SBTS offers new degree emphasis in biblical spirituality

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary now offers a degree emphasis in biblical spirituality. With the new program, Southern gives students the opportunity to pursue the study of biblical spirituality for credit in the master of divinity, master of theology, doctor of ministry and doctor of philosophy degree programs.

"Our students need to study spirituality because at the heart of their task as ministers is the cultivation of spirituality in the lives of the individuals under their ministry, as well as spirituality in the life of their congregation as a whole," said Don Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality. "And as ministers, they are also required by Scripture to ‘be an example of those who believe' [1 Tim 4:12], and this points directly to the development of their own spirituality. Our biblical spirituality curriculum is designed to prepare our students for all those responsibilities."

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, spoke of the need for churches to learn about authentic Christian spirituality: "Our churches are facing a crisis when it comes to spirituality. Some congregations are captive to faddish and wisdom-deadening forms of pseudo-spirituality while others are in bondage to an arid rationalism. Churches and church leaders are longing for a healthy holistic Christian spirituality. Southern Seminary is ready, with such outstanding scholars as Don Whitney and Michael A.G. Haykin, to address this need."

According to Whitney, who is also senior associate dean of the School of Theology, the addition of the program sets Southern apart in the world of theological education as the only North American institution that offers a degree emphasis in biblical spirituality in each of the four degree levels.

Whitney, who brings 24 years of pastoral experience to the classroom, and Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality, will teach the majority of the biblical spirituality courses, with theology and biblical studies professors contributing other courses and doctoral colloquia. The biblical spirituality curriculum involves a cross-disciplinary approach by involving professors from the areas of systematic theology, biblical studies, historical theology and church history.

"It is such an honor for me to teach in our biblical spirituality program with Michael Haykin," said Whitney. "He is both a treasured colleague and a dear friend. He is a world-class scholar, a committed churchman, a devoted husband and father and most importantly, he is a man of God who faithfully practices biblical spirituality."

Furthermore, spirituality, Whitney explained, is an area often overlooked for academic study among evangelicals. For this reason, Whitney argues it is important that evangelicals promote a view of spirituality rooted in a proper understanding of biblical authority and soteriology.

"Biblical spirituality is one of the fastest growing areas in theological education, but until our program at Southern there wasn't a terminal [Ph.D.] degree program in an evangelical seminary to prepare scholars specifically for teaching spirituality. Now we are adding to that the option of emphasizing the study of biblical spirituality at four different degree levels," Whitney said.

Whitney pointed out the opportunity for influence Southern now has as one of a very small number of seminaries nation-wide to offer a master of theology in biblical spirituality, and the only evangelical seminary known to offer a doctor of philosophy in spirituality.Like other Th.M. programs at Southern, the biblical spirituality degree allows students to participate in doctoral-level coursework as well as take master of divinity courses with additional requirements for course credit.

Biblical spirituality courses include historical studies about Patristic, Reformation, Puritan and Baptist spirituality, as well as biographical studies of various Christian figures. Along with the program's core course of Personal Spiritual Disciplines - which is required for M.Div. students - with its emphasis on the daily, practical aspects of private devotion to Christ, there are also courses emphasizing congregational spiritual disciplines.

"No one should have to come to seminary in order to learn how to pray and meditate on Scripture, but realistically we know that is ideal and not always the case. But even if every student came from a ‘perfect' church and all were sufficiently instructed in personal spirituality, they would still benefit from our biblical spirituality curriculum by learning how to teach others about these things. So, they need to learn not only the practical spiritual aspects of being disciples of Jesus, they also need to know how to disciple others. They need to be able to teach others how to pray and meditate on Scripture," Whitney explained.

More information about the biblical spirituality programs is available at www.sbts.edu

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Former dean, professor McEwen dies at 84

Former dean and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jack H. McEwen, died Dec. 5, 2011.

McEwen, 84, served the seminary as a professor and academic dean of the School of Christian Education from 1980 to 1983. McEwen, born in Charleston, S.C., pastored churches in the Chattanooga, Tenn. area for nearly two decades. After leaving Southern, he was an academic dean at Chattanooga State Community College from 1983 to 1998.

McEwen is survived by his wife of 62 years, June Holland McEwen, two children and four grandchildren.

First Baptist Church of Chattanooga, where McEwen pastored in the 1970s and 1980s and received the title of Pastor Emeritus, will celebrate McEwen's life Saturday, Dec. 10, at 3 p.m. A reception hosted by the family will follow in the FBC of Chattanooga fellowship hall.

