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Enduring Persecution

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: November 13 

Knowing that Christ will vindicate His people, we are called upon to patiently endure in the midst of our trials, GPTS President Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr. reminded the seminary community in a chapel message recently.


The exhortation came during Dr. Pipa's message on James 5: 7-8, part of his on-going series on the Epistle of James.


"To be patient is to leave these things in the hands of the Lord," he said. "Christ as judge is going to be the vindicator of His people."  (See right column below for an earlier sermon on this subject.)


James' message of present and future vindication is undoubtedly a great comfort to the millions of Christians bearing the burden of oppression, persecution and the threat and reality of death for the sake of Christ throughout the world today. (See detailed country-by-country profiles here.)


Some cases, such as the recent  frightful death threat against Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, gain worldwide attention and generate massive international pressure that may lead to release.


Most other cases, however, go unseen, save by the eyes of their merciful God and the attentions of a few Christian brethren who clandestinely minister to the oppressed. One such case involves a current Greenville Seminary student undergoing severe threats in a foreign land. Pray earnestly for this student and his family, whose names and locations are withheld here for sake of their safety.


[Click here to listen to Dr. Pipa's message.]


During another recent missions chapel, GPTS student Stephen Cook related his experiences working with courageous Christians in Iraq under the auspices of Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship. Pray for the church in Iraq, which has been severely decimated since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.


In his chapel message, Dr. Pipa noted that James encourages patience in trials in light of the fact that the "coming of the Lord" is at hand. He said that the "coming" of the Lord is actually a reference to the "presence" of the Lord, a realIty often cited by Christians who have been imprisoned or isolated for their faith. Dr. Pipa noted that while the passage promises future vindication in judgment, it also promises the "coming of the Lord in mercy" in present circumstances.


For this mercy, Christians, both captive and free, should daily pray. The annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — November 13 this year — also provides a special opportunity to focus on this need.


"There is a clear scriptural link between persecution and discipleship," says writer Glenn Penner in "A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship."


"Indeed, there can be no discipleship without persecution; to follow Christ is to join Him in a cross-carrying journey of reconciling the world to the Father."


May God give all of His people the strength to patiently endure in times of trial, remembering the implied absolute negative in the Apostle Paul's question, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"



GPTS Announces New Master of Arts in Apologetics and Islam


It is doubtless fair to say that one of the most significant impulses shaping the world at large today is Islam. It is also impacting the Christian church and its mission in the world, both in primitive fields and the cultured West.


Addressing that influence has been seen by the Greenville Seminary Board of Trustees as an urgent need. The board has therefore created a cutting-edge Master of Arts in Apologetics and Islam. The new degree program includes three new courses focusing on Islam: Introduction to the Qur'an, Life of Muhammad, and Exegesis of the Qur'an, supplementing our existing Introduction to Islam course, taught by Dr. Anees Zaka of Church Without Walls, Inc. (CWW), Philadelphia, Pa.


A Christian magazine, Intercede, reported 17 years ago  that 25,000 Americans were converting to Islam  each year, and the trend is likely far greater today. In addition, Muslims are infiltrating the entire Western world in unprecedented numbers.


"They are today coming from all over the world to live and work in our cities and neighborhoods," says Ian Coulter, author of a book published by CWW.


"In view of this unprecedented phenomenon, it is vital the church recognizes the necessity of ministering the gospel to the Muslim people who now live across town," says Coulter in Meetings for Better Understanding. "In doing so, the church will need to learn how to replace its indifference with interest, ignorance with knowledge, isolation with involvement, and fear with love. In this connection, the church will find it helpful to overcome the stereotypical images of Islam portrayed in the media and to become knowledgeable in at least two areas: what is Islam and how can we reach Muslims for Christ?"


More well known, of course, is Islam's virile resurgence toward would-be world domination, a fact that is severely impacting the church of Christ and Christian missions globally. The U.S. State Department reported in October, for example, that there are now no known Christian churches left in Afghanistan, the last known church building being demolished in 2010. As noted in the article above, GPTS student Stephen Cook recently reported in a missions chapel message that the church in Iraq is also under fire and diminishing rapidly, even as courageous remnants continue their worship and ministry, sometimes impressing even Muslim government officials with their courage and excellence.


