The proof of seminary health is its ministers, Mohler says

PHOENIX, Ariz.—The health of a seminary is most clearly seen in the kind of ministers it produces, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Wednesday at the annual Alumni Luncheon of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A seminary may have letters of approval from academic and accrediting agencies, but if it does not produce ministers that preach the authentic Gospel to the glory of God, then they are nothing, Mohler told the assembly of some 410 people.

“You really find out what a seminary is when you look and listen to its graduates,” Mohler said.

“That’s when you find out [when you see] just one alumnus of this school who is faithful in teaching and preaching the Gospel, faithful in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth in obedience to the command of the Christ and fulfillment of the Great Commission. You (the alumnus) are our letters of commendation.”

Mohler recently marked the 10th anniversary of his election as president of Southern Seminary. Within the past decade, the school undergone a transformation from an institution moderate in its teaching and doctrine to one that is a leader within conservative evangelicalism.

Speaking on 2 Cor. 2 and 3, in which the apostle Paul called the churches his “letter of commendation,” Mohler said the proof of Southern Seminary’s profound change is in the ministers it has produced.

The seminary has also increased greatly in enrollment, facilities, faculty, and annual events. Both the turnaround and the growth is entirely the work of God, he said.“After 10 years as president of Southern Seminary, all I can say is, only God could do this,” he said.

“We are in Phoenix, Arizona, 1772 miles from Louisville and there are so many gathered in this room who have come because, in some way or another, your life has intersected with the mission of SBTS. And we have no letters of commendation, save you.”

Mohler said he takes Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 2:17 as a warning to theological seminaries to avoid producing mere peddlers of the Gospel.

There are many today who seek to merely make money from preaching pseudo-gospels of prosperity, self-esteem, and self-help, Mohler said, but the seminary that would glorify God must avoid peddling.

“It is a warning to me 10 years later, even as it was 10 years ago, that we must not be about the task of training, teaching, preparing peddlers of the Word of God,” Mohler said.

“Though we live in an age where peddling is not only popular in the secular sphere, it is also somewhat expected in many churches. The pandering, peddling preacher will always be popular until someone gets a sniff of the real Gospel. Then the falsehood is immediately made apparent by the fact that this preacher is putting off the wrong smell.”

The school that seeks to prepare ministers to preach the true Gospel does it with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will apply the Gospel and seeks no glory for the institution, he said. In turn, a minister who faithfully proclaims the genuine Gospel will be—in the words of the apostle Paul—an aroma of life to believers and an aroma of death to those who reject Christ, he said.

While a seminary prepares ministers in one sense, ultimately the Holy Spirit calls, forms, and prepares a minister, he said.

“Along with Paul [in 2 Cor. 2], we are not seeking to get anything out of this enterprise but the satisfaction of seeing the Word of God at work and seeing God glorified in the preaching of His Word,” Mohler said.

“There is certainly preparation we can and do offer. There is education we must and do impart. There is training that is our assignment, but in the end it is the Spirit of God that makes a minister, calls a minister, forms a minister, prepares a minister. The seminary cannot lead that minister in triumph, but God does. He promises always to do so.”

Mohler said the transformation at Southern Seminary is proof that God will honor the institution that stands upon the one true Gospel.

“The world said this couldn’t happen,” he said. “God has chosen the weak things of the world the shame the strong. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. And God has chosen Southern Seminary to show that He will bless His Word and He will bless an institution that will pay the price to stand on the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

“We come together, not to celebrate an institution, but to give thanks to God and to share a vision of God’s glory in what He has allowed to take place through one institution and its work and its family and its story.”

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Mohler: SBC seminaries remain faithful to Gospel while others are moving away

PHOENIX, Ariz. – The six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention are moving in a direction opposite to most other theological institutions, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Tuesday at the SBC’s annual meeting.

Mohler, president of Southern Seminary and chairman of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, told convention messengers that Southern Baptist seminaries are standing faithfully upon the Gospel because the denomination’s churches have held the schools accountable.

Many seminaries within the mainline denominations have abdicated from teaching the genuine Gospel of Scripture, Mohler said. The result has been a dwindling number of persons entering the ministry and a decreased passion for the things of God, he said. But the opposite has occurred within SBC schools during recent years.

