Results tagged “Seminary” from Reformation21 Blog

My Kind of Hero

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It took me a while to remember who Joshua Harris was when he "kissed Christianity goodbye." The news didn't really rattle me; he's so far from the mainstream of my life that I missed whatever it was he was selling. And yet it was a big deal in Christian circles.

Christians should look for other kinds of heroes. In the spirit of that thought, I had a chance to grab lunch with a young man, Dan, from my church a few weeks ago. He used to be the Program Manager at the PCA church where I'm a member; now he's returned to Pittsburgh, having completed an MAR at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. At present, Dan is working toward a Master of Theology degree (ThM), with hopes to continue on to PhD studies in Old Testament.

My lunch with Dan turned out to be one of the most fascinating things I've done in a long time. He spoke of the sense of surprise that he felt while listening to a Yale Biblical Studies course online several years ago. He remembered their precision of detail, and the formidable, comprehensive alternative explanations they offered for things that we've believe in the Reformed tradition for a very long time.

It wasn't a surprise to him that Yale would teach those kinds of things. What struck Dan was the fact that they were also offering an alternative view of the Old Testament that "could potentially destroy the foundations of the average person in the pew." "It opened my eyes," he told me, "to the depth and breadth of the kinds of scholarship that are antithetical to what I believed to be true. I had never heard it expressed to that level of detail".

Dan grew up in confessional churches, and thankfully he was able to table an immediate judgment. Yet he realized that not many churchgoers would be able to interact with the Documentary Hypothesis (JEDP), or with the theory of the Deuteronomistic history. And it wasn't just one theory that disturbed him; rather, he felt overwhelmed...

"...by the many ways that these critical theories try to dismiss the reality of Divine Revelation... I thought 'I'm sure there is an academic Christian response to all of it. I just haven't heard it in a local church.'"

As Dan put it, "I wanted to hear a response from the Reformed tradition that was more detailed than merely fideism."

Through our church, he was able to take a Greek course at a local seminary, and he even considered a call to pastoral ministry. Though deciding against this last option after much prayer, he did discover a passion for ancient languages. "I LOVED studying Greek," he told me, and he even taught himself Hebrew using Weingreen's "A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew" ("The key to it is doing the exercises").

Our churches, seminaries, and other institutions should do all they can to enable young men like Dan to accomplish their goals, to step into those places in academia where these intellectual battles are taking place. J. Gresham Machen spoke about this more than 100 years ago:

"The church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems. The hope of finding them is the one great inspiration of a seminary's life. They need not all be men of conspicuous attainments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against spiritual and intellectual indolence. Their thinking may be confined to narrow limits. But it must be their own. To them, theology must be something more than a task. It must be a matter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful memorizing, but to genuine convictions."[1]

Ultimately, while Dan has intended to provide a defense of the faith in his Old Testament studies, it wasn't the only reason he ended up going to seminary,

"I view it like a garden: there's a hedge, a defense, for sure, and that's really important. But then there is ultimately the fruitfulness and abundance within. I was attracted in a way to both -- understanding a Christian response to the tide of modernism, but also being attracted to the beauties of God's word itself as a supremely compelling object of study."

Imagine a young man like Dan teaching a Religious Studies 101 class in a state university. The church needs young men like Dan, almost more than we need anything else in the world. Dan is my kind of hero.

Author's Note: For those of you involved with seminary or other educational programs, imagine how our institutions can help and enable Dan and others like him to get into those kinds of positions. To reach Dan specifically, contact me at johnbugay@gmail.com.

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[1] "Christianity and Culture" by J. Gresham Machen, The Princeton Theological Review, vol. XI (1913), p. 14. 


John Bugay is a marketing automation professional and a long-time blogger at Triablogue.


Related Links

"How Jesus Became God: A Review" by Michael Kruger

B. B. Warfield Memorial Lecture Series Anthology [ MP3 Disc  |  Download ]

The Inerrancy of Scripture, ed. by Jeffrey Stivason  [ Print Booklet  |  PDF Download ]

Does Inerrancy Matter?  by James Boice [ Print Booklet  |  PDF Download ]

IRBSTS Presidential Inauguration

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The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy (and each Gospel minister) not to be innovative or novel in his ministry, but to be faithful, when he gave the following charge: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). From age to age the Church's creeds and confessions have been particularly useful tools in obedience to this command. Those individuals and churches who have maintained and taught historic credal and confessional orthodoxy have been the most faithful in passing on the Faith once-for-all delivered to the Saints.

