Monday, September 7, 2015

Special Recruitment Issue

Greenville Seminary is blessed with a large crop of entering students for the new 2015-16 academic year. But we are already looking ahead to the next year when it is our prayer to move closer to the long-standing goal of 100 students on campus for our 30th anniversary year.

The first two articles in this issue of GPTS Online focus on the great call of God to men to labor in His vineyards and fields. The first explores the nature of that call. The second seeks to enlist you in our efforts to raise up more laborers in harvest fields of the Kingdom.

A third "big picture" article, "Is the World Getting Better?", shows how the growth of Christianity is positively impacting the harvest field in a troubled world. A fourth article chronicles how the church in one country has failed in its challenge to confront one particular evil in the world and stands as a warning to churches elsewhere.

The remaining articles in this month's e-newsletter report on various aspects of our activities as an institution and share stories of interest concerning the seminary community.

Answering God's Call to the Ministry

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” — Isaiah 6:8

Dr. Pipa administers ordination vows to Jeff Downs
During a recent ordination service for a Greenville Seminary alumnus, President Joseph A. Pipa Jr. spoke of the two-fold call of God toward men He desires to enter the Gospel ministry — the inward call and the external call. 

Charles Spurgeon described the inklings of the internal call as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work” of ministering the Word and pastoring the church. As Dr. Albert Mohler has explained it, “Those called by God sense a growing compulsion to preach and teach the Word, and to minister to the people of God. This sense of compulsion should prompt the believer to consider whether God may be calling to the ministry. Has God gifted you with the fervent desire to preach? Has He equipped you with the gifts necessary for ministry? Do you love God’s Word and feel called to teach?”

It should be added quickly that an internal sense of calling may not be enough to confirm a perceived claim by God on a man’s life. Spurgeon often warned against entering the ministry unless that claim becomes irresistible. To avoid troublesome self-deception at this critical juncture, however, one’s internal sense must be accompanied by an external affirmation — the second sign of the ministerial vocation.

The external affirmation comes from the church, specifically the authorities of the church within which a man serves, and possibly from one’s fellow saints, who recognize the man’s gifting as he serves among them. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians describes pastors and teachers as God’s gift to the church for its up-building, and it is the church’s understanding of a man’s own gifts which is the best confirmation of his calling. The call to public ministry is a public call, and those who enter it are held to particularly high standards, the exercise of which will always be under public scrutiny. He must enter his vocation with integrity and courage.

“Consider your calling. Do you sense that God is calling you to ministry, whether as pastor or another servant of the Church? Do you burn with a compulsion to proclaim the Word, share the Gospel, and care for God’s flock? Has this call been confirmed and encouraged by those Christians who know you best?” Mohler concludes.

Is God calling you?

Greenville Seminary has prepared a packet of information designed to guide you as you consider training for the ministry. You need a thorough acquaintance with the Word of God and the theology contained therein. You need the best possible guidance as you learn to proclaim these vitals of the faith and learn to care for God’s people and fulfill the Great Commission. As one of the brochures in the packet puts it, it is imperative that you begin well. We believe Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is uniquely equipped to uniquely equip you for the ministry to which you may be called. We stand ready to prepare you well!

Contact our Recruiting Office if you would like receive a copy of this packet,

A Few Good Men

Photo: Tom Cruise and his legal team in "A Few Good Men"

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is looking for a "few good men" who can "handle the truth." You can help us find them.

No, we're not referring to that famous 1992 military trial movie, although we are well equipped to train men for military chaplaincies, and have done so numerous times. We're talking about identifying a special kind of kingdom warriors — men called by God to stand against the spirit of the age, put on the Whole Armor of God, and boldly proclaim the Truth of God's Word. We talking about men who want to dig deep, learn how to unpack the mysteries of divine revelation, and proclaim them without compromise.

We don't have recruiting stations around the world, but we do have many churches that share our vision and our theological perspectives. We want to identify churches that would be willing to help us tell our story, find those few good men, and send them to us.

Here's our simple request: ask your church leaders whether they would allow us to place 1) a few general brochures and 2) student recruiting material on the free literature table or rack at your church (see photo below). If you would be willing to do this, please go here to fill out a simple form indicating you're willingness to serve as our ambassador for support and recruitment.

