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SWBTS: Read broadly, journal exhorts

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A newly released edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology encourages Christians from an electronic age to read broadly, not only from Scripture but also from theological, biographical and literary volumes.

“Since the Reformation, Protestants of different stripes have championed the clarion call, ‘sola Scriptura,'” Mark Leeds, assistant professor of systematic theology, writes in his article, “The Virtue of Reading.” Introducing his article, he affirms the doctrine of sola Scriptura and the necessity and benefit of reading the Bible frequently.

“Over time, this dedication to the Scriptures,” he adds, “became for some an abandonment of everything except the Scriptures, and a distinction between sola Scriptura and nuda Scriptura became necessary.”

Southwestern Seminary promotes “sola Scriptura over nuda Scriptura,” valuing the work of Christian theologians and authors of the past, while also placing Scripture as the supreme authority in faith and doctrine, Leeds writes. After clarifying this distinction, he explains why Christians should read broadly outside of Scripture and what they should read.

By reading widely, Christians can gain a better understanding of Scripture, of their own culture and of the way believers throughout history have struggled to interpret the Bible correctly.

“The great writings of the Western world are worthy of critical consumption by the Christian mind for the many places where they contain philosophical, historical, mathematical, scientific, and other truths,” Leeds writes.

By reading broadly, Christians also improve their ability to communicate and defend the Gospel in “a diverse and rapidly changing world.”

Leeds encourages Christians to interact with authors with whom they disagree, as well as those with whom they agree. They also should read from various genres, including autobiographies or biographies like Augustine’s “Confessions” and fiction works like John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

“It is hoped,” Leeds writes, “that some who read this article will be encouraged not only to read in these different genres but also to write in them. … Perhaps some who read this article will take up the mantle left behind by Aquinas the academician, Augustine the autobiographer, and Bunyan the storyteller, and join those who through reading and writing become all things to all men so that they may by all means save some.”

In another article, titled “Finding Friends,” SWBTS President Paige Patterson explains why he insists that all students build a library of 1,500 volumes before graduation. While he believes the number of volumes in a student’s library is important, he underscores more the need for students to build a library of their own, even though they live in an electronic age.

The volumes in a minister’s library, Patterson writes, “constitute, in fact, the invaluable tools of the prophet of God who wants to satiate himself with every understanding of God and the world that He created.”

Patterson, who owns and uses a Kindle as well as a physical library with nearly 22,000 volumes, admits, “Even those who continue to be critics of the coming e-book age must face the fact that eventually most of the problems with digital books will be resolved.” He argues, however, that owning and reading printed books still has advantages for believers despite technological advances in recent years.

The final portion of the Southwestern Journal of Theology contains more than 100 pages of book reviews and review essays by Southwestern professors and students as well as Baptist pastors on books published in the fields of biblical studies, theological studies, historical studies, philosophy and ethics, preaching and pastoral studies, and missions and evangelism.

“Our hope … is that [the reviewers’] constructively critical, keen, and appreciative minds will inform your own reading practices,” writes Malcolm Yarnell, managing editor of the journal and associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary.

“It is an established conviction for many of us,” he writes in his editorial, “that reading widely, consistently, and deeply is a theologically virtuous exercise.”

The Southwestern Journal of Theology is a publication of Southwestern Seminary. To order a copy of the spring 2010 edition, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, TX 76122, or by e-mail at [email protected]. The editorial and Leeds’ article may be viewed on BaptistTheology.org, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.

WITH CANCER, HE TURNED TO GOD — For Jason Galloway, a cancer survivor and student in the College at Southwestern, cancer was a godsend.

“God allowed that cancer to come into me because He knew that it was what it would take for me to wake up,” Galloway says. “It is that same love that put Jesus on the cross. … When you experience that, you have nothing else to do but follow.”

Although he decided to follow Christ as a teenager, Galloway was not discipled, and he lived for more than a dozen years without recognizing Christ’s place in his life, pursuing his own plans and desires. But when he learned he had cancer at the age of 30, he realized how far he had strayed from God’s call. Through all his experiences, he also has learned that, as Proverbs 20:24 states, “A man’s steps are determined by the Lord, so how can anyone understand his own way?”

When he found out he had cancer, Galloway had been enduring stomach pains for three or four months, expecting that he suffered only from ulcers. After performing tests on Galloway, his doctor informed him that his situation was much worse.

“I’ll never forget it, his face,” Galloway says. “He was extremely white. He was emotionless.” His doctor insisted that he, his wife and his mother sit down. He then informed them that Galloway had a 10-inch, malignant tumor. The following evening, Galloway wept before God.

