Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Piety, Biblical Scholarship and the Family of God

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary has as one of its foundational purposes the melding of theological scholarship with personal piety in the lives of its students.

To that end, the seminary strongly encourages its students to be deeply committed to extensive personal time in the Word of God and prayer, active participation in the life of a local church, and spiritual and devotional leadership within their families. Active membership in a local church "provides good opportunities for our ... students to worship, serve, and be involved. These local churches provide a vital backbone to support our students during their time of study at Greenville Seminary," according to the GPTS Academic Catalog.

Students also spend regular time with their academic advisers in small-group prayer sessions. In addition, attendance at the seminary's thrice-weekly chapel services is required. All of these are designed to fulfill a key element of the seminary's officially stated purposes.

As stated in the Academic Catalog, one of the purposes of the seminary's program is "to unite, in those who shall occupy the ministerial office, that piety that is the fruit only of the renewing and sanctifying grace of God, and that love of learning which comes only from the desire for the deeper knowledge of God: believing that either piety without learning, or learning without piety, in ministers of the Gospel, is ultimately injurious to the Church."

The Ketcham family (circled) and Michael Grasso, left
foreground, in a recent chapel service
One of the most heart-warming evidences of the effectiveness of this emphasis is its manifestation in the lives of the families and children of our students.

In a recent chapel service when prayer requests were solicited from those in attendance, Seaborn, the small son of student Sam Ketcham and his wife Dorsey, demonstrated his childlike understanding of God's care for every aspect of life when he requested God's blessing on his upcoming soccer team's season.

Sunday School teacher Elizabeth Hill from Fellowship Presbyterian Church in suburban Greenville relates a delightful story involving toddler Luke Grasso, son of GPTS student Michael Grasso and his wife Erica. On a recent Lord's Day, Miss Hill was teaching from Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.

"It is my practice to ask the children to repeat with me unusual names from our Bible story. Luke Grasso was my only student. He dutifully repeated Shadrach, then Meshach and, before I could say it, he supplied Abed-Nego. I asked him if he had heard this story. 'Yes,' he replied.

"As I started to tell him the story about the king building the golden statue and how he wanted people to bow down and worship the statue, Luke became animated and very emphatic: 'We do not worship any statues, we worship the one God!' His little fist came down on the table. His eyes were intense, he would shake his head from side to side. He repeated the sentence several times. As the story progressed he would repeat firmly, 'We worship the one God, we do not worship statues,' accompanied by the same hand actions. As part of the lesson we had already reviewed some catechism questions which he answered without hesitation. He didn’t have any trouble believing that God would indeed protect Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego because they were doing what was right….trusting God."

Ava Mai, Erica, Luke and Michael
Grasso at Ava's baptism.
Miss Hill related that when she told this story to Luke's mother, Erica said that Michael had led the family in devotions on this passage from Daniel during the previous week.

"How wonderful in God’s providence that was our lesson today!" she said. "How wonderful that I was given the opportunity to reinforce what he had already been taught at home. It thrills my heart to see how the little ones are ready to learn about God, three in one, as Luke kept reminding me today. How wonderful it is to be able to reinforce what is being taught in the home."

As she told the elders at FPC, "This impressed upon my heart that what we do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings is all part of a team effort to support the parents in the growth of these covenant children. It is not our job alone to instruct, we have them for a short period of time … the real work is done in the home."

Seaborn Ketcham, lower left, with his family
As seminary students learn to lead their families in piety and spiritual development, they are laying the groundwork for their later pastoral leadership in the churches they will serve, instilling in the families of their flocks the importance of a personal knowledge of, relationship with, and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.