Southern plans Alaskan getaway

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, along with his wife Mary, will join friends of Southern Seminary on an Alaskan cruise from July 30 - August 6, 2011.

Through a partnership with Inspiration Cruises and Tours, a Christian travel agency based in California, the cruise has been organized by Southern Seminary to be a vacation, a journey of learning, an adventure in the northwest and an opportunity for authentic Christian fellowship. The seven-day cruise will depart and conclude in Seattle, Wash., and includes stops in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as at Hubbard Glacier and Victoria, B.C., Canada.

"I have always wanted to visit Alaska. Mary and I are looking forward to a very special event in the summer of 2011 when we, along with friends of Southern Seminary, will cruise the glacier ridden waters of Alaska and see one of the most amazing and pristine regions of earth," Mohler wrote.

Trip participants will be sailing with the Holland America cruise line on the MS Westerdam. The floating resort offers trip participants five-star cuisine and service while sailing past the glacial ice, Alaskan wilderness and snow-covered mountains. Each day trip participants will gather to hear messages delivered by President R. Albert Mohler, Daniel S. Dumas and Jason K. Allen.   

Those interested in the further details and pricing can contact Inspiration Cruises and Tours at 1-800-247-1899 and on the Web at inspirationcruises.com/sts.

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Winter courses offer concentrated exposure to subject matter

For December 2010 and January 2011, students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will have the opportunity to gain course credit between the fall and spring semesters.

This winter more than 20 one-week course options, commonly referred to as J-terms, will be available. The one-week courses give students the chance to concentrate on one subject area rather than divide their attention across several areas of study like during the full-length semesters.

"Some courses - such as the languages - are simply too demanding to be compressed into a one-week format. Other courses need time to percolate in the student's mind and heart, and so are best taken in a full term. But some courses are ideal for studying in an all-day, concentrated form that allows the student to focus on one subject for an entire week," Donald Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality and senior associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern, said.

One course that might stand out to students this winter term is a Christian philosophy elective taught by Paul Helm, teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver and visiting professor at Southern Seminary. The course, titled "Head & Heart," will deal with the relationship between faith and reason by looking at the thought of monumental figures in church history such as Augustine of Hippo, Anselm of Canterbury, John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards.

"Professor Helm is a retired professor of philosophy at King's College in the University of London where he held one of the most prestigious chairs in the United Kingdom. It is an extraordinary privilege to have someone of that international and philosophical stature who is also a committed evangelical Baptist teaching at our institution," James Parker III, professor of worldview and culture and associate dean of worldview and culture, said.

Courses will take place Dec. 13-18 as well as after the new year, beginning the week of Jan. 3-7 and ending Jan. 18-21. Course options include one-week classes in Old and New Testament, hermeneutics, church history, systematic theology, biblical counseling, missiology and family ministry.

The SBTS Web site provides a list of the winter courses at http://www.sbts.edu/current-students/files/winter-1011.pdf

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Southern literature: Jim Hamilton’s new book

God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, $40), James M. Hamilton Jr.

Understanding the Bible is paramount for Christians to understand the way God works in His world, and to understand the purpose for which God created earth. But often, the interpreting and understanding the Bible can be an intimidating venture. Does the Bible contain a single story, as Sir Doyle's short stories? Is the Bible somewhat of a story with loosely tied endings, like Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Listening to some Bible teachers, the Scriptures seem like a collection of bullet-points teaching methods for living both healthy and content. Who knows the correct way to read the Bible?

According to James M. Hamilton Jr., professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary, the Bible itself make clear how people should read it. In his new book, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment, Hamilton asserts that the earlier biblical authors demonstrate how to read Scripture and then later authors exercise the model placed before them. And reading the Bible exercising its own prescription reveals to the reader a central theme running through the whole Scripture.

"Seeking to exposit the center of biblical theology is necessary because many today question whether the Bible tells a coherent story. There are many who do not embrace the idea of a center for biblical theology and yet maintain that the Bible is coherent, but if the Bible tells a coherent story, it is valid to explore what that story's main point is. That leads us to ask whether the Bible shows us what God's ultimate purpose is. Understanding God's ultimate purpose, even with our limited human capacities, gives us insight into the meaning of all things," Hamilton says, offering a reason for his book.

