In the July 2, 2012, edition of BP Ledger, Baptist Press published Toby Jennings' thoughts about the recent election of Fred Luter as Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president. Jennings, an African-American, is a Ph.D. candidate at Southern Seminary.
In the article, dated June 19, 2012 (the day that Luter was elected), Jennings offers several points of reflection: 1) he compares Luter with Protestant reformer Martin Luther, referring to each of them as pioneers for gospel change during their respective eras; 2) he notes the differences between Luter's election and Obama's election as the first African-American United States president; 3) he explains how the election shows that SBC members trust in a power beyond themselves; 4) he highlights Luter's election as fruit of repentance in the SBC; and 5) he says that the election is a sign that the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ directs his church (and the SBC) to act justly.
Jennings states the following:
In reflection on this historic SBC election, I certainly have no desire to herald any distinct ethnicity as being in need of discriminating attention to any disregard of another; for the tapestry of humanity portrayed in Revelation 5:9 by its Creator trumps any creaturely attempt at any such preference. The significance, however, of a body of God's image-bearers appointing as [its] leader one who bears a minority ethnicity from the overwhelming majority of them evidences so much worthy of commentary.
The entirety of Jennings' reflection is available at the Baptist Press website.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) Mission Board appointed Curtis Woods as associate executive director for convention relations, during a special-called meeting, Tuesday, June 26, 2012.
According to KBC President Adam Greenway in a convention news release, Woods, a doctoral student at Southern Seminary, will be the first African-American to hold an executive-level position in an “old line” Southern Baptist state convention.
“I congratulate Kentucky Baptists and Curtis Woods on his election as an associate executive director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr, president of Southern Seminary. “This is a sign of God’s favor and it makes a wonderful statement about Kentucky Baptists and the determination of Baptists of this state to reach its people and to be a state convention that looks like Kentucky.”
Since 2006, Woods served as Baptist campus minister at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Ky. He completed a master of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas before enrolling in Southern Seminary’s doctor of philosophy program in biblical spirituality. Woods and his wife, Tracy, live with their children in Frankfort, Ky.
Following his previous First Person article at Baptist Press, Timothy Paul Jones, associate professor of leadership and church ministry at Southern Seminary, takes another look at how the church determined the writings that make up the New Testament, this time examining books excluded from the canon.
In his most recently published article, "Why baptized lions & talking crosses didn't make it into your Bible," Jones establishes the early church's standard of accepting as authoritative only writings that came from those who had eyewitness encounters with Jesus (or those closely associated with them). He writes:
From the first century forward, Christians viewed testimony that could be connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus as uniquely authoritative. The logic of this standard was simple: The people most likely to know the truth about Jesus were either eyewitnesses who had encountered Jesus personally or close associates of these witnesses.
So, although Christians wrangled for some time about the authority of certain writings, it was something far greater than political machinations that drove these decisions. Their goal was to determine which books could be clearly connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus.
Jones specifically discusses the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of Paul as examples of books that the church did not recognize as authoritative because they seemed not to represent eyewitness testimony of the life and ministry of Jesus. He concludes:
So what do these texts tell us about why certain ancient texts became authoritative among Christians? Even among the earliest Christians, testimony that could be connected to eyewitnesses of the risen Lord was uniquely authoritative. That's why the supposed "lost Scriptures" were lost – or, more precisely, why they were not preserved with the writings that appear in your New Testament today.
In the article, Jones also notes that from the second century onward, Christians never questioned 19 of the books that constitute what became the official New Testament canon. They debated about the inclusion of several books – such as the letters of Peter, John's second and third letters, the letters of James and Jude and the Book of Revelation – beyond the second century, but by the end of the fourth century, Jones explains, Christians were almost in universal agreement about the 27 books.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced G. Bryant Wright and John A. Folmar as distinguished alumni of the year at the Southern Seminary alumni luncheon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), June 20, 2012.
