Seminary and Scared: Why I am terrified to be at SEBTS and how you can pray for me.

I am absolutely terrified.

Tomorrow marks my first day as a seminary student at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. I am thrilled of course, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was scared. I am scared because I am about to get exactly what I asked for and it makes me very uncomfortable. Let me explain.

I have always been an introvert. Hand me a cup of coffee, a good book, and I will retreat for hours away from any living human being. This is not exactly a problem, but if not watched carefully can become one. This is especially the case for those who have a desire for gospel ministry. This is not hard to understand. Ministry is first and foremost about God’s glory, but secondly ministry is about loving, interacting, and sharing life with people. This includes getting the gospel to our unbelieving neighbors.

After graduating Boyce College I became aware that I was lacking in persistent evangelism and disciple making. So after two years I applied to Southeastern. I chose to do so because they advertise the institution as a, “Great Commission Seminary” where every classroom is a “Great Commission Classroom.” Consider the seminary’s mission statement:

“Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

In fact, during the first address to incoming students SEBTS President Dr. Danny Akin had the following as one of his points,

9. “Put no limitations on how and where our King might use you. Ask the Lord to give you the ability to truly pray, “Lord, why should I stay?” (Being Faithful To the High Calling of Christ)

Have mercy what have I done.

At Southeastern there is no room for academia for academia’s sake. The Bible is not an end to itself, but a means to love and know Christ. Furthermore, there is no room for those who do not want to be on mission now as they prepare for ministry. These people walk what they talk. 

The introvert in me needs this place. I need brothers to push me to share the gospel, take initiative with my neighbors, and to be open to the possibility that God could send me anywhere. 

So please pray for me. Pray that I would be disciplined in every class. Pray that I would be faithful with my time not ever neglecting to serve my wife with joy. Pray that as I grow in theological knowledge my heart will grow in doxological praise.

Finally, pray that God gives me a burden for my neighbor. That a love would grow in me that can only be expressed in sharing the gospel for the glory of God.

I am terrified and that is a very good thing.

Beyond Racial Gridlock by George Yancey: A summary and some brief thoughts.

As we move deeper into August schools everywhere are preparing for the upcoming Fall semester. As usual this means faculty members at every level are attending workshops to kickoff the new year. Here in Wake Forest the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is no different. During these workshops professors heard presentations from Dr. George Yancey, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas. The subject regarded Yancey’s Beyond Racial Gridlock (IVP, 2006). In this work Yancey evaluates four secular models that attempt racial reconciliation. He does so by sketching a brief history of the position, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, and discussing how Christians have incorporated the model in their own attempts at racial reconciliation. Ultimately, he finds these models to be incomplete and offers a solution from his own Christian worldview. What  follows is a summary of Beyond Racial Gridlock. Justice cannot be done to the full weight of his arguments so readers are encouraged to check out the book. I am thankful for SEBTS and their desire to see diversity not only on the campus, but in the Church as well. 

Foundational for Yancey’s book is the idea that there are two types of racism. One view is individual racism. Yancey writes, “An individualist understanding defines racism as something overt that can be done only by one individual to another.” (pg. 20) The other; however, is structural. “According to this view, society can perpetuate racism even when individuals in the society do no intend to be racist.”(pg. 22) Of course, how one defines racism will dictate the solutions offered. Yancey points out that the first two models are based on a more individual definition and the final two are based on a structural point of view.

4 Secular Models

Colorblindness: This approach is somewhat self-explanatory considering its title. Colorblindness has has its desire to make race a nonissue in society. Yancey states it this way, “The core argument of the colorblindness model is simple: to end racism, we have to ignore racial reality.” (pg. 29) Yancey goes on to describe this position as seeking “not to take race into account” and having as their goal “to get beyond racial issues.” 

Anglo-Conformity:  This model desires to teach minorities the proper ways to succeed in life. This includes education, how to find and keep a job, etc. Yancey describes the goal of this approach as follows, “The majority must teach people of color how to succeed, while the minority is responsible for taking those lessons to heart so they can achieve economic and educational success.” (pg. 42) Fundamentally, this approach finds the problem to be socio-economic as opposed to being about race. “Anglo-conformity is a very materialistic model. At its core is the belief that the real source of racial strife is economic disparity between the racial majority and minorities.” (pg. 42)

Multiculturalism: Advocates of this approach long to preserve the cultures of all people and see them as helpful contributors to our world. Yancey equates multiculturism to cultural pluralism; however, he wants to be sure to define the terms properly. Cultural pluralism is not the same as “inegalitarian models of racial oppression (in which cultural separation was dictated to the minority by the majority).” (Pg. 53) Later Yancey states, “Multiculturalism is the practical application of cultural pluralism.” (pg. 53)

