Any theological education institution strives to stay relevant to the world to some extent. But how should seminaries respond to the global as well as regional turbulence stirred up by trade wars, natural disasters, epidemics, and geopolitical and religious tensions, not to mention the internal tensions which have yet to be resolved in many nations? How is the Christian faith relevant to the world and especially to our immediate contexts?
Theological education desires to be relevant to the world, to offer something that the whole counsel of God has but the world does not—holiness. Yet why does holiness matter?
Holiness: To Be Chosen and Sanctified
When the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians who had experienced severe persecution for their beliefs and were thus scattered around the Mediterranean region, he affirmed that they “have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood” (1 Pet 1:2). To the readers of his time, to be sanctified (i.e. to be made holy) made all the difference in their lives. Peter made this point clearly—Christians will be made holy in and through the triune God. As the chosen people of God, they bear the mark of the holiness of God, which is made obvious in their obedience to Jesus Christ.
Holiness: To Testify About God in a Secular World
What theological education could offer to our ever-secularizing contexts is the equipping of God’s people to be holy in all they do in accordance with the holiness of God. However, what relevance does this value, belief and lifestyle have to our congregations? To our neighbouring communities? To our societies? At a conference on Christian faith and the secular world, British missionary-theologian Lesslie Newbigin (1909–1998) shared a way to bear witness to the biblical truth to modernist minds, whose entire mental training has conditioned them to believe that life and the universe can be explained and managed without the idea of God: we need congregations who fully believe in biblical truth.
How should Bible-believing Christian congregations and individuals bear witness to biblical truth? For Newbigin, we are to “live in the kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer.” But what would such a lifestyle look like, that it would tell the world that we are different? Undeniably, it would entail living a life of holiness for the sake of God’s purpose. As summed up in 1 Peter 2:9, Christians are a chosen people of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people belonging to God. For what purpose? It is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
As a chosen people called out of the darkness of our sinful desire and this corrupted world, we are to live fully in God’s wonderful light. You may then wonder what happens to the people who are not chosen. Are they thus forsaken forever? Peter’s intention is to highlight for his readers the logic of God’s mercy toward non-chosen peoples: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10). The logic is that the chosen people of God are not the only ones who will enter God’s kingdom; rather, they have been summoned for the mission of inviting non-chosen peoples into his kingdom! Seeking holiness is for the sake of bringing the gospel to the world.
Holiness: The Mark of Theological Education
Singapore Bible College is a community of learners who pursue God’s holiness through formal, non-formal and informal education. We believe that the way to stay relevant to the world for the mission of God is to live a holy lifestyle. The College thus makes great efforts to cultivate holy living as second nature in our students, while also encouraging our faculty and staff to pursue health of the whole person in various aspects:
For spiritual health—encourage sanctified habits
through daily devotions, Bible reading, prayer,
and communal worship, so that we may lead holy
lives before the Lord
For mental health—promote sanctified reasoning
by learning the truth of God continually and
upgrading knowledge and professional/ministry
For relational health—share sanctified talents in
love and the truth of God through daily activities,
duties and services in this community and beyond
Our fellow sojourners and pursuers of God’s holiness, let’s pray for one another.