Each Friday this semester, we will be placing a spotlight on one of Western Seminary’s faculty members. Today, we are running Part 1 of a two-part feature on Dr. Gerry Breshears, Professor of Systematic Theology.
Transformed: Where did you grow up?
Dr. Breshears: I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and moved back to a family farm in Missouri when I was two and a half year old, where I grew up in extreme poverty on a subsistence farm. I am of Brethren heritage, so being plain and pacifist is in my genes. My family moved back to Albuquerque when I was in seventh grade, and I stayed there through college.
Transformed: How did you become a Christian?
Dr. Breshears: I rejected Christianity as a sophomore in high school, because I could not accept the answers that I was being provided with to really basic questions about the faith. This led to me speaking out against Christianity for the next four and a half years. However, after coming to the brink of suicide, I was challenged to explore what Christianity really teaches.
This led me to go back and read the gospels. As I did, I found myself saying, “Man, how come nobody ever introduced me to this Jesus guy before, he is absolutely fascinating.” It turns out that I had rejected fundamentalism some years before, not real Christianity. After this, I committed myself to Christ, passionately.
Transformed: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Dr. Breshears: I didn’t have one single thing that I wanted to be. In high school, I tried to decide whether to pursue math and science or music (violin and viola). I ended up going with math and science.
Transformed: Tell us a bit about your education, and what led you to become a seminary professor.
Dr. Breshears: For college, I attended the University of New Mexico, studying math and astrophysics. During this time my wife Sherry and I were married. After university, I taught math for a year in Denver, and then God took me to the Philippines to teach at Faith Academy for three years. Along the way, I discovered that the Bible was more engaging than math. And so, I went back and attended Denver Seminary, with the intention of becoming a missionary. After seminary, I did my Ph.D. work at Fuller, and taught for a year and a half at Biola as I was finishing my doctoral studies.
After finishing my education, I headed back to the Philippines to become a Bible college teacher, missionary, and church planter. However, God commanded me to come to Western Seminary, which I initially refused to do. Nonetheless, I have been here at Western since 1980, and I love what I do. I still wish that I had been an overseas missionary, but in my current role I am able to teach in various parts of the world, once or twice a year.
Transformed: Tell us a few fun facts about yourself – perhaps some items that those who are more familiar with your theological work would not know about you.
Dr. Breshears: It surprises people to find out that I rode a motorcycle (Honda 360) for 6 years – 3 in the Philippines and 3 in Los Angeles. My favorite movie is Doctor Zhivago. My listening interests include John Michael Talbot, Fernando Ortega, and Michael Card. I like Enya too.
Transformed: What about food? Is there are particular style that you are partial to?
Dr. Breshears: I’m pretty omnivorous. I suppose my current favorite style of food, if I get a choice, is Lebanese. For Lebanese food in Portland I would recommend Ya Hala Lebanese Cuisine, Hoda’s Middle-Eastern Cuisine, and Nicholas Restaurant.
Transformed: Who is one non-biblical person who you would like to have a conversation with, living or dead?
Dr. Breshears: I would love to have a conversation with Abraham Lincoln. I have had a long-time fascination with him.
Transformed: Tell us about your fiction reading interests.
Dr. Breshears: As a genre, I prefer historical biography. I also like classic science fiction, such as that written by Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov. Least of All Saints by Grace Irwin was very shaping for me.
Transformed: What other books have had a particular shaping role in your life, fiction or non-fiction, other than the Bible.
Dr. Breshears: The Cross of Christ by John Stott, Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, and With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray.
Transformed: Give us a sampling of what you are reading right now.
Dr. Breshears: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, The Skeletons in God’s Closet by Joshua Ryan Butler, The Road to Character by David Brooks, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction by Richard Bauckham, Reading the Gospels Wisely by Jonathan Pennington, Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking, Preemptive Love by Jeremy Courtney, Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill, and How (Not) to Be Secular by James K. A. Smith.
Next Friday, we continue our conversation with Dr. Gerry Breshears.