Jeremy Pierre, who recently became the dean of students at Southern Seminary, introduced the all-day Personal and Family Vigilance conference, explaining the importance of students taking care of their spiritual life — even while in seminary.
“Following Christ first in your personal life and in your family is not automatic,” said Pierre, who is also assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary. “It takes effort and it takes vigilance, grace enabled effort and vigilance, but vigilance nonetheless. We don't want any of our students to shipwreck their faith through the negligence of their soul, because following Jesus while studying him is not automatic.”
Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. led the first plenary session, exhorting students about the health of their private and spiritual lives. Mohler preached from 1 Timothy 4:12-16, warning about the dangers of ministry and the tragedy when someone leaves ministry because of poor personal and spiritual vigilance.
Mohler said that people learn much about an institution by how it begins its semester. He gave an example of a secular school that recently began its semester with a mandatory meeting about “safe sex” among the students. In contrast, Southern Seminary began its new year by focusing on the soul care of its students.
“We need to train ourselves for the pattern of sound steps and the pattern of a sound life,” Mohler said. “If we fail in terms of the private life, then we fail utterly.”
Mohler stressed that people are always watching those in ministry to see how they live. He said that wherever the minister or leader goes, eyes follow to watch if his words match his actions.
He read an open letter from a former student who, instead of graduating, signed divorce papers. The letter, which appeared in a 2011 issue of the seminary’s news magazine, Towers, illustrated the importance of the conference and its message of personal and family watchfulness while in seminary, Mohler said.
“All of us together, whatever our age, need to be determined to right now feed the virtues and starve the vices by God’s grace,” he said. “It’s in the mirror that doctrine and character meet. The defense of the truth requires the same virtues as the defense of character.”
Heath Lambert, associate professor of biblical counseling at Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school, led a plenary session directed toward men about the dangers of pornography. Lambert’s recent book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, addresses the issue of pornography within today’s Christian culture. The seminary gave attendees a free copy of the book. (A question and answer about Lambert’s new book is available here.)
Lambert, who is also the executive director of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors, said that he believes this is a time of crisis. “Pornography is the most significant problem in the church. … Today people in our churches have to be vigilant against a phantom,” he said, talking about pornography’s anonymous, ease of access on the Internet.
Purity in the churches begins with the pastor, he said.
“God has raised you up to be leaders in your home and church,” Lambert said. “If our homes and churches are to be pure, they are going to be led by men who are pure.”
Lambert preached from Romans 6, telling students that the necessary power to be pure is found in the passage, which addresses a believer’s deadness to sin and life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
He noted three truths that empower men struggling with pornography, saying that a Christian cannot confess Christ’s resurrection and not fight for holiness; the power for purity is found in the fight against sin; and the fight against sin includes the need for Christians to stop resenting sin and to present themselves to God as raised-to-life believers.
Lambert told students to protect themselves by putting protective systems on computers, cell phones and even television in order to avoid temptations to sin.
Men should begin to present themselves to God as instruments of righteousness by service to others and the church, said Lambert. Fighting for purity requires spending time with Jesus.
He also encouraged the attendees to sing gospel-centered music when tempted to sin.
“God has wired us that there’s something about singing that ignites our affections,” Lambert said.
His final call to action encouraged men to find someone and tell them the truth, emphasizing the importance of grace and honesty in the effort to fight sin.
The conference also featured four breakout sessions led by seminary professors. Michael A. G. Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality, led a session about vigilance in soul care; Pierre led a session about ministering to those who need to confess sin; Bruce A. Ware, professor of Christian theology, spoke to students about how couples can pursue purity together; and Brian J. Vickers, associate professor of New Testament interpretation, led a session about moving past guilt and the step toward grace
The conference is the first to be co-sponsored by the Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship, established June, 2013, and the John and Debbie Bethancourt Lectures for Ministerial Ethics.
Audio and video from the conference are available at sbts.edu/resources.
At the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, SBTS remembers MLK visit; Williams writes about ongoing need for racial reconciliation
August 28 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 1963 large-scale rally that advocated for civil and economic rights of American-Americans in the United States.
Fifty-two years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. visited Southern Seminary to give the 1961 Julius Brown Gay Lecture on Christian Ethics. Audio from King's visit is available at the James P. Boyce Archives and Special Collections website: King’s address, “The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension,” pronounced a call for church leaders to accept the responsibility of confronting the moral evil of segregation in the South and take the lead in moving American society toward integration. He also lectured in an ethics class. Archives also includes an article from the Review & Expositor by former Southern Seminary professor Henlee Barnette reflecting on King's visit. Baptist Press recently referenced the visit in an article about Southern Baptists and reconciliation. And, two years ago, Towers published a special edition about the 50th anniversary of King's visit to the seminary.
Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, recently wrote about the March on Washinton, issuing a call for gospel-centered racial reconciliation, available here.
What the March on Washington couldn’t accomplish: 50 years later, a call for gospel-centered racial reconciliation
The Civil Rights movement in the second half of the 20th century worked ferociously to fight for the equal rights of people of color, especially for the equal rights of African-Americans. Many women and men, both black and white, sacrificed time, money, and the high price of their own lives in order to end racial discrimination by means of boycotts, rallies, freedom rides and impassioned speeches against the sin and evil of racism.
The March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, was one of the largest civil liberties rallies in the history of the United States and featured Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic “I have a Dream” speech in which the civil rights leader movingly argued for equal rights and racial harmony for all people. Both the march and King’s speech certainly impacted the culture’s attitude toward race and racial harmony.
However, as the following days and months after King’s speech demonstrated and as our nation’s current racial tensions illustrate, the March on Washington was unable to eradicate racism, and it was incapable of universally accomplishing racial equality. The reason is quite simple: the March on Washington, as significant as it was, could not change the human heart inclined toward sin.
To the contrary, when faithfully lived, preached, and taught, the gospel of Jesus Christ can in fact eradicate all forms of racial hostility. As I suggested in my book on racial reconciliation, One New Man, the Bible confirms that sin is the reason why racism exists, Jesus’ death and resurrection are God’s provision for racial reconciliation, Jesus actually accomplished racial reconciliation for believers, and racial reconciliation must be intentionally pursued and can be experienced by those within the Christian community who believe, love, and live for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Reason for Racial Enmity and God’s Provision for Racial Reconciliation
In Genesis 1-2, Moses states that God created a perfect world without sin. In its original pristine form prior to sin entering creation, humanity was reconciled both to God and to one another. But, after Adam and Eve violated God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17), sin devastated God’s original creation. The hostility between humanity as a result of sin envisages the universal power of sin over human relationships.
Prior to the fall, humanity was in perfect harmony with its creator, with creation, and with one another (Gen 1-2). Unfortunately, after the fall, Cain murdered his brother, Abel (Gen 4:8), a direct consequence of Adam’s sin in the garden (Gen 3:15). Furthermore, because of the sin of idolatry, God confused humanity’s one speech into different dialects with the result that humanity became more alienated from one another due to dialectical confusion (Gen 11:1-9).
A key New Testament passage by Paul discusses the division between different dialects and different people groups and God’s solution to the division (Eph 2:11-22). When speaking of Jews and Gentiles (i.e. a Gentile is a non-Jewish person), Paul asserts that the Gentiles were separated from all of God’s promises to Israel (Eph 2:11-12). However, he asserts that Jesus’ death incorporates Gentile Christians into God’s family along with Jewish Christians by means of faith (Eph 2:13). Further, Paul declares that Jesus’ death makes believing Jews and believing Gentiles into one new humanity by killing the enmity between them, namely the law (Eph 2:14-16). Finally, Paul asserts that Jesus’ death grants both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians access to the one and true living God, access to the same Holy Spirit, and made them citizens within the same household, whose foundation is the apostles, the prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:18-22).
Of course, the ethno-racial problems between Jews and Gentiles are not the same as ethno-racial problems that are still prevalent on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. For example, the racial harmony that Paul discusses in Ephesians 2 has nothing to do with skin color.
Nevertheless, Paul’s words in Ephesians precisely speak to us today. For example, he reminds us that the division between humanity is not only a black and white problem, because sin is a universal power that enslaves every ethnicity and that causes divisions between them (see Rom 1:18-32; 6:1-23; Gal 2:11-14). Jews and Gentiles (all ethnic groups) are alienated from one another.
In addition, Paul reminds us that the provision for racial harmony is not Civil Rights rallies and well-attended marches, as helpful as they can be, because he promulgates that Jesus Christ himself actually accomplished racial reconciliation for followers of Jesus.
The Bible emphasizes the universal power of sin over humanity, the universal effects of sin over humanity, the alienation of humanity because of sin, and Paul presents the only solution to this massive problem of racial alienation as the gospel of Jesus Christ. May the churches, therefore, be vigilant to promote and preach a God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, and gospel-centered message of racial harmony, and may they be intentional to achieve this in the church, in the academy, and in the world.
