Cabal uses unique life experiences to shape teaching philosophy


From living as an atheistic hippie musician to teaching for over 20 years in theological academia, Ted Cabal, professor of philosophy of religion at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has had a unique life. While Cabal never lost interest in music, he gained many new interests throughout his life, including winning people to Christ.

Growing up in Arlington, Texas, Cabal is no stranger to having many churches around him. “I grew up in a home where both parents thought they were Christians,” said Cabal. “We went to a church that didn’t preach or teach the Bible, and so by third or fourth grade, I lost interest in it.”

Cabal added that he “fell asleep spiritually” after that moment. He even considered himself an atheist at the time though he later described his former self as “foolish” since there was no reason for his unbelief.

“I didn’t know anything about the Bible or Christ,” said Cabal. “I assumed Christians were just Americans and that it was the American religion.”

Cabal said that it was easy to consider Christianity as a part of what the hippie movement was against. “It was easy for me to associate Christianity with the things in culture that I thought were bad,” he added.

While living in Colorado, Cabal said he was beginning to be religious. He would “see the night sky” and know there was something more. During a trip from Colorado to Texas when his bus broke down, Cabal had a unique experience that led him to a place of longing to know his creator.

“I didn’t know anything about Jesus, but my conscious began to bother me,” said Cabal. “I asked my mother for a Bible to try to know more. I started reading the New Testament to try to prove people wrong about the Bible and it was like standing before the Himalayas and trying to convince someone they didn’t exist.”

After that point, Cabal “became aware that Jesus was alive and He was personal.” He was able to find assistance in knowing more about the Lord through a friend who had also been a hippie.

“My friend invited me to a Bible study and prayer meeting with other young people who had recently became Christians,” said Cabal. “After getting home in the early morning hours, I knelt and prayed and asked Christ to forgive my sins; it was the most powerful experience I have ever known.”

After giving his life to Christ, Cabal began to “figure it out” when it came to Christianity. “I read the New Testament and started visiting churches,” said Cabal. “It was wonderful even though God’s people are a mess.”

Cabal’s life changed quickly when his faith in the Lord deepened, and he quickly felt the desire to share with others the experience he had with Christ.

“I became a church planter in a sense because I was a street evangelist and the people I evangelized to just began to meet together as a church,” said Cabal. “I wasn’t paid or anything at first, but that led to pastoring many churches and falling in love with the Bible.”

Ted Cabal, professor of philosophy of religion at Southwestern Seminary, is a two-time graduate of the Fort Worth based institution. In addition to his teaching experience at Southwestern, Cabal has taught at Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas, and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

After serving as pastor of multiple churches, Cabal said it was a “humbling experience” when he realized that he did not know the ins-and-outs of being a Christian leader as he desired. After prayer and consideration, he and his late wife, Cheri, decided that he needed to finish his undergraduate degree at Dallas Baptist University and then continue into graduate studies at Southwestern Seminary.

“I finished my degree at Dallas Baptist and my professors there were so helpful,” said Cabal. “They took me under their wings and I learned so much from them about the Bible and theology.”

After learning more about the Bible and theology in college, Cabal wanted to deepen his knowledge in those areas by earning his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Southwestern Seminary.

“During my time at Southwestern, I realized that my calling was really in philosophy, specifically apologetics,” said Cabal. “Just as I did not believe Christianity was true before I became a Christian, I wanted to not only be able to tell people that Jesus can save them from their sins but help work through the questions they have about Christianity.”

Throughout his educational journey, Cabal began to realize the calling on his life was to teach others to know the things he learned through his three degrees. He began to see that as he learned more, his desire to teach increased as well.

Cabal has been a professor at three institutions, including Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and two different times at Southwestern. During his time as a professor, he has noticed some shifts in the pedagogical approach of many professors, including himself.

“I am aware that pedagogy itself has changed since I began to teach,” said Cabal. “Everything was largely lecture based with some professors including a conversational style.”

Cabal added, “There are many things that can be helpful to students, and I think my best when I am lecturing, but I love it when a student asks a question related to something we’re talking about.”

One former student of Cabal’s is now his colleague. Drew Smith, adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at Southwestern Seminary, studied under Cabal at Southern Seminary and Southwestern Seminary.

“I think I speak for many of us when I say that I never would have attempted becoming a scholar—let alone gotten as far as I have—without the support and encouragement of Ted,” said Smith. “Ted Cabal possesses the remarkable combination of a keen scholarly mind with a gentle and pastoral heart.”

Cabal believes that students asking questions can help provide a way for him to further explain a topic that would help not only that student, but potentially other students wondering the same thing.

“If I can’t answer the question, even if it is in my field and I may not have thought through that specific question, then I honestly tell them it is a good question,” said Cabal. “I will tell them that I want to work on that and come back with a well-thought-out answer.”

Cabal’s philosophy about difficult questions influences his students, including John Brattvet, a Master of Divinity student at Southwestern Seminary. Brattvet said that Cabal, “showed me how even the hard things of the faith have a purpose in our lives.”

“Dr. Cabal is one of the finest professors at SWBTS,” Brattvet added. “In the classroom, he is very passionate about what he teaches. As well, he is approachable, kind, and humble in his lectures and interactions with students.”

While working full-time as a professor, Cabal also serves his church, Northside Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas, by teaching his Sunday School class and serving as a lay member of the church.

“I’m going to be teaching a series this fall on apologetics,” said Cabal. “It’s a thrill for me to get to use a little of what I do here at the church.”

Outside of the classroom, Cabal enjoys two hobbies more than others: guitar and golf.

“I’m not as good of a golfer as I am guitarist, but I guess someone is better than you at anything you do,” said Cabal. “But there are a lot of people who are better than me at golf.”

While Cabal enjoys golf, guitar has been a passion since his early childhood.

“I have played guitar since I was a little kid and I have a bunch of guitars now,” said Cabal. “I liked to play in church bands in the past, but I don’t do that anymore. I now mostly play at home and will record every now-and-then for fun.”

Cabal recently became engaged to Jill Botticelli, Southwestern’s director of libraries and archivist and instructor of history at Texas Baptist College. Both having lost their spouses to cancer, he said they are “now rejoicing that the Lord has brought them together.” Cabal added that “in God’s goodness He has made the sun to shine” for him again.

Though music may have been Cabal’s first passion in life, teaching students apologetics and how to win souls for Christ are now his greatest passions. Cabal continues to serve Southwestern Seminary and the church through his calling to teach others in the areas of apologetics and philosophy.