Many people who love theology develop those affections during adulthood, but there’s never been a time in his life when Steve Wellum wasn’t aware of the importance of sound doctrine.
Wellum, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary since fall semester of 1999, became a Christian in high school and grew up in a home with parents who placed a premium on developing a sound biblical worldview.
“I am so thankful that even though I did not become a Christian until mid-way through high school,” Wellum said, “due to the faithful instruction of my parents, and the faithful exposition and theological preaching of my pastor, Bill Payne, I was already miles ahead in my biblical and theological understanding, and after my conversion, all of what I had been taught became crystallized in my thinking and life.”
Thus, it was natural for Wellum to give his life to teaching the Bible and the things of God. Before coming to Southern, Wellum taught in Canada at Northwest Baptist Seminary and College. At the recommendation of his pastor, Wellum attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) where he completed both his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy.
At TEDS, God stirred up in him a desire to preach God’s Word and teach theology. Wellum studied under teachers at TEDS who form a who’s who of noted evangelical scholars: Carl Henry, D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, John Feinberg, Harold O. J. Brown, and Kevin Vanhoozer.
“But I still did not know whether this was going to be local church ministry or in the education realm,” he said. “I was still very young when I graduated with my M.Div. at 24, and then my Ph.D. course work at 26.
“If pastors don’t think theologically from Scripture, and in light of sound historical theology, pastors and churches will be swept away by every current doctrine around us without bringing Scripture to bear on the issues of the day.”
“The best thing that happened to me as I finished my Ph.D. course work, was that the Lord sent me to pastor a rural church in South Dakota, where I learned first-hand what it meant to love and serve God’s people. My present ability to teach now is indebted to all of these experiences in my life, especially the time I served as a senior pastor in South Dakota.”
For Wellum, teaching theology means serving the local church. Theology is not primarily for the academy as an end unto itself, but is for people who sit in the pews of local churches and the pastors who teach them the Bible week in and week out. If pastors are to be faithful, they must teach their people sound doctrine, he said.
“If pastors don’t think theologically from Scripture and in light of sound, faithful historical theology (not all theology from church history is legitimate), pastors and churches will be swept away by every current doctrine around us without bringing Scripture to bear on the issues of the day.
“Too often we have it backwards. Too often we look to the thought of the day — science, critical theories, foreign ideologies, social media pressures, views of sexuality — and then we try to make the ‘extra-textual’ views that are foreign to Scripture ‘fit’ with Scripture.”
One of Wellum’s greatest burdens is to equip students to understand the Bible holistically — how to understand the Bible in the best of the Reformation tradition, seeing all of Scripture in terms of Christ.
“My gifting has always been to think in terms of the ‘big picture,’ and as I look back on my life, I can see how the Lord was preparing me for the teaching of theology, with the goal of training people for gospel ministry in our world,” he said.