JETS Article on Apostasy in Hebrews by Matthew McAffee

When my September 2014 issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, better known as JETS, came in the mail today, it carried with it a pleasant surprise: an article on the passages in Hebrews that discuss falling from grace by a Reformed-Arminian biblical scholar.

That scholar is Matthew McAffee, who teaches biblical and theological studies (and is program coordinator for Theological Studies) at Welch College and serves as Campus Pastor. The 17-page article is entitled “Covenant and the Warnings of Hebrews: The Blessing and the Curse.”

I had read an earlier manuscript of this article and knew it would be coming out in JETS, but I just didn’t know when. Professor McAffee is just the sort of person we need writing articles and books from the vantage point of Reformed Arminianism utilizing the tools of biblical theology. He combines a strong emphasis in biblical languages, culture, and exegesis with an interest in systematic theology.

Mr. McAffee’s graduate education, after he received his M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been in Ancient Near Eastern studies at the University of Chicago. He has an M.A., and is nearing the completion of his Ph.D. dissertation, from that university. On our campus, his teaching load combines biblical studies (Bible survey, Greek, Hebrew, exegesis, hermeneutics) with one course in systematic theology that covers the doctrines of Christ, salvation, and the church. Thus, he is tailor-made to write an article like this most recent one in JETS.

This article demonstrates Welch College’s commitment to high-level theological scholarship that is well-done, taken seriously in the wider academy, and furthers the confessional theology of the Free Will Baptist Church. Welch College continues to live up to its reputation as the name you can trust for sound theological education at the highest level, and the combination of scholarship with spiritual formation.

I encourage my readers to look up the article. Information on how to obtain a copy of JETS is available at http://www.etsjets.org/JETS_current_non

Welch College Enrollment Increases Again

NASHVILLE, TN—Welch College enrolled 329 students from 23 states, one U.S. territory, and two other countries for the 2014 fall semester, according to Provost Greg Ketteman. Enrollment statistics indicate a diverse student body with a wide range of academic interests.

Dr. Ketteman said, “The increases in FTE (full time equivalent), dorm, and online enrollment are noteworthy. The final figures for the fall term will increase since additional student will enroll in the next sessions of our six-week online courses. We anticipate that our final fall headcount will approach 350.”

At press time October 6, the college reported 195 dormitory students, 42 commuter students, 4 Adult Degree Program students, and 65 Online/Lifetime Learning students. Officials set the fall semester 2014 full-time student equivalency at 276.

By classes they include 85 Freshmen, 88 Sophomores, 59 Juniors, 46 Seniors, 26 non-degree part-time, and 25 dual-enrollment students.

By states, students number:

Alabama…………………15
Arkansas………………..14
Arizona…………………….1
California………………….2
Florida……………………14
Georgia………………….12
Illinois…………………….11
Indiana…………………….3
Kansas…………………….1
Kentucky………………….4
Michigan………………….5
Missouri…………………..9
Mississippi……………….5
North Carolina…………25
Ohio……………………….12
Oklahoma…………………4
Rhode Island…………….1
South Carolina…………..7
Tennessee……………..137
Texas……………………….3
Virginia……………………13
West Virginia……………..2
Wisconsin………………….1
Virgin Islands……………..5
International……………..23       (Cuba, Panama)

President Matt Pinson said, “For the second year in a row, Welch has experienced an increase in FTE, dorm, and online enrollment, with an increase of nearly 30% in dorm enrollment over the last two years. We’ve had a great beginning to a promising academic year. The excitement on campus is palpable as we welcome new and returning students to their home for the next several months. The students have brought energy and high expectations to the campus. We thank God for the opportunity to minister to these young men and women and look forward to an outstanding semester.”

To contact Welch College for more information, email recruit@welch.edu or visit the college’s website at welch.edu.

Edmund Burke on Organizational Change

I recently came across a great passage in Edmund Burke’sReflections on the Revolution in France that applies to organizational change. One of Burke’s critiques of the French Revolution is that the revolutionaries wanted change too quickly. But, Burke said, change that is too quick goes against “nature.” In other words, the nature of reality shows that change is an organic process and thus takes time. Leaders cannot tear down and build up organizations and cultures like a builder can demolish and construct buildings. That’s because human organizations and cultures are made up of thinking beings, not inanimate objects. Organizational change that is too fast, the sort that occurred in the French Revolution, Burke said, “renders people miserable.” The passage is below.

