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‘Reform in theological education’ urged by BWA general secreta

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (BP)–“People who go to seminary need to do so because of definite call of God on their lives, and theological professors must teach out of a living daily reality of Jesus Christ in their lives,” said Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.
Lotz listed various areas in which “reform in theological education” is needed in an address during the International Baptist Theological Seminary’s 50th anniversary celebration in July in Prague, Czech Republic.
Lotz said the need for reform is prompted by:
— the materialism and secularism of the West.
— the teaching of a Christianity without Christ.
— the hopelessness of Western theology.
— a culture concerned mostly with sensation and feeling, which promotes pornography and other immoral lifestyles and has lost a sense of Christian social consciousness.
“Professors need to have not only intellectually and academically superior minds,” Lotz said, “but should be men and women of deep piety” to lead seminaries as they enter the 21st century.
“Too often today professors and seminary leaders are so caught up in administration and fund-raising that they do not have time for the spiritual disciplines that will give them the authority they need in their teaching and preaching,” Lotz said.
Students also should be challenged to a daily practice of prayer besides the classes required on spiritual formation, Lotz said. “The power of God lies in the Bible,” he said, “and this should be the daily bread of the student.”
Among other areas of reformation advocated by Lotz:
— Attitudes toward the charismatic movement. Describing the Baptist attitude as “ambivalent,” Lotz said the sheer number of Christians classified as charismatic, more than 500 million, should stir attention among Baptists.
“We need to get over our hang-up of the use of the word of ‘charismatic’ and deal with the content of the matter,” Lotz said. “The fact is, it was a rediscovery of the power and work of the Holy Spirit that brought this movement into being, whatever its name. Therefore Baptist theologians and students need to take seriously the work of the Holy Spirit.”
— A return to a theology of conversion. Baptists believe in the born-again experience, Lotz said, yet in many churches today “going forward for baptism and church membership has replaced the mourner’s bench, a real conversion experience and consequently a conversion theology.”
— A recovery of the gifts of the laity. While people in the pews are very educated, their minds have not been challenged theologically or spiritually, Lotz said.
Theological education “must provide for involving the laity in the whole educational process,” he said, because there are outstanding Christian laypeople who have much to teach students.
— Deepened involvement of students in the life of the church. The church utilized by Martin Luther King Jr. as the “Blessed Community” is the place where racism is attacked, social justice proclaimed, the sinner welcomed home, the lost and hurting find refuge and where all are included in God’s grace, Lotz said.
Therefore “involvement in the life of the church is not an option for a theological student; it is a requirement,” he said.
Giving the example of Russian believers who used piety in the days of communist persecution to witness to the power of the gospel, Lotz called for a life of holiness among students. “While the media and secular young people may ridicule that life,” he said, “the fact remains that the Christian student’s life which exhibits holiness is a tremendous witness to the transforming of the Spirit in everyday life.”
— A biblical exegesis which informs students in today’s realities but also builds their ability to effectively communicate it and lead people to Christ. Lotz decried a politically correct faith which denies the incarnation of Christ. While acknowledging positive contributions of feminism to modern theology, Lotz cautioned against the dangers of using non-personal terms for God instead of the traditional Trinitarian formula of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Eventually Jesus becomes just a religious figure like many others when his divinity and lordship are denied, Lotz said.
“When, in Baptist history, Trinitarianism is rejected,” Lotz said, “the next generation rejects Christ.”

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  • Wendy Ryan