Of Seminary

It started some years back when Wenjiang and I met at Mt Sophia food court to talk about some YG and Uni-YA stuff. His comment that I love the Word struck me a lot. That comment arose from my comment that people around are literally biblically illiterate (ok, I might have been a bit harsh then). But I felt back then that there were so much room for people to learn about the word.

Then I learned about the MA in Christian Apologetics in Biola, and started to get myself acquainted with the different apologetic approach and started reading different authors on apologetics and theology. From then, I began to think seriously about obtaining formal training in theology and possibly apologetics. There were two limiting factors which stopped me from really exploring these options further. Firstly, by then I knew that God was already calling me to missions. The calling of God to testify about His grace in foreign land becomes a lingering thought and David Livingstone's prayer becomes my daily prayer which I appended as my Gmail signature. Then the question was whether the pursuit of advancing in theology and the calling to mission really blend well in my case.

Secondly, it was finance. I was barely starting work then and I was perpetually in debt trying to clear my loans. A full time with Biola will cost around SGD 30K and a distance learning option will cost SGD 10K less. And I needed to prove that I can finance 75% of my cost in Biola. Other options seemed less plausible as well. And I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a local degree (a misconception then). In any case, I was busy devoting my finances towards Chairs for Soul and taking guitar lessons. And I decided to self educate myself along the way.

A lot of events happened along the way that sort of paved the way towards the decision that I was about to make. Firstly, I had the opportunity to talk to a devout Yi-Guang Tao believer who wanted to convert me with the claim that I am not betraying Christ and in fact by converting, I am actually fulfilling His will. I can see eyes roll. Unfortunately for him, my 道行 was firm enough to counter-propose Christ's case to him. But that incident opened my eyes. Because I realised the sad case that a lot of apologetics we are doing today are catered for the western culture but not towards the context we face in places like Singapore. Although I was able to put forward the positive case for Christ, which the guy had no answer to, I had to listen to him for quite a while to understand what he was preaching about. The lament is that there is still a great need in Asia that remains to be met for apologetics and theology which is tailored to our context biblically.

Secondly, it was a chance conversation with Han Hui about seeking a theological education. The conversation led me to new possibilities. By taking a part time course here, and being able to be trained in the pentacostal tradition (the previous schools I looked at are all towards the traditional side), I will be able to obtain a formal training while working and preparing for missions for the next two years. He also pointed out to me the level of commitment that I need to have.

Thirdly, I got an iPad. It might seem trivial but it revolutionised my life in the sense that I am now able to listen to podcasts and take proper notes on the go. It is not as if I can't do it on my phone, but my typing speed becomes slower as a result of the smaller screen (or my larger fingers). The iPad gave me 64gb of space to upload all the iTune U lectures that I have downloaded previously and it allowed me to 'attend' lectures from seminaries that allowed me a glimpse of what learning theology formally is like.

Fourthly, my finances stabilised. It is perhaps a great blessing from God earlier this year that I managed to get a promotion. It is considered fast from where I came from (based on what I heard from other colleagues in the government). Not to forget, my salary was adjusted upward before the promotion. That, I must say, completely changed my financial situation. My loan will be cleared by this year and I found that I am able to save up a substantial amount every month, in preparation for missions, further studies or marriage o_O, not that I am moving towards that direction though (that's another topic for another day).

Fifthly, I had a meet up with Andrew Loke, a friend of Elvis (not Presley), who was trained theologically by William Lane Craig and Alister MacGrath. It was funny how he tried to convince me that China has a great need to train disciples to disciple other disciples. But the conversation was fruitful in the sense that I was able to gain greater clarity in how a further theological study can play an integral role in missions. This was followed by a trip to SKS earlier today when I was buying the textbook for New Testament Foundation. The staff actually figured out that I was either preparing for seminary study or planning to enroll into one and encouraged me by giving me an additional 5% discount on top of the 10% that I have already enjoyed as a SKS member.

Lastly, God seems to be confirming everything. A few weeks back, there was a sermon preached by CN during service and he challenged us to study the Word so that we can build the church on firm foundation. It seemed to me that God is putting everything together. Not only He spoke through the sermon, He also spoke through a podcast I was listening to which allowed to draw certain conclusions about deeper study into theology:

  1. Theology is important because every Christian is a theologian whether we know it or not. Just by virtue of being a Christian, we are committed to the truth claims of the Bible, therefore there is a need for us to understand these truth claims. Ephesians 4:13-15 exhorts us that part of Christian maturity is an understanding and clear grasp of Christian doctrines. 
  2. Right living presupposes right thinking about God. Significantly speaking, this is the approach of the NT writers. For example, in Ephesians 1-3 (incidentally, I just did a study on this book and am still doing so with my LG), Paul talked about the unity in the church and the appropriate doctrines before moving into the practical applications. It is imperative that for myself, I need to educate and be discipled in right thinking about God (not that I am not living right now)
  3. The study of doctrines, and by extension theology, is an expression of loving God with all our mind by wanting to know what His truths are.
  4. The person of Christ cannot be separated from truth about Him. We need to have a correct understanding of who Christ is and this comes from studying doctrines. 
While these conclusions pertain to Christian doctrines, by extension, they apply to theology as well, if theology is understood as knowledge about God. The podcast that I got these conclusions from spoke something quite deep within my heart. Over the years, my yearning to learn more about the bible has evolved from just wanting to pursue the knowledge into realisation that I still know too little about God and want some structured learning of His words and doctrines. 

So as things begin to fit in nicely, the possibility becomes greater that I might just as well sign up to take the postgrad dip in theological studies with AGBC next year. I still have some time to pray through as the submission deadline is 1 Oct. Let's just say that it really seems to be God's leading. 

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