WAKE FOREST, N.C.--Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary rededicated the academic building on its west quad Tuesday, naming the building in honor of the late Ralph Logan Carson. Carson, who served for 15 years as a professor of Christian theology at Southeastern, is remembered for his integrity, his love for Scripture and the Church, and his passion for the Great Commission.
Born blind to a single mother in rural McDowell, North Carolina, Carson first encountered the Scriptures at the Negro Division of the North Carolina State School for the Blind and Deaf, where he lived from 1939 until 1951. Converted and baptized in 1948, Carson became a dedicated student of his Braille Bible, awakening in him a desire to formally study and teach God’s word. Despite others’ skepticism, Carson flourished in his pursuit of education, receiving two bachelor’s degrees, a Master of Theology, and a Doctor of Philosophy.
During his academic journey, Carson married, became licensed to preach, and even moved for a few years on mission to Nigeria with his wife and son before returning to the states with their newly adopted daughter. Over the course of his ministry, Carson faithfully pastored several congregations on the East Coast. While serving as a pastor, Carson also taught at Montclair State College and Gardner-Webb College before being hired in 1994 to teach theology at Southeastern as the first African American professor of the seminary.
In 1995, Carson also served as a charter faculty member of The College, and in the years that followed, Carson published several books, including his autobiography, With Gladness and Singleness of Heart: My Life with the Lord (2006). In August 2003, Carson received Southeastern’s Excellence in Teaching Award and retired in 2009 as Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology. Carson went to be with Jesus on November 3, 2018, beloved by his family, church congregations, fellow faculty, and thousands of students.
“As a longtime professor and statesman of Southeastern, Dr. Carson faithfully embodied the spirit and Great Commission mission of our institution,” commented President Danny Akin. “He was unwaveringly committed to the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of God’s word. Because he loved God and his word, he loved God’s mission. Dr. Carson was a Great Commission pastor, professor, and disciple-maker, serving Southeastern with integrity, pastoring several churches with a shepherd’s heart, and even serving on the mission field in Nigeria for three years. It is our joy to honor this legacy.”
During Tuesday’s chapel service, Akin, faculty, staff, and students took a moment to honor Carson’s legacy of faithfulness and recognize Carson’s family who were in attendance.
Following the chapel service, Akin invited attendees to participate in a dedication ceremony outside Carson Hall, where Southeastern unveiled the renamed building as well as two new bronze plaques commemorating Carson’s legacy, several framed portraits of Carson, and a framed biography of Carson’s life.
“We are delighted to honor Dr. Carson’s Great Commission legacy as someone who not only overcame great challenges by faith and perseverance but also finished the race well and committed his life to fulfilling the Great Commission in the Church, in the classroom, and among the nations,” shared Akin. “We pray that the building will be a reminder of his legacy and that the students who are trained in its classrooms will be inspired and challenged to faithfully serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission wherever God sends them.”
“Perhaps no one from this community has overcome more than Dr. Carson,” noted Provost Keith Whitfield. “Yet, he did not just overcome. He excelled, and he did so for the love of Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior. He did so for the love of the truth. He did so for the love of the Church. He did so for the love of the world. He did so in line with his personal motto: ‘in Christ, strive for excellence.’ His legacy as a faculty member should indeed be honored to remind us all of the role that the faculty plays in the life of the institution and to give the faculty a model for which to follow.”
Akin presented Carson’s daughter Tricia with a framed portrait of her father and a resolution from Southeastern’s trustees, expressing their appreciation for Carson’s lifetime of faithful Great Commission teaching, preaching, and ministry.
“I thank all of my Christian brothers and sisters for being here and because I know Dr. Carson meant something special to each of you,” commented Tricia.
“We all know how God uses ordinary people to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God. Dr. Carson was one of them,” she shared. “My dad used to love to say he was an old servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Remember, we all have an opportunity to do great things for Christ,” Tricia reminded attendees. “Let us go out into the world and be the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ…. Let us go out and look at people, not for what they have, who they are, or what they look like, but how we can touch them through Christ.”
Following the dedication ceremony, Southeastern hosted a celebratory lunch in Carson’s honor for the friends and family of Carson as well as the cabinet and faculty of Southeastern. During lunch, Scott Pace, dean of The College, read selections from Carson’s books, poetry, and sermons, highlighting themes of mission, service, and faithfulness throughout Carson’s works.
“Dr. Carson was not only passionate about his personal faithfulness to the Lord but also devoted to the Body and Bride of Christ,” shared Pace. “Dr. Carson never allowed anything to douse his enthusiasm to be faithful to the Lord, and he did not allow physical or cultural limitations to hold him back from serving Christ’s Bride.”
“Dr. Carson’s deep passion for Christ’s mission is evident throughout his writing,” observed Pace. “The Great Commission is central to who we are as an institution, and Dr. Carson embodied that same focus. The mission itself was always on Dr. Carson’s mind and heart.”
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