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.

 

Valentine’s Day: Rearranging our Focus

Valentine’s Day: Rearranging our Focus

By Mark Leiderbach

Church Tradition records that in the year 269 or 270 AD (the historical record is unclear), a young man living in the Roman Empire saw something that changed his life—and influenced western civilization for close to 1800 years.

While not a Christian himself and uncertain of his own beliefs, this young man saw something profound and intriguing in the lives of his Christian friends.  The mere fact that his friends were Christian made them objects of state-sanctioned wrath and persecution under the emperor, Claudius. And yet, even while persecuted for their faith, their love and devotion toward one another and toward him was astonishing.

Honored by their friendship, and intrigued by their faith, this young man voluntarily aided his Christian friends to such an extent that, even though not a Christ follower himself, he was eventually imprisoned along with them.

It was there, while he was alone and afraid in a Roman jail, that his Christian friends visited him, and this young man, whose name was Valentine, finally understood and embraced the Christian gospel.

It was not long after his conversion that the Roman officials presented Valentine with a choice: recant your faith and be freed or refuse and suffer the consequences. He refused.

As tradition would have it, he was then clubbed to death on February 14th.

Before he died, however, he is said to have sent a message to his Christian friends saying: “Remember your Valentine… I love you”

Ultimately, no one is quite sure of the exact details of the origination of the Valentine’s Day tradition, but one thing that is sure is that a Christian by the name of Valentine was martyred for his faith in the year 269 or 270.

The truly curious thing, however, is that a day originally meant to commemorate the simple, yet stunning faith of a Christian believer willing to sacrifice his life instead of denying his faith has been reduced to a day that commemorates trivial crushes with heart-shaped candies and a rather strange, almost naked, bow-and-arrow toting, pagan Greek god named Cupid.

Sadly, the pure message of the life-altering good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead as a way to offer payment for our sins and enable a new life based on faith in God and his promises has become little more than a holiday that serves as a litmus test of puppy love.

Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, amidst the hearts, flowers, cards, and guilt-motivated purchases of candy, it might be a blessing to take a moment with your sweetheart and consider the real meaning of this special day.

Why would Valentine die for his faith?

Perhaps Romans 5:8 holds the answer: it is because “God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

And that kind of love is so compelling, so stunning, so simple, that when we “get it,” it is worth living for…and it is worth dying for.

Living and dying for that kind of love makes a lot more sense than trying to get a diaper-clad, puny god to shoot a love arrow at one’s latest crush.

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Mark Liederbach is Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students, and is a Research Fellow for the L.Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture.

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True North: Christ, the Gospel, and Creation Care

In the past few years, a growing number of evangelicals have become interested in the topic of creation care. Many believers know that caring for God’s creation is important on some level. Yet, it’s often difficult to carve out a balanced, biblical position between the extremes of a virtual disregard for creation on the one hand and secularist or pantheistic environmentalism on the other. Fortunately, a growing number of conservative evangelical scholars are weighing in on this important issue, including two of our own at Southeastern Seminary.

Mark Liederbach serves as professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern. He is also the vice president for student services and dean of students. Seth Bible, who earned his PhD in ethics under Mark’s supervision, serves as director of student life at SEBTS and teaches adjunctively at The College at Southeastern. These brothers are sharp ethicists, thoughtful theologians, and committed churchmen. Their new book is titled True North: Christ, the Gospel, and Creation Care (B&H Academic, 2012).

The B&H Academic website summarizes the contribution True North makes to the creation care discussion:

Because the Bible describes the second person of the Trinity as the key agent in creation, redemption, and the restoration of all things, it is imperative that Christians seeking conformity to the image of Christ root their understanding of, and motivation for, creation care in a theology and ethic that seeks to maximize the worship of Christ throughout all creation. Discussions related to creation care and environmental ethics have become both politically charged and highly controversial. Unfortunately, while a growing number of Christian books address various aspects of creation care that either support or deny the reality of global warming or perhaps advocate various policies and practices, there is very little work available seeking to focus on, clarify, and establish the biblical and theological foundations upon which Christians ought to care for God’s world. Even more specifically, there seems to be almost a complete dearth of accessible works in theology or ethics that offers a Christology of creation care. Thus, the purpose of True North is to explore the person and work of Christ in creation, redemption, and the restoration of all things so as to establish the idea that caring for God’s creation depends not upon prognostications for or against a global warming crisis. Rather, the motivation for Christians to care for creation flows from the created purposes established in the very fabric of the universe, faithful discipleship in Christ, and the inherent goal to return to God all the glory he is due from every corner and aspect of creation.

What follows is the book’s table of contents:

Introduction

Chapter 1: Finding True North

Chapter 2: Christ the Creator of All Things

Chapter 3: Christ the Creator and Humanity’s Unique Role in Creation

Chapter 4: Christ the Incarnate and Resurrected Redeemer

Chapter 5: Eschatology–Christ the Coming King

Chapter 6: True North Pursued

If you want to read an important contribution to the creation care discussion by two sharp Southern Baptist moral theologians, check out True North: Christ, the Gospel, and Creation Care.