RBC Spotlight: Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology
Posted On August 25, 2020
Dr. Keith A. Mathison is professor of systematic theology. He earned his Ph.D. from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Fla., and his M.A from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla. Dr. Mathison is author of several books and served as an associate editor for the Reformation Study Bible and as associate editor of Tabletalk magazine. He also blogs at Light in Dark Places.
We recently sat down with Dr. Mathison to ask him about his faith, life, and studies at RBC.
When and how did you come to faith in Christ?
One day while I was in high school, a man from The Gideons International was on campus handing out pocket-size New Testaments. He gave me one, and I took it home and tossed it in my desk drawer. Not long after graduating, I reached a really low point of depression and found that New Testament. I stayed up all night one night reading it, and the Lord used that to bring me to Christ.
What is your favorite book of the Bible?
It’s difficult to name a favorite book of the Bible, but if pressed, I would probably say the gospel of John. It was while reading John that the Lord raised me from spiritual death and drew me to Christ.
What books would you recommend to students starting at RBC?
I would say that if you haven't read the Bible yet from cover to cover, read the Bible. If you haven't read the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity, read the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity. If you've read all of those and you want to understand a lot of the allusions I introduce in class, it might help to read The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. But also start perusing John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is a lot to recommend, but just start to enjoy learning to read, because reading is going to be a big part of your life at RBC.
What do you have a passion for?
I strive to grow in my passion for the Lord, His Word, and His people. I also have a passion for my family and for my students. If you asked the students to answer this question for me, they would probably say, “He has a passion for Chick-fil-A sweet tea.”
Why do you enjoy teaching at RBC?
I enjoy teaching at RBC because I love our students. I love watching them grow in the knowledge of the Lord and simultaneously learn how to live what they have learned in the context of the church. Anybody who thinks the term “frozen chosen” is an accurate description of Reformed Christians hasn’t met our students.
What qualities would you say make a student at RBC successful?
Those who most quickly learn how not to procrastinate tend to be the most successful students.
What aspect of working with students do you find rewarding?
I find almost every aspect of working with college students rewarding, but the relationships we as a faculty develop with students is particularly rewarding. I would have never imagined when I began teaching at RBC how many weddings I would have the honor of attending. I remain in contact with a large number of former RBC students. My Facebook page is constantly filled with baby pictures and updates on what these former students are doing.
What do you desire RBC students to learn?
You may be able to answer and memorize every question you're asked on every exam at RBC. But if there isn't a love for God and a love for neighbor, then it's really been a waste of time. So, our desire is that you leave with a greater love for God than when you started at RBC. And we all pray for that daily and strive for that daily.
How would you describe the community or culture at RBC?
It is a family. We are a small school, so we have a very close-knit community and culture. Everyone gets to know everyone else very quickly. No one is merely a name or a student number.
How have you seen students mature academically and spiritually while attending RBC?
In many ways. I’ve had more than one student come into my office in tears saying, “I don’t know if I can do this! I’m too slow a reader.” Or, “I’m not a very good writer.” I encourage those students to pray, to work on those skills, and to persevere. I always enjoy seeing the smiles of those particular students when they walk across the platform to receive their degree.
If you weren’t an RBC professor, what would you be doing?
I’m not sure. Perhaps some kind of turtle rescue operation. It’s either that or becoming a Tolkien scholar.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I love surfing, and I wish I had more time to devote to that hobby. I also read a lot and have a particular love for books by Tolkien as well as books about his works.
Do you have a favorite sports team or athlete?
Nolan Ryan (baseball) and Earl Campbell (football).
How many children do you have?
My wife, Tricia, and I have two children: a 24-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son.
How long have you lived in Florida?
Since 1992, so about 28 years now.
What activities do you enjoy doing in Florida?
Anything but theme parks. Tricia and I enjoy visiting antique stores in little towns like Mount Dora and DeLand.
Do you have any special memories about your students from your years at RBC?
Early in the fall semester in 2013, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. I asked my students to pray for her. Many of these students were freshmen who hardly knew me at this point in the year. These students took it upon themselves not only to pray for my wife, but also to come to our house and help her while she was recovering from surgery and then radiation treatments. They would clean. They would cook. They would simply sit and keep her company when I needed to work. I will never forget what those students did for Tricia, and I will always be grateful.