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Southwestern deans outline importance of a seminary education

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its College at Southwestern are being trained in Western philosophy and expository preaching in order to confront culture and win lost people to faith in Jesus Christ, David Allen and Emir Caner reported to Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 13.

Allen is the dean of the seminary’s school of theology, and Caner is the dean of The College at Southwestern. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson interviewed Allen and Caner during the seminary’s report time on the first day of the convention.

“A theology seminary consists of three things: students, professors and the books and other learning resources, but especially the books,” Patterson said. He chose a question-and-answer format to interview the two faculty deans about why a seminary education is important.

“I think the greatest need in our churches today is for solid exposition of Scripture as the Word of God,” Allen told the messengers. Allen was the pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, prior to accepting an invitation to lead the school of theology. He is also professor of preaching and director of the seminary’s Center for Expository Preaching.

“I believe in the idea of the pastor-theologian,” he said. “We are training men to be good pastors and good theologians. Training the next generation of preachers is what Southwestern is all about.”

Patterson introduced Caner by pointing out that Caner was raised a Muslim before accepting Jesus Christ as a teenager. He was elected dean of The College at Southwestern last year, and the college opened its doors to students last fall.

“It is my privilege to serve more than 100 students,” Caner said. “I want that student who wants to start the First Baptist Church of Mecca. I want that student who plants a church yards from gates of hell. … That is why every College of Southwestern student must take an international mission trip in order to graduate.”

Caner told messengers that his college students work diligently studying both pagan and Christian philosophers in order to be prepared to engage culture at the highest level.

Allen argued that a seminary education is more important today than ever before. He compared a preacher without a seminary education to a surgeon who had never studied anatomy or surgical techniques.

“Preachers need thorough theological preparation to be the very best we can be for the Lord. I have always believed the call to ministry is a call to prepare for the ministry,” he said.

“Every evangelist should also be an apologist, and every apologist should be an evangelist,” Caner said, agreeing with the importance of ministry equipping. “It is our call to be insulated, not isolated.”

Caner noted that even though The College at Southwestern has no Greek organizations or sports teams like other colleges, the camaraderie that has emerged among its students is something that amazes him.

“I have never seen a tighter body of students in my life. They want to know more and learn deeper. I wish you could see them in class,” he said. “They come for one reason — because they are called to ministry and to life.”

Patterson concluded by thanking SBC messengers.

“Thank you for praying for Southwestern Seminary, thank you for giving to the Cooperative Program and thank you for providing the means for more than 3,000 students to prepare to serve Jesus Christ,” Patterson said.

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  • Brent Thompson