I’m a psalm-singing Presbyterian. There are comparatively few of us, so I understand if you haven’t encountered one before. My church only sings the 150 inspired psalms in worship. Like all Presbyterians, we’re also committed to connectionalism, confessionalism, and elder-led church government; and we practice infant baptism.
If you’ve met a psalm-singing Presbyterian, it’s possible you’ve met the angry type who’s militantly committed to our convictional distinctives. Thankfully, most of us are convinced of our doctrine but not angry about it. Others of you may be astonished that a Christian (let alone a denomination!) who only sings psalms in worship exists. If so, don’t click away before you consider this: How did a theological oddity like me end up pursuing higher education at a Southern Baptist seminary?
How did a theological oddity like me end up pursuing higher education at a Southern Baptist seminary?
The reason is simple and boring: there are a small handful of seminaries that offer a PhD in biblical counseling, and they’re all Southern Baptist. But, you may ask, “If your decision was merely pragmatic, did you just hold your nose, keep your head down, and get through your degree as quickly as possible, wishing you had other options?” Far from it! I’ve loved my time at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), and I’ll walk away with several lessons learned.
1. Christ’s body is vast.
Though I’ve been the “token Presbyterian” in my classes, I’ve been welcomed as a Christian brother. Christ’s people are citizens of heaven, not merely members of a single denomination. They’re wonderful to learn from and with.
Christians of all stripes can be tempted to believe the true followers of Christ are the ones who think most like us, worship most like us, and interpret the Bible most like us. We need to strive against this Elijah-like thought that we alone are faithful (see 1 Kings 19:10). Cross-pollination with other denominations and denominational schools helps us broaden our perspective of the church. There are far more people faithful to Jesus than just us.
2. Tearing down echo chambers is necessary.
We don’t know we’re in an echo chamber until we step outside and talk with others who think differently. My classmates (and even my professors) have graciously been willing to learn from me, and I’ve learned much from them. I’ve seen that Proverbs 27:17—“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”—is true even outside our denominational walls.
3. The stuffy, rarefied air of academic arrogance isn’t necessary.
A smug and boastful pride can come with higher education, especially in those pursuing advanced degrees. As Paul wrote, knowledge has the tendency to “puff up” (1 Cor. 8:1), and once you reach the stuffy halls of doctoral studies, that puffing can be infectious. When you’re specializing in a field and you’re in the single-digit percentage of people who hold the same education level, pride is crouching at your door. Throw in the temptation of imposter syndrome, and the halls of academia are rife with arrogance.
That’s the opposite of what I’ve experienced at my SBC seminary. Not pride but an honest pursuit of Christ and the Scriptures saturates the place. It’s been a breath of fresh air. Colleagues who studied at more secular institutions often say they’ve had a different experience. But at SBTS, professors display humility, and they’re eager to sharpen and nuance their views alongside their students. Students are there because they want to be, and they’re pursuing Christ, not prestige.
4. Genuine and biblical ecumenicity is blessed.
I’m no trumpeter of a broad ecumenicity, because it engenders dangerous doctrinal compromise. But genuine biblical ecumenicity, where we regularly interact with Bible-believing, Reformed, and evangelical believers outside our denominations, is blessed. Just as each person has been placed in the body to do his part (Eph. 4:16), each church has its own “personality” and gifts that it contributes to the kingdom. Consider how we’re blessed by the different churches addressed in the New Testament epistles, as well as in Revelation 2 and 3. We can appropriately learn from one another while we seek to follow Christ as we’re most faithfully able. That’s been my experience at SBTS.
Christ’s people are citizens of heaven, not merely members of a single denomination. They’re wonderful to learn from and with.
My years at seminary are a tale of faithful Baptists training a Presbyterian, and delightfully, this Presbyterian now trains Baptists (in addition to Presbyterians) at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
In my small Presbyterian seminary, I invest in several Baptists and nondenominational students—just as the SBC has invested in me. I see it as a beautiful full-circle legacy, and I’m grateful to be part of the broader body of Christ helping to train the broader body of Christ.
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