The end of May also means the end of my fourth semester here at Southern (only two more left!). The semester was challenging both spiritually and intellectually, and it was exciting both ministerially and educationally. Below are my comments on each class I completed and some of the books we read.
Systematic Theology II with Dr. Bruce Ware – Systematic theology is a theological discipline that aims at bringing together or synthesizing the Bible’s teaching on particular topics. At Southern we take three different systematic classes. In this class we studied the doctrine of God’s providence, the doctrine of man, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of the person and work of Christ (or Christology). Dr. Ware is a world class theologian and a passionate teacher. Meg and I were able to have dinner with him during the semester and were deeply impressed by his kindness and humility.
Books from the class: Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective ed. Klauss Issler and Fred Sanders (pretty dense but well worth the time); The Cross of Christ by John Stott (The author meticulously unfolds Scripture’s teaching on the cross, and he does so in a way that is fair toward other views but remains strongly convictional on the centrality of penal substitutionary atonement.); Created in God’s Image by Anthony Hoekema (This legendary professor of Calvin College in Grand Rapids does a splendid job unpacking Scripture and historical theology as it regards what it means to be a human being made in God’s image. Highly profitable.); and God’s Greater Glory by Bruce Ware (I love the vision of God’s sovereignty that Dr. Ware lays out in this book. He does a fantastic job teaching the Reformed position of God’s providence. In certain chapters, however, he gets really deep into the philosophical issues involved and that can be a bit daunting.)
Intro to New Testament II with Dr. Tom Schreiner – In this class we did a 30,000 feet view of the last half of the New Testament, Acts through Revelation. Dr. Schreiner is a prolific scholar, especially as it regards the Pauline epistles, but two things that stick out to me along with his prominent interpretive ability is his humor and pastoral heart. I’m also not sure I know anyone who is worse with technology. The one thing I’ll take away from this class is that highly rigorous and technical interpretive work does not primarily lead to big, heady academic books and journal articles, but rather to renewed minds, softened hearts, and sincere worship of the Lord Christ. Dr. Schreiner masterfully demonstrated this type of interpretation throughout the class.
Books: The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament ed. Andreas Kostenberger et al. (This book had some good chapters, especially in the intro sections, but it continued to affirm in my mind that it is near impossible to write a genuinely compelling introductory text to either the Old or New testaments.); Interpreting the Pauline Epistles by Tom Schreiner (I was shocked by how much I appreciated this brief book. There are several chapters toward the beginning that require knowledge of the Greek, but the introduction, first chapter, and last half of the book are majorly helpful.)
Pastoral Ministry with Hershael York – This course was designed to cover everything that a seminary cannot teach. I know; it sounds self-defeating. The idea is to discuss and think about things when the rubber meets the road in gospel ministry: How to prepare a church budget; how to deal with divorce and other moral conundrums. We also talked a lot about baptism, the Lord’s supper, engaging in politics, counseling, church discipline issues, leading/managing a church staff and/or fellow pastors, etc. You get the idea…maybe. I remain convinced that Dr. York is one of the most charismatic (and I mean that in the positive sense of the word) people I know. His unique combination of boldness and friendliness is well worth imitating, and though I see myself as very different from him in many respects I’m confident I profited from his instruction and perspective in this class.
Books: On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg (This book’s strength is its comprehensiveness. It covers a ton of different topics having to do with pastoral ministry. Still, I’d probably turn to Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor, Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, or Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s The Trellis and the Vine before I recommended On Being a Pastor.)