As any Biola student or graduate can tell you, one of the things that makes Biola University distinct from other colleges is the requirement for every traditional undergraduate student to take 30 units of Bible and theology classes — amounting to a minor in biblical studies. In honor of the opening of the new Talbot School of Theology building, where thousands of undergraduates will take Bible classes each year, Biola Magazine tracked down students and alumni from decades past to ask them to share some of the most memorable and impactful lessons from their 30 units. Here is what they had to say.
01. Dr. Mitchell said that the world tries to answer the sin issue in a variety of ways. But “education only made sinful men smart sinful men, money only made sinful men rich sinful men, and power only made sinful men powerful sinful men. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can change sinful men into sinless men.”
– Timothy A. Conrad (’74, M.Div. ’87)
02. I remember Dr. Charles Feinberg saying, “Gentlemen, learn your Greek and Hebrew, but remember to be devotional!” Thoughintellectual, our studies are more than academic. While modeling in-depth study of Scripture, Dr. Feinberg promoted teaching practical truths for spiritual living to everyday Christians.
– Harry Brewer (’67)
03. “The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, based on His most wise and holy counsel, whereby He freely and unchangeably ordained, either efficaciously or permissively, all that comes to pass.” I remember that from professor William Ebeling’s course on “God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.”
– Jack Kaiser, III (’77)
04. I learned that Jesus was not a pansy, as popular culture would have you believe. He spoke hard truths to those who needed it (Pharisees) and was gentle and graceful to those who needed that instead. Divinely elastic.
– Andrew Hartman (’02)
05. Recently, I was leading a small group Bible study and some of my comments sounded a lot like Dr. Erik Thoennes, in which he talked about the powerful nature of the Word of God and keeping a small Bible in his pocket. I tried doing the same, but the print was too small for my eyes. Fortunately, technology has caught up and I can keep my “sword of the Spirit” and be ready at a moment’s notice with my iPhone, in which I can easily change the font size!
– Pablo Reyes (’01)
06. As managing partner I’m constantly guiding the company in the direction of success for our staff and clients. The question I’ve asked myself over and over is “What is my purpose?” When we know our purpose we’re better able to give direction to a company, clients and others. My 30 units of Bible were invaluable for they allowed me to focus on my purpose. I’ve since gone on to grad school and continued my career progression and the same principles I’ve learned from my 30 units of Bible still apply in areas of my life and work.
– Bernie L. Mullen (’91)
07. Being required to read whole books of the Bible at a time, several times through, helped us see the picture as a whole rather than just little verses here and there.
– Nancy Hagberg (’77)
08. One of the professor’s statements has never left me: “Do not relegate the power of the Holy Ghost or Satan to the New Testament times.” It has been one of the most valuable lessons I learned.
– George Pontius (’61)
09. One of the most valuable things I learned through all my Bible classes was how to memorize Scripture. It has helped me through all aspects of my life. Having God’s truth captured in my mind and heart is priceless.
– Trisha Virga (’05)
10. I came home after the first night of Ron Pierce’s “Church and Last Things” class with a spring in my step and an excitement about the concept of church. Is it a passive, spectator sport? Do we let leaders do everything while we listen, or do we take an active part with our God and his people? How do parachurch groups fit in? Dr. Pierce was animated, humorous and drew out discussion from us in a unique way. Now Ron is a patient of mine, as well as his family, at our dental practice of 26 years just up the street from Biola. I am blessed to call him my brother and friend, this time on the other side of the “drill!” Would I recommend him to current students? Well, just make sure you have a career path that will allow you to get back at him!
– Mike Winter (’80)
11. The Bible class is the first time in my life that I was encouraged to read through the whole Bible. It was a good discipline to learn.
– Lori Freitas (’77)
12. When I entered Biola in 1971, I now believe that I was not a Christian. I barely understood the significance of the cross. But the Lord was merciful and, little by little, due to the wonderful, edifying courses taught by dedicated men of God and the pleasant interactions with spiritual students in a wonderful Christian environment, my eyes were finally opened and I became born again! … Though physically blind from birth, now I know whom I have believed and some day, perhaps even today — right now — I will see Jesus with all his angels as well as all my brothers and sisters in the Lord forever in heaven!
– Rubens M. Marshall (’75)
13. Dr. Wilkins told the class a story about a time when we was injured surfing. He then had two students separately stand up and retell the same story they just heard. Finally, a third student who did not hear the story directly from Dr. Wilkins (but only from the two students) gave his account. The synoptic “problem” has never been more clear than hearing how different those three retellings were.
– Joel Lingenfelter (’93)
14. Somehow we got on the topic of giving and the verse “’Tis better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The teacher said something like this: “Remember, when you give money, you’ll have less of it. Whenever I write a check and give it to someone, the bank always takes the money out, whether the check is written to a church or to a grocery story. So when you give, expect to have less money for yourself — and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.” The professor then went on to tell about the spiritual benefits of giving, but his little aside inoculated me against the allure of prosperity-doctrine advocates.
