Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Seminary: The Value of Field Education

By Adam Harris


Adam and Joy Harris with their two children
Everyone knows that practical experience is essential to being a good pastor — but why? Here are four simple reasons to value the experience of a pastoral internship, gleaned through two summer internships in Canada. None of the following is meant to detract the slightest from the value and utter necessity of seminary education. However, if you are a seminary student thinking about an internship, or a church that is considering an internship scenario, these are designed to be an encouragement to you to prayerfully seek such an opportunity.

  1. Observation and Imitation. For most people, ten minutes of observation is worth an hour of verbal instruction. It is one thing to learn pastoral principles in the classroom; it is quite another to see a shepherd bind up the wounds of his flock as he sits in the living room of a grieving son after the death of his father. It is one thing to write a paper on the intermediate state of believers, but quite another to stand at a graveside and observe a minister interact with the unbelieving family members of the deceased. Tagging along with a seasoned and well-respected pastor proved to be an invaluable aspect of my first summer internship.
  2. Finding Your Voice. Professional singers speak of the importance of finding your own voice and not mimicking the stars. A good internship gives the young preacher an opportunity to “find his voice” — his particular preaching style in both sermon and delivery. Someone once described preaching as “truth mediated through personality.” The apostles and prophets had different styles and strengths, and the young preacher needs space and opportunity to try a few things and discover the best marriage of sound homiletical principles and unique personal character and gifting. This takes time and the patience of the congregation, but it is a necessary part of ministerial training.
  3. People-Oriented Ministry. Next to the glory of God and the advance of Christ’s kingdom, the heart of the pastor should beat with love for the people of God. In the seminary “bubble” it is easy to mistake the means for the end, the tools of ministry for ministry itself. There are real people going through real trials who need real comfort, and a good internship will bring you into contact with these people, eliciting a warm compassion and practicality geared toward the specific needs of the congregation. Love for the lost will also be kindled in the same way.
  4. Humble Realism. Throughout history, the Lord has raised up some great men to do some great things. However, the majority of kingdom work has been accomplished by common men doing common things faithfully. My experience of two summer internships has gradually helped me to embrace my role in the latter category. Let’s face it: many seminary students graduate with an oversized ego. Serving the elderly in a small church in the middle of nowhere provides a good dose of realism to the self-designated successor of Whitefield. Just as an excellent wife prepares a healthy meal for her family and then wakes up the next morning to do it all again, so the faithful pastor feeds his flock week in and week out — in public and from house to house — and is content to see them grow slowly but surely, warts and all.

Adam Harris is a senior student at GPTS and is currently serving at an Associate Reformed Presbyterian church in Nova Scotia, Canada. His regular duties include preaching, leading worship, attending Session meetings and prayer meetings, and accompanying elders in home visitations. Last summer he interned at an ARP church in Ontario, Canada.

Churches interested in offering an internship to a GPTS student may contact Dr. Tony Curto (tcurto@gpts.edu).

Racism and the Sins of the Fathers

“Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” — Ezekiel 18:19-20.

“The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.” — Numbers 14:18


Few are unaware that race relations and their generational aspects have been a prime part of public discourse in recent times, and it is of particular contemporary interest to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and its home state of South Carolina.

Apart from a rash of riots across the nation following the deaths of black criminal suspects at the hands of police, two recent events have brought the subject close to home for GPTS and South Carolina: 1) the massacre of Christian worshipers in Charleston by a self-avowed racist and subsequent controversy over a Confederate battle flag displayed on the State Capitol grounds; and 2) the heated debate at the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly a few days earlier over a resolution calling on that denomination to repent of sins alleged to have been committed by some of its churches and churchmen during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.

Two Mississippi clergymen, Dr. Sean Lucas and Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, introduced the resolution at the PCA General Assembly calling for racial reconciliation.

Although Greenville Seminary has no official tie to the PCA, GPTS, with a heritage in Southern Presbyterianism, has in recent years been subjected to questioning and innuendo in correspondence and Internet blogs over its supposed understanding of racial relations due in part to the fact that 50 years ago another of its co-founders, Dr. Morton Smith, wrote a controversial article in a Presbyterian publication during the height of the hot national struggles of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s. In that article, Dr. Smith expressed his belief that some types of racial segregation might be pragmatically wise for peacekeeping in light of the sometimes violent animosities of the time. In the same article, however, he wrote eloquently against racial hatred and called for reconciliation. Students and colleagues of now emeritus Professor Smith, 91, unanimously report that they never detected a shred of racism in his teachings or conversations.

