Pam Glass, an editor at Christian Book Previews, spoke with David Horton about his upcoming book titled, The Portable Seminary.
CBP: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
David: The idea for this book came to me about twelve years ago. I happened to see a copy of The Portable MBA, and I thought, ďYou know, thereís a great idea.Ē Somebody who doesnít have time to go back to school, somebody whoís in a profession where they need a little more help with the business side of it, and they can get the gist of what they would get in an MBA, kind of get the bare bones by reading and studying this book. And it was in a single volume. And it started making me wonder, why couldnít a person do that in the same way with biblical studies?
Lots of Christians have an interest in developing their self-education, but they donít have the time or money or opportunity or inclination to attend seminary. So I just began to research what it is that seminaries are teaching, polled about a dozen graduate schools of theology and seminaries to find out what it was they were teaching, all the common things, and used that to develop my table of contents.
CBP: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What are your credentials?
David: Well, my credentials are not in theology. I am what I would consider a serious Christian. I am a former missionary and was a mission executive before I got into the publishing business. Iíve been in the publishing business since 1991. I was involved in a few publishing projects prior to that, but officially 1991 was when I started. But Iím the kind of person that I see as one of the key target audiences for this book.
So in a sense, Iím kind of developing the book for myself. I have had some biblical education, but itís very modest. But Iíve always had a desire to have a more thorough knowledge of theology, of the Bible, Christian history and other things that I would naturally be taught if I were in seminary somewhere. So this seemed one way to get a preview of that kind of education by putting this sort of thing together. Iím an ordinary guy whoís active in his church, and in ministry over the years, and just wants to take it to the next level.
CBP: Can you tell me what some of your sources are and what is the theological perspective of the book?
David: We used a variety of sources from a number of different evangelical publishers. Obviously, being a part of the Baker Publishing Group, we used a lot of materials from the Baker backlist. The sources were primarily already published materials that I paid for permission to re-use. Then I actually contracted with a few people for specific things that I couldnít find or couldnít find in the right format. And so I just arranged with people who had the right credentials to do things like that.
For example, background to the Old Testament, background to the New Testament, both of those chapters are written, one by a seminary professor, one by a university professor. The theological perspective is what I call middle-of-the-road Evangelical. Itís not exclusively Calvinistic; itís not exclusively Arminian or any other specific thing. Weíre not trying to convince Baptists to become Presbyterians or vice-versa or whatever. But there is so much that we all hold in common. Those issues are discussed, by the way.
The contributors come from a variety of schools that would run the gamut from Dallas Theological Seminary to Fuller Seminary to Wheaton College, Bethel College/Seminary, a whole lot of other schools both large and small, some secular institutions where they happen to teach with a fairly Evangelical faculty. Now they might have some differences of opinion on minor points here and there, although the key things that they would all agree on are salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, and the inspiration and authority of Scripture. So there are lots of different kinds of things that come up as points of discussion, as would be the case in any seminary, but thereís no attempt to be exclusive about it, but itís not truly ecumenical either because all these people come from an Evangelical perspective.
CBP: What was your favorite section of the book?
David: Church history is one of my favorites just because I like history. Itís really hard to pick out a favorite part. The first several chapters are aimed in the direction of theology--theology of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and other aspects of theology. I enjoyed that a great deal. It was like taking a refresher course just working through the material.
I enjoyed that because I think we have a tendency to sell theology short and to think that itís just for the eggheads in the church. The pastor should know theology, but the rest of us should just live the Christian life. And what Iíve come to believe is that we really are all theologians because we all claim to have knowledge of God. And so the better our theology is, the more informed we are about it, the more likely it is that we are going to be firm in our faith, and the less likely it is that we are going to be tripped up by false teaching and some of the crazy stuff that goes around these days.
Thereís so much stuff that we hear in the media now, you know, The DaVinci Code, misquoting Jesus, and some of these other books that are out that are undermining the foundations of our Christian faith. Itís a little harder to fall prey to that sort of thing if you have a solid foundation yourself. I think when we shy away from these things itís sort of like saying theology is really only for the professionals, and I donít believe thatís the truth. It just makes sense that when you know and love God, you would want to know as much about Him as possible. And loving the Lord your God with your heart, mind and soul includes the mind. We need to fill our minds as much as possible with what is true about God. Again, this is not exhaustive, but it certainly is a good starting place.