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Headin’ South

Lord willing, I will be leaving this coming Monday for Greenville, SC. I am taking a man from our congregation, Jess Miller, for a close look at Bob Jones Seminary. We have already been notified that we will be graciously received even though it will be exam week; and Dr. Stephen Hankins has kindly invited Jess and me to have lunch with him in order to discuss our educational questions. We really like TMS, but it seems too far. TEDS is close, but it is not what we are really looking for. I don’t know much about Central in Minnesota, although Dr. Bauder and I are planning on fellowshipping together for half a day or so in May. I like Lansdale; so maybe we’ll check it out too. Central East Central of Virginia Beach seems very attractive.

At the moment, though, I am very impressed with Bob Jones Seminary, and I think that it is definitely worth our prayerful examination and consideration.

Opinions — nicely put! — are always welcome.

We are already encouraged by the red-carpet treatment and we haven’t even been there yet. I have one or two friends down there. Maybe I’ll see one or all [two] of you! Keep an eye open for me. I’ll be the guy with the goatee.

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17 Responses

  1. Opinions nicely put, huh? I guess we’ll see…:-)

    I got my undergrad in Bible at BJ, then got a Master’s in Bible from the seminary. I’m currently in my first semester at Master’s.

    My personal opinion is that the teaching at BJ is superb. I loved my teachers and felt they pointed me to a biblical philosophy of ministry and led me to the Text. The leap up from undergrad to seminary was gargantuan. The in-class teaching at BJ was by far the best part about the seminary for me. The language program is awesome. (in fact, my personal opinion is that it’s better than the program here, which is based on taking the final required Greek class here, observation, and discussion with the guys here.) The BJ seminary grad is well-equipped to do ministry if he studies well.

    I am loving my time at Master’s, however. I have felt more challenged here academically as a whole. The homework has been more and is very writing-centered, as opposed to what I felt was a test-centered approach at BJ.

    I have also been spiritually challenged. While both seminaries place much emphasis on the character of the man of God, Master’s has honed that emphasis to me through its connection to the local church and absolute fixation on the exaltation of the Word and expository preaching. I also think I’ve been more personally discipled here than I was at BJ.

    I like the fact that Master’s is openly and unabashedly Calvinist, though I’m not as happy about its similarly convinced dispensationalism. I like the freedom from some of the rules at BJ, though I didn’t struggle with them while I was there. I like getting to preach and teach from the NASB and being taught from it openly. I like the exposure to an entire group of militant defenders of the Gospel I wouldn’t have known or at least been closely related to otherwise. I treasure the close connection here between the church and the seminary, so if I could give one word of advice, it would be to ensure there’s a Body to join along with the seminary of choice.

    I have at least one good friend at Central of Virginia Beach. (side note: they don’t like be referred to as Central East.) I could get you in touch with him if you wanted. I like it from what he has said, and it was my second choice behind Master’s.

    So there’s some of the stuff opinions are made of. Hope it had the stuff of niceness, too.

    We’re not that far away over here, though. Cathy and I made it in 5 days in a rental truck travelling less than 10 hours a day. 🙂 And with the internet and cell phones, everyone’s just a click away…:-) Well, actually I do realize the distance thing. I’d love to be in Greenville to see you, Bob, but hope you have a blessed trip, have valuable discussions, and discover clear reasons to direct the choosing.

    Grace and peace

  2. I’ve been at Bob Jones Seminary for four years now, and highly recommend it. David’s perhaps in a better position comment since he’s been both here and Masters, but here are my thoughts for what they’re worth.

    My personal opinion of the Seminary’s strengths:
    – Dr. Bell’s Old Testament Introduction class not only taught me the key issues about JEDP and other critical OT theories, but I learned how to evaluate theological tools.
    – OT & NT theology emphasize biblical theology and especially book theologies. The method for writing book theologies that I learned in those class opened up a whole new way of Bible study that I feel has helped me better place my study and preaching of passages in the context of their book. BJ’s approach to and emphasis on Biblical Theology is one of their unique strengths.
    – Hebrew at BJS is phenomenal (David mentioned Greek already—but I like Hebrew even better). You’ll be translating halfway through your first semester. Dr. Bell’s take on Hebrew grammar and his projects for third and fourth semester Hebrew are worth their weight in gold. You learn not only how to use your Hebrew, but also how to approach OT study.

