Joining the Great Tradition: Timothy George Delivers Annual Page Lectures
Chad Burchett | October 18, 2023
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Southeastern Seminary welcomed Timothy George — longtime professor, scholar, and academic administrator — for several campus talks, including the annual Page Lectures.
Distinguished Professor of Divinity at Samford University, George was also the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School. As a returning lecturer, George first delivered the Page Lectures in 2007 on the revolutions of the Reformation and then again in 2017 on the history of the Reformation and its continuing influence on the Western Christian tradition.
Addressing students, staff, and faculty in Tuesday’s chapel, George lectured on the importance of the Great Tradition and the heritage of Christ-centered learning that has been handed down to Christian students as a living trust.
“What I want to convey to you today is the importance of this heritage that we have received,” commented George. “Every time you listen to professors teach, remember that they are speaking to you from a wellspring of accumulated knowledge and wisdom over the centuries.”
“You are being given this … as a trust,” George continued. “You are being given this as a gift to pass on to others who will come after you, to others who will carry this message forward. Such that if Jesus tarries for years to come, when all of us assembled here today at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary shall lie in the dust, God will be pleased and there will still be a school for the training of ministers of the gospel — faithful to the word of God and faithful to the Great Tradition of Christian learning.”
You are being given this as a gift to pass on to others who will come after you, to others who will carry this message forward.
Calling students to approach learning as a profound stewardship, George reminded attendees that their spiritual formation and education is part of a longstanding tradition of Christian learning. George defined this Great Tradition as the collective body of biblical wisdom that centers on Trinitarian and Christological convictions, is expressed by the Church’s creeds and confessions, and is faithfully transmitted throughout church history.
Drawing on the content of the Great Tradition, George argued that Christian higher education must never bifurcate between a love of learning and a desire for God. For George, Jesus’s words in Mark 12:30 should remind Christians that the call to love God entails the proper exercise of their minds.
As a Harvard University graduate, George illustratively narrated the Christ-centered origins and Christian history of Harvard, observing how the institution originally charged students to ground their studies in Christ. Citing Harvard’s College Laws of 1640, George emphasized that the Harvard student’s first obligation was to seek the Lord — “to lay Christ in the bottom” of their studies: “to cultivate a personal, Christ-centered devotion while at the same time to investigate every discipline and field of human learning.”
Following chapel, George joined Southeastern faculty and doctoral students for a PhD colloquium, further discussing the Great Tradition in a dialogue with Christy Thornton, assistant professor of Christian thought at Southeastern.
On Tuesday night, George delivered part two of his Page Lectures, describing how St. Augustine of Hippo embodied and helped to transmit the Great Tradition from the classical age into the early Middle Ages. Noting Augustine’s “ecotonic” position between these two ages, George remarked Augustine’s profound influence on the Western tradition and on the history of Christian education.
As a Reformation scholar, George observed that many of the theological and ecclesiastical debates of the sixteenth century involved Augustine’s contributions to the Christian tradition. George also argued that Augustine’s depth and authenticity made him a master of wisdom, both of which confront the spiritual shallowness of American evangelicalism.
Describing Augustine as a cultural and spiritual pilgrim, George narrated Augustine’s quest for self-understanding and his spiritual journey of meditation on God. Charging attendees to join Augustine in his Christ-centered journey of learning and spiritual development, George concluded with an appeal for attendees to meditate deeply on the person and work of Christ.