Monday, June 04, 2007

TBS Principal's Banquet

I was quite blessed with the privilege of speaking at this year's Principal's Banquet for the Toronto Baptist Seminary. I was to give a 'student's perspective, in three minutes or less.' I was given the task of explaining why I chose to come to TBS, and why I continue to study at TBS. In other words, from a student's perspective, I should answer the question, 'Why should someone continue to support the work at the seminary?'

Below is the manuscript I had written out. It is close to what I actually said.

My name is Julian Freeman and I just finished my second year as a full-time student at TBS. I count it quite a privilege to be here tonight and to have the opportunity to speak to you about why I have chosen to study at TBS and why I continue to study at TBS. I do think it is somewhat unfair for them to give me such a broad, open-ended question, and then only give me a few minutes to talk about my reasons, but here is my best effort anyway.

The first thing that drew me to TBS was the doctrinal statement. I had an opportunity to do my undergraduate degree at a school where I had significant differences in doctrine with some of the professors. This was a benefit to me as it exposed me to many different viewpoints on many different issues. However, when it came time for me to do my graduate work, my work which would be preparation for pastoral ministry, I knew that I had to go to school where I would no longer have to second guess the ones teaching me, but would be able to receive the truth as it was taught emphatically from scriptures.

TBS plays an absolutely crucial role in the training of men for pastoral ministry in Canada, because to the best of my knowledge it is the only complementarian school in Canada and it is also one of the few schools which still emphasizes the doctrines of grace. In these crucial areas our school still stands firm, with the word of God as our authority.

Another key factor in my choosing of TBS was its location. I was born and raised in Toronto, and my church involvement before seminary was in Toronto as well. Attending seminary close to home has allowed me to maintain my closeness to my local congregation, and has allowed them to continue to play a crucial role in my personal and spiritual development as I prepare for ministry. There are simply no other seminaries in the area where a student can go to get a solid, biblical education in preparation for pastoral ministry. The only alternative is to go to the United States, be removed from our local churches and Canadian context, and perhaps never come back. Having a school like TBS here, in Canada, helps ensure that our guys stay here and continue to minister in our context--right where we need them.

The main reason why I have loved being at TBS, however, and what keeps me committed to the school is the professors themselves [men like the kerux, Kirk Wellum, and Michael Haykin]. Never have I once questioned their commitment to us as individuals, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as those training for future ministry. The professors have always made themselves available for us to speak about what issues concern us, be they spiritual, doctrinal, or personal. Over and over again I have been amazed by the grace of God at work in these men that they so freely give of their time and their talents so sacrificially in order to benefit us and through us, to grow God's kingdom.

I am so thankful to our Lord for what he is doing in our midst at TBS: he has given young men like me who have sensed God's calling on our lives an opportunity to learn God's truths from God's word, as taught by godly professors who are concerned for God's glory in the growth of his kingdom. Please do continue to pray that God would continue to increase the work he is already doing amongst us at TBS.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hearing God's Word

It seems to me to be an incredible blessing to live with the technology of the 21st century at our disposal. When the Bible was first written it was given to the people of God to be read aloud in their public worship services. Over the years, however, that practice was lost in our modern, western culture of individualism. Now that everyone owns their own Bible (or five) and we no longer need to go to church in order to hear what the Bible says, reading and hearing the Bible read aloud seems redundant and superfluous.

I’m so thankful for technology because it gives us new ways to carry out our old traditions. Recently, when I was at a conference in the States with my friend Tim, I purchased the Bible read by Max McLean on MP3 CDs that I can listen to my car.

My habit lately has been to listen to a single book of the Bible, listening carefully for major themes for connecting thoughts. When the book is over, I hit rewind and hear it read again. I do this several times to get my head around the whole flow of thought int he book.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times we go back over the same text of God’s inspired word, the Spirit reveals more and more of God’s truth to us through the words on the page. Because of my calling and my stage of life I have found it particularly important to study the pastoral epistles again. I love how in so few pages God has packed so much wisdom for all generations of his church’s undershepherds.

If you have never taken the opportunity to hear God’s word read aloud, then let me encourage you to do so. I think it will amaze you, as it has amazed me, to see how thoughts are related from paragraph to paragraph in a way that you cannot understand simply by reading quietly in your head (also, you don't have to worry about the visual false divisions of chapter and verse).

If you do not have anyone to read the word of God aloud to you then let me suggest simply reading the word on your own out loud to yourself. On the T4G blog, Mark Dever recently confirmed what I had previously been suspicious of, namely, that Ambrose was the first figure in history of whom it is said that he read silently to himself. So before the end of the fourth century it was clearly the practice of our forefathers to read whatever they were reading aloud. If the Bible was written in order to be read aloud, then why not give it a shot?

If you are not convinced by my arguments here, then let me dare you to give it a shot. Go to the ESV web site and spend some time listening to the streaming audio that is available for free. If you don’t benefit from it, then don’t worry about it. But, if you are like me, and you do find benefit in it, then go out and buy yourself the Bible on CD. The more ways we find to make the Bible come to life for us--so that God the Father can reveal Jesus Christ to us through God the Spirit as he speaks through the words on the page--the better!