Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I am Thankful for My Professors at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Cheryl and I always chose our schools based on who we wanted to study under. We went to Wheaton primarily to be taught by Lois and Mary LeBar, two sisters who were the leading Evangelical scholars in the field of Christian Education. The bonus was that we got to take classes with Drs. Merrill C. Tenney (New Testament) and Earl Cairns (Church History), and other outstanding teachers. I went to the Church of God School of Theology primarily to study with Dr. Hollis Gause and was blessed to also be taught by Drs. Arrington, May, and Crick.

When looking for a place for doctoral studies we had three prerequisites. First, we were called to the field of Christian Education as the discipline that focused on Christian discipleship so the school had to offer a doctorate in CE. Second, the school had to have at least one teacher from whom we desired to learn. Finally, the program needed to allow for our areas of specialization. I was interested in Patristic aspects of discipleship and Cheryl wanted to pursue psychological and theological aspects of faith development. The program at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary met all three requirements.

The person we wanted to study with was Dr. Findley B. Edge, the most prominent Southern Baptist in the field of CE and one of the leading Evangelicals. We had read his various books: Teaching for Results, Helping the Teacher, The Greening of the Church, and The Quest for Vitality in Religion. Edge’s area of specialization was theological and philosophical foundations for Christian Education. His heart’s desire was for authentic Christianity. He was a prophetic voice among Southern Baptists, being at the forefront of calls for social justice and spiritual renewal within his denomination.

Dr. Edge was everything we had hoped for. Warm, engaging, demonstrative, cheerful, and insightful, this native son of Albany, Georgia and graduate of Stetson University in Deland, Florida, also set high standards for scholarship. God gave me favor in his eyes and as he prepared for retirement Dr. Edge sought to place me in a teaching position in a Southern Baptist seminary, perhaps his spot at Southern. He took us out for lunch to petition me to accept such a position. He pled, “Jackie, just join a Baptist church and I’ll get you a teaching position.”

I chuckled and replied, “Dr. Edge, you know you would make a better Pentecostal than I would a Baptist.”

He roared in laughter and countered, “Jackie, you know we don’t care what you believe. Just join a Baptist church and we’ll let you teach.”

At the point of his retirement there was a one-semester delay in the arrival of his replacement. Without my knowledge, Dr. Edge negotiated with the seminary president my employment as a visiting professor for that semester. It was one of the highest honors of my life.

All of our teachers at Southern were scholars and gentlemen (and one gentlewoman). Our primary professors in the doctoral program in addition to Edge were, Bill Cromer (Educational Administration), Dan Aleshire (Statistics), Bill Proctor (Educational Psychology/Learning Theories), Sabin Landry (History of Education), Ralph Hardee (Church Administration), and Deering (Research Methodologies). In my focus area (Patristics) is studied under Glenn Hinson and Bill Leonard. Timothy George sat in for Hinson (who was on Sabbatical leave) on my qualifying exams. My dissertation committee was William Rogers (whom I had never met prior to his assignment as my chair), Dan Aleshire and Alan Culpepper. All of these were Christian brothers who perpetuated the dying system of classical doctoral studies. Under their tutelage I believe I finally became a scholar and not just a student; I didn’t say a good scholar.

Cleveland, Tennessee
July 6, 2010

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