Tag Archives: southern seminary

Christopher Hitchens Was Wrong: Martin Luther King, Jr. on “Cosmic Companionship” at Southern Seminary

This from the archival history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a site that has a lot of information on the school (including a section called “Our Lore” that has a number of fun and interesting stories):

In April 1961, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was gaining national fame for his work for racial equality, he visited Southern and spoke in chapel. Ethics professor Henlee Barnette, who invited Dr. King, remembered the event nearly forty years later. After an introduction by Ethics Professor Nolan Howington, King rose to speak.

“Dr. King slowly and quietly recognized Dr. Howington, members of the faculty, students, and visitors. Then he expressed his pleasure at being in the seminary chapel again. He noted that he had been in the chapel two or three times before with his mother who was organist for the Woman’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention meeting on the campus.

The title of Dr. King’s prophetic and challenging message was The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension. In this lecture, he observed that we were witnessing the passing of the old order and the emergence of a new age. With the decline of colonialism, new governments and countries were being born, especially in Africa…In conclusion King declared that we must have faith in the future, that problems can be solved, and that we have “Cosmic Companionship” in the task ahead of us. King closed with a typical peroration that characterizes many of his messages by noting that there is something in this universe which justifies the poet’s conviction that truth will triumph.

This speech was given in an academic setting, which perhaps accounts for a lack of the typical animation on the part of King in his concluding remarks. Through it all, he was calm, deliberate, articulate, serious. He delivered the whole message without a note, looking straight at the people in the pews who sat spellbound throughout the speech.”

King then spoke to a seminary ethics class for some time about his advocacy for equality and participated in several meetings in downtown Louisville, shuttling from place to place in a funeral home limousine with a police escort.

–From Barnette’s The Visit of Martin Luther King, Jr., Part TwoReview and Expositor

It is good to remember events like this, and also to note how King’s spiritual and theological convictions drove his advocacy on behalf of a just cause (see Denny Burk’s thoughts here).  Christopher Hitchens was wrong.  The Christian moral imagination has accomplished amazing feats of virtue and justice throughout the world’s history.

We remember that today.



Filed under Southern Baptists, southern seminary

TEDS PhD Graduation 2011: Why The Labor & Pain of Seminary Is Abundantly Worth It

Casey Lewis of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas just wrote a nice post reflecting on his MDiv experience (HT: TGC).  It’s worth checking out.  Here’s a snippet from his comments on plugging in at church:

Don’t coast through your seminary career thinking you will minister when you take on your first church. Find a church now, plug in, spend as much time with the leadership there as you can, and minister to as many people as you can, even if it is not from the pulpit. In addition, you should give the church you attend during seminary the same opportunity to examine your calling to the ministry as you did your home church.

Read the whole thing.  Well done, Casey.

This reminded me of a series of posts I did some years back entitled “Seasons of a Seminarian,” parts 1-3.  I wrote them in 2007 just before graduating from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with my MDiv (the image is of SBTS in winter) in order to try to show fellow seminarians and would-be seminarians just how meaningful my time at SBTS was.  My opinion of that degree has not changed in the least.

Seasons of a Seminarian: Beginning
Seasons of a Seminarian: Middle
Seasons of a Seminarian: End

Here’s how I began the series:

Every Christian seminary is different, and SBTS is no exception to this rule. Our seminary has its own quirks, its own flavor, its own strengths, its own weaknesses. And yet we can also guess that the experience of a Southern student has much in common with that of a Trinity student, a Southwestern student, a Westminster student. Whether in Illinois, Texas, Philadelphia or Louisville, every seminarian goes through certain seasons, certain periods defined by common trials and joys. It is the purpose of this series to briefly reflect on the various seasons of a seminarian through my own three and a half years at SBTS. I hope that my recollections interspersed with more general commentary on seminary life will prompt recollection about your own seminary experience. In covering this subject, then, we remember and celebrate the experiences of that uniquely blessed and taxed creature: the Christian seminarian.


Now I’m at a different threshold: graduating from another seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, with a doctorate in Theological Studies and a concentration in Historical Theology.  Surveying the last eight years of my life, it was abundantly worth it to move to Louisville and do an MDiv and then move to TEDS and do a PhD.

