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SWBTS: Radical Reformation Day observed; more news

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary observed Radical Reformation Day by serving sausage and hosting presentations by Emir Caner and Paige Patterson concerning the Radical Reformation.

During his presentation, titled “Genetics versus Historiography: A Case for the Connection of Continental Anabaptism and Contemporary Baptists,” Patterson, Southwestern’s president, argued for a “theological and spiritual kinship” between English and American Baptists and the 16th-century Anabaptists.

Patterson first delivered his paper at the 61st annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society last November.

“Baptists in England and America have much more in common with evangelical Anabaptists than either have with other Reformers,” Patterson said at the campus event in January.

“Consequently my plea is for contemporary Baptists to recognize indebtedness to all orthodox Christians but to reject any form of ecumenism that compromises the witness of either the evangelical Anabaptists or the early English and American Baptists.”

Patterson said Baptist churches should teach their members the history of those Anabaptists and Baptists “who historically championed regenerate church membership witnessed by believer’s baptism and who put their lives on the line for religious liberty.”

Before his evening lecture, Patterson served deer sausage and biscuits made with a family recipe. During chapel that morning, Patterson explained that the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland, was instigated with the eating of sausages. In 1522, a group of men disobeyed church law by eating sausages during Lent. Ulrich Zwingli soon came to their defense and, over the following years, pursued a biblically based reform of the church in Zurich.

Some of Zwingli’s colleagues, however, believed that the Swiss reformer was not following Scripture as closely as he ought. Unlike Zwingli, they supported the baptism of adult believer’s only, and they believed that political forces should not implement church reform. God’s Word alone should rule in the church. On Jan. 21, 1525, Conrad Grebel performed the first Anabaptist baptism on George Blaurock in the home of Felix Manz. Blaurock subsequently baptized the rest of the men in the house.

In his book, “The Anabaptist Story,” the late William R. Estep, former distinguished professor of church history at Southwestern, wrote, “The newly baptized then pledged themselves as true disciples of Christ to live lives separated from the world and to teach the gospel and hold the faith.” In honor of this event, Southwestern Seminary set apart Jan. 21 as Radical Reformation Day for the first time in 2009.

During the chapel service on Radical Reformation Day this year, Emir Caner, former dean of the College at Southwestern and currently the president of Truett-McConnell College in Georgia, spoke on what he described as “most prominent passage of the Anabaptist Reformation,” the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

“In the 16th-century Reformation, there is one and only one group that had the theological fidelity to follow the Great Commission in its entirety, and that was the Anabaptists,” Caner said.

He later explained, “While the reformers spent much time on theological formulation, Anabaptists expended an enormous amount of their literary energies on issues relating to their evangelistic zeal, and thus topics such as baptism, central to the Great Commission and a believer’s church, consumed their thoughts and lives. To the Anabaptists, as it should be to us, believer’s baptism was not a tertiary doctrine of secondary importance, since it was integral to the Great Commission itself.”

According to Caner, the Anabaptists have been misrepresented by theologians and historians since the 16th century. Instead of presenting them as believers who desired to follow Christ’s mandate in full, they were depicted by Zwingli’s successor Heinrich Bullinger and others as immoral and violent.

“This absurd and unfounded claim,” Caner said, “was actually a not-so-subtle attempt of castigating the real threat of the Anabaptist movement, a threat that Bullinger well knew: the destruction of the state-run church and the rise of New Testament churches. The real threat was the removal of reformation and the onslaught of restoration…. In essence, the magisterial reformers feared or despised a free church and a free pulpit that was unfettered by the role of government and protestant patriarchs.”

Although recent scholarship has painted a more accurate picture of the Anabaptists, “most historians blindly continue the tradition passed down for centuries, thus enabling a false picture to continue that Anabaptists were born out of violence,” Caner said. Critiquing Anabaptist theology, some scholars have also falsely claimed that the Anabaptists denied Martin Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Caner argued that Anabaptists actually upheld the doctrine of imputed justification by faith, but they also “emphasized that the one who was imputed with righteousness would live a life of victory and a life of surrender. As such, a ‘new birth’ was emphasized by the Anabaptist movement, while justification was emphasized by Lutheranism.”