“I was to the breaking point,” he recounted. “I just cried out to God and said, ‘God, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. But if I have to … forgive me of the things I’ve done.'” After surrendering to God, he felt a peace and assurance that he would survive his cancer.

Galloway completed months of treatment and then began a six-month discipleship process. During the process, he accepted God’s call into ministry.

“I’ll never forget that moment either,” he said. “It was another moment that you can’t put into any words … but you know it’s real because you experienced it. You experienced God in a way that is powerful and moving, and it just changes your life.

“When He revealed to me what He wanted me to do, I was like, ‘I don’t know. That’s not what I had planned,'” Galloway added. Although he developed a passion for adult ministry through his discipleship process, Galloway felt God was directing his steps toward children’s ministry. “But I am glad I followed, because it has been the most rewarding, the most blessed time of my life.”

Galloway then quit his job as a chef and followed God’s call to children’s ministry, until he once again sensed that God was redirecting his steps — this time to ministry training. In the fall of 2008 Galloway moved to Fort Worth, along with his wife Billie and their two daughters Danielle and Samantha.

Galloway now is working toward a bachelor of humanities degree in the College at Southwestern. He uses his ministry calling as a children’s minister at Springdale Baptist Church and his culinary expertise as a chef in the Southwestern Seminary Grill.

Coming to Southwestern’s dining services with an associate’s degree in culinary arts from Oklahoma State University and with experience as co-owner of a restaurant and as executive chef at a five-star resort, Galloway is intent on helping Southwestern serve the next generation of Christian ministers.

“I don’t understand sometimes what God does, what He has for me,” Galloway said. “So I am just taking it day by day. That’s the best way to do it, by the way. For the first 20 or 30 years of my life, I did it my way. … He has been so faithful. It’s unbelievable. Even when I’m not faithful, He’s faithful, and it blows me away. I’m not going back to that. I’m going to keep following God.”

A video interview with Galloway can be viewed at www.swbts.edu/galloway.

PRAYER UNDERGIRDS YOUTH MINISTRY LAB — The 59 committee members for this year’s Youth Ministry Lab knew they needed God’s blessing for any of their efforts to have lasting results. The volunteers prayed for conference participants during the days and weeks leading up to the conference in April and maintained that prayer intensity throughout the conference weekend.

The 1,310 in attendance — filling Truett Auditorium, its balcony and a nearby conference room — was the second-highest attendance in the event’s 42-year history. Every year, the training event for youth leaders, volunteers and student-leaders is organized and facilitated by students at Southwestern Seminary, under the supervision of seminary faculty.

“We know people come, not just because it’s a good conference and not just because they’ll hear good speakers, but because of the ways their lives are changed and the way the Kingdom is impacted,” said Wes Black, professor of student ministry at Southwestern. “While we did extensive planning and efforts at promoting, we give full credit to God’s movement.”

A 24-hour prayer room was open during the weekend, with YML leadership holding vigil and welcoming students and ministers for intercessory prayer and contemplation. The weekend before YML, committee members were jolted awake at all hours of the night by text messages from other YML workers as part of an unbroken, 36-hour cell phone prayer chain. They pulled themselves out of bed, kneeled and committed an hour of prayer for the YML event, the speakers, the attendees, and for God’s movement in the hearts of those involved.

Wes Hamilton, a pastor and Southwestern alumnus, exhorted the large crowd of ministers and youth leaders during a plenary session to maintain perspective when seeking to grow in influence. Success is good, Hamilton said, but it has the potential to dull one’s appetite for giving God glory and being in pursuit of Him, which results in hypocrisy as the life and message of a minister cease to match up.

Anthony Moore, a Southwestern Ph.D. student, taught the volunteer youth leaders an overview class on hermeneutics, emphasizing that it is essential to learn how to study the Bible and teach it to others.

Similar exhortation was given to the youth during breakout sessions. Paige Patterson, David Allen and Malcolm Yarnell participated in an open forum to address difficult Bible questions, with students bringing up such topics as the security of the believer, eschatology and whether there was a literal, seven-day creation.

At the end of the conference and after each session, decision cards were distributed to the attendees to fill out to record decisions, calls to ministry, or renewed commitments to ministry. YML leadership committed to pray and follow up on each card submitted.

WOMEN’S ROLES ADDRESSED AT SYMPOSIUM — Although Southern Baptists have declared their commitment to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, they have not consistently maintained a biblical expression of women’s roles in the church, Southwestern M.Div. student Katie McCoy said during the Baptist Theology Research Award Student Symposium at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Within the SBC, we still have significant work to do on the issue of women’s roles,” said McCoy, who was selected as the winner from among five presenters for the seminary’s third annual Baptist Theology Research Award Symposium.