    David’s also right about finding a good church. I’ve been attending Mount Calvary Baptist Church and it’s like earning another degree. Pastor Minnick’s careful book expositions with appropriate expansions into topical/systematic surveys have greatly increased my knowledge of the Scripture. His exhortation and the fellowship with other believers there has strengthened me spiritually. That’s probably where the bulk of my personal discipleship has come from. I’ve also had opportunity to become involved in the church’s outreach ministries (and if you choose the right church, you can preach from the NASB at BJU too 😉

    DBTS was my second choice, but Mount Calvary tipped the scales and kept me at BJ (Pastor was in the middle of Ephesians and I couldn’t just up and leave!). I like Detroit’s journal and from what I hear, their strength is systematic theology. I don’t know as much about Central of Virginia Beach, but I’ve been impressed with Dan Davey each time I’ve heard him speak. He spoke at my undergraduate baccalaureate and it was perhaps the best baccalaureate message in my time here.

  3. My experience is not as current as Brian and David, but I have to concur on Brian’s comments on Dr. Bell. Of all the teachers I had at BJU (and I really loved them all), he was I think the most challenging. I believe that the Hebrew methodology was largely his idea, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend that you take it early, and take as much as you can. I left it to my last year, had only six hours of it, and have lost most of it. I know enough to understand what the technical commentaries are talking about, but not enough to be able to discern if they are right or not. So get all the Hebrew you can! They used to call it the “first heavenly language” when I was in school.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3
    BJU MDiv 1983 (am I old or what???)

  4. What is the cost of BJ seminary as compared to TMS and the rest?

  5. Well Pastor, this is one way to let everyone know. Since you did receive responses from some current and former students of BJU I think I’ll take advatage of the opportunity to ask a question. I am married and a father of three. My B.S. is in Economics, but I have a strong desire for the ministry which the Bible says is a good thing! Here’s the deal, do any of you know anyone else crazy enough to uproot their family and move 13-15 hours away to attend Bible college/Seminary? Would I be the only one, or are there others? Would I be able to find suitable employment? I do realize that all of these things which would seem impossible with man are possible with God. But can anyone give me some feedback? P.S. I’m the Jess Miller going with Pastor.

  6. My deacon is a father of four who moved from Chicago down here to pursue seminary studies. One of our outreach leaders is a father of four who moved from Pennsylvania (I think). He just finished his undergrad/deficiencies last year and is in seminary. These are the men that come immediately to mind. I’m sure there are others.

    I’m not sure of the details of their job situations (I’m just a young guy and a Grad Assistant), but you wouldn’t be the only family man in seminary.

  7. Cost
    I don’t really have any idea about the cost of BJ because I did the GA thing. At Master’s, it’s currently $240 per unit. The cost of living is of no comparison. We easily pay twice more living in LA than we did in Greenville. However, as a testimony to grace, we’ve never made as much as we are now too. Once we get over our initial debt incurred in the move, we’ll have unprecedented wealth. 🙂

    Jess
    The number of married men with families who aren’t straight out of undergrad is much higher at Master’s than at BJ. I was surprised at the age of the student body. It seems the norm here is married, many with families, while the minority are single. However, I had several good friends at BJ who were married with families. Particularly one from my wife’s home church, who left a very successful business in PA and moved his wife and three kids to Greenville. It was a lesson to watch God’s gracious provision for them. So as for the only one, no, I think you’d be in good company.

    I don’t want to sound trite, since I don’t have as big of a family and aren’t in your shoes looking at a big change. But my experience with jobs has been that God has always provided above what I expected in ways I couldn’t anticipate. It may be easier for me to talk up God’s faithfulness from my relative comfort, but the testimony of Scripture and of the Body throughout time is that God does remarkable wonders for His people following His desires.

    There’s a guy from South Africa in seminary who told his wife that he didn’t want to get to the end of his life and realize it was lack of faith that kept him from preparing for ministry. I think that’s a good word. I realize that not going to seminary does not equal lack of faith, but it could, and I’m sure the life not lived in faith is a life none of us want.

  8. What I really wish I could do is start a seminary here. I could deal with my own deficiencies that way! Any of my Ph.D, D.Min., and M.Div. friends willing to come up here? As you’ll see in an upcoming posting, age is not an issue!

    It is going to be very exasperating to lose gifted and called men from such a needy area as this. AS is often the case, once men leave to the Mecca of fundamentalism, they never come back! Jess is just the first of many more to follow – if the Lord fulfills my longings. Yet, it would be a beautiful thing if we could bring a little of BJU Seminary, The Masters, and others along with all their Gospel-advancing potential to the bed-room community of two large cities….

