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New theology dean elected by Southwestern trustees

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees elected a new dean of the school of theology and approved a new “text-driven” curriculum for the master of divinity degree during their April 13 spring meeting.

The trustees also approved changes to the College at Southwestern’s bachelor of arts and bachelor of science programs and elected and promoted several seminary faculty members during their meeting at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

Jeffrey Bingham, associate dean of biblical and theological studies and professor of theology at Wheaton College in Illinois, was unanimously elected as the new dean of the school of theology, succeeding David Allen, who will serve as the founding dean of Southwestern’s new school of preaching, both effective Aug. 1.

Patterson cited four reasons for being excited about Bingham’s addition to the seminary. “First of all, [Jeffrey Bingham] is a name that is known at every evangelical institution in the world,” he said.

“Secondly, he is a recognized patristic scholar, and we’ve been attempting to build our patristics area. Third, because he is increasingly committed to our stance on the significance of the Anabaptist movement.” Citing his final reason with a laugh, Patterson concluded, in reference to Bingham’s tall stature, “And fourth, because we needed some height on this faculty.”

This will not be Bingham’s first time serving at Southwestern. From 2002-2003, he served as assistant dean for theological studies and professor of historical theology. Prior to this, as well as after, Bingham served in multiple positions at Dallas Theological Seminary before going to Wheaton.

Bingham completed his undergraduate work at New Mexico State University and his post-graduate work at Dallas Seminary, earning both a master of theology in 1986 and Ph.D. in 1995. He was ordained at Arlington Bible Church in Arlington, Texas, in 1986.

In addition to patristic theology, Bingham’s academic specialties include history of the reception of the Bible, history of biblical interpretation, second-century Christianity, and Irenaeus. His published works include “Irenaeus’ Use of Matthew’s Gospel in Adversus Haereses” and “Pocket History of the Church.” He also served as editor of “The Bible in Ancient Christianity” and associate editor of the “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.”

Bingham is a former president of the Southwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) who also has served as section chair of SBL’s “History of Interpretation” section and section chair of the “Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Christianity” of SBL International. Other past positions include president of the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies and director of the Southwest Seminar on the development of early Catholic Christianity. Bingham also has extensive international experience, having lived in numerous locations around the world including Venezuela, Madagascar, Thailand, Qatar, Tunisia and Italy.

Allen, who has served as dean of the school of theology since 2004, additionally was named by trustees as distinguished professor of preaching.

M.Div. “text-driven” curriculum

The new “text-driven” curriculum for the M.Div. degree entails, among various revisions, an extra semester each of Old Testament, New Testament and systematic theology, extending the program from 91 hours to 92. Trustees also approved the incorporation of these three elements into all of the seminary’s other master’s degree programs.

“This is an effort to prepare students to deal with the Word of God,” Southwestern President Paige Patterson said. “We understand that there will be some students who are more interested in a degree than they are in preparation, but the student who is interested in preparation for biblical studies is going to love what we have designed. … [This new M.Div.] is a tougher degree than those available in other seminaries, but we make no apology for that; we are trying to prepare men to be preachers of the Word of God.”

Trustees approved a bachelor of arts in humanities and biblical studies for the College at Southwestern to replace the current bachelor of arts in humanities and bachelor of science in biblical studies degrees. The new curriculum provides a strong humanities degree coupled with a biblical foundation to prepare students to be thinkers and students of the Bible.

In addition to Allen, other faculty receiving promotions were:

— Howard Aultman, professor of music theory, was promoted to distinguished professor of music theory.

— Helmuth Pehlke, professor of Old Testament, to research professor of Old Testament.

— Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology, to research professor of systematic theology.

Elected to the faculty were Justin Buchanan as assistant professor of student ministry in the Terry School of Church and Family Ministries and Robert Oscar Lopez as professor of humanities in the College at Southwestern.

All faculty promotions and elections will be effective Aug. 1.

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  • Alex Sibley