Today’s From the Seminaries:
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention
SBTS releases book on its Abstract of Principles
By S. Craig Sanders
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — Written nearly 25 years after R. Albert Mohler Jr. called for the restoration of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s confessional identity, a new book published by SBTS Press honors the enduring importance of the Abstract of Principles.
In “Confessing the Faith: The Living Legacy of Southern Seminary’s Abstract of Principles,” Mohler, SBTS president and the book’s editor, and 19 faculty members contribute chapters defending each article of faith established in the institution’s confessional document.
The Abstract of Principles, penned by Basil Manly Jr. in 1858, serves as the founding document for the seminary, with all professors required to affirm and teach in accordance with its statements. But when Mohler enrolled at SBTS three decades ago, he said, some of his professors openly disagreed with the Abstract, including the late Dale Moody, who handed students personal revisions of the document.
In the introduction to “Confessing the Faith,” Mohler says the current faculty’s contributions to the book and commitment to the Abstract are evidence that “the theological recovery for which we had longed, prayed, and worked has come to pass.”
“The Abstract of Principles was instrumental in the recovery of this seminary,” Mohler writes of Southern’s biblical commitment. “This volume is more than a doctrinal exposition or devotional exercise. It is the display of public fidelity to a confession of faith, to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In an interview, Mohler reflected on his 1993 inaugural convocation address, “Don’t Just Do Something; Stand There,” in which he emphasized the foundational importance of the Abstract of Principles.
“At times we need to make certain we’re holding up our own confession of faith and making clear that this is not just what we believe; it’s who we are,” Mohler said. “We do that in convocation when newly elected professors sign the Abstract of Principles publicly, in full view of the seminary and of the watching world, but this book is a way of making clear for now and for future generations these are the truths we hold, and hold boldly.”
Like other Protestant confessions before it, the Abstract of Principles begins with an article defending the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Mohler contributes the chapter for Article I, noting this statement on the Scriptures was critical in the seminary’s establishment “as a bastion of biblical authority” and remained necessary for its renewal in the 20th century.
Mohler explains how the Abstract affirms the attributes of Scripture as the only “sufficient, certain, and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience,” which was a central issue to the Reformation. The Bible is essential to knowledge of and obedience to Christ, Mohler writes. In concluding the chapter, Mohler hearkens back to John Broadus’ famous saying when he reminds the reader of Southern Seminary’s primary purpose “to produce men who will be preachers ‘mighty in the Scriptures.'”
Article I “establishes Southern Seminary as confessional, it establishes that confession as based upon biblical authority, and it establishes the authority and inspiration of Scripture as the necessary place to start any theological conversation,” Mohler said in the interview. “It also makes very clear that the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention wasn’t developing new doctrine but affirming what Southern Baptists had believed from the beginning, and especially affirming the verbal inspiration of Scripture, as well as its infallibility and inerrancy.”
Referencing the swiftness of the cultural and moral revolution, Mohler said it is “incredibly important that Southern Seminary publicly, authentically and gladly holds to the convictions upon which the institution was established over 150 years ago.” But he also noted that the Abstract predates the Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message by nearly 70 years and serves as a testament to denominational identity.
“It’s not an accident that The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the mother theological institution of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Mohler said. “As the Southern Baptist Convention faces the full onslaught of the modern age, it’s going to be important for Southern Baptists to understand why confessionalism is so important and why the Abstract of Principles plays such a major role in not only the life of this institution but in the process of Southern Baptists coming to know who they are and what they believe.”
The remaining 19 articles feature commentary from Southern Seminary professors, among them Bruce A. Ware on Article IV, “Providence”; Thomas R. Schreiner on Article XI, “Justification”; Gregg R. Allison on Article XIV, “The Church”; and Tom J. Nettles on Article XVIII, “Liberty of Conscience.”
In addition to the commentary, the book includes Mohler’s inaugural convocation address and an appendix with James P. Boyce’s “Three Changes to Theological Institutions,” the founder’s 1856 address explaining the need for a document like the Abstract for the seminary’s doctrinal preservation.
Copies of the book can be ordered exclusively at Southern’s LifeWay Campus Store. For phone orders, call 502-897-4506.
German seminary, now debt-free, aims for revival in Europe
By Alex Sibley
BONN, Germany (BP) — The room full of German businessmen and seminary faculty quickly began to whisper the word “miracle” among themselves when the news broke. Then, as the weight of the news set in, the men began to weep.