"Styling himself the 'Seal of the Prophets,' sent by God to pass his ultimate message to humankind, Muhammad expanded Islam from a purely Arab creed to a universal religion that knew no territorial or national boundaries," writes Efraim Karsh in Islamic Imperialism: A History. "He also established the community of believers, or the umma, as the political framework for the practice of this religion in all territories it conquered; and he devised the concept of jihad, 'exertion in the path of Allah,' as he called his god, as the primary vehicle for the spread of Islam."


The new M.A. in Apologetics and Islam goes beyond Islamic studies, however, into the broader discipline of apologetics and evangelism. The overall M.A. in Theology program at GPTS is designed for women and men called to the lay ministries of the church, such as youth ministry, missions, Christian Education, and more, providing them with a thorough theological foundation. A recent survey of GPTS alumni suggested that the seminary curriculum might be improved by providing enhanced training in "practical courses in these disciplines" and "how to discern culture ... to penetrate the diverse cultures in which we live."


The new program is a step toward that goal. In addition to the Islam courses, the new M.A. degree will include Apologetics, Introduction to Reformed Theology, Prolegomena and Theology, Man and Sin, Christ and Salvation, Ecclesiology and Polity, Eschatology, Missions, Evangelism, Ethics, Medieval Church History, and Reformation Church History.


Underscoring the importance of this new program, the seminary last month began soliciting contributions to a new scholarship fund for students who enroll in the Islamic and Apologetics degree program. Church Without Walls is providing seed money for this scholarship by donating copies of a book co-authored by Dr. Zaka and Diane Coleman, the proceeds from our bookstore sales going into the scholarship fund. Click here or on the cover image above to order the book ($12.95), which may be of particular interest to female readers interested in the circumstances of Muslim women.


The book  is an "analysis of Muslim and Christian women's search for truth and honor. How do the Holy Bible and the Noble Qur'an explain the value and roles of women? The authors of Cry of the Heart and Quest of the Mind carefully compare the teachings of each, clearly unveiling a hope and purpose for women in any culture who may be searching for truth and honor."


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κατέχω - Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.... Hebrews 10:23


Two in-depth articles and two new book reviews have been added in the past month at the seminary's online scholarly journal Katekōmen.

The 49 articles currently listed in the table of contents are arranged by topic and, just recently, also by author's name. To read the journal, go to katekomen.gpts.edu. You will find articles by GPTS faculty, students, alumni and others. Manuscripts compatible with GPTS distinctives and perspectives are welcomed.


NOTE: Frequent Katekōmen contributor, GPTS Alumnus Ryan McGraw, has a forthcoming new book, The Day of Worship. Pre-order here.


25th Anniversary Feature 

A Brief History of Greenville Seminary


Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary was founded in 1986 with a firm commitment to Strict Subscription to the Westminster Standards and for the purpose of training ministers of the gospel to perpetuate the tradition of Old School Presbyterianism. Although the desire to establish such an institution in South Carolina had been strong in Calvary Presbytery since the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, attempts by that body in 1976 and again in 1981 failed to result in any progress toward the goal. It was not until some years later that interest was once again raised when an independent group took up the cause.


In the winter of 1985-1986, Ligon Duncan III and Duncan Rankin, who were at the time students at Covenant Seminary, approached Dr. Morton Smith about the need for a Seminary that fully met “The Uniform Curriculum” adopted by the PCA. This need had also been a concern of Pastor Paul Settle and Ruling Elder Ligon Duncan, Jr., both of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. These shared concerns led to a meeting at the Duncan home on February 26, 1986 at which the possibility of moving ahead with the establishment of a Seminary was explored. In attendance at this meeting were Mr. and Mrs. Duncan; their three sons, Ligon, John, and Melton; Mr. and Mrs. Settle; Duncan Rankin; and Dr. Smith. Upon consideration of the need for such a Seminary and the advantages that the Greenville area offered, this group agreed to move toward the establishment of the Seminary. A steering committee was formed consisting of Teaching Elders Paul G. Settle, John C. Neville, Jr., and Morton H. Smith and Ruling Elders J. Ligon Duncan, Jr. and C. Stuart Patterson. This group assumed the responsibility of seeing to the actual organization and establishment of the school. In March 1986, Rev. Settle, acting on behalf of the Steering Committee, sent a letter to selected Ruling and Teaching Elders of the PCA announcing the establishment of the James Henley Thornwell Seminary and, on October 2, 1986, a Presentation Banquet, at which Dr. James I. Packer was the featured speaker, was held to celebrate the event.


