Joshua D. Schendel grew up in Montana. After completing degrees in classics, philosophy, and theology, he took a position as executive editor of Modern Reformation magazine for a couple of years. He is the author of The Necessity of Christ’s Satisfaction (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming). Joshua and his wife Bethanne are parents to three kids, Isaiah (9), Laurel (7), and Edith (5).
Tell us a little about yourself—background, family, hobbies, etc.
I grew up in the little town of Cascade, MT, about thirty miles southwest of Great Falls. My father was a pastor of a non-denominational church there. I was one of five kids and together we tried—and I think generally succeeded—to make of life a furnace for my parents’ sanctification (having now three kids of my own, I am quite astonished at my parent’s endeavors and accomplishments).
After high school I spent some time at L’Abri Fellowship in England for about six months. While there, my tutor convinced me to pursue formal studies in theology, something I had been very interested in since I was a child. So, in 2009 I left for Calvin College to complete my BA in philosophy and classics. There I met my beautiful wife, Bethanne. We married my senior year, and then packed up for Southern California where I completed my MA degree in historical theology at Westminster Seminary California. In 2014 we then moved to Missouri, where I took up PhD studies at St. Louis University, completing that degree in 2020.
My wife and I have now been married for eleven years and have three children: Isaiah (10), Laurel (7), and Edith (5). The last couple of years we have been living in Southern California (again), where I was working as the executive editor of Modern Reformation magazine. We all enjoy gardening, and pretty much anything to do with the outdoors: hiking, camping, fishing, etc. My wife and I also enjoy cooking and, when we are able, going out to sample the local fare.
Describe your responsibilities with YTI.
I am the professor of theology at YTI. My main responsibilities, then, are to teach courses in theology and biblical studies for our MA programs. Along with teaching, I will supervise ThM students who are writing theses related to my area of specialization. I am also acting as the point man for YTI in its pursuit of accreditation with The Association of Theological Schools.
You are joining the YTI faculty as professor of theology. How would you describe “theology,” and what is the importance of theology for the church?
Fundamentally, theology is the graced application of human mind and will toward understanding God and his ways in the world. I do think of theology as a rigorous intellectual pursuit; it is a labor of the human mind. But that labor is sourced and sustained by the grace of God—unless God builds our theology, we labor in vain. Another way to think of it is that the study of theology is an important part of our sanctification. At just this point there lies a deep connection between theology and the church. The church is the God-created community where by his Holy Spirit he, among other things, renews fallen human beings into the image of Jesus Christ. Ideally, then, theology in the academy will utilize all the resources of the academy to provide for the church aids and supports which then function in the church as means of the sanctifying work of God.
What do you appreciate about YTI’s vision?
There are a number of elements of YTI’s vision that really resonate with me. Let me here note three. Following from the previous question, I love that YTI is intentionally cultivating close ties with local churches, and this because it sees its mission as being “for the church.” In many divinity schools, the study of theology is carried on quite severed from the church. YTI understands the disastrous consequences of this severance, and is looking to lead the way in theological training by holding church and academic study of theology together. I also love that YTI does not confuse itself with the church. We are for the church, but not the church. We are an academic institution and this means that we have a particular role to play not just in the church but also in the wider Bozeman community. Particularly in our time, fraught with culture wars as it is, YTI’s emphasis on the arts, culture building that is oriented to the beautiful, is needed and, in my view, very welcome. Finally, given the kind of globalization we in the West live with (which, I hasten to add, is not all bad), I think it is important to be reminded of place, of “the local.” YTI as an institution is also very aware of its geographical location, among some of the most beautiful mountain ranges and riverways of the northwest. This setting means something. YTI’s emphasis on adventure—one of the noblest metaphors for the Christian life: the pilgrim—fits so naturally within the setting here in Bozeman. So, I’m very thankful that YTI has thought so thoroughly and insightfully about theology, community, and place.
How do you see YTI making a difference in the church and in our community?
The short answer is that I pray and hope that the vision God has given to YTI will come to fruition. YTI has some great resources that it will strive to use to train generations of leaders in the church and various other ministries. This is so important as leaders God has raised up in this generation “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD,” as psalm 78:4 puts it. YTI is also in a great position to foster positive community building and culture. Bozeman is such a beautiful town in such a beautiful setting. Through its emphasis on the arts and adventure, YTI wants to lead people to the source of that beauty. Just the other day my daughters recited to me a poem they had been learning by Francis Wright Turner entitled God. “Just an apple blossom, / Just a singing bird; / Just a little laughing brook, / Or a happy word. / Just a bit of blue sky, / A bit of earth’s green sod; / O, what little things it takes / To show us God.” Yeah, that about captures it.
You grew up in Montana and have recently returned. What do you like about living in Big Sky Country?
Growing up hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting has left a deep impression upon me. I just love the wilds of Montana. To be honest, I’m looking forward to being in snow again. I’ve really missed winter as a season while I’ve been away. But probably the thing I was most looking forward to (and it has just recently occurred!) was that sense, felt almost at the gut-level, when Summer turns over to Fall. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but there is something ever so subtly different on the air, the mornings beckon slightly more earnestly, the evenings fade slightly more pale. Why I love the change from Summer to Fall I’m not quite sure, but I do. It puts me in the mood to tuck into a good book. Thankfully, at YTI this fall I’ll be tucking into several.