What impact has WSC made on your life and work?
When I first began my studies at Westminster Seminary California (WSC), I pursued the M.Div. degree with the goal of entering pastoral ministry. But then I had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher at Calvin Christian High School in Escondido. The Lord used that experience to convince me that I was better suited for teaching high school students.
My seminary education at WSC spanned the years 1986-91. Since my graduation, I have been the “Bible Department” at Ripon Christian High School in Ripon, California. Time has proven that the benefits of my studies at Westminster to my professional career have been immeasurable. In the classroom, I essentially give my students a “mini seminary education.” I cover parts of the Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, Apologetics, Christian Ethics, and even a little Greek. In other words, I’m Kline, Futato, Baugh, Johnson, Godfrey, Frame, Strimple, Bergsma, Schuringa, and Clowney. Talk about Multiple Personality Disorder!
As you have labored and experienced personal growth as a person and teacher over the past few years, what role does your education at Westminster Seminary California play in your life?
A big challenge for me as a teacher is taking my seminary education and making it understandable to teenagers. I’ve discovered that high schoolers can handle more than what they are normally given credit for. I see myself as a seed-sower who each morning ties on his bag of seeds and scatters them on different types of soil, trusting that someone else will water them and that God will cause the growth.
Another challenge is that, unlike seminary, I am teaching students who, for the most part, are not there by their own choice. They dare me to make class interesting for them. Of course I’m not always successful, but WSC has reinforced the truth that the Bible is quite interesting and thought-provoking without any help from me. Sometimes I just have to get out of the way. Many of my students have been moved to search the Scriptures, talk to their pastors, youth pastors, parents, and even other teachers as a result of material they learned in my class. Quite a few parents have shared with me that the topic in class that day was also the topic at the dinner table that night. I joke that one of my goals is for students to talk about our class after class ends (even if it’s only to call me names!).
Of course, not every student responds positively to my Bible class. A few students have become quite angry. One student, a Roman Catholic, was “provoked” to study his Roman Catholic Catechism as a result of my class (he even gave me a copy) and became a staunch Catholic in the process. (I guess you can’t win them all!)
What particular truths or experiences that you gained from WSC do you find most important and valuable now? What, in hindsight, do you appreciate most from the time you spent at WSC?
The blessings of my seminary education have gone far beyond the classroom. It is hard to overstate Westminster Seminary California’s contribution to my life. Most of my best friends have come during this time period. What a precious blessing they have been to me and my family. I got to know many of the professors on a personal level and cherish their friendships. I learned a lot helping Mark Futato put a new roof on his house. In Dr. Strimple’s living room, I watched the Cubs fan catch the foul ball in that infamous baseball playoff game. The Lord has used their informal instruction to help me grow in wisdom and grace. I am deeply grateful for all these people, especially for their patience with my foolishness.
Let me close with one of the greatest blessings that I received from my years at Westminster, not that I realized it at the time. I certainly can see it now, aided by hindsight. It is fashionable in some circles (particularly in academia and the media) to believe that Christianity is for stupid people and that the Bible is a collection of fairytales. The men that I learned from proved this belief foolish. WSC professors were not just highly educated, but they were also men of faith. They were humble, God-fearing, God loving. These men were smart and yet they loved the Lord and believed the Bible to be the infallible word of God. And they put their faith into practice. Hindsight, especially as far back to the cross, shows us the faithfulness of our great God and Savior. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know how the Lord has used my past at Westminster to conform me to the image of his Son. His grace is indeed amazing. A future in the hands of the Lord is a future to which we can look forward.