Hold Fast

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV)

Location: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

Saturday, February 25, 2006

To Address Some Concerns (Part II)

Returning to my series on why I chose to go the route I did, tonight I hope to explain why I chose to go to a Southern Baptist seminary. (There's a picture of CSBS to the right, from their website)!

As I stated earlier, I've seen Christians go off to Bible college or seminary, and then be taught questionable things. A statement of faith is often not enough to guarantee an orthodox understanding of Christianity. The sight of acquaintances and friends under the instruction of people who, say, believe Christians are entitled to physical health and worldly prosperity, or who exalt emotional experience and spectacular gifts over the study of God's Word, served as a cautionary note to me.

So first and foremost, I wanted to be taught by people who believe strongly in the centrality of Scripture, and particularly in its inerrancy (that the Bible is absolutely true in all it teaches, being inspired and guided by God Himself). I wanted a school that emphasized the Christian duty to evangelize and spread the Gospel. And I wanted assurance that the school had high and recognized standards of education.

My last post of the series explained why I decided to follow the Baptist route. In order to find seminaries, I made a point of learning which group or agency accredits seminaries. Thus, I used the Assocation of Theological Schools' website as a starting point in my research.

After considering and rejecting several schools, I noticed a small Southern Baptist seminary in Cochrane.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

I had some knowledge of Southern Baptists. Obviously, Billy Graham is a very well-known figure of Southern Baptist background. Though I wouldn't agree with him on various matters (cooperation with churches that deny the Biblical gospel, stress on the human decision instead of the power of God in evangelism, etc.) he certainly is an example of the evangelistic spirit of Southern Baptists.

In researching the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, I found that they have a very active church planting program (with a very ambitious target of 1000 by 2020). As Canada is increasingly secular, this fills a deep and real need, and again shows their evangelistic emphasis.

In Fredericton, I regularly listened to a radio program called "In Touch," with Charles Stanley. His teaching was edifying and encouraging, not only to me, but to most of my Christian friends (including those who were concerned about my decision!) Well, Dr. Stanley is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. You'll notice on my sidebar that I've linked Albert Mohler's blog. He is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has ably defended and explained the Christian Gospel in the public realm (including on Larry King Live). I've also been greatly encouraged and built up by Founders Ministries, a group of conservative Southern Baptists also linked on my sidebar, and by Dr. James White at Alpha and Omega Ministries, a Reformed Baptist who was raised Southern Baptist and who is still a professor at an SBC seminary. In short, Southern Baptists have contributed greatly to my personal spiritual development through books and websites I've read.

This high standard of Biblical scholarship impressed me, as did the clear emphasis in SBC life on religious education. They run 6 huge seminaries in the United States, and their missionaries run others abroad - including my own in Cochrane. This emphasis was EXTREMELY attractive to me, as I had perceived an anti-intellectual spirit among some of the charismatic believers I knew.

Although I'm personally Calvinist in my theology, most of the SBC is not. However, there is a prominent and active group of like-minded people working in SBC circles (see the Founders above) and the SBC statement of faith is not only compatible with my theology, but in certain places (Article 4 on salvation, for instance) takes an overtly Calvinistic position. In short, I wouldn't be way out of place there. (Also, the more Arminian theology of the majority would serve to sharpen and challenge me while in seminary).

Finally, the SBC has the distinction of being the only large denomination in North America to have addressed and turned back a slide towards theological liberalism. We now see many large Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and even Baptist bodies in the U.S. and Canada waffling on or even accepting such doctrinal evils as homosexual pastors. The SBC was, indeed, heading in this direction in the 1970s as SBC leaders and professors downplayed the accuracy and authority of Scripture. The conservatives actually won the ensuing fight for the denomination and have come out clearly in support of the centrality and authority of Scripture. Perfect they are not - but this was a key factor in my decision. I could be assured of professors and teachers who acknowledged the true place of the Bible.

