2012 has been an exciting year for both Ashleigh and I. We have experienced God’s blessings through several important changes in our lives, as well as steady progress in the places and activities in which God has placed us. In this post I would like to talk about what has been going on with seminary and about our new church home.
In May I graduated with a ThM degree. When we moved to Louisville, had just received my Masters of Divinity (MDiv) from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I then applied to the ThM at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and completed that in two semesters (which is the normal pace for someone with an MDiv). Late last year I had applied to the PhD program in new testament, and we found out around April that I had been accepted into the program and would be studying under Dr. Tom Schreiner, which was a wonderful surprise. Dr. Schreiner is also one of the preaching pastors at the church we attend, Clifton Baptist, and a man whom I greatly respect. I am grateful to be studying under him. I finished my first semester of the PhD program intact (despite being surprised with a little one!) and am set to begin my second semester January 29th. If all goes well I will finish my classwork in the next year or so and begin writing my dissertation, which I hope to be on the book of Revelation. I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from my classes so far, which I would like to list and briefly describe.
Fall 2010 (ThM):
Pauling Literature: Romans with Dr. Schreiner. This class was one of the PhD Seminars I was allowed to take as a first semester ThM student. It involved the presentation of papers on certain texts of Romans, along with the reading of different commentaries for each student and class dialogue on the papers presented. It also involved a book review, and the book I reviewed was The Purpose of Romans, by Ann Jervis. As a ThM student, I wrote a paper and a book review, but was not required to present anything. The class also consisted of a test on the Greek text of Romans the first day we met. If a 70% was not made on the test you were required to drop the class. I was able to squeeze by that hurdle, but not by much! All in all the class was very beneficial. You can read my paper on Romans 9:6-18, titled “God’s Freedom in Election”, here.
An Exegesis of the Gospel of Matthew with Dr. Johnathan Pennington. This class was extremely beneficial. It was an MDiv class, but as a ThM student I was assigned extra work, which included a longer paper (30 pgs) and an extra book review. In the class we discussed the theology of Matthew as well as important aspects of the Greek text of Matthew. I came out of that class feeling like I had read Matthew’s gospel for the first time! My paper was on Cosmic Conflict in Matthew’s gospel, which can be read here.
Theology of the New Testament with Dr. Tom Schreiner. Another very beneficial class which is pretty self explanatory. Basically it was an overview of the theology of the New Testament, divided up by themes. Dr. Schreiner is the author of New Testament Theology, which I read for the class, and needless to say the class was extremely helpful for my understanding of the overall theology of the New Testament. The class also involved 2 tests and a 35 page paper which I wrote on Cosmic Conflict in the Gospels and Revelation (read here.)
Spring 2011 (ThM)
Old Testament Theology with Dr. Jim Hamilton. This was another PhD Seminar similar to my Romans Seminar with Dr. Schreiner. Likewise, it involved a book review and a paper on an Old Testament theological issue. I reviewed Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty, which was an excellent book, and I wrote my paper on Leviathan in the Old Testament, focusing on Isiah 27.1-2 (read here). We also read Dr. Hamilton’s excellent work, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. I received some pretty stiff criticism on both my book review and my paper. I learned a lot about how to fairly and accurately critique a book, which was very helpful. Dr. Hamilton liked my paper, but we got into a pretty staunch debate on some millennial issues that came up. I lost, but learned a lot! (Check out Dr. Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation)
Eschatology Seminar with Dr. Russell Moore. This was a seminar that dealt exclusively with issues relating to eschatology. We read several books and wrote a paper. My paper was on the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 (read). I also reviewed Left Behind by Tim LaHaye.
Advanced Greek Grammar with Dr. Peter Gentry. This is perhaps the most helpful Greek course I have ever participated in. It involved reading a text with very advanced Greek, the Epistle to Diognetus. My extra work as a ThM student was to read text from 2 Maccabees as well, which was very difficult. Dr. Gentry is an expert in Greek and Hebrew, and is a world-renowned linguist. Each week we translated portions of the text, and were required to translate aloud in class as well. It was pretty intimidating, especially if you weren’t prepared. I may have learned how to better understand and translate Greek this one semester than all my others combined.
