My Journey to a Lutheran Seminary

I grew up in a culturally Christian home, but it was a home that ultimately lacked any real devotion to Jesus Christ and his Word. Nevertheless, from a young age I believed there was a God and thought of myself as a Christian, though most of my Canadian peers did not.

Truth be told, I had little understanding of what it all meant, beyond knowing the Lord’s Prayer and a few anecdotes about the Bible. In truth, I was serving a hidden God to whom I thought I owed a generally moral life. And that moral life fell apart pretty quickly when the guard rails were taken off.

As I went to university in London, Ontario, the hypocrisy of my life became more and more evident, moreso to those around me than to me at the time. Looking back on those early years of university, I see that “God’s name [was] blasphemed among the Gentiles” (Rom. 2:24) due to my ignorant unbelief. Yet in the midst of this, God’s Spirit started to open my eyes to my sin and brought me to seek him out for repentance.

It was in the exam room, during my final test in German, that I finally started to grasp how far I was from what my vague understanding of God’s law would deem righteous. I was a bit of a mess and had surely acted the fool. From there on out, the path was far from straight, and I struggled for quite some time against the idea of Grace Alone. Oh, I was not an easy catch! It struck me as absurd that my salvation had nothing to do with me. Even as I began to read the Bible properly for the first time in my life, I remained far from willing to accept the gospel in its purity. Nope! I was going to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and fix this mess called Sean. Thus, as the beginning of my return to faith, I returned to the Catholic Church where I had been baptized and had received first communion. God persisted with me by bringing different people into my life, including my lovely wife, who pushed me more and more toward the truth of his Word.

Finally, one day out of the blue, I decided to take a drive to a Christian Reformed Church in Barrie, over an hour away from where I grew up. I cannot remember what the sermon was, but I do remember that Pastor Harry took the time to sit down with me, a total stranger, to walk me through the gospel. He met me where I was. He talked with me about Catholicism, without any of the bitterness or pride that I had heard from some non-denominational pastors, and with a heart that wanted me to know the depths of the love of God. Although many more words could be spent on this man of God, it was through him that I was truly and finally won for Christ. In turn, I began attending a beautiful Canadian Reformed congregation in London and slowly became more and more involved in the church.

I began to feel a call to pursue ministry and prepared to attend the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary. This involved learning the biblical languages, and again I was blessed with a devoted shepherd who met with me weekly for “Greek Breakfast.” As I prepared to attend seminary, however, something started to gnaw at me. As much as I love the Canadian Reformed Church, and continue to love my brothers and sisters there deeply, I began to find the Church’s teaching on reprobation (God’s decision to cast certain people into hell) difficult to reconcile with the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I wrestled with this issue for over a year, yet my conviction remained the same: I should not pretend to confess something I do not believe, and I certainly cannot teach it. So, as much as I loved the Church, the Reformed Seminary was not an option for me.

During the same period, I began to read more Luther and, especially in reading Melanchthon, became more aware of this entire branch of Christianity that had been pretty sparse in Ontario. By God’s providence, we happened to move right beside a little Lutheran church, and it was there I met my first living Lutherans, a pleasant bunch. The following series of events are still a bit unclear to me, but it involved finding out about Lutheran Brethren Seminary online, Timothy Olson messaging me from a Facebook group, and a chat with Dr. Veum. Ultimately, I arrived in Fergus Falls, Minnesota to study in person at LBS. My plan had been to study online at Tyndale Seminary and work part-time back home with family. Yet here we were in a foreign country. It was all a bit of a whirlwind really, but here we stayed. It has been a blessing, though a strange one.

I must say that at first I was pretty skeptical about what God was doing with us here. I was approaching the seminary with a bit of a cautious mind and indeed, some of the early things I encountered were such a culture shock that I honestly thought I had made a mistake. At one point I sought to run back to the safety of the Reformed Church, but God intervened—no one answered the phone! Cooler minds prevailed and over time, despite my hesitancy, I came to love this school and their devotion to missions and proclaiming the Word in season and out (2 Tim. 4:2). I came to see that some of the things that had at first shocked me were really meant to afford me growth. The teacher who I was most skeptical about ended up being the one under whose teaching I learned the most. I came to love the way we were sent again and again to see what the Word says, only to find again and again our worldly presuppositions challenged by that sharp sword.

Through this rewarding experience, I have come to thoroughly appreciate what it means to be low-church Lutherans, even if I occasionally poke fun at my peers. I am quite happy that the Lord has brought my family here and, though I initially came because it seemed to be a decent and historically-rooted Lutheran seminary, I returned this year because I have grown to love and cherish the Lutheran Brethren Seminary.
Sean Boolsen is a second year student at Lutheran Brethren Seminary.

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