Dr. Morton H. Smith
"Those who have labored with Dr. Smith at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary since he helped found it in the late 1980s state that they never at any time perceived him to be a racist in any respect," GPTS spokesman Garry Moes wrote in reply to one critic. "The seminary has had and continues today to have many students from a wide variety of races and cultures. We have had, and currently do have, students who are Africans, African-Americans, Chinese, Koreans, Indians and other Asians, as well as a mix of other nationalities and ethnicities. We have had and currently do have students with mixed-race families. Dr. Smith taught and interacted with all of these students with great love and respect, and all who studied under him have praised him for his humble love and care for them. (Hear "A Good Man," a tribute to Dr. Smith by Dr. O. Palmer Robertson.)

"I can assure you that Greenville Seminary was not founded on any racist principles, harbors no racist beliefs or tendencies whatsoever, and has an official non-discrimination policy for admissions. We regard racial hatred, like any form of hatred, as sin," Mr. Moes wrote.

"Our trustees’ decision to establish a Morton H. Smith Chair in Systematic Theology was based entirely on recognition of his exemplary body of work in the discipline of systematic theology and his long service to the seminary and the Presbyterian Church, as well as his commitment to biblical orthodoxy in all of his academic and ecclesiastical endeavors," said GPTS President Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.

Dr. Pipa was heavily involved with the black community while he was a student and pastor in Mississippi during the 1960s and '70s. While pastoring in Houston, Tex., he hosted a conference on race with John Perkins, the now 84-year-old Christian civil rights leader, author and founder of the Christian Community Development Association.

Dr. Pipa in Nigeria
Greenville Seminary currently offers a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Wycliffe Theological College in South Africa, with black students from South Africa and Zambia and students from India. Dr. Pipa and missions professor Dr. Anthony Curto regularly minister elsewhere in Africa.

African-American pastor Dr. Robert Cameron previously served on the GPTS Board of Trustees.

Concerning the Lucas/Duncan resolution, Dr. Timothy LeCroy reported in the PCA's online publication byFaith:
The resolution was debated in committee for over nine hours. Those against adopting the resolution argued that the PCA didn’t exist during the Civil Rights era, that individual presbyters themselves did not do these things and therefore could not confess, that the resolution seemed to cave to political correctness and white guilt, and that if prominent PCA churchmen were racists perhaps they have repented of it, thus we shouldn’t call them out. Others argued that this was new information, and thus they needed more time to digest it. 
Arguments for adopting the resolution were that corporate confession is biblical, we as a denomination have already delayed this for far too long, and that there are members of our denomination, including pastors and elders, who greatly desire this confession. Others also argued that we must stop hiding the past and be honest about what we did.
The resolution was referred to the 2016 General Assembly for further revision with an action plan for addressing racial reconciliation.

Efforts to tag GPTS with "guilt by association" have not been limited to its connection with Dr. Smith.

J.H. Thornwell
Greenville Seminary was originally chartered as the James Henley Thornwell Theological Seminary in recognition of this prominent antebellum Southern Presbyterian theologian, scholar and pastor's theological achievements and reputation as a highly effective preacher.

"Many who heard this 19th century preacher and professor praised his uncommon ability to communicate knowledge with glowing zeal. Our goal is to train men whose Gospel preaching is a blend of logic and rhetoric like Thornwell's — logic on fire," the school has noted.

Critics of GPTS's confessional orthodoxy and conservative theology have sought, however, to discredit the school by linking it to Thornwell's unbiblical defenses of slavery, along with those of Robert L. Dabney, another 19th-century Southern Presbyterian scholar whose theological perspectives are often espoused by the seminary. The seminary strongly rejects such attempts to link it to these men's racial views and repudiates any similar defense of slavery or racial disparity.

Charles Hodge
Southern Presbyterianism was not the only locus of 19th -century controversy about slavery — venerable institutions in the North also wrestled with that issue in the context of the times. GPTS, from its beginning, has modeled its approach to theological education after that of Old Princeton Seminary, clearly a Northern institution. Again, some may find this troublesome in that one of Princeton's stalwarts, Charles Hodge, was known for his defense of some forms of slavery and his opposition to the abolition movement of his time.

