In the spring 2011 edition of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, titled “Authentic Christianity,” four young scholars and a preacher probe Scripture, history and the entertainment industry to discover the nature of genuine faith and radical discipleship in the modern world.
Managing editor Malcolm Yarnell introduces the journal with the recognition that the search for an authentic faith does not characterize 21st-century Christianity only. Instead, an appeal for authenticity reappears throughout the history of the faith.
“The desire of believers to display real faith through appropriate action is rooted in the witness of Scripture and exemplified in Christian history,” Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern, writes. “Jesus Christ asked this haunting question of those who wished to identify themselves as His disciples: ‘Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?'”
In the first article, Ched Spellman,a Ph.D. student at Southwestern Seminary,searches the book of Hebrews for hope amid the suffering of life, which can “often carry enough force to shake even the strongest theological foundations.” According to Spellman, the author of Hebrews reminds suffering Christians that Christ himself went ahead of them in his suffering, and also that hardship, if endured, will lead to rejoicing when Christ returns. He also calls suffering God’s fatherly discipline toward his children.
“This connection between suffering and sonship,” Spellman writes, “runs directly counter to the ‘believe, receive, then life’s a breeze Christianity’ that has captivated the hearts of so many American believers.”
In a second article, Southwestern Ph.D. student Madison Grace considers the life and thought of radical theologians who proclaim the nature of “true discipleship.” Particularly, he explores the contributions of the 16th-century Anabaptist martyrs Balthasar Hubmaier and Michael Sattler and of the 20th-century German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died for his resistance to the Nazi regime. The perspectives of these men show that “discipleship is inclusive of but much greater than the practice of teaching.”
“Certainly the obedience Christ demands is great, the trials may be many, and the sufferings intense, but the true disciple really would not want it any other way,” Grace writes. “To dodge these demands, trials, or sufferings is to leave the path of Christ and set out on a much more dangerous one. The simple path is to hold to Jesus and to discern His call.”
Writing the third article from Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, doctoral student Jason Sexton examines the hermeneutics of the Emerging Church (EC) and challenges the biblical exegetes in the EC to follow more closely the historical-grammatical method of interpretation.
“Just as evangelicals have learned much from the EC, especially with regard to social involvement and missionary impetus, among other things,” Sexton writes, “it is hoped that those within the EC would also learn from evangelicals by attempting to be more faithful to sound biblical hermeneutics in order to understand more clearly what God has said in the Bible so that they might obey it and Him more fully.”
In the fourth article, Southwestern Ph.D. student Matt Millsap calls every believer to consider carefully his craving for entertainment. Especially due to advanced technology, he writes, “the twenty-first century is unquestionably dominated by entertainment”: the average American home, for example, spent nearly $3,000 on entertainment in 2009, and most Americans watch television 35 hours a week.
“Living radically in this age of distraction requires a conscious effort to examine continually the extent to which one desires to be entertained and pursues it,” Millsap writes. Although “entertainment is a gift from God,” Christians should examine why and how often they want to be entertained. Then they can pursue entertainment without selfishness, “transforming it from an end in itself to the means to a better end: glorifying God.”
In the fifth article—a sermon preached at MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas—pastor and Southwestern D.Min. student Josh Smith expounds upon the connection between “the strangest story” and “the most climactic moment” in Mark’s Gospel, found in Mark 8:22-33. The “strangest story,” he says, concerns the Jesus’ healing of a blind man: Christ spits in the blind man’s eyes, which seems strange enough, but then it takes two tries for the miracle to work and for the blind man to see clearly.
Mark uses this strange story, Smith says, to illustrate the point of “the most climatic moment” which follows it, Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah. As in the case of the blind man, Peter’s confession showed that he could see who Jesus was, but his refusal to accept Jesus as the suffering Messiah showed that his vision was still blurry. Similarly, “American churches are filled with people” who cannot see Jesus clearly.
“Our churches,” Smith says, “are often filled with people who fail to see the inseparable connection between the life that Jesus lived and the life He calls His followers to live.”
Opening a section of book reviews in the back of the Southwestern Journal of Theology, Gerardo Alfaro, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern, writes a review essay, titled “Did God Abandon Jesus at the Cross?” He reviews Jolly J. Carey’s Jesus’ Cry from the Cross: Towards a First-Century Understanding of the Intertextual Relationship between Psalm 22 and the Narrative of Mark’s Gospel.
The Southwestern Journal of Theology is a publication of Southwestern Seminary. To order a copy of the spring 2011 edition of the journal, contact the editorial assistant at P.O. Box 22608, Fort Worth, Texas 76122, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial and one essay from this edition of the journal may be viewed on www.baptisttheology.org, a website of Southwestern’s Center for Theological Research.