Published on November 14th, 2013 | by Dana Wiles, Jr.
An Interview with Thomas Schreiner
This is the first of several interviews that I will be conducting with some of the men who have not only helped me understand the Scriptures better but who have also had a great impact on the church at large. For this first interview, I corresponded with Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner. Dr. Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and an Associate Dean in the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He is also the Pastor of Preaching at Clifton Baptist Church, which is also in Louisville. He has written several books and commentaries including his most recent work, The King In His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic, 2013).
How did you come to know God through faith in Jesus Christ?
I was raised in a Roman Catholic home in Salem, Oregon. I became a believer in Christ at the age of seventeen through the witness of the person who became my wife, a home Bible study, and reading the scriptures on my own. I was immediately discipled by a godly, joyful, and faithful youth pastor. Tasting the love of Christ and knowing the forgiveness of sins the first time was indescribably glorious! It still is!
What inspired you to go into the academy to teach at the seminary level?
My call to ministry was coincident with my conversion. I knew after being converted that God had called me to some type of ministry. When I entered seminary, I assumed it would be pastoral ministry. During my seminary years I did quite well in the school and fell in love with scholarly study of the scriptures. The Lord began to impress on my heart that I should go on for further education and pursue teaching as a ministry. I have always viewed myself, however, as having a pastoral role as a teacher. I taught at Azusa Pacific (1983-86), Bethel Seminary (1986-1997), and Southern Seminary (1997-to present). Since 1998 I have also served as a preaching pastor at Clifton Baptist. I have shared the joy of preaching the last five years with a wonderful fellow-pastor, John Kimbell
You have written a ton of books. Which one do you think is your most important contribution to the church?
Probably my last one, The King in His Beauty. I wrote it for pastors and those interested in knowing the whole story of the scriptures. I wanted to help people understand the whole Bible. It isn’t an easy book to read, but I think it is accessible to the ordinary person.
The study of biblical theology is wildly popular at the moment and for good reason. What is biblical theology and why is it important for Christians?
Biblical theology is defined many different ways. Klink and Lockett just wrote a book where they describe 5 different ways of doing biblical theology. I would emphasize that biblical theology has a historical character. It investigates the scriptures along the redemptive historical timeline. Systematic theology does that as well, but systematics also includes the study of philosophy and the contribution of church history. Biblical theology limits itself to the biblical text and unfolds the message of the writer in his epoch.
You recently published a book review of Strange Fire by Dr. John MacArthur over at the The Gospel Coalition. Do you think that the debate that is happening right now over the cessationist/continuationist issue is massively important or are both sides sort of overreacting?
I think it is an important discussion. We should continue to discuss and investigate what the Bible teaches and how it applies in the life of the church. MacArthur and others raise significant objections to the charismatic movement that must be considered and evaluated. On the other hand, there are faithful charismatics who must also be listened to in the discussion. One of the most important things is to continue the conversation since good people who love the scriptures and are orthodox are on both sides of the issue.
You are not only an accomplished writer and teacher, but you are also a pastor. What advice would you give to seasoned pastors based on your ministry experience? What advice would you give to new pastors?
I would say to seasoned pastors: Don’t become cynical or weary with God. Ask God to give you new and powerful experiences with him as you read his word. Don’t lose your first love, and pray that God will keep kindling your love for him and for the church. Remember, no matter how long you have been in ministry and no matter how well you know the scriptures, you need fresh grace for today. For the new pastor: don’t be in a hurry. Think of your ministry over the long haul. New pastors can get impatient, so realize that 5 years is a short time! Keep your passion for change, but trust God to work in and through you and leave the results to him. Remember that everything that happens in the church is for your sanctification, and that means everything!