HOWARD: Dr. Daniel Akin, you were one of my systematic theology professors in the early 1990s at The Criswell College. I'm grateful to have been a student of yours and know that much has changed in your life since then. With the explosion of the Internet in recent years, I've been able to track what you've been doing. As president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I know you're busy, so I'll keep this online interview as brief as possible.
(1). You wrote your PhD dissertation on Bernard of Clairvaux, right? What sort of student were you as a child? Did you ever imagine yourself one day becoming a scholar?
AKIN: I did write on the "blessed Bernard" and I was not a great student. I made 870 on the SAT the first time and 910 the second time. The fact is I was not challenged in the high school system where I attended. I played at school, and I have been playing catch-up ever since. However, God is faithful, and he can use your 'little' if you give it to him. And no, I never imagined even being a pastor much less a teacher or president in a college or seminary. The Lord often surprises us in terms of His purposes and plans for our life. That is certainly true for me.
(2). HOWARD: Paige Patterson has played a key role in mentoring you, and the very mention of his name usually conjures love or hate in those who know him. But a side of Patterson that many don't know about is his sense of humor. Could you tell me about one of his humorous antics against you or else a prank you pulled on him?
AKIN: Dr. Patterson is my father in the ministry and probably the primary mentor in my life. He was my preaching professor and presided at my ordination. I love him and appreciate him very much, though it is true he is much kinder to his enemies than he is to his friends! As I said, he was my preaching professor. After watching my video for a few moments, he got up and said I cannot take anymore of this. I will let you suffer through the rest of this by yourself, and he walked out of the room. Needless to say he thought that was humorous, but I certainly did not. However, it did instill in me a great motivation to work as hard as I could to be the very best preacher and teacher of God's Word that I could possibly be.
(3). HOWARD: What has it been like to be on the front end of the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention?
AKIN: It has been an interesting ride to say the least. I have had the honor of getting to know those who led this movement. These are wonderful men of God who believed, rightly, that Southern Baptists were not just drifting, but plunging head long in to theological liberalism. Now that the resurgence is almost 30 years old, it is clear that in the SBC there is a repositioning and rethinking of a number of issues. Many of these are not theological, but more along the line of preferences. It is interesting to note that a number of issues that would not have been major concerns during the resurgence have now become hot button issues in recent days. In particular I am thinking of the issues of baptism and tongues. However, I do not believe that Southern Baptists are in any danger of drifting into charismatic/Pentecostal theology. That is simply not who we are, nor does that movement have strong biblical arguments for a number of its practices. Still, the battle for the Bible and God's truth never ends. It will continue until Jesus comes again.
(4). HOWARD: How have you handled the challenge of being a husband, raising four boys, and wearing all of your many professional hats?
AKIN: It was a big challenge. I did not always do the best that I could or should have. However, I had a wonderful wife who, standing by my side, cheered me on and enabled me to do many of the things that God has called me to do. I also did my best to try to manage my calendar, not always successfully, so that I spent good time with our sons. Bottom line, my parental philosophy was have fun with your kids and teach them to love Jesus. The fact that all four of my sons are headed toward ministry was never on my radar screen nor did I ever push them in that direction. I simply told them serve the Lord Jesus and your dad will be happy with whatever you do. God has been very kind to Charlotte and me with our sons, 3 daughters-in-law and granddaughter.
(5). HOWARD: What was it like working with Al Mohler at Southern Seminary? He seems to be a brilliant man. Does he stay up all night writing and working while the rest of us sleep?
AKIN: If Paige Patterson is my father in ministry, then Al Mohler is one of my dearest brothers and friend. He is a brilliant man, probably the most brilliant man that I have ever known. And yes it is true he does stay up all night writing while the rest of us sleep. Basically, he goes to bed at 4:00 a.m. and he gets up around 8:00 a.m. I think the man is insane, but he certainly is a wonderful gift of God to the body of Christ.
(6). HOWARD: While you probably still disagree with the five points of Calvinism, which I gladly embrace, I wish more Southern Baptists actually took the time to study Calvinism. Did the Patterson-Mohler debate open up more SB to Calvinism or just further divide the camps?