I blogged on this a little while back after SWBTS President Paige Patterson said that in-person ministry training was best (using Navy SEALS as a helpful example), and also at The Gospel Coalition’s national conference following a panel on this topic with Mohler, Carson, Driscoll, and others.  I got a bit of pushback on that post, but I haven’t moved an inch from my conviction that Patterson is quite right.  It’s hard to move to another place; it can require dexterity to find a job to support your family; juggling classes, church, and work is never dull; there will be times when you wonder whether it would have been way smarter to do online classes and save your family the hassle (and your body the sleep).

But there is no substitute for an in-person MDiv, especially when you couple it with service to a Christ-exalting local church.  It’s hard, it’s challenging, and it is not necessarily “at your own pace,” but it is wonderfully enriching, stretching, and eye-opening.  Provided students make contact with their professors, and provided students plug into their local churches, the residential MDiv is far superior to watching videos in your home and posting comments in discussion forums.

Many of us are grateful that online training makes it possible for people who simply can’t move to still earn a meaningful education.  But that gratefulness, at least on my part, does not at all mitigate the fact that attending classes with peers, learning from real-life instructors, and generally experiencing the benefits of the campus community offers the student an incredible opportunity to learn in an immersive way.

This is true of my PhD as well as my MDiv.  Lord willing, I will graduate tomorrow from TEDS.  I am very glad that I actually went to TEDS, got to know a whole new group of peers, knew my professors, played basketball on Friday mornings, and generally experienced life in Chicagoland.  What a formative time it was, and how grateful I am for an excellent degree under the supervision of Douglas Sweeney and committee members John Woodbridge, George Marsden, and Richard Averbeck.

This is not to say that my time at TEDS was not without challenge.  It was.  But it was a blessed season, a gift of a very kind God, one that I would encourage fellow future ministry workers to enter as soon, and as fully, as they possibly can.


Filed under ministry, seminaries, seminary life

Carl Henry’s Quest for the “Evangelical Harvard” and Other ETS 2011 Topics

For the small but vibrant community of people known as “evangelical theologians” or “theology aficianados” or “those zealous about the extracalvinisticum,” the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society is a big deal.  I love ETS.  This year’s meeting, centered around the theme “No Other Name,” will be held this week in San Francisco, California from Wednesday, November 16-Friday, November 18.

There are a number of fascinating topics on the docket this year, as there always are.  Andy Naselli has listed one such event, a panel on the “spectrum of evangelicalism” that features several contributors to this notable and needed book on the same topic, just published by Naselli and fellow TEDS alum Collin Hansen.

Perspectives on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism

Thursday, November 17, 2011 | 3:00-6:10 pm | Parc 55 – Divisadero

Moderator/Introduction: Andy Naselli (The Gospel Coalition)


R. Albert Mohler Jr. (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary): A Conservative Evangelical View on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
Kevin T. Bauder (Central Seminary): A Fundamentalist View on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
Carl Trueman
(Westminster Theological Seminary): Response to Albert Mohler and Kevin Bauder

This panel should be very interesting.  You can also see Andy’s carefully enumerated reasons to attend ETS.  He is characteristically thorough.  I would add a fifth reason–because it’s fun!–but I would not wish to do untold violence to his list.

Here’s the full listing of everything happening at ETS 2011.  Wednesday morning–11/16/11–at 10:10am in Yerba Buena 7 (I have utterly no idea where this is), I’m going to do a paper on this: “Of Holy Grails and the ‘Evangelical Harvard’: Carl Henry, IFACS, and the Untold Story of the Great Christian University.  I’m one of four presenters in the Church History: American Christianity section alongside historians A. Donald Macleod of Tyndale Seminary and John Hannah of Dallas Theological Seminary.  My topic stems from my dissertation on the re-enchantment of the evangelical mind in the mid-twentieth century, which ranges over figures like Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, and others.

Wherever you end up at ETS, I’m sure that this year’s meeting will be richly profitable.  The fact that it’s in San Francisco doesn’t hurt anything, either…

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Filed under history

Al Mohler and Patrick Schreiner on Seminary: Why Not Get All You Can?

I’ve enjoyed a recent round of posts on seminary from SBTS MDiv graduate Patrick Schreiner.  Patrick is a sharp thinker and writer.  I would encourage you to read his short, punchy posts on the seminary experience and how to do it well.

