder leadership functions in a congregation. I suggest that you not even begin to introduce church history into the equation until you’ve worked through the Word. I remember one man in the group of seven involved in our discussion that said, when we concluded, “Well, I don’t like it but it’s biblical.” That’s enough for me.

4. Be patient, don’t be a steamroller

My brothers, sometimes we’re so enthused about something that we’ve studied that we presume a few sermons or lessons on the subject will have everyone convinced. In such impatient leadership we may find the church showing us the door. Maybe that’s why Paul told Timothy to preach the word but to do so “with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Yes, you want to see the transition happen. Yes, it will improve your shepherding the congregation. Yes, it will intensify the church’s ministry. Yes, wiser decisions will be made. But that’s still no excuse for impatiently pounding away. Give the congregation time to trust you and your leadership before rushing into polity change.

You will likely have a few setbacks—someone disagrees, another complains, and a few even leave the church. That’s just part of transition in a typical church, particularly when not healthy. Better to work on the church’s health than to change it’s polity in hope that it will change its health. Lay a good biblical foundation in sound doctrine before pressing the biblical teaching on polity. Prioritize the gospel before polity.

You’re not parting the Red Sea in transitioning to elder plurality but you are journeying into biblical territory that may be unfamiliar to the church. There may be negative associations with elders, e.g. another denomination’s elder rule without a congregational framework. You must work through those things patiently.

5. Give attention to the deacons’ service-oriented ministry while adopting elder plurality

In other words, you’re reinforcing that you’re not getting rid of deacons. Yes, some think that’s what’s happening. Instead, explain and illustrate both the congregation’s voice under elder plurality and the deacons’ role as servants. Show how more ministry will happen—better shepherding, more attentive widow care, efficiency in church responsibilities, accountability for the pastoral staff, etc. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have every answer for every potential issue that might arise when you transition. In the same way, you don’t have every answer in the current polity either. But do show them that you’re committed to serving and shepherding them while leading them in grounding church life and leadership in God’s Word.

Plural elder leadership strengthens churches but make sure, as much as possible, that the process toward it doesn’t divide but unites the congregation in affirming the teaching of God’s Word.

The post 5 tips for changing your church’s leadership structure appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog

Pastors don’t just need books, they need mentors

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Fri, 04/27/2018 - 07:00

In the final letter that we have from the apostle Paul, written in a lonely prison cell in Rome while he was expecting death for the sake of the gospel, he reminded his closest friend Timothy of the utter necessity of passing on the faith to “faithful men” (2 Tim. 2:2). It bears noting that what Paul envisaged in these words was not simply doctrinal instruction in the essentials of Christianity. Of course, Paul expected the training of future leaders to involve the handing on of doctrine. But, as is clear from a later statement by Paul in this letter, such transmission of the faith also involved the development of lifelong convictions and goals and the nurture of character — making the leader a person of love, patience, and steadfastness (3:10). Timothy knew exactly what Paul was talking about, for this was the very way the apostle had mentored Timothy.

Timothy had joined Paul’s apostolic band early on in what is termed Paul’s second missionary journey, that is, around 48 or 49 AD (Acts 16:1–3). As he traveled with Paul he saw firsthand what Paul later called his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, and afflictions (2 Tim. 3:10–11). Timothy grew to know and embrace Paul’s theology and doctrinal convictions. He learned that at the heart of all genuinely Christian theology is God: the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. He came to be grounded in the fact that the gospel is centered on the death and resurrection of Christ, the only way that men and women can come into a true and eternally beneficent relationship with this God, the creator of all that exists.

But Timothy also came to follow the way Paul lived, how he made decisions and determined the best use of his time. He learned Paul’s purpose for living, namely, the glorification of God and of His Son, Christ Jesus. Timothy absorbed Paul’s love for the church and compassion for those who were held in the darkness of sin. And he saw the way that Paul responded with patience and perseverance to difficulties and the fact that the apostle did not waver in his commitment to Christ despite persecution and affliction. In short, as Paul and Timothy spent this large amount of time together, Timothy’s soul began to mirror that of Paul, and his mind became increasingly attuned to the wavelengths of the apostle’s thinking (Phil. 2:19–22). This is mentoring.

