Posts by RuthAnne Irvin

Wills says Southern trains pastors in ‘scandalous scholarship of the gospel’ September 5, 2013

Faithful Christian scholars must be prepared to accept the scandal of the gospel, even at the cost of academic reputation, said Gregory A. Wills in a Sept. 3 installation service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“It is right to step back and hear from the one who will take this office about what he sees in the future of the school and the reason it was established,” seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., said, introducing Wills as the new dean of the seminary’s School of Theology.

Wills preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 about the scandal of the gospel and its relation to Christian scholarship.

Wills, professor of church history and the author of several books, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: 1859-2009, called the seminary community to suffer the scandal of humility in the service of the gospel.

“I want us to reflect upon this message and its role in our scholarship and in our study of Scripture, the truth of Scripture and all things that belong unto the study of Scripture,” Wills said. “The scandal is inescapable. The scandal of the gospel is that we must repudiate our confidence in glorious human knowledge. We must acknowledge Christ’s righteousness and abandon our own. We must die if we would live.”

Wills applied this scandal to scholarship, specifically in seminary training. He said that no scholarly evidence can compel sinners to repent and trust in Christ, but only the gospel.

“It is crucifixion above all that scandalizes sinners. Christ crucified, Paul says, was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1:23). It is the cross itself that offends the heart and the conscience of man,” Wills said.

Wills said that in 1879 the seminary faced the “momentous” question of whether it would stand committed when professor Crawford Toy challenged the seminary’s commitment to divine truth. Southern dismissed Toy as an “act of gospel fidelity and courage that has bolstered Southern Baptist commitment to Scripture to this day,” Wills said.

“Southern Baptists rightly established this seminary for the promotion of divine truth,” Wills said. “And we must never relinquish this task, though at great cost of labor, at great inconvenience and great grief. We must never relent in our determination to promote and defend gospel truth. And so we repudiate tampering with the Word of God.”

The historian noted, however, that the gospel is not about scholarship, but Jesus Christ.

“We are content that our scholarship is employed in the statement of open, divine truth. This means, among other things, that we do not long for the recognition of the academy, but for the ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ We are trophies of grace, not learning,” Wills said.

Scholarship must serve the gospel, he said, and the purpose of God’s truth is to produce love, resulting in godly living and godly dying. Wills said that students are accountable to knowing the truth and that the aim of truth is love.

Wills also laid out a vision for how Southern Seminary desires to train ministers.

“We are seeking to produce theologians whose theology makes them evangelists,” he said.

Wills charged seminarians to be relentless in their commitment to the task, citing Southern’s founders who, in the aftermath of the Civil War, resolved that they would die before they allowed the seminary to die.

“May we do our duty and change history. Until Christ returns we must attend zealously to theological scholarship for teaching biblically sound and courageous ministers of the gospel,” Wills said. “The church will always need such faithfully trained ministers who are trained in the scandalous scholarship of the gospel. We believe theological education is an obligation. As long as God sustains us, we will never give up.”

Wills is the second of three new senior academic leaders to present inaugural addresses to begin the 2013-14 academic year. The seminary installed Randy Stinson as senior vice president for academic administration and provost, Aug. 29, and will install Adam W. Greenway as the new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, Oct. 1.

Mohler presented Wills with a framed certificate commemorating the installation service, and a Bible.

Audio and video of Wills’ message are available at


In installation address, Stinson focuses on preparing Southern Seminary students for hardships September 3, 2013

PHOTO: Randy Stinson received a commemorative certificate from Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Aug. 29 following his installation address as senior vice president for academic administration and provost in Alumni Memorial Chapel. SBTS photo by Emil Handke.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary must prepare students not only in academics, but hardships in future ministry, said Randy Stinson in his Aug. 29 installation address.

Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr., introduced Stinson, who became senior vice president for academic administration and provost earlier in the year, thanking God for his provision and looking forward to the coming years at the seminary.

“This is a special and historic day in the life of the seminary,” Mohler said. “This is a responsibility of tremendous importance and a position that requires much stewardship of the entire seminary. As we think about how God has provided for us in the future we come with great gratitude. It’s one of those moments that needs to be solemnized in a certain way.”

Preaching from 2 Corinthians 6:1-10, where Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to commend themselves to God through endurance of trials, Stinson told students at Southern Seminary to expect and be prepared to face challenges in life and ministry.

