Briefly Noted: David Jones’ “An Introduction to Biblical Ethics”

Jones_EthicsIn case you missed it, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is an emerging and burgeoning epistolary powerhouse, with David W. Jones’ An Introduction to Biblical Ethics as one recent and exemplary instance. Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at SEBTS, also is the author of Reforming the Morality of Usury and co-author of Health, Wealth & Happiness, God, Marriage, and Family, and Marriage and the Family.

In An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, which hit the bookstore shelves this week, Jones provides a concise and elegant introduction to ethical reasoning based upon Christian Scripture. His is the latest contribution to the B&H Studies in Christian Ethics series, which is edited by Southeastern’s own Daniel Heimbach.

The book provides an overview of ethical methodologies and explains Jones’ ethical approach that considers three aspects of every moral event: conduct, character and goals. He then moves into chapters that explain the nature, relevancy, coherency, structure, and source of the moral standards revealed to man by God through the Bible. Jones also includes an exposition of the Decalogue broken down into the two tables of the law, showing the continuity of the moral law through history and its applicability for contemporary ethics. The book includes helpful chapter summaries and a glossary, features that are lacking in many other introductory textbooks.

As an introductory text, this book is outstanding. David Jones is a careful researcher and an engaging writer. Whether one looks to refresh one’s knowledge of biblical ethics, to grow in one’s understanding of God’s Word and its importance in the Christian life, or to pursue academic studies in the field of Christian Ethics, this book will be an excellent addition to one’s library.

For those interested in academic studies in Christian Ethics, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary offers an M.A. in Ethics, Theology and Culture and as well as an opportunity to focus on Christian Ethics while pursuing a Th.M. or Ph.D. in Theological Studies.

On the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention: A Graduation Meditation

This morning, we’ll celebrate our December graduation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is our smaller of two annual commencements, but we’ll still graduate around 130 students today. The vast majority of them are Southern Baptists who are currently serving in paid vocational ministry, are presently looking for paid church staff positions, or are preparing to be domestic church planters or foreign missionaries. I hope you’ll pray for those who are transitioning to their next ministry assignment in the coming weeks and months.

There is quite a bit of talk these days about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention (or whatever it is we’ll be called by the time we get there). Much of it is negative. Some are worried about the number of SBC congregations that evidence declining membership and baptism statistics. Others are worried about the ongoing viability of the Cooperative Program. Some are uncomfortable with certain individuals in either real or perceived positions of denominational leadership and/or influence. Others are worried that a particular theological or cultural agenda will overwhelm and ultimately destroy the SBC. Some are nervous about younger leaders, while others are dissatisfied with more seasoned leaders. And some just pronounce a pox on all the houses within Southern Baptist suburbia.

I admit that I struggle with negativity from time to time. To be totally candid, it’s hard to study Southern Baptists for a living and not get discouraged on occasion. But I study American Christianity in general enough to know that every denomination has its peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Our denominational neuroses are particularly irksome because, well, they’re ours, but the grass isn’t that much greener in other groups-it’s just a different breed of grass. So rather than despairing over the cranky and delusional among us, I prefer to focus on the good. And there is a lot of good.

Back to graduation. One reason I refuse to despair about the SBC is because, as a seminary professor, I have a unique vantage point on the future of the Convention. Simply put, I’m personally acquainted with hundreds of (mostly) younger Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries, and other younger leaders. Their zeal is contagious. Their orthodoxy is robust. Their burden for evangelism and missions is inspiring. Their commitment to the local church is deep-rooted. They are a constant encouragement to me.

Some are worried because they perceive that these younger ministers lack commitment to the SBC. I confess that I’ve met a few for whom this is the case. But by far most of the seminarians and recent graduates I know are strongly committed to the SBC. They believe what we believe. They appreciate our approach to cooperative ministry and missions. They want to be Southern Baptists. Even those students who are “on the edge” are frequently those who were raised Southern Baptist and deeply love the SBC-so much so that the cranky and delusional voices gnaw at them and push them away. They are tempted to give in to the despair.

You need to know that I’m on a personal mission to do my part to prevent that from happening. We can’t afford to lose the next generation. And make no mistake about it-these aren’t denominational apostates who “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” No, these are folks who want to remain part of us, but (understandably) bristle at some of the frankly outrageous things that some Southern Baptists say and do-occasionally even those who are, or have been denominational leaders. I try my best to convince students and others that the SBC is bigger than any single personality and better than the conspiracy theorists and frankly mean-spirited among us. Many on the ledge come to agree with me, and I’m thankful for every one.

Graduation is a biannual reminder that God is always at work setting apart a rising generation of pastors and other leaders. Among the people called Southern Baptist, he’s doing some exciting things, no matter what you might have heard from a misinformed denominational servant, a malcontent pastor, or a malevolent blogger. God isn’t finished with us yet, and I remain convinced that the course correction that began in the latter third of the twentieth century will continue to bear good fruit long into the future.

I’m thankful for our graduates and for their peers in our sister institutions. I’m thankful that almost all of them are convictional and committed Southern Baptists. I remain hopeful that most of the few who are convictional, but not committed will change their mind as they see the many good things that God is doing in and through Southern Baptists. And I remain very hopeful that our best days lie ahead, should God continue to desire to work through our Convention of local Baptist churches for his glory.

(This post was cross-published at Christian Thought & Tradition)

The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Essay Version)

This week, I’ve been posting a multi-part series titled “The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010.” The occasion for this blog series is the seminary’s 60th anniversary. You can read each of those posts by clicking the links below:

The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part One)

The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part Two)

The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part Three)

The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part Four)

In addition to these posts, I’ve authored an essay version of “The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010.” The essay version includes the material from all four posts plus some recommended readings for those interested in further studying Southeastern’s history. I will be using the essay with my Baptist History students in the future. You may feel free to use it any way you see fit.

(Cross-posted at One Baptist Perspective)