The School of Theology’s academic dean Tan Kim Hock graduates from Trinity Theological College, ready to strengthen his theological curriculum.
Contributed By Gareth Yeo
Among them is the academic dean of School of Theology, Tan Kim Hock. Tan’s motivation for enrolling in the course back in 2006 was simple: he wanted to upgrade his knowledge of theology so that he could strengthen SOT’s curriculum and make it more relevant for students.
“The knowledge I gained from the Masters of Divinity course has helped me look at things from a wider and deeper perspective, and this is helpful to me personally as I am in charge of developing SOT’s curriculum,” said Tan. He is also on the committee of CHC’s Christian Education Department which oversees all the Bible study materials in the church. Tan believes that the insights he has gained from the degree course will allow him to develop the educational framework in CHC.
|CN PHOTOS: Ivy Lim|
Trinity Theological College has one of the most comprehensive collections of Christian literature and books in South East Asia. At the same time, students and lecturers in TTC come from different denominational backgrounds, nationalities and cultures.
“The lecturers come from diverse backgrounds and ministries, and were able to impart different revelations and experiences to me,” Tan said. This was one of the main reasons why he chose to study at TTC—it allowed him to be exposed to different denominational practices and cultures. Tan particularly appreciated the unity in the midst of diversity.
The subjects which Tan read varied and ranged from Church History, Homiletics (the art of public preaching), Old and New Testament theology, Missions and Evangelism, to language topics such as Greek and Hebrew. “I was particularly blessed by my lessons on the Greek language, as well as New Testament Theology. It has shed new light on my understanding of the New Testament scriptures, and created a greater passion in me for God’s Word.”
Tan elaborated on other interesting things he picked up in TTC, one of which is the module on New Testament theology where he discovered that there is likely to be a female apostle mentioned in the book of Romans. During his historical theology lessons, he also learned more about the motivation in the writings of many Christian scholars, such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.
Besides gaining academic knowledge, Tan was blessed by the humility and care showed by the individual lecturers despite their vast experience and theological expertise. They also believed in maintaining openness to new ideas and differing opinions.
The fruits are worth it, but Tan had to admit that academic life at TTC was rigorous and no bed of roses. As a full-time student, the three-year course required students to complete 30 modules—an estimated 5,760 hours worth of lectures, tutorials and assignments.
On top of this, students also had to complete a certain number of practical attachment hours in a ministry or church. For Tan, he was able to do his attachment in some of CHC’s departments, such as the pastoral department, community services, missions and SOT. This provided him with the flexibility to manage his work and study schedule more efficiently.
On top of the practical and theory sessions, Tan also experienced a vibrant student life, attending chapel services and participating in student cell groups in order to foster greater bonding and sharing in the cohort. This was no mean feat for a father of four boys who has had to juggle family, studies, as well as full-time church ministry and mission work.
Throughout this challenging period, Tan leaned on God’s grace, the support of church leadership, and particularly his wife, Lily.
“Very often, I had to do my assignments late into the night after I put my kids to bed, and I would struggle to keep awake in class the following day. Thankfully, the lecturers were very understanding toward full-time students like me who have to juggle work and studies. As such, they gave us more flexibility for assignment deadlines. Many of my classmates also shared notes and knowledge with me, which helped me complete my assignments on time,” said Tan.
Student life was more than just homework and church ministry. Tan recalled an incident which left a deep impression in him. A former TTC graduate had been diagnosed with cancer and returned to the campus for prayer support. Some of Tan’s classmates who knew the graduate immediately rallied around him to provide spiritual and emotional support. Tan saw how these students from different nationalities and backgrounds, united for a common purpose and readily showed their love and care for their friend.
Now that Tan has graduated, he plans to equip his SOT staff with more solid grounding in theology, as well as give a deeper meaning and context to the work which City Harvest Community Services Association does.
“Theology brings out the soul of what we do at CHCSA. It helps us better understand that what we are doing is for the love of God and the love of people, and this understanding will spur us on to do more good works, whether we get recognized or not,” explained Tan.
For church members who have similar inclinations to pursue full-time theological studies, Tan advises them to get enrolled in SOT first. “SOT’s mix of practical and theory, coupled with our emphasis on students’ character development, will provide a firm foundation prior to enrollment in a full-time Bible college like TTC. Most of what was taught here was familiar to me as I already had a basic understanding from my time in SOT,” he said.
On his future plans, Tan says he is keen to pursue a post graduate degree in theology and eventually obtain a doctorate.