Oct 202017
 

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door. Luther’s purpose was to initiate a debate about abuses within the Roman Catholic Church. His protest drew attention to false teachings such as the sale of indulgences and the concept of purgatory. It was a public moment that launched the Protestant Reformation and began a return to biblical truth, particularly the truth that man is justified by faith in the atoning work of Christ Jesus alone. While there were others who were working to reform the Catholic Church, Luther’s act initiated lasting change in the Church, returning the people to the Scriptures as their ultimate authority. This year, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s declaration.

At our church, we recognize Reformation Sunday as an annual event. As a pastor, I am asked frequently why reflecting on the Reformation is important. That is a good question. The answer is that it reminds us that the contemporary Church is always reforming, both corporately and individually. We need to constantly evaluate our practices and beliefs based upon the authority of the Bible. After careful examination, if we discover inconsistencies, we conform back to the Scriptures. Luther’s reformation began in his own heart. He arrived at his conclusions about justification while carefully studying the Scriptures. His own course correction is a reminder that we need to constantly be people of the Word. We need to learn how to properly study the Bible; therefore, strong theological education is essential. Each of us needs to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us through the Word of God in order to bring about a reformation in our own hearts.

The doctrine of justification by faith alone is still needed today. There continues to be false teaching that entices our brothers and sisters to believe that we can somehow merit our own salvation or that we can participate in our justification by adding to the work of Christ. Some people believe they can connect to God in ways other than faith in Jesus. Celebrating the Reformation reminds us that we need to be on guard to preserve the precious doctrines of faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, according to the Word of God alone, and for the glory of God alone. Perhaps this year your church could use this special anniversary to celebrate Luther’s protest and become acquainted with the great truths of the Reformation. I encourage you and your church leadership to enroll in a theology or church history course at BTS in order to keep the spirit of the Reformation alive.

Dr. Blair Waddell
Professor of Church History

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Oct 022017
 

As C. S. Lewis said, “Most of all perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods… A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.”

Church History has value. First, it helps us avoid the great cataract of nonsense that issues in false teaching and bad theology. Second, it exposes us to the experiences of the early church. Imagine if Anselm or Augustine was your professor. Through historical writings you can hear their words and benefit from the greatest teachers God has given to the church. Third, church history helps set theological boundaries. We don’t always like to admit it, but we have our own traditions, and tradition is not on par with Scripture. Fourth, studying history broadens our perspective on the church. The church is in dire straits today. There is serious moral decline, and post-modernism, human secularism, and pluralism are rampant in our culture. But Church History reminds us that there has always been a struggle with the culture. This gives us a little perspective so we are not overwhelmed by the present. Our God is a powerful God. Our Lord is Lord of lords and King of kings. This is His church and He is moving history toward His goals and His ends, for His glory. Finally, church history has value as a cause for optimism. Despite wars, attacks, and the rising and falling of empires, God is sovereign over history. It is our God who ordains these things – we should not fear. Church History is more than an academic exercise. It is edification. It is a category of divine providence and thus a sub-category of theology proper.

For all these reasons taking a course in Church History at BTS, whether for credit or audit, would serve the church and be both edifying and encouraging to pastors, elders, deacons, and lay leaders. Join us to see what God has done in His church and how it speaks to your church today.

 

Dr. Jim Maples

 Posted by at 2:13 pm
Aug 072017
 

“Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” – Edgar Bergen.

You may be very well fed from the pulpit and in Sunday School at your Church.  And while we greatly appreciate the excellent preparation of our pastors and teachers, you and I know we could benefit all the more from doing some digging ourselves.  We know we need to wrestle with God’s Word and the deep truths we find there about God and ourselves.  It will take some hard work.  But it probably won’t kill you.

If you’re ready to be challenged, to wrestle with the great truths of Scripture, to dig deeply into God’s Word, then Birmingham Theological Seminary is ready for you.  Contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to be a pastor or headed into ministry to take classes at BTS.  Many of our students are simply taking a class or two to learn and to grow.  We encourage you to do the same.

The fall semester kicks off on September 5 and the course listing is available at bts.education or at our office in A203.  Please consider taking a course in Bible, theology, counseling, apologetics, or Church history.  Most classes are in the evenings on weekdays, though there are a couple of 6 a.m. classes for the early birds.

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are offering a course in Birmingham on The Life and Theology of the Reformers on Wednesday nights at 6:30.  This course is free for new and returning inactive students and will feature guest lectures by Dr. Harry Reeder on Luther, Calvin and his recent Reformation tour.

We look forward to seeing you in the classroom!

 

Glenn Waddell

President

 Posted by at 9:54 am
Jun 232017
 

It is always amusing when a group of BTS graduates or students gather and, inevitably, the subject will come up of who has been in school the longest or took the longest amount of time to get a degree. I often believed I ought to be in the running but I now know I’m not even close. My degree was 7 years in the making and, like most, it was because of so many one-course semesters. Much of my study was done through cassette tape (before the days of the internet and distance learning). In those days I lived right outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I still have memories of getting up early every morning to listen for an hour or more 6 days a week to those tapes – difficult but doable. Not only did I do that for my Masters degree but did pretty much the same for my DMin. (That took another 7 years). My point is that all that work was well worth the time and effort. I had originally, in the late 1970s, considered going full time to seminary. Those were my plans, not the Lord’s; therefore it did not work out. So my next option was Birmingham Theological Seminary and it was exactly what I needed. Not only that, it has prepared me extremely well for the ministry God has given to me. My calling was not as a full time pastor with a traditional church but first as a Ruling Elder, then as a missionary, then into local church work, and finally as a Chaplain for a large retirement community. The education I received from BTS was a tremendous start for a life-time of learning. I have learned we never know it all and we continually grow in wisdom and knowledge. But there has to be a starting place. BTS provided that for me and I believe did it well. As I reach the later years of my ministry, I find great satisfaction teaching at the Tuscaloosa extension and trying to pass on to the students the lessons I have learned and the idea that we are always learning. I also find satisfaction that Birmingham Seminary is not a stagnant organization but is attempting to stay on the cutting edge of teaching and presenting the truths of God’s Word to the world. My life has been deeply enriched by my association with BTS.

 

Dr. William F. Thetford
Tuscaloosa Extension