May 29, 2014

Masoretic Accents and Structural Analysis: A Test-case from Isa. 40:3 and Mark 1:3

[Some edits for precision 5/30/14]

In the Fall (2014), we will see another class of students enroll in Hebrew Exegesis.  One of the most interesting components of this course (to me) is when the students learn to do structural analyses based on the masoretic accents.  The
"Masoretes placed accents into the Hebrew text in order to preserve the proper reading and meaningful interpretation of the Scriptures, especially the mode of cantillation in their public reading . . . . The vowel pointings preserve the traditional pronunciation and the accents preserve the traditional modulation based upon logical divisions of the text" (Barrick and Busenitz, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Grammar, p. 45).
The system of accents is analogous to a highly developed system of punctuation that includes direction on how to stress words and syllables.  One reason (among many) that these are interesting is that as suggested in the 2nd line of the quote above, they indicate views on interpretation of the text.  In other words, the system of accents show not merely how to read the text, but give some indication as to how the text ought to be interpreted, or at least how the Masoretes thought the text ought to be interpreted.  Consider, though, one clear cut example of this in the case of Isaiah 40:3.

Observe the wording of Isa. 40:3 in the translations below:
  • ESV "A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"
  • NAS "A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.'"
Notice that according to the punctuation, the clearing/preparing of the way is: 1.) for the LORD (LORD in all caps is the translation of Hebrew יהוה/YHWH), i.e. Yahweh, our God, 2.) in the wilderness, and 3.) such that a way/path is to be prepared. I.e. Yahweh our God is coming, and He is coming in the wilderness/desert, and a way is to be prepared for Him in advance.  For those interested in the arrival of the Messiah, this is quite an exciting prospect.  However, observe the punctuation of the KJV:
  • KJV  "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'."
Based on the punctuation of the KJV, the prophet seems to be the one located in the wilderness in connection to his prophetic ministry, rather than this verse being a clear reference to place of the inauguration of Messiah's ministry.  The significance is one of emphasis and clarity.  

Later in the NT, Mark 1 begins by identifying John the Baptist as the forerunner to the Messiah who is preparing the way, and quotes Isaiah 40:3 (cf. Mar 1:3) to make this point.  The narrative goes on to present Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy as He goes out to John in the wilderness, is baptized by John in the Jordan River, and is then confirmed as the Son of God by the symbolic presence of the Spirit accompanied by the affirming voice from Heaven.  Prior to these actions, Mark 1:5 shows that the people had been going out to John in the wilderness and were repenting of their sins, i.e. they were experiencing a moral straightening prior to Jesus' arrival.  Notice, though, the punctuation of the KJV, ESV, and NAS for this NT verse:  
  • KJV  "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'." --Mark 1:3
  • NAS The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.'" --Mark 1:3
  • ESV "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" --Mark 1:3
The punctuation of the ESV and NAS shift in the NT to that of the KJV.  Before looking at the Hebrew text, consider the following questions: Who was in the wilderness, the prophet, or the Messiah, or both?  What difference does it make?  The punctuation of the ESV and NAS in Isa. 40:3 suggest the Messiah would inaugurate His ministry in the wilderness--a highly unusual prospect in view of his royal lineage.  What would be the nature of the preparatory work in anticipation of Messiah's arrival, and what are the implications if this work occurs in the wilderness?    

Early Greek texts did not employ much in the way of punctuation.  Rather, the punctuation in English for the most part represents the opinion of modern editors.  However, the masoretic accents provide some assistance, especially when combined with a fuller structural analysis.  The Hebrew text reads: 

  ק֣וֹל קוֹרֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ׃ 

If we diagram the verse based on the accents, we see something rather significant--the presence of a parallelism featuring a chiastic structure, a structure clearly intended by Isaiah.  Observe the following structure:

Notice when we diagram the verse according to the accents, we see a clear parallelism containing a chiastic structure highlighting the verbs “prepare”/“make smooth” as well as the prepositional phrases “in the wilderness”/“in the desert,” which identify the location of the Messiah's arrival.  (The phrase “make smooth” (ישר) often communicates the idea of moral straightening.) This suggests that Isaiah intended to indicate the incredible idea that Yahweh/God himself would be in the wilderness/desert upon the inauguration of a new era (Isa. 40:3ff).  Or, at the least, the chiastic structure draws attention to: 1.) the place of action, and 2.) the kind of action. 

Even more, the masoretes apparently also considered this verse extraordinary and intentionally set off the verse as indicated by the unusual space in the right margin.  This can be verified by a simple glance at Codex Leningradensis.  Notice the significant indentation:

Codex L, Isa 40:3,4-5a

The arrival and presentation of Jesus as Messiah seems to be an even clearer fulfillment of this OT prophecy when the accents of Isa. 40:3 are taken into consideration.  Even more striking, is that this interpretation seems to be corroborated by Codex Alexandrinus (A) in Mark 1:3.  The Greek text of A here employs the large (majascule) Φ for Φωνὴ ("voice") and Ε for ἐν ("in"), but no majascule for ἐτοιμάσατε ("prepare," see below) as is found in LXX and NT Byzantine text.  Observe the clear majascules of Codex A below:

Again, this reading produces: "A voice (Φωνὴ) of one crying, 'In (Εν) the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.'"  This understanding agrees with the accents and structure of the Hebrew of Isa. 40:3.

