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Friday, July 3, 2009

Veritas Evangelical Seminary: Teaching the Historic Christian Faith

By Brian Nixon
Special to ASSIST News Service

MURRIETA, CA (ANS) -- Veritas Evangelical Seminary: Teaching the Historic Christian Faith Surrounded by palm trees, hot springs, and flowing water, Veritas Evangelical Seminary’s shared resort campus is a serene and beautiful place. Outside my room, mist rises from the water, gentle fog rolls over the surrounding hills, and the chapel by the lake’s edge sits humbly with its red-tile Spanish roof and white walls.

Not only is the campus a lovely place, it is also a historical one.

The Setting

Murrieta Hot Springs Campus

Since the 1200’s the land in the Temecula Valley has been considered sacred. The Native American population sought therapeutic solace in the hot springs that flow in the area. It is said that that the various tribes of Penchanga and Temecula Indians in the region came to find peace and healing from the wounds of life and war.

The first known European visit occurred in October of 1797 by a Franciscan priest and an army captain. Father Juan Norberto de Santiago and Captain Pedro Lisalde left the San Juan Capistrano mission (located on the California coast) to seek a site for a new mission locale. Father Santiago kept a journal, where he wrote about “Temecula,” an “Indian village.”

In 1863, Don Juan Murrieta (1844-1936) arrived in California from Spain. He and his brothers bought over 52,000 acres, including the hot springs. There, he herded thousands of sheep. After selling the land, he moved to Los Angeles.

In 1902, a German immigrant named Fritz Guenther bought the land and opened a resort. Fritz began building at a rapid rate: The Mud House in 1902; The Monterey Building (first hotel) in 1908; The California Building (second hotel) in 1909; The Theatre in 1912. By 1930, the resort had several buildings, lodges, and amenities (pool, tennis court, etc.) It’s said that the resort was a very popular place for people from all walks of life: the rich and famous, and, like the Indians from years prior, those seeking healing and peace from the waters.

During the Guenther ownership, Murrieta Hot Springs became a hotbed of activity: a retreat for movie stars, a hang out for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and a resort for a large southern California Jewish population.

Before there was Las Vegas, there was Murrieta Hot Springs!

In 1965 the property was sold to the Teamsters. Yes, Jimmy Hoffa and his companions owned it! Over the next six years the Teamsters built many new buildings, largely for insider gambling and Teamster retreats. A bar was added (it’s now a student cafeteria), and the growth continued until Las Vegas stole the attention of the Southern California elite, leaving Murrieta vacant.

According to Karl Bentz, director of the property, the 1970’s and 1980’s were a time of disrepair. The property was hardly used and was largely left abandoned. Rumor has it that many of the rooms were used as brothels. And later, a popular biker bar opened up, drawing many fascinating characters to the beautiful landscape.

But the Lord had other plans for the land. Just like He restores people and makes them into new creations, He began a process of renewal to the broken terrain. He took that which was marred and ruined by the scars and memories of human activity, and began to rebuild it as a place of renewal and peace—all for His glory.

In the mid 1990’s, under the pastoral leadership of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel Bible College began to look for a new home. Back then, it was meeting at Twin Peaks, California. Someone mentioned to Pastor Chuck that the historic landmark of Murrieta Hot Springs was for sale. In 1994, several Calvary men went to look at the property. Although it was in great disorder, the men could see something beautiful rising from the ashes.

In May of 1995, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa assumed ownership of the land. Major renovation quickly took place. According to the brief historical sketch given at the college, “great care has been taken to preserve the historic charm of one of California’s greatest landmarks.” It is now one of the most elegant and beautiful sites in the Inland Empire of California.

Today, there is a new phase in the history of Murrieta Hot Springs: Veritas Evangelical Seminary.

The Seminary

Founded in 2009 by the Seminary’s first president, Joseph Holden, and

Dr. Norman Geisler

distinguished professor of apologetics and theology, Dr. Norman Geisler, Veritas’ vision fits well with the historic nature of its surroundings. According to president Holden, Veritas exists to “teach the historic Christian faith.”

Sitting with the president under one of the many gazebos by the lake, he told me the vision for Veritas, proclaiming the gospel and defending the faith, began with a sense of need.

“We noticed that many seminaries were leaving the classical doctrines of the Christian faith and turning to more progressive ideologies: emergent postmodernism, open theism, liberalism, contemplative prayer and spirituality and the like. We wanted to provide a solid education that was informed, inspired, and rooted in the classical doctrines as expressed in the inerrant Word of God.”

I asked him how Veritas differs from other evangelical seminaries.

“Well, first, we are a safe haven for evangelical Christians to discuss, learn, and study,” he replied. “What I mean by this is that our students will not be persecuted or ridiculed because they actually believe in the classical understanding of our historic Christian faith.

“Second, we are an interdenominational evangelical graduate school seeking to bring together evangelical Christians across denominational lines by uniting them in the essential doctrines and the inerrant Scriptures. Meaning, we are not ‘card-carrying’ members of any polemic school of thought. Rather, we seek to approach the non-negotiable theological issues with conviction without compromise, and those debatable issues we approach with balance, humility, and love, seeking the complete teaching of the whole counsel of God. The only ‘card-carrying’ we will do is in the area of the Christ and His flawless Word.”

“Third, we seek truth, with the Bible being the final authority and the only inspired and sanctifying inerrant truth. What I mean by this is that we will look thoroughly at the worldviews of other philosophies, religions, and schools of thought and analyze and critique them in light of the biblical witness. We are seeking God’s truth in both His general revelation (through nature and science) and His special revelation, Christ and His Word. These truths should never conflict since they have the same Author.”

He continued, “Our Seminary has three core elements: the inspired and inerrant Bible from which we spread the gospel to the world, the immutable and timelessly eternal nature of God and His Son Jesus Christ from whom salvation comes, and the defense of the historic Christian faith. We summarized these in our motto: ‘Proclaim, equip, and defend.’”

Currently, Veritas has four academic programs to help accomplish its vision: theological studies, biblical studies, apologetics, and divinity.

Joe Holden,

When asked about the stellar faculty, Joseph responded, “Our faculty has been carefully selected to accomplish our educational goals, each member having a passion for proclaiming and defending God’s Word.”

With nearly 200 books, hundreds of articles, years of experience, and distinct research areas, the staff reads as a who’s-who of the modern evangelical ministry: Drs. Norman Geisler, Ron Rhodes, Randall Price, Steven Collins, Gary Habermas, Ergun Caner, Thomas Ice, William Nix, and Arnold Fruchtenbaum, just to name a few.

Joseph commented, “Not only does Veritas have some of the greatest evangelical thinkers, but these men are also committed to the great commission of making disciples. They are teaching them not only the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of ministry, but the ‘why’ of what we believe.”

I asked Joseph what the outcome would be for students who attend Veritas.

“You should expect to see greater boldness and effectiveness in our students’ ministry and integration of the Christian faith. Moreover, our prayer is that our programs and studies will help our students comprehend and experience the love of God in a rich and dynamic way, without compromising the Word of God.”

Veritas Evangelical Seminary courses are held on the campus in Murrieta, California, which is centrally located between San Diego and Los Angeles. Admission to the graduate program requires spiritually mature men and women who have earned a bachelors degree. All are welcome to enroll in the Certificate program that involves the same course of study. Both programs may be completed through residential or external studies.

For more information, visit

Brian Nixon is a pastor, writer, musician, and family man. He currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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