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Dean's Message

The mission of Beeson Divinity School is to prepare God-called persons to serve as ministers in the Church of Jesus Christ by providing quality theological education from an explicitly evangelical perspective. We aim to do this with joy and passion in a loving community which worships the Triune God and cultivates authentic Christian spirituality.

At Beeson we frequently say that "above all else, we want our students to be men and women of God." Hodges Chapel, where the Beeson community meets for worship, stands at the center of Divinity Hall.  It is redolent with symbols of the faith and decorated with beautiful Christian art. Its cross-shaped form reminds us of the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Its prominence and location at the heart of our building bears witness to the fact that Beeson is not merely a graduate school for the study of theology, but rather a living community of faith and learning whose highest purpose is "to know God and to enjoy Him forever."

Timothy George

Dean


 

Mary at Baptism?

By Timothy George
February 9, 2016

 

On an escarpment high above the Euphrates River in eastern Syria sit the ruins of Dura-Europos, one of the most important archeological finds of the twentieth century. Founded in 303 BC by the Seleucid successors of Alexander the Great, this ancient caravan city of some 8,000 to 10,000 people was occupied by the Romans from 165 AD until it was destroyed by an invading Persian army in 256 AD. Sadly, in recent years it has been “destroyed” once again, this time by ISIS, which has looted and sold the treasures of Dura-Europos in order to finance its murderous regime.

The site was first uncovered by British soldiers after World War I, and subsequent excavations in the 1930s revealed a remarkable city from late antiquity. Sometimes called the “Pompeii of the Syrian desert,” Dura-Europos has three intact structures that tell us a great deal about religious life in this military outpost at the edge of the Roman Empire. Adjacent to a Jewish synagogue with brilliant wall paintings of biblical scenes was a Mithraeum dedicated to the sun god Mithras, a deity to whom many Roman soldiers were devoted. Close by was the home of a well-to-do person that had been converted into a “house church” for Christian worship, a structure complete with an assembly room where fifty to seventy people could be seated to hear a sermon and share the Eucharist. A separate room had a baptistery in which the central rite of Christian initiation was administered.

Like the synagogue, the baptistry walls showed painted images of biblical scenes and figures, including the procession of the bridesmaids described in Matthew 25, and painted images of David, Peter, and Jesus himself—perhaps the oldest likeness we have of him. Methodist scholar Ben Witherington has made an important point about this artwork:
The art in the murals and mosaics in Dura make clear that the early Christians were not iconoclastic—they were not opposed to artistic representations of their God or their saints, or their biblical heroes or their martyrs. They believed that art could be used in the worship and honor of God.
The fear that such art might be a violation of the biblical injunction against “graven images”—the underlying concern in the struggle over the use of icons in the church—seems not to have bothered either the Jews or the Christians in this ancient city. Read the rest at First Things.
Posted by Kristen Padilla at Tuesday, February 9, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: How to Preach to Both Head and Heart

By Jeff Robinson

February 4, 2016

 

Expository preaching seems to be on the rise among younger evangelicals, but its recovery raises numerous questions. Is verse-by-verse exposition valid for every type of church? Does it appeal to more intellectual audiences than to more emotional ones? And what exactly is “expository preaching” anyway?

Robert Smith has been working through these issues as both a teacher and a practitioner of preaching for the past several decades. He serves as Baptist chair of divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, where he teaches preaching. Previously he served as preaching professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and for 20 years pastored New Mission Missionary Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.


There seems to be an unspoken assumption that expository preaching is a heady form of sermonizing, best for “cold and rational” audiences that may be less emotional. Would you say expository preaching is for all churches and Christians from all ethnic and social backgrounds?

I think that’s a false assumption. We’re called to preach the whole gospel to whole persons. Jesus says in Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The intent of expository preaching is to preach to the whole individual, the emotional as well as the mental, the cranial as well as the cardiological. If I start with the assumption that expository preaching is only for the “cold and rational,” then I won’t meet the standard of Jesus, regardless of my audience. With ethnic congregations, you might have to start with the heart to get to the head. With white congregations, you might have to start with the head and move to the heart. So there are 18 inches between the head and heart that must be traversed in any setting, no matter where you start.

When I’m preaching to a white congregation and start with the head, I’m aiming to teach the mind, and thereby stir the heart and move the will. Moving the will brings transformation. That’s the Holy Spirit’s work. You’re not going to reach them simply with an emotional presentation. You have to start with content. But with many black or multiethnic congregations, you may need to start with emotions, then move to the head.

Think about John the Baptist and Herod Antipas. In Matthew 14, John tells Herod: “It is not right for you to have your brother’s wife. It’s adultery, it’s wrong.” He uses a straightforward and cognitive approach. But in 2 Samuel 12, Nathan starts with emotion and imagery. He tells David, who’d committed adultery and murder, a story about a stolen ewe lamb in order to convict him. Both John and Nathan are dealing with the same issue—adultery—but they do so in different ways. John moves from the head to the heart, while Nathan moves from the heart to the head. David repents and Herod doesn’t, but that’s not in the hand of the preacher.

It’s vitally important to know your audience. If we don’t bridge the gap between the head and the heart, we haven’t done our job. Read the rest of the interview at The Gospel Coalition.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, February 5, 2016
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National Racial Reconciliation Conference to Take Place March 3-4 at Beeson Divinity School

By Kristen R. Padilla

February 1, 2016

 

Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham and Dean Timothy George of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School are hosting a racial reconciliation conference titled “Black and White in America: How Deep the Divide?” March 3-4 at Beeson Divinity.

“In the wake of recent racial turmoil in our country and having experienced much anguish over racial issues in our city of Birmingham, we want to offer a possible pathway to dialogue and harmony for the future,” said conference chairs Bell, Baker and George. “A reflection/conversation on race relations in the United States among its African-American and white citizens is our humble effort to foster light and hope where darkness and despair may prevail.”

The conference will feature talks by Bell and Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. of Charleston, South Carolina; Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange; Most Rev. Edward K. Braxton, Catholic bishop of Belleville, Illinois; Professor Emeritus Wayne Flynt of Auburn University; Rev. Dr. Carolyn Maull McKinstry, Birmingham author of While the World Watched; and Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Catholic archbishop of Owerri, Nigeria.

The conference also will include two panels. The first panel will feature civil and political leaders and be moderated by S. Jonathan Bass, Samford professor and university historian. The second panel will be moderated by Fisher Humphreys, professor emeritus of Beeson, and will include religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. The conference will conclude with a mid-day prayer service led by George.

Conference chairs Bell, Baker and George said they hope that the conference, which will be held during the season of Lent, will bring about a time of repentance, conversation, reconciliation and hope for the future.

“Please join with us. Reflect with us. And, pray with us for this important event,” they said.

Find more information and register by Feb. 15 at www.birminghamblackandwhite.com. Seating is limited.
 

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, February 1, 2016
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