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Biola's Next President? Barry H. Corey (Updated)

May 1st, 2007 | 3 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Update: Frank Beckwith suggests that Corey's "generous orthodoxy" may be problematic for a few faculty members. His assessment is fairly strong, in fact: "This appointment seems to represent a clear departure for Biola from its West Coast fundamentalist/dispensationalist roots."

It's hard to see how that is the case, though, given that Corey is ordained by a primarily dispensationalist denomination (Assemblies of God, which lists several dispensationalist planks in its 16 core teachings).

In addition, Biola's actual roots may not be as "fundamentalist" as their history lends people to believe. This paper by smart-guy Dr. Fred Sanders illuminates how "fundamentalism" (of a bad sort) at Biola was resisted, but finally took hold. Quoting Sanders, "MacInnis’ sense of ministerial vocation had always been defined by his denominational commitment, which seemed to run in his Scottish blood. Biola’s other early leaders were comfortable in many denominations - -[R.A.] Torrey described himself as an Episcobaptipresbygationalist– but MacInnis was ethnically Presbyterian."

Sanders has also done work exploding myths about the fundamentalism that was so important to the founders of Biola. Again, quoting Sanders:

Here Torrey waves the flag for ecumenical cooperation in the form of co-belligerence against a common foe. That foe is what the early fundamentalist movement (The Fundy Foundin’ Fathers!) identified as the main danger of the day: liberal denials of primary Christian doctrines. So the Methodists don’t agree with Torrey’s eschatology? Fine, that eschatology is not the main thing (or, frankly, the plain thing) in Scripture.

In other words, it's hard to see how Corey won't fit in exceptionally well with Biola's tradition. For those who want to know more about Biola's heritage, Torrey Honors has archived the first decade of The King's Business, a magazine that Biola published in its early days.

Update: Silly spelling and name errors fixed. It was late. My apologies!
Update Update: From the comments, reader James (who is a Biola alumn and current Gordon-Conwell student) offers this opinion: "One of the more word of endorsement is that Dr. Corey has had the strong support and respect of the faculty of the seminary, and has shown his commitment to academic excellence as well as spiritual depth.
I suppose the best thing I can say is as a current GCTS student I will be very sad to see him go, but as a Biola alum, I am excited about what he will bring to my alma mater."

Coming from James, that's high praise.

For the past six months or so, Biola has been slowly moving through the process of selecting a new president. It's somewhat surprising that they remember how to do it: Clyde Cook, who is stepping down, has served as president for 25 years.

But as we would expect, it seems like Biola has found another keeper. Barry Corey, the academic dean (among other things!) at Gordon-Conwell, is the only candidate remaining for the presidency. Barring any surprises, it seems he will be the next president of Biola.

The email released to all of Biola today included these thoughts from his application:

I am a product intellectually of Christian thought leaders who introduced me to the wonders of poetry, science, writing, philosophy and art through the lens of God's creative design and all encompassing Truth (which I intentionally capitalize). But this has been more than an academic exercise. It has formed the way in which I think about all of life. The more I have studied and the more I have contemplated God's creation, the more I have had to remind myself that learning must not become the altar to which I bow. My faith journey is replete with moments when I have surrendered my intellect (without abandoning it) to the will and Lordship of Christ. Academic study at its core must be a spiritual discipline, lest I become intoxicated by my own learning.

There is very little information about Dr. Corey available online. It is interesting to note that while he is ordained by the Assemblies of God, he is also on the board of the quite ecumenical Boston Theological Institute. In many ways, that seems to fit with the atmosphere of Biola, which encourages local church committments (it has no church on campus) while fostering and promoting "mere Christianity" as an institution.

It will be interesting to see and hear Dr. Corey in person. He is going to be on campus Monday and Tuesday of next week, and while I am extremely busy both days, I will make every effort to go hear him. In all, he seems on paper like a solid pick, someone that everyone can get excited about.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.