Westminster Seminary California
 
EDUCATION
M.Div. '08
CURRENT ENDEAVORS
Chaplain in the United States Army Reserve

Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts

Why did you choose to attend WSC?

As an undergrad and seminary-minded student at Calvin College, I had the opportunity to participate in pastoral gatherings on pertinent issues facing the church. I was immature in my faith and newly Reformed, but still knew something was amiss when I realized that only mainline denominations were represented, not evangelical ones.

Meanwhile, the handful of students who still had their trust in God's Word intact while passing through the religion department were continually savaged by the faculty for their backwards belief in biblical inerrancy. I saw what the future held for those who sought unity apart from the authority of Christ through His Word, and it was incredibly sad. I was desperate for a seminary that would hold fast to the Word of God, teaching its truth, beauty, and power.

At WSC, I finally found a Christian institution of learning in which the entire faculty—across the Reformed spectrum—took their unequivocal stand together upon the inerrancy of God's Word. Their unity did not come at the cost of biblical compromise; it was founded upon biblical truth. For three years, I fed upon the Word of God, and I consider that time to be my intellectual conversion.

How did your education at WSC prepare you for your present responsibilities?

My God-given education at WSC has been vital for my work in each of the different spheres to which God has called me. As my Army work tends to be the most challenging, I will highlight WSC's instrumentality in that work. First, Dr. Horton taught me to consecrate my mind in service to the Gospel, not merely my heart. The soldiers know that I love them, but they also know that I will intellectually wrestle with them. The work of the chaplain demands an intellectual dexterity, as I have been called upon to defend Christian truth to the cynical agnostic, overly optimistic Roman Catholic, and disillusioned former fundamentalist at the same time. Dr. Horton taught us how to understand, engage, and lovingly expose the fallacies of other worldviews. Paraphrasing J. Gresham Machen, it is not enough to win the whole of men, but the whole of man.

Second, the entire faculty taught me in theory and in example the importance and power of Christ-centered preaching. My chapel services are largely attended by Pentecostals and Roman Catholics. When they realize that the Old Testament testifies to Christ, I get a mixture of enthusiastic "Amens" and "Aha—there is more to this Bible than I was previously told." My Reformed cynicism wilts before these burning hearts that come into contact with the right theology and true power of God's Word.

Third, Dr. VanDrunen and Dr. D. G. Hart taught me the value of guarding the spirituality of the church and defining the lines between church and state. There is persistent pressure in the Army to exploit religion for the pragmatic ends of morale and morality. Pro Deo et patria (for God and country) can easily morph into Deo pro patria (God for country). With the categories given me by my professors, I am able to rightly defer to the prerogatives of the state when called upon to do so, and assert the prerogatives of my ministry when they are infringed upon.

Do you have an unforgettable memory from your time at WSC?

I think the most unforgettable memories came from our unofficial WSC trip to Malawi in 2007. In a modest-sized theological school at the base of a great mountain, four WSC students from different denominations were able to employ their unique training to bless brothers on the other side of the globe. We took over the entire program for several weeks, working late into the night to prepare lectures and hand out invaluable resources generously donated from WSC faculty. One WSC brother also brought his wife, who taught in a local elementary school. The deep bonds forged during that summer have resulted in enduring friendships that, God-willing, will bless Christ's church on both continents.

What, in your opinion, makes WSC a unique and important institution?

WSC is a shining city upon a desert hill. The melding of ecumenicity and fidelity under the confessional Reformed banner at WSC is unparalleled. In a sense, it perfectly carries on the legacy of Machen. Machen would align himself with like-minded fundamentalists, but would not call himself a fundamentalist. WSC, likewise, is generously ecumenical, yet will allow for healthy and charitable debates on the smaller points that divide us.  There is a "happy warrior" mentality at WSC.

What advice would you give to prospective students considering seminary?

When you go to seminary, you will be intellectually prodded and challenged at every point. Embrace the conviction and humility that comes with such an experience instead of simply playing the antagonist. The last thing the Church needs is an overly argumentative pastor.

At the same time, it is easy to grow spiritually stale in seminary, even as your mind is transformed anew by the Gospel. Comfort breeds complacency. Find an internship that allows you to teach what you're learning to the broken (prison, homeless, homeschoolers, etc.) and go on missions trips that involve frontline evangelism and preaching engagements that reveal to you the grace on which you stand. My friend Fletcher took me to Malawi and had me share the Gospel with Muslims and those practicing witchcraft.

These experiences will help you “own” your learning, ground you in humility rather than being polemical about petty things (as most young pastors are), and remind you that the pastorate is a dangerous place that requires persistent vigilance and dependence upon the Lord's mercy.

Finally, as you enjoy the precious teaching at WSC (which is where I assume you'll go—call me if you need encouragement), remember to emulate the tenacious ferocity of Dr. R. Scott Clark and the gentle and tender demeanor of Dr. Dennis Johnson.

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