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FROM THE SEMINARIES: Gateway hosts first Jonathan Edwards conference; convocations at Southeastern & Midwestern

Gateway hosts its first Jonathan Edwards conference

ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) — The Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary hosted its inaugural conference Jan. 15-16 at the Ontario, Calif., campus.

The conference theme was “Regeneration, Revival and Creation: Religious Experience and the Purposes of God in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards.”

The gathering included a dinner and panel discussion on Jan. 15 and three plenary sessions and 10 breakout session options on Jan. 16.

Topics and speakers for the three plenary sessions were:

— “The Most Important Thing in the World: Jonathan Edwards on Rebirth and Its Implications for Christian Life and Thought,” presented by Douglas Sweeney, distinguished professor of church history and the history of Christian thought and director of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s Jonathan Edwards Center.

— “The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in the World: Jonathan Edwards and the Concert of Prayer for Revival: Origins and Legacy,” presented by Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality and director of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

— “Jonathan Edwards on Creation and Divine Ideas,” presented by Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and a professorial fellow at the University of St. Andrews’ Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology.

Gateway announced its affiliation with Yale University in October 2017 to create its Jonathan Edwards Center (JEC) because of increased interest from scholars on the West Coast. Located in the seminary’s library, it is one of 10 globally — with three in the U.S. — to offer resources for Edwardsean study. Chris Chun, Gateway’s chair of history and theological studies and associate professor of church history, serves as director of the seminary’s JEC.

Chun noted that each center has its own emphasis, with the focus of the JEC at Gateway — since it is a Baptist institution — on Jonathan Edwards and Baptist tradition.

“I have a number of Ph.D. students working with me on Edwards and Edwardsean Baptists such as Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon and Adoniram and Ann Judson,” Chun said. “But our goal is not to serve just Baptists but to serve scholars on the West Coast in general in this important area of study.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a pastor, revivalist, Christian philosopher, missionary and president of what is now Princeton University. Widely regarded as one of America’s greatest theologians, he is the subject of scholarly interest because of his effect on the country’s religious, political and intellectual landscapes.

“I view the Edwards study efforts as a fellowship,” said Ken Minkema, executive director of JEC at Yale University. “It is a concerted effort. It is very much an assortment and a collection of people passionate about Edwards and related topics about his legacy.”

Chun said he believes Gateway’s JEC will benefit the seminary in general, explaining, “We hope to strengthen our doctoral program as well as our visiting scholar program through networking with this community.”

The conference marked the official opening of the JEC on Gateway’s campus. John Shouse, professor of Christian theology, donated much of its furnishings and was honored during a brief ceremony. An acrylic painting of Edwards by Oliver Crisp, commissioned by the JEC at Gateway, was unveiled, which Shouse said is the showpiece of the room.

Essays from conference presentations will be collected and published in a book co-edited by Chun and Kyle Strobel, associate professor of spiritual theology at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. The painting of Edwards will be pictured on the cover.


‘Death precedes life,’ Platt tells SEBTS convocation

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — The paradoxical truth that the Christian must be willing to die in order to have life was underscored by David Platt during the Jan. 22 convocation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

“To live in the next world, you die in this world,” said Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in the metro Washington, D.C., area and former president of the International Mission Board.

Platt recounted the story of the church in South Korea to amplify the truth spoken by Jesus in John 12:24-26, noting that Christians are called to die to sin, to self and to the ways of the world. As Jesus stated in verse 25, “The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Platt told of Robert Thomas, a missionary to China with a heart for Koreans who attempted to reach Korea by boat. However, foreigners were not welcome. On Thomas’ second attempt to enter the country, his boat was attacked and he was later captured and killed. Yet, while being attacked, Thomas threw Bibles overboard to shore, shouting, “Jesus! Jesus!” in desperately wanting them to know Christ.

In 1884, Platt continued, Christian Koreans were granted freedom to share the Gospel and missionaries were allowed to come to Korea. In 1900 less than 1 percent of Koreans were Christians. However, the 1907 Pyongyang Revival triggered an unprecedented growth in Christianity to the formerly closed-off country. Starting with preachers in a Bible conference who were overwhelmed with their sin, the audience in turn began confessing their sin to God and each other while praying fervently to God to do a work in them and their country. Multiple consecutive nights of prayer, Bible study and confession continued, and Christianity began spreading into other towns and villages.

The Korean church had grown to more than 10 million believers in 2000, Platt said. Today with a population similar to California and Florida combined, South Korea is the second-largest missions-sending country behind the United States.

“In one century, South Korea went from having hardly any Christians to being a global center of Christianity,” said Platt, who noted that Pyongyang in North Korea at one point was referred to as “the Jerusalem of the East.”

“How does that happen?” he asked, pointing to Jesus’ words in John 12.

