Attending seminary, earning a degree in philosophy, and now working in a ministry capacity for that seminary were never things on my radar screen when my wife and I were married 14 years ago. Having been a part of SES for 10 years now (as a student, alumnus, and employee), I can honestly say I can’t imagine our lives without SES. I know of no other evangelical institution that offers what SES does. There are many reasons I am thankful for SES, but allow me briefly to express just three.
First, I am thankful that SES has trained me with the ability to think critically and think well. I never had a philosophy class prior to my time at SES. I tell people that my taking logic at SES was like getting saved all over again! And Thomas Aquinas, well, I had hardly even heard the name prior to becoming an SES student. Now, as an alum, I see the vital importance of equipping people (especially Christians) with the ability to think rightly about reality.
The type of training we receive at SES, largely based in the classical thought of Thomas Aquinas, is virtually absent in the evangelical world today. Yes, we have some theological disagreements in certain areas with Aquinas, but his metaphysics, his basic understanding of existence and reality as such, is unrivaled in my opinion. Tragically, much of this classical thinking has simply been abandoned since the time of the Enlightenment. This abandonment prepared the soil for the modern ideological seeds that are producing their toxic fruit today. The decay of the classical view of God (along with His classical attributes), the denial of our ability to know the objective meaning of words (including the Bible!); the rise of skepticism and moral relativism; the decline of the church’s ability to dramatically impact the culture on multiple levels; the normalizing of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and transgenderism; and the explosion of anti-Christian bigotry throughout the Western world can all be traced back in one way or another to the abandonment of classical thinking about reality and the classical training once provided in logic and rhetoric. I am thankful that SES is standing strong against the intellectual erosion often found in the culture (and even within the church) and equipping its students with these oft forgotten treasures of good thinking and a proper view of reality.
Second, I am thankful for the training SES provides in both apologetics and evangelism. The classical philosophy mentioned above fuels the classical apologetic methodology taught at SES. Because we believe everyone has the ability to know some truths about sensible reality, we are convinced this provides common ground from which to meet anyone with whom we may be talking about Gospel-related things. Whether someone doesn’t believe in God, simply has questions about the reliability of the Bible, or denies the existence of truth all together, we are equipped to meet them where they are and gently and respectfully walk them to the Gospel. SES in founded upon the twin pillars of apologetics and evangelism such that all the philosophy, apologetics, and “ivory tower” things people see us do are done in service to evangelism and discipleship. In both the theoretical and practical aspects, I believe SES is second to none with its apologetic training.
Third, I am thankful for how my systematic theology training at SES has fueled my worship and discipleship. Not only does the classical philosophy of Aquinas fuel our apologetic methodology, but it also provides an incredibly robust foundation upon which to build our theology of God specifically. The Bible provides a great deal of information about God we could not know otherwise (i.e., special revelation). It is not, however, a theology manual. Our ability to properly understand the Bible, while not diminishing the role of the Holy Spirit, comes from the principles of interpretation gleaned from our knowledge of sensible reality (i.e., general revelation). This includes knowledge about God’s existence and nature (Rom. 1:20) that provides important insight for properly understanding revealed truth. It is this marriage of general and special revelation provided by a proper philosophical foundation that results in a beautiful and consistent theology of God.
I recall being at church one Sunday morning having just completed our class on theology proper, or the nature of God. As we were singing a familiar worship song we had sung many times before, I looked over at my wife and said, “I wish you had been in the class I just finished and could see how this song means so much more to me right now!” Most of us have either an idolized and incorrect view of who God is, or we simply think too little of God. To be sure, this side of heaven we will never know God in all His glory, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have true knowledge of God right now. As Dr. Richard Howe, one of our professors and someone I consider a great friend and mentor, says, we are in danger of a proper view of God fading away and being replaced by something more akin to a great big Superman. I am thankful that SES is committed to standing firm on the classical view of God and all of His magnificent attributes that necessarily follow so that we can point people to the one true God and invite them to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Having gone through the program at SES and not knowing virtually any of the above beforehand, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade my time at SES for anything. The integrated approach of synthesizing a sound philosophy with classical apologetics and a cohesive, biblical theology is probably the thing I love most about SES. The value of such a systematized and integrated approach for one’s apologetics, ministry, and personal growth is difficult to explain until you have experienced it for yourself. I certainly have so much more to learn, but I am extremely thankful that God has allowed me to be part of the SES family as he prepares me and my family for His service. I invite you to do the same.