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Donors’ gift to NOBTS establishes philosophy chair, culture forum

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees’ executive committee has accepted a gift from William and Carolyn Heard to establish the Greer-Heard Chair of Philosophy and Culture and to fund the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum.

The donors were described during the Dec. 2 committee session as having a passion to help students learn to think critically and be prepared to engage secular society.

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley noted, “With programs already in place to teach our students how to pray and how to study the Bible, we are thrilled with this opportunity to create an innovative program to equip students to think critically and engage this secular culture at the highest levels of its challenges to Christianity.”

The Greer-Heard Chair of Philosophy and Culture (Greer being Carolyn Heard’s maiden name) was endowed to establish a permanent professorship in philosophy. This professor will teach courses in philosophy, critical thinking and theology on both the graduate and doctoral levels.

In addition to endowing the faculty chair, the Heards gave money to initiate a lecture series to illustrate the kind of intellectual challenges faced by Christians in today’s world.

The Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum: Exploring the Tensions of Faith and Culture, will be held on the NOBTS campus each year. The pilot program is designed to attract well-known speakers to discuss critical issues in philosophy, science, religion and/or culture from an evangelical and from a secular perspective.

Faculty members voiced enthusiasm about the opportunities afforded by the forum. “Far too often evangelical Christians in general and Baptists in particular are stereotyped as being either unaware, unconcerned or behind the times when significant issues in our culture are considered,” said Bob Stewart, assistant professor of philosophy and theology at NOBTS. “While this view is largely inaccurate, it is true that we can be more involved in current discussions as to what kind of culture we should seek to foster.

“Indeed, we must engage in this task, in order to be faithful to Jesus’ command to be salt and light in this world,” Stewart continued. “Engaging our culture is one way in which we can be in the world but not of it, and thus seek to transform a society that has been in many respects disfigured by sin. This very gracious gift will make it possible for NOBTS to lead out in this crucial area of ministry.”

As part of the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum, speakers will have an opportunity to state their case, dialogue with participants and answer questions on the topic. Seminary students, faculty members, practicing ministers and members of the general public will be encouraged to participate in the event.