As his book title not-so-subtly suggests, Hamilton develops his book around the thesis that God's reveals or displays His glory through acts of judgment. The seminal example being Christ on the cross, where God both pours out His wrath and purchases salvation for His people in the same event.

In order to show its thesis, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment organizes its argument using the five major divisions in Scripture: law, prophets and writings in the Old Testament, and gospels and Acts, epistles and John's Revelation in the New Testament. Hamilton works through each section book-by-book. For example, in studying the Pentateuch, Hamilton first examines the Book of Genesis, then looks for the literary structure and central meaning of Exodus, then Leviticus, follows with the Book of Numbers and then of course Deuteronomy. Hamilton follows this pattern throughout his book.

In a rare combination of both a thematic (God's glory in salvation through judgment) and a book-by-book approach to interpreting the Bible, Hamilton makes a convincing case that reading the Bible in its natural progression causes this theme to surface organically from the text. The glory of God in salvation through the judgment of sin shines at the forefront of both the biblical books and the Bible as a whole, according to Hamilton's book.

"The New Testament authors present their accounts as the completion of the story begun in the Old Testament, and the Old Testament itself creates the expectations realized in the New Testament. The two are to be read together, and [God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment] will follow, in its general outline, the structure of the Old and New Testaments that has been briefly discussed above. As the story unfolds, the central theme of the theology contained in the Bible itself will flame out like shining from shook foil, and the dearest freshness deep down in these rich soils will be the glory of God in salvation through judgment," Hamilton writes.

Establishing his central theme of the Bible's theology, Hamilton concludes his book offering several practical implications of his thesis. The conclusion explores such topics as evangelism and church discipline, and prayer and "personal" Bible reading.

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Nov. 8 Towers: SBTS profs talk favorite authors and books; Schreiner discusses new book on biblical law; and fall preview breaks record

The Nov. 8 "Towers" covers authors and books. More importantly, the issue covers Southern Seminary faculty members discussing their favorite and most influential authors and books. Professors from the School of Theology, the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, the School of Church Ministries and Boyce College offer comments and recommendations about the literature that has most considerably shaped, changed, edified and entertained them (pages 3-6). The PDF for "Towers," titled "Page Turners," can be found here.

Also in Towers:

  • Aaron interviews Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary, about his new book, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law (pages 8 and 9). Aaron also offers his thoughts on Schreiner's new book in a brief review (page 10);
  • A record number of prospective students attend the SBTS fall preview conference (page 13); and
  • The Southern Story features James Parker III, professor of worldview and culture and associate dean of worldview and culture at Southern (page 12).

The SBTS Resources page provides the PDF for the Nov. 8 "Towers," as well as all past issues.

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Southern Story: Pat Melancon

The Great Commission and the Great Commandment are perhaps the two foremost responsibilities of the Christian life. But how does one bring balanced obedience to both? For SBTS visiting professor Patrick J. Melancon, a life filled with philanthropy and Bible study has brought significant insight as to how Christians should love their neighbors and make disciples of all nations.

"The balance to those things is the opportunity God gives you. If He puts you into a position where all people need is to hear the Gospel, then I say, ‘Tell them about Jesus, tell them what the Gospel is, encourage them to repent and believe.' But if He puts you in that same position and there is very evident need, then let's share the Gospel, but let's also try to meet that need," Melancon, visiting professor of missions at Southern Seminary, said.

According to Melancon, the church should seek to expand the kingdom of God through both word and deed. 

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The Resurgence features Allison’s theology of the body

The Resurgence recently featured Gregg R. Allison's series "The Theology of the Body." Allison serves as professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here are some excerpts from the series:

Many Christians, due to either poor or non-existent teaching on human embodiment, consider their body to be, at best, a hindrance to spiritual maturity and, at worst, inherently evil or the ultimate source of sin.

Elsewhere:

... [H]uman beings are created holistically, so that in this earthly existence, soul and body are an inseparable unity. Indeed, being made in the image of God entails the embodiment of the image bearers. Human embodiment, then, is according to divine design.

Further:

As sanctification is pursued, Christians should not ignore the important biblical teaching that their body is part and parcel of this process of becoming more like Jesus Christ.

