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EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s “From the Seminaries” relays reports of fall convocations as written and edited from four of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries — Golden Gate, Midwestern, Southeastern and Southern. Reports on the convocations at the other two seminaries – New Orleans and Southwestern — will be carried in early September.


MILL VALLEY, Calif. — “Passion and passionate living are core values of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary,” Jeff Iorg, seminary president, told an audience of students, faculty, and staff at the President’s Convocation, which launched the fall semester at the Northern California Campus of Golden Gate Seminary.

Referring to Mark 10:17-31, Iorg said “Jesus called ministry leaders like us to demonstrate passion to the world through sacrifice.” The president noted Jesus explained the nature of sacrifice and how to develop a spirit of sacrifice.

In the story of the rich young ruler, Iorg pointed out three characters in the story: the rich young ruler, Jesus, and Peter. Iorg asked his listeners to consider Peter’s response to Jesus’ conversation with the young ruler as representative of a leader’s questions about sacrifice.

Iorg noted Jesus assured Peter, without rebuking him, for asking questions about sacrifice. “This is one instance Jesus does not criticize or confront Peter when he asks a question,” said Iorg. “Instead He patiently answers the question and consoles his concerns.”

Iorg reminded the seminary family, “You will struggle with making sacrifices for the Kingdom. For example, some of the people you went to college with are already making a lot more money than you. Some have finer homes, nicer cars and more prestigious jobs. It’s a sacrifice to be a ministry leader.”

He acknowledged how some of the students in the audience had left family to come to seminary, and some of the faculty live far away from children and grandchildren. “Relational sacrifice is painful, and honestly, sometimes we resent this.” Iorg encouraged the congregation to be honest with Jesus about the pain of sacrifice, knowing he will respond with counsel and encouragement — just as he did with Peter.

“This is the nature of ministry leadership,” explained Iorg, “to sacrifice for the expansion of His Kingdom all around the world.” In attempting to answer the question, “What is a sacrifice?” Iorg advised, “Sacrifice is always personal and proportional. No one can define it for you, but choosing it for yourself is an essential part of modeling the Christian life.”

Iorg concluded by reminding the seminary community that Jesus promises rewards in this life, and also in eternity, for those who sacrifice for His Kingdom.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary operates five fully-accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona, and Colorado. For more information: www.ggbts.edu.
Reported by Phyllis Evans, director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Although the feeling of fall wasn’t filling the air in Kansas City, a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation permeated through the capacity crowd in Midwestern Seminary’s chapel auditorium during the annual Fall Convocation service on Aug. 23.

A scene of tradition and pomp pervaded the room as faculty, robed in their full regalia, processed into place, traditional hymns resounded, and new as well as existing students were welcomed to campus by MBTS President Phil Roberts.

The reference for “convocation,” according to the Easton Bible Dictionary, relates back to Old Testament religious meetings that were generally held to deal with political and legal matters. Biblical examples show that convocations occurred on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:2-3), the Passover (Exodus 12:16), Pentecost (Lev. 23:21), at feasts (Numbers 28:26); and during the great fast — the annual day of atonement — “the holy convocation” was held (Lev. 23:27 and Num. 29:7).

While Midwestern’s convocation didn’t focus on political or legal matters, the emphasis of the service clearly concentrated on God’s Word from Matthew 5:17-20. In delivering the service’s message, Roberts painted a picture of Jesus speaking to the attendees of the “Sermon on the Mount” about their obedience to the law and how that pertained to entering God’s Kingdom.

Until the time of Christ, Roberts said, the Jewish people’s earthly role models were their religious leaders. And when Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” this struck a serious chord with His audience. “In Jesus’ day, that was a dynamic, powerful concept because if any group would make it to heaven, it would be the scribes and Pharisees,” he noted.

In comparing the religious observances, devotion and commitment of the Pharisees to churchgoers today, Roberts touched on topics such as tithing, church attendance, observance of the Sabbath, Scripture reading and moral scruples. In each of these areas, he said the scribes and Pharisees were quite faithful.

However, turning to modern times, the Roberts noted how many people, even believers, today submit to a works-based philosophy. He said many people have a mental checklist of all the good things they’ve done and all the bad things they’ve done, then they hope that in the end to get into heaven that the good outweighs the bad. However, if the audience was to check their lives against the standards of the scribes and Pharisees, “How would you be doing?” Roberts asked.

Jesus said a person’s righteousness shouldn’t just match that of these ancient religious leaders, Roberts noted, but that one must surpass it. And Jesus explained to the audience what He meant by that statement in verses 21-48. “Jesus is saying it’s not just a matter of the outward conformity, but ‘I’ve got a standard I want to raise for you as well,'” Roberts said.

Roberts described how Jesus raised the bar on subjects including not just refraining from murder, but rather to refrain from even being angry with someone; not just refraining from committing adultery, but rather to not even looking at a woman to lust for her; and not just loving your neighbor and hating your enemy, but rather to love your enemies as well.

“The whole point is, so ‘you’re doing alright in keeping up with what the scribes and Pharisees are doing outwardly.'” Roberts said. “Well, now let’s come up to Jesus’ standards. Let’s understand that unless our righteousness exceeds these standards, then none will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Just in case you’re wondering exactly what Jesus expects of you and me — Jesus wants you to be perfect!” Roberts added. “But you might be thinking, ‘Are you kidding? After all, I’m only human!’ That’s the point — you are human, and by the way, that’s the condemnation, isn’t it?”

Although a person’s situation as a sinner is hopeless, Roberts didn’t leave the audience without a solution. Even though there is no man who can attain the perfection God expects, there was One who was perfect. “He was just as human as us, and He is One who was tempted in every way, like you and I are, yet without sin,” Roberts said. “We’re talking about the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is how that perfection is passed on!”

