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EDUCATION BRIEFS: Louisiana College begins master’s degree program

PINEVILLE, La. (BP)—-Louisiana College, affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has launched its first master’s degree program. The initial course for a master’s in teaching, “Teaching with Significance,” was offered this summer.

Previously the college had offered a teacher education alternate certification (TEACH) program. About 150 students currently enrolled in the program, along with TEACH graduates, will be eligible for the new master’s-level studies.

Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard said LC has been working to receive Southern Association of Colleges and Schools approval for the new degree since 2004.

The new degree marks “a monumental day in the history of Louisiana College,” Aguillard told the Alexandria (La.) Daily Town Talk newspaper.

“This is much-needed in this area,” local elementary school teacher Paula Miles, who plans to be among the program’s first graduates, told the newspaper.

Next up at the Pineville campus: a master’s of science in athletic training, slated to begin in August 2009, Aguillard said, describing it as one of the few of its kind in the South, according to the Town Talk. The college also envisions master’s programs for guidance counselors and in social work, criminal justice, nurse anesthesiology and business administration.

BEWARE OF SELFISH IDOLS, PROF SAYS — Even within ministry Christians can harbor selfish idols that prevent them from fully surrendering to a life worthy of the calling they have received, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary said.

During a chapel service called “The Gathering” — a yearly tradition aimed at challenging students to give their lives for the cause of Christ — Bruce Ashford, director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies and associate professor of philosophy and intercultural studies, voiced his challenge to the seminarians.

Although Ashford focused largely on international missions, he noted that God also calls certain students to pastor a hard church, plant a congregation in a tough city or minister among people with whom they are not comfortable, all within the confines of the United States.

Ashford recounted that when he was a seminary student, he held on to the idol of his own dreams and his own gifts of ministering to young people.

“I was confronted with this map of [global] evangelical Christianity, and there was a big red splotch across the middle of the map [where there was no Gospel presence],” Ashford said. “I knew I could go, but I knew the gift of being able to effectively preach to high school and college kids had become an idol in my life.

“Ministry is an easy place for selfish idols of the heart to hide…. The bottom of the issue was this for me: I had surrendered to ministry but had slowly been trying to take back control of what was God’s, and that was my life.”

There are approximately 2 billion people with little or no access to the Gospel, Ashford said, and it would be breathtakingly easy for us to take the Gospel to them.

“Usually, the only obstacle to them hearing the Gospel is us. If you do not go, many of them will never hear the Gospel,” Ashford said.

MOHLER TARGETS ‘NEW ATHEISM’ — There is a new atheism afoot in the marketplace of ideas, and it presents a far more potent challenge to the Christian worldview than the atheism of former times, R. Albert Mohler argues in a new book.

In “Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheism” (Crossway), the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary engages the central arguments of four contemporary atheists, whom he calls “The Four Horseman of the Atheist Apocalypse”: Oxford University scientist Richard Dawkins, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett, author Sam Harris and pundit Christopher Hitchens.

Mohler chose Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens because “they are four figures who have especially come to embody the New Atheist movement.”

All four have argued against theism in best-selling books, some of which have spent significant time on The New York Times Best-Seller List, including Dawkins’ 2006 work “The God Delusion,” Dennett’s 2006 book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon,” Harris’ 2005 book “The End of Faith” and Hitchens’ 2007 work “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

The new atheism, Mohler argues, promotes the development of a purely secular society, a secularism that views the death of all religions as the expected natural progression of Darwinian naturalism.

“I believe what we see in the rise of the New Atheism is something of the endgame of secularism,” Mohler writes.

After tracing the rise of atheism in the first chapter, Mohler gives biographical sketches of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens in the second and sets forth eight characteristics that distinguish the new atheism from the old. While the old atheism had negligible societal impact, the new atheism is more aggressive and has gained momentum within the broader culture, Mohler writes.

The new atheism is marked, Mohler writes, by:

— An unprecedented new boldness.

— A clear and specific rejection of the Christian God of the Bible.

— An explicit rejection of Jesus Christ.

— Arguments grounded in science.

— A refusal to tolerate even moderate and liberal forms of theism.

— An attack on the toleration of any form of religion.

— A questioning of the right of parents to instill religious beliefs in their children.

— A fundamental assertion that religion itself must be eliminated to preserve human freedom.

