Apr 18, 2016

BMATS Summer Module: "Principles of Christian Counseling: An Introduction to the Place of Biblical Counseling in the Life of the Local Church"

The BMA Seminary, DiscipleGuide, and BMA Missions Department are pleased to announce a special collaborative effort aimed at assisting member churches in one of the most needed areas of church life.  Together, we will be sponsoring a special conference style course entitled “Principles of Christian Counseling: An Introduction to the Place of Biblical Counseling in the Life of the Local Church.” The conference style course will be open to all members of the BMA (and others).  Pastors, church leaders, prospective missionaries, and associational leaders are especially encouraged to attend.  The course specifically aims to assist participants in:
  •  building one’s ministry on the sufficiency of Scripture with the conviction that the Word of God is sufficient for all matters pertaining to “life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3)
  •  gaining a greater confidence in the sufficiency and superiority of the Scripture for handling all the personal and interpersonal problems of life
  •  building a culture of “one anothering” in your local church, where biblical counseling becomes a vital ministry of all church members  (Rom. 12:10, 16, 13:18, 14:13, 15:7, etc.)
  •  learning key foundational principles of a thoroughly scriptural approach to a Christ-honoring church life
  •  identifying and responding to key areas where worldly philosophies tend to usurp biblical authority and practice in the life of the church (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
  • identify and develop the personal qualities that are necessary for effective counseling ministry (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1)
  •  evaluating people and their problems in a distinctly biblical way 
  • pursuing an enriched and improved personal life and relationship with Christ, and more.

The instructor for the event will be noted author and professor, Dr. Stuart Scott.  Dr. Scott is Visiting Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s College and Seminary.  He will be serving as a special adjunct professor at BMATS for this course.  He has over thirty-five years of experience in counseling training and pastoral ministry, and heads up 180 Counseling and Education Ministry, which partners with churches to provide biblical hope and change.

The course will be available for seminary credit, but the normal auditing fee of $180 has been reduced to $35 to make this as accessible as possible to all of those interested.  The course will be July 12th -15th, (Tuesday-Friday) 2016, from 1:00-9:00 PM, on the campus of Temple Baptist Church in Little Rock.  To register, contact the BMA Seminary Dean’s office, at bmats@bmats.edu.

Dec 14, 2015

BMATS-Arkansas to Begin Pilot Program

Starting in January 2016, BMATS-Arkansas will implement a pilot initiative offering a whole new package of modular courses to complement our existing course offerings.  The goal is to provide these special options several times per year (up to 4x) and will integrate progressive educational models with cutting edge technologies in order to address the most pressing needs facing contemporary Gospel ministers.  Because of the unique platforms being used, these courses are available only on a limited basis, but are especially designed to provide targeted training for ministers serving in increasingly challenging cultural contexts.  If you or someone you know is interested in obtaining the most theologically sound, academically rigorous, and contextually relevant accredited theological training available, here’s what you need to know:
  • The first course will begin January 14th, 2016 in Conway, Ark. with instruction lasting 4 days but with assignments spread throughout the Spring semester 
  • The inaugural course is entitled, “Selected Topics in Theology: TH621X, Doctrine of the Word, Revelation, and Scripture,” (see * below) I’ve attached the syllabus for your review 
  • The course is a collaboration between two theological seminaries providing instruction from three instructors whose varied interests, vocational, and academic specialties will uniquely enhance the classroom/educational experience 
  • This particular course is a one-time option but the cost is still the lowest of any ATS accredited seminary in North America 
  • If you would like to find out more about how to take part in one of the most innovative, academically rigorous, and theologically sound theological seminaries on the continent, you’ll want to contact either the BMATS-Ark. Administrator with questions, or the Dean to enroll. 
I hope to see you in class,
Prof. R. Brian Rickett
* Here's a link to the syllabus

