Today's From the Seminaries includes items from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Burk to lead Center for Gospel & Culture at Boyce
By Aaron Cline Hanbury
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) -- Boyce College dean Dan DeWitt has announced the formation of a new academic center for cultural engagement -- the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College, to be led by New Testament scholar and ethicist Denny Burk, a member of the Boyce faculty since 2008.
DeWitt sees the role of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as preparing and equipping the coming generation of church leaders to engage the culture around them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"This is the Christian's task," DeWitt said. "As the famous apologist Francis Schaeffer said, each generation has to articulate the Gospel in the language of the culture. At Boyce, we have a great faculty, all of whom view their disciplines through a Gospel-lens. They write books and preach and teach the Gospel all the time. And our students experience this Gospel focus in every class.
"My prayer is that the Center for Gospel and Culture will coalesce our faculty's energy in a way that services the church and engages the culture," DeWitt said.
DeWitt described Burk as the "right man" to lead the effort.
"Through his influential books and a widely popular blog, he has already proven to be a clear voice in analyzing political and cultural events through a Gospel-lens," DeWitt said.
For Burk, the timing of the center is crucial and strategic, as the cultural environment grows increasingly secular.
"Christians find themselves today living in the midst of a culture that in many ways is set against a biblical worldview," said Burk, author of a recent book about sexual ethics, "What is the Meaning of Sex?"
"This clash is not merely an academic debate but in very real ways presents a practical challenge to believers and their churches. How can Christians bear witness to Christ when they find themselves in the minority? Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical movement are facing real conflicts over religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage and a host of other concerns.
"With the Center for Gospel and Culture, we plan to bring the Gospel to bear upon these issues and to be a resource for those who are trying to be faithful to Christ in a decadent culture. The Bible says that the sons of Issachar were men who understood the times and who knew what the people of God were to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). In many ways, that is what we hope to accomplish -- to help believers understand the times and to point the way forward based on God's Word," he said.
The center is funded by the late Hazel L. Bishop, a benefactor and longtime supporter of the seminary.
"I see the Center for Gospel and Culture serving those on the frontlines of Gospel ministry in two ways," DeWitt said. "First, our hope is that through special events, like seminars and forums with guest speakers, the center will inspire and equip the students of Boyce College for future ministry. Second, we want to serve pastors, missionaries and leaders already on the frontlines through the resources such as articles that apply the Gospel to contemporary cultural issues."
DeWitt plans for the Center for Gospel and Culture to launch its website -- featuring digital resources such as videos and articles as well as a blog -- and begin hosting on-campus seminars this spring.
Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Patterson prepares students for spiritual war
By Alex Sibley
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- "Welcome to the war."
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson greeted new students with this startling statement during his spring convocation chapel message Jan. 23.
"Unknown to you," Patterson said, "on the day that you registered for classes, there was, on your back, a target. Satan determined from that point that he would disrupt your life. That he would cause you difficulty, sorrow and heartache. ... Around every corner, Satan will be watching. He will do everything he can to take you away. You are walking into danger."
Patterson's sermon was the first in a 12-part series titled, "Walking toward Danger: Why a person should use caution when entering the ministry."
"I will, in the first five messages, introduce you to the officers in your unit," Patterson said. "These are the ones who walk point as you walk behind into the battles that you will fight throughout your ministry. And having introduced you to the five officers that are a part of your unit and that will be there as your guides, then we're going to actually walk into the woods of conflict and find out in the remaining seven messages what it is that we are facing and how we as born-again believers should respond to that."
Preaching from Galatians 3, the first "officer" to which Patterson introduced students was the law.
"There are two kinds of law," Patterson said. "There is law that is perfect -- and that is God's law -- and there is man's law, which is a study in convention and in bad law."
From the text, Patterson derived three reasons the law exists. The first, from verse 19, is because of transgressions.
"Because it turned out that we were a lawless breed, God gave a law," Patterson said. "The law that God has given in His Word is a reflection of His person.... The law is given to you so you can see the magnitude of the glorious righteousness of God and know that you can never live up to that status."
Additionally, Patterson said, the law guards sinners as a restraint from evil as well as from personal destruction.
"God has hedged a safe pasture for you; it's called the law," Patterson said. "And as long as you live within the law, you will enjoy the blessings of God. But tunnel through the fence and get on the outside and, inevitably, you will encounter the sorrows of life that follow in lawlessness."
Verse 24 reveals the final reason for the law's existence -- the law serves as, in Patterson's words, "a schoolmaster."
"It brings us," Patterson said, "taking us by the hand, showing us our own inadequacy, revealing to us the greatness of God, and says, 'Come and follow me.'"
In addition to Patterson's sermon, the convocation included the introduction of two newly-elected faculty members, Scott Aniol and Dean Sieberhagen, as well as two new presidential faculty appointees, Paul Gould and Stephen Mizell.
Alex Sibley is a newswriter for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). To download, watch, or listen to sermons from Patterson's "Walking toward Danger" series, visit www.swbts.edu/chapelseries.
Presentation to Southern Baptists highlights opening chapel
By Tim Sweetman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MBTS) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's spring convocation service was highlighted by a special presentation to a Southern Baptist Convention executive and a challenging message to the seminary community.
