In Today’s From the Seminaries:
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mohler underscores God’s ‘settled Word’ at SBTS convocation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Although contemporary culture embraces continual change and the revision of core beliefs in the name of progress, the church should be marked by faithfulness to the settled Word of the Lord, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Aug. 23 fall convocation.

Mohler drew from Psalm 119:89 to demonstrate the stable nature of biblical revelation in the face of a transitory cultural view of truth, in an address titled, “Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is Settled in Heaven: The Unchanging Word in an Age of Mega-Change.”

Change itself is not bad, as the rapid technological change in recent history demonstrates, Mohler said. While for most of human history, change took place very slowly, it leapt forward beginning in the 19th century, perhaps no more obvious than in the progression of the fastest mode of transportation from the horse to the airplane. Change is no stranger to Southern Seminary either, Mohler said, as the school once structured its class schedule around train departures, allowing students to travel to their places of ministry during the weekend. Today, classes are commonly held on Saturdays and weeknights. Mohler also pointed to the seminary’s website, which appeared first in 1996 but today features all the markers of the digital age.

“As an institution, we are not resolutely opposed to change,” Mohler said. “The question is: … How do we know where we should truly let change happen, but then where we must surely make sure change does not happen at all?”

The contemporary view of change, Mohler said, is driven by an aggressive, secular ideological commitment to the malleable nature of truth — there are no fixed principles in matters of culture, anthropology, morality, epistemology and history. Even physics is transitory, Mohler said, as some physicists have admitted recently quantum mechanics and traditional physics are at an “impasse” and the contradictory theories are likely to be eclipsed by a new, dominant system in the near future.

For Christian theology, Mohler said, “This imperative of change is now translated such that we are threats to the common good, and we are the enemies of human flourishing, and we are frankly to be written off as intellectual cranks and moral outlaws if we will not join in not only the change, but the revolution that drives the change.”

The fact that Christians can claim to have unchanging truth is difficult for secular intellectuals to understand, and their incredulity eventually gives way to opposition and hostility, Mohler said.

Mohler referenced a 1979 address at Southern Seminary by the late W.A. Criswell on Psalm 119:89 challenging the moderate trajectory of the seminary at the time by emphasizing the King James Version rendering of the text — “Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven.”

That claim about Scripture ought to be the foundation for the church’s claim about Scripture in every era, Mohler said. “We are here to stand with every faithful teacher throughout the history of the Christian church,” ultimately to Christ Himself, from whom “we learn to love and to believe and to obey all of the Scriptures.”

Christians need to recognize that their ambition should be for steadfast adherence to the timeless truth bestowed by Christ and guarded by generations of faithful believers.

“We’re beginning this academic year in an act of outright intellectual subversion,” he said. “There would be no warrant for it, no excuse for it, no rationale for it, except for one thing: ‘Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled.’

Prior to Mohler’s convocation address, two professors elected to the faculty during the spring trustee meeting signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s confession of faith: C. Berry Driver, associate vice president for academic resources, professor of church history and seminary librarian, and Michael S. Wilder, J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship. Mohler said the Abstract of Principles remains a vital part of the seminary’s tradition because it represents a commitment to fend off the theological liberalism that claimed historically Christian institutions, as well as Southern Seminary during part of the 20th century.

The seminary also installed three academic chairs during the convocation: Randy L. Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost, as Basil Manly Jr. Professor of Leadership and Family Ministry; Gregory A. Wills, dean of the school of theology, as David T. Porter Professor of Church History; and Daniel M. Gurtner, Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of New Testament. Matthew J. Hall also was officially recognized as dean of Boyce College.
Audio and video of convocation are available at sbts.edu/resources.

Be “living sacrifices,” Patterson exhorts at SWBTS convocation

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Paige Patterson welcomed new and returning students and faculty to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall semester by noting the implications of their decision to serve the Lord.

“To serve the Lord means that you’re going to give yourself [to Him],” the seminary’s president said during fall convocation Aug. 25 in MacGorman Chapel on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

“You are not going to pursue income; that’s going to become relatively unimportant to you. You are not going to pursue a degree; I hope you get one, but it’s really not about that, is it? It’s not about a career; you don’t have a career. If you’ve chosen to come here, you’ve given up on a career and, instead, you have a ministry,” Patterson said.

“You become a slave unto God, to serve Him and Him alone in a very special and unique way.”

In a message from Romans 12:1-2, Patterson exhorted the audience to offer themselves as “living sacrifices,” citing two specific commands from the passage.

First, believers are commanded to no longer be conformed to this world and, second, they are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Crucially, Patterson said, these two commands leave believers with a choice.

“You cannot be half of one and half of the other,” he said. “You are either going to be schematized (conformed) according to the spirit of this age, or else you’re going to be metamorphosed (transformed) by the Spirit of God. There is no halfway.

“I want you on this first day in chapel to get it in your mind and heart that you cannot be part of both,” Patterson said. “You may deceive a number of people into thinking you’re one when you’re actually the other, but be sure your sins will find you out. Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap. And so you must be one or the other.”

