Dr. Abner Chou: the Student, the Teacher, the Fellow

            “Would you ever like to study theology when you grow up?” the man asked the child after Awana.

            “Well, biology is the study of life, sociology the study of society, and theology is the study of God. I already know everything about God, so why bother,” the child said. “It’s pretty boring.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

            Anyone who knows or has ever taken a class from Dr. Abner Chou would find it hard to believe those words ever came from his lips. He now holds a Master of Divinity, a Master of Theology, and a Doctor of Theology. He serves in his church and teaches the Bible at the schools where he earned those degrees (The Master’s University and Seminary). He was also recently awarded the John F. MacArthur Endowed Fellowship at TMU’s 90th commencement this past May.

It’s safe to say he has come a long way since those Awana days, when the words he spoke were a reflection of his view of God and the church culture he was in.

            “(The church) had been immersed so long in shallowness,” Chou said, “and emaciated by theology that doesn’t have substance and doesn’t compel.”

            It wasn’t until he went to public high school that he realized this. His unbelieving teachers could explain the meaning of Scripture better than he could, even though he had memorized numerous passages.

            His mom suggested he read one book of the Bible for 30 days. He chose James. Upon reaching the second chapter, where James explains the relationship between faith and works, Chou finally appreciated the complexity of the Bible.  

            “Up to that point in my life, I had been delusional about the Bible, thinking it was unsophisticated, shallow and easy, and by extension thinking God was that way,” he said.

            At that moment, if the man from Awana had asked him whether or not he wanted to study theology, the answer would have been a resounding yes. Chou adopted the phrase “never again” as his own personal conviction. Never again did he want anyone to come out of a conversation with him thinking the Bible was boring or a “bunch of nice lessons you could learn anywhere.”

            So after a few years, Chou began looking at schools where he could study Scripture. Each program he looked into, secular or religious, was not dedicated to the text. It was all moral reform, information about the Bible, but no focus on the Bible itself. “I wanted to know how to study the Bible,” he said.

            Then he attended View Weekend at Master’s U. “The professors knew their Bible immensely well,” he said. “They could fire off answers because they knew it like the back of their hand.” He listened to Dr. C.W. Smith explain the difficult passage of 1 Corinthians 12-14, and he knew “this is exactly what I need to have.”

            However, this did not meet the expectations of his church community. They expected high school graduates to attend college, and not just any college or university but the most elite institutions: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, or Stanford.

            It took months, and years in some cases, for attitudes to change. At first that change came through the children in the church, as Chou taught in the children’s ministry while on summer and winter break from Master’s U. He poured everything he had been learning into those kids, and their parents were astonished that their children actually looked forward to church.

            “When you are always learning ‘just be a nice person’ it’s boring,” he said. “Anyone can tell me that. But when you realize the Bible is all about God, (that He is) powerful and riveting, then you become passionate about Him and that transforms your life.”  

            Chou, as he is so apt to do, gave an example: “How does one approach the Old Testament or even, more specifically, an event like the plagues (in Egypt)? People don’t understand the text because they are asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’. But when they read it and ask, ‘What does this tell me about God?’ they see that God is great and powerful and supreme, that no one can challenge him. They begin to realize, ‘“Wow, I have a really big God and I want to know more about this God because He is spectacular.”’       

            This perspective spread in the church little by little and inverted their worldview as they realized the depth of God. They also began to recognize the value of The Master’s University.

            “[Master’s] is a community that prizes just going and going and going until you feel like you can’t go anymore, but then they keep pushing you to go further,” Chou said. He continued to explain that this work ethic and dedication do not come only from the faculty, but also from the students who surround you. During their senior year, Chou and his friends would leave their advanced hermeneutics class, grab lunch from the cafeteria, and bring it back to their room just to continue talking about what they learned and how it can be applied.

            “As a student, being here were the best moments of my life. It allowed me to behold the breadth and depth of God beyond anything I could ever have imagined. Even if at that moment (his TMU graduation) I had left campus, I would still have treasured my time here.”

            But, that graduation stage was not the end for him. The child who said God was boring is a man who studied at The Master’s Seminary, returned to teach at the university and seminary, published many books, and received the John F. MacArthur Endowed Fellowship.

            The purpose of this endowment is to fund a professor who preserves Dr. MacArthur’s legacy of faithfulness to Christ and Scripture and ensures The Master’s University remains committed to the highest view of Scripture and the highest view of God in the years to come.

            For a man who “cannot bear to see (Scripture) mishandled or have people view it as low,” and who begins every course with a 90-minute lesson about a God-centric view of the Bible, the position is a perfect fit.

            “I remember coming to teach here for the first time and thinking, ‘This is crazy, I get to teach here. I get to walk on the other side of the podium and do something. Why me?’ And I was thinking, as I walked across that stage (to receive the endowed fellowship), ‘Why me, I don’t deserve it. None of us deserve anything but Hell.’ God has been immeasurably gracious to me.”

           Dr. Abner Chou epitomizes the power Christ and Scripture has to not only transform a life but an entire church community. His energy and passion is catching, making even the most studied biblical scholar or the most unstudied student walk away captivated by God.

            It is a gift to have every professor believe in the inerrancy of Scripture but even more so ones who teach by example.