Book Notice: “The Community of Jesus”

community-of-jesusChristopher Morgan has put forth a steady stream of top-shelf edited volumes in the field of systematic theology. These volumes work very nicely in theology and doctrine courses, whether the courses are introductory in nature or upper-level electives. Morgan’s volumes model how to take complex ideas and mediate them in a lucid and compelling manner to pastors, college students, and seminarians. Morgan’s most recent volume is no exception.

In The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church (B&H, 2013), which Morgan (California Baptist) edited together with Kendell Easley (Union University), the authors provide compelling and coherent answers to questions about the nature and practice of the church.

In the introduction, Morgan and Easley note their different experiences in and with the church and how these experiences have shaped their approach. They also point out the significance of the numerous questions that attend any discussion of church: what about Baptism; the Lord’s Supper; church discipline; the relationship to Israel; denominations? These questions, they note, are important but are “ . . . best seen through a broader, salvation historical lens the theology of the church framed by a context of the nature and mission of God.” (xiii)

Instead of seeking to answer all the questions they opt to lay a theological foundation upon which the reader can build a fuller exposition of the church. This in turn speaks to many of the more applied questions. “Our focus is to work toward a biblical, historical, systematic, missional theology of the church.” (xiii) That is, The Community of Jesus is an integrative theology of the church that paves the way for other volumes to answer myriad questions about context and application.

Readers of BtT will be familiar with the contributing scholars. In the first five chapters, Paul House, Kendell Easley, David Dockery, Ray Van Neste, and Southeastern’s own Andreas Köstenberger lay out the biblical teachings––from OT to NT––which inform an evangelical Baptist ecclesiology. In the next four chapters James Patterson, Steve Wellum, Chris Morgan, and your scribe relate the biblical teachings to church history, salvation history, God’s glory, and God’s mission. The result is a smart, clear, and responsible text on the theology of the church.

This book will be a most helpful resource for pastors, teachers, and students alike. Pastors will benefit from the well-conceived plan of the book, which helps them connect the biblical, historical, systematic, and practical aspects of the church to their own ministry. Teachers will welcome the clear writing and concise treatments of large chunks of Scripture and history on this topic. And students, especially undergraduates, will learn to love the church and why this matters to God.

Southeastern Seminary (2): A Mission Centered on our Lord’s Great Commission

[Note: This blogpost is the second installment in a five-part series which articulates and expounds Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s mission to be a Great Commission seminary.]

The mission of God, depicted in the previous blogpost, is one in which he redeems his imagers and restores his good creation. However, we find ourselves living “between the times,” as it were. We live in an era between the first and second comings of our Lord, an era in which Christ’s reign has been initiated but not fully realized. In this time between the times, the Lord commissions us to be signs and instruments of his kingdom, charging us to bring the totality of our lives under submission to his Lordship, and making disciples of all the ethne. One of the purest distillations of this mission is found in the Matthean account of the Great Commission, to which the seminary’s mission statement refers. Matthew writes, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Mt 28:19-20). Matthew presupposes the mission of God and applies it to the mission of God’s people in a way that is uniquely helpful for articulating the seminary’s ministries. Arising from the main points of this text are three imperative characteristics of our seminary faculty:

1. At SEBTS, we will not take for granted the Lordship of Christ. Our Lord begins this passage by declaring that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth. This “heaven and earth” language points the reader back to the Genesis account, linking Christ the Redeemer with God the Creator. Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, is the one true and living God. This Jesus—Lord of creation and new creation—is the one who commands us and does so with universal authority. A healthy Great Commission seminary, therefore, will provide an environment in which students learn to bring all of life under submission to Christ’s Lordship. Christ is Lord over our personal, social, and cultural lives; Sovereign over our spiritual, moral, rational, creative, relational, and physical lives; King over our families, churches, workplaces, and communities.

