Southwestern Seminary celebrates final graduation in first 100 years
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary closed out its first 100 years of training Christian ministers and scholars with its fall 2007 commencement service, Dec 14.
This fall the seminary conferred degrees to 223 students, including 7 undergraduate students who received diplomas in theology, 200 master’s students and 16 doctoral students. These students represented 27 states and 9 countries, including Korea, Vietnam, Kenya, Germany, Botswana, Indonesia, Malawi, China and Argentina.
President Paige Patterson commissioned the graduates, reminding them that, throughout the United States, many students were receiving degrees and taking a new step in life. Many of those students, he said, would leave their studies to pursue successful and influential careers, make money and leave legacies for themselves.
“Your calling is very different,” Patterson said. “Most of you will never make much money … Most of you will never be widely known. A few of you will, but most of you will work in relative oblivion ... But like Isaiah, the message that you go forth to proclaim is the only one that has the prospect of changing the lives of men and women, both for time and eternity.”
Nearly 800 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah stood out as a man and prophet of God among the people of Israel, Patterson said. At the time, the nation of Israel was overwhelmed with religious pluralism, much like the United States is today. Isaiah’s message rings as true today as it did then. As recorded in Isaiah 7 and 9, he prophesied the birth of a child who would bring worldwide peace. In a message appropriate for the Christmas season, Patterson encouraged Southwestern Seminary graduates to proclaim the message of this child. He pointed out that this child was, according to Isaiah 9, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.
“You are venturing forth into a world more troubled than any world previous to this one,” Patterson said. “Not in all the annals of human history have people been as confused and as misguided and as concerned as to what their future may be … But you go forth with the message of one, a child who has been born, who is a Wonderful Counselor.”
First, Patterson pointed out that the Hebrew phrase for “Wonderful Counselor” is used elsewhere in the Old Testament only to refer to God. Southwestern graduates, whether they are called to be counselors or pastors, must call attention to the divine counselor if they ever desire to help those to whom they minister.
Second, the child would be the Mighty God. Patterson marveled at the fact that, when Mary held the baby Jesus and looked into his face, she was looking at the Mighty God. Third, he pointed out that the child was the Everlasting Father. He admitted that this is a mystery because Jesus is also God the Son. Although the unity and distinctions between Father and Son cannot be explained, they can be proclaimed. Fourth, because the child Jesus was the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Everlasting Father, he was also the Prince of Peace.
“And your assignment is to take to the seven billion people on the face of this globe the wonderful message that there is a way to have peace in your heart and in your life and to guarantee the peace of eternity,” Patterson said. In order to do so, he said graduates must be committed completely to God and dedicated to a morally and ethically sound lifestyle. If Southwestern graduates live this way, unbelievers will know that they are men and women of God who have a message from God.
Finally, Patterson said that the passage in Isaiah contained a promise: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7, KJV) While graduates from other schools will become architects who build majestic buildings and doctors who discover great cures, their work will eventually perish. Southwestern graduates, on the other hand, go into the world to preach a message of peace that will never perish, and when they appear before Christ at the judgment, they will receive His praise: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”