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A Seminary at Home

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Category Articles
Date July 19, 2013

My nickname is ‘Typicus’ which stands for ‘typical’ because I am typical of thousands of pastors around world. I live in a remote area of Malawi. I pastor five churches of about thirty people each. I have a growing family, so there is no way that I can leave home and study in a seminary either in Blantyre here in Malawi or where there is more choice in South Africa. In spite of these difficulties I have enjoyed a theological education. This has come about through the study of 31 books. The completion of this course has taken me two years in which I have been answerable to an examiner called a grader.

All the books have been provided to me free through a local church, which is a distributor for Chapel Library in Pensacola, Florida, USA. The 31 books are given three classifications: basic, intermediate and advanced.

First I refer to some of the basic books. These expound the essential salvation truths of the Bible such as repentance and faith and also prayer. Prayer is the first activity of a convert. Samuel M. Zwemer said that ‘prayer is the gymnasium of the soul’. It is also the life of the church. No prayer means no church. This course has two studies on prayer. The first is by J. C. Ryle combined with LeeRoy Shelton Jr. The second is David Maclntyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer.

I was surprised to find the book The Story of the Puritans by Erroll Hulse in the basic section, but having read it I now see why. We who are isolated need to be introduced to Church History and to biographies. These short biographies of Puritan pastors not only inform me but inspire me to be faithful.

Talking of the Puritans, a thrilling book in the basic section is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This classic by John Bunyan never fails to edify and inspire.

I turn now to the intermediate section of these studies. I begin with The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink. How awesome are God’s attributes? A. W. Pink is reverent and challenging. Next I read The Doctrines of Grace in the Gospel of John by R. Bruce Steward. We are humbled when we remember that we are saved through no merit of our own. This is life-changing truth.

In this section there are two books covering Church History written by Stanford E. Murrell. These have given me an overview of God’s purpose and work through all the centuries. The first volume takes me up to the Reformation and the second from the Reformation to present times. The style of this author is refreshing. It is a pleasure to read these books. New Testament Survey is also an important part in the intermediate section.

Mortification of sin is essential for every believer. Included in the intermediate section is a study titled ‘Holiness’, using the classic of this title by J. C. Ryle. With AIDS rampant in Africa this is a most important practical subject.

In this section students are introduced to Confessional Christianity through a study of the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith.1 Every one of the 32 chapters in the Confession is followed by textual references and a series of questions. This Confession has opened my eyes to the fact that the Bible contains a coherent body of truth in which all the constituent parts inter-relate and strengthen each other. I have come to see that the future of the churches depends on doctrinal faithfulness. Unless we hold to truth in all its essential parts we will be vulnerable to heresies as is illustrated by church history. I am determined to persuade the churches I lead to incorporate this Confession in their constitutions and require that the elders and deacons subscribe to this Confession. This will help safeguard the future and prevent the churches from being hijacked by savage wolves who exploit people to line their own pockets.

The third section of this course is titled ‘advanced’. It includes Dreblow’s book Methods of Bible Study, and Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. To these are added two courses on The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit by A. W. Pink. These have enabled me to appreciate the dimensions of the work of the Holy Spirit. Before this my thinking was shallow.

For reasons of space I have not referred to all 31 books in this home seminary course. A fifty-page handbook describing all the books in the course forms part of the course so the student can track his own progress. Heart-warming comments from students abound all the way through the handbook. These personal paragraphs provide a sense of fellowship and remind me that our Lord is extending his kingdom throughout the world.

These studies assist me in preparation of sermons. The strong emphasis on repentance and faith creates in me the determination to proclaim the good news of salvation by grace. The doctrines of grace and the clarity in the courses on the sovereignty of God steer me away from the crippling man-centred prosperity gospel which is doing terrible damage in Africa.

Following this course means that I belong to what must be the largest seminary in the world. The small church of Mount Zion with its Chapel Library publishing ministry supplies this course and the 31 books to about 30,000 students like me. It is wonderful to know that the course I have described is also working in 4,000 prisons in North America. [Visit www.chapellibrary.org for more information.]

Notes

    Available from the Trust as a Gift Edition Pocket Puritan titled

    • The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 - Gift Edition
      price From: $7.00
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      My nickname is ‘Typicus’ which stands for ‘typical’ because I am typical of thousands of pastors around world. I live in a remote area of Malawi. I pastor five churches of about thirty people each. I have a growing family, so there is no way that I can leave home and study in a seminary […]

Taken with permission from Reformation Today, No. 254 (July/August 2013). Note and links added.

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