But you may object—”A process of this kind is slow. It is not fit for an assembly which glories in performing in a few months the work of ages. Such a mode of reforming, possibly might take up many years.” Without question it might; and it ought. It is one of the excellencies of a method in which time is amongst the assistants, that its operation is slow, and in some cases almost imperceptible. If circumspection and caution are a part of wisdom, when we work only upon inanimate matter, surely they become a part of duty too, when the subject of our demolition and construction is not brick and timber, but sentient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose state, condition, and habits, multitudes may be rendered miserable. . . . Time is required to produce that union of minds which alone can produce all the good we aim at. Our patience will achieve more than our force. . . . By a slow but well-sustained progress, the effect of each step is watched; the good or ill success of the first, gives light to us in the second; and so, from light to light, we are conducted with safety through the whole series. We see, that the parts of the system do not clash. The evils latent in the most promising contrivances are provided for as they arise.

To proceed in this manner, that is, to proceed with a presiding principle, and a prolific energy, is with me the criterion of profound wisdom. What your politicians think the marks of a bold, hardy genius, are only proofs of a deplorable want of ability. By their violent haste, and their defiance of the process of nature, they are delivered over blindly to every projector and adventurer, to every alchymist and empiric [1].

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[1] Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (London: J. Dodsley, 1790), 249-51.

Was Infant Baptism Practiced in Early Christianity?

The Commission for Theological Integrity of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (of which I serve as chairman) has started a blog, fwbtheology.com. From time to time, I will be posting a theologically oriented blog post on that website, and I will place a link to it on this blog. This week, I posted a blog entitled “Was Infant Baptism Practiced in Early Christianity?” You can gain access to it by clicking here.

Welch College Seeks Enrollment Office Assistant

Welch College has an opening for an office assistant in the Enrollment Management Department. The full-time, hourly position is immediately available, with the intent to hire as soon as possible.

General Requirements:

·      Commitment to the Mission of Welch College

·      Intermediate computer skills; proficiency particularly with Microsoft Office (Word and Excel)

·      Ability to learn various software and internet applications (cloud computing)

·      Strong interpersonal skills and ability to communicate effectively in person and by phone

·      Ability to multi-task, be organized, and manage time effectively

·      Good written and oral communication skills

·      High attention to detail

 

Education Requirements: Bachelor’s degree preferred, but not required

 

Responsibilities:

·      Clerical and support work for applicant and prospect files

·      Answer phone and greet guests

·      Maintain multiple databases and call lists

·      Manage multiple calendars

·      Prepare and assist with visit days (Welcome and Senior Days)

 

Submit resumes or referrals to Debbie Mouser, director of enrollment services at dmouser@welch.edu or mail to Welch College, 3606 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN  37205.  All submissions should be received by October 1, 2014.

An Exciting New Year at Welch

There’s a lot of excitement on the campus of Welch College. A large crop of freshmen arrived on August 21st, met by student leaders (who also serve as peer mentors to the new students), who’d arrived three days earlier for training. Returning students came in on the 24th, and classes started on the 26th.

This is shaping up to be another stellar year at Welch. We’re beginning to witness a trend in enrollment growth, a reversal of the doldrums we were in following the Recession, which really began to affect us in 2008. Last year Welch experienced an unprecedented 24 percent increase in dormitory enrollment, and this year we’ve gone up again, between four and five percent.

We welcome this 28 percent cumulative increase we’ve experienced since the 2012-13 academic year. The increase in numbers has created a palpable sense of excitement, but what is even better is the renewed spirit of spirituality, leadership, service, and intellectual curiosity among our students.

Our increased emphasis on academic excellence has gradually led the college to increase its scores in rankings guides such as U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges. In that publication, Welch outranks schools that have many times over the number of students and the endowment and budget we have. This increase has corresponded to an increase in measures like students’ average ACT scores, and the number of students in the top 25% of their high school class. So we have students who are more intellectually curious and studious. Our class attendance rates, for example, are the highest they have been in a long time.

But this intellectual curiosity and academic excellence dovetails with a renewed level of spirituality, leadership, and service among our students. This continues a trend we have witnessed growing over the last few years, with more students having very high attendance and perfect attendance in chapel and Christian service, more emphasis on the spiritual disciplines, greater stress on helping hurting people, a higher level of involvement in our eight student societies than we have witnessed in a couple of decades, and more young men majoring in preaching-oriented majors.