GPTS Librarian Andy Wortman notes a critique of Princeton in the pre-civil war era by James Moorhead "may perhaps also be applied to the present situation as we seek to discern where we and our forebears may have failed, but also where they (and Lord willing) we, have made some modicum of progress as we seek to discern God’s mind revealed to us in the Scriptures in the midst of a world in upheaval," Wortman says. He cites this statement by Moorhead as worthy of consideration:
“In viewing these aspects of Princeton Seminary’s past and depending upon our own theological views, we in the twenty-first century will have differing responses to our nineteenth-century forebears. ... If well-meaning people in a previous age adhered to views that many of us now find patently wrong, we well may ask, What deficiencies and injustices will posterity find in our theologies and in our ethics?” 
(Moorhead, James H. “Slavery, Race, and Gender at Princeton Seminary: The Pre-Civil War Era.” Theology Today 69, no. 3 [October 2012]: p. 288).
Further reading:

William H. Smith, The Christian Curmudgeon: "Heaven's PCA Hounds: The Chase in On – The Pursuit of Dr. Morton H. Smith"

Dr. D. G. Hart, Old Life: Reformed Faith and Practice, "Where Do We Stop?"

Financial Report for June 2015 and End of Fiscal Year 2014-15

The tables below indicate our financial situation as of the end of June 2015 and the 2014-15 fiscal year. Unrestricted general fund donations from churches and individuals during June totaled $47,099, which was $16,760 below the $63,859 budgeted for such income. (Note: Another $5,000 was given toward the goal of our end-of-fiscal-year appeal but was not received until July 1. It will be included in next month's report.) Expenses of $113,223 were $25,633 above the $87,590 budgeted for expenses. (This is due in part to the fact that there were three payroll dates in June, and only one in May owing to the fact that May 31st was a Sunday.) In addition, we received $812 toward our Capital Fund in June, and $1,095 was given for scholarships.

June was the last month of our 2014-15 fiscal year. The seminary ended the year with $1,041,460 in unrestricted contributions, which compares to the $759,374 given by individuals and churches last fiscal year for general operations, an increase of $282,086. The seminary was blessed to have several major donations and a sizable bequest during FY15, and to have scores of faithful contributors who gave small to large donations regularly through the year. We thank God for these saints and churches who recognize the vital necessity of a seminary such as GPTS standing as guardian of the historical Christian faith and Reformation confessions.

Expenses for the fiscal year totaled $1,039,104 compared to $1,082,203 during the previous fiscal year, a decrease of $43,099. The seminary is blessed with an administration, faculty, staff and studnet body committed to accomplishing much with a heart for frugality and stewardship.

GPTS Advancement Initiative Exceeds FY15 Goals

The Board of Trustees set a goal of raising $200,000 above the $766,308 budget for unrestricted general fund giving during fiscal year 2015. The multifaceted GPTS Advancement Initiative, created by the Development Office to reach that goal, resulted in gifts totaling $275,152 above budget, for a total of $1,041,460. We praise our Provident God and His responsive people who made this possible.


fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams
Graph shows June
contributions vs. Budget 
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If you would like to make a convenient online donation to Greenville Seminary, click the "Donate" button above. Gifts may also be mailed to: Greenville Seminary, PO Box 690, Taylors SC 29687.


Fidelity Charitable Clients: Click here for Donor-Advised Fund direct deposit (available soon)

Most of all, be fervent in prayer that God would provide all that is needed for us to do what He has called us to do in this ministry which the church so badly needs in these uncommon times.

Remember, gifts to GPTS are tax-deductible and may include cash, securities, property or a variety of planned giving instruments. (The tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of any premium received in return for a donation.) See here for information about planning your last will and testament with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Whether or not you can contribute financially, here is another way you can help the seminary: Spread the Word! Do you know someone that would be interested in learning more about our organization or supporting us? If so, share a link to this newsletter. (Click the tiny "M" e-mail icon at the bottom of this post.) Thank you for your continued support for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Don't Miss the GPTS Summer Institute: The Flow of the Psalms

Here is your last chance to register for the August 3-7 Greenville Seminary Summer Institute mapping out the "Flow of the Psalms."

The Institute will focus on understanding and preaching the richness of the Book of Psalms. Do you find it difficult to grasp any sense of order in the Psalter? Have trouble locating the right psalm for a particular need? Since the time of Augustine until today, the Psalms have been read as individually wrapped treasures that stand alone rather than having inner connections within the book as a whole.

The Institute is designed to provide those in church leadership with an opportunity for instruction in key areas of ministry and on topics of unique and timely interest. Pastors may find it useful for satisfying requirements for continuing education. For laymen, it serves as a special opportunity for enrichment in their spiritual and intellectual lives. The annual five-day seminar also offers participants a time of inspirational fellowship with other serious Christians in a seminary setting.

Dr. Robertson
Dr. Pipa
The Institute will provide an in-depth look at "The Flow of the Psalms," with teaching by Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, Aug. 3-7 at the seminary. This week-long seminar is an expanded version of a lecture presented by Dr. Robertson prior to our 2014 Spring Theology Conference. Dr. Palmer's lectures will take place during the morning sessions daily; during the afternoon sessions, Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and Dr. Michael Morales will be lecturing on Preaching the Psalms. Pastors attending will be given the opportunity to submit sermons on the Psalms for critiquing.

