Michael HarbinDepartment Chair & Professor of Biblical Studies
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1980
M.A., California State University, 1993
B.S., US Naval Academy, 1969
Why I Came to Taylor
The primary reason I am at Taylor is that I want to help students at a Christian Liberal Arts college develop a solid understanding of their faith to better integrate their faith and learning. The background to this is that shortly after graduating from college, while I was going through Navy flight training, I was reading the works of Dr. Francis Schaeffer, where I was first introduced to the concept of the integration of faith and learning. As I discussed this with fellow flight students, we discovered that in the late 1960’s this was a weakness in colleges across the board, including historically solid Christian schools. As I saw a need for professors who could do this I also felt God calling me in that direction. After I finished my obligated naval service, my family and I moved to Dallas where we began preparing for that ministry. While the process took longer than anticipated, it was one which prepared me well as I worked to integrate my own faith with my studies in engineering and history along with what really became a first career as a Naval officer. I ended that career as we began a new career/ministry at Taylor in 1993.
How I integrate faith in the classroom:
This is a very interesting question since I teach Bible, the foundation of our faith. My approach to my Bible classes is primarily to reflect on how the material we study in the Bible is historically anchored which then serves as a corroboration of our faith. Like Paul, I see the actuality (historicity) of the resurrection is absolutely crucial to our faith (1 Cor 15:14-15). As such, I try to stress how the Biblical accounts overall provide a solid foundation for our faith on which we can then build all other learning. In terms of the Old Testament, I focus on two key events. The first is the fall of man because I would contend that unless our students understand the breakdowns in relationship that occurred as a result of the fall, they cannot understand the world in which we live, and if they do not understand the world in which we live, then the Christian message will not make sense. The second event I stress in the Old Testament is the first Passover which is where God began working out the solution to the fall which would occur through Jesus Christ when He became our Passover. As such, I stress that I do not see it as a coincidence that based on my understanding of the chronology of the Bible, Jesus was dying on the cross at the very same time the High Priest was sacrificing the Passover Lamb.
My faith journey:
I had the privilege of being raised in a home where as a young child my father read the Bible to my sister and me. My parents took me to church as far back as I can remember, and I still remember sitting in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School at a young age. Coupled with that, I also had the privilege of attending a Christian camp during my high school years. Even with that background, however, when I went off to a secular college, I struggled in my faith as I tried to fit in. It was not until the summer between my junior and senior years, however, where I came to grips with the implication of what it meant to be a Christian in terms of my everyday life. The primary catalyst was a “College Briefing Conference” sponsored by Fourth Presbyterian Church in Washington DC. Looking back I can truly say that it was through God’s directing that I ended up there since I had other plans for my summer. Once I got there, I was challenged by the lives of those there with me, and from that I date the beginnings of my spiritual growth. Key elements in that included Bible Studies sponsored by Officer Christian Fellowship, the Navigators, and two different churches in the Pensacola area—McIlwaine Presbyterian and Grace Baptist. It was there that I found my calling for college ministry, and I met Esther, who became my wife. We were married in 1971, and she has been tremendous support to me listening to my musings and contemplations, and praying with me and for me. From Pensacola, we went to Spain where I flew helicopters for the Navy for four and a half years, while we were preparing for Dallas Seminary. In 1976, we left active duty with the Navy and journeyed to Dallas where we spent the next 17 years preparing for a college teaching ministry which eventually brought us to Taylor, where I have been since 1993.
I am a very avid reader with eclectic reading tastes. Since I generally am reading several different books at once, and tend to read rapidly, I can just give a sample of recent items that I have completed. Professionally I am currently reading to research Melchizedek in preparation for a paper I am scheduled to present this fall. In a non professional category, I just finished The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey, and prior to that I finished What We Can’t Not Know by J. Budziszewski. In terms of reading for relaxation, my choices tend to fall into three main categories, literature, science fiction, and mysteries. I recently finished T. E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and am currently rereading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, In science fiction I prefer the more classic forms. I have recently read Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, and am rereading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. The latest mystery I read was River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters.
Normally, I have on Christian hymns (currently in my CD player are albums by Selah and Cynthia Clawson), folk music (e.g., The New Christy Minstrels, Peter, Paul, and Mary, or Loreena McKennitt), or classical music (my favorite composer is Bach).
My wife and I enjoy mysteries (especially Agatha Christie on PBS), or classic movies (most recently we watched Key Largo. Beyond that, the primary thing I watch on television is baseball or football, with an occasional viewing of a special that is relevant to my areas of study such as Nova presentations on the Middle East or matters of science (just recently I watch the Nova presentation on Fractals).
Major Career Accomplishments
My primary goal each year is to update my courses to incorporate what I have most recently learned. For example, during the last couple of years I have been able to visit Egypt, Greece and Italy, Turkey, Israel and Jordan. Beyond that, I am currently working on a history of the writing of the Bible based on the evidence of the biblical text.