Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I visited Seoul in November 2010 to speak at a conference on Peace and Reconciliation organized by the Youngnak Church. I was specifically asked to frame my remarks in light of the work of Dr. Kyung-Chik Han, our immensely distinguished alumnus who graduated from the Seminary in 1929 and was named our Distinguished Alumnus in 1985 for his work in the Korean church. In preparation I read a great deal, and the more I read, the more deeply I appreciated and respected Dr. Han, who was the greatest evangelist of contemporary Korea, a public theologian who was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1992. Inevitably, too, in reading this history, I became better acquainted with the work of Dr. Samuel Austin Moffett, through whose preaching the village in which Kyung-Chik Han was born came to Christianity. I read that sometimes as he preached, Dr. Moffett would introduce himself by saying, “My Korean name is ‘Mapo Samyeol,’ meaning ‘three joys in a hemp sack.’ I am a man of joy, always joyous and happy. Why? Because I believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth.”
I told this story to Joseph Choi, one of our alumni in Seoul (Class of 1989), who was immensely kind to me. Joseph Choi explained to me the meaning of “the three joys” in traditional Korean culture. One joy is to have both parents alive and one’s siblings all doing well. The second joy is to have no shame, either to God above or to human persons. And the third joy is to find a brilliant pupil and then to teach him or her. I was struck and moved by this wise vision of human wholeness and its utterly non-materialistic values. They provide a lens through which to bring you glimpses of Princeton Theological Seminary as we begin 2011.
As I write, at the end of December, Speer Library is surrounded by a fence and its famous carved symbols have been removed from the entrance tower for safekeeping. The library seems disfigured, and I think of Samson blinded by the Philistines. The work of demolition has begun, and by the time you read this Speer Library will have been removed. To very many alums, Speer Library acted almost like a mother, and it is sad to watch her demise. A friend once dedicated a book to the “genius loci” (the spirit of the place) of Edinburgh University Library. Speer Library has indeed a character, but even as we see its demolition, we know that this parental figure will be reconstructed and have greater outreach than ever. Only this week, my colleagues in Special Collections showed me how they planned to put the catalogues of our manuscript collections online by the end of 2010. I take joy in the vitality of this “parent” and you will read more about it in the article in inSpire.
Our alums constantly do new and astonishing things. Margaret Grun Kibben was recently appointed a rear admiral and as chaplain of the U.S. Marine Corps. She is the first woman chaplain to hold this position. We are proud of her achievement and of her ministry. Our senior student Brenna Nickel writes movingly about her experiences in Israel/Palestine during a short-term course. You will see photographs of our 2010 alumni/ae reunion, including a focus on our Distinguished Alumna Leah Gaskin Fitchue, president of Payne Theological Seminary. And you will read about Loren Stuckenbruck, our new Dearborn Professor of New Testament, an alumnus who had previously taught in Germany and at Durham University in England. There is a joy in feeling no shame—actually, a fair amount of what I hope is justifiable pride—in the achievements, the vision, and the ministry of our alums as in different ways each works for God’s Kingdom.
The Seminary exists to teach and to form students for ministry. Among a number of publications in the last six months, members of our faculty have produced two wonderful, very different books. I refer to Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church (Oxford University Press, July 2010) and Ellen Charry’s God and the Art of Happiness (Eerdmans, December 2010). The Seminary understands its calling as being to bring piety and learning together, that is, to write in a learned and scholarly way for the edification of the church. Kenda Dean, our professor of youth, church, and culture, names the therapeutic deism that afflicts our churches. Ellen Charry, professor of historical and systematic theology, reconnects knowledge and healing. It seems to me that both these books succeed brilliantly, and I recommend them to you. And these teachers/authors demonstrate their actualization of a third joy: how they have found outstanding pupils, captured their imaginations, and taught them.
I share these joys with you as members of our wider community, and may you be blessed with that fullness of joy that is life in Jesus Christ.
Iain R. Torrance