Our student body worldwide now stands at nearly 80, including distance-learning and extension-program students. Our goal is to bring our on-campus enrollment, now at about 40, to 100 in the next few years. We need your help!

Thanks. We appreciate you!

Financial Report for August 2015

The tables below indicate our financial situation as of the end of August 2015 and the first two months of our 2015-16 fiscal year. Unrestricted general fund donations from churches and individuals during August totaled $19,937, which was $48,021 below the $67,958 budgeted for such income. Expenses of $95,209 were $10,793 below the $106,002 budgeted for expenses. In addition, we received $1,243 toward our Capital Fund in August, and $715 was given for scholarships. During July and August, the seminary disbursed $12,605 in scholarships.

With our current fiscal year only two months old, a general fund deficit of $84,366 is of concern, although not unprecedented for summer months when giving is typically slow and there is little tuition income. By comparison, the seminary's deficit for the first two months of the previous fiscal year was $46,659. The new school year now being underway, we need your help! Your gift is vital to the accomplishment of our mission. So many of our students are sacrificing greatly to answer the call to serve the One who sacrificed all for the sake of His people. Many have relocated families, given up jobs, and live in poverty during their seminary years. Will you answer their sacrifice with blessing? Will you pray earnestly for a stronger financial foundation this month?


fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams
Graph shows August
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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

Fall Semester Launches with Two Special Lectures

Dr. Ryan McGraw
The 29th Convocation Service of Greenville Seminary took place on August 21, with Dr. Ryan McGraw, GPTS's newest faculty member, delivering the keynote address. Dr. McGraw addressed the student body in particular with his message entitled "How to Survive in the Ministry Today." In light of increased pressures on Christians and Christian ministries from a hostile culture, Dr. McGraw urged these future ministers to heed Christ's call: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

You may listen to this timely address here.

The faculty again took vows of subscription to the Westminster Standards, and students orally expressed their affirmation of a "Covenant" adapted from one contained in the original plan of the Presbyterian Church's first theological seminary established at Princeton, N.J. in 1812:
"Deeply impressed with a sense of the importance of improving in knowledge, prudence, and piety, as I embark upon my course of study, I solemnly promise, in reliance on divine grace, that I will faithfully and diligently attend on all instructions of this Seminary, and that I will conscientiously and vigilantly observe all the rules and regulations specified in the plan for its instruction and government, so far as the same relate to the students; and that I will obey all the lawful requisitions, and readily yield to all the wholesome admonitions of the professors and trustees of the Seminary, while I shall continue a member of it."
Nearly 50 students were present for the Convocation. Almost 30 more in the seminary's distance program and affiliated international extensions could not attend.

Morales Inaugural Lecture

Dr. Michael Morales
On August 27th, Dr. Michael Morales delivered his inaugural address as the seminary's new Professor of Biblical Studies. His lecture was entitled "The Burnt Offering and Christ's Fulfillment." Dr. Morales showed how the Old Testament burnt offering was the centerpiece of worship and far more than a mere propitiation for sin, but rather an act of consecration of the whole of life of the worshipper as a living sacrifice, fitting him for fellowship with God. He showed how Christ's life, death, resurrection and ascension perfectly fulfilled these same purposes once and for all.

An inaugural lecture is given on the occasion of the installation or formal presentation of a faculty member who obtains the academic rank of "full professor," the highest regular rank (other than that of a special distinguished or endowed scholar).

You may listen to this highly insightful lecture here.

Classes began on Aug. 24 for the seminary's 29th year of theological education. The Fall Semester continues through Dec. 18th.

GPTS Resident Faculty Fall Semester 2015. from left: Dr. Ryan McGraw, Dr. Benjamin Shaw, Dr. Tony Curto, Dr. James McGoldrick, Dr. Michael Morales, Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr., Dr. Sidney Dyer

Get Classy at GPTS This Fall: Seminary Offers Enrichment Courses to the Public

Members of the Greenville area community are invited to “audit” classes during the new Fall Semester. Auditing means you may attend the class for a nominal fee without receiving credit or taking tests. It’s basically a listen-and-learn approach for your own enrichment.

Of particular general interest this semester may be our introductory class on Reformed Theology taught by Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr., GPTS president. The class meets on Tuesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m.