Said Mohler, “What has taken place in your seminaries as a counter-revolution in the world of theological education is due to the sovereignty of God and by His provision through churches that simply said, ‘We will not allow that to happen, we will hold our schools responsible, we will remind our schools to whom they belong, and of the charge we have given them.’

“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that your six schools are proud to serve the churches of the SBC.”

SBC seminaries are not only accountable to local churches through the trustee boards they elect, but are also faithful to their respective confessions of faith as well as the Baptist Faith & Message, he said.

Mohler reminded listeners that every SBC seminary professor is required to sign that school’s respective confession of faith. By doing so, the professor pledges to teach in accordance with—and not contrary to—that confession.

While the seminaries seek to build a sound doctrinal foundation beneath their students, they also teach them the practical aspects of ministry, he said. The sound teaching of God’s inspired Word in the seminaries gives Southern Baptist churches a bright future, he said.

“We are about the task of teaching real-life ministers of the Gospel,” he said.

“Your seminaries are driven by evangelism. [They] are driven by an understanding that it is our responsibility to stand on the faith once for all delivered to the saints and to make certain that we take the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

“If you were to look at your six seminaries and you were to line up all the theological students in the United States of America studying in accreditation institutions, you would realize that Southern Baptists have a future that is not evident in many other churches.”

A brief question and answer session followed the seminary reports. One messenger asked Mohler about doctrines that are taught at Southern Seminary. In his concluding remarks, Mohler pointed out that such theological dialogue within the SBC is evidence of a healthy denomination.

“Even in the course of this report we have discussed some doctrine and some theology,” Mohler said. “Let us see that as a sign of denominational health.

“Dying denominations don’t care. Living denominations love the Gospel because [they] love the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us learn the Gospel, study the Gospel, be grounded in the Gospel, and brothers and sisters, let us take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

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World impact must start with discipleship at home, Akin says

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Winning the world to Christ starts with men discipling their wives and children in the home, said Danny Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a sermon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday.

“A Christian man surrendered to the lordship of Christ will be a different man. He will be the leader of his family who knows, loves and obeys the Bible,” Akin said. “He will be man who loves his wife and blesses his children. He will be a man who believes that winning the world to Christ starts in the home.”

Akin made these remarks during a “Kingdom Challenge” at the annual convention. Kingdom Challenges were short sermons during which leaders exhorted messengers on the theme of God’s Kingdom.

Preaching from Ephesians 5:25-6:4, Akin highlighted two commands for godly men in the context of their families.

First, husbands must love their wives.

“God is not asking. God is not suggesting. God commands a husband, ‘You love your wife,’” Akin said. “This is to be the consistent and constant activity of your life.”

Love for one’s wife should not be primarily a matter of emotional attachment, he said. Rather, it should model Christ’s willful sacrifice when He gave His life for the church.

“I recognize that in this passage there is an emotional aspect to the love that Paul talks about, but primarily Paul has in mind the volitional component of love—that love which is a choice, a decision, an act of your will. It’s not, ‘I love her if she’s lovely.’ It’s not, ‘I love her because she does certain things.’ But rather, I choose to love her even during those times when she is not lovely,” he said.

A husband’s love for his wife, Akin added, should also encourage her to become more like Christ.

“You are to sanctify your wife, setting her apart that she might become holy and that she might become pure and that she might grow to be more like Christ,” he said. “I want to say to you this afternoon, gentlemen, if there’s anyone that you disciple in your life, you ought to begin with your wife and then with your children.

“If there is anyone who is impacted by your life to become more like Christ, it will be your wife and your kids.”

Men should take several specific steps to ensure that they love their wives as the Scriptures command, Akin said. These steps include avoiding material in the media with sexual content and never being alone with a woman other than one’s wife.

Second, fathers must bless their children. For a father to bless his children, he must teach them to obey God, Akin said.

“We should help our children understand that our expectation for them is obedience, not disobedience,” he said. “Obey your parents. How? In the Lord, unto the Lord. Why? Because this is right.”

A father’s blessing to his children must also include encouragement to be godly, Akin said. Part of a man’s unique leadership responsibility in the home includes encouraging and shepherding his children, he said.

“Gentlemen, it is again a reminder that you and I are called to the leadership assignment in the home,” he said. “And gentlemen, every single one of us in this auditorium today will someday stand before God, and we will give an account for how well we shepherded, how well we pastored our flock at home.”

