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, 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: n Texas Campus 800-259-5673 n Arkansas Campus: 866-645-6699 n

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;

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.  :)

May 4, 2015

BMATS-Ark. Annual Report to the Board

[In April I delivered the annual seminary report to the BMATS board.  Due to a lot of positive interest, I'm posting the outline below]

Annual Report to the Board of Trustees
The BMA Theological Seminary
Conway Campus, Year 2014-15
Dear Trustees and Administration,

I am pleased to be able to present to you the annual report on the development and progress of the BMATS, Arkansas campus for the academic year 2014-15.  A year ago I presented a proposal including goals for the revitalization of the Arkansas campus.  So, as we come to the end of the first year of our BMATS Arkansas revitalization effort, and prepare for year 2, it would be appropriate to highlight how those goals were realized as well as to highlight goals for the upcoming academic year.  An outline of the developments and progress for the 2014-15 academic year is below.

Faculty/Staff. We raised the money to hire our first fulltime Ark. campus faculty member with minimal impact on previous budget. Close to 100% was raised by a combination of new support plus reallocation of previous administrator’s salary.  In total we added/hired 6 new faculty and staff and began integrating them in the 2014 Fall semester.  In addition to the new campus administrator, we added the following: 1.) Recruiter/Administrative Support Specialist, Zach Nance (M.Div., Th.M., Philosophy of Religion); 2.) Director of Women, Janet L. Rickett (M.A. Biblical Counseling); 3.) Professor of Historical-Theological Studies, Andrew V. Snider (M.Div., Th.M., Th.D. Systematic Theology); 4.) Professor of Biblical Studies, Gary O'Neal (M.Div., Ph.D. New Testament); 5.) Professor of Church Ministries, Steven Crawley (M.B.A., M.A.R., Ph.D. Leadership); 6.) Professor of Church Ministries, Scott Attebery (M.Div., D.Min.).

Courses. For the first year, we expanded our course and program offerings by developing and implementing new cutting edge options.  These included: 1.) Selected Topics in Theology (Dr. Snider), which addressed pivotal issues including Homosexuality/Gay Marriage, Biblical Inerrancy, Creation, and Evangelical Inclusivism; 2.) Administrative Christian Leadership (Dr. Crawley); and 3.) Presuppositional Apologetics, in conjunction with the Paschal Lectures.  These are in addition to the standard courses we have been offering.  For Fall 2015, we are integrating two of our new faculty as part of our plan for sustained growth and expansion.  Drs. O’Neal and Attebery will be teaching courses either in-class, online, or both. 

Enrollment.  We saw a 100% increase in enrollment for in-class/traditional students from Spring 2014 to Fall 2014, and additional enrollment for online courses at both campuses.   

Campus.  1.) Administrative. After a few years of no visible presence at CBC, we were able to reestablish an essential, fully operational administrative seminary office. 2.) Academic. For the second/current semester (Spring 2015), for the first time we began offering a class in a morning time slot effectively expanding our campus from an afternoon/evening only campus to a traditional day school.  This expansion provides our students with additional classroom and course offerings, significantly increasing appeal to prospective and current students.  E.g., students who could only be on campus one day a week were provided the opportunity to have a full schedule by enrolling in the morning, afternoon, and evening classes.  Additional benefits include: potential decrease in program length, increase in academic options, and greater flexibility and convenience.

Programs. 1.) We have been able to decrease minimum enrollment time for the M.Div. on our campus from 4 years to 3 years by reducing time required to complete the original language course cycles.  E.g., instead of waiting a full year between the completion of Hebrew exegesis and Hebrew Grammar I, we have been able to schedule Hebrew Grammar I the academic year immediately following the end of the Hebrew language cycle.  Greek Exegesis and Hebrew Grammar will overlap for students choosing the 3 year program. 2.) We have turned our unofficial seminary wives program into an official Seminary Wives/Seminary Women program.  This is a free women’s discipleship program designed to assist the wives of our students, women students, and other women from the community in preparing for life in ministry.  This program is currently attended by wives of seminary students as well as women not otherwise connected to our seminary family.  3.) We’ve begun developing other women specific options and plan to host some off campus courses/programs as material, opportunities, and needs allow. 4.) We have implemented opening and closing chapel services to the academic calendar.

