Thirty years ago today, Dean Timothy George delivered these words of acceptance at his installation as founding dean of Beeson Divinity School.
I come to this moment of consecration and commitment with a profound sense of the providence of God which has brought me, and all of us, to this hour. As we entered this service we sang of all the saints in ages past, the apostles and martyrs, the missionaries and monks, the reformers and evangelists, all the saints both known and unknown to us, those who, like Abraham and Sarah, set out not knowing exactly where they were going but sure of the call of God which had impelled them to launch forth into the unknown, destined for that city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. Today, on this historic occasion, we come to take our place in this noble company of witnesses and saints. Aware of our own weakness and depravity, we are nonetheless confident that God’s overcoming grace and sustaining love is strong enough to see us through whatever obstacles or challenges may lie before us.
I also bring to this service what an old Puritan divine once called “a mixture of terror and joy, of awful reverence and holy pleasure.” I am deeply grateful for the many ties which bind my life with so many of you on this platform and in this service. On this day I give thanks to God for a Christian grandmother, now among the blessed departed, who first told me that Jesus loves me; for a faithful wife and loving children; for a wonderful church which suffered the ministrations of a very green and inexperienced pastor; for teachers and professors who introduced me to new ideas and taught me not to be afraid of them; for pastors who believed in me and prayed for me; for students and colleagues and friends, for all of you I give thanks to God.
We would be less than honest if we did not acknowledge that the Beeson Divinity School is born in a time of great controversy and strife. In times such as these, we desire to relate with integrity and openness to all of God’s children and to be, in so far as God may allow us to do so, agents of reconciliation and peace. In an age of secularism and relativism, we do not declare theological neutrality. Let it be said for all posterity to hear that we stand without reservation for the total truthfulness of Holy Scripture and the great principles of historic Christian orthodoxy. On these essential values we cannot and we will not compromise. But we also know that godly teaching must be complemented by holy living, and so we commit ourselves to the disciplines of the Christian faith, to a life of prayer and worship, to witness and discipleship, and social compassion with justice and peace for every person made in the image of God. In the lingo of contemporary labels, we will be neither a haven for disaffected liberalism nor a bastion of raucous fundamentalism. We will be evangelical but also ecumenical, conservative but not irresponsible, confessional yet interdenominational. Above all, I pray that we might be a school where heart and head go hand in hand, where the love of God and pursuit of truth join forces in the formation of men and women, called by God, empowered by His Holy Spirit, equipped for the ministry of His church, sent forth into the world to bear witness to the grace of God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, whom to know is life eternal.
From all of you I beseech your prayers, support and even, as you are prompted to give it, your advice, so that, when all of us here present shall lie in the dust, the work of God’s kingdom might still be advanced through the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University. To this end, I offer my gifts and I pledge my life, through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for evermore. Amen.