Nov 27, 2015

An Early Song of Thanksgiving and Praise

An early Song of Thanksgiving and Praise (in view of the holiday). The most dramatic formatting in the Torah is found in Exodus 15, in the section known as "The Song of the Sea," or "The Song of Moses." As soon as an experienced reader of Torah sees this structure, he automatically recognizes the passage just by the formatting, viz. without even having to read the text. In Codex L, it is the most dramatic formatting in the entire Tanach (Old Testament), because even the Masoretic notes are stylized at the top of the page-the only place that happens (the below pic. is from a scroll, not codex). This formatting style is referred to as the "brick upon brick" structure and is used elsewhere in the Hebrew OT to set off special sections of the text, such as with songs, the Ten Commandments, etc. The significance here, it that the song is a song of praise and worship-the FIRST ONE.
As such, the first occurrences of terms for "praise," "exalted" (as a description of God), "extol," "strength" (as a description of God), "song" (as a description of God), "salvation" (as a description of God) are used. And these terms all show up in the first 2 verses of the song-a pretty fantastic way to begin worship.
You can see these terms in the first 4 lines (2 verses) of the brick upon brick structure. The song is *introduced with the first line/full line of the section. The first word of the song proper shows up in the middle of the first brick line "אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַֽיהוָה" ("I will sing to Yahweh"), viz. the song begins with the second word of the brick structure (reading right to left), and the first word of line 4 of the brick is "וַאֲרֹמְמֶֽנְהוּ" ("I will exalt Him"). The opening lines read thus:

אָשִׁ֤ירָה לַֽיהוָה֙ כִּֽי־גָאֹ֣ה גָּאָ֔ה
ס֥וּס וְרֹכְב֖וֹ רָמָ֥ה בַיָּֽם׃
עָזִּ֤י וְזִמְרָת֙ יָ֔הּ וַֽיְהִי־לִ֖י לִֽישׁוּעָ֑ה
זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ וְאַנְוֵ֔הוּ
אֱלֹהֵ֥י אָבִ֖י וַאֲרֹמְמֶֽנְהוּ׃

Note: I've formatted the lines for logical flow and based on the Masoretic accents from Codex L; observe that the divisions correspond to the disjunctive accents and that your English punctuation corresponds, or should correspond, to these accents.
In English (NASB), these read: "I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 "The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will extol Him.
These lines are worth extra contemplation during this Thanksgiving season.
Exodus 15, from the BMATS Sefer Torah

Aug 11, 2015

BMATS-Ark. Fall Semester 2015!

As the summer of 2015 comes to a close, we’re looking forward to another great fall semester at the BMA Theological Seminary!  In fact, we are once again looking at a NEW RECORD for new student enrollment!  According to ATS, BMATS is one of the fastest growing accredited theological seminaries in North America.  Even more, Baptistnews.com recently identified BMATS as the #1 fastest growing ATS accredited theological seminary (of around 280)!  This is due to a number of factors which we have written about previously, but for now, here are a couple of items about which you need to be aware in anticipation for the new semester:  
  1. Fall Semester Convocation.  The Fall Semester Convocation is Friday, August 28th.  It is in the Toland Chapel, at 7:00 PM.  Our new associate faculty member, Dr. David Cox will be the speaker for the evening.   There will be lite refreshments to follow.  This is required for ALL STUDENTS.  Unexcused failure to attend will unfortunately result in an absence being credited to each class in which the student is enrolled for the semester.  
  2.  New Student Orientation.  The new student orientation will be prior to the fall semester convocation from 6:00-6:50 PM in LC100 (the “Seminary Room”) in the Cooper Complex.  This event is required for all NEW students in order to prepare you for your seminary experience. 
  3. Late Enrollment.  The close of registration for the Fall semester is near (next week). We have a couple of courses we are offering to accommodate expanding student interest.  These courses may or may not make depending on actual enrollment.  Here’s what you need to know: i.) If you haven't enrolled yet, please do so as soon as possible. This will ensure that your favorite/needed course will be available.  Timely completion of your program may depend on this; ii.) Also, if you wait until after the close of registration, a late fee will be charged, but it may be too late for your class anyway; iii.) If you know of someone who is on the fence about enrolling, now is the time to remind them of the importance of enrolling. Enrollment this semester is crucial for us to make decisions about how the seminary should proceed in the spring and following year.  Now is the time to help your friend get signed up!  Thanks so much, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

To God Alone be the Glory, 

R. Brian Rickett
Arkansas Campus Administrator
BMA Theological Seminary

Website: bmats.edu n Texas Campus 800-259-5673 n Arkansas Campus: 866-645-6699 n brian.rickett@bmats.edu

Jun 26, 2015

Traditional/Biblical Marriage: The Exegesis Behind the Text

The traditional/biblical presentation of marriage as an exclusive union between one man and one woman is not a prejudiced, superstitious, patriarchal, or arbitrarily derived concept.  The below provides an analysis of the amazingly beautiful, architectonic design of marriage by the Creator as found in the creation narrative of Genesis.  Rarely is a full exegetical analysis, including literary and structural analyses, of the Hebrew text made available in a blog post due to its technical nature.  However, in view of today's Supreme Court verdict, those with questions about this issue to need to understand the unambiguous testimony of the Scriptures on both gender and marriage.  Most of the technical material is provided in footnotes.  To those unfamiliar with either exegesis or Hebrew language, this will be challenging.  However, I encourage you to carefully work through the below post until it is clear for you.  Feel free to respond with questions. 

