Reports from three seminary convocations follow.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Mohler challenges students to pursue faithful obedience
By Craig Sanders
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Neglecting personal discipleship for the purpose of seminary studies is nothing short of disobedience, Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Jan. 29 in his 40th convocation since assuming Southern's presidency in 1993.
Mohler delivered a sermon, "The Obedience of Faith," from Romans 16:25-27, the epistle's benediction. Noting the inspired mixture of doxology and benediction in the verses, Mohler explained "the mystery of Christian worship is that which glorifies God most pristinely, blesses us most powerfully."
The doxological portion of that passage centers on God's exclusive ability to strengthen believers in faith. Mohler pointed out that, if not for this ability, there would be no one in attendance at Southern Seminary's Alumni Chapel.
Mohler focused his message primarily on the apostle Paul's reference to "the obedience of faith," which he identifies as the intended result of "the command of the eternal God."
"The command of the Gospel is the command to believe," Mohler said, noting how this command is contrary to cultural desires that faith remain merely an intellectual option. Lack of faith, however, is disobedience to God's command.
On the other hand, "faith produces a life of obedience," Mohler said, referencing Eugene H. Peterson's illustration of faith as a "long obedience in the same direction."
Mohler then challenged the perception that time in seminary is primarily a means of education, rather than spiritual edification.
"One of the most dangerous things we could imagine is that the time we spend in a school like this would be an interregnum in terms of our Christian responsibility and discipleship," said Mohler, defining interregnum as a period of transition before full-time ministry that neglects wholehearted spiritual devotion.
"Your time in seminary is not about what you come to know but who you come to be," he said, emphasizing that obedience is central to every area of life, including one's own personal relationships.
Returning to the doxology in Paul's exhortation in Romans 16, Mohler reminded the chapel audience of the only means by which obedience can be accomplished. "Our obedience of faith is not because we are capable but because He is able," he said. "It is to the glory of the only wise God through Jesus Christ."
Before his address, Mohler spoke briefly about the Abstract of Principles, the defining document in the seminary's history. He then introduced Heath B. Lambert, a member the seminary's Boyce College faculty since 2008, who signed the abstract, which contains the signatures of the institution's founders. Lambert is the third Boyce faculty member elected to tenure.
Lambert also serves as executive director-elect of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors and is author of "Biblical Counseling After Adams" and co-author of "Counseling the Hard Cases."
Craig Sanders is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
MIDWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Allen emphasizes "indivisible union" between churches & seminaries
By T. Patrick Hudson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jason K. Allen preached his first convocation service as president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Allen, in his Jan. 29 message, noted that while the day was certainly one of pageantry, pomp and circumstance, such a service holds a much deeper significance.
"All of the pageantry of a convocation service reasserts our fundamental beliefs; it restates our core values and convictions; it also reminds us that this is a day of consecration -- to rededicate ourselves to God's task and ask for God's blessings on students, staff and faculty," Allen said.
Transitioning to his message, Allen spoke from Matthew 16:13-20 on the subject "For the Church: Theological Education and the Future of Midwestern Seminary." There is simply no way to think of the seminary and not think of the local church, he said; they are a co-mingled subject.
"There should be an indivisible union of interconnectedness between the seminary and the church," Allen said, noting, "For the seminary to know its mission, it must first look to the church and the church's charter -- Matthew 16."
Within the relationship between the seminaries and local churches, Allen said both institutions are currently in states of crises. Many seminaries in America are experiencing crises of funding, identity, mission and a lack of accountability to the church. At the same time, many local churches are experiencing stagnancy, weak leadership, shallow sermons, apathy and a lack of young men aspiring to the pastorate.
Matthew 16, Allen said, depicts a similar scene to today's circumstances -- a seemingly insurmountable task, but one for which Christ gives His followers confidence that His church will be built, will persist, and that His people will not be without a remnant.
The first major movement in this passage, Allen stated, is that the church will be built upon truth. In verse 16 when Peter declared, "You are the Son of the living God," a clear understanding of the truth of who Christ is revealed. For this understanding, Allen said Jesus praised Peter because He knew that this insight only came from divine revelation by the Holy Spirit.