AKIN: I think that I can answer that question by directing you to the "Building Bridges" conference that will take place at Ridgecrest, North Carolina in November where the issue of Calvinism will be discussed over a 3 day Conference. Southeastern Seminary is co-sponsoring that conference with LifeWay and the Founders Ministry. I am hopeful that it will be a good thing for Southern Baptists. I think any study of theology is good. Every system needs to be carefully critiqued in light of the truth of scripture. It is my prayer that neither Calvinism nor any other system will unnecessarily divide Southern Baptists. The bottom line is this. We are committed to the absolute truthfulness and authority of Scripture and we are a Great Commission people. If people have a great passion for reaching the nations with the gospel, then there will be a healthy balance to their theology as well.
(7). HOWARD: Tell me about your new book, A Theology for the Church. What sparked the idea? How much time lapsed between the moment you decided to pursue it until you sent your final copy to the publisher?
AKIN: So far the new book has been well received. I was approached by Broadman & Holman now almost 6 years ago to bring together the best theological minds amongst Southern Baptists to provide a Theology that, though adequate for the academic world, would be useful for the church. It was easy for me to buy into that vision because I believe theology is not primarily for the academy but as the text says, it is to be done by and for the church. I think that people will be encouraged and edified by the book. I am excited about its completion, and hope that it will be used for the glory of God in the days ahead. Getting all of these men together on the project was like herding cats! But, it was worth it.
(8). HOWARD: I've long since been concerned that so few Southern Baptist churches obey Matthew 18:15-20 by taking church discipline to that last and public level mentioned there. Am I out of touch here by saying so few churches? Are you finding many SBC churches practicing this Matthew passage?
AKIN: I too am concerned about church discipline and have spoken to this extensively. In fact if you go to the webpage that the seminary provides for me at danielakin.com you will find a paper that I delivered at Mid America Seminary a couple of years ago on this very issue. I think that we have a long way to go in terms of recapturing this biblical discipline. I think that it is essential for ministers to teach on it. They must move in a wise and careful manner before trying to implement it. A crash course is a formula for a disaster.
(9). HOWARD: When I look at evangelical churches around America, I'm bothered by the prevalence of immodest (seductive) dress among our women. Is this just my perception, or are you and other leaders also concerned about some of the provocative clothes women in our churches are wearing?
AKIN: I will confess to being bothered both by immodesty on the part of women and sloppiness on the part of men. I am not saying that women have to wear a Burlap Sack nor that men always have to be in a three piece suit neatly pressed. However, we should always dress in such a way that we bring honor and glory to Christ, and that we do nothing that distracts or detracts from the beauty of the gospel. In other words we should dress in a way that we know pleases the Lord Jesus.
(10). HOWARD: What do you do for fun?
AKIN: I walk, I watch movies with my wife, I read and I hang out with my kids. I also enjoy watching sports very much. I am really a very simple and not so exciting personality in many ways. I am usually content. One of the things that I am now growing in that is really fun for me is going overseas to do mission work, and in particular with our missions students. Southeastern has a great passion for the great commission and a wonderful missions training program. I spend the entire month of January every year overseas ministering with and to our students. It has become a real highlight of my year, both for me and my wife Charlotte who goes with me.
(11). HOWARD: What do you want Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's legacy to be?
AKIN: 11 & 12 combined answer
(12). HOWARD: What do you want your legacy to be?
AKIN: I want Southeastern to be known as the Great Commission Seminary. I want it to be a seminary that has figured out how to wed the head and the heart in fulfilling the Great Commission. I say often that I believe the best missionaries are good theologians and that the best theologians are also good missionaries. I am more convinced of that truth than ever. Therefore, that is the trajectory that I pray Southeastern will follow not only under my administration, but also those who will follow until Jesus comes again.
(13). HOWARD: Do you have a website of your own or someone else's that you'd like to promote?
AKIN: http://www.sebts.edu/. and http://www.danielakin.com/
HOWARD: I can't thank you enough for the time you've given me to ask you a few questions. Keep up the good work at SEBTS and stay faithful to the Lord and his inerrant Word. And may the grace of Christ allow us to meet again face to face this side of glory.
Other NNF articles:
How About a Modesty 101 Class?
Bring Back the Lord's Supper: Open Letter to Southern Baptists
Open Letter to My Daughter on Modesty
In Honor of Pastors: Learning How to Follow Your Leader