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This year, two students will share the Garrett Ham Scholarship. Ouachita Baptist University awarded the funds to both Colton Sims and Cole Jester.

This year, the Carl Goodson Honors Program named both Colton Sims and Cole Jester as the 2018 Garrett Ham Scholars.

You can read the full article about Colton Sims and Cole Jester receiving the award here.

About the Garrett Ham Scholarship

Ouachita Baptist University has been awarding the Garrett Ham Scholarship since 2008. I used my salary from my summer associate position at Husch Blackwell to establish the scholarship between my 1L and 2L year in law school.

I had funded the scholarship every year since until last year when I was finally able to endow the scholarship permanently.

The Garrett Ham Scholarship should, therefore, be a permanent fixture at Ouachita Baptist University from now on. I hope Colton Sims and Cole Jester will be among a long list of Garrett Ham Scholars.

You can find the application for the Garrett Ham Scholarship here. Ouachita’s Honors Council awards the scholarship with the approval of the Dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies.

I established the Garrett Ham Scholarship in response to my experience during my senior year at Ouachita. When I went through the honors program, participation among Christian Studies majors was severely lacking. In fact, I was the only theology student to write a senior thesis in 2007.

I found this disappointing.

I hope that Colton Sims and Cole Jester help break this trend.

Good theology depends on sound scholarship. I, therefore, believe that academic pursuits are essential to good pastoring.

A pastor that does not have a developed theology built upon a robust scriptural foundation can offer little more than self-help drivel and spiritual platitudes.

Such pastors are dangerous. We do not need any more Joel Osteens.

Instead, I hope that the church can produce more pastor theologians like Augustine of Hippo and Athanasius of Alexander. In a world where the church seems to point to celebrity pastors as the model to which to strive, it is refreshing to see students like Colton Sims and Cole Jester take biblical studies and scholarship seriously.

The Thesis Experience

Writing my senior thesis was an enlightening and rewarding experience. I wrote my thesis on the debate surrounding the place of open theism within the evangelical community that was raging at the time.

I later made my thesis available on Amazon and in excerpts here on my blog.

Writing the thesis allowed me to learn a great deal about the debate itself. It also helped me learn how better to conduct and synthesize research.

I am extraordinarily proud of my efforts here. It helped spark what I believe will be a lifelong love of scholarship and biblical studies.

I hope the experiences of Colton Sims and Cole Jester are just as rewarding.

Purpose of the Scholarship

I established a scholarship to encourage other Christian Studies majors, like Colton Sims and Cole Jester, to take part in the Honors Program. Writing a senior thesis can get expensive, particularly if done correctly. Research material may not be readily available in the library. Travel may sometimes be necessary.

I thought that providing financial support would both help alleviate the burden associated with writing a thesis and give an incentive to do so. I was a Ben Elrod Scholar when I was at Ouachita, and it made a tremendous difference in my studies. It opened up opportunities that may not have otherwise been available.

I am, therefore, happy to support high-quality students like Colton Sims and Cole Jester. The scholarship provides approximately $1,250 per year to aid students with their research efforts.

$1,250 may not be a lot of money, and I would like someday to increase the amount. I nevertheless hope that it gives Colton Sims and Cole Jester all the resources they need to accomplish their goals.

Usually, one student receives the $1,250 grant. This year, Colton Sims and Cole Jester will share the funds.

About Colton Sims

According to the article announcing the award, Colton Sims is a senior Christian Studies, philosophy, and biblical studies triple major from Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Biblical studies is an emphasis within Christian Studies, not a separate major. So, I assume this is a typo. Perhaps the writer meant Colton Sims is a biblical languages, rather than biblical studies, major.)

Colton Sims has an impressive academic record, and I have no doubt that he is deserving of the award. I understand that he will use it to travel to Israel with the Pruet School of Christian Studies.

I used the Ben Elrod Scholarship to help pay for the biblical studies trip myself. (See below for a picture I took on that trip.) So, I am glad to see Colton Sims putting the money to good use. I found my trip extraordinarily insightful and enlightening for my studies.

I wish Colton Sims the best of luck.

St. Peter's, Colton Sims and Cole Jester

About Cole Jester

Cole Jester is a senior Christian studies and political science double major from Benton, Arkansas. He will use the funds to conduct research at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. I’m not sure what his research will entail, but I look forward to hearing about his thesis.

I’m sure Cole Jester will have a great time, and his research should yield an interesting result.

All recipients of the Garrett Ham Scholarship must be Christian studies or biblical languages majors. It is, however, uncommon for a student with a major outside of the Pruet School of Christian Studies to receive the award. (Double or triple majors from within the Pruet School, like Colton Sims, are regular recipients.) Cole Jester is the first such student since Anthony Emerson, a Christian studies and history double major, who won the award in 2012.

The 2017 Garrett Ham Scholar

Colton Sims and Cole Jester succeed Taylor Bascue, the 2017 Garrett Ham Scholar. Taylor used the funds to purchase books and other research materials to write his senior thesis.

Taylor was a highly qualified student who is now preparing to graduate from Ouachita this year. Colton Sims and Cole Jester are worthy successors.

About the Carl Goodson Honors Program

I found participation in the Carl Goodson Honors Program to be an enriching experience. It enhances the Ouachita educational program, and I would encourage anyone at Ouachita who takes academics seriously to participate.

