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

MBTS’ Allen begins series on Reformation’s five ‘solas’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — A day after God’s glory was displayed through the total eclipse in the sky above Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus in Kansas City, Mo., the new academic year began with fall convocation Aug. 22.

President Jason Allen’s message consisted of part lecture and part sermon as he introduced a five-part semester-long series on the “solas” honoring the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Reformation to summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity. They include sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

Of these phrases Allen said, “In sum, the solas are the theological distinctives that separated and do separate us as Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. They are, in a sense, both the cause and effect — both the precipitating and the resulting convictions of the Reformation. And we, brothers and sisters, are sons and daughters of the Reformation.”

Allen explained that throughout history, church splits and schisms have occurred over “little words or phrases.” In the case of the Reformation, the word that drove it all was “sola” or “alone.”

Following his introduction, Allen tackled “Sola Scriptura” for his message, setting forth the truth of sola scriptura scripturally, contextualizing sola scriptura historically within the 16th century and applying sola scriptura pastorally to the audience.

In sola scriptura, Allen said, “The Reformers meant, and we mean, that Scripture alone is the final authority for our lives and for our church. Since God’s Word is inspired and true, it is our final and sufficient authority…. It is the standard, the benchmark, the plumb line for the church.”

To his first point, Allen cited 2 Timothy 3:15-17 as a text that scripturally backs sola scriptura. In verse 16, Paul especially notes “all Scripture” is inspired by God. Of this Allen noted, “It is not up to us or to the critic to pick and choose what portion of Scripture we think to be true. Moreover, it is not left to us to pick and choose which portions of Scripture we think are most applicable or urgently to be obeyed.”

This passage also notes that all Scripture is “profitable for teaching and reproof” and then it goes further, “so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Christians “do not have to search to and fro looking for a mystical experience or some kind of charismatic reception of gifts to make us complete and worthy to minister,” Allen said.

In his second point, Allen placed sola scriptura into context by explaining three key events in Luther’s life that helped shape this truth in his heart: Reformation Day on Oct. 31, 1517, the Diet of Worms in 1521 and, the most pivotal of all, the Leipzig Debate in 1519. Debating John Eck on the authority of Scripture, Luther unashamedly tied himself to John Huss, who was burned at the stake for making similar claims nearly 100 earlier. In sum, Luther backed Eck and his supporters into a corner by stating their popes and their councils had failed and were not authoritative, and the two had even contradicted one another. If this was the case, what did they have left?

The same is true for believers today, Allen added. “You would not be at this place unless somewhere along the way you became a person of the Book. Where you believe the Bible is not just a book, but the Book. It is not a word of God; it is the Word of God … and on this we are willing to situate our lives.”

Allen wrapped up his message with 10 points of application about what sola scriptura means for individuals, their ministries and for the church:

Sola scriptura necessitates a pulpit ministry that preaches the Word; it shapes soul care and how a pastor shepherds the flock; it should bring a striving for unity in the body of Christ; it calls for faithful hermeneutics and faithful interpretation; it brings a commitment to confessional statements; it makes us more committed to a regenerate church membership; it is a commitment to Christ-centered theology; it leads to ministry marked by gravity and perspective on our lives; it shapes worship; and it should encourage us to put the “protest” back into Protestantism.

Of this final point Allen noted that in every faithful believer’s life there will be times of challenge and perhaps crucibles which define what he or she stands for in Christ. In every generation, he said, “our task is to take the baton of faith, the truth of what we have received, and to be faithful to pass it on to the next generation.”

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


Akin describes 10-year vision at SEBTS convocation

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, described his 10-year vision for the school at fall convocation on Aug. 17.

“We will focus not just on good things, but we will focus, rather, on the most important things,” Akin said.

At the beginning of his message, Akin read Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission verses that guide the seminary’s focus and passion.

“When seminaries do their job well, they provide an invaluable service to the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our calling and that is our mandate,” Akin said.

The driving question of Akin’s address was, “What are the marks of a Great Commission seminary?”

