A Letter From the President: Reflections On Ten Wonderful Years

On January 15th of this year I celebrated my 10th year at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  For Charlotte and me, this is almost impossible to believe!  And yet at the same time, we have experienced so many things.  As I pen this letter from Istanbul, Turkey, where we have the joy of being with students that God has called to the nations, I am aware that during these 10 years we have buried three parents, welcomed three daughters-in-law, added 10 grandchildren, and celebrated 35 years of marriage and ministry together.  On a personal level, God has blessed us with a full and joyful life.  With the psalmist I delight to sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1).

I can also sing that same verse as I think about all the ways our Lord has blessed the school I have the honor and privilege of serving.  An exhaustive list would require a book!  However, let me highlight a few of the good things our great God has done in the past decade.

1)   The Lord led us to a very clear “mission statement” that says who we are.  The shorthand version is “Southeastern is a Great Commission Seminary.”  Ask anyone on our campus who we are, and that is the answer you will receive.  The longer version simply says, “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.”  This statement guides us in all that we do.  I believe it has helped a really good seminary to become an even better seminary.  It keeps us focused on the final marching orders of King Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).

2)   The Lord has grown our school from just over 2400 to over 3100 students, and the future looks even brighter.  What a blessing!

3)   We have gone from having one endowed faculty chair to seven!  This is a double blessing in that it honors wonderful servants of God and helps the seminary financially.  I would love to see this number double in the next 10 years.

4)   The Lord has graced us with as fine of a faculty as you will find anywhere in the world.  Our students have the joy of studying under godly men and women who are churchmen, brilliant scholars, and followers of King Jesus who have a deep love for the church and a passion for the nations.  Three of my own sons and a daughter-in-law have studied or are studying here.  As a dad, I could not ask for a better place of training for my children.

5)   We built the Prince Facilities building and Patterson Hall.  Both buildings have been a tremendous asset to Southeastern in terms of how we care for the campus and teach our students.

6)   The Lord has blessed me with an incredible leadership team that has taken Southeastern to the next level.  Bruce Ashford, Jamie Dew, Ryan Hutchinson, Mark Liederbach, Chuck Lawless and Art Rainer excel in their areas of responsibility.  They make me look better than I am!  And, they are my brothers and friends who challenge me to be more like Jesus.

7)   Under the leadership of John Ewart, we launched EQUIP which allows the seminary and local churches to partner in doing theological education.  The brilliant New Testament Scholar Don Carson said this model was a utopian dream.  By God’s grace, we are making it a reality.

8)   Shortly before his death, we instituted the L. Rush Bush Center for Faith and Culture.  Initially directed by Bruce Little, it is now led by Ken Keathley.  This Center is simply stellar in engaging the cultural issues that the church must face and address with biblical truth and conviction.  I know Dr. Bush is smiling from heaven in all the Center is accomplishing.

9)   We were able to receive and house the letters and papers of Francis Schaeffer, one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists in the 20th century.  Words are not adequate to express what a gift this is.  Bruce Little rightly deserves a huge “thank you” for making this happen.

10)  Finally, and I could continue for a long time, the Lord Jesus has blessed our campus with a spirit of love, joy and gratitude.  My friend Mark Dever calls us “the happy campus.”  I think he is right.  Visitors often comment about the happy, joyful servant spirit they find on this campus.  It bears much fruit.  We know that over 90% of prospective students who visit our campus will choose Southeastern as their seminary or college.  Why?  Because students, staff, faculty and administration are happy to be here and we just can’t hide it.  And, we don’t want to!

On a number of occasions I have been asked if I aspired to be a seminary president.  The fact is when God called me into ministry in 1977 on the Papago Indian Reservation in Sells, Arizona, this boy from Georgia did not know what a seminary was.  I did not know they even existed.  No, all I have ever wanted to do since that day is please the Lord Jesus, preach the Bible, serve the church, and share the gospel.  I am the most surprised of all that I get to do what I do.  I am a blessed man far beyond what I could ever hope, imagine or deserve.  Thank you King Jesus for these wonderful years.  If it is your will, I look forward to many more.

 

Book Notice: SEBTS Dean of the College Jamie Dew Publishes “God & Evil” (IVP)

Evil. Every human language has a word for it and every human being has a concept of it. Yet theologians, philosophers, and humanity in general have wrestled with how to understand it. In so wrestling, they usually wrestle with a related question: what does God have to do with evil?

Southeastern’s Dean of the College, Jamie Dew, recently published a volume addressing just these issues. Dew co-edited God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled With Pain (IVP 2013) with Chad Meister (Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana) in order to provide an answer to these two basic human questions.

As they state in the book’s introduction, “people generally believe that God exists and that evil is ubiquitous. The problem is that these two claims seem to conflict” (p. 9). Thus humans often ask the two questions noted above without a way to get at the answer. Only “conflict” remains. Thus co-editors Dew and Meister have pulled together an expert team of philosophers and theologians. Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, William Dembski, Win Corduran, Southeastern professors Bruce Little and Dew, and several others address the conflict in four main parts.