Wright, a master of divinity (M.Div.) graduate from Southern in 1979, is senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and the current two-term president of the SBC. Folmar, who earned his M.Div. from Southern in 2003, is pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohler also presented to the alumni and friends at the luncheon that Southern Seminary has identified the Meskhetian Turks as a people group to target with the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the 2011 annual meeting of the SBC in Phoenix, Ariz., Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), and Wright jointly called on Southern Baptist churches and institutions to “embrace” an unengaged, unreached people group for the purpose of spreading the gospel to the nations.
The IMB, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, defines “unreached” as a people group with less than two percent evangelical population. “Unengaged” qualifies a people group with no identifiable Christian presence and for whom no mission strategy exists.
The Meskhetian Turks are, despite their name, not from Turkey. Instead, the Meskhetian Turks are a people of about 300,000 who live in the Russian Federation. World War II scattered the Meskhetian Turks and they have since remained an especially elusive group to engage, with a number of attempts seldom progressing beyond the information gathering stage in the past.
Louisville, Ky., the location of Southern Seminary, houses a community of 60 to 80 Meskhetian families (somewhere between 500 and 800 individuals). Efforts to reach the Meskhetian Turks will begin by reaching out to the Louisville community, Mohler explained.
At the luncheon, Mohler outlined the seminary’s adoption and implementation of a comprehensive master plan to repurpose and refocus the seminary’s physical campus. During the next 10 years, the master plan will dissolve $52 million in deferred maintenance and position the campus for immediate and future structural and financial sustainability. Phase one will repurpose the historical Mullins Complex as a state-of-the-art facility for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.
During its annual meeting, the Executive Committee of the SBC approved a $20 million loan for phase one of the SBTS master plan.
Phase two will advance the learning community of Southern Seminary, primarily through renovation of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library. Phase three, without requiring any firm commitments, anticipates future development.
Closing his address at the luncheon, Mohler surveyed the happenings around Southern Seminary during the past year. He also explained the increasing need for faithful theological education in days that require well equipped pastors, missionaries and teachers.
“We’re up to this,” he said. “But we need each other. It is moving to imagine how the lives gathered together, gather to become a part of that long line of faithfulness that came before us at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
Mohler affirmed Southern Seminary’s commitment to seriousness of her task, the urgency of her vision and the credibility of her alumni.
The commitment, however, is only a means to end. He explained: “We have a job to do, and it’s not done when we graduate; it’s not done when we retire; it’s not done until Jesus comes. It’s not done yet.”
CNN's Belief Blog posted an article about recent anti-gay pronouncements made in conservative churches, June 21, 2012. The CNN article notes the concern that gay-rights supporters voice in light of harsh words spoken against homosexuals from Christian pulpits. However, the article also highlights the concern that conservative Christians have about these kinds of statements, which includes Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Mohler explains that the gospel condemns homosexuality, not homosexuals. The article reads:
"The Gospel does not condemn homosexuals, it condemns homosexuality," said R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin, in the context of making clear that every person is a sinner."
What preachers such as Worley and Knapp are doing wrong, he said, is that they are "not merely rendering a moral judgment on homosexuality but extending it to the condemnation of people. They are speaking with a certain venom and hatred."
Mohler goes on to call the sermons of those such as North Carolina pastor Charles Worley and Kansas pastor Curtis Knapp "reprehensible," saying they serve to harm and obscure the message and cause of conservative Christianity in America.
"What you're seeing here is a very dangerous fringe that does not represent conservative Christianity in America," he said.
The entire article, "Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike," is available at CNN's Belief Blog.
The New York Times published a story this week about New Orleans pastor Fred Luter and his imminent election as the Southern Baptist Convention's first African-American president. The election will be held during the denomination's annual meeting in New Orleans, June 19-20, 2012.
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. gives comment in the article about the significance of Luter's likely election for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC):
“It’s a shift from institutionalized racism and resistance to the civil rights movement among the vast majority of its members to the eager embrace of America as it is becoming.”
The Times article recognizes Luter's election as a milestone for Southern Baptists, noting that the denomination in 1845 was originally formed in defense of owning slaves and has since then been the spiritual home primarily of white people. Nevertheless, as the article reports, SBC churches have made efforts to reach people from various ethnic backgrounds.
