Many of you have already seen the announcement that went out this morning from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Let me start by saying just how delighted and honored I am to join the stellar faculty at MBTS as Associate Professor of Christian Theology. It’s no secret, thanks to the vision of the leadership, that Midwestern is the rising star of seminaries. Many have rightly been amazed at the growth of the school and its influential presence within evangelicalism.
I imagine many of you already have watched the seminary blossom, a process that started with the appointment of Dr. Jason Allen as president five years ago. Since then Dr. Allen has brought a renewed vision to the seminary as a leading school for training pastors for the church. I especially love Dr. Allen’s passion for preaching and I cannot but be energized by his drive to send graduates into the local church to proclaim the Word (e.g., see my related conversation on Preaching and Preachers).
It’s nearly impossible to overlook the striking and growing faculty that have been recruited. To list but a few, Christian George not only teaches church history but is Director of The Spurgeon Center and curator of the (beautiful) Spurgeon Library. Jason Duesing is provost and one of the outstanding Baptist historians of our day (and a past contributor to Credo Magazine!). Jared Wilson, TGC blogger and well-known speaker, is the author of some well-loved books (note his latest The Imperfect Disciple) and a voice often heard at For the Church. And we cannot forget Owen Strachan who is Director of the Center for Public Theology and a prolific author of books theological-historical, including Awakening the Evangelical Mind and The Pastor as Public Theologian. Owen is a good friend and I am especially looking forward to teaming up together to teach systematics.
Well, I could go. But I would like to share why I am delighted to join the team at MBTS and why I hope you will come and join me, either as an MDiv or PhD student.
Robust theological education—the classroom
In a day when the standards of theological education are so often watered down, Midwestern’s dedication to provide robust, rigorous theological training to future pastors is refreshing and inspiring. The team at MBTS loves to have fun. I can’t wait to grab a hot dog at the upcoming Royals game with faculty and students in August (our family is already sporting Royals paraphernalia!). And I’ve heard Christian George is out to eat several times a week at one of the amazing BBQs in KC talking Spurgeon with students. I plan on getting back in shape so I can hit the courts and rain a few threes with Owen Strachan (am I right in thinking there is a faculty vs. students game?).
Alongside all this fun, however, is a standard of theological education that is exactly what it should be: rigorous, ensuring that students walk away ready to take on the pastoral and theological challenges of ministry and academy alike. At many schools you will walk away theologically light, wishing the training dug deeper. Well, come to MBTS and leave a theological heavyweight, having wrestled with the most significant theological issues of the past and in our own day.
As a systematic theologian in particular, I am thrilled to serve at a seminary that actually places a premium on theology, believing it to be absolutely central to the health of the church. Sadly, at too many schools theology is given the minimum, crammed into the curriculum where necessary. But as you can tell from the faculty and leadership, MBTS prides itself on providing students with an arsenal of classes in theology. Come to MBTS in the next academic year and join me for MDiv classes in systematics as well as PhD seminars in a variety of subjects, with possibilities ranging from the doctrine of God and Christology, Reformation and Modern theology, advanced systematic theology, and much more. You will be reading and engaging some of the best primary and secondary sources in and outside of class as you dialogue not only with your fellow students but with the great theologians of the past.
Support of faculty and a premium on scholarship for the church
MBTS stands out for many reasons, but one of them is the way the leadership supports its faculty. It is noticeable how each faculty member’s unique gifts are strategically utilized and how the diverse contributions of the faculty are welcomed and even celebrated. Whether it’s a conference message, a denominational resolution, or a new book, MBTS recognizes that an investment in these contributions is an invaluable way to attract students, build the school’s reputation, and simultaneously support its faculty in their calling.
Along these lines, I particularly appreciate the premium the leadership places on scholarship. Publishing is not seen as a burden or something to be tolerated but as a ministry both to the students and to the church. Learning from mentors of my own, men like Thomas Schreiner, I see writing as a means to teach students theology and a critical way to help pastors equip their congregations with sound doctrine.
If you come to MBTS you will be learning directly from the very authors of the books you are reading. Personally, coming to MBTS will grant me the opportunity to focus specifically on writing theology for the church as well as appropriating those projects in the classroom. This fall I will be completing several books, including A Pathway into the Heart of God: An Introduction to the Attributes of God (Baker), The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls: Justification in Biblical, Theological, Historical, and Pastoral Perspective (Crossway), and The Scriptures Cannot Be Broken: Jesus, the Gospels, and the Authority of the Scriptures (New Studies in Biblical Theology, IVP).
For the church
While many schools have severed the academy from the local church, Midwestern refuses to embrace such a dichotomy but instead seeks to embody the biblical marriage between doctrine and doxology. Schools tend to fault to one of two extremes: seminary becomes entirely academic (in the worst sense of that word), robbing students of their souls in the process, or seminary is gutted of theological backbone and domesticated into mere pragmatics. In contrast, MBTS is very clear that it exists for the church and serious academic study for that cause is absolutely essential. Or as it’s journal reads: MBTS is all about “scholarship for the church.”
Honestly, it is hard to think of a more exciting place to be than Midwestern and I hope you will join me in Kansas City to think theologically together in order to build up the bride of Christ.
To end, here are some videos introducing MBTS, as well as recent lectures by Kevin Vanhoozer, Simon Gathercole, and D.A. Carson. In the week ahead further resources will be posted.
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace (P&R, 2013), Owen on the Christian Life (Crossway, 2015), God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture (Zondervan, 2016), and Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2017). Currently he is the series editor of The 5 Solas Series with Zondervan. You can read more at MatthewMBarrett.com.