Redeemer’s culture was loving and academically robust. It aspired to Old School Presbyterianism with a sense of Reformed Catholicity. It followed the academic structure and values of 19th-early 20th century Princeton Seminary while imbuing its students with a missional outlook for the 21st century. It trained its students to be pastors who took theology seriously for the sake of the church, and formed them to have a heart for God and their neighbors.
Redeemer was one of the kindest and most challenging places to be trained for ministry. Below are the stated mission, approach to spiritual formation, and core values of Redeemer Seminary.
Redeemer Theological Seminary is a learning community dedicated to supporting the church in preparing disciples of Jesus Christ for ordained and non-ordained gospel ministry, who shall truly believe, and cordially love, and therefore endeavor to propagate and defend, in its genuineness, simplicity, and fullness, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in the inerrant and infallible Word of God and summarized in that system of religious belief and practice which is set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms…thereby, cultivating and sustain genuine Christian devotion with sound learning.
The Seminary is to carry on and perpetuate the policies and traditions of Princeton Theological Seminary as it existed prior to the reorganization thereof in the year 1919, in respect to scholarship and the winsome advocacy of the Reformed Faith.
A central aspect of Redeemer’s mission is to “form men for the gospel ministry.” And it is our intention to contribute to the spiritual formation of all of our students, male and female, in the various degree programs. While theological education is a significant part of this “forming,” we believe that theological education alone will not adequately fulfill that mission goal. Formation is more than education; it also involves what B. B. Warfield called the “religious life” of theological students. Redeemer is committed to a first-rate academic training, but we are also committed to the equally high standard of helping our students “grow in grace” as they study for ministry.
In theological education, we believe there should be no separation between learning and godliness as the goal of learning. The New Testament speaks of truth that is in accord with godliness (Titus 1:1) and of godliness that is produced through the knowledge of Christ (1 Peter 1:3). Our concern about the intellectual preparation of students for gospel ministry, and for service in the kingdom of Christ, must never be divorced from a concern for character traits that are necessary for Christian ministry.
A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly. You are students of theology; and, just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men—especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of the profoundest concern. In your case there can be no ‘either-or’ here—either a student or a man of God. You must be both.
-Benjamin B. Warfield
As Warfield reminds us, there is something wrong with a student of theology who does not study. But there may be something equally wrong with a theological student who only studies. The mastering of Greek paradigms, Hebrew syntax, exegesis, systematic theology, apologetics, and church history takes significant effort. But as rich as those things are in their capacity to point us to the Christ of Scripture and to his church, it is possible to study those subjects in all their richness and yet be spiritually bankrupt in the end. Just as we design our academic curriculum for intellectual growth, we also have sought to design it for growth in godliness and holiness.
Redeemer Seminary is a learning community dedicated to supporting the church in preparing disciples of Jesus Christ for ordained and non-ordained gospel ministry, through study of his Word, formation into his likeness, and training in his church’s mission to the world, all to the glory of God.
The Foundation of Education at Redeemer
1. The Glory of God
God discloses his glory—who he is, what he is like, and the eternal dynamic of holy love within the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—through the unfolding story of his creative, providential, and redemptive activity in history. He himself tells us this story to manifest his glory among all his creatures, and our proper response to this living God is to trust, love, and fear him. He is never to be reduced to a concept lest we worship the idol of our own imagining.
2. The Mission of God
The mission of God in a fallen world is cosmic in scope:
- to reconcile the world to himself in Christ (2 Cor 5:10)
- to establish his reign over it,
- to fill it with his glory
- to create a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13).
The depths of God’s mercy are revealed in his concern to rescue the lowliest in a fallen society, those most subject to the devastating effects of sin, including widows, fatherless, slaves, the poor, the displaced, the lonely and marginalized.
The mission of God is also intensely personal:
- to call us into the communion of self-giving holy love that exists eternally within the Trinity (1 John 1:3),
- to know us as sons as he knows Christ and to conform us to the image of his Son,
- to be known as a Father to us as he is to Christ.
Accordingly, we consecrate our wills to his will in worship, like Christ and in Christ, who consecrated himself to his Father on the cross for our sake.
