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Southern Story

12 SBTS Alumni in Christian Higher Education

Since 1892, Southern Seminary’s doctoral program has produced scholars for the classroom and the pulpit. In recognition of the seminary’s continued influence in Christian higher education, Southern Seminary Magazine features 12 alumni making a difference across the nation.

Greg Cochran

Greg Cochran

Director of Applied Theology at California Baptist University; Senior pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Riverside, California

M.Div. (2000), Ph.D., Christian Ethics (2010)


Greg Cochran has written extensively on the topic of Christian persecution, which he defines as what “happens when an individual or group lashes out against a Christian in word or deed to silence, control, or punish him for what he has said or done in Christ’s name.”

“I paid attention to more than the content of the lectures,” Cochran said. “I came to Southern because of the fearless clarity with which Dr. Mohler spoke the gospel to believers and unbelievers alike. I was particularly blessed to be at Southern during the time which he was still teaching Systematic Theology. The clarity of his convictions was inspiring. I also learned from first-rate scholars who were passionate — not indifferent — about their convictions. As a result, my preaching was influenced by Dr. Dan Block and Dr. Greg Wills, who modeled thorough scholarship with conviction. In Ethics, I was helped very much by Dr. Ben Mitchell, whose writing and lectures were always crystal clear and helpful.”

Peter Beck

Peter Beck

Professor of Christian Studies and director of the Honors Program at Charleston Southern University; Lead pastor of Doorway Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina

B.A. (2001), Advanced M.Div. (2003), Ph.D.,
Historical Theology (2007)

Author of The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology of Prayer


“If I had to boil down 9 1/2 years of learning and observing the leadership of my many professors, I’d have to say that what stood out the most was their servanthood. Of the many examples and life lessons, however, one stands out. Unbeknownst to many of his students, Dr. Tom Nettles invested untold hours every week helping his beloved wife take care of his mother-in-law. From the time that they brought her to Louisville so that they might care for her in her old age to her last days when he would go to the nursing home every day so that she could eat with family, Tom Nettles’ love and service to his family never wavered. I’ll never forget what it means to lead with love when it requires seemingly menial, but priceless, servitude. Those kinds of lessons aren’t in the syllabus but are worth all the tuition.”

Todd Miles

Todd Miles

Professor of theology at Western Seminary; Elder at Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon

Ph.D., Systematic Theology (2006)

Author of A God of Many Understandings?: The Gospel and a Theology of Religions


“Bruce Ware taught me that passion for the Lord Jesus Christ should permeate all of my teaching. Tom Schreiner taught me that Christlikeness, particularly humility, is absolutely necessary in the Christian professor. Steve Wellum taught me that to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ means that I need to think rightly about all things. I will forever be grateful for those three men and the Lord’s kind providence in bringing them into my life.
“I received a quality education that prioritized the gospel and service to Christ and his church. I was taught to never be ashamed of the gospel. I learned that all of the Bible seamlessly, coherently, and beautifully tells the story of Jesus Christ. I have a sign over my door that I see before walking into the classroom, ‘You are training shepherds of Christ’s Church.’ It reminds me why and for whom I teach at a seminary. All those lessons were reinforced at SBTS.”

Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell

Assistant professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University

Ph.D., Worldview and Apologetics (2014)

Author of A New Kind of Apologist and The Fate of the Apostles


Sean McDowell is a renowned apologist who speaks at churches and conferences around the world. The son of evangelist Josh McDowell, Sean McDowell also finds time to teach a Bible class in a Christian high school.

“I already knew that I wanted to go into academia before my studies at Southern. However, Southern provided the perfect distance program in my area of interest — apologetics. One of the main reasons I chose SBTS is because it has an excellent reputation in the wider Christian community.

“Doing a Ph.D. has undoubtedly been one of the toughest things I have ever done.
It stretched me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and certainly academically. I had to go deeper on some issues than I ever have before, which has done a couple things for me. First, it gave me even greater confidence in my Christian faith. Second, I realized how much time and effort it really takes to get issues right. It’s easy to take the shortcut, but doing a dissertation forced me to look at all sides of an issue and not settle for simple answers.”

Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones

C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry and associate vice president for Global Campus at Southern; Editor of The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry; Elder, Sojourn Community Church East

Ph.D., Higher Education (2008)

Author of How We Got the Bible and Finding God in a Galaxy Far, Far Away


“The modular doctoral programs at Southern allowed me to complete a research doctorate while leading a church where God had clearly called me to remain at that time. This program was creative and flexible without compromising academic rigor or content. The blend of online learning and face-to-face education has shaped much of what I have done since that time overseeing online learning and extension education.
“I am called first and foremost to be a pastor and a teacher. Professors at Southern showed me how to be a professor while, at the same time, serving pastorally both on the campus and in the local church.”

Matt Haste

Matt Haste

Associate professor of Ministry Studies at Columbia International University

M.Div. (2008), Ph.D., Biblical Spirituality (2015)

Co-author of Held in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past


“Southern helped me improve as a writer by challenging me to focus on the details of the writing process and by providing constructive feedback along the way. The faculty challenged me to think of myself as a scholar/writer in service to the church.

