In this post we move from the philosophical to the practical. I want to explain how we have implemented the biblical philosophy of theological education laid out in my previous posts.
III. The Practical Implementation of Theological Education
From this overview of the material substance of theological education, the general authority over theological education, and the specific responsibility for theological education a number of guiding principles for the ministry of Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary have been derived. Three such overarching or guiding principles may be identified, and their significance elaborated.
A. Submission to the General Authority of the Church over Theological Education
The principles delineated above manifest that the actual authority of the church over a seminary must be respected. It is also clear that it may be recognized and submission offered to the authority of the church in two forms. It may be recognized, first, in the ecclesiastical authority of a local church or, second, in the ecclesiastical authority of a formal association of churches who have formally united for the purpose of forming and operating a theological Seminary. While such an association may not exercise actual ecclesiastical authority over its member churches, the churches together associated may exercise authority over an associational ministry like an associational Seminary.
One of the stated purposes of Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary is to conduct theological education in a way that represents the whole range of various churches that seriously subscribe to the 1689 Baptist Confession. It is a fact that no formal association unites all such churches. It is, therefore, necessary for CBTS to seek to recognize and submit to ecclesiastical authority in a different way than through being operated as an associational ministry by a formal association of churches. While the value of such an association is recognized, it is not a viable possibility or a practical reality for the churches we serve.
The respect for and submission to ecclesiastical authority required of the ministry called Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary will, therefore, be embodied in the following, several, specific ways.
- First of all, and most importantly, this will be embodied by way of a connection with a host, local church. This Host-Church will provide the Seminary with its commendation and its recognition as a stated ministry of that church. CBTS will operate as a stated ministry of such a Host-Church and at the discretion of that church and its elders. Its Chief Executive Officer (President or Dean) will be a member of that church and under its formal pastoral oversight. In this way CBTS will be a ministry under the oversight of a local church. It will also provide the Seminary with its primary, physical facilities including classroom, library, and office facilities. The authority of this local church will also be real and substantial in that it may withdraw, if necessary, not only its commendation and oversight, but also the use of its facilities from the Seminary. While such a withdrawal of support ought not, of course, to be lightly concluded or precipitously implemented, its possibility is, nevertheless, a clear exhibition of the authority of the Host-Church over the Seminary.
- Second, the ecclesiastical authority of the church will be honored by the Seminary seeking the commendation of individual churches besides its Host-Church and of associations of churches. These commendations will be sought as an essential requirement of its credibility before the Christian community at large. The list of such churches and associations will be prominently displayed by the Seminary. Other local churches will also be encouraged to cooperate with and participate in the seminary by financial support, sharing facilities, and encouraging their pastors as appropriate to serve on the Board, teach, or mentor students.
- Third, the ecclesiastical authority of the church will be recognized in that no regular student will continue to attend classes who is not a member of a local church. Students in transition between local churches will be placed on a provisional status. Students who fail in a timely fashion to join a local church will be dismissed from the Seminary.
- Finally, and fourthly, the governing Board of the Seminary will consist only of the members of churches holding the 1689 Baptist Confession. This Board will be mainly composed of the pastors of such churches.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.