This semester, we continue to spotlight Western Seminary’s faculty members. Today, we feature Dr. Rob Wiggins, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, as well as Chairman of the Center for Personal Spiritual Formation.
Transformed: Tell us a little about your background.
Dr. Wiggins: I grew up in West Los Angeles. My parents were very dedicated to building a strong family life since they both came from single-parent homes. The Christian faith was more than something to believe – it was modeled by my parent’s service to many in our community, especially to international students who were passing through LAX and needed overnight lodging or meals. Through Campus Crusade (CRU) in college, I found greater opportunities for growth and ministry. After four years on CRU staff (Minnesota, Berkeley, and UCLA), I enrolled at Western Seminary to deepen my understanding of the gospel and to prepare for a lifetime of ministry. I was privileged to pastor two wonderful congregations in Gresham and Wallowa County, Oregon. Pat and I are blessed with three daughters and son-in-laws, and six grandchildren.
Transformed: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Dr. Wiggins: Though I considered a lot of ideas, the most recurring image was either serving as missionary in the Pacific somewhere, or working with a parachurch organization reaching youth and young adults.
Transformed: What led you to your current position?
Dr. Wiggins: I am actually surprised to be serving as academic dean. Years ago I was thinking I might be teaching courses in spiritual formation, or serving in an administrative position somewhere taking care of students (which I did for 25+ years). These two interests have come together as I take care of the needs of faculty and provide administrative leadership to the academic programs.
Transformed: What is your favorite thing about teaching at Western?
Dr. Wiggins: Working with the people of Western– faculty, staff, and students. They make the work a joy!
Transformed: What is something that we would be surprised to know about you?
Dr. Wiggins: Pat and I enjoy cycling. We have cycled throughout the Northwest and British Columbia in Canada, and have cycled in France five times on some of the Tour de France routes. A great way to make friends in any country.
Transformed: What are some of your favorite things?
Dr. Wiggins: Cycling up to the summit of Larch Mountain through an old growth forest and then flying down. Running along the Springwater Trail and watching the sun come up over Mt. Hood. Having dinner in an outdoor café with friends during the summer.
Transformed: What are you reading right now?
Dr. Wiggins: Prayer, by Tim Keller; Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, by Kenneth Bailey; Heretic – Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Transformed: Who would you like to meet – living or dead (not someone from the Bible)?
Dr. Wiggins: C.S. Lewis – his creative imagination sourced in theology; C.H. Spurgeon – his view of the ministry sourced in Scripture; Augustine – his view of transformation sourced in the gospel.
Transformed: Is there a verse or passage of Scripture that has had a particularly strong impact on your life?
Dr. Wiggins: Psalm 100 – I memorized this psalm when I was age seven. It shaped my earliest understanding of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and set my heart towards seeking Him.
Transformed: What, ideally, should be the relationship between the seminary and the church?
Dr. Wiggins: While the church is and will remain God’s primary institution for living out the task of the Great Commission, in every generation it has used specialized educational expressions of the church to accomplish its task. In the present-day, the seminary is the primary place for specialized training for those called to teach, preach, and lead the church. Additionally, the seminary is a center for advanced and continuing education for those in ministry leadership, and a resource for reflection and dissemination of theological research.
Transformed: What does the church need more of?
Dr. Wiggins: A fuller view of the greatness of God. Who we are and how we are to live is defined by our view of God.
Transformed: Do you have a favorite scholar, or someone whose work has inspired you?
Dr. Wiggins: Early in my faith I read a lot by A.W. Tozer, then J.I. Packer. They led me into works of biblical and exegetical theology. I became very interested in spiritual formation. Though my reading interests have become broad, I often return to these themes.
Transformed: What theological topics need more attention? Are there any doctrines that have been ignored in the recent past, and could benefit from more exposure or exploration?
Dr. Wiggins: Further study on the nature of humanity: being, person, identity, gender.
Transformed: What is one thing you wish people knew about the life of a seminary faculty member?
Dr. Wiggins: Western faculty members have a lot of fun together. They care about one another. They work hard at being a team of colleagues and friends.
Transformed: What makes for an ideal student?
Dr. Wiggins: Not to take their “faith” for granted while in seminary. Seminary students have the ideal opportunity to deepen their faith through every course and assignment. You are not only growing more in love with the Lord today, but also building a richer, more robust faith for tomorrow.
Transformed: What is one piece of advice that you would give to incoming seminarians?
Dr. Wiggins: Set your goal to “learn how to learn.” Seminary will soon be over and you will have the rest of your life to broaden and deepen your knowledge. Seminary is a terrific place to master skills of how to learn from others and on your own. You will want to become a life-long learner. Whenever you stop learning, you will start dying.