White Responsibility: This argument suggests that the problems of racism are primarily because of the “majority group.” Thus, it is the responsibilty of this majority group (whites) to end racism. First, the group must deal with the racism inside them before any progress can be made. Extreme proponents of this position even argue that minorities are completely incapable of being racist. (pg. 65) Yancey writes, “From their viewpoint, racial minorities can have prejudice, but they cannot be racist because racism requires structural power. Since only dominant group members have structural power in our society, only dominant group members practice racism.” (pg. 65)  

After discussing each model Yancey discusses why he believes these approaches fail. Consider this quote, 

“Each of the four secular models identifies one source of racial conflict and proposes solutions to deal with that source. Certainly each source is at last partially responsible for racial alienation. The strength of these models lies in their recognition of a particular cause of racial tension and in their effort to resolve it. Their weakness lies in their refusal to identify other sources of the problem. At best, these incomplete models can help us correct certain aspects of racial tension, but they will never eradicate the problem.” (pg. 79)

A Mutual Responsibility Approach 

With these incomplete models in mind Yancey establishes that the root of racism is sin. Everyone is a sinner-no one is excluded, except Christ. Communicating this with evangelical conviction Yancey writes, “Our sin nature drives majority group members to look for both overt and subtle ways to maintain the advantages of their racial status. Our sin nature motivates people of color to use their victim status to gain whatever they can.” (pg. 80) Yancey concludes that racial reconciliation is a mutual responsibility because of this universal sin nature. In chapters seven and eight Yancey discusses the sin of both European Americans and racial minorities. I would encourage readers to think about what Yancey writes; however, more reflection is needed on my part before I can discuss them here. 

After establishing that everyone is mutually responsible Yancey turns to Scripture. He mentions John 4 and discusses the woman at the well and Jesus’ call of Matthew the tax collector. Yancey then points to Jesus as the way and example of reconciliation.

The question thus becomes, what does mutual responsibility look like? It starts with each party being honest about their fears and open to discussing the needs and concerns of others. Using an illustration from his own marriage (pg. 129-131) Yancey shows that the willingness to listen to the concerns of others regarding racism is vital.  Mutual understanding can lead to a mutual responsibility of reconciliation.  Yancey then offers a starting place in regard to mutual responsibility:

Multiracial churches: “One of the best ways to to heal racial strife is to fellowship with Christians of different races.” (Pg. 144) 

Social Networks: “For racial perceptions to be influenced by interracial friendships, we must be involved in social networks that are thoroughly multiracial.” (pg. 146) Later Yancey writes, ” Diversifying our social networks is a Christian was to help heal strife in our society.” (pg. 146)

Political Activism: Here Yancey discuses the tension between Republicans and Democrats. He notes that because Christians are pro-life they generally vote for conservative candidates. Unfortunately, Republicans are less likely to support programs based on race. Yancey makes a good case that Christians should be careful about political activism, but should participate. (pg.147)

Christian Academic Institutions: “Christian colleges’ failure to promote racial reconciliation is particularly distressing because they are the source of our future Christian leaders.” (Pg. 149)

Fully aware that he cannot provide the perfect answer to racism this side of glory Yancey ends his book with a plea for Christians to contribute to a more complete solution. Ultimately, it must be the gospel that does away with racism, but this book provides helpful ways that Christians can contribute in the healing process. The weight falls not on “them” or on “us” but there is a mutual responsibility due to the nature of sin to seek reconciliation because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What more could we ask of an author than that? 

Gospel-Centered Influence: A Tribute to the Scholarship of Graeme Goldsworthy

When I arrived on the campus of Boyce College in the Fall of 2008 it had yet to occur to me how much I did not know. Perhaps that is why I remember so well the first time I encountered the name Graeme Goldsworthy. It was day one of my Hermeneutics class and Dr. Barry Joslin was reviewing the course syllabus which of course included required textbooks. I was completely unaware of the state of the church in Australia and even less familiar with the nation’s theological education (typical of young, naieve Americans). What took place as I opened Goldsworthy’s According to Plan changed me forever. From that moment on I would never view Scripture the same. I would later go on to read his Gospel and Kingdom, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology. So, as I begin at a new place, at a new Seminary, it seems fitting to reflect on when my theological education began and the one scholar who introduced me to the incredible grand story of the Bible.

Graeme Goldsworthy was lecturer of Old Testament, biblical theology, and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia before his retirement. For many years he has been a leading contributor to the discipline known as biblical theology. This term was completely foreign to me during my Freshman year at Boyce College. Goldsworthy would not only go on to teach me what biblical theology is, but to love and see it as vital for the life of biblical scholarship and pastoral ministry. It is difficult to include everything that needs to be said about such a faithful teaching and publishing ministry. Thus, I have decided to include the contributions of Goldsworthy’s work that have impacted me the most. Hopefully this will inspire readers who have not encountered Goldsworthy to take a look at his work.

