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Written by Dr. David Lamb Tuesday, 20 December 2011 00:00

The package arrived on the right day in the right size box.  But it was addressed to my wife, Shannon.  I hesitated to open it, knowing trouble could ensue from a prematurely opened package.  But she wasn’t going to get back until tomorrow night. It was painful, but I waited.  Eventually, Shannon returned, opened the box and confirmed my suspicions.  My Christmas iPad had arrived and it was only December 2. 

To open or not to open, that is the question.  The arguments for opening it now were strong.  It had arrived.  If God didn’t want it to arrive early, he could have delayed its delivery.  On-time arrival was clearly a sign of divine favor.  God probably wanted me to use it now. 

I could set it up and start getting the apps so that when Christmas arrived I could use it properly.  (This argument was supplied by a colleague at Biblical.)  That sounds good.  After all, it could take several days to figure out this gadget and get it configured the right way. 

Shannon said, “I think you should wait.”  Ouch.  Waiting was painful.  And because it was painful, I knew she was right. 

In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to sacrifice things that were important to them: grain, animals and wine.  Christians today don’t typically engage in OT-type sacrifices, no burned cakes, slaughtered sheep or poured out libations.  While sacrifices seem like a waste, God commands them because they put people in a place of dependence upon him.  And that’s a good thing.

Waiting to open my iPad until Christmas feels like a sacrifice.  (I realize I’m just waiting until I am supposed to open it, so not a big sacrifice, but it feels big.) 

Sacrifices, like waiting to open a highly valued Christmas present, also defame the idol behind the present by saying it’s OK to go without.  And let’s face it, technological gadgetry is a huge idol in 21stcentury American culture.  People love their toys a little too much. 

Here at Biblical Seminary, we emphasize missional engagement with culture, but one of the problems with cultural engagement is that it can border on idolizing culture.  To check this tendency, we need to not only engage popular culture, but also to defame popular idols. 

To make sure my new toy doesn’t become an idol, I’m making a sacrifice and waiting.  (But no guarantees I won’t be waking up early on December 25.) 

What recent examples have you seen of defaming cultural idolatries? 

  

 

Written by Dr. Derek Cooper Monday, 19 December 2011 00:00

 When I was in graduate school, I decided that I would not allow my study of theology to become a purely academic exercise. So when it came time for my specialization, I consciously chose the book of James. Although I would argue that all the books in the Bible are “practical” in nature, there is something especially punchy about James’s letter. Just in the first chapter alone, he confronts the reader with a continuous cascade of sayings: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue…his religion is worthless” (1:26). There is no way to read the book of James and walk away unaffected.

Which is exactly what many of us who teach theology professionally do. We become, as James cautions us, “hearers of the word and not doers” (1:23-24). In order to protect myself from this tendency, I am committed to having a long-life engagement with the book of James. In the midst of this engagement with the book, what I continue to come back to are two separate verses in the first chapter.

  • “Let steadfastness have its full effect [on you] so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:4).
  • “This is a double-minded person, unstable in all his ways” (1:8).

These two verses, like Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in the book of Proverbs, serve as contrary ways to navigate the world. James’s goal is that, as a follower of Jesus, I will be mature and complete, able to respond to any trial or temptation that comes my way. He contrasts a single-minded and stable person with a double-minded and unstable one. Unlike the latter, a mature and perfect person is able to keep a rein on his tongue, put his faith into action, and love God rather than the world.

Although it may be my inclination to divide theory from practice—where I “work” in the former but am forced to “live” in the latter—my obligation as a single-minded person of God requires that I live my life with the understanding that the two are always related and connected. Theory and practice go together. And that is the way it is supposed to be.


Derek Cooper is assistant professor of biblical studies and historical theology at Biblical, where he directs the LEAD MDiv program and co-directs the DMin program. His most recent book is entitled Thomas Manton: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Pastor. See his faculty page at: http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/derek-cooper.

    

      

   

Written by Dr. Larry Anderson Thursday, 15 December 2011 00:00

Growing up in a Methodist Church, I witnessed infant baptism. Rededicating my life to Christ in a Pentecostal Church, I participated in Christenings for children. Serving on a Southern Baptist leadership team, I officiated at Dedication services. Now Pastoring a Missional Church, I simply pray for all the babies born over the preceding calendar year.

How did I get to this point, you ask? Well, when I first became the Pastor of Great Commission Church, we were located in Abington, PA, and a couple was clearly defined in our church context as a husband and wife. As my missional training from Biblical began to stretch my theology and praxis, God led the church and I into the inner city of Philadelphia. What we discovered rather quickly is that a couple could be described in a variety of ways, but most popular in our context were unwed men and women living together with children. Therefore we were left with a conundrum when asked to perform dedication services for their children.