Children are so attentive to their fathers, Akin added, that a father’s every word and action can be an encouragement in his child’s Christian walk.

Focusing on the Kingdom of God necessitates a man focusing on living a godly life with his family, Akin said. A man committed to loving his wife and blessing his children will take an important step toward impacting the world for Christ.

“Gentlemen, being a man of God does indeed mean that when it comes to winning the world for Christ, I’m going to make sure I start where I need to start,” he said. “I’m going to start with my home.”

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Mohler: Scripture mandates evangelism “to the Jew first”

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Despite the controversial nature of Jewish evangelism, Scripture rings clear that Christians are under a mandate to proclaim the Gospel to Jewish persons, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a group of Messianic Jews Monday.

While the notion of Jewish people being saved by faith in Christ is a notion contemporary society finds scandalous, the issue of preaching the Gospel to the Jews was not controversial during biblical times said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The critical question in the debate is whether Scripture is seen as the absolute standard of truth and authority, he said while addressing the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

Drawing on Rom. 1:16 and several passages in Acts, Mohler said that Jewish evangelism is not only commanded but is a priority because the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation for the Jew first and then the Greek.”

“In the book of Acts and in the apostolic age and in the opening chapter of Romans, you see there is no question about the necessity of Jewish evangelism,” Mohler said. “Not only that but there is even a priority that is indicated in the text.”

If the authority of God’s Word is rejected with regards to Jewish Evangelism, it also no longer binding on issues such as homosexuality, Mohler said. In fact, Jewish Evangelism, homosexuality, and the authority of Scripture are the three “trip wires” facing the evangelical church, he said.

This is particularly true because the first two hinge upon acceptance or rejection of the third—the authority of Scripture.

“The bottom-line question is this: Will we obey or disobey the Word of God?” he said.

The foundation of Jewish evangelism is the claim of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah in fulfillment of Israel’s expectation and the Old Testament prophets.

“It is clear from the biblical text, in the Gospels that Jesus is claiming to be none other than the Messiah, the promised one of Israel,” he said.

“(Christ’s messiahship was) established by Himself and authenticated by His words and His deeds. It is centered in His substitutionary death and was vindicated by His Father in the resurrection.”

Evangelicals have failed the Jews by failing to faithfully proclaim the Gospel to them, Mohler said. Part of the problem is a related failure by Christians to understand what is fully meant by the name “Christ,” he said. The name is a title and an absolute claim to be the Messiah, Mohler pointed out.

The current debate over Jewish evangelism is framed by a postmodern rejection of absolute truth and also a false understanding of what it means to be a Jew, said Mohler, who has debated the issue numerous times on national radio and television.

Once, a person who claimed to be a Jew was establishing himself as an adherent to Judaism. Today, “Jewishness” is seen merely as an ethnic designation and evangelism of Jews is viewed as aggressive imperialism or even ‘ethnic genocide.’

“Judaism has been turned into a folkway, a way of life, an ethnic identity and it is now considered impossible in a postmodern society to address Jewish people theologically,” he said.

Secularists now base their distaste for Jewish evangelism on political correctness and emotional arguments, not on claims of truth, Mohler said. Still, the Scriptures are clear in places such as Acts 2 that the Gospel is for Jews as well as all persons. In Acts 2, Peter preached to scores of Jews and many were saved through faith in Christ.

Today, even some segments of the church reject Jewish evangelism because of a false interpretation of Scripture that argues for two covenants: one for Jews and another for other persons. This is merely a fanciful interpretational device to try and skirt the issue, Mohler said.

Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism teaches the two-covenant view and Pope John Paul II has declared that all monotheists—including Muslims, Christians and all monotheistic religions—who are sincere about their faith are saved, Mohler said.

“Sincerity is now seen as the entire ground of salvation,” Mohler said.

The Christian tradition is also beset with a legacy anti-semitism, Mohler said. By faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to Jews, Christianity can overcome this ignoble aspect of its history, he said.

One action Christians must avoid is a decision not to preach the Gospel to Jews aimed at overcoming anti-semitism, he said. Scripture promises that Jews will respond to the Gospel and that there will be a great ingathering of Jews into the Christian faith in the future, Mohler said.

“The great remarkable, magnificent conversion of Israel to the Gospel is going to be that inexplicable sign in history that the world cannot possibly explain other than by the sovereignty of God,” he said.

