Monday, January 31, 2011

Free(!) Certificate through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

My darling wife connected with an old friend over the weekend and she found out that her husband is currently working on his PhD in homiletics with Haddon Robinson as his supervisor. I know. We all have our crosses to bear.

After the greenish tint left my skin she told us that GCTS has an online certificate program, and you can access the classes and get the cert. for free. Of all the certificate programs I've seen - other than SBTS's programs - this is the most extensive. There are ten different classes with study guides and exams that should offer the student a good foundation for further study. It is a shame that they only offer the classes through streaming real audio, unless you want to purchase the mp3 CD through the school bookstore. Some of us with our little mp3 players like to take classes on the go.

While I'm on this topic, I'd like to talk for a minute about why it is important for the teacher - lay or not - to continue to learn and study God's word.

First, it should continue to breed humility in the teacher. Some may think it produces the opposite, but I have found that I am far more dogmatic and arrogant the less I know about something, and the more I learn, the more I realize my knowledge on it is very limited in deed. Of course there will always be the exception, prideful people struggle with pride, but teachers who also have a teachable heart should be continually confronted with the limit of their knowledge.

Second, Bryan Chapell's lectures on preaching have taught me that when we teach the word of God, we are saying God's words after him, through our own personality. This means, that everything that we are, what we've done, seen, experienced, is the wrapper or packaging for re-spoken words of God. The vilest man on earth may give an exegetically sound exposition of scripture, but none of us are going to pay him any heed because his life is in incongruence with his message. But I would argue this "wrapper" goes beyond just character. If you, as a teacher, model a humble, teachable spirit that is always trying to grow, do you think your people will see that? Do you think that will come through in how and what you teach? As you continue to dig deep and learn more and more about the word of God, do you think that will add a vibrance to your teaching?

Now, I don't think we all need to study ourselves into a PhD. God has called some men to be Sunday School Teachers and no more. And they should be honored to have the opportunity to study and teach the word of God, Sunday after Sunday, week after week. But, aside from their job, their wives, their kids, and their preperation, they should consider scratching aside a little bit of time, even an hour a week, to push themselves just a little further. At an hour a week it would take a man a little less than two years to earn the certificate through GCTS. I think it's worth it. I think their church is worth it. I think the men and women in their classes are worth it. Do you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Most Awesome Digital Library....Ever

Puritan Library has the complete works of around 45 of your favorite puritans, all online, most in multiple formats (pdf, epub, mobi) all for free. They even have some of the more obscure works that are harder to find, like John Owen's commentary on the book of Hebrews (4 vols!!).

The Puritans have so much to offer us in their piety, theological acumen, and pastoral examples. These books, if read, will most definitely help you along your journey.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charles Hodge and his Sytematic Theology

Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology is available through as searchable pdfs. These scans are of a very high quality, it is the next thing to holding the original copy. (Remember, if you are using Zotero, you can link them to their bibliographic listing and then they will also be searched when you are looking for a resource.) He wrote his three-volume systematic theology in the 1870s and it is a supreme example of reformed theology.

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

Or, if you prefer to actually hold a book, check out CBD where you can get all three volumes in hardcover for a measly $24.99.

Friday, January 21, 2011


No, I'm not going to delve into the theological underpinings of a Frank Peretti novel, I'm talking about the Doctor of Ministry degree.

The D.Min is a "professional" degree (over and against an "Academic" degree) where a student takes approximately 30hrs worth of advanced classes and then write a 100-200 page project paper. This degree allows for specialization in areas such as management and goal setting, preaching, church planting, or missiology.

David Wells sees this type of a degree as troubling, because it reveals, he argues, a desire to be seen as a "professional" amidst other (secular) professionals. One of the many sources Dr. Wells uses is the Hartford Study that seems to have looked at why a student desired to get the degree (n.b.: I didn't read the study, I read the synopsis by one of the authors). In that synopsis, Dr. Carroll explains some of the reasons the degree was so popular:

Certainly the initial success of the degree was partly due to the broader continuing-education movement that gained momentum in the early 1970s among the professions in general. Without doubt the success of the D.Min. also reflects the importance Americans attach to credentials. Some cynics believe, too, that the D.Min. has provided one way in which clergy can try to bolster their status and enhance their careers.

 Other reasons cited later were increased pay and better self-esteem.

All that to say, I am certainly not disparaging the D.Min degree, in fact, I would probably complete such a program if given the chance. I love the chance to have outside assessment, and I think the D.Min allows pastors to continue to develop their mental acuity and be a continued blessing to their ministry. Of course, it could be taken for foolish or selfish reasons, but so could an associates degree.

If you'd like to continue to read more about this, see the Journal of Christian Ministry, which is online for free.

What do you think of the D.Min degree? Do you have one? Was it helpful? Would you consider getting one? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Note from a Great SBC Pastor

From: A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John A. Broadus. p.18

...But printing can never take the place of the living word. When a man who is apt in teaching, whose soul is on fire with the truth which he trusts has saved him an hopes will save others, speaks to his fellow-men, face to face, eye to eye, and electric sympathies flash to and fro between him and his hearers, till they lift each other up, higher and higher, into the intensest thought, and the most impassioned emotion -- higher and yet higher, till they are borne as on chariots of fire above the world, -- there is a power to move men, to influence character, life, destiny, such as no printed page can ever possess.

No, but he proves it sure can get close.

Speaking of the Founders Ministry

I recently mentioned the Founders Ministry, and I should have linked to a few more resources that could be useful.

The Founders publish their Journal quarterly-ish. It is focused on being useful for Reformed Baptist pastors and those interested in such things. Each issue has a theme and they range from Preaching, to the history of the Baptist Convention.

All in all, a good resource to be aware of. These guys are pastors in the trenches writing to the same. Here's their blog (I like the look of it).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ligonier Academy

The Ligonier Academy seems to be a great resource for pastors or laymen who would like to further their theological and biblical education but don't have the time or money to do so at a traditional institution (and who wants to be traditional, anyway?).

They offer three different levels of certificates, each one expanding on the last. The programs seem to be built around the "great books" paradigm where a student will read a book and then write a 500 word assessment afterward which will be graded by the Ligonier staff.

The intro Certificate assumes no former bible training and takes only 9-12 weeks to complete. Tuition is a paltry $99. The Adavanced Certificate looks to be similar to "M.div Lite." This program will run you $500 in tuition but that is for a directed study that lasts 2-3 years and encompasses 90 books and a research paper. This is pretty awesome.

Ligoniers is a credible ministry (started by R.C. Sproul) that gets the Gospel right. This looks like it would be a solid investment for your spiritual growth.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Audit a Class with Dr. Roger Nicole for Free

The Founders Study Center (a reformed SBC group) allows students to register for a free class each semester. This semester is Systematic Theology I. The suggested readings are Robert Reymond's Systematic Theology and J. P. Boyce's Abstracts of Systematic Theology (Grudem also suggested). This looks like a great opportunity to get some free lectures from a very serious scholar. Don't miss out. Registration ends soon. Register now.