Tag Archives: Scholarship

Symposium Recap – Matthew Bracey on Faith and Scholarship

by W. Jackson Watts

Matthew Bracey’s Symposium paper really scratched a personal itch of mine, which is the relationship between faith and scholarship. Specifically, my good friend helped the audience think about this as a mutually-reinforcing enterprise to which all Christians are called.

Though he outlines several definitions of faith, and a few of scholarship, Bracey essentially means a committed appropriation of Christianity, applied to everyday life, church ministry, and the academy. He distinguishes between lay Christian scholars (all disciples) and professional Christian scholars (in the church and other professions).

Regardless of what type of scholar or student one may be, all scholarship is predicated on our pursuit of God’s glory, the knowability of truth, and a Total Personality (thinking-feeling-acting) understanding of personhood. From these we can faithfully express a vibrant intellectual life.

Bracey is clear to help us avoid a cold, purely cognitive understanding of the intellect. He calls for us to see how the life of the mind is indeed a spiritual concern, even if it is primarily concerned with ideas. His choice of an excellent James Sire quotation really drives this home. I’ll include just a snippet here:

           An intellectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications,  stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop            up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them. . .[1]

Though it may only be the calling and gifting of the professional scholar that is characterized by such a rigorous engagement with ideas, all believers are to love God with their minds.

Bracey also discusses the role of worldview in scholarship. This is a rather extensive discussion, partly due to the fact that so many varied definitions surrounding this contested term. In summary, though, Bracey’s point is that the professional scholar integrates all truth he acquires into “some coherent view of life and of the world” (68). He also cites seven helpful tenets of faith-learning integration from Beckwith and Moreland. I’d encourage interested readers to purchase the Digest online, or listen to Bracey’s presentation on our site to catch each of these. They’re all worth some reflection.

Moreover, Bracey lists some of the intellectual virtues which are essential to Christian scholarship. I found these to really expand one’s vision of intellectual and spiritual integrity, and yet remain consistent with what I think we find in the New Testament.

So many different facets of this topic were pursued in this paper, but one sentence that really stood out to me was a quote Bracey provided from A.G. Sertillanges: “by choosing one road I am turning my back on a thousand others.”[2] As someone who knows all too well the pull of ideas on my own heart and mind, I think this is something worth pondering in terms of choosing what we will give our time to.


I really appreciated the topic being taken up in this setting. After all, is there a more appropriate venue for such an exploration?

Mr. Bracey and I have discussed this topic countless times, as well as many of the secondary themes and points of his paper. We orient ourselves to this subject a little differently, and yet I find his presentation touching nearly every major theme one would need to consider in order to think well on this topic.

In an era where so many Free Will Baptists are pursuing higher education, rightly understanding the relationship between Christianity and scholarship is as important as it ever has been. It’s a good thing that papers like this are being given, and insight like this is being provided. I pray it gets a wider hearing.


Note: Page numbers in parenthesis above follow the printed Symposium Digest of Papers.

[1] James W. Sire, Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 27-28; Cited by Bracey in Symposium Digest, 67.

[2] A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, trans. Mary Ryan (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1998), 62; Cited by Bracey in Symposium Digest, p. 73.

Matthew Steven Bracey: Faith and Scholarship: A Christian Calling

Free Will Baptists and Evangelical Scholarship

by Theological Commission

Two years ago a post appeared on this blog that noted the relationship between Free Will Baptists and evangelical scholarship. This was specifically in reference to there being four presenters at the National Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society who serve Free Will Baptist churches and/or entities. This year’s meeting took place two weeks ago in Providence, Rhode Island. The theme was the Heritage of the Reformation, and as usual the meeting featured a range of interesting presentations, panel discussions, plenary addresses, and more.

This year five Free Will Baptists presented or moderated across five different sections of the program. The following are the presenters and their paper titles:

Dr. Matthew McAffee (Provost and Professor at Welch College): “Ugaritic Ditanu and  Greek Titans: An Appraisal of Etymological and Narrative Connections.”