Mohler illustrated Jewish evangelism by comparing it to a medical doctor. A person with a potentially deadly tumor would want a doctor who would give them a truthful diagnosis, not one who would, in an effort to avoid offending them, tell them that all is well.

In the same way, Christians must tell unsaved Jews and all non-Christians the truth of the eternal danger they face and steer them to salvation in Christ. Because of this, proclaiming the Gospel is a genuine display of Christian love, he said.

“The act of Christian truth-telling, telling the truth of the Gospel to an unbeliever, Jew or Gentile, is the ultimate act of Christian love,” he said. “Evangelism is not driven by imperialism. It is not driven by nationalistic objectives.”

“It is not driven by materialistic concerns, but is the love of one sinner saved by grace to another sinner that is compelled by a greater love and that is the love of that sinner for his Lord. We love our Lord and thus we obey His commandments.”

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New book explores lives, legacies of Southern Baptist Convention presidents

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--As the story goes, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary founding President B.H. Carroll was dying and wanted to give his successor, L.R. Scarborough, one last charge.

So a few days before his death in 1914, he called Scarborough to his bedside and told him that if “heresy ever comes” to the seminary, “take it to the faculty.” If the faculty fail to take action, he added, then “take it” to the trustees. If the trustees don’t listen, then go to the convention.

If no one at the convention listens, he concluded, then “take it to the great common people of our churches. You will not fail to get a hearing then.”

Such stories are at the core of “The Sacred Trust,” a new book by brothers Emir and Ergun Caner that recounts the life of each of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 52 presidents. It is the first such book in more than a generation, according to its publisher, Broadman & Holman, the trade books division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Emir Caner is assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Ergun Caner is assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, although he will be moving to Liberty University this fall.

The 238-page book includes a bio on each man who has wielded the gavel at the annual meeting. The book is more than a collection of facts: It is a compilation of interesting stories and events that molded their lives.

The first president, William B. Johnson (elected in 1845-46, 1849), shook the hand of U.S. President George Washington as a boy. The second president, Robert Howell (1851, 1853, 1855, 1857) battled J.R. Graves over the issue of Landmarkism.

As a pastor of First Baptist in Houston, K. Owen White (1963) fought for the inclusion of blacks in his church. As pastor of a church in Fort Pierce, Fla., Adrian Rogers (1979, 1986-87) and his wife lost their third child to crib death on Mother’s Day.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote the book’s foreword.

“The president of the Southern Baptist Convention has no office in a denominational headquarters, receives no salary from his position, is given no staff for assistance, and has few unilateral powers,” Mohler noted. “And yet the SBC presidency is one of the most recognized and influential offices of leadership in the Christian world. Therein lies an enigma and an incredible story.”

The presidents appoint members to influential committees, preside over annual conventions and serve as spokesmen to the world, Mohler pointed out. The varied stories of the 52 presidents “help us to understand the development of the Convention’s self-understanding and program as well as its presidency.”

The Caners note that the historical presidential gavel, handed down from year to year and used at each meeting, is a reminder of the presidents’ “shared history, heritage, and legacy.” The gavel, made from wood from the Holy Land, was a gift from Southern Seminary professor John A. Broadus to the convention in 1872. The handle is made of “balsam wood grown near the River Jordan, and its head is made of olive wood from the Mount of Olives.”

The book tells how various presidents have stood firm in defending Christian and Baptist principles.

Richard Fuller (1859, 1861) used his pulpit at Seventh Baptist Church in Baltimore to argue against infant baptism. James P. Boyce (1872-79, 1888), who was baptized by Fuller, helped spark a revival on his campus as a college student, then later stood firm on biblical inerrancy as president of Southern Seminary.

The book also describes the various political and theological squabbles the presidents have encountered through the decades.

E.Y. Mullins (1921-23) served as chairman of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message committee that addressed the controversy over modernism and evolution. Herschel Hobbs (1961-62) helped write the 1963 BF&M over concerns of liberalism within the seminaries. Rogers served as chairman of the 2000 BF&M committee that clarified a handful of Baptist beliefs and addressed various social issues.

