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FROM THE SEMINARIES: Southeastern, Southwestern, Southern

Today’s From the Seminaries includes reports from:
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


RSS: SEBTS ‘Intersect’ explores faith, work, economics; Q&A explores whether Patterson is an Arminian; Longtime SBTS prof Bill Cromer dies at 91.

SEBTS ‘Intersect’ explores faith, work, economics

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (SEBTS) — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted “Intersect: The Wisdom Forum” to discuss the intersection of faith, work and economics, attended by more than 400 pastors, students and members of the local community in Wake Forest, N.C.

The March 13 session, part of a partnership between SEBTS and The Kern Family Foundation, included eight brief presentations about how a person can impact God’s Kingdom through work.

A list of speakers and topics follows:

— Jay Richards, a New York Times bestselling author and assistant research professor at Catholic University of America, who gave two talks: “Why Good Intentions Aren’t Good Enough” and “Why Christians Should Support Economic Freedom.”

Richards highlighted the need to anticipate the consequences of a policy before it is enacted. “Promote effective solutions that are not random acts of kindness,” he said. “The trillion-dollar question” after a policy is enacted is, “And then what will happen?”

“Good intentions aren’t enough,” said Richards, who also explored the conditions that allow people to flourish, highlighting free enterprise as the best option available today.

— David Kim, pastor of faith and work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, spoke on “Why We Can’t Love Our Work” and “Tangible Expressions of Glory.”

“The reason we can’t love our work is because our work can’t love us; we want it to do something it’s not designed to do,” Kim said. “Work was never meant to be our identity but an expression of it. It flows out of who we are as God’s dearly beloved children.

“The product of our hands is an expression of our identity,” he said.

— Carolyn McCulley, author, speaker and filmmaker who spoke on “The Story of Work” and discussed whether women should be in the workplace.

“If we don’t know the story of work, can we be sure that we don’t make the error of reading our own modern experience into the Scriptures?” she asked. “[The apostle] Paul saw that women’s work was strategic, and it was an important part of the Gospel. Paul partnered with women to advance the Gospel.

“Should women work? Yes, they should work very hard and work hard for the glory of God,” McCulley said. “But it takes extra wisdom in a culture that separates productivity from parenting.”

— Bruce Ashford, SEBTS provost, dean of faculty and associate professor of theology and culture, who spoke on the misconceptions of culture.

Ashford defined culture as “what happens when God’s imagers interact with God’s good creation.” He offered three mindsets of the church relating to culture: the church as “bomb shelter,” the church as “ultimate fighter” and “the third and best is the church as a preview of the Kingdom.”

— David Jones, SEBTS associate professor of Christian ethics, who spoke on “Socialism, Communism and the Early Church. Oh My!”

Jones used selected passages in Acts to note that Christians “are not called to pursue economic equality; rather, believers are called to promote economic justice because God is not concerned about how much you have but what you do with it.”

— Benjamin Quinn, SEBTS assistant professor of theology and history of ideas, who spoke on the need for Christians to see value in their ministry regardless of their job title.

There is a “deep divide between the pulpit and the pew that should have never existed,” Quinn said. “There is a centrality of those ordained to ministry but not a superiority.”

— Walter Strickland, SEBTS special adviser to the president for diversity and instructor of theology, who spoke on “Neighbor Love, the Poor, and My Garden.”

Strickland explored the questions, “What does it mean to be a Christian and see such need and poverty?” and “How can I utilize what God has given me to love God and then love my neighbor?”

He encouraged forum attendees to seek long-term poverty alleviation through healing relationships in light of the fact that people are created in the image of God.

— Heath Thomas, SEBTS associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, who gave a “portrait of a life worth living.”

“A life well-lived is not measured in tweet-able quotes but in the fear of the Lord,” Thomas said. “A life well-lived begins and ends with the faithfulness of God and our faithfulness and trust in God.”

The evening concluded with a panel moderated by Ken Keathely, SEBTS professor of theology and director of the Center for Faith and Culture, with Richards, Kim and McCulley participating.

Admission was free. The first 300 people to register received “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett; “Flourishing Faith: A Baptist Primer on Work, Economics, and Civic Stewardship” by Chad Brand; and “Art & The Bible” by Francis Schaeffer.

To view The Wisdom Forum talks online and access more of the Intersect Project resources, visit intersectproject.org.

Q&A explores whether Patterson is an Arminian

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) — In a question-and-answer discussion at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a guest professor attempted to convince SWBTS President Paige Patterson — as well as attending students and faculty — that Patterson is an Arminian.

Roger Olson, Foy Valentine professor of Christian theology and ethics at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, explored the question during one of the Grindstone gatherings at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

Olson, author of “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities,” has devoted more than two decades to addressing misconceptions about Arminianism and, in the process of doing so, has asserted that many evangelical Christians, whether they realize it or not, are Arminians.

