Essay / Misc.

The Old Order Changes

Outside my family, Torrey Honors is the best thing to happen to me so far. The chance to start Torrey and work with the chums has been the greatest honor of my life.

Jesus built Torrey and it was a miracle that I could be involved. I am so thankful to Biola University for taking a risk on an early thirty-something philosopher and making a dream come true. Men like President Cook, Provost Sherwood Lingenfelter, and Dean Shanebeck were role models in allowing innovation and risk.

That dream was for a dialectic experience with no boundaries. This education would be skeptical, but true skepticism would, we trusted, bring us back to Jesus Christ. Al Geier taught me the quest, my Mom and Dad showed me the end, and Phil Johnson the spirit of an ancient approach to education.

It was joyful. And I could always trust the students, the chums, to join the quest.

So I loved every moment of class for almost twenty years.

A team gathered to share that vision and they took it and made it better. Paul Spears, Thomas Llizo, and Fred Sanders were the first co-workers. Fred and Paul improved everything and contributed new ideas as they tempered my passions.

There was no Torrey before them and because of them Torrey continues.

And yet I am reminded of a poem that has always haunted me.

In “Idylls of the KIng” Arthur says:

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?

Torrey isn’t Britain and I am not even a poor man’s Arthur, lacking even a barge let alone Exacalibur, but there is a lesson here even for me. There comes a time for leadership to move on lest it become hidebound and stale.

Yesterday’s goods can become tomorrow’s evils.

I began to worry that I was staying too long. I am a “starter” and not a “repeater.” Torrey is stable with a strong leadership team and I am more an entrepreneur and vision caster.

Biola has new leadership for a new century with plans to take the University forward. Things are good here.

At the same time, a man I admire, Robert Sloan, moved to Houston Baptist University. He started a dialectic program with a strong faculty. In the “Ten Pillars” of the University he laid out an outstanding vision.

Sloan is interested in going “further up and further in” and has assembled a team to do so.

This aging philosopher was invigorated at the promise of what is happening in Houston. When the position of University provost opened, I applied and went through the process. Recently, Sloan called to ask if I would take the job.

Would I?

It was an honor, but we wondered: “What about the chums?”

And then we knew something: the goal of Torrey had always been to go further up and further in. Torrey did not need me . . . and the Torrey ideal was not limited to Torrey. At HBU there was already joyful education and I could go help Sloan with his vision.

The “old order” must change at Biola and in Torrey so that Torrey too could be renewed.

And so I decided to move to HBU, unworthy as I feel for that high calling. This summer Hope and I will move to Houston and start work as the new provost at Houston Baptist University. I am thrilled to have the chance, but I will never forget the chums. My goal is to stay in touch and serve.

What is happening, what might happen, at HBU under Robert Sloan is so exciting I hope merely to stay out of the way and make his vision possible.

Know this chums:

We will always be part of you. I will always wear my Torrey ring.

Pray for me and pray for Hope. Higher education is about to radically change all over the world. Some of those changes will push institutions to become less personal, less Christian, less liberal arts.

Hope and I are lucky to be part of two universities, Biola and Houston Baptist, that will be part of preserving as best we can a truly liberal Christ-centered education. This old hobbit is headed for a new adventure . . . and we are excited to see tomorrow.

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