I am not a pastor, and I don’t try to pretend to be one. But I grew up in the church, so I have been under many pastors over the years. I also direct the Doctor of Ministry program at Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), which has several ministers and pastors working in a variety of kinds of ministries. One thing I have noticed over the years, even given that a seminary education is about much more than studying theology, pastors and ministers are usually very thankful for their theological education. Many of them say they could not see how they could minister without it. I am thankful for mine as well. Most things in life that are truly helpful, worthwhile and lifelong, take time, effort, and commitment to have any payoff. A theological education is no different.
Here are five reasons I am thankful for theology and why. . .
I Am Thankful for Biblical Studies: The Bible is the bedrock of theology. Having grown up in the church and taking Bible classes from a liberal professor in college, I thought I knew it all or at least had heard it all. However, as many at SES will testify, after the first night of hearing Dr. Thomas Howe lecture on the Old Testament or perhaps the Gospel of John, you realize your education in the Bible has been a half-inch high (maybe less) and three miles long (or longer). It simply has no depth. I regularly return to my notes from Dr. Howe to see how he outlines a biblical book, deals with a difficult passage, or demolishes critical theories that undermine the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.
I Am Thankful for Historical Theology: History is the legacy of theology. Ignore theology’s history and you might be led into error or worse. Many cults and false teachers today are just repackaging errors found in dusty books. We must know our history and tradition, respect it and learn from it, but also bring it to the bar of Scripture. On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we can rest assured the five Solas (Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, and Glory to God alone) will continue to be known if we have the Bible in the language of the people. You will treasure the Bible more and not complain of so many translations when you realize the price paid to put it in our tongue. Indeed, because of those who were willing to “play the man” the torch of God’s grace has not gone out and you can study your Bible.
I Am Thankful for Apologetics: Apologetics is the defense of theology. I am a believer who continues to hold the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible because of Christian apologetics. Apologetics must begin with reality or truth common to all, not just in the Bible. It must dig deeply into philosophy and pull out demonstrations of what is true. It must establish the existence of God. Show Theism is true because it is only through this worldview that we can correctly understand facts and evidence. Then, it make sense to argue for the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ, followed by the Bible being the Word of God.
I will never forget the first night of apologetics class when my professor demolished the number one objection to apologetics I heard in church. Even today I still hear people say, “The Bible, the Word of God, does not need to be defended. It is like a lion; all you need to do is let it loose.” Dr. Norm Geisler insightfully remarked, “The Word of God does not need a defense, but that statement ‘the Bible is the word of God’ needs a defense.” Otherwise, we have no answer to other religions that claim another book to be the word of God. Indeed, we fear a lion only because we already know what a lion can do.
I Am Thankful for Systematic Theology: Systematic theology is the fullest expression of theology. The problem with my theology before seminary was that it did not have enough “systematic” in it. Okay, it lacked some theology too. But it was the systematic that made everything stick together or make sense. Only systematic theology integrates truth outside the Bible with truth in the Bible to give a coherent and full expression of all God’s revelation found in the created world and in the inspired Word. When I finally saw how one doctrine affected another, I realized there was nothing more important for developing a truly Christian worldview.
I thank God for my two theology professors Drs. Norman Geisler and Robert Culver From Dr. Geisler, I learned how important God’s existence and nature is, as pure actuality (pure act) with no potentiality to change, because upon this truth hangs all the attributes of God. To not start and end all theology there is to steer in the direction that makes God a mere angel or worse. From Dr. Culver, I learned how important it is to consistently apply the historical-grammatical method of interpretation to arrive at a correct understanding of every doctrine. To not do so is to swerve theology in the direction of spiritualizing the scriptural text or worse.
I Am Thankful SES Still Teaches Theological Truth: Most of all I am thankful my seminary still teaches these vital theological subjects. Not just the subjects, but God’s unshakable truth that constitutes these subjects. Not everyone may think seminary is for him, but I am thankful for a seminary that has something for everyone: from the high school student to the retired senior citizen. On campus and online,
“The mission of SES is to train men and women, based on the inerrant and infallible written Word of God, for the evangelization of the world and defense of the historic Christian faith.”
It is a heavy order to think that I am involved in providing theological education to the next generation: your pastor and mine. I take it seriously. Teachers will incur a stricter judgment because of it (James 3:1). I hope you take your theological education seriously and be thankful it is not deficient or missing from your ministry.