April “Towers” addresses the priority of distinctives, primacy of the gospel

The April 2012 “Towers” is now on stands and online.

Remember the song from Sesame Street that goes something like, “One of these things is not like the other”? Well, that’s what this issue of “Towers” is about. Of the many different things that define a given church, one commitment reigns over the others – the message of Jesus Christ. Ligon Duncan and Josh Harris tell readers that the primacy of the gospel is not like the other commitments of a church.

Also, we look at the remarkable story of the tornado that, in early March, swept through Henryville, Ind., and brought a unique opportunity to the township’s First Baptist Church.

April's "Towers" also includes G.K. Beale talking about his new book, A New Testament Biblical Theology, SBTS Press releases A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care and a before-unseen tour of underground Southern.

Southern Seminary Resources publishes “Towers,” Southern Seminary Magazine and other seminary publications digitally as well as physically. Check out the Resources page for an improved online reading experience.

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Mohler hosts President Jimmy Carter on Thinking in Public podcast

Thinking in Public, a long-format interview program hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., features a conversation with former United States President Jimmy Carter. Carter served as the 39th U.S. President and received the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize – the only U.S. president to win the award following his presidency.

In light of Carter’s recently released book, NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter, Mohler and Carter discuss his background, influences, biblical interpretation and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Carter’s conversation with Mohler, “The Bible Meets the Modern Age: A Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter,” is available on iTunes and at Mohler’s Web site, www.albertmohler.com

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Moore addresses assurance in First-Person article

Southern Seminary's Russell D. Moore addresses the importance – or unimportance – of a Christian knowing the date, time and place of his or her conversion in Baptist Press' First-Person column, March 20, 2012.

In the article, Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, discusses the misnomer that some preachers and evangelists espouse, seemingly intimating that every person's conversion is sudden, abrupt and dramatic, a moment on which one can attach a date and time. However, Moore points out that some people come to faith in Christ through a slower realization of the gospel.

"Sometimes our churches reinforce this misunderstanding," he writes. "Preachers talk about assurance of salvation as though it were about remembering a past experience, and doing a mental autopsy on the sincerity of that. The people we allow to give testimonies in our churches and in our publications all seem to have a dramatic tale to tell.

"That's not what the Gospel is about."

Rather than a message about placing one's trust in a dramatic or emotional experience, Moore contends that the gospel is about trusting in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The point of the Gospel isn't celebrating an experience; it's believing a Man who is your crucified, resurrected, reigning Life," he writes.

The entire article – "Do you know when you were saved?" – is available at the Baptist Press Web site.

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March “Towers” talks dead people

The March 2012 "Towers" is now on stands and online.

“Dead Among the Living” isn’t a new band stirring mosh-pits or a new show on the AMC network – though it might work for both. Rather, it’s a word-picture of a too-common group of people who borrow the presumed benefits of church-goers: a conveniently powerful God and a feel-good community of, well, just good ‘ol people. They’re sitting in the pews of your church and mine. They probably look like you. But they’re dead.

In this March 2012 issue of “Towers,” Steve Watters, along with Timothy Paul Jones, helps readers think through this phenomenon, then Mike McKinley helps pastors learn to reach the spiritually dead who sit in the pews at church, the dead among the living.

Also in "Towers," Andrew Peterson talks about the Christian imagination and Bruce Ware tells parents how to teach the Bible to their children.

Southern Seminary Resources publishes “Towers,” Southern Seminary Magazine and other seminary publications digitally as well as physically. Check out the Resources page for an improved online reading experience.

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Boyce College holds essay contest for full-tuition scholarship

If you are a prospective college student interested in enrolling at Boyce College for the Fall 2012-Spring 2013 Worldview Studies Certificate Program, this contest is for you.

Boyce College is hosting an essay contest that will grant a full-tuition scholarship to one lucky winner. Your essay should include what you believe the importance of a Biblical Worldview has to do with success on a college campus. All submissions MUST be original. Plagiarism in any form will not be accepted. You can use quotes and outside sources, but make sure you give adequate recognition to your sources through either footnotes or citations. Entries should be at least 500 words, but no longer than 1,000 words. Footnotes and citations do not count towards the word limit.

The winner will be awarded a full-tuition, at the SBC-student rate, scholarship for the Fall 2012-Spring 2013 Worldview Studies Certificate Program. Your entry can be submitted via email to boyce@sbts.edu Make sure your essay is in a Word document attached to the email. Include your contact information in the body of the email. All submissions should be sent in by June 4, 2012.The winner of the essay contest and tuition scholarship will be notified via email July, 16, 2012.