From his insightful blog, Ad Fontes:

“The windup of my 10 pieces of counsel:

  1. Take the hardest classes.
  2. Learn the Languages.
  3. Take some professors who will teach you the art of exegesis, and others who will teach you the science.
  4. Be in ministry/don’t be in ministry.
  5. Take teachers, not classes.
  6. Concerning grades.
  7. Stay away from distance learning.
  8. Take teachers who will teach you a method.
  9. Go for depth and breadth.
  10. Seek out a mentor. 
  11. In sum: Love God and do as you please.”

Here’s a snippet from number six that I thought was well-done:

Dr. Shawn Wright put it perfectly; “For some of you it would be a sin to get an A in this class, for others of you it would be a sin not to get an A.”

Dr. Wright understands everyone comes in with a different situation lingering behind the happy faces in class. Some are working full time, and have 3 kids at home, and taking a full load. Others are single and being supported from the outside.

Generally it is right to try to get good grades. You will probably learn more and get the most out of the classes by striving for A’s. Therefore study hard and learn the material.

However, at the same time, if you are not looking to get your PhD or teach, it does not matter as much. Few church search committees will bypass you because of a C on your transcript. (They rarely ask for the transcript).

For some, the most spiritual thing to do before a test, is to go home, take care of their kids, cook for their wives, and not study for the test tomorrow.

This is good stuff.  Many moons ago, I wrote a three part series on my own reflections from the Southern Seminary MDiv: Seasons of a Seminarian parts one, two, and three.  Glad to see other seminarians passing on advice about the long, hard, and highly rewarding task of completing an MDiv, the biggest, baddest master’s degree of them all.  There is a reason churches look for the MDiv.  It signifies that you have labored to gain tools for Christocentric ministry in order that you might “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

As Al Mohler said recently on a Gospel Coalition panel (listen to the panel audio with Mark Driscoll, Mohler, Ligon Duncan, David Helm, Bryan Chappell, and Don Carson), why would you not want to do all you could to prepare for the ministry of God’s Word, the most precious, complex, and meaningful endeavor one could undertake?  Why would you not get every drop of learning you can?

(Image: SBTS Archives)


Filed under seminary life

Is The Gospel Coalition a Good Thing? Is Harold Ockenga Like John Piper?

You can find scintillating answers to these and a number of other questions in an interview (part one, part two) I just did with historical theologian Nathan Finn. Nathan graciously asked me several questions following the release of the book I edited with David Mathis of Desiring God, The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Theology (Crossway, 2011, authored by John Piper and D. A. Carson–that’s Carson to the right speaking at the event that led to the book).

Nathan has released the interview in two parts–part one is on the forgotten Harold Ockenga and why he’s worthy of attention (and a dissertation!), and part two is about The Gospel Coalition, theological moves in the Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor-theologians.  I can’t speak to the helpfulness of my responses to Nathan’s great questions, but I can say that this was a very fun interview to do.

Nathan is a leading young scholar and historian teaching at the sister seminary of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He teaches a great deal at the highly esteemed First Baptist Durham, the reformed congregation led by Bostonian Dr. Andy Davis, a preacher worth hearing and emulating.  He has edited a number of books and chapters which I would commend to you.  Nathan likes Allison Krauss, Broadway musicals, and the Atlanta Braves, but we won’t hold that last one against him.  I’m grateful for Nathan and his scholarly, unapologetically theological ministry, which is a model for other young evangelical scholars.

I’ll leave you to surf over to Nathan’s site.  By the way, One Baptist Perspective is a fantastic church history resource.  Bookmark it or load it into your feed reader.  In the meantime, I’ll look forward with Nathan to seeing what the Lord does in the SBC and the evangelical movement more broadly to bring health to our churches.  It is my conviction that the rise and recovery of the pastor-theologian model is a major sign of future health for our churches.  I’m thrilled to see awareness of this historic model spreading, and I hope for many more young guns to catch this vision and storm the gates of hell on a mission of Christocentric dominion, possessing every tool and weapon attainable from ministry training in order to give glory to the Father.

(Image: the beloved Henry Center)


Filed under harold ockenga, history, pastor-theologian, pastoral ministry, pastors

ETS Live-Blog: Bruce Ware’s 2009 Presidential Address

I am live-blogging the 2009 Evangelical Theological Society Presidential Address by Dr. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY).  Dr. Ware’s message, entitled “The Man Christ Jesus,” looks to be customarily rich and insightful.

