Yesterday was a special day at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson. We celebrated a new (and large) incoming class of students and installed our newest chaired professor during Convocation. This was the 49th Convocation of RTS in Jackson, and it has been my joy to be a part in over half of them since joining the faculty in 1990. So, today was my 25th convocation and the beginning of my 25th year of professorial service.
One of the joyful features of the day was the public recognition of Dr. Guy Prentiss Waters as the James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of New Testament. Dr. Waters has particular interests in the letters and theology of Paul, the use of Scripture in the New Testament, and the Synoptic Gospels. He also teaches some ecclesiology and systematic theology.
Dr. Waters is a scholar and a churchman. His academic pedigree is impressive. A Virginian, his family expected him to study at the University of Virginia, but instead he received his B.A. from the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania (1995), then his M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary (1998), and his Ph.D. from Duke University (2002), where he studied with scholars like E.P. Sanders and Richard Hays.
Prior to coming to RTS Jackson in 2007, he spent one year teaching Hellenistic Greek at Duke Divinity School and five years as Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Belhaven University. In 2003, he became a teaching elder in the Mississippi Valley Presbytery (PCA). He has also been the Chair of the Credentials Committee and has also chaired the PCA General Assembly’s Theological Examinations Committee.
Guy is a prolific lecturer and author. He gave the Hunter Lectures at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, twice, and has given addresses frequently and internationally in academic settings like the Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne Australia, ETS and AAR/SBL here in the US. He wrote one of the early and important academic Reformed assessments of the so-called New Perspective(s) on Paul, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul (P&R, 2004). He engaged with the theology of Norman Shepherd, Auburn Avenue and the so-called Federal Vision movement in his book The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis (P&R, 2006). His doctoral dissertation was published by an academic press The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul (Komers, 2006). He contributed more on the issue of justification in By Faith Alone (Crossway, 2007) and addressed crucial issues in ecclesiology in Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church (Crossway, 2008). He critiqued paedo-communion in his book Children and the Lord’s Supper (Mentor, 2011) and wrote an outstanding introduction to ecclesiology called How Jesus Runs the Church (P&R, 2011). He wrote What is the Bible? (P&R, 2013) as a part of the “Basics of the Faith” series edited by our own Sean Michael Lucas. His Study Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (EP, 2014) is due out soon. What you see in Dr. Water’s writing and lecturing is an ability to operate at the highest levels of New Testament scholarship, while also being able to engage in polemics (charitably and persuasively) as well as function in the realm of systematic theology. Dr. Waters is a true gift to Reformed Theological Seminary and the church.
Dr. Waters’ Inaugural Address was called “With a Whimper or a Bang? Acts 28 and the Ending of Acts” and focused on Acts 28:17-31. It was riveting, and helpful and thoroughly enjoyable too. Who but Guy could have worked a Sharknado reference into a solemn inaugural address? But he did! Early on stating that “the question of Luke’s ending of Acts is a hermeneutical Sharknado.”
Dr. Waters’ chair is named after RTS Board member and PCA founding father, Dr. James M. Baird, Jr. – longtime senior minister (and now Pastor Emeritus) of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS. The chair was previously held by the Chancellor of RTS and was held in Charlotte. We thought it appropriate to bring it home to Jackson where Dr. Baird served his final pastorate and took his honorable retirement (and where so many of his family live and serve).
Dr. Baird was the vice-chairman of the committee that brought the PCA into existence, and has served on the boards of the African Bible Colleges and Belhaven University. He also served as Director of Church Relations for RTS and as Dean of the Chapel at Belhaven. In the twenty years since his retirement from First Presbyterian, Dr. Baird has preached nationally and internationally. He is one of the most respected churchmen in the PCA and served as Moderator of the General Assembly.
We were also blessed by the musical leadership of our chapel organist, Dr. William K. Wymond, who teaches part of the Worship course at RTS Jackson and is the Minister of Music and Media at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson.
After the Convocation, the entire campus and student body were treated to a luncheon in the Student Center at Patterson’s Porch. Both Orientation Day on Tuesday and the events of today have been a great encouragement.
We also recognized all four of RTS Jackson’s chairs. Not only Guy Prentiss Waters, Ph.D. – the James M. Baird, Jr. Professor of New Testament, but also Elias dos Santos Medeiros, Ph.D., the Harriet Barbour Professor of Missions; Miles Victor Van Pelt, Ph.D., the Alan Hayes Belcher, Jr. Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and yours truly.