Advancement. 1.) Expositor’s Lunch Program. We developed and implemented an Expositors Lunch program.  This program is scheduled to meet two times per year and provides local pastors and Christian leaders the option of accessing free training in expositional preaching/teaching.  It is also creating a network of likeminded Christian leaders composed of those committed to the highest level of biblical fidelity in their preaching, teaching, and practical ministries.  Our first lunch was attended by 50-60 local pastors/leaders, even though the campus was officially closed due to inclement weather.  Over 70 registered for the lunch and we reached near capacity for our accommodations. 2.) Appeal to non-BMA. In addition to BMA pastors/leaders, the lunch was attended by members of the National Baptist Convention, SBC, non-affiliated Bible Church, ABA, Reformed Baptist, and Capitol Commission (6 non BMA affiliations), etc. By broadening our appeal, we are making significant progress towards reaching the larger Christian community in Arkansas.

Inter Campus Cooperation.  1.) Teaching/lectures. Our campus Administrator gave the Brand lectures on the subject of presuppositional apologetics (referenced above) at the Texas campus.  Lectures were well-received and continue to be accessed online via Sermon Audio. Also, he will teach an apologetics course to Latin American students with Dr. Ricky Williams via satellite in June.  Our new Professor of Historical-Theological Studies was utilized on the Texas campus both in chapel and via class room lectures through our satellite system.  He is also scheduled to teach with Dr. Holmes on our Honduras campus in the summer.  Next semester Dr. O’Neal is scheduled to teach a NT course that will also be available at the Texas campus and on our campus in the Philippines. 2.) BMATS, Ark. faculty participated in and contributed to work related to the doctrinal statement revision and white paper.

Scholarly and Professional Contributions.  Unique to an academic institution is the importance of contributing to the larger academic community.  For a theological seminary, this is particularly important in its specific domain of specialization.  Although scholarly contributions benefit the institution in ways related to accreditation and credibility, it is most important for the larger purposes of serving Christ as we seek to shape thinking, church life, and culture by producing Christ exalting materials and influencing Christian leaders.  This year, the BMATS, Ark. team made a number of contributions in these areas.

1.) Presentations and Conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society and its sister organization, The Evangelical Philosophical Society are the premier professional societies for evangelical scholars in the fields of theology and philosophy.  Several of our new team members are active in these societies.  This year, for the first time, our campus was represented at the Southwest regional meetings of both societies on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  Zach Nance presented a scholarly paper in the area of religious knowledge at EPS, while Andy Snider represented BMATS at ETS.  Similarly, Janet Rickett represented BMATS at the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference in Florida.  Our administrator represented BMATS at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics at the Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina, and the Stand Firm apologetics conference at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.  Also, he represented BMATS in an address to local state legislators at the Arkansas State Capitol.  

2.) Scholarly and Professional Publications.  Scott Attebery published a book in the area of practical decision making, entitled, Navigate: Understanding & Pursuing God's Will (Discipleguide, 2014).  Also, our campus administrator made several new scholarly, contributions in the areas of biblical studies, comparative religions, and Christian apologetics.  These were published articles in a new electronic dictionary (Lexham Bible Dictionary, Lexham Press, 2014), a major study Bible (Faithlife Study Bible, Faithlife 2014), a forthcoming printed version of the LBD (Lexham Press, 2015), and he has agreed to a contract for a new book on presuppositional apologetics (DiscipleGuide, projected release date, 2015) with endorsements already received from key leaders in the field.  There are other contracts under discussion as well.

Trajectory. In general, our current trajectory is upward.  We have a general increase in prospective student interaction with new inquiries coming from a variety of sources.  There is a general increase in excitement among the current student population as they see the positive changes, focused direction, and upward trajectory of the campus, administration, faculty and staff.  Students are excited about implementing their training in their local churches (are already doing so) and in seeing Christ honored with more faithful service to Him.

Serving Christ,

R. Brian Rickett, Th.M.; Th.D./D.Min. studies
Professor of Biblical Studies
Conway, Ark. Campus Administrator
The BMA Theological Seminary

Apr 4, 2015

The Rabbi and the Cow

In the late '90s, I had a good Jewish friend who's father had been an Orthodox Rabbi, and who's ministry was to try and move conservative and reformed synagogues back to orthodoxy.  Ironically, however, my friend had come to believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and he was passionate about trying to explain to the Jewish community why this was so.  Predictably, he was ostracized by his family.