So, why did the alternate punctuation of the KJV develop to begin with?  It follows the Septuagint's (LXX) less than precise rendering of the Hebrew, which, as presented by Ralfh, capitalizes "E" on ἑτοιμάσατε in Isa 40:3, yielding "Ἑτοιμάσατε" instead of ἑτοιμάσατε, i.e. "...'Prepare....'"  Observe the circled capital "E" in the photo-text below:

Again, this renders something like "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'."  This is also the form of the Byzantine/Majority text as may also be seen below. Observe the highlighted capital letters:

So, in this case, there seems to be a clear, although unintentional, obfuscation of the intention of Isaiah by both the LXX, Byzantine Text, and subsequently the KJV, as well as NAS, ESV, and others in the NT. 

Note: The snip of Alexandrinus and BYZ are possible thanks to BibleWorks Software's manuscript project. 

May 25, 2014

BMA Theological Seminary (Arkansas) New Faculty/Staff Profiles 2014-15

(NOTE: Concurrent with the acquisition of new faculty/staff, we are offering 24 scholarships for new students for Fall 2014!  SEE here for details)

Below are the BMA Theological Seminary Arkansas campus NEW staff, faculty, and administrative profiles for 2014-15, as appearing on the BMATS Arkansas Facebook page.  Additional profiles will be added to this blog (every other week) as they are unveiled on our FB page.  Once completed, these will each be added to the Arkansas campus tab of the BMATS website

I. NEW ADMINISTRATIVE PROFILE: R. Brian Rickett, Administrator and Professor of Biblical Studies, The BMA Theological Seminary, Arkansas Campus

This year we have totally revitalized our Arkansas campus. This began with the appointment of Brian Rickett as our new Arkansas Campus administrator. Professor Rickett has been serving in our Biblical Studies department since 2009, but officially transitioned into the role of BMATS Ark. Administrator this summer. Along with this change has been a restructuring of our faculty and staff, the addition of new courses, events, and programs (some to be revealed in the next few weeks). We'll continue to highlight new faculty and staff over the next few weeks. However, we invite all friends, supporters, alumni, and denominational leaders to attend our Fall convocation service on Friday, August 22nd at 7:30PM in the CBC Toland Chapel. Our new Administrator will present a vision for the revitalized campus and will introduce the new faculty and staff. Our Dean, Dr. Philip Attebery, will be present from the Texas campus, and we will conclude the evening with a reception in the CBC Community Room, from 8:45-9:30PM. [Note: All students are required to attend.]

NEW ADMINISTRATIVE PROFILE: Prof. R. Brian Rickett (M.Div., Th.M., Old Testament; Th.D. studies, Old Testament, The Master’s Seminary; D.Min. in progress, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Administrator of BMA Theological Seminary (Arkansas Campus) and Professor of Biblical Studies

We are excited to announce that Prof. Brian Rickett has become the new Administrator of the BMATS Arkansas campus.  His stated ministry objectives are: To equip and build up the body of Christ in such a way as to bring God the greatest glory possible.  When preaching, to handle the Word of God with the greatest amount of integrity by performing scholarly exegesis on the biblical text, and then presenting His Word to the church in a clear, applicable manner; when pastoring, to conduct biblically uncompromising ministry that accomplishes the goals given to the NT minister in Scripture;  in a teaching environment, to exhort and challenge men aspiring to the office of overseer to take the greatest pains necessary to base their lives, teaching, and ministries on the Word of God accurately handled.
Brian married his college sweetheart, Janet in 1993 while a Bible major at Central Baptist College, and immediately began serving on the pastoral staff at his home church of Immanuel Baptist in Sheridan, Ark.  After graduating in 1996, they moved to Southern California where he attended and later taught at The Master’s College & Seminary.  Janet earned the M.A. in Biblical Counseling and also worked at The Master’s College.  Since 1996, the pair has participated in numerous ministry ventures including 2 church plants and 2 institution starts.  Additionally, Brian has taught/facilitated over 50 separate academic courses mostly at the graduate level, but spanning Jr. High through post-graduate levels.  He has taught 5 biblical/theological research languages as well as courses in each of the divisions of a traditional theological curriculum.  He has published several articles, has contributed to several books including a Hebrew Grammar, a Bible dictionary, and works in Old Testament studies.  He is the founding Pastor-teacher of The Bible Church of Beebe, which was planted in 2009. He is also currently pursuing a D.Min. in Christian Worldview and Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is/has been a member of The Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelical Philosophical Society, and Society of Biblical Literature.  He blogs periodically at


A. Zach Nance (M.Div., The BMA Theological Seminary; Th.M., Philosophy of Religion, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), BMATS Ark., Recruitment and Administrative Support

This year, BMATS Arkansas has/is benefiting from several faculty/staff additions. We will be profiling these throughout the Summer. This week's profile is of Zach Nance (see attachment). Feel free to contact Mr. Nance with any recruitment/admissions related questions. We are excited to have him aboard!