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Schreiner, Wellum, Strachan contribute to latest 9Marks Journal

Southern Seminary's Thomas R. Schreiner, Stephen J. Wellum and Owen D. Strachan each contributed articles to the latest 9Marks Journal, available online. In light of the 2012 Together for the Gospel conference's theme of the "Underestimated Gospel," the March-April 2012 9Marks Journal devotes itself to theme of "The Underestimated Doctrine of Conversion."

Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, writes two articles, "Conversion and the Story of Israel" and "Conversion in the New Testament." The first article discusses how the doctrine of conversion is anticipated in the Old Testament, and the second article explains how the promise of conversion becomes a reality in the New Testament.

"The story of God’s triumph over the serpent promised in the Old Testament (Gen 3:15) becomes a reality in the New Testament," Schreiner writes. "The Old Testament promised a new covenant, a new creation, a new exodus, and new hearts for God’s people. And there is an inaugurated fulfillment of all of these promises through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is proclaimed in the New Testament."

Wellum, professor of Christian theology, discusses the necessity of conversion in his article, "Conversion, God, and the Whole Self." Conversion is necessary, Wellum argues, because of man's sinfulness, God's holy character and how conversion "affects the whole person, and it affects the person as a whole."

"Christian conversion depends on the sovereign and supernatural work of the triune God in people’s lives," he writes. "In conversion, God brings people from spiritual death to life. This enables them to abhor what they once loved – their sin and rebellion against God – and to turn and trust in Christ."

Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, surveys the history of the American church's understanding of conversion in his essay, "His Arm Is Strong to Save: A Trajectory of Conversion in America." The article highlights influential figures such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.

"This is not an essay to discuss whether America is a 'Christian nation'," he writes. "Rather, I want to scan the past three centuries of American evangelical history to ask this question: how have Christians in different periods understood conversion and, more specifically, the means of conversion."

The Schreiner, Wellum and Strachan articles, along with the rest of the contents of the March-April 2012 9Marks Journal, are available at the 9Marks Web site.

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Republican Leader McConnell reads Mohler’s letter on Senate floor

During the Senate's March 1, 2012, discussion of the proposed Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell read from the floor Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s letter concerning the Department of Health and Human Services' recent policy that requires religious institutions to provide employees with contraceptive and abortifacient services.

The Senate Minority Leader from Kentucky appealed to Mohler's letter among many other "religious leaders and concerned citizens" from his state in order to make his case for what has been shorthanded "the conscience amendment," concluding his presentation by reading the entirety of Mohler's letter. The amendment would have allowed employers to opt out of providing health care coverage to which they might object on moral grounds.

According to CNN, the Senate killed the amendment with a 51-48 vote, the Democrats motioning to table the proposal. McConnell insisted on a floor vote regarding the amendment sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.

Mohler in his letter to McConnell argues that the contraceptive policy undermines religious liberty and forces Christians and many other Americans to violate conscience in order to comply with it. Referring to the Obama administration's policy as a "gross and deliberate violation of religious liberty," Mohler's letter includes a request for Congress to provide an immediate remedy to the policy.

"This is a policy that will either require millions upon millions of Americans to accept a gross and deliberate violation of religious liberty, or to accept the total secularization of all education and social services," Mohler writes in his letter to McConnell, noting the objections to the policy are rooted in centuries of teaching, belief and moral instruction.

A video excerpt of McConnell's presentation supporting the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act is available on YouTube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqSiuueO2rE&feature=channel_video_title. McConnell begins reading Mohler's letter near the 2:52 mark of the video.

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Mohler at CNN, Santorum right about JFK, wrong about stomach

In his most recent “My Take” column at CNN.com’s Belief Blog, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, suggests that GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum's comments about former president John F. Kennedy were, despite ill-advised rhetoric, correct.

Recently, Santorum told ABC's "This Week" that President Kennedy's statement that American should be a place "where separation of church and state is absolute," made him physically sick.

"I almost threw up," Santorum said. “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Mohler comments: "Santorum should have avoided gastrointestinal references in his comments, and he clearly missed some of the careful nuances of Kennedy’s speech, but his criticism of Kennedy’s argument is both timely and essentially right. Furthermore, it is high time that Americans understand that the ideas Kennedy espoused in that speech have led us to an impasse in current debates."

Mohler goes on briefly to assess Kennedy's position and increasing secularization of American public political discourse.

He concludes: "We need to speak to one another with care, courtesy and full conviction. Massively difficult issues loom before us, but this nation is sufficiently mature so that we can have this conversation without losing our lunch."