Questions began to surface in our minds like: Do we simply ignore the request of these unwed couples and allow them to see what we do when people who are saved, walking with the Lord, and have children after marriage receive as a privilege in front of the church? Do we bring these couples in front of the church, although they are not officially members because of their living arrangements, and pray for their children and charge them as parents to raise them in a Christ-like manner, although they are not currently doing so by example? Well, after much prayer, I and my pastoral staff, (all trained by Biblical, by the way) decided we would pray for the babies, but we would also challenge the parents and the congregation from this point forward to make every effort to love this child and train them in the things of the Lord. We also informed the parents that by their request for this prayer, they also gave us permission to speak truth into the lives of them and their children. We had nine couples participate in this prayer ceremony, and only one of the couples were married.

The joy of these couples and their appreciation of the church demonstrating this grace to them has caused some to join, and others to set a marriage date. I have to praise God for my training at Biblical to think outside of the box in order to serve my context in spirit and truth.

Larry L. Anderson Jr. is Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and the Director of the Urban Programs at Biblical. He is also the pastor of Great Commission Church, previously located in the suburb of Roslyn, PA, but now situated in the West Oak Lane community of Philadelphia to provide a holistic ministry to an urban setting.  

   

Written by Dr. Sam Logan Wednesday, 14 December 2011 00:00

Yesterday, I wrote about Biblical’s new statement on “Men and Women in Theological Education” and about the relationship between that statement and a very similar statement from “The Cape Town Commitment “ produced by the Lausanne Movement.

Today, I want to write briefly about the very next section of “The Cape Town Commitment,” entitled “Theological Education and Mission.”

Here is the way in which that next section begins:

The New Testament shows the close partnership between the work of evangelism and church planting (eg the Apostle Paul) and the work of nurturing churches (eg Timothy and Apollos).  Both tasks are integrated in the Great Commission, where Jesus describes disciple-making in terms of evangelism (before “baptizing them”) and “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Theological Education is part of mission beyond evangelism.
 
This makes clear the importance of theological education to the mission of the church.

 But not just ANY theological education. 

 Here is the very next statement from “The Cape Town Commitment”:

 The mission of the church on earth is to serve the mission of God, and the mission of theological education is to strengthen and accompany the mission of the Church.  Theological education serves first to train those who lead the Church as pastor-teachers, equipping them to teach the truth of God’s word with faithfulness, relevance, and clarity; and second, to equip all God’s people for the missional task of understanding and relevantly communicating God’s truth in every cultural context.  Theological education engages in spiritual warfare, as “we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

 And one final comment from “The Cape Town Commitment”:

 Those of us who lead churches and mission agencies need to acknowledge that theological education is intrinsically missional.  Those of us who provide theological education need to ensure that it is intentionally missional, since its place within the academy is not an end in itself, but to serve the mission of the church in the world.

I was not working at Biblical when the decision was made in 2005 that Biblical would become a missional seminary.  But this decision surely seems to me to have been extraordinarily wise (and possibly even "prophetic").


Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

Written by Dr. Samuel Logan Tuesday, 13 December 2011 00:00

Biblical’s faculty and Board of Trustees recently adopted an official statement on “Men and Women in Theological Education.”  That statement may be found here.

Much of this statement is taken directly (with written permission) from “The Cape Town Commitment” of the Lausanne Movement .  Both the Lausanne statement and the Biblical statement express a clearly “missional” perspective on this issue.

 How so?

 Consider the following  from the Cape Town statement –

Men and Women in Partnership

We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. . .  We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:

 Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another [Romans 14:1-13]

The “missional perspective” tends toward a broader rather than a narrower application of the teaching of Romans 14.  It tends toward what might be (and has been) called “generous orthodoxy” or “generous evangelicalism.”

Of course, it is always a challenge to distinguish between issues which are “adiaphora” and issues which are not.  It is, therefore, critically important for missional organizations and institutions to make it crystal clear where they stand theologically.  That is why both the Lausanne Movement and Biblical Seminary “lead with” their doctrinal non-negotiables  (see the first 21 pages of the Cape Town Commitment and Biblical Seminary’s statement of convictions.

On the issue of precisely how men and women exercise partnership in Gospel activity, Biblical Seminary and the Lausanne Movement agree that there can be legitimate difference of evangelical opinion.  

In future blog posts, I will examine additional areas in which both Biblical and Lausanne seek to work out their understandings of what it means to be “missional.”

Sam Logan is Special Counsel to the President and Professor of Church History at Biblical.  He is an ordained minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  He is married to Susan and they have two sons and two grandsons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/samuel-logan

   

Written by Dr. Phil Monroe Monday, 12 December 2011 00:00

Ever wonder what makes for a competent counselor? Is it what the counselor knows? What model the counselor follows? What supervised practice the counselor has had? Yes. Each one of these factors is part of what makes for a competent counselor. But we too often focus on knowledge and strategies and forget the character of the counselor. So, here are seven characteristics we hope to instill in the character of those who graduate from Biblical Seminary. By themselves, these seven won’t make for a competent counselor. But, without them, you may have an experienced but dangerous counselor.

1. Spiritual maturity. Not only must the counselor know the bible, its story line, etc., they must also have understood and experienced the Gospel. Spiritual mature counselors evidence a public and private trajectory towards holiness and humility. They no longer quibble about insignificant differences among believers. In the words of one of my theology colleagues, they must know the difference between dogma and doctrine and opinion.