Stories from the 1980s and 1990s -- the height of the Conservative Resurgence -- are included, such as Bailey Smith (1980-81) winning as an “unknown” candidate in Los Angeles, Charles Stanley (1984-85) withholding his name from nomination until hours before the vote and Morris H. Chapman (1990-91) defeating Daniel Vestal (the current-day coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) by the largest margin of victory for a first-term nominee in 11 years.

In the preface the Caners say the book is “an investigation” of the “heartbeats and the passions” of the presidents’ lives.

“These were men who dared to believe that the task of world evangelism was not too large a task, too costly a labor, or too steep a climb,” they write. “They dared to believe that we were equal to the task to which God called us, in his power alone. They have dared to inspire us to seek the face of God.”

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Southern Seminary’s Henry Institute Launches Issues-Oriented Website

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)-The Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new website that offers Christians up-to-the-minute analysis applying theology to current issues.

Russell D. Moore, a professor of theology at Southern and executive director of the Henry Institute, says the goal of the website is to provide current information and theological analysis that will help Christians to think biblically about current issues. The address of the site is www.henryinstitute.org.

“Christianity is not just about so-called ‘spiritual’ matters,” Moore said. “Christianity is about the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that claims every aspect of our lives.”

“Scripture commands us to take every thought captive for Christ,” Moore said. And yet too many of us are unsure of how to maintain a Kingdom vision in a world of spin control from Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street.”

“Too many evangelicals are being discipled by Dan Rather,” Moore said. “We simply accept whatever worldview the culture throws at us-at least when it comes to the issues of the day.”

“The website seeks to equip Christians and churches to think through these issues from a kingdom perspective.”

The website will be updated regularly to include essays and articles on issues ranging from Israel and the Middle East to Christian responses to feminism to the current debates over evangelical identity.

The Henry Institute periodically holds symposia and panel discussions on contemporary theological, cultural, and political issues. Issues have included such questions as how to reconcile the love of Christ with a war on terror and how the Middle East peace process fits with Bible prophecy. These symposia will be made available for download from the site and heard by both Real Audio and MP3.

The site also includes a weblog commentary from Moore-”The Moore Report”-on current issues. Recent editions of Moore’s commentary have analyzed topics such as religious liberty in Iraq, Patricia Ireland’s leadership of the YWCA, the Democratic party’s identity crisis, and the controversy over baptizing a gay couple in a North Carolina church.

The site also links to a number of other websites that will provide Christians with information on cultural, political, theological, and public policy issues.

The Henry Institute was named in honor of Carl F.H. Henry, widely considered to be the dean of evangelical theologians. He is the founding editor of Christianity Today and is the author of more than 35 books, including the widely influential God, Revelation, and Authority.

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Vietnamese students complete bilingual degree program at Boyce College

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Twenty-one Vietnamese students recently graduated from Boyce College as the inaugural class in a bilingual education program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate college.

According to the program’s founder, An Van Pham, these students, 60 percent of whom hail from Georgia, will play a vital role in bringing much-needed theological education to ethnic congregations in the United States.

As director of language missions for the Atlanta Baptist Association, Pham conducted a 1993 survey which discovered that 75 percent of ethnic pastors in the Atlanta area had no seminary background. A full 50 percent had not even completed a four-year college degree.

So motivated by the need to educate pastors of non-English-speaking churches, Pham contacted Bob Johnson, then the dean of Boyce College, about starting a bilingual education program for Vietnamese ministers.

In the fall of 1993, 42 Vietnamese students began working toward an associate of arts degree in biblical studies. By 1999, the program had been modified in order to permit the students to earn a bachelor of science degree. Finally, on May 16, 2003, the first 21 students received their bachelor’s degrees.

Students attended weeklong classes at the Louisville campus several times a year for more than 12 hours a day in order to complete the program. Classes typically involved an English-speaking professor lecturing for much of the class time, Pham said, followed by an additional seven hours of Pham reviewing the material in Vietnamese.

“[The professor’s] part is to cover all his lectures in class,” Pham said. “My part is to review, be sure the students understood textbooks and handouts and lectures. I lead them in group discussions of questions they can discuss in their own language. Then questions that they could not ask in class, they ask in their groups and I am there to help them.”

Despite the occasionally difficult language barrier between professors and students, however, these students managed to perform at a comparable level to native English-speaking students on exams, said Pham.

The success of this bachelor’s degree program led administrators at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary to inaugurate a bilingual master of divinity program this year.