The Seminary was incorporated under the laws of the State of South Carolina under the name James Henley Thornwell Theological Seminary, but the use of this name was protested by officials of the PCUS’s Thornwell Orphanage in nearby Clinton, S.C. and, as a result, the Steering Committee changed the name of the institution to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Dr Smith was appointed Dean of the Faculty and Administrator, in which capacity he continued until January 1, 1998, when Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. was appointed as the institution’s first President, in which office he serves today. During the first year of operation, Duncan Rankin served as Dr. Smith’s Administrative Assistant.


In spite of the gala send-off in late 1986, it appeared in early 1987 that the fledgling institution might never see its first class. At that point, the decision was made to offer some evening classes to the public under the auspices of an “Evening School of the Bible” in order to serve the Christian community and acquaint a wider audience with the new institution. These classes were taught over five nights in March and April of 1987. Then during May 14-16, 1987 the Board of Directors sponsored a Spring Bible Conference on “Reformed Preaching,” with Drs. Jay E. Adams, Sinclair B. Ferguson, and Douglas F. Kelly as the speakers. This venture was so well received that it proved to be just the impetus needed to encourage the Committee to take the step of faith and launch the school’s first year in the Fall of 1987. Thus the first Convocation was held on September 1, 1987 and classes began immediately thereafter. The first Commencement took place on September 7, 1991 with three men receiving degrees.


When classes began in 1987, the Directors of the institution reconstituted themselves as the Board of Trustees and elected Mr. William H. Huffman as Chairman. He served in that position until succeeded, in 1997, by Mr. John H. Van Voorhis. Both of these men were ruling elders in the PCA.


In the early years, offices and classes were housed in the facilities of the Augusta Street Presbyterian Church in Greenville. As enrollment and faculty grew over the years and the ownership of the facility changed hands, the Board undertook a study of the needs of the institution and began a search of the area for a facility that would meet her needs for some years to come. After investigation of a number of alternatives, the decision was made in January 1998 to purchase the building that had housed Community Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. (a nearby suburb of Greenville). Thus the institution began 1998 in new facilities and under the leadership of her new President.


Over the next five years the seminary experienced significant growth and it became quite clear that the facilities at 418 East Main St. in Taylors would soon be unable to house all of the new students and staff. In 2003, therefore, the seminary purchased the Old Taylors High School (less than a quarter of a mile away) and began to raise the funds necessary for its renovation. On a cold day in February 2007, the seminary officially broke ground. A building that was once at the heart of Old Taylors, but which had been severely neglected, now began to take on a new look, reminding many of the transformation that Christ brings to His people. In January of 2008, the seminary moved into its new facilities; and the building was officially dedicated at the 2008 Spring Theology Conference in March. The new facilities have given the seminary a more professional look, but we realize that it is our theological, philosophical and educational commitments that have truly helped us grow over the years, even during times of great difficulty and scarce resources. Therefore, as the seminary continues to expand its work, it is still our desire to uphold an “Academy Model” of education that is focused and affordable, fosters a family atmosphere by maintaining a close student/faculty ratio, expects the students to worship and work in the local churches, and encourages accountability to our supporting churches and presbyteries.


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  2012 Spring Theology Conference Program Announced  


Praised, maligned, and misunderstood, the effects of Old Princeton Seminary have towered over theological discussion for a century. From the time God raised up that school in 1812 until 1929, the Princeton theologians were the stalwarts of experiential Calvinistic theology.


The founders of Greenville Seminary consciously adopted the Princeton Plan as the foundation of instruction at GPTS. For this reason, the 2012 Spring Theology Conference (coinciding with the 200th anniversary of Princeton's founding and the 25th anniversary of Greenville Seminary's founding) will be devoted to an assessment of Princeton and the practical lessons for the church today. Our aim is to shape the discussion in a practical way that will benefit all who attend.


The conference will be held on March 13-15, 2012 at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, S.C.


Among the scholars speaking at the conference is Dr. Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Academic Dean/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He has an M.A. in Classics from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in church history from the University of Aberdeen. He is editor of the journal Themelios and has taught on the faculties of theology at both the University of Nottingham and the University of Aberdeen. He has authored a number of books, including John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man and The Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism.


