Geckos in the King’s Palace: Southeastern Celebrates Scholars at Southeastern Theological Fellowship
Chad Burchett | November 16, 2022
On November 15, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary recognized five exemplary scholars during its ninth annual Southeastern Theological Fellowship banquet at the 2022 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in Denver, CO.
“Sometimes the work of professors and scholars can go unrecognized,” Provost Keith Whitfield shared with attendees. “This event gives us an opportunity to come together and say, ‘thank you,’ and to honor your scholarship.”
As an institution committed to rigorous theological education in service of the Great Commission, Southeastern hosts this annual banquet to celebrate scholars who model this same commitment and to encourage attendees to remain faithful to God’s mission as they steward their academic gifts and responsibilities in a variety of contexts.
“Southeastern is a Great Commission institution,” noted Whitfield. “One of the things I share with people as I tell them about Southeastern’s heartbeat is that we keep our eyes outward. When students come to Southeastern, it is not what takes place on campus that is most important; instead, it is what students do when they leave our campus that is most important. I believe that is really the essence of theological education. It is about training people to serve the Church. That is the work that all of us here are involved in on some level.”
When students come to Southeastern, it is not what takes place on campus that is most important; instead, it is what students do when they leave our campus that is most important.
“It is an incredible opportunity to serve the Church and see the mission of God advance around the world through those that we have a chance to touch in the classroom and through those we may never meet who have been impacted by our scholarship,” commented Whitfield.
One of the ways Southeastern honors scholars whose work has faithfully served the Church and the mission is by annually presenting awards to five scholars whose academic contributions and personal character represent the values that Southeastern celebrates. Southeastern’s academic division recognizes these values as five basic plumblines of excellence: Act with integrity, put others first, start with stewardship, lead by example, and master your craft. The recipients of this year’s awards embody these values and model academic excellence in service of the Church and the mission.
Southeastern awards outstanding recipients from a Southern Baptist college or university, a Southern Baptist seminary, an evangelical college or university, and an evangelical seminary as well as one alumnus of Southeastern. Award winners included the following:
- Evan Lenow — Director of Church and Minister Relations, Director of Event Services, and Director of the Clinton Extension Center, an extension center of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, at Mississippi College.
- Jeff Bingham — Research Professor of Historical Theology, Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology, and Director of the Center for Early Christian Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Daniel Block — Gunther H. Knoedler Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Wheaton College
- Donald Fairbairn Jr. — Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
- Peter Link — Associate Professor of Christian Studies at Charleston Southern University
Offering the keynote address for the evening, Daniel Block spoke on Proverbs 30:28, encouraging attendees to meditate on the serendipity of the proverb and on God’s providence in their lives. “The gecko you can take in your hands, yet it is in king’s palaces,” Agur son of Jakeh declares in Proverbs 30:28. Reflecting on this proverb and its fruition in his life, Block reminded attendees that “we should not take life so seriously that we fail to recognize the oddities and incongruities of life, and we should celebrate the incongruities in our own lives.”
We should not take life so seriously that we fail to recognize the oddities and incongruities of life, and we should celebrate the incongruities in our own lives.
“A lowly creature found himself in the company of the highest official in the land,” observed Block. “Have you experienced that sort of serendipity?”
Recounting God’s surprising and lavish grace throughout his life, Block narrated how God took him, an introverted farmer’s son, and enabled him to teach at numerous Christian institutions around the world and travel to multiple continents to share the truth of God’s word.
As Block shared in his address, he was born in Ukraine and raised in Russia as one of thirteen children to faithful Christian parents who taught their children to cherish the Bible and prayer. After Block’s family moved to Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, God placed Henry Harder in his life as his pastor for two years, during which time God kindled in Block a desire to devote his life to study the Scriptures.
Block later married his godly wife Ellen and together they served the Lord across North America and around the world as Block’s education and teaching opportunities took them to places Block would once have never believed he might one day visit. For more than thirty years, Block was blessed to serve four Christian institutions, teaching and discipling hundreds — even thousands — of students to steward their academic training to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.
“How did all this happen? How did I get here?” asked Block. “I assure you none of this was planned. All praise be to God! He took a self-conscious, introverted gecko and thrust him in the palace of kings. I have learned that the more fixated we are on achieving our goals, the less we often trust in God and the more we close the doors and windows to serendipity. Instead, the fear — trusting awe — of the Lord is the first principle of wisdom.”
I have learned that the more fixated we are on achieving our goals, the less we often trust in God and the more we close the doors and windows to serendipity.
“When I one day enter God’s presence, I will marvel, ‘How did I wind up in the palace of the heavenly King?’” reflected Block. “The gospel reminds us that instead of a gecko finding his way into the King’s palace, the King has found his way into the gecko’s home. Jesus, who was enthroned in heaven gave up the glories of his heavenly palace to live among lizards and geckos. He took our place and died the most ignominious death that geckos deserve so that one day we might live in his glorious palace.”
“Hallelujah what a Savior! Hallelujah what a King!” exclaimed Block. “What a privilege is ours in this awesome and glorious King’s palace. And you know what, we get to spend eternity with him.”