Jarvis Williams is associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has written and spoken widely on the subject of biblical racial reconciliation and is the author of One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology (Broadman and Holman Academic Press, 2010).
Mohler calls ministers to speak the truth in times of trouble during 20th anniversary convocation address
In the midst of cultural pressures to remain silent, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told ministers to speak the truth because souls are at stake, during an Aug. 20 convocation address marking his 20th anniversary as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We are called to be, as Scripture describes us, stewards of the mysteries of God,” Mohler said. “We are called to preach that which has been revealed. We are called to preach the Word in season and out of season. ... We are living in a time that may well be described as increasingly out of season. Thus, we speak of the sin of silence in a time of trouble.”
Mohler’s address, “Don't Just Stand There: Say Something: The Sin of Silence in a Time of Trouble,” follows in the tradition of two previous convocation messages at significant moments in his presidency.
The first, in 1993, “Don’t Just Do Something: Stand There,” set his agenda to reclaim the seminary — a central concern during the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention. He argued that the school had lost its way theologically and needed to commit with integrity to its foundational doctrinal confession, the Abstract of Principles.
Ten years later, Mohler called the school — in a message oppositely titled, “Don’t Just Stand There: Do Something” — to re-engage in the task of the church by taking the gospel to the nations.
Speaking to the seminary community Tuesday, at the beginning of a new academic year, Mohler said, “We know what we believe; that’s what we confess. We know what we must do, as the Lord himself has commissioned us. And may we ever be faithful to speak what we’ve been commanded to speak.”
Mohler preached from Ezekiel 3:16-27, where God gives the prophet responsibility for those to whom God calls him to speak. In the passage, God says to Ezekiel, “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”
Mohler asserted that the message God gives to Ezekiel is as applicable today as it was for the ancient prophet.
“The portrait given to Ezekiel is [one] we must hear and we must heed and we must own for our own time,” he said.
Confronting a fear of truth-telling, Mohler said the Scriptures present only two conditions that require silence: when in the presence of God and “when we do not know what to say because the knowledge is too far from us.” But, Mohler said, calls to speak are “far more prevalent in Scripture” than calls for silence, noting that the call to speak is not generic, but a specific call to preach God’s revealed truth.
“Our task is not theological speculation; we are not called to doctrinal creativity; we are not summoned to invent a message; we neither market nor test this message, nor modify it. We receive it. And as we receive it, so we preach,” he said.
But preaching God’s Word is often unpopular, Mohler reminded seminarians.
“The increasingly secular culture of the West, and specifically the United States, is poised to present the seriously Christian minister with serious challenges. And challenges bring temptations. One of the greatest temptations is for us to remain silent,” he said.
“We are tempted to speak in terms that will be better received, we believe, than the terms of the gospel that Scripture require. We are tempted to lower our voice when we should raise it, and to raise our voice when it should be lowered. The truth dies a thousand deaths of equivocation and is buried in a grave of evasion,” he said.
Still, ministers cannot avoid trouble, Mohler said. “We will be in trouble with someone. So let us choose this day those with whom we will have trouble. The world says, ‘Remain silent,’ and God says, ‘Speak.’”
Mohler emphasized his desire not to spark a “new belligerence or to a posture of defensiveness,” but to call the church to obedience to all that Scripture teaches. “My concern is the mandate given to us by God and my concern is the church,” he said.
Silence in times of trouble is sin, Mohler said, noting the increasing cost of speaking the truth. “It will cost more every year to bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the exclusivity of that gospel as a radical cause of outrage in this culture, to the moral teachings of God’s Word,” he said.
Mohler stressed that consequences of speaking God’s truth span beyond cultural discussions of morality. The call to speak the truth in times of trouble today, as in Ezekiel’s day, carries eternal consequences.
“This is not merely about some cultural conflict over moral questions; it is about an eternal conflict over the souls of men and women. Nothing less is at stake,” he said.
“Together, may we be determined never to remain silent when we are called and commissioned and given opportunity to speak. May we end our days free and innocent of the blood of all men,” he said. “May Southern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention and all of God’s people learn new skills of truth-telling and draw courage to speak the truth in love and resolve to speak as best we know in the time we are given to the people whose eternal destiny many hang in the balance.”
Audio and video of Mohler’s address are available at the Southern Resource Web page. Mohler's two previous milestone convocation addresses are also available: “Don’t Just Do Something: Stand There”; “Don’t Just Stand There: Do Something.”
