Duncan urges faithful leadership for Christian higher education, theological education

Ligon Duncan

Resist false doctrine for faithful and truthful Christian leadership through love, Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, preached during his Feb. 8 chapel message at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Duncan’s visit coincides with the International Alliance for Christian Education conference at the Fort Worth institution. During his introduction of Duncan, President David S. Dockery called him one of today’s outstanding leaders in theological education.

As Duncan addressed Southwestern for the first time, he preached from 1 Timothy 1:3-5 with the title of the message, “Faithful Christian Leadership for Higher Education.”

“One of the great challenges that we are facing today from the world is the accusation that the claims of Christian truth undermine the cause of love,” he professed. “That is, simply by believing Christian truth based on the Scripture it is asserted and assumed that we are not able to fully love our fellow human beings.”

Duncan said for those in Christian leadership positions, especially in seminary and theological education, they must refute this claim by understanding one “cannot truly love without biblical truth.”

“True love can only be formed in the nursery of biblical truth,” he emphasized. “That is very much what this passage is about.”

Duncan provided context to the Scripture passage as he explained that Paul instructed Timothy to prepare him for people in his congregation who taught false doctrines.

“Paul is reminding us that we must not only hold on to biblical truth in an oppositional world, but we must understand what that truth is for and how it works,” he stated. “We need to understand the ends of biblical truth in the Christian life, and we need to understand the means that biblical truth is in the hands of the Holy Spirit in working the administration of God.”

From the passage of Scripture, Duncan highlighted that in verses three and four Paul made assertions about false teachings.

“Falsehood, false teaching, and false doctrine cannot foster godliness,” he said. “You know what [Paul] is going to say later on in 1 Timothy 6:3, true doctrine leads to godliness.  For the apostle Paul, doctrine is something that the Spirit uses to transform your life. It involves not only what we believe but results of what we believe and how we live.”

Duncan then directed the crowd’s attention to verse five, where he said this verse “comes close to the heart of Paul’s theology to the Word of God in discipleship.”

“Paul wants the truth to produce love in Christian lives and in the Christian congregation,” Duncan stated. “Of course, Jesus emphasizes this in His ministry. What is the Great Commandment? As the ministry speaks the truth of God, the Spirit of God uses the truth of God in the people of God to create in them a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith.”

Duncan stressed to the crowd that “the goal is to speak and teach the truth and to live out that truth before those to whom we speak, teach, and speak it so that the Spirit uses that truth to transform them so that they have pure hearts good consciences and a sincere faith which yields itself back to God in love to God and love to our neighbors.”

“That’s how the truth works as a means of grace,” he said. “We’re up against a world that wants us to compromise our faithfulness to truth in the name of love. It will not lead to love if we compromise our faithfulness of the truth. That does not mean that I hate. I hold to the truth not so that I can hate; I hold to the truth so that I can love.”

“We do not get to get to decide how God uses our faithfulness,” he concluded.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Duncan earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Furman University in 1983. He holds a Master of Divinity and Master of from Covenant Theological Seminary in Creve Coeur, Missouri, in 1986 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Edinburgh, New College, in 1989. He has served as chancellor at Reformed Theological Seminary since 2012, where he has served in various roles since 1990. In addition to his service in Christian theological education, Duncan has served as a pastor of four different congregations over a 40-year ministry.

Duncan’s entire message can be viewed here.

Chapel is held every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m. (CT) in MacGorman Chapel on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and TBC. Chapel may be viewed live at swbts.live.