Recruitment and Administrative Support
Zach Nance joined BMATS Arkansas in the fall of 2014 and serves in Recruitment and Administrative Support. A native of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Zach moved to Conway to attend the University of Central Arkansas and play football. Upon graduating from UCA with a major in Sociology and a minor in Communication, he started attending classes at the BMATS Arkansas campus. In 2012 he graduated with a M.Div. from BMATS and went 
on to earn a Th.M. in Philosophy of Religion from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (2013) and is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Zach has been a guest lecturer at Central Baptist College covering various topics in Philosophy and Apologetics. His research interests include: Triperspectivalism, Presuppositional Apologetics, Philosophical Theology, and Religious Belief.  Zach has served on staff at Mt. Olive Baptist Church (2009-2012), and has served in leadership positions in collegiate ministry. ­ He and his wife, Ashley, live in Conway.

B. NEW STAFF PROFILE: Janet L. Rickett (M.A. Biblical Counseling, The Master’s College), Arkansas Director of Women

Since the establishment of BMATS Arkansas, we have had graduate programs available for women seeking formal academic training.  At the same time, the wives of our ministry students have always been a part of our seminary community.  Whether formally enrolled or not, there is an ongoing need to integrate the two groups as well as to provide all of our women with discipleship training and resources.  In order to better facilitate relationships among all of our women, as well as to equip the wives of our students without requiring them to enroll, we have begun a new Women’s Studies/Seminary Wives Discipleship program and appointed Janet L. Rickett as its director.

This program began informally about two years ago when Mrs. Rickett began meeting regularly
with the wives of some of our seminary students.  Since then enthusiasm among our women has grown, and so the time has come to provide a more formalized program.  In addition to informal biblical counseling training, our seminary wives discipleship program will provide opportunity for interested women to participate in DiscipleWay, the signature discipleship curriculum of BMATS. 
In addition to Janet’s active and integral involvement with her husband in all of his various ministries, she has been the Director of Development of a crisis pregnancy center (Glendale, CA), worked in the biblical counseling department at The Master’s College (Santa Clarita, CA), contributed a chapter to the book Women Counseling Women (Harvest House, 2011), served in the Seminary Wives Discipleship Program of The Master’s Seminary, and has ministered to women in various other capacities.  Additionally, she participates in the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.  Janet will be accompanied by Pam Snider (wife of Dr. Snider), with whom she participated in the seminary wives discipleship program at The Master’s Seminary. 


A. Andy Snider (MDiv; ThM; ThD--Systematic Theology), BMATS Ark., Professor of Theological-Historical Studies

Note: As previously mentioned, we will be profiling several NEW faculty members in the upcoming weeks (1 every other week), as well as new staff. One thing you’ll notice is that we have selected individuals with a balance of academic and church/ministry interests. In the profile below, observe that the academic specialization is systematic theology, but a more specific interest is in salvation, theology of worship, etc. This means that the below scholar/minister is not merely an academic, but desires to be intensely practical and ministry focused. This balance of the academy and church is a key distinction of BMATS.

Professor of Theological-Historical Studies
NEW FACULTY PROFILE: Dr. Andy Snider (Th.D. Systematic Theology, The Master’s Seminary), Professor of Theological-Historical Studies.

We are excited to announce that Dr. Andy Snider has joined the BMATS Arkansas faculty and will begin teaching classes in the fall 2014 semester. After attending Cedarville University in the late 80s, Andy married his college sweetheart, Pam, and they settled in south
west Ohio. Andy worked in the corporate world for 8 years before the Lord placed in his heart a desire to serve the church in full time ministry. So in 1997 Andy and Pam packed up their three daughters and moved to the Los Angeles area to attend The Master’s Seminary. What they intended as a three-year interlude became a 17-year chapter in life as Andy finished the M.Div., Th.M., and Th.D. degrees at TMS and taught theology there for 11 years. An active member of the Evangelical Theological Society, his research interests include aspects of the doctrines of God, Scripture, Salvation, and theology of worship. In addition to teaching at The Master’s Seminary, Andy has taught in churches, pastoral training conferences, and seminaries in the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, and South Africa. He has written various papers and articles along the way, and he periodically blogs at The Sniders have one married daughter, one engaged daughter, and a third daughter who is in high school. Pam is an accomplished pianist and piano teacher and for many years has been involved in music ministry and discipleship in the church. Andy, Pam, and their youngest daughter will be moving to central Arkansas in June.