"If, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of the nation’s churches, Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America," the article's author Erik Eckholm writes, "the Southern Baptists have carried a special burden, giving added resonance to this week’s election."
The entire article, "Southern Baptists Set for a Notable First," is available at The New York Times website.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will appear on the “Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast” radio program Tuesday, June 19, to discuss the topic, “Engaging the Culture: Marriage and Religious Liberties.”
The program will feature an interview with Mohler conducted by Focus on the Family president and CEO Jim Daly.
“Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast” airs on radio stations across the nation. Details about area stations and broadcast times are available here. The program will also be available at www.focusonthefamily.com
The Gospel Coalition recently published an interview with Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Southern Seminary's Boyce College, about Christ-centered preaching. Strachan states in the interview that Christ is the apex of Scripture, but preachers should be careful to enrich their sermons with examination of linguistic and historical context. He explains:
The theological language that is used to talk about this idea is that Christ is the hermeneutical key that unlocks all your interpretation of the Bible. So, you start from there, but where you go from there can take you to very different places. You can either end up in a sort of reductionistic style of preaching where you're so jazzed up about finding types of Christ in the Bible that a lot of your sermon seems to center around that idea.
Or, you can do a form of preaching that very much plumbs the original context of the text, it gets into the history, it gets into the nitty-gritty stuff – what various events and institutions in the Old Testament, for example, would mean – and so you're unearthing that context. And then you're explaining the actual theological point to that text; you're bringing christocentric hermeneutics to bear as you conclude and sweep everything together.
Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Seminary, presents his view of dinosaurs and the age of the earth in his June 12, 2012, Baptist Press article, "Did Noah's ark have dinosaurs?"
Coppenger, who is also director of Southern's Nashville extension center, suggests that the idea that Noah kept dinosaurs on the ark is plausible for four reasons: 1) the ark's size was more than three football fields in length and approximately 45 yards tall and 75 yards wide; 2) Noah brought aboard animals only according to general kinds, so this would not require every dinosaur species to be present on the ark; 3) if size was an issue, juvenile or baby dinosaurs would suffice; and 4) the dinosaurs' behavior would not be any more difficult than Noah, with God's help, controlling other animals' behavior.
So, why do some Bible-believing Christians still find problems with this scenario? Coppenger explains that whether one holds to uniformitarianism or catastrophism determines where one places dinosaurs on the historical timeline, particularly in reference to mankind. Typically, Christians who agree with the majority of scientists that the earth is an estimated 4.5 billion years old hold to a uniformitarian perspective, whereas Christians who hold to a young-earth position tend to hold to a catastrophist perspective. He writes:
Where you stand on this dispute depends in part upon your view of the behavior of the universe back through the centuries. If you take a "uniformitarian" view, you argue that the patterns we see now (such as radioactive decay or sedimentary rock formation) are reliably constant, and so we can extrapolate from our current experience back through the millennia to make claims about the fossil record, often postulating some form of God-directed evolution.
Those who embrace "catastrophism" beg to differ, saying that Noah's flood is a perfect example of how God has engineered great upheavals in the order of things, an event reflected in Psalm 104:5-9. They also say that death and decay – including the destruction of dinosaurs – didn't occur until after man sinned (Genesis 3), and that, besides, there may well be references to dinosaurs in the Bible (though the word, "dinosaur" didn't appear until the 19th century).
Noting that this discussion is no trivial matter, Coppenger concludes that, in spite of their differences on these matters, Christians can cooperate toward fulfilling the Great Commission. However, they should agree that "God is Lord of the universe and that He can form, alter and dispose of it exactly as He pleases," and that any position that is not consistent with Scripture they should discard.
The entire article is available at the Baptist Press website.
Southern Seminary's Hershael York contributed to a panel that discussed same-sex marriage on KET's "Kentucky Tonight," June 11, 2012.
On the panel with York were Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign; Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation of Kentucky; and Derek Penwell, senior minister at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville, Ky. Bill Goodman hosted the program.
York, who is Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern and senior pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., spoke about the biblical definition of marriage and family and their benefits for society.