My Day at SBTS

Yesterday, I was hosted for a day at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I learned some lingo, For instance, in SBC circles, the school is referred to either as “Southern Seminary,” “Southern,” or “The Southern Baptist Seminary.” Specifically, I was invited by the faculty of the International Center for Youth Ministry at Boyce College, and its director, Dave Adams.

As one might imagine, I had some trepidation going into this conversation, particularly having read the less-than-affirming blogs of the school’s president, Al Mohler, regarding Brian and Emergent.

However, I must say that rarely have I been received so hospitably, humbly, and generously. Dave, the rest of the Boyce faculty and Ph.D. students, and the school’s dean, Jimmy Scroggins, were everything that you’d want Christian brothers to be. (No, there were no sisters present.)

We talked non-stop from the 11am till 4pm. We found points of agreement and points of difference. For them, it was significant that I personally affirmed the historic, physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ — in fact, when asked point-blank whether I could affirm it, my response was something like, “Not only do I affirm it, I consider it the pivot point in the entire history of the cosmos.”

But, we differed when it came to decisional evangelism, inerrancy, and the exclusivity of propitiation in understanding the atonement. I made it clear that I didn’t necessarily reject any of these positions, but that I consider none of them sufficient. We had a good little conversation about the Trinity, and I was able to explicate my ecclesiology a bit, explaining how it grows from my understanding of the perichorectic Trinity.

It was difficult at times parsing out whether I was speaking for myself or speaking for Emergent, but I guess that goes with the job. A good challenge came from Prof. Randy Smith at the end of the day: he said that if Emergent is primarily about theological tweaking, then he’s not interested, but if it’s about missional Christianity, then he’s very interested.

Before I went to the airport, I was taken into the president’s office, to meet Al. Actually, we walked through his ante-office and into his “real” office, where he was preparing for his daily radio program and a later appearance on Anderson Cooper 360 — he was weighing in on the no-church-on-Christmas controversy. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. It was somewhat awkward for me, as I imagine it was for him, too.

Who knows where all this will lead? I don’t, but I know that conversations such as this are only good.

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