Tuesday, February 9, 2016

GPTS: Mapping My Theological Journey

By Scott J. Hatch

I want to take a moment to express my appreciation for what the work of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has meant to me. I have never been a student at GPTS, but this seminary has nonetheless influenced my journey into theological understanding in many ways.

What consistently has impressed me about GPTS over the years is its unapologetic commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, and by extension, to His Church and to His Word (embodied in a full subscription to the Westminster Standards). I wish such commitment were more widespread throughout the church today, and reading the various materials I have gotten from Greenville Seminary has strengthened my own convictions along these same lines.

I first heard of GPTS when I attended a church in Fairfax, Virginia from 2000-2003, as that church was providing financial support to the seminary. To be honest, at the time, I did not think about going to GPTS, since my work in the foreign and security policy community of the federal government tied me to the Washington, D.C. area; and in any event, I was already pursuing my interest in theological training at another school in the D.C. area.

Nevertheless, GPTS encouraged me to think in terms of service to the church and to go further in my theological education. I earned a Master of Arts in Religion in 2007, but I was not sure what the Lord would have me do next. In late 2011, I decided out of curiosity to check out the GPTS web site and discovered that the seminary was planning its 2012 Theology Conference as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Old Princeton Seminary. As J. Gresham Machen and Old Princeton were inspirations to me in my own theological development, I felt I had to go to the conference — and I did.

The speakers were excellent and the booksellers were awesome, but at the end of the conference I had a conversation with GPTS President Dr. Joseph Pipa about ministry that spurred me to think through more definitively how I may serve the church.

As I worked through the issue of whether I was being called to vocational Christian ministry, I decided to go back and take Greek and Hebrew courses which my previous degree did not require. After much reflection, prayer and discussion with a mentor and pastors and elders in my church, I came to the conclusions that the Lord has positioned me well to minister to those working in government. To further prepare me for grappling with the theological issues facing this field, I decided to seek a Master of Theology degree.

GPTS encouraged me to re-examine some long held views and challenged my presuppositions. As I thought through the issue of vocational ministry, I felt I needed to address what was meant by confessional subscription and whether I could agree with the Westminster Confession’s position on creation being done in six days. Even though a previous professor who taught my Genesis-Joshua course came himself from the Six-Day Creation position, I was skeptical. I knew, however, that I needed to give a fair hearing to that position, and I knew that GPTS would give the best defense of it. So I bought the book, Did God Create in Six Days? The contributors to that book did not disappoint, and I came away very impressed with how that position is the most internally consistent with Scripture. There are still some issues that I continue to work through regarding the days of creation, but I do have to credit GPTS with changing my thinking on this score.

GPTS also has supplied me with explanations on sanctification that not only corrected some things I had been taught earlier in life but also spurred me to communicate those things to those to whom I was ministering in my church. In the 1990s, when I began attending a suburban Washington Presbyterian church, I went through the church’s Sonship-based discipleship program. There was always something kind of unsettling to me about the program that I could never put my finger on, and I just assumed the problem was with me, since others seemed to be really enthusiastic about the program.

In 2015, I came to the GPTS Spring Theological Conference on "The Law of God in an Age of Lawlessness," and the speakers helped me to put a lot of things into context about the Law of God and its role in our sanctification. While at the conference, I decided to buy the book, Sanctification: Growing in Grace, that contained papers presented at an earlier GPTS conference. Dr. Pipa’s critique of the Sonship program hit the mark and supplied the explanation for what I had intuitively sensed but had not been able to articulate. The other papers in the book also gave me a fuller understanding of what sanctification is really about and how it works.

I currently co-lead an adult education class of 40-50 people at church, and reading Sanctification moved me to put together a class last summer on the full scope of salvation as articulated in the Westminster Confession.

My thanks go to the faculty, students and staff of Greenville Seminary for the blessing they have been to me and my family, and may our Lord bless this institution as it continues to serve Christ through its ministry.

Scott J. Hatch is an analytic manager in the foreign and security affairs community of the U.S. Government and previously directed training courses within the government on critical thinking and analytic successes and failures. He also serves as co-leader of the Berean Servants class, a Christian adult education class and care community at his suburban Washington D.C. church. He is on the Steering Board of the Capital Fellows program and is the Executive Director of The Philippine Ministry, a ministry focused on transforming the Philippines into a godly nation by providing churches and schools with free training materials promoting biblical values.