Patterson concluded with an invitation, and five students came forward in response to a call to salvation, recommitment or missions. Several faculty members were stationed at the front of the chapel to receive them, and they kneeled at the altar in prayer. As Patterson noted, “Every one of our faculty is an evangelist.”

Also during the convocation, Southwestern’s Global Theological Innovation (GTI) formalized its partnership with Word of Life Argentina.

GTI partners with mission-minded “Champion Churches” that join in the initiative to enrich the international seminaries’ theological programs. Launched in 2012, GTI has nearly 100 partnerships with seminaries around the world.

“Word of Life Argentina is one of the most amazing single subjects that I know anything about,” Patterson said during the signing. “It is a work of the blessing of God and of the commitment of some very godly men and women that is beyond anything I can talk about successfully. When you go there to the campus — some hour and 15 minutes south of Buenos Aires — just the minute you drive on it, you are cognizant of the fact that you have come to holy ground.”

Representing the Argentine seminary were Joe Jordan, executive director of Word of Life International, and Dan Nuesch, director of Word of Life Argentina. Following the signing, Jordan thanked Southwestern for the partnership. “We count this as an honor,” he said, “and we seek to hold forth the Word of Life around the world.”

The convocation’s final event was the welcoming of newly appointed and elected faculty: Brandon Kiesling, instructor in evangelism; Hongyi Yang, assistant professor of systematic theology and director of the Mandarin Translation Project for the master of theological studies program; Mark A. Taylor, professor of conducting; Timothy Deahl, dean of the Southwestern Center for Extension Education and professor of Old Testament; Justin Buchanan, assistant professor of student ministry; Robert Lopez, professor of humanities; and D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the school of theology and professor of theology.

Allen’s charge at MBTS: ‘Take Heed to the Ministry’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary began its new academic year with a charge from President Jason Allen and the signing of the institution’s Articles of Faith by two new faculty members during fall convocation at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

Allen said he intended to “frame the semester before us and think through where we are in our stage of life and ministry here,” exhorting faculty, staff and students to “Take Heed to the Ministry,” the title of his message from Colossians 4:17.

The brief verse, which says, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it,” is addressed to Archippus, an individual about whom little is known, only being mentioned here and in Philemon, verse 2.

Allen noted, however, that the Colossians passage is not ultimately about the man but, rather, the charge given to him by the apostle Paul. Taking specific words and phrases from Colossians 4:17, Allen gave seven exhortations to those in attendance.

First, Allen emphasized that the seminarians should “understand your calling to ministry as being through and to the church.”

Counseling against too narrow of a focus on a particular aspect of ministry, he said, “Students, do you understand your calling to ministry as being one marked for accountability to the church? Let me remind you, especially as you are in the age of preparation … to understand that you may or may not know where or what God may call you to do in the church in the years and decades to come.”

From the phrase, “take heed,” Allen next called on the seminarians to guard their ministries.

“This calling to take heed,” he said, “first and foremost is an inward reality, meaning to guard your character, to guard your heart, to build structures of accountability within your life, healthy barriers and structures to keep you and to help guard you from sin.”

In his third charge, Allen acknowledged a time for leisure and recreation in a minister’s life, but “for the minister, within our innermost being, the great goals of our lives are fundamentally ministerial and family and Gospel.”

Fourth, Allen noted that one’s ministry is to be celebrated. God is doing incredible works throughout the cosmos, and here on earth He’s chosen to set apart people for His church. Because God appointed individuals to carry out ministry endeavors, it is a great responsibility but also something that must be celebrated.

In his fifth and sixth charges, Allen said to “remember your ultimate accountability in ministry” is to Jesus Christ and that those who are called should “fulfill that ministry.”

Allen said of the latter, “God does not call a man or woman to serve Him until he or she has stockpiled enough money not to do it anymore. He calls a man or woman to serve him for life.”

Lastly, Allen charged the seminarians to “clarify their ministry,” which is an ongoing process.

From the phrase in verse 17, “that you may fulfill it,” Allen said, “Be continually thinking about the ‘it’ in your life. Continue to clarify that with each season of life. You, as one called to ministry, are on a mission to fulfill your ministry. Refine what that ‘it’ is and proceed to do it with a great sense of stewardship.”

In addition to Allen’s sermon, new faculty members Trey Bechtold and Daniel Chong, signed the institution’s Articles of Faith during the Aug. 23 service in the seminary’s Daniel Lee Chapel.

Bechtold is assistant director of online studies and assistant professor of biblical studies while Daniel Chong is assistant professor of counseling, Korean Studies and director of Korean graduate studies. Both were both elected to the faculty during the trustees’ April meeting.

Allen noted that Midwestern faculty members undergo a thorough and rigorous process, and the signing of the Articles of Faith is more than a rite of passage for joining the faculty.

“The act of signing these Articles of Faith is more than a ceremony,” he said. “It is something much deeper and more profound. It is a solemn commitment before these trustees, this faculty, these students and, most importantly, before the Lord to teach in concert with, and not contrary to, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

To view the fall convocation service message, visit http://www.mbts.edu/news-resources.

    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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