by Dr. Steve Blakemore
“Why should I go to seminary? If God has called me, won’t the Spirit empower me for ministry?” That is a legitimate question, since education alone cannot prepare or equip anyone for the service of God. Yet, neither are a call from God, passion, and spiritual gifts sufficient in themselves.
Preparing for such serious, holy service is central to our faithful response to the Lord’s summons. A better question, therefore, is, “Where should I entrust my mind to be sharpened, my heart filled, and my soul formed for such a significant task as serving God’s Kingdom and leading Christ’s Church?”
Exploring the depths of the truths outlined in this doctrinal statement that we might proclaim them clearly and faithfully, being shaped by the glorious mystery of the Gospel to lead and serve as “laborers together with God” (I Corinthians 3:9)—that’s “Why seminary?”
Wesley Biblical Seminary’s official statement of faith has guided its mission to train God’s servants since its founding. However, readers of such doctrinal summaries may not immediately understand or appreciate the depth and beauty of their implications. With that in mind, President Neihof offered me the privilege and responsibility of presenting an exposition of our statement of faith to the seminary’s board of trustees earlier this year. This became a framework for energetic faculty discussions which produced consensus and a few refining edits. Below is a resultant systematic expression of our shared theological convictions.
In this theological credo, the holy self-revealing Source of all—the Triune God—is our focus. Other doctrinal commitments receive meaning only in relation to God’s nature, identity, and purposes.
- The Bible exists to tell us infallibly of this God who is Love.
- The Church serves this God, who loves the world He created and is redeeming His rebellious creatures.
- Our salvation is the gift of this God’s personal grace and holy presence.
- Acting to save us, this God has shown us our true human nature as the image of God, our sinful rejection of His sovereign Love, our utter helplessness to save ourselves, and our God-ordained redemption and destiny in Christ.
WE BELIEVE in the Self-Revealing God, the Creator of all . . .
- WHO HAS MADE HIMSELF KNOWN—His will and nature—by His mighty, personal acts of salvation and providence in the history of Israel and through Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of God’s self-revelation. The written account and exposition of God’s historical revelation is the Holy Bible, the sacred scripture of the Christian Church, written by authors divinely inspired and guided by the same self-revealing God, and is to be received and believed as the unerring, infallible, and foundational authority for of all Christian doctrine and practice.
- WHO IS THE HOLY TRINITY—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—definitively made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth by His teachings, personal claims, and miraculous acts. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct as divine persons but are in their triune relations the one and only Self-revealing God—as defined by the orthodox creeds of the ancient Church, especially the first seven fully ecumenical councils of the undivided Christian Church.
- WHO BECAME INCARNATE, SAVING FALLEN CREATION, BRINGING HIS KINGDOM through uniting our humanity to His divine life in the Second Person of the Trinity as the historic man and Son of God Jesus of Nazareth. He was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary—fully God and fully human—to be the world’s only Redeemer by His sinless human life, sacrificial death, and resurrection from the dead. All of this took place in fulfillment of the history of Israel and the promises of God found in the Old Testament.
- WHO IS AT WORK IN ALL PERSONS FOR THEIR SALVATION through the work of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit—the prevenient, restoring, immanent, and transforming divine presence. Because of Jesus Christ’s atoning life as a universal healing and reconciling gift to all of the human race, the Holy Spirit works in and enables all persons by grace to feel their need of God and to respond to the Gospel of Christ. Because of the Spirit’s work, those who yield to this prevenient grace are drawn to saving faith and those who reject Christ are responsible for doing so.
- WHO CREATED HUMANITY UNIQUELY IN HIS OWN IMAGE by a special act of creation to be loved by Him, to know Him, and to reflect His holiness. Yet, we became deeply fallen and alienated from God Himself and God’s image in our own nature by our unwillingness to trust God’s goodness and our willful disobedience against God’s purposes. Such a turn from God cannot be forgiven or healed by our own efforts, so apart from God’s redeeming grace we are calamitously enslaved to our own sinfulness and hopelessly alienated from God’s saving presence.
- WHO GRANTS LIBERTY TO THE BELIEVER IN SALVATION so that we can persevere in faith by a grace-enabled free response of personal trust in God’s saving love and obedience to God’s will, thereby living a “present tense” and continuing faith. This personal response is enabled but not coerced by the Holy Spirit, because God’s will is for us to love Him in a redeemed liberty that reflects His original purposes in creating us in His Image. While forfeiting this saving grace and sustaining power is tragically possible, God desires to save us more than we long to be saved, so we affirm that the Spirit sustains us in Christ by faith through our struggles and temptations and failings; and even those who fall from grace are restored when they return to the Lord in true repentance and faith.
- WHO SAVES US TO RESTORE US TO TRUE HOLINESS OF HEART AND LIFE through the gift of the New Birth granted to believers through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit restores the image of God in fallen human beings, thereby enabling us to live by faith and grow in grace and giving us assurance of salvation in the witness of the Spirit. Creating in those born again a hunger for more of God, He is the agent of sanctifying grace to those who yield to His work. The Spirit draws them and enables them to experience a definitive, deeper, subsequent, and distinct encounter with God’s transforming holy love. This work of grace must be received—as must all acts of God’s grace—by faith in God’s ability to perform His will in us and bring us to a complete devotion to Him. As we so trust in God, the Holy Spirit purifies the heart, will, and desires of the responsive believer and grants power to have victory over habitual and voluntary sin. We grow, as a result of this subsequent work of God, more deeply and consistently in Christ-like character and become bolder and more fruitful and effective in our service to God.
- WHO HAS ESTABLISHED FOR HIMSELF A PEOPLE IN THE WORLD called the Church, which is created and sustained by the Holy Spirit’s presence in and among believers and founded upon the faith and proclamation of Christ’s Apostles in their witness to His Lordship and Gospel. God’s Church is visibly present among congregations of all Christian traditions. The signs of the Church are: proclamation of the Apostolic faith and Gospel of Jesus Christ, works that endeavor to bring persons to salvation and make disciples of all nations, celebration faithfully and rightly of the Sacraments of Christ, manifestation of God’s Kingdom by ministries of compassion that reflect holy love and Biblical justice, and demonstration of the majesty of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world in Christians’ love for one another with pure and fervent hearts.
- WHO WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS bringing everlasting blessedness and joy awaiting all the faithful who die in Christ, as well as unending sorrow for those who refuse God’s grace and die apart from Christ in their willful, sinful alienation from God. The Holy Trinity does not desire that any should perish but that all should receive His grace and Eternal Life, nevertheless God will not save us apart from our freely receiving His grace offered in Christ and freely exercising saving faith in the Son of God.
- WHO WILL COMPLETE THE REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD BY THE RETURN OF THE INCARNATE LORD and renew Creation, establish the Reign of God in all its fullness, gather the Church to himself, destroy all evil, judge the world, and rule perfectly over God’s New Heaven and Earth in holy love and complete righteousness by His intimate union with His people in the New Jerusalem.