Memorials may be made to the following in memory of Dr. Jack H. McEwen: First Baptist Church, 401 Gateway Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37405; United Way of Greater Chattanooga, 630 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37405; the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 615 McCallie Ave., Dept. 6806, Chattanooga, TN 37403; or Chattanooga State Community College, Jack H. McEwen Scholarship, 4501 Amnicola Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37406.

Information from Associated Baptist Press and Chattanooga, Tenn.'s Times Free Press contributed to this article.

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Southern Seminary publishes Winter 2012 magazine

The Winter 2012 Southern Seminary Magazine is now available online.

Titled "Our Best to the Ends of the Earth," the issue considers the church's mandate to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the globe, noting Southern Seminary's high calling to equip the church's best and brightest for worldwide evangelization. The magazine draws special attention to the rapid population growth among urban environments as well as to the multi-ethnic, multi-national population trends taking place on North American soil. The Winter 2012 Southern Seminary Magazine tells how the Southern Story extends across continents.

Feature articles from SBTS faculty members include:

The magazine also contains the latest in news, events, reviews, thoughts and profiles. Subscription information for Southern Seminary Magazine is available here.

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December-January “Towers” re-mythologizes Santa Claus, looks forward to New Year

The December-January 2012 "Towers" is available on stands and online.

Maybe one year Little Nell will finally get a doll, one that can open and shut her eyes. Oddly enough, this expectation might not be too far-fetched. The historical Santa Claus apparently did care about giving to and providing for children. But, according to Jim Parker, the real Santa's love for children wasn't his most admirable characteristic. In this two-month issue of "Towers," Parker, SBTS professor of worldview and culture, gives his reflection on St. Nicholas.

After Christmas passes, plans for 2012 will fill our minds. In this issue, several people in Southern's community offer their resolutions for the New Year.

The December-January 2012 "Towers" also features interviews with authors Roger E. Olson and Michael Horton about Zondervan's newly released books, Against Calvinism and For Calvinism, Olson the author of the former and Horton the latter. In addition, news manager Josh Hayes offers a brief review of each title.

And for those feeling fatigue set in during their trek through the daunting 88-hour master of divinity degree program, Southern professors Russell D. Moore and Hershael York offer motivation for finishing strong and moving past the mid-degree crisis.

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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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KBC announced Greenway as new president

The Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) announced the election of Adam Greenway as its new president, obtaining 73.1 percent of the vote, at the KBC annual meeting, Nov. 15, 2011.

An assistant professor of evangelism and applied apologetics, Greenway is also senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"Adam Greenway is a gifted leader and a friend to all Kentucky Baptists," said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. "I congratulate him on his election and am proud of his leadership in our state convention. Under the leadership of Adam Greenway and Paul Chitwood, I expect Kentucky to move into the future with conviction, passion, Great Commission fervor and vision."

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern, said of Greenway's election: "Adam Greenway is a thoughtful, convictional leader. He will serve all Kentucky Baptists well, and I am glad he is part of our Southern Seminary faculty training the next generation of pastors and missionaries."

At 33 years old, Greenway is the youngest KBC president in history. Furthermore, Greenway will be the first full-term president to serve alongside Paul Chitwood, the recently elected KBC executive director-treasurer who served at Southern Seminary as associate professor of evangelism and church growth from 2007 until 2011.

Greenway served as the KBC's first vice president in 2009-10, as a member of the Mission Board and, in 2009, as the chair of Mission Board Size Study Committee. Currently, he is the convention's parliamentarian.

Greenway has held pastorates along with assistant and interim positions at churches in Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. He is a member of First Baptist Church in Mount Washington, Ky. He holds an undergraduate degree from Samford University, a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy from Southern Seminary.

Additionally, Greenway co-edited the books Evangelicals Engaging Emergent and The Great Commission Resurgence (both B&H Academic).

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Nettles honored with book, Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted the presentation of a book published in honor of Thomas J. Nettles, Nov. 10, for his influential 35-year teaching career. Nettles, whose writings helped change the history of the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s, has been professor of historical theology at the seminary since 1997.

"Teaching is such a high calling and Tom Nettles embodies that calling," SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. "It was personally gratifying to see Professor Nettles honored in this way. It was a day he, and we, will not forget."

In the foreword of the book, Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory, Mohler writes:

"Tom Nettles was born to be a teacher, called to be a preacher, and trained to be a scholar. He has produced a library of scholarship and has shaped a generation of Baptist ministers and leaders. He has also done what few scholars ever have the opportunity or courage to do - he has reset the terms of debate for an entire denomination of churches."

Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., presented Nettles with the book, Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory, in front of Southern's student body, several of the book's contributors and Nettles' wife, son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Ascol, along with Southeastern Seminary professor Nathan A. Finn, edited the book project.

"The apostle Paul instructs us to give honor to those to whom honor is due," Ascol said. "And it's my distinct privilege today to obey that apostolic injunction by making a presentation to a man to whom honor is due.

"He is due honor because of his faithfulness and usefulness in Christ's kingdom during the last several decades," Ascol said of Nettles. "This marks the 35th anniversary of Dr. Nettles' teaching career. In honor and celebration of that, 22 of his friends, colleagues, associates and former students have joined together to compile a book of essays in his honor."

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of SBTS' School of Theology, said of Nettles:

"Tom Nettles is one of the most Christ-like men I have ever known. He first influenced me in print when, as a young man in ministry, I was told that biblical inerrancy was foreign to the Baptist heritage. Reading Baptists and the Bible reassured me that my home church taught me what was not only Baptist, but apostolic about the authority of Scripture.

"Since then, God has given me the joy to work with Tom Nettles on a daily basis. He is the kind of man who not only writes books and preaches powerful messages, but spontaneously breaks out into hymns, so great is his joy in Christ. As I think about my own debt to Tom Nettles, I am reminded that almost every confessional conservative Baptist in our denomination is within six steps of his direct influence in writing, teaching and mentoring."

Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory's 20 chapters present three sections expounding on historical, theological and practical ministry issues. Its contributors include two seminary presidents and seven members of Southern Seminary's current faculty.

"Those of us who contributed to the book realize that we are but a small fraction representing the thousands of men and women to who have been blessed by Dr. Nettles' ministry," Ascol said.

Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory is set for release, Dec. 16, 2011.

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November “Towers” looks at the life and writing of C.S. Lewis

The November issue of "Towers" is now on stands and online.

When, last November, we asked members of Southern Seminary's faculty, "Who are the authors or books that have shaped you?" C.S. Lewis' name and writings were a consistent refrain. And it makes sense. From children's stories to adult fiction, from fantasies to epic poems, from academic to apologetic works, Lewis' writings cover almost every age group and interest. The new issue of "Towers" features Boyce College dean, Dan DeWitt, writing about the influence English poet G.K. Chesterton had on Lewis, a musing from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, first impressions of Lewis' writings by SBTS faculty past and then I survey some of Lewis' lesser-known works.

Also in the November "Towers," SBTS professor of Christian apologetics Mark Coppenger talks about his new book, Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians. For the November "Southern Story," Josh Hayes profiles new Southern assistant professor of music and worship, Chuck Lewis.

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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 and Wallis discuss the role of social justice in the church’s mission

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. joined Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., to debate whether social justice is an essential part of the church's mission, Oct. 27, 2011. The Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity sponsored the debate.

Mohler argued that social justice, while an important calling upon individual Christians, is not an essential part of the local church's mission. Wallis argued that "if the gospel is not good news to the poor, it's not the gospel of Jesus Christ."

In an atmosphere of noted excitement, Mohler and Wallis stressed the importance of civility and respect in the debate, even in the midst of significant disagreement. The format gave each of them a 20-minute opening remark, followed by interactions and rebuttals to what the previous speaker stated. The evening ended with Mohler and Wallis answering questions from the audience.

Wallis'argued primarily from the perspective of his discomfort of being brought up in a white, socially disengaged church. According to Wallis, Matthew 25 awakened him to the realities of seeing the gospel as a "theology of hope." He warned that the privilege of upper-middle class churches can turn social justice into a program or an option, instead of a mandate. Expressing great regret in his church's failure to embrace civil rights in the 1960s, Wallis noted that he sees an uprising in younger evangelical enthusiasm for social justice.

Calling Luke 4 Jesus' "Nazareth Manifesto" and emphasizing its importance in offering good news to the poor, Wallis insisted that in the beginning Christians were "people of the Way, not the people of the ‘Right Doctrine.'" Wallis stressed the importance of doctrine throughout the night, but equally emphasized "the gospel is a message of the transformation of our social, political, economic and moral lives."

Mohler's main concern was finding the right theological manner in which to understand justice. Grounding justice as an attribute of God, Mohler insisted that as a response to the gospel, people justified by the grace of God in Christ will necessarily have an interest in justice and realize that "God is glorified when society reflects his essential attributes." But, he carefully noted, "Everything the church does is not necessarily its mission."

