Albert Mohler and Southern Seminary: A Word of Thanksgiving

I know Thanksgiving is a month away, but I cannot help but give thanks today for the impact Southern Seminary and Albert Mohler have had on me. This week marks President Mohler’s twentieth anniversary at Southern Seminary, and the folks there have put together an excellent twenty-five minute video chronicling the journey of this great school.

I cannot begin to express how much Southern Seminary and its president, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, have had on me. For the last nine years, Southern has invested pearls of wisdom and truckloads of biblical gold into my heart and life. So great is Southern’s impact on me, there’s not a day that goes by which I do not think of Southern, its faculty, my peers, and the truths I learned there.  Continue reading

An Appreciation for the Erudition and Evangelism of Stephen Wellum

Today, the CredoMag blog posted a link to the faculty address given by my friend and mentor, scholastic supervisor and former Sunday School teacher, Stephen Wellum.  The faculty address concerns the biblical-theological implications of Christ’s priesthood and New Covenant mediation on the extent of the atonement and Baptist ecclesiology.  This is an extrapolation of his larger biblical-theological work with Peter Gentry, Kingdom Through Covenantthat Justin Taylor linked to yesterday: Covenants in Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Let me encourage you to check out his lecture and to read the appreciation that Matt Barrett and I wrote up for one of many gifted professors at Southern Seminary.

You can read the whole thing here.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

The Briefing: Albert Mohler’s New Podcast

“In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15).

Part of the Christian’s responsibility is to give a defense of the gospel to anyone who asks.  This is the task of evangelism–proclaiming the good news of the hope we have in Christ–and the task of Christian apologetics–making a defense of the faith in a world of competing worldviews.

The challenge for most hurried Christians is finding ways to keep up to date on current events that threaten Christianity.  Likewise, finding biblical answers to the problems posed by these attacks can be daunting.  How should we cultivate our Christian worldview in a world that aims to erode our faith and that denies Truth?

Enter Albert Mohler.  Dr. Mohler is the president of Southern Seminary who has spent more than 20 years defending the faith in public forums.  Recently, his nationally syndicated radio program came to an end, but in its place he has begun producing a daily podcast that looks to be incredibly helpful for thinking Christians and those involved in Christianity ministry.  It is called The Briefing, and it is a 10 minute program devoted to helping Christians think biblically about current events.

In the last week, I have benefitted immensely from its contents.  I encourage you to check it out.  Subscribe to it on iTunes or just stop by Mohler’s website to find illuminating commentary on all the things you will find pressing against Christianity in the news.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Better Way to do Church Missions

David Prince and Jeremy Haskins, pastors at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, were recently interviewed in The Towers at Southern Seminary.  They were asked to describe their leadership philosophies and how they have led change at their church.  Their interview is steeped with wisdom, but one section concerning corporate, Gospel-centered ministry stood out.

“A lot of people do ministry in a way that self-consciously segments the entire congregation,” Prince said. “What we try to do is never allow that. If these things matter to the congregation as a whole for the sake of the Gospel then we are all committed to them.

“For example, when we send a mission team out, we don’t say that we are sending a certain group of people out on a mission trip. We say, ‘Ashland Avenue Baptist Church is involved in this mission trip. Some people have involvement here and some have involvement there; the people there are our eyes, hands and mouths for the Gospel.’”

Well said!  May our churches adopt such a “together for the gospel” mindset.  Moreover, may we have a united missional drive that sees whole churches involved in Christ’s mission, so that ‘missions’ is what everyone does, not just those who are leaving American soil.

Until All Hear, dss

Doctoral Reading List: The Mountain and the Molehill

The Mountain: A Systematic Reading List

Standing in his study, talking about doctoral studies, Southern Seminary professor Dr. Mark Seifrid commented that the doctoral degree is much like climbing a mountain.  In every discipline, there is a mountain of scholarly literature that must be traversed.  It is the academic responsibility of every student to summit that mountain.  Standing at the base of that mountain with sparse climbing gear in hand, I am daunted by the task. 

So walking by faith, and not by sight, I have uploaded a new page on Via Emmaus that lists the systematic reading list at Southern.  I include this page in order to record comments about these resources as I study and to share with others who are interested in theological studies.  Its intent is to help me catalog thoughts about the material as I go through, and I hope it may help others who love God and enjoy theology.

