The news that John Mark Reynolds is leaving Torrey was a bit of a blow to those who attended the program.  John Mark’s personality and drive have left a mark on the program that will endure long into the future, even as he takes his talents to Houston Baptist.

We were all naturally curious who might replace him.  Today, Torrey has announced that Paul Spears, a longtime member of the Faculty at Torrey will become the new Director.  Spears is probably best known publicly for his excellent book Education for Human Flourishing

I couldn’t be more excited for Paul and for Torrey Honors.  Paul is a philosopher who thinks deeply about how education should look and is someone whose presence has shaped and guided the Torrey ethos in ways that are irreplacable.  He has been a friend and mentor to countless students and his steadiness in the classroom always made him a favorite tutor of mine.  I am excited to see how his deep wells of reflection about the nature of Christian higher education shape Torrey in the future.  He knows better than most what it is that makes Torrey so wonderfully quirky and so student-centric, and we have every reason to believe that he will continue to make Torrey Honors one of the most exciting places around.

Congratulations to Paul and to the alma mater.  Here’s to many more years of fruitful and productive dialogue within the Institute.

The letter from the Dean of the Humanities at Biola announcing the news is below: 

I am writing to you with happy news:  With the strong consensus of faculty and staff and the support of our Vice Provost, Provost, and President, I am appointing Dr. Paul Spears as the next Director of Torrey.  I wanted you to be among the first to know.

Many of you have known Dr. Spears as a faculty member and mentor.  Some of his time will still be dedicated to the classroom.  Dr. Spears has worked for Biola in Torrey since 1998; he is part of the history of the Torrey Honors Institute.  He knows the program and will carry forward the vision, mission, and values of THI and Biola.  Dr. Spears cares about program, but even more importantly, he cares about the people:  the faculty, staff, students, and alumni.  As the Chair of Morgan House, he has been a significant part of the leadership in Torrey and in this role has already demonstrated his capacity for caring servant leadership.

A few weeks ago, we learned that Dr. John Mark Reynolds, the Founder and current Director of Torrey, had accepted a position as Provost at Houston Baptist University.  We will miss him and the impact he has had on so many of us at Biola, and we also celebrate for him and for HBU.  Dr. Reynolds remains Director until he assumes his new position at HBU on June 25, 2012, at which time Dr. Spears’ appointment will go into effect.  We will ceremoniously invest Dr. Spears at the Torrey graduation in May.  This is a historic transition for THI as it is the first time the Director is not also the Founder.  The program is strong and thriving, and I look forward to working with Dr. Spears in the years to come.

I am particularly grateful to the faculty and staff who have so thoughtfully interacted with me about the appointment of the next Director.  Their care for the program, each other, and current and former students was clear throughout this process.

Cassandra Van Zandt, Ph.D.

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • Agreed. I’m quite happy to hear Mr. Spears is taking over. He’s been there since the beginning (even though I only got to have a couple sessions with him) and he really has heart and mind for what the Institute is about.

    I’m excited to see what our new grand chumskillet will do 8^D

  • Anon

    But the question on the minds of many: would Dr. Spears be prudent enough to hire serious scholars from other denominational confessions, such as Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox? That would make Biola a much more serious place in the realm of academic theology.

    • Matthew Lee Anderson

      You seem to know little enough of Biola to know that Dr. Spears has nothing to do with anything that pertains to that issue. Which means that if “many” people are asking that, they have no idea what they’re talking about.



      (Apologies if this comes off as too harsh. But anonymous comments of this sort rankle me. If you’ve a complaint, at least do the world the service of making it under your own name.)

    • Dave

      Anon, this sort of hiring policy happens at the highest level of the university. THI was founded by an Eastern Orthodox professor. The ethos of Torrey embraces denominational diversity. Unfortunately, Dr. Spears’ hands are tied (unless university policy changes, which is unlikely).

  • Anon

    Okay, so Dr. Spears won’t hire non-evangelicals. But would Biola?

  • Anon

    I meant to say: “…so Dr. Spears may or may not hire non-evangelicals. But would Biola?”

  • Anon

    (And the reason I do not use my name or credentials is that putting stuff on the internet is forever. And academic politics can be a real thorn in the side of freedom of expression.)

    • Eric E

      I am constantly amazed at how many academics are worried about their careers because of comments that just need to be said on a blog. I’m pretty sure the number is in the millions.

      The problem with posting anonymously on a blog is that if you piss off the owner of said blog, he has your IP address and your email address (if you are stupid enough to use your real one) and could make it public anytime he wants. Given that people quite often post blog comments from their work computer or they live near where they work, an IP address would probably be enough to determine what institution an anonymous academic works at. Combine that with extra info given in the comments (e.g., probably not tenured, familiarity/concern with BIOLA, possibly Catholic/Orthodox or at least not evangelical) and your anonymity has pretty much flew out the window. Matt, of course, would never do this because he’s a nice guy, but eventually if you make enough anonymous comments you’ll run across some not so nice blog owner and your cover will be blown.

  • Doug Hammonds

    I’m sure that Dr. Spears will hire the best people available and will continue producing the best and brightest of the conservative Christian realm

  • Anon

    …unless they’re Catholic or Orthodox.

    • Anon, I wasn’t going to respond any further, but I’d commend this to you:

      Also, if you’re worried about your professional reputation, I’d commend to you the genuine privacy of email rather than anonymous posting. My own email, as I’m sure you know, is readily available on the Contributors page if you’d like to talk about this issue at some other point.



  • Brian Lakin

    And now for something completely different. With John Mark going to Houston Baptist; will they change they change their name?
    ‘Trinity Houston’ sounds good. Or how about ‘Lewis, Chesterton, Sayers, Houston Evangelical’. No sarcasm intendend. I’m Reformed, but I will not stop reading or enjoying works of other christians.