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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

   

Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Wednesday, 07 December 2011 00:00

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul was appalled that the church tolerated a man known to be engaged in “immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles” (1 Cor. 5:1); he regards their “tolerance” in this instance as a manifestation of arrogance and indolence (1 Cor. 5:2). 

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, on the other hand, Paul rebukes the intolerance of each side engaged in a dispute over eating meat previously offered to idols. He says both sides have a point (cf. 1 Cor. 8:4-8 and 10:20, 26); the more important principle is how they treat one another in their difference.  

So, some things are so crucial and important that we should insist on everyone towing the line on it in a unified way – to the point of applying church discipline, or separating from dissenters; and on other matters, maturity is made manifest by how tolerant and accommodating we are in the diversity.

Christians have struggled since the first century with how to tell these two kinds of issues apart, how to tell what is a matter of central conviction on which the church needs to stand united, and what is a “meat sacrificed to idols” type issue, in which convictions and consciences can differ for good reason, and mature tolerance and respect for the differing position is what is called for.

At Biblical, we believe that in this postmodern, post-Christian world, one of the greatest challenges we face is finding a responsible way of telling the difference between these two types of issues. We also believe that teaching and showing Christian leaders how to respect, love, and learn from one another despite our differences is one of the greatest gifts we can give to the church in our day and age.

We at Biblical have come to a theological rationale for sorting mountains from molehills, one that distinguishes dogma (points central to the faith that enjoy affirmation by the vast majority of faithful Christians over time), doctrine (points of less central importance but that enjoy affirmation by a significant strand of the Christian tradition), and opinion (or matters of personal conviction, in which there has always been a difference of opinion represented by faithful Christians, even between those of the same denomination or church).

Our rationale is that the Spirit of God is active and real in and among His people. Not only has the Holy Spirit inspired God’s Word, the Holy Spirit also indwells His faithful people. Where the teaching of God’s Word is central and clear, it should be clear to the vast majority of Spirit-indwelt people over time. Likewise, theological viewpoints or church practices that have secured the affirmation of large segments of God’s people, even if not unanimously over time, are worthy of respect and understanding, too. Matters of personal conviction that have not garnered the support of whole segments of the Christian tradition over time may be asserted with passion and abided by individually as a matter of conscience, but should not be adopted with a level of confidence such as would separate from or disparage those who do not share the viewpoint.

Our interdenominational faculty and student body at Biblical is therefore not a frustration we live with, but a strength we cherish. The generous orthodoxy – or generous evangelicalism – we enjoy as a school we believe when done well can serve as a model for the church at large. We also believe this is pleasing to Jesus who prayed that the Father would make us one, so as to point people to the “oneness” that He and the Father have enjoyed since before time began. (See John 17:20-23).   


Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

   

Written by Dr. Todd Mangum Tuesday, 06 December 2011 00:00

As academic dean, I often get questions from students, prospective students, alumni or sometimes faculty at other theological seminaries about some of the distinctives of our curriculum at Biblical. I thought I’d devote this set of blogs, today and tomorrow, to two of those distinctives: missional theology and generous orthodoxy (or generous evangelicalism).

We have occasionally had people look at our curriculum and wonder if “missional theology” is actually “theology of missions.” (And those who confuse that point then are also likely to wonder, “So where is there any theology in your curriculum?”) No, missional theology is not “theology of (foreign) missions”; it’s exploration of the character of God, who is a God on a mission.

At Biblical, all the traditional topics of theology are “covered”: creation, Trinitarianism, sin, redemption, anthropology, church, etc., but they are covered in the context of the “drama of Scripture” – the story that Scripture tells.

The truth is, Scripture does not present God as “a philosophical concept” to be analyzed. So, at Biblical, we ask, “so why should we teach theology as though it is a branch of philosophy?”

God is a Person – an eternal, infinite Person, but a Person. He is not concept to be mastered, a formula to be used, or a recipe to be constructed. To understand God is to learn to love and obey God – and we teach theology at Biblical as that being the case.

Why “missional theology”? Because God has communicated in His own Word that He created the universe and the people in it with a purpose.  God has existed in three Persons from eternity past in perfect harmony, with no need of anything or anyone more for Him to be “happy and satisfied.” Nevertheless, what is the character of this Being? He chose to create anyway, creating beings unlike Himself, so He could share –share the joy and love of the harmony the Three Person of the Trinity had already been enjoying from eternity.  And, even when that creation rebelled and corrupted itself, He did not crush it and start over (though He justly could have); nor did He simply sit back and demand the glory due Him. No, He reached out, and pursued – as on a mission. How far did that mission take Him? How much?  Even to brutal death at the hands of creatures He could have easily snuffed out even as they cursed Him and spit on Him. . . . 

