Central Baptist Theological Seminary Faculty
What humans hold in common is more important than what distinguishes them. All derive their humanity from the first man, Adam. By virtue of their descent from him, all share a common human nature and constitute a single human race. All are made in the image of God. All stand under the headship of Adam, sharing his guilt and depravity. All must be saved in the same way, through faith in the cross work of Christ.
Diversity is also a fact of human existence. Human diversities, however, are of different sorts. Some are divinely intended. Some are humanly contrived. Some are the result of sin. Since these diversities differ in nature, biblical responses to them must vary. Some diversities should be cultivated and celebrated, some tolerated, and some repudiated.
Sex and Gender
God created humanity as male and female. Both sexes bear the divine image and are equal in value and dignity. Distinct biological functions and social roles are assigned to each sex. These roles establish two genders, masculine and feminine, which correspond to the two sexes. Humanly imposed conventions should respect and express these two genders. Any subversion of gender is also a subversion of the divinely instituted order. Central Seminary welcomes both men and women to prepare for gender-appropriate roles.
The biblical terms people and nation express ethnicity. A biblical ethnicity involves a human society, larger than a household or village, which finds its solidarity in descent from a common ancestor. A biblical people or nation is at minimum an extended family. Humanity was created as a single ethnicity. The division of languages at Babylon produced diverse ethnicities. God’s purpose has always included the salvation of entire peoples or ethnicities. National Israel occupies a unique place in God’s plan. Other peoples will join Israel as peoples of God during Christ’s millennial kingdom and the everlasting kingdom.
As a spiritual people of God, the church finds its solidarity in union with Christ rather than in biological descent from a common ancestor. Christians, who are united to Christ by the baptizing of the Spirit, receive a new primary, spiritual identity that takes priority over their older biological ethnicities. The churches of the New Testament were as ethnically diverse as the individuals who responded to the gospel. While the ethnic balance of the various churches appears to have differed, the New Testament discloses that ethnicity should never be made a test of Christian fellowship, church membership, or official leadership. Central Seminary celebrates the ethnic diversity of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The modern concept of race, comprising such phenotypical traits as skin and eye color, hair texture, and facial structure, is unknown in the Bible. The lack of any authoritative, biblical definition of race renders theological conversation about racial diversity incoherent. Some questions about race can be discussed under the category of ethnicity and others under the rubric of culture. In any event, the Bible provides no warrant for either impediment or advancement based on the phenotypical traits that typify racial constructs. Central Seminary shares the aspiration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Cultures are humanly constructed “secondary environments” that bring order and meaning to the created world. As human creations, all cultures are influenced by both common grace and human fallenness. Some have also been influenced by special revelation. Regardless of the combination of these elements, cultures are always the incarnation of the worshipping heart of a community. Cultures are never morally or spiritually neutral but are freighted with meaning. Because each culture embodies some truth and some error, each stands under the judgment of God. Each also contains elements upon and through which God can and does work. Some cultures are better adapted than others to foster and communicate Christian truth and ideals.
From its earliest days Christianity has developed and perpetuated its own inner culture, comprising forms of worship, confession, prayer, exhortation, and study, and expressing itself in theology, philosophy, literature, music, education, and art. This inner culture of Christianity has grown and been enriched through its encounter with specific cultures in the world, and it has enriched them in turn. Christian culture never grows by simply absorbing the forms and idioms of the cultures it encounters, but must parse those cultures for meaning, adopting some features, modifying others, and rejecting others. The inner culture of Christianity must never simply mimic culture, particularly commercialized and degraded popular cultures.
Central Seminary rejects both cultural imperialism and cultural relativism. We deny that Christians can joyfully and conscientiously participate in every aspect of any this-worldly culture. We also deny that any culture must be rejected tout court. Rather, we seek to equip our students to evaluate every cultural expression for its meaning, and to adopt the acceptable features for those uses (including worship) for which they are suitable.
Scripture teaches only one system of faith, including both doctrinal affirmations and ethical duties. That system is revealed with varying degrees of clarity, but all interpretation is limited by fallible human perspectives and precommitments. Interpreters who are committed to the authority of Scripture can understand some parts of the system differently.
The gospel is the heart of that system and its clearest element. So essential is the gospel to the faith that those who deny it must never be recognized as Christian. Possession of the true gospel cements Christian fellowship such that those who affirm the true gospel recognize one another as the body of Christ variously denominated, even when they disagree over less critical matters.
Nevertheless, the gospel is not the whole system of faith. Other aspects remain important. Consequently, Christians perpetuate diverse traditions and engage in separate organizations to honor their commitments to these other aspects. Central Seminary exists to perpetuate the Baptist identity and distinctives, dispensationalism, separatist fundamentalism, cessationism, and a vision of progressive sanctification that avoids both legalistic and revivalistic excesses.
All professors and administrators affirm the seminary’s distinctive positions. Students must know the seminary’s distinctive positions but need not necessarily agree with them. All students and personnel, however, must exhibit a firm commitment to the doctrines of the gospel. Theological diversity does not extend to the denial of the gospel.
Scripture prescribes not only the message of Christianity but also the methods by which that message is to be propagated. This biblical direction imposes boundaries upon the human tendency to innovate. Central Seminary affirms a methodology that includes:
- Worship regulated by the requirements and example of the New Testament.
- Preaching and teaching grounded in clear, faithful exposition.
- Witness consisting of the persuasive presentation of the claims of the gospel.
- Fellowship providing for mutual encouragement and accountability.
- Instruction fostering ordinate affections, orthodox doctrine, and obedient practice.
We deny that the methodology of Christianity must be reinvented whenever Christians enter new eras or new cultures. We particularly resist attempts to accommodate the Christian methodology to forms and idioms drawn from commercially-driven popular cultures. Our methodological diversity must respect these limits.