“We're expecting that the students who come to us will have more personal challenges, not less,” Stinson said.

Stinson, who served for eight previous years as the dean of the School of Leadership and Christian Ministry and founding dean of the School of Church Ministries, talked about young ministers who leave churches because they think that the congregation will not endure sound doctrine. He emphasized the importance of biblical expectations of pastoral leadership, and how the people accept his leadership.

“It's all about expectations,” said Stinson. “What do you expect? It's easy to say that they wouldn't endure sound doctrine, but it's hard to look in the mirror and see that they won't endure you.”

Stinson called students and pastors to endure the difficult situations of ministry that make the temptation to run appealing.  He said that pastors need to commend themselves to the people that they serve.

“The thing that will commend you to the people you are serving is how you endure in Christ with patience, kindness and love,” he said.

Life isn’t only about academics or how many people fill the church pews each week, he said. Rather, the Christian life is about living according to what they know and believe, patiently and in a godly manner.

“You're learning things here that are important that will serve you well if you live according to what you know,” Stinson said. “Patience ruled the day for Paul.”

He said that Southern Seminary will always be vigilant about the content that is taught in the classroom because administrators want students to be prepared for ministry in a sinful world.

“I want our students to be a certain way and have a certain ministry,” he said. “There’s a type of minister of the gospel that we’re trying to create here to send out — a minister of great endurance and great expectation of trial and difficulty who will face those in God.”

Stinson called the patient endurance of trials “true grit,” but not the Hollywood, John Wayne kind.

“True grit is rooted in the eternal God and his eternal reward,” Stinson said. “What commended Paul is his endurance.”

Stinson exhorted students to endure difficult circumstances by purity.

“There's a way to walk through challenges and hardships and that's by living a life that is above reproach,” Stinson said.

Ministers, students and laymen will experience tests of faith and strength in life, but Stinson said God brings hardships because they are part of God’s plan to sanctify his people

“The will of God is your sanctification, or God making you more Christ-like, because there’s something on the other side of this hardship that you need to know about,” he said.

At the conclusion of Stinson’s address, Mohler presented him with a certificate and Bible commemorating his installation.

Audio and video of the service are available at


Schreiner offers ‘pastoral’ explanation of how ‘Scripture fits together’ in new book August 7, 2013

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



Pope’s comments on gays don’t signal change in Catholic teaching, SBTS prof. says August 1, 2013

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.



Donald Paul Hustad, Billy Graham crusade organist and long-time Southern Seminary professor, dies at 94 June 28, 2013

Donald Paul Hustad, organist for Billy Graham crusades and long-time Southern Seminary professor, died June 22, according to his family. He was 94.

Hustad, who taught at the seminary for 40 years, leaves a legacy as one of evangelicalism's most significant and influential musicians, according to R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Don Hustad was one of the giants of Christian music of the 20th century — an almost iconic figure whose personal ministry and professional artistry were combined in such a powerful way,” Mohler said.

“Don Hustad’s role with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Moody Bible Institute and his long years at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary place him at the center of some of the most important events and institutions in evangelical history,” he said. “He was an artist, gentleman, warm-hearted believer and a great servant of the church.”

Born to Clara and Peter Hustad on Oct 2, 1918, Hustad grew up in Yellow Medicine County, Minn. Following the death of Peter Hustad, the family moved to Boone, Iowa, and lived in an institution for indigenous peoples. And since the family could not pay for their stay, Clara Hustad and her sons had to work.

In a 1987 interview with his biographer, Rhonda S. Furr, Hustad said: “I have to be grateful for this particular circumstance in my life because the chances are that had my father not been killed tragically, and had I not gone to this institution, I would never have been a musician. I would probably have been a happy farmer in western Minnesota.”

Hustad excelled at music from a young age. At eight years old, he played hymns in worship services and improvised accompaniments for the institution’s Christian radio station. According to Furr, Hustad by the end of grade school, mastered Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata, opus 13, Mendelssohn’s “Rondo Capriccioso” and Liszt’s transcription of the second “Hungarian Rhapsody.”

Following his graduation from John Fletcher College in University Park, Iowa, in 1940, Hustad became staff musician of Chicago's WMBI, where he worked with soloist George Beverly Shea on a weekly broadcast called "Club Time."

