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FROM THE SEMINARIES: SBTS, SWBTS convocations focus on battle for truth

Bryan Baise, associate professor of philosophy and apologetics, signs the Abstract of Principles at the SBTS fall convocation as President Albert Mohler looks on. Photo by Stuart Hunt/SBTS

The battle of ideas is a war for our souls, Mohler says at convocation

By Jeff Robinson/SBTS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – The battle of ideas is not a matter of intellectual strength but is most fundamentally a spiritual war in which our very souls are at stake, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told students and faculty gathered Tuesday morning for fall convocation at Alumni Memorial Chapel.

Southern’s convocation marked the return of in-person chapel for the first time since March of 2020 when twice-weekly services were interrupted by the pandemic. As in the past, SBTS will hold chapel worship services on Tuesday and Thursday each week throughout the fall semester.

“By the grace of God, we are here, and we give Him thanks for this incredible privilege,” Mohler said. Mohler preached to a packed chapel from Philippians 4:8-9, “Think on These Things: How to Keep Your Soul While Expanding Your Mind.”

“We’re in a battle of ideas, and that becomes ever more apparent to us,” he said. “(Southern Seminary) was born into a battle of ideas in 1859. Throughout its history, it’s been part of that battle of ideas – sometimes even central to that battle of ideas.

“Every single class that’s taught, every single book that’s read, paper that’s written, test that’s taken, every single conversation is in some sense a battle of ideas. And in the battle of ideas, our determination is that truth prevail.”

Mohler pointed out the trend in recent years of public “deconversions” among younger evangelicals as evidence of the growing spiritual battle for the Christian faith. Mohler illustrated with C. S. Lewis’s classic work The Screwtape Letters, where the veteran demon, Screwtape, advises the young demon he’s mentoring to “get the human mind to run after other things” to produce “maximum uncertainty” over truth. Southern’s mission is to instill in students maximum certainty over the truthfulness of Scripture, he said.

“Satan wants your soul while you are at Southern Seminary or Boyce College,” he said. “And if he cannot have you as his own, he will at the very least seek to distract you from the truth, to tempt you.

“(Spiritual warfare) is out there in the world, but it’s also right here on this campus. It’s in every single classroom. It’s also in every single cranium. It’s not just a battle of ideas. It’s a battle for our souls. … Our greatest danger is that we will let our minds run away from God.”

Considering Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 8:1 (“knowledge puffs up”), Mohler encouraged students to pursue biblical knowledge that will deepen their affections for Christ. A Christian is not to pursue knowledge merely for the sake of knowing more, he warned.

“There is a knowledge we are to seek, and it’s not a knowledge that causes our minds to wander or to be stuck in some sort of maximum uncertainty,” he said. “It is a wisdom that situates us in the greatest certainty and the least uncertainty. Knowledge must end in Christ or it’s not true knowledge. It’s not true truth.

“We need not fear knowledge in the discipleship sense. We are to pursue it. We are to pursue Christ. We are to take every thought captive to Christ. … In the battle for our souls, if we know more, but that more is not Christ, then we do not know more.”

Mohler’s address may be viewed here.

During the service, five Boyce College and SBTS professors signed the Abstract of Principles, the seminary’s historic confession of faith which faculty members agree to teach in accord with and not contrary to the doctrines contained in it.

In signing the Abstract, professors agree to teach its doctrines “without hesitation, mental reservation, nor any private arrangement” with seminary leadership. Signing the document is a sacred moment for professors, Mohler said, because of the public nature of the act.

“This is public,” Mohler said. “There is no secret arrangement. This is a public declaration.”

Signatories were:

  • Bryan E. Baise, associate professor of philosophy and apologetics
  • David A. Bosch, professor of business administration
  • Robert D. Jones, associate professor of biblical counseling
  • Oren R. Martin, associate professor of Christian theology
  • Michael E. Pohlman, associate professor of Christian preaching

New faculty members include Jonathan B. Austin, assistant professor of law; Alisha M. Biler, assistant professor of English and linguistics; R. Scott Connell, professor of church music and worship; Bradley G. Green, professor of philosophy and theology; John M. Henderson, associate professor of biblical counseling; Justin A. Irving, professor of leadership; Abraham Kuruvilla, professor of Christian preaching, and Stephen O. Presley, associate professor of church history.

