Craddock Discusses Relationship of Church and Higher Education

Wilson, N.C. – Members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina joined the Barton College community on Tuesday, April 29, as the College honored the institution’s historical ties with its founding church during the 2008 Founder’s Week celebration. The featured speaker for the luncheon program on Tuesday was minister, lecturer, and author Dr. Fred Craddock.

Craddock, who examined the relationship of the church and higher education, said, “We’re here to reflect on the relationship of this school and other schools like it to the church.

“Whatever gap there is, whatever distance there is between the church and the academy is not in the nature of the case. It’s simply the church in two different postures: the church at worship and the church at study. Same people; and in the early, beginning days, under the same leadership.”

Craddock sought to remind the listeners that churches and schools once operated together. As an example, Craddock mentioned the Jewish synagogue and its role in education: “It was a school, it was a synagogue, it was a worship place, it was a school. It was a school, it was a worship place, it was all the same. ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your mind,’ they said. ‘Use your mind! Use your mind! Use your mind!'”

Craddock said, “Eventually the school was separated, in terms of building and geography, from the church.”

According to the speaker, the idea of the church at study is not popular today. “The church at worship we can handle; the church at work, we’re doing better; but the church at study is not an image that’s comfortable anymore,” Craddock stated.

In bridging the gap between church and academy, Craddock believes that, from the church’s side, a study of Jesus as a teacher would help a student prepare for college, to prepare for the difference between a church’s “hermeneutic of assent” and the academic world’s “hermeneutic of suspicion.”

For the academy’s part in bridging the gap, Craddock feels students should be encouraged to express what they believe. “We’re in such a time of disconnect and discontinuity and pluralism and multicultural activity that it is very easy, it’s very easy for us to get away with total silence about our beliefs and call it being ecumenical. ‘I erase myself; and, therefore, I fit in everywhere.’ The point is I’m making no contribution to anybody.”

Secondly, “the opportunity and the encouragement for a student to get involved in the town, in the community, in the city where the school is located” is another way he believes the academy can help.

Thirdly, he advocated a “strong chaplain service for the students, especially the students who fall victim to their own contradictions, fall victim to the depression that comes from seeing some distance between my head and my heart, for the students who make bad decisions and they accumulate to a suicidal level.”

In closing, Craddock said, “I would like to know when one of my young people come to your college that there be somebody there who helps them to see that, even in an academy, starting over is not only possible, but encouraged. That’s in the best of all possible worlds, and I think that’s where we are today at Barton College.”

About the featured speaker:

Dr. Craddock is the Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament, Emeritus, in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. He joined the faculty at Emory following an appointment as chair of the Darbeth Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament at the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University in Enid, Okla. Dr. Craddock joined the Phillips University Department of Religion faculty in 1961, moving to the seminary in 1965 where he taught until 1979.

Dr. Craddock received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Johnston Bible College in Knoxville, Tenn., a Bachelor of Divinity from Phillips University, and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Vanderbilt University. Post-doctoral studies were completed at Tübingen, Germany, and at Yale University.

An ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dr. Craddock has served pastorates in Tennessee and Oklahoma. In addition, Dr. Craddock has served on the General Board and Administrative Committee of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), on the Commission on Theology of the Council on Christian Unity, and has chaired the Commission on Ministry for the Christian Church in Georgia. He presently is serving on the Task Force on Ministry for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Craddock is a member of the Association of Disciples for Theological Discussion, the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Society for New Testament Studies. He has served on the Editorial Board of Quarterly Review and on the Advisory Board of Interpretation. Dr. Craddock is the founding pastor of Cherry Log Christian Church and Director Emeritus of The Craddock Center, a program for serving the needs of people of Southern Appalachia.

In addition to preaching and teaching widely at church assemblies and ministers’ conferences, Dr. Craddock has served as a guest professor at other seminaries. He has delivered the Thedford G. and Woodrow W. Sprinkle Lectures at Barton College, the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale, the Scott Lectures at Claremont School of Theology, the Adams Lectures at Southeastern Baptist Seminary, the Schaff Lectures at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Cole Lectures at Vanderbilt, the Westervelt Lectures at Austin Presbyterian Seminary, the Mullins Lectures at Southern Seminary, the Earl Lectures at Pacific School of Religion, and the Mullins Lectures at Southern Baptist Seminary. He was selected by “Newsweek” as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English speaking world.

Dr. Craddock has written a number of books, including “The Pre-Existence of Christ” (1968), “As One Without Authority” (1971, rev. 1974 and 1979), “Overhearing the Gospel” (1978), “The Gospels” (1981), commentaries on “John” (1982), ‘Philippians” (1984), “Luke, Preaching” (1985), “First and Second Peter and Jude, Preaching” (1985), “The Craddock Stories, Listening to the Word: Studies in Honor of Fred Craddock.” In addition, he has prepared with Lee Keck the “Pentecost 3, Series B” volume of the “Proclamation” series; with Ernest Saunders the “Epiphany” volume; with Carl Holladay, John Hayes, and Gene Tucker, the three volume series, “Preaching Through the Christian Year, Year A, Year B, Year C,” and he has provided the “Commentary on the Gospel of Luke” in “Harper’s One-Volume Commentary” (1988). Dr. Craddock has also contributed a number of articles to various journals. Most recently he has co-authored with Eugene Boring “The People’s New Testament Commentary.”

A native of Humboldt, Tenn., Dr. Craddock is married to the former Nettie Lee Dungan. They have a daughter and a son.


Questions? Please contact Ken Dozier, web services manager at Barton College, at 252.399.6596 or email You may also contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations, at 252-399-6529 or email