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Matthew vines

Introduction

Matthew Vines has written a book titled God and the Gay Christian in which he argues that “Christians who affirm the full authority of Scripture can also affirm committed, monogamous same-sex relationship” (Page 3).   Al Mohler and the faculty at Southern Seminary has published a book-length response titled God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines, which they have made available as a free e-book.  In their responses Al Mohler, James Hamilton, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert addressed the biblical, theological, historical, and pastoral issues raised by Vines’s best-selling book.  

Matthew Vines’ research for his book was not done in a vaccum.  Throughout the book Vines reveal the precommitments he had before he began his research.  It is important to address the core arguments that Vines has presented (and Christians have already done so such as the faculty in Southern Seminary) but I also think there is an important role in considering Vines’ problematic pre-commitments since these pre-commitments shapes his theological method which then lead to his conclusion that “Scripture affirm same-sex relationships.”

Here in this post I want to address Vines’ pre-commitment concerning his meta-ethics.  Specifically I want to argue that Vines holds on to a humanistic consequentialist view of ethics that is seriously deficient.

Vines In His Own Words

Unlike other gay theology literature Vines professes to have a high view of the Scriptures:

In my view, the Bible can’t be reduced to a collection of great literature, stories, and poetry  It’s God’s written revelation to humanity, as the accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry in the Gospel make clearer to me than anything else.  Jesus said that ‘Scripture cannot be set aside’ (John 10:35), and since childhood, I’ve made discerning God’s will through prayerful study of Scripture a priority” (Page 11).

But when it comes to his view of the foundation of ethics, even God’s revealed rules within Scripture is not as highly regarded by Vines as much as his ethical theory.  In fact, the Bible’s ethical norm is subject to the scrutiny of the higher court of his meta-ethics and we see that with how he approached the Bible’s condemnation of same-sex relationship on page 12 :

I had a second reason for losing confidence in the belief that same-sex relationship are sinful: it no longer made sense to me.

My mom taught her Sunday school students that sin was ‘missing the mark’ of God’s will for our lives. But while the Bible helps us understand God’s will, neither my parents nor my church referred only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.  They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did.  By understanding the reasons behind Scripture’s teachings, I could apply its principles to all circumstances in my life, including those it didn’t directly addressed.

But as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.  With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.  Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.  But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.  Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.  What other sin look like that?”

It is important to keep in mind that according to the previous page before this block quote (page 11) Vines described how his ethical outlook led to his struggle with the case against same-sex relations before he came out as gay and before he started researching for his book.  His evaluation of Scripture according to his ethical theory fundamentally tipped the scale of his research towards the direction that same sex relationship ought not to be condemned.  Seeing how important his ethical theory is, we should analyze more closely his ethical theory as it is expressed above.

Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic and Consequentialist

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Humanistic?

Vines’ ethical theory is certainly humanistic, that is, it is man-centered.  As seen in the above quote, Vines’ rejection of traditional view on same sex relationship is because “it no longer made sense to me.”  There is a sense in which Biblical Christianity will not be fully grasped by finite man; we expect some aspect of mystery with true Christian doctrines if it is genuinely from the Word of God.  Ultimately what determines truth for the God-centered Christian is not how much it “makes sense to me” (that is, conforming to one’s previous pattern of thought) but whether or not the doctrines are genuinely taught in Scripture even if one might have unanswered questions.

A man-centered or humanistic theological approach on the other hand is very different.  It would have man as the final arbitration of what is right and wrong and according to what makes “sense to me.”  The fundamental question being asked is not whether the teaching is in the Bible; even if there is a teaching from the Bible the crucial question is whether it makes “sense to me.”  Therefore what one cannot make sense of according to one’s finite mind and presuppositions ought to be rejected.

