Frank Thielman

Published on July 6, 2017  

Position: Professor of Divinity 

Teaching at Samford since 1989 

Why do you teach? I teach because I really love the subject I teach. The Christian Scriptures reach into the bedrock of what it means to be human and answer the most basic questions about life: Who made me? Why? Why is the world around me such a complex combination of beauty and horror? The Scriptures answer these questions in the form of a thrilling, true story that happened in a geographically, culturally and historically interesting part of the world. It’s very fulfilling work to help others appreciate this wonderful body of literature and to understand its message. 

What is one thing your students may not know about you? I just renewed my amateur radio license [call sign WB4TPH]. I’ve been a “ham” since seventh grade, although, to be honest, I haven’t been active in many years. Maybe one day (in retirement?) I’ll set up my radio shack and start talking to people again in Morse code. It was a great hobby for me as a kid and, I’m sure, kept me out of a lot of trouble! 

What is your favorite activity outside Samford? I love to hike the mountains. There are few places I would rather be than with my family on a winding mountain trail or looking down from a mountain summit. 

You have been part of the Beeson Divinity School faculty from the beginning. What reflections do you have from the beginning days to now? Beeson Divinity School started with the vision of Ralph Waldo Beeson and our dean, Timothy George, as a place that would prepare ministers of the Gospel in an environment that would be committed to classical Christian orthodoxy, and would be both academically rigorous and spiritually enriching. Over the last 30 years, it has remained true to that vision and, as a result, has carved out a uniquely valuable niche in the landscape of American theological education. Our curriculum is as academically demanding as any M.Div. curriculum, but students make their way through it in an environment that helps them grow in their personal faith in and obedience to the Gospel. It is a wonderful place to teach and, I believe, one of the most effective divinity schools anywhere. 

How did your background prepare you for your current role? My father was pastor of a church in a small North Carolina town for 33 years, and he liked to involve me in his sermon preparation, visiting the sick and—to the dismay of the congregation—preaching and teaching in our church. That involvement helped me to understand what gospel ministry was all about and has helped me to better understand the challenges our students will face in ministering to the church. 

What is one thing you want your students to know when they graduate from Samford? I want my students to know God as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures and through their own, personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. 

You recently completed a new commentary on the Book of Romans. What process did you follow in developing that volume? I loved writing on Romans because it is such a clear exposition of the Gospel, and it has such an interesting cultural and historical back story. Writing the commentary itself involved a rhythm of working through each sentence of the text, thinking hard about where each sentence fit into the letter’s overall argument, reading what others had to say and writing it all up. I was also able to teach Romans from the Greek text a number of times during this process, and working through the text with students was enormously beneficial in sharpening my understanding of this wonderful part of Scripture.

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