Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why You Need Greenville Seminary

By Garry J. Moes
Director of Development and Recruiting

My initial impulse was to entitle this article "Why the World Needs Greenville Seminary." When that seemed excessively broad and suggested that it might be difficult to effectively challenge the whole world to respond to my intended rationale, it occurred to me that the title would better be "Why the Church Needs Greenville Seminary." But, again, since my purpose is to elicit a real response to this idea, I wondered whether a generalized appeal to "the Church" would be effectual. So I decided to address this to you who have taken this moment to read on. I have great hopes that once you see why you personally need GPTS, you will be led, with some urgency, to help ensure that it remains a viable force in the church and the world.

To be sure, the world badly needs a ministry like Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which is relentlessly committed to the whole counsel of God's revelation to this world. And it is true that the obligation to proclaim that revelation of God's mighty and glorious work of salvation to the world belongs to the Church, the working, discipling, ministering Body of Christ. If you are a part of that Body, you need a Church that will succeed in its Great Commission to make disciples of all nations as it goes forth, teaches and baptizes in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So here is why you need Greenville Seminary:

It is grievous to contemplate how much of the church that calls itself Christian has fallen into weakness, biblical ignorance, lawlessness, worldliness, ineffectiveness, idolatry and heresy, and has conformed to the spirit of the age rather than to the transforming spirit of the gospel. Your world is falling exponentially into godlessness, chaos, violence, mindless pleasure-seeking and every sort of triumphant evil, in part because a vast portion of the church has become all of the tragic things listed in the previous sentence. I dare say that, if you are like me in this regard, you do not want to live in such a world. Yet you and I will be threatened, stressed, harmed and tried sooner or later at the hands of an increasingly hostile world if the church does not begin to rediscover the world-changing truths once resurrected by the great Protestant Reformation. Much of the worldwide Church of Christ is already experiencing this.

And that's where Greenville Seminary comes in. I am not suggesting that GPTS is the only seminary in the world or in the church that has an exclusive grasp on a faithful understanding of God's Word or the powerful summations of that Word found in the historic confessions of the Reformation and early church. But it is counts itself among those faithful theological schools bound and determined to safeguard and advance that ancient faith.

It is axiomatic that the trends one sees in denominations almost invariably follow the earlier trends in the theological schools where its ministers and Christian workers are trained. Leadership may not be everything, but it is a powerful force in whatever cause or corporation or organization over which it stands. It has always been so. "'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!' declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 23:1, NIV). The impact of that warning of "woe" is highlighted in a paraphrase of the verse in the NET Bible translation: "The LORD says, "The leaders of my people are sure to be judged. They were supposed to watch over my people like shepherds watch over their sheep. But they are causing my people to be destroyed and scattered."

Verse 2 follows with a stronger reiteration: "Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: 'You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,' declares the LORD.…"

This theme is rampant throughout the Old Testament prophecies, as Jesus the Good Shepherd recognized when he said, "All who have come before me are thieves and robbers..." (John 10:8):
Jeremiah 10:21 — The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.
Jeremiah 12:10 — Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland.
Ezekiel 13:3 — This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
Zechariah 11:17 — "Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!"


The 18th-century Bible commentator John Gill saw the connection between the sins of the shepherds and the rulers of the nation: 
Woe be unto the pastors,... Or, "O ye shepherds" or "governors," as the Targum; the civil rulers and magistrates, kings and princes of the land of Israel; since ecclesiastical rulers, the priests and prophets, are mentioned as distinct from them in Jeremiah 23:9; whose business it was to rule and guide, protect and defend, the people: but, instead of that, they were such that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord God; set them bad examples, led them into idolatry and other sins, which were the cause of their ruin, and of their being carried captive, and scattered in other countries; and their sin was the more aggravated, inasmuch as these people were the Lord's pasture sheep, whom he had an interest in, and a regard unto, and had committed them to the care and charge of these pastors or governors, to be particularly taken care of. 

Greenville Seminary is adamant about standing against a proliferation of the sins which called forth these woes. The landscape of theological education across America and all of Christendom is broad and highly varied. Sadly, too many seminaries have lost sight of the foundational truths revealed in God's Holy Word and, in the face of Scripture's clear warnings, have followed after false doctrines, abandoning the faith "once for all delivered to the saints." Some who give lip service to orthodoxy are prone to flirt with provocative but questionable new perspectives; some who make no pretense toward orthodoxy proudly embrace the most despicable heresies. Many, in the spirit of the age, have lost sight of the importance of common doctrine and opt for "cutting-edge" theological innovation or a sentimental, contentless religion.

