All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16–17
Truth is at stake in the world today. Biblical illiteracy is commonplace, even in the church. Especially after the past year, many pastors are discouraged and want to leave the ministry.  In such a time as this, the need is great for pastors, counselors, and ministry leaders trained and grounded in the Truth of God’s holy Word. And that means seminaries devoted to God’s Word are more important than ever.
The foundational conviction of Covenant Seminary is that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired, inerrant Word of God, our only infallible rule of faith and practice. Though this idea is much-maligned in our broader culture, we hold it to be the anchor that makes genuine theological inquiry and education possible. To put it plainly, the work of the Seminary concerns the Bible because the Bible is the unique Word from God.
Knowing God by Knowing His Word
The apostle Paul writes that this Word is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), indicating that the very specific words themselves are God-given. Thus, no matter how tempting, we ought not decouple our knowledge of God from its inscripturated form. God and his Word are inseparable. Indeed, this is no small point and one which the evangelical church in the twentieth century has rightly upheld. And so must we. As our own Dr. Robert Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, writes,
We can no more separate God and his words to us, . . . than we can separate human friends and family from the words we exchange with each other. . . . To separate knowledge of persons’ identity, human or divine, from their verbal self-disclosure would in the end, be both unproductive and perverse.
For this reason, we look out to God’s Word, not inside to our human hearts, to look for truth. As Ezekiel reminds us, the subjective, inward turn offers us no hope.
The Word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’” (Ezek. 13:1–2)
Indeed, it is not to our hearts that we turn, no matter how sincere they are. It is not on the authorities of science, critical theories, and technology that we depend, no matter how helpful they may be. It is not to the voice of popular culture that we listen or on which we rely, no matter how influential. No. It is the Scriptures alone that carry the Word of Truth.
We Need a Voice from Outside
That our world has become increasingly post-Christian, pervasively secular, and profoundly pluralistic not only challenges this conviction but also makes standing firm in it much more significant. Our culture is hungry for a transcendent voice of hope. But how will people hear that voice if they no longer believe that such a voice speaking in the Scriptures exists?
If we are to be a beautiful people, as God has called us to be, it will be because we have allowed the light of God’s truth to illumine the paths we walk.
In the mid-1990s movie Contact, Jodie Foster’s character devoted her entire life to seeking extra-terrestrial life, listening for radio signals from space and hoping to hear a voice from outside to confirm her hope. Such a search is ironic, is it not? We do not need to search the heavens for a transcendent voice. We already have that “alien” message from God himself, a message which “makes us wise for salvation” (2 Tim. 3:16), if only we will listen. Our God has not left us alone amidst our noisy solitude. He has given us his Word, an orienting compass that makes sense of this turbulent, disenchanted world.
Indeed, if there is to be a new awakening of Christian interest, it will require more than merely “reasserting” our theological heritage or “evangelizing” those still nominally informed about the faith. Those strategies are no longer effective. Rather, we must travel further upstream, recognizing that the questions people are asking are more basic and their biblical illiteracy more profound. Our treatment of the Scriptures must encompass more than the truth about personal sin and salvation, and instead focus on the entire biblical story—from Genesis to Revelation, Creation to Consummation—as we help people find their way in the modern world.
Defending the Word of God
Yet, it will be impossible to serve that purpose if we are not firmly grounded in the canon of God’s holy Word. It is our responsibility of an evangelical institution like Covenant Seminary to both ably defend this conviction regarding the Word of God and, with equal skill, to train its students to honor that Word and submit to its Truth.
Paul charges his protégé Timothy to “guard [that is, to protect and keep as a watchman] the good deposit” entrusted unto him (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14). Paul envisioned ongoing maintenance of this holy task by calling Timothy to entrust “to faithful men who will be able [in turn] to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2). Surely, Paul’s instruction extends to us today and enlists the church in this monumental task. Indeed, while there are many important duties required of the denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church in America, I can think of few more critically important than the able stewardship of the Bible.
Submitting to the Scriptures
This conviction to the Truth of God’s Word obligates us further. It is not enough to affirm that the Bible is true or to recite our Reformed convictions about it. We must also submit to its authority in every area of life. Who can forget the famous declaration of Abraham Kuyper, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not exclaim, ‘Mine!’” As a seminary devoted to training future pastors, church planters, campus ministers, counselors, women’s leaders, youth workers, and other ministry leaders and Kingdom workers, we must submit ourselves and our instruction fully to the teaching of the Scriptures. We must recognize that the Scriptures establish the fences or boundaries inherent in God’s will and orient us to the field held within. As the Psalmist declared,
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98)
Therefore, God’s Word provides a holy, gospel imagination that ought to guide our lives in worship, relationship, service, vocation, and mission.
The Firm Foundation on Which We Stand
So what does all of this mean for Covenant Seminary and those who teach and study here? It means that:
- All we are, teach, and do is grounded in, motivated by, and flows from the truth of the eternal, inerrant Word of God as given in his holy Scriptures.
- Our administration, faculty, staff, and students are committed to upholding this conviction and submitting every area of our lives and ministries to the teaching of Scripture as our only infallible rule of life and faith.
- We are committed to stewarding the truth of Scripture well as we serve our denomination and beyond by training future generations of faithful men and women to serve Christ’s church and Kingdom in gospel-centered, world-transforming ways.
- We attempt to share the gospel with lost and hurting people in ways that intersect their own personal stories and tie them to the larger story of God’s redemptive purposes for his world.
In all these ways and many more, we as an institution and as individuals are shaped by God’s Word. If we are to be a beautiful people, as God has called us to be, it will be because we have allowed the light of God’s truth to illumine the paths we walk.
On this conviction we are founded. On this conviction we stand.
This post is part of a series adapted from Dr. Tom Gibbs’s “Inaugural Address,” presented at Covenant Seminary on September 24, 2021.
 Glenn Packiam and Andrew Hébert, ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: On Pastoral Health and Leading Online, April 14, 2021, accessed 10/18/2021, barna.com/research/cpw-packiam-hebert/.
 Robert W. Yarbrough, “The Embattled Bible: Four More Books,” Themelios, 34, no. 1 (2009): 12.
 From a speech given by Abraham Kuyper titled “Sphere Sovereignty,” cited in James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 488.