Dr. Morales
The Flow of the Psalms explores the fascinating structures of psalm groupings that will enable you to place as many as 80 per cent of the psalms in their relationship to the whole of the book. Discovering groupings that feature psalms celebrating creation, psalms of corporate praise, psalms of the innocent sufferer, psalms of the guilty sufferer, psalms anticipating prosperity and long life, psalms of personal and national disaster, will enable you to “find your way” to the right psalm for a specific occasion. Understanding these inherent connections can only enrich the understanding of each individual psalm.

Throughout the whole, the promised Messiah and his universal reign provide a unifying focus. Charts displaying the structure inherent in each of the five Books of the Psalter make it possible to visualize the progression in redemptive truth from Psalm 1 to Psalm 150.

Registration is now available on the GPTS web siteYou may also register by phoning (864) 322-2717 ext. 318. Registration deadline is July 24. Tuition for the Summer Institute is $250. We offer a $25 discount off multiple registrations from the same church. This discount will be distributed as a cash refund when you arrive for class. Pastors who take the course are eligible for 30 continuing education units.

Download a brochure (PDF) here for information on lodging and more. View/download the seminar syllabus here.

Book Note

Books of interest in connection with the Summer Institute make be found here at the seminary's online bookshop.

Summer Theology Course

The GPTS Summer Program also includes an elective course on the Septuagint. The course will be taught on July 20, 22, 24, 27, and 29. Prerequisites for this class taught by Dr. Sidney Dyer, GPTS professor of Greek and New Testament, are Beginning Greek II and Hebrew II. The course is an introduction to the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of the Septuagint. Special emphasis is upon the use of the Old Testament by the New Testament writers. The course is highly recommended for those pursuing Th.M. and Th.D. degrees.

Tuition and fees are $428. The class may be audited for $60. To register, contact the Registrar's Office at 864-322-2717 ext 302 or email registrar@gpts.edu.

Lord's Day Worship "All the Day"

The Presbyterian Church in America, at its General Assembly in June, rejected an overture which proposed to amend the historic Westminster Confession of Faith’s chapter on Sabbath observance. The overture sought to strike prohibitions against “recreation” on the Lord’s Day on grounds that so many pastors take exception to that element of the confession when seeking licensure or ordination. But the overture also proposed removing language that calls for resting and worshiping “all the day” and “the whole time” of the Sabbath Day. Those phrases have been the foundation for centuries of the practice of holding morning and evening worship services in Reformed churches.

For many churches, the historic practice of holding two worship services each Sunday has fallen by the wayside. Some churches have maintained the two-service practice, even if attendance is diminished; and some others are newly rediscovering its virtues and potential for church growth. The following are excerpts of comments by pastors of churches that find great benefits, both spiritually and in the communion of the saints, in morning and evening services. GPTS commends these comments in support of the two-service worship tradition.

Dr. Steven Simmons, Fifth Street Presbyterian Church, Tyler, Texas

Evening worship has more and more become unpopular even with the churches that have a high view of worship and God’s Word. So, it seems like a useful thing to remind ourselves why we find this service important.

I realize that this is not the trend, but I am very much convinced that this is one of the areas that the current trend is more about accommodation and compromise than anything else. Everywhere we look in history where God has moved in great ways, from the revival under Nehemiah, to Pentecost, to the Reformation, and to the First Great Awakening in our own country there is a constant—the ordinary means of grace are there in abundance. Our hope for our church and even for our country must include a zeal for worship, a passion for preaching, and a delight in prayer… all in the context of the fellowship that is found in Christ.