“Since the 1970s, we turned back the tide from drifting outside God’s Word when it comes to female pastors. However, the need for clarity in applying 1 Timothy 2:12 still remains,” said McCoy, whose essay was titled, “Anchored Against the Tide: Female Pastors in the SBC and Contemporary Drifts toward Compromise.”

All five presenters were selected from among numerous Southwestern students who contributed papers to the editorial board of BaptistTheology.org. A ministry of the seminary, BaptistTheology.org aims to serve local churches by addressing crucial issues through white papers and offering rare historical Baptist resources.

As the winner of the Baptist Theology Research Award, McCoy will publish her presentation as a white paper on BaptistTheology.org. Additionally, Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, provided LifeWay gift cards to presenters, with a $400 card going to the winner and $200 cards going to the remaining presenters.

“It was a privilege to be among the top five selected for this event and to hear other participants present the products of their study, and it is a great honor to have been given the award,” McCoy said. She added that she hopes her research will help Southern Baptists apply Scripture faithfully to the issue of women’s roles in the church.

“I hope that my generation will be vigilant and discerning as we test cultural trends and church practices against God’s perfect Word,” McCoy said. “I also hope that our convention will eventually change the Baptist Faith and Message’s wording on women in the church to say what the Bible does in 1 Timothy 2:12, rather than only stating that women should not be pastors. If our standard reflected what the Bible said, we would not have as much room for misinterpretation in applying it.”

Other participants of the symposium were Keith Collier, presenting “I Love Christ but Hate His Bride”; Cory D. Davis, presenting “Proto-Landmarkism or Baptist Ecumenism: The Northern Baptist Ecclesiology of Francis Wayland, 1796-1865”; Korey Kennedy, presenting “The Use of Church Covenants within the Local Church”; and Andrew Patton, presenting “Isaac Backus: Matthew 28:19-20.”

PROFESSOR LEADS NEIGHBOR TO CHRIST — As Kevin Kennedy approached his neighbor three days before Easter this year, he remembered that God must drag a person to hell before leading him to heaven.

“Martin Luther was of the opinion that God can’t bring you to heaven until He’s carried you to the brink of hell,” said Kennedy, associate professor of theology at Southwestern Seminary. “God has to bring us low so that we come to the realization that our only hope lies in Him. And only from that position is a person capable of crying out to the Lord, ‘Have mercy on me, a sinner.'”

The week before Easter, Kennedy was pulling into his driveway after work when he noticed that one of his neighbors was cleaning out his garage in preparation for moving out of the area. As he waved to his neighbor, Kennedy felt a sudden compulsion to share the Gospel with him.

It was not Kennedy’s first time to witness to this neighbor. In fact, when Southwestern announced an evangelistic initiative called “100 Days of Evangelism” in 2008, Kennedy intensified his efforts to speak with all of his neighbors about Christ. During the evangelism initiative, he spent time each afternoon and on the weekends to build relationships and share the Gospel in his community.

Kennedy spoke often with this particular neighbor, who in previous conversations had claimed both to believe in God and in the spiritual power of nature — a belief that he said was fostered by his Native American heritage. Because of some personal and family problems, he had left his home for several months, and Kennedy had lost contact with him.

Kennedy was surprised to see him at home and realized that he might not have much time to share the Gospel. He also knew that God may have been working through this man’s trials in order to bring him to Christ.

Kennedy’s neighbor immediately said he felt like God was doing something in his life. He also said he still believed in a nature-centered spirituality. Quoting from Philippians 2, Kennedy said Christ alone is worthy of worship.

“Jesus is Lord, and He doesn’t share His lordship with anyone, including His creation,” Kennedy said. He told him that every person will bow before the Lord Jesus one day, whether with thanksgiving or with fear.

As Kennedy explained Philippians 2 and other passages of Scripture, his neighbor didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, he asked questions and, upon hearing Kennedy’s answers, repeatedly said, “Man, I really needed to hear that.”

After 45 minutes of discussion, Kennedy’s neighbor prayed to receive Christ. Over the next few days, he and Kennedy spoke about the importance of baptism and joining a local church.

“I had a three-day window to talk to him,” said Kennedy, who was thankful he heeded God’s call before his neighbor had finished packing his bags to move out of the area permanently. By Easter Sunday his house was empty, and he was gone.

Southwestern Seminary is working to follow God’s call through a new evangelism initiative called “Taking the Hill.” Since the fall of 2009, students, faculty and staff have witnessed to those living within a one-mile radius of the seminary.
Benjamin Hawkins and Rebecca Carter write for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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