The man-centered nature of Vines’ ethical system is further evidenced above when Vines talked about “reasons behind Scripture’s teachings.”  Of course there are times one can see that there are good reasons for Scripture’s moral teaching.  However Vines goes further when he explains the pattern of his mother and church that it’s not enough to be satisfied with going “only to the Bible when I asked questions about morality.”  Vines goes on to say “They also explained why something was right or wrong, and why the Bible said what it did” with the implication that one ought to know why the Bible said what it said.   So when one doesn’t know the reason behind the Bible’s command and prohibition Vines then find that there are then good “reason for losing confidence” in that belief as it was with the case of prohibiting same-sex relationship: “I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them.”

Is Vines’ Ethical theory Consequentialist?

Vines’ ethical theory is not only humanistic, it is a humanistic consequentialism.  That is, for Vines knowing the consequences of one’s conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct.  Vines believed that something is wrong and sinful only when it causes damage.  So if it doesn’t cause any damages that a human being can know of, it is not sinful.  Vines presupposes this when he said “With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”  He followed this with some examples and then concluded “But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern.”

The Problem with Vines’ Ethical Theory

Here is my response:

  • Vines stresses more than once in the book that he has a high view of God’s Word like any other Evangelical including those not affirming of Same-sex relationships.  If he does believes in a high view of Scripture then he must have his humanistic ethical consequentialism be subject to the scrutiny of God’s Word rather than vice versa as he has done.
  • If Vines operate with the theological method that a proposition must be rejected when “it no longer made sense to me” what would remain of his Christianity?
    • Our study of every largely-accepted true doctrine in the Bible will always run into some aspect of mystery in which we don’t have an answer for.  Does that mean we must reject every Christian doctrines?
    • For instance, 1 Timothy 3:16 admits there is mystery of godliness does that mean that one should reject godliness?
  • While at times Scripture does discuss how certain sinful behavior causes damages to oneself and others, Vines have become reductionistic to think this is the only criteria of measuring whether something is right and wrong.
    • Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible say that what is sinful is only measured by whether something causes damages to others.
    • If consequences is the only way to measure what’s right and wrong in God’s eyes then it is surprising that Scripture doesn’t always give a cause-and-effect explanation for why everything that is a sin is wrong.
    • Scripture doesn’t exclusively present a purpose or result driven measure of right and wrong conduct.  Scripture’s discussion of ethics also acknowledges the deontological aspect of ethics (good acts include those as a proper response to duty for the sake of the duty even against one’s own and others well being) and existential aspect of ethics (focus on the internal character of a person that determines what is good).  A good resource on this is John Frame’s discussion of Triperspectivalism in his Doctrine of the Christian Life.
  • Surprisingly Vines himself is inconsistent with his belief that damages to oneself or others is the only basis to measure right and wrong when it comes to his view on Self-sacrifice.
    • Self-sacrifice (putting duty first before one’s well being) is a dentological virtue that goes against the grain that damages to a person per se is sinful.  According to Vines ethical system, self-sacrifice ought to be a sin.
    • We expect Vines to be against self-sacrifice and yet in the block quote above Vines listed “self-sacrifice” among the virtues of those in committed same-sex relationships.
    • If Vines see self-sacrifice as a virtue then it is not merely something that he sees is personally good for himself alone but this is a character trait that is good for others to have.  Thus by believing its a virtue Vines invite others to follow one’s duty even if it is “damaging” to oneself, an act that involves “damaging” others.
  • For the sake of the argument even if there is always a consequentialist reason behind all of God’s prohibition and command that doesn’t mean as Bible believing Christians one can disregard these rules when it is “hard to pinpoint the damage they cause.”
    • In all things, don’t forget we are finite and God is infinite!
    • The Lesson from the Garden of Eden
      • Remember: “God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” (Genesis 3:3b)
      • Adam and Eve might not be able to pinpoint exactly the damage disobedience to this might cause yet that doesn’t mean they should disobey God’s Law!
      • Furthermore, people today might still not know or discern the reasons why that tree was in the Garden in the first place but that doesn’t mean Adam and Eve or us can disobey God.
    • An illustration: A toddler might find it hard to pinpoint the damage that disobeying his father’s prohibition not to run on the streets might cause.  But that doesn’t mean it is right nor rational for the toddler to disobey his loving father’s prohibition!
      • This illustration is fitting for our context given that we are like the toddler in our finite knowledge compared to God’s vastly superior wisdom and knowledge.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider God in his belief that same-sex relationship is not harmful.
    • First, it is negatively against God.
      • Remember Vines’ examples of the damages of sins: “Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse.  Lust objectifies others.  Gossip degrades people.”
      • If violating a commitment, objectifying others and degrading a person is bad because it is “harmful to others,” what are those advocating same-sex relationships doing when they are violating God’s prohibition of same-sex relationship,  degrading God as less than God in their disobedience to His Divine prohibitions and objectifying God as something less than God when they go against His Word?
    • Secondly, it is negative against the participants of same-sex relationships.
      • Remember the way of a Sinner is hard!
      • 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reveal the eternal consequences for such sinners: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor[a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Vines believe same-sex relationship is “not harmful to anyone” but fail to consider studies considering the negative impact of same-sex relationships
    • Time doesn’t allow me to go into more details as it’s worth being another message.
    • Remember, we are not dependent upon the statistics to make our case in light of all our discussion above concerning consequentialists ethics.