And the Vietnamese students have wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity to earn a master’s degree. In fact, several of them began work on their first master’s level class just hours after their Boyce graduation ceremony, said Pham.

The early success of bilingual education at Southern makes Pham optimistic about the future of the Vietnamese degree program. Currently, 33 students are enrolled in program.

But by January of 2004, “my goal is that the enrollment will increase to 40. By May of next year, my goal is to have up to 45 or 50 students in this class,” he said.

Graham School leaders share Pham’s optimism about bilingual education—so much so that they have begun preliminary discussions for a Spanish language master of divinity program, according to Chuck Lawless, senior associate dean of the Graham School.

In the final analysis, Pham said that bilingual theological education for church leaders is vitally important because it provides local leadership for the increasing number of foreign-language congregations in America.

“In 1987 I started to work in Georgia, and anytime we wanted to start a Vietnamese or a Korean or a Chinese church, we looked to move someone from California or Texas or New York to Georgia,” he said. “Now after 10 years we have strong education and we don’t need to move anyone from other states to Georgia. I can see now that they [Asian church leaders] are training and preaching to and teaching their own people.”

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New book looks at sex from God’s view

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)—God is so interested in the intimate, romantic, and sexual aspects of marriage, He inspired a biblical book—the “Song of Solomon”—on the subject, according to a new book by the dean of the school of the theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Within the pages of God on Sex: The Creator’s Ideas About Love, Intimacy, and Marriage, (Broadman & Holman Publishers) Daniel Akin unpacks for believers insights from the Scripture on the physical relationship within marriage.

Akin, who also serves as senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary, writes in the introduction, “When sex and marriage are experienced and enjoyed together as God intended, the joys and blessings that are ours are seldom, if ever, surpassed in this life.”

The book examines the Old Testament book the “Song of Songs,” also known as the “Song of Solomon,” which Akin calls “God’s instruction manual for sex and marriage.” He argues that the Song of Solomon gives God’s design for the intimate aspects of marriage and family.

The casual way in which modern culture approaches sex is nowhere found in Scripture, he writes.

“Sex is good, it is God’s gift,” Akin writes. “This good gift of God will find its fullest expression realized when a man and a woman give themselves completely to each other in the marriage relationship.

“God knows nothing of casual sex, because in reality there is no such thing. What is often called sex is always costly. Sexually transmitted diseases, unexpected pregnancy, and psychological and spiritual scars are some of the results, and the price paid, because we have approached God’s good gift of sex all too casually.”

In the early chapters of the book, Akin brings the Song of Solomon to bear on such topics as beginning a relationship, proper praise and encouragement between marital partners, and fanning the flames of romantic love.

In the fourth chapter, Akin tackles a notion that John Gray popularized in his best-seller “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” He writes that Gray’s understanding of the obvious differences between men and women is partly correct, but fails to account for the fact that both sexes are from the same planet and must deal with their differences in God’s way to make marriage and romance work.

Playing off the foxes written of in Song of Solomon 2:15, Akin identifies seven “foxes” that may easily sneak in and destroy a marriage: role reversal, intimacy stagnation, stonewalling, time ill spent, outside interference, fatigue, and misunderstanding.

Of the “fox of role reversal,” Akin warns, “God made men to be men, husbands, and fathers. A man should never apologize for being a man, for being a masculine human being. God made women to be women, wives, and mothers. No woman should ever apologize for being a feminine person.

“You see, no one is as good at being a man as a man, and no one is as good at being a woman as a woman. However, there is great confusion about gender roles today, and men are especially suffering an identity crisis. In our day, men struggle with their maleness.”

As a remedy for male identity crisis, Akin recommends that, in preparing for marriage, a man look to an older and wiser man for mentoring.

In other chapters, Akin examines preparation for marriage, argues the biblical case for traditional marriage, and discusses “the beauty and blessings of sex as God planned it.” The book also examines the roles of men and women within marriage and shows the biblical definition of love that is to last a lifetime.

Throughout the study, Akin sets forth the catastrophic results of divorce along with the shallow view of marriage held by contemporary culture. As a remedy for divorce, Akin concludes with a look at covenant marriage and includes a copy of a marriage covenant that couples may sign.

The covenant is a declaration to God by both partners that they are committed to the marriage for a lifetime. This is God’s plan for marriage, Akin writes.

