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Written by Dr. Larry Anderson Monday, 14 November 2011 00:00

As a Pastor and professor I often find myself faced with a conundrum; the need to make a decision on how much information and detail is too much for a Sunday morning message. This leads to what I call ‘analysis paralysis,’ which is a process that can take me days to break down difficult concepts into palatable bites.

Currently, I am taking the congregation through chapter six of the book of Genesis, which has caused me more pain than I care to admit. I was plagued with questions like: Do I explain the most famous opinions concerning who the sons of God are as compared to the daughters of men; do I give the verses concerning the angelic participation discussion in Job, Matthew, and 1st and 2nd Peter; and do I give my opinion as to where I have landed on this ancient debate? Well, after careful prayer and days of study, I was reminded of the Biblical Seminary ethos of teaching, whereas we train men and women how to think and not necessarily what to think. I knew if I proclaimed where I landed on this passage most of my congregation would also adopt that proclamation as their interpretation without ever doing the study. Therefore, I was careful to give them the critical opinions as well as the supportive and refuted text concerning these positions. 

Finally, and most importantly, I was reminded of how much time is spent arguing and debating about issues within a text which can derail the true purpose of the text. Genesis chapter six was not written to provide us a theology of angels and demons. Genesis chapter six was not written to specifically deal with unequally yoked marriages. Genesis chapter six is about a wicked world that has moved so far from God, causing Him to be grieved that He created man and declaring to destroy it and man by flood. Genesis chapter six is about God’s compassion to spare the one righteous man on earth and his family because despite society’s rebellion, he chose to remain righteous and walk with God. Genesis chapter six is about having the faith to believe God’s Word and to respond accordingly. Genesis chapter six is a prequel to how God would deliver those who would trust in His Son as Lord and Savior, and protect them from His wrath by providing them a new life in Him.

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 [www.greatcommissiononline.com], 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.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/larry-anderson.  

 

Written by Dr. Samuel Logan Thursday, 10 November 2011 00:00

 A friend just wrote me to say this: 

 “From my conversations with many folks outside of Biblical, it’s clear the idea of claiming ‘missional’ as differentiating [this seminary] will be a challenge since ‘missional’ has increasingly become part of the everyday lexicon of churches and seminaries.”

 In my judgment, this friend is absolutely correct.

 When I first came to work at Biblical (2008), I wasn’t sure myself whether being (and being known as) “missional” was a good thing.  But times – and my perceptions - have changed (as I indicated in my blog post yesterday).

 I know that the Lausanne Movement does not "define" evangelicalism but there probably is no current global organization with more impact on the nature and perception of evangelicalism than Lausanne and this was dramatically enhanced by the Lausanne Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, last October.  The long-term linkage of leaders like John Stott and Billy Graham with the Lausanne Movement and the inclusion as plenary speakers at the Cape Town event of individuals like John Piper and Tim Keller assure that the solidly conservative and evangelical ethos of Lausanne is both felt and real.  And, having been at the Cape Town event, I can say that the word "missional" was constantly being uttered at the Congress, always in a positive way. 

 In addition, Chris Wright, who chairs "The Cape Town 2010 Statement Working Group" and who, more than any other single person, currently embodies and defines the theology of Lausanne, had already, even before 2010, been affirming the necessity and the biblical validity of the term, missional.  See his The Mission of God:  Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative (2006).  And then, just before the Cape Town Congress, he published The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission.  Both of them outstanding books!

 Not only is the term "missional" GENERALLY more "acceptable" in "orthodox evangelical" circles, the term is increasingly being adopted by all kinds of educational institutions and organizations.  One reason for this is, again, the impact of "The Cape Town Commitment."  For those of us in theological education, the section entitled "Theological Education and Mission" is of special significance.  Here are three points made in that section:

  •  Those of us who lead churches and mission agencies need to acknowledge that theological education is intrinsically missional.
  • Theological education stands in partnership with all forms of missional engagement.
  • We urge that institutions and programmes of theological education conduct a "missional audit" of their curricula, structures, and ethos, to ensure that they truly serve the needs and opportunities facing the church in their cultures.

 All of this leads me to say that my friend, quoted above, is right. 