Also, see Dr. Snider's blog post entitled "Intellect, Worship, and the Irreducible Complexity of the Christian Life," here:

B. NEW FACULTY PROFILE: Dr. Gary O’Neal (Ph.D. New Testament, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary; M.Div. BMA Theological Seminary), Professor of New Testament and Discipleship

Note: We are continuing to profile NEW faculty/staff members who are joining our team--1 every other week for the summer. As previously mentioned, one thing you’ll notice is that we have selected individuals with a balance of academic and church/ministry specializations. In the profile below, observe that the academic specialization is New Testament, but the professor is also an experienced pastor with an unusually strong interest in discipleship. For example, his doctoral dissertation begins with the line, “One of the most heart-wrenching issues with which pastors must deal is that of believers who fail to follow through on their commitment to Christ.” He then goes on to complete his study entitled, “Bringing many sons to Glory: the ἀρχηγός motif in the letter to the Hebrews.” Additionally, note the theme of his many writing/publishing endeavors. As said of a previous faculty member, this means the below scholar is not merely an academic, but desires to be intensely practical in his field.

NEW FACULTY PROFILE: Dr. Gary O’Neal (M.Div., The BMA Theological Seminary; Ph.D. New Testament, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary), Professor of New Testament and Discipleship

We are excited to announce that Dr. Gary O’Neal has joined the faculty at BMATS Arkansas!  Over the summer, Dr. O’Neal has become Pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church in Little Rock, AR and concurrent with this transition, will begin serving our Arkansas campus Fall 2014.  Dr. O’Neal is a BMATS alumnus and has already been teaching online courses for our distance education program, as well as for Southeastern Baptist College.  Since 2001, he has been an active writer and contributor for DiscipleGuide, the publishing house of the BMA.  More notably, he has been a key contributor to DiscipleWay, the signature discipleship material/method used in discipleship courses at BMATS and in other departments of our association.  Additionally, he has been a regular writer of Compass Teacher (Advancer) publications each year.  

Prior to moving to Arkansas, Dr. O’Neal was the pastor of Greenwood Baptist Church in Fulton, MS where he served for 14 years. He earned a Ph.D. from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (New Testament studies) in 2013, has a M.Div. from The Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Trinity Baptist College of Jacksonville, FL.  He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Gary grew up in south Mississippi, attending Paramount Baptist Church of Perkinston. As a young man he was working in Valdosta, Georgia, when he surrendered to the ministry and enrolled in Trinity Baptist College of Jacksonville, Florida. While attending Trinity, Gary met and married Lynn Smith. After graduating in 1986, the couple moved to New Hampshire where Gary served as an associate pastor and then pastor for 10 years. Gary had long desired to pursue further training which would prepare him to teach in a Bible college or seminary setting. To this end, he and Lynn moved to Texas so that he could attend the BMA Seminary. After finishing his M.Div. degree, he and his family relocated to Mississippi where he pastored Greenwood Baptist Church. To complete his educational training, Gary then attended Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee where he earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies 2013. Recently Gary and Lynn moved to the Little Rock, Arkansas area where he is now the pastor of Oak Park Baptist Church.  Gary and Lynn have four adult children as well as 2 grandchildren.  We are excited to have the O’Neals as part of our team!

C. NEW FACULTY PROFILE: Dr. Scott Attebery (M.Div., The BMA Theological Seminary; D.Min. Outreach and Discipleship, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Professor, Church Ministries

We are excited to announce that Dr. Scott Attebery will be joining the BMATS Arkansas faculty in the fall 2014 semester.  Scott has a B.A. in Bible (Central Baptist College, 1999), a M.Div. (BMA Theological Seminary, 2010), and a D.Min. (Gordon-Conwell, 2014).
Scott has a passion for discipleship that has been a central feature of all his ministry endeavors. 
Most recently, he completed a doctoral dissertation on the subject, entitled, “Disciples for Life: Maximizing Explicit Discipleship Training to Create Life-Long Learners of Christ.”  Early on, Scott distinguished himself as a leader in various denominational and student ministries.  He was the Director of the Association of Baptist Students, at the University of Central Arkansas from 1999-2005.  During this time he also coordinated student conferences (SOAR, Great Escape, First Week) for the BMA’s Department of Church Ministries and led in the development of short-term team mission trips and training through the BMA’s Volunteer Student Mission program.

Beginning in 2005 Scott served as pastor of Wyatt Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas for 7 years.  Concurrently, he aided in the founding, development, and instruction of a Bible Institute for Nicaraguan jungle pastors in Espabel, Nicaragua (2006), he preached expositorily through 20+ book of the Bible, and was a frequent guest speaker at churches and conferences both home and abroad.  During this time, he also particularly enjoyed developing discipleship relationships and mobilizing church members for missions.

In 2008 Scott was selected as the Executive Director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, the church resource provider and publishing house of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. He is the author of Navigate: Understanding and Pursuing God’s Will and Defining Salvation.  He regularly contributes to magazines such as Mission World and Homelife magazine.  He blogs regularly at and has been featured on,, and His wife having preceded him to heaven, Scott’s most important ministry is to his son, Bryce. They love to play in the backyard and cheer for the Razorbacks together.

