Written by Dr. David Dunbar
Tuesday, 01 November 2011 00:00
As Biblical Seminary celebrates 40 years of ministry, I find myself reflecting how the school has changed over this period. I was among the first group of students to enroll in the fall of 1971. The sense of excitement as faculty, staff, and students “pioneered” in this venture was life-changing. I remember the gratitude we felt for the Lord’s provision of an old public school building to meet in . . . despite the failure of the ancient boilers to provide adequate heat that winter! I remember our amazement when we were able to secure the core library of Biblical Seminary (New York) . . . a kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get 50,000 theology and biblical studies texts in one swoop!
Since those early days the school has matured and grown. From the initial group of 40 mostly white, suburban, male students, we have progressed to a diverse student body of more than 300 men and women representing Caucasian, African-American, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds. The founding faculty and staff have all retired or moved on; I alone of the current faculty was here at the beginning (as a student).
Our programs have also changed and developed. The traditional program of day classes has largely morphed into evening and weekend offerings to accommodate the schedules of students already in ministry or other full-time occupations. Our curriculum has undergone progressive revisions, and we have added several degrees including the M.A. in Counseling and the D.Min. in Missional Leadership.
But not everything has changed. There are numerous points of continuity between the old and new, but two stand out in my mind. First, there is the focus on scripture as the true, reliable, and life-giving Word of God. Those of us who studied at the seminary in the early days always said that the faculty pointed us to the Bible as the source of truth to test our ideas. The faculty under the leadership of Dr. MacRae was less concerned to teach us a theological system and more interested in teaching us to think biblically. That is still our focus . . . not because I say it is but because this is what I hear repeatedly from current students and recent graduates.
A second point of continuity is our missional focus. One of our founders was Dr. Jack Murray, a crusade evangelist who wanted a seminary that would teach the Bible but also give students a heart for reaching the lost. While our approach to reaching people no longer involves tent meetings, our renewed focus on the mission of God has only heightened our commitment to bringing people into meaningful contact with the person and character of Jesus. As the Father sent the Son into the world, the Lord now sends us. Our students are getting this message, and it is impacting their ministries. I think Dr. Murray would be pleased.
Dave Dunbar is President and Professor of Theology at Biblical Seminary. He is married to Sharon, has four adult children and six grandchildren. See also http://biblical.edu/index.php/david-dunbar.