…[B]ecause I am convinced that God works through His ordinary means of Grace, I am encouraged by the addition of the evening service to our schedule. And because there is nothing more important for the church than gathering around these ordinary means as we worship and fellowship, we have reason for extraordinary hope.
* * *
  1. It is another opportunity for the whole church to gather around God’s Word for edification and fellowship—a doubling of our time together as a body which by God’s grace may become the means of the development of our corporate identity as Christ’s church as well as a means to our growth as saints.
  2. This service has proven to be a great opportunity around the Word of God and in a setting where we are able to address issues and answer questions that the Sunday morning service does not afford. While it is impossible to look into the minds and souls of God’s people to see how they are growing, it is clear to me that many of the Sunday evening group are very much engaged in the study as we make our way through various texts of the Bible.
  3. The evening service typically provides a more relaxed time for fellowship before and after worship as well as allowing for an opportunity to incorporate some aspects of worship (such as more singing) than the morning service permits. The additional singing of hymns has been one of the great joys of the evening service and it is a part of our worship that is greatly enjoyed by all.
  4. The fellowship time after the evening service around a meal or snacks is a wonderful place to build community. This building of community is a great area of need in the life of the church of our time—members are scattered not only geographically but by busy lives as well. Having a set time where we are able to fellowship around the ordinary means of grace is a context of growth. This is the kind of place that love and unity are nourished…. This time together has become the hot-house for the development of close Christian friendships. I honestly do not think anyone can be regular at these times of fellowship and long feel like an outsider. If you long to get connected with the church body in a meaningful way, these times of worship and fellowship provide a place to start.
  5. The evening service is also a great place to introduce others to the life and ministry of the church. The context of the service and the fellowship is an excellent place to introduce non-Christians to the Christian church and a good place for believers who are looking for a church home to get a good look at who we are and what we believe…. This service has proven itself to be a place where all kinds of people are welcomed, and our goal is that it will remain so inviting.
  6. Not only will two services allow more preaching time, it allows for a greater balance in the pulpit ministry. It is difficult to deal with both Testaments when preaching is limited to once a week. Two services would allow for the pulpit ministry to include studies of Old and New Testaments at the same time or a mixture of verse by verse teaching along with studies of specific areas of doctrine.
  7. Finally, I do think this is a biblical pattern for worship that we see in the Old Testament with the morning and evening services, as well as being the practice of our early Church Fathers, the Reformation fathers, and almost all of the evangelical church until about the last 50 years. I am always a bit suspicious when our culture finds better ways of ordering church life than our Fathers did, especially when that change happens to fit so well with the mindset of our own culture. I fear that the recent changes in the evangelical church in regard to this practice have much to do with interests of lesser value.

Dr. Carl Robbins, Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church, Greenville, S.C. and GPTS Trustee

When I went to our little mission plant in Las Vegas in 1995, they did NOT have an evening service. We started small: an evening Bible study. We added Youth group and children's ministries. Finally, after 3.5 years we moved to a full-blown Evening Worship Service. When we added this service our growth SPED UP! What we found (much to our surprise) was that NOBODY in Las Vegas had an evening service. So, a lot of people began to visit and check us out in the evening service, getting acclimated before plugging in with us on Sunday mornings, (By the way, the same thing happens today at Woodruff Road (WRPC).

One of the difficulties (we thought) was the fact that we were NOT (nor are we at WRPC) a "local church." We were spread out over about a 60 mile radius. We thought this would keep people from coming back to our Sunday evening service. It didn't! Some just stayed in town all afternoon and enjoyed the hospitality of other church members; others drove home, rested and came back!

One of the benefits that I didn't count on (by going to two services) was the dramatic increase in Body Life. Relationships deepened and matured. Hospitality became a much more common practice.

I could go on and on about the benefits, but you get the picture. When I came to WRPC I inherited a lagging Sunday Evening service. My task here has been to give the people a reason to come back. So, I've engaged in some of my most high-powered preaching in the evenings. Now, a large percentage of our folks will return for evening worship.

Rev. Fred Greco, Christ’s Church (PCA), Katy, Texas

I find the evening service to be of great usefulness to our people in many ways. First and foremost, it gives me the opportunity to preach a second time on the Lord's Day, giving me more variety in my preaching and allowing me to take a more pastoral "tone" than is sometimes possible in a morning service. I can better balance Old Testament and New Testament, narrative and epistle, etc. 

I have also found that certain elements can be incorporated into an evening service that the people love. For example, we have a time of "hymn favorites" when people can pick a hymn to sing. The children especially love this. I also have a time of "Questions for the Pastor" in which I take questions on theology and the Christian life from the congregation. Finally, we have prayer requests. In this way, I believe that we have nearly all of the benefits of a small group, while at the same time having the blessings of a worship service.

One other thing we do that is a great joy to many is to have a meal after the evening service. The fellowship is loved by all — especially our teens. Our youth are among the highest percentage attendees at our evening service for this reason. We have a "theme" meal once a month, and a "Sandwich Supper" twice per month where the church purchases cold cuts, bread and chips the day before.

I love our evening services, and we have found that it is a great blessing to our people. We have gone in the last two years (when we went back to a full-time evening service from every-other-week) from attendance of about 25 per cent of morning attendance to about 60-70 per cent (and that is also in a time when we have grown about 100 per cent in morning attendance).

(Thanks to Pastor Simmons for permission to reprint these excerpts from his blog on the Fifth Street Presbyterian Church web site.)

