John Samuel Feinberg was born April 2, 1946, in Dallas, Texas, the third child and second son of Charles Lee and Anne Priscilla (Fraiman) Feinberg. When Charles became the founding dean of Talbot Theological Seminary in 1948, the family moved to Los Angeles, California. John did his undergraduate studies at UCLA, graduating in 1968 with a BA in English. In 1969–1970, as an instructor in doctrine at the Los Angeles Bible Training School, he began what would eventually become nearly a half-century teaching career.
John remained in California to pursue the MDiv, graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary in 1971. The following year he completed the ThM in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. On August 19, 1972, John and Patricia Buecher were married. He began his PhD studies in historical theology and philosophy in the School of Religion at the University of Iowa, but his program was interrupted in 1973; subsequently, he concentrated on metaphysics and epistemology for his MA at the University of Chicago in 1974. He stayed there for his final studies in philosophy and his dissertation (Theologies and Evil), earning the PhD from the University of Chicago in 1978. At this time, John and Pat celebrated the birth of their first son, Josiah (1976); two other boys—Jonathan (1979) and Jeremy (1982)—were later added to the Feinberg family.
From the Church to the Academy
While pursuing his theological, pastoral, and philosophical training, John was involved in local ministry in a variety of capacities. As a staff member of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, he engaged in mission work in Los Angeles in 1970–1971 and in the U.S. Midwestern region from 1971 to 1974. He was ordained to the ministry in 1971 and served as the pastor of Elmwood Park Bible Church in Illinois from 1974 to 1976.
In God’s providence, however, it was to a teaching career that God graciously called John to use his gifts and abilities to serve the larger evangelical church. John served as assistant professor of systematic theology at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary from 1976 to 1981. He then became professor of systematic theology and philosophy, as well as chairman of the Department of Theological Studies, at Liberty Baptist Seminary and College from 1981 to 1983. John’s alma mater sought him out, so he became, first, associate professor (1983–1990), then professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the faculty position that he has held from 1991 to the present. He has twice served as the chairman of the Division of Biblical and Systematic Theology (1985–1992, 1999–2012).
In addition to these institutions, John has taught around the world. He has served as visiting professor or guest lecturer at numerous other venues, including Bethel Theological Seminary (St. Paul, Minnesota), Freie Theologische Akademie (Giessen, West Germany), Tyndale Theological Seminary (Badhoevedorp, Netherlands), Italian Bible Institute (Finocchio, Italy), Seminario Teologico Centro Americano (Guatemala City, Guatemala), Multnomah Biblical Seminary (Portland, Oregon), Emmaus Bible College (Sydney, Australia), Campus Crusade staff training (Split, Croatia), Greek Bible Institute (Pikermi, Greece), Odessa Theological Seminary (Odessa, Ukraine), University of Zimbabwe (Harare, Zimbabwe), Northern Province Bible Institute (Pietersburg, South Africa), Evangelical Reformed Baptist Seminary (Heidelberg, South Africa), Torch Trinity Institute of Lay Education (Norwood, New Jersey), Trinity Bible College and Equipping Center (Kursk, Russia), Talbot School of Theology: Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies (New York, New York), and The Master’s Seminary (Sun Valley, California).
A Godly Mentor
Having spent the majority of his teaching career at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, John is a fixture at TEDS and has mentored hundreds of students who are now working as pastors, teachers, professors, staff in churches and parachurch movements, missionaries, philosophers, ethicists, apologists, evangelists, denominational leaders, and much more. Because of his research and writing on, and experience with, evil and suffering, John has also encouraged these students to rely on God’s inscrutable providence and loving care as they encounter the trials of life. Trinity has also been the community of faith that has walked alongside John and Pat as Huntington’s Chorea has slowly whittled away her life. As an outstanding example of grace and solidarity, Trinity has never questioned the advisability of John’s ongoing teaching there in light of the demands that Pat’s suffering has placed on him and his career.
Throughout his teaching career, John has established himself as a brilliant thinker, a prodigious scholar and author, an impassioned apologist for the faith, a demanding and fair instructor, a champion of clear and rational thinking, a giving friend, and a supportive mentor. John is well known in the classroom for his preparation and attention to detail, his careful analysis and critique of theological and philosophical positions and ideas, and his desire to see his students grow in the knowledge of Scripture and theological thinking. The same may also be found in all of his writing projects—detailed analysis, precision, and incisive biblical and theological exposition and critique. Besides teaching and writing, John has cultivated other interests and is always ready to discuss sports, show slides from his many travels, share the beautiful music of Andrea Bocelli, and wax eloquent about his wonderful wife and her suffering proven faith.
A Prodigious Scholar
John is well known for his many books, including Ethics for a Brave New World, coauthored with his brother Paul (Crossway, 1993; 2nd ed., rev. and expanded, 2010); The Many Faces of Evil: Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil (Zondervan, 1994; rev. and expanded, Crossway, 2004); Deceived by God?: A Journey through Suffering (Crossway, 1997); his monumental No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, part of the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series (Crossway, 2001); Where Is God?: A Personal Story of Finding God in Grief and Suffering (B&H, 2004); and Can You Believe It’s True?: Christian Apologetics in a Modern and Postmodern Era (Crossway, 2013).
This article is adapted from the introduction to Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology: Essays in Honor of John S. Feinberg, edited by Gregg R. Allison and Stephen J. Wellum.