An Invitation to Study Theology at Southeastern

Knowing and loving God. This is the greatest thing bar none…. It is the work of theologians-and of all believers as they do theology-to serve God by discerning what is true about the most crucial issues of life. The task is to learn of God. The privilege is to love God passionately with the mind.” -David Clark

Theology is the science which derives the knowledge of God from His revelation, which studies and thinks into it under the guidance of His Spirit, and then tries to describe it so that it ministers to His honor. And a theologian, a true theologian, is one who speaks out of God, through God, about God, and does this always to the glorification of His name.” -Herman Bavinck

The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn things pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt.” -J. L. Dagg

The three quotes above combine to give one a good perspective on the nature and task of theology, and on how Southeastern’s theology faculty seeks to teach theology-theology is done for the purpose of knowing and loving God, glorifying God, and improving the heart. One thing I will add is that Christian theology is always done with an eye toward obedience not only in one’s personal life, but in the life of the church. In other words a truly Christian theology issues forth in ministry and mission. Christian doctrine and theology shapes and forms our strategies, methods, and practices in preaching, pastoring, church planting, counseling, etc.

Those of our readers who might be interested in taking courses at Southeastern will have the opportunity to take courses under the following professors:

Nathan Finn (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies and is the co-editor of Domestic Slavery Considered as a Scriptural Institution (Mercer, 2008), assistant editor of The Journal of Baptist Studies, and editor of Help to Zion’s Travellers (BorderStone, forthcoming). He has also contributed to Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue (B&H, 2008) and Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future (Crossway, 2009). Dr. Finn teaches courses in historical theology. He is known for many things-beards, bowties, Bulldogs, etc.-but none more significant than his being extraordinarily gifted as a writer and a classroom instructor.

John S Hammett (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Professor of Systematic Theology and Associate Dean for Theological Studies and the author of Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Kregel), “The Doctrine of Humanity” in A Theology of the Church (B&H) edited by Danny Akin, and “The Lord’s Day” and “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” in The Baptist Faith and Message (Rowman & Littlefield). The SEBTS family knows Dr. Hammett as the quintessential Christian scholar-impeccable thorough in his scholarship, gracious in his demeanor, balanced in his judgments.

Ken Keathley (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Professor of Theology, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, and Dean of the Faculty. He is the author of Salvation and Sovereignty (B&H), 40 Questions on Creation (Kregel) with fellow SEBTS professor Mark Rooker and edited by Ben Merkle, “The Work of God: Salvation” in A Theology for the Church (B&H) edited by Danny Akin and articles in Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry and Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. Dr. Keathley brings a wealth of experience to the classroom, having served as a senior pastor at several churches and a dean at several seminaries. In addition, he is known for his quick wit, his teaching abilities, and his expertise in the doctrines of creation and salvation.

Steve McKinion (Ph.D., King’s College, University of Aberdeen) is Associate Professor of Theology and Patristic Studies and the author of Words, Imagery, and the Mystery of Christ: A Reconstruction of Cyril of Alexandria’s Christology (Brill), the Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Isaiah (IVP, forthcoming), and Invitation to Historical Theology (Kregel, forthcoming), and the editor of Isaiah 1-39 in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series (IVP) and Life and Practice of the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (NYU Press). Dr. McKinion is the pastor of New Covenant Fellowship. Furthermore, he is the Doogie Howser of the theological world, having finished his PhD at the University of Aberdeen in just over a year’s time, being hired to teach at SEBTS when he still looked like he was 14 years old. He is known as an excellent preacher, classroom instructor, and writer.

Bruce Riley Ashford (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology & Culture, and Research Fellow for the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith & Culture. He is the editor of Theology and Practice of Mission: God, the Church, and the Nations (B&H: Forthcoming, Sept. 1, 2011), and the author of several articles and essays. Dr. Ashford is a disciplined drinker of Earl Grey tea and a variety of coffees, a book lover, and an elder at The Summit Church.