The tears of joy, quite the rarity in that part of the world, were brought about by the presentation of a check by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson in early October in Bonn, Germany. A gift generously contributed by Harold and Patricia Mathena to Bibelseminar Bonn indicated that BSB’s debt would be cleared for the first time in its history.
“Being debt-free means to us that we are freed to do even more in our work for Christ in Germany from Haus Wittgenstein [the fully paid-off building],” said Heinrich Derksen, president of BSB, which has been Southwestern’s partner institution in Europe for 11 years. “We want to grow as a theological seminary so that even more effective Kingdom workers will be used by our God to change the world for Christ in an unprecedented way.”
Founded in 1993, BSB leaders purchased Haus Wittgenstein, a historic building in Germany that has since served as a classroom setting. Unfortunately, the money that BSB students could afford to pay the institution for their studies was insufficient to cover the cost of the building.
BSB “bought it on faith, not knowing where in the world the money would come from,” Patterson said. “And it had become what I would describe as a blessed albatross around their necks.”
Increasing interest rates prevented BSB from making progress on clearing its debt, which hindered the institution’s ability to operate at its fullest potential. Upon the formation of the partnership between BSB and Southwestern Seminary in 2005, Patterson and his wife Dorothy set out to raise funds to pay off the debt, but even in light of such efforts, BSB needed a miracle.
Word of BSB’s need eventually made its way to Gary Mathena, who serves as adjunct professor of worship studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Mathena was already acquainted with BSB through personal connections with its faculty, so when Dorothy Patterson informed him of the financial situation, he began to pray. He then shared his burden for the seminary with his parents, Harold and Patricia Mathena, and as they too prayed about the need, God spoke to their hearts.
The Mathenas wrote a check for $300,000 which, when combined with an additional $50,000 already in-hand, covered half of BSB’s remaining debt. Previously, a German businessman had pledged that, if the Pattersons could raise $350,000, then he would contribute the same amount, thus covering the other half of the debt. For this reason, this check from the Mathenas signaled that BSB would become a debt-free institution.
While in Germany for BSB’s graduation Oct. 3, the Pattersons attended a meeting with German businessmen and Bonn faculty when he informed them of the Mathenas’ gift.
“The room … had a moment of difficulty, believing that Americans loved them that much,” Patterson said. “As it fully registered with them, they began to weep. This had to be one of the most profound moments I have ever experienced, blending together German blood and American blood in the cause of preparing for the great coming European revival.”
Being debt-free means that BSB can now invest more fully in its academic programs, hire additional faculty and make improvements to their property. In addition, officially owning its own property puts BSB one step closer to gaining accreditation in Europe.
Gary Mathena said the gift will “free up the school there in Bonn to move a little quicker to do some of the things that they’ve dreamed of doing and wanted to do.”
“And I’m especially excited about the potential of maybe moving toward a school of music there at the seminary in Bonn,” Mathena said. “I’m hopeful that maybe this will speed that process along and that God will provide future resources and opportunities for the school to expand not only in training pastors and preachers and church planters, but also training those who lead the church in worship.”
“We are ready,” Derksen said, “to continue to build the future of an excellent academic seminary in Germany that glorifies our God through faculty and hundreds of Bible students who take bold and passionate steps of faith into a future that will bring spiritual revival to our German families, churches, schools and our whole nation. … We see a future of opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Germany and Europe. Yes, we are indeed hopeful to see many find eternal life in Jesus Christ and devote themselves to a lifelong ministry for the glory of God!”
Gateway Seminary to offer Chinese-English bilingual program
ONTARIO, Calif. — Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention will initiate a Chinese-English Bilingual (CEB) Program offering both master’s and doctoral level degrees, thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor.
The $500,000 contribution will support the program through its formation and provide a basis for its operation.
“The donor is making it possible to train Mandarin-speaking leaders in the United States and around the world,” Gateway President Jeff Iorg said. “With our remote access and online capabilities, global training for Chinese leaders will be possible.”
The search for a program director is now underway, with classes scheduled to begin in fall 2017. Student applications are now being accepted for the program.
The CEB program joins the Korean-English Bilingual Program (KEB), which began four years ago as the seminary’s second fully bilingual program at the master’s and doctoral level. In addition, Gateway Seminary supports study in English, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Hmong, Mien, Russian and Haitian through its Contextualized Leadership Development Program in various locations.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Asian population in the western United States grew by more than 45 percent in the last decade, with Chinese being the largest group. Approximately 3.6 percent of California’s population is Chinese.
“The donor felt training leaders through Gateway Seminary was the best way to make a long-term impact and reach the most people for Christ,” Iorg said. “We appreciate his confidence in us and his long-term vision.”