A new biblical theology book is a “pastoral” effort to help Christians understand “how all of Scripture fits together,” said author Thomas R. Schreiner, a New Testament scholar at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In a recent interview with Towers, Southern Seminary’s news magazine, Schreiner said he wrote The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments “fundamentally for people who love the Scriptures and want to know the Scriptures, but they also want to have an understanding of how all of Scripture fits together.”
Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and author of commentaries on the books of Romans and Galatians, said his motive when writing was pastoral rather than scholarly.
“I think there’s a pastoral slant to my book. I’m not trying to advance a new or novel scholarly theory, really. I am trying to discover how the Scriptures fit together,” Schreiner said.
The thesis of The King in His Beauty – the title of which comes from Isaiah 33:17– is that God reclaims his kingship on earth among his people through one man.
“The story of the Bible is that God, as Lord and creator, is king, and he created us to rule the world for him,” he said. “Human beings rejected God’s rule and sinned. God is king, but he doesn’t treat human beings as he did fallen angels. He promises in Genesis 3:15 that victory will be won (the world will be reclaimed) through the offspring of the woman who crushes the serpent.”
Schreiner, who is also a pastor at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., noted practical ways he thinks people can use the book, with private reading as the first option. Because of what he sees as weaknesses in many Bible survey-type courses, The King in His Beauty could also be an alternative text book for an Old or New Testament survey course to help students better connect the big story across the testaments.
“Sometimes there’s not as much focus on how the message coheres with the rest of the Bible,” he said. “We focus so much on the parts that we don’t see the whole. One of the contributions of my book is that I look at the Scriptures in terms of a book’s historical setting, but I also look at a book in terms of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
“The problem with many Old Testament biblical theologies is that they only look at it in terms of what it meant within the Old Testament itself, but I think we should do both: we should look at Leviticus in light of its historical setting and in terms of the fulfillment we have in Jesus Christ,” he said.
In The King in His Beauty, Schreiner emphasizes the importance of studying the timeline found in Scripture of God’s redemptive work on earth through Jesus Christ.
“In biblical theology we focus on redemptive history and what each biblical author has to say, whether we are reading Leviticus, Lamentations, or Luke,” Schreiner said.
Schreiner connects Old Testament books like Leviticus to Christ, teaching and writing about Scripture as one cohesive story about the gospel.
He said that writing about the Old Testament for The King in His Beauty challenged him, specifically the wisdom literature and how it fits into the redemptive storyline of the Bible. He tied wisdom literature like Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to the fear of the Lord.
“In Proverbs how we live under God's reign is tied to the particulars, to the details of everyday life. We don't only have a cosmic plan; God relates to us as individuals as we await the consummation,” he said.
In the interview, Schreiner also discussed the importance of biblical theology in the Christian life. He said that people want to know the big picture, including why they exist, what life is about and what it means to be human. As Christians, this means seeking answers in Scripture about God’s work and understanding life in relation to what God is doing in the world, and biblical theology gives people the answers.
The full interview with Schreiner about The King in His Beauty is available here. The King in His Beauty is available for purchase in all major Christian bookstores and on Amazon.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also commented on this subject in a recent essay and podcast, "Who Am I to Judge? The Pope, the Press and the Predicament" and the Aug. 1 edition of The Briefing.
Pope Francis’ comment that he will not “judge” homosexuals does not signal a change in Roman catholic teaching about sexual morality but reflects the pope’s desire to portray the Roman Catholic Church as loving toward everyone, according to Southern Seminary’s Gregg Allison.
“I think some, perhaps many people, both outside and inside the Catholic church, are hopeful that the pope’s comments about homosexuality signal a change in the church’s view of and policy toward homosexuality, but I have strong doubts that this is the case," said Allison, professor of Christian theology and author of the forthcoming book Intrigue and Critique: An Evangelical Assessment of Roman Catholic Theology and Practice (Crossway, 2014).
The pope offered his comments July 29, during a wide-ranging press conference aboard a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome. He made “off-the-cuff remarks that express his rightful compassion toward all people, those engaged in homosexuality included,” Allison said. “Like his similar remarks a couple of months ago about atheists and good works, the pope’s comments are not official teaching on this issue.”
Francis’ commented on an alleged “gay lobby” in the Roman Catholic Church with inordinate influence. He said a gay lobby is bad but distinguished between the gay lobby and homosexual individuals, telling reporters, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”
That statement led major media outlets to speculate that Francis may be shifting the church’s ethical teaching. But Allison said such claims show a misunderstanding of Catholic theology.