‘Truth fears no light,’ Greenway preaches during fall convocation sermon

By Katie Coleman/SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Southwesterners must remain faithful in a time when the integrity of Christian ministries is increasingly questioned, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Adam W. Greenway said during the school’s convocation service in MacGorman Chapel Aug, 24. The service officially started a new academic year for Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, and it was the first fall convocation since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Held in person, the ceremony did not include the traditional academic processional and the audience was encouraged to practice social distancing in light of increased COVID cases across the nation.

In welcoming new students to the seminary community, Greenway renewed the tradition begun by Robert E. Naylor, fifth president (1958-1978), in pronouncing them “Southwesterners” and reading from Naylor’s final charge to new students given in 1998, a year before his death.

In reference to the title, “Southwesterners,” Naylor said, “It is an honorable and a wonderful word about which you had nothing to do. … [I]t speaks to why you are here. God brought you. If that is not true, you need not be here. This is a special congregation.”

In his message to the seminary community, Greenway took as his text 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, focusing on Paul’s exhortation to the church at Corinth to preach Christ and not themselves.

“I come with a particular burden,” Greenway said, “not just for my stewardship as president of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, but a broader concern about the witness and work of Southern Baptists, of evangelical Christians, and of a watching world who is looking at us.”

As unbelievers view churches and ministries with suspicion and distrust, Greenway called on students to be men and women who pursue integrity in their theological education and ministries. He emphasized the importance of remaining true to Scripture and to resist the temptation to use and manipulate Scripture for one’s own benefit.

“Truth fears no light,” Greenway said, regarding the tendency to cover up sin. Scripture, he explained, is the only true source of truth and clarity.

Referring to an adage from an older generation of preachers, Greenway said he wondered if the “divine reckoning” currently taking place in the evangelical Christian community is because “sin that has been covered up for too long is finally getting fessed up.”

“One of the most significant experiences that should happen in theological education,” he said, “is the time where the Lord so puts us on the anvil and the altar of the Scriptures to where it strips away every accultured tradition that is built up of man and leaves us purified in terms of our desire to be wholly submitted to the entirety of the counsel of the Word of God rightly divided.”

Greenway, who also is a professor of evangelism and apologetics, noted he is often grieved by his conversations with unbelievers who share that it is their observations of the sinful actions of Christian leaders, churches, and ministries that keep them from believing in Christ. This lack of integrity, he explained, has “veiled” the Gospel, and become a hindrance for people to be able to see and hear the Word of God.

“I’ve said since the earliest days of my presidency that my prayer for our seminary is that we would be the kind of institution that the Lord uses to train God-called men and women who will leave here and go out and neither become a casualty yourself, nor create casualties in your wake,” Greenway said. “There is a world that is perishing, and it may be through you that either the veil will remain, or the veil will be removed that they might be able to see and to comprehend the richness of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

As Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College students pursue their theological education and start their ministries, Greenway urged them to resist a self-centered approach to ministry.

“Do not listen to the siren sounds of seduction out there that will inevitably tempt you to say, ‘I’m going to build this ministry around me and my gifts,’” Greenway said. “Don’t do it. God will not honor and bless that.”

Greenway pointed the audience to Southwestern Seminary’s founder and first president, B.H. Carroll, as a model for Christian ministry that did not exalt himself, citing several passages from a recently released book, The B. H. Carroll Pulpit, published by Seminary Hill Press, the institution’s publishing arm.

“You well know what I regard as the crowning mission of my life; what to me is more than life, and that is to see the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary established on such a basis as will ensure perpetuity and place it among the greatest training schools for preachers in this world,” said Carroll in his 1908 address to the first graduating class of Southwestern Seminary.

Greenway concluded his message with an exhortation to students not to magnify themselves, but the offices and ministries to which God has called each of them.

“May Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College over the course of this academic year be an institution from which that Gospel sounds forth with crystal clear clarity, not to make our name great, but for the fame of His name,” Greenway said. “May God find us faithful and make us fruitful in all things as He leads us on.”

In addition to his message and welcoming new students, Greenway recognized and introduced nine new members of the seminary and TBC faculty: Ashley L. Allen, assistant professor of women’s ministries; M. Todd Bates, associate dean and professor of philosophy (TBC); Ian B. Buntain, associate professor of missions; Mark R. McClellan, professor of missions; Blake O. McKinney, assistant professor of history and humanities (TBC); Jon K. Okinaga, assistant professor of biblical counseling; Josh M. Philpot, assistant professor of biblical studies (TBC); Travis H. Trawick, assistant professor of theology; and M. Justin Wainscott, assistant professor of Christian ministry (TBC).

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