Everything about God has to be understood within the context of that unfolding drama. And nothing about God can really be understood apart from that – as though He could be comprehended in a vacuum of philosophical abstraction. Students at not getting “less theology” by our emphasis on God’s being “a missional God,” but far, far more – we believe that the true character of God is thereby put more sharply into focus.

That’s why the theology we teach is always, only with the unfolding drama of Scripture’s story in mind, with the Personhood of God in view, with the purposes of His mission always in sight. We don’t believe theology that is truly biblical can be taught any other way. We don’t believe God can really be understood as He truly is any other way.  That’s why the only theology we teach is “missional theology.”   

Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.  

   

Written by Dr. David Dunbar Monday, 05 December 2011 00:00

My wife Sharon has for several years run the food pantry which is part of our church’s ministry to the community.  This is a new venture for her because we come from an ecclesiastic tradition that did little with this kind of neighborhood involvement.  Incarnating the gospel was not part of the agenda.  Her work on behalf of the needy from time to time gets me involved also . . . as it did last evening when we picked up five sacks of donated potatoes and delivered them to a pantry in a nearby town.

When we arrived at the location, we found it bustling with activity as a steady stream of people came in cars or on foot to claim bags of groceries. Now I believe deeply that incarnational ministries need to be high on the agenda for Christians who want to be faithful to the gospel.  But even last evening I found an ugly side of my own soul as I watched the folks who processed through the food pantry. I found myself judging them for being there, questioning whether they really needed the assistance, wondering whether they were sufficiently industrious in trying to navigate life on their own, etc.  And then, of course, I felt guilty about my attitudes and challenged by my wife’s willingness just to serve in this capacity week after week.

This morning I was encouraged by the wise words of Tim Keller in his recent book Generous Justice:  How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (Dutton, 2010). Tim observes that many apparently genuine Christians do not show much concern for the poor.  He believes that this is because Christian leaders try to encourage social conscience in the wrong way—through guilt.  Garrison Keeler has humorously said that guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. 

But Pastor Keller thinks that this is not the case. “Guilting” Christians into caring for the poor does not work he says because we have strong defense mechanisms that shield us from such appeals. We need a different approach:  “I believe, however, when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this ‘pushes the button’ down deep in believers’ souls, and they begin to wake up” (p. 107). 

This rings true for me.  I need to focus on that grace poured out on me by Jesus so I can be less miserly in sharing it with others.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

  • Dave Dunbar is president of Biblical Seminary.  He has been married to Sharon for 42 years.  They have four grown children and six grand children.
   

Written by Dr. David Dunbar Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:00

Many Evangelical Christians are missing the gospel says NT scholar Scot McKnight in his recent publication The King Jesus Gospel (Zondervan, 2011).  The problem he believes is that we have confused the gospel with “the plan of salvation.”

Many of us came to faith in response to a concise doctrinal summary like “The Four Spiritual Laws” or “The Romans Road.” Such summaries have their place but lead to problems if they become a substitute for the gospel itself.  If we ask how the Bible defines the gospel (McKnight begins with 1 Cor. 15:1-8), the answer is that gospel refers to the story of Jesus and how Jesus is the fulfillment and completion of the story of the Old Testament.  This results in an understanding of gospel that is broader and deeper than merely a plan of salvation.

This leads McKnight to contrast what he calls a “salvation culture” with a “gospel culture”:

  1.  The salvation culture tends toward an exclusively individualistic understanding of faith; the gospel culture includes the individual in the larger sweep of God’s purpose to redeem all things through the Messiah.
  2. The salvation culture emphasizes a “decision for Christ” which too often results in church membership without discipleship; the gospel culture calls people to respond to Jesus not merely with a “decision” but with a whole-life commitment to the kingdom of God.
  3. The salvation culture lacks the big story of the Bible and consequently Christians are more easily caught up in the stories of surrounding culture (narcissism, consumerism, naturalism, etc.); the gospel culture immerses itself in the powerful story of Jesus as the only antidote to cultural syncretism.

What do you think?  Does this ring true to your own experience in evangelical circles? Is it time to challenge the salvation culture in the name of a deeper understanding of the gospel?

Dave Dunbar is President and Professor of Theology at Biblical Seminary.  He is married to Sharon, has four adult children and six grandchildren.  See also http://biblical.edu/index.php/david-dunbar.

   

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