The key biblical passage speaking to the uniqueness of human beings is found in Gen 1:26, 27, which locates their inherent dignity and worth in their design pattern.  The structure of the text[1] suggests that humans possess unique characteristics mirroring God’s characteristics in such a way and to the extent, that humans are themselves sacred, though on a finite or limited scale.  In effect, this design makes them as much like God as a created being could be.[2]  Further, the presence of this design pattern, although marred by the effects of sin (Genesis 3), prevails even in sinful humans so that to murder a human warrants the most exacting penalty as identified by the key biblical passage prohibiting murder (Genesis 9:6).  This uniqueness is further appealed to as the basis for why humans ought not to even be desecrated by profane speech (James 3:9).

The image of God is best reflected in the complementary features of gender distinction as described in Genesis 2:18 and expanded by Genesis 5:1.[3]  Here, the importance of relational and gender diversity by a human pair bond[4] is highlighted as a feature attracting the Designer’s special creative interest.  In all his uniqueness as a creature reflecting the image of God and relating with deity, man’s relational and chromosomal solitude was identified as an incomplete and less than ideal, i.e. “not good” design and relational state (Gen 2:18, 20).  The Creator’s solution to the problem was to create a single complement reflecting corresponding qualities that would correlate with and complete the male in the similar yet different person of the human female.  Together, the male/female design most fully reflects the image of God (Gen 5:1, 2)[5] and provides the constituent elements necessary to further procreate the image of God in the persons of other human beings (Gen 5:3).  The result is that at conception, the fundamental blueprint for the image of God, in embryonic form, is assimilated and reflects even in its most basic state the glory of the Creator.

The special and exclusive relationship of the adult human male and female joined together as husband and wife (Gen 2:24, 25) is identified as the most fundamental and basic human relationship.  This relationship is said to have been designed directly by God and serves as the sole basis for a distinct family unit in perpetuity (Gen 2:24, 25; Gen 4:1, 17) and is even intended to be interminable except under specific, extreme circumstances (Matt 19:8).  

[1] Hebrew and English

Notice the structure of Genesis 1:27-28 (most visible in Hebrew). These verses represent a four line quatrain where the “image of God” in line A is repeated in line B, and is then epexegetically explained with the complementarity of the  זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה“male and female” of line B’.  The couple is then blessed by God in line A’ as the two waw-consecutive verbs initiating verses 27 and 28 constitute a wordplay utilizing the device known as paronomasia (sound play).  Explanation of the graphic: i. The typical way to describe a chiastic structure as above is A, B//B’, A’ where the two internal lines correspond, as described here.  ii. Notice the athnach at the end of line B showing the logical middle of the section. iii. Observe the chiastic structures of lines B and B’ showing the correspondence of בְּצֶ֥לֶם with זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖, both in blue, and then the correspondence ofבָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ  with בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם demonstrating the “image” (grammatically singular) is in the form of “them” (grammatically plural).  This shows that the image of God is most fully represented in the complementarity of the male and female. iv. In verse 28, God then commands the couple to procreate and subdue the Earth, i.e. gives them the creation mandate.

[2] The uniqueness of the design of “mankind” (אָדָ֛ם) in Gen 1:26, is highlighted by a poetical device called hendiadys implemented in God's intra-trinitarian conference.  In Gen 1:26, God expressed His creative intentions.  We read וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ. "And God said, 'Let us make man (אָדָ֛ם) in our form, according to our image."  The idea seems to be that God intended to make man as much like God as a created being could be.  This was not necessarily a reference to his physical form, but to his spiritual, emotional, moral, volitional, rational, relational, governmental, etc. qualities.  This imago Dei, or image of God, is what gives man dignity.  This is what makes him unique. Note, however, that in Genesis 1:26, the term translated “man” (אָדָ֛ם) is indefinite.  This is a general statement about mankind/humankind.  However, in v. 27, the definite article is used as a constituent part of a chiastically arranged quatrain (see above) explaining what this “image” is.  This use of the article (i.e. anaphoric use) happens when the article of specificity refers back to an anarthrous substantive “in the preceding context” (Frederic Clarke Putnum, Hebrew Bible Insert, Quakertown, Pa: Stylus, p. §1.4.3a).  Here, the definite הָֽאָדָם֙ in 1:27 is used to refer back to the “image of God” (אָדָ֛ם) mentioned in 1:26.  This only happens because the image is further explained (epexegetically) in the lines following 1:26.  Outside this quatrain, the definite article is employed only in specific reference to “the man,” i.e. to Adam specifically, whereas each time humanity is referred to, no article is employed.  

