When I arrived at Houston Baptist University in August of 1991, I was a 27 year-old Yankee from New Jersey who had spent the last five years of his life in the cold climes of Ann Arbor, Michigan. As I applied to universities across the country, I left myself open to God’s leading. However, I did inform God that, though I was prepared to move to wherever he wanted me, I was quite sure that he would not send me down South, that he would not ask me to live in a big city, and that he would surely direct me toward a secular school. In the end, he led me to a Christian school in a big southern city!
Well, he is God, and he does know best, and the last 26 years have been truly marvelous. The Lord has planted something in Houston that has born and will continue to bear much fruit. As a professor here, I have had the privilege of using all the gifts the Lord has given me to minister to students from all over the world. The media loves to present our country as one riven with racial, ethnic, religious, and class tensions. I only wish these naysayers and fear mongers could spend a week on our campus; if they did, and if they were willing to see it, they would behold a spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect that is wonderfully contagious.
We stand firmly on the bedrock of our founding verse: that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the father but through him (John 14:6). And it is precisely because of that firmness, rather than in spite of it, that we can reach out our arms to students from all different cultures and faith traditions. We know who we are, and we are thus empowered to share who we are with others. We do not fear the writings of non-Christians but teach them freely and boldly, because we have a touchstone (Christ and the Bible) against which to measure all things. The academic freedom I have found at HBU far surpasses that which I would have encountered at a secular school, whether it was located in the North or the South, in a big city or a small town.
These strengths were already evident in HBU when I arrived in 1991, and yet, over the last quarter century, I have seen changes and developments that have transformed us into a university poised to fulfill the high calling of our Ten Pillars Vision. Here are some of the most exciting changes that I have witnessed during my years on the faculty:
- Although HBU has always been a Christian school staffed by Christian faculty, we have increasingly integrated faith and learning so that no area of our curriculum is untouched by the historical reality of the Incarnation and Resurrection. We are not just Christians on Sunday or in our Christianity classes; the Christian worldview permeates all areas of campus and curricular life.
- Even as we have increased the reach and ubiquity of the Judeo-Christian worldview, we have committed ourselves anew and with greater vigor to teaching the Greco-Roman classics. We are truly a place where Athens and Jerusalem meet and embrace.
- The percentage of our students that live on campus has increased several fold, transforming HBU into a vibrant center of dialogue where the Great Conversation begun in our classrooms spills out into our dorms, our sports fields, our commons, our library, and our cafeteria. As believers in the Incarnation, our school has become intentionally incarnational in the education it provides.
- We have grown from an undergraduate college into a comprehensive university with the ability to extend the Christian worldview into the realm of graduate studies, thus allowing us to impact our culture in a fuller way. While we used to be one of Houston’s best kept secrets, our reputation in the sciences, in education and business, in philosophy and apologetics, and in music and the arts has expanded and is making significant waves that are being felt across the country.
- With the help of football and other innovations, we have greatly increased our alumni base and our networking: a feat which, beyond the practical benefits it has brought us, has allowed us to brand ourselves as a community that spans half a century.
These and many other exciting changes I have witnessed first hand, filling me with the hope and the promise that our best days are truly ahead of us. As Houston becomes the paradigm for what American cities will look like over the coming decades, so I believe that HBU is fast-becoming a model of what a Christian university dedicated to our classical-Christian legacy and to the confession that Jesus is Lord can accomplish. I look forward with anticipation to what the next twenty-six years will bring to me and the school I so love.