Why I Chose a Westminster M.Div.
BY DANIEL SCHROCK (M.Div. 2011)
Rev. Daniel Schrock is now Pastor of Third Reformed Presbyterian Church.
I will never forget the sense of joy and solemn responsibility that swept over me as I walked into the graduation commencement after completing my M.Div. I lined up with my brothers and sisters who had run and finished the race of seminary, and we were now ready to face a lifetime of ministry. We marched into an auditorium singing “How Firm a Foundation.” I was struck by how appropriate the words of the hymn were for the occasion. “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word?” Westminster is an institution committed to Scripture in every classroom as the norm for faith and life. Above every other consideration, it was this steadfast commitment of the seminary that drew me to it as a prospective student. And it was this commitment that never disappointed me throughout my studies there. Westminster is a place dedicated to producing servants of Christ’s church who are firmly rooted in Scripture and equipped to handle it in the original Greek and Hebrew.
But four other distinctives of Westminster tipped the scales in my consideration of seminaries: its scholarship, its approach to practical theology and counseling, its apologetics, and its redemptive historical approach to preaching and biblical interpretation.
I became interested in Reformed theology in my college years. As I read more and more books, I began to realize that the vast majority of the scholars whose work I loved to read taught at Westminster. I looked at the collection of faculty that was at Westminster and knew that these were the men I wanted to study under. The scholarship produced by the seminary has consistently led the way in the confessionally Reformed Church for nearly a century. Furthermore, I knew that the school was renown for the academic demands it made upon its students. I decided that if I were to take up a call to be a shepherd over the sheep for whom Christ laid down his life, I needed to be rigorously trained to do so.
However, despite caricatures I had heard of the seminary, I knew that Westminster could not be what some had told me it was, a place that produced scholars and not pastors. I knew that this characterization did not fit because of Westminster’s association with CCEF. The campus ministry I was a part of in college lived and breathed the practical theology that came out of CCEF. I love the ways in which CCEF approaches Christian living. It carefully navigates two dangerous pitfalls. First, it stands against an approach to counseling that grabs whatever is blowing in the popular winds of secular psychology, baptizes it with Christian lingo, and then forces it into ministry. CCEF, rather, seeks to do counseling in a way that takes its most fundamental assumptions about who humans are and what they need from Scripture, first and foremost. This commitment is what causes them to avoid a second pitfall. Much of Christian counseling in the end amounts to bald moralism. CCEF, however, is committed to rooting exhortation in the Gospel. It seeks to point broken sinners not to a method, but to a person, Christ, who redeems us out of the mire of our sin. What greater practical skill is there for pastors to develop?
Having completed my M.Div., I now appreciate the fact that the seminary has refused to set up the false dichotomy between scholarship and pastoral development. It sees these as two vital and complimentary components of what it exists to do as a seminary. It exists to produce men and women rigorously equipped to handle God’s word in the service of his kingdom.
The third thing which drew me to Westminster was its approach to apologetics. During my second year as an undergrad, my campus minister began reading through Van Til with me. It turned my Christian thinking upside down, or I should say right side up. As a philosophy student, I was led by Van Til to see the vanity of any philosophy that was not truly a philosophy according to Christ and the vanity of any apologetic approach that functionally ceded to man his rational autonomy. I knew I wanted to study under the leading Van Til scholars in the world and that the majority of them were at Westminster.
Lastly, I wanted to learn how to interpret and preach Scripture in a Christ-centered way. I knew that since its founding Westminster has been one of the fountainheads of the Christ-centered hermeneutical skills and instincts I wanted to develop. The redemptive-historical model of preaching and interpretation taught in every classroom at Westminster has equipped me to do the most essential thing any minister of the Gospel must do: preach Christ. Westminster has trained me to preach Christ from all of Scripture and to preach Christ in the light of all of Scripture. I have learned to do this not in a way that is contrived but rather in a way consistent with what is actually present in a particular text. This seminary has taught me not to preach a truncated Gospel, but the multifaceted jewel of the whole counsel of God.
These are the reasons I chose Westminster, and I have not been disappointed. Since being here, I have been impressed by just how deeply the scholarship of Westminster is driven by a desire to serve the Church. What’s more, I have come to understand that at the deepest level Biblical Counseling, Van Tillian apologetics, and redemptive-historical preaching and hermeneutics are driven by the same motive. They are driven by Peter’s response to Christ, “To whom should we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”