Part One asks “what is evil and why is it a problem?” Part Two discusses “some reasons God might allow evil” and engages Augustine, Irenaeus, and Leibniz on the topic. Part Three investigates evil and other themes such as “evil and original sin” and “evil and the resurrection.” Finally, Part Four puts evil in dialogue with other issues such as hell, creation, and evolution. Thus one could read this book straight through or read an individual chapter on the topic most interesting and relevant to him/her. Either way, God and Evil encourages and challenges readers to integrate evil into a world over and in which God reigns.

For its comprehensive and flexible approach, God and Evil will serve well pastors, college and seminary students, and interested laypersons. Pick up a copy here and start reading. Also, if you are a prospective college or seminary student you can study philosophy with the likes of Jamie Dew and Bruce Little at the College at Southeastern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Click the links and check out the admissions page.

 

 

An Invitation to Study English and Humanities at the College at Southeastern

The College at Southeastern offers a robust core curriculum which includes courses in English and the Humanities. One unique aspect of the college is its four required seminars in the History of Ideas. These seminars are capped at 15 students, and consist of reading 8-10 great books per semester, and writing 10 short papers and 2 long papers per semester. The authors covered include philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, etc.), theologians (Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, etc.), historians (Herodotus, Thucydides), and the great literary figures (Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc.). As the students read these books, they learn to read for deep comprehension, and to respond to the ideas in those books Christianly and critically.

In addition to the History of Ideas seminars, Southeastern offers a further fine array of courses in the Humanities and English. The student wanting to study literature has the opportunity to take courses such in World Literature, British Literature, and American Literature. The student wanting to study the humanities in more depth may take further seminars in Theology & Culture, Philosophy & Science, History & Politics, for example. These courses and others are taught by a fine faculty, including:

John Burkett (Ph.D. candidate, Texas Christian University) is Instructor of Rhetoric and Composition and Director of the Writing Center at Southeastern. He is the author of The Rhetoric of St. Augustine of Hippo: De Doctrina Christiana and the Search for a Distinctly Christian Rhetoric (Baylor University Press); further, his dissertation critically examines Aristotle’s rhetoric. Dr. Burkett is the quintessential scholar, known both for lofty thoughts and detailed careful scholarship.

Jamie Dew (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ph.D. candidate, University of Birmingham) is Assistant Professor of History of Ideas and Philosophy and is the author of Science and Theology: An Assessment of Alister McGrath’s Critical Realist Perspective (Wipf & Stock), co-editor with Norman Geisler and Chad Meister of God and Evil (forthcoming, IVP), and co-author with Mark Foreman of How do We Know? (forthcoming, IVP). His specialties lie in philosophy of religion, the history of philosophy, and epistemology. He is currently working on a second Ph.D. (in religious epistemology) at the University of Birmingham, England. Jamie is also a senior pastor and the father of two sets of twins.

Steve Ladd (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy. Dr. Ladd’s expertise lies in the realms of logic, rhetoric, and metaphysics. He is a student favorite in our college’s History of Ideas seminars.

Ivan Spencer (Ph.D., University of Texas at Arlington) is Associate Professor of History and Philosophy and author of The Christology of Liberation Theology. His areas of specialization include the history of ideas, liberation theology, and classic literature. Dr. Spencer is a student favorite in the college’s History of Ideas seminars, and is known for roasting, grinding, and brewing his own coffee beans.

Michael Travers (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is Professor of English and Senior Fellow, L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture and is the author of The Devotional Experience in the Poetry of John Milton (Edwin Mellen), Encountering God in the Psalms (Kregel), and co-author with Richard D. Patterson of Face to Face With God: Human Images of God in the Bible (Biblical Studies Press), and has published articles in Bibliotheca Sacra, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Baker), Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, and Westminster Theological Journal. Dr. Travers is known as a master teacher, a mentor to young faculty, and a fine writer.

Further, through these faculty members, Southeastern offers the following curricula in English and Humanities:

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and English double major promotes an understanding of literature, trains students to think critically and write effectively, and encourages them to reflect on the central issues of the human condition-all from a Christian perspective. Core curriculum classes in composition emphasize the skills of effective research and writing. English major classes present literature from within a Christian worldview. Students will be equipped to understand culture and to communicate the gospel to others clearly and effectively.

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies and Humanities double major introduces students to the influential ideas of Western civilization. Students read great works of literature, history, philosophy, theology, and political theory and interact with them from a Christian perspective. Additional courses in philosophy, literature, and history prepare students for graduate work in seminary, classical studies, literature, history, law, or any other field in the liberal arts. Students may also choose to major in Christian Studies and minor in English or Humanities.

We invite you to study with our English and Humanities faculty in the B. A. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/college/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.