It is an honor to attend this address in New Orleans and to share this exciting moment with Dr. Ware, my mother-in-law, Jodi Ware, and the ETS community. Unfortunately, my wife, Bethany Strachan, oldest daughter of Dr. Ware, and her sister, Rachel Ware, are not able to attend.  But they are with us in thought and prayer.

What follows is a recap of the talk, featuring lengthy sections of Dr. Ware’s address, with a bit of commentary spliced in.  This is not the full text; you’ll need to look at a future episode of JETS for that.  This live-blog will, however, give you a sense of the message and allow you to soak up some of the richness of this talk.

With thanks to Jacob Shatzer, this is my best attempt at a faithful live-blog.  It represents less than 50% of the message, so keep that in mind. All errors are mine, and all insights are Dr. Ware’s.


It is 8:05pm here in  New Orleans.  The room is packed to the gills with evangelical theologians and those who wish to eat chicken and beans with evangelical theologians.  The banquet has concluded, and Dr. Ware has just recognized a number of key ETS players: J. Michael Thigpen (Executive Director), Craig Blaising (past President), and James Borland (longtime Secretary).  We are about to begin the address.  Eugene Merrill of Dallas Theological Seminary is introducing Dr. Ware, and doing so with graciousness and depth.

The Man Christ-Jesus

Dr. Ware began the address by posing the question that drove the formation of his paper:

The theological question that has given rise to the reflections of this paper is as follows:  What dimensions of the life, ministry, mission, and work of Jesus Christ can only be accounted for fully and understood rightly when seen through the lens of his humanity?  Put differently, while Christ was (and is) fully God and fully man, how do we best account for the way in which he lived his life and fulfilled his calling — by seeing him carrying this out as God?  or as man?  or as the God-man?  I would argue that the most responsible answer biblically and theologically is the last, “as the God-man,” but that the emphasis must be placed on the humanity of Christ as the primary reality he expressed in his day-by-day life, ministry, and work.

Ware continued by making a major claim–that the New Testament emphasizes Christ’s humanity more than His deity:

The instinct in much evangelical theology, both popular and scholarly, is to stress the deity of Christ, but the New Testament instead puts greater stress, I believe, on his humanity.  He came as the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, and he lived his life as one of us.  Now again, he was fully and unequivocally God, and some of the works of Jesus, in my view, displayed this deity — e.g., his forgiving of sin (Mark 2), the transfiguration of Christ (Matt 19, Mark 9, Luke 9), his raising of Lazarus from the dead as the one claiming, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11), and most importantly the efficacy of his atonement whose payment for our sin, only as God, was of infinite value — these and others show forth the truth that he lived among us also as one who was fully God.  But while he was fully God, and while this is crucial to understanding rightly his full identity, life, and the fulfillment of his atoning work, the predominant reality he experienced day by day, and the predominant means by which he fulfilled his calling, was that of his genuine and full humanity.  Paul captures the significance of the humanity of Christ with his assertion, “There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

Update: Al Mohler, faithful Tweeter (is that a word?), caught wind of this live-blogging.

Ware then suggested two major points that he would cover in the paper:

First, we will consider what it means that Jesus came as the long-awaited Spirit-anointed Messiah.  Second, we will explore the reality of Jesus’ impeccability and consider the means by which he resisted temptation.  In both of these features, while the deity of Christ certainly is evident, his humanity is prominent such that apart from his full and integral humanity, we cannot account for these central and pivotal identifying features of his person and work.

What, Ware asked, is the significance of the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Christ’s ministry?

The answer is:  Everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his humanity, would lack.  The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish.

Point One: Jesus as the Spirit-Anointed Messiah (Textual Support)

First, the ETS President looked at Isaiah 11:1-3 to support his claim.  He suggested that this passage teaches that

The Spirit rested on him and granted him wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, strength, and resolve to fear God his Father.  In other words, these qualities did not extend directly or fundamentally from his own divine nature, though divine he surely was!  Rather, much as the “fruit of the Spirit” of Galatians 5:22-23 are the evidences outwardly of the Spirit at work in a believer inwardly, so too here, these qualities are attributed to and accounted for by the Spirit who rested upon Jesus, empowering him to have the wisdom, understanding, and resolve to obey that he exhibited.

