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Committee on Christian Education Feature

Spring Courses, New Instructor at MTIOPC

The Ministerial Training Institute of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church announces its 2012 Spring educational offerings by first introducing its newest instructor: the Rev. Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn. A Cambridge scholar and associate pastor of Grace OPC in Vienna, Virginia, Van Dixhoorn will teach the course on the Westminster Standards.

Three other popular courses offered this Spring will be Defending the Faith (Presuppositional Apologetics), Ecclesiology, and Pastoral Theology. The courses are geared to give ministers, licentiates, men under care of a presbytery, and elders the opportunity to delve deeply into areas of importance in the OPC.

Westminster Standards

Over the years, Van Doxhoorn has studied the setting, people, decisions, and texts of the Westminster Assembly. He has transcribed the previously unpublished minutes and papers of the Assembly and prepared them for publication by Oxford University Press next year in five volumes. For the first time, every known surviving text written by the Westminster Assembly will be widely available.

As part of the MTIOPC class, the students will preview a commentary Van Dixhoorn is writing on the Confessions and a series he is developing on the main doctrinal topics of the Confession.

The students will not just study the Confession and Catechisms. They will also learn how to defend the theology of these documents from Scripture. "A minister needs to be both steeped in the Word of God and familiar with the best statements of faith produced by the Christian church," said Van Dixhoorn. "Knowledge of the Westminster Standards as a summary of Christian doctrine is a prerequisite for usefulness in a Presbyterian church.... A minister in a confessional church enjoys an additional reason to know the Westminster Standards well: throughout his ministry he subscribes to the system of doctrine that they teach, and intellectual honesty requires that he know well what he promises to teach and defend."

Although the course is a study of the Westminster Standards and not of the Westminster Assembly, Van Dixhoorn believes the texts "must always be read in a framework of grammatical and historical plausibility.... But the Standards can be usefully employed as a launching point for teaching Reformed theology."

Students who complete the course may expect to have "a deep familiarity with the theology of the Scriptures, and thus of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as it is summarized in the thirty-three chapters of the confession and the questions and answers of our catechisms," said Van Dixhoorn. "If they have attended carefully to the reading and lectures of the course, students will also be able to teach and defend the gospel that we love and preach, and the full counsel of God that we seek to follow."

Defending the Faith

As the instructor of Defending the Faith (Presuppositional Apologetics), the Rev. Dr. William Dennison brings years of interest in apologetics. "My passion for apologetics began in college and continued through seminary, where I received a Masters of Theology in apologetics, publishing my thesis: 'Paul's Two-Age Construction and Apologetics,' " said Dennison, a devoted follower of Cornelius Van Til's presuppositional apologetics. He teaches apologetics and systematic theology at Northwest Theological Seminary, as well as interdisciplinary studies at Covenant College. Dennison has written numerous articles on Van Til. His passion for, and knowledge of, presuppositional apologetics will be communicated to the students taking this apologetics course.

Ecclesiology

The Rev. Dr. A. Craig Troxel has taught in the field of ecclesiology at Westminster Theological Seminary, at London Theological Seminary on behalf of Westminster, and at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. His commitment to teaching the biblical and historical foundations of Presbyterian church government and what principles and practices should be applied to shepherding the body of Christ will be brought to bear on his course. "It is important to study ecclesiology, because it is most likely the first theological challenge you will face as a pastor," said Troxel. "Secondly, at this moment, ecclesiology is definitely the 'hottest' area of theology, particularly issues surrounding the mission of the church."

Pastoral Theology

The Rev. William Shishko, who will teach Pastoral Theology, has served as minister of his congregation for thirty years. Pastor of the OPC of Franklin Square, New York, Shishko will teach a biblical approach to the pastorate and the responsibilities of shepherding God's flock. "This class is designed to give men exposure to the life of an OPC congregation that has been formed by the principles of rule and shepherding presented in the class," said Shishko. "It's also a great time for men in their early years of ministry to meet and wrestle with many of the issues facing them in the early years of the 21st century." This course is limited to six students. It would be especially useful to those entering the pastorate or those recently ordained as ministers.

Students work at home through e-mail correspondence until the mandatory Intensive Training session. The Intensive Training session for the Westminster Standards, Defending the Faith, and Ecclesiology will be held May 15-17 at Grace OPC in Vienna, Virginia. The Intensive Training session for Pastoral Theology will be held at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Franklin Square, New York, from April 28 to May 3.

Applications, information about costs, and a catalog are available on the OPC.org website under Christian Education, then MTIOPC. The deadline for applications is January 23, 2012. Instruction begins on February 1, 2012.

For more information, contact Pat Clawson, MTIOPC coordinator, by e-mailing ccesec@opc.org or calling 215/830-0900 (when the message begins, press *828).

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