After growing up as a Baptist in McPherson, KS, I attended Wheaton College in Illinois for my B.A., entering as a Christian Education major and ending with majors in Philosophy and English. I my love for Christian ministry ignited during my senior year on a six month immersion trip doing community development work in Uganda. This passion received confirmation after I spent a year teaching at a theological school in Ethiopia after graduation. So I scrapped my plans for a Ph.D. in philosophy and went to seminary instead.
I attended Fuller Theological Seminary for my Master of Divinity degree. While I was appreciative of many of the professors at Fuller, two who had a particular impact were Miroslav Volf and John L. Thompson. Volf served as my first theological mentor and guide, and I worked as a Teaching Assistant for him at Fuller. Studying with John Thompson instilled in me a love for historical theology, the history of biblical exegesis, and Reformed theology.
After Fuller, I decided to continue on for a doctorate in theology. I attended Harvard Divinity School, working with a variety of professors there. My advisor for this time was Sarah Coakley, an excellent teacher and guide in historical as well as systematic theology. At Harvard, I grew in my appreciation of the depth and breadth of the historic Christian tradition, as well as in my engagement with contemporary theological movements, such as the theological interpretation of scripture. In Harvard’s diverse context, ecumenical aspects of my identity were accented, but I also found myself growing deeper into the Reformed tradition. While a doctoral student, I continued serving in various forms of ministry, including on staff for five years at First Church Homeless Shelter in Cambridge, MA.
Since 2005, I have been on the faculty at Western Theological Seminary, in Holland, MI. I am delighted to serve at Western, which is a sacramentally-minded school in the Reformed tradition. It draws its identity from the synergy of being evangelical, ecumenical, and Reformed. In this, Western has become a welcome home for my faith and I have served Reformed Church in America in various capacities. In 2007, I became an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. In 2009, my wife and I served as missionaries to Ethiopia with the Reformed church.
In 2012, my life changed when I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer, Multiple Myeloma. I received a stem cell transplant in 2013. After recovering from the transplant, I have returned to the job that I love at the seminary. While I continue to receive cancer treatment, I teach, research, and write as I hold an endowed chair position: the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology.
I am married to Rachel M. Billings, who holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament from Harvard University. We are blessed with two lively children, and a retired greyhound.
In addition to teaching and spending time with my family, I love research and writing. Below is a bit more about my books:
Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union With Christ (Oxford, 2007) won a 2009 Templeton Award for Theological Promise, awarded internationally for the best first books of scholars in theology and religious studies.
The Word of God for the People of God: An Entryway to the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Eerdmans, 2010), earned recognition through the 2011 Book Prize from the Center for Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue.
Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church (Baker Academic, 2011) won a Christianity Today Book Award in 2012.
Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities (Westminster John Knox, 2012) is my first book that I co-edited.
Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ (Brazos Press, 2015) serves as a theological reflection on providence and lament in the face of my diagnosis in 2012.
Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table (Eerdmans, 2018) represents the completion of a decade-long study of exploring the heart of the gospel through renewing the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper.
The End of the Christian Life: How Embracing Our Mortality Frees Us to Truly Live (Brazos Press, 2020) offers a theological and experiential case for why embracing our mortal limits is vital to Christian discipleship.