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Blown away argument

Here are the links on Presuppositional apologetics gathered from June 22nd, 2015 to June 30th, 2015.

1.) Echo Zoe Interview20 Ways to Answer the Fool

2.) Compiling the Massive Proof and Powerful Evidence that God Exists pt. 1

3.) 

4.) Apologetics Ghetto

5.) Can the Ethiopian Change His Skin or a Leopard His Spots? How Postmodernity Has Led to a Culture of Hypocrisy

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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An illustration of a rendered rainbow

An illustration of a rendered rainbow

Beginning tommorow (6/29) we will begin a Marathon Series on the Christian Response to Homosexuality.  EvangelZ and I (SlimJim) will be writing posts as well as linking resources for the Christian.  Also we pray that the Lord will use this to also awaken those who claim to be Christians and also those who do not believe to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

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This is the second installment of a guest post continuing from HERE.  Mike is a British brother in Christ who have been a friend of our blog for years.  Mike’s blog can be found HERE.

limited

I sometimes think about the cross,

And close my eyes, and try to see

The cruel nails, and crown of thorns,

And Jesus crucified for me.

(v4 of the Hymn ‘It is a thing most wonderful’ by William Walsham How, 1823 – 97)

Do you?

That’s how a message given by Stuart Olyott began on Limited Atonement many years ago. I understand what it means but like Stuart, Particular Redemption is preferable because it is just that, particular. But we could also add Definite Atonement because something was accomplished not merely made possible. As I began looking at this subject a long time ago, many ministers were questioned, but Stuart was the only one that said I needed to see it for myself. He was right and by God’s grace I did ‘see it’. It was in that same message the book by Grace Publications (Great Christian Classics, ‘Life by His Death’) was recommended that I quickly bought. Space will not permit discussing it all here but if you follow the recommendations below you will be helped to not only come to terms with it but embrace it and rejoice in it. And, believe it or not, it will actually help, not hinder, your Gospel ministry.

1. The Problem Stated

So the topic at hand, in a nutshell revolves around seeking to reconcile the fact that Jesus died only for His people and the free offer of the Gospel. It’s the L of the TULIP acrostic and can be the most problematic for believers to deal with. At the beginning of John Owen’s great treatise on ‘The Death of Death in the Death of Christ’ he makes this comment in the introduction:

‘Reader,

If thou intendest to go any farther, I would entreat thee to stay here a little. If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again, — thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell! With him that resolves a serious view of the following discourse, and really desireth satisfaction from the word and Christian reason, about the great things contained therein, I desire a few words in the portal.’ ….

‘I shall only crave thy leave to preface a little to the point in hand, and my present undertaking therein, with the result of some of my thoughts concerning the whole, after a more than seven-years’ serious inquiry (bottomed, I hope, upon the strength of Christ, and guided by his Spirit) into the mind of God about these things, with a serious perusal of all which I could attain that the wit of man, in former or latter days, hath published in opposition to the truth; which I desire, according to the measure of the gift received, here to assert.’ (Source:http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/deathofdeath.i.v.html)

So if you are coming to this topic expecting it all to be resolved in a few sound bites or a blog post only to move on to the next theological knot, you are going to be disappointed. If you really want to come to terms with this topic – and the truth of it – it’s going to take longer than you think and will most likely be hard work.