Pastoral training demands mentoring

Here is a pattern of pastoral training that must again shape the way that teaching takes place in our seminaries. The necessity of training the mind naturally requires academic excellence. But as seminary professors, our task is not finished when we walk out of the classroom. We need to get to know our students — their joys and heartaches, their hopes, aspirations, and concerns. They need to get to know us — our goals in life, our passions, and even our weaknesses. And this can only be done, if we, like Paul with Timothy, walk with them and they with us. This sort of theological education demands a transparency of soul and a knitting together of hearts, as well as the kindling of flame in the mind. In a very real sense, this sort of theological education and mentoring is patterned on the incarnation.

The great challenge, of course, in this way of incarnational mentoring is that it takes time. For many professors, time seems to be such a scarce commodity. I vividly recall some thirty years ago when I was doing doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, being told by Dr. Richard Longenecker, then my New Testament professor and in some ways a mentor to me, that if I thought I was busy in the doctoral program, just wait until I was teaching. I didn’t believe him, but he was right. Most seminary professors are busy men: teaching in seminary and in the church, as well as seeking to maintain an academic career and be fathers and husbands, sons, and friends. Where will we ever find the time to mentor as Paul did?

Part of Southern’s founding vision

Three years before Basil Manly Jr., one of the four founding faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, committed himself to the task of being a seminary professor in 1859, he stated that the “cause of theological education is one dearer to me than almost any other and I esteem no sacrifice too great for its promotion.” The sacrifices that especially he, James Petigru Boyce, and John Broadus were called upon to make for this seminary are well-known. Most seminary professors today are not called to walk such a road of sacrifice as those men were, but I am convinced that something of the spirit that animated Manly’s words must grip us.

Today, more than in the past, we are aware of the very real danger of our ministries crowding out other areas of vital importance — our devotion to wife and children, for example. Thus, while we cannot echo Manly’s sentiments without some qualification, we can nevertheless affirm the key point he was seeking to make. Leadership in the church is so important that we should be prepared to go to great lengths to see future leaders of the church trained. And that training, if it is to be biblical, must involve mentoring à la Paul! This will, of necessity, take time. But, from the point of view of eternity, it will be time well spent.

Editors’ note: This article was originally published by Tabletalk.

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Categories: Seminary Blog

4/26/2018 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Nathan Paugh

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Thu, 04/26/2018 - 13:19
Graduating senior, Nathan Paugh, delivers his senior sermon from Matthew 6:5-8. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

4/25/18 DBTS Chapel: Senior Sermon – Aaron Berry

Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary - Wed, 04/25/2018 - 15:44
Graduating senior, Aaron Berry, delivers his senior sermon from Philippians 2:12-13. Download and subscribe to our Podcasts here
Categories: Seminary Blog

How Are We to Treat Our Neighbors in Christ?

Southwestern Seminary - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 09:30

One of the major problems in ministry is disunity. The little things in church fellowships can destroy relationships with our neighbors. Misunderstood statements can produce resentments. Ministries that go unrecognized can cause hurt feelings. Cliques often form that exclude and alienate others. Busy schedules bring about irritations. Envying the positions of others can lead to jealousy. Disagreements can lead to divisions. In Romans 15:2-13, the Bible provides an answer to these inconveniences and irritations with our neighbors.

The apostle Paul wrote Romans around A.D. 57–58 from Corinth near the close of his third missionary journey. Paul wrote this letter to present the Gospel to a church he had neither started nor visited in preparation for a visit to Rome and a missionary journey to Spain (cf. Romans 1:10, 13; 15:22–25). More importantly, however, the apostle conveyed the message, in keeping with the Gospel, that no distinction exists in God’s impartial judicial administration.[1] The law condemns everyone, and yet all who believe—Jew and Gentile—are justified by faith through the Gospel (Romans 1–11). In light of Romans 1–11, Paul then provoked all justified believers—Jew and Gentile—to accept one another in the body of Christ (Romans 12–16). Put simply, though all stand condemned before God (cf. Romans 3:22), everyone can be saved through faith in Christ (Romans 1:16), and the fact that God plays no favorites in salvation should provoke us to accept one another in the church.

Problems existed, however, between saved Jews and Gentiles in the church (cf. Romans 14:1–5). They were not getting along well with one another. On the one hand, Jewish converts (the “weak,” overscrupulous in faith) were clinging to some practices (not eating meat and observing various religious sacrifices and holy days) that were not necessary to observe once they came to faith in Christ—as far as the full comprehension of God’s grace in Jesus is concerned. On the other hand, Gentiles (the “strong”) felt free to eat anything and did not observe the holy days. Needless to say, conflict ensued. The disagreements over these issues hampered unity in the church body, and the effects of this disunity might also have hindered the church’s advance of the Gospel and Paul’s missionary plans if he did not intervene.