D. NEW FACULTY PROFILE: Dr. Steven Crawley (M.B.A., William Carey University; M.A.R., The BMA Theological Seminary; Ph.D. Leadership Studies, Dallas Baptist University), Professor, Church Ministries.

In the next of our series of announcements regarding the revitalization of BMATS Arkansas, we are delighted to announce today that Dr. Steven Crawley, the Executive Director of BMAA’s Lifeword Media Ministries, will be joining our faculty to teach classes in the field of Church Ministries.
Steve has a passion for church leadership arising from years of experience in both business and church/parachurch settings.  After earning his B.S. in Business Administration at the University of Southern Mississippi, Steve spent 14 years working in the business world as a financial analyst and corporate controller, earning an MBA at William Carey University along the way. In 2004, Steve committed his life to serving the Lord vocationally, and he came to work for Lifeword Media DiscipleWay textbook.
Ministries as its chief operating office and chief financial officer. He subsequently enrolled in BMA Theological Seminary and earned a Master of Arts in Religion, then went on to Ph.D. studies at DBU. Since 2011 he has served as Executive Director for Lifeword and recently lead the integration of multiple BMA departments into the BMA facility in Conway, AR. But beyond his ability to lead an organization Steve is devoted to living out the gospel in evangelism and discipleship, as seen in his contribution to the DiscipleWay project as its co-leader and one of the co-authors of the

Steve has been married to his best friend and ministry partner Daura for 24 years, and the Lord has blessed them with four children, ages 11-20. In addition to discipling their own children, Steve and Daura have led small group ministries together to help families apply biblical principles to their relationships at home.

