The Future of Seminary Education

For those interested in how seminary education should be delivered need to read Paul R. House’s, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision: A Case Study of Costly Discipleship and Life Together (Crossway, 2015).

House uses Bonhoeffer’s seminary model as a way to evaluate the current shift of seminary education away from resident programs to online. While House recognizes the need and value of online seminary education in a few incidents, these are only for emergencies where a potential student is unable to attend a residential program.

House argues that the delivery system of seminary education should be driven by theology and not cash flow that some have suggested online programs promise. He writes, “Thus I believe that a biblical theology of pastoral formation makes face-to-face community-based seminary education a priority, not a preference. (I also believe that the same is true for a Christian liberal arts university, but that is a subject for another time.) Online education for degree credit (at per-credit fees) may be reserved for true emergency cases, but not be accepted as normative or used regularly for pastoral formation” (15).

Most seminary professors would applaud House’s call. However, it is not the professor who needs to be convinced but the potential student. One of my seminary students, who left today for his paid internship, stopped by yesterday and rehearsed all that he learned and experienced by being in a residential program. He recognized that while he could have taken his degree online, he realizes that his educational experience would not have been as full or as rewarding if he simply did his courses online. While this student had a family and steady job, he was unique in that he had the finances and medical occupation that was transferable to almost any geographical area. Many students do not have these same blessings. Contrary to House, online seminary education is a strong, viable (and biblical) alternative for many students. However, seminary faculty, administration and potential students need to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each delivery system.

While not everyone will agree with his premise or conclusions, House raises thought provoking questions that seminaries need to wrestle with as we train others for ministry in the local church.

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Chapter in new book announced

I have a chapter in a new book forthcoming from Weaver Publishing this October.  The title of my chapter is “Redeeming Chronic Pain: When Surgery Doesn’t Work” in When Suffering Is Redemptive: Stories of How Anguish and Pain Accomplish God’s Mission. I share my journey with God through Trigeminal Neuralgia. Dr. Larry Waters from DTS is the editor and a contributor as well. Joni Eareckson Tada has written the forward.  See the rest of the chapter titles and book blurb here.  Here is a working cover of the book.                book cover

The Church’s Response to Same Sex Marraige

Came across this article that echo’s what I have been saying about the church’s response to same sex marriages for awhile. Canadian Cary Nieuwhof’s five points are spot on. In his blog post he cautiously offers advice to his American counterparts on how the church should respond to same sex marriage, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling. (Same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for 10 years). See his blog post here: “His Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian.”

His second point, “It’s actually strange to ask non-Christians to hold Christian values,” is especially poignant for Christians to consider. I have been saying the same thing since the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney in 1997. Then I said it was unrealistic to expect “Mickey” to hold Christian values and practices since “he” was not a believer.

I wonder if “we” are upset over the loss of being the nation’s “conscience.” No longer are Christians able to insist that people act sort of “Christian” under the force of law. Now it seems that people will only have an opportunity to act Christian if they are truly saved. I get the sense from reading the NT that the early believers had to live and speak from a truly minority position as well. They did it with love, not comprising the truth and within that position the church flourished. Maybe modern Christians need to take a page from their “playbook.”

The Pastor and Theologian in One Person

While in not so many words, Douglas Webster offers an advertisement for Baptist Bible Seminary’s PhD program in his recent review article of a new book: The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson. In his review, “Calling All Augustines” Christianity Today (July/August 2015 see article here) he notes that the authors call for a return of the pastor theologian. They rightly see the need for the academic and pastor to be combined in one man and he in the local pastorate. In our PhD program (see here) we are designed to do just that. All of our professors have extensive pastoral or missionary experience, are currently involved in their local church and all possess terminal academic degrees within their fields from DTS, TEDS and BBS. A number of our graduates and current PhD students are fulfilling this book’s vision. I am thinking of Dave in Canada; John in California; Jay in Delaware and Mike in New Jersey just to name a few. These men are pursing this degree to simply be a better pastor for their flock. These men are not “passive conveyors of insights from theologians” but are men who combine academic rigor at the highest level with a pastor’s heart. Webster concludes his article by recognizing the need for more men such as these. I agree completely. Local churches should be looking for such men as these and supporting their pastor who wants to pursue such a course.

IVP New Commentary on the Song of Songs

IVP has just released volume 19 The Song of Songs by Iain M. Duguid for their new edition of their Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. This volume is intended to replace the fine volume by G. Lloyd Carr. While I have not read the entire volume as of yet, I can offer a few observations.   While both introductions are approximately the same length, Duguid’s volume is 15 pages shorter on the commentary side. The commentary section is divided between three divisions: Context, Comment and Meaning. Since it is a newer volume, the author does interact with Exum’s and Hess’ newer commentaries as well as older ones such as Pope and Longman. However, he did not include Dan Estes’ commentary on the Song in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Duguid argues against Solomonic authorship and leans to a date after the exile as the most likely (23). His approach to the Song is a literal one plus something else. While he states that he rejects the fanciful allegorical reading, and believes the “natural” interpretation to be the correct one, he wants to “go further than this and bridge the two interpretations” (37). So throughout the volume this “bridge” is evident in his regular mentioning of Jesus Christ. His understanding of Luke 24:44-45 as the evidence that “every part of the old Testament speaks to us of the suffering of Christ and the glories that will follow” (51) allows him to construct this “bridge” with materials that are non-existent in the Song. Although he does not want to be seen as championing the allegorical approach, he wants to hold to “two broad categories, which we may call the ‘spiritual’ approach and the ‘natural’ approach” (28). This is unfortunate. While I look forward to reading the commentary section itself, I do hope Carr’s volume stays in print.

Fatal Flaws of Cahn

Below is the introduction for a book review I was asked to do for Baptist Bulletin.  It is a review on messianic Jew, Jonathan Cahn’s two books.  To read the entire review you can sign up for free access here at Baptist Bulletin site.

Descent into Exegetical Darkness

By Mark McGinniss

If there is one quality believers need desperately in today’s cultural climate, it is Biblical discernment. This astuteness is especially needed when a Messianic Jew takes an Old Testament verse or two and incorrectly exegetes those texts. Then based on his faulty hermeneutic, he writes books announcing that these ancient Old Testament texts written specifically to Israel suddenly and mysteriously predict woe and divine judgment on the United States. Such is the sad case with Jonathan Cahn’s two books.

Cahn’s new book, The Mystery of Shemitah, is an expansion of the 17th chapter of his best seller, The Harbinger (2011). Both books have a common thread. Cahn believes Isaiah 9:10 is not only a mystery that tells of Israel’s response to the Assyrian threat during the prophet’s time, but is actually a secret prophecy foretelling the events that occurred in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 (Harbinger, 46). Cahn believes the fallen bricks mentioned in Isaiah 9:10 are the rubble of New York’s Twin Towers. This serves as the first harbinger of God’s impending judgment because of America’s sin. The terror attacks, according to Cahn’s calculation, occur in a year of Shemitah, 2001 (Shemitah, 130). Thus, the two books are interrelated: The Harbinger tells of the mystery of one Old Testament verse as applied to the U.S., and The Mystery of Shemitah gives the timing of these catastrophic events and more to come. Both books suffer from the same five fatal flaws.