“The pope’s comments do not represent any official change in theological direction,” he said. “They may signal the fact that he will not be a pope who follows the path of his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in terms of the latter’s projection of a more conservative, closed face on the Roman Catholic Church. The current pope seems to embrace everyone and wants to demonstrate to the world that the Catholic Roman Church embraces everyone.
“But this should not be taken to mean that Pope Francis is going to reform the church in terms of a new social or theological agenda when it comes to homosexuality, abortion, contraception, women as priests, married priests and the like. The Roman Catholic Church in general, and its pope in particular, does not — I would add cannot — function in that way.”
The official teaching of Roman Catholicism, articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is that some acts are intrinsically disordered, including homosexual activity. Such acts are “always wrong to choose, because choosing them entails a disorder of the will, that is, a moral evil,” according to the catechism.
“Accordingly,” Allison said of Catholic teaching, “under no circumstances — for example, the claim to be acting out of love, or to be reciprocating an expression of love — is homosexual activity a moral act. It is always illicit.”
Another highlight of Francis’ trip to Brazil was his emphasis on the need for Catholics to evangelize more or risk losing the church’s members. According to census data, the number of Catholics in Brazil dropped from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million in 2010, with the nation’s percentage of Catholics falling from 74 percent to 65 percent. During the same period, the percentage of Protestants and Pentecostals soared from 15 percent to 22 percent.
“Jesus is calling on you to be a disciple with a mission,” Francis told a crowd of 3 million in Rio de Janeiro on July 28. He added, “Dear young people, Jesus Christ is counting on you; the church is counting on you; the pope is counting on you.”
Francis is well aware of Protestantism’s recent success in Latin America as a native of Argentina, Allison said.
“This pope knows first-hand the immense impact of evangelical churches on the Catholic populations of South America, and he will be a leader for the Roman Catholic Church who challenges it to mirror and even reproduce the evangelistic fervor, community building, prayer, enthusiastic worship and the like of evangelicals,” Allison said. “We should expect a more aggressive Roman Catholic Church to follow the lead of this pope in reaching out to connect with people, both Catholic and non-Catholics.”
Allison cautioned evangelicals not to assume they know what the pope means when he talks about evangelism.
“Southern Baptists should … learn that many similar terms that we and Catholics use — for example, evangelization, receiving/believing in Christ, the gospel, faith, baptism — mean something very different to us than they mean to Catholics,” he said.
Evangelicals who minister among Catholic populations must make sure that people who seem to embrace their preaching are truly trusting in Christ alone for salvation, according to Allison.
“If we miss this important point … we are going to engage in ministry, share the gospel and plant churches that are not properly contextualized,” he said. “They may garner explosive numbers, but they will not be gospel-centered churches as we might think.”
David Roach is a correspondent for Southern Seminary.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary, said of Watts, “John D.W. Watts was both an Old Testament scholar and the son of an Old Testament scholar, and the Watts family represents at least two generations of seminary professors within the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Watts played a significant role in several Baptist institutions and was a member of the Southern Seminary faculty for many years. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Watts family.”
Born in August of 1921 in Laurens, South Carolina, Watts spent his childhood in Palestine with his missionary parents and his youth in New Orleans, La., where his father served on the faculty of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1946, he married Winifred Lee Williams. The two served with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board — now called the International Mission Board — from 1948 to 1970 and from 1972 to 1975. Watts was professor of Old Testament at International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, where he also served as president from 1963 to 1969. He then served on the faculty of Serampore College in Serampore, India (1972-75), Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., (1976-1981) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., (1981-95).
Watts earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College and bachelor of divinity and doctor of theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the Old Testament editor of the Word Biblical Commentary. His books included Vision and Prophecy in Amos (1958; revised 1996), Studying the Book of Amos (1966), Basic Patterns in Old Testament Religion (1971), How We Got the Bible (2011), with contributions to the Broadman Bible Commentary (1970-72) and several commentaries on Old Testament books.
He was honored with two festschrift collections of essays by colleagues and students, Forming Prophetic Literature: Essays on Isaiah and the Twelve (ed. J. W. Watts and P. R. House, 1996) and a special issue of Perspectives in Religious Studies (ed. P. J. Scalise, 2008). In 1995, he retired to Penney Farms, Fla., where he lived with Lee until her death in February 2011.
He is survived by his children, Cheryl, Reid, Clare and Jim, as well as seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The family will hold a memorial service at Penney Farms Retirement Community in Penney Farms on Oct. 14, 2013. The family requests donations of sympathy to Heifer International.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Southeast Outlook. Used by permission.