The question, Mohler noted, is not whether justice is essential to Christians, but whether it is essential to the church.

"The church's first priority within the city of man is to preach the gospel promiscuously so that God's enemies may become members of the city of God," Mohler said.

"The shape of the commission is made up of action words - teaching, proclaiming, sending, going."

Mohler drew attention to the absence of a New Testament model for the church taking on massive social change.

"I'm not concerned that any good thing done in Christ's name not be done. I'm concerned about proclaiming salvation," he noted.

Summarizing his position, Mohler stated, "There is nothing that the church - as individuals - ought not to do if it is right and righteous. But, this will only happen if the church as the church will do the thing that only the church can do, and that is to preach the message of salvation and to make disciples."

Audio and video for the debate will soon become available at www.henrycenter.org

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Mohler gives his take at CNN.com: “Are evangelicals dangerous?”

CNN's Belief Blog published R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s column, "Are evangelicals dangerous?," Sunday, Oct. 16. Since then, the comments section has witnessed significant activity, amounting to 75 pages in length at the time of this post.

In the column, Mohler, Southern Seminary president, discusses American culture's perception of evangelical Christians as a threat to the political process and overall health of the nation in view of the coming presidential election. As Mohler notes, some widely heard voices qualify evangelicalism as a movement of unenlightened social and theological conservatives driven toward overcoming democracy and instituting theocracy. He writes:

If evangelicals intend to engage public issues and cultural concerns, we have to be ready for the scrutiny and discomfort that comes with disagreement over matters of importance. We have to risk being misunderstood - and even misrepresented - if we intend to say anything worth hearing.

Are evangelicals dangerous? Well, certainly not in the sense that more secular voices warn. The vast majority of evangelicals are not attempting to create a theocracy, or to oppose democracy.

To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy.

The entire column is available here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/15/my-take-are-evangelicals-dangerous

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Balanced budget and enrollment up, seminary reports at Fall 2011 trustee meeting

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced a balanced budget and increased enrollment at the board of trustees meeting, Oct. 11, 2011. Also, at the meeting, R. Albert Mohler Jr., SBTS president, briefed the board about changing cultural contexts.

The financial board reported on adjustments the seminary made in order to balance the 2010-2011 budget. In light of economic challenges, the seminary recognized a decrease in revenue from primary sources, most importantly, the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program. As a result, the seminary reduced and contained spending and met the budget approved by trustees, with revenues slightly exceeding expenses of $33.7 million for the fiscal year.

Crediting the hard work of the office of institutional advancement, Dan Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration, noted the seminary received $4.5 million in total gifts, nearly doubling the amount from the previous year.

Trustees also heard a report indicating an improvement in new student enrollment.  The seminary saw a 14-percent increase in new students this fall compared to last year. Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of SBTS, saw a 21-percent increase.

Further, the board voted unanimously to move forward with a new writing program. Because of the forthcoming reaccreditation cycle in 2012-2013, the seminary will develop a quality enhancement plan aimed to improve writing among the student body. The program will be implemented across the curriculum within the School of Theology, Mohler told the board.

Following the discussion of business items, Mohler addressed the board about urbanization and immigration as well as other developments expected in the next 10 years and how these issues affect the seminary and Southern Baptist Convention churches.

"One of the biggest human trajectories in the contemporary time is urbanization, and this urbanization is often working out in ways we often don't recognize," Mohler said.

By 2050, Mohler noted, projected figures show that 75 percent of the world's population will live in cities. China, for instance, will be home to more than 200 cities that have a population of one million people or more by this point in time. In addition to the vast urbanization of the world's population, Mohler noted that immigration presents a challenge for the Christian church. People groups migrating to cities do not assimilate into culture but rather form their own enclaves in which they maintain their own respective cultures. This will present missiologists and church planters with the task of formulating new methods for reaching people groups making up these enclaves.

Furthermore, Mohler expressed these trends affect every person in the room listening to his address to the board.

"We're going to have to learn how to say thanks to God for what has been and learn how to say before God, ‘This is what we're going to have to see and know and do now'," he said. "That's not going to be easy for Southern Baptists. That's not easy for our mission force, and it's certainly not easy for our churches. It certainly speaks in terms of some of these issues to how we're going to have to train a generation of young pastors, church planters and missionaries who are going know how to look at these issues and figure out how to be faithful in leading amongst them."

Also, at the meeting, trustees prayed over each of the seminary's deans with an emphasis on recently appointed deans, Zane Pratt and Dan DeWitt. Pratt is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, and DeWitt is the dean of Boyce College.

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