From this, Allen said the first way the seminary serves the church is by teaching the truth of Scripture. Speaking of the liberalism that has overtaken modern-day seminaries, he said this liberalism has occurred at the expense of the local church.
A negative interpretation of Scripture, however, will not be a hallmark of Midwestern, Allen said. "We are a people who are committed to our confessional accountability to this denomination; we are committed to the local church, the pastorate, to training, encouraging and nurturing that call within our students."
The second movement of the passage, Allen said, is that the church labors with confidence. Jesus said in verse 18, "I will build my church ... and the gates of hell will not overcome it." Allen said Christ's great concern is the building of His church; it is His top priority.
Christ is going about this task by "calling out pastors, evangelists and teachers to labor in the building of His church," Allen said. "This is all for the building up of the body of Christ.
"My job as president is to assemble a team of faculty, administrators and staff to create a culture on this campus that starts at the top and trickles down with a deep and abiding love to serve the church," Allen said. Their job, then, is then to train up students for the pastorate, mission field, evangelism, to teach or do other ministry -- to send them out and "watch Christ build His church through them and rejoice and relish His great work!"
The third movement of the passage occurs in verse 19 and speaks to the purity of the church, which is key to understanding theological education. "As leaders of Midwestern, we have the responsibility to create an environment that trickles down that sense of holiness and purity for the church," Allen said.
Allen, in concluding, offered several application points about Midwestern's commitment to the local church.
"We will intentionally nurture a culture on campus that cherishes, loves, values and esteems the church. It is attitudinal and intentional," he said. Every decision, he said, will be made with the thought, "How does it serve the church?"
Underscoring a robust commitment to the Great Commission and having a heart for revival in the church, Allen said, "This is a glorious task to which we have been called.
"Everything we aspire to do is predicated upon the local church. That's my vision. I trust it's our vision."
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
SOUTHWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Patterson starts sermon series on Isaiah at spring convocation
By Keith Collier
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary launched its spring semester with convocation in MacGorman Chapel Jan. 24. The chapel service also featured the first message in President Paige Patterson's annual spring sermon series. This year's series, titled "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow," will examine the life and writings of the prophet Isaiah.
"I believe is my favorite book in the Bible," Patterson said. "It's unbelievable that 700 years before Christ, a man would see with precision all of those events that would relate to the birth , the sinless life, the ultimate judgment of God on the human family through His death on the cross, His resurrection, His ascension and ultimately His return.
"Literally, Isaiah not only saw the time of Christ coming 700 years later," Patterson said, "but he more than any other prophet in the Old Testament looks across the years and sees the message of the reigning King on the millennial earth and tells us about that situation."
Preaching from Isaiah 1:1-20, Patterson likened the spiritual apathy and pending judgment in Judah during Isaiah's time to the same condition in the United States today. Yet, as Isaiah 1:18-20 says, the Lord offers grace and forgiveness to those who turn to Him.
Prior to his sermon, Patterson had all new students stand as he continued a tradition set in motion by Robert Naylor, the seminary's fifth president, more than 50 years ago.
"It is my responsibility and great joy as president of the seminary," Patterson said, "to pronounce you officially 'Southwesterners' and to tell you that it is better to be dead than to ever dishonor that name. But it would be better to have never been born than to dishonor the name of Christ. So I charge you today as a Southwesterner to determine in your heart and mind and soul that you will serve the Lord and Him only, yielding to none of the temptations that are characteristic of our age, but that you will uphold the sweet name of Jesus and its ability to save wherever you go and wherever you serve."
Two newly elected professors signed the seminary's book of confessional heritage, indicating their agreement to teach in accordance with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Christopher Teichler, associate professor of music theory and composition in the school of church music, and Michael Wilkinson, assistant professor of Bible in the College at Southwestern.
Richard Serrano, president of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Venezuela, performed special music during the service. He played a cuatro guitar and sang in Spanish.
To watch Patterson's opening sermon in his series on Isaiah, go to swbts.edu/chapelarchives.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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