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FROM THE SEMINARIES: NOBTS accreditation reaffirmed; MBTS journal honors Tomlinson; preaching, politics addressed at SBTS

In today’s From the Seminaries: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary;
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

NOBTS receives accreditation reaffirmation

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges has reaffirmed accreditation for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for the next 10 years.

The announcement of the seminary’s accreditation reaffirmation came during SACSCOC’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Dec. 6.

SACSCOC is the regional body for accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in Louisiana and 10 other states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Accredited schools participate in the SACSCOC reaffirmation process every 10 years.

“We are delighted with the reaffirmation of our accreditation by SACSCOC for a full 10 years, the maximum time they allow for this status,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “This decision is a tribute to the excellent work of our faculty, the thoughtful oversight of our trustees and the day-in and day-out effort of our staff.

“We remain passionately committed to doing all within our power to provide excellent preparation for ministry to all of those answering the call of God,” Kelley said.

Accreditation reaffirmation is much more than a once-per-decade formality — it is comprehensive examination of the institution, the academic equivalent to a forensic audit. The demanding process reaches to every corner of the seminary and takes about two years of disciplined work to complete.

The reaffirmation process begins with a compliance audit completed by the institution. The school reviews data from the past 10 years, assessing the quality of academic programs and seeking ways to improve. Documentation is an essential aspect of the compliance. This work is completed by an accreditation leadership team composed of faculty members, administrators and staff members.

After the intensive compliance study is complete, a compliance report is developed by the institution and submitted to the SACSCOC office. The document addresses how the school is conforming to the accreditation standards agreed upon by member schools and how the school is documenting this compliance.

The last step of the process includes a visiting team of academic peers as well as a member of the SACSCOC staff, which completes a report based on interviews conducted during the on-site visit and the institution’s own report.

The on-site team, in its report, recommends action to be taken at the next SACSCOC annual meeting. The team has the option to recommend reaffirmation or to recommend that a school be placed on probation or meeting a certain benchmark for improvement before reaffirmation.

As a part of the reaffirmation, SACSCOC requires schools to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) designed to provide measurable improvement in an academic area. NOBTS developed a QEP designed to improve academic writing. The plan calls for a host of writing helps, resources and services for students.

Known on campus as “The Write Stuff,” the most visible aspects of the QEP initiative is the new NOBTS writing center which opened on Feb. 16 of last year. While the QEP is focused on graduate students, the writing center and online resources will be available for all students.

In addition to accreditation by SACSCOC, NOBTS maintains accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). After NOBTS finished its portion of the SACSCOC reaffirmation process, the school immediately moved into the reaffirmation process with ATS. To date the ATS site visit and visiting team report are complete and the results will be announced by the ATS Commission on Accreditation in later this year.


Midwestern Journal of Theology honors longtime faculty member

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — The Fall 2017 issue of the Midwestern Journal of Theology was released on Dec. 9, paying a special tribute — known as a festschrift — to longtime faculty member F. Alan Tomlinson.

The festschrift, which is a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar, was presented to Tomlinson, professor of New Testament and Greek at Midwestern Seminary for more than two decades, during the seminary’s winter commencement.

The MJT’s fall edition, written predominantly by Tomlinson’s colleagues, friends and former students, addresses topics dear to the heart of its honoree — particularly New Testament and linguistic studies.

“There are eight scholarly, and helpful, pieces in this issue, all of which are reflective of Dr. Tomlinson’s passion, the Word of God,” said MJT editor Michael McMullen, who also serves Midwestern as professor of church history.

Midwestern Provost Jason Duesing said the journal conveys “a rare honor for one called to serve as professor, and one richly deserved in the case of Dr. Tomlinson. His legacy at Midwestern is found in his transformative classroom lectures, and now also around the world as his students have taken their time in class with ‘Dr. T’ with them to the ends of the earth.” Duesing lauded Tomlinson for his scholarly work “and, even more, his ongoing life and ministry shared with the Midwestern family.”