Rev. Jesse Owens (Church Planter, Adjunct Professor; Doctoral Candidate) – “English General Baptists: the Arminian Anti-rationalists.”

Dr. Matt Pinson (President of Welch College; Commission Chairman) – “Are Predestination and Election Corporate or Individual? Toward a Reformed Arminian Account.”

Rev. W. Jackson Watts (Pastor, Commission member; Doctoral candidate) – “Cultural Analysis and the Dynamics of Leading Change in the Church.”

Dr. Jeff Cockrell, professor at Welch College, moderated a New Testament section on the Gospel of Mark, and Mr. Matthew Bracey, Vice Provost and Professor at Welch also attended.

Audio recordings of these presentations can be found and purchased at Word Mp3. Readers may also note that a few of these papers are adapted from presentations given at the 2017 Theological Symposium. For more information on ETS or these specific presentations, you may leave us a question on the blog’s comment thread.


Free Will Baptists and ETS

by Theological Commission

The relationship between Free Will Baptists and the evangelical academy is an interesting one to consider. Though space does not permit such an exploration here, theologians and Bible scholars like Robert Picirilli and Leroy Forlines have made profound contributions to our body of scholarly literature that lends a credible voice to the Free Will Baptist community in mainstream evangelical scholarship. Thus, recent years have shown an increased presence of Free Will Baptist scholars in scholarly journals and events. Among these is the Evangelical Theological Society, as well as its quarterly journal.

Continue reading Free Will Baptists and ETS

Wisdom from Carl Trueman

by Matt Pinson

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Carl Trueman when we were on a panel together at Southern Seminary. While I disagree with some of what he says (politically as well as his Orthodox Presbyterian/Calvinist distinctives), when it comes to the need for a renaissance of confessional Protestant faith and practice in the contemporary world, I love to read what he writes.

I recently came across an article he wrote for Themelios about fifteen years ago, an excerpt from which I have cut and pasted below. What he said in this article reminded me a lot of some things he said in two other books I read by him a few years ago: the little book The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and the longer volume, The Creedal Imperative. Young (and old) evangelical scholars of all denominational traditions need to pay heed to what Trueman is contending for in these books and in this article.

Below is the excerpt from Trueman’s article “The Importance of Being Earnest: Approaching Theological Study” (Themelios 26 [2000], pp. 45-46).

“I am not saying that we should not be aware of and interact with the best contemporary scholarship, the most thoughtful liberal theology, and the most sophisticated challenges to orthodoxy. My own historical heroes, Augustine, Aquinas, John Owen, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield and W.G.T. Shedd, to name but six, did all of these things; none of them felt the need to cut themselves off from the scholarly world; but they did not pursue orthodox theology for its own sake. They did so because they thought that such theology was faithful to the biblical text and was therefore of overwhelming importance both for themselves and for others. Don’t be fooled by those evangelicals who today spend their time praising the insights of liberals and non-evangelicals while trashing or mocking our evangelical forefathers for their intellectual peccadilloes. Make no mistake, God will be the ultimate judge of this contemporary evangelical tendency to turn a blind eye to great blasphemies in liberal theologians who happen to say the odd useful or orthodox thing, while excoriating evangelicals of the past for their mistakes. Too many gnats are strained out, while too many huge elephants are being swallowed whole. Our forefathers were not idiots; neither were they uncouth louts who responded with knee-jerk abuse and anger to any who disagreed with them; but neither were they prepared to play happy families with those whose theology was fundamentally opposed to the gospel. The issues at stake, issues after all, of eternal consequence, were, are, and always will be just too important to be reduced to intellectual parlour games or restricted by the protocols of academic diplomacy. Yes, interact with liberals in an informed and thoughtful manner – the church needs men and women for such a task; but please do not buy into the contemporary culture of evangelical academic protocol which leads only to a useless blurring of what is good with what is bad. Making unconditional peace with heresy should never be mistaken for a proper integration of faith and learning.”