3 SAVED IN ‘TAKING THE HILL’ VISIT — James Henry, an advanced master of divinity student, had participated in the “Taking the Hill” evangelism initiative before, but this was the first time he was able to see lives immediately changed by the message he carried into the neighborhoods surrounding Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Henry, with classmate Nelson Fonseca, knocked on the door of one house and was greeted by a mother and her two young sons. The students shared the Gospel with the group and each of the three family members prayed to receive Christ.

Henry was particularly touched because the boys, 10 and 8, are the same ages as his two oldest sons. Henry encouraged the two young boys to share with other family members — an older brother and a younger sister. The boys’ mother said she would keep the New Testament in Spanish the students gave to her in order to share the Gospel with her husband.

“It’s just an amazing experience when you allow yourself to be open and to be used by God,” Henry said.

Taking the Hill, a campaign that involves knocking on doors, talking to those who answer and presenting the Gospel to them, can be daunting because there’s always the feeling that no one will be interested or responsive, Henry said. The feeling was still there as he knocked on this particular family’s door, he said, but he was glad he moved past it.

The experience was a great way to wrap up his undergraduate time at Southwestern, he said. In December, he and Fonseca received their degrees from the College at Southwestern.

Southwestern’s goal to present the Gospel to every house within a one-mile radius of the seminary continues during the spring semester.

CHAPLAIN COMMENTS ON CHRISTIAN ART — Lt. Col. John Laing, a chaplain with the U.S. Army’s 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, currently stationed in Iraq, and assistant professor of systematic theology and philosophy at Southwestern’s Houston campus, recently discussed the relationship between faith and art with a blog of the Houston Chronicle.

To read the article, visit http://blogs.chron.com/iconia/2010/01/although_recent_protestant_trends_have_not_been_good_ne.html.

2 EDITIONS OF JOURNAL RELEASED — A newly released edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology recovers the theological foundations of the seminary through transcribed lectures delivered by B.H. Carroll and Calvin Goodspeed during the seminary’s transition from Waco to Fort Worth, Texas. This issue was released alongside another edition of the journal that investigates Scripture from the Pentateuch to Pauline theology and beyond.

The first of these issues celebrates Southwestern Seminary’s move to Fort Worth in 1910. Carroll founded Southwestern two years earlier in Waco, and he served as the seminary’s first president until failing health caused him to pass his office to L.R. Scarborough in 1914.

This edition of the journal contains lectures by Carroll and Goodspeed on the “The Declaration of Faith,” which was published in James Madison Pendleton’s Baptist Church Manual. This declaration was adapted from the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which served as the seminary’s own confession in its early years and was the basis for the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1925 Baptist Faith and Message.

Carroll’s lecture highlights the proper use of Christian confessions and creeds. A stubborn skeptic of Christianity into his adulthood, the newly converted Carroll studied the confessions of Methodists, Presbyterians, Campbellites and Baptists as he debated which denomination to join. He testified to the importance of biblical creeds and confessions: “Now,” he said, “the bigger your creed, the better; and the less creed you have, the less account you are.”

Goodspeed, a little-known figure in the seminary’s history, served as a systematic theology professor at Southwestern for one year, until poor health forced him to leave his professorship in 1909. His lecture on the 10th article of “The Declaration of Faith” outlines the doctrine of sanctification.

“It seems to me,” Goodspeed said, “if there is anything in the world or in the universe or in heaven that ought to call forth within a man an ambition which would arouse every faculty and every power into intensest exercise, it is the great thought that we can become more and more like God Himself. May we all make as rapid progress as possible in this sanctified life, the highest fruitage of the Christian life on earth, and its crown and glory even in heaven.”