Fall 2012 (PhD)
Non-Pauline Literature: Hebrews with Dr. Tom Schreiner. Another PhD seminar with Dr. Schreiner, only this time as a PhD student. The format was similar to Romans. It involved a book review and a paper on a certain passage in Hebrews. I reviewed Cosmology and Eschatology in Hebrews and I wrote on Hebrews 12:22-29 (read). I also read FF Bruce’s commentary on Hebrews and greatly benefited from everyone’s papers and the class dialogue.
Intro to New Testament Language with Dr. Robert Plummer. Another excellent Greek class. In this PhD Seminar we translated from various Greek texts, ranging from New Testament passage, to church fathers to Greek historians (Josephus and Eusebius). We also read and presented several articles for discussion and took a final exam on any Greek texts Dr. Plummer chose. No helps and no clue what we would be translating. It was fun!
New Testament Colloquium with Dr. Johnathan Pennington. Colloquia are confined to the PhD program. They basically consist of whatever the colloquium leader for that particular semester decides. In this colloquium, we read articles from a broad range of New Testament topics representing the most recent and important scholarship on each topic. Each student was required to lead one of the discussions.
German with Dr. Mark Seifrid. Each PhD student is required to complete two research languages, choosing between German, French and Latin. This course involved learning the basics of German, and translating some texts from Bonhoeffer. It concluded with a final lengthy take home translation from Bonhoeffer. These classes are pass/fail, and I passed!
So there we go! I am thoroughly enjoying and appreciating my time here at Southern and am blessed to be a part of a God-honoring institution bent on teaching the word of God, unashamed and unadulterated. My upcoming seminars include: Textual Criticism and Translation Theory with Dr. Pennington, Hermeneutics with Dr. Seifrid, and Colloquium with Dr. Plummer.
Ashleigh and I have been attending Clifton Baptist Church most of our time here. It has been a huge blessing in many ways. It’s congregation is made up of elders/pastors, deacons and lay people. The elders’ primary responsibility is to shepherd the flock through biblical teaching and leadership. We have two preaching elders, Tom Schreiner and John Kimbell. Tom is preaching through Romans and John is preaching through Luke on an alternating schedule. We meet on Sunday mornings for Sunday School and a corporate service, and on Wednesday nights for a time of prayer, accompanied by a brief message. We meet in small groups on the first, third and fifth Sunday nights of each month. I’d like to briefly outline some of the aspects of our church we really love.
Biblical Preaching: first and foremost, we appreciate the expositional nature of the preaching at Clifton. They preach the Bible and nothing else. There is a focus on the words of God as contained in Scripture, book by book, passage by passage. There is no picking and choosing or watering down. If the passage is difficult, our pastors study careful and preach with humility, trusting that the Spirit of God speaks through his Word and is not reliant upon the skill of men. Thus, the sermons are always Christ centered, God honoring and faithful to the texts being preached.
God Glorifying Music: It is clear that our worship leader, Wesley Johnson, puts a lot of thought into the songs being sung. Each week we sing songs that are scripturally sound and honoring to God. From old hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness to modern songs from Sovereign Grace Music, each song chosen accurately represents the God we worship as revealed in his word. This is the task of a worship leader and Clifton does an excellent job.
Small Groups: I know many are partial to corporate Sunday night services, and I think they are great; but I really appreciate Clifton’s small group ministry every other Sunday evening. It provides the opportunity to develop closer relationships within the body and the opportunity for in depth discussion and accountability.
Regenerate Church Membership: This simply means members are expected to be Christians! It seems obvious but is often not the case in churches today. In most churches you can simply come forward and join, without the church/pastor knowing much of your background or spiritual state. We see a different picture in the New Testament, where the goal of church is to build up the body of Christ and equip them for service. Thus, at Clifton there is a process for membership which allows the elders to better discern the spiritual state/maturity of those joining. Practically, in order for them to shepherd well, they need to know their flock. Also, this gets at the purpose of church. It is meant to be primarily a place of spiritual growth, preparation and nourishment for believers. Along with this comes better accountability of members to their leaders, as well as the biblical practice of church discipline when someone refuses to repent of open and clear sin. All of these things provide a place of growth and accountability that is essential to a healthy church.
There are other things that could be mentioned, but let it simply be said that Ashleigh and I have found a place that truly strives to care for its members, lead us spiritual and follow the biblical teachings concerning the purpose of church. We are very blessed to be there.