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Southern Evangelical Seminary is unlike any other seminary that I know of: an evangelical, non-denominational, seminary whose primary goal is to train Christian apologists, and whose primary philosophical influence is Thomas Aquinas. When I first heard about SES I was a youth pastor in Québec, who was very involved in reaching out to University students. It is in this context that I rapidly realized that I needed to go deeper into Christian apologetics and philosophy. So, I enrolled at SES for two reasons, (1) they have an excellent distance education program, and (2) their goal was to train apologists. I obtained an M.A. in philosophy, and went on to complete a PhD in philosophy at Université Laval.
Now, after almost 10 years of Graduate school, I have come full circle. I am, once again, a pastor in an Evangelical church in Québec. I am also a trained philosopher and apologist, and the director of Association Axiome: A Society of French Evangelical Scholars. Association Axiome seeks (1) to encourage French Evangelical men and women, who are pursuing graduate degrees, to pursue excellence in their particular domains of expertise, for the Glory of God; and (2) to help the local church, and to build a bridge from the ivory tower of academia to the church, by the creation and promotion of French Evangelical apologetics material. I created this Association, with the help of Dominic Monosiet, in 2012; based on the combined models of the EPS and SES TEAM (Tactical Evangelism and Apologetics Mission). We started with about 5 or 6 interested Evangelical scholars. I worked with my local church to put on an apologetics conference (the first of its kind in Québec), in order to create interest in Apologetics. Now, 5 years later, Association Axiome is run by an Administrative Council of 3 Christian Evangelical Scholars (of which I am one), and has over 20 members who are actively engaged in research, in areas as diverse as theology, engineering and physics, biology, translation, philosophy, hermeneutics, Old Testament History, Pastoral Theology, and Apologetics. In the past 5 years, Association Axiome has hosted 3 major Christian Apologetics Conferences.
I am serving the Lord in these ways, in a society where, using a broad definition of the term “Protestant,” less than 5% of the population is Protestant (a narrower definition of the term shows estimates around less than 1%), and the great majority of the population are baptized Catholics (about 75-80% of the population), who practically live their faith as atheists and agnostics. It is a society that publicly rejected Catholicism (the “revolution tranquil” of the 60s and 70s), and everything that sounds remotely Christian. Southern Evangelical Seminary prepared me to serve the Lord in this context, and in the ways that I am serving, in a number of ways.
First, the education that I received pursuing an M.A. in philosophy, not only deepened my understanding of major philosophical issues (with courses such as “Nominalism and Realism,” or “God, Time, and Foreknowledge”), but also helped me to deepen my understanding of the scriptures (with courses on Biblical Survey, Systematic Theology, and specific books of the Bible). In order to be an orthodox Christian philosopher, I am convinced one must continually study the scriptures; and to be an orthodox Christian theologian, one must also study philosophy. Dr. Leventhal encouraged us to stay anchored in the Bible, and challenged us to pick a gospel which we would study, in depth, throughout our lives. I have been studying the Gospel of John ever since. Training in philosophy, apologetics, and biblical exegesis is important, not only for a Christian apologist and philosopher, but also for pastors, and I have used my SES training in all three of these areas. When it comes to pastoral counseling, it is of vital importance to properly understand the scriptures.
Secondly, SES strongly encouraged me and my fellow students, to be involved in apologetics events and activities. As a student, I was required to complete a certain number of practical training activities, such as speaking at an apologetics conference and participating in live-Q&A panels. During the 2 years that I was in Charlotte, SES’ Department of Outreach (T.E.A.M.) provided me with numerous opportunities to speak at numerous apologetics events, both in the immediate area and in other States. This practical training helped to form my ideas about what an apologetics conference looks like, how speakers should address the audience, and so on. All of which has been put into practice in the conferences I have planned and hosted here in Québec.
Finally, the encouragement that my wife and I received to constantly maintain our walk with the Lord. It is all too easy, when delving into deep philosophical or theological subjects, to let your relationship with Christ slip away until nothing remains. You can become so concentrated on theoretically “proving that God exists”, that you end up living as if he doesn’t exist. I learned, from different professors, that concentrating on the arguments can destroy your spiritual life, if you are not also reading for devotional purposes. Prayer and the study of the scriptures are a necessary element of the lives of every Christian, whether they are a philosopher, a scientist, a theologian, a pastor, a mechanic, or a stay-at-home mom!
I highly recommend Southern Evangelical Seminary to anyone who wishes to develop a deeper understanding of their faith, be able to defend their faith in the public circle, and interact with the plethora of ideas that are circulating in our contemporary North American Society. Furthermore, the academic environment that is fostered by SES is perfect for the intellectual development of the serious student. The professors at SES help the student to develop those habits which will give them a greater ability to perform extensive research in whichever field of study they pursue.
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SES Alumnus, David Haines, was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He is the founder and current president of Association Axiome, a french canadian group of Christian scholars that seeks to provide a defense for the historic christian faith through conferences, print publications and internet resources.