Biblical Foundations for Bethlehem College and Seminary

An Invitation

I invite you to be a part of the Wednesday Connection on November 5 at 6:15 PM at Bethlehem. (It will be live at the North Campus, simulcast at the Downtown Campus, and replayed the following week at the South Site.) We will interrupt for one week the flow of the Fall sessions on “Growing a Heart For the Nations.”

The TBI Board of Directors has asked me to give a public lecture on the biblical foundations for Bethlehem College and Seminary. The message is titled:

“The Earth Is the Lord’s”
The Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning—
Biblical Foundations for Bethlehem College and Seminary

The implication of the words college and seminary is that we are moving toward offering an accredited B.A. in Biblical Studies and an accredited M.Div. at the seminary level. The seminary program will be cohort-based and mentor-linked, with a small class of students moving through the sequence together. The college program is an integrated and unified curriculum taking all the students on the same path.

In other words, the present INSIGHT program, which offers one year of college credit now, in partnership with the University of Northwestern, and the TBI apprenticeship program, which corresponds to about 50 hours of seminary credit now, will expand to offer a B.A. and an M.Div, respectively.

Both programs are church-based, expecting all students to be involved in the life and ministry of the church. Our aim is that the limited scope of the programs, and the connection with the church, and the wider funding of the vision will bring down costs to the place where students will not be burdened with debt when they are finished.

What I hope to focus on in the message on November 5 is how the Bible gives impulses to the serious, rigorous, disciplined, life-long labor to cultivate the life of the mind. Over 30 years ago, when I was teaching Biblical Studies at Bethel College, I wrote a sentence that explained how I saw the aims of education:

We aim to enable and to motivate the student to observe his subject matter accurately and thoroughly, to understand clearly what he has observed, to evaluate fairly what he has come to understand, to appropriate wisely in life what he has found valuable, and to express in speech and writing what he has seen, understood, evaluated, and appropriated in such a way that its accuracy, clarity, fairness, and value can be known and enjoyed by others.

That, in my view, is what education is all about—from preschool to graduate school. I will try to explain why.

The aims of observing, understanding, evaluating, appropriating, and expressing do not guarantee a good education. A person can observe inaccurately, understand falsely, evaluate erroneously, appropriate foolishly, and express unhelpfully. So the question arises: How do we minimize these mistakes?

One answer is that we educate within a Bible-shaped worldview. Another is that we believe in rigorous Socratic teaching. I will try to argue why we will be a confessionally Reformed and complementarian institution. And I will try to show that the role of a teacher is neither an information dispenser nor a facilitator of shared student ignorance. A teacher is a demanding guide into the serious disciplines of observing, understanding, evaluating, appropriating, and expressing.

Since we will not offer courses in the physical sciences, almost all of our disciplined observation will be of written texts, centrally the Bible. That means that almost all our education will be learning how to read—if your conception of reading includes all that you can do with a text—observe it, understand it, evaluate it, appropriate it, and express it. Therefore, a huge focus of all our teaching will be on the rigorous disciplines of how you handle texts—especially the Bible.

A huge assumption of Bethlehem College and Seminary is that most of the facts learned in school are soon forgotten. Therefore, what is of abiding value are the life-long abilities to keep on observing accurately, understanding clearly, evaluating fairly, appropriating wisely, and expressing compellingly. When the central focus of these life-long abilities is God’s saving word, the upshot, by God’s grace, may be a life of influential, unwavering, Christ-exalting, world-blessing faith, hope, and love.

That is our aim at Bethlehem College and Seminary—the unwasted life. The life maximally lived for the glory of Christ and the good of others.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org