Rick Bordas never planned a legacy.
He wasn’t thinking about it as he made rounds in his sales business, cared for his wife Lori and sons Jeffrey and Joshua, volunteered at Southeast Christian Church and for the Foundation Board at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Rick describes himself as ordinary — a diehard University of Kentucky fan, a golfer who never traveled far from home except to serve in Vietnam, a quiet, loyal friend. A good day is delivering embroidered shirts to clients, a home-cooked dinner with Graeter’s ice cream for dessert, a game of canasta or sitting on the deck with Lori until dark.
He didn’t know that everyone builds a legacy as they live.
When Rick, 64, was diagnosed with incurable gallbladder cancer a few months ago, he simply asked people to pray, continued working and volunteering. Though he is weak and thin, Rick calls himself “a blessed man.”
When friends invited Rick and his wife Lori to dinner on June 17, they had no idea that seminary President Dr. Albert Mohler, his wife Mary and about 100 friends and family had gathered at the seminary to unveil the Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship.
It’s an honor that Rick still has trouble wrapping his arms around.
Southeast Elder John Schmitt is not surprised.
“The reason this happened is Rick’s life has never been about Rick,” he said. “It’s always been about others and Jesus.”
Mohler said the fund will touch every student on the seminary campus as it provides special speakers who will teach about prayer and discipleship.
“Rick is a light in a dark world,” Mohler said. “My wife was talking with a young man on a plane recently. When he found out we live in Louisville, he said, ‘I know somebody in Louisville’ and went on to explain that he didn’t have a dad in his life, but he had been mentored by Rick Bordas. I think many could say that.”
Rick has been on the Foundation Board at the seminary for eight years, raising funds to defray education costs for students. He’s prayed for students and for outreach, for Mohler, for those who return to their own countries to preach and teach, for those who plant churches and preach.
Those who know Rick know how much the seminary means to him, but the scholarship fund is not his only legacy.
It’s in students he mentored, the faculty at the seminary, his family and a wide group of friends.
Decades before he had cancer, Rick volunteered to be a D Group leader for high school students at Southeast. The group became so close that after graduation, they continued to meet at the Bordas home whenever they were home from college.
Now some of them are pastors, youth leaders, worship leaders and dentists.
When Rick was diagnosed with cancer, he asked these young men to pray. When they learned that Rick could no longer lift his stepson Jeffrey, who has special needs, they began showing up at the Bordas home to help.
John Hamilton, a worship intern at Southeast, said what they do is insignificant compared to all Rick and Lori have done for them.
“Rick kept in touch with us no matter where we were in college,” Hamilton said. “He modeled what a Biblical husband and father looks like. We saw that played out in how he treated Lori, Jeffrey and their son Joshua. We were shocked when he told us about the cancer, but we wanted to help. Some of us started watching Jeffrey when he and Lori went to doctors. He served us so well that there’s nothing else to do but serve him as he served us.”
Close friend Linda Webster said one of Rick’s mottos is, “It will be OK.”
“For most people, that’s just a phrase, but for Ricky, it’s a lifestyle,” she said. “No matter what he faces, he trusts it will be OK. That’s a great example of resting in the Lord.”
Glen and Becky Hedgspeth said it is not often that people see the result of their faithfulness during their lifetime.
“Rick is seeing that every day,” Becky said. “He’s experiencing an outpouring of love and support in cards, letters, visits from friends and gifts.”
As cancer has become part of Rick’s story, he manages to weave in unshakable faith in a good God.
Some have told Rick that cancer shouldn’t happen to him. He’s a good man, busy with God’s agenda.
“Do you think cancer only happens to bad people?” Rick asked. “Maybe God allowed me to have cancer because I can deal with it. I will not curse God when something goes wrong. John Piper wrote a booklet, ‘Don’t Waste Your Cancer.’ I will use this to witness and share my hope and be joyful so people will see that.”
Rick and Lori pray for healing, but they demand nothing from God.
“Through it all Rick continues to consider himself a blessed man,” Lori said. “It's true, in so many ways we feel as though we've led charmed lives. We have gladly accepted all the good things God has bestowed upon us year after year. Why should we be angry with Him when all is not cookies and bonbons? We have a 25-year history with Him. He is worthy of our trust. We are so thankful this world is not our home.”