By contrast, Greenville Seminary stands absolutely committed to the inerrant Word of God and the distinctive tenets of Christian truth derived from it distinctives so eloquently set forth in the confessional standards of the historic Reformed Faith.

This is why you, your church and your world need Greenville Seminary. But I must be candid here: Christians who understand this and share our vision are not a vast number. Those who oppose it are growing, and some have worked to undermine, through innuendo or slander or other means, our ability to do the task God has called us to do.

We are facing a critical situation in our support level, as the financial report elsewhere in this e-newsletter shows. We who labor here know how much the Church needs this ministry, and through the Church, how much the world needs it. We pray that you, as a member of the Church and a commissioned sojourner in this world, will see why you need Greenville Seminary and lend your support.


Preparation for Ministry: Choosing a Seminary

The Banner of Truth Trust has released a new paperback that Greenville Seminary believes to be highly useful for men who perceive they are called to the gospel ministry and those who are just beginning such ministry.

Preparation for Ministry, by Australian pastor-scholar Allan Harman, covers a range of important issues relating to the call to Christian ministry, theological training and entry into pastoral work. Harman draws on his own experience as a theological student, pastor and seminary teacher.

Of particular interest to men considering a theological education is Chapter 4, "Choosing a Theological College or Seminary." Harman notes that in the past, a large number of ministerial candidates were trained by a single pastor, but this is no longer the norm.

"The main reasons are that it is better to have a college/seminary with the necessary library facilities, and teachers who are skilled in particular disciplines, rather than depending on one man, with limited library resources, and whose time is restricted for teaching because of congregational commitments," Harman writes. "It also means students are interacting with other students, learning from them, and finding that their lives are being shaped by the community of faith that they have joined."

Greenville Seminary seeks to maintain a middle ground between the historic system and later trends through it adherence to what it calls the "Academy Model."

"Since the Church is the Christ-ordained means for the spiritual growth of God’s people, the Seminary believes it can best serve as an arm of the Church," the GPTS Academic Catalog explains. "As an academy closely related to the local church, the Seminary can assist students’ growth in grace. The Seminary does not view itself as having any ecclesiastical authority over the personal life of the student. That falls under the jurisdiction of the church. This is not to suggest that the Seminary will not be deeply involved in assisting men to grow in grace, but it is the recognition that this growth is properly under the pastoral care of the church. Every student is expected to be a member or at least an associate member of a local church, so that when there are pastoral needs for the students, the governing bodies of the church may be informed."

The seminary also places considerable emphasis on field education during the school year and summer months. It offers a learned faculty with men who are both biblical scholars and experienced pastors and effective preachers. The small student-faculty ratio helps maintain some of the advantages of the historic one-on-one model.

Harman lists five factors prospective students should consider in choosing a seminary:
  1. A right choice is essential. "Care must be taken in the choice of where to study for ministry. A theological course is a deeply influential part of one's life. You are going to to listen day after day to certain lecturers. You are going to interact with students from widely different backgrounds, perhaps very different from your own. All this means that you will be molded by your theological course whether you are conscious of that or not."
  2. Find out as much as you can about the seminary you are considering. "Read literature about them, visit them if possible, ask staff about their emphases and aims, and talk with graduates from them. ... Not all graduates from a particular institution will reflect its ethos, but many will display in their ministries the skills they learned there."
  3. Specifically ask about the doctrinal stance of the seminary to which you are attracted. GPTS believes this factor is among the most critical, and it why it puts such a major emphasis on confessionalism. Says Harman, "You should not have to spend several years in fighting doctrinal wars as a student. It is often very hard for a young student to challenge a lecturer, and there is often a sense of having to conform with the teaching being received. Having said that, don't underestimate the changes that do come to one's thinking during a course."
  4. Pick a seminary that has lecturers with pastoral experience. "This should be a prerequisite, as those teaching should be directing their class teaching towards the work of the pastorate. The teaching should have a focus that is ministry oriented. My own pattern in teaching has been often to stop and say to students: 'How can we use this biblical teaching in our preaching?' I want them to know that I am not teaching esoteric material that, however relevant for academia, is irrelevant for people in the pew."
  5. Candidates within a specific denomination may face hard decisions. "That is because in many denominations it is demanded that students attend the theological education provided by the denomination. That system can work well if the candidate knows that his own convictions are the same as the denomination, and hence can attend a specific seminary institution knowing that the teaching accords with the denomination's doctrinal standard. If that is not so, a critical decision has to be made. Many students of conservative theological convictions have gone to a liberal denominational college only to have their faith undermined by the teaching and their vision of ministry completely altered."
On this last point, Greenville Seminary is not an official arm of any denomination, but maintains close ties to a number of conservative Presbyterian and Reformed bodies. GPTS is governed by its own Board of Trustees representing this variety of denominational backgrounds. It also has a system in place for formal sponsorship and accountability by like-minded churches, regional church bodies and denominations. 
Harman notes that in some cases, "students can train in a non-denominational seminary but gain access to ministry in their own denomination, though they may have to comply with requirements for further study.
"In the main, I think intending students of a denominational college or seminary should assess whether their future lies in that denomination or not. If not, they should go to some other institution for their training," he says. 
To order Preparation for Ministry, go here. Students who apply for admission to GPTS will receive a free copy.

