From the Dean

Harvard's First Light

Published on June 28, 2017 by Timothy George  

During seven years of graduate study at Harvard University, I frequently passed through Johnson Gate into Harvard Yard on my way to the Divinity School or Widener Library. On occasion, I would stop and read the historic words chiseled in stone on the gate, originally published in New England's First Fruits in 1643:

After God had carried us safe to new England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God's worship, and settled the civil government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.

The rejection of “an illiterate ministry” was an intentional counterpoint to the view held by radical spiritualists and other dissenters, who contended that inspiration, rather than education, was the way to prepare leaders of God’s flock. The love of learning and the desire for God were believed by many to be antithetical. Cotton Mather reported that when his famous grandfather, John Cotton, was a student at Cambridge in England, he worried that “if he became a godly man, t’would spoil him in being a learned one.”

The founders of Harvard, however, refused to accept this dichotomy. Aware that the Protestant Reformation had begun—long before Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses—as a movement of biblical and academic reform within the University of Wittenberg (a university founded in 1502 by princely and imperial but not papal authority), they were committed to the coinherence of Word and Spirit, intellect and piety, academic rigor and spiritual nurture. Although Harvard pioneers would not have embraced the Arminian theology of Charles Wesley, they surely would have cheered the notion expressed in his hymn for children:

Unite the pair so long disjoin’d, 
Knowledge and vital Piety: 
Learning and Holiness combined, 
And Truth and Love, let all men see, 
In those whom up to Thee we give, 
Thine, wholly Thine, to die and live.

Read the rest by First Things.

The Dean Recommends: This pro-life talk at Google's headquarters was a hit

Published on June 23, 2017  

A pro-life activist walks into Google’s headquarters and delivers a speech so compelling that within 24 hours, the online video of it surpassed a similar speech given by the head of Planned Parenthood.

It may sound like the start to a far-fetched joke, but on April 20th, pro-life speaker and activist Stephanie Gray did just that.

Gray was the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and served as its executive director for several year before starting the ministry which she now runs, Love Unleashes Life.

She spoke in April as a part of the Talks at Google series, a program that brings a variety of speakers to the company’s headquarters to discuss their work. Gray has participated in more than 800 talks and debates on abortion. Read the rest at Catholic News Agency.

The Dean Recommends: 5 Ways Spurgeon Coped with London’s Terror Attacks

Published on June 22, 2017  
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On September 30, 1888, “Jack the Ripper” murdered his third victim, Elizabeth Stride, only five miles from last Sunday’s terrorist attack in Finsbury Park.

Terror seized Spurgeon’s London. Would the murders continue? Who would die next? (Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly)

The following morning, Spurgeon addressed Jack the Ripper’s murder of Elizabeth Stride in his opening prayer at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:

“We hear startling news of abounding sin in this great city. Oh! God, put an end to this, and grant that we may hear no more of such deeds. Let Thy Gospel permeate the city and let no monsters in human form escape Thee.”

Spurgeon was no stranger to terror. A madman once stormed through the door of his house with a club. Seizing the weapon, Spurgeon opened the door and bellowed at the top of his voice, “If you are not out of this house this very moment, I’ll break every bone in your body.” The man was paralyzed with fear and arrested.

Spurgeon was almost knifed, too, in Mentone, France (only 18 miles from the terrorist attack in the Nice airport in July 2016). The man barged into the hotel but Spurgeon forced him to leave. 

In the recent wake of suicide bombers, knife attacks, and runaway vehicles, here are five ways Spurgeon coped with terrorism in London. Read the rest by Christian T. George at The Spurgeon Center.

The Dean Recommends: Learning to interact with the word ‘no’

Published on June 19, 2017  

Some days ago, my daughter and I discussed an invitation I had received to teach a summer class at a Northeast Ivy League school. I told her: “If I had accepted the invitation to teach, my flight would have been today. I am so glad I said ‘no.’ I just cannot imagine leaving home again for two weeks.”

Of course, it was hard to say “no.” This class represented a great opportunity to teach in that particular school, to spend two weeks in that area, and to visit some friends. When I shared this invitation with one of my colleagues from work, sensing the opportunity, too, she was surprised that I had said “no.”

This experience prompted me to reflect on my life-long interactions with the word “no.”
As a Christian Mexican woman, I was taught that you do not say “no.” I come from a family of strong Baptist women who loved to attend WMU meetings. So as a little girl, they made sure that I participated in my age appropriate Girls in Action events. These were formative years in which I was surrounded by women teachers/counselors who were wise, loving and strong, too. One of the favorite biblical stories that I heard repeatedly during those years was the one of Esther. Read the rest by Nora Lozano at Baptist News Global.