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SBC DIGEST: Midwestern Seminary; Criswell College; LifeWay; WMU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—Reports from several Southern Baptist entities include the election of a seminary president to lead a scholarly organization dedicated to defending the faith.

Additional reports in this digest relate to Criswell College, LifeWay Christian Resources and WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union).

ROBERTS LEADS APOLOGETICS SOCIETY — Midwestern Baptist Theological President R. Philip Roberts is the new president of the International Society for Christian Apologetics.

ISCA, founded in 2006, brings together conservative Christian scholars engaged in apologetics in a variety of fields. The society’s bylaws state that its purpose is “to foster scholarly discussion of ideas among evangelical scholars relevant to the defense of the historic Christian faith.”

“There is no question that in terms of primary issues, the International Society of Christian Apologetics is right where it needs to be,” Roberts said. “We’re not involved in matters of ecclesiology or some of the more refined points of Christian thinking, particularly views of eschatology,” he said; rather, the ICSA is rooted in core doctrines of Christian faith, such as the reliability of Scripture.

Norm Geisler served as the ISCA’s founding president. The longtime ethics professor at Dallas Theological Seminary currently is distinguished professor of apologetics at Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, Calif.

Roberts said Southern Baptist seminaries have played an important role in the development of the society. This year’s ISCA conference, April 23-24 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, addressed the meaning and implications of creation. Next year’s conference, April 29-30 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., will focus on the problem of evil.

Southern Baptist scholars often speak at the conferences and contribute to ISCA journal articles. Papers presented at previous conferences are posted online at www.isca-apologetics.org and address such topics as the differences between Christianity and other religions and cults, including Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism and Wicca; cultural issues such as evolution, atheism and biomedical ethics; and various heresies that depart from Christian faith.

Full membership requires a minimum of a master of arts degree in a field related to apologetics, with student memberships available at a reduced cost. However, subscriptions to the annual peer-reviewed Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics are available to anyone interested in a wide variety of apologetically relevant fields, including philosophy, ethics, theology, biblical studies, history and missions.

Roberts, prior to assuming Midwestern’s presidency in 2001, spent seven years at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. Part of that time, he directed the board’s interfaith evangelism department. Throughout his ministry, he has encouraged seminary students to understand the perspective of other religious groups in order to witness more effectively.

Roberts described apologetics as more important than ever in the life of the church, “particularly in an era of pluralism, syncretism and relativism.”

“I think it’s up to every church, every pastor to equip believers to understand the faith and to evangelize in an intelligent fashion,” Roberts said. “There’s a world of material out there from Christian publishers like Broadman & Holman to many resource ministries.”

Roberts holds a Ph.D. degree from the Free University of Amsterdam and has conducted post-graduate research at Oxford University. He received his M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and B.A. from Georgetown (Ky.) College. He is the author of several books, including “Mormonism Unmasked” and “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism,” as well as having served as executive director of “Mormonism Unmasked” and “The Cross and the Crescent” interfaith videos.

Although he grew up in Southern Baptist churches, Roberts doesn’t recall ever hearing the word “apologetics” or knowing anything about it until he went to college. “In today’s world we cannot allow that to happen. It’s important to raise the level of understanding and challenge the academy and the church alike to do our fair share of work in making sure questions are answered and people are affirmed in their faith.”

CRISWELL LAUNCHES PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH -– Beginning its first year as an independently governed school, Criswell College has begun a presidential search.

Trustee chairman Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, Texas, has named Steve Washburn of Pflugerville as chairman. Also on the seven-member committee are five Texans — Jim Richards of Keller, Jack Brady of Dallas, John Mann of Springtown, Jack Pogue of Dallas and Jimmy Pritchard of Forney — and Richard Land of Franklin, Tenn. Richards is executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Land is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a former Criswell vice president for academic affairs.

The committee agreed to begin receiving and evaluating resumes via e-mail in PDF format to Washburn at [email protected].

Trustees, during their Aug. 20 meeting in Dallas, unanimously approved a motion from Thomas Hatley, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark., expressing “appreciation to Jesus Christ for placing in the heart of Dr. W.A. Criswell the creation of this school.” Furthermore, “We express our gratitude as well to the generations of pastors and people of First Baptist Church Dallas who have given birth and nurturing to our school over the years. We gratefully accept the baton they pass to us today.”

Richards of the SBTC, who was approved as an ex-officio member of the board, presented a $100,000 contribution to the college on behalf of the convention’s 2,200-plus affiliated churches.

Noting the SBTC’s relationship and synergy with Criswell College, Richards said, “Our executive board has expressed full confidence in the new direction of the school.”

The college’s interim president, Lamar Cooper, reported that the separation from First Baptist Church in Dallas has created a $900,000 annual shortfall in available revenue now that the radio station licenses have been transferred to a new entity, First Dallas Media, Inc. Previously, the station provided $1.4 million in annual revenue; now, an annual payment of $500,000 of unrestricted funds is scheduled in the future.

Cooper summarized advances in recent months that include offering the addition of distance education courses, training for International Mission Board personnel who regularly minister to Jewish people and Spanish-language instruction.

Cooper, in response to a question about what makes Criswell College unique from other institutions, replied, “No other college in the country requires a year of Greek and Hebrew for a B.A. in biblical studies.” Cooper added that the college is unique in seeking “to merge practical application with the theological information, all of it centered around a commitment to the Bible as God’s infallible, inerrant Word.”