2. Why the Difficulty?

There are a number of reasons. One has already been alluded to. We think if we can tell everyone that God loves them (particularly) and that Jesus died for them we have a much better Gospel message. It means we can throw out the confetti of God’s’ love upon all. That makes us feel better. We don’t have to be negative. We don’t have to get bogged down with thinking through what we say. We don’t have to be precise. Believing in a ‘Limited Atonement’ makes us feel limited, restricted in what we can say. We don’t like that. We want to know Christ died for all – it’s so much nicer! There’s a more serious difficulty however; and it’s our rebellious hearts. Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we are no longer rebels. We still rebel deep down at the Sovereignty of God. We want to be in control. We can’t. And it hurts. We need to repent of this and submit to the Divine will.

3. The Accomplishment of the Doctrine

The Accomplishment of the Doctrine is perhaps not the best way to put it but it’s a way of saying the death of Christ accomplished something. It did something. It obtained something. What did it obtain? Scripture tells us in Hebrews 9:12 that he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Or as the AV puts it; ‘having obtained eternal redemption for us’. What an insult to say otherwise. Poor God He could only make Salvation possible. And poor Jesus, all that suffering and shame, but He could only make Salvation possible. He didn’t really DO anything. Jesus didn’t say ‘it could be finished’ or ‘I’ve started now you finish it’. No!

John 19:30 ‘he said, it is finished’;

that is, the whole will of God; as that he should be incarnate, be exposed to shame and reproach, and suffer much, and die; the whole work his Father gave him to do, which was to preach the Gospel, work miracles, and obtain eternal salvation for his people, all which were now done, or as good as done; the whole righteousness of the law was fulfilled, an holy nature assumed, perfect obedience yielded to it, and the penalty of death endured; hence a perfect righteousness was finished agreeably to the law, which was magnified and made honourable by it, andredemption from its curse and condemnation secured; sin was made an end of, full atonement and satisfaction for it were given; complete pardon procured, peace made, and redemption from all iniquity obtained; all enemies were conquered; all types, promises, and prophecies were fulfilled, and his own course of life ended: the reason of his saying so was, because all this was near being done, just upon finishing, and was as good as done; and was sure and certain, and so complete, that nothing need, or could be added to it; and it was done entirely without the help of man, and cannot be undone; all which since has more clearly appeared by Christ’s resurrection from the dead, his entrance into heaven, his session at God’s right hand, the declaration of the Gospel, and the application of salvation to particular persons: (Commentary of John Gill – John 19:30) (Emphases are mine)

View Him prostrate in the garden;

On the ground your Maker lies;

Then on Calvary’s tree behold Him,

Hear Him cry, before He dies,

“It is finished!” “It is finished!”

Sinner, will not this suffice?

(Joseph Hart, 1712-68)

(v5 from ‘Christian Hymns’, Eds, Paul Cook & Graham Harrison, Evangelical Press)

4. The Particularity of  the Doctrine

The particularity of the doctrine is why Particular Redemption is preferred. When Christ died on the Cross He was, as we have seen, accomplishing something not for an amorphous mass but for a particular people – individuals. When the Apostle said ‘….the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’ Gal 2:21 who was He thinking of?.

There are many verses but here are a few to whet your appetite and to thank God that He thought of YOU! John 10:11; John 10:14; John 10:27.

Have you heard the voice of Jesus

Softly pleading with your heart?

Have you felt His presence glorious,

As He calls your soul apart,

With a love so true and loyal,

Love divine that ever flows

From a Saviour, righteous, royal,

And a cross that mercy shows?

(William Vernon Higham 1926 – )

Have you?