I. Biblical Theology: Learning that the Bible was not 66 fragmented books with no connection changed me forever. Goldsworthy defines Biblical Theology this way in According to Plan: “Biblical theology is a way of understanding the Bible as a whole, so that we can see the plan of salvation as it unfolds step by step. It is concerned with God’s message to us in the form it actually takes in Scripture.” pg. 29

Goldsworthy offers these definitions in his other works:

“Biblical theology seeks to understand the relationship between the various eras in God’s revealing activity recorded in the Bible.” (Gospel and Kingdom, pg. 47)

“Biblical theology is nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of Salvation.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, pg.7)

II. Evangelical Presuppositions:  Goldsworthy reminds us that everyone brings presuppostions to the text. However, some presuppositions are necessary to produce a true Biblical theology. Due to the different natures of his Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology, the sections on presuppostions look a bit different. I will mention the set found primarily in Christ-Centered Biblical Theology.

The Doctrine of God

“We would not be interested in the theology of the Bible if we did not have some previously formed notion that the Bible can deliver a theology.” pg. 42

The Doctrine of the word of God

“His word is thus a sovereign word, self-interpreting, self-authenticating, infallible, and all-powerful. It is the foundation of a hermeneutic of authorial intent. It is also the fountain of our understanding of the Bible as coherent, understandable and containing the truth about the real world.” Pg. 43

“Historical criticism in its extreme form rejected the dogma that God both set in train the events of history and also acted within them. It rejected the notion of divine revelation within space and time, and this ultimately made biblical theology impossible.” Pg. 43

The canon as the limit of inspired Scripture-Here Goldsworthy leans on his mentor Donald Robinson, you can find Robinson’s comments concerning the canon on pg. 46.

The unity of canon of Scripture

“Their unity lies in both the historical and theological dimensions. The message of the books belongs together in that they concern God, his people, and the historical process.” Pg. 47

“The unity of the Bible is such a kind that every text bears some discoverable relationship to every other text, We should be able to leave from anywhere and arrive at our destination . Our destination, however, is not a matter of chance since Jesus has already shown us that he is not only to be our goal but that he started out with us on our journey.” Pg. 195

“An evangelical biblical theology, however, recognizes the cannon of Scripture as the unified work of God through the Spirit-inspired human authors. The ultimate literary context of any given text is the whole canon of Scripture.” (Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Pg. 200)

The human problem and God’s response

“This fact is integral to the biblical story. Our rejection of God’s word has left us under the judgment of God so that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Our receptivity to the message of the Bible is so badly damaged that none of us human beings can by nature read, understand and submit to God’s word as we should.” Pg. 48

“As Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), so also must we open our minds to the relationship between all Scripture and his person and ministry.” Pg. 48

III. The Kingdom of God: Many reply with a blank stare of panic when asked to define the kingdom. Goldsworthy helpfully removed my panic stare by defining the Kingdom this way,

“…the Kingdom of God involves  (a) God’s people (b) God’s place (c) God’s reign” (Gospel and Kingdom, Pg. 54)

Goldsworthy then finds as his “center” of the Bible to be the Kingdom as revealed in three major epochs:

“First, God’s Kingdom is revealed in Israel’s history up to David and Solomon. Second, God’s kingdom is revealed in prophetic eschatology. This recapitulate the first stage as that which shapes the future. Third, God’s kingdom is revealed in the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations in Christ.” (Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Pg. 247-248)

IV. Goldsworthy’s love for Christ and His Church: Those who are familiar with Goldsworthy know he hates exegesis for exegesis sake. One need only to read his Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture to learn he desires to equip ministers of the gospel to be more faithful exegetes so they may preach more faithfully and advance the kingdom of God. Furthermore, Goldsworthy took the time to develop a helpful guide for pastors to teach biblical theology in their local churches. This was his intent in writing According to Plan. In the introduction, Goldsworthy writes, “This guide is written for those who have not had any formal theological education. Provided you have desire to know the Scriptures, even if you have only achieved a very basic knowledge so far, this book is designed for you.” Pg. 9 Goldsworthy has also written a book on Prayer, although I have yet to read it. We need more scholars who are willing to take time to write for the local church. Goldsworthy is one example of how to do exactly that.

There is no way that I could be faithful to the theology of Graeme Goldsworthy in a mere blog post.  I hope to have captured enough to show that reading him for the first time was eye opening. Furthermore, that he is most certainly worth reading! I do not agree with everything he says, but few agree with everything anyone says. Those who digest books wholly without critical prayer and thinking need to make an adjustment.

I am sure I will have more developments in my Scriptural understanding as my time at SEBTS progresses; however, this is I know to be true- I will forever be grateful to Graeme Goldsworthy for his faithful biblical scholarship and passion for the local church. May more people read, learn, and yes, even disagree with him.

From a nobody, from nowhere- Thanks Goldsworthy, for teaching me to love the Word of God deeper still.