 But the near universal present acceptance of “missional” (both word and concept)  now presents new challenges.  BEING “missional” is not necessarily the same as CLAIMING TO BE “missional.”  This is really the sense of the third Cape Town point above.  And if most evangelical seminaries are now claiming to be “missional,” what differentiates among them?

 These are a couple of questions which those of us participating in the Biblical Seminary Faculty Blog are attempting to address.  Look back at Phil Monroe's two blogs earlier this week.  Or at Todd Mangum's two blogs at the end of last week.  These are just the beginning of our own "missional audit" of the theological program here at Biblical Seminary.

 Stay tuned for more!

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 Wednesday, 09 November 2011 00:00

What does “missional” actually mean?

Since starting my work at Biblical back in 2008, I have asked that question numerous times and, now that I have been here for several years, I am being asked the same question.

My experience here at Biblical and my reading (LOVE those Christopher Wright books!) have led me to believe that one possible answer may be found in what I like to call “The Parable of the Two Librarians.”

Susan and I have had the privilege of four sabbaticals in Cambridge, England, during one of which my research subject was the causes of theological change at Christ’s College, one of the constituent colleges of Cambridge University.  In 1590, Christ’s College was one of the leading Puritan institutions in the world.  By 1680, it was one of the leading Latitudinarian institutions in the world.  What happened?  That’s what I wanted to try to discover.

In my research, I worked with two librarians – the librarian at Christ’s College and the librarian at the “UL” (the University Library).

The librarian at Christ’s College acted as though it was his mission in life to protect the books at Christ’s from people.  Every time a person touched a book, there was the chance of damage to the book.  If not damage, then at least dirt and grime from the hands touching the book.  There was never an outright refusal to hand over a requested volume (so long as the request slip was completely accurate!).  But there was a clear sense that he (and the library) would be much happier if I would just go away and let the books and other materials stay exactly as they had been for four hundred years.

The librarian at the UL acted as though it was his mission in life to get the information in the books “out.”  When he discovered my research subject, he suggested materials for me to read that I didn’t even know existed.  He communicated positive eagerness that the question I was asking be answered.  Now, he did take precautions.  Did he ever!  I was not allowed to bring any writing instrument of any kind into the reading room – he provided (for me and all the other researchers) #2 pencils and blank paper (this was YEARS before laptops and IPads).  I was never left alone with a manuscript . . . a librarian or sub-librarian was always present and always watching.  But the sense one had was that the most important thing was the result of the research and that, to me at least, made all the difference. 

 I have come to believe that “missional theology” embodies the spirit of the UL librarian.  Every kind of precaution imaginable is taken to preserve the precious and priceless original source material.  But the ultimate goal is not preservation; it is propagation.   More than anything else, we want to get the knowledge of Jesus as Savior and Lord “out,” so that He receives the honor and worship that is His due.

 But what exactly is a “missional” seminary?  And is Biblical the only missional seminary?  Tune in tomorrow.

 
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 Tuesday, 08 November 2011 00:00

Counseling has too long been viewed as a peripheral agenda of the church in the US. Even worse, it is often viewed through a Western/professional lens, disregarding the resources and work of developing world. Enter the Capetown Declaration emerging out of the Third International Lausanne Congress held just over a year ago in South Africa. I urge you to read the statement and to adopt it as a concise description (okay, not quite concise but close to it!) of the mission of counsel and care around the world.

A portion of the introduction reads,

“We live in a world of unprecedented suffering and brokenness. These human conditions include different types and levels of social and psychological suffering which are often minimized, neglected or, because they are beyond what local people can cope with at a given time, left unattended or addressed from out-of-context perspectives. We believe these omissions are both unjust and costly to individuals and communities. Virtually all of the major public health problems in the world have a psychosocial component. There is no complete health without physical, communal and psychological health. 

… It is imperative that we respond to these needs in ways consistent with our Christian commitments and with culturally sensitive, holistic, systemic, and collaborative approaches. 

Our hope is that this declaration will point us toward the creation of a new paradigm for the mutual learning, empowering and training of mental health professionals, laypersons, and pastors worldwide along the following four dimensions.”