The discussion began with Olson justifying his position that Patterson is an Arminian. He said he defines Arminianism, along every other theological category, by what he calls “prototypes” — that is, founders of movements rather than the most recent people identifying themselves with the movements.

In the case of Arminianism, Olson appealed to Jacob Arminius himself. After meticulously researching Arminius’ writings, Olson said he defined an Arminian as “a Protestant Christian who believes that God graciously grants us the opportunity and the ability, in spite of our radical fallenness, to freely accept His offer of salvation or turn it down.”

“So I don’t believe that Arminianism is first of all belief in free will,” Olson said. “It’s belief in freed will by prevenient grace — by the grace of God that frees the will from the bondage to sin and enables the hearer of the Gospel to either accept or reject the offer of God’s grace.”

Underlying this concept, Olson said, is the character of God, which he said is the main issue between Arminians and Calvinists. He explained, “I believe that God is good in a way that we can understand and don’t have to put an asterisk next to ‘good’ when we say, ‘God is good.’

“We’re not just saying God is God, and whatever He does is good; we’re saying we know through Jesus Christ what goodness is, and that’s who and what God is. God’s character is good.” With this in mind, Olson argued that the concept of reprobation, whereby God elects certain people for hell — a concept generally upheld by Calvinists — is contrary to God’s character.

Although Patterson has stated many times that he is neither Arminian nor Calvinist, Olson asserted that when Arminianism is defined by Arminius and his earliest followers — rather than those who would later add to or distort the original teaching — Patterson should have no problem identifying himself as an Arminian.

Patterson questioned why he cannot simply identify himself as a Baptist, electing not to identify with either position. Although Olson acknowledged that such labels are ultimately unimportant, he noted that when Christians discuss such matters as soteriology, election and atonement, they tend to fall into one camp or the other, whether they realize it or admit it.

“So, of course you can choose not to adopt these labels,” Olson said. “I would argue [however] that there are certain issues where it’s either/or. Either Christ died for everyone, or Christ died only for the elect. I don’t see how you can believe both or neither. So I would say that whether you know it or not, if you’re an evangelical Baptist and really think about soteriological issues, you lean one way or the other.”

Over the course of the nearly 90-minute discussion, which involved a time for Q&A with the audience, Patterson, in spite of Olson’s argument, maintained that he is not an Arminian. One particular point with which Patterson took issue is Arminius’ lack of conviction regarding the perseverance of the saints, or eternal security. Arminius, as well as his earliest followers, never expressed certainty regarding eternal security.

When Olson affirmed Patterson on this point, the Southwestern president said with a laugh, “Thank you, Dr. Olson, for rescuing me from the Arminian charge, because I do emphatically believe in the perseverance of the saints — or at least the perseverance of the Savior. Arminius had not made up his mind; I have made up my mind.”

At the end of the evening, Patterson noted to the audience that the discussion is proof that people of opposing viewpoints can “carry on a decent discussion” and may even learn something. Among people of faith, he said, “there is no excuse for not having conversations like this.”

Longtime SBTS prof William R. Cromer Jr. dies at 91

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — William R. Cromer Jr., who was the longest-serving Christian education professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died on March 25 in his Louisville home at the age of 91.

During Cromer’s 41-year tenure, more than 10,000 students came through the seminary and more 4,000 sat in his classroom, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, estimated during the professor’s March 28 funeral service in Southern’s Alumni Memorial Chapel.

Cromer’s influence is “being transmitted to generations of people who may never know his name in this life but will know a minister who was taught by him in seminary,” Mohler said. “When we get to heaven, we’re going to find out that Dr. Bill Cromer didn’t just teach 4,000 students, but those beyond number and limit, and he taught them faithfully.”

Cromer was buried in the seminary plot at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, an honor given to professors who retire from the seminary. His family requested that expressions of sympathy be made to the seminary’s William R. Cromer Jr. Scholarship Fund.

Cromer earned master of divinity and doctor of education degrees from Southern Seminary and an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami (Florida). He was among the first graduates of the seminary’s school of religious education, later made part of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Cromer was installed as the Gaines S. Dobbins Professor of Christian Education in 1993. After he retired from teaching in 1995, Cromer served as senior professor of Christian education and leadership for 10 years and as retired professor until his death.

He was the business manager of the Review and Expositor, a former academic journal of Southern Seminary, intermittently for 17 years until 1989. He wrote three books on church leadership and published numerous articles and curriculum materials throughout his career. The scholarship fund in his name was established by the 1994 December graduating class.

Cromer was a longtime member of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville and often served as minister of music or minister of education in various churches over 30 years. He also served in U.S. Naval Intelligence during World War II.

He was preceded in death by his wife of more than 50 years, Lois Spencer Cromer, and is survived by three sons, Bill, Dan and Brian, eight grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

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