Bringing the Gospel Home
August 18, 2012
Joseph Dyaji, (M.A.R. ’04, Ph.D. ’12)
In 2004, shortly after graduating from Westminster with a Master of Arts in Religion, Joseph Dyaji sat in Dr. K. Scott Oliphint’s office, discussing the question of where to go for a Ph.D. While there were many questions on Joseph’s mind, Dr. Oliphint was confident and sure of what he thought: “Joseph, we have not finished training you.” With Dr. Oliphint’s guidance, Joseph applied and was accepted to Westminster for the Ph.D. This past May he graduated after completing a dissertation titled An Exposition and Examination of Theodoret of Cyrus's Christology: A Reformed Critique.
With these academic credentials, it is no surprise that Joseph was offered a chance to teach systematic theology in his home country of Nigeria. He was also offered a chance to be a senior pastor in a large church in Jos City, Nigeria. However, if he had taken either of these positions, it would mean that there would be no work for his wife. “I wrote them to inquire if they have a place for my wife, especially in Jos, since I would be there as full-time faculty. Jos hasn’t gotten back to me, so my church leaders at the denominational level said, ‘We don’t want to push harder. We have a huge need for you somewhere, and that huge need is for you to be senior chaplain in a university setting.’”
After much prayer, Joseph accepted this advice from his home church and applied to be the senior chaplain at Bingham University (BU) in Abuja, Nigeria. “I have discovered that the university is not only a strategic place to prepare godly future leaders for the church, the state and the society at large, but the university is also a seedbed for spreading reformed theology through my teaching, preaching, and mentoring of all the chaplains that will be serving God together in that university.” Joseph hopes that his experience as a chaplain and as a pastor for 17 years before coming to the US, along with his degrees at Westminster, will help him as he prepares to minister to the students, staff, and faculty at BU.
If you were to ask Joseph how acting as university chaplain is significant for the church of Christ, Joseph has several answers: “If the key to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is through the church, then it is correct to see Christian Universities like BU as a proper arm of church ministry in preparing young men and women…to become faithful vessels for God’s service.” Also, “I and my colleagues will help the students render their philosophical, cultural, and religious ideologies captive to the Gospel of Christ. Consequently, they would begin to think God’s thoughts after him as they pursue their future careers.” Finally, “most parents see BU as a rehabilitation center for their children, but my perspective is that it is more than a rehabilitation center. It is an academic and spiritual center in which questions about eternity and sin must always come to the forefront. So in order to assist the students to think and at the same time be responsible, their spiritual state must be addressed first.”
His calling to be a chaplain at BU has helped him appreciate the training that he received at Westminster. “Westminster makes one versatile to fit anywhere God has called you to be. It is only when the graduates fail to appropriate those principles given to them by Westminster that they feel handicapped. Westminster has given us everything. I thank God I graduated from Westminster, even though it is a very difficult place of training!”
Nigeria as a whole has a growing segment of Islam challenging the growth of Christianity in that nation. Joseph, though, is confident that he and his fellow Westminster graduates and countrymen can bring the good news of the Gospel to the whole country. He believes, “give Nigeria 10-15 years, and 3/4ths of Nigerians will get the true and faithful teaching of reformed theology. We have Cephas [Tushima, Ph.D. ‘09] who is teaching in Jos ECWA Theological Seminary, Philip [Tachin, MAR '04, PhD '09] who is now teaching in Northern Theological College of Nigeria, Dwight Singer [current Ph.D. candidate] who is presently deputy president of Jos ECWA Theological Seminary, and Moses [Bamai, MA ‘04] who graduated from here with a Master’s in missions. I believe he will be teaching part-time in ECWA Theological Seminary, Kogoro. Gradually, both in the church and also in the institution, the Nigerians will really get to see the glory of the reformed theology. That is why most of us are here.”
Joseph recognizes the uphill battle that he and his colleagues face. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group responsible for much of the violence in Northern Nigeria, has been specifically targeting Christian churches across the country for about 10 years. Despite this persecution, Joseph believes that the only defense the church can provide is the teaching of the Word of God. “We need the right teaching of the Word of God, to remain loyal to God. This battle is of the Lord. It is not for the members of the Church to begin to take arms and say, ‘we need to fight to protect [ourselves?].’ Our God is a divine warrior, and he will act at his own time.” He compares this persecution to some of the persecution of the early churches and says, “I’m fully convinced that no religion on earth can destroy the church of Christ. If the empires or emperors of many years ago had destroyed the church, you and I wouldn’t be here.” Joseph’s only sure foundation is Jesus Christ, and he is confident that God’s purposes will be made plain in His time.
Joseph reflects on his time at Westminster, “I thank God, and I thank my professors, and also the staff at Westminster for all their support to me. They have ministered to me in many ways. Westminster is a loving and a caring community, and I give God the glory for passing through Westminster and for Westminster to pass through me. Westminster has really changed me, and changed my perspective regarding most of the crucial issues that most African theologians wrestle with. Westminster has helped me to see how to devise a way to really make Christ known in a more proper biblical, theological way.”
Please pray with us for Joseph as he begins his work as University Chaplain of Bingham University in Nigeria.
If you would like to donate to the work of Westminster training men and women like Joseph, please visit our online donations page.
Dr. Joseph Dyaji receiving his Ph.D. from Dr. Lillback