Informal group study session in the GPTS Student Commons — one of the advantages of on-campus studies at a residential institution.



Financial Report for September 2015

The tables below indicate our financial situation as of the end of September 2015 and the first quarter of our 2015-16 fiscal year. Unrestricted general fund donations from churches and individuals during September totaled $35,724, which was $32,234 below the $67,958 budgeted for such income. Expenses of $109,508 were $3,506 above the $106,002 budgeted for expenses. Total income for the month, including funds withdrawn from reserves, was $79,303, which was $23,567 below budget projections of $102,870. In addition, we received $738 toward our Capital Fund in September, and $6,245 was given for scholarships. During September, the seminary disbursed $5,058 in scholarships.

We urgently need your help! Your gift and prayers are vital to the accomplishment of our mission. Will you give generously and pray earnestly for a stronger financial foundation this month?


 GENERAL OPERATING FUND - SEPTEMBER 2015

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams
Graph shows September
contributions vs. Budget 
(upper number)

 Donation Income (unrestricted)
$35,724  
 Other Income (see note below)*
$43,579  
 Total Income
$79,303  
 Expenses
$109,508  
 Net Income
–$30,205  
 GENERAL OPERATING FUND -  FISCAL 2015-16
Donation Income
$104,369  
Other Income (see note below)*
$132,901  
Total Income
$237,270  
Expenses
$317,261  
Net Income
–$79,991  

*NOTE: Other income figures includes $16,667 withdrawn monthly from a reserve account established from a bequest received near the end of our last fiscal year.

 CAPITAL FUND
 Capital Campaign Goal
$3,500,000 
 Received
$3,405,392 
 Long-term Pledges Outstanding
$281,519 
 Total Received and Pledged
$3,686,912 
 Outstanding Obligations
$0 
 Monthly Payment (Interest Only)
$2,783 
 Remaining Mortgage
$580,817 



 

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.

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

New Morales Book on Leviticus Releases This Month

A new book by Greenville Seminary Professor L. Michael Morales, exploring the theology, narrative context and literary structure of the Book of Leviticus, is set for release on October 16 in the United Kingdom through thinkivp.com and soon in the United States.

Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? is published by Apollos, an arm of Intervarsity Press, and may be pre-ordered here.

According to the publisher's description, Dr. Morales has created a stimulating study that follows the Book of Leviticus's "dramatic movement, examines the tabernacle cult and the Day of Atonement, and tracks the development from Sinai's tabernacle to Zion's temple — and from the earthly to the heavenly Mount Zion in the New Testament. He shows how life with God in the house of God was the original goal of the creation of the cosmos, and became the goal of redemption and the new creation."

Dr. D.A. Carson says the book "promises to give us not only a theology of Leviticus, but also a richer theology of the Pentateuch, and finally of the whole Bible. I predict this volume will spawn some excellent sermon series on Leviticus!"

In the author's own words:
As the central book of the Pentateuch, Leviticus contains the heart of its theology and has much to unfold regarding the nature of God and the plight of humanity. The church’s understanding of Leviticus is foundational for grasping the story of the Bible in its depth and beauty, and for discernment concerning a whole array of pressing issues, such as the substance and nature of the Mosaic covenant, the worship of God, and the person and work of Jesus Christ. My hope and prayer in this endeavour is to provide the church with a theological entry into Leviticus in the context of both the Pentateuch and the New Testament, an entry that will strengthen feeble hands and make firm the weak knees, and lead to a renewed glorying in her heavenly access to the Father through the new and living way. To pursue this aim has meant that many aspects of Leviticus, from defining atonement to competing methodologies in ritual theory, and so on, which are topics of scholarly debate requiring much nuanced discussion and argumentation, have necessarily been avoided.
Dr. Morales
 Dr, Morales also continues to receive highly positive reviews from readers of his earlier book The Tabernacle Pre-figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus (2012). Here are some examples:
When you take 15 pages of notes and would buy a book strictly on the merits of its extensive bibliography, you know you've discovered a gem. L. Michael Morales' work on cosmic mountain ideology in Genesis-Exodus is such a book. From start to finish, this book was amazing. In my opinion, this is biblical theology at its best: thoroughly and richly exegetical, attentive to ANE context, aware of the historical and contemporary scholarship. In his own words, that's what Morales is attempting to do: "present the theology of the Bible within the dust of its own history" (282). 
 This book is fantastic. Expensive, but worth three times it's published price. Buy a copy. You won't regret it.
Dr. Morales's inaugural lecture as GPTS Professor of Biblical Studies was delivered in September on another Pentateuch-related topic, "The Burnt Offering and Christ's Fulfillment." You may listen to this highly insightful lecture here.



