LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Quick: Name a spiritual discipline. Did marriage come to mind?
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Leigh Conver believes it should. Conver, professor of pastoral counseling at the Louisville, Ky., seminary, argues in the spring edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology that marriage should be listed alongside more recognized spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer and evangelism.
The volume, a publication of Southern Seminary, focuses on “Biblical Perspectives on Marriage and Family” and includes articles on a handful of family issues.
It contains articles by two other Southern Seminary professors: Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament, and Daniel Akin, dean of the school of theology. Other contributors are William Heth, professor of New Testament and Greek at Taylor University in Upland, Ind.; Gordon Wenham, professor of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire in England; and Peter Balla, professor of New Testament at Karoli Gaspar Reformed University in Budapest, Hungary.
The spring edition also includes a forum between theologians D.A. Carson, C. Ben Mitchell, Bruce Ware and Russell Moore, as well as five book reviews.
Conver asserts that spouses must be disciplined if they are to achieve the biblical model of marriage outlined in Ephesians 5. That model, he adds, stands opposed to an American culture that is self-oriented and self-absorbed.
“Living the daily challenges of marriage with a ‘disciplined’ heart, mind and will is required for marriage to mirror the standards of Ephesians 5, in which the husband is enjoined to love his wife self-sacrificially like Christ loved the Church and the wife is enjoined to love her husband submissively as unto the Lord,” he writes.
By following the Ephesians 5 model of sacrificial love, Conver asserts, Christian couples rid themselves of natural self-centered tendencies. By doing this, he adds, they are practicing a spiritual discipline.
“Spiritual disciplines do not cause the believer to experience righteousness,” he writes. “Spiritual disciplines prepare the believer to receive the gifts of God’s grace by reducing the influence of the old automatic sin-oriented habit patterns and replacing them with habit patterns oriented to God and his righteousness.”
Conver, the Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Psychology of Religion and Pastoral Counseling, argues that marriage offers spouses “an unmatched opportunity to practice the principles of the Christian faith, including forgiveness, on a daily basis.” He labels marriage an “unmatched opportunity” because of the “nature and level of personal vulnerability” found within marriages.
Schreiner writes the journal’s lead editorial, asserting that the Bible must be the foundation of Christians’ views on marriage.
“[W]e submit to scriptural authority in formulating our view of marriage, the family and the role of women,” he writes. “… We turn to the Scriptures to study and seek what God has to say about topics that provoke debate even among Christians. We acknowledge that the Bible has the final and authoritative word on how to conduct ourselves as husbands and wives, parents and children, and men and women.”
The remainder of the journal tackles a host of other family issues.
Heth and Wenham debate the issue of divorce and remarriage. Akin examines Song of Solomon 4:1-5:1 in “The Beauty and Blessings of the Christian Bedroom.” Schreiner critiques William J. Webb’s book, “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals.”
Finally, in “Child-Parent Imagery in the Catholic Epistles,” Balla studies the family imagery in the non-Pauline epistles.
Excerpts of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology can be viewed on Southern’s webpage at http://www.sbts.edu/resources/sbjt/2002/Spring2002.php.
The SBJT can be purchased by calling 1-800-626-5525, ext. 4413.
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