Grant Christy | NTS Class of 2015
Master of Divinity Degree Program,
Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies Degree Program
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the second PALCON (Pastor and Leaders Conference) of the summer, this one, hosted on the campus of Southern Nazarene University. For three nights in a row, I was both nourished and challenged by the words of Dr. Eugenio Duarte, Dr. Carla Sunberg, and Revs. Gabriel and Jeanette Salguero. As if this line up weren’t enough to fill me to overflowing, I and nearly 400 other pastors and leaders, were also treated to two plenary sessions with Dr. Tom Noble, Professor of Theology at NTS, who explored (scratched the surface, really) the issues addressed in his recent book, Holy Trinity-Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting. If the evening services were like having cool water poured out over me, bringing refreshment to my soul; the morning sessions with Dr. Noble were like being blasted with water from a theological fire hose, which, strangely enough, was just as refreshing to my soul.
It would have been obvious to any casual observer that the insights Dr. Noble was just beginning to unpack were also refreshing to many of the other pastors. As Dr. Noble expounded on the necessity of theology, Christian theology’s Trinitarian shape, and the need to “think into each other” doctrines such as the atonement, the incarnation, and Christian perfection, I could see light bulbs coming on as pastors were having “ah-ha” moments. After about 30 minutes, Dr. Noble paused and calmly concluded, “Well now, that’s chapter 1.” As I glanced over the crowd, it looked like a room full of people who just had a moment like in the movie, The Matrix, when Neo experiences for the first time the rush of having an entire program downloaded directly to his brain in a matter of seconds. “Whoa.”
In that moment, it occurred to me how much of a privilege it has been to study under Dr. Noble over the past couple of years at NTS. I have had the opportunity to take Doctrine of Christian Holiness, Doctrine of Christ, and Salvation & the Spirit from Dr. Noble, all of which come to bear on his book, Holy Trinity-Holy People. What these pastors at PALCON experienced in that brief 30 minutes, I was able to explore and dig into with Dr. Noble for nearly half a semester. What Dr. Noble shared in the two hours of plenary sessions, I was able to marinate on for three full semesters; not only with the person who literally wrote the book, but also with fellow NTS students who helped me to process what we were learning together and its implications for ministry in the local church.
One statement made by Dr. Noble during the opening session that I recall elicited a collective “ah” by the entire crowd was this, “If you’re not willing to study and explore Christian holiness in depth, then don’t preach it. You’ll confuse people.” That crowd of seasoned pastors, undoubtedly, has encountered numerous parishioners who have been confused about Christian doctrine—not just entire sanctification! Considering that these pastors clearly resonated with this statement, I think it is safe to say there is much wisdom in it. Indeed, both new and veteran pastors alike need to be willing to study and explore the Christian faith in depth. Not so we can simply acquire more knowledge, but so we are better able to articulate our faith in a way that is enlivening to our congregations, rather than confusing. That is our responsibility as pastors.
I am grateful that NTS has provided me and many others with the space and resources to study and explore our Christian faith in depth, so that we may be faithful and effective ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.