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March 16, 2023

Faculty Spotlight: Jeffrey McPherson, Professor of Christian Theology; Director of the Honors Program

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“My time at Roberts has helped me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses and challenged me to trust God with it all.” 

Dr. Jeffrey McPherson is our Professor of Christian Theology as well as the Director of the Honors Program. He has taught at Roberts for over a decade and hails from Canada.

What’s your calling? 

My calling is to teach people about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and the Bible so that their lives are transformed by their encounter with God and to examine the ways in which religion shapes the fundamental structures and values of our lives.

What brought you to Roberts and how long have you been here?

I came to Roberts in 2011. I moved to Rochester from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where I was teaching theology at Taylor University College & Seminary. 

I knew Richard Middleton through our connection as subsequent Presidents in the Canadian Evangelical Theological Association. I knew that I already had a friend at Roberts Wesleyan and that it would be a great place to teach.

When were you first interested in theology?

The church I attended in Toronto, when I was young, always included a "Questions, Comments, and Feedback" time after the Sunday night sermon. I loved hearing how people engaged with the message and some of the different theological ideas. I was always the kid in the youth group that wanted to go deeper in the discussion. 

I preached my first sermon at this church at age 16 (I preached on 2 Tim. 1:7), so I guess you could say that I've been interested in theology since I was a child. 

If you could help everyone understand one thing about studying theology, what would it be and why?

God speaks - that is, God reveals God's own self to us. 

While God will always be beyond our final understanding, God has specially created humanity to know him and to be in relationship with him. Psalm 8:5 declares that God has made humans, "a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor." 

Therefore, it is right and good to pursue God with our minds. In fact, it is an act of worship. In this sense, theology is the natural pastime of all who love and follow God. 

What is your vision for students entering the Honors Program?

I am so grateful to be the director of the Honors program at Roberts Wesleyan University. I love working with students in this program; I love traveling with them and experiencing the world through their eyes. 

My hope for students in the program is that their view of the world is transformed and that their vocation is affirmed. 

What's one memory you can share about the Honors Program?

Exploring the El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico last year was amazing. I had a great time exploring and discussing God's creation with some students alongside some amazing adventures!

Tell me a story of how one of your students has grown in their faith thanks to Roberts.

Quote from Andrew Rudolf ‘21 (Religion and Philosophy):

"When I started studying at Roberts, I focused on apologetics, and my relationship with theology was very unhealthy. I relied upon these arguments and ‘tricks’ to ground my faith. How strong I considered any particular argument for God/Christianity on a given day determined how strong my faith was. 

“Studying theology with you helped me shift the purpose of reason and creativity from a survival tool to a means of worship. Theological and apologetic schemes are no longer the sources of my faith but outpourings of it. Not that I consider my faith irrational, haha!"

How has Roberts influenced your own spiritual journey?

My time at Roberts has helped me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses and challenged me to trust God with it all. This has required patience, trust, and spiritual insight.

What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?

The happiness paradox captures the idea that the pursuit of happiness in itself actually leads to less happiness than if you don't worry about happiness and focus on other goals. 

This points towards the truth that true joy in life comes from serving God and others rather than pursuing what seems best for me.

Do you have a hobby?

I have a small collection of manual typewriters. I love sending letters and typing out first drafts.

What is your favorite verse and why?

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Colossians 1:15-20. 

I love verses 19 & 20, "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [that is, Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

One of my favorite quotes is from Ian Barbour (scientist and theologian). I love how he captures the heart of intellectual and spiritual humility:

"It is by no means easy to hold beliefs for which you would be willing to die, and yet to remain open to new insights; but it is precisely such a combination of commitment and inquiry that constitutes religious maturity." 

Ian G. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study in Science and Religion. United States: Harper & Row, 1974. P.138.

Any recent publications to highlight?

  • "Violence and the Cross: The Affinity Between Theories of Atonement and Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace," in The (De)Legitimation of Violence in Sacred and Human Contexts, eds. M. Shafiq and T. Donlin-Smith. Palgrave MacMillan, 2021.

  • "Alfred North Whitehead on Creation," T&T Clark Encyclopedia of Christian Theology (forthcoming)

  • Essay on Christian Worldview for the First Year Seminar Reader here at Roberts 

Student Feedback

“If there is any professor who truly lives up to Roberts's calling to ‘educate for character,’ it is Dr. McPherson. The only true way to be an excellent educator is to be excellently educated yourself; likewise, the only proper way to teach outstanding character is to be an outstanding character. Dr. McPherson's character is outstanding and reflects the heart of Christ and an eagerness to grow as a society.”

Mitchell Johnson ‘24 (Cross Disciplinary Studies) 

“Over the past few years at Roberts, I have had the privilege of taking multiple classes from Dr. McPherson. He is a great teacher and a very wise man full of biblical and theological knowledge. He does not merely want to educate students, but he seeks to form relationships with students. Multiple times, Dr. McPherson has asked to join me for lunch and he is always available to discuss any questions that I have about theology and the Bible. I am truly grateful for how God has used, and is continuing to use, Dr. McPherson at Roberts.”

Carson DiFranco ‘23 (Biblical Studies)

“Dr. McPherson is one of my absolute favorite professors. My mind has been so broadened and my understanding deepened by his teachings. He is so knowledgeable about so many things, and I have loved how he teaches us the vastness, beauty, and complexity of other religions, and while challenging us, still brings us back to Christ, but even stronger and wiser than we were before. I so value his insight and advice, and he has been instrumental in helping me understand the Bible and who God truly is by the way he approaches his own faith.”

Julia LeVan ‘23 (Music) 

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