Musings on RTS: a personal update

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve graced this blog with my presence!

As some of you know, I moved back to Charlotte in order to attend RTS, with the ultimate goal of completing an MDiv and being ordained. It’s now fall break, so I finally have some time to catch my breath. As it may be of some interest to readers of this blog, here are a few quick thoughts on RTS thus far. I’ll begin with the least important (the campus) and move to the most important (the faculty).

The campus: I’ve proposed importing ivy to let it grow on our (otherwise boring) brick buildings, but I’ve yet to capture others with my vision. On a more serious note, the greatness of the Charlotte campus is not the campus itself — though it is adequate and generally pleasant — but the location: the nicest, most gorgeous part of Charlotte. The drive down Providence Road is a series (every half mile it seems) of lovely Protestant churches built in the early 20th century, the last great days of romanticism, before rectangles and cement became the fashion of the day.

The students: I’ve never believed the silly stereotype of Calvinists as ornery, dour, heartless curmudgeons. I’ve never believed it because I’ve never really seen it, and I’ve been around Calvinists my whole life. I won’t apologize for certain overly-enthusiastic Reformed bloggers out there; I’m just talking about the real world. So, yeah, I wasn’t surprised to meet fellow students who were pretty much the same as at any other evangelical seminary. There’s a range of personalities and interests. We even have extroverts (while us introverts sulk in our superiority). The denominational make-up is, no surprise, heavily Presbyterian. The PCA is probably the most represented among the students (thanks to all the RUF interns) but the ARP is very strong here as well. In much smaller numbers, the EPC and PCUSA round out the Presbyterian presence. Apart from the Presbys, there are a number of Baptists, Ev-Free’s, independents, et cetera.

The faculty: I can’t make an assessment on the faculty as a whole, since I’ve yet to have every faculty member (like Dr. Kelly in systematics or Dr. Currid in biblical studies). But of the professors I’ve had, I’ve been rather impressed. I’ll just use two examples:

Dr. Donald Fortson, professor of church history, is exactly what a church history professor should be: ecumenical and gracious. As a student of history, he is obviously convinced that evangelicals are impoverished by their lack of historical vision, which can be recovered by recovering the Reformers’ understanding of the Church as our mother (yes, he quotes Calvin on this). In a few weeks, our class will take a field trip to a Greek Orthodox church. From what I understand, Dr. Fortson has a mainline Presbyterian background (PCUSA) but has left for the EPC, thanks in no small part to the events leading to the removal of the fidelity-and-chastity clause in the ordination standards. Trust me, this move by the PCUSA is an often-referenced topic on campus.

Dr. Michael Kruger teaches New Testament courses, and his lectures are something to behold. I’ve never seen a professor with such a commanding presence and control over his material. He doesn’t miss a beat. Yet, he has a great sense of humor and warmth. He wittily, but seriously, deconstructs all the controversies in Gospel criticism (that’s the class I’m taking with him) with piercing incision and brilliant rhetorical flair. I’m a fan. I really hope that RTS will someday record his Gospels lectures for the iTunes store. Moreover, like all the professors, Dr. Kruger is ordained (PCA) and active in his church, thus enabling him to make fruitful connections to pastoral ministry in his lectures.

That’s my brief rundown of RTS-Charlotte. It’s too early to formulate any real criticisms, though I’m sure I’ll have some. Obviously I would like to see more Barth — at least a mural or something. 🙂

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10 comments

  1. Thanks for the update. With almost 2 months since your last post, I didn’t know if you were just ignoring your blog, going in a new direction, or what. You’re going to be very busy, but do update us “out there” once in a while.

    • I didn’t consider Scotland because this is a ministerial degree, and my immediate focus is ordained ministry. I’m still, clearly, interested in the academic side of things, so if I do decide to do a Phd at some point then Scotland would be a great choice. However, I would want to do a Phd while doing ministry at least part time, which would increase the likelihood of staying in the U.S.

      As for RTS in particular, there’s a lot to say, but I’ll keep it short. A more obvious reason was that I liked the faculty. It’s not my ideal faculty, of course, and they’re a bit more conservative than I am. Yet, I wanted a serious engagement with classical Reformed thinking, and that’s what RTS offers. I’m not narrowly Reformed insofar as I also cull from other sources (e.g., Barth and the Catholic nouvelle theologie), but I am challenged by classical Reformed theology more than any other tradition of theology. I decided that the only avenue available for my continuing growth (and depth) was by way of Reformed orthodoxy. A less obvious reason, but equally important, for choosing RTS was their intentional connections with the local church and focus on development in the local church. RTS doesn’t pretend to compete with the guild of academic theology; she is through-and-through a churchly school. RTS has (and has had) a number of fine scholars, but it is all subordinate to the focus of training pastors and church leaders. I’ve had the academic focus (in both my B.A. and MTh. degrees), for which I am immensely grateful, but that’s not what I need now.

      As a side note, I think it’s interesting to compare the ethos of RTS (all the campuses) to that of the two Westminster seminaries, which are the other obvious choices for those wanting a traditional Reformed education. RTS is refreshingly ideologically-free, in the sense that there’s no theological agenda or school of thought that dominates the strictures of what’s Reformed (say, Van Tillianism at WTS or Two-Kingdom at WSC) other than the Reformed confessions themselves. This, once again, goes back to RTS’ focus on the local church, where there’s a far less ideologically-driven understanding of doctrine and piety. I’m sure that Westminster grads would have plenty to say in response to my caricature, but I’m rather convinced I’m right. 🙂

  2. happy to hear you’re back in school kevin. you are too great a theological resource to be working at best buy. i miss you, pal. there are too few hayekians in my life these days. nearly all my friends in winnipeg are socialists, so i have nobody to argue with. (we’re right, after all). hope you’re well!

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