“God will honor you (in the covenant commitment), and together you will discover that this commitment will be a bond that will ensure that you make it, and make it well, to the end. God knows best.”

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Effective preaching centers on application, new book says

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Effective preaching must move beyond mere explanation of biblical facts and teach listeners how to apply God’s truths to their lives, according to a new book by one Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor.

In Preaching with Bold Assurance (Broadman & Holman Publishers), Hershael York, Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern, and Bert Decker, chairman and founder of Decker Communications, Inc., argue that the most successful preaching places a dual emphasis on exposition and communication in order to conform listeners to the will of God.

“If you get nothing else from this book, understand this: sermons are not about just imparting information. They should be custom-built to change lives. We don’t want to fill their heads; we want the proclamation of the Word to grip their souls and motivate them to conform to the will of God. Our approach to the Bible and to preaching, therefore, has application as its ultimate goal,” the authors write.

“Our prayer is that preachers will never choose between being either biblical or effective but learn that they can and must be both.”

To compose effective sermons, York and Decker argue that preachers must focus on three key elements of preaching: the text, the sermon and the delivery.

First and foremost, effective preaching demands an expository approach, they argue.

“Expository preaching is defined not by a style nor by a particular methodology, but by the end result of explaining and applying the meaning of the text,” they write. “Expository preaching is any kind of preaching that shows people the meaning of a biblical text and leads them to apply it to their lives.”

Unfortunately, however, York and Decker contend that true expository preaching has become a rarity in American churches.

“While many preachers will stand in a pulpit this Sunday, few who would call themselves expositors will. Fewer still will be the number of preachers who actually are expositional in their preaching.”

Yet expository preaching “is what God uses to change lives more than any other kind [of preaching], because a person cannot preach expository messages unless he is saturated with the Word of God. And the more our sermons are dependent on the inspired text, the more inherent power they will have,” York and Decker write.

For a sermon to be truly dependent on the Bible, the preacher must study the context, the content, and the application of his text, they argue. Such activities as outlining and diagramming passages are effective methods of engaging a biblical text.

Secondly, effective preaching requires skill in the act of sermon crafting.

“The sermon is the bridge we build between the text and the congregation,” write York and Decker. “With Bible-based truth and listener-based delivery, the sermon carries God’s Word to man’s ears and on to his heart. So it is essential that we be committed both to biblical truth and also to culturally relevant styles of communication.”

Part II of “Preaching with Bold Assurance” guides preachers in the technical aspects of building a relevant sermon, discussing such topics as sermon outlining, illustrating a point, introducing a sermon, and concluding a sermon.

Thirdly, effective preaching requires skillful sermon delivery.

“What is the most important thing in communicating?” the authors ask. “Is it content or delivery? Simply put—it’s both. You cannot effectively have one without the other. Just as you have spent years of study and preparation in learning how to handle the text, so must you learn how to handle the tools of delivering the message so that the message reaches your intended listeners.”

Most important to effective sermon delivery, argue York and Decker, is establishing trust with the congregation. To establish trust, a preacher must utilize both verbal and visual communication.

They caution, however, that preachers should not view their task as one of selling the Gospel.

“We are not at all suggesting that people accept the gospel based on the sophistication of our presentation. What we are suggesting is that they will not even hear the gospel if they do not find us credible. They must have an emotional response to the evangelist before they can ever hear the evangel.”

Ultimately, York and Decker contend that Christian preaching can be the most powerful tool of communication in the world because of its content and power.

“Christian communicators have the potential to become the greatest communicators in the world. If our message is biblical, then it is unquestionably true and has the inherent power of the Holy Spirit that transcends any human message or capacity.”

They conclude by admonishing preachers, “Never forget what a privilege God has given you. You speak for God! You are an ambassador of heaven, a bearer of the best news that people could ever hear. That responsibility demands and deserves your best.”

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Southern journal examines reasons behind conservative resurgence

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The Southern Baptist conservative resurgence has been driven foremost by a deep concern for faithfulness to scriptural teaching and is not a reaction to increasingly secularized culture, writers in the spring issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology assert.

The issue, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, focuses on “Theology, Culture, and the SBC,” and interacts with Barry Hankins’ recent book, “Uneasy in Babylon.”

Thomas R. Schreiner, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, contends that many of the issues addressed by Southern Baptist conservatives have cultural ramifications, but are fundamentally theological.