The second issue of the Southwestern Journal of Theology released in January explores Scripture and biblical backgrounds. Joshua Williams, assistant professor of Old Testament, begins this journal with a discussion of the Pentateuch, which he argues is a single book with unified themes that extend from Genesis to Deuteronomy. Sang-Won (Aaron) Son, professor of New Testament, then discusses Paul’s understanding of the “one new man” in Ephesians and relates it to the doctrines of man and the church.

In a third article, James Wicker, associate professor of New Testament, examines inscriptions in early Christian architecture and finds evidence of a high Christology among early believers. John Taylor, assistant professor of New Testament, then inspects a late medieval lectionary manuscript containing portions of Luke 18-21. This ancient manuscript is located in the library archives at Southwestern. B. Paul Wolfe, formerly an associate professor of New Testament at the seminary and now headmaster at the Cambridge School of Dallas, concludes this edition of the journal with an overview and analysis of recent New Testament scholarship.

This issue of the journal also contains a chapter-by-chapter review of “A Theology for the Church,” edited by Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and published in 2007. The 35-page review essay draws together analyses on each portion of this systematic theology written by numerous scholars from Southwestern Seminary.

To order a copy of the two editions of the journal, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, Texas 76122, or e-mail [email protected]. The editorial and select articles from each edition of the journal may be viewed on www.baptisttheology.org, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.

SOUTHWESTERN HOSTS FAMILY MINISTRY CONFERENCE — Southwestern Seminary hosted its first family ministry conference Feb. 26-27. Titled “Connected: Families and Churches, Partners in Ministry,” the conference encouraged ministers to consider the central role of the family within the mission of the church, and it gave participants practical tools to implement family ministry.

“I do believe that what is happening in this room is historically important because the church really is now beginning to wake up to families,” Richard Ross, professor of student ministry, said during a presentation at the conference.

According to Ross, the family exists primarily for the glory and adoration of God. Spouses are responsible to encourage each other to love God, and parents have the responsibility of raising their kids to love God. They should also encourage their children to allow Christ to live through them.

Scripture exhorts parents to tell their children about God’s truth, Ross said. If this does not happen, however, this truth can be lost. He recounted how the Israelites fell from the Lord only one generation after the death of Joshua and all those who had seen God bring the Israelites into the Promised Land.

“In the absence of faith at home,” Ross said, “do we really think church programs can make up the difference?” Ross then gave his audience principles for ministry that can help churches undergird the role of the family.

Southwestern Seminary’s family ministry conference also featured June Hunt, CEO and founder of Hope for the Heart Ministries. She performed some music during lunch on the first day of the conference and led a breakout session titled “How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It.”

According to Hunt, forgiveness is often misunderstood. She explained that she used to believe that it was wrong to forgive a person unless they genuinely repented because she would have just been letting the person off the hook. Instead, she explained, the biblical view of forgiveness concerns “dismissing a debt” and “releasing resentment.” While it takes two people for reconciliation, forgiveness is possible and healthy even if the offender is unrepentant.

During another presentation, Paige Patterson, the seminary’s president, said a view of the family that has been common to Jews and Christians for hundreds and thousands of years has, in recent years, come under ever-increasing attack.

During his lecture, Patterson described and defended this view of the family. He summarized his perspective for his audience:

“God, in His infinite wisdom and benevolence, has prescribed the family as the basic unit of the social order, providing a rather specific functional and relational model, which if embraced pays significant dividends not only for the individual and the family, but also for all other aspects of the social order.”

Other speakers at Southwestern’s family ministry conference included Waylan Owens, dean of the Jack D. Terry Jr. School of Church and Family Ministries; Brian Haynes, associate pastor at Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas; Steve Hunter, executive director of counseling ministries at Hope for the Heart; and Ken Lasater of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

BLACK HERITAGE DAY CELEBRATED — Southwestern Seminary celebrated Black Heritage Day, Feb. 18, featuring Paul Hoskins, assistant professor of New Testament, who urged the seminary family to recognize and follow the biblical mandate for racial reconciliation.

