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Bible’s Centrality Stressed at
Adventist-sponsored Seminar
Adams, Geraty, Shuster and Volf Underscore Importance of Scripture for Contemporary Life

BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor
 
his [Bible] is not an ordinary document,” Adventist Review associate editor Roy Adams told a global audience on April 20, 2010. “In the language of [the book of] Hebrews, the word of God is quick and powerful. . . . It probes into the secret recesses of our souls, how it dresses us down, how it cuts us asunder. But, thank God, it builds us up again.”
 
EXTRAORDINARY: “This [Bible] is not an ordinary document,” Adventist Review associate editor Roy Adams told the global audience. “In the language of [the book of] Hebrews, the word of God is quick and powerful.” [Photos: Gerry Chudleigh]
Adams’ 30-minute sermon led off the 2010 Ministry Professional Growth Seminar, held at Pasadena, California’s First Congregational Church, adjacent to the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary. The annual event, broadcast via satellite television around the world as well as via the Internet, draws a global audience of thousands, and brought dozens of church pastors to the live setting. Associate ministerial secretary Anthony Kent, who organizes the annual event, and General Conference vice president Gerry Karst were official hosts for the day.
 
With a theme of “The Word . . . For These Times,” the seminar featured Adams, a veteran Seventh-day Adventist educator and editor; Lawrence Geraty, a biblical archaeologist and president emeritus of La Sierra University; Marguerite Shuster, Harold John Ockenga professor of Preaching and Theology at Fuller; and Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, and founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Adams, Shuster, and Volf are popular, repeat speakers at the event.
 
Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw, a longtime evangelical educator, welcomed the opportunity to host and participate in this event: “We talk a lot about our mission as equipping men and women for the manifold ministries of Christ and His church. This is just a wonderful occasion for us to be exploring together . . . I’m so pleased that Fuller Seminary can partner with you folks in this Professional Growth Seminar.”
 
Reflecting on natural and unnatural disasters plaguing the world, Geraty noted, “These are the times that try our souls. . . . For all of us, these times certainly seem opportune for a Word. . . . the Word that will bring understanding and hope.”
 
Geraty, a Harvard-trained archaeologist and historian of antiquity, related how he participated in a “dig” which uncovered “the first extra-Biblical confirmation” of the existence of King Baalis of Ammon, whose story is told in Jeremiah 40. Dealing extensively with the Biblical record found in the Book of Jeremiah, Geraty underscored the reliability of the history there as confirmed by archaeology, and elaborated on the tragic consequences that followed when his countrymen did not follow Jeremiah’s God-inspired counsel.
 
“We want God’s Word to support the decisions we have already made. . . . Whether they were afraid, distrustful or could not back off of the decision they already made, they [sixth century B.C. Hebrews] decided to flee,” Geraty noted, against the prophet’s counsel However, even in the face of rebellion, “God’s unspoken word says it all: ‘I will not leave you nor forsake you.’”
 
Shuster, whom Mouw introduced as “my Presbyterian colleague,” stressed the importance of handling the Word of God as a seed to be planted, and thus as something to be carefully treasured.
 
FORGIVENESS: Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, speaks on the impact of forgiveness during a panel discussion following his presentation. Questioners include, from left, Fuller Seminary’s Clayton J. Schmit, Arthur DeKruyter/Christ Church Oak Brook professor of Preaching and academic director for the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts; Adventist Review editor Bill Knott, Pacific Union Conference president Ricardo Graham, and Ministry editor Nikolaus Satelmajer.
“Be careful to maintain the integrity of the whole. Chopping the seed up into tiny little pieces . . . is in fact fatal,” Shuster said. “We really must have the whole counsel of God. Leaving out the hard parts . . . is actually worse than nothing at all. It can, so to speak, inoculate people against the gospel.”
 
She added, “There’s something about good seed. Plant that, plant nothing else. And then let it alone, and go about your daily business, in peace.”
 
In a question-and-answer session after her presentation, Shuster, who also has a degree in psychology, said that her plaint against careless handling of Scripture was aimed at the so-called “prosperity gospel,” adding, “we also have a lot of psychobabble out there,” Mere advice on how to have a happy life, she explained, can leave out the need for a Savior.
 
Miroslav Volf, whose recent published works have focused on the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation, described the uniqueness of God’s love revealed in Scripture, as well as how Christians should model it: “Love is love and does not change when circumstances change. . . . And this is the fundamental character of divine love. No matter where we are, no matter who we are, no matter what becomes of us in the course of our lives, this love is unfailing.”
 
Later, responding to a panel question from Bill Knott, editor of Adventist Review, Volf said, “I do think that forgiveness lies at the very heart of the Christian faith, not just because the cross lies at the heart of the Christian faith. . . . It is not the only thing, but it is one of the most significant things.”
 
This was the first Professional Growth Seminar held without the leadership and guidance of James A. Cress, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who for 17 years was Ministerial secretary for the General Conference. Cress, who earned his Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller, died suddenly on Nov. 26, 2009, and was remembered by several participants in the day’s events, as well as with a special tribute presented onscreen.
 
After the event, Kent said the program’s vision is a global one: “What if we could bring the best of great places like Fuller and Yale and the Adventist Church and make it available to all these clergy, all those 5.3 million, just for half a day each year? So long as a member of the clergy—or any person for that matter—can gain access to a half decent Internet connection, they can access Ministry Professional Growth Seminars at no charge.”

The video of the 2010 session is available online at www.ministerial association.com, Kent said.
 





 
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