Do I Have to Agree With Everything the School Teaches?

February 16, 2011

One of the questions we get asked in the Admissions office is, “Do I need to agree with everything that Westminster and its professors teach in order to be a good student?” This really is a great question, partially because of the other related questions that spring from it such as, “Will I be exposed to other beliefs beside the ones that the school believes?” It’s also a great question because it assumes that broad exposure to the diverse views that one will face in ministry is crucial in preparing future ministers to face our diverse world.

What professors are looking for is not simply a classroom of students who are able to parrot back the words and beliefs of what was professed. That would be just memorization and recitation. Memorization may happen from time to time (especially in learning the languages!), but what professors are primarily looking for is whether you as a student have understood and engaged the material and wrestled with the implications that the teaching has for your ministry and your ministerial formation. You may not fully agree with Dr. Trueman’s approach to understanding the early church martyrs in his “Ancient Church” course, but if you have engaged the historical background, looked again at how the church used their stories in the first few centuries, and understood that there may be something more going on there than sacrificial piety, you will have learned and grown, which can only help you relate those historical backgrounds to similar situations in the world today. It sharpens you as a student and helps shape you as a Christian.

Westminster is a Reformed seminary. What we mean by “Reformed” contains much more depth and much more breadth than a bare predestinarianism or a re-emphasizing of the “solas” and the “five points” of Calvinism. The teaching and tradition is even deeper, wider, and richer than being “gospel-centered”, although it is at least that. It is Christ-centered not only because of His life and his death on the cross, but also because of how crucial the resurrection is to the Christian faith, as Paul expounds that truth in 1 Corinthians 15. But it is never the case that every student who sits in a class at Westminster will agree wholesale with every sentence that every professor says, writes, or assigns. We do, however, provide a holistic curriculum that is theologically unified without being narrowly uniform, and that unity will be the subject of the next post.