Southern Evangelical Seminary Alumnus Calls Time at SES ‘the Most Significant 10 Years of My Life’
Ratio Christi South Africa Director Simon Brace Says His SES Training Helped Him Understand Ideas That Drive a Culture
April 20, 2020
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Simon Brace calls the decade he spent at Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) “the most significant 10 years of my life in terms of spiritual formation.”
Brace and his wife, Nel, were just friends when the South African couple made their way to North Carolina—first Simon in 2006, followed by Nel two years later—both to study at SES, drawn to its emphasis on apologetics and the historic Christian faith.
“There isn’t a single day in my life in which I don’t lean heavily upon the training at SES,” Brace said.
When he left the seminary with a bachelor’s in theology and master’s in apologetics and philosophy, he wondered if his education would really make a difference in the world. Five years later, that’s a resounding yes.
“The training has, at times, been life-changing,” he said.
As national director of Ratio Christi South Africa, Brace has seen students’ lives turned around—not because he’s special, he said, but because he’s learned how to “engage people thoughtfully and tend to both their hearts and their minds.”
It was at SES where Brace helped found Ratio Christi, a movement to reawaken Christian thought on college campuses. He now serves on the board. He added that nearly every aspect of his faith grew during seminary, and he speaks highly of the training that the late SES co-founder, Dr. Norman Geisler, embedded in the school’s DNA.
“He really prepared you, not to be a know-it-all, but to give you the tools to be able to understand the ideas that drive a culture,” Brace reflected.
Since returning to South Africa, Brace said he constantly uses what he learned at SES as he mentors college students and works with churches. Likewise, Nel, who also earned a master’s degree at SES, said her studies have been a godsend as she teaches the couple’s five children, ages 2 to 10. She wraps apologetics into her children’s daily lives—how to think about God and the world around them.
While apologetics often appeals more to men than women, she said, she came to understand the need for the rational, intellectual side of Christianity while teaching religion and ethics in the U.K. prior to attending SES. Now she talks to fellow homeschooling moms who see the value in this kind of training, especially as society becomes more anti-Christian.
Simon and Nel may live on the other side of the world now, and they do face issues unique to that culture, yet their background in philosophy and theology still applies. And they aren’t alone, even on the opposite end of the map. That SES community they developed still exists more than a decade since they entered as students.
“It didn’t end when you walked away with a degree,” Nel said. “We’ve been able to fall back on so many of the professors and fellow classmates at SES. Even if you don’t have the depth in all the areas, you know people who do.”
Simon describes it like “getting a double education,” across the spectrum of courses to community and mentoring. He also appreciates that SES engages the Scriptures, weaves in Christian thought and isn’t afraid to tackle the big ideas.
This couple’s Southern Evangelical Seminary education is having a domino effect. As an example Simon and Nel invite college students to their home for early-morning studies in logic. Many of these students say these gatherings are having a great impact on their spiritual lives.
“You don’t have to have all the answers,” Simon said, but you can come away with the tools needed to guide you.
SES has announced its 2020 National Conference on Christian Apologetics (NCCA), set for Oct. 16-17 in Charlotte. The seminary will focus on the theme of “Hold Fast” for the 27th annual conference by welcoming some of the nation’s top apologetics speakers. The early bird deadline for tickets is Aug. 1, and SES is offering a free apologetics Bible to early ticketholders.
To interview Dr. Richard Land of Southern Evangelical Seminary, contact Hamilton Strategies, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or ext. 102.