In Romans 14:4–9, Paul addressed these Christians as the “household slaves” (οἰκέτης) of God.[2] He had strong words for them: “Who are you who judges another’s household slave? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). In other words, your brother in Christ is a household slave in God’s house—not in yours—and he must answer to God, his master—not to you (Romans 14:9–12). Paul further admonished these believers not to disparage one another nor to cause a brother to stumble in his faith (cf. Romans 14:13). He taught that we are to relate to our neighbors in Christ by recognizing that we are the Lord’s household slaves.

So, in Romans 15, the climactic chapter of the letter, Paul exhorted the Roman church to treat their neighbors in specific ways. First, he exhorted that, as the Lord’s household slaves, we are to “please” our neighbor for our neighbor’s good because this fits the pattern of our master (15:2–4). Each of us is to “please” his neighbor. We do not indulge our neighbor’s every whim, but rather, we please our neighbor “for his good, to his edification” (v. 2). The goal of pleasing our neighbors in Christ is to “build them up” in the faith, not to be critical and tear them down. Paul explained that even Christ did not please Himself, because He took upon Himself our reproaches (citing Psalm 69:9, v. 3). He then justified the Old Testament quotation he used in verse 3 by pointing to the Old Testament’s purpose mentioned in verse 4: it provides hope.

Second, Paul prayed that God would grant the church’s members (slaves in the Lord’s household) the power to live in harmony with one another (15:5–6). He asked that God may grant them to “think the same thing” so that “with one accord” and “with one mouth” they may glorify the Father of “our” Lord. Only through the Lord’s enablement can people who are different and at enmity with one another live in unity.

Third, Paul commanded that, as the Lord’s household slaves, we are to “accept” one another as Christ accepted us (15:7–13). Jesus again is the comparison. The Lord had accepted Jews and Gentiles in salvation; so, both groups also needed to receive others cordially and in full Christian fellowship. To illustrate further, Paul cited the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 18:49; 117:1; Isaiah 11:1, 10) to point out that the Gentiles were now included along with Jews in the church (vv. 9–12), and then he ended with prayer for the church to be filled with joy and peace (v. 13). Just as Christ forgave our sin and accepted us with all of our faults and idiosyncrasies, we also need to accept others in the church.

Some appropriate verses with which to close are Romans 12:1–2. They act as a bridge, linking chapters 1–11 with 12–16, and serve not as a call to individual spiritual dedication, but rather to corporate unity:

I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living, holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (12:1–2).

In light of God’s mercies, Paul exhorted Jewish and Gentile believers to present their “bodies” (plural) as a “living, holy sacrifice” (singular). The “reasonable service” for the justified is to be a single, corporate, holy sacrifice to God. Let us also glorify the Lord in such a way so as to live in unity in our churches as “many members in one body” (Romans 12:3–8) and together advance the Gospel around the world!

[1]My friend and former colleague Alan Tomlinson shared with me many years ago this understanding of Romans, which I also came to embrace and teach.
[2]All Bible translations in this article are my own. The HCSB and the newer CSB are the only translations I know of that correctly render οἰκέτης in Romans 14:4 as “household slave.”

Categories: Seminary Blog

4 ways doctrine impacts every day of my life (and why the church needs it)

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:00

Recently I was in a restaurant and a Bible study group was meeting at a nearby table. The leader had a voice that carried, so I could have heard a good portion of the study, but the first thing I heard him say so captured my attention that I missed the rest of it. He said, “I love non-denominational churches because doctrine is not life-giving.”

I will set aside the comment about non-denominational churches not having doctrine for another day. It was the other half of the sentence that knocked me out of my chair. “Doctrine is not life-giving.” I cannot think of anything more life-giving than sound doctrine.

“Doctrine” is a biblical word and the Apostle Paul shows us that sound doctrine is a good thing we should embrace. After all, “doctrine” refers to teaching and “sound” means something is healthy. Sound doctrine is a shorthand way of saying that teaching is healthy and good for us. This means it corresponds to what is true about God, life, and the world.

Sound doctrine is good for followers of Jesus. We need to know the truth, which means we must study the truth.

Here are three reasons you should commit to understanding good theology.

1. Study theology for your knowledge of God

Every relationship is based on knowing and understanding each other. Since God knows and understands us perfectly, it is imperative for us to continue learning about who he is. Thankfully, God revealed everything we need to know about him in the Scriptures.