May 8, 2014

Veritas Domain Interview with Professor R. Brian Rickett

[The following is my full interview with Veritas Domain, from March 26, 2014]
Note: We appreciate Brian Rickett taking the time to contribute to this interview in light of his busy schedule with ministries as a Professor and a Pastor.  It is my prayer that God will allow him a full recovery after his accident that led to a broken neck.  Mr. Rickett also maintains a blog that you might want to bookmark. –SLIMJIM
1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord and your educational background.
Current Ministry.  
I’ve always considered myself to be a minister who tries to seize every legitimate opportunity to serve the Lord, not exclusively any one thing, but just a minister, generally speaking. This has at times included pastoring, church planting, and academic work, often simultaneously.
Since my M.Div. days, though, I have been a classroom instructor specializing in biblical languages.  My testimony about this can be found here.   I began with the Logos Bible Institute of Grace Community Church, then added The Master’s Seminary, and then College.  I taught on an adjunct basis from 1998-2008, for a combined 10 years, the last 5 of which was in a full time staff position for the biblical counseling department at TMC.  During that 10 year period, I was blessed to be able to teach the Bible in five languages in a variety of settings, as well as in each of the divisions in a typical theological curriculum.
Most relevant to this interview, I considered my emphasis to be the application of original language exegesis to theological systems/methods, particularly apologetic and counseling methodology.  During my time at TMC/TMS, I was able to teach both apologetics and counseling, and integrated these into a single MABC course—BC509: Apologetics and Biblical Counseling.
Those familiar Van Tillian thought will know that nouthetic counseling is essentially Van Til’s model applied to the ministry of discipleship.  Even more, though, one of his fundamental contributions was to urge a consistent application of reformed theology to every area of thought, life, and ministry.  The guys who started/currently oversee the Biblical Counseling department at TMC did their terminal degrees at Westminster and understand this.  This was part of the reason John Street hired me to work in his counseling department back in ’04.
When we moved to Arkansas in 2008 to plant the church where I now pastor, we naturally incorporated the best of what I had learned and taught into our church’s ministry philosophy.  In that sense, our whole philosophy of ministry is a Van Tillian model applied to a Bible Church, i.e. non-Presbyterian ecclesiology.  Here’s a sample of how we typically present it:
Our philosophy of ministry is three pronged.
1.  Preaching/Teaching. Key to the health of any church is biblically faithful preaching and teaching.  God takes the preaching and teaching of His Word extremely seriously (James 3:1).  So, a key distinctive of The Bible Church of Beebe is a very high view of those tasks (Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15).  Specifically, our pulpit and teaching ministries strive to be characterized by passionate, word by word and verse by verse expositional preaching/teaching that bring biblical principles to bear on the life of the believer.  Typically, we gather three times a week.  On Sunday mornings I preach from the NT.  On Sunday evenings I preach from the OT or address some or another issue.  On Wednesday nights I typically teach theology, counseling, or apologetics.  Currently, though, our Wednesday evening services are suspended due to a car accident in which I broke my neck.  We hope to recommence Wednesday evening services this summer.
2.  Shepherding the Flock. As the most basic function of shepherding, discipling believers is fundamental to our ministry.  Discipleship means to train believers to faithfully follow Christ.  We work hard at this.  Further, our shepherding model includes biblical counseling, which we also describe as intensive discipleship.  Biblical counseling means that we endeavor to assist believers in honoring Christ through specific challenges.  Finally, we endeavor to equip the saints “to do the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).  So, one of our distinctives is that we are committed to Christ-centered discipleship, an important component of which is biblical counseling (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-3).
3.  Evangelism/Apologetics.  We are committed to faithfully obeying the many commands of Scripture to engage in evangelism and apologetics (Matt 28:18-20; 2 Cor 10:3-5; 2 Pet 3:15; Acts 17:23-31).  In evangelism, we endeavor to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers with a message and method that honors Christ (2 Tim. 4:5).  In apologetics/irenics, we actively endeavor to defend the system of Christian truth, and to respond biblically to the many challenges that come against biblical Christianity (Titus 1:9; 2 Tim 4:3-5).  So, we are committed to evangelizing the lost and to providing a reasoned defense of the system of Christian truth.  We boldly proclaim that Christianity is not a blind faith, but that it is the only internally coherent and rationally viable worldview.
The academic year following the church’s organization, I returned to the classroom teaching biblical language and other courses for the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary.  BMATS was founded in the 1950s, has about 175 students on its two campuses, in Jacksonville, Tex. and Conway, Ark.  The Ark. campus is about 25 miles from our church.  We planted the church relatively close to the seminary to give students an opportunity to study our ministry model, while reaching an area without a similar church.
Currently, I am both the Pastor-teacher of The Bible Church of Beebe as well as Professor of Biblical Studies for BMATS—amazingly, by God’s grace I get to teach all of my favorite subjects in both the church and classroom.  Beginning June 1st, however, I will add an administrative role. At that time I will become Administrator of BMATS, Arkansas.  There will be some other exciting developments at our campus that may be of interest to your readers.  You’ll want to check up with the seminary in early June to see what’s happening.
As Administrator/Director of BMATS, Ark, I hope to continue refining our curriculum, and training students in the tasks of expository preaching, biblical counseling, and presuppositional apologetics based on solid exegesis.  Already we have brought in a biblical counseling professor (John Street) from The Master’s College on an adjunct basis to teach Introduction to Biblical Counseling.  There are other things as well, but check back in June.
Educational Background: I did a BS in Bible (1996, Central Baptist College, Conway, Ark.), M.Div. (2000, The Master’s Seminary), Th.M. in OT (2003, TMS), and did Th.D. work in OT (2004-07) for a time until a debilitating eye condition forced me to become inactive.  However, in connection to improvements with my eyes, increasing cultural challenges, and my new administrative role at BMATS, I’ve begun the new D.Min. program in Christian Worldview and Cultural Engagement at SWBTS.  I know what you’re thinking—yes, they knew who I was when they accepted me.
Going forward, I expect to devote a strong percentage of my energies to issues related to worldview and cultural engagement and in preparing Christian leaders to do the same.  I invite readers interested in getting this sort of diverse, cutting edge training to shoot me an email.  I would be glad to talk about how BMATS can give them a robust set of ministry tools they can use in their chosen ministry environments.
2.) How did you became a Presuppositionalist?
I became a presuppositionalist at TMS during my M.Div. days.  I am attracted to multi-perspectival thinking in the vein of Poythress (cf. Symphonic Theology)—considering the details of things from various perspectives, systematizing the details into a whole, developing a method, and then evaluating and practically testing the method.  Presuppositionalism was/is attractive to me for this reason.  Even more, though, I have found it to be the most biblically faithful model, as well as the most powerful method for apologetic interchange.  When I employ Van Til’s “indirect method,” I have the sense that not only am I’m honoring the Lord intellectually, but I’m engaging in a palpable act of worship.
3.) What is a typical objection to Presuppositionalism that you hear?
The objections I encounter have changed with a change in ministry venue.  Before, criticisms were based largely on misconceptions and superficial analysis.  The charge of fideism often came up, which I addressed in Chapter 2 of my Th.M. thesis on ‘04.  One interesting challenge that sometimes comes up is related to differences between Frame and Bahnsen.  I understand these, but am not disturbed by them.
Another common criticism is that it’s too philosophical.  Admittedly, often it is, but it doesn’t have to be.  The justification for the system gets philosophical real fast, particularly as proponents seek to justify the method theoretically in contrast to other approaches.  Practically, though, there is little reason for this.  People in your church can learn to use presuppositional apologetics without having to ever hear about the more philosophical stuff.  Quite frankly, most of us enjoy talking about the philosophical, theological, and nuanced aspects of such things and so we overdo it and turn people off in the process.  This is particularly true in connection to another often valid criticism—when enthusiasts go about charging non-proponents with heresy or making other overly aggressive assertions.
Right now, we have a college student in our church who is benefitting from training in presuppositional apologetics.  This semester he is sitting under a hostile professor in his philosophy course at the state university down the road.  Our student’s ability to interact with the professor’s thinking is impressive, and we’ve rarely exposed him to all of the philosophical stuff.
In our current environment, no one really questions presuppositionalism, because few people here really take apologetics seriously.  Our biggest challenge is anti-intellectualism generally.  In California, there was a clearer distinction between believers and unbelievers.  Here, most churches are seeker sensitive, tend towards mysticism, or are just dead.  Discussions over apologetic methodology just don’t come, it just isn’t where people are.
To expand the “overly aggressive” idea mentioned above, I remember years ago when a friend of mine who is a Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics introduced me to his wife.  As I recall, he is thomistic in his approach.  When we met, she was genuinely surprised to learn that I was a presuppositionalist, friendly, and didn’t intend on attacking or making trouble for her husband.  Apparently, she had been very hurt by something like that in the past and held all presuppositionalists in suspicion.  The point is that one of the criticisms of presuppositionalism that has concerned me most is this one.

