Mohler gives five reasons why the abortion issue will not go away January 23, 2012

In his most recent "My Take" column at CNN.com's Belief Blog, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, argues that the abortion issue will not evaporate from the life of American culture any time in the near future, offering five reasons why this is the case.

"When abortion rights advocates and their allies ask why the abortion issue will not just go away, they really mean to ask why, given the stark reality of Roe, the pro-life movement has not dissipated and retreated into the history books," Mohler writes.

Mohler's five reasons pertain to the following: the radical character of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision; evangelical Christianity's interest in the issue; the massive quantity of abortions since Roe v. Wade; abortion's threat to undermine the common perception of human dignity; and the advent of imaging technologies.

The entire article, "Why the abortion issue won't go away," is available at religion.blogs.cnn.com

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Fox News features Allison about the date of Jesus’ birth January 11, 2012

Fox News featured Southern Seminary's Gregg Allison in a segment about the date of Jesus' birth, which aired Dec. 21, 2011.

A few days before the Christmas holiday, Fox News ran "The Back Story: December the 25th," in which reporter Lauren Green poses a question about the date of the Christian celebration of Jesus' birth: "How did Christians settle on Dec. 25 as Jesus birthday?"

The story opens with David Silverman, president of American Atheists, talking about the early church's alleged usurping of pagan celebrations in the name of their newfound faith.

"Saturnalias was always celebrated on December 25," he said. "And it was celebrated with trees and gifts and songs and roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Christians came and, in an effort to grow Christianity, simply usurped those religions and they call it their own."

Southern Seminary's Gregg Allison, professor of Christian theology, disagrees.

"The early church, certainly in the third or fourth centuries, was not at all receptive to pagan practices," Allison said. "In fact, the early church in this time denounced any association with paganism and pagan festival. So I don't think that theory is very plausible."

He goes on to explain how the church arrived at the date traditionally associated with Jesus' birth.

"Here is the move the early church made," Allison said. "It believed that Jesus was conceived on the same day that he was crucified. So the belief was that he was conceived on the 14th or 15th of Nisan, according to the Hebrew calendar. Translated, [Jesus] was conceived on March 25 on the Roman calendar. Fast forward nine months and we have the date of December 25."

The full video and print versions of "The Back Story: December the 25th" are available at the Fox News Web site.

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SBTS hosts first Alumni Academy course, Schreiner’s New Testament theology January 10, 2012

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held its inaugural Alumni Academy course taught by scholar and author Thomas R. Schreiner, Jan. 4-6, 2012.

An event hosted by Southern Seminary's alumni relations office, Alumni Academy offers ministry enhancement and ongoing theological learning to the institution's alumni free of charge. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and associate dean of Scripture and Interpretation at Southern, taught four sessions about New Testament theology.

In his first lecture, Schreiner surveyed the Old Testament storyline, giving an overview of its theology, themes and events. Appealing to biblical theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, Schreiner prefaced his presentation of the Bible's unfolding narrative by telling an audience of pastors that "your people will learn biblical theology mainly from you." The life of the church, he said, is where the truth of Scripture is primarily communicated.

Beginning with creation and fall and concluding with exile and the Prophets, Schreiner elucidated biblical themes, such as "sanctuary," "sin," "seed," "covenant," "blessing," "curse," "land" and "kingdom," as the narrative unveils them across the Old Testament canon. This, in turn, gave rise to Schreiner's discussion of the kingdom of God in his second lecture in which he dealt with "the-already-and-the-not-yet" dynamic of the kingdom of God presented in the New Testament.

"Already-not-yet" is a term that theologians use when discussing eschatology in the New Testament. It refers to the phenomenon in which the first coming of Jesus Christ -- through his life, death and resurrection -- inaugurated the realities of the age to come, these realities breaking into the present age while not yet coming to complete expression until his second coming.

Providing the background of the Jewish expectation for the coming kingdom during the centuries prior to Jesus' coming, Schreiner surveyed the occurrences of kingdom throughout the synoptic Gospels and the nature of eternal life presented in John's Gospel. The lecture also dealt with the already-not-yet theme in Paul's writings, particularly the tension between his use of indicatives and imperatives.

