By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
WORKING HARD PREPARING MEN
TO SERVE CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH
After 18 fruitful years of cooperation with Westminster Seminary California, the ARBCA General Assembly has approved a charter to establish IRBS as a confessional stand-alone Seminary. Eighteen years of experience at WSC have provided us with a wealth of knowledge and experience for this project. In addition to the traditional academic pursuits, we have witnessed many of the aspects of administration, been engaged in conversations about curriculum structure, accreditation, and observed various fund-raising methods. We are not coming to this cold and inexperienced; rather we have a great deal of necessary direct knowledge. Moreover, we have established a network of experienced advisors, including several Presidents of Seminaries and Deans who have consented to serve as aids in our project. We have an extensive set of contacts with a wealth of experience who enthusiastically support our stand-alone seminary.
The Present Need
The need for a confessional Reformed Baptist seminary is demonstrated by several factors. These are based on foundational truths found in Scripture. We read there that the church must be actively involved in the spread of the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). It teaches us that the ascended Christ gives ministerial gifts to His churches (Ephesians 4:11) for their growth and edification. The Word of God commands Christian ministers to active involvement in the training of their successors (2 Timothy 2:2). The need is real, the presence and power of Christ assured, and the obligation clear.
As we consider the circumstances presenting themselves to us now, we note several further persuasive reasons to proceed. The first is simply that nothing of this kind now exists anywhere in the world. In fact, this would be the first time since the Seventeenth Century that such a school has served the churches. While we thank God for the opportunities our young men have had to study in other places, we are convinced that our churches will be best assisted by a school fully committed to our principles. One only needs to contemplate how much Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia has aided the growth of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to understand this point. As a president of a Reformed seminary recently said, a new seminary such as ours would fill a unique niche. We have something to offer that no one else can provide.
Secondly, Westminster Seminary has used its faculty to great effect and influence in studying and teaching on the specific issues within the Reformed and Presbyterian circles. Controversial issues can be studied and addressed in an academic environment, utilizing the best resources available to the thinking Christian. The time that IRBS has spent with Westminster has been very fruitful, but it is simply the case that the seminary is dedicated primarily to the needs of Presbyterian and Reformed denominations. As recent years have shown, however, Reformed Baptists have their own controversies and needs. A standalone Reformed Baptist seminary would give us a center of study to address the specific academic needs of Baptists, to the benefit of our churches, for the growth of our people, and before a watching world. A Reformed Baptist seminary would be a trustworthy and centralized source of the best wisdom and theology to apply in any issue. Such an institution could aid Baptist pastors in fortifying their churches as strongholds for God’s truth, and be a rigorous training ground for aspiring Baptist men pursuing the ministry.
Third, we recognize that the need and opportunity present today is great. There is renewed interest in the doctrines of grace in the English speaking world (and beyond), and yet many metropolitan areas have no Reformed Baptist church to meet the need created by this awareness. We regularly hear of groups of people who might serve as the nucleus for a new church, and yet there are insufficient men to send to them. Likewise, the older generation of our pastors is rapidly approaching the age of retirement. Significant opportunities present themselves to us. The first 60 years of the modern Reformed Baptist movement have provided a solid foundation. We must ensure that the next 60 years move the story forward. There are wonderful opportunities before us.
We must think generationally. The Apostle Paul recognized this fact when he commented in 1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” Paul and Apollos were simply servants—instruments in the divine hands. The names and faces involved didn’t really matter; rather it was the increase of God’s work that was paramount. We must plant and water, expecting that God will give the increase. Perhaps we will not see it with our own eyes, but that is irrelevant. We must do the work God has called us to do.
Our Student Base
In the pursuit of our goal to have a fully functioning Reformed Baptist seminary, we will serve several constituent bases:
First and foremost, the Seminary will exist to prepare men to serve as ministers in confessional ARBCA churches. Since the IRBS Board of Trustees also functions as the Ministerial Education Committee for ARBCA, it is essential that the school prioritize this relationship. ARBCA was founded on the principle that an association of churches is the best method for cooperation in many areas, including ministerial training. This is at the very heart of its convictions, directly expressed as a founding purpose. It is our firm belief that only an ARBCA governed school, reflecting the doctrine and practice of the Association as a whole, will maintain the proper balance of unity and diversity among our churches. Our primary recruitment pool is men who are members of ARBCA churches.
Secondarily, we seek to further our already well-established relationships with Reformed Baptist churches throughout the world, desiring to bring students from around the globe to study at our school and return to their countries prepared to further the cause there. We have already taught courses in Quebec, England, Ukraine, Zambia, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Far East. We have had recent face to face contact with men from several of these countries, and they have expressed strong interest in our project (see Appendix). There is no school like this in the world, and we have the opportunity to serve a global audience. The cause of foreign missions will be greatly aided as indigenous students are trained and return home.
In the third place, we promote our Seminary to the broader Calvinistic Baptist movement. There is no comparable school in existence to serve these churches. They fit into three broad types—established non-dispensational Calvinistic churches of a more traditional type (such as ‘Founders-friendly congregations), churches growing in their interest in the doctrines of grace, and churches maturing out of the ‘New Calvinism’ movement. Each of these represents a potential source of students. We have already made contact with congregations that fit into these categories, and have observed their interest in a more complete understanding of the Christian faith.
Fourthly, we will promote our school to local Baptist or Baptistic churches. Our years of experience have taught us that sometimes men choose seminaries just because they are local!
With a fully developed program, and based on these target audiences, it is reasonable to believe that in ten years, our Seminary could have a student body of 50 men.
Our Seminary professors and instructors must be academically qualified and strictly confessional, having an unreserved commitment to The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. They must have experience both as preachers of the Word of God and in the pastorate. An understanding of and appreciation for experimental Calvinism (Puritanism) are essential. Each instructor will meet established academic requirements for service in a graduate school. Before assuming office and in alternate years thereafter, faculty members and instructors shall subscribe in writing to the same affirmation as the Seminary President. Faculty will be designated by rank: Lecturer, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor.
a. A lecturer has expertise in a particular subject, e.g. Greek or Hebrew. He may or may not have a terminal degree, but should hold a Masters degree in a related field.
b. An Assistant Professor has expertise in an appropriate field, and is in process of receiving a terminal degree, generally Ph.D.
c. An Associate Professor has expertise in a particular subject, and ordinarily has completed his Ph.D.
d. A Professor has expertise in a particular subject, has completed his Ph.D., has significant teaching experience, and is recognized for proficiency in his field.