WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees approved a revision of the seminary’s graduate and undergraduate programs during their April 10-11 spring meeting on the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.
The revision was the culmination of a curricular review by Southeastern’s faculty that began last spring. During this process, the faculty considered how it can better accomplish the seminary’s mission “to equip, train, and mobilize God-called men and women to impact the world for Christ.”
“A seminary needs to reform itself continually in light of Scripture in culture,” said Southeastern President Daniel Akin. “We reform our programs of study according to the Word of God, and we tailor them to address the issues our students will confront as they assume ministry assignments across our nation and around the world. We believe our new curriculum will equip them to do this better.”
Across-the-board changes were made that strengthened the seminary’s core requirements in such critical areas as biblical interpretation and theology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
The faculty drafted five “Core Competencies” for the seminary and college programs: Spiritual Formation, Biblical Exposition, Theological Integration, Christian Leadership and Ministry Preparation. The curriculum changes are designed to develop these competencies to produce Southeastern graduates with well-trained minds and fervent hearts.
Every master of divinity student will now benefit from required courses in hermeneutics, Hebrew, Greek, preaching/communications, Introduction to the Cooperative Program, and an expanded Christian theology sequence. The curriculum also includes newly designed coursework focusing on spiritual formation and Christian leadership, which Southeastern hopes will be attractive to college graduates, especially those who graduate from its undergraduate school, Southeastern College at Wake Forest.
The review produced a new master of arts concentration in women’s studies and a new master of church music emphasis in worship leadership. New M.Div. tracks include expository preaching, ethics and Christian ministry. In a new M.Div. with advanced standing for students with an undergraduate degree in biblical or religious studies, students who qualify can complete their M.Div. with a minimum of 75 hours of coursework.
The revised undergraduate program at Southeastern College at Wake Forest features an enhanced biblical studies component. Every bachelor of arts student also will take a required course in hermeneutics, expanded courses in Old Testament and New Testament and an expanded Christian doctrine sequence. Each B.A. student at Southeastern College at Wake Forest earns a major in biblical studies and then takes a second major. Second majors include Christian worldview, humanities, English, history, music and Christian teacher education.
The B.A. degrees include enhanced coursework in the History of Ideas program, where students learn by reading the “Great Books” of Western history in the context of a Christian worldview in small classes.
Jerry Vines, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., who preached at Southeastern on April 11, said this type of curriculum would have helped him earlier in his career.
“Several years ago, [former Southeastern Seminary President] Dr. Paige Patterson pointed me to the 60-volume ‘Great Books of the Western World.’ Desirous to continue study and to broaden my education, I undertook the 10-year reading plan. I would recommend every preacher purchase these volumes and follow this plan,” Vines said of the series published by the Encyclopedia Britannica Corp.
“I went again to the writings of the great philosophers, world-renown mathematicians and great novelists. Every preacher should continue to be a student. Even now in my season of retirement from the active pastorate, I intend to pursue a vigorous program of study.”
In explaining the significance of the History of Ideas component, Southeastern College at Wake Forest dean Peter Schemm said, “Understanding the history of ideas -— great ideas and not so great ideas -— through the ‘Great Books’ of Western thought is how students become culturally literate. And if our college students are going to reach people of other cultures, as well as our culture, they must be culturally literate.”
The curricular review produced more than just a revised curriculum, said David Nelson, who will become Southeastern’s senior vice president for academic administration on June 1. Nelson cited a renewed focus on the integration of faith and learning and the idea of “faithful learning” in a uniquely Christian environment with professors committed to the Great Commission and Christian scholarship.
Early in the process, Nelson said, the curriculum review committees and the faculty recognized that this review wasn’t just about revising a curriculum.
“We have a maxim that we’ve repeated often during the process: ‘Curricular reform without faculty reform is meaningless,’” Nelson said. “Southeastern already has an excellent faculty. But we want to improve every aspect of training at Southeastern, and this faculty is committed to do so.”