Four Dimensions of Global Counsel and Care

The Declaration looks at four dimensions of counsel as mission: Christian, holistic and systemic, indigenous, and collaborative.  Consider the following pithy phrases:

“We believe it a matter of biblical justice that resources and initiatives which meet basic human needs and promote psychological wellness should be encouraged, nurtured and distributed more equitably throughout the world.”

 “Pathology, spirituality, treatment and healing must be understood in both individual and collective perspectives.”

“We believe that it is important to honor as a valuable part of the process of healing, the indigenous rituals, practices, and stories of a culture that are consistent with local indigenous, biblical Christian theologies. Thus, the global community should: (a) develop a perspective of relating and learning from local communities, (b) be encouraged to develop culturally appropriate and biblically congruent psychological perspectives, theories, models and resources, (c) be empowered to develop training centers, and (d) be invited to participate in the worldwide sharing of their knowledge and experiences.”

And finally, We are committed to worldwide mutual empowerment and collaborative learning among all those involved in helping people including mental health practitioners, educators, community workers, lay persons, and pastors.”

You can see here that counseling as mission of the global church is NOT a one-way street from West to developing nations but a collaborative learning and helping enterprise for the purpose of serving all of God’s people.

Read the whole statement and consider offering your support by signing on through the website.

 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 Monday, 07 November 2011 00:00

I have a question for you. Does your church publish a list of the sick in the bulletin? Most churches do. It provides an easy way to remember who is suffering with what and to pray specifically for their healing. Now, I have a second question for those of you who answered the first question with a, “yes.” Does your church publish of list of those suffering from mental illness?

No? Why not?

The truth is we treat those with mental illnesses differently than those who have “physical” illnesses. We see those who struggle with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as being complicit in their struggles in a way that we do not see other so-called physical diseases (cancers, diabetes-related, heart disease, etc.).

Both “physical” and psychological struggles are body problems and both may or may not be the result of the sufferer’s behaviors. You see, at the same time both forms of struggles are body, spirit, and community problems. Unfortunately, many with mental illness (or their loved ones!) feel outright rejected from the community of care provided for more acceptable body and spirit problems. This should not be the case. Read through the hundreds of comments posted to this blog post and yet another one. Feel their pain and rejection and blame from those who should love and care the most.

So, how do we, the church, provide mercy ministry to the mentally ill? Let me outline just a couple of initial steps

  1. Develop a prayer team for those with mental illness. Choose men and women willing to pray for the complex issues (for guiding patients, family, doctors, etc., for hope, for perseverance, for God to heal, for worshipful hearts in the midst of pain). Train the prayer team to pray. They don’t need to counsel or give hours and hours of time on the phone or in person.
  2. Talk about mental illness from the front. Churches who talk about things like schizophrenia, anxiety and depression as if they are not shameful but part of the scourge of living in a fallen world will give those suffering with these problems some hope that God cares about their struggles too. We need to reclaim the work of the Puritans such as Richard Sibbes who wrote volumes on the problems of despair and gave pastoral counsel as to how to comfort, encourage, and preach to the afflicted.
  3. Train the Diaconate. Deacons and deaconesses have a lot of power given that they have resources (money, services, etc.) that the mentally ill and their families need. Training the diaconate to ask good questions, to major on the majors, to support effective treatment. Sometimes the life of a mentally ill person is chaotic. They get lost in the clutter in their minds. But, the diaconate can help individuals keep to the basics (sleeping/eating schedules, doctor’s visits, and other key matters).
  4. Build connections with professionals. The church can’t be everything to everybody. We shouldn’t expect pastors to know the ins and outs of medications (hey, most internal medicine docs struggle with these as well), know where to find the best services. But, when church staff take the time to build a list of good providers (private and public), these can be most helpful. Getting a professional to consult with a case is a great idea.
  5. Care for the family. The most neglected persons are the spouses, parents, and children of the mentally ill. Make it a point to call on them and help them navigate the repeated painful task of discerning how to love well those with mental illness. Sometimes, it may mean tough love and other times not. But whatever kind of love, it will tear out the heart of the family member.

