Visit to Westminster Seminary California

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Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
On my blog, I just posted a description of, and some thoughts on, my recent visit to Westminster Seminary California. What follows is exactly the same as what is on my blog, though I won't put it in a quotation box, for ease of reading as well as quoting:

"Seminary, Friends and Culture"

The past few days have been very enjoyable as well as helpful, as I was able to visit Westminster Seminary California, a very reputable Reformed seminary in Escondido, which is basically a suburb of the greater San Diego area. Being on spring break allowed for my free-time to overlap with their “Seminary for a Day” program. After coming back from Memphis to Cincinnati for a couple days, I took a flight to San Diego with my mother. She wanted to come along for the visit as well, so she could see where I may end up spending some of the coming years of my life. (You know moms!) Due to the airline schedules, we ended up getting tickets to arrive in San Diego on Tuesday, even though the program was not until Thursday. That allowed us some time to spend together observing some of the San Diego and Escondido cities and culture, including some dining, shopping and general “immersion.” It was also nice to get away from the Cincinnati weather for a couple days!

Whatever benefits or enjoyment came from the “California experience,” however, were definitely outshined by the Westminster experience – or, more properly, the whole day on which it occurred. I had contacted Paul Manata earlier, a friend in San Diego who I met online, initially at the Puritan Board. We were able to meet-up with him at a local Starbucks, and talk about life, things going on right now for us all, some theology, and Westminster. We also ran into his wife before leaving Starbucks, and it was neat meeting her as well. Paul initially went with us to Westminster in hopes of introducing us to Dr. Dennis Johnson, a professor at the seminary who is also an elder at Paul’s church. Dr. Johnson was down in his office at the time, however. It was great finally meeting Paul in person – visit the blog he posts on at http://triablogue.blogspot.com. He posts with a few other people on apologetics, philosophy, theology and other topics.

After the initial welcoming session at Westminster, there was a brief tour of the campus, which is very impressive both in terms of aesthetics and layout. Following that, there was a faculty panel discussion in which professors Joel Kim, Steven Baugh, David VanDrunen and Bob Godfrey (who is also the seminary’s President) talked about various aspects of Westminster life, including its purposes and goals, its means of achieving them, and its environment. Chapel followed the panel, with a couple hymns as well as a brief message by Dr. Johnson. The Scripture he used as well as the application he offered were especially helpful for a situation on my mom’s mind at the time, and we stayed and talked with him afterwards for a few minutes.

Then I had the opportunity to visit a class, and chose Prof. Kim’s class on textual criticism, which was very helpful in terms of greater familiarity with the nature of both the seminary and that particular field. There was then a session on financial aid, which may not be the most exciting part of any such day, but is necessary and helpful nonetheless. Due to something Christa Haeck (the Admissions Coordinator, who was particularly helpful throughout the day) mentioned at the end, I realized I had forgotten to sign-up for a one-on-one interview with a faculty member later in the day. Upon looking at the list, I chose to meet with Dr. Robert Strimple, a professor emeritus and the former President. I wanted to meet with him due to his immense level and amount of experience, wisdom and knowledge, coming from years of serving in ecclesiastical as well as academic settings, being one of the people present at WSC’s founding, and studying under theologians such as John Murray and Cornelius Van Til. There was then a cookout lunch for the whole WSC community, which was a good time to meet some new people, and further talk with some other visiting students we had already met. We also ended up having a good amount of conversation with Mark MacVey (Director of Admissions) toward the end of the lunch, which was very valuable just in talking more about different aspects of the seminary and its professors and students, in addition to some about his life and current place, as well as my plans and my mom’s thoughts on it all.

Following the lunch, there was a period to visit another class, with the one-on-one faculty interviews scheduled throughout that time as well. I had scheduled an interview with Dr. Strimple for 10-15 minutes during that time. Dr. Scott Clark (whom I had talked with on the phone in the past, and initially met and interacted with through the Puritan Board) was teaching a class on Church history during that time, and I was really hoping to still be able to attend a good portion of that after the interview. The student before me went over in time, however, and I ended up briefly doing so as well, so I unfortunately didn’t end up getting to attend Dr. Clark’s class. (I was initially getting somewhat frustrated at the significant overlap before my interview, but then realized and repented of my selfish, impatient and flippant way of reacting internally, especially in-light of the fact that Dr. Strimple had so graciously offered to meet with us in the first place!) Even so, I got to very briefly meet and speak with him at the end of lunch, and during the five-minute intermission of his class just before the closing session for the visitors. So even though I had previously interacted with him on the phone and online, it was an improvement to finally get to meet him face-to-face—and if anyone has ever read any of his online writings or debates on distance education, they know he would heartily agree with that!

