My Trip to Southern: A Non-Reformed Person’s View of the SBC’s Reformed Headquarters

When I was considering seminaries to apply to, I started to whittle them down by not only location but also their seriousness about Scripture, even though I have a heavy interest in philosophy of religion.  I have no desire to leave Texas right now, so that contributed to me stalling on applying to outside seminaries, which is why I missed Southeastern’s deadline.  However, I was able to apply on time to Southern, which may sound odd to some because I am clearly a critic of Calvinism and Southern is about as Calvinistic as a Southern Baptist seminary can get.  However, on my trip here to meet the faculty and take the entrance exam, all I will say is that I would recommend this seminary with confidence to someone who is looking for a seminary where the professors care about the Bible, scholarship, and the students.

First of all, the campus itself is amazing.  It’s by far the best looking seminary campus I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably one of the best on the planet.  Most seminaries are just a few buildings and have a pretty small campus.  Even Southwestern, while it is big, isn’t necessarily as atmospheric.  Southern has red brick buildings with great architecture, good landscape, and a lot of nice indoor facilities.  It honestly feels like a wealthy private university campus.  I was shocked when I got here.  It looked better in the snow too.

Of course, the niceness of the campus isn’t the best criteria to pick a school.  I got to meet some prospective Ph.D students here, some of whom got their master’s degree at Southern, as well as some faculty.  They were all very gentlemanly, and the professor’s are all clearly intelligent with a concern for academic rigor.  During my interview process, I came clean that I was not Reformed.  That raised their eyebrows a bit, but they were very charitable about it and told me that it wasn’t a problem (though they did half-jokingly tell me that some students here may not be as polite).  They have a clear concern for the authority of the Bible and for sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  I may disagree with them strongly on issues, but I don’t have anything bad to say about them as Christian men.  Given their disposition as well as the campus itself, it is no wonder Southern has boomed in attendance over the past several years.

At the end of the day, I came away with no regret coming here, though I had to spend some money to get to Louisville.  I don’t even expect to get accepted; the professors were honest about having a logjam of students in systematic theology, especially with losing a professor recently, and they said that they could take probably only 1-3 students.  I have zero connections here, I’m not Reformed, and there seems to be other strong candidates.  I also dogged on limited atonement on my written exam, which probably did not earn me any brownie points :).  Still, I think it was a great experience, and while I already respected many of these men I’ve already heard of as scholars (such as Schreiner and Ware), I’ve gained more respect for them and the school as a whole.  I may come off with a strong tone when I critique Calvinism on this blog, and maybe I am a bit too strong at times, but just know that I don’t have ill will for men like them even if we would disagree strongly on several issues.  And I hope Christians who engage in this debate would be as charitable and nice about it as they were to me.  I might even think that sometimes Mohler has said goofy things about Arminians or other non-Calvinists in the past and that he should diversify his faculty a teensy bit, but that’s par for the course in academic debate and there’s nothing to take personally.  It’s also his right to run the seminary as he sees fit.  Even if you’re not Reformed, it’s a good school to consider because they’ll challenge you on scriptural terms.  Just don’t be a wuss and take things personally ;).

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