It is thus the mission of the IRBS Theological Seminary (IRBSTS) to aid churches by providing a confessional training program for men to become such faithful and instructed ministers of the Gospel. To ensure the success of this mission, a leader must be chosen who embodies the command of 2 Timothy 2:2. It is the privilege of IRBSTS to honor one such man whose life's labors have demonstrated him fit for the work. To begin the seminary's first year of instruction, IRBSTS will be holding on September 11, 2018 the inauguration of its first president: Dr. James M. Renihan. In this post, we wish to give a brief biography of Dr. Renihan and history of IRBSTS leading up to the inauguration.

In 1997, Dr. Robert Godfrey of Westminster Seminary California (WSC) approached the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America about training men for ministry in Reformed Baptist Churches. An agreement was made to send to Escondido a qualified man to be the Dean of what would become the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies (IRBS). With Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists being so doctrinally united, those preparing for ministry in Baptist churches could earn a Master of Divinity degree at WSC--substituting some courses with distinctively-Reformed Baptist confessional perspectives taught by IRBS.

James M. Renihan was chosen as the first dean and professor of IRBS. He met the qualifications of a seminary professor--having earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Liberty Baptist College, studying at Trinity Ministerial Academy, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree at Seminary of the East, and Doctor of Philosophy at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He spent years pastoring and church planting in Massachusetts, New York, and California. His academic work has focused on the Second London Baptist Confession and the broader Puritan theological context from which it arose.

Teaching at IRBS, Dr. Renihan developed courses on Reformed Baptist distinctives, ecclesiology, history, and confessions which came to experience international demand. Over the past twenty years, Dr. Renihan has traveled to England, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Singapore, Zambia, the Philippines, and elsewhere to teach these courses. Having journeyed to teach, edify, and fellowship with Reformed Baptists around the world, he has established and strengthened many precious friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ outside of the United States. The Lord has used him in this way to strengthen the cause of Christ all the world over; to teach faithful ministers who would teach others also.

The partnership with WSC was sweet, and remained so even as the Lord gave IRBS the opportunity to grow into its own full, stand-alone seminary. As the years passed and new opportunities arose, many recognized that it was becoming feasible to expand the Escondido program into what could be another faithful, orthodox, confessional Reformed Seminary. The vision was to establish a residential, confessional Reformed Baptist seminary; a seminary with the Word of God as its highest authority, and the Second London Baptist Confession as its doctrinal standard; a seminary whose professors held to the Confession by strict subscription, and taught faithful men the precious faith contained in the Scriptures and summarized in the Second London Confession; a center for the best of confessional Reformed Baptist learning and practice to specifically address the needs of Reformed Baptist churches. With IRBS having already produced many faithful men for ministry in Reformed Baptist churches, the prospect of a full seminary with even greater potential was exciting! So in addition to his duties with IRBS and his frequent traveling to teach, Dr. Renihan took the initiative to lead the exploration into establishing such a seminary.

After many trips to potential sites, much consultation with veteran seminary administrators, and many more hours of travel and meetings, a plan, budget, and location in Mansfield, Texas were determined. This location would be central and affordable, with a healthy number of Reformed Baptist churches nearby.

Finally, after years of exploration, analysis, planning, and reporting primarily by Dr. Renihan, on April 26, 2017 the charter which would officially begin work to establish the seminary was approved. On May 26 of that year the Trustees of IRBS announced the appointment of Dr. Renihan to serve as the first President of the new seminary. His pastoral heart, his invaluable work on the Puritans and Reformed Confessions, his 20-years' experience in the seminary life at Westminster, and his role as a unifier of Reformed Baptists all over the world made him very clearly the right choice.

About a month later, the Trustees of IRBS approved several men recommended by Dr. Renihan to be on the seminary's faculty; all godly and gifted men whom he had met and formed relationships with in his teaching ministry. And that July, several administrative staff were hired to begin laying a foundation. For the next several months Dr. Renihan would finish the duties of his final year in Escondido; he and his administrative team would work on establishing degree programs, curriculum, and begin the process of seeking accreditation. In July 2018, he would leave his California home of 20 years to move to Texas.

Dr. Renihan's work of ministerial training which began as a guest professor in California 20 years ago has culminated into the Presidency of a full, stand-alone, residential confessional Reformed Baptist seminary which just successfully completed its first term of Summer Greek. Fall semester will begin on September 4th, with the Convocation and Inauguration ceremony on September 11th. As it begins this new endeavor, please pray that the Lord will use IRBS Theological Seminary and its faculty for His honor. Their desire is to prepare faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.