Dr. Morales to Deliver Inaugural Address

Greenville Seminary is pleased to announce the upcoming Inaugural Address of Dr. L. Michael Morales as Professor of Biblical Studies.

Dr. Morales will lecture on "The Burnt Offering and Christ's Fulfillment." The address will be given on Tuesday, August 25th, at 7 p.m. at Covenant Community Presbyterian Church, 418 East Main Street, Taylors, South Carolina (just east of the seminary). The public is invited. A reception will follow.

Dr. Morales joined the full-time faculty at GPTS earlier this year. Formerly he was Provost and Professor of Old Testament at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla. His Ph.D. is in the Pentateuch and was supervised by Gordon J. Wenham at Trinity College, United Kingdom.

Dr. Morales is author of four books, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of Yahweh? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus;Cult and Cosmos: Tilting Toward a Temple-Centered TheologyThe Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus; and Numbers (vol 4 of the Apollos Old Testament Commentary). He has also written a number of book reviews and articles in periodicals and journals.

Dr. Morales and his wife Elise have been blessed with four boys: Armando, Diego, Alejandro, and Andres.

GPTS Student Unpacks Islam at Youth Worldview Conference

By Anthony Rogers
GPTS Class of 2018

Last month I had the privilege of lecturing to a couple hundred young men and women, from high school freshmen to college seniors, at the Biblical Worldview Student Conference in Johnson City, Tennessee.

BWSC is an exceptionally well-planned and well-executed yearly conference involving thirty hours of teaching on various issues from a Christian worldview perspective, as well as some opportunity for sports, free time activities, and fun with new friends made at the conference. The students are bright, godly, and zealous to see the word of God applied to all areas of their life and for the nations to have a saving knowledge of Christ and submit to His rule and reign.

The speakers this year also included Christopher Strevel, the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Bill Potter, an independent scholar, historian, and conference speaker, John Hodges, a conductor, composer, and the Founder and Director of the Center for Western Studies, and James Gardner, a popular lecturer for Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and for Canopy Ministries.

The lectures I gave were on Islam, a subject I have studied for the last 20 years and on which I write (q.v. Answering Islam and Answering Muslims) as well as debate (the most recent of which can be found here: Was Muhammad a True Prophet?). The following topics were covered:
  • Muhammad
  • Allah
  • The Qur'an
  • Sin and Salvation in Islam
  • Evangelizing Muslims

The students showed more interest in knowing about Islam and how to engage Muslims with the Gospel than I had expected. I was very encouraged by their response and will continue to pray for how they will use what they learned as they seek, by the Spirit’s power, to see the knowledge of Christ cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

A very brief synopsis of each lecture follows:


In the first lecture it was shown that Muhammad violated every criteria for prophet-hood laid down by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:9-22 (e.g. can’t be from a pagan nation, must be an Israelite, has to be directly called by God, must speak in accord with previous revelation, can’t make false predictions), which runs contrary to the claim made by Muhammad in the Qur’an that his coming was predicted by Moses in the Torah (Q. 7:195; 61:6). It was also shown that Muhammad, according to the Islamic sources (e.g. Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah), received his prophetic “call” at the hands of a malevolent spirit who manhandled and choked him three times, almost causing him to pass out or even die. Muhammad himself initially thought he had been possessed at this time and even contemplated suicide. After overcoming his doubt and embracing the idea that he was a prophet, subsequent “revelations” that came to Muhammad over the course of 23 years were attended by the following circumstances:
  • He would collapse or be thrown to the ground
  • His eyes would roll back in his head
  • He would convulse
  • He would hear ear ringing in his ears
  • He would moan like a camel
  • He would foam at the mouth.
  • His face would change colors
  • He would perspire even when it was cold


In the second lecture, it was shown from both Muslim and non-Muslim sources that Allah was the generic name for the high god of the Arab pantheon whose special or peculiar name was Hubal, which means, “He is Baal” (cf. 1 Kings 18). Muhammad did away with the other deities and sought to present Allah, the special deity of his tribe and the high god of the Arabs, as the only god. He also taught that his god was the same god worshiped by Jews and Christians in spite of the fact that his putative deity is characterized by a barren unity or oneness that excludes all diversity, is supposedly transcendent and not also immanent, is a master and not a father, is fickle in his commands and arbitrary in dispensing justice, only loves those who first love him, swears by created things, prides himself on being the best of all deceivers, and even warns his own followers to fear his guile and craftiness.