“Because of the segregation of the church,” Hoskins said, “we are often not equipping our church people to reach people who look different than themselves — because they’re not experiencing that at church, and we’re not equipping them at church to be the cross-cultural missionaries to their communities that they could be.”

Hoskins noted that communities where most people live contain diversity of people: “When I go to Walmart, I think, ‘Everybody’s here!'” In the church, however, Hoskins has noticed a racial uniformity that is inconsistent with God’s plan for the church. For example, in 2006, only 7 percent of the churches in the United States had any “significant diversity” where at least 20 percent of the church’s membership consisted of people of different groups than the majority.

The church should reflect the racial diversity of society, Hoskins said. In fact, God desires churches to be open to all races. “With God, they are all welcome,” he said. “God is not into segregation.”

Looking at Acts 10, he read how God called the Apostle Peter to cross racial boundaries and go to the home of Cornelius, a non-Jew, with the Gospel message. Peter recognized the division between Jews and Gentiles, and he recognized the barriers that prevented reconciliation.

In the same way, believers should recognize the problem of racial segregation in modern churches and face the barriers to healing. Turning a blind eye to race is not the correct response: “You have to work against the cultural tendencies on this one…. You have to be convinced that God wants us to overcome the barriers,” Hoskins said.

“God has given to us the message of reconciliation,” he added. “We have been reconciled to Jesus Christ through the cross, and Ephesians 2 makes it very clear that all who have been reconciled to Jesus Christ through the cross — we now share a special unity, don’t we? We are a part of the body of Christ. And the body of Christ is not a segregated place.

“We have the theology of reconciliation, we have the theology of unity, and we have the power of God. Given all of this, why are our churches so segregated?”

Hoskins urged his audience to pray, since God alone can heal the racial segregation in the church. He asked that they pray for leaders who understand and are willing to face this issue, but he also asked them to pray that God would open their own hearts.

“I would encourage you to think about the fact that God desires His church to be a church for all people,” Hoskins said. “There is no favoritism with God and all people are welcome to Him.”

BELIEVE WHAT YOU PREACH, HUNT SAYS — Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., extolled the Word of God during chapel at Southwestern Seminary Feb. 25.

“You are beyond capacity to change anybody,” Hunt said, “but I’ll tell you what I’ve seen: I’ve seen the Gospel, the Word of God, the revelation of the Bible change people’s lives.”

In his early years as a preacher, Hunt said, the minister’s task was much simpler than it seems to be today: “You had a Bible, and you just felt that one day when you stood before God, that you would be judged based on the fact of your faithfulness with what He deposited with the Gospel.”

Hunt also said the preacher is not responsible to change the hearts of the people in his congregation, but the preacher himself must submit humbly to the Word of God and be personally transformed by it.

“That may sound elementary, but I’m telling you if … you don’t believe [what you preach], and if it hasn’t got hold of you and, I mean, done a work in your heart, on the Lord’s day, you will not stand behind the sacred desk with patience and perseverance and believe that God is going to work in somebody else’s life.”

Opening his Bible to Psalm 19, Hunt pointed out that the first half of the Psalm shows how the “heavens declare God’s glory,” while the latter half focuses on the Scriptures, which “tell us what God did so we can share that glory.”

God’s actions in the world and His revelation in the Word are consistent, since God created and controls the world through His Word, Hunt said. God’s Word also examines the heart and provides direction and the courage to follow God’s direction.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, flawless, complete. I’ve got a Bible that never needs revision or improvement,” Hunt said. The Word of God also powerfully turns “men and women from dark to light,” converting them.

“I have a lot of confidence in my Bible,” Hunt said. “I have a lot of confidence in the Gospel, and I am hooked on it. I am addicted to biblical preaching without apology.”
Reported by Benjamin Hawkins, Rebecca Carter and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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