Topics and other speakers for the conference include:

  • Princeton: A Brief History of Origin and Contributions of Archibald Alexander – Dr. James Garretson

  • Samuel Miller’s Pastoral Theology – Pastor Andrew Webb

  • Scripture, Inerrancy, and the Role of Reason at Princeton – Dr. Paul K. Helseth (Tuesday evening)

  • Princeton and the Old Testament – Dr. Benjamin Shaw

  • Princeton and Missions – Dr. Tony Curto

  • Ecclesiology: The Hodge/Thornwell Exchange – Dr. Nick Willborn

  • Princeton and 19th Century Crosscurrents: Hodge, Finney,and Nevin – Dr. Darryl G. Hart

  • Biblical Rationale for a Reformed Seminary – Dr. Joseph Pipa Jr. (Wednesday evening)

  • Princeton and Evolution/Creation – Dr. Fred Zaspel

  • Theological Assessment of Warfield (with brief biographical sketch) – Dr. Carl Trueman

  • Machen and the End of Old Princeton – Dr. Darryl G. Hart

Visit our online Presbyterian Bookshop for books related to the Princeton Commemoration.

  Lecture Planned on the "Religion of Radical Environmentalism"


Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, will present a lecture on "The Religion of Radical Environmentalism: How to Overcome its Threats to You, Your Family, Your Church and Your Society" on November 28 at 7 p.m., Room 209 at the seminary. The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.


Dr. Beisner is an author and speaker on the application of the Biblical world view to economics, government, and environmental policy. He has published more than 10 books and hundreds of articles, contributed to or edited many other books, and been a guest on television and radio programs. A ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he has spoken to churches, seminars, and other groups around the country for nearly 20 years. Dr. Beisner has testified before Congressional committees as an expert witness on environmental matters.


Check out this important book, Resisting the Green Dragon, exposing the new "green" religion. Click on the image at the right to order this and other related materials.




The tables below show our General Fund and Capital Fund financial condition as of the end of October 2011. We deeply appreciate the response of a number of faithful supporters who generously responded to our October plea for help and powerfully supported us in prayer. The Capital Fund's "Outstanding Pledges" figure dropped by $100,000 in October due to a gift from a key supporting organization.



In this season of the year, would you prayerfully consider remembering GPTS with a gift as part of your Thanksgiving expression?

General Fund for October 2011
  October Budget October Actual October Actual v. Budget
Expenses $80,248
Other Income
$4,504 -$13,686
Total Income
Net Income
-$15,214 -$15,289
  Fiscal Year to Date Budget Fiscal Year to Date Actual Fiscal Year to Date Actual v. Budget
Expenses $321,019 $321,753 +$734
$248,533 $252,240 +$3,706
Other Income $72,754 $74,035 +$1,271
Total Income $321,287 $326,265 +$4,978
Net Income +$268 +$4,512 +$4,244
Capital Fund Update
Goal $3,500,000
Received $2,587,805
Outstanding Pledges $614,014
New Income Needed $298,181
Outstanding Bills $55,000
Monthly Note $6,559
Remaining Mortgage $1,081,794

If you would like to make a convenient online donation to Greenville Seminary, click the  "Donate" button below. Whether or not you can contribute financially, here is another way you can help the seminary: Do you know someone that would be interested in learning more about our organization or supporting us? If so, fill out the form here and an e-mail message with a link to our website will be sent to them. Thank you for your continued support for Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


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For books related to the Princeton Seminary Commemoration, go here.


Check out the selection of books on Islam at our seminary bookstore this month. For a powerful film depiction of the plight of Christians and Christian converts in Muslim countries, order "Behind the Sun" through our Amazon store. Order soon: only 10 left in stock.


"Behind the Sun" is a powerful dramatization of the plight of Muslims who convert to Christianity in the Middle East and of the often clandestine conditions under which the church must labor in Muslim countries.


In this emotionally charged film, Samir Majan, a young man born and raised a Muslim in the Middle East attends college in America. After receiving a degree from a university in Chicago, he begins his trip back home to see his family. But something has drastically changed in the young man’s life since coming to the States. As his welcoming committee awaits his arrival, the young man is overcome by fear. Samir knows trouble and persecution lie ahead because he has done the unthinkable. Samir has become a Christian. This is a story of a young man's choice, a father's pain, and a family torn apart. This dramatization is a composite narrative based on real-life situations where believers face persecution, loneliness and even death when their own families reject them for choosing Christ.


Visit our online Gift Shop to purchase GPTS golf shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, and travel mugs. All net proceeds help support the seminary.


The family film More than Diamonds is now being offered on DVD to friends of the seminary. By special arrangement with the producers, each purchase made online through a special web page will generate a donation to GPTS. More info here.

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