4.) Some people believe that Dispensationalism and Presuppositional apologetics are incompatible.  Do you believe this is so?  Why or why not?
What does John Frame think?  I’ll side with him on this issue.  To me, this sounds like the debate over who’s the most reformed, where the guy who thinks he is the most reformed wins.  What is the minimum set of criteria required to be a presuppositionalist? If I employ a methodology where I seek to expose the internal tensions inherent within the unbeliever’s world and life view, and then to show the unbeliever how his irrationality is immoral due to his failure to acknowledge and submit to the Christian God in his thinking and living, do I qualify?  What if I successfully expose the rational/irrational dialectic in my friend’s thinking and then present the gospel as the only means via which he may ever hope to have his irrationality/immorality resolved, do I qualify as presuppositionalist?  Here’s what I teach in my classes.  See if this makes sense:
The presuppositionalist argues that: a. the espoused presuppositions of the unbeliever (his articulated worldview) cannot account for reality as we know it, andb. reality is as our experience and knowledge demonstrates it to be because it has its ultimate basis in the Christian God, without whom nothing—including reason itself, can be accounted for.  Furthermore, c. at heart the unbeliever knows this to be so, but sins against better knowledge by suppressing the truth about God in his unrighteousness (though evidence for God is abundant—existing within him and without, screaming at him from every existing fact with the result that he is culpable for his disbelief and without excuse).  Finally, d. as explained in Scripture, the unbeliever’s irrationality is fundamentally immoral and must be confronted with the gospel.
So, following Bahnsen, here’s what we do methodologically:
Step 1: Identify the opponent’s crucial presuppositions.  Do this by asking key worldview questions.  Then, once you have done the necessary data collecting, proceed to step 2.  Step 2: Criticize the autonomous attitude that arises from a failure to honor the Creator-creature distinction.  That is, call the unbeliever to account for his attempt to operate out from under the authority of God and in accord with his own reasoning.  Step 3: Expose the internal and destructive philosophical tensions that attend autonomy.  That is, perform an internal critique (transcendental critique) of his worldview.  Demonstrate to him how his worldview is unable to provide the necessary preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality, i.e. expose the rational—irrational dialectic in his thinking.  Be sure to demonstrate to him how his professed world and life views contradict his ultimatepresuppositions and render rationality impossible.  Step 4: Set forth the only viable alternative.  Expound the Christian position by providing him with the biblical answer to the tensions you have uncovered in his worldview and specifically show him how Christian-theism provides the fundamental preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality.
A simplified way to express this would be: 1.) Identify what the unbeliever believes or thinks; 2.) rebuke your friend for his failure to submit to God; 3) Show your friend how his espoused worldview is contrived and makes no sense based on what he has said; 4.) Present the Gospel as the solution to his folly and call him to repent.
Perhaps the critic of dispensational presuppositionalism has some specific objections he needs to have clarified.  I suspect these will be person variable, but part of the problem may result from a misconception that this means a rejection of covenantalism in the sense employed by Oliphint in Covenantal Apologetics.  Honestly, I haven’t heard what I thought was a credible charge of incompatibility.
By the way, the first time I taught a seminary presuppositional apologetics course, it was at The Master’s Seminary in ’04.  The opportunity came up quickly and I needed some help preparing.  So, I emailed John Frame, who was one of my thesis readers, for help.  He emailed me his personal teaching notes and gave me access to many of his own files.  The result: he aided and abetted me—a dispensationalist teaching presuppositionalism at a dispensationalist seminary.  Now who wins?
Note: John Frame is so humble, he doesn’t remember helping me, so whenever I remind him, it’s as though he’s hearing it for the first time.  Admittedly, though, he has more important things to do than to think about me.
5.) What prompted you to write your thesis on Psalm 19 and Presuppositonal apologetics?
I gave an extended rationale for this in the first chapter of the thesis.  In part, it was related to: 1.) the debate over which apologetic method was most consistent with biblical theology, and 2.) the lack of exegetical work that had been done to validate presuppositionalism.  Those familiar with Van Til will remember this was an issue he admitted.
6.) Any resources on apologetics, worldview or theology that you recommend?
Read everything by Frame and Poythress.  Read James Sire’s The Universe Next Door.  Familiarize yourself with the complete works of Francis Schaeffer including valid criticism’s of his work.  Don’t forget Bavinck’s Creation Theology.  Get a good feel for the best of what has come from the reformed epistemology movement.  A good little free book for Kindle that serves as an introduction to Greek Philosophy is John Marshall’s A Short History of Greek Philosophy.  It’s dated, in a good way, free, and imminently readable.  Familiarize yourself generally with logic and logical fallacies.  You can find this sort of thing for free on the internet, but try to make sure you are reading a credible source.
