Seminary is something of a conundrum. Some question the wisdom of taking God-called men out of the game by “secluding them in their study” for three or four years (or more). Sometimes one even hears the snide remark that a seminary can be like a “cemetery:” a place people go and become spiritually dry and less alive in their calling. These observations create a sense of suspicion. Is Bethlehem seminary really a worthwhile investment for its students or its supporters? This is no small consideration. The Lord will call for an account on the last great Day for all He has given us. It would be good to think carefully through our answer now.
A specific seminary like BCS is a worthwhile investment if what it produces has great worth. This point involves a value judgment. In other words, an investment in a seminary only makes sense if one first values the type of person or resources that a given seminary has a track record of producing. This investment must not be a blind financial or spiritual leap in the dark. It is not normally wise to make investments without first looking at track records. The same holds true for a seminary.
Therefore, in terms of track record, it is time to get specific. Why do I love Bethlehem Seminary? I could give a top-ten list in a rapid fire kind of way, but I would rather expound on what I love most: we have a vision of God that causes us to approach everything we do from a certain angle. We call it Christian Hedonism, which says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” We make it our aim to value supremely the One Who is supremely valuable. What does a Christian Hedonist seminary produce? It produces pastors and missionaries that practice exegetical exultation and expository exultation. Let me unpack those two things.
Our chancellor, John Piper has stressed that preaching is expository exultation. That is, one should worship over the text as he preaches. Most aspiring pastors I know want to be that kind of pastor. Most churches that I know want to have that kind of pastor. The question is “how does a preacher get to that point?” It is not automatic; there is nothing magical about stepping into a pulpit. The process is two-fold. First, God must make a preacher; preaching classes and pulpits do not create preachers. Second, a seminary can help shape God-called preachers by helping them steward God’s gifts and calling. Here is where BCS comes into the picture.
We teach that expository exultation comes from exegetical exultation. The worship that comes in the pulpit must first come from the study. Exegesis must precede exposition. One must be a steward of the word before he can be a herald of the word. This approach to seminary has shaped everything about me. The breezes of Bethlehem Seminary put a particular bent on my life as a worshipper. This bent shows up at all times and in all things: whether I am in my study or at the dinner table or in the pulpit. Someone may ask about the classroom dynamic in the seminary? How does this look different than other seminaries?
The simplest way to express the difference is to say that our classes have a worship angle that I have found lacking in other places. We expect students to meet God in their studies and in the classroom. Take exegesis classes as an example. Too many exegesis classes are content to stress the aim of exegesis as recovery of the “author’s intended meaning.” We aim higher than the human’s author’s intent. God is the author of Scripture. What is the Divine Author’s intent? God intends to reveal Himself to us through His word – He is the author, and that is His intention! Consider 1 Samuel 3:21:
And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
As a student, I met God in the classroom through His word. As a professor, I see myself as a lead worshipper. I am modeling how to engage with God through His word. I ask questions in a different way because of this approach. We ask rigorous exegetical questions, but we also ask “engaging with God” questions. I want to know how God revealed himself to my students through a given assignment. When they are rigorously doing their diagramming and discourse analysis I want them to say, “this much I want to know You through Your word!” We ask if their wives will be able to tell a difference this week because of what they have seen of God in His word. This approach to seminary puts a stamp on someone that will mark everything that they do as a pastor or missionary – or a husband or parent.
BCS aims to produce students and resources that are thoroughly shaped and saturated by this mindset. We will give an account to God for it on the great Day. We rejoice because we think this perspective is God’s own perspective. He is more passionate for His own glory than anyone else and so we are joining His purposes to make much of Himself. He is leaning in on us with grace to carry out His purposes and He is smiling upon us as He does it in us and through us. We humbly and passionately urge you to join us and support us in our desire to “see the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).