Ever since it was founded in 1856, the teaching of the Bible has determined what is taught at Moore College.
The Bible is not just a discrete part of the curriculum here, a foundation we can move on from as we pass through the College course. Everything we do is shaped and directed by the teaching of Scripture. Of course, we read the great theologians, we engage with the best thinking in the wider community, we develop skills in thought and practice, and we learn to understand where we fit in the unfolding history of the Christian mission. We value all these things.
Yet at every point the Bible is not just in the background but consciously in the foreground.
We are convinced that evangelical theological education is unashamedly biblical-theological education. Nevertheless, we call ourselves a theological college rather than a Bible college. Why is that? Of course, there are historical reasons to do with a distinction between helping Christians to grow in their knowledge of the Bible and preparing people for a lifetime ministry of the word. That historical distinction may have become somewhat blurred over the years, as traditional Bible colleges have started to offer degree study.
However, theological colleges tend to put a stronger emphasis on biblical languages (after all these are the vehicle through which God gave us the Old and New Testaments) and spend more time on systematic theology (providing an account of what the whole Bible says on a particular topic in a way that preserves the connections and proportions of Scripture and recognises the consequences of the positions we hold).
Many, if not most, Bible colleges are nondenominational, which means they are not committed to any particular confessional document; whereas most theological colleges operate within a confessional and denominational framework, preparing people to serve in that context first of all (though often not exclusively).
There is, however, another reason why we prefer ‘theological college’ as a description of what we are and what we do. It lies in the word ‘theology’ itself. Theology simply means ‘word or words about God’ and it draws attention to the fact that the endpoint of all our study is God himself. Older theologians used to speak of how theological study involves learning to think about everything in terms of its relation to God.
All creation ultimately has its source in God and so it is a good and right thing to turn our attention at each point to him.
We understand ourselves, our world, the course of human history, and everything else, in light of the fact that we are God’s creatures and so everything exists for him (Colossians reminds us more specifically, for Christ—Col 1:16). Does that lead us away from the Bible? Obviously, it shouldn’t. Through history there have certainly been those who have sought to have their own thoughts about God, without any recourse to the Bible. You do not need to read a lot of theology before you come across those whose point of reference is the words of other theologians rather than the Bible.
I remember sitting in a seminar where the professor said, ‘Of course we could turn to the Bible for the answer to this question, but I like to think things through for myself’.
But since Jesus treated the Bible as the written word of the living God—appealing to the Old Testament to explain who he was and what he had come to do, or to expose wrong thinking and living in those who opposed him, or to make known the purposes of God—those of us who follow him instinctively make the same move. His apostles, commissioned to take the teaching of Jesus to the ends of the earth until the end of the age (a commission that generated the New Testament), followed his example and regularly appealed to the Old Testament, and even occasionally to the emerging New Testament (2 Pet 3:15–16). The bottom line is that we can only know God by God. Unless God makes himself known to us, the best we have are educated guesses. But God has spoken.
He has made known who he is, what he is like, what he is doing in the world and how he will accomplish his purposes.
So, our first and sufficient port of call in understanding everything in relation to God is the word he has given us. As the apostle Paul made clear, all Scripture is not only God-breathed, it is ‘profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness’ and the goal is ‘that the servant of God might be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim 3:16–17). The Bible is an inexhaustible resource. Those embarking on a long-term teaching ministry need to know the Bible well but they will never master it. There is always more to learn.
Our confidence that this is God’s word must be accompanied by an acknowledgment that this word may still correct my fallible explanations of it and teach me something I had not seen before.
Jesus once said, that ‘every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old’ (Matt 13:52). We want our graduates to be able to do that year after year until the Lord Jesus returns. Our proper stance before the Bible is one of both humility and delight. We must never allow ourselves to be cavalier in our handling of the Bible. The authority which the Bible bears is the authority of God himself, since it is his written word.
Studying it and teaching it is a very serious business.
As the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, ‘this is the one to whom I will look: the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at my word’ (Isa 66:2). But it is a serious business suffused with delight. What an enormous privilege it is to study the word of God! ‘The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times’ (Psa 12:6). As Jeremiah prophesied, ‘Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by your name, O LORD of hosts’ (Jer 15:16).
At Moore College, we want to sit humbly under the teaching of the Bible and we want to delight in the word he has given us. It is because it is his written word, a good and life-nourishing word, and because of the example of Jesus and his attitude towards this word, that we are committed to keeping the Bible at the centre of all we do.