Years later, Shea recalled his first meeting of Hustad in his book, Then Sings My Soul. He writes:

“Another audition I remember was set up by Aunt Theresa, who had a friend ‘who should be playing organ for WMBI.’ When we heard him play one number we knew she was right. Don Hustad was hired on the spot.”

Hustad first encountered Billy Graham, who was at the time pastor of a small Baptist church in Western Springs, Ill., when he became the organist for the radio show, “Songs in the Night,” which aired many of Graham’s sermons. Shea was the featured soloist.

In February 1942, Hustad met Ruth McKeag in a local Baptist church. He later told Furr that he “met her on that occasion and fell head over heels in love. It really didn’t matter that she was engaged to someone else at the moment.” The attraction was mutual and the couple started dating, became engaged and married within the year. During the next decade, the new Hustads welcomed three children: Donna, 1945, Sondra, 1949 and Marcia, 1952.

Hustad attended Northwestern University, where he studied piano with Harold van Horne and completed the master of music degree in 1945. After that, he taught at Olivet Nazarene College in Kankakee, Ill. from 1946 to 1950.  Hustad then became director of the Sacred Music Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Ill.

During his 13 years at Moody, from 1950 to 1963, Hustad’s vision was to shape the programs there like a formal conservatory and he laid significant groundwork in that area. In fact, in a book about Christian higher education, Safiara A. Witmer called the Moody Chorale  under Hustad’s leadership “one of the finest music organizations in the country.”

In 1955, Hustad reentered Northwestern, this time seeking a doctorate in music. His dissertation represents the first major document on the complete organ works of composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

In 1961 he became team organist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He played during the Graham crusades and directed the Crusader Men choir for the "Hour of Decision" radio broadcasts. He worked with the association until 1967. In 1967, Hustad, after the completion of his degree, moved to Louisville, Ky., to serve as professor of church music at Southern Seminary.

He was the author of more than 100 articles about music in church life and five books, including Jubilate!, Jubilate II and True Worship: Reclaiming the Wonder & Majesty.

Adam W. Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry — the school that now houses all of the seminary’s church music education — said Hustad was a “remarkable combination of scholar-practitioner.

“Throughout his decades of service as professor of church music at Southern Seminary he impacted countless students in and out of the classroom, and his numerous publications extended his legacy far beyond this campus. Moreover, Hustad’s years of faithful service alongside Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea as Billy Graham’s crusade organist vividly displayed that core conviction which was always at the heart of his teaching ministry — that music has a legitimate role to play in both worship and evangelism.”

Thomas Bolton, another long-time music professor and dean of the former School of Church Music at Southern Seminary, is a contributor to the Festschrift published in Hustad’s honor in 2010, Jubilate, Amen!: A Festschrift in Honor of Donald Paul Hustad.

“It has been my privilege to know Don Hustad personally since 1996, although I certainly knew of him before that time,” Bolton said. “He was a most gracious and knowledgeable man who loved to think and write about the act of worship and how music fit into the fabric of church life. He was a talented and trained musician who understood that all types of music were appropriate when worshipping almighty God, but he was concerned that any music used in worship should be theologically sound and authentically presented.

“The world has lost a giant in the church music world who contributed much to the life of Southern Seminary while he was with us as professor and senior professor, and I have lost a dear friend,” Bolton said.

According to an obituary published by Christianity Today, Hustad in 1989 received the Fellow of the Hymn Society award for his contributions to American hymnody. In 2006, Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., awarded him an honorary doctorate in fine arts. In 2008, the American Choral Director's Association Southern Division Conference honored Hustad for his contributions to church music. Further, he earned diplomas as an Associate of the American Guild of Organists and a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, London, UK.

Mohler stated his condolences for the Hustad family: “Along with the entire Southern Seminary family Mary and I are praying for Ruth Hustad and for the Hustad family. At this time, Southern Seminary has lost a dear friend.”

Survivors include his wife, Ruth McKeag Hustad, three daughters, along with four granddaughters, and eight great-grandchildren.

The Hustad family will hold a memorial service Saturday, July 27 at 2 p.m. at Western Springs Baptist Church, 4475 Wolf Road, Western Springs, IL 60558.