Roberts said the way to get into heaven, to rise up above the level of the scribes and Pharisees and to achieve the standard that Jesus set is only through Christ’s substitution — He bore the burden of mankind’s sins and exchanged their sinful lives for His perfect life. “You can stand in your place at the judgment seat or He can stand for you, and all that He has done both in His saving death and His saving life will be applied to you,” Roberts said.

In addition to the morning’s message, other moments included a time of prayer for Alan Branch, Midwestern’s assistant professor of Christian Ethics who will deploy as an Army Reserve chaplain for a year in the Middle East, and for Branch’s wife.

Also two new professors were welcomed to the faculty, Dr. Matthew Arbo as associate professor of Christian ethics and Robert Matz as an assistant professor of theology and preaching.
Reported by T. Patrick Hudson, director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


WAKE FOREST, N.C. — On Aug. 23, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary held its Convocation for the fall semester. Binkley Chapel nearly reached its full capacity as it hosted the largest student attendance at the seminary. Composed of new to familiar faces in Binkley, the mass of students arose in traditional fashion to respectfully greet the faculty as they marched from the chapel entrance to its stage.

The chapel service commenced with the hymn, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” in keeping with the chapel attendance occasion. As is common to most convocation chapels, a number of professors signed the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, officially inaugurating them as faculty at Southeastern. Dr. Tony Merida, Associate Professor of Preaching, Dr. Jeremy Evans, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Dr. Larry Purcell, Associate Professor of Leadership signed the documents, agreeing to its theological convictions. In addition to elected faculty, Dr. Sam Williams, Associate Professor of Counseling, received the Faculty Excellence in Teaching award.

After the signing of the Abstract of Principles and Baptist Faith and Message, Southeastern President Daniel Akin addressed the chapel with a message of servitude, faithfulness and conviction. Utilizing the first six verses of Psalm 67 as his scriptural text, Akin shared the story of two Chinese missionaries and martyrs, John and Betty Stam. “Psalm 67,” said Akin, “was fulfilled in the life and death of these two individuals.

“This psalm teaches the church that God’s salvation, righteousness, and goodness must be known among the nations and the Stams’ story teaches us that we are to expect tribulation, but ultimately see victory.”

Akin said, “God’s salvific ways and praise are to be known among all nations, and we are blessed to be a blessing among all peoples of the earth. Indeed, as Psalm 67 illumines, God is the God of justice and righteousness who provides a hand of guidance for His people, and the faithfulness of God is the only certain thing in the world.”

Concluding his message, Akin said, “God blessed the earth, specifically the Chinese people, through the lives of these two missionaries. And in the martyrdom of this blessed couple, God’s providential hand was still upon them. And also, may we heed the words of the last letter of John Stam, ‘May God be glorified by our lives and by our deaths.'”

Appropriately sung after Akin’s message was the seminary hymn whose closing stanza reads, “Bind us together now, we pray, / as from this place we go today. / And keep our feet in paths made light, / By Jesus’ truth and glory bright! Amen.”
Reported by Michael McEwen, news and information specialist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Preaching from 1 John 5:21, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that believers should not lose their concern for orthodoxy because to believe in any other gospel is to commit idolatry.

“Heresy rightly understood in the biblical conception is a form of idolatry. The allure of heresy is the allure of knowing, worshipping, claiming and serving some other god. And theologically if you define God differently than He defines Himself in His self-revelation, you’re an idolater,” Mohler said.

John’s warning, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” summarizes the entire letter of 1 John, Mohler contended, as idolatry is belief in any other god except for the one true and living God who has revealed Himself to mankind in the person of Jesus Christ.

“The problem is [that] it’s so easy to come up with some other god,” Mohler said. “Those who seceded from the church — here John is concerned — those who have caused so much trouble, those who have gone to a different knowledge, John wants to identify them in a way that anyone who knows the Scripture and knows the one true and living God and His hatred for idolatry should understand they became idolaters. They went after another god, and they departed. They were not of us. That’s why they went out from us.”

In 1 John, Mohler pointed out, the author repeatedly uses the word “know” to distinguish between those who know God and those who do not know Him, but the apostle John nevertheless teaches that salvation is more than intellectual knowledge. For this reason, professing believers should also “ensure we’re not only those who know,” like those mentioned in 1 John who turned to a seemingly variant form of Gnosticism. The Gnostics of the ancient world believed salvation comes through a secret kind of knowledge, Mohler explained, but this kind of knowledge led them to idolatry.

“Knowledge by itself does not save, but salvation does not come without knowledge,” he said.

He continued, “How is it we can know that we have eternal life? It is because we know Jesus Christ as Son. We not only know about Him, we not only know of Him, we know Him. We believe in Him. There is more here than an intellectual knowledge, but there is not less here.”

A major part of the service came when Jonathan Pennington, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern, signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s statement of faith. Adopted by the school when it opened in 1859, professors must sign the document, agreeing to teach “in accordance with and not contrary to” its doctrines.

Mohler welcomed new faculty members including Zane Pratt, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and associate professor of missions; Joseph Crider, senior associate dean and professor of music and worship leadership in the School of Church Ministries; Charles Lewis, assistant professor of music and worship; Jeremy Pierre, assistant professor of biblical counseling; Phillip Bethancourt, instructor of Christian theology; and Melissa Tucker, instructor of education and coordinator of field and clinical experience at Boyce College.

New trustees of the seminary included Ellie Coursey (Ky.); John Montgomery (Calif.); Marla Sanders (Ky.); and Nina Wilson (Ill.).

Audio and video for Mohler’s address, “Little Children Keep Yourselves from Idols,” is available at www.sbts.edu/resources.
Reported by Josh Hayes, manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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