FROM THE SEMINARIES: SBTS prof on marriage & work; SWBTS evangelism teams see fruitful witness

by Southern & Southwestern seminary writers, posted Monday, February 29, 2016 (3 years ago)

Prof underscores marriage, family & work in God's creation

By Andrew J.W. Smith

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Marriage and family are essential to the work God has assigned mankind in His creation, professor James M. Hamilton Jr. said in a lecture as part of an initiative on faith, work and human flourishing at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at the seminary, juxtaposed the biblical view of work with one from the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" expressed in the song "Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Harry McClintock.

While the lazy might imagine a perfect paradise "where you sleep all day, where they hung the jerk that invented work," Hamilton noted that the song of Psalm 128 promises blessing to the one who "will eat the fruit of [his] labor" and enjoy a bountiful family.

"Life at The Big Rock Candy Mountain would not result in true and lasting happiness or satisfaction," Hamilton said in his lecture at the seminary campus in Louisville, Ky.

The story of the universe, Hamilton noted, begins with God Himself working by speaking worlds into being, completing His task without drudgery, and He continues to work throughout history to fulfill His purposes. When God creates Adam on the sixth day, He immediately puts him to work as His image-bearer, Hamilton said.

"Man was created not for passive observation of the world but for an epic task, a worldwide venture," Hamilton said of God's creation mandate.

God first commands for the man to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28), which is impossible without the female helper God created for him, Hamilton said. The work God gives to mankind is inseparable from the marriage institution and the sexual biology God intended, Hamilton said.

"In order to subdue and rule, man will have to be fruitful and multiply," he said. "This makes the fact that man was made male and female indispensable."

Although man cannot finish God's task without the woman, He didn't establish marriage only for practical reasons. God designed the union between man and woman to make the task a delightful experience, Hamilton said.

"In the true story Genesis tells, God gave marriage not only to enable the great task, but also to enrich the life and work God gave to man," he said.

From the farmer and ditch-digger to the software developer and nuclear physicist, all righteous work falls under the purposes of God in Eden, Hamilton said, noting that every task originates from the archetypal work found in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2. When God "placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it," the Hebrew word for "placed" literally means "caused him to rest," which indicates that just as God took a Sabbath after creating the world, so man's labor is a "restful work," Hamilton said.

Western culture has increasingly revolted against God-given roles, and since marriage is foundational to the work God assigned to man, Hamilton argued that transgenderism and same-sex marriage are rejections of God Himself.

"Our culture is in revolt against the idea that biology corresponds to sexual identity. … The revolt seeks to overthrow the so-called gender binary, as though being either biologically male or biologically female is somehow a too restrictive approach to the issue," Hamilton said.

"Rather than viewing biological sex and the accompanying gender roles as some kind of straightjacket, however, we should receive what God made us as His gift."

Southern Seminary's Commonweal Project on Faith, Work and Human Flourishing is funded by the Kern Family Foundation as part of the Oikonomia Network http://oikonomianetwork.org of evangelical seminaries to foster a biblical theology of work and economics.

First fruits of spring semester harvested at university campus

By Alex Sibley

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Two Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students were beginning to witness to a student, Esteban, on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington when two of his friends, Stephanie and Belen, showed up. Though SWBTS master of divinity student Emmanuel Escareno initially thought it would disrupt the chance to share the Gospel, it proved to be a divine appointment.

Escareno, along with fellow M.Div. student Daniel Moon, sensed uncertainty about the afterlife in Esteban and Stephanie, and the spiritual questions Escareno asked seemed especially pertinent. Just one week before, both Esteban and Stephanie had been in a car accident.

With Esteban driving and Stephanie in the passenger seat, an oncoming vehicle rammed the side of their car. Fortunately, neither was injured. In their conversation with the two Southwesterners, they acknowledged God's protection in such a potentially harmful situation.

Escareno presented the Gospel, explaining Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection, with faith in Him being the only means by which a person can be saved.

He asked the three collegians if they understood what he told them. All three said "yes." He asked if there was any reason they should not place their faith in Jesus immediately and they said "no."

Escareno led them in a prayer of salvation, and all three professed faith in Christ.

Including these three, five UTA students came to faith in Christ that day, the largest number of faith professions that Southwestern evangelism teams have ever seen there in a single day (in fact, they all took place within the span of an hour on Jan. 27).

Escareno and Moon constituted one team, while M.Div. students Dallas Smith and Ariel Lee constituted the other.

The Lord used Smith and Lee to lead one person each to Christ.

The first, Edward, they encountered in the student union. Smith initiated the conversation, asking if Edward had time to talk, then inquiring about his story. After a minute or so, Smith said he had a tract to share with him. Edward agreed to listen, so Lee walked him through the Gospel presentation. By the end, Edward came to the realization that he needed Jesus in his life and Smith proceeded to lead him in a prayer of salvation.

Afterward, Lee initiated a conversation with Leo, a Taiwanese student. Leo said his family is Buddhist but that he does not particularly understand that religion. Lee shared that he is a Christian, and when Leo said he knew nothing about Christianity, Lee inquired if he could share with him four simple points.

"I brought out my Chinese 'Four Spiritual Laws' booklet and shared the Gospel with him," Lee recounted. "I asked which circle describes his life right now, and he chose the one with Jesus. I asked if he was already a Christian, and he said 'no,' but this was the one he wanted. So I showed him the prayer [of salvation] and asked if he wanted this, and he said 'yes.' So I led him to pray to receive Christ."

In addition to these five saved at UTA, an additional six people professed faith in Christ that same week in response to the evangelism efforts of Southwestern students and faculty just a few days into the spring semester.

Matt Queen, L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism ("Chair of Fire") at Southwestern, said God has blessed Southwestern's weekday evangelism teams from the Fort Worth campus in many ways since the fall of 2013, "including the fact that every week we have sent out a team to evangelize at least one person -- and many times more than one person -- has received Christ."

"We're finding that the more consistent our weekly witness for Christ is in the community, the more consistent reports we hear of those in our community who are receiving Christ," Queen noted.

Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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