On one hand, Paul declares what is true of believers with respect to the already, and on the other hand, Paul exhorts believers to pursue or await what will become true of them in the not-yet. As 1 Corinthians 5:7 states, "Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened." In one sense, believers must actively work to purify themselves, but in another sense, they are already pure. Schreiner illuminated this dynamic by examining a number of passages related to primary themes in New Testament theology, such as "adoption," "redemption," "salvation," "justification" and "sanctification."

For the third lecture, Schreiner discussed the "New Perspective on Paul" controversy, tracing the movement's development beginning with religion scholar E.P. Sanders' initial objections to historic Christian thought concerning the apostle Paul's understanding of first-century Judaism. Sanders, by arguing that the Judaism of the New Testament era was not legalistic in nature as assumed by Protestants since the time of Martin Luther, offered a new paradigm for understanding Jewish religion, that of covenantal nomism.

Rather than earning God's favor by obedience, covenantal nomism suggests that Jews understood themselves to enter the covenant by grace but stay in it by keeping the works of the law. Thus, in understanding Paul's doctrine of justification, Sanders and his adherents contend that justification has more to do with ecclesiology than soteriology, namely that Jewish Christians neglected to understand the inclusive nature of the gospel by maintaining boundary markers such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping and dietary laws in order to prevent Gentiles from becoming part of the people of God. Schreiner pointed out that reading Paul this way seems foreign to his discussions of justification.

Following his assessment of Sanders, Schreiner offered responses to adherents of the New Perspective, such as James Dunn and N.T. Wright. He concluded the lecture by examining the New Testament authors' understanding of legalism, the Mosaic law and good works. He gave considerable attention to the doctrine of justification in Paul's letters, examining how Paul uses the word "righteousness" throughout Scripture.

In the final session, Schreiner discussed the topics of justification in the Book of James and the warning passages in the Book of Hebrews. In his lecture about James, Schreiner presented various positions regarding how a person should understand the relationship between Paul and James with respect to justification. Some non-evangelical scholars argue that the two authors contradict one another while others, such as confessional evangelicals and Roman Catholics, try to resolve the apparent tension.

Although Schreiner offers the same resolution regarding the faith-works relationship as most people in the Reformed-evangelical tradition, he differs with them about how to understand the word "justify" in James. The same Greek word that Paul uses, James uses "justify" in response to a different situation than that to which Paul responds, the former to antinomianism and the latter to legalism. So, in a real sense, according to James, Schreiner argues that a person is justified before God according to their works, his or her works evidencing a genuine, saving faith. However, works are not the basis of a person's justification. Rather than the term "justify," Schreiner explained, the difference between Paul and James is the kind of faith each author discusses. James criticizes a form of faith that consists only of intellectual assent, whereas Paul addresses authentic saving faith.

Finally, Schreiner offered his position concerning the nature and function of warning passages in Hebrews. Readers should understand each warning in relation with the others, because the book is a single sermon with one point, Schreiner suggested. As opposed to understanding warning passages according to more traditional Arminian and Calvinist schemes, Schreiner interprets the warnings as dealing with the legitimate consequences of eternal damnation should a believer commit apostasy. Yet, no true believer will finally fall away from the faith because the warnings serve as God's means of preserving believers to the end. The warnings will always positively effect believers resulting in their final perseverance and salvation.

In addition to Schreiner's lectures, Alumni Academy held a question-and-answer panel Thursday evening, Jan. 5, featuring Schreiner and Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Dan Dumas, senior vice president for institutional administration, moderated the panel. The panel answered questions related to elders, church government and discipline, preaching preparation, the local church's mission and more.

The next scheduled Alumni Academy course is May 15-17, 2011. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern, will teach the class, "Beholding the Glory of Christ: ‘Eternal Word, Incarnate Son, Exalted Lord'." The class will explore the person of Jesus Christ in a Trinitarian context, looking at him as the eternal Son of the Father who became incarnate and living in the power of the Spirit sought to fulfill the Father's will.

Alumni Academy is free for Southern alumni, and for a nominal fee, attendees may bring members of their church staff with them. More information about Alumni Academy is available at events.sbts.edu

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CNN’s Belief Blog considers Burk’s thoughts on ‘Real Marriage’ January 9, 2012

Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll's book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, is no stranger to controversy despite its recent release. CNN's Belief Blog provides thoughts from several Christian bloggers and thinkers, including Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.