Tomlinson has taught at Midwestern Seminary since 1995. His area of special interest within the field of New Testament studies is the Greek language within the context of ancient Greek and Roman history and culture.

In addition to his classroom responsibilities, he has contributed a chapter for the edited work, “Entrusted with the Gospel” (B&H Academic) and study notes for 1 Corinthians in the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible. Additionally, Tomlinson has presented papers at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting and published articles in journals and magazines. He is currently under contract with B&H Academic to co-write “For the Sake of His Name.”

Articles included in the journal are:

— “Sacrifice, Monotheism and Christology” by John Lee, MBTS assistant professor of New Testament, reflecting Lee’s research into these key areas of the Christian faith.

— “What is the Perfect State” by Todd R. Chipman, assistant professor of biblical studies at MBTS. The MJT’s introductory article, it investigates linguistic aspects of the epistle to the Hebrews.

— “The Pre-Eminence of Active Metaphors: Functional Linguistics and Earthen Vessels in 2 Corinthians 4:7” by C. Eric Turner, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Hannibal-LaGrange University, on the use of metaphors in Scripture, especially in 2 Corinthians 4:7.

— “An Introduction to the Hermeneutics of Old Testament Narrative” by Trey Bechtold, MBTS assistant professor of biblical studies, introducing readers to the hermeneutics of Old Testament narrative.

— “Participating in the Life of God: Exploring the Trinitarian Foundation of 1 Peter’s Missional Identity” by Kelly D. Liebengood, associate professor of theology at LeTourneau University, on the Trinitarian foundation of the epistle’s missional identity.

— “Wholeness in Intertextual Perspective: James’ Use of Scripture in Developing a Theme” by Darian R. Lockett, associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Biola University.

–- “Phoebe, the Letter-Carrier of Romans, and the Impact of Her Role on Biblical Theology” by Terry L. Wilder, professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, adding the study of a person to the MJT edition.

— “Listen to Him: The Exhortation of Matthew 17:5 in the Context of the Transfiguration Narrative” by Thorvald B. Madsen III, MBTS dean of graduate studies, unpacking the exhortation in Matthew 17:5 in the context of the transfiguration narrative.

— “Shalom and Khessed” by Mark DeVine, associate professor of history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School, analyzing the twin concepts of the Hebrew terms.

In addition to the scholarly articles, the MJT also carries a number of relevant book reviews.

Midwestern’s Journal of Theology is available in print for subscribers. To subscribe, contact the seminary’s academic office at 816-414-3745 or email [email protected]. Additionally, the journal may be viewed online at www.mbts.edu/journal.


Preaching & politics addressed at SBTS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Heroes of the pulpit like Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield provide models of bold preaching for today’s ministers, Steven Lawson said in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Mullins Lectures on Preaching, the nation’s second-oldest lectureship on preaching.

“One of the greatest steps of faith that you and I will ever take is the mere act of preaching,” said Lawson, founder and president of OnePassion Ministries.

Lawson said he regularly draws inspiration from the greatest preachers in the history of the church and has portraits of Jonathan Edwards, William Tyndale, John Knox, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther and George Whitefield hanging above his desk.

Preaching from Hebrews 12, Lawson challenged students to see their preaching ministry arrayed beneath a “great cloud of witnesses,” a metaphor that pictures a stadium full of spectators. Modern preachers must learn from the example of these men, said Lawson, who focused on Spurgeon, Whitefield and 20th-century Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his three lectures, which were part of the seminary’s fifth Expositors Summit.

“They are a cloud of witnesses who have already run their race and have assumed their place now in the grandstands,” Lawson said. “They are cheering us on by the example of their lives. They do not witness us; they bear witness to us.”

During the three-day summit, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Jesus’ parables not only contain judgment but “point to the grace of God in Christ for our salvation.”

“We haven’t possibly preached until we have preached the Gospel,” Mohler said. “We can’t possibly believe that we have finished preaching until we declare that Jesus saves sinners and tell sinners how they can find salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Using the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 and the parable of the 10 minas in Luke 19, Mohler highlighted the judgment and grace held within each parable, urging preachers to keep those themes in their sermons.

