LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Thomas J. Nettles was given a festschrift Nov. 10 at a seminary event, honoring a 35-year teaching career that helped influence the Southern Baptist Convention’s conservative resurgence.
A festschrift is a volume of writings contributed by different authors presented as a tribute to a scholar. It is a rarity in the academic world.
Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Seminary since 1997, co-authored in 1980 “Baptists and the Bible,” a book that played a key role in the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence, calling for the denomination to return to biblical inerrancy as a core belief. Nettles’ co-author was the late L. Russ Bush; both men were on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas at the time.
“Teaching is such a high calling and Tom Nettles embodies that calling,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. “It was personally gratifying to see Professor Nettles honored in this way. It was a day he, and we, will not forget.”
In the foreword of the festschrift, called “Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory,” Mohler writes:
“Tom Nettles was born to be a teacher, called to be a preacher, and trained to be a scholar. He has produced a library of scholarship and has shaped a generation of Baptist ministers and leaders. He has also done what few scholars ever have the opportunity or courage to do — he has reset the terms of debate for an entire denomination of churches.”
Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., presented Nettles with the book in front of Southern’s student body, several of the book’s contributors and Nettles’ wife, son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Ascol, along with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Nathan A. Finn, edited the book project.
“The Apostle Paul instructs us to give honor to those to whom honor is due,” Ascol said. “And it’s my distinct privilege today to obey that apostolic injunction by making a presentation to a man to whom honor is due.
“He is due honor because of his faithfulness and usefulness in Christ’s Kingdom during the last several decades,” Ascol said of Nettles. “This marks the 35th anniversary of Dr. Nettles’ teaching career. In honor and celebration of that, 22 of his friends, colleagues, associates and former students have joined together to compile a book of essays in his honor.”
Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the seminary’s school of theology, said Nettles is “one of the most Christ-like men I have ever known. He first influenced me in print when, as a young man in ministry, I was told that biblical inerrancy was foreign to the Baptist heritage. Reading Baptists and the Bible reassured me that my home church taught me what was not only Baptist, but apostolic about the authority of Scripture.
“Since then, God has given me the joy to work with Tom Nettles on a daily basis,” Moore said. “He is the kind of man who not only writes books and preaches powerful messages, but spontaneously breaks out into hymns, so great is his joy in Christ. As I think about my own debt to Tom Nettles, I am reminded that almost every confessional conservative Baptist in our denomination is within six steps of his direct influence in writing, teaching and mentoring.”
Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory’s 20 chapters present three sections expounding on historical, theological and practical ministry issues.
“Those of us who contributed to the book realize that we are but a small fraction representing the thousands of men and women to who have been blessed by Dr. Nettles’ ministry,” Ascol said.
The book is set for release Dec. 16.
Based on reporting by Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.