Theology in the Public Sphere

April 14, 2012

Dr. E. Michael Rusten (M.Div. '64)

At Bethlehem College and Seminary, Dr. Michael Rusten is the Director of the Degree Completion Program for students who have completed two years of college and would like to finish their degree. It is a sixty-four credit major in Theological Studies for which we grant a Bachelor of Theology degree. He has co-authored (with his wife) the One Year Book of Christian History, available at the Westminster Bookstore. Below is a brief interview with Dr. Rusten.

How did you apply your studies to your business ventures?
What inspired me to be open to the business world was the concept of extending God’s kingdom everywhere. In business I always thought of myself as a tent maker. God opened doors and I walked through them. For twelve years my wife and I owned a resort, Cascade Lodge, on the North Shore of Lake Superior near Grand Marais, Minnesota. We hired a Christian staff and were able to have a significant spiritual impact on our employees, guests, and on the neighboring town as well.

Overlapping our ownership of the resort, I started a Christian greeting card company called Morning Star. We had the company for ten years before selling it to the Thomas Nelson Company. Through my involvement with the greeting card company, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Christian Booksellers Association.  

Talk about your experience in the political sphere.
My journey into political involvement began with the conviction that God wants us to rule our responsibilities for him in all of his institutions, including that of the state. I began by becoming active in my local precinct. During that time I felt that God gave me a plan for encouraging Christians to take seriously their responsibility as Christian citizens. The results were amazing, leading to the election of numerous Christians to public office in Minnesota where we live. This led to the opportunity to share the method God had blessed in Minnesota throughout the country.

When I became involved with presidential campaigns, I was taken aback by some of the ethical issues which surfaced. In fact, in two of the campaigns, I resigned my position in protest of how things were being handled.

How has your time at Westminster shaped your ministry?

The most important thing that Westminster Seminary did for me was to instill in me a love for the Reformed faith. I arrived as a “Calvinist” but Westminster taught me that there was a lot more to the Reformed faith than just TULIP.

The highlight of my time at Westminster was being able to study under what in my estimation was the greatest seminary faculty of the century. It was such a privilege to sit under John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, E. J. Young, Ed Clowney, Paul Wolley and Edwin Palmer. The class that impacted me the most was Meredith Kline’s Old Testament Biblical Theology. It awakened in me a lifelong fascination with Biblical Theology.

What have you learned now that you didn't in the classroom?
Something I learned outside the seminary classroom was the blessing of personal evangelism. When one looks back on one’s life, one of the great privileges is to see those whom God has drawn to himself through your ministry.

A second great blessing that wasn’t specifically taught in seminary was that of personal discipleship. God changed my life forever when, as a student at Princeton, for four years I had a one-on-one personal Bible study with an alumnus of the University (class of 1913!). This man had started out as a missionary to Afghanistan but returned to invest his life in college students. After all these years I can still trace 80-90% of my values back to him. Since that was how God got hold of me, throughout life I usually have five to six men in whom I am investing my life.

How would you encourage someone interested in a similar field to where you are serving now?
After majoring in psychology in college, I became very interested in Christian education and have three graduate degrees in education, including my Ph.D. It has been so helpful to me to understand how adults learn and which educational methods work and which ones do not. I would encourage all seminary students to study how people learn and adapt their teaching methods accordingly.