“[Hankins] rightly points out that many of the theological issues that took center stage also have cultural ramifications,” Schreiner writes. “But this is scarcely surprising. Faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture demands that we declare in public the teaching of Scripture that is contravened in our age and time.”

Schreiner, though, argues that a merely cultural explanation of the conservative resurgence does not fully explain why conservatives have raised certain issues.

“We emphasize inerrancy and the necessity of personal faith in Christ to be saved because many in the theological community deny these truths,” he writes.

Schreiner is one of four Southern Seminary faculty members who interact with “Uneasy in Babylon.” The others are seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., and professors Gregory A. Wills and Russell D. Moore.

Hankins, associate professor of history and church-state relations at Baylor University, offers a response to the Southern faculty.

The writers contend that the Southern Baptist conflict centered on the issue of biblical authority. Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology, says that Hankins miscalculates the extent to which cultural phenomena drove the conservative resurgence.

“Contrary to Hankins’ thesis, conservatives did not rally Southern Baptists around inerrancy in order to fight a battle against abortion, the sexual revolution, feminism or any other cultural phenomenon,” Moore writes.

“Instead these issues crystallized the debate over larger theological and missiological questions of biblical authority, the Great Commission, and the prophetic role of the church in protecting those the culture deems not worthy of life.”

Conservatives are most concerned with the advance of the Word of God, Moore argues.

“Baptist conservatives know they will not find Jerusalem in an idyllic southern culture or in a Republican White House or in a less profane Hollywood,” he writes. “They must seek to hold back the cultural darkness, but they know they will find a New Jerusalem only in the Kingdom of Christ -- a Kingdom that is seen even now in the advance of the Gospel around the world.”

Wills, associate professor of church history, says that theological conviction has driven conservatives to confront liberalism in the seminaries for decades. The resurgence of the 1980s was grounded in conservative activity from decades earlier.

“Conservatives believed that the denomination was drifting from orthodoxy,” Wills writes. “Although they raised some accusations against other denominational agencies, the seminaries were the main targets. Many aspects of the post-1979 campaign to expunge liberalism from the seminaries arose from the denominational experiences in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Echoing Moore in his critique of Hankins, Wills contends that conservatives “were not seeking a platform for countercultural political endeavors but an orthodox foundation for advancing the faithfulness of Southern Baptists in fulfilling the divinely ordained mission of the church.”
But Hankins argues that Moore and Wills misunderstand the thesis of “Uneasy in Babylon.”

“Rather than attempting to show that theology is subservient to culture war, I intended to argue that the two are so closely related that a failure to understand one is a failure to understand the other,” Hankins writes. “What Moore and Wills have done is set in opposition the two parts of my interpretation of Southern Baptist conservatives. I do not see these two as oppositional.”

Parties from both sides of the dispute, according to Hankins, tend toward reductionism in labeling the causes of the conservative resurgence. While conservatives often credit the movement wholly to theology, moderates tend to discount theological causes altogether.

“While abortion and the other issues I have covered in ‘Uneasy in Babylon’ are theological in one sense, the public and cultural impact of these issues heightened the perceived need to shore up the theology of the denomination, and the cultural component also helped convince rank-and-file Southern Baptists that something needed to be done.”

However, Mohler argues that the Southern Baptist controversy has fundamentally theological roots extending back to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s. Over the past 80 years, theological trends have polarized Southern Baptists into two distinct parties, Mohler writes.

The “’Truth Party’ insists that Baptist doctrine and polity are inescapably attached to a prior affirmation of biblical truth, to a clear understanding of biblical authority, and an affirmation of revealed truth as demanding our belief in certain doctrinal essentials,” Mohler writes.

The “Liberty Party,” on the other hand, “is established upon an aggressive assertion of individual rights to interpretation, theological formulation, and experience.”

Mohler concludes, “The defining issues are now before us. The Southern Baptist crisis now comes down to the urgent issue of conviction, confession, and cooperation. The question now presented to the Southern Baptist Convention demands an answer: Will we stand upon the absolute truthfulness and full authority of Holy Scripture?”

The journal also includes 20 book reviews, a sermon on women in the pastorate by Mark Coppenger, pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Illinois, and an essay on the life and legacy of Herschel Hobbs by Union University President David Dockery.

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