Mohler delivers Southern Seminary fall convocation address; announces Mark Dever hire to faculty
The church has been in a “predicament” for 2,000 years, and its continuing faithfulness is determined by its commitment to stand firm despite that predicament, said R. Albert Mohler Jr. during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall convocation for the 2019-2020 academic year, August 27.
His address, which was drawn from the text of 1 Corinthians 11:18-31 and titled “The Christian Predicament,” noted that the church is considered foolish and scandalous for its commitment to the cross of Christ. And that is exactly what God intended in his wisdom, according to Mohler, who is president of Southern Seminary.
“We are in a predicament, and God meant it that way,” he said. “It is to his glory. In that predicament is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.”
During the ceremony, Mohler also announced two key endowed faculty positions featuring central figures in both the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Seminary. Mark Dever was announced as the inaugural Duke K. McCall Professor of Pastoral Leadership, while Robert L. Plummer was installed as the inaugural Collin and Evelyn Aikman Professor of Biblical Studies.
Additionally, 12 new faculty members were announced and three men signed the Abstract of Principles, the school’s founding charter.
‘We preach Christ crucified’
During his convocation address, Mohler emphasized the unique challenge facing every era of the Christian church: that the world will consider them “foolish” for their core doctrinal beliefs.
In the epistle of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the Corinthians with remarkable candor, Mohler said, about that church’s many factions, debates, and controversies. Paul recognized that what was at stake in those skirmishes was the gospel, and the only solution was sound doctrine, Mohler said.
The doctrine that Paul emphasized in that passage was the centrality of the cross, which is the same doctrine the church must fight for today. Such theology is not popular to the world, but it is crucial to the vitality of the church and its faithfulness to God’s calling, Mohler said.
“Brothers and sisters, we are in a pinch, because the world will not like what happens on this campus. And the more they get to know what happens on this campus, the less they’re going to like it,” he said. “The exhortation [from Scripture] is that we live in such a way that we are never the scandal. But we preach Christ crucified — foolishness, scandal, stumbling block. That is our predicament, and that predicament is going to frame the rest of your lives as Christians and the entirety of your ministries.”
The world is divided into two groups, according to Mohler: those who are perishing and those who are being saved. Christians are only saved by the power of God, or his unilateral power to save sinners displayed in the cross of Christ, Mohler said. On the other hand, that same message is “foolishness” to the rest of the world.
“Without the power of the gospel — which transcends all reason and rationality and wisdom — we would all be lost.”
The church’s predicament is a universal one, Mohler said, as all fallen human beings hate the cross. People who do not understand the power of the cross find it horrifying. No church in any age can escape this. It is universal, inevitable, and comprehensive, according to Mohler.
“There is no excuse for the church to think it will escape this predicament.”
More importantly, this predicament is honorable because it sets the church apart for a sacred mission, according to Mohler. The closer one looks at the cross, the more it pictures the honor, righteousness, and wisdom of God, regardless of what the world thinks.
“If we’re worried about our honor, let’s go home,” he said. “Our honor isn’t going to survive, but God’s honor will. And God will bring honor to his name.”
Endowed professorships and new faculty hires
Mohler marked several major institutional milestones during convocation, including new endowed faculty appointments for Mark Dever and Robert L. Plummer, three new signees of the Abstract of Principles, and several new faculty and trustee appointments.
Starting this semester, Dever is now the Duke K. McCall Professor of Pastoral Leadership at Southern Seminary. He will continue his service as senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C., where he has been since 1994. He is the president of 9Marks Ministries and the author of numerous books.
Dever earned a master of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a master of theology from Southern Seminary, and a doctor of philosophy from Cambridge University.
Said Mohler about the historic appointment: “I am thankful to God that the Lord has brought together this provision for a new endowed professorship in this form, and for the service of Dr. Mark Dever — long a friend of this institution, and now a friend and colleague in this special role.”
Additionally, Mohler announced the new Collin and Evelyn Aikman Professor of Biblical Studies. Collin and Evelyn Aikman live in Robertsdale, Alabama, and are members of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church.
Collin Aikman graduated from Georgia Tech University in chemical engineering and served as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force after graduation. He worked as a process chemical engineer at Union Carbide in West Virginia and finished his career as vice president and general manager in the Mobile office of BE&K Engineering.
The inaugural professor in that role will be Robert L. Plummer. Plummer earned his bachelor of arts from Duke University and his master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southern Seminary. He has taught New Testament, hermeneutics, and Greek at Southern Seminary since 1999. He also is the founder of Daily Dose of Greek, a popular internet resource designed to help pastors and seminary graduates maintain their knowledge of New Testament Greek.
During convocation, there were also three signatories of the Abstract of Principles: Matthew J. Hall, Senior Vice President of Academic Administration and Provost; Ayman S. Ibrahim, Bill and Connie Jenkins Professor of Islamic Studies; and John M. Klaassen, Associate Professor of Global Studies. The three men signed lines No. 265-267, respectively, of the seminary’s founding document.
Mohler also introduced new trustees and new members of the Southern Seminary and Boyce College faculty.
The twelve new professors are:
- Paul M. Akin, Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry; Assistant Professor of Christian Missions
- Matthew C. Boswell, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Worship
- Dustin B. Bruce, Dean of Boyce College; Assistant Professor of Church History and Christian Theology
- Kha D. Do, Assistant Professor of Music and Worship
- E. Todd Fisher, Assistant Professor of Christian Preaching
- Barry J. Gibson, Associate Professor of Teacher Education
- Matthew D. Haste, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality
- Jeffery W. Hunter, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry
- Jason E. Leverett, Associate Professor of Communication
- J. Keith McKinley, Associate Professor of Christian Missions
- Andrew T. Walker, Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics
- Matthew D. Westerholm, Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship
These hires highlight the growing health of the institution, Mohler said.
“This group of new faculty is larger than the average faculty of a theological seminary in the United States,” Mohler said. “It’s a sign of God’s blessing, and I just cannot tell you how thankful I am.”