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FROM THE SEMINARIES: Convocation at Gateway; modular Th.M at Southern

Today’s From the Seminaries includes: Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gateway convocation: Depend on Christ for change, not politicians

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — President Jeff Iorg opened Gateway Seminary’s spring semester by reminding students, faculty and staff that only God can provide the kind of change people are looking for in a political system.

“No politician can produce the changes in our world that Christians know need to happen,” Iorg said in a convocation message titled “Politics and Religion.”

“No government or political party can produce the abundant life we all desire,” he continued. As Christians, we must be wise enough to reject our culture’s belief that a manmade system can give us only what God says He can provide.”

The convocation marked the Southern Baptist Convention seminary’s first academic year after its name change from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and its move from Northern California to Southern California.

While America is experiencing momentous days in American politics, Iorg said it’s not the first time people put their hopes on politics.

Iorg read from Luke 6:12-16, which summarizes Jesus’ selection of His 12 disciples.

“Jesus chose these men to change the world by advancing His Kingdom,” Iorg said. “They are an interesting collection of businessmen, laborers, servants and scoundrels. Jesus saw their potential and chose men who would — for the most part — follow Him and do His will.”

One of those men was Simon the Zealot.

“Simon was the man’s name. Zealot was his political designation,” Iorg noted. “Simon was known for his political convictions — so much so his political party almost became part of his name.”

Iorg explained that Zealots wanted to end all outside control of Israel by Rome and lived by the motto “for God and country.” They favored a theocracy, the direct rule by God of the nation through the priests at the temple.

“Some of them carried a small ‘sicarri’ or dagger hidden in their sleeve,” Iorg said. “When they had the opportunity, they would slip the knife out and kill Roman soldiers, Roman officials and Jews who collaborated with Romans. These silent assassins were committed to both the political overthrow of Roman rule and personal revenge on Roman rulers. Simon was at least associated with political terrorism, people committed to overthrowing the ruling elite.”

Iorg pointed out that when Jesus chose Simon, Simon the Zealot became Simon the disciple. Simon the assassin became Simon the evangelist. Simon the terrorist became Simon the peacemaker. Simon the Zealot became Simon the zealous one, committed to advancing God’s Kingdom.

Simon’s commitment to changing the world through political processes and terrorism changed when he met Jesus, Iorg said.

“Many Christians today have forgotten Jesus is the only person who can change the world,” he said. “Some of us have sold our spiritual birthright for a mess of political pottage. We are placing our hopes in politicians to produce a better world. We naively ignore this reality: History is littered with men and movements who promised a better world but were unable to deliver it.”

Iorg said he hopes the current political realities would produce a positive outcome: that Christians will become more determined Kingdom citizens.

“Not Americans, or Koreans, or Russians, or Mexicans — but Christians,” he said. “We will become men and women who swear allegiance to King Jesus and devote more passion to His Kingdom than passing political fads.”

Iorg challenged the audience to prioritize God’s Kingdom but not to retreat from responsibility to work for the common good through political processes, including voting, donating to worthy candidates and causes, running for office and praying for governmental leaders.

“The Bible says do good to everyone,” Iorg said.


SBTS modular Th.M. to provide advanced distance learning

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Four professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are leading a new degree program to allow students to continue to study beyond the M.Div. level in a modular format.

The modular master of theology in theological studies will permit distance students to continue in ministry or other employment while completing all the requirements for a Th.M. in 30 months entailing only five weeklong visits to campus instead of full-time residency.

The program’s faculty will provide an interdisciplinary curriculum, with each professor teaching core seminars in their areas of expertise: Jonathan T. Pennington in New Testament, Peter J. Gentry in Old Testament, Michael A.G. Haykin in church history and Gregg R. Allison in systematic theology. The modular student also will complete a thesis in their chosen area of study during the course of their degree program.

“I asked myself, ‘If I could do theological education however I wanted, what would I build?’ The answer is this program,” said Pennington, director of research doctoral studies. “This degree combines seminar-based coursework with the writing of an original research-based thesis. It is interdisciplinary at its core, with each of the seminars designed so that students are thinking outside of one area of study and the professors are interacting with each other. We are also focusing on creative and thoughtful pedagogy.”

Students will begin research and writing for the thesis in the first semester and meet with their adviser in person for feedback on their progress during each visit. Applicants must have earned a master of divinity from an accredited institution and maintained a GPA of at least 3.3. Some of the modular Th.M. coursework can apply toward pursuit of a Ph.D.

The deadline to apply is March 15, with the first cohort to begin in July. More information is available online at sbts.edu/doctoral/modular-th-m.

    About the Author

  • SBC Seminary & BP Staff

    Cassity Potter writes for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the SBC’s news service; Alex Sibley writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and S. Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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