The listener fee for this Introduction to Reformed Theology (ST11) class is $90 for an individual. Your spouse may attend with you for $45. If five or more individuals from a single church enroll, the cost will be $45 each.

For registration information, contact Registrar Kathleen Curto immediately, (864) 322-2717, ext. 302.

A complete class schedule can be found here: Read or Download Class Schedule.


The community is also invited to attend chapel services at the seminary each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, beginning at 11:15 a.m.

Guest pastors from area churches preach on Tuesdays. Dr. Pipa preaches on Wednesdays, this semester continuing his series from the spring semester on Psalm 119. On Thursdays, a member of the GPTS faculty or an advanced student brings the sermon.

Guest minister J.J. Lim, pastor of Pilgrim Covenant Church in Singapore, blessed the seminary community recently with this powerful, insightful and convicting message. Listen here:

Click here to view or download a larger chapel schedule.

Slippery Slope: The Swedish Church's Long Slide Toward Sodom

Joanne Holm
Greenville Seminary is richly blessed to have a delightful friend and staunch supporter in Sweden, octogenarian Joanne Holm of Västerås (about 100 kilometers west of Stockholm), who follows our work closely and shares the seminary's perspectives on virtually every issue. 

Recently, this outspoken grandmother who spent some earlier years in the United States applauded the seminary's Statement on Biblical Marriage and President Joseph Pipa's leadership in calling for prayer and fasting over the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. She has expressed concern over one usually conservative Lutheran denomination in America that is now showing signs of liberalization on this subject, at least in some districts of the church reportedly trying to formulate new "recommendations."

"Well, I'd like to ask a question. With the absolute clarity we have in the Scriptures that homosexuality is a sin, just how long does it take to issue a recommendation?" she wrote to us recently. "And I'd like to ask, where in the Bible does it say we can bless sin in a worship setting in the congregation? I'm outraged! I'm angry! Blessing sin!

"Every believer, every congregation will have to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures or to the State — the pinch of incense," she wrote.

She recounted in a message to the seminary in August how the Swedish Lutheran Church (the official national church) gradually, over the past 70 years, tracked the state's growing tolerance and approval of homosexuality and lost it's biblical moorings on this and other issues. Here is the timeline she shared, as a warning to other denominations taking "soft" positions on homosexuality, especially in the wake of the ruling of the Supreme Court, the majority bloc of which Mrs. Holm refers to as "the Lawless Five."

In 1944 Sweden de-criminalized homosexuality.

In 1950 the RFSL (Swedish Federation for Lesbian and Gay Rights) was founded.

In 1951 the Swedish Lutheran Church supported the State's de-criminalization of homosexuality, but at the same time, the Church Bishops stated that homosexual practice was against God's Word. During the 1950's homosexuals were seen as a moral threat to society.

In 1960 the Church ordained the first woman to the ministry.

In 1968-1979, Krister Stendahl, Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, was dean of Harvard Divinity School. He led "reform" on women's ordination, gay and lesbian rights, including ordination of LGBT persons to church office. He pushed ecumenicism among denominations and other religions. He did not believe in the soul's immortality.

In 1972 the Church, despite theological opposition, began to accept homosexual relationships — if it was a loving and committed relationship. Shades of Matthew Vines, that early! Eighteen years before Vines was born. Also in 1972, Sweden adopted the first sex-change law in the world.

In 1977 the first large gay march was held in Stockholm.

In 1984-1988, while Stendahl was Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, he permitted same-gender blessings.

In 1988-89 the Church was discussing blessings for homosexual partners, and the Church decided that living in a registered homosexual partnership was no hindrance for ordination to church office.

In 1995 the State legalized registered partnerships.

In 1997, in a discussion among six theologians and religious leaders, Stendahl argued that the sin of Sodom was a folk story, and to make a Biblical ethics story out of it was not very wise.

In 1998 the first EuroPride march was held in Stockholm.

In 2003, when the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, was consecrated Bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, Stendahl was one of the co-consecrators.

In 2004 Caroline Krook, the Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, a woman, was guest speaker for the opening ceremonies of the Gay Pride Parade and promised to work for gay marriage in the church. She believed that Jesus was not the only way to God, that other religions were also ways to God, and she did not believe in hell.