A little explanation of the list:  First of all, I cannot take credit for its compilation, that goes to the systematic professors at Southern Seminary.  It is the comprehensive examination list of books for which every doctoral student is responsible.  It is sub-divided according to theological loci, and it contains some of the best reading material in each area of systematic theology.  It is not a beginners list, but if you are looking for detailed works in an area of theology, this is a good starting place.   I hope to update these lists over time and to include more basic works.  Stay tuned.

The Molehill: A Selection of Evaluative Comments and Summaries on Selected Resources

The Molehill is simply my attempt at climbing the mountain.  In the months to come, I hope to add notes and comments evaluating these various resources and others.  More extended interaction will take place in blog posts; while links to the books will be found on the doctoral reading page, as well as, links to reviews of the materials.  But, I hope that, this is not a individual endeavor…

I would love to hear your comments about any of these works (and/or others) and their benefits or dangers to the church and the study of the Bible.  Maybe you are thinking about doctoral studies.  If so, I would encourage you to read John Stackhouse’s blog, “Thinking about a PhD?”  which has some great evaluative questions and to pray.  Even as I begin, I am reminded that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).  I pray that your theology and mine will fuel our love for Jesus, for the church, for one another, and for the lost.

To see the reading list check out “The Mountain and the Molehill.”

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Bulls, Birds, and Bugs: Financial Aid from the Forest and the Field

When not going to school, reading, studying, preaching, or blogging, I am helping students with financial aid at Southern Seminary.  This is my full time work, Supervisor of Student Resources, and today I had the pleasure of addressing more than 100 prospective students and their families about financing seminary.  Sharing financial aid nuts and bolts, I tried to frame the presentation with four biblical truths about financial aid.  Considering the current economic uncertainty in the world, I sought to encourage those called to ministry to lift their eyes to heavens from which their help comes from (Ps. 127:1).  You can call it, “Financial aid during a time of financial uncertainty,” or “Bulls, Birds, and Bugs: Financial Aid from the Forest and the Field.”  Let me share them with you briefly.

First, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Psalm 50:10-11 reads, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.  I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.”  The underlining truth that grounds our confidence as Christians, is that God is sovereign.  In terms of financial provision, we can trust that all the earth is his and the fullness thereof (cf. Ps. 24:1).  At any time, our Sovereign God can appropriate, reallocate, or liquidate his “stock.”  Regardless of how the Nasdaq or the Dow fare, God’s economy is always good, and he will care for his own.  So as you consider your financial need at this time, be reminded that God owns it all and will provide exactly what you need when you need it.

Second, the birds of the air doing just fine. In Matthew 6:24-26, Jesus confronts anxiety caused by the question of means, when he says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing.  Look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?” 

God’s word teaches us that God cares about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and if he does, Jesus says, we need not worry about our provision.  He cares significantly more about those who bear his image, than the bird who fly today and fall tomorrow.  Jesus goes on, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).  For those who are called to ministry, it is imperative that we learn to trust God for his provision.  God affords us this learning tank as we prepare for seminary.  Therefore, in a time of financial uncertainty, God gives us the opportunity to learn contentment (cf. Phil. 4:11-13, 19) and to trust him for provision as we train theologically. 

Since we know the end of the story, a new heavens and a new earth with fields aplenty, we can gladly walk through the unsettled middle. 

Third, God’s timing is perfect, so don’t be a horse or a mule.  In Psalm 32:8-9, God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you wit my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” 

In the Christian life and in ministry, it is essential to learn that while God is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, he does so in ways and in days that we may not expect–or want (cf. Isa. 55:8-9).  I did not anticipate that my seminary career would take four and a half years to complete, but in God’s timing he made perfect provision for me over the course of 9 semesters. For those going into ministry, this waiting on the Lord, is as important to the pastor, missionary, or church planter as learning Greek or Hebrew.  God’s timing is perfect, but we must learn to trust his timing.  Be comforted by Psalm 32:8-9 and remember Isaiah 64:6, “God works on behalf of those who wait for him.”   Guard yourself from being a horse who moves too quickly or a mule who moves too slowly by trusting in the Lord’s timing.  God’s good designs for your life may include seminary and a bounty of undeserved provision, but they may include another path of provision and blessing.

