Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Professor of Old Testament Paul House (who worked at Wheaton from 2001-2004) was featured in the Summer 2002 issue.
When I was a senior in college, I once sat in my favorite professor’s office and thought that it must be a wonderful thing to be a teacher. Like most kids from rural Missouri, I never met a college professor while growing up. Thus, it never occurred to me to think about Christian higher education as a vocation.
By the time I had finished my B.A. at Southwest Baptist College, however, my teachers had instilled in me a sense of the importance of the ministry of instructing others for, as we say at Wheaton, Christ and His Kingdom. Since I entered the teaching life I have not wanted to do anything else, at least not in place of it. Teaching students, writing books, and learning from colleagues continue to confirm what I thought as an undergraduate–the teaching life is a wonderful calling. I think this is especially true because I get to teach the Bible, God’s inerrant written Word.
Teaching the Bible to today’s students is an interesting, sometimes frustrating, task. They often know little beyond the basic Bible stories they learned as children, since biblical content is often left out of youth-group meetings. So students know that they should wait to have sex and should tell others about Jesus, but often little else. The result can be a dangerous division between worship on Sunday or in chapel and decisions made during the rest of the week. Thus, my task is to help them learn the Bible’s contents so they can have some chance of applying the whole of Scripture to their increasingly complex lives. As they learn, many of them grow rapidly. Their Christian worldview blossoms as they apply the Bible to life.
Writing books is one way to teach the Bible to people I will never meet in person. I am not alone in this conviction. Think of how many readers Scott Hafemann, John Walton, Andrew Hill, and my other colleagues have helped understand the Bible. For that matter, consider how many people beyond the Wheaton College community have learned about history from Mark Noll, Kathryn Long, and Edith Blumhofer. Or how many readers know more about literature because of Leland Ryken’s books. Writing is teaching; it is not just a way of getting promoted or becoming famous, or infamous for that matter.
Learning from colleagues is a great benefit of the teaching life. Through the years I have not only learned more about the Bible from other teachers, I have also absorbed knowledge about literature, history, current events, music, and athletics. Sadly, I fear that no matter how hard anyone tries, my brain rejects scientific knowledge. Despite my deficiencies, being taught by other teachers is a marvelous experience that helps me integrate the Bible more fully into the lives of my students.
I recommend the teaching life to young people all the time. I also recommend that donors and prayer warriors do all they can to support it. The teaching life is one committed to helping people learn what matters and how to act accordingly. More importantly, at Wheaton it is a life committed to the Lord, the sufficiency of His Word, and the growth of His people.
Paul R. House is a graduate of Southwest Baptist College (B.A.), the University of Missouri (M.A.), and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and Ph.D.). He has been a professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School since 2004 and served for six years as associate dean. Previously, he taught at Taylor University, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and Wheaton College. Dr. House is the author or editor of 15 books, including The Unity of the Twelve, Old Testament Survey, Old Testament Theology, and Lamentations. He has been pastor of churches in Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky. He and his wife, Heather, have one adult daughter.