5. What is Limited?

I understand what Limited means but it can somehow convey the sense that God Himself is limited, or that the Blood of Christ is somehow limited. It simply means Christ died only for the Elect. But the Blood of Jesus Christ would have been sufficient if God so willed it to purchase 10 million, or more, worlds of sinners. But the cost would have been just the same had He only died for one person. So Christ only atoned for, or propitiated the wrath of God only for the Elect. My dear fellow believer just think on that for a while and try to take it in.

O teach me what it meaneth:

 That sacred crimson tide,

The blood and water flowing

 From Thine own wounded side.

Teach me that if none other

 *Had sinned, but I alone,

Yet still, Thy blood, Lord Jesus,

 Thine only, must atone.

(Lucy Ann Bennett, 1850 – 1927.)

6. Use of Means

There seems to be a misunderstanding on this point. It’s as if because we believe in the doctrines of Grace (TULIP if you will) any input by man is not required. This is false. The Scriptures clearly say ‘how shall they believe unless someone preach to them…’ That doesn’t just mean hearing the message of Salvation from a pulpit, it includes hearing it in conversation over the garden fence or chatting over a coffee in Costa (Insert favourite coffee house). Sometimes God can move in extraordinary ways, but He moves through ordinary means like an ordinary conversation or through a set of circumstances. His usual method is through the Preaching of the Gospel. I think you get the point. The 1689 Confession puts it this way:

‘Those whom God has predestinated to life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time to effectually call by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death which they are in by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. He enlightens their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God. He takes away their heart of stone and gives to them a heart of flesh. He renews their wills, and by His almighty power, causes them to desire and pursue that which is good. He effectually draws them to Jesus Christ, yet in such a way that they come absolutely freely, being made willing by His grace.’ (Effectual Calling 10.1. Source.)

Yes we use means, but not any old means. They must be in accordance with the Scriptures. And these means are used by God to bring His people to Christ. The proper use of means will be governed or regulated by whether we think the Gospel is enough or not.

7. A Certain Sound

We need to give a certain sound. Come ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus has a people. We do not know who they are, but we implore all to come. The message to all as Jesus Himself preached is to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:16).

Himself He could not save,

Yet now a Saviour He:

Come, sinner, to Him come,

He waits to welcome Thee.

Believe in Him, and thou shalt prove

His saving power, His deathless love.

(Albert Midlane, 1825 – 1909. In Christian Hymns)

Will You?

8. Do you see it?

I have already touched upon this but it’s worth repeating. The final piece in the jigsaw, if I can put it that way, was the realisation that when Jesus was upon the Cross even at His moment of dereliction He had ME, even ME on His mind and heart. Some think that to be arrogance. But it’s what The Scriptures teach. It isn’t arrogance, it’s a humbling of yourself before God, it’s trust and faith to rejoice in what God has done in Christ for this rebel sinner. God does not need anything from me. All I bring is my sin. That includes what I might think are good works – our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). To bring anything or think we can bring anything, that is true arrogance and means you have a very inadequate view of God. But God is merciful and has sent a Saviour, even Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways

Are matchless, Godlike and divine;

But the fair glories of Thy grace’

More godlike and unrivaled shine,

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?

Or who has grace so rich and free?

(Samuel Davies, 1723 – 61)

Helpful Resources

James White, The Potters Freedom (just got to Ch4.) This is a must read.

John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied.

John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Volume 10 of Owens Works.

Grace Publications, Primer on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

J. I. Packer, Introductory Essay to The Death of Death..

J. I Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God.

Limited Atonement – Sermon by Stuart Olyott (Not the one I originally heard but very similar)

 

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jpemPCH

These are the links on Presuppositional Apologetics gathered from the internet between June 15th-21st, 2015.

1.) Dreams vs. Reality: A Problem for Atheism an Ally for Theism

2.) 

3.) Objections to Apologetics: ultimately fail

4.) Presuppositional Apologetics 2014 Paschal Lectures by Brian Rickett

5.) Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Christians? (A Conversation With My 11-Year-Old Daughter)

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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1604836_772691272796076_6388994583372371962_n

Back in October 2014 there was a lecture series by Professor Brian Rickett on the topic of Presuppositional apologetics for the Forty-Fourth Annual William N. Paschal Memorial Bible Lectures.  It was held on October 14 and October 16, 2014 and hosted by the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) Theological Seminary.

