FROM THE SEMINARIES: Midwestern & 9Marks conf. focuses on biblical theology; MBTS adds 2 Ph.D. emphases

by T. Patrick Hudson, posted Tuesday, February 26, 2019 (5 months ago)

Midwestern & 9Marks explore biblical theology

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary partnered with 9Marks for "A Conference on Biblical Theology" exploring how biblical theology shapes individual lives as well as the life of the local church.

Zach Schlegel (left) and Jonathan Leeman award books to pastors with the longest and shortest tenures at their respective churches during the a conference on biblical theology at Midwestern Seminary in cooperation with the 9Marks church health ministry.
MBTS photo
Jason Allen, Ligon Duncan, Trip Lee, Zach Schlegel, Owen Strachan and Jonathan Leeman spoke during the Feb. 12-13 sessions at Midwestern's campus in Kansas City, Mo., with a panel discussion following each message. 9Marks is a ministry focused on church health based in Washington, D.C.

"Offering conferences such as this provides opportunities to interact with pastors and ministry leaders from around the nation and world through a deeper study of God's Word, and specifically in this case about the topic of biblical theology," Allen, Midwestern's president, said. "We are grateful to partner with 9Marks in such an endeavor."

How biblical and systematic theology relate

Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, led the conference's first session on the necessity of biblical and systematic theology coexisting in a pastor's study of God's Word.

Systematic theology studies the Bible topically and attempts to tie the topics to one another, Duncan said, while biblical theology traces God's work in redemptive history throughout the entirety of the Bible. The bottom line, Duncan said, is that both systematic and biblical theology are necessary for solid expositional preaching.

Ligon Duncan (left), chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, meets with conference attendees after his message during the conference on biblical theology at Midwestern Seminary in conjunction with the 9Marks church health ministry.
MBTS photo
"The most important thing in your Bible is God.... Systematic theologians are as interested in deriving thoughts from Scripture as biblical theologians are. And if God is the author of Scripture, shouldn't we start all of our theological study thinking about God? ... Both methods express a concern for the Bible to have the last word about our thinking."

Biblical theology and hermeneutics

Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern, noted that a pastor must have a curious mind, an obedient will and a worshipful heart to rightly divide Scripture. Additionally, in interpreting the Bible from a biblical theology standpoint, he said, the goal is to do so in a Christ-centered manner.

A "Christ-centered hermeneutic," Strachan said, means that "the Old Testament as a whole, and in its parts, points to Christ, and it can only be understood fully when Christ is seen as the center of Scripture."

"Ultimately, to appropriately interpret Scripture from a biblically theological standpoint, one must ask the question, 'Where does this text stand in relation to Christ?'" Strachan said.

How biblical theology shapes pastoral counseling

Schlegel, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md., addressed how pastors can encourage their congregations through biblical theology and Christian counseling.

The main intent of the Bible as a single, unified work is to reveal the truth about God to His people, Schlegel said. Unfortunately, many people read it as a fragmented document; thus, it is not as effective in assisting them in their lives.

If one understands the nature of God's story, Schlegel said, it can significantly assist in living out his or her story.

"God's story involves us ... and the Bible stands in authority over us," Schlegel said, whereas "we approach life as if we're writing our own story, and in doing so we make a mess of our lives and a mess of our world."

"As pastors we attempt to counsel others and help them understand both the biblical story and the person's story," trusting God "to edit and shape our lives according to His story." In Scripture, Schlegel said, God provides pastors a toolbox for helping people on an individual basis.

Teaching biblical theology to church members

Lee, a hip-hop artist, author and pastor, wrapped up the first day of the conference by sharing how a pastor can teach biblical theology to his church members.

The first step for pastors, Lee said, is to overcome what is intimidating to them, noting that biblical theology doesn't need to be intimidating.

The solution, Lee said, is to use common sense. "If Scripture is unified, then it demands we teach it as one book. If we ignore the Old Testament, it's like hanging up on half of God's phone calls. The Word is how God speaks to us, and we should listen to all of it."

When teaching biblical theology, Lee said, show the congregation who the main character is -- Jesus -- and then show them our role in the story.

"When we look at who we really are in Scripture, we're really rebellious.... Seeing the big picture enables us to see our roles clearly. Hopefully, the next generation won't repeat the mistakes of the past." Lee said God is perfect and never changes, with His love enduring forever in a great story of redemption playing throughout Scripture.

Biblical theology and the church's mission

Leeman, editorial director of 9Marks, opened the second day of the conference addressing biblical theology and the mission of the church.

Leeman noted that there is a narrow and broad view of the church's mission: Narrowly, the church's most urgent mission is proclaiming people's great need for salvation in Jesus Christ to be saved from sin. More broadly, individual church members are tasked to make disciples -- presenting the church as a model society and to live as witnesses in word and deed.

"You have to share the Gospel so someone gets saved," Leeman said. "Yet you also have to properly identify them through church membership and the ordinances so that people will know now that their lives speak for Jesus."

