Greenville Conference Celebrates Gospel Freedom

crowd-c“Trumpet Call: 500 Years of Gospel Freedom” served as the theme for the spring conference of Grenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS). About 375 people (including people from Nigeria, South Africa, and Canada) attended all or part of the lectures presented at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, SC, from March 14-16, 2017.

A chapel service on Tuesday morning concluded the Seminary’s annual open house for prospective students and initiated conference activities. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., President of GPTS, preached from Romans 3:1-4 on “Whose Fault?”

Lectures began on Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, speaking on Sola Scriptura. Using Psalm 19:7ff and 2 Timothy 2:14ff as his texts, he first delineated doctrines that flow from Sola Scriptura. He then defined and clarified the sufficiency of Scripture, before bringing practical applications. He stated, “The heart of Sola Scriptura is that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of the church.”

Dr. Robert Kolb, Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary and a widely-recognized expert on Luther, presented a lecture on “Luther’s Providential God.” He noted that while most people think of Luther’s primary emphasis as being on Christ, he also had a robust theology of God’s providence.

Pipa chapel
Dr. Pipa

Following a Question & Answer session, Dr. Pipa drew from Ephesians 2:1-10 to speak on Sola Gratia. His three points were the function of grace, the purpose of grace, and the fruit of grace. He said, “Salvation, from beginning to end, is of Jehovah, the triune God, that He might be glorified in His people.”

Dr. Kolb then enlightened listeners on “Luther’s Preaching on the Parables.” The key to understanding this biblical genre, he said, is to “recognize the Person telling the parable as the main point of it,” and that Christ provides the proper interpretation for each one.

On Wednesday, Pastor Cliff Blair, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Charlotte, NC, preached from John 6:26-71 on Solus Christus. He spoke movingly of Christ as the focus of the entire Scriptures, the holy One of God, who is the center of it all. He urged listeners, “Set your feet on this rock, eat this bread, drink this blood, taste eternal life now, and know that you will have it forever and ever.”

Pastor Carl Robbins, Woodruff Presbyterian Church, used James 2:14ff to address the topic of Sola Fide. He noted that Protestants tend to warn against legalism, but fail to recognize the danger of antinomianism. In a memorable introduction, he compared the two threats to ditches on the sides of a narrow country road.

L-R:  Drs. Pipa &, Whiting, Pastor Blair, Ryan Speck (moderator), Dr. Morales, Pastor Robbins, and Dr. Kolb

After another panel discussion, Dr. L. Michael Morales, Professor of Biblical Studies at GPTS, spoke on Soli Deo Gloria. Based on Matthew 4:1-11, he encouraged hearers to look to Jesus, who lived completely to the glory of God and glorified the Father through obedience to His Word.

Dr. Michael Whiting, author of Luther in English, led off Thursday’s lectures by exploring “Law as Friend and Foe in Luther’s Theology.” He noted that Luther’s famous paradox about believers being simul justus et peccator (both righteous and sinners) can guide our understanding of his paradoxical language regarding the law.

The last presentation by Dr. James E. McGoldrick, GPTS Professor of Church History, was about “Luther on Life without Dichotomy.” Based on 1 Peter 2:1-12, he spoke about Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which was in stark contrast to the prevailing dichotomy between clergy and laity. He stressed that a life of service is indispensible to the Christian life, saying, “True faith is always active in love.”

The conference concluded with a final Question & Answer session.

The above article by Glenda Mathes was one in the Reformation Conference Series and appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.


Seminary students from near and far

Some seminaries within the Reformed community welcomed students from overseas as well as from Canada and the United States to their campuses this fall.


First-year students at Mid-America Reformed Seminary represent every continent except Antarctica.

image from the Mid-America Reformed Seminary website (

Master of Divinity (M.Div.) students include Joshua Flinn from the RCNZ in New Zealand and Pete Van’t Hoff from the URCNA in Leduc, Alberta. Two other URCNA students are from opposite coasts: Daniel Ragusa is from New York, while Bryan Punter is from California. Jeremy Baker, a member of the OPC, is from Arizona.

Another M.Div. student, Arjen Vreugdenhil, is attending seminary at the same time as his father, Jaap Vreugdenhil, who is enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree program. Both are from the Netherlands, although Arjen has lived in Michigan for a dozen years.

Three MTS students have foreign countries of origin, although they have been in the States in recent years. Moody Wasif was born and raised in Egypt, Pablo Martinez is from Chile, and Sung hwan Kan is from Korea.

Daniel Dumont is a part-time student from Canada, who was originally from Haiti. Another part-time student, Moses Sanchez, is a member of an OPC mission work in Chicago.

Greenville Presbyterian

The incoming class at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary includes six Americans in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program and one foreign student in the Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) program.

The M.Div. students come primarily from southern states. Trevor Setzer, from South Carolina, and Thomas Booher, from North Carolina, are both members of the PCA. Another North Carolina student, Michael Spangler, belongs to the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Steve McCullough, a member of the ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), hails from Georgia.

The two remaining M.Div. students come from opposite sides of the country. Caleb Bouma is from Idaho and belongs to the CREC (Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches). Christopher Colby, from Pennsylvania, is a member of the ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America).

Steven Cliff is a non-denomination student in the B.D. program who came to Greenville from New Zealand.

Puritan Reformed

The incoming class at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary includes six US and seven foreign students in three programs.

Five students are in the M.Div. (Master of Divinity) program. Americans include Kevin Grasso, a member of the PCA, Robert Sass, who belongs to the CRC, and Phillip Stoffregen, a Baptist. Kuen Su is from Malaysia and belongs to the Kuala Lumpur Reformed Evangelical Church. Xiongzhi Yin is from China and belongs to the Chinese Christian Church/Presbyterian.

Four students are in the MAR (Master of Arts in Religion) program. John King is from the US and belongs to the PCA. Confex Makhalira is from Malawi and is a member of CCAP (Nkhoma Synod). Getachew Woldeamanuel and Gemechu Almi are both Baptists who are from Ethiopia.

Four students are pursuing a ThM (Master of Theology) degree. Michael Borg, who is a member of the OPC, and Shelby Gemmen, a member of the CRC, are both U.S. citizens. Ian Macleod is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church from the UK. Nicodemus Ude belongs to the Nigeria Reformed Church and came to PRTS from Nigeria.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the November 13, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.