Let me pause here and comment on the leadership development that occurs on a campus like ours that is so hard to find on other campuses. In our tight-knit campus environment, we seek to make leadership development front-and-center. This commitment grows out of our mission to educate leaders to serve Christ, His church, and His world through biblical thought and life.

Leadership opportunities abound for students on the campus of Welch College. Because of our small, 10-to-1 faculty-student ratio, not only do students get more personalized leadership mentoring, but there are also more opportunities for hands-on leadership training. This leadership development occurs as students lead in societies, Christian service groups, student council, Spiritual Life groups, classes, athletic teams, resident assistantships, and so on.

It’s exciting to start a new year and watch these students already pouring themselves into Christian leadership and service. These are not just the leaders of the future. They are leaders today, and the gospel-centered, Word-driven leadership training they’re receiving on our campus is going to produce lasting results for Christ’s kingdom now and forever.

On Defining Expository Preaching, Part Two

As I said in Part One of this two-part series on preaching, I have never (at least since early adulthood) been a great critic of preaching, except for the sort of topical preaching in which no real expounding of biblical texts is taking place. Like my grandfather, I am for “staying as close as possible” to the text of Scripture—really trying to explain the meaning of a Scripture text (and occasionally more than one) and apply it to the present-day needs of my listeners.

Sermon Czars

However, the rash of self-proclaimed sermon czars we see popping up is a little disconcerting to me. Part of the impetus for this phenomenon is that people are reacting against the sort of topical preaching we’re used to that really doesn’t seriously probe the meaning of the Scriptural text. I understand this. I “feel the pain” of our young people who are longing for rich, biblical preaching but are getting mostly the opinions of preachers and not deep interaction with Biblical theology and its meaning and application.

Exegetical Papers for Laypeople

One manifestation of this overreaction against topical preaching is what I laughingly call “exegetical papers for laypeople.” This is where a college or seminary graduate’s sermons are basically like an exegetical paper for a class, adapted for laypeople with some of the Greek or Hebrew or technical vocabulary toned down, with an application tacked on at the end. As I tell our ministerial students at Welch, this is disastrous for congregations and must be avoided at all cost.

A Dizzying Array of Definitions

There is such a dizzying array of definitions and narrow delimitations of expository preaching out there that it really makes me feel for the young, conscientious preacher who is trying to do things well. This lack of a clear, agreed-upon definition of expository preaching is not new. The Presbyterian homiletician Theron Rice, in a 1913 article on Alexander McLaren, discussed the myriad definitions of expository preaching in his day and the elusiveness of a definition: “While almost all writers on homiletics laud expository preaching, it is difficult to find any satisfactory definition of the expository sermon.”

After mentioning what writers say about topical and textual sermons, he asked, “Now what is the expository sermon? Silence. One writer goes so far as to declare that an expository sermon is one occupied largely with the exposition of Scripture. But does that tell us much? Others suggest that it is a sermon dealing with an extended passage of Scripture, whereas the text-sermon deals with a single verse or two verses—a short passage. But where draw the line then? When does a short text become an “extended passage?” In a discussion in one of our Reviews recently the suggestion was ventured that as the textual sermon was one deriving both theme and main divisions from the text, the expository sermon was one deriving subject, divisions, and subdivisions all from the text. Well, that is at least a good try at a definition. But the question is not settled yet” [1].

As Sidney Greidanus once said, there never has been any consensus on what makes an expository sermon: Some have said that an expository sermon is a textual sermon, but just from a longer passage. Some have said that, for a sermon to be expository, both the points and the subpoints of the sermon have to derive from the sermon text. Others have said that an expository sermon is, of necessity, a verse-by-verse treatment of a text. Still others define expository sermons necessarily as being in a sequential series from a book in the Bible—often called lectio continua preaching. And if that’s not enough, some proponents argue that the main points of the passage always have to be the main points of the sermon, so that if a preacher preaches a sermon from a subtext or a secondary point of a scriptural passage (even if he gets the interpretation right), he’s veered from expository preaching [2].

