New initiatives at Criswell College expand educational opportunities
Written by Clinton Wolf, TEXAN Correspondent
Phoenix, Arizona, June 14, 2011 —
The preaching and writing of the late W.A. Criswell is finding new life through a Great Doctrines of the Bible certificate course to be offered beginning this fall by Criswell College in Dallas. The materials, available online at the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library (wacriswell.com), will be used as the basis of research on bibliology, theology, angelology, Christology, pneumatology, and the Christian life.
Announcement of the certificate program came from Criswell College President Jerry Johnson during the school's annual luncheon held in conjunction with the annual meeting of Southern Baptists in Phoenix on June 14. “We believe this will allow hundreds of people who want to get doctrinal training to receive the training they need,” Johnson said of the program. “If you know laymen who want training but can’t come to college, this is a great venue for them.” Students will study each topic eight weeks and will receive a certificate at the completion of 12 hours of college level work. In addition, students may opt for the advanced certificate by studying ecclesiology, soteriology, stewardship and prayer, and eschatology for an additional eight weeks per topic or 12 college hours of study. The entire course of study will be completely online with no classroom attendance.
Also during the luncheon, Johnson referred to availability of tuition grants for children of Southern Baptist missionaries, plans for a teacher certification program, and the exploration of adding a residential campus in the north Dallas area. Those initiatives combined with recent, substantial financial contributions prompted Johnson to conclude that “the college is on solid ground.”
Harold Harper, executive vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, was honored as alumnus of the year. Harper, who received his bachelor’s degree from Criswell College, co-hosts the ERLC radio talk show “For Faith and Family.” Johnson also called attention to the work Harper has done in co-authoring with his son Luke the Josiah Road discipleship materials aimed at influencing students to stand for Christ in their communities. “Harold has a heart for discipleship and mentoring, but it begins at home. He’s discipling his own children as well as others,” Johnson stated.
Harper said he came to faith as a young adult and felt called to study the Bible. He was counseled to attend Criswell College, even though he had never heard of the college nor its namesake founder. “I did not think that I would be accepted into the school,” Harper said of that time. “But I sat down with Dr. Patterson and he said, ‘Son, if God has called you, we will equip you.’ It is a testimony to Criswell College that men came alongside me and loved me despite who I was. They saw me as someone who was called, and it was their job to train me.”
Encounter Missions Director Bobby Worthington praised the initiative and determination of six Criswell students who shared the gospel in a Maricopa, Ariz., neighborhood prior to the SBC meeting. “Criswell College is all about students being prepared in ministry,” Worthington said. “I told the students, ‘If you learn nothing else this week, learn to link prayer and ministry.’ We spend time praying together and asking God to touch people’s hearts, because if he doesn’t do it, it won’t be done.”
Johnson said that including the team’s report in the luncheon was important because “that’s what it’s all about at Criswell.” And he said while he was encouraged by the growth in the school’s funding, the important issue for the school was how it would be invested. “We are going to stay with the study of biblical languages and expository preaching—those things were a hallmark of Dr. Criswell’s ministry. And we are committed to presenting a Christian worldview in our teaching. Christianity is not just about faith, Heaven, and doctrine. It is about everything. He is lord of all—family, politics, education, everything.”