Faculty Q & A with Keith Whitfield
CHRIS MARTIN | January 19, 2017
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, went to Clemson and majored in business with a hope to work in college athletics. I sensed a call to ministry after college and went to Southern Seminary for my M.Div. and Th.M. degrees. After Southern, before coming to teach at Southeastern, I pastored in Virginia and Tennessee.
I have been married for 15 years to Amy, and we have two kids, Mary and Drew.
Q: How did you come to SEBTS?
A: While pastoring in southeast Virginia, I started my Ph.D. at SEBTS. When I was completing my degree, we moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue planting a church. While working to plant and train pastors in Nashville, I had the opportunity to come to Southeastern to teach. We prayed about it and decided the Lord was leading us in that direction.
Q: When people ask you, “What do you do at Southeastern,” what is your response?
A: My title is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and an Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Faculty Communications. But, what I actually do is look for time to hang out with students preparing for ministry and help equip them for what God has called them to do.
Q: On what are you currently working?
A: I’m working on a book with Nathan Finn on missional spirituality and a short theological exposition of the book of Ephesians.
Q: What have you been reading recently?
A: I’m reading “Biblical Knowing” by Dru Johnson in preparation for a talk that I am giving in February. It presses the idea that knowing God means knowing Him as Lord and entails living life under his lordship. I’ve also begun “Kingdom Conspiracy” by Scot McKnight and “Faith Speaking Understanding” by Kevin Vanhoozer.
Q: When you get home from work, what do you look forward to doing?
A: I look forward to taking my daughter to swim practice, hanging out with my son, and playing with our golden retriever. When I can, I build furniture and work in our yard. My favorite pastime is “thinking together” with my wife.
Q: Who are your role models?
A: My dad, my father-in-law, and Danny Akin are three men I look to more than anyone else. The Lord has used each of them in distinct ways. They set incredible examples for me to follow and helped me make decisions. They are the men that I want my son to be like.
Growing up, I was really impacted by a guy named Charlie Thames. He was the first man other than my dad to believe in me. Charlie was my first basketball coach when I was only five or six years old. He thought I could play with the seven or eight year olds, and it made a difference. We’ve remained friends over the years.
When I was in college, Terry Lanford, one of the pastors at my home church, invested in me. He gave me a space to talk about life, and through that, I gained a lot of direction and wisdom.
Q: What has God been teaching you lately?
A: The Lord is teaching me that parenting is much more like farming than building a house. You’re always preparing the ground, planting seeds and picking the weeds, but there is a great reward.
The Lord has also been working on my heart through the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. It raises fundamental questions about faith. Regardless of how one parses it theologically, it is a truth that can cause unrest. The Lord is teaching me how to rest in this truth.
Q: Where are some of your former students?
A: I have former students on the mission field in Eastern Europe and Asia, students preparing to go to India and Canada, and students pastoring churches in New York, South Carolina and Florida.
Q: When a student completes your class, what do you want him or her to walk away with at the end of the semester?
A: I really want two things: 1) To know that God’s mission is to be known as Lord over all of creation and that Scripture is telling this story, and 2) That theology is not the end. Theology is just part of the process of them knowing God, and it ultimately serves their understanding of the Scriptures.
Q: We always say that every classroom at SEBTS is a Great Commission classroom. What does that look like for your class?
A: The task of theology is a missional task, because the lordship of Christ is a missional truth. Doing theology demonstrates how all things unite under Christ and equips the people of God to engage in his mission.