Volunteers Needed!

Student wife Lisa Dendekker from Canada staffs the
reception desk. Not seen on the floor next to her, Martin
and Lisa's newborn baby.
GPTS is appealing to friends in our local area to consider volunteering at our reception desk.

In order to keep staffing costs down, the seminary has relied for many years on volunteers who spend a few hours on campus providing simple services. We are grateful for those from the community who have faithfully offered themselves in these capacities, along with students and spouses who are part of our work-study tuition waiver program.

We are now again in need of volunteer staffing at the Reception Desk, answering phone calls and directing campus visitors as needed. The task is very simple. The phone system is easy to operate — no complicated switchboard and not highly computerized. The phones are typically not very busy: you can read a book, do a crossword puzzle or some knitting, or browse your smartphone or tablet — even tend an infant! (see photo).

You may volunteer for an hour or two or four. You may choose to come as often as you wish weekly or at certain times of the year. Friendly staff and students make it a pleasant place to do volunteer work, and you will be furthering the mission of this important institution. Volunteers are invited to certain special social events as well, where they are recognized and presented with a token of appreciation.

If interested, contact Administrative Assistance Sue Holmes, e-mail: sholmes@gpts.edu or phone (864) 322-2717, ext. 307. Or fill out the form on this page on our web site.

Georgia Church Provides Grant for International Students

Midway Presbyterian Church
Greenville Seminary acknowledges with gratitude a very generous grant of $12,000 from the Midway International Theological Education (MITE) Fund of Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, Georgia.

The Midway ACTS (Acclaiming Christ Through Stewardship) Fund Board responded with magnanimity to the seminary's recent annual appeal for scholarships for our international students and for funds to underwrite travel by our faculty to international venues where Greenville Seminary is now helping to spread sound biblical teaching to the nations. (See newsletter, p. 2, here.)

Dr. Pipa in Africa
Nine thousand dollars in MITE scholarship funds have been applied to the tuition accounts of nine current foreign students, making their education possible at a school staunchly committed to Scripture and discipling the nations through the proclamation of the Word of God. The remaining $3,000 is designated for travel by President Joseph Pipa Jr. and other faculty members to a variety of locations in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America on teaching assignments at affiliated or like-minded churches and theological training institutions.

Midway's mission program also provides support for two mission works where Greenville Seminary graduates labor, Mission to Italy (Mike Cuneo) and Mission to Albania (Albert "Bertie" Kona). In addition, the church has offered free registrations for GPTS foreign students attending its annual Reformation Worship Conference Oct. 22-25. GPTS graduate Joel Smit serves as assistant pastor for families and outreach at Midway, and Senior Pastor David Hall has been a speaker at seminary events.

Confessing Our Hope Podcast


New programs are now available at Confessing Our Hope, the web broadcast of Greenville Seminary, hosted by William Hill.

Latest broadcast topics include:

"Biblical Theology" — Our guest was Dr. L. Michael Morales, professor of biblical studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Our topic was Biblical Theology — what is it and why is it important in the study of the Scriptures and preaching.

"Faith and Practice #15" — GPTS President Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr. answers listeners' questions on evening worship services, Sabbath, eschatology and more.

"Preaching and Corporate Prayer" — Interview with Dr. Ryan McGraw about his new booklet about the connection between preaching and congregational prayer.

"Faith and Practice #14" — President Pipa answers listeners' questions divine impassibility, marriage and divorce, the church and culture, the marrow of modern divinity, excommunication, and the doctrine of Scripture.

"The Confessional Presbyterian" — Dr. Nick Willborn, an adjunct professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, talks about The Confessional Presbyterian journal. In addition to important and interesting historical work, the journal has published important articles critical of recent movements such as the Federal Vision and New Perspectives on Paul, ground breaking work on the manuscripts and documents of the Westminster Assembly, as well as substantial and illuminating material on Presbyterian polity and worship.

