Oct. 14, 2011, was a historic day at Biola University. It was a day of remembrance, thanksgiving and reflection on the blessings God has bestowed upon this university over the duration of its 103 years. On that Friday in October, thousands of Biolans gathered on Metzger Lawn to dedicate the new Talbot School of Theology building — the latest tribute to God’s faithfulness to Biola.
During my remarks at the dedication ceremony (watch the whole ceremony online at magazine.biola.edu), I felt it was appropriate to look back nearly a century to the original dedication ceremony when the cornerstone was laid for the very first Biola building.
Back on May 31, 1913, the fledgling community that for only five short years had existed as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles gathered together at that urban intersection of Sixth and Hope streets to listen to their founder, Union Oil president Lyman Stewart.
Recently I was given a copy of Lyman Stewart’s original typewritten manuscript, prepared for that occasion nearly 100 years ago. As I read through that cornerstone speech, I was struck by how much of it could apply, nearly verbatim, to the dedication of Talbot’s new building this October.
Lyman Stewart spoke that day of how the Bible Institute was “conceived in prayer, founded by faith, and established through sacrifice ... to provide a permanent home for its several departments of service.” These words could certainly be used to reflect the new Talbot building, which was also a project of prayer, faith and sacrifice for more than 800 supporters who were used by God to bring the $18.2 million building to fully funded fruition.
Lyman Stewart also told the crowd that day:
“These buildings are not to be a monument to any man, nor to any set of men, but are to forever stand solely for the promulgation of the eternal truths of God’s Holy Word. Over its portals, and running across the front of this central building, will stand the inspired declaration, “For ever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven.” This divinely inspired Word will ever be the source of truth which will inspire all of the Institute’s activities, furnishings, from its exhaustless resources, the instruction which is to enable the Institute to send forth Bible workers ‘furnished completely unto every good work.’”
Those words are still true for Biola today. This school is still inspired by the unchanging, divinely inspired Word of God and our mission is still to send forth students who are “furnished completely unto every good work.” A century has passed — a century in which many schools have liberalized, drifted or abandoned similar convictions — but Biola remains steadfastly committed to its grounding in the Word of God.
Lyman Stewart also said this on that day:
“For many months we have watched with great interest from day to day the preparations for, and the laying of, these physical foundations. They are laid deep and strong in imperishable cement, strongly reinforced with bars of steel. Humanly speaking, they should endure as long as the granite mountains which look down upon our city. But the work of our Institute stands upon an infinitely more enduring foundation than that of these buildings, even upon the eternal truth of God’s Holy Word — a sure foundation, which can never be shaken nor removed. Upon this foundation it has been building and will continue to build, with the inspired assurance that its work shall ‘abide.’”
Indeed, Biola stands today, as ever, on an unshakable foundation. The new Talbot building will physically last for generations to come, Lord willing. But its existence, purpose and eternal impact will come not from cement and steel but from a much deeper foundation: the eternal truth of God’s Holy Word.
My hope and prayer is that 100 years from now, at a future dedication ceremony for whatever the latest building project at Biola may be, the same commitments that Lyman Stewart spoke of, and that I’m speaking of today, will still be the bedrock of this fine institution.