Akin listed four key marks in his 10-year vision: an emphasis on having a global focus, clear doctrinal convictions, expansive ministerial preparation and spiritual vibrancy.

In the context of its global focus, Akin noted Southeastern’s goal of seeing the number of minority students rise from 18 percent to 30-35 percent in 2027.

Minority students at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus have increased in recent years, but Akin said the seminary is “not satisfied.”

Akin also made Southeastern’s stance against racism clear.

“We stand steadfastly against any type of evil or wickedness that exalts any type of racial superiority, white supremacy, neo-Nazis, bigots and racists,” he said. “We will never divert from the clear affirmation of the Bible that we as believers in Christ all have the same Father, we are indwelt by the same Savior and we also are empowered by the same Holy Spirit of God. That is who we are.”

Doctrinally, Akin made clear that Southeastern aligns with the Abstract of Principles, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

“Our confessions are solid foundations for a sound theology for a convention of churches that avoids the pitfalls and quicksand of liberalism on the one hand and what I call straight jacket theology on the other,” Akin said.

Regarding ministerial preparation in his 10-year vision, Akin emphasized the importance of the master of divinity program for future pastors, noting that the number of pastors age 40 and under had dropped from 33 percent in 1992 to 15 percent in 2017, according to a Barna study.

“There is no greater or higher calling among the body of Christ than the calling of a pastor,” he said.

SEBTS is working toward a greater spiritual vibrancy, Akin said, through its emphasis on prayer, which will be primarily led by Chuck Lawless, who was named vice president for spiritual formation and ministry centers in June.

“Just as the Great Commission is the air we breathe at Southeastern Seminary, we want prayer to be the air we breathe as well,” Akin said.

During the convocation, Sam Williams, professor of biblical counseling, was installed in the ninth faculty chair, the Fulp Chair of Biblical Counseling, the seminary’s first biblical counseling chair, which was established by longtime donors of the school who desire to see the mission and purpose of SEBTS continued through its counseling programs.

Provost Bruce Ashford introduced John Burkett and Chip Hardy, who were elected to the faculty in April, to sign the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message. Burkett is assistant professor of rhetoric and composition; Chip Hardy is assistant professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages.

To view video and photos of the convocation, go to Southeastern’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/sebts.


Christ is the center of education, Mohler says at SBTS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — There is no true education when Jesus Christ is not recognized as the center of all learning, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his Aug. 29 convocation address for the 2017-2018 academic year at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Preaching from Colossians 1:13-23, Mohler said Jesus Christ is not only the source of a “coherent” Christian faith, but the source of all coherence, in an address titled “And in Him All Things Hold Together: Jesus Christ as Beginning and End of Knowledge.”

In an age that places comprehensive authority on scientific knowledge, physicists even pursue a “unified field theory” to explain everything about the natural world, Mohler said. But, he said in citing the apostle Paul, only Jesus Christ explains all reality and thus Christ should be the centerpiece of all higher education.

“That’s really an astounding claim; I realize what I’m saying,” Mohler said. “I am saying that, when you look across the landscape, true education is happening here [at Southern Seminary] and it’s not happening elsewhere.”

While Mohler admitted that non-Christians can certainly know true things and observe the created order in all its complexity, they cannot understand how everything “holds together,” in the words of Colossians 1, without knowing God’s incarnate Son.

“You can know true things without knowing the truth,” Mohler said. “You can know that two plus two equals four, but only if you know that in Him all things hold together do you understand why two plus two equals four.”

Yet, Mohler said, if true education is fundamentally theological, Christian institutions face a problem. Many of the most famous American institutions were formerly Christian before experiencing a gradual but decisive drift from the faith. There is a pattern of disengagement of Christian institutions from the church, Mohler said, resulting in a school detaching its curriculum from the explicit preaching of the Bible and eventually leaving its confessional moorings.

The way to avoid such degradation, he said, is confessing the centrality of Christ.