The Qur'an

In the third lecture, Islamic claims for the Qur’an were discussed, including the idea that the Qur’an is eternal and the idea that it is inimitable in its grammar, style, and eloquence. It was demonstrated that the Qur’an couldn't be eternal without violating Allah’s absolute unity; neither can it be a revelation from Allah if Allah is utterly transcendent and not also immanent. As well, the Qur’an is far from perfect in its grammar, style, and eloquence, containing as it does innumerable grammatical mistakes, an excessive number of unintelligible sentences, and other inequities that hardly qualify as eloquent. Arguments made by Muslims for the divine origin of the Qur’an were also explained and answered, such as the claim that the Qur’an contains insights into the nature and operation of the universe in advance of their discovery by modern science, and the idea that the Qur'an is a mathematical miracle.

Sin and Salvation

The fourth lecture took up the issue of sin and salvation in Islam. Here it was discovered that sin in Islam is a violation of Allah’s will, but since Allah’s commands are not rooted in his unchanging nature but always in an arbitrary fiat or act of will, such commands can change and often did change, at least while Muhammad was alive, for Allah’s commands often followed Muhammad’s desires (Muhammad’s child bride and favorite wife, Aisha, once remarked: “I see that your Lord hastens to satisfy your desires.” She said this after Muhammad revealed that he was in the right for desiring the wife, Zaynab, of his adopted son, Zaid, which led to Muhammad marrying Zaynab and to Allah abolishing adoption so that Muhammad’s marriage was legal.) It was also shown that Islam does not believe in original sin, or even that man is responsible for his choices since all human choices have been fatalistically decreed (the differences between Islamic fatalism and Biblical predestination were also laid out). Since man is not ultimately responsible for his choices, any sin could be forgiven willy-nilly, which means sin may also not be forgiven, and it is always up to Allah whether he will or will not forgive it. While the Qur’an speaks of a person’s faith and good works being necessary for salvation, it also speaks of the “scales of justice,” whereby a person’s good deeds are weighed against his bad deeds to see if the former are heavier than the latter. Since Allah can change the rules of the game, he can also tip the scales any way he wants. From this it follows that there can be no assurance of salvation for a Muslim; indeed, even Muhammad was not sure what Allah would do with him. Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s trusted companion and the first “rightly guided caliph,” said it best: “Even if I had one foot in paradise I would still fear Allah’s deception,” meaning, he would not be convinced that he was going to be accepted into paradise rather than plunged into perdition until he was all the way in, for Allah’s deception could overtake him at the last second. Islamic denials of federal headship, representation, atonement, etc. were also discussed, as well as many points of tension that arise from Muhammad’s contradictory teachings (e.g., the Qur’an says that no soul can bear the burden for another soul, but Muhammad also taught that Muslims will be given Jews and Christians on the day of judgment in order to offload their sin onto them, and that Jews and Christians will go to hell in the stead of Muslims.)

Evangelizing Muslims

Finally, in the fifth lecture, reasons were given for why Christians should be interested in evangelizing Muslims, such as the command of Christ, the promise of blessing on our gospel labors, and even specific promises in the prophets that the nations will turn to the Lord, a number of which include specific references to the Arab nations. A considerable amount of time was also spent discussing the view of the Reformers that Islam was raised up by God as a scourge against the wicked and as a rod of discipline for the sins of His people (q.v. Isaiah 10:1-34, 36:1-22), which means that the church must repent of false doctrine, false worship, and disobedience to Christ’s commands if it is to see widespread gospel success among Muslims. The sobering words from Calvin on Isaiah 36 speak directly to the matter:

This insolence of ungodly men arises from their not understanding that God punishes the sins of men when they suffer any adversity. And first they go wrong in this respect that they institute a wicked and absurd comparison, “I have conquered that nation, and therefore I am better or stronger.” They do not perceive that they were appointed to be the executioners of God’s anger for the punishment of iniquities; for, although they say that they have received something from God, they do it hypocritically, and do not consider his will or his justice. They afterwards rise higher, for they venture to make a comparison between them and God himself, “I have conquered those over whom God presided, and therefore I have conquered God himself.

And here we see painted in a lively manner what was formerly expressed, — “Ah! Assyria, the rod of my indignation; but he thought not so.” (Isaiah 10:5).

In that passage God forewarned believers, that although Sennacherib, in blind madness, lifted himself up and attempted to overthrow all divine power, still they should continue to believe this doctrine, that he could do nothing more than what he was permitted by heaven to do. It is our duty to acknowledge that God inflicts punishment by the hand of wicked men, who may be regarded as the instruments of God’s anger; and therefore we ought to turn away our eyes from them, that we may look directly at God, by whom we are justly punished. If wicked men are more powerful, let us not think that the arm of God is broken, but let us consider that we do not deserve his assistance; for he arms enemies for our destruction, supplies them with vigor and with armies, drives them backwards and forwards whenever he thinks proper, and gives us up into their hands when we have turned away from him.

