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‘Evangelicals and the Bible’ A History Symposium to honor David Bebbington

I am so glad that I serve a church that allows me time off for personal improvement. This past week, I ran off to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The university was hosting a symposium in honor of my PhD supervisor David Bebbington. David recently retired from the University of Stirling and is completing one final semester teaching at Baylor (at least for now). Thomas Kidd and the history department gave him this honor- it was the perfect way to show respect to someone who have devoted his life to historical studies as a Christian. David’s work is respected by scholars around the world. The Bebbington Quadrilateral has become the main paradigm in identifying what is ‘Evangelical’ in historical studies.

The topic of the symposium was to hear various papers on how Evangelicals of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries viewed and employed the Bible. There were a few current research students that presented papers, but the bulk of the work was carried on by a veritable ‘who’s who’ of evangelical historians. We heard papers from Bruce Hindmarsh of Regent College in Vancouver, Brian Stanley of the University of Edinburgh, Catherine Brekus of Harvard Divinity School, Timothy Larson of Wheaton College and Mark Noll of Notre Dame University. The second day was begun with a devotional by Matt Snowden, the pastor of First Baptist Church- Waco, who testified to David’s faithfulness in his churchmanship. At lunch we were treated to an interview with David by Baptist historian Barry Hankin. And the high point came at Friday’s end when David delivered his paper. At the conclusion, he received a standing ovation from his colleagues who were obviously applauding, not just the essay, but a career of 43 years that has touched us all. David, who never likes the limelight was obviously uncomfortable, but he was also deeply moved. The trip to Waco was worth it for that single moment.

I fondly look back upon my days working with David. At times, I have never been so frustrated in trying to meet his expectations. He pushed me to my limits (No doubt increasing my sanctification in prayer). He demanded excellence and would not let us settle for less. But he did so with kindness and graciousness. And he modeled for me the ideal of a Christian scholar. And as I was surrounded by his former research students, all of now with doctorates in hand, I came to realize how much he meant to others. There are now top rate Christian scholars working in institutions around the world.

Thank you church for allowing time for this pastor to hear listen to some stuffy old history papers. It might not be your cup of tea, but it cheered my soul.