2. Self-awareness/insight. One can be spiritual mature, but not particularly insightful about the self. The competent counselor has a grasp of their own narrative (and how the Gospel story is changing it) and how it impacts past and present relationships. The competent counselor understands strengths and weaknesses and is not defensive.

3. Capable of building trusting relationships. Nothing much good comes from counsel provided by standoffish and stand-above kinds of counselors. The competent counselor is able to build trusting relationships by being interested in individuals (more so than in outcomes), able to walk in another’s shoes, cross cultural lines, and able to empower others more than tell others what to do.

4. Flexibility in response styles. The competent counselor understands the need to use a variety of conversational responses depending on the needs of the client. Sometimes we ask questions. Other times we are silent. Competent counselor responses include reflections, summaries, focusing, confronting, joining, problem-solving, and sometimes self-disclosing. Counselors who only use one or two of these styles may not be able to work well with clients who find those particular styles problematic. The competent counselor is intentional in her or his response choices.

5. Assessment and hypothesis skills. The competent counselor is able to move from a counselee’s problems and descriptions to a wider view of the person/situation and back again. This counselor is able to pull multiple pieces of data into a cohesive understanding of the situation. At the same time the counselor forms and tests possible hypotheses to clarify motivations, attitudes, and capacities. For example, is the child’s impulsive behavior merely rebellious or is it ADD or anxiety based?

6. Observation skills. The competent counselor not only understands people, their needs, solutions, and has the capacity to use multiple response styles, but also is observant regarding their own impact on the counselee. They observe subtle reactions from clients and seek to moderate their counseling style and/or gently explore the meaning of the reaction. Without these skills, the counselor blithely works toward a goal without knowing if the counselee is really following.

7. Ability to care for self. Finally, the competent counselor recognizes personal limits, boundaries and actively seeks to sustain a life of personal care. Far too many counselors bypass care for one’s own spiritual well-being under the guise of sacrificial giving. Just because one is spiritually mature one day does not mean such maturity is permanent. Neglecting spiritual renewal will diminish other counselor competencies over time.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/phillip-monroe.

   

Written by Dr. Phil Monroe Thursday, 08 December 2011 00:00

As I write this we have just welcomed the newest member of the Monroe family to our home—a five year old cocker spaniel. While we took on a new dog for the boys, it appears that Missy is most attached to my wife. It might have something to do with the amount of time Kim spends in the kitchen. At the sound of packaging, she is up and ready for any morsel coming her way.

At heart, Missy is full of hope. No matter how unlikely she is to get human food, her stub tail wiggles in anticipation. Something good just might come her way. As I watch her, a thought crosses my mind. Do I look for the good (creation) in others or expect the worst (fall)?

Expectations shape attitudes, pessimism breeds skepticism

Friends will hurt me if I give them a chance….I’m not sure what she meant but probably she was trying to hurt me.

Thinking the best will likely breed love.

My son forgot to do his chores….again! I know that it is hard for him to remember all that he has to do in the morning and he doesn’t forget just to get under my skin. I’ll remind him without being harsh.

What do you look for? The good (creation) or the bad (fall)? If you are like me, then you have to admit that it is far too easy to see only the fall in some of our friends and family. Their weaknesses, foibles, and sins grate on our nerves. We want to scream at them, “Can’t you see that you are such a jerk right now!?” While we may be accurate in our assessment of their flaws, it is likely that we have lost sight of how they reflect God’s image and represent God’s gifts to us.

Think of someone who frustrates you. Maybe it is a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling. Or, maybe it is a client or a parishioner. What would happen if you became more creation focused in your relating to this person? What would you see if you focused on God’s creative and re-creative work in their life? Would you spend less time reviewing their sin patterns (in your head and out loud) and more time pointing out God’s gifts in them?

But aren’t you advocating denial?

If you struggle with the sins of others, especially those in your inner circle, it can be hard to celebrate God’s gifts in them. It feels like we are excusing sin, turning a blind eye to significant problems and planning to be a doormat in the relationship. But, these feelings usually reveal a difficulty in us. We have a hard time accepting both beauty and ashes at the same time. We prefer others to fit in one category or the other. However, when we celebrate God’s creative work in the life of a difficult person we live in reality and avoid denial. We see God’s goodness in the midst of brokenness.

Truer vision

Ezekiel 47 details the prophet’s vision of the future Kingdom of God. Standing in the temple, he sees a trickle of water coming out the space where the brass cleansing bowl had once been (no need for that now that Jesus had cleansed once for all). Within a mile, the trickle becomes a raging river bringing life to the Dead Sea. The river washes out all the salt and death from the Dead Sea. Along the banks of the river, trees of healing bear fruit. This vision illustrates a truer reality than we see most days—the ever expanding mission of God moving out from the temple to his people.

This is the picture of the kingdom of God, already here and being made more true every day. Do you see it? Taste it? Let Ezekiel's vision encourage us to take longer looks at God's image shining in the lives of difficult people (you and I) and in those around us.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He maintains a private practice at Diane Langberg & Associates. He blogs regularly at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/philip-monroe

   

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