Everybody by now has read Rosaria Butterfield’s book, Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert, but in case you haven’t, you should do so.  By the way, she agreed to address my apologetics class at some point.  We’re doing some different things with our seminary schedule, so we’ve made it a bit tough on her, but hopefully we can get to this.
7.) You have taught Biblical Hebrew, among other subjects.  Do you see any relationship between Presuppositional apologetics and academic work in the Old Testament?
Absolutely, yes. My Th.M. thesis provides a presuppositional critique in Chapter 3 of many OT scholars & publications related to Psalm 19.  There, I tried to show that their presuppositions have so predisposed them to modern, critical views of the text they may justifiably be accused of incompetence in their work.
Apologetics makes use of philosophy as a tool built on logic, employing it to engage in the critical evaluation and scrutiny of truth claims.  In this way, it is appropriately suited to engage in critical analysis of various theories, including but not limited to literary theories/linguistic approaches to the text, as well as the methods and conclusions of such approaches.
Let’s consider some of Tremper Longman’s work for example.  In His argument against Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes in his commentary, he commits several basic errors.
One that comes to mind combines a grammatical error with a procedural problem.  Working off of the NIV, rather than the Hebrew text, He cites Ecc. 1:12 as an argument against Solomonic authorship.  It states, “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (NIV).  He then argues that the verse identifies a time when Solomon had been alive but not king, basically concluding that since this doesn’t fit with what we know of Solomon it wasn’t really him.
This is a scandalous assertion.  Longman seems not to know that, 1.) Hebrew uses the perfect conjugation to express either simple past or past perfect verbal ideas.  Thus, “I was king” or “I have been king” are equally valid translations that any student of basic Hebrew would know—seriously.  2.) A consultation of other translations should have at least tempered his argument. 3.) In actuality, the statement seems merely to place Qoheleth’s attitude within its historical setting.  This deficiency on the part of Longman suggests either incompetence in the language, or some unargued philosophical bias that prevents honest assessment here.  But there’s more.
Citing 1:16, he argues, “It would be strange to hear Solomon state:I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.’”  Why is this strange—because there was only one king before Solomon?  However, the chronicler in 1 Chronicles 29:25 uses this exact language to make the same case.  He says, “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel” (1Ch 29:25 [emphasis mine]).  Longman seems to arrive at his conclusion without adequate scholarly reflection on the wording.  Is the phrase an idiom, figure of speech, a common way of taking into consideration powerful men including but not limited to the reigning monarch?  These would be the normal sorts of questions to ask.  These are not addressed though.  When combined with other textual arguments, one can only conclude that Longman simply didn’t read/think carefully about this.  So, failure at this juncture also looks suspicious.  But there’s more.
Longman argues that Qoheleth is a pseudonym for the one assuming the Solomonic persona, or if applied to Solomon, a “nick-name.”  He writes:
“One must ask what is gained or what possible reason could Solomon have had for adopting a name other than his own in this book?  Is he hiding his identity from someone?  If so, for what possible reason?  Does the nickname add anything to the message of the book? After all, the connection to Solomon is tenuous, and no one has argued that the name contributes to the meaning of the book.  It is much more likely that the nickname Qohelet was adopted by the actual writer to associate himself with Solomon, while retaining his distance from the actual person” (p. 4).
Apparently, Longman is unaware that Hebrew nouns typically come from verbs, so that the title Qoheleth is most likely derived from some activity for which he was noted.  Since the verb is qahal, the title Qoheleth is connected with some assembling activity, perhaps the assembling of people or proverbs, etc.
Finally, at least for this interview, it is notable that Longman begins his arguments against Solomonic authorship seemingly by committing the “snob approach” variety of the argumentum ad poplum fallacy.  He states, “Attentive readers of the Bible have felt uneasy about the simple identification of Qohelet with Solomon for a long time” (p. 4).  And, “Even in the light of strong internal and external testimony to the contrary, a small, but vocal group of evangelical scholars still advocate this [Solomonic authorship] view” (p. 3).  He then props this up with poor arguments including the ones above.
Notice how he is arguing that anyone who fails to recognize the truth of his assertion is not an intellectual (“attentive”), and it would be in the best interest of the reader to listen to himself.  There are additional points in this particular case to argue, but this is not the place for that.  I would just say that Longman’s argumentation against Solomonic authorship is scurrilous.  To answer the question, is apologetics helpful for biblical studies generally and OT specifically, again, yes.  Perhaps if more biblical scholars were trained in apologetics, a lot of the stuff that passes for biblical scholarship would never gain a legitimate hearing.  Instead, junk scholarship is published and passed off as cutting edge and respectable.