FROM THE SEMINARIES: SBTS to strengthen apologetics focus; SWBTS family leads teen to faith in Christ

by SBC Seminary & BP Staff, posted Wednesday, September 27, 2017 (7 months ago)

In today's From the Seminaries: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

SBTS to strengthen apologetics focus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has created a single master of divinity degree in apologetics in its Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, consolidating two current apologetics programs.

Douglas K. Blount, professor of Christian apologetics at SBTS since 2015, will chair the Billy Graham School's new Department of Apologetics and World Religions. The seminary has had two separate apologetics concentrations -- one each in the school of theology and the Billy Graham School.

Apologetics ultimately is about evangelism and discipleship, Adam W. Greenway, dean of the Billy Graham School, said of the seminary's blend of academic preparation that marks most apologetics programs with a robust evangelistic emphasis that marks Southern Baptists.

"We want leaders and teachers in our churches to be able to tell people not just how to become a Christian but why they should become a Christian," Greenway said of the strengthened apologetics emphasis to be launched for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Missional and evangelistic skills, Blount said, are more essential than ever in Christian witness.

Southern Seminary intends to develop a "first-rate [program] in intellectual rigor, and we certainly want our students to be mentally prepared for the challenges they are going to face in a culture that is hostile to the faith," Blount said. "But we want to turn out students who not only have the head for apologetic ministry, but also the heart for evangelism and missions."

The seminary also will offer a M.Div. concentration in Islamic studies led by Ayman Ibrahim, Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Seminary, along with a master of arts in apologetics and the current M.A. in Islamic studies.

Greenway projected that the new apologetics department will become one of Southern's premier programs, drawing on the "strength of our institution from top to bottom."

The ultimate goal of the apologetics department is to train students not just to win intellectual arguments, but to have a concern for building the church, he said. The department will seek to equip pastors and teachers to be on the front line of engagement -- not just with non-believers or atheists, but also people of other faiths in an increasingly pluralistic culture.

Timothy Paul Jones, associate vice president for the seminary's Global Campus and C. Edward Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry, will teach extensively in the new department.

"As Western culture grows increasingly secular, apologetics will become more and more essential for the practice of evangelism," said Jones, author of several books defending the Christian faith, including "Misquoting Truth: A Guide to Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's 'Misquoting Jesus.'"

In training students to be "wise and winsome apologists," Jones said the program will bring together "individuals with deep expertise in philosophy, history, human development and practical ministry."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, said apologetics "has always been a central task of the Christian church, but our contemporary context presents an unavoidable apologetic challenge."

"This generation will never know a moment where it's not called to defend the truth and the truthfulness of the Christian faith," Mohler said. "Southern Seminary has been on the front lines of preparing the church for this challenge for many years, but this new concentration of faculty assets and emphasis in one department will make history. I'm very thankful for this faculty and for what this will mean for the church. Together, they will help our students and this entire generation be able to give an answer for the hope that is in them."

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SWBTS family leads teen to faith in Christ

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- When evangelism professor Matt Queen distributed an email "praise report" at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary detailing the salvation of a 15-year-old girl, it inspired more reasons to celebrate than just one.

Not only did the email share how Ph.D. student Jonathan Baldwin and his wife Laura led a young teenager named Alexis to the Lord, but it also revealed a key detail of the experience: the Baldwins' three children had accompanied them on the evangelistic outing.

"Praise the Lord that (1) Alexis received Christ and (2) that the three Baldwin children witnessed their father and mother evangelizing as a model for them when they (we pray) become believers," Queen wrote.

"I'm convinced that more Southern Baptists would think 'everyday evangelism' was normal if our men would lead their families to evangelize. God, may it be so!"

The Baldwins set out on Saturday, Aug. 19, to share the Gospel in their neighborhood. For only the second time, they brought along with them their three children, ages 4 years, 2 years and 7 months.

"The concept of bringing my whole family with me to evangelize is something new for us," Jonathan said. "I have seen other men bring their families alongside them to evangelize. As soon as my youngest was old enough, I wanted to bring my family with me too."

With the youngest children watching from a stroller, the Baldwin family knocked on the door of Marcella, who answered with her daughter Alexis. Marcella shared that she is a believer and recently left her previous church in order to attend one that preached the Bible. Alexis attended with her but had not yet professed faith in Christ.

The Baldwins walked Alexis through the Gospel, sharing of Jesus' sacrificial death on her behalf so that she may have eternal life through faith in Him. The couple invited her to receive this gift of eternal life; she accepted and surrendered her life to the Lord.

Laura Baldwin plans to follow up with both Marcella and Alexis in the coming weeks in order to disciple them, encourage them to become part of a local church and get baptized as a public profession of their faith.

Jonathan Baldwin, in his own praise report to Queen, celebrated not only Alexis' new birth but also his children's opportunity to witness what had transpired.

"Thank you for showing me how to lead my family in evangelism!" he wrote. "The reason I bring [my family] with me is two-fold. First, if I want to lead God's church in evangelism, I need to be leading my family in evangelism.

"Second, my children must understand that the Gospel is not just a story we share at home with each other. The Gospel is a story we share outside of the home with others. This opportunity lets my children hear the Gospel, see my wife and I share it with others, and witness lost souls being found."

Upon hearing this story, Southwestern President Paige Patterson affirmed, "This is how you build evangelistic children. I know -- it is what my dad did for me."

Queen added, "Amen, Dr. Patterson! My father did the same for me -- the single most influential act that has informed my personal evangelism."

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Andrew J.W. Smith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Alex Sibley of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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