I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful privilege it is for me to have a wife who loves God passionately, gives of herself faithfully, and values theological education wholeheartedly. It is primarily because of her willingness to support us, that I am able to spend these years primarily focusing on furthering my training for God's work. Without Juli, I would not have a friend who pushes me toward Christ daily, a companion who counsels me biblically, and a partner who serves beside me faithfully.
Throughout these upcoming years of intensive study, I am most indebted to her. She gives sacrificially, spends frugally, encourages daily, and listens attentively. While listening to my thoughts, she always has an ear willing to change herself, yet willing to challenge me. For her, I am most grateful and will forever be indebted. I love you.
With Seminary beginning just around the corner, it is altogether easy for me to think of my 'academic' career as separate from my roll in my own local church, First Baptist Church of Elyria, OH. This is largely due to our current models of seminary, our individualistic views of desiring to enter the ministry, and the lack of churches fulfilling their roles as the ones who call their own into the ministry. It is not my desire to critique our present situation, rather to correct my present motivations.
Thanks to having read John Frame's Proposal for a New Seminary a few years ago, my views of seminary increasingly changed. I must not view it as the degree that guarantees your entrance into the ministry, nor must I view ministry simply as academic procedures.
After these 3 or more years of completing a M. Div. or further, I recognize that I am always at the disposal of my local church. Their authority over me controls my future ministry.
The following is an excellent video interview of Dr. Frame concerning his previous paper and his view of a biblical seminary.
Bruce Ashford gives some wise counsel in his A Theologically-Driven Missiology (Salvation) concerning our view of evangelizing:
We must work hard to form evangelism and discipleship practices that recognize all of the salvific process. We cannot ignore any one part (e.g. calling, belief, repentance, etc.) One of the most oft-ignored aspects of salvation is repentance. Therefore, we seek to form testimonies, and gospel presentations, and Bible-study sets that call men to repentance rather than merely to mental assent. This means that men must turn their backs on false saviors; they must repudiate tribal gods and witch doctors; they must reject their belief that the Qur’an is God’s revelation and that Muhammad is His prophet; they must cease to worship in spirit temples and ancestral shrines; and they must turn their back on the worship of sex, money, and power.
We must correct the tendency to view salvation as mere mental assent, mere verbal profession of faith, or mere repetition of a prayer of salvation. If a person holds to such a reductionist view of salvation, he will have a wrong goal: the maximum number of people who have prayed a prayer or made a verbal profession. Further, he will have given false assurance of salvation to men who are not saved, and a false testimony to the church and the broader community. Finally, he will likely create methods of evangelism that are reductionist to the extreme and harmful to the progress of the gospel and the planting of healthy churches.
One who holds to a mechanical or magical understanding of salvation will likely create methods of evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, and theological education that are reductionist to the extreme, that misunderstand what we are saved from and what we are saved for.
In sum, the doctrine of salvation is a most precious doctrine, displaying for us the salvation that we have found in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father. It is our responsibility and high privilege to proclaim that gospel in a manner worthy of our Lord. Whatever we model, for the new believers we disciple and for the churches we plant, will likely be copied for generations to come. Nothing less than the purity of the gospel and the health of the church is at stake.
An interviewer of J.I. Packer noted the following from sociologist Christian Smith concerning the youth in evangelicalism today:
[Throughout] a five-year study of religious teens throughout America and some in Canada...he found they all have the same religious outlook on life: God wants me to be good; he wants us to be happy; he's there when we need him. But when you ask them who Jesus is, they can't say. They can't tell you the significance of the cross nor anything about the Trinity. He called it "moralistic, therapeutic deism."
Truly a great article from Ray Ortland, no matter what stripe, brand, or genre of Christianity you adhere to:
"I believe in the sovereignty of God, the Five Points of Calvinism, the Solas of the Reformation, I believe that grace precedes faith in regeneration. Theologically, I am Reformed. Sociologically, I am simply a Christian – or at least I want to be. The tricky thing about our hearts is that they can turn even a good thing into an engine of oppression. It happens when our theological distinctives make us aloof from other Christians. That’s when, functionally, we relocate ourselves outside the gospel and inside Galatianism."
"Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us."
"My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level. Let it reduce you to Jesus only. Let it humble you. Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people. Blood-bought people.
People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone."
Read the rest of the article here.
Currently, I am reading Thomas Schreiner's New Testament Theology, an newly-released and highly-acclaimed biblical theology on the New Testament. In describing the Centrality of God in the New Testament, he makes a remarkable point:
"We tend to look past what constantly stands in front of us. If we see them every day, we often take for granted verdant trees, stunning sunsets, and powerful waves thundering on the beach. Similarly, in reading the NT we are prone to screen out what the NT says about God himself. God is, so to speak, shoved to the side, and we investigate other themes, such as justification, reconciliation, redemptive history, and new creation." (119)
To beautifully illustrate how often were forget that the dominant subject of Scripture is God Himself, notice these collages of various NT books created by Wordle, a program that generates “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.
What's the Bible all about? I think it's pretty clear: GOD