Since knowledge of Christ is the basis of all human knowledge, Mohler argued that Christ must be taught in every academic discipline — not just in theology or biblical studies. An institution’s curriculum should be built on theological and Christological foundations, with the ultimate goal not just mental acknowledgment, but worship.

“There is not one of us — entering student at Boyce or Ph.D. faculty of long standing — who does not need always to hear the preaching of the Word of God, and we need to hear it together. As a student, if you are not even more faithful at church than you are at school, then you won’t hold together.”

The Christian institution, Mohler continued, should be a factory for producing expositors, since that is the most important task of any school,

“Any school, any college, any university, any seminary, any educational institution that reduces the teaching of preachers to a sideline is an institution that is forfeiting true education,” he said. “I’m certainly not saying we don’t joyfully teach others who [are not called to preach]; I am saying that we teach preachers most importantly and primarily. That’s the one thing we have to do.”

Prior to Mohler’s convocation address, three professors elected to the faculty during the spring trustee meeting signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s confession of faith. Charles T. Lewis Jr., associate professor of church music and worship at the seminary and Boyce faculty members R. Scott Connell, associate professor of music and worship leadership at Boyce College, and Brian K. Payne, associate professor of Christian theology and expository preaching, became signees 258, 259 and 260 of the document.

Mohler also recognized five new faculty members for the new academic year: seminary faculty Kyle D. Claunch, assistant professor of Christian theology, and Tyler R. Wittman, assistant professor of Christian theology, along with Boyce College faculty Tyler Flatt, assistant professor of humanities; Adam Howell, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation; and Andrew Rogers, assistant professor of biblical counseling and program coordinator for the biblical counseling major.

Audio and video of the convocation is available at equip.sbts.edu.


Patterson urges SWBTS students to find joy amid struggles

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Faith and joy in the Lord in the face of difficulties are the keys to a fruitful walk with Christ and a rewarding ministry, President Paige Patterson told Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students and faculty during the fall 2017 convocation Aug. 24.

The rousing singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” followed by Patterson’s message launched the seminary’s 110th fall semester.

Patterson noted the trials of the apostle Paul, who, in Acts 16, was jailed, bloody and beaten for ministering the Gospel. Yet he focused on his transformational experience — and joy — on the road to Damascus.

“Once you’ve received God, the glory of that moment will transcend everything else that happens to you,” Patterson said. “If you find yourself in a dungeon, complaining will not help matters.” When problems compound and the bills roll in, “that’s when you start singing,” he said.

“We need to be a society where ministers will sing in the midst of the day,” Patterson said. “If you want to know how to be happy and jubilant, then learn to sing in jail. When you start singing, everybody in the world is going to listen.”

Patterson also recalled a lesson he learned from his experience with a childhood pet — a cat named Lollipop — that illustrated Paul’s statement that one must believe in order to be saved. Lollipop was prone to climb tall trees, then fear coming down, and thus he would wait to be rescued. One day, the cat became stuck when there was no one to rescue him but Patterson. When Patterson climbed the tree to retrieve the cat, however, he too became stuck.

The solution came when Patterson’s father later arrived. He assured his son, “Jump, and I’ll catch you.”

Patterson recalled, “I held Lollipop close, shut my eyes tight to avoid the mess that would occur, and then leapt from the tree. He caught us both.

“In later years, I realized that was what New Testament belief was all about,” he said. “I was perfectly safe in my Father’s arms.

“Faith is not intellectual belief. It is a moment in your life when you say ‘no’ to everything else and commit to Jesus.”

In addition to Patterson’s sermon, the convocation service welcomed new and returning faculty and students to the campus, including newly appointed faculty members Yu Wen Lee and Daniel Weaver. The event also introduced newly elected faculty members Matt Harrison, Justin Hiester, Ethan Jones, Brandon Kiesling, Andrew Street and Nathan Holstein, who each sat at Southwestern founder B.H. Carroll’s desk to sign their names in the seminary’s historical book of service.

    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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