Through both the spoken and written word David Garland’s service to God has spanned the nation and the world.
Entered onto a spreadsheet in categories, reflections of one’s life would surely feature numerous rows and columns.
In a tireless life of service to God, Dr. David Garland has traveled the nation and the world. Everywhere he’s ventured is precisely where God wanted him.
With that in mind, Garland narrowed the focus of data to “when” and “where,” and then made a statement that will assuredly stir both pride and familiarity in countless Bison alums.
“As I reflect back … I recognize now how OBU was the perfect place for me at that time,” he said. “At the Naval Academy, one did not fraternize with professors or anybody else in authority. At OBU, I was taken aback by the kindness, personal support and Christian commitment of the professors.”
Then he goes yet deeper into those reflections.
“One of my vivid memories was helping to collate the final copies of Professor Bill Mitchell’s dissertation in his home to get it ready to send off to his professors,” Garland said. “Only after earning a Ph.D. myself, did I realize how significant that was and what an honor it was to be asked to help. I regretted that I missed out on the four-year experience and only had two and half years at OBU.”
Twice Interim President of Baylor
Garland, magna cum laude graduate of OBU in 1971, received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. He also has a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Also, he did post graduate study at universities in Germany and Australia.
Throughout his incredible career in Christian higher education, he has served students in the classroom as a professor in areas of study that include the New Testament, Christian scriptures and Greek.
A large portion of Garland’s career was spent at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he served in many faculty roles including a Garrett Teaching Fellow, chairman of the New Testament department and chairman of the biblical division, as well as associate dean for academic affairs.
The Maryland native now serves as a professor of Christian scriptures at Baylor University but has previously assumed other roles there, including dean for the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, interim provost and twice in the last decade, he has been named Baylor’s interim president.
Garland has written 20 academic books and edited five other books related to the interpretation of the New Testament. He is now writing two more books and has written 58 academic articles. His books have been translated into Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Russion and Arabic.
He is an elected member of the international Studiorum Novi Testa-menti Societas.
“I am grateful to OBU professors for teaching me how to research and write,” he said.
He has given presentations and been a guest lecturer across the world and has received numerous awards. These include the Jent Philosophy Award from OBU in 1970 and the Gold Medallion for Commentaries and Research from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association in 2003.
Garland was the initial holder of three endowed chairs:
• The Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary;
• The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor University;
• he Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean of George W. Truett Seminary, Baylor University.
“I always intended to be a pastor when I went to OBU and later to seminary,” he said, “but I was asked to stay as a professor after completing my Ph.D. and kept on teaching in a seminary since 1977 until my upcoming retirement in May, 2023.”
He has served as an interim pastor of 17 churches. Garland has preached and conducted Bible studies in over 600 churches and associations in the USA, Germany, Australia and Africa.
In Waco, he is a member of First Baptist Church and in the north-central Texas city along the Brazos River, he was named Outstanding Community Leader in 2010 by the Waco Community Visioning Board. In 2017, Garland was named Honorable Mention as Person of the Year by Waco Today magazine.
The Chapters of Life
In looking at the chapters of his life, Garland said, “I must say that the Naval Academy taught me responsibility and to say, ‘No excuse, Sir.’ The rigors of Plebe year taught me that I could endure anything that might come my way.”
However, he believes he received his academic education at OBU.
“My professors at OBU opened up new academic vistas and prepared me for what I later would become and do in ministry and in academia,” Garland said. “I loved all my professors at OBU, but I am eternally grateful to my English and philosophy professors.”
Carrying Blessings Forward
Born in Crisfield, Maryland, and raised in Baltimore, Garland became familiar with OBU from nurses who were graduates of the University and were attending First Baptist Church of Baltimore where his father was pastor.
“I transferred to OBU after two years at the Naval Academy where I majored in mechanical engineering,” he said. “I applied to OBU very late, and it was the offer of a Prichard ministerial scholarship that encouraged me to enroll.”
When he became dean of Truett Seminary at Baylor University and later interim president of Baylor, Garland came to know the Prichard family. That created the opportunity for him to thank the family in person for their life-changing gifts.
And those are gifts he has carried forward to countless people and places.
“God’s blessings are not to stop with us or else they will rot like day-old manna,” he said. “God gives a surplus of blessing so that it can overflow to others. In other words, God does not bless us to make us happy but to be a blessing to others.”
The scope of what he’s learned about blessings does not end there.
“Second, I learned that battles are best faced in the community of believers, and that blessings are best received in the community of believers,” Garland said. “When confronting ‘conflicts on the outside, and fears within,’ an individual believer does not stand alone but always within the faith community on which he or she is dependent for nurture and direction.”