All because of a bow-tie

I came to Fuller Seminary as a visiting student back in 1995. I had started seminary studies at North Park Theological Seminary but, having completed my undergraduate work at the college, I felt a desire for some change. I distinctly remember sitting in a Starbucks in Chicago with my trusted friend who happened to be a New Testament scholar. I had selected the courses I thought I would take at Fuller and wanted his approval.

One class I had selected was Systematic Theology III: Eschatology and Ecclesiology. Probably not a likely choice for a student who was essentially just getting started with her theological education (I think the I, II and III perhaps suggest these things should be done in order), but the professor looked intriguing to me (both the uniqueness of his name and the fact that he was wearing a bow-tie in his catalog photo), as did the subject matter. My friend gave his hearty approval and some additional recommendations for other courses I should look into.

And so it was that, a few months later, I was spending every Tuesday afternoon sipping cappuccinos (his drink of choice) with Miroslav Volf and a handful of other students after lecture (except for the day he blew us off to have a private conversation with Richard Bauckham when he guest lectured).

Now, I had heard, coming to Fuller, of students giving standing ovations to professors after a lecture. Honestly, that was a hard thing for me to picture. After our first class session, I suddenly understood. Not a Tuesday or Thursday went by when my life wasn’t shattered: shattered in a really good way. We read Moltmann’s “The Coming God,” Grenz’s “Theology for the Community of God”, excerpts from Volf’s “Exclusion and Embrace” and “Work in the Spirit”, and his manuscript for “Theirs is the Likeness.” We also read Bauckham’s “Theology of the Book of Revelation” which remains one of the most influential books I have ever read.

So here’s the confession (because I am so utterly sure that he will never read this website): while I was at Fuller, I lived with my sister. We shared a tiny bedroom in the home of some very gracious friends in Claremont. She had this very old computer set up for me in our little bedroom, and that is where I would write my papers, often in the wee hours after late-night shifts at Macy’s. The name of my hard-drive? “I love Miroslav”.

So it thrills me to read and hear of his continued influence, and the ways his “standing ovations” so to speak are now given even more widely.  By the time I made it back to Fuller to actually complete my degree he was long gone. I remain so grateful for the three months when every Tuesday and Thursday Miroslav Volf had something to say to me.


  1. What a testimonial, Erika. I’m reading everything he writes — though I didn’t particularly care for his book After our Likeness. Didn’t get my wheels turning at all. Exclusion and Embrace — mind-boggling.

  2. Yeah, we all struggled with After our Likeness. I still have my three-ring binder copy and have thought maybe to return to it now that a few more years of theological training have passed. But maybe I would feel the same 🙂

  3. Although, when Ratzinger became Pope, I was excited by the fact that, because of that book, I actually knew some something about him!

  4. Great Story Erika,
    I was in that same class as well, and I still have the three ring copy of After Our Likeness. I loved the class because Volf invited us into his current theological musings which were rich indeed. I learned more in that class than in my other systematic classes combined. The others were more of a survey of theology as opposed to “doing” Theology. Special memories indeed!

  5. Derek,
    I totally agree!!! My other favortie Fuller professor, John Goldingay, conducts his classes in much the same way. Without question, a superior learning experience.

  6. I was always envious of you for getting to spend time with Volf.

    I too loved Bauckham’s Theology of Revelation. I lent it to Doug Montzingo and never got it back. It’s one of the few books that I miss.

    Take care, say, “hi” to Doug and your sister.

  7. Wonderful!! The son of my District Superintendent has been his research assistant at Yale and raves about him too.

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