 During the course of our relationship (he eventually moved to Israel and we lost touch), he would convey traditional Jewish folklore, rabbinic wisdom, various sayings and so on.  More interesting, though, is that he viewed the NT through the lens of his Jewish upbringing, which gave a lot of interesting perspective to our Bible studies.  On one occasion, he related the following story that was so quirky, it was hard to get passed its quirkiness to process the wisdom behind it.  There are, however, some timeless principles illustrated by the tale that have caused my mind to revisit the story numerous times over the past 17 or so years since he related it to me.  

In identifying most with the Rabbi (from my role and experiences as a Pastor), the questions most perplexing are, "What about those who cannot get access to the Rabbi's information?" and the consequent "How does the Rabbi handle the information he is supposed to keep secret?"  Pastors (and other spiritual leaders) are proclaimers of the truth, but just as much, they are secret-keepers, even when keeping secrets cost them greatly.  These are the questions that return to me.  What questions are perplexing to you?  Here's the story:

The Rabbi and the Cow

There was a rabbi, a very good and pious man, who wanted to see justice in the world. But it often seemed to him that good people got punished, and that bad or undeserving people thrived and prospered. He pondered about this, and he found no solution for his problem.
Now, this rabbi used to study at night, and sometimes he got a famous visitor—Elijah the Prophet.
“Come,” said the prophet on such an occasion. “Tomorrow I wish to go out into the world. I want to see whether the Jews around here are still hospitable; I want to experience how they keep this great mitzvah of our father Abraham. I want you to go with me. We will disguise ourselves as filthy, haggard beggars, and knock on doors. But no matter what happens, I want you to observe without asking me any questions or seeking any explanations.”
And so it came to pass. They left the next morning, and in the evening they came to a very poor hovel, hardly worthy of human occupation. They knocked and found that a poor farmer and his wife lived there together with a cow, their only possession, which provided their meager livelihood: they sold milk in the next village, and drank what was left. It kept them from starving.
The farmer couple was poor but very friendly, and ushered the two “beggars” in. They let them sleep on their best straw (they had no beds), and they shared a slice of hard bread and a cracked bowl of milk from their cow with them. They entertained the guests with friendly conversation, till they all said the nighttime prayers and went to sleep.
In middle of the night the rabbi noticed that Elijah had slipped away to the “stable,” a part of the hut screened off with a burlap sack, where the couple’s cow was kept. He wondered what the prophet might be doing there, but remembering his promise, he said nothing.
The next morning they woke up to a terrible scream. The farmer’s wife had gone to milk the cow, had found the animal stretched out on the floor, stiff and dead. “How will we live?” she wailed. “Now we will die, too!” The rabbi expressed his concern, and tried to console her. He told her to trust in G‑d, but they had to leave her sobbing.
“No questions, remember!” whispered Elijah when he saw the rabbi’s face. He blessed the poor couple, and they walked again for a whole day without having breakfast, because the cow had died. That meant no milk—and there was nothing else.
That evening they came into a village, and heard happy music. They found a nice house made of brick: servants were bustling about, and they were told that the wealthy owner of this nice house was preparing a party for the engagement of his daughter. “It’s better not to disturb him now,” warned a butler. “He doesn’t like beggars in normal circumstances, and he will be very irritated if you talk to him before his feast. Better go somewhere else!”
“No,” said Elijah, “we want to share in his joyous occasion, and we will ask for lodging and food from him.”
“At your own risk. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” said the butler before he hurried into the house with some bottles. And the butler was right. The owner of the house treated the beggars harshly, and threatened to have them removed by his servants. But they pleaded so desperately that finally he gave in and let them sleep in his barn, just to get rid of them. He warned them not to show themselves at the party; he would certainly not give them any food. “Beggars!” he muttered into his beard. “Let them go and work. They should be outlawed!”
And so, the rabbi and Elijah went to sleep with an empty stomach, and it was drafty and chilly in the stable. There was only old, smelly straw to lie on, because the owner did not spend much money on his animals.
The next morning they woke up, recited the Modeh Ani and washed their hands with water from a trough. Elijah pointed to a large opening in the wall of the crumbling barn. “That’s why it was so cold in here!” he exclaimed, and told the rabbi that they would repair that crack with some old tools that were in the barn.
The rabbi wanted to object, but he saw the stern look on the prophet’s face, and he obeyed without asking questions. They did not bother to tell the owner that they had fixed his wall; he was too busy receiving his guests, and would be angry to see the ragged beggars at his doorstep.
As they headed back to the rabbi’s village, Elijah said to him, “Í know that you did not find it fair that the cow of the good couple died, and that the wall of the miser was fixed for free. But in G‑d’s world, there is more to things than what meets the eye . . .”
“When we were sleeping in the poor couple’s hut, I heard the rustling of big wings from outside. It was the angel of death, who had come to take the life of the farmer’s wife. I pleaded with him to leave this couple alone, but as you know, the angel of death does not go away emptyhanded. It cost me a lot of trouble, but finally I was able to convince him to take the cow. And I gave a blessing to the couple when we left. They did not know it, but at that very moment a new cow, wandering and lost, was making its way to their hut. They will find it and take care of it. And not only that: G‑d will bless them this year with a child, which is their deepest wish.”
“Ï see,” said the rabbi. “And what about the miser?”
“‘Ah, him,” sighed Elijah. “Well, in the wall of his barn someone had hidden a jar with gold coins. That person died before he could tell anybody, and the gold stayed in the wall. Now, if the miser would repair that wall by himself—he would do it himself, because he is too stingy to hire a man to fix his barn—he would find the jar. But we fixed the wall for him, and the gold will stay hidden until a worthier person than he will find it. Also, the party of his daughter will not bring him luck: she will die before the wedding, the rich man will have bad luck in business and end up as a beggar, filthier and hungrier than we were, and he will go from door to door and sleep in barns, if he is lucky. Do you have any more questions?”
“No,” said the rabbi. “Now I understand that this world is not what it seems to be to us, and we can only trust G‑d to do justice in His world. Thank you for taking me on your trip . . .” And with this Elijah disappeared, and the rabbi went to do a mitzvah.
The above story posted by BY SHOSHANNAH BROMBACHER, here