– Marianne Hering (’86)
15. One semester I was in a real jam with my schedule. I was married and my wife and I had a brand-new baby girl. We were both working and very stressed. Out of the kindness of his heart Dr. Nickolas Kurtaneck met with me one day a week for an in-depth verse-by-verse study through the book of Romans. He was a very busy man as he was both an instructor and pastor. The study in Romans was amazing, but the time with this loving older gentleman was even more amazing! Dr. Kurtaneck taught me that the most important thing in the Kingdom of God is relationship.
– Rev. Dan K. Edmondson (’87)
16. I remember that godly professors gave ungodly exams. The most challenging exams were the ones in our Bible courses. On a more serious note, I remember Dr. Mitchell required us to memorize a chart of all the kings in all the neighboring powers throughout a timeline of Hebrew history. He wanted us to remember that what happened in bibical accounts was a part of world history, not just a Bible story.
– Naomi Omaye Garwood (’77)
17. In one of my Bible classes at Biola, I was introduced to the concept of God’s permissive will versus his specific will. It helped remove a lot of fear from my heart to know that I didn’t have to agonize wondering about things like, “Am I buying the exact car God wants me to have?” As long as I was using biblical principles, like good stewardship, not being prideful, etc., it didn’t specifically matter which car I bought. I had never heard that concept before, and it has been very freeing in my life.
– Ann Glassey (’86)
18. As a Bible and Christian education major, I had many Bible courses where I was taught doctrine, history of the Bible, Bible survey courses, special book studies, New Testament Greek and more. But the course that impacted me the most was taught by Martha Hooker. I don’t remember the course title, but the lessons taught us to develop object lessons from familiar things around us. That made sense.
– Rev. Vincent W. Morgan (’69)
19. Without a doubt, taking the course on the book of John with Matt Williams was the most impactful Bible class I took at Biola. The person of Jesus became so dynamic to me during the course of that class. The realities of his purpose and his ministry literally changed my perspective on this person I have decided to commit my life to. Stories I had heard dozens of times throughout my life as a Christian had new meaning. Water to wine, the Samaritan woman, Nicodemus’ curiosities of being born again, Jesus being the bread of life — these were all given new meaning.
– Meghan (Perstac, ’06) Williams
20. When I tell people that I am from Indonesia, one of the most common questions that I usually get is, “Is your family Christian?” I would say, “Yes, I grew up in a Christian family.” But even though I grew up in a Christian environment, only after coming to Biola did I truly know what being a Christian meant. Only by God’s grace and through Biola’s Bible professors did I come to understand what it truly means to be a Christian.
– Giovani A. Prayitno (’13)
21. My Bible classes at Biola were seminal in grounding me in my faith. Assurance of salvation was a big thing. My pastor had talked about it, but in the Bible classes I saw in detail how clear the Bible is about it. A second thing was the deity of Christ. That Jesus really is the second person of the Trinity seemed to leap off the pages of Scripture when I took New Testament survey. And Old Testament survey prepared the groundwork for my later focus in graduate work.
– Tom Finley (’67)
22. All along my career as a professional translator I have frequently said, “Thank you Lord for the short years at Biola that gave me a solid knowledge of your Word and how to study.” More important than the 30 hours of Bible study have been the teachers who influenced me. Dr. Aijian taught me to look at our beliefs critically and to research answers that are consistent with what Scripture claims for itself and God. Dr. Christian challenged me to study diligently, prioritizing my time. Dr. McGee taught me to see each book of the Bible and as whole and see the consistent story and theology. These men of God challenged me as a young man, leaving deeper footprints than the subjects themselves.
– John Tuggy (’55)
23. Dr. Curtis Mitchell taught me that to pray without ceasing is an attitude, expressed by lots of “little quickies” sent up throughout your day.
– John Lewis (’90)
24. Singing joyfully to the Lord at the beginning of each class with Dr. Thoennes set the tone for future disciplines of praise in my life.
– Bonnie K. Mancini (’04)
25. Senior year I had the privilege of taking the Bible integration seminar “Money, Sex and Power” with Dr. Rick Langer. The subject of power is rarely explored to the extent we were able to in class. It was amazing to be challenged to face how power really affects our daily lives, country and the world. As part of class, one of our course books was Neither Riches Nor Poverty by Craig L. Blomberg. It is still one of my favorite books to read and to recommend when I get the chance. The depth of insight on how to honor the Lord with the money he has given us and be good stewards of every part of our lives was convicting and life changing.
– Lisa De Blauw (’08)
26. I learned how to English sentence-diagram the book of Romans. Even without knowing Greek, the book came alive with new meaning. Thank you, Dr. McNeely!
– John Dobrenen (’71)
27. I appreciated Dr. Dollar’s Acts class, grasping the big picture of the development of the early church and the Holy Spirt’s role in it, which has served me well as a teacher of Bible and other subjects at the Black Forest Academy in Germany.
– Rob Carey (’93)
28. I learned that the character of God is so deep, beyond us and awesome that it will continue to make us stand in awe ... if we will stop and gaze, study and reflect.
– Monique Zwaagstra (’06)
29. In my Hebrews class in 1978, a student commented on how wise and knowledgeable Dr. Kurtaneck was. He responded, “Oh no; the more you walk with God, the more you realize how little you know!”
– Barb Ryburn Langeloh (’79, M.A. ’83)
30. I learned that Old Testament Hebrew is more fun with a Southern drawl. Thanks Dr. Curtis!
– Melisa Sternjacob (’05)