Here are the videos from the Lectures.

Enjoy!

 

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4tP8wWA

I’ve recently returned from my trip overseas teaching an intensive one week course on Systematic Theology that crammed a semester’s worth of material in five days.  In God’s providence it looks like another opportunity might open up in another country next year in which I might be able to do something similar.  There is definitely a real need outside of the west for theological education.

I thought I share my thoughts concerning teaching theology overseas in a Missions context although some of the points in the beginning of this post could be applied in Western contexts also as well.

BEFORE YOU DEVELOP YOUR COURSE MATERIALS…

The first few thoughts are for those who are young and want to one day be involved with teaching in an academic setting.  I would challenge one to think about teaching overseas not only because there are more opportunities but because there are real needs overseas.  There are too many over-caffeinated seminarians daydreaming about teaching at their Alma Mater where the competition is probably fierce among their other peers who are also pursuing advance degrees from prestigious schools.  Meanwhile the need exists overseas.

1.) Be a Pastor.  In an overseas missions context often those seeking theological education and enrolled in a seminary classroom are pastors.  Even if you have some technical degree and some sort of academic specialization and a PhD, it’s still good to have some kind of pastoral experience before heading out overseas to teach theology.  I think it pays dividends.  Do not lose focus that you are training pastors and spiritual leaders and not necessarily an MA student who is heading to Oxford and University of Aberdeen for advance scholarship.  That is not to say we don’t want to prepare those who might have potential to go on for further studies.  A pastoral background is helpful and one should definitely be shepherding the students even as one is instructing the students.  Examples go along way, and some things are taught while other things are caught.  Don’t forget that even as you teach doctrines you are still pastoring your students as a teacher/instructor.  If you are reading this and you are in Seminary, don’t just see part-time pastoral internship as hoops to jump through; minister all-out even as you go all-out in your studies.  Being a Pastor-Scholar would make you more effective to the people you are training.

2.) Grow Beyond Your Seminary Materials.  By that I don’t mean necessarily to change your beliefs and distinctives that your seminary impart to you.  I mean to encourage you to understand that your seminary education was merely the foundation for a life-long pursuit of studies.  Read deeply and read broadly.  Synthesis what you learned after seminary with what you learned during seminary.  It’s important that you don’t just steal your professor’s syllabus but develop your own materials.  Theology can only advance if students move theology forward from what they have been imparted from their professors.

3.) Work Harder Earlier is Smarter.  You have heard the saying “Work Harder, not Smarter.”  I think we can modify that to say “Work Harder earlier is Smarter.”  I think if one is not faithful in the little then one probably will not be faithful in the big things.  I have wanted to teach in a academic setting since my early days of discovering apologetics and theology.  Rather than just wait, even as I taught in our church systematic theology I tried to teach it to the best of my ability for the Glory of God.  Things are footnoted even for Sunday School handouts.  The materials would be the template and foundation for any future course.  If one is not faithful in the little things, how can one be faithful in the larger things?  Working harder earlier is also smarter.  You can be more ready at a moment notice to teach on something and not necessarily start from scratch if asked suddenly to teach overseas.

DEVELOPING YOUR COURSE MATERIALS…

4.) Incorporate Biblical Theology in your Systematic Theology.  Sometimes you hear people slight systematic theology from other disciplines.  However, I think if it is done right it is the queen of the theological disciplines.  I think it’s easy to merely give “proof text” to establish certain doctrines while teaching systematic theology.  To avoid the risks of grabbing verses out of context, I strongly believe the more one incorporate Biblical theology into one’s systematic theology, the less one falls into the pit of mere “proof texting.”  When one teach a doctrine, try to trace it’s doctrinal roots from the Old Testament while heading towards the New Testament.  Take into account Progressive Revelation.  The advantage of doing biblical theology even as we teach systematic theology is that it makes people discover that orthodox doctrines are genuinely Biblical.  It reinforce our theological arguments.  It also makes both the instructor and the students go to the source of Scripture rather than a mere syllabus or theology textbook.  It makes them think about how a verse or passage fit in the flow of redemptive history and Scripture as a whole.

