From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

Christos-Wahab Realizes Dream of Studying, Teaching Theology

By Kristen Padilla
October 2016

When Yannick Christos-Wahab was 10 years old, his father changed his family’s surname.

Previously, Yannick’s last name was Wahab, a common Muslim surname that means “servant of the Giver.” But years after his father’s conversion from Islam to Christianity, he added the Greek word for Christ, “Anointed One,” to Wahab, making his son Yannick one of five people in the world with that surname.

Christos-Wahab smiled as he retold the story. His dad did not know Greek but “he knew I was going to end up studying theology.”

But for Christos-Wahab, studying theology was a bit of an anomaly given his African Pentecostal context. He grew up in a Nigerian home in a Nigerian community in a borough of London. While worship services were vibrant and its people zealous for the Lord, the prosperity gospel (the belief that the ultimate sign of God’s blessing is health and wealth) had taken root in some forms of African Pentecostalism.

According to Christos-Wahab, the ministers he knew had no theological training and feared that being academic meant a loss of faith. When Christos-Wahab went to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to study theology for his undergraduate work, he was the first person he has known to do so.

While at St. Andrews, he took a New Testament and Greek class from Scott Hafemann, a professor whom Christos-Wahab credits as having changed how he now reads and interprets Scripture. For the first time, he began seeing that the Bible is not a collection of isolated stories and thoughts, but rather is one large narrative of Jesus Christ redeeming the world.

“All of a sudden, I was realizing, ‘Wow! This fits,’ and what he’s saying is actually biblical,” Christos-Wahab said about Hafemann’s class. “It helped me to recover my Bible because I’ve always read my Bible, but now I was reading my Bible in a different way.”

It was also Hafemann who first encouraged him to go to seminary and mentioned Beeson Divinity School.

Christos-Wahab was impressed by Beeson Divinity School’s stress on biblical languages, studying theology historically and not just systematically, studying in an interdenominational setting, and personal education.

“I wanted to learn theology in a setting where people were being trained for ministry,” he said. “I just prayed about it, and in the end, Beeson was the only place I applied to. I was really certain that’s where God wanted me.”

Now beginning his third year at Beeson Divinity School, Christos-Wahab continues doing what he wanted to do as a boy — studying theology. But now he is tapping into his other passion — teaching theology to those who need it.

Through the newly formed School Ministries of Birmingham, Christos-Wahab teaches a Biblical Worldviews class to 16- and 17-year-old Spain Park High School students weekday afternoons except Thursdays. School Ministries of Birmingham is a released time education program that offers a Bible class to public school students off campus during a class period. On Saturdays, Christos-Wahab teaches Hebrew at a Jewish Messianic Center to people in their 40s and older.

Christos-Wahab says it’s a great privilege to be able to teach what he is learning during his classes at divinity school.

“The professors have been great examples, not just in their knowledge, but in how they teach,” he said. “It’s refreshing to be in a setting with believers, to be in an interdenominational setting where I get to have conversations with Anglicans and Lutherans, to be in a setting where I can have great relationships with my professors and to learn from their teaching.”

Christos-Wahab is so “passionate about theological education” that he feels called to teach theology to people who have not been taught, people who, once like himself, grew up with the prosperity gospel and who do not know anything different. One day, he hopes to go to Nigeria to teach theology to his people.

“I’m very passionate about theological education among people who don’t have it,” Christos-Wahab said. “I cannot imagine not teaching.”

This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Samford University's Seasons Magazine.
Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, October 24, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: The reality of Christian Genocide in the Middle East

By Caitlin Bootsma
October 19, 2016

How many of us grew up believing that the Holocaust would never happen again? After listening to our parents or grandparents recount war stories, empathizing with stories such as that of Anne Frank’s, and learning of the horrific ways Jews and other minorities were degraded, tortured and killed, we thought we could safely say that we had learned our lesson. Of course, that is not the case. There have been a number of genocides since the 1940s; in fact, one is happening right now.

I’m speaking of the elimination of Christians in the Middle East. Consider that in 2003, Christians were one of the largest minorities in Iraq, equaling 1.5 million. By 2014, that number had diminished to about half a million, due to the many who had fled from violence or been forced out. Since ISIS has targeted them however, only 200,000 Christians remain in Iraq, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world (In Defense of Christians 2016 Briefing Book). That’s about 87% gone in a mere 13 years.

And as you may know, it’s not just Iraqi Christians who are suffering persecution. In Iran, over 550 Christians have been arrested and detained arbitrarily since 2010 (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom 2016 Annual Report). In Syria, churches are being closed or destroyed by ISIS, Christians are being attacked and kidnapped—including two orthodox archbishops. Even in Turkey, Christians continue to struggle against inequality. Read the rest at Aleteia.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, October 20, 2016
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Packer at Ninety

By Timothy George
October 17, 2016

Several years ago Alister McGrath and I had a conversation about our friend, J. I. Packer, his influence on us, and the role he has played as a leading evangelical theologian and teacher within the worldwide Christian movement. Out of that conversation emerged a conference in honor of Packer’s eightieth birthday, held at Beeson Divinity School in 2006, and a subsequent book, J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future. This past summer, Packer turned ninety years of age. Next month, in San Antonio, he will again be recognized at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society as scholars review the significance of his life and work as a theologian, ecumenist, and churchman. Who, then, is J. I. Packer?

James Innell Packer was born July 22, 1926, in Gloucestershire, England. The son of a clerk for the Great Western Railway, Packer grew up in a modest, working-class, nominally Anglican family, who encouraged their bookish son by giving him a typewriter. At age seven, he survived a violent collision with a bread truck that left him physically scarred for life and something of a “speckled bird” among his student peers. Packer received a scholarship to Oxford University, where he heard the famous apologist C. S. Lewis speak and was influenced by his writings, especially The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. But it was in meetings of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, a British version of InterVarsity, that Packer found a living relationship with Jesus Christ and committed his life to Christian service. After teaching Greek and Latin at Oak Hill Theological College in London, Packer enrolled in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest in the Church of England.

Having found the writings of John Owen helpful in his own spiritual life, he worked closely with the famous London pastor Martin Lloyd-Jones to encourage a revival of interest in the Puritans. Packer’s early writings, especially “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God and Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, established him as a formidable theological voice for the evangelical movement. In 1973, he published Knowing God, an international bestseller that has become a modern theological classic. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Monday, October 17, 2016
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