Written by Frank James
Wednesday, 24 July 2013 00:00
Well the new guy has arrived in all his glory. The staff and faculty have warmly received this Texan who wears jeans in the president’s office. I have managed to locate the men’s room and the soft drink machine. Most importantly, I have found a really good Mexican restaurant—Alabado sea el Señor! My dear friend and predecessor, David Dunbar has retired and purchased a motorcycle. That is a perfectly logical thing to do after 27 years at the helm of one of the most innovative seminaries in the world. It would not at all surprise me to see Dave Dunbar motor up to the seminary one afternoon with tattoos and a pony tail.
I am not at the motorcycle stage of life yet but I suspect all retired presidents get there eventually. Ever since my first day on the job I have been counting my blessings that the Lord has brought me to Biblical Seminary. I still remember the first time I stepped foot in a seminary classroom 30 years ago. I was a serious Christian who was working toward a PhD in Philosophy. A friend casually invited me to sit in on a seminary class and I took him up on his offer. Before the class ended, I knew in my bones that was where I belonged. The students were studying and discussing the things that really mattered. The philosophers I was reading were interesting and occasionally insightful, but most often they did not see God at the root of all reality. They did not understand what Abraham Kuyper understood so very well: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”
Little did I realize that day I sat in on a seminary class that I was facing a life sentence. I eventually abandoned my studies in Philosophy and entered the hallowed halls of theological education. Ever since that first day, I have been a seminary student, a seminary professor or seminary administrator. I even married a seminary graduate (the lovely and brilliant Carolyn Custis James) with whom I have had theological discussions nearly every day for the last 30 years. I have not yet enjoyed the glories of heaven, but I think my life with Carolyn has been a foretaste of things to come.
At the end of my first interview with the BTS presidential search committee, I felt that same spiritual sensation that had overwhelmed me all those years ago when I first set foot in a seminary. I discovered a seminary where the missional outlook was part of the DNA. It was not just a buzz-word; it was the very soul of the institution. This was manifestly evident when I visited the students at our urban extension in north Philadelphia. I was scheduled to spend 30 minutes in a meet- and-greet. Two hours later, I found myself immersed in a loud and passionate conversation with 50+ mostly minority students about how the missional approach had not only changed their ministries but changed their lives. They may have come to BTS to get a credential, but in the process they had been transformed and energized. Before I left that evening, several of them assured me that if I became the president, they were willing to help me raise money! In all my years in seminary never have students volunteered to do fund-raising.
Something was very different about this seminary and I knew this was where I belonged. Fortunately, the trustees felt the same way. So here I am and glad to be here.
By the way, if you want to help me raise funds for this extraordinary seminary, you know where to reach me.
Frank A. James III is the President of Biblical Seminary. He formerly served as Provost and Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has two doctorates, a D.Phil. in History from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary/Pennsylvania. He is one of the founding members of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (with InterVarsity Press) and has authored and edited nine books. His latest book, Church History: From Pre-Reformation to the Present (Zondervan), has just been published. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/frank-a-james