Since becoming Dean, I have been repeatedly asked, “what is your vision for Talbot?” The fundamental vision of Talbot is the same for that of all of Biola University, and that is: “The mission of Biola University is biblically centered education, scholarship and service — equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.” This statement captures well what we are all about.
In addition to this, I would put forth four crucial elements of what I would consider to be vital to the vision of Talbot School of Theology. Each of these has been important in the history of Talbot and I would reaffirm them as we move into the future:
1. That Talbot would retain a firm commitment to the essentials of the Christian faith.
2. That Talbot would endeavor to foster the growth of faith in the lives of all its students.
3. That Talbot would continue to teach and proclaim the sudden climactic return of Christ.
4. That Talbot would be known by the deep love of the members of the community for one another and by its active love for the lost.
It is important for me to say that I cannot take credit for these four statements; they are not original with me. In fact, they go back 2,000 years to the spread of the spread of the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean region. They reflect the virtues that the Apostle Paul sought to instill in all of the churches that he planted. Another way of referring to them is by the simple words faith, hope, and love.
The Apostle Paul’s regular and consistent strategy for assessing spiritual growth was in looking for concrete evidences of faith, hope, and love. When he had to leave the Thessalonian church abruptly because of the local flareup of persecution, he was worried sick about the wellbeing of these dear people and sought to find out how they were doing. What he looked for were concrete and tangible evidences of faith, hope, and love (1 Thess 1:2-3). For him, these were also vital indicators of the authenticity of their conversion to Christ.
The importance of these markers of true Christianity is seen in all of his letters. Perhaps his most quoted and memorable statement was to the Corinthian church, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
Faith: My vision for Talbot is that it continues to be a place that holds tightly—unswervingly—to the heart of the Christian faith and that it would be a place where Christians could learn to grow and flourish in a life of faith. This vision reflects Paul’s two-fold use of the term “faith”—both what is to be believed (“the faith”; see Col 2:7; Eph 4:4) and the act of believing (e.g. Eph 1:13; 1 Thess 1:3). May Talbot be a place where trust in the living Christ is active and accomplishes much; where faith in the power of Christ results in the defeat of sin, where mountains are moved, and the enemy flees.
Hope: Talbot has a long heritage of emphasizing eschatology. This is with good reason; eschatology is very important. It is the hope of every believer. The Apostle Paul said that we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We long for Jesus to return. We long for escape from these bodies. We long to be with Christ forever. Eschatology is an anchor for us. Paul said in 1 Thess 1.3 that “hope” is what enables us to endure when circumstances in life are extremely difficult. Eschatology also brings comfort. At the end of his discussion about the return of Christ and the rapture of believers, Paul says, “comfort one another with these words.” Although it is true that we can get get bogged down in trying to figure out some of the details of eschatology, it is imporant for us not to miss the point. The world as we know it will come to a sudden and cataclysmic end. Everyone will be held accountable to the one true and all-powerful God. Yet this is a day of great joy and fulfillment for God’s people.
Love: Love is the defining mark of a Christian. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). According to 1 Thess 1:3, “love works,” that is, love is expressed in the community by concrete acts of kindness to one another, even when it hurts. The more that this kind of love grows and develops in our lives, there will be a proportional decrease in the amount of self-centeredness, pride, and arrogance characterizing us. What a great goal for a seminary in helping to develop Christian leaders! Less of ourselves, more of Christ, and service for others. I will be praying regularly that the Lord may cause the Talbot community to “increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thess 3:13).
Friends, my vision for Talbot is that it increasingly becomes a place where people will say of our faculty, staff, graduates, and current students that: “Wow. These people are full of the love of Christ and they truly show it to each other, they really know their Bibles and they firmly believe all that it says, and they are beacons of hope in a dark and lost world that needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”