This week (Monday night through Thursday), I am touring Beeson Divinity School as a potential seminary. They had a preview day today, where several members of the faculty talked to us about what they saw as Beeson’s distinctive elements, where we attended a chapel service (more about that in a moment), and where I was interviewed for admission. My verdict: amazing. This is where I want to go to seminary for many reasons, but I’ll give you my top three:
- Beeson is interdenominational: no more than half of the faculty can be Southern Baptist (the denomination of Samford University, to which Beeson is a graduate school), but they all must be evangelicals who hold to the fundamentals of the faith. This basically means that I am going to get New Testament and Greek classes from a Presbyterian (PCA ordained), church history from an Anglican, and a bunch of other classes from a bunch of other denominations (many of which are different forms of Baptists). I like this; I can become arrogant when I am too close to people who think too closely to what I think theologically, but going to such a diverse (but certainly unified) seminary will, I think, only strengthen me theologically.
- The faculty is outstanding and very personable. By rule of Mr. Beeson (who donated the $60 million to get things started), there can be no more than 180 seminarians. Therefore, faculty-student ratios are very good. Also, the dean is a man who has written the definitive textbook on the theology of the Reformers (he told us today that it was one of his spiritual disciplines that he doesn’t even read anything written after 1800), one of the faculty members has written the standard textbook on Biblical Hebrew, and the main preaching professor is supposed to be one of the best in the country.
- Birmingham is gorgeous; the facilities are incredible; every person I have met is extraordinarily nice (within the seminary at least). More than just being nice people, however, there seemed to be a holy aura of a community who collectively seek the face of God. I can’t describe it, but it was wonderful.
The highlight of the day, though, was the chapel service, when Pastor John Piper preached (his text was Jeremiah 32:36-41). Never have I seen a man preach with more passion and intensity. Listening to mp3s off of his web site does his preaching no justice–I have a newly found respect for a man that I already greatly respected.
His message was thoroughly Calvinistic. Said one member of the Beeson staff about the message: “The free-willers are having a tough day.” If anyone is interested, I was furiously taking notes during his sermon, and I would be more than happy to share them.
I will leave you with Piper’s poetic definition of sovereign, sustaining grace:
Not grace to bar what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress, but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.
(I get to listen to Piper preach again tomorrow and on Thursday. Also, there is a question-and-answer time tomorrow, and it is speculated that there will be much conversation about the baptism-membership issues that have been going on in Piper’s church. I will certainly keep you informed of anything interesting!)