Accordingly, when the Turk [i.e. the Muslims –AR] now rises up haughtily against us, because he has already vanquished so great a multitude of Christians, we need not be alarmed on that account, as if the power of God were diminished, and as if he had not strength to deliver us. But we ought to consider in how many ways the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia provoked his anger, by the prevalence of every kind of base and shocking licentiousness in those countries, and by the dreadful superstitions and wickedness which abounded. On this account very severe chastisement was needed for restraining the crimes of those who made a false profession of the name of God. Hence came the prosperity of the Turk, and hence was it followed by a shockingly ruinous condition throughout the whole of the east. Yet we see him insolently raising his crest, laughing at our religion, and applauding his own in a strange manner; but still more does he applaud himself, and “sacrifice to his net” (Habakkuk 1:16), as we have already said of other infidels.

We ought, therefore, to direct our minds towards the judgments of God, that we may not think that the Turk acquired such extensive dominion by his own strength. But the Lord allowed him greater freedom, for the purpose of punishing the ungodliness and wickedness of men, and will at length restrain his insolence at the proper time. Now, although prosperity is a token of the blessing of God, yet we must not begin with it if we wish to form right views of God himself, as Mahometans and Papists infer from the victories which they have gained, that God is in some respects subject to their control. But when we have known the true God, blessings are added in the proper order to testify his grace and power.”

May the Lord grant repentance to His church, and may He bless the students as they seek to use this information for His glory and for the extension of His kingdom.

Paul H. Anderson Taken Home to Glory

Greenville Seminary alumnus Paul H. Anderson was suddenly called home by His heavenly Father on June 26, 2015, at the age of 55. He died of a massive stroke from a blood clot in his brain.

A memorial service was scheduled for July 10 at Calvary Church in Trumbell, Conn. A second service is being planned for Greenville, S.C. on July 31st, 11 a.m. at Second Presbyterian Church.

Paul graduated from GPTS in 1999 and served as pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Fall River, Mass. since his ordination in 2004. Unmarried, he is survived by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Albert Anderson, and two siblings. His parents, both suffering from ill health, are members of Second Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, S.C.

Born in Maine and nicknamed "Happy" or "Hap," Paul spent his youth in the Greenville-Taylors area, where he graduated from Eastside High School and worked in retail before entering college in Rhode Island. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1983.

With President George H.W. Bush
While at GTPS, he served as an administrator and adjunct faculty member, 1998-2000.

Paul was active in Republican Party politics and ran for mayor of Fall River as an independent in 2014. He once considered running for governor of Rhode Island. "Good morals are the foundation of honest ethics and good government," he said on his campaign web site. "We need to do more than just try to look good and feel good; we must actually do good and be good. We are neighbors not enemies, and we must agree, when we disagree, to disagree agreeably. Public office is a public trust, not a property right invested in the office holder, which privilege may be forfeited when the public trust is lost."

With parents
“I remember that Paul's parents used the nickname ‘Happy’ for Paul because he was always so cheerful and hopeful,” said John Van Voorhis, a friend of the family and GPTS trustee. “Now, despite what must have been a shocking and unexpected homegoing for Paul, and for the grief which will accompany God's sovereign intervention in his life, Paul is truly ‘happy’ in the very highest sense. ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.’"

Book Notes: New McGraw Booklet Released

Reformation Heritage Books has just released a new booklet in its Cultivating Biblical Godliness series, this one being Why Should You Deny Yourself, by newly arrived GPTS Professor Dr. Ryan McGraw.

“Self-denial is one of the fundamental principles of the Christian life. It is Christianity 101,” writes the author. Christians, regardless of personal cost, must believe and do whatever Christ teaches them and reject and flee from whatever He forbids them, he adds.

Dr. McGraw helps readers develop an understanding of this essential principle of Christian living by providing an in-depth explanation of what self-denial is and why it is important, and then giving examples of what it looks like in practice.

In an endorsement of the booklet, Daniel R. Hyde, pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church, Carlsbad, California, says, "‘Deny yourself.’ This is one of the hardest biblical commands for Christians to implement practically. Our selfish sinful nature wants and wants even more. Ryan McGraw’s pamphlet is a powerful call to the twenty-first-century church to be more like Jesus and less like the world; to be transformed by the Spirit rather than conformed to the world. We need this exhortation today, and I’m glad to commend this pamphlet for issuing that call.”

Go here to order the booklet.