[3] The description of the imago Dei as “most fully reflected in the completed male/female human archetypes,” does not mean that the image of God was not present in the isolated Adam.  But Adam as “mankind” was incomplete while he was yet alone with the result that the image was not as full.  I.e. the image was present, but not as fully present as when Eve was created as his complement.  This pair represents humanity archetypically, as even expressed in their names.  Adam’s name אָדָ֛ם, shows the origin of the human race from the Earth (adamah), and Eve’s Hebrew name חַוָּ֑ה (Chawah), related to the Hebrew verb hyx (chayah), meaning to be “alive,” shows her standing in relationship to subsequent humanity.  The result is explained thus: “Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20).  The above does not minimize the status of a single individual or widow/widower.  Remember, though, that in God’s original design, there was no death and therefore a widow or widower was not part of God’s original design.  Likewise, there were no single individuals and it should be noted that except in rare cases, humans do not prefer to be alone.  This is why Paul refers to some individuals who are content in this condition as being especially gifted.  Remember, fully, sexually mature, properly functioning humans have sexual and other relational yearnings, and do so by design.  Outside of a marriage relationship, they have no legitimate means of expressing the sexual aspect (at least) of their design.  It should also be remembered that the above is similar to discussions related to the imago in physically or cognitively malformed humans, or in immature humans.  In the case of the first, they possess the imago, however, due to the corrupting influence of sin and the resulting degenerative impact of sin on humans biologically, the image is marred.  In the case of immature or pre-born humans, their image is in immature or in embryonic form.  To be clear, deformed or malformed humans reflect the image of God, but that image is not as full as in normal, fully developed humans.  Further, normal, healthy humans do not reflect the image as fully as did pre-fall Adam and Eve.  Even more, single individuals reflect the image of God, but not in the fully relational sense in which the male/female archetypes did. 

[4] The phrase “pair bond” is intended to highlight the 1-to-1 relational nature of marriage, i.e. “pair,” which inherently precludes multiple partners, such as in polygamy or polyamory.  Additionally, it assumes that the two individuals involved are sexually mature adults, precluding the participation of 1 or more non-adults in marriage, where “adult” requires at least sexual and cognitive maturity.

[5] In Gen 5:2, the image of God is more fully explained.  Here, “man” or “mankind” (אָדָ֛ם) is summarized as the male and female genders of His creation (see diagram below).  To be clear, the most full expression of the image is reflected in the prefall representation of “mankind” as the “male/female” archetype.

Comments: i. Notice the athnach showing the logical middle of the verse at the end of the 1st line.  Also note the chiasm, which confirms the division. Line three is indicated by: a.) the rebia over אֹתָ֗ם, and b.) the beginning of the waw-consecutive verbal clause. ii. That next verbal clause contains the appositional relationship שְׁמָם֙ אָדָ֔ם, where the male-female duet constitutes “mankind” singular. In other words, “They” plural were called “adam/man/mankind” singular. The point is that they, “mankind” were created as male and female when they were created. The zaqqeph qaton shows the next dividing point, and the partial chiasm of the next line confirms that dividing point. iii. The partial chiasm of the fourth line uses the plural pronoun “they” as a reference back to the singular noun translated “adam/man/mankind.”  This final structure again demonstrates that “they” plural constitute “man” or “mankind” singular.  iv. Notice that all the pronouns are plural but summarized as “mankind/אָדָ֛ם”.  This “mankind/אָדָ֛ם” was made “male and female” in the day that they were created.  This is the same אָדָ֛ם described in Gen 1:26.  In other words, in Genesis 1:26, when God said “Let us make man [אָדָ֛ם]” in our image, he was referring to the completed product represented in the male/female counterparts.