In the parable of the tax collector, the reader should be shocked that grace is extended to the worst of sinners. It is in the tax collector’s cry for mercy that he recognizes his sinfulness, believes in faith and is justified. Christians, likewise, can have confidence of being saved because of the grace given to the tax collector, Mohler said.

Money is not the primary teaching in the parable of the 10 minas, Mohler noted. It is about believers sharing in the Son’s reign of the Kingdom. Judgment is coming first for believers and then for all the rest, he said. Therefore, Christians should be occupied with Kingdom work until Christ returns, including the call to preach the Gospel.

“By the time we finish preaching, the saved ought to know that they are saved and the lost need to know they’re lost,” Mohler said.

Also during the late-October summit, Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, said Christians need to grasp the essential nature of the Gospel in order to be faithful preachers. Drawing from Ephesians 1, Begg said pastors must not settle for a simplistic understanding of the Gospel but instead embrace the rich complexity of its message and the countercultural nature of its effect.

“Some of us have become very good at telling people how important it is to believe the Gospel and warning them about what will happen to them if they don’t believe the Gospel, and many of them are still sitting in their pews going, ‘Yes, but what exactly is the Gospel?’” Begg said. “Ephesians tells us. [The Gospel is] what God has done for us in Christ to save us from sin and from the devil and from death.”

The effectiveness of preaching and evangelism largely depends on how the preacher perceives the wholly undeserved nature of God’s grace, Begg said. When Christians recognize the “divine diagnosis” of abject depravity that covers all humanity, they are better equipped to proclaim divine forgiveness, Begg said.

“The difficulty for some of us is that we really have not faced up to the gravity of our condition, and therefore, we’re a little bit tongue-tied when it comes to declaring these things. And when we do declare them, if we’re not careful, it comes off as unbelievably self-righteous,” Begg said. “Our businessmen are going, ‘Wow, it must be terrific to be perfect.’ What we need to say to them is, ‘Our Christian lives are, with Luther, lives of daily repentance.’”

Also during the fall semester — On Election Day, Nov. 8 — Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said American politics cannot destroy the Kingdom of God and should not leave Christians living in fear.

“Whatever’s going on in the American culture around us, the Bible-believing Christian never runs around like Chicken Little,” Smith said.

In a message titled “Politics and the Passion of Christ,” Smith reminded Christians to take a clear stand to show their main identity and commitment is to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. Smith said his main text, John 19:1-16, shows how religious leaders in the midst of political uprising verbally claimed that Caesar is their only king rather than declare allegiance to Jesus as Lord.

“Post-Pentecost, we should never fail to identify with or prioritize Christ the King,” Smith said. “I cannot express any loyalty to a lesser king that would cause me to compromise my loyalty to Christ the King. I can render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and I must render unto God that which belongs to God. And I can render unto Caesar a variety of things as long as those things don’t cause me to disobey or blaspheme God. …

“[T]here’s no way … I’m gonna advocate for a lesser king that is offensive to the majesty of my King.”

Many people claim America will suffer this election, Smith said. But, if they are honest, they would admit they are mostly scared that they will suffer and life will change, he said.

John 19 shows how there are three choices Christians face with the election, Smith said. A proper perspective recognizes authority as coming from above, reflected in Christ’s response. In a warped perspective, the fear of man rules over fear of God, which is Caesar’s response. And in the worst reaction, seen by those in verse 15, the chief priests and religious leaders claim no king but Caesar.

No matter the results of this election or future elections to come, Smith said that the saints continually proclaim “that all of creation right now is sustained by the power of his Word.”

“On the worst day, we have a King who reigns supreme.”

Prior to his call as the BCMD executive director in June, Smith served as assistant professor of preaching at Southern Seminary and teaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. In November 2015, Smith was the first African American elected as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Audio and video of the messages from the Mullins Lectures, Expositors Summit and Smith’s chapel messages are available at sbts.edu/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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