Gatlin Bredeson is the Assistant to the President of IRBS Theological Seminary and is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California and IRBS.  

Benefits of Theological Education in the Local Church

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In the previous post, we considered the rationale behind a local church model of theological education. In this post, we want to turn our attention to five potential benefits of such a church-based theological education model:

  1. In-person instruction, mentoring, and discipleship.

There is much to be said for the gift of modern technology and the instantaneous methods of communications we have available to us. I teach in West Africa at a pastors' college from time to time, and it is absolutely astounding that my students there can use their smartphones to download lectures on covenant theology and apologetics from some of the finest instructors in some of the finest seminaries in America and be listening or watching said lectures within minutes. What a blessing this is for the wider church, and especially the nascent church in the global south which is often so resource-poor. We have much for which to be thankful in this regard.

Nevertheless, there is still much to be said pedagogically and pastorally for traditional, in-person, physical classroom educational environments. You'll note that in West Africa, though there are voluminous resources available to the student body and denomination digitally, the leaders of the denomination still desire an instructor to come to campus and teach the students in-person, in-classroom, and provide personalized mentoring and feedback and guidance tailored to the students' needs. This is something no recording can ultimately do, and there is a strong case to be made for the advantages of in-person classroom instruction.[1]

Moreover, I know of one professor who has noted how infrequently his students will cite their own pastor when listing the preachers who have most shaped and influenced them. There is certainly nothing wrong with appreciating and being edified by a multiplicity of strong preaching ministries, but should it be the predominant trend that one's actual pastor has a fairly minimal role in shaping one's theological education? Historically, this was not always the case and with a local, church-based program of theological education it need not be the case. What a gift it is to be instructed in the classroom in the doctrines of the faith, and then to have those same doctrines applied to the health of one's soul as one is shepherded, mentored, and cared for the same cohort of pastor-professors.

Last but not least under this benefit is the oft-overlooked asset of learning in community. Some of my very best friends are from our seminary days. I don't know that there's any way to replicate that kind of experience: a band of brothers training for a life of pastoral ministry, learning together in the same classes day after day, living as next-door neighbors on campus, interning in churches together, growing in knowledge, grace, and piety together during some very formative years. But even if that rich and nostalgic experience cannot be reproduced entirely, the value of learning together with a fellow cohort of flesh-and-blood peers cannot be overstated. Attending classes together week after week, forming relationships and friendships, discussing the assigned reading content for the class, studying together and going over each other's notes, hearing each other's question asked in class and being able to offer response and perspective when one person perhaps slightly misunderstood, the live-fire dynamic and back-and-forth exchange from student-to-student or student-to-teacher, or the fine-tuning and reinforcing of each other's comprehension during those crucial after-class discussions in the lobby: all of these intangible aspects are of immense value to the greater educational enterprise and none of these, I would suggest, can be replicated by the student sitting alone at his kitchen table, tuning in to pre-recorded lectures on his iPad.

  1. The opportunity for growth via deeper study.

It has been said that everyone is a theologian. Certainly, then, every Christian is a theologian. Whether they are doing right theology or sound theology is the question. But the fact is: every Christian is making theological distinctions and formulating doctrinal sensibilities, and since they are, it behooves church leaders to inform their people with a healthy and robust theological framework. Theological study can serve every Christian because every Christian is urged to love God with their mind as well as their hearts and souls (Matthew 22:37).

Not every church member will avail himself of the opportunity, but many will and many are desirous of the prospect, and in an age of biblical illiteracy and theological paucity, it can serve the church well to offer opportunities to facilitate a more theologically-educated laity.

This benefit might seem to be the most obvious, but just in case the readers of Ref21 need convincing, we might borrow from the words of Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas in this regard:

Why is doctrine important? And why is it important for every Christian?

Three reasons rise to the surface:

a. Doctrine helps us to understand the Bible as a whole. What does the Bible teach us about vocation, recreation, money, relationships, or the gift of tongues? "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking... but in your thinking be mature" (1 Corinthians 14:20). If we are to understand what the Bible is teaching us, we need to understand the message of the Bible as a whole. 

b. Doctrine helps us engage the world of unbelief. We are to provide a "defense" to anyone who asks for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Knowing the truth aids us in defending the Bible against the philosophies of our time that seek to undermine the Christian faith.

c. Doctrine helps us praise God. In fact, all truth is designed for doxology; its goal is to help us worship and praise God. When we take our eyes off that goal, doctrine "puffs up" and produces pride and factionalism (1 Corinthians 8:1). But when doctrine meets the heart, the result is always a song!