The series is adapted from his article, "Toward a Theology of Human Embodiment," published in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. The entire series is featured on The Resurgence Web site.

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Oct. 25 Towers: Moore looks at evangelism and social justice; Grudem discusses Politics book; and SOCM re-launches journal

With the Oct. 25 "Towers," we break the rules - we talk about politics and religion. This issue considers the Christian's place in politics and how the church plays a key role in influencing the government for the common good. The PDF can be downloaded here.

  • Offering an editorial on the relationship between evangelism and social justice is Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moore seeks to answer the question, "Can the church be both evangelistic and concerned about social justice?" He argues the church should seek a holistic mission and ministry in the same way that Jesus did. "Of course, Jesus' ministry would be about such things. After all, the Bible shows us, from the beginning, that the scope of the curse is holistic in its destruction - personal, cosmic, social, vocational (Gen 3-11) and that the Gospel is holistic in its restoration - personal, cosmic, social, vocational (Rev 21-22)," Moore writes, who also serves as professor of Christian theology and ethics at Southern Seminary (page 3).
  • Keeping with the politics theme, Aaron interviews author and theologian Wayne Grudem about his new book, Politics - According to the Bible. Grudem is research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Ariz. (pages 6 and 7).
  • In addition, the issue features Aaron's review of the Grudem book along with reviews of other literature concerning the relationship between theology and politics, church and state (pages 10 and 11).
  • The School of Church Ministries released a new print journal, The Journal of Family Ministry. The re-launch of this publication presents readers with the opportunity to hear from the very best in Christian scholarship taking on issues related to family ministry (page 13).

Other content in "Towers" includes:

  • R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, addressing SBTS trustees about the intellectual pressure facing the younger generation of evangelicals (page 5);
  • Heather Payne, musical guest for the upcoming W conference at Southern Seminary, discussing her most recent album, Sweet Exchange (page 8);
  • a Southern Story highlighting the life and ministry of Pat Melancon, visiting professor of missions for The Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism (page 9); and
  • the seminary saving more than a quarter-million dollars on energy costs (page 13).
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Gentry gives address on meaning of holiness

"Holy, holy, holy. Lord God Almighty."

Many saints throughout the ages of the church have sung these words about the holiness of God. As noted at the close of the lecture by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern, those who have heard Peter Gentry's presentation on the holiness of God will sing it from now on with a more profound appreciation.

At the Sept. 29 faculty address, Peter Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, said that the common understanding of God's holiness is mistaken. Instead of defining it as transcendence and moral purity, he argues, theologians and biblical scholars should define the term according to the context of its occurrences in the biblical text.

In his address, Gentry argued that the biblical contexts indicate that holiness refers to a state of consecration or devotion.

"Unfortunately, the church of Jesus Christ, at least in the Western world, has not understood very well the meaning of the word ‘holy' nor what it means to worship a holy God," Gentry said.

Gentry illustrated this notion by examining the biblical texts of Exodus 3, Exodus 19 and Isaiah 6 in order to expound upon the meaning of holiness.

"Neither moral purity nor transcendence are fundamental to the meaning of ‘holy' in either Greek or Hebrew," he said. "The best approach to semantic analysis is an exhaustive study of all the available usage, not only for the literature in question, but also for contemporary documents in the cultures surrounding the original texts of the Bible."

Mentioning such authors as Wayne Grudem, Millard Erickson, Stephen Chinnock and others, Gentry said systematic theologians have embraced a deficient understanding of the Bible's teaching on holiness because of embracing a faulty etymology of the word qadosh (the Hebrew word for holy or holiness)  that dates back to the late 19th century.

In examining  Moses' encounter with the burning bush in Exodus 3, he explained that rather than holiness pointing to man's inaccessibility to God, the "holy ground" mentioned in the passage points to God's initiative to meet with man, namely Moses in this instance.

"The qadosh ground," Gentry said, "is not the place of distance or radical separation but of meeting and of presence - the meeting of God and man."

Gentry turned to Exodus 19 to explain the meaning of holiness in relation to the consecration of the people of Israel as a "holy nation." The five forms of the word qadosh found in Exodus 19 make it an important passage for the discussion, he noted.