The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies includes a core curriculum of three courses in Christian Theology wedded with courses in History of Ideas, Old and New Testament, and then combined with a second major. Students choose from English, History, Humanities and Missions in order to sharpen their higher education toward the vocation best for them.

The Master of Arts in Christian Studies is designed for laypersons interested in furthering their knowledge of God’s Word and their effectiveness for kingdom service through graduate-level education in theology and biblical studies. The Master of Arts in Women’s Studies and M.Div. with Women’s Studies equips women to lead and teach in a wide variety of ministry settings. Both the M.A. and M.Div. focus on the core biblical and theological courses required to prepare one for ministry in the church and academy. Elective courses are then tailored to intersect theology with all areas of life for women.

The M.Div. with Pastoral Ministry is the flagship degree of Southeastern and is centered in theology in biblical and historical perspective. Its intent is to prepare students for pastoral ministry with the sort of training befitting that call. Students will take courses in doctrine of humanity, salvation, the church and others along with the pastoral training components to prepare for this call. The M.Div. with Christian Ministry is the most flexible program at Southeastern and prepares one to serve in a number of contexts of full-time ministry. As above, this program is steeped in the theological disciplines taught by the men above.

The Th.M. at Southeastern is a post-M.Div. degree designed to build leaders through personal mentoring by the faculty and can be taken in a thesis or non-thesis track. The Th.M. in Theological Studies with a specialization in Theology prepares one either for doctoral study in systematic theology or for ministry in a local church or on a mission field.

The Ph.D. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Systematic Theology prepares students to teach theology proper and any number of specialized courses to college or seminary students, and to write at the scholarly level and for the church on theology from an explicitly evangelical perspective. SEBTS PhD students write on any number of systematic theological topics which intersect with the most recent scholarship in the fields of ecclesiology, soteriology, and anthropology.

We invite you to study with our Christian Theology faculty in the M.A., M.Div., Th.M., or Ph.D. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/ or http://www.sebts.edu/college/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.

Why We Believe the GCRTF Report Is Good for the Future of the SBC (6): Promoting the Cooperative Program and Elevating Stewardship

By: Danny Akin & Ken Keathley

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report cites some disturbing statistics (p. 4 of the report). It observes that the average Southern Baptist gives only 2.5% of his income to his local church. In turn, that local church on average gives only 6% to the Cooperative Program. And then as the CP monies pass through the state conventions, the typical state convention keeps 63% of the amount received, and this does not include the $50 million sent back by NAMB to the state convention through the various cooperative agreements (one-third of NAMB’s annual budget). Only a tiny sliver of a typical Southern Baptist’s income is used to send the Gospel beyond US borders. To determine whether or not this reflects a passion for the Great Commission one merely needs to remember the words of our Savior: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21).

Southern Baptists find themselves at a crossroads. The IMB has more qualified candidates for the mission field than it can currently fund. Scores of young Southern Baptist men and women have answered the call of God to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the nations. We have the privilege, as seminary professors, of interacting with these future missionaries on an almost daily basis. They are the cream of the crop; God has called the best and the brightest for this task. In terms of access to the unreached portions of the world and laborers willing to work in the harvest, this is a time of unprecedented opportunity. Southern Baptists must rise to the challenge of this situation by responding with a radical commitment to sacrificial giving and biblical stewardship.

Component Six of the GCRTF Report calls upon the state conventions to take the leadership responsibility for promotion of the Cooperative Program and encouragement of stewardship in general. The report affirms the continuing role of the Southern Baptist Convention in these tasks, and calls upon the Executive Committee to work closely in concert with the state conventions. But the Task Force argues that the state conventions should be assigned the leading role. The logic for this move is straightforward. The state conventions are the entities that receive cooperative program funds from the local churches, and are strategically positioned to promote the CP.