The Need for Homiletical “Rules of Thumb”

Now, I understand why textbooks are written and methods are outlined and technical definitions are proliferated. I assume it’s because a good, careful method will generally produce more sermons that are true to the meaning of Scripture. In other words, the more narrow the method of expository preaching you teach homiletics students, the more foolproof the result will be; the greater chance there is of having more sermons preached to congregations that are really letting God speak rather than just featuring the opinions of a preacher. And this is a crucial goal.

But let us not allow this propounding of a good general method or a “good rule of thumb” for biblical preaching to turn into a prideful hyper-criticism of preachers who are trying to be faithful in expounding the Bible in a deep, serious way.

Avoiding a Hyper-Critical Mentality

It is counter-productive when we spend too much time critiquing and picking apart people who are striving to preach rich biblical-theological sermons that are deeply probing the meaning of a text or texts of the Bible. I think too much nit-picking of preachers for not doing all their preaching as book series, or not preaching strictly verse-by-verse, or saying that sermons that probe a minor point in a biblical text are not really expositional, or that having the occasional subpoint from another passage than the sermon text—or preaching one sermon from more than one text–is “not letting God speak”—all this can get very tedious and tiring and debilitating.

The Need for Humility

What is the solution? First, we all need more humility, about our own preaching and everybody else’s. Second, we need a more modest definition of expository preaching that recognizes the difficulty in giving an exacting definition. We need to be more humble and modest in our own defining of expository preaching, not giving the impression that there is some transcendent, self-evident, and compelling definition of it. We need to see preaching as more of an art than a science.

I like Sidney Greidanus’s preferred definition of expository preaching, which is taken from Merrill F. Unger’s homiletics textbook. There Unger says that expository preaching involves

. . . handling the text of Scripture “in such a way that its real and essential meaning as it existed in the mind of the particular Biblical writer and as it exists in the light of the over-all context of Scripture is made plain and applied to the present-day needs of the hearers” [3].

So, if a preacher preaches a sermon from more than one text; or if he hones in on a subtext in a biblical passage and probes its meaning; or if he deals a lot in a sermon with some other texts in Scripture or takes some of his subpoints from parallel passages; or if he distills the literal meaning of a passage (using careful, genre-sensitive, grammatico-historical interpretive methods) and communicates it in a way that is not verse-by-verse; or if he doesn’t preach book series—if he does any or all of these things in a sermon, let’s not pick him apart and say with utmost confidence, “That’s not an expository sermon,” as if we have some sort of homiletical wisdom from heaven (or even from Aristotle or Quintilian or Augustine or some other time-tested rhetorician) that has fallen into our laps. And, if we do have a less-exacting definition of expository preaching, let us not pick apart those who employ a more narrow method of biblical exposition than our own.

Regardless of definitions, and how narrow or broad we choose to be, let all of us preachers seek to preach as many sermons as we can that let God speak by expounding His Word in a deep, biblical-theological way, practically applying it to the present-day needs of our listeners.

Let’s stay as close to the Bible as we can.

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[1] Theron H. Rice, “Alexander McLaren’s Contribution to Expository Preaching,” Union Seminary Magazine 24 (1913), 389-90. (Rice was a professor at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.)

[2] Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 10.

[3] Greidanus, 11, quoting Unger’s Principles of Expository Preaching, 33.

Welch College to Sponsor Youth Survey

NASHVILLE, TN—In an effort to discover where Free Will Baptist teenagers stand on crucial beliefs and behaviors, Welch College is sponsoring a survey aimed specifically at Free Will Baptist youth, according to Dr. Barry Raper, program coordinator for Pastoral Ministry. Dr. Raper said, “While scores of surveys have been conducted in recent years across denominational lines informing us of American teens and their faith, no extensive research has been available on Free Will Baptist youth. I hope the results of this survey can give an accurate picture of the spiritual condition of youth within our churches.”

A survey instrument was created to measure certain beliefs and practices ranging from beliefs about the Bible and Jesus Christ to key ethical issues within American culture. The anonymous survey is designed to be administered to youth groups by youth pastors or youth leaders.

A small group of youth pastors in the Nashville area served as an advisory board and also agreed to be the first group to administer the survey. The plan is to take the survey to local associations, state camps, and youth retreats. Results of the survey will then be analyzed and made available by the 2015 National Convention of Free Will Baptists in Grand Rapids.