Next, Ware looked at Luke 2:40 and 2:52.  From these texts, Ware argued that Christ had to learn just as we learn, and that the Spirit superintended this learning:

“All who heard him,” Luke comments, “were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:47).  Now, the common evangelical intuition for accounting for this event in Jesus’ boyhood is this:  of course Jesus astonished these teachers of the law in Jerusalem; after all, he was God!  And while he was God, this answer misses the very hints Luke himself has given in the verses that bracket this account.  Jesus astonished these Jewish teachers, not because he was God, although he was; rather, he astonished them because as a 12 year old human boy, he had devoted himself to the mastery of the law of the Lord, and the grace of God by the Spirit had given him extraordinary insight, so that at merely 12 years old, he could astonish these greatest of all teachers in Jerusalem by the questions he asked and the answers he gave.  He truly was, then, the Psalm 1 prototype.

Ware moved next to Acts 10:38, where Peter speaks of the Spirit’s anointing of Jesus:

Peter was granted revelation from the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt 16:16); and Peter was present with Thomas and the other disciples when Jesus appeared in the room, and Thomas responded, saying to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:26-29).  Peter knows Jesus is God — which is what makes this statement in Acts 10:38 all the more remarkable.  As Peter contemplates Jesus’ day-to-day life, the good deeds he did and the truth he taught, the exorcisms and miracles he performed, and when Peter considers how Jesus did these things, he says that, “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and thatHe went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38)….Jesus was the Christ, a man born in the line of David, anointed and empowered by the Spirit to live out his life and carry out his mission.

Point Two: Jesus Christ, the Impeccable, Temptable, and Sinless

Ware moved to his second point.  He noted that he might have coined a new word–”temptable”.  I’m not sure, but I like the word.  If it catches on in the broader culture, well, now you know its origin.

The second line of support for the central importance of understanding Jesus’ life and ministry being lived fundamentally as a man is this:  he was really, genuinely tempted.   Immediately we understand that Jesus’ humanity must be involved in his temptations in a way in which his deity could not be, for James tells us, “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13).  But Jesus was tempted.  In fact, Hebrews tells us that he was “tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15).  But there is more:  Jesus was also fully God, and as such it has seemed to most theologians (myself included) that he was impeccable, i.e., he could not sin.

The paper next considered a number of proposals by prominent theologians that offer suggestions for how to understand the interaction between the human and divine natures of Christ.  Ware looked at the thought of Louis Kerkhof, W. G. T. Shedd, Herman Bavinck, Thomas Morris, and Gerald O’Collins.  I am not going to quote this section extensively.  Let me give a snapshot from the conclusion of this section, where the theologian considered what it would mean for Christ to actually commit a sin:

But, hypothetically, what would have been involved in the event that Christ had sinned?  Since God cannot sin, the deity of Christ could not have been involved in the act of sin that Christ, in this hypothetical scenario, would have committed.  But how not, since the divine and human natures are joined in the one Person of Jesus Christ in the incarnation?  Erickson suggests, “At the very brink of the decision to sin, where that decision had not yet taken place, but the Father knew it was about to be made, the Second Person of the Trinity would have left the human nature of Jesus, dissolving the incarnation.”  So, apparently Erickson considers as hypothetically possible one of the horns of the dilemma that Bavinck had wanted to avoid.

An Alternate Proposal

In this section, Dr. Ware suggested his own proposal for resolving the matter of impeccability as related to the divine and human natures.

Essentially this proposal runs as follows:  Jesus was genuinely impeccable owing to the fact that in the incarnation it was none other than the immutable and eternally holy Second Person of the Trinity who joined to himself a full human nature.  Nonetheless this impeccability of his Person did not render his temptations inauthentic or his struggles disingenuous.  How so?  Jesus resisted these temptations and in every way obeyed his Father, not by recourse to his divine nature but through the resources provided to him in his full humanity.