Jan 5, 2015

Are you Living What you Believe?

[The present article is from The Challenge, News of The Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, Fall 2012]

"Your theology is not what you say it is when your circumstances are comfortable. Rather, it is what you demonstrate it to be when your circumstances seem unbearable: when you experience excruciating, interminable pain; when things seem unfair—when you realize your personal hopes and dreams will never be realized. Your thoughts, and indeed your actions in those moments, are your theology.

Your theology is what you think and do: when you get the diagnosis; when you get the call from the ER chaplain informing you that your loved one is there; when you realize that the threats against you are not merely perceived, but are actual; when you understand that you are trapped in a miserable, dead-end job because you have to support your family—those moments reveal to you, and to others, what your theology actually is.

My summer project for 2012 was to finish a Hebrew-based Ecclesiastes commentary I have worked on for several years. Having previously completed the translation and exegetical work, and incorporated relevant notes from my apologetics, counseling, and Hebrew language courses, the project looked set. To polish things off, I preached expositorily through the book on Sunday evenings for a year and then taught Exposition of Ecclesiastes for BMATS in the spring semester. In God's providence, however, instead of writing on Ecclesiastes over the summer, I ended up living Ecclesiastes.

On Monday, June 4, the day after preaching from John 9 and explaining physical evil with illustrations including automobile accidents, I was in a near fatal car crash. My injuries included a broken neck, fractured skull, two severely broken arms—one requiring skin grafts, etc. In an instant, instead of writing out my theology of suffering, I was given an opportunity to live out my theology.

The glory of Christ was manifested by His obedience to the suffering and ignominy bound up in His substitutionary death on the cross. Following His example, and that of His servants, the whole life of the Christian, but especially the minister, is to be a spectacle of the grace of God triumphing over evil in all its varied forms. In this way, as he obediently follows Christ in his own suffering, the Christian minister becomes a living object lesson for both the world and the church of what it looks like for the redeemed to transcend suffering animated by the Gospel, motivated by hope, and empowered by the Spirit.

With this understanding, the Christian’s suffering becomes the most dynamic avenue for him to magnify Christ and the hope of the Gospel. It is important to note here that the hope Scripture offers sees pain and suffering realistically. We are not taught to view suffering through rose colored glasses; pain, suffering, and evil are real and terrible consequences of the Fall. We are taught, however, that these experiences are neither accidental nor meaningless. God has given us many magnificent promises and guarantees that He will work all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, and that He has an ultimately good plan for suffering and evil known at least to Him. As important as preaching and teaching are, there is something more important, more dynamic to which we must give attention—faithful living, especially in suffering. No sermon, lecture, or book will be as powerful, convincing or Christ-honoring as this." 

--R. Brian Rickett, September, 2012