Contributions to the Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship may be mailed to:
Southern Seminary c/o Rick Bordas Fund for Student Discipleship, Office of Institutional Advancement, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280
At memorial service and on social media, students, colleagues react to professor William R. Cutrer’s death
Cutrer became the first medical doctor to join the faculty of Southern following his successful career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Texas. While at the seminary, he served as staff physician of the school’s Hagan Clinic, an on-campus limited health maintenance service staffed by a charge nurse and physician.
The morning he died, Cutrer, who was 62, left his home for a bicycle ride and not long after, fellow cyclists found him tipped over on his bicycle, according to the family. First responders tried to revive Cutrer without success.
Three days later, the family held a memorial service at the Cutrer’s church, Crestwood Baptist Church in Crestwood, Ky. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a close friend of Cutrer and his family for more than 30 years, spoke at the service from Psalm 1.
“In many ways, the Cutrer family had four brothers and I was the fourth, and was always treated like that and so much more,” Akin said. “In fact, were I to attempt today to share all the ways in which Charlotte and I were a part of this family, we’d be here a long, long, long time.”
Akin, who formerly served as vice president of academic administration at Southern Seminary, shared to the story about how Cutrer delivered each of the Akin sons. One difficult pregnancy forced Charlotte Akin to bedrest. Cutrer and his wife, Jane, invited the Akins to move in with them for remainder of the pregnancy, which they did.
Akin concluded his comments drawing a parallel between Cutrer and the psalmist’s vision of a blessed man: “Adrian Rogers said that life is lived in depth, not length,” he said. “And if a live lived in the depth of God’s grace and goodness is certain to be a blessed life, then Bill Cutrer lived a very blessed life as first trophy of God’s amazing grace but also as an example worthy of all of us to study and in many ways emulate.”
Also at the funeral, Cutrer’s second son, read from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “Crossing the Bar,” noting the poem’s significance to three generations of Cutrers.
“Finally, I would like to end by reading a poem that my dad found solace in at the passing of his father, who also found solace in it at the passing of his,” he said.
Following the funeral, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, led at the graveside ceremony.
In the hour following the announcement of Cutrer’s death on July 13, social media outlets Facebook and Twitter demonstrated Cutrer’s influence on many people’s lives in many contexts.
One of the first to comment about Cutrer, Mohler sent a tweet highlighting two of Cutrer’s passions: “Dr. Cutrer spent years helping babies to be born before helping a generation of young ministers be born into ministry.”
In the same time frame, Russell D. Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of Southern Baptist Convention and a former colleague of Cutrer at the seminary, summarized through Twitter reactions to Cutrer’s life: “Consistent theme in what I’m hearing today from fellow @SBTS alums about Bill Cutrer: gratitude for how he strengthened their marriages.”
One such story is Tim Brister, a popular blogger and pastor and elder of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., posted about Cutrer’s influence on his marriage.
“My wife, Dusti, and I were greatly enriched by his teaching and modeling the Christian life in the daily grind, especially in marriage,” Brister wrote on Facebook. “At the time where the stresses and challenges of seminary life seemed most difficult, God used Dr. Cutrer to strengthen and equip us with God's grace and truth where we needed it most.”
Trevin Wax, editor of LifeWay Christian Resources’ Gospel Project Sunday school curriculum, credited Cutrer with helping deepen his faith while he was a student at the seminary. “Grieving the sudden loss of @SBTS professor William Cutrer. His passion and example helped fan the flames of my love for Jesus,” he said through Twitter.
During his time in Louisville, Ky., Cutrer was an active pro-life advocate and practitioner in the community. For many years, he was the medical director for A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, a non-profit special health clinic that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and other services for crisis pregnancies and post-abortion support.
In the hours after Cutrer’s death, Timothy Paul Jones, professor of leadership and family ministry at the seminary, said through Twitter, “Who knows how many people are alive today due to Dr. Bill Cutrer's work with pregnant mothers in crisis,” highlighting Cutrer’s pro-life efforts.
The comments of a Cutrer family friend, Debbye Brown, noted the diversity of Cutrer’s ministry. She posted to Facebook, “So sad to hear about the sudden passing of William Cutrer. He was our friend, Sunday School teacher, and OB/GYN. He was the one who prayed us through the entire process of not being able to conceive to delivering Tim. He was a great man of God and will be greatly missed by many.”
Those who wish to give expressions of sympathy in Cutrer’s honor may do so through gifts to the Gheens Center for Family Ministry at Southern Seminary and to A Woman’s Choice Resource Center in Louisville.
William R. Cutrer, a professor and staff physician at Southern Seminary, died Saturday morning, July 13, from cardiac-related complications.
