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Providential events lead obstetrician to become Christian ministry prof

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–To a young obstetrician from Dallas, the prospect of one day becoming a seminary professor would have seemed preposterous.
Yet a newly discovered congenital heart defect and a providential friendship with a future seminary dean would place William Cutrer, associate professor of Christian ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., exactly in that situation. Cutrer came to know the Lord in college through Campus Crusade for Christ and immediately sensed a call to ministry. But the pre-med student received no discipleship and, in matter of weeks, fell back into his comfort zone.
In fact, Cutrer’s call remained dormant for years until he met a Criswell College student named Danny Akin.
With the help of Southern’s future dean of the school of theology, Cutrer began to grow in the Lord. Akin discipled Cutrer and even bought him his first systematic theology book. Meanwhile, Cutrer delivered Akin’s children.
“I would teach him what he needed to know about obstetrics, and he would answer my many questions about theology,” Cutrer said. His interest in theology increased until, at Akin’s recommendation, Cutrer enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary, which sat only a block away from the hospital where he practiced.
Near the end of his seminary training, Cutrer’s passion for full-time ministry was rekindled. Yet he remained reluctant to relinquish his medical practice. He wanted to do both.
Open heart surgery changed this desire. “The operator had become the operatee,” said Cutrer, who suffered from a congenital and newly discovered heart defect requiring serious surgery.
“At age 40, very soon after I basically told the Lord I wasn’t willing to give up medicine, he touched my heart in a very dramatic kind of way,” Cutrer said. “In a few months I went from being able to run a marathon to not being able to walk around the block.”
His recovery period produced “one of sweetest times for devotional life and spiritual life,” Cutrer recalled. “I came out of the surgery ready to do whatever God wanted me to do.”
Recovering enough to return to medicine, Cutrer also became an interim pastor at a church just east of Dallas. Upon request of the church, he finally gave up his medical practice to become a full-time minister. Yet God was to close that door as well. The stress of pastoral ministry caused Cutrer’s heart condition to worsen again. He decided to quit the pastorate to make preparations for surgery. But upon stepping down from his post, Cutrer’s health remarkably returned.
“In a rather miraculous way, the echocardiograms that had been following my valve had reversed,” Cutrer said. “My cardiologist was quite amazed.”
While not pastoring or practicing, Cutrer concentrated on other pursuits. He began working with the Christian Medical and Dental Society. He wrote several books. And he spoke at numerous conferences. Soon the call came from Akin to bring his many talents, experiences and expertise to the Southern Seminary faculty.
“God has used me in a lot of different ways,” said Cutrer, who became the first medical doctor on the Southern Seminary faculty this past summer. “But he hasn’t wasted anything. I use the medical training. I use the theology. I use the experience of caring for people in crisis of medicine and caring for people as a pastor.”
Cutrer admits when it comes to teaching Hebrew or history, “there are people who are far better qualified than I. But when it comes to being at the bedside in life and death situations, walking people through some of life’s catastrophes or helping people see the ethical issues in infertility, that’s what I can do because I’ve been in all those places.”
His helping people through tragedies such as miscarriages, still births and cancer has served to strengthen both his faith and his ministry at Southern.
“I wouldn’t say tragedy makes sense sometimes,” Cutrer said. “It doesn’t. But there is a subtle certainty that God is sovereign — that nothing happens that hasn’t passed through his hands — that enabled me to function in those situations even when it doesn’t make any sense.”
And now, his experiences of God’s providence and perfect continue to drive his ministry as a professor. “There’s no joy like being in the center of God’s will,” Cutrer said.

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  • Bryan Cribb