By Liberty Mildner
This past week we had the privilege of learning from Eric Smith (to whom we gave an honorary doctorate). He was the original director of Summit Semester and loved being back.
From stories he told, to the classes he taught, he imparted a heck ton of wisdom to us, which many people took to heart. He was humble, intelligent, compassionate, humorous, and loving. He shepherded us, giving a wonderful example of what a good pastor should look like.
He loved his wife and kids (who were there along with him), and you could tell. It was a great joy to interact with his family, from hiding in the game room with them and attacking people with foam swords, to talking about their school for the day, to deep discussions with his wonderful wife Sarah. He was many students’ favorite professor.
The students had an abundance of positive things to say about Eric Smith.
“He is intelligent and compassionate,”
“He has wonderful insight on Ephesians,”
“He was genuinely happy and loved being here,”
“He was full of good knowledge and insight. He had wisdom and experience to impart on us that we might apply it to our lives,”
“He listened well, and was attentive to questions, really caring about what we thought,”
“He used his words well,”
“He embodied the very essence of Summit Semester.”
While Eric Smith was here, we studied the New Testament canon, what books are in it and why. We discussed the apocryphal gospels (gospels not included in the New Testament that were discovered later), how they were written much too late to be accurate, and how they include a lot of embellishment not included in the original Gospels (like the cross floating out of the tomb during Christ’s resurrection).
When we went through Ephesians, he had us read through large chunks of the book then he went through them verse by verse. Right off the bat, we got into the topic of God’s election of Christians. This has been a topic that has shown up at least once with every professor. The study of Ephesians got even better. We discussed the relationships between husband and wife, child and parents, slave and master. This brought up a lot of questions. He went through each verse, explaining the context and interpretation, especially for wives submitting to their husbands, and husbands cherishing and taking care of their wives. For all of Ephesians, he gave expository teaching, something sadly lacking in the Church today. To finish up our time together, he taught briefly on the armor of God, an incredible teaching that we can all use and apply.
He began the discussions on homosexuality and transgenderism by telling us of his lesbian neighbor, whom he and his wife have poured into, helping her carry groceries, having tea with her, watching her house. Eric’s genuine love for people was obvious. When we began talking about transgenderism, I was greatly surprised to see that I was one of the only people in the class to have close experiences with the transgender community. The way he approached it was enlightening to those who had no experience with it and to those of us who did.
When he discussed homosexuality, he approached it with so much love and gentleness that no one on Earth could be upset by it; yet he was bold enough to proclaim that it isn’t biblical and that we need to proclaim that. He treated those struggling with gender identity or their sexuality as the image bearers they are and instructed that we should treat them as such as well. He told us to approach Christians that struggle with homosexuality as image bearers whose image-bearing was corrupted by the fall, and to remind them that their identity is in Jesus. He instructed us to boldly show them that there is a complete lack of passages in the Bible that condone homosexuality.
As for non-Christians, he instructed us to speak of their value and to treat them with respect and kindness. According to him, we need to study and be confident in our position, and to constantly speak of the gospel because there is hope for everyone in Christ. He gave us this passage in closing:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”( 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
With this verse comes great hope.
Eric told us that several of the sins listed described him. Several of them also describe me. Yet we have a great hope, a hope in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, one that we must live out, declaring His name boldly, glorifying the Lamb of God, crying to Christians and non-Christians alike, that when He comes we may worship His name forevermore.