New Southern Seminary degree programs take Christ to culture

Communications Staff — February 13, 2008

Seeking to spread the name of Christ to every element of society, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is adding two master of arts programs in theology.

Southern professors Peter Richards and Steve Halla said the master of arts in theology and law and master of arts in theology and the arts programs are designed to prepare lay church leaders and students for cultural engagement in law and the arts, respectively.

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, said the new programs will help students to bring the Kingdom of God into several important arenas.

“Jesus commanded His disciples to be harmless as doves, but wise as serpents. These two new degree programs equip Christians in two of the most difficult arenas for Christian engagement, law and the arts, to articulate the priorities of the Kingdom of Christ in an age that blurs the lines between true and false, beautiful and grotesque. The theological foundation these degrees will provide will be critical in enabling a new generation of culture-engaging Christians for Kingdom action.”

Richards, associate professor of theology and law at Southern, said the theology and law degree will provide a solid grounding in theology with an eye to its applications in public life.

“Jurists, government servants, lawmakers and concerned citizens wrestle with perennial questions,” he said. “What is justice? Is there a higher ‘law of nature and of nature’s God’ to which human laws and institutions must answer? If so, what is its content? What is the proper role of the church in civil society? What is the nature of the state and what is its proper role when it comes to matters of religious faith and practice? What is the proper scope of government? Invariably, such questions require thoughtful, responsible theological consideration.”

Richards said the theology and law program is designed for lawyers and public servants; anyone considering a career in politics, government service, law or other related fields; recent law graduates and prospective law students.

In addition, he said concerned citizens, interested lay church members and others interested in integrating the disciplines of law and politics with principles of historic biblical theology would benefit from the program.

“Students in the program strive for a greater biblical understanding of the nature of justice and equity, the role of law, the scope of governmental authority and the church’s proper role in the public arena,” Richards said.

“Courses in the program will cover the areas of theology, biblical studies, church history, worldview and culture, and will provide students with the opportunity to explore a long, fertile tradition of Christian thinking about law, justice and politics.”

The theology and the arts program is aimed at providing a greater biblical understanding of the nature of art and aesthetics, the function of art in society and the church, and art analysis and evaluation, said Halla, assistant professor of philosophy at the seminary.

“It is my prayer that a student who enters this program will take away a greater confidence in discussing aesthetic and art-related issues and a greater appreciation for the role of the arts in the history of the church,” he said.

“I also want students to experience personal spiritual growth and development and to develop a greater sense of the glory and majesty of almighty God as glimpsed in and through the study of arts and aesthetics.”
Classes in the theology and the arts program include: Christianity and literature, Christianity and science fiction, Christianity and film, Christianity and the visual arts, visual art and the Protestant tradition, aesthetics, and Jesus and modern culture.

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