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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

"Are you sure you want to go to WSC?"

As one of five student representatives, I was asked to speak about my Westminster experience at the Graduation Reception. Below is my original draft of my speech--however, I had to cut much of it due to the five minute time limit. Hope this speech gives you a taste of how grateful I am for my education at WSC.

It’s a great honor but a humbling privilege to say something about our experience at Westminster. When I was asked to do this, I genuinely wanted to refuse because I’m not the smartest, funniest, articulate, the most active or social, nor the most experienced student in the class; however, there was one thing I could speak to… missions… probably not a surprise to many of the graduates. As many of the graduates know, I came to Westminster after 2 years working in corporate Japan and laboring with PCA missionaries with the sole goal of returning to Japan as a missionary. However, when I decided to come here—I distinctly remember a missionary saying to me, “Are you sure?”—using his eyes to non-verbally communicate to me that I’d get a wonderful, academic, rigorous, confessional theological education, but it wouldn’t be so applicable or practical for a missionary who is trying to bring the Gospel to a people who don’t even know the significance of the Reformation, better yet, don’t even know the meaning of Christmas.

However, after 3 years of Westminster, I can safely say, if you graduate with a Westminster theological education, you have not only the necessary tools, but a powerful framework to bring the Gospel to the unreached.

The academic rigor of seminary allows us to learn how to enter into, understand, embody, and draw parallels with worlds that are not our own.

This is why, in the furnace of Summer Greek, Dr. Telfer gently reminding us that one could say that 60% of a culture is ingrained in the language. In order to understand the world of the Bible, one most learn the language. With Dr. Baugh we explored the world of the first-century—through the intricacies of Greek grammar, the ancient practice of copy writing, obscure pagan worship practices, first-century slavery. With Dr VanEe we wrestled through ancient Mesopotamian myths of gods using divine body parts to create the world...

Although we haven’t left the confines of this seminary bubble, we have been taught to live in the foreign ancient Biblical world or even the 16th century Reformed world in order to speak accurately and relevantly to our modern 21st century world.

Not only so, we are taught to embody worlds in utter contradiction to our Reformed framework. In the first semester, I remember Dr. Horton urging his students to never portray another person’s position in a way that would make that person feel misrepresented—to do so would be breaking the ninth commandment. This is why Dr. Godfrey put us under the preaching of Charles Finney or in the pews of Aimee Mcpherson’s Angelus Temple… This is why Dr. Glomsrud made us read hard, foreign, obscure, and uncomfortable texts and peer into the lives of those antagonistic to the Confessional Reformed faith—Ignatius of Loyola, Phillip Spener, Schleiermacher, Henri De Lu Bac, Barth, and others—not to demonize the other but to help us understand them and their motivations, to learn from others and repent of our own flaws, and to find ways to share the faith in more powerful, fresh, and effective ways to those who don’t understand us.

As a result, we also learned to be bold to preach the Gospel, but not for merely the sake of theological accuracy, but for a deep love for the Church and the unreached.

As Prof Kim mentioned to us in his first class on Paul, Romans, the greatest “theological” exposition of the Gospel, is written by the most vocal, active, and bold missionary in the book of Acts. We can never be heads on a stick engaged in theology for intellectual stimulus, but to do theology for the sake of feeding the sheep and gathering the sheep outside the pen of the church. I can still remember Dr Johnson convicting Chapel message on Acts 6—though our calling is to be faithful in ministry, let us not shy away from the fact that the Lord takes pleasure in bringing in a multitude of people!

And we always saw this in the lives and teaching of our faculty. As Dr. Clark sweeped through 1600 years of church history, boldly urging us to identify and condemn any heresy and to never compromise the purity of the Gospel even in times of persecution and frontier ministry... with the desire protect the sheep from the shackles of the Law and to honor the martyrs of the faith who died for the purity of the Church. Dr. Estelle expounded on the intricacies of biblical wisdom and Hebrew poetry not merely to engage in scholarly debate and talk about how imperatives occur in clusters like grapes, but to proclaim the bold truth that when a fellow sister in Christ loses a spouse in a freak tractor accident, leaving her 3 kids to feed, God is still with her, God still loves her, and God is still for her. No one will ever forget Dr. Fesko’s fiery, self-forgetful lecture on the Final Judgment—with genuine joy and conviction, Dr. Fesko declared the Final Judgment was not a far off, abstract future reality, but because of the finished work of Christ, the sinful, the brokenhearted, the lost can now know that he is declared ‘not guilty’ before the throne room of God.

Class of 2017, as we have received this wonderful education from our teachers and our forefathers of the Reformation, may we also remember that we believe in a theology of the cross—a path of suffering and humility for the advancement of the Gospel. Today is like celebrating the end of boot camp, but we’re headed for the shores of Normandy the next morning. As Dr. VanDrunen puts it, we are called to be living parables of the Gospel—not be like the luxurious, influential, arrogant Herod, King of the Jews, but as the cursed criminal hanging from the Roman execution device, Jesus, the true King of the Jews.

So many times as we studied American Presbyterian history, I was frustrated that the conservative, Confessional, Reformed Presbyterians always end up losing against the liberal, unorthodox forces within the Church. I wanted the Reformed Church to win in the end. But I still cannot forget what Dr. MacArthur said to me—“although we may constantly lose against them, our theology allows us to lose, but endure and persevere.” So many times I remember at prayer group or privately, when things got rough or confusing, Dr. Kim either powerfully encouraging us or gently rebuking us faithless seminary students not to give up. Always calling us to rest in the Father who provides all things, our Older Brother who intercedes passionately for us, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in us despite our unclean hearts.

Class of 2017, I hope we at least endeavor to endure and persevere for the Church. I still cannot forget when Dr. Godfrey lamented the fact that the reason why the American Reformed/Puritan majority dwindled because many Reformed pastors were too reluctant to suffer and preach on the Frontiers. As Dr. Horton put it, as servants or waiters of God’s Word, may we never fear to get our hands dirty. May we always remember we have already counted the cost and renounced all to labor for the Lord of the Harvest—whether to go as missionaries or to send missionaries. May we endeavor always to work hard to understand the Bible and others, to proclaim the Gospel boldly, and to labor humbly in order to feed the sheep or call more into the fold. However, the great Gospel is that the Great Captain of Faith has defeated already all of our enemies—sin, death, and Satan himself. Therefore, we walk into battle already victorious, allowing us to suffer more for the Gospel.

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