If you would like more information about the survey or would like to participate, please email Dr. Barry Raper at braper@welch.edu.

On Defining Expository Preaching, Part One

Of the making of definitions of expository preaching there is no end. Of late, in reaction against the overabundance of topical preaching, there has been a return to expository preaching. So a cottage industry has developed of defining expository or expositional preaching.

A Return to Exposition

This return to exposition is a laudable development, because exposition is the most foolproof way to ensure that the preacher is God’s mouthpiece, God’s herald, announcing the good news of the kingdom every time a sermon is given. So no matter how narrow the definition and practice of expository preaching is, it can’t help but be a good thing.

Certainly, expositional preaching is to be preferred to the topical preaching I have heard in most pulpits. This is not limited to the conservative preacher who reads a verse of Scripture that refers to lying and then proceeds to talk about lying without recourse to the text he just read, and doesn’t really spend any time expounding any text or texts of the Bible in considering his topic. It extends (probably more so) to the sermons I heard at Yale Divinity School by Protestant liberals who read a verse of Scripture that made reference to justice and then proceeded to talk about justice without recourse to the text just read, or delving into any text(s) of Scripture. The same can be said for the pop-psychology-type sermons so prevalent in the so-called seeker-sensitive megachurch movement.

Expository Preachers Sometimes Preach Topically

Now, one thing I have noticed is that even the most avid proponents of expository preaching see the need for a portion of a preacher’s sermonic repertoire to be topical sermons. When my friend Mark Dever preached at Welch College a few years ago, one of the four sermons he delivered was a topical sermon. And he informed his listeners that he was going to preach a topical sermon that evening just to exemplify that a portion of a preacher’s sermon schedule should be topical sermons. So I don’t think most expositional preachers believe there’s no place for topical sermons. Rather, they would say that most sermons should be expository.

Grandpa’s Methods

Having never taken a course in homiletics, I was largely taught the subject informally by my grandfather, L. V. Pinson, and by reading great sermons from the past. My self-taught grandfather’s maxim was, “Always stay as close to the Bible as you can.”

Most of my grandfather’s sermons were from paragraphs out of the Bible rather than single verses. But his method would vary—from mostly distilling the meaning out of a text and probing that meaning in his own homespun way, all the way over to running-commentary-style, verse-by-verse exposition—always with a heavy dose of practical application. After I grew up and started hearing other sermons, I was struck by how rare my grandfather’s more textually driven approach to preaching was.

Most of my sermons over the last twenty-five years have developed out of my grandfather’s cherished method of distilling the meaning out of a given text—accurately (I think!) interpreting the text in context and then applying it to present-day concerns of my listeners. Like my grandfather, when I was an active pastor in a local-church setting, I generally did not preach through books of the Bible. Each sermon was a self-contained unit but was always very textually driven and “stayed close to the Bible.” (But, when I had friends who chose to preach serially through books, I always thought that was a good thing. In chapel at Welch College, I will often take a paragraph or chapter out of the Bible and preach through it sequentially over several sermons. But this is not my only method of preaching, even in chapel.)

The vast majority of my sermons over the years have been on a single text, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. But I’ll occasionally preach a sermon from more than one text. I also occasionally preach topical sermons. Needless to say, my own preaching method has predisposed me to be delighted with the revival of expository preaching today.

Squeamish about Harsh Sermon Critics

I must tell you, however, that I am squeamish about the number of very harsh sermon critics that seem to have come with this renewal of expository preaching. I often tell people that I am not too stern a critic of sermons as long as preachers “stay as close to the Bible as they can.”

What concerns me most is that the majority of the sermons I hear when I travel—inside and outside my denomination—are just using a text, usually a single verse, as a springboard for a subject the preacher wants to talk about, and the preacher never expounds that text or any text of Scripture. But if the preacher really is expounding a text or texts from the Bible and is accurate in his interpretation of the text(s) he’s preaching from, I’m not going to get too bent out of shape. In my next post, I’m going to talk a little more about some of the definitions of expository preaching.

Why Calvinists Really Believe in Unconditional Election

The Commission for Theological Integrity of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (of which I serve as chairman) has started a blog, fwbtheology.com. From time to time, I will be posting a theologically oriented blog post on that website, and I will place a link to it on this blog. This week, I posted a blog on why Calvinists really believe in unconditional election. You can gain access to it by clicking here.

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