Biblical theology and preaching

Allen, in the conference's final session, noted that preaching sermons in the current culture and spiritual climate involves a special type of message.

"We must strive for sermons that are thoroughly biblical in content, unflinchingly courageous in delivery, and robustly Christ-centered in focus," Allen said. "We should point to Jesus at every opportunity to every crowd that will listen from every text to the best of our ability."

In seeking to explain how preaching and biblical theology intertwine, Allen said it is vital to preach Christ, and Him crucified.

"Biblical theology is given to tracing the predominant themes of the Bible from their earliest overtures to their latter revelatory culmination," Allen said. "Additionally, a Christ-centered biblical theology seeks to synthesize the grand story of Scripture into a condensed summation that centers upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.

"As Gospel preachers, we are ministers of the New Covenant, and we should preach Christ-centered sermons accordingly. Biblical theology helps us to do this, and to do it well."

Allen noted after the conference that such events reflect a desire for "pastors and ministry leaders to know that they can trust Midwestern" to provide theological education "for not only themselves, but those called into the ministry from their churches. They can come to Kansas City, learn from and be mentored by our world-class faculty, then leave prepared to fulfill a lifetime of Gospel ministry."

To view all sessions of the conference, visit https://www.mbts.edu/resources/videos.

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Midwestern adds 2 Ph.D. emphases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced the addition of two new Ph.D. emphases in light of the rising number of students in its doctor of philosophy program and the expertise of two new faculty members.

Midwestern has added biblical theology and biblical counseling to its current Ph.D. emphases in biblical studies in apologetics, ethics, historical theology, ministry, missiology, New Testament, Old Testament, preaching and systematic theology.

"The primary intention of our Ph.D. program is to equip students for vocations of teaching and research in theological schools, colleges and universities or for the scholarly enhancement of ministerial practice," MBTS President Jason Allen said. "Student interest in the fields of biblical theology and biblical counseling has increasingly grown, and with the election of Dr. Andreas Köstenberger and Dr. Dale Johnson, we have faculty members in place -- with vast expertise in these areas -- to provide excellence in scholarship that will prepare our students for a lifetime of serving well and faithfully for the church."

Köstenberger, elected to Midwestern's faculty as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology in April 2018, will oversee courses taught in the biblical theology emphasis.

Explaining this new emphasis, Köstenberger said students will be able "to study in-depth the use of the Old Testament in the New and to engage in specialized study of biblical-theological connections between the Testaments. They will be able to explore major themes as they unfold progressively throughout the Scriptures, such as the Messiah, salvation, covenant, creation and new creation, or any number of other topics."

Köstenberger added that the new biblical theology emphasis will help train preachers and teachers to competently preach and teach from both Testaments, which helps people see inner-biblical connections across the canon and to appreciate the beauty of God's unfolding plan of redemption in Scripture.

It will be "a unique program that promises to attract top-tier students from across the Southern Baptist and greater evangelical world," Köstenberger said.

Johnson, elected to the faculty as associate professor of biblical counseling in October 2018, will oversee the biblical counseling emphasis.

Of the biblical counseling emphasis, Johnson said students will have an opportunity for academic research at the intersection of theology and anthropology. They will engage modern theories of the therapeutic philosophies with biblical sufficiency, theological acumen and practical application in a way that brings theology to life, mission to churches and peace to hurting souls.

"We want the biblically- and theologically-saturated works of our students to guide the next generation of pastors as they lead their respective congregations to be the primary community for the care and cure of souls," he said.

Johnson also noted that the degree is an intentional pursuit of consistent ministry of the Word of God both corporately, in preaching, and privately, in soul care so that churches may be edified and strengthened by God's Spirit through His revelation. "The degree program will offer intimate study with astute scholars who are committed churchmen," he said. "We will be assembling a faculty to serve our biblical counseling department who are respected in this field and who focus on counseling ministry for serving with the local church."

As with Midwestern's other Ph.D. studies, students are required to complete 16 hours of core seminars, then within each emphasis there are 24 hours of seminars. Students complete their degrees with comprehensive examinations and dissertation seminars.

New courses offered in the biblical theology emphasis and taught by Köstenberger are "Ancient Jewish & Greco Roman Literature" and "Advanced Biblical Theology," while new courses offered in the biblical counseling emphasis and taught by Johnson are "Biblical Counseling Theory and Practice," "Historical & Theological Foundations of Biblical Counseling," and "Advanced Marriage and Family Counseling."

"The addition of these two new Ph.D. emphases are Exhibit A of the 'For the Church' scholarship DNA that runs through all of our doctoral programs," Provost Jason Duesing said. "I am grateful for the development and growth of our faculty and student body over the last six-plus years, which allow us to expand and continue to innovate with emphases like these."

For those interested in the new Ph.D. emphases, visit https://www.mbts.edu/degrees/doctoral-studies/ or contact the Doctoral Studies Office at 877-414-3755 or e-mail docstudies@mbts.edu.

T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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