I had the great privilege of teaching Christian Ethics to a group of over 40 men in Colombia last week, August 26th through the 29th, 2014. This was the 12th of a 14 module program that RBS offers to Colombian pastors, as well as men training for the ministry. The program is called The Marrow of Theology and Reformed Baptist Seminary, together with Facultad Teologica Bautista (a ministry of Iglesia Bautista Gracia Soberana, Bogota Colombia), organize these modules which take place in a country estate located in Chinauta, about 2 hrs SW of Bogotá. Our time together was wonderfully blessed of God.
This course on Christian Ethics is the development of a journal article I wrote for the Fall 2009 Reformed Baptist Theological Review (RBTR), entitled “The Relationship between the Decalogue, the Beatitudes, and the Fruit of the Spirit as Ethical Standards of Righteousness.” I changed the title to Christian Ethics in Beautiful Form. It has been my desire to develop that article and I am grateful for Dean Gonzales’ encouragement to do that, along with the opportunity to prepare the material for teaching in Colombia.
There were 21 lectures spanning four days, with daily question-answer sessions and quizzes. A final exam was the grand finale of the week. The hard-working translator, Eduardo Ferguson from Riohachu, Colombia, and I rested during that final exam while the students worked. After the first couple of sessions, Eduardo and I became adjusted to each other and the translation process went very smoothly.
The men were very engaged with the course content and our sessions, which allowed questions during the lectures, were very dynamic. The course had 7 sections. The first was an introduction to ethics from 7 great Bible texts: 1 Cor. 15:33 (“bad company”), Gen. 3:22 (“ethical opposites”), Micah 6:8 (“He has told you”), 2 Chron. 31:20 (“that’s good!”), Eccl. 12:13-14 (“judgment on good and evil”), Mk. 10:17-22 (“God only good”), and John 1:14 (“ethical glory in Jesus”). Part 2 was a section on the definition of ethics. Part 3 dealt with the sources of ethics: Judaism (creation mandates, law and prophets, history, wisdom lit.), Greek philosophy (briefly), Christ and the Apostles. Part 4 was the core of the course in which we dealt with the form of the Decalogue, 13 themes of the Decalogue, and the individual commandments themselves. Part 5 dealt with the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount, and part 6 dealt with the Fruit of the Spirit. Part 7 was the synthesis of the three standards and their inter-relationships. We were able to cover all that we set out to do.
The students were given a spiral-bound book which included major diagrams from the syllabus on Christian Ethics, John Calvin on the Ten Commandments, the Westminster Larger Catechism questions on the Decalogue (which we used in the class), and an article by Richard Barcellos on the Law. They also received a copy of Brian Edwards’ book on the Ten Commandments in Spanish.
I was personally enriched and blessed beyond expectation by the warmth of fellowship with these men, despite the language barrier. Four or five of the students (in addition to Eduardo the official translator) speak English well enough (some very well) to facilitate a great deal of conversation and interaction with the students. For example, a brother would find one of these bilingual brothers and come to me with his question. It was a delight to fellowship with Pastor Gomez and the members of the church which helped with many of the details of operation throughout the week. You can see a picture here of him taking part in a vigorous debate about an ethical issue involving marriage with one of the students! The food was outstanding. Carmen, a member of the church, was the lead in planning and preparing the food, with 4 or 5 other dedicated helpers. We were well cared for.
I had the privilege of spending a few days with the Gomez family, along with Eduardo. We visited the church which was planted by Stan Line, ARBCA missionary to Colombia. Pastor Gomez was his co-pastor for 10 years before planting the church in the city which he presently pastors. We had a lot of fun communicating with my iPhone Spanish-English Dictionary app. when a translator was not around.
What a joy to take part in the work of missions in a country like Colombia. I made many new friends during my time there. May the Spirit cause the Word of God to spread rapidly through these faithful servants in Colombia and other Latin American countries (2 Thess. 3:1).
Pastor John Reuther
Professor of Theology
Reformed Baptist Seminary