Faculty Spotlight | Dr. Ryan Lister, Part 2

Each Friday this semester, we are placing a spotlight on one of Western Seminary’s faculty members. Today is Part 2 of a feature on Dr. Ryan Lister, Associate Professor of Theology.


Transformed: What made you want to become theologian?

 Dr. Lister: It was a long and winding path. However, ultimately I pursued becoming a theologian to bring theology to the church – to help the church love theology, and to see that theology is in part application, and livable, and central to the Christian life.


Transformed: Tell us a little more about your thoughts on the church. What do you think it needs more of, and less of?

Dr. Lister: The church, in general, needs a stronger theological spine, and more convictions in face of the current age. It needs less backbiting and infighting. This is tied to a fuller understanding of the gospel—which is theological. As we come to know that we are sinners saved by grace, we don’t expect the person in the pew next to us to be perfect, even though we do want to help each other look more and more like Christ.


Transformed: Who are your favorite scholars, or those whose work has inspired you?

Dr. Lister: First off are those who discipled me, which starts with my dad. Granted he is a lawyer in South Carolina but his life was the first doctrine I studied. In my education, I was privileged to study with brilliant men who also poured themselves into my life, men like Bruce Ware, Tom Schreiner, Gregg Allison, and, during my time in Louisiana, Chuck Quarles. One of the biggest influences in my life and studies is my older brother, Rob Lister—who has always been a wonderful example and friend. In terms of those who have influenced me from afar, I would say C. S. Lewis, John Frame, Kevin Vanhoozer, John Murray, Herman Bavinck, and Graeme Goldsworthy are all at the top of the list.


Transformed: What is one thing that you wish people knew about the life of a seminary professor?

Dr. Lister: We are constantly learning. If we are not learning, then we are not doing our job well. That includes learning from my students. One thing that I have learned is the each place has a different context. Teaching in Louisiana is very different from teaching in Portland and yet still we all need to hear the same thing: we all need to hear the gospel. Another thing I would mention is that, especially at Western Seminary, professors love to be disciplers. I love having seminary students over to the home and getting to know their families.


Transformed: What makes for a model student?

Dr. Lister: Humility, creativity under the authority of Scripture, and being a Christian disciple. Simply put: students who know, love, and live the gospel. I am thankful daily that I have seen each of these in the students at Western.


Transformed: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to incoming seminarians?

Dr. Lister: This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For most students, there won’t be a time like this again after graduation. You likely won’t be in the classroom with professors in a concentrated academic environment, so make the most of it now. Work to make your seminary experience a priority, even though it may be tough. Eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so you can buy that series of books—and then read them. Get to know your classmates—they are often times the people you will turn to when ministry gets tough years after your time at Western. Realize how much of a privilege this is, with regard to the larger world of Christianity. There are so many people who do not have access to this type of study—embrace it, enjoy it, and constantly remind yourself of it during your final exams.


Transformed: What is one piece of advice that you would give to prospective theologian?

Dr. Lister: Slow down. Take time to listen and think. Take time to really understand other people’s thoughts and arguments. This is something I have to remind myself all the time. Be gracious and be balanced. There is a theological and methodological balance that is lost in our churches and the way many of us think about God. If we can harness this, it will be very valuable.


Transformed: What’s your favorite thing about teaching at Western Seminary?

Dr. Lister: Time in the classroom and out of the classroom with the students. And Norm Theissen’s standing desk—there is a button that moves it up and down, though I think he is really doing it with the powers of his mind.


Transformed: What upcoming classes are you teaching?

Dr. Lister: In the Spring it looks like I will be teaching SFS504: Growing in Ethical Maturity, THS501Y-Knowing the Living God, THS503: Living as the Community of the Spirit (Seattle), and THS 660, a ThM seminar on the doctrine of the Trinity.


Transformed: Do you have any recent publications?

Dr. Lister: My book The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives, was published by Crossway last year.


Transformed: Do you have anything new in the works?

Dr. Lister: I am writing a few articles here and there and currently working on a possible book proposal in the area of Christology.


Next Friday, we will place the spotlight on Dr. Josh Mathews.