  1. The opportunity for growth via greater facility.

Not every pastor can be a seminary instructor; nor should he be. On the other hand, there are many pastors that would enjoy and probably benefit from trying their hand at delivering and instructing collegiate or graduate-level theological content in a classroom environment.

If you're anything like me, you find that you learn a subject matter best and obtain greater mastery over it when you are required to teach it. Reading is good, but having to distill and communicate the content of a subject matter has served me even better in deepening my understanding of historical theology, church history, and systematic theology over the past few years. Having such an opportunity can help drive the pastor/instructor to become a better reader, student, aspiring scholar, communicator, and--ideally--teacher of truth. This can help to serve not only the life of his mind and ministry, but also the life of the congregation in the long run.

A secondary benefit here for the pastor is a shared distribution of labor. In the region where I serve, our Reformed churches tend to be smaller, with pastoral staffs consisting of one minister, two tops. There are people to be visited, funerals to preached, hospitals to be frequented, community functions to be attended, letters to be written, bulletins to be prepared, worship services to be planned, media to be uploaded, counseling to be had, weddings to be officiated, jails to be visited, interns to be mentored, people to be loved, studying to be done, and sermons to be prepared. Add on top of that meeting the desire for a robust theological education at a higher level to be taught among the congregation, and the prospect sounds overwhelmingly exhausting.

But if, as BRITE has done, we can pool together our resources and energies, and one man teaches covenant theology, and another man teaches church history, and another Greek, and another Old Testament, and so forth...well, suddenly the goal doesn't seem quite so insurmountable.

  1. The opportunity for teaching and training. 

In my short tenure in ordained ministry I have met numerous ruling elders and deacons who have expressed a desire to be able to study at a level that their pastor has enjoyed--to be able to learn and glean from the robust and rigorous biblical and theological content that we pastors often take for granted--in order to inform their own ministries within the local church. I've even run into several ruling elders who sometimes consider themselves to be "second rate" elders due to their perceived lack of formal theological training. I find this to be patently untrue when I learn of the heart, character, and doctrinal apprehension of these men, but just the same: to strengthen them with deeper biblical instruction and theological grasp, to better equip them as they visit, prepare Bible studies, pray, counsel, and even preach--what a wonderful opportunity that could be!

Here is such an opportunity. Oftentimes elder/deacon/officer training is helpful: covering the basics of the Westminster Confession, Presbyterian polity, theological high points, church history etc. And--we should be quick to note--education and instruction is no substitute for years of learned wisdom and experience. Nevertheless, what a gift it is to be able to give a ruling elder training and facility in systematic and covenant theology as he strives to grow in his own aptness to teach and grows as a fellow-laborer in shepherding the flock of God. What a help to the deacon to be given deeper instruction in ethics or pastoral counseling as he tends to the needs of mercy and physical care for the members of the flock he serves. What a wonderful opportunity to give to the youth volunteer, the Sunday school coordinator, or the women's Bible Study leader a greater understanding in hermeneutics or biblical theology as she seeks to plan lessons and curriculum for multiple age groups or lead a study amongst a group of people from varying theological backgrounds and all sorts of baggage of theology that is best "unlearned."

  1. The health of the regional Church.

Wherever seminaries have been planted, they have served to bolster the health and strength of the local church and congregations in its general region. This is part of the reason why some seminaries have adopted the multiple-campus model: more biblical orthodox schools of theology in more places serves to bolster more churches.

This is not unlike the thought behind the strategic creation of some church plants or campus ministries. Turning the tide on theological anemia is an endeavor which will take years--decades!--not days. But if a theological school or training center can be established, and if it can begin to have an impact on the theological mind and life in the pews, and if local pastors and planters and offices and churchmen can be raised up and trained in that setting and sent back into their local contexts whether to revitalize or to start a new work, then the robust teaching that is being exported from that center can begin to take root and--eventually, Lord willing-- have a profound effect on the church in that region (both Reformed and non-Reformed) for generations to come.

An educational ministry such as this is most certainly not the church nor is it a substitute for the church. Nothing can substitute for the reign of King Jesus within the church and the work of the Holy Spirit through the faithful, biblical church ministry of the Word, sacraments, and discipline. But an endeavor such as this is one that can come alongside the church, bless the church, and invest in the good of the church. Rather, it is a tool in the service of the church, striving for her good, and for the bolstering of her health for generations to come.