According to his wife, Cutrer, 62, left his home for a bicycle ride around 7 a.m. and not long after, fellow cyclists found him tipped over on his bicycle. The cyclists and emergency responders tried to revive Cutrer without success.
In a letter early Saturday afternoon, Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. informed the seminary community of Cutrer’s death.
“Bill Cutrer was known to many as “William Cutrer, M.D.” For many years he was a prominent obstetrician in Dallas, Texas. He delivered thousands of babies, including some of our own students,” Mohler writes. “Later, Dr. Cutrer trained for the ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. He came to us as a member of the faculty more than a decade ago, teaching in the areas of ministry, medical ethics, marriage and family and personal discipleship. He was also known to the Southern Seminary family as a trusted doctor in the clinic.”
Cutrer became the first medical doctor to join the faculty of Southern following his successful medical career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Texas. In 1999, he assumed an endowed professorship as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry. He was also the director of the Gheens Center for Family Ministry. During his tenure at the seminary, he served as staff physician of the school’s Hagan Clinic, an on-campus limited health maintenance service staffed by a charge nurse and physician.
In his letter, Mohler writes about “first-hand” knowledge of Cutrer’s medical expertise, referencing his own major surgery and ensuing complications.
“Dr. Cutrer cared for me and supervised my recovery and months of subsequent testing,” he writes. “I know what a trusted physician he was, and I know what a friend he was to so many on the Southern Seminary campus.
“Bill Cutrer spent years helping thousands of babies to be born before helping scores of young Christians to be born as ministers. He was a remarkable man, and he lived a remarkable life. He touched and influenced thousands of lives and he leaves a great legacy. He died all too soon, from our perspective. We will miss him greatly,” Mohler writes.
In addition to his duties at the seminary, Cutrer was an active pro-life advocate and practitioner in the Louisville, Ky., community. For many years, he was the medical director for A Woman’s Choice Resource Center, a non-profit special health clinic that provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and other services for crisis pregnancies and post-abortion support.
In a 2006 article, a reporter for the The New York Times quotes Cutrer about his work with the center. Noting the variety of needs and interests that attract women into the center, Cutrer tells the reporter that the center provides ultrasounds primarily for “persuasive, not diagnostic” reasons. He says: “The primary purpose is to show [women who come into the clinic] that [their pregnancy is] not a clump of tissues but a human being.”
Cutrer, who spoke at conferences about various topics such as marriage enrichment, bioethics and wellness lifestyles, was the author or co-author of several books, including Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, The Infertility Companion, The Contraception Guidebook and The Church Leader’s Handbook: a Guide to Counseling Families and Individuals in Crisis. He also performed missionary work in a variety of countries and contexts. Cutrer held a medical degree from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., and a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.
Following announcements of Cutrer’s death, his former colleagues, students and friends filled social media outlets with appreciation and thanksgiving for Cutrer’s ministries, along with sympathy and support for his family.
One such student, Athanasios Bardis, an alumnus from Australia, sent out a newsletter expressing his appreciation for Cutrer. He writes:
“In introducing himself [Cutrer] told us he was a living time bomb and could die at any moment with a condition he had in his heart,” the student writes about he and his wife’s first encounter with Cutrer during a marriage enrichment seminar. “This did not stop him, make him fret, or cause anxiety. He lived all out there for Jesus, pursued and continued to serve students till his last breath. His godly counsel, his living example of his life and marriage has impacted and influenced our marriage like no other.”
Cutrer leaves behind his wife, Jane Curry Cutrer, and three children and their spouses — William Jr. (Elisabeth), Robert (Meredith) and Jennifer Snow (Casey) — and grandchildren Emily, Zachary, Maddie, Abigail, Alexis and Victoria . Cutrer was a member of Crestwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
Closing, Mohler writes, “I know you join with me in praying for Jane Cutrer and the entire family. … Let us praise God for the gift of Dr. Bill Cutrer and pray for God’s grace and mercy to be very real to the Cutrer family at this time.”
The Cutrer family will hold a visitation Monday, July 15, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Highlands Funeral Home, 3331 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY 40205. The funeral service for Cutrer will take place Tuesday, July 16, at 10 a.m. at Crestwood Baptist Church, 6400 Sweet Bay Dr., Crestwood, KY 40014. A burial will follow immediately at Louisville Memorial East Cemetery. The family asks that expressions of sympathy go to the Gheens Center for Family Ministry at Southern Seminary or to A Woman’s Choice Resource Center.