In an intentional effort to express gratitude to the people of the SBC for their faithful support of Midwestern Seminary through their Cooperative Program giving, President Jason K. Allen presented Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, a special memento Jan. 14.
A large placard signed by many from the Midwestern Seminary community thanked Page and faithful Southern Baptists for their sacrificial giving to Midwestern Seminary in the year 2013.
During the presentation Allen read the message: "On behalf of the entire Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary family, thank you Southern Baptists for your generous and sacrificial financial support through the Cooperative Program, totaling $4,284,382.50 in the year 2013, thus enabling us to train pastors, ministers and missionaries for the church."
He added, "We fully appreciate what Southern Baptists have done and are doing. We realize that if they were not standing with us, our tuition would be between two and three times greater than what it is now. I want to make sure we say loudly and frequently 'please' and 'thank you' to Southern Baptists."
In launching the new semester, Allen noted that the day was one of pageantry, pomp and circumstance, but such a service also allows for a time to revisit and recommit to "first things," namely first priorities, presuppositions, convictions and aspirations as a seminary.
"As a seminary, we labor for the church, and especially for Southern Baptist churches," Allen said. "We do so under an Ephesians 4 mandate --knowing that Christ has given the church pastors, teachers and evangelists for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ."
Transitioning to his message, Allen spoke from 2 Timothy 2:1-7 on the subject "Entrust These Things." He pointed out that any faithful and healthy seminary holds a covenant in a multiplicity of areas.
The first type of covenant is that of the denomination with which the seminary is serving.
"We are in covenant with our denomination, and that covenant is legal and formal," Allen said. "It gives us binding and unremitting oversight, but it is also moral in that beyond the letter of the expectation we seek to fulfill the spirit of it."
That covenant and trust also goes beyond the denomination and includes the churches that make up the denomination.
"It is also a covenant we share, not merely with the denomination in a formal sense, but most especially with the churches that comprise our convention -- the churches we serve," Allen said. "We seek to train pastors, teachers, ministers and evangelists for these churches. Not the churches we desire to serve or wish we served, but the churches we serve -- these very churches. We serve with their needs, their desires and their expectations on the forefront of our minds."
Allen said the covenant includes what is taught at the seminary, which is in accordance to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. More than that, he said the seminary is held to a particular standard about how it teaches its students.
"We do so with clear consciences because we do so without mental reservation or hesitation," Allen said. "As you study here, you know what you can expect to learn and be taught. Not only what we instruct, but there is a covenantal relationship to how we instruct. We believe in 'life-on-life.' We are not clinically teaching anonymous people. Rather, we are training real men and real women for real service and for real ministry."
This training and trust, Allen said, is incredibly important in an age of cultural decline.
"We see doctrinal decay all around, and we see possible forfeiture of the Gospel itself. So verse-after-verse Paul is like one slinging a sledge hammer again and again and again -- driving home the seriousness of the Gospel, the power of the Scripture, the majesty of the call to ministry and the solemn importance of this stewardship of the Gospel, and especially to defend it and to transmit it to the next generation," Allen said.
"This whole idea of entrusting something is increasingly rare in our days," he added. "We live in a world that has a deficit of trust, a deficit of trustworthiness and a deficit of entrustment."
In the passage the Apostle Paul is specifically talking about entrusting his young disciple Timothy with the Gospel, Allen said, and this is exactly what Midwestern Seminary is doing with its students.
"We desire to implant within you much more than the Gospel, but nothing less, an ability to defend the Gospel, a deeper belief in the Gospel and a deeper passion about the Gospel," Allen said. "Any form of theological education that is not enriching one's belief in the Gospel, one's passion about the Gospel and one's zeal for the Gospel is a faulty mode of theological education."
Allen referenced his college experience, where he had a steady diet of professors attempting to discredit the Bible and the Gospel. He said the experience made it difficult for him to find an intellectual home, and he constantly had to "chew on the meat and spit out the bones" after classes. In contrast, he said Midwestern Seminary should provide an intellectual home for its students -- one where they don't have to fear any attacks on the Gospel.
"Whether you are a first-year undergraduate student or are in the finishing stages of your Ph.D. program, you know who we are," he said. "We will not undermine you faith; we will strengthen it. We are committed to this body of learning and truth. You can trust this institutional staff because they are theologically trustworthy. Do not take that for granted. It is not always the case in many places."
Allen also emphasized a personal responsibility for students to be faithful as they hold true to the Gospel ministry entrusted to them -- a Gospel that they should be faithfully sharing with the world.
"You are a part of a trans-generational relaying of the faith that we seek to undertake faithfully until Jesus returns. Clearly Paul is conscious of that, and clearly so must we be," he said.
Concluding his message, Allen referenced the Olympic torch marathon, where multiple runners pass the torch across many miles until it is spectacularly lit during the Olympics' opening ceremony.
"We are torch bearers -- Gospel, biblical torch bearers," Allen said. "We stand in the stead of Paul, Peter, Augustine, Athanasius, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon, Broadus, Lloyd Jones, Criswell, Rogers and 1,000 other names. But here in this time and place, we get to receive that torch and pass it on. Let's be found faithful to it."
Tim Sweetman is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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