Sean G. Morris serves as the Associate Minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) of Roanoke, Virginia and as the Academic Dean of the Blue Ridge Institute for Theological Education.

1. https://www.nsa.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/OnlineEducation-NSA.pdf

Theological Education and the Local Church

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Theological poverty is rampant in the majority of the Western Church today. North American evangelical/Protestant churches are suffering an endemic deficiency with regard to biblical and theological understanding. This is no new assessment,1 and the consequences to our spiritual health have been dire. One need only refer to the penetrating and embarrassing survey provided by Ligonier Ministries in their recent "State of Theology" report. Formerly-basic tenets of the faith and fundamental principles of Christianity that were intended to be catechized to and understood by children are now misunderstood or ill-comprehended by the majority of self-confessing conservative Protestant adults. Consequently, our spiritual health is anemic, our piety lacking, and our moral and ethical sensibilities on once straightforward issue are now in shambles. How is a pastor, elder, or Session to respond to this problem?

If we are committed to the ordinary means of grace--and by extension, the ordinary means of spiritual growth--it stands to reason that we trust that God's Word, applied by God's Spirit to do God's work. In this day and age, it's safe to say that God's people need more of God's Word, not less; more doctrine, more theology, more Scripture, more understanding, and more study of the "faith once for all delivered to the saints." Mere intellectual, cognitive apprehension of these matters is not a full-proof solution nor guarantee of godliness among God's people. It is, however, a target at which we want to aim.

If we believe in the engaging and transforming of the heart through the mind in the life of the Christian believer, then we must begin by targeting the mind with doctrinal meat, and not milk. Theological education should be happening in our churches on a regular basis. Theological education is, at a fundamental level, Christian education. While our corporate worship services require expositional sermons from the text of Scripture--and not academic lectures--there are, no doubt, other venues in the life and ministry of a local where Christian education and doctrinal instruction take place: in our Sunday schools and Bible Studies and small groups and midweek teaching occasions.

But what about opportunities for more advanced theological studies, both for the congregation member who would like to learn and for the pastor who would like to teach, but isn't a part of a seminary faculty? Some churches do have wonderful theological training programs as part of the regular teaching schedule within their church,2 but many churches--especially smaller churches--simply do not have the student base, resources, staffing, or schedule flexibility to pull off such a program. But what if several churches pulled together to accomplish such an endeavor? What may be insurmountable or impractical for one may be doable if shared among several.

I can only speak with reference to the model or paradigm with which I am most familiar, namely, the Blue Ridge Institute for Theological Education (BRITE). BRITE aims to be a parachurch ministry--pooling the resources and energies of several different Reformed and Calvinistic congregations and leaders in our area--that exists to serve the wider church in our region. We desire to be a center that provides theological education and training for folks (whether officers or laity) who need or desire it, to assist area pastors in such an endeavor who are unable to do so themselves, to provide continuing education, to be a resource for church officers and ministry leaders, etc.

In short, our desire is to serve those who cannot avail themselves of the opportunity and blessing of a traditional seminary education--whether due to financial constraints or to station in life--and to serve them and invest in the health of the local church by bringing the seminary to the pews.

Models of Theological Education

What our institute is endeavoring to accomplish is nothing novel. I suspect that the aim of BRITE is much the same as the aim of other church-based theological initiatives in our day and earlier. One thinks of the Pensacola Theological Institute, the early days of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology founded by James Montgomery Boice, the ongoing annual Theology Night at Tenth Presbyterian Church, or even the renowned Pastors' College founded by the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon. For our region's needs, the church seems to have been best served by establishing a sort of theological college and training center, with traditional curriculum plans and degree criteria, as well as the occasional conference and seminar. Both laity as well as church officers and pastors have enrolled in our courses and have attended conference offerings.

Prior to the rise of the modern seminary model and the scholastic-university model before that, it was common to find in-house or local methods of theological education, mentoring, and training.3 Small cohorts of ministerial candidates, mentored and taught by a man in the ministry (oftentimes the candidate's own pastor) were the standard norm. One thinks of the cathedral schools of the medieval church or even the Genevan Academy founded by John Calvin as extensions of this simple model.

This is not to argue any demerits against the theological seminary. This author stands as a happy and grateful graduate of one such institution. Rather, this is simply to recognize the potential benefit and blessing that can come when the content, opportunity, and ethos of the seminary campus and curriculum can be transplanted back into a local church context. Moreover, the benefit and blessing enjoyed by the seminarian-turned-pastor can also be extended to more than just the pastor, and can serve to edify his congregation and the wider church. In a subsequent post, we will consider a few of the benefits that accrue from church based theological eduction and training. 

