Apr 26, 2013

Thoughts on Seminary Training

Q.: What do you think about the statement, "Seminaries exist because the church has lost its ability to disciple?"
A.: A whole lot has been written on this already, but here are some thoughts:

At the heart of the question is the thought, "Do seminaries exist for discipleship, and if so, is this because the church has failed?"

The answer: Churches exist for discipleship, seminaries exist to train pastors/church leaders by ensuring they actually are discipled, as well to ensure they also meet the more specific qualifications and posses the necessary skill sets given in 1 Tim. 3, Titus 1, etc.
Seminary faculties are staffed by high-level pastor/elder tested and qualified faculties who help to ensure that church leaders obtain the spiritual character and ministry tools necessary for faithful ministry beyond what a typical church would be capable of doing. Note: the faculty is a group of specialized/expert teaching elders who concentrate their teaching/discipling energies on select future leaders. A key benefit of seminary is receiving the concentrated training efforts/investment of these men.
Questions for Thought: What skill sets/tools did the biblical figures possess that made them qualified for their specific ministries/roles? How did these skills/tools allow them to be successful? What is the relationship between training and effective spiritual leadership as seen in Scripture? What links can you identify between training & productivity in Christian leaders, both in the Bible, the early church, and in the present?
Consider the below schema of relationship between fields of theological study. These make up the traditional divisions of a seminary curriculum. Would a church be able to sufficiently train a pastor in these respective categories? If so, who would do the training and how long would it take?

Notice each phase is predicated upon the previous phase(s). The phases are as follows:

Level 1: Biblical Introduction (establishing the original reading), Hermeneutics, and Biblical Languages.
Level 2: Exegesis.
Level 3: Systematic Theology & Biblical Theology; Church History; Philosophy of Religion & Apologetics; Homiletics, Counseling, Christian Ed., Administration, Missions, Evangelism and Contemporary Society.
Level 4: Bible Exposition/Application

Chart developed by Robert L. Thomas (Introduction to Exegesis, p. 12), ed. by R. Brian Rickett showing relationship of theological study to fundamental precommitments/presuppositions, used in my exegesis courses.

Apr 18, 2013

America’s Arab Spring

An Observation on the Rapidity of America’s Postmodern Renaissance

Here in America, we are in the midst of an Arab Spring.  We are not Arabs, and we are not violent.  Yet, America’s stunningly rapid, hateful rejection of her Judeo-Christian heritage is a full-on revolution—in thought. Postmodernism does not accept the possibility of truth—it re-purposes, recreates, falsifies, it is revisionist in character.  It treats truth like a cheap, discarded yard sale item.  Like the Sophists of Syracuse in 5th cent. BC Greece, truth is exchanged for persuasive oratory and individual success. 

Revolutions are never un-violent, and so we are in the middle of a violent conflict of ideas, an exchange of worldviews.  A wave of postmodern thought is sweeping over our country and drowning all not attached to a life-boat.  To re-purpose the words of the 19 century British Prime Minister/philosopher, Benjamin Disraeli, we are becoming “the slaves of false knowledge; that our memories are filled with ideas that have no origin in truth; … and, like the nations of the East, pay divine honours to the maniac and the fool."

 *After a few moments more of thought, I added the line in bold.  The previous line kept conjuring up ideas of some HGTV show that turns trash into treasure by re-purposing unwanted items.  But in this case, the situation is in reverse--treasure is put on the refuse heap, or sold to the neighbor with the most change in hand.  So, this is an edit from my FB note.

Apr 13, 2013

The Culpability of the Minister in an Age of Technological Advancement

A couple of days ago at our school’s Spring lectures, I was relating to the guest lecturer some of the work that my Greek Ex. students were doing thanks to the new phenomenon of easily accessible ancient textual witnesses in high def.  It is impossible to overstate what this means to textual/biblical studies.  His response—“With greater opportunity comes greater responsibility.”—Tom Nettles

As an expert in church history, particularly Baptist history, his words were weighty, and I felt this weight—he has spent thousands of hours evaluating this issue.  I then paraphrased as best I could the following quote from Luther, which is in the introduction section of the Hebrew grammar book I use.  Luther states,

“Though the faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by simple preachers  without the languages, such preaching is flat and tame, men grow at last wearied and disgusted and it falls to the ground. But when the preacher is versed in the languages, his discourse has freshness and force, the whole of Scripture is treated, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and works.

It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study, and desires his Bible to be an open book” (_A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew_, p. 12).

Brothers, how great must be the urgency for us—His Gospel witnesses—not to be content with the novelty of what God has given us.  We must employ these new tools, in these last days, to press home the truth of God’s Word in the expansion of His Kingdom.  Let me implore you, do not be content with idle talk about God’s Word; and whatever you do, do not use it as a means of self-promotion.  Rather—preach it!

Apr 12, 2013

6 Reasons why the 2013 Darby-Beal Lectureship Series at BMATS was a Success

Yesterday concluded the 2013 BMATS DB Lectureship Series with Dr. Tom Nettles. We were blessed not only by being able to attend the lectures, but with multiple conversations and lunches with the speaker. Here are 6 reasons why the series this year was a success and for that matter, why I usually prefer this type of thing to conferences:
  1. You have an established scholar who brings a series of lectures/messages out of a sustained focus in his preferred area of concentration
  2. You gain access to an individual’s life’s work through rare personal encounter
  3. You have the advantage of continuity of presentation through repeated, focused seminars on the selected subject
  4. You are able to benefit from the best thinking produced by other academic institutions and their educational/research models
  5. You gain access to material that is rarely available to the public, and typically not geared toward self/brand marketing; lecture material is not calculated to be mass marketed or quickly accessible; it is more likely to shape a movement than react to a market
  6. Lectureship series generally challenge you to think multi-perspectivally; that is, you are usually exposed to a subject and a way of thinking about that subject that broadens your own perspectives and equips you with new intellectual tools
The series this year accomplished these outcomes for me and I’m grateful that Janet and I were able to take part.

Apr 10, 2013

I wish I had never been born!

[Excerpt from sermon 4/07/13 from John 17:1-5]

“I wish I had never been born!”  When these words are spoken, they are most always shocking—most shocking to the parents of children speaking them.

But why?—Some of the greatest, most significant biblical characters have felt, or stated this outright.  The reason—they suggest ingratitude. But why is this surprising, ingratitude is a sin we all commit and with relative frequency.

Consider the words of Jeremiah in Jer. 20:14-18:
"Cursed be the day when I was born; Let the day not be blessed when my mother bore me! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news To my father, saying, "A baby boy has been born to you!" And made him very happy. 16 But let that man be like the cities Which the LORD overthrew without relenting, And let him hear an outcry in the morning And a shout of alarm at noon; 17 Because he did not kill me before birth, So that my mother would have been my grave, And her womb ever pregnant. 18 Why did I ever come forth from the womb To look on trouble and sorrow, So that my days have been spent in shame?"
This is the most poetic expression I know of the “I wish I had never been born” concept. It should be noted that such expressions are typically expressed from someone experiencing great emotional distress, and are perhaps depressed.

Also, Scripture sometimes describes scenarios where it would have been better for some or another person to have never been born.  Judas, for example, fits this category (Matt 26:24; cf. Solomon’s references in Ecc.).