My Favorite Student

Posted On June 15, 2017

From time to time, I have been asked: “Who is your favorite student, Dr. Mathison?” I don’t answer that question by providing the curious soul with a name. I can’t. Being asked that question is like being asked: “Which of your children do you love the most?” That question is an unanswerable question because I love both of my children the same. Similarly, I have the same concern and care for all of my students.

Although I have the same care for all of my students, all of my students are not the same. Each one is unique. Like all human beings, they have different strengths and different weaknesses. Some are very outgoing; others are somewhat shy. Some were raised in Christian homes; others have been recently converted. Some prefer the biblical survey courses; others prefer systematic theology classes. A few thrive on the biblical languages. No two students are alike, and I love getting to know all of them.

While I can’t point to any one person and say, “This is my favorite student,” there are characteristics, qualities, and attitudes that all teachers hope either to find already ingrained in their students or to instill gradually into them. It’s important to note, of course, that some of these characteristics will look different in students with different personalities, but all of them are qualities that make teaching a joy.

Diligence – I want my students to be conscientious and hard-working. We are to do all things to the glory of God and that includes school assignments. Laziness and sloppy, careless work does not fit that description.

Teachable – My students know that their professors are not omniscient. We do not know everything. Our students also do not know everything. Those who think they know it all tend not to understand the value of education, theological or otherwise.

Patient – Students need to be patient with themselves and with one another (and sometimes with their professors). This quality is especially important when Christian students who have been instructed in Reformed theology since childhood are in the same classroom as students who have only recently been converted.

Questioners – By “questioners” I do not mean those who dispute everything the professor says in an obnoxious manner. What I mean is that professors want probing, thoughtful questions from students. Those who are extroverted tend to be comfortable asking such questions in class. The more introverted students often wait until after class to ask them one on one with the professor. But in any case, questions reveal thought about the topic at hand.

I could mention many other qualities, but I think that these illustrate the main point. As bible college professors, we thrive on hard working and thoughtful students who are passionate about learning what God has revealed of Himself, and who let that knowledge impact not only their minds but their hearts as well. These are students who let their theology shape their doxology and whose love of God is inseparable from their love of God’s people.

Dr. Keith Mathison is Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College.