In addition to the evitable boost participation will provide to your academic transcript and to graduate school applications, it will also provide an exceptional foundation for more in-depth future scholarship. I credit my involvement in the Carl Goodson Honors program with my success in law school.

The extra work and effort—in addition to the opportunity to interact with high-quality students such as Colton Sims and Cole Jester—will inevitably make you a better student and scholar.

I have had the opportunity to keep in touch with Dr. Barbara Pemberton, the current chair of the Honors Council, and I think it is extraordinary the work she has done with the program. Current advantages of participation, such as honors trips abroad, early move in and registration, and an honors lounge, were not available when I was a student and testify to the efforts of Dr. Pemberton.

Dr. Pemberton was an extraordinary professor when I was a student at Ouachita, and she apparently continues to be. I am glad students like Colton Sims and Cole Jester have had the opportunity to study under her direction. I hope that Ouachita will provide her with all the support she needs to make the program all that it can be.

About Ouachita Baptist University

Ouachita Baptist University is a liberal arts university located in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. I attended Ouachita from 2003 until 2007. I was a Christian studies major, with a double emphasis in biblical studies and Christian theology, and a double minor in Greek and Hebrew.

Ouachita had a tremendous impact on my life and on my faith. I loved my time there. I regularly think back fondly on my time there.

Ouachita taught me how to explore ideas and listen to each side of an argument. It provided a Christian education with evangelical presuppositions, but the professors insisted on engaging with those who took opposing theological positions. They encouraged scholarship and eschewed fundamentalist tendencies to dismiss arguments contrary to their own beliefs.

Such fundamentalist approaches are not helpful. They produce individuals with weak arguments and understandings of their own positions, who are consequently incapable of engaging with the world.

Too many sources of evangelical education, in my opinion, teach future pastors to preach only to the choir. Ouachita, however, was different. The Pruet School produces an abundance of intelligent, thoughtful leaders who will be assets to the Church for decades to come.

Accomplished Graduates

Ouachita also prepares its students for future rigorous theological education. For example, a fellow student—and best man at my wedding—attended Duke Divinity School and did very well.

Similarly, Chris Redmon, the 2013 Garrett Ham Scholar, will soon graduate from Duke Divinity School and is preparing to begin the Ph.D. program in New Testament at Duke. Admission is extremely competitive, and it is arguably the best program of its kind in the world.

Finally, Ouachita does not only prepare students for quality theological education. Another past Garrett Ham Scholar, Philip Williamson, went on to graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law, one of the best law schools in the country. In addition, a friend from my time at Ouachita received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.

Colton Sims and Cole Jester are in good company. I am proud of the past recipients of the award, and I am grateful for Ouachita’s providing me with the opportunity to contribute to their education in this small way.

Colton Sims and Cole Jester at Ouachita

Intellectual Rigor of Ouachita

Of course, the results of such an open-minded approach are not always ideal for Ouachita. For example, it’s not uncommon for Pruet students to leave the Baptist church. I know of three fellow students who are now Anglican priests and another who is a Methodist minister.

Yet, I would imagine Ouachita would much rather produce intelligent, committed Christians leading other denominations than students who, unable to reconcile the dogmatism indoctrinated into them with the wider-world they must confront, leave the Church entirely.

I myself, while developing a deep and lasting commitment to my Christian faith as a result of my education at Ouachita, have wavered in my loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention. (My other blog posts on alcohol and cigars have already probably betrayed this fact.)

The fact remains, however, that Ouachita equipped me to hold onto and even thrive in my faith as I have faced the realities of the world. My time at Ouachita has proven particularly useful in the jobs I have held prosecuting horrible evils and serving in the eclectic environment in the military. Without the foundational that Ouachita provided, it may have been more challenging to hold onto my faith.

I hope Ouachita makes the same kind of difference in the lives of Colton Sims and Cole Jester as it did in mine.

Notable Alumni

While it goes without saying that Ouachita is not Harvard, it has nonetheless produced a list of notable alumni. The most famous current alumnus is probably Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the current White House Press Secretary. I remember Mrs. Sanders, who was a senior when I was a freshman.

Other notable alumni include Mrs. Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, who was a runner-up for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination. He was also Governor of Arkansas while I was in college.

Leon Green, a preeminent legal scholar who was both dean at Northwestern University School of Law and professor to three United States Supreme Court justices, is an alumnus, as is Judge Bobby Shepherd, who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Perhaps Colton Sims and Cole Jester will one day be counted among the school’s illustrious alumni.

Current Leadership

Dr. Ben Sells currently serves as the school’s sixteenth President. I have had the privilege of meeting him, and I have found him to be an extremely warm and kind man.

He succeeded Dr. Rex Horne—who gained fame as Bill Clinton’s pastor—who I also had the opportunity to know and who I found to be an exceptional human being. I am grateful to have had the chance to come to know Dr. Horne.

The professors I encountered there, particularly Dr. Preben Vang, who has since moved on to Baylor, and Dr. Danny Hays, have had profound impacts on my life and continue to influence me to this day.

I loved every minute of my time at Ouachita, and I would recommend it to anyone. For more information, please visit http://www.obu.edu/.

Good luck to Colton Sims and Cole Jester as they complete their studies.

See Also:

Ouachita Baptist University Names Taylor Bascue the 2017 Garrett Ham Scholar

Ouachita Baptist University Names Libby Hilliard the 2016 Garrett Ham Scholar


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