5.) Don’t merely cite verses for what you believe; engage in rigorous doctrinal apologetics in defense of your beliefs from key verses.  I think it’s important to present what we believe not just lightly but rather with rigorous arguments from biblical texts that is logically valid.  What might be taken for granted by you might not be to your students in their ecclesiastical and cultural contexts so it is best to present every doctrinal beliefs with good argumentation as if you are presenting it before someone who disagree with you.  When you do discover your students disagree with you, you are prepared to give the best reason why you believe what you believe.  Even with doctrines that the students might already believe, you want to show them that the same rigorous argumentation is also the same argumentation that lead you to believe in doctrines that are new to them or doctrines that they are not sure of.  Furthermore, rigorous reasoning from the Scripture equips them against the cults.  Some of the local cults might not be something you are aware of so it is always good to present your proofs for the doctrines in your course so as to equip them well to defend the faith.

6.) After demonstrating the veracity of a doctrine, be sure to draw out the implication of a doctrine.  If 2 Timothy 3:16 is true then doctrines from Scripture would have implications that equip the man of God for every good work.  I like to end each session with a time for questions followed by the question to the students of “Knowing what we now know, how does this impact our life and our ministry?”  Doing this every session will eventually teach them that doctrines aren’t just for head knoweledge, but to be treasured and trusted and applied in our lives and the lives of our congregation and used to minister and reach the Lost.  Exploring the practicality of doctrines also balance the course from becoming merely lessons on doctrinal apologetics.  You show how doctrines shape our worship, our ministry and our lives.  You train them to be pastoral.

7.) Plan to use illustrations in your teaching.  Illustrations are wonderful to help reinforce explanation and argumentation.  There is the risk that some illustrations don’t apply because of cultural differences.  We must be sensitive to this but I think it’s still worth the risk.  I find rural illustrations to be the most helpful cross-culturally.  The Bible often used illustrations from nature and the agricultural world.  It seems that those who are rural can quickly identify with them.  Those who are more educated and Urban are also “intellectually” capable of picking up on them.  Even when an illustration turns out not to fit in the audience’s contexts, I think often people’s fascination with things American and the West will help give one a “pass” in that they learn more about you and it still build a bridge while it makes them aware of cultural mores–and how much more we need to go to the Scriptures.

8.) Historical Theology Encourages the Students as they struggle to grasp doctrines.  My original lesson plan had nothing of historical theology although I have read a bit of historical theology and doctrinal development prior to my trip.  I mistakenly thought that my students would not be interested in church history and historical theology.  I found historical theology to be most helpful to my students during the trip when they struggled to find the right terminology for certain theological concepts.  I invoked historical theology to show how they are not the first to try to grasp and find the proper terms for difficult theological truths.  Theology is not merely reading the Bible.  It is understanding it and then communicating it in our cultural contexts.  Seeing the early church wrestle with truths such as the Oneness and Threeness of God, the relationship of Christ as God and Christ as man encouraged the believers that others have gone before and thought hard about the proper terms.

9.) When you refer to the Original Languages, it is okay to show how you got your interpretation.  Often in a missions theological education context, the students might not have the tools and skill of the original languages of Scriptures.  But they are curious and asks questions about the original languages.  I found it still helpful to show them the original languages and why I interpret things the way I do.  There is a limitation on merely citing a lexicon and saying the lexicon says so.  Context always demand how verbal aspects and lexical meanings are understood so I found it helpful to even show how certain terms are used in other contexts and also in the immediate contexts.  It would make them hunger more deeply for God’s Word.  More importantly, I felt it was important to show how I got things with the original languages to de-mystify the original language scholar and also to avoid looking like Joseph Prince who always talk about the Hebrew but one isn’t sure where he’s getting it but can only rely on his own authority.

These are my thoughts.  I have more but I think this will do for now for this post.

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