Hatley later picked up on the question of the unique nature of the college, stating, “There’s a certain amount of courage and leadership that comes to bear as part of personality of staff, faculty and students that breeds itself into the blood of these students so that when they leave they are willing to do what some schools only teach. It is the implementation that makes us unique….”

Land encouraged utilizing prominent alumni who could testify as to how their education at Criswell College equipped them to pastor and increased their burden for the lost. Furthermore, he noted, “The role of Criswell College in the Conservative Resurgence has not yet been fully written, but it was absolutely critical” in the successful return of the Southern Baptist Convention to its theological roots.

Criswell College will conclude the yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary with Founder’s Day events on Oct. 5. Featured chapel speakers include two alumni, David Allen, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology, and Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee. An alumni breakfast and lunch also are scheduled.

SEBTS PROF JOINS B&H ACADEMIC — B&H Publishing Group, the publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources, has named Andreas J. Köstenberger as director of acquisitions for its academic program.

Köstenberger will continue to serve as director of Ph.D. studies and professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Köstenberger also is the editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS). He is also the author, editor and/or translator of 20-plus books.

Brad Waggoner, vice president and publisher of B&H Publishing Group, noted that when Thom Rainer became president of LifeWay, “he demonstrated his commitment to substantive academic publishing by creating the B&H Academic imprint…. As we continue to prioritize the importance of academic publishing, we have invited Dr. Köstenberger to join our efforts in acquiring significant authors whom God has gifted to help equip the next generation of leaders for the church. It is my firm expectation that Dr. Köstenberger will utilize his knowledge as a scholar and his expertise in leading others to enhance B&H’s commitment to and effectiveness in academic publishing for all of our colleges and seminaries and ultimately for the sake of the local church.”

Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, described Köstenberger as “one of evangelicalism’s finest New Testament scholars and a gift to our seminary. We are delighted to share this gifted academician with co-laborers in the Gospel. This is a good thing for the work of the Kingdom and the building up of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Köstenberger, noting “the considerable resources LifeWay brings to the table,” said there is “definitely a window of opportunity for B&H Academic, [as] several major publishers have moved to the theological left in recent years.”

“The first specific priority I see for B&H is to nurture a culture of academic excellence,” Köstenberger said. “We must make a case that biblical Christianity and excellence — in everything we do — are not only perfectly compatible; excellence is the only logical commitment for anyone who has truly understood the character of God and His calling on our lives.”

Köstenberger will begin his B&H duties Sept. 1.

FOX NEWS INTERVIEWS NEW HOPE AUTHORS — Charles Powell and Dillon Burroughs, authors of “Not in My Town: Exposing and Ending Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery,” were interviewed on the Fox News Channel in mid-August regarding their work with the Mercy Movement.

Their book and accompanying educational DVD are slated for release in May 2011 by New Hope Publishers, the trade books division of WMU. A separate documentary also is slated for release next spring.

The Mercy Movement is an anti-human trafficking organization founded by Powell. He and Burroughs were in Atlanta from Aug. 15-17 to shed light on human trafficking there, focusing on Asian spas and massage parlors where human trafficking often occurs.

Powell and Burroughs were scheduled for several Fox News Network programs during their Atlanta visit.

Powell is a social justice advocate, film producer and conference speaker whose experiences during the past 30 years include counter-terrorism training and undercover work in the war on drugs. Burroughs has authored more than 25 books, many involving collaborative work with faith-based leaders, authors and athletes.

New Hope Publishers represents more than 50 authors with 100-plus individual works. It describes its mission as providing books that challenge readers to understand and be involved in the mission of God. WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union) is a missions auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention.

For more information about Charles Powell, Dillon Burroughs or New Hope Publishers, visit www.newhopepublishers.com.

HE WAS A HOSPITALIZED HYPOCRITE — Bruce Raley was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a heart monitor on a Sunday morning when he heard God tell him, “Bruce, you are glad there are people who are not in church today.”

Raley had noticed the clock in his hospital room said 11:00.

“I began to pray for the morning worship service at church when, during my prayer, God told me I was a hypocrite. I was glad people weren’t in Sunday School and church.”

That startled Raley, a minister of education in Panama City, Fla., at the time.

“He continued to impress upon me that I really was glad the nurses were at the hospital, ready to rush in if my monitor indicated a problem,” said Raley, now director for leadership and evangelism training and events at LifeWay Christian Resources.

“I was glad my doctor was there, ready to rush in if I had a problem. I was even glad that the hospital food staff was there to cook my breakfast. Then worst of all, I was really, really glad the waitresses at Applebee’s restaurant didn’t go to church so they could be there ready to serve me since I went there for lunch just about every Sunday.”

That started Raley thinking. What if their church could start a small group Bible study at the hospital? He found out the people least likely to be able to go to church were the people working the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift.

“We started a Bible study that met at 10 p.m. on Saturday night for the staff that couldn’t manage getting to church on Sunday morning,” he recounted. “We had about 30 people involved.”

From that encounter with God, Raley realized churches were going to have to become intentional about offering people times other than Sunday morning for Bible study, prayer, discipleship and fellowship. Since that time, he has kept that in his heart.

“We don’t have the ‘Blue Laws’ anymore,” Raley said. “Our culture doesn’t stop on Sunday morning and give people the time to go to church. Since so many of them can’t come to us, we have to figure out a way to go to them.”
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Ashley Stephens and Polly House.

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