NOTE: The following is a student response to the new vision Trinity President Dr. Braxton Hunter expresses in his article “A Letter from Trinity‘s President.”
By Keith Sherlin
I would like to add a word of praise here about the blessing I have received from being a part of Trinity, an “Academic City of God” as Dr. Hunter so wisely has described Trinity.
I attended a Southern Baptist University for my undergrad BA degree. I learned a tremendous amount of knowledge there. At that time the conservative resurgence had just made its impact on the college and all of the professors were solid, safe, and scriptural based (of course all theology professors were without exception Baptists). My depth of knowledge and love for it increased greatly while there. I am ever so thankful for my Baptist heritage.
After graduation I decided to attend two dispensational seminaries that were under the Dallas Theological tradition. There too I received many blessings. My undergrad had a heavy Reformed persuasion to it in regards to ecclesiology and eschatology. So the Master’s degree and subsequent Th.D under the two dispensational seminaries were really helpful for me to gain a love and appreciation for some aspects of theology that had not received a strong focus upon in my undergrad education. Of course, all of the professors were without exception within the Dispensational stream of thought. And just as with my appreciation for my Baptist undergraduate education, so too with my dispensational education I am beyond grateful. I was able to study under some of my heroes of the faith (Couch, Ryrie, Fruchtenbaum, Lightner, Geisler, Patterson, Enns, and more). It was a dream come true.
After those degrees I completed my MA (with high honors) with Trinity Theological Seminary. Here I was able to study under or meet and interact with a vast array of professors from both the Covenant and Dispensational traditions. I had some Calvinists, some moderate Calvinists, some within the Wesleyan/Arminian persuasion, and a host of contact from people from all denominational backgrounds (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Brethren, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopal, and more). They stretched me to think holistically with an aim to integrate theology into all disciplines of knowledge. Though a plethora of denominations were influencing me they were all very devoted to the essential doctrines of Scripture and they loved the Word and they loved us students. And currently I am about to complete my Ph.D with Trinity. I am astoundingly and absolutely grateful beyond measure for the influences I received while here at Trinity.
So when I see the phrase, “Trinity, an academic City of God,” I rejoice enthusiastically. If we really think about a city we can see the unity and diversity picture. In a city there are a variety of systems at work (personal families, private business, government, educational sectors, roads, economic activity, civil interaction, and more). Yet in all of that every element intersects in some way with the other areas. A city is an integrated organism that is unified on the essentials while having a healthy variety within the peoples, systems, and institutions within it. Granted, if someone violates one or more of the essentials a city does deal with those violations (fines, criminal penalties, etc). Yet outside of those essentials the people move with a largely harmonious view of life and accomplish great feats along the way. As they do they grow together, live together, laugh together, cry together, rejoice together, build together, and learn to give and take together for the greater good of the community.
I sense the same is true for us at Trinity. As an academic City of God we have a unique blessing to have this environment where we are not bound by elaborate and explicitly detailed creeds or confessions (which allows for those associated with Trinity healthy educational exploration within the intelligentsia), while at the same time we have a solid Evangelical confession of faith that is deep enough and narrow enough to maintain a powerful rushing river for the Great Commission (which harnesses the intelligentsia for a singular holy cause and protects from heresy). Though due to my profession and ethical canons that I take an oath to honor I cannot give “public endorsements” to any business or institution. However, I can testify to the blessing Trinity has been to me personally in the Lord. For me personally I see Trinity as a radiant, resilient, and resolute academic City of God that can serve as a respite for those trying to find theological balance among the sometimes sincere yet too often schismatic streams that flow through Christendom. Trinity is wide enough for various streams to flow together with their distinctive affirmations (and civil discourse of those along the way), yet deep enough and narrow enough in boundaries to keep the mighty river from splintering into a thousand trickling streams that lose the power, purity, and passion of the Lord. In short, that means for me Trinity is a City that I can call home.