Roger Oldham wrote a white paper in response to Component Six. (He wrote his response to the GCRTF’s initial Feb 27 progress report. In that report, Component Six was listed as Component Four). Oldham argues that the SBC has always taken the primary role in promoting the CP, and that generally that role has been fulfilled by the Executive Committee. His article provides a great deal of historical information concerning the development of the Cooperative Program and how it has been promoted through the years. But the thesis of his paper misses the point being made by the Task Force: from the very beginning it was understood that the state conventions are in a unique position to promote the CP, and therefore they should take the lead role.

In fact, the disagreement about which entity should take the lead in promoting the CP highlights once again that the Executive Committee is probably misnamed. Perhaps it should have been called the Disbursement Committee, or something similar, because its primary function is to disperse the funds collected by the Cooperative Program. It is certainly not the executive branch of the SBC, and its director should never have been viewed as a CEO. It is unfortunate that this is currently the case.

Stewardship involves seeing one’s life, dreams, and ambitions through the lens of the Great Commission. It means understanding that everything about us belongs to Christ and that we are His possession. He has entrusted us with certain gifts, abilities, resources, and opportunities in life which we are to utilize and exercise for the Gospel and God’s glory. Stewardship is about expressing our love and devotion to the Savior with a steady, consistent commitment to His Kingdom. It means operating with the keen awareness that a day of reckoning is coming at which we will all give an account for how we managed that with which He entrusted us.

Southern Baptists have never hesitated to emphasize stewardship, and historically we are known for our commitment to honoring the Lord and advancing His Kingdom through the giving of our tithes and offerings. But the statistics cited in the opening paragraph indicate that something has gone awry. Component Six of the GCRTF calls for Southern Baptists to greater faithfulness in the area of stewardship. This is a call we are obligated to answer for the glory of King Jesus and the good of the nations.

Salvation & Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach

Salvation & Sovereignty

Salvation & Sovereignty

Of all the possible worlds God could have created, there is one in which you read Ken Keathley’s Salvation & Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach, become convinced that Molinism best explains the biblical teaching on salvation, and make a comment on this blog to that effect. But this raises the question, “Is that possible world the one which God sovereignly willed?” Well, perhaps the only way to know for sure is to purchase the book, read it, and make a (freely chosen) assessment of Keathley’s argument.

Keathley says he wrote the book because (1) he was convinced of certain central tenets of Calvinism but not convinced of certain of its corollaries; (2) he was convinced of certain aspects of Arminianism but not convinced of some of its corollaries. He writes, “I see salvation as a sovereign work of grace but suspect that the usual Calvinist understanding of sovereignty (that God is the cause of all things) is not sustained by the biblical witness as a whole.” Keathley argues that Timothy George’s ROSES acronym (Radical depravity, Overcoming grace, Sovereign election, Eternal life, Singular redemption) is more helpful than the TULIP acronym for articulating the biblical witness to God’s salvation. Further, he argues that Molinism (a doctrine named after Reformation-era scholar Luis Molina) provides a helpful conceptual framework for reconciling biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty with biblical teaching on human freedom.

Keathley states that he intends for his book to be an argument “towards the truth, rather than about the truth.” In other words, his desire is not to win an argument with Calvinists, but to work toward an understanding of the biblical testimony: “We are brethren, not adversaries, working in a mutual effort. Until we cross the veil, none of us has arrived on the journey of faith. So I look forward to this cooperative effort, convinced that the end result will be that we are better and more faithful witnesses of our common salvation. Calvinism and Molinism are much more similar than they are dissimilar, so I endeavor to avoid what might be called the narcissism of trivial differences.”

DTS Old Testament scholar Gordon Johnston’s review of the book is interesting: “Finally, an approach to the doctrines of salvation that breaks the impasse between the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism. . . I migrated from Calvinism to Molinism several years ago, but have been unable to point others to a suitable primer-until now.”

We invite you to come study with Dr. Keathley, who teaches courses at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. level at Southeastern, where he is Professor of Theology and Dean of Graduate Studies. Keathley is also the co-author with Mark Rooker of the forthcoming 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.