Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
Gordon-Conwell is about the Bible.
Whether it is asking faculty why they like teaching here, asking alumni what they liked most about Gordon-Conwell, or asking new students why they chose Gordon-Conwell, their answer generally focuses on our strong emphasis upon the Bible. I love working at a seminary where I do not have to apologize for Scripture being integrated in all we do. Actually, this is why I chose to go to Gordon-Conwell!
However, it is not just that we teach the Bible. In fact, if what made Gordon-Conwell Bible-centered were just our Bible courses, we would be a Bible college rather than a seminary. We are not just teaching the content, and literary and historical context of the Bible. No, we value the Bible much more than that.
We value the Bible speaking into counseling. We value the Bible as directing our thinking about Christian mission. I wrote a book on mission that has a Bible index three and a half pages long (over 460 references from 48 books of the Bible). I learned as a staff member with Inter-Varsity the importance of Scripture in evangelism and discipleship. I learned at Gordon-Conwell what were appropriate ways to allow Scripture to teach and guide us. I like the term “biblical formation” or “biblical discipleship” for this understanding of Scripture.
Let me expand this vision of the Bible further. Generally speaking, when I teach evangelism, I require my students to memorize passages of Scripture. My point is, if you do not memorize Scripture, it is very easy for your message to be about yourself and your testimony. Scripture can and should speak for itself. I heard from a person working in the Bible Society of a predominately Muslim country that one of the most precious passages of Scripture for reaching Muslims is the following: “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) It is best to look into someone’s eyes and recite these words of Jesus. Scripture must be the backbone of evangelism courses because it is the very breath of evangelism.
Similarly, when we teach leadership at a seminary, we are teaching something very different from what the world teaches regarding leadership. Jesus talks about being last, emptying yourself, bearing one another’s burdens, and other concepts which are antithetical to what we see in our political leaders and our secular institutions. We cannot teach leadership as a seminary without thoroughly being familiar with Scripture’s example of bad leadership (and the few examples of good leadership).
Gordon-Conwell knows that Scripture must also speak to our contemporary issues of racism, environmental crisis, and the global pandemic. We will not be captive to the divisiveness, anger, or anxiety of our age, but, guided by Scripture, we will live into such concepts as humility, truth, steadfastness and finding God’s glory revealed in our unity and diversity. Tolerance is much too small a goal for Christians. A Christian vision for our discussions about race will be a family, a city, a garden of flourishing and mutual support. Tolerance is minimalist. The Kingdom of Heaven is miraculous.
So today, in all humility we seek to see the excluded included, the oppressed liberated, and all people united in worship of the living God in Jesus Christ. We are Bible people who submit to both the hard teachings of the Kingdom love, as well as the hopeful vision of that same Kingdom.
Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.