When Kevin Vanhoozer returned to the United States after a year of ministry in France, he did something characteristically imaginative. He wanted to go to seminary. He already had an undergraduate transcript full of Bible and theology credits; the only problem was that it was already August, and classes would begin in a matter of days. Vanhoozer needed a way to convince a seminary to admit him, quickly.

A classically trained pianist, Vanhoozer and others with Greater Europe Mission had spent a calendar year talking to unchurched audiences about how “the joy of music” pointed to Christ. Flush from the success of the mission, he decided, “I don’t have time to apply to seminaries, I want them to apply to me.” So he designed “an inversion or parody of the recommendation form,” he says, with questions such as, “What are the strengths and weaknesses of the seminary?” He promptly dispatched 60 forms.

“Professors didn’t get it,” Vanhoozer now laughs.

Except for one. Vanhoozer’s eyes light up as he describes it. John Frame, then a professor in the honors program at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote back. On the form, under “Weaknesses,” he scrawled,“Totally depraved.” For a Calvinist theologian, it was a wickedly funny joke. Vanhoozer loved it.

In many ways, his seminary admissions story captures a lot of what you need to know about Kevin Vanhoozer. Formerly a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, now a longtime research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, Vanhoozer is one of the biggest names in academic theology. The author of six books ...

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