As it is often misconstrued, the mountain where Moses meets with God on the people's behalf is not regarded as holy because it is forbidden, but rather limitations for how the people of Israel were to approach the mountain were given because God consecrated the area, Gentry explained, and through Moses consecrated the people to His service. In the event at Mount Sinai as with the burning bush, the passage portrays meeting rather than separation.

"Israel as a [holy] nation is a nation given access to the presence of Yahweh and devoted solely to the service and worship of the Lord," he said.

Gentry moved the discussion to Isaiah 6 to address how the term holy - if it means to be consecrated or devoted - applies to God.

"While God is awesome in His majesty, His holiness does not mean that He is the ‘totally other' nor does it speak of His separation," he said. "In fact, we see just the opposite [in Isaiah 6]. We see that God is coming to meet man. We see already the central theme of this new section of Isaiah - Immanuel, 'God with us.'

"[God] is exalted because He shows himself holy in justice and righteousness," Gentry stated after explaining the historical context of social injustice surrounding the passage. "We have a clear definition of the divine holiness: God demonstrates His devotion in that He is completely devoted to social justice."

By social justice, Gentry said he was referring to the way of life prescribed for the people of Israel in the Torah. He noted that the Old Testament word pair "justice and righteousness" is a way of referencing the Torah - the document where God shows the people of Israel not only what it means to be devoted to Him but what it means to treat one another in genuinely human ways.

In his concluding comments, Gentry stated that this widespread misunderstanding of holiness serves as a warning to the church that "every generation needs to test theological traditions by means of fresh study of the Bible."

The Southern Resources page provides Gentry's faculty address, "No One Holy, Like the Lord," in its entirety at http://www.sbts.edu/resources/

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Quanta and Quiddities: Coppenger considers the creativity of man

Mark T. Coppenger is professor of Christian apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Below, Coppenger offers a celebration of God's creativity displayed through those made in his image - humans. The article originally appeared in the Oct. 11 "Towers."

The technical and aesthetic contributions to both past and current culture by those professing faith in Christ is staggering, whether the music of Bach, the art of Dürer, the science of Newton or the math of Leibniz (who, developed calculus at the same time as Newton). Thank God, also, for the groundbreaking work of non-disciples such as Alan Turing, who led a group of British code breakers to unravel the mysteries of the German Enigma machines in World War II, or Aaron Copland, whose work includes the majestic "Fanfare for the Common Man" and music for the ballets Appalachian Spring and Rodeo (a selection from which was heard in the ad, "Beef. It's what's for dinner").

Atheists proudly claim a range of accomplished people as their own - Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, geneticist Francis Crick, Microsoft's Bill Gates, actor John Malkovich and Apple's Steve Wozniak. The same could be said for transgressive communities, such as homosexuals in the arts and sciences: As Newsweek demonstrated in its Aug.10, 1987, issue "The Face of AIDS", one year's death toll among gifted gays was substantial, including a Columbia University mathematician, a Stanford literature professor, and winners of Obie and Tony awards. Heterosexual philanderers are just as accomplished - golf phenomenon Tiger Woods, heart-transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard and fathers of the American nation Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

None of this should be surprising, for all people are created in the image of God, and that image is not obliterated by sin or unbelief. So when men and women show sparks of ingenuity, eloquence, decency, industry and craftsmanship, they reveal their debt to God.

Of course, none of us replicates God's creative work in Genesis 1. He made things ex nihilo, out of nothing. We work with the materials at hand, the elements he has placed at our disposal.

It reminds me of Taco Bell. Every year or so, they serve up with a new product - the Chalupa, Enchito, Gordita, Taquito, Meximelt, Cheese Roll-Up, Crunchwrap, Quesadilla, Mexican Pizza and Taco Salad - not to mention over a dozen variations each of the basic taco and burrito, whether "double-decker" or "seven-layer," whether "crunchy" or "soft."

As rich as the variety may be, the casual observer cannot help but notice great similarity in the products, the recurrence of tortillas, cheese, tomatos, lettuce, chicken-or-beef, rice-and-beans, avocado, sour cream and salsa. Sometimes it's fried, sometimes not. You can roll it, bend it, stack it, crimp it, slice it, mash it or melt it. Same stuff, but what fun in the mix-and-match.

