On March 13th, 2016 I wrote a blog that I named, “Breadth & Depth” announcing that I was beginning classes at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary working towards the Master of Theological Studies degree. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it was to take the classes and what an honor it is to have this graduate degree conferred upon me by such a God honoring, Christ exalting, and church loving Seminary.
When I began the classes I really did not know what I was getting myself into. I loved the Lord and wanted to know more about Him and His church. Along the way I learned what theological studies are and their purpose. Therefore, I would like to talk a little bit about theological studies and their purpose. Theological studies follow a fourfold pattern of text, history, truth and application.1
Text refers to the study of the Bible. I took five classes that were specifically biblical studies. Two Old Testament survey classes, two New Testament survey classes and a hermeneutics class. In the survey classes I was required to read each book of the Bible but I also studied the historical-cultural situations each book was written in as well as their genre (type of writing). In the hermeneutics class I was given a method for interpreting the Scripture beginning with the historical-cultural and literary context.
History refers to church history. Church history begins with the book of Acts through to the present day. I took a total of three classes that were specifically church history. The first class covered the early church up to the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. The second class covered the Pre-Reformation period up to the present day. The third class was a study tour of New England with Drs. Owen Strachan and Jason Duesing. In this study tour I had the privilege of seeing the sites and documents that I read about in church history as these two church historians lectured on the people of church history.
Truth refers to systematic study of Christian theology. I took two classes which were divided into twelve parts: 1) Studying God. 2) Knowing God. 3) What God is Like. 4) What God Does. 5) Humanity. 6) Sin. 7) The Person of Christ. 8) The Work of Christ. 9) The Holy Spirit. 10) Salvation. 11) The Church. 12) The Last Things.
The first three disciplines built on one another and are about knowing but the fourth discipline of application refers to being and doing. I took five classes that were geared towards living the Christian life. I will list them in the order in which I completed them: Ethics, Church Administration, Apologetics, Evangelism and Discipleship, and Missiology. Ethics refers to what ought to be, not necessarily what is. Ethics helps the Christian evaluate the rightness and wrongness regarding what is.2 Church Administration is about managing a local church with its people, its finances and ministries. “Apologetics is simply to defend the faith, and thereby destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). It is opening the door, clearing the rubble, and getting rid of the hurdles so that people can come to Christ.”3 Evangelism and discipleship are the defining mission of the church. The mission of the church is to make disciples of all the nations, initiate the new disciples into fellowship through the ordinance of baptism in the name of the Triune God and teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded the first disciples; doing so by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:18-20). Evangelism is how disciples are made, but evangelism is always preceded by discipleship because it is the mature disciple who learns to multiply and go make disciples.4 Finally, “Missiology refers to the study of how God is at work to bring redemption to fallen man. It entails the study of the history of mission endeavor, the theology of mission, and the social aspects of humanity. Mission is not man’s effort to reach their fellow man, it is rather God working through redeemed man to bring reconciliation in Christ.”5
Each one of the disciplines of text, history, truth and application built on the other. We begin with Scripture because like the apostle Paul said to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tm 3:16-17) We study church history because we are not the only ones to have read Scripture, many have read the text before us and problems regarding interpretations have already been worked out in church history. We study Systematic Theology because the Scriptures are not written systematically but theology comes from Scripture as understood historically. Finally, once we know, we must be and do what we have learned and are learning guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I will be using what I have learned in pursuit of the Master of Theological Studies degree all the days that the Lord gives me on this earth for personal study and to reach and teach others for Jesus Christ.
John Mark Terry, Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History and Strategies of World Missions(Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 7.
John S. Feinberg and Paul D Feinberg, Ethics for A Brave New World, 2nded. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 15.
Josh McDowell, “Foreword” in To Everyone and Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, ed. Francis J, Beckwith, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2004), 9.
Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), viii.
Class notes, Master of Theological Studies, Missiology, Kansas City, MO, January 2017.