Southern Seminary appoints Whitney to lead spirituality program

by Jeff Robinson, posted Thursday, May 12, 2005 (13 years ago)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently appointed to its faculty noted spiritual disciplines scholar Donald S. Whitney to teach in a new professorship of biblical spirituality and to pioneer a doctoral program in Christian spirituality.

Whitney, who has served as associate professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1995, is the author of several books on Christian spirituality and spiritual disciplines, including “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life,” “Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church,” and “Simplify Your Spiritual Life.”

Whitney will serve as associate professor of biblical spirituality and director of the seminary's supervised ministry experience. He will be in charge of assembling a curriculum for Christian spirituality at Southern Seminary and also will develop Ph.D. and doctor of ministry programs in Christian spirituality and the spiritual disciplines, said Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern’s School of Theology. Whitney’s appointment will begin with the fall semester.

“In an era when ‘spirituality’ means anything from Labyrinth walking to primal scream therapy, our churches need biblical wisdom about personal and congregational sanctification,” Moore said. “Donald Whitney is the preeminent scholar of spiritual disciplines in the evangelical world.

“In Don Whitney, Southern Seminary has found the leader to help us ground our churches and church leaders in the call to godliness and holiness. Whitney will pioneer a curriculum for all students in spiritual disciplines, as well as specialized Ph.D. and D.Min. degrees in this crucial area of study.”

In addition to teaching, Whitney travels across the globe each year speaking in conferences and churches on spirituality through his ministry, the Center for Biblical Spirituality (www.BiblicalSpirituality.org), which will continue with his move to Louisville.

Whitney said he hopes to help students at Southern Seminary pursue Christ-likeness and sanctification even while they are in the midst of academic tasks. As one who has served as a pastor, associate pastor and interim pastor for 25 years, Whitney has a passion for an authentic, Bible-saturated, Christ-centered spirituality.

“I want to help the students of Southern Seminary to pursue intimacy with and conformity -- both inward and outward -- to Jesus Christ according to the Bible, and to prepare them to teach others, primarily in local churches, to do the same.

“I hope to train the next generation of those who will teach this same discipline of biblical spirituality in colleges and seminaries. Throughout my ministry, I have prayed to see widespread, God-given reformation and revival, and to be used of God in spreading it.”

While the shelves of Christian bookstores bulge with self-help titles and “how-to” guides on spirituality, Whitney says the two primary things he finds missing from much popular teaching on spirituality are God and the Bible. Also absent is the influence of biblically sound models and teachers, he said.

“Practices borrowed from non-Christian religions and other extrabiblical methods of expressing spirituality sometimes overshadow the individual and congregational spiritual disciplines found in Scripture,” he said.

“A second frequent omission in popular spirituality is the Lord Himself. In such cases, the purpose of the spiritual disciplines often seems too self-ward. I want to focus on the pursuit of God through the God-given means of doing so found in the Bible. I believe the Bible is a sufficient guide for our spirituality, and when rightly followed it will lead us both to the enjoyment of God and the glorification of God ... I am confident that the true Gospel produces the best disciples.”

Whitney received a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1975, a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1985, and is presently nearing the completion of a doctor of theology degree with specialization in Christian spirituality from the University of South Africa.

Whitney and wife Caffy were married in 1977. The couple has a daughter, Laurelen Christiana. Caffy Whitney is an accomplished illustrator and muralist and has done book covers, illustrations and other designs for publications and publishers, including SBC Life, Scripture Press, the National Association of Evangelicals, Reformation Heritage Books, Grace and Truth Books, and Joshua Press. She also taught in the seminary wives program at Midwestern Seminary.

Whitney expects students at Southern to learn about spiritual disciplines, not merely in the abstract by reading and hearing about them, but also by doing them as a classroom requirement.

“A theological seminary, it must be remembered, is an academic institution,” he said. “But as such it always must guard against the tendency to give students the impression that the ministry and the things of God have to do only with the intellect.

“I intend to address the issue of head vs. heart by requiring my students to actually experience the spiritual disciplines, not merely read or hear lectures about them. For example, I won’t just talk in the classroom about prayer, meditation on Scripture, fasting, silence and solitude, and other disciplines. I will require students to practice these disciplines outside of class and report about them in a spiritual journal.”


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