In 2005 Retired [American] Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong visited Sweden on a speaking tour. His presentations were based on his book, A New Christianity for a New World, published in 2002, translated into Swedish. One of the heresies he pedaled was the homosexual lifestyle.

In 2007 Church pastors joined the Pride Festival and began holding "rainbow church services."

In 2009 after a series of proposals and discussions, the Swedish Parliament legalized homosexual marriage. It was firmly stated that no pastors could be forced against their theological convictions to marry a same-sex couple. In the same year, the Church did a turn-around, and decided to marry homosexual couples and establish a marriage ceremony.

Antje Jacklén
Today, in 2015, Antje Jacklén, a woman, is the Archbishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church and the first to hold this highest position. She believes in evolution, that the virgin birth of Jesus is a myth, and she supports same-gender marriage. The Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, Eva Brunne, is also a woman, living in a registered lesbian partnership.  

I've mentioned the female clergy because, to me, it's interesting to see the progression of homosexual acceptance, female clergy, Krister Stendahl's influence, and also John Shelby Spong, all mixed together in the sodomite brew. History is not a straight line. It's also interesting to note how several basic doctrines are denied, not just the law on sodomy.

About the title of Spong's book, the first three words, "A New Christianity..." should have been enough to set off alarm bells, making one think of Galatians 1:8, where Paul, speaking of someone preaching another Gospel, writes, "let him be accursed." Also 2 Corinthians 11:4. 

GPTS has ties to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales, a small denomination with two congregations in Sweden — in Tranås and Stockholm.

Order Summer Institute Lectures on The Flow of the Psalms

Did you miss our popular 2015 Summer Institute featuring Dr. O. Palmer Robertson's "Flow of the Psalms"?

You can still hear these insightful lectures by ordering audio recordings of the weeklong session. The entire set of lectures is available for download for a cost of $60. These are MP3 downloadable files only. CDs are not available.

To order, click the button below. After you complete your order, we will send you an e-mail message containing a link for downloading your lectures. We will use the e-mail address associated with your PayPal account. If you wish to have the link sent to a different e-mail address, indicate so in the special instructions field on the order form or send a message to our bookstore.

To purchase Dr. Robertson's book The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology, go here.

Cooks and Quivers

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord... Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! — Psalm 127:3-5

When Ryan Cook stood to introduce himself at the seminary's new students banquet on August 20th (see photo, left), most of those present thought he misspoke when he mentioned having four 5-year-old children. But, to everyone's delight, he quickly pointed out that they are quadruplets!

Ryan, a distance student from Westfield, Indiana, is an attorney for Citizens Energy Group, an Indianapolis public utility company, and is beginning his seminary studies during the Fall Semester, which opened with classes on August 24.

Ryan explained at the banquet that he and his wife Stacie had difficulty starting a family and opted for fertility treatments. Such treatments have been known to result in multiple births, and such was the case for the Cooks, who welcomed a son, Levi, and three daughters, Anya, Maya and Zoe, into their family five years ago.

Stacie and Ryan Cook with their quadruplets. (Photo May 2014)

But amazingly, Ryan and Stacie Cook are not the only GPTS student couple with a quiver of multiple-birth children. Another Cook family (unrelated), Stephen and Rachel Cook of Greenville, S.C., have triplets! Stephen has been a student at GPTS for the past several years, and returned this semester to finish his studies after a hiatus during which time he taught at a local private school. In August, he married Rachel and acquired an instant family.

Stephen met Rachel met at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, S.C., where he was a member. She is also now a member. The triplets, two identical girls, Adelyn and Ellie, and a boy, Quincy, are five years old. Rachel has just begun homeschooling the three of them. 

The incidence of twin births in the United States is growing, but the birth rate of triplets and higher is down slightly in recent years. In 2013, the birth rate for triplets or higher order of multiple births was 119.5 per 100,000 live births, down 4 per cent from the 2012 rate and down more than a third from the peak of 193.5 in 1998 (which was 400 per cent higher than in 1980), according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Cook triplets start their homeschooling.

Ryan Cook is a 1997 graduate of Butler University, where he earned a bachelor of science in pharmacy. He graduated from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis with a doctor of jurisprudence degree in 2006. He studied briefly at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary before applying to Greenville Seminary in July of this year. He and Stacie were married in 2001.