“The faculty at Southern helped destroy the dividing wall I had built in my mind between the academy and the church. For years, I felt the pressure to choose between becoming a pastor or a professor. In my time at Southern, I saw men balance each of these callings in a variety of ways. This helped me envision how I might use my own gifts to honor God and serve his people.”

Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner

Assistant professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary

M.Div. (2011), Ph.D., New Testament Studies (2014)

The son of Southern Seminary’s Thomas R. Schreiner, Patrick Schreiner conducted his Ph.D. research on spatial theories and their relationship to the kingdom in the Gospel of Matthew.

“Southern prepared me by teaching me the Bible, church history, and theology, and a love for God’s people. When I walk into the classroom, students don’t care that I did my studies in Matthew or even the New Testament. They have questions from all over the Bible. To teach the Bible you need to have is a good grasp of the Bible. A seminary centered on the Bible is a seminary worth going to.
“Southern instilled into me a love for the church and the people of God. The manifold wisdom of God is displayed in the church and having biblical or theological knowledge without a love for God’s people is like saying you like studying computers, but you don’t know how to use them.”

Matt Wireman

Matt Wireman

Dean of Christian ministries at North Greenville University Online

    M.Div. (2007), Ph.D., Systematic Theology (2012)

    “Off the Wire” blog features regular commentary on culture and theology at


    “One of the greatest, and not-so-obvious blessings, of Southern Seminary is its liberality with resources. By keeping the Great Commission its focus, Southern has never felt like a competitor — which is rare in the world of higher education. It is obvious that Southern wants to be a blessing to many folks — especially its alumni.
    “Just yesterday I called the library to speak to someone about research information. I could have called from any institution and the desire to serve would have been just as evident. We spent several minutes on the phone, after which time I was led in the right direction. It is a joy to know that I am part of an organization that is free with helping me in my questions on how to improve systems and protocols just as much as it is eager to help others who did not attend Southern.”

    Miles VanPelt

    Miles VanPelt

    Academic dean and professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at Reformed Theological Seminary; Pastor of Grace Reformed Church in Madison, Mississippi

      Ph.D., Old Testament Studies (2005)

      Author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew


      “My experience with SBTS was shaped entirely by the faculty in biblical studies, and especially by Peter Gentry as my doctoral studies advisor. These men modeled biblical, servant leadership with a commitment to truth and the Word of God. One way in which they modeled academic leadership was by their commitment to the highest standards of academic excellence in the service of the church. SBTS continues to serve the church by offering doctoral degrees in biblical studies. I continue to send my own students to SBTS for postgraduate education.”

      Jarvis Williams

      Jarvis Williams

      Associate professor of New Testament interpretation

      B.S. (2000), M.Div. (2003), Th.M. (2004), Ph.D., New Testament
      Studies (2007)

      Author of One New Man (B&H Academic 2010) and Christ Died for Our Sins


      “Southern pushed me to think critically, to write and research at a high level, and to strive for scholarly precision and clarity. My doctoral supervisor and current colleague, Dr. Tom Schreiner, was especially hard on me and pushed me to academic limits that I did not think I could go. He also exemplified for me a model of academic productivity to which I wanted to aspire.

      “Southern had the greatest role in my choice to pursue an advanced degree. Bottom line: I wanted to study with Tom Schreiner! He’s influenced my reading of Paul and the NT more than anyone.”

      Lily Park

      Lily Park

      Assistant professor of biblical counseling at Crossroads Bible College

        M.Div. (2008), Ph.D., Family Ministry (2015)

        “At Southern, God provided a combination of theological training, practical opportunities, and caring mentoring that were instrumental in preparing me for my current position. I’m incredibly thankful for my dissertation supervisor, Dr. Timothy Jones, who challenged me, encouraged me, and provided opportunities to grow as a scholar and teacher.

        “Southern introduced me to great thinkers through lectures, guest speakers, journals, and books. Discussions with students were also valuable. Most of all, I gained a deeper understanding of God and the relevance of theology for all issues.”

        Phillip Marshall

        Phillip Marshall

        Assistant professor of biblical languages at Houston Baptist University; Pastor of Adult Education and Discipleship, Founders Baptist Church in Spring, Texas

        Ph.D., Old Testament Studies (2007)

        Provides teaching tools for Greek and Hebrew on his website


        “Dr. Daniel Block was my doctoral supervisor when I first entered the Ph.D. program in 2001; however, Dr. Peter Gentry became my doctoral supervisor when my interests took a decidedly linguistic bent. Like Dr. Block, he united a penetrating, meticulous approach to scholarship with an all-consuming love for both Scripture and the Lord of Scripture.

        “Dr. Gentry always made time (and room!) for me in his office whenever I needed to stop by and discuss things, whether academic matters that I needed help understanding, or even practical issues of life and ministry. One of my former deans here at HBU recently remarked in a meeting how he enjoyed seeing me meeting frequently with students and working with them on Greek, Hebrew, and other things; that’s Gentry’s legacy living on in me.”

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