If Taco Bell does this with a dozen ingredients, imagine what you could do with thousands upon thousands of ingredients - copper and oxygen, A-flat and C-sharp, magenta and yellow, ultra-violet and infrared, oak and willow, water and salt, smoke and rust, logic and grammar, numbers and nanoparticles, quanta and quiddities. And what if one could trust these items to behave in an orderly fashion, under the direction of a beneficent Lord. And what if mankind, both the regenerate and the reprobate, were inventive and adept at fashioning helpful things from these items? Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Yes it is.

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Boyce College brings pastor, worship leader on board

Boyce College, the undergraduate school of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sent a message recently naming Scott Connell as its new instructor of music and worship leadership.

"Connell brings to Boyce College the kind of experience we need to train the next generation of worship leaders," said Denny Burk, dean of Boyce College and associate professor of New Testament.

"Over the years of his ministry, Connell has served both as worship leader and as senior pastor, and his ministry demonstrates the conviction that worship leadership is a part of the teaching ministry of the church. Thus he shares our commitment to music ministry as pastoral ministry. He embodies the leadership and expertise that we want to see reproduced in our graduates."

Connell expressed similar enthusiasm for the opportunity to train the next generation of worship pastors in a robust and biblical manner.

"I am passionate about training young pastors," Connell said. "I look back over my life and see that I had begun to create opportunities to draw young men to myself in small-group Bible studies, personal mentoring and pastoral internship programs. I want to teach them. I want to advance the next generation of pastors, and I want to make sure that they're trained well whether it's teaching ministry, music ministry, youth ministry or whatever. I want to contribute to a right understanding of ministry, and of course, any right understanding is Gospel-centered."

Randy Stinson, dean of the School of Church Ministries at Southern Seminary, stated that Connell represents the defining principles that Boyce College and Southern Seminary seek to instill in students.

"I am personally excited about Connell being a part of the SBTS team," Stinson said. "He embodies the threefold commitment of the School of Church Ministries in the areas of biblical worship, family discipleship and pastoral leadership. He is a pastor who leads worship, not a mere church musician, which is central to our new direction."

Alongside embodying a commitment to the School of Church Ministries' vision for pastoral leadership, Connell said he hopes to instill in students the correct priorities involved in leading congregations in worship.

"I want to successfully contribute to a process that encourages well rounded yet theologically trained worship pastors. Students should leave knowing that the Gospel is priority, that the brilliance and glory of God is priority, and also [they should] be able to rightly handle the word of God. Those three prongs are critical to being an effective worship pastor. Then we can add to those the priority of being musically equipped," Connell said. 

Southern Seminary's hiring of Connell comes at a strategic time in the life of the seminary and the further implementation of its vision to train well rounded and theologically equipped worship pastors. In 2009, Southern Seminary established the School of Church Ministries by merging the School of Church Music and the School of Leadership and Church Ministry. This took place after seminary leadership discovered that 80 percent of music ministers in Southern Baptist churches serve in dual roles such as in youth and children ministry. 

Connell's ministry experience vividly illustrates this reality and underscores the need for the type of training Southern offers those called as worship pastors.

"My life is a testimony as to why the program [at SBTS] is the way to [train worship pastors] because I found myself trying to do things that I was ill-equipped to do," Connell said.

"I feel like if [worship pastors] do not understand the Scriptures thoroughly enough to be able to plan worship from a truly pastoral perspective, they're not being well equipped. It's fine to be trained musically - in fact, it's critical to be trained musically as well - but it's not fine to be unable to take the Scriptures and rightly divide them and apply them to worship.  The God of worship is found in the Scriptures and His worth of worship is explained there.  A worship pastor must know how to study Him there if he intends to lead his people in worship."

Connell comes to Southern Seminary having left his position as the senior pastor of New Covenant Church in Annapolis, Md. Prior to his current position at Boyce, he served in the respective roles of senior pastor, church planter, associate pastor, and music and youth pastor in churches in Tennessee, Texas and Maryland. In addition, he served five years as principal at Arnold Christian Academy in Arnold, Md., and has taught music in both public and private school settings for a number of years.

Connell holds a master of music in music ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a bachelor of science in music education from Tennessee Technological University. He has also done some graduate coursework with Reformed Theological Seminary. Originally from Cleveland, Tenn., Connell has been married 12 years to Mary, with whom he has seven children.

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