Ryan says that he began to be interested in the things of the Lord in the mid-1990s while attending a Baptist Church.

"I went on a short-term missionary trip to East Asia in the summer of 1997," Ryan said in his GPTS application. "I believe I grew in faith and sanctification slowly but steadily until about a year into law school. I was at times terribly backslidden from then until sometime in 2012. My wife and I were at that time attending a broadly evangelical church called Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana. The Lord placed conviction of sin upon me, I believe, and caused me to fear for the welfare of my wife and children if I continued on my then current course."

He said he began reading the Scriptures with more earnest and sought out a theologically conservative Presbyterian church because of his perception that it would be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God. He is currently a member of Christ Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheridan, Indiana.

“I have since learned of the beauty of the Westminster Standards, come to highly value the confessional Presbyterian stream of tradition (and learned that not all Presbyterian bodies hold that same confessional view)," he said. "I desire theological education because I highly value the preaching and teaching of the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. I perceive that the preaching and teaching in the vast majority of churches in the U.S.A. (and the West, more generally) [is deficient]. In short: If called by God, I want to preach and teach His Word and serve Christ's Church, either in the U.S. or as a missionary.”

Is the World Getting Better?

The international director of the World Revival Network has reported statistical research that he says demonstrates that the "world is getting better" in large part due to the massive growth of Christianity around the globe, a fact he says is contrary to popular belief.

In a recent blog post entitled "Why You've Been Duped into Believing the Myth that the World is Getting Worse and Worse," J.D. King contends, "The earth is constantly improving because the gospel of Jesus Christ is taking root in every corner of the globe. The Kingdom of God is advancing and things are truly reflecting the Lord’s great kindness and love."

Citing statistics purportedly showing diminished violence and poverty in the world along with increased health and life expectancy, King anchors his claims of world betterment in research showing the spread of Christianity globally in the last century, with evangelical Christianity leading the way.

"Many aren't ready to accept this, but the number of those who claim to be Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last century, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2.3 billion as of 2011. Christians represent roughly 33% of the world population," he writes.

"There is little doubt that the Church is rapidly advancing around the globe. With the unfortunate exceptions of the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and a few other isolated places, Christianity is actually outpacing population growth everywhere. "

Quoting several studies, King notes that Christianity is making massive inroads even among Muslims.

"In fact, it appears that more Muslims became Christians over the last 20 years than in the previous 1,500 years combined," he writes. "Based on the observations of missiologists, journalist Audrey Lee suggests that 'more Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam.'"

King says that in spite of the intense persecution, assassinations, and widespread church bombings, revival is exploding throughout North Africa and other parts of the Middle East. 

"It has been conservatively estimated that at least ‘2 to 7 million people from a Muslim background worldwide now follow Christ.’ Other reliable reports suggest that there may be as many as 10 to 15 million undocumented Christians in Muslim countries. Perhaps there's even more,” he says. 

"I'm aware that many don't believe it, but unbiased analysis and a multitude of relevant statistics confirm that the world is actually getting better. There is greater prosperity, peace, and health than ever before in recorded history. The Kingdom of God is boldly advancing and it's transforming everything in its wake," King concludes.

"I wish that many of my fellow Christians would gain a better grasp of what is going on in the nations. We need to let go of our pessimistic "doom and gloom" worldview and truly embrace the good news of the gospel. Jesus is on the move, and He is bringing His blessing and life to a world that has been ravaged by darkness."

King says that what is now transpiring in the nations really shouldn't surprise any Bible-believing Christian. "It's something that the Prophet Isaiah assured us centuries ago:

The government will be upon his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the growth of his government and peace there will be no end. He will rule over his kingdom, sitting on the throne of David, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6b-7a).

Read about Greenville Seminary's increasing role internationally in the latest edition of our Foundations Update newsletter, page 2.

Old School

Greenville Seminary advocates an "Old School" approach to its theological education. GPTS Student Tony Rogers seems to take this phrase literally. Actually, a power outage at his home necessitated this reversion to yesteryear's candlelight illumination for book learnin'. Kudos to Tony for his perseverance!

On a more serious note, if you would like to read a class paper by 2015 GPTS graduate Kevin Easterday on the 19th-century Old School/New School controversy in Presbyterianism, go here.