Submit your questions on a special form or on Facebook for future broadcasts in the popular Faith and Practice series. Go here for instructions.


Host Bill Hill


Meaningful Prayers With Long-term Results


Editor's Note: John Van Voorhis is a member of GPTS Board of Trustees and holds a Master of Ministry for Ruling Elders degree from the seminary. He is an elder and member of Covenant Community Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Taylors, S.C.

By John Van Voorhis

A certain family had a baby born to them several decades ago. After a long labor he was born on a late winter’s night – chubby and cute as all babies are. A few months later a friend noticed that he seemed very chubby in the neck area. Their pediatric doc agreed and he was sent for X-ray. A massive tumor was discovered throughout his entire chest, encompassing his vital organs such as heart, lungs, etc.

His parents were very concerned, and enlisted the prayers of those in their church and of old friends up and down the east coast. The day of his surgery was extremely stressful. His parents were praying almost constantly through the four-hour surgery it took to remove the tumor. It was found to be benign, however. The parents returned to their house late that night and found that the baby’s older brother had come down with a case of roseola and a temperature over 104! It had been a very long day for them, but now things seemed under control.

Because the baby was being breast fed, his mother had to stay in the hospital with him. In a few days he developed an infection and had to be returned to surgery. Once again the prayer warriors were summoned. His chest looked like it had a very long zipper but in a few weeks he began to recover. But during that period, another incident occurred. A technician appeared at the door and announced he had to give the baby a shot. The mother grew suspicious, for she had not been told of any medication to be given. It turned out that the identification bracelet had fallen off the baby’s tiny arm and the technician thought he was in the right room and that therefore, the child must be the one to receive the shot. The hospital never revealed whether that shot might have endangered the baby’s life. The mother saved him by demanding to know why a shot was to be given. Of course, the technician had the wrong child!

The baby took months to recover completely because there was a hole in his chest and the parents had to feed gauze into the cavity daily while the wound healed from the inside out. It was painful for the father to restrain the screaming child as the mother carefully poked the gauze into the opening. Eventually, the wound healed. The baby had residual effects from the cutting of a nerve which prevented him from sweating on one side, making one eye a different color from the other, and giving him a droopy eyelid. Corrective surgery was done a few years later to improve the eye problem and unevenness of his chest.

Despite those traumatic events, the child grew to be healthy and athletic, and academically well above average. He became a Christian, married a wonderful Christian wife, and has prospered in his business.

So why am I writing all this? Because that little baby whose life as an infant seemed to be in great peril became one of Greenville Seminary’s largest contributors. We who have supported the seminary in its work should give thanks for the prayers of God’s people on that day of surgery, and for months thereafter. And there is another story of prayer even decades earlier, but I shall withhold that perhaps until another time.


New Uniform, New Role

Lt. Cornelius Johnson, right, is sworn in as Navy chaplain.
Greenville Seminary alumnus and military chaplain Cornelius Johnson has traded his Air Force blue for Navy white as he has transitioned from his former service branch to a new one, still ministering to the spiritual needs of America;s armed services personnel.

"I just want to thank God for my experience and all the wonderful people I have met in the Air Force and for the opportunity to further serve in the Navy," Lt. Johnson commented upon his commissioning in the Navy.

Lt. Johnson served as an Air Force chaplain for 11 years. His Air Force rank was that of captain, the equivalent of a lieutenant in the Navy. In November, he will be leaving his assignment at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida to assume his new post at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. The Marine Corps is part of the Navy, and while most of the personnel at Twentynine Palms are Marines, a number of personnel, including medical staff, are Navy members. The Navy also provides chaplain services to the Coast Guard. 

"I will have the opportunity to provide ministry to many different services in many different and unique environments," Johnson said in an interview with Air Force Print News Today. "I will be challenged to learn all the service traditions, so that I can provide ministry to them and their families."

Johnson said that his biggest challenge will be to provide wisdom, care and support to a variety of people who come from different religious backgrounds. However, he went on to say that being a daily visible reminder of faith and helping individuals overcome whatever problems they are facing will be the most rewarding part of his job.

"The leadership lessons and dynamics I have learned in the Air Force and experience I have acquired in leading worship services, deployed chapel staffs, and chapel volunteers are a few of the things I plan to bring to my new position in the Navy," said Johnson, who 
has already begun a three-year probationary period with the Navy..

"I think my current understanding of military life, culture, and traditions, as well as the experience that I gained from the Air Force, will greatly benefit me during my time in the Navy," he added.

Lt. Johnson graduated from Greenville Seminary in 2000. He and his wife Dierdre have been living in Tampa, Florida, before moving to their Southern California desert base.