The ETS President then moved on to offer three major ideas.  Remember, as with the talk in its entirety, these are just summaries–there is much more to these arguments than appears here. Here’s the first:

First, we begin by affirming what is in some ways both the clearest and most important truth in the whole of this discussion, viz., that Christ in fact did not sin.  Scripture here is abundantly clear.  2 Cor 5:21, “God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him”…

Here’s the second:

Second, the impeccability of Christ is a reasonable inference from Scripture’s teaching about who the incarnate Christ is, and an inference so clear and compelling that it is unreasonable to imagine Jesus not considering this inference thereby knowing the truth of his own impeccability.  I agree here with Shedd who argued that if Christ could sin, in this hypothetical act of sin “the guilt would not be confined to the human nature” but the divine nature also would be stained.  Since this cannot occur to the immutably holy divine nature, once the union of human and divine natures has occurred, the human nature is rendered impeccable by virtue of its union to the impeccable divine nature.  Or one might think of the issue in these terms:  Since the holy One born of Mary was fully God as well as fully man, this would imply, it would seem, some limitations in expression both for his divine and human natures.

Here’s the third:

Third, and most important for the position I am here arguing, the impeccability of Christ by virtue of his impeccable divine nature united to his human nature, has nothing directly to do with how he resisted temptation and how it was that he did not sin.  Yes, Christ was impeccable, but his impeccability is quite literally irrelevant to explaining his sinlessness.  The common evangelical intuition seems to be this:  if the reason Christ could not sin is that he is God, then the reason Christ did not sin must likewise be that he is God.  My proposal denies this symmetry and insists that the questions of why Christ could not sin and why he did not sin require, instead, remarkably different answers.

Ware, a true teacher, then expanded upon this third point with an illustration:

To understand better the distinction here invoked between why something could not occur and why it did not occur, consider this example:

Imagine a swimmer who wanted to attempt breaking the world’s record for the longest continuous swim (which, I’ve read, is something over 70 miles).   As this swimmer trains, besides his daily swims of 5 to 10 miles, he includes weekly swims of greater distance.  On some of the longer swims of 30 and 40 miles, he notices that his muscles can begin to tighten and cramp a bit, and he becomes worried that in attempting to break the world record, his muscles may cramp severely and he could then drown.  So, he consults with friends, and they decide to arrange for a boat to follow along behind the swimmer 20 or 30 feet back, close enough to pick him up should any serious problem arise, but far enough away so as not to interfere in any way with the attempted historic swim itself.  On the appointed day, conditions being just right, the swimmer dives in and begins his attempt at breaking the world record.  As he swims, all the while the boat follows along comfortably behind ready to pick up the swimmer, if needed.  But no help is needed; with determination and resolve, the swimmer relentlessly swims, and swims, and swims, and in due time, he succeeds in breaking the world record.

Two questions require pondering from this illustration:

Now, consider two questions:  1) why is it that in this record-breaking event the swimmer could not have drowned?  Answer:  the boat was there all the while, ready to rescue him if needed.  But 2) why is it the swimmer did not drown?  Answer:  he kept swimming!  Notice that the answer to the second question has nothing at all to do with the boat, i.e., it has nothing to do with the answer to the first question.  In fact, if you gave the answer of “the boat” to question 2, the swimmer would be both astonished and dismayed.  It simply is not true that the swimmer did not drown because the boat was there.  The boat, quite literally, had absolutely nothing to do with why the swimmer did not drown.  Furthermore, although the swimmer knew full well that he could not drown due to the boat following along behind him, that knowledge had nothing to do with why he did not drown, since he also knew that if he ever relied on the boat his mission of breaking the world record would be forfeited.  So although he knew that he could not drown due to the boat, he also knew that he could only accomplish his goal by swimming as if there were no boat there at all.

The theologian then connected the main point of this illustration to Jesus:

Jesus lived his life in reliance on the Spirit so that his resistance to temptation and his obedience to the will of the Father took place through, and not apart from, the empowerment provided him as the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David.  Recall again Peter’s claim that God anointed Jesus “with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and that he went about doing good (the moral life and obedience of Christ) as well as healing all who are oppressed by the devil (the miracles he performed), “for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).  Although he was God, and although he was impeccable as the God-man, nevertheless he did not resist temptation and obey the Father by his divine nature but by the power of the Spirit who indwelt him….He knew that to rely on “the boat,” i.e. on his own divine nature, would be to forfeit the mission on which he was sent.  Hence, he had to fight temptation as a man, in dependence on his Father and by the power of the Spirit, and so he did, amazingly, completely without ever once yielding to any temptation.

Conclusion: Relevance to Related Areas

Ware closed by first addressing what Hebrews 5:8-9 mean.