Furthermore, even though I was disappointed at not being able to attend his class, I weighed that in balance with the interview, and was very glad that I took the opportunity I had to meet Dr. Strimple. That is because I will likely have many opportunities in the future to interact with Dr. Clark, particularly since he is a regular professor at Westminster, whereas Dr. Strimple, as an emeritus, only teaches for comparatively limited times. As such, I could not pass up the opportunity to meet with him and gain from his wisdom and experience, as that opportunity may well have been just as rare as it was helpful. (On that note, I still can hardly believe that only two other students signed up to meet with him—even more so in-light of the fact that Mark MacVey had mentioned this was one of the largest turnouts for the “Seminary for a Day” event as a whole!) He gave me a recommended resource and helpful reminders on continually evaluating my calling to ministry while keeping closely in-touch with my elders as I currently serve in my church. He also gave me some extremely helpful advice and guidance on how to possibly use a couple gap years between college and seminary, including how NOT to use those years, as well as what combinations of degrees at certain levels would and would not be helpful or wise to pursue, for various reasons. Right after leaving his office, I already knew some things that had tangibly changed about my plans, as those issues related to the timing, order and combinations of one or more degrees were some of the most important decisions I would need to make in the coming months, affecting the coming years.

At the end of the program, we filled out short surveys about our experience through the day, and got a 15% discount coupon for the WSC bookstore. I purchased two books: The Lost Soul of American Protestantism by Darryl Hart, and The Pattern of Sound Doctrine edited by Dr. VanDrunen. Dr. Hart formerly taught at WSC, and I got his book to be even more prepared to interact with Christian friends from an evangelical background on various issues during the rest of my junior year in college, and my senior year—especially since an RUF (Reformed University Fellowship, through the PCA) might start on my campus soon, and in participating in that, I will need to send the right message to friends from the current InterVarsity ministry I’ll still be active in throughout that time. The second book, edited by Dr. VanDrunen, is subtitled “Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries: Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple.” The book traces the roots, development and role of several disciplines and doctrines in the Westminster seminaries (both the original school of Westminster Theological Seminary, and WSC as an eventually-independent institution), and also offers much thought and analysis on the theological disciplines and doctrines themselves as a whole, as well as considering the relation to and impact on the Church at large today and throughout the 20th century. As such, it seemed like a valuable book to read right now, both in terms of overall theological education as well as familiarity with Westminster and its history.

The program ended in the mid-afternoon, and our flight was not until the next morning, so we had another evening to enjoy the culture of Southern California. I got in-touch with Don Lowe, a friend I met online last year (initially through Facebook and MySpace, and later including some Puritan Board interaction as well—surprise, surprise!). My mom and I ended up meeting him for dinner at a Mexican café in Old Town. The element of meeting in-person was nice as always, and the interaction both before and during our meal was enjoyable. It was great hearing about some of Don’s future plans and current involvements, as well as discuss some theology and culture. Listen to a recorded song he wrote and performed at http://www.myspace.com/elnwood. The entire time during those few days was an excellent one, and I am strongly leaning in favor of attending WSC if I end up getting accepted, be that at the end of my senior year or a couple years after that—or anytime, Lord willing.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Cool brother. I hope to get orders to SoCal in 2008. If you ever feel like praying that the Lord will answer that prayer, please do. I'd love to meet you too!
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
Cool brother. I hope to get orders to SoCal in 2008. If you ever feel like praying that the Lord will answer that prayer, please do. I'd love to meet you too!

You could come here, we have a Marine Air Detachment out here at China Lake. The weather is er.. um... great... yeah ;)
 

Philip A

Puritan Board Sophomore
Sounds like a SoCal PB meetup might be in our collective feature. I'd love the meet up with Rich and Chris, and since I'm paedo now, I'm not afraid of meeting Paul Manata! :lol:
 

ReadBavinck

Puritan Board Freshman
Chris,

Sorry I didn't get to meet you, but glad you got to spend some time with Dr. Stimple and enjoyed your visit. Let me know if I can help you with anything. I'll send you my contact information.

Take care,
Christopher
 
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