Fourth, consider the ant and plan wisely.  Solomon writes in Proverbs 6:6-8, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler; she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.”  Waiting for the Lord and trusting in his provision does not mean passive inactivity.  I often encounter zealous young men and women called to ministry, who have spent little time thinking about how they might afford the education.  They go out to sea without a paddle, a sail, a radio, or a life raft, assuming that the currents of the waves will lead them in the right direction.  They call this walking by faith, but in fact it is a kind of foolishness that that disregards God’s call to walk wisely, exercising dependent dominion. 

Walking by faith is based on hearing God’s promises and acting in belief (cf. Rom. 10:17; James 2).  Blindly presupposing that God will bless an untimely decision to go to seminary that imperils family, that jeopardizes current ministry, or that hinders the ability to suitably provide for your family–I am speaking to men here–is not the same thing as “risk-taking” faith.  The latter is steeled by God’s promises revealed in Scripture, the former is assumed based on an uncounseled decision (Prov. 11:25).  The sovereignty of God promotes human responsibility; it does not facilitate sloth or idle living.  God’s cosmic reign encourages honest work, coupled with ant-like planning.  Along the way God often smiles on us, providing gracious and unexpected supplies and resources, but this never frees us from the responsibility to plan and to plan well (cf. Prov. 16:1-9).

In short, all creation reflects the glory and wisdom of God that help us to better walk in wisdom (cf. Ps. 19:1; Isa. 28:23ff) .  In the five animals considered here, we see principles of wisdom that spur us on as laborers and aspiring shepherds, for we ourselves must learn to live like sheep even as we train to shepherd.  God is our Great Shepherd and the One who will provide all that we need, and for those who are called to ministry they are also called to wisely pursue biblical equipping, according to the provision and the timing God supplies.  This kind of equipping may come from a seminary, or it may not, but regardless we are called to labor faithfully in the vineyard in the God places us until the master returns to receive his own.

(If you would like more information about Southern Seminary, come to a Seminary Preview Conference.  The next one is scheduled for April 2009.  More information about financing seminary can be found at Goingtoseminary.com. ).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Christ-centered, Old Testament Resources

This week Drs. Duane Garrett, Peter Gentry, and James Hamilton discussed the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament and the interpretation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.  The lively conversation was well-attended on the campus of Southern Seminary and the discussion raised a number of nuanced issues concerning sensius plenior, typology, allegory, interpretive methods, the duplication of apostolic hermeneutics, and the extent to which the Old Testament author’s knew they were writing of Jesus Christ.  In short, they covered a range of key interpretives features of biblical theology.  You can listen to the whole discussion here, while Jim Hamilton makes some follow up comments with pertinent link in his post: How much Christ in the Old Testament

Here are some other resources that may prove helpful in reading the Bible and seeing Christ and the gospel in the Old Testament.

First, James Grant highlights two helpful resources on the the Old Testament concerning its canonicity and its Narrative Structure.  You can find both of these on his blog, In Light of the Gospel: The first reference is to Richard Gaffins’ “Reading the Bible as Canon”.  The other is a link is John Woodhouse on the OT Narrative.

Second, a newer series of books offers to help biblical theologians and pastors see the gospel in the OT.  The Gospel According to the Old Testament Series looks like an incredible series of reflections that highlights, as the title says, the gospel in the Old Testament.  These books are not commentaries, though.  Instead, it seems that they take aim at OT characters.  Some of the books in the series focus on David, Ruth, Elijah & Elisha, Jonah, and others.  Some of the authors are Biblical Theology heavy hitters: Tremper Longman, Iain Duguid, Raymond Dillard, and David Jackson, to name a few. (HT: Chad Knudson)

Hope you find these prophetable!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Purpose-Driven Predestination

As “The Year of Living Dangerously” continues at Southern Seminary, School of Theology Dean, Russell Moore, took a bold step to preach a message on election from Romans 8:26-9:6 in the Southern’s chapel service today. His point could not have been clearer: Election is not a theoretical head game that seminarians debate in local coffee shops, it is instead a spiritual truth and a biblical reality that empowers prayer, promotes peace, and propels the Great Commission. You can listen to the whole thing here.