These verses read, “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered.  And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation.” Hebrews 5:8-9 means this:  through the things that Christ suffered, through the trials, temptations, and afflictions of life, he learned to obey increasingly difficult demands of his Father until at last, he was prepared—made mature, if you will, strengthened in faith and character—to go to the cross….His resistance of temptation and obedience to the Father was not automatic since these were not brought about from his impeccable divine nature.  Rather, he learned to obey as a man, and as a man he fought temptation and sought to obey in increasingly demanding situations of life.  But he always did obey, and through this regular obedience he was made ready, strengthened, for the biggest challenge of all, death on the cross, in order that he would be the source of our eternal salvation.

He then looked at how 1 Peter 2:21-22 relates to our lives:

Christ left us an example that “we should follow in his steps, who committed no sin . . . .”  If Christ resisted temptation and obeyed the Father out of his divine nature, how could he be an example for us?  If Christ lived out his life and carried out his mission in the power of his divinity, how could we be commanded rightly to follow in his steps?  But if Christ lived the prototype of new covenant life, by prayer and the word and the power of the Spirit, and then if he shared those same resources with us, his followers, then we can rightly be called to live like him.  Indeed the expectation is so fully right and real that Peter has the audacity to say, as we’ve seen, “follow in his steps, who committed no sin.”


The message, in my initial judgment, was typical Dr. Ware: full of fresh thinking, full of Scripture, and thoroughly doxological.  With you, I look forward to the publication of this address, and to the stimulation it will engender among evangelicals, those who worship the God-Man, Christ Jesus.


Filed under Bruce Ware, Jesus Christ

Al Mohler and Walter Price on the Young Guns

One of the most encouraging trends in evangelical church life that I’ve seen recently is the engagement of the older and younger generations of pastors and church leaders.  Instead of standing apart from and casting aspersions at one another, current leaders are reaching out to younger leaders, and helping them along.

Walter Price, senior pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California, recently spoke at the California Southern Baptist Convention and gave a terrific challenge to his peers to enfranchise younger SBC pastors.  Price, a leader in the SBC, blogger, and a trustee of Southern Seminary, offered the following remarks (passed on to me by one of Price’s trainees, Mark Rogers):

I am not here today to claim the demise of the CSBC. It hasn’t happened…yet. What I am here to say is, ‘There’s an iceberg off the starboard bow and we better wake up.’

What is the iceberg? You already know. You saw it yourselves when I asked you to stand by age groups. The time has come for someone to sound the alarm. I do not purport to speak for the younger generation. They are eloquent in speaking for themselves. But the signs that I see are not encouraging. For all intents and purposes, except for a very few exceptions, we have lost those in their 20’s and 30’s.

If that statement causes you to react against them from under your gray hair, you are way off the mark. These young Baptists are passionate for the Kingdom of God. They are passionate to see people from every tribe and tongue and nation gather round the throne and worship our Holy God. Theirs is not a youthful rebellion. For them it is a matter of (and this is my word not theirs) stewardship. Is this convention the way that God wants me to invest my life, my time, my energy, my resources? I’m afraid many of them are finding little reason to answer in the affirmative.

Al Mohler recently sounded the same note in a blog recounting a meeting with several young Acts 29 pastors:

They love the church. They have resisted the temptation to give up on the church or to be satisfied with a parachurch form of ministry. They love people, love the church, and see the Body of Christ in terms of God’s redemptive purpose. They like the gritty work of the ministry and are not afraid. They understand the joy of authentic Christian community and they give their lives to it. They are recovering a biblical ecclesiology in its fullness. They affirm and practice church discipline. They see the glory of God in an inter-generational congregation of believers growing into faithfulness together.

These are words from two experienced, godly mentors that all young guns should take note of.  The older generation is (increasingly) willing to work with us.  To cite one of many settings that shows this, this year’s SBC meeting in Louisville included much cross-generational dialogue: David Dockery treated a number of young guys to a meal and listened to their ideas, Baptist21 was warmly received, and Johnny Hunt graciously sponsored the B21 lunch. 

Whether you’re a Southern Baptist or not, take note of these encouraging developments.  Let’s pray that this kind of dialogue and enfranchisement escalates in the SBC and other settings, and that Paul’s own words to Timothy to  “guard the deposit” are lovingly passed, as they have been for thousands of years, from one generation to the next (2 Timothy 1:14).

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New England Ministry: An AP Report on Encouraging Developments and Discouraging Trends

Religion TodayFrom an Associated Press story linked on John Starke’s blog:

Trinity College’s American Religious Identification Survey released this year showed New England overtaking the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region in the country. Twenty-two percent of respondents here said they have no religious faith of any kind, highest in the country.

In a Gallup poll this year, all six New England states were in the Top 10 least religious in the country, with Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts claiming the top four spots.

The story describes a gathering at a church plant pastored by a Southern Seminary grad and former Clifton Baptist Church member, Chris Bass:

On a recent fall Sunday, a younger group of about 50 people gathered to hear Bass’s message of salvation. The hymn “How Great Thou Art” was sung to a contemporary tune and echoed through an airy sanctuary that could fit seven times more worshippers. During fellowship afterward, Watertown resident Ralph Filicchia said he was drawn by curiosity. He said local churches have been killed by the “poison” of liberal theology, and he was eager to support a conservative church.

But the 74-year-old said he’s lived in New England long enough to avoid rosy predictions. Churches that preach traditional dogma, such as Redeemer Fellowship, can be branded intolerant.

“Up here, it’s tough, it’s tough,” Filicchia said. “It always has been.”

Read the whole thing. This church was planted by the NETS church planting residency program in Vermont, a program I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog.  In addition, note the PCA pastor mentioned, Doug Warren; a number of my close friends in college attended the church he pastors and benefited hugely from it.

There are encouraging developments, spiritually speaking, in New England.  They may be small at times, and they may be mixed with much frustration and prolonged discouragement, but the Lord has by no means given up on this region.  Here’s hoping for many more to join Bass, Warren, Wes Pastor and many others and take up the long, hard, and eternally rewarding work of New England ministry.

(Photo: AP)

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The Link 10.17.09: John Wooden, I Am Second, and eastmountainsouth

wooden1. John Wooden is still dropping quotables.  How many of us will be doing that at age 99? (Image: LakersTopBuzz)

2. Came across this evangelistic website somewhere, and found it interesting: I Am Second.  Check it out.  Here’s the blog.  And here’s a story about it.  A creative way to witness, seems like.

3. The Kevin Durant conundrum: such good stats, yet a bad plus/minus rating (which means, basically, that his team loses more points than they gain when he’s on the court).  What was that in the back?  Did you say…defense?

4. Mark Driscoll is now writing for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” deal.  Cool.

5. Southern Seminary theologian-in-training Dave Schrock searches out what it means for every church member to be a “biblical theologian,” working off of Thabiti Anyabwile’s material.  Great stuff.

6. Quoting Jason Kovacs, Z lists some piercing statistics related to orphans.

7. Have you ever heard of eastmountainsouth?  To put this simply, they make beautiful music.  If windswept prairies and forgotten towns could play instruments and record them in Dreamworks labs, this is what they would sound like.  Don’t get hung up on the recording date–buy this album.

–Have a blessed weekend, all.


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Important Event: CBMW Panel on the Trinity

I’ve just heard from CBMW’s John Starke about a discussion at Southern Seminary in a few weeks that continues the Ware/Grudem vs. McCall/Yandell debate begun on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in October 2008 (here’s the coverage of the event by Christianity Today).  Without taking a position on this matter, I want to let you know that the conversation is continuing.  Here’s what John had to say:

On September 9th, on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood will host a panel discussion on the Trinity and Gender with Dr. Bruce Ware and Dr. Gregg Allison.  Here is the blurb that will be sent out concerning this event:

The Trinity and Gender Panel Discussion

CBMW and the School of Church Ministries are sponsoring a panel discussion that will include Dr. Bruce Ware and Dr. Gregg Allison on issues concerning the Trinity and Gender.  The panel will discuss the authority-submission structure of the Father and Son and how it relates to current gender debates.  The panel discussion will take place on September 9, 2009, 10-11:00 am, Heritage Hall.

The audio and video will be available through SBTS and CBMW’s websites.  This issue is hotly debated within seminary campuses, churches, and theological societies.  You can read Bruce Ware’s article “Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission Among the Essentially Equally Divine Persons of the Godhead” for a good summary of the arguments.

Here’s hoping that this discussion serves to advance the broader conversation and further the church’s understanding of the Holy Trinity, the cornerstone reality of our Christian faith and heritage.

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