“The Christian church must respond to the challenge of the New Atheism with the full measure of conviction,” Mohler writes.

“We are reminded that the church has faced a constellation of theological challenges throughout its history. Then, as now, the task is to articulate, communicate, and defend the Christian faith with intellectual integrity and evangelistic urgency. We should not assume that this task will be easy, and we must also refuse to withdraw from public debate and private conversation in light of this challenge.”

JOURNAL URGES STUDY OF CHURCH HISTORY: Should historical amnesia be an option for the average Christian?

Knowing church history — particularly as it relates to the early years of Christianity and the theological issues which faced leaders in that age — is important for all believers, essayists in the summer edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology argue. The latest SBJT examines the early church and encourages Christians to learn from important church fathers such as Athanasius, Augustine and Irenaeus.

Essayists include Southern Seminary professor Michael A.G. Haykin and author and pastor John Piper.

Journal editor Stephen J. Wellum urges readers to consider the importance of the first centuries of the church and the leaders who worked to establish biblical orthodoxy.

“Today, one of our problems in the evangelical church, which no doubt reflects our larger culture, is that we do not know history, let alone church history and historical theology well,” Wellum writes.

“This is especially the case in regard to the era that we have now dubbed ‘the Patristic era.’ It is safe to say that for most evangelicals, including Baptists, we are more familiar with key people and theological ideas from the Reformation and post-Reformation era than we are of the people and ideas from the earliest years of the church.”

Wellum sets forth two reasons why a study of the church fathers is crucial for modern-day Christians: It helps to remind believers of the rampant pluralism that leaders of the early church faced and it serves to remind believers that it was the church fathers who hammered out and affirmed the orthodox expressions of the faith in crucial areas such as Christology and the Trinity.

Many of the ancient heresies which leaders of the nascent church contended with remain alive and well, Wellum points out, and are seen in sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.

“Knowing this era of church history will not only enable us to be alert to trends in our own day that basically re-invent ideas from the past, but it will also help us better to live and proclaim the gospel faithfully today, for God’s glory and our good.”

For more information or to subscribe to the SBJT, e-mail [email protected] or call 502-897-4413.

NEW FACES –- Five new faculty members have been named at Southeastern Seminary.

— Benjamin Merkle as associate professor of New Testament and Greek, formerly professor of New Testament at Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang. Merkle holds a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary; an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary; and a bachelor’s degree from Reformed Bible College.

— George Robinson, an SEBTS alumnus, as assistant professor of missions and evangelisms, formerly director of church planting equipping with e3 Ministries. Robinson holds a doctorate in missiology from Western Seminary; an M.Div. from Southeastern; and master and bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Georgia.

— Jeremy Evans as assistant professor of ethics, formerly an assistant professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Evans holds a Ph.D. and a bachelor of arts from Texas A&M University and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

— Joshua Wagner as an instructor in music history and worship ministry. Wagner previously has been an administrative assistant to Southeastern’s senior vice president for academic administration and an adjunct music instructor.

— Jill Stubblefield as an instructor in English.

Also new at Southeastern this fall as visiting professors are Tom Hellams, vice president and executive associate at LifeWay Christian Resources, in leadership; Brad Waggoner, vice president of LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group, in leadership and discipleship; and Grant Lovejoy, director of orality strategies for the International Mission Board, in missions. Susan Lozaw, meanwhile, will be an adjunct professor of music.

At Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California, Chris Chun is joining the faculty as assistant professor of church history. Chun, an ordained Southern Baptist minister and Korean-American, received a Ph.D. from University of St. Andrews in Scotland earlier this year. His doctoral research focused on the legacy of Jonathan Edwards on 18th- and 19th-century Baptists in Britain. Chun also holds a Th.M. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.

Chun and his wife Juliann have two daughters, Karis and Chloe.

At Southern Seminary, James M. Hamilton Jr. has joined the faculty as associate professor of biblical theology, moving from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Houston campus. In Houston, he also has been pastor of Baptist Church of the Redeemer.

Hamilton is the author of “God’s Indwelling Presence: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.” He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Seminary; an M.Div. from Dallas Theological Seminary; and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas, his native state.

He and his wife Jill have three sons, Jake, 4; Jed, 2; and Luke, who was born March 22.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and staff writer Erin Roach from reporting by Lauren Crane at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Phyllis Evans at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jeff Robinson at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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