Discussing a chapter of the book in which Driscoll presents his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:12, Burk, writes that the chapter has "the potential to wreak havoc in such marriages where one spouse will feel a whole range of taboos to be 'permissible' if he can convince his spouse to participate."

Burk presents his thoughts about Real Marriage in more detail in his review at his blog, www.dennyburk.com, which he updates regularly.

The article, "Pastor's detailed box on sex divides reviewers, sparks controversy," is available at CNN's Belief Blog.

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SBTS trustee named Mississippi Speaker of the House January 6, 2012

Philip Gunn, Southern Seminary's second vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, was elected speaker of the House of Representatives in Mississippi, Jan. 3, 2012.

Gunn, who has served on Southern's board since 2008, became the first Republican to sit as speaker of the house in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

In a letter to the trustee board, seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. writes: "This is a tribute to the leadership of Speaker Gunn, and his election brings honor to the people of Mississippi and to the board of trustees of Southern Seminary."

Gunn, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives since 2004, was unopposed in his bid for speaker. And, according to Jackson, Miss.'s Clarion-Ledger, members of the House met Gunn's election with cheers and a standing ovation.

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, had a similar reaction, saying: "As a Mississippian, I am proud of Philip Gunn. He's a humble, decisive servant-leader who knows his roots and his vision. I love working with him at Southern Seminary and pray for him as he leads the greatest of the fifty great states."

And Greg Belser, senior pastor of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss. where Gunn is a member, echoed Moore's enthusiasm: "The Mississippi House of Representatives has elected a true Christian statesman to its highest position," he said. "I know of no finer man in politics anywhere. Philip Gunn is a man of unquestioned character and a deep love for Christ and the church while balancing the enormous demands of family and community service. He is the real deal."

An article in the Clarion-Ledger providing details about Gunn's election is available here.

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Christianity Today honors Moore for Tempted and Tried January 4, 2012

Southern Seminary's Russell D. Moore received the award of merit for his book, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Crossway), from Christianity Today in the magazine's 2012 book awards. Tempted and Tried was nominated in the Christian living category.

Moore's book deals with the nature and place of temptation, seeking to help followers of Christ fight against it by looking to the one who was, as Moore writes, "tried in every way we are but who was never anything but triumphant."

Moore, SBTS dean of the School of Theology, senior vice president for academic administration and professor of Christian theology and ethics, discussed Tempted and Tried, among other things, in an interview published in the April 11, 2011, "Towers" issue (pages 8-9). The issue provides a brief review of the book as well (page 10). The April 11, 2011, "Towers" is available at www.sbts.edu/resources

Christianity Today's Web site offers a list of the winners in all categories at www.christianitytoday.com

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Mohler gives his take on Kim Jong Il at CNN’s Belief Blog December 21, 2011

In light of the recent death of longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Seminary president, offered some thoughts about the deification of political regimes.

"The death of North Korea's ‘Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il underlies a basic fact of earthly politics: when a political regime denies any transcendent supernatural reality, it deifies itself," Mohler writes in his "My Take" column at CNN.com's Belief Blog.

According to Mohler, the reigns of Kim Jong Il and his father, Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founding dictator, demonstrate that when a regime eliminates public religious expression, this does not rid a nation of all forms of worship. Like Kim Il Sung whom North Korean society came to perceive as a god, being addressed as the "Fatherly Leader," Kim Jong Il too embraced a deified identity as the "Dear Leader."

Mohler writes:

If the worship of God is forbidden, the state may well turn its own dictator into a deity. This transforms the leader and the regime into objects of devotion and worship. The state is then beyond all rational critique and consideration.

In other words, citizenship is transformed into idolatry. History records the tragic legacy of idolatrous states, led by despots who range from ancient kings to warlike emperors and delusional Fuhrers.

Mohler's article, "My Take: Kim Jong Il and the danger of deifying leaders," is available at religion.blogs.cnn.com

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SBTS offers new degree emphasis in biblical spirituality December 16, 2011

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 December 8, 2011

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 December 6, 2011

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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