Other Reasons

Other important factors need to be considered when choosing a school. CSBS has perhaps the lowest tuition rates of any Canadian seminary, due to subsidization by the SBC. Newly married and having just left the Army, financial considerations were important - and are more so now that we are expecting!

The location of the seminary was extremely attractive. Alberta has the lowest taxes in Canada and is the nation's hottest economy. Erin would easily be able to find emplyment as a nurse in the Calgary area, have the highest salary in Canada, and be taxed the least for it. Finding a part-time or summer job for myself would not be difficult. A native Calgarian, I knew the area very well and my family was nearby. The army was offering me an all-expenses-paid move back to my place of enrolment. Cochrane is a beautiful town with a breathtaking view of the Rocky Mountains - having been born in those mountains, I have a strong emotional connection to the area. And closeness to a major city would provide limitless ministry opportunities, as well as access to a major airport (I was tired of doubling my airfare for the privilege of flying out of the tiny Fredericton airport).

Finally, the seminary itself has a very experienced and well-qualified faculty. It is a very small school, providing a close-knit family atmosphere. I can already attest to the support they can give - the people there have been very good to both of us, supporting us earnestly in prayer and helping us fit into the Cochrane community. And the small class sizes allow for a very dynamic learning environment.

Those are the reasons I chose CSBS.

Specific Concerns By Others - Upcoming Posts

There were three major concerns raised by others when I told them about this seminary:

1. First, the lack of a charismatic emphasis (the implication from one individual concerned was that Baptists would brainwash me). I've already touched on my view on this in my previous post, but I'll develop this concern in more detail in my next post. There is a personal element in how this concern was expressed that concerned me greatly - the individual didn't take it to me directly, actually - and I want to address this.

2. Another good friend of mine alerted me to a new Southern Baptist policy regarding foreign missionaries and the use of tongues. This is a related but separate issue, and since this concern was conveyed to me in a God-honoring manner (as opposed to the one above), I wish to deal with this specific concern separately.

3. Finally, the SBC does not ordain women as pastors. I'll explain my view on this issue in the last post of the series.


Blogger Bethany said...

It's very interesting to see what led you to your decision to attend this school. I look forward to the follow up, especially on point 3 (which, by the way, I quite agree with [that is, women ought not be ordained as pastors] There seems to be division on the issue, which I don't quite understand. Women being ordained is becoming the topic of discussion among many that I've talked to.)

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Eduardo said...

It's funny how you seem to be the reverse of my personal history.

My Protestant background is Baptist (our Baptist Convention here at Paraguay was shaped by Southern Baptist missionaries), but I entered a Reformed-charismatic seminary here, and later I went to Calvin Theological Seminary. I regard myself not only as a Calvinist, but also as Reformed. Yet, my church membership is still Baptist.



9:26 PM  
Blogger jul said...

Well, I've been checking out your blog ever since I saw that you reviewed one of C.J. Mahaney's books (as noted on one of the Soveriegn Grace newsletters). I'm in Delaware but it caught my eye since we used to live in Fredericton and are actually planning on moving back in the fall if it all works out. I'm very curious to read your next entries, especially on dealing with tongues. I read about that not too long ago on Sam Storms' sight, and was very concerned about it. We have a very good friend that just planted a church with SBC around Doaktown. He loves the Founders movement I think. Anyway, I hope you and your wife have a great year, and may God pour out his mercy and grace on you both!

6:44 PM  
Blogger Bethany said...

Hey Jeff --

Just wanted to let you know that my blog has changed and so has Nicole's .. we're no longer with the other site.

Betty : http://bettyinc.blogspot.com


This may be temporary until Marie perhaps finds another domain, but just to let you know!

1:25 PM  
Blogger Jeff Jones said...

eduardo, jul, thanks for your comments! Nice to meet new people form afar.

Betty, Nicole, I'll be adjusting my blog accordingly.

10:17 PM  

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