Jun 11, 2015

BMATS-Ark. Summer 2015

Dear Friend,

As you are certainly aware, the Christian community in the U.S. is on the cusp of unprecedented challenges.  If there was ever a time when we need qualified pastors and Christian leaders, it is now.  Over the past year, the BMA Theological Seminary has revitalized its Arkansas campus; this is important because we are the ONLY accredited theological seminary in our state.  We exist to honor Christ by equipping pastors and leaders with the tools needed for effective service in today’s challenging environment, and it is increasingly challenging. We are particularly committed to producing excellent pastors and leaders whose work will strengthen and establish faithful churches.  In sum, here is what God was pleased to accomplish over our 2014-15 revitalization effort:
  • We hired new expert faculty on the cutting edge of their disciplines and who are addressing the issues most challenging to us
  • We expanded course and program offerings to equip our students to faithfully lead in their prospective ministry settings
  • We increased administrative efficiency and reduced limiters
  • We saw a significant increase in enrollment for traditional and online courses
  • We developed and implemented new institutional advancement efforts
  • We are developing a network of likeminded Christian leaders composed of those committed to the highest level of biblical fidelity in their preaching, teaching, and practical ministries
  • We have engaged in the production of Christ-honoring scholarly resources in the form of books, articles, lectures, and discipleship materials 

There is much more to report, but time and space is limited.  Last year, Phase I, was the revitalization of our campus.  This year, in Phase II, we particularly need to build new financial partners and increase our student population—this summer.  In short, we need your help in three key ways.  First, we need your prayer that we will effectively honor Christ with the stewardship He has entrusted to us.  Second, we need your support in building relationships with prospective students.  Finally, like no other time, we need new financial support from those who understand the significance of what we are doing.  Because of the seriousness of our work, we have staff and faculty working pro bono because they understand that we are in a life and death battle for the souls of men and women, and for the glory of Christ in our generation.  I want to tell you more, so please contact me in the way most efficient to you; my information is below. Have your prospective students email or call me.  If the Lord has moved you or your church to contribute, you can do so online, or send monetary contributions to the following address with the memo, “Arkansas Initiative.”
To God Alone be the Glory, 

R. Brian Rickett
Professor of Biblical Studies
Conway, Ark. Campus Administrator
The BMA Theological Seminary
866.645.6699 x701; brian.rickett@bmats.edu

May 18, 2015

Hebrew Tattoo Errors

Last week, an amusing article surfaced which featured a bad Hebrew tattoo observed in an Arkansas Walmart.  Several people tagged me or pointed me to this article.  So, just for fun, here's my list of the most common Hebrew Tattoo Errors.  Below is a picture of the tattoo in question, followed by  a moral.  A link to the article is at the very bottom. 

1.     Line break/left justification errors.  This happens when the tattoo artist/patron doesn’t know where to make line breaks.  Since Hebrew reads from right to left, line breaks should be right justified, not left justified.  The result is that something crazy like this happens:

only a test.
this is
This is a test,

2.     Formatting errors.  This happens when the tattoo artist formats the text based on what they apparently perceive as the most attractive layout.  This is done without awareness of the flow or structure of the text.  The result is that it gets scrambled, something like this:

to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”
, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated
ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent
Four score and seven years

3.     Spelling/form/part of speech errors.  These happen when: a.) a Hebrew word is misspelled, b.) the wrong form of a letter is used (e.g. final form letters), c.) construct form is used when the word stands alone (e.g. “Dreams of”), i.e. when the absolute form should be used (e.g. “Dream,”) or, d.) when the wrong accents are used, e.g. when conjunctive accents are used for words standing alone, etc.  Compareאֱלֹהִ֑ים  with אֱלֹהִים  Notice the first word has an angle bracket looking mark under the 3rd letter.  This mark is an accent signaling its placement in the sentence.  In other words, this form would never occur alone.  A tattoo of this single word with the accent shows that it was pulled straight out of a sentence.

4.     Syntax errors. Similar to 3.c, this happens when, a.) the wrong grammatical form of a term is chosen.  Example: Imagine seeing a word tattoo worn by an Asian man that reads “Dreamed.” What he probably hoped to say was, “Dream;” or when, b.) two contiguous words occur with wrong or missing prepositions or conjunctions. E.g. He ran [up] [the] mountain. 

5.     Wrong word/wrong meaning.  This is one of the most common and is likely what happened in the above pic.  This happens when someone has a meaning for a term in mind, but the actual Hebrew/Aramaic word has nothing to do with the meaning claimed.

Profound Moral: It is probably unwise to get a tattoo written in a language you do not know, or with which your tattoo artist is unfamiliar.  

I've heard it said that people used to get tattoos to stand out; now they get them to fit in.  I don't know why folks are concerned with either.  In any case, there is a booming market for tattoo removal, and some can't be removed; it will be interesting to see what becomes of the "cracker" guy.  :)