3. The Word of God
God calls us to himself through his powerful and effective Word. Scripture, the Word of God written, is missional in both its purpose and form. The Word of God comes to us in historical form and participates fully in history without losing the fully divine character by which it accomplishes its purpose. Scripture is God-breathed to the extent of its very words and, therefore, infallibly true and so without error in all that it affirms, and fully authoritative for both faith and life. As such we embrace it and seek to submit to it and allow it to judge our lives—including all of the assumptions we bring to its interpretation.
4. Redemptive Historical Hermeneutic
Scripture presents the mission of God as unfolding in a grand narrative culminating in Christ. Christ is the center of God’s redemptive purposes in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures and the goal to which all Scripture points. The history of redemption is one story from beginning to end, but comes to a climax in the incarnation and death and resurrection of Christ and finds final resolution in his return in glory.
We now live in the times between: The age to come has already broken into the present age through what God has already done in Christ; we await the consummation of all of God’s purposes in the return of Christ. This already and not yet dynamic defines our present life as disciples of Christ.
5. Reformed Tradition
In these between-times, during which God has continued to accomplish his mission through the church empowered by the Holy Spirit, we identify ourselves as belonging to that church in the whole of its historical development. But we also hold that the internal coherence of the teaching of Scripture focused on the good news of God reconciling the world in Christ has been best understood historically within the classic Reformed tradition exemplified in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort and the Thirty-Nine Articles. We stand within this tradition and seek to remain true to it by constantly reforming all traditions by the teaching of Scripture itself.
6. Commitment to Reformed Epistemology
“The fear of the LORD the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7). With the Reformers we affirm that faith grounds and leads to understanding. The Reformers restored the Augustinian order (crede ut intelligas), rejecting the scholastic dichotomy between knowledge based on reason and nature, on the one hand, and knowledge based on faith and revelation, on the other. Similarly, we reject the dream of the enlightenment with its dichotomies between facts and values, objective and subjective, theory and practice. True knowledge begins with the personal realization that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
We cannot know ourselves and the world around us truly and rightly, except in the light of knowing God. The fall of humanity has distorted our capacity to know things truly. This distortion must be healed through faith in God’s promise in Christ brought home to us by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. So true knowledge is personal and relational and cannot be abstracted from divine revelation, faith and repentance.
The grand narrative of Scripture, whose meaning and ramifications for the church are drawn out by prophets and apostles within Scripture itself, enables us to develop a worldview that is true and comprehensive in principle, and we await the final establishment of God’s truth in the consummation.
7. The Church as the Object and Instrument of God’s Mission
The church is the center of God’s missional purposes, the object of Christ’s self-sacrificial love, and the means of carrying out his redemptive mission. Through the gospel God is gathering some from all nations and peoples into union with Christ to create a new humanity. Although Redeemer Seminary does not claim to be a full particular and local manifestation of the church of Christ entitled to administer Christ’s sacraments and to exercise his discipline over his people through church officers, it does strive to live as a gospel community filled with the Spirit in which the word of Christ dwells richly. More particularly, Redeemer seeks to be a discipling community centered in Christ, ministering to its own and with an eye to ministering to others.
8. Cross-Cultural Communication of the Gospel
God’s mission crosses cultural barriers, and this truth shapes the church’s work of discipling the nations for the glory of Christ. The mission of the church requires culturally sensitive, theologically competent ministers, who can emulate God’s own missional communication in Scripture by interpreting and communicating the one true gospel into the varied and changeable cultural contexts of those peoples God longs to rescue and gather into his church.
9. Unity in the Church
God desires his church to be one and so must we. Because there is “one body and one Spirit,” and because there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” we are called to “bear with one another in love with all patience and humility” and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:2-4). This unity does not imply uniformity; rather true unity entails mutual respect and consideration of a variety of gifts, differences in context, and variation of worship styles within the body.
10. The Necessity of Personal Discipleship
The servants of Christ must experience the transformative grace of the gospel and personally embody the humility and mission of Christ in order to minister effectively to others. With God’s grace, a lifestyle of humble and holy affection for Jesus Christ, modeled by the board, administration, and faculty, will rouse students to a deeper devotion to Christ and a sense of their own participation in the mission of God.