  9. David, that South African had it right! I look forward almost daily to the last day of my life. But then again, I tremble that if I’m granted somber and prolonged reflection on my last day – knowing I will in moments see my Lord – I will mourn my lack of courage and faith. O, God, deliver us from petty worries.

  10. Bob,

    You guys should swing up this way by Southeastern BTS and Central VB. Sitting in on OT theology Tuesday or Wednesday at SEBTS with John Sailhamer would be worth the trip. That and there might be a place or two to stay nearby in Rocky Mount. It would be about 5 hours from Greenville, then another 2.5 to VB. Unrealistic, perhaps, but I had to mention it.

  11. Ben, you’re tempting me to turn this blitz to SC into a seminary tour! You’re right. I have enough friends in Rocky Mount area to mooch free lodging from. I don’t think I know a soul at Central VB, although I know souls who know souls there.

  12. I’d like to echo Bob’s concern about losing gifted men… I tell everyone we send to Greenville to memorize this line: “I will not stay in Greenville.” I heard a fellow talk about his experience there. He said that he kept his “tent pegs loose” … didn’t try to get too established and too entrenched so that when the time came to move into the ministry he was ready to go.

    When I went through, I was single. My wife refused to marry me before I was finished… good motivation! So I cannot speak to the challenge of going through seminary with wife and family from experience. I had several friends who did. I would say you want to involve your family in the whole adventure as much as you can. You didn’t mention how old the kids are, but I would do everything I could to help them to see the whole experience as a great value to them also. In fact, in the ministry, I think that is very important in general, that your kids are part of the mission team.

    Ok… that’s all. I always envy (in a way) those heading off to school. It was a blessed time for me.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  13. Seven conservative evangelical seminaries in the 275-mile I-85 corridor from Greenville to Raleigh. Where else can you get that?

  14. I’m Will. I’m a BJ grad and a current student at Central VB. There, Bob, now you know a soul at Central VB. I have had a very positive experience at Central VB and would highly encourage you and Jess to visit up here. The 3 distinctives that really got me hooked:
    1. Issues aren’t issues. Which version of the Bible you use just isn’t an issue. Neither are most of the other cultural topics that tend to distract from substance.
    2. Grace Philosophy. This ties in with the first. The philosophy of church ministry is very good at Colonial Baptist Church, the church that houses the seminary. There are also several other great churches in the area to get involved with (like mine, Grace Bible Church: http://www.gbc-ch.org). While the church and school are devout “Historic Fundamentalists” (that’s a good thing), we have a good relationship with non-Fundies in the area such as the Sovereign Grace Church down the road.
    3. Academics. I have been impressed with the academic challenge and freedom at Central VB, especially for the size of the school.
    Don’t take my word for it; please come visit. There are aspects of the school you’ll never know without a visit.
    5 STARS!

  15. I’m currently an undergrad at BJU, so I can’t estimate what the seminary is like. I do hope you had a good trip down here. 🙂

    My father has masters degrees from both BJU and Lansdale, and I’m sure he would recommend either.

  16. Bob and Jess,

    Here’s another plug from someone in Va Beach. I can completely echo what Will has already said. He pretty much summed up the main distinctives that brought me here to CBTS of VB in the first place. During my senior year in college i was planning on attending at TMS, but the Lord changed things and directed me up here instead. From what i am hearing from some of the guys out at TMS, it seems that there are a lot of similarities between the two schools, esp in terms of philosophy. CBTS would be quite a bit smaller though.
    The church-seminary relationship Dave Morris mentioned earlier is something that has been crucial for me, and is something i think one should take into consideration in choosing a seminary (though Brian earlier showed that one can still incorporate into and benefit from a Word-centered body of believers even in the case of a school that is not tied to a local church, as is the case w/ BJU).
    I do hope you’ll take Will and me up on our invitation to come up (or down) here to visit. The academic dean, Dr. Jack Klem, is the soul of hospitality and he would jump at a chance to put you up and show you around. (Side note: Bob – having followed your interaction here and on other forums a bit, i think you’ll appreciate what’s going on in VB!)
    God bless you both!

  17. Bob,

    I will admit a more-than-slight bias on this question, but I believe TEDS to be an admirable (if not the best) choice on a number of levels… none of them geographic. Trinity is internationally respected as a textual, theoretical, philispohical GIANT in seminary terms. They have on their faculty the guys that the other seminaries you have mentioned quote to establish themselves.

    That said, I think many of the aforementioned are on equal ground in most of their teaching and certainly the dedication of their professors to biblical exposition and instruction.

    I will continue to pray for you and your family as you make this important decision.

    Your Friend,
    Rob McQueary

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