The entire article, "Santorum’s right, JFK wrong on separation of church and state," is available at religion.blogs.cnn.com

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Moore writes about ‘purpose-driven cosmos’ in Christianity Today

Christianity Today recently published Russell D. Moore's article, "A Purpose-Driven Cosmos: Why Jesus Doesn't Promise Us an 'Afterlife'," in its February 2012 issue. In the article, Moore, dean of the School of Theology and vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary, discusses how, in his words, "God has made Jesus the emperor — and that he plans to bend the cosmos to fit Jesus' agenda, not the other way around." The article is part of the magazine's Global Gospel Project.

Moore writes:

Despite our mind-boggling explorations into the telescopic and the microscopic, much of the cosmos remains a mystery. Yet there seems to be some rhythm to it. The Christian gospel says the universe we inhabit is designed according to the blueprint of God's purpose in Jesus Christ. Paul tells the Colossian church, speaking of Jesus, that "all things have been created through him and for him" and that "in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17).

Thus, in this light, Moore explains that the stories of failure throughout Scripture begin to make sense, from Adam and Eve's surrendering their dominion as king and queen of the universe to Israel's recurring unfaithfulness and on to the Roman Empire's dominance during Christ's first coming.

Further, according to Moore, believers in Christ can rejoice in knowing that life is more than a "brief interval from birth to grave." Instead, believers  are involved in a flow of history that is, in the end, Christ-shaped.

The entire article is available at Christianity Today's Web site, www.christianitytoday.com

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SBTS holds open house for Nashville extension

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held an open house event for its new Nashville, Tenn., extension center, Feb. 22, 2012.

Located in the Cool Springs area of Franklin, Tenn., the Nashville campus is a strategic site for training gospel ministers in the American South. In terms of theological education, Nashville is one of the least served places in the country, and the extension site gives Southern Seminary a more permanent presence in the area.

“Coming to Nashville is fairly natural for Southern Seminary. We feel a strong kinship with the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville,” said SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the Feb. 22 open house, noting some of Southern’s historic and denominational ties to the city.

Attended by members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and other leaders of the denomination along with pastors from the Nashville area, the open house marked the formal opening of the extension center. During the previous semester, extension center classes met in a temporary space, but were able to meet in the completed classrooms for the spring semester.

"The Lord's blessing on this particular project since the move to this address has exceeded all of our expectations,” said Mohler announcing that the Nashville extension met its annual goals for growth within its first 4-5 months of operation. Mohler credited the leadership of Mark T. Coppenger, who is vice president for extension education and director of the Nashville extension center.

Russell D. Moore, vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, expressed his anticipation for the new extension center campus.

"I am thrilled with not only the advance in Nashville but with the vibe of the place,” he said. “I think that the Nashville campus of Southern Seminary is not only going to be top-rate theological education in an accessible venue, but it's going to have its own student culture. This is not only a place that is serious about the gospel; it's also a lot of fun. And there's a real commitment to community and to building up one another for the task of ministry in a way that I think is new, fresh and innovative."

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, gave the prayer of dedication at the open house lunch. Among guests was J. Matthew Pinson, president of Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tenn.

Students of SBTS Nashville are enrolled in classes taught by faculty members from Southern Seminary’s Louisville, Ky., campus. Along with Coppenger, who is professor of Christian apologetics in addition to administrative titles, George H. Martin, professor of biblical studies, also relocated to Nashville from the Louisville campus in order to help Southern establish a permanent presence in the city.

With a smaller student body than that of the Louisville campus, SBTS Nashville possesses an advantageous student-teacher ratio.

“The ratios are great,” said Coppenger, “with the largest classes running around 20, and many running close to 10. Slightly smaller on average than the Louisville classes, they give students good exposure to the professors.

“As for the professors, they’re seasoned main-campus professors. In addition to George Martin and myself, we have a steady stream of Louisville professors teaching our courses,” he said.

Coppenger noted some Louisville-based professors have taught at the Nashville extension site since August 2011, including Donald S. Whitney, Stephen J. Wellum, Stuart W. Scott, and Joseph R. Crider, in addition to Brian J. Vickers and Timothy Paul Jones teaching there this semester.

Already in operation, Coppenger said, the Nashville extension site doubled in its amount of courses offered during Fall 2011. The winter- and spring-term course offerings doubled as well. Next year, he said, the seminary plans to offer the entirety of core courses required for the M.Div. degree in one year.

SBTS Nashville also aims to expand its course offering to include some electives. Coppenger spoke of the possibility of adding electives in the study of subjects such as Islam, hymnody, the Psalms, apologetics and more.

In addition to making available to students the core courses required for the master of divinity, Coppenger said SBTS Nashville administration and faculty hope the newly expanded extension site will prove helpful to laity as well as those who sense a call to full-time vocational ministry, noting their exploration of adding a master of arts in theological studies program that would be more tailored to lay people.

More information about SBTS Nashville is available at nashville.sbts.edu

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