I am often asked why Moore College is called a “Theological College” rather than a “Bible College”. Because the word “theological” sounds rather obscure to many Christians today, some people refer to Moore College as a “Bible College”.
They are not wrong. The foundation and centre of all that we do at Moore College is the study of God’s written word, the Bible. All that is taught and learnt is measured by this standard. At Moore College we are firmly convinced of the authority of Scripture, the clarity of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture. The ministry for which our students are preparing is a ministry of God’s Word. People become Christians, grow into mature believers, and learn to live a godly life as the Holy Spirit applies God’s Word to human minds and hearts. Christian pastors lovingly and clearly bring God’s Word to people. Those who study at Moore College are therefore thoroughly soaked in the Bible.
Furthermore one of the most important distinctive aspects of the teaching at Moore College is biblical theology: an understanding of how the various parts of the Bible fit together in a wonderful unity that all points, in a rich variety of ways, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
All this is intentional and important. I am not surprised that some call Moore College a “Bible College”. Of course it is!
However when we call the College a “Theological College”, we are drawing attention to the purpose of our study of God’s Word. “Theological” contains the Greek word for God, theos. We do not study the Bible in order to know the Bible. We study the Bible in order to know God. The Bible is not just any book. It is God’s own Word about his Son, the Lord Jesus. The Living God has spoken the words of the Bible (cf. 2 Pet 1:21), and he speaks those words today by the power of his Spirit (see e.g. Heb 3:7). What the Bible says, God says. To hear the Bible is to hear God’s voice. To believe the Bible is to believe God. We therefore study the Bible in a particular way and for a very special purpose. We study prayerfully in order to know, love and trust our wonderful, gracious and holy God through trusting Jesus Christ.
It is possible to study the Bible differently. In universities the Bible can be studied as a collection of merely human documents. Many students who study the Bible in that way certainly get to know the Bible (in one sense), but unless they receive God’s Word as it actually is, the Word of God, they will not know God (cf. 1 Thess 2:13).
When we call Moore College a “Theological College”, we are emphasising the purpose and goal of our studies: knowing God.
Furthermore as a “theological” college Moore College is concerned that our knowledge of God shapes and illuminates all of our thinking and living. Theology is what we know when we know God. A person who knows God sees all of life differently from a person who does not know God. Of course our knowledge of God is always (at least in this world) limited (see 1 Cor 13:12). Neither do we find it easy and natural for our thinking, understanding and living to be godly. At our theological college we work hard at growing in godly thinking, understanding and living.
This, of course, drives us back to the Bible. How do people who know God think about marriage? How does knowing God help us to understand politics? Does our knowledge of God illuminate our approach to relationships? The Bible often addresses our questions directly. Sometimes it does not. How do people who know God view technological developments in our world – medical and biological advances as well as the iPad? All these and many others are theological questions. We only know God by receiving and believing his word about our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. We then want our knowledge of God to be thoroughly life-transforming. This does not happen “automatically”. Like all of the Christian life it takes effort and hard work. As a “theological” college Moore College is committed to this hard work.
Even this, of course, is not an end in itself. Our churches (and our world) need pastors who are godly, humble, loving, and hard working. We need such pastors to help us to grow in knowing God, to find the comfort of knowing God in the tragedies of life, to have our desires and behaviour shaped by our knowing God. We want pastors who will help us find godly wisdom in the complexity of modern life. All of this comes from the Bible, by the work of God’s Spirit. But it is more than “knowing the Bible”. It involves learning to “think theologically”, which is jargon for thinking that comes from knowing God.
This is where Moore College’s reputation for what is (a bit misleadingly) called “academic rigour” comes from. We take thinking seriously. But that is because thinking is an important part of being Christian.
Wherever the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has its effects it makes people thoughtful. It makes thinking matter, whether or not it mattered before. How often has the gospel come to a society or a culture or a group, and one of the profound effects has been educational? It is no accident that Christian missionaries have a reputation for starting schools. One of the effects of the gospel is to promote thinking. When you know God, what and how you think matters.
Our problem is that thinking, like all human activities and capacities, has been corrupted by sin. More often than not human thinking is an expression of rebellion against God. Many of the world’s greatest “thinkers” have set their thinking against the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their philosophies have been false substitutes for the Word of God. So much of the “thinking” we encounter in life is an expression of ungodliness.
It is common for Christian people to react to the ungodliness of human thinking with a rejection of serious thinking. We may embrace non-thinking experiences as the heart of the Christian life. Or we may turn to energetic (but unthinking) activism (and sometimes call it “ministry”?) as the demand of discipleship. We are shy of urging Christian people to be thinking people. Our teaching and preaching can become motivational talks intended to rouse our hearers to action of one kind or another, or powerful rhetoric to stir up an experience. But we may be uneasy with teaching that is aimed to make and change and deepen thinking.
There are two big reasons that we must overcome that unease.
The first is that the very character of Christianity requires us to be thinkers. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). “The truth” is the reality of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and men (1 Tim 2:5). He is the truth. By understanding something of God’s grace towards us in Jesus, we are humbled. By learning something of what Christ has done, we begin to take life seriously. By comprehending that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, we are turned away from our sinfulness. By grasping the faithfulness of God, faithfulness matters to us. And so on. The heart of such godliness is thinking – because the power that produces such godliness is the truth.
The second reason that Christians must be thinkers is that the answer to the corrupt and godless thinking that surrounds us in the world is not non-thinking, but sound and healthy thinking. At Moore College we seek to serve Christian people and churches by raising godly, thinking teachers of the truth who will serve others by their sound and healthy teaching.
That is why we are a Bible College and a Theological College.
Principal, Moore Theological College (2002-2013)