 

1. For instance, see Ross Douthat's NYT article, "Bad Religion," and Kevin Deyoung's post, "Why Jonny Can't Preach."

2. One thinks of the Centerpoint School of Theology put on by our friends at First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC).

3. For an insightful treatment on this subject, see Justo Gonzalez' The History of Theological Education (Abingdon Press, 2015).

Seminary changed my life. Spending time both inside and outside the classroom with my godly professors, learning from them, praying with them, and receiving counsel from them revolutionized my walk with Christ. I cannot remember a time when my professors were unavailable to meet with me. Everyone from Robert Godfrey to Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark to Dennis Johnson made themselves easily accessible. I graduated from seminary thankful for all the time (i.e., personal mentorship) they provided. 

As I look back on my experience, there are many things that I would change. Fortunately, those things that I would change have more to do with me than the faculty and curriculum. While I cannot mention that enough, there are a few things I would change regarding my learning experience (i.e., the curriculum). I share this one thing not to indict my seminary -- I love them a great deal -- but more as a reflection of my time in seminary now that I have been separated from that environment for a couple of years. You can think of this as the final evaluation that students had to complete upon graduation now two years removed.

I imagine that many of the reformed seminaries in America have similar curriculum. If so, maybe this will be of some help to them as well. If not, they can discard this post like many of the others I have written.

What I wish I had learned in seminary:

I have learned a tremendous amount from those in the reformed tradition. In particular, I am grateful for those American theological giants who helped mold me. Although dead, their words live. B. B. Warfield, Charles and A. A. Hodge, James Henley Thornwell, J. Gresham Machen, and many others were instrumental in my theological outlook both while in seminary and now, but what do these men have in common besides their theology and American citizenship? They are all white. Is that a problem? Absolutely not! Again, I am grateful for these men. They have shaped my understanding of the Bible. In fact, I still read their literature. I wonder, however, if others, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, have contributed to reformed thought in an influential manner much like the men listed above?

Why do I raise this question?

The vast majority of the time when an African-American or Latino was highlighted in my theological education, they were associated with liberation theology (of the negative fold). Is that all people of color in America have contributed to theology, or reformed theology more specifically? I would have never questioned this until I graduated from seminary and began reading more broadly. I can specifically thank Dr. Carl Ellis, Dr. Eric Washington and Reverend Thabiti Anyabwile. Some of the materials they have published, and classes they have taught, have helped me realize that people of color have contributed in a positive and influential manner to reformed thought. In other words, there is more to their theology than the social gospel. 

How can this help you? How does this help me?

First, it expands our view of church history and the theological contributions of others to the church. Secondly, and perhaps more subjectively, when I speak with many people of color, they believe that to be reformed is to be white. As they look at the dominant ethnic composition of reformed congregations, they see white skin and immediately make that association.  When I, therefore, as an African-American PCA pastor, come along side my brothers and sisters of color and begin explaining the truths of reformed doctrine, there is an association with reformed theology that I must overcome while explaining the biblical accuracy of reformed doctrine. That association is the "whiteness", at least in their minds, of reformed theology. If I, however, willingly acknowledge that our congregations may presently be composed primarily of white people, although I hope to see that change, but also share other information of which they are unaware, that will help them. Particularly, if I am able to demonstrate that there were people of color who contributed significantly to reformed theology, I can slay the notion, at least historically, that to be reformed means to be white and perhaps gain a greater hearing for reformed theology among my people of color.

We do this all the time. Whenever we appeal to history to help people more clearly see how a particular doctrine was rooted in the church for hundreds of years, we appeal to the history of the church to demonstrate the validity of that doctrine. While history, in this instance, may not provide all the help we require, it is an aid for us. It can help people move toward a certain denomination or doctrine when they more fully understand its roots in church history.

Final thoughts:

Learning about how African-Americans, Latinos, and other people of color have contributed to reformed theology in America is something I wished I had learned in seminary. Although this a desire of mine now, I am confident that my former professors did not neglect this area to somehow degrade my educational experience. As I shared previously, those men, along with their teaching, changed my life. I still keep in touch with them; I am thankful for them! I love them. Nevertheless, what I would like to see in my seminary, as well as others, is a curriculum that provides the positive and influential contributions that people of color have made to reformed theology in America. They are out there. We simply must do our research to find them.