When we read and study theology, we come to a better grasp of God’s personal attributes and how he interacts with the world. We see how God revealed himself in the past through encounters with men and women in Scripture. For example, when he passed by Moses in Exodus 34, he proclaimed about himself, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” You cannot learn that about God by looking at a sunset. Also, think about his interactions with Job in the closing chapters of the book that bears his name. There, we learn that God is all powerful, has no competitors, yet is gracious and restores those who have been broken.

God also reveals his character through the teaching of the apostles and prophets. When we read Jeremiah 2 or Romans 8:28-39, we hear men inspired by the Spirit testifying to the attributes of the God who revealed himself to them. We learn about the justice, mercy, love, providence, sovereignty, righteousness, and grace of God from these letters and speeches.

In addition to reading the Scriptures, studying theology means reading books by solid authors who help us to better understand the Scriptures. While some might object to this as “the teachings of men,” if they shed light on the truth about God, good books are a chance to learn about our Father from brothers or sisters who have been walking with Jesus and studying the Bible longer and in greater depth than we have been.

2. Study theology for your growth in grace

Too often, Christian pit theological teaching against “practical” teaching. We know the problems we face in our lives and think that theology is ivory tower thinking that has little to do with solving real problems. We imagine that we can get the help we need for our lives from the Bible while avoiding the difficult thinking that comes along with theology.

The difficulty we run into is that most of the solutions to our “practical” problems are rooted in theological truths. How do you know how to love difficult people? The Bible tells us that we learn this by walking in love “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”(Ephesians 5:2) Paul roots something as practical as love in something as deeply theological as Jesus’ substitutionary death for us.

Paul does this in other ways as well. When he wants to show husbands how to love their wives, he points again to the death of Jesus. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) To show Christians why they should put sin to death, Paul reminds Christians of their union with Christ. (Romans 6:1-14) When he encourages Christians to forgive, he announces that God forgave them. (Ephesians 4:32)Theology is crucial to practical Christian living.

3. Study theology for your gospel conversations

We want to see the gospel go forward and for more people to hear about and believe in Jesus. This means that we need to have more conversations about the gospel with people who do not yet believe. How are we going to have these conversations if we do not know and understand theology?

There was a popular “Christian” song in the late 1990’s titled, “Jesus Saves.” The gist of the song was that we don’t need to confuse people with weighty theology. We just need to tell them that “Jesus saves.” Sounds simple enough, but what if they ask “Who is Jesus?” or “What does Jesus save me from?” Now you find yourself in a theological conversation and you need good answers to those questions.

Many conversations about the gospel with people who don’t believe will involve dealing with objections to the gospel message. You can answer these questions superficially or you can do the hard work of helping people to get to the root of their doubts. Every objection to the gospel involves some aspect of theology. If they object that hell is cruel, you’ll need to talk about the holiness and justice of God. If someone wants to know why he can’t just be a good person, you’ll have to explain the righteousness of Christ and salvation by faith alone. These are theological discussions, but they make a deep impact.

4. Studying theology led to my conversion

I was a youth pastor when I realized I needed to be saved. To make a long story short, I made a profession of faith at a youth camp in middle school, immediately ran back to the things of the world, and through a series of difficult events started going to church again. I fell in love with the Bible and was convinced I should be a pastor.

While I was a theology student at a Christian college and a youth pastor at a local church, I started to doubt the reality of my profession of faith. Through this, I started reading about sin, salvation by faith alone, election, and the new birth. I came under intense conviction and slowly realized that I had never been saved.

The night it all came to a head, I asked myself what I would say to God if I stood before him on the last day. My answer started with everything I had tried to do in his name. In my heart, I realized my answer was rooted in a trust in my own righteousness and called upon Christ alone to save me.

Memorizing 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:8-10 and thinking about important theological issues through the lens of my own crisis of faith led to my conversion. No one will ever convince me that theology is not important, soul-saving, or life-giving.

Theology is simply the way that we explain who God is, who we are, what is wrong with the world, what God has done to redeem us, and the future hope we look forward to. Studying and understanding theology will give every Christian a deeper love for God, a stronger walk with him, a greater love for the people around us, a stronger commitment to our local church, and an increased confidence in the message of the gospel as we talk to people who need to hear it.

The post 4 ways doctrine impacts every day of my life (and why the church needs it) appeared first on Southern Equip.

Categories: Seminary Blog


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