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Köstenberger: Authority of Scripture key to ‘every issue we face’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Acknowledging how debates about inerrancy weigh heavily on the authority of Scripture, Andreas Köstenberger challenged students to hold true to the Word of God during the annual Sizemore Lectures at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Köstenberger, professor of New Testament and Greek and director of Ph.D. and Th.M. studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., spoke on three topics during the Oct. 4-6 lectures: “The Moral Vision of John,” “The Biblical Framework for Marriage,” and “The New Testament Pattern of Church Government.”

“The practical and relevant issues of Jesus’ ethic, marriage and church government are all of interest for the church,” Köstenberger said. “It is my conviction that the Bible must be our common foundation and authoritative source for every issue we face as the church of Christ and as Southern Baptists.”

On his first topic, Köstenberger turned to the 13th chapter of John to focus on the heart of Jesus’ ethic. He said that even though Scripture does not give an exhaustive approach to such issues as abortion, cloning or stem cell research, the church can rely upon God’s Word.

“Emphatically there is only one reliable source and authority for our ethical reflections and formulations -– God’s inspired and inerrant Holy Word,” Köstenberger said.

“Scripture provides a sufficient compass, an ethical framework for decision-making that postmodern man ignores at his great peril,” he said.

Speaking on marriage on the second day of the lecture series, Köstenberger said, “Our current cultural crisis is symptomatic of a deeper-seeded spiritual crisis that continues to gnaw away at the foundation of our one shared societal values -– marriage and family.”

The cultural crisis concerning the traditional Judeo-Christian view of marriage and family leads to grappling with human rights, self-fulfillment and pragmatic utility, Köstenberger said.

“If the cultural crisis is symptomatic of the underlying spiritual crisis, then the solution likewise ought to be spiritual and not merely a cultural response,” he said.

God’s Word doesn’t rest on man’s approval nor does it remain silent on the vital issues affecting men and women in marriages today, Köstenberger noted; Scripture indeed provides wholesome instruction and appropriate answers to vital issues of marriage and family, such as parenting, and also on the single lifestyle as well as homosexuality.

In his final lecture, Köstenberger addressed the highly debated pattern of New Testament church government. The Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament, he noted, shed helpful insight on particularly controversial topics such as women deacons.

Köstenberger, following a lengthy discourse from biblical text concerning non-teaching and non-leading women deacons, said that the church can provide a good opportunity to recognize the ministries for women just as men are recognized.

“We [conservatives] are not against women in ministry as our [liberal] opponents sometimes allege,” he said, referring to the debate on women in the ministry. “We do not discriminate against women who are involved in significant ministry.”

But as with any other matter, churches and its leaders must rely upon Scripture as their ultimate authority, Köstenberger said.

“The church must continue to wrestle with the scriptural teachings as to what constitutes church government, church leadership and qualifications for leadership,” he said. “The church must commit itself to abide to what the Scripture teaches and hold to it rather than follow personal preferences or church tradition.”

Midwestern President Dr. R. Philip Roberts said, “It was a wonderful honor for Midwestern to have hosted a world-class scholar like Andreas Köstenberger. Southern Baptists can be proud to have biblical exegetes of his caliber on our campuses.”

Köstenberger said the lectures also were an encouragement to him. “To follow a long line of distinguished biblical scholars such as Darrell Bock, D.A. Carson or Howard Marshall who have delivered the Sizemore Lectures in the past, it was certainly a high honor to present this year’s lectures,” he said. “President Roberts and the Midwestern community are to be commended for nurturing the vision of God-honoring, biblically grounded, life-changing scholarship that searches and expounds the Scriptures for the greater glory of God and the greater good of his people.

“I have appreciated the warm hospitality, the stimulating interaction and the collegial atmosphere that pervades the Midwestern campus,” Köstenberger said, “and I am convinced that God will use Midwestern to continue to train many godly leaders for God’s Kingdom in the years to come.”

Midwestern’s Sizemore Lectures were established in 1976 in honor of Burlan A. Sizemore, Jr. who was tragically killed in an automobile accident in March 1976. Sizemore served as professor of Old Testament and Hebrew from 1968 to 1976 at Midwestern.

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  • James Streicher