 
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 Thursday, 03 November 2011 00:00

I recently was introduced to the works of Oliver O’Donovan, Theology Professor at Oxford; I just finished reading The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology. O’Donovan laments the separation of theological thought from political theory, which has resulted from an overly vigorous (and overly secularist) separation of church from state.  I find myself in agreement with most of what O’Donovan suggests, and fascinated and contemplative of the parts where I am still unsure whether I agree with him or not.

Here are the points that resonate most with me:

  • We should learn from the mistakes of past missteps in trying to relate properly the realms of theology and political theory. O’Donovan regards both “civil religion establishment” and “pious individualism” as mistakes, at opposite poles to one another.  I agree.
  • In this vein, O’Donovan assesses the “Anabaptist reaction” to naïve Christian over-entanglement into political agendas (a reaction expressed strongly by John Howard Yoder, and more recently picked up by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon) as an alternative kind of relationship between theology and political theory, but in the end no better than what is reacted against; withdrawal is no less irresponsible and no more noble than subsumption; it is merely an equal and opposite error.  I’m inclined to agree again.
  • He is concerned that if Christians withdraw from the public square, the result is not a more rational public square, but a secular, rationalist one, that is simultaneously more vicious and more . . . well, evil.  He is aware of there being such a thing as religious fanaticism, which fair-minded people rightly fear. But there is also such a thing as fanatical secularism, and conceding the public square to it is foolish and harmful. I agree.
  • Interestingly, there remains in O’Donovan’s thesis several points of ambiguity that he acknowledges come from trying to fairly and responsibly answer hard questions that he still has not been able to answer in a fully satisfactory way; questions remain that need thoughtful and careful engagement even still. He also suggests that no government in history has achieved the correct, proper “balance of powers” between the realms of government and church, or between powers that seek to transform society at large, and the powers at work in the transformative covenant community of faith. I agree, and respect the candor and thoughtfulness with which he engages these matters.

I am interested in what you think about these uneasy matters.

This discussion provides a nice lead-in to the time with James Davison Hunter, author of Culture Wars and To Change the World (cf. the “Christianity and Culture lecture series,” being held at Biblical on December 2.

 

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 Wednesday, 02 November 2011 00:00

Watch this youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhG-tkQ_Q2w

Three years ago when this youtube clip of Penn Gillette first came out, I said that if ever I started a blog, I’d like to blog on this incident. Many people encouraged me to start right then and there, but I didn’t; it’s three years later, but this is still worth talking about. So here goes. . . .

Three times Penn mentions how this man “looked him in the eyes.” (He also mentions that the man was “sane” – so it wasn’t a creepy stare in the eyes, but sincere, serious, unapologetic, and non-defensive, concern and interest in Penn as a human being that clearly made a lasting impression on him.)

The exchange struck Penn at a deep level, even though it didn’t prompt the “conversion” on the spot that perhaps the man was hoping for. Penn was taken aback by the intelligence of the man’s engagement, and his kindness, which set a tone and a context for the reception of the gift the man gave (of a Gideon pocket New Testament – with Psalms).

I would say this was a profitable and worthwhile exchange, in that it “shed new light” for Penn on “what Christians are like.”  Penn still has “a deep disagreement” about “very important matters” with this man. (Penn remains a self-identified atheist.)  Nevertheless, this exchange helped shape or alter the “category” he has for “where Christians fit” on the spectrum of the conversations he’s interested in pursuing and thinking about.

I’m curious as to what you see and find significant about Penn Gillette’s reflections.

I am not generally an advocate of “cold turkey evangelism,” in that such an approach tends to treat (unbelieving) people as an impersonal “mark,” rather than as people of genuine concern to God (or to God’s people). This exchange managed to overcome quickly the impersonal and confrontational and intrusive qualities of a “cold turkey evangelistic exchange,” even though this was the first substantive “conversation” these two people had ever had. What was it exactly that helped broach the topic of “have you considered the claims of Christ and your need for Jesus as Savior” in a way that addressed Penn more as a friend than a stranger, as a person for whom the man was concerned rather than as just a “target” for evangelism? 

These are the kinds of conversations I’ll be pursuing in greater depth in my upcoming elective course, TH 657: Apologetics in a Postmodern Age (which starts Tuesday night, November 15) – still room for you in the course!


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
.  

   

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