2. At SEBTS, we will make disciple-making the focal point of our mission. Just as the Father sent Jesus, so Jesus sent them to others. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). His directive is missiological, extending beyond Jerusalem and the people of Israel to the uttermost reaches of the earth—to all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations. It is proclamatory and prophetic, in that believer’s baptism by immersion serves as a proclamation and a picture of the gospel, and a preview of the coming Kingdom, when Christ the King will resurrect not only his anthropos but also his cosmos. It is ecclesiological, as baptism precedes and leads to fellowship with a local church. It is personal and spiritual, as baptism signifies one’s personal profession of allegiance to the Triune God.  Finally, it is deeply pedagogical and theological as it involves teaching everything that Christ commanded, a charge that ultimately involves us in teaching the entirety of the Christian Scripture, in whom Christ is the towering actor and of whom Christ is the ultimate author. A Great Commission seminary, therefore, is one in which students learn to study and to teach the Scriptures in their entirety; one which encourages personal and spiritual renewal and corporate spiritual vitality; one which understands its mission as arising from the church and in turn serving the church; one which pulses with the heartbeat of world mission, recognizing that we live in a time—between the times—when God is searching for servants who will say “Here I am” in willingness to take the gospel to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

3. At SEBTS we will engender trust in Christ, who alone can empower our mission. In our mission to make disciples, the Lord will always be with us. He undergirds the mission with his presence and power, and will do so until the end. Because of his resurrection, the world has a deeply joyful ending, one in which the Lord redeems for himself worshipers from among every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and he dwells with them forever in a renewed heaven and earth. A Great Commission seminary, therefore, is one which engenders confidence in God, the gospel, and our mission. The task is daunting, considering that opposition to the gospel has never been more formidable than in the twenty-first century. The magnitude of our task, however, is matched and exceeded by the magnitude of our biblical convictions: that God is a missionary God; that a central theme in the Scriptures is God’s desire to win the nations unto himself; that God will do so through the gospel of his incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son; that the church’s task in each generation is to proclaim the gospel, make disciples of the nations, and bring God glory in every conceivable manner; and that God has promised and will secure the final triumph of his gospel, even to the ends of the earth.

Book Announcement: The Community of Jesus

In September, our friends at B&H Academic are publishing a book titled The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church, edited by Kendall Easley and Christopher Morgan. My SEBTS colleagues Andreas Köstenberger and Bruce Ashford are among the contributors. You can read what the publisher has to say about the book below.

Intended for upper division college students, seminarians, and pastors, The Community of Jesus delivers a biblical, historic, systematic, and missional theology of the church.

Today the word church provokes wide-ranging reactions and generates discussion on a variety of issues among Christians and non-Christians alike. In order to sort through this maze of responses and topics, a biblical and theological foundation must be laid that provides a clear vision of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and its significance in God’s eternal purpose.

With extensive pastoral, teaching, missions, and administrative experience, this team of contributors carefully sets forth the biblical teachings concerning the church and then builds on this core material, relating the theology of the church to salvation history, church history, God’s glory, and God’s mission:

  • Paul R. House, “God Walks with His People: Old Testament Foundations”
  • Andreas J. Köstenberger, “The Church According to the Gospels”
  • Kendell H. Easley, “The Church in Acts and Revelation: New Testament Bookends”
  • David S. Dockery, “The Church in the Pauline Epistles”
  • Ray Van Neste, “The Church in the General Epistles”
  • James A. Patterson, “The Church in History: Ecclesiastical Ideals and Institutional Realities”
  • Stephen J. Wellum, “Beyond Mere Ecclesiology: The Church as God’s New Covenant Community”
  • Christopher W. Morgan, “The Church and the Glory of God”
  • Bruce Riley Ashford, “The Church in the Mission of God”

The B&H Academic Blog has recently published two posts by co-editor Chris Morgan anticipating the book: “I Loved the Church but Hated Ecclesiology” and “The Church as A Showcase of God’s Plan for Cosmic Unity (Part I).” More posts are forthcoming in the next few days.

I’m really excited about The Community of JesusIf you haven’t been paying attention, you ought to know that B&H Academic has regularly published some very helpful material in recent years on the topic of ecclesiology, including Mark Dever’s introductory text The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (2012), which I reviewed for The Gospel Coalition, and the edited volumes Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (2007),  Upon This Rock: A Baptist Understanding of the Church (2010), The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (2011), and Those Who Must Give an Account: A Study of Church Membership and Church Discipline (2012). Several current and former Southeastern faculty members and adjunct professors have contributed to one or more of these volumes, including Danny Akin, Bruce Ashford, Andy Davis, Nathan Finn, John Hammett, David Hogg, Köstenberger, Steve McKinion, and Ben Merkle.