Willy Wonka or the Word of God?

What is the difference between Willy Wonka and the Word of God?  Not much, says Jonathan Akin, if all the Scriptures do is expound moral platitudes and present examples of bravery, kindness, and obedience.  Lamenting the way that too many Christians moralize the message of the Bible, Pastor Akin asserts that Jesus Christ is the point of every passage and that every week the gospel should be preached from every corner of the Scriptures.  He writes:

If we view the Gospel as a hoop and believe the Bible is mostly about giving us tips for living life, then our teaching will rarely rise above the level of having the Oompa Loompas come in for special music on a Sunday morning. But if we believe the story of Jesus of Nazareth living the life we could never live, drowning under God’s wrath in our place and being vindicated as the firstfruits of a new creation on the third day is the essence of the Christian life — both how you enter and how you then live — then our preaching and teaching will have transforming power. For then it will be about knocking down the idols in the lives of our hearers, both believers and unbelievers, and conforming them to the image of our King.

Good word! May we labor to read, teach, pray, and preach Christ from the whole counsel of Scripture. You can read the whole article here.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Biblical Theology: Word-driven, Kingdom-focused, Christ-centered

One month into my blogging at Via Emmaus, I have begun to consider, what is the overall aim and purpose of my writing. Why do I take time to sit at an impersonal computer screen and write thoughts that may never be read? If they are read, will they simply be deconstructive arguments against the fallen world in which we live, or will they be something more constructive and positive? Will they simply respond to events in the world at large and my world in particular, or will they endeavor to offer something substantive? Will they be an exercise in simply cataloging ideas from my studies at Southern and the array of weekly readings I am assigned, or will they offer anything fresh? Will they be a follow-up to lessons I have taught and/or sermons that I have preached, or will they consider other relevant matters of biblical thought? Well, perhaps they will include some or all of these elements, but as I have thought about it this week, I think the focus is becoming more clear. And my hope is to consider more intentionally a Word-driven, Kingdom-focused, Christ-centered Biblical Theology and how this vision of redemptive history and the gospel call intersects all of life.

Prior to coming to SBTS, Biblical Theology was a subject matter that I enjoyed and considered often. Since arriving in Louisville in 2004, it is something that has grown and developed–perhaps more than any other area of discipline in my academic life. Taking classes with Drs. Russell Moore, Thomas Schreiner, and Steve Wellum has stimulated this kind of thinking; reading books by these professors along with works by Graeme Goldsworthy, Edmund Clowney, Wiiliam Dumbrell, Geerhardus Vos, and others many has contributed significantly to this growing passion. Biblical Theology and its intersection with the church, ministry, and daily living is something that interests me greatly and something of worthy of greater consideration.

For instance, most recently a friend of mine mentioned how he currently serves in a position of administration at an evangelical school. It is something that he enjoys as he continues his education, but it is not something he sees himself doing forever. Similarly, I am working in a position of administration at Southern Seminary. And in hearing his thoughts, which resonate with mine, the thought(s) arose: What is a biblical theology of administration? How does administration fit in the plan of redemption and in the world that God created? How does a school administrator at a divinity school carry out the Great Commission? In what ways can my daily service be improved by a biblical understanding and vision of administration? In short, what does the Bible say about administration? Who were administrators in the Bible? Certainly Joseph, Daniel, and the seven deacons chosen in Acts 6 served in such a capacity. Who else?

All that to say, thinking biblical-theologically about all these things helps me understand the life that God has given me, the world in which I live, and the nuanced application of how I can participate in the Great Commission, and how we together are to do church and proclaim the gospel. These are all things that interest me and hopefully will receive much more specific attention on this website. As the old adage goes, if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. So in opposition to this danger, I take aim at thinking more about Biblical Theology and writing more intentionally about the subject.

May the Lord Jesus Christ be pleased to allow such conversation, discussion, and reflection on his all-wise plan of redemption–according to his Word, about His kingdom and His church, and for the glory of His name.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss