Southeastern Seminary (5): A Community Devoted to Faithfulness & Excellence

[Note: This blogpost is the final installment in a five-part series which articulates and expounds Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s mission to be a Great Commission seminary.]

In this brief and concluding installment of the current series on Southeastern Seminary’s mission to be a Great Commission seminary, I wish to note very briefly our desire for our work to be marked by faithfulness and excellence. As participants in the life of this seminary, we find it incumbent upon us to do our work faithfully in the hope that our work might also be marked by excellence. Excellence cannot always be achieved, though faithfulness can. We can always do our work faithfully by allowing Scripture to be normative and formative in our teaching and writing, and by engaging in our work with the purpose of knowing and loving God, and participating in his mission in this world. To the extent we are able, we will work together as a community of scholars and teachers, integrating the various disciplines and remaining in conversation with other fields of learning.

Most importantly, we will work hard to evoke from our students a curiosity and excitement about the things of God.  To be a stagnant or lazy faculty member is a sin. Although he was not writing about seminary professors, George Steiner’s quote, to which we referred earlier, is salient: “To teach seriously is to lay hands on what is most vital in a human being. . . . Poor teaching, pedagogic routine, a style of instruction which is, unconsciously or not, cynical in its mere utilitarian aims, are ruinous. They tear up hope by its roots. Bad teaching is, almost literally, murderous and metaphorically, a sin. It diminishes the student, it reduces to gray inanity the subject being presented.” As seminary professors, may we never reduce to gray inanity the breathtaking splendor of our Subject—the Triune God himself. May our efforts be pleasing to him. May we teach in a manner worthy of our calling.

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I appreciate the interest this series has received from readers inside and outside the Southeastern community. For those who might be interested, I’ve made this blog series available as a single essay. You can download the essay below.

Bruce Riley Ashford, “A Great Commission Seminary

Book Notice: “Excellence” by Andreas Köstenberger

Andreas Köstenberger has been a colleague of mine for a decade now. He is the author of scores of books and articles, the number of which perhaps exceeds the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. His most recent book (I think he averages a book per week), Excellence, is a powerful and elegant little volume arguing that God is excellent in every way, and that he is the fountainhead of excellence, and that we as scholars ought to participate in his excellence by doing our work with excellence. We at BtT interviewed Dr. Köstenberger, the results of which are found below. (The interview was excellent.)

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your family, and your ministry.

I have taught at Southeastern for 15 years and for about 10 years served as Director of our Ph.D. Program. My wife Marny and I have 4 children (including 3 teenagers!). I also edit the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and serve as Director of Acquisitions for B & H Academic.

2. What was the impetus for writing this book? What does it contribute to the field?

Years ago, I wrote a little pamphlet entitled “The Marks of a Scholar.” It was originally a talk I gave to some of our Ph.D. Students at the request of John Sailhamer, who preceded me as director. Somehow Justin Taylor of Crossway Books learned about this booklet, perhaps through my blog, www.biblicalfoundations.org, and encouraged me to expand the booklet into a larger treatment on scholarly excellence. My primary burden is to tell theology students that they need not compromise their faith and their commitment to a high view of Scripture for the sake of gaining approval by their scholarly peers. I believe my book is one of the few books on excellence that grounds the call to excellence in the character of God, hence the subtitle The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue.

3. What is the primary argument of the book?

My main thesis is that God is excellent in every way, and he has called us to excellence as well. My main passage in Scripture is 2 Peter 1:3-11, which grounds God’s call to excellence in his own excellence and urges believers to make every effort to add to their faith excellence and a series of other virtues. So I start out my book with a chapter on the excellence of God and a discussion of 2 Peter 1:3-11. After this, I deal with God’s call to holiness (sanctification) and the biblical notion of spirituality. The remainder of the book is taken up with a discussion of over a dozen Christian and scholarly virtues in 3 major categories: vocational, moral, and relational excellence, including virtues such as diligence, courage, wisdom, interdependence, and, of course, love.

4. What, above all, do you wish for readers to know and/or do because of the book?

I want all of us to reflect profoundly on the excellence of God and then consider that God has called each of us to pursue excellence in everything we do. As evangelical Christians, and as evangelical scholars, we have not always been known for our commitment to excellence. My desire is for us to develop a vision of how we can glorify God by reflecting His excellence in our work and relationships. For this reason, this book truly is for everyone, not just for scholars. It certainly is very relevant for all students and those called to pastoral ministry or service in the local church.online game