Platt, who was deeply moved on a recent trip to South Korea, told of some missionaries to Korea who gave their lives for the cause of Christ and are honored at a cemetery preserved by the Korean church.

“Jesus died so that we might live,” Platt said. “This is the Gospel that brings us together — the reality that death precedes life.”

Platt said he believes the Lord can do this kind of work in North American churches and unreached countries around the globe. “I long for that not just to be the story of the church in South Korea; I long for that to be the story of the churches we lead,” he said.


Allen amplifies diligent ministry at MBTS convocation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)– On a wintery day in Kanas City, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opened its spring semester with President Jason Allen’s academic convocation message Jan. 22 in the Daniel Lee Chapel.

Additionally, two of Midwestern’s new faculty signed the seminary’s Articles of Faith and three newly appointed faculty members were welcomed.

Allen’s exposition focused on the apostle Paul’s exhortation in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

In addition to a confessional and instructional expectation in the passage, Allen pointed to “a ministerial expectation, which broadens the application to all of us, right? You are here to some degree in a ministerial role or preparing for a ministerial role directly or indirectly. And to fulfill a ministry calling is to fulfill the calling of preaching, teaching, sharing and counseling the text. When done right, much good comes. When done wrong, catastrophe follows.”

Allen then spoke of the passage in three parts: “being diligent to present yourself approved unto God”; “as a workman who does not need to be ashamed”; and “accurately handling the word of truth.”

Avoid the pitfall of starting strongly and then slowly digressing in one’s ministry, Allen said of diligence. In proclaiming the Word of God, he said not to “just open the Book like you would any other book,” but to have God’s approved in properly handling the Word throughout one’s ministry.

Secondly, when Paul referred to Timothy being an unashamed workman, Allen stated, “Your position before Christ as a minister is fixed based upon the work of Christ. But our ability to stand before God and God’s people without shame, as it relates to our handling of the text, correlates to how faithfully we handle it …. [I]f we are sloppy with the text, evidently there is ministerial shame to bear.”

In the third part of the passage, Allen said a pastor should be growing in his handling of God’s Word as he progresses in his ministry.

“With each passing year of studying the Word, of being trained and mentored, there ought to be a deepening and growing sense of confidence that you can stand before God’s people, lead a Bible study, talk to your friend about Scripture — and you do that in such a way that you know you have treated the text seriously and have been faithful to the best of your ability to study it,” Allen said.

In his concluding points of application, Allen said study, interpretation, preaching and teaching the text must be a pastor’s number one priority; he should work to avoid sloppy exegesis of the text; a pastor should avoid eisegesis — reading something into the text that’s not there; and he should be careful to avoid Bible studies that ask, “What does the Bible mean to you?” Rather, he should ask, “What does the text mean, and how does it apply to you and me?”

During the convocation, two faculty members signed the seminary’s Articles of Faith, which consist of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Matthew Barrett, associate professor of Christian theology, and Dale Johnson, associate professor of biblical counseling, both were elected by the seminary’s trustees in October 2018. As such, by their signatures, they promised to uphold Midwestern’s Articles of Faith.

Allen announced three appointments to the seminary’s faculty:

— Shin Il Liu as associate professor of ministry and director of the Chinese studies program.

Liu holds Ph.D. degrees in international politics from the China Academy of Social Sciences and international economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, along with a master’s degree in economics from the University of Nebraska and an undergraduate degree from National Taiwan University in Taipei.

Liu dedicates time to education projects and ministries related to China and Christianity and has been involved in missions projects with the International Mission Board and South Korean Baptist churches throughout East Asia since 1993. He and his wife Myungsuk Yun have two children.

— Margaret E. Köstenberger as associate professor of theology and women’s ministry as well as faculty coordinator of women’s ministry programs.

Köstenberger holds a doctor of theology degree through the University of South Africa with a dissertation on feminist hermeneutics, which has been published in revised format by Crossway as “Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?” She also holds a master’s degree in intercultural studies from Columbia International University where she met her husband, Andreas J. Köstenberger and a nursing degree from McMaster University.

Köstenberger previously has taught at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Shepherds Theological Seminary, where she served as associate professor of theology and as director of women’s programs and mentoring. The Köstenbergers have four children.

— Felix Cabrera as assistant professor of pastoral ministry and coordinator of Hispanic graduate studies.

Cabrera currently serves as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, executive director of the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico and director of the North American Mission Board’s Send Network Puerto Rico.

Cabrera holds master’s degrees from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in pastoral counseling and Southeastern Seminary with a concentration in church planting and an undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico. He is currently completing a doctor of ministry degree at Midwestern. He and his wife Denisse have two daughters.

Allen’s message can be viewed at www.mbts.edu/2019/01/chapel-with-dr-jason-k-allen-spring-convocation.

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