DALLAS—For Criswell College professor Barry Creamer, the principles that govern life are simple: “Follow Jesus, that’s the highest goal. Take everything else and figure out how it’s supposed to fit that goal. Challenge other believers to do that. Invite nonbelievers to do that.”
Sometimes, he admitted, that doesn’t always look the way you expect it to. Creamer answered the call to ministry when he was 16. Though he has maintained that calling ever since, the form of his ministry has expanded over the years from preaching to teaching, and now it is evolving once again.
On Dec. 2, Criswell College’s Board of Trustees elected Creamer as the vice president of academic affairs. In this role, Creamer will manage the academic condition of the school. This includes overseeing faculty, curriculum and accreditation.
“I’m very excited about this new step,” Creamer said. “I’ve always been pleasantly surprised with the level of work carried on at Criswell. I’ll be trying to take what’s already being done and use that as my foundation. I’m really excited about digging in and reshaping the curriculum and making sure we maintain our focus on biblical studies and equipping people to carry the Christian worldview with them into their careers.”
Creamer follows in the footsteps of Lamar Cooper who, after serving since 1997 as executive vice president and provost, also assumed responsibility for academic affairs in 2004. Cooper returns to full-time teaching as senior professor of Old Testament and archaeology
Creamer said he hopes to remain there for many years to come and intends to finish out his career at the school. This self-proclaimed “Criswell man” exudes a passion for the school that will serve him well in his new role.
What separates Criswell from the rest? Creamer said it is the solid foundation of biblical doctrine and the emphasis on preparing students for pastoral ministry from the very beginning. Criswell is the only college whose undergraduate program requires students to take Greek and Hebrew.
“We really like that idea of plunging people in headfirst to prepare them to be a minister of the gospel right away,” Creamer said. “I love doing that. Even for those students who are not going into full-time ministry, we have the same desire to expose them to the real foundation of solid Christian leadership so they can take those skills wherever they go.”
Creamer described his own educational background as “eclectic.” In 1985, he received his bachelor of arts in English from Baylor University. He jumped right in to ministry, but continued his education on the side. In 1994, while serving as pastor at Woodland West Baptist Church in Arlington, he received his master of divinity degree from Criswell College. Six years later, he walked the stage again, this time with a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington.
He sees the diversity of his degrees as a distinct advantage in ministry and especially in teaching.
“I’ve been exposed to ideas outside the Christian circle, especially with my Ph.D.” he said. “I’ve heard the best arguments against Christianity, so I can present those ideas to my students and point out why they’re wrong. I want my students to hear the best ideas on both sides so they can understand why Christianity is better.”
During these years, he learned as much through the act of ministry as he did in his classes. There are some things a classroom just can’t teach.
“You can’t get people experience in the classroom,” he said. “You have to get that dealing with people in the real world—in ministry. I think there’s a maturity and a skill set that comes with pastoring that no one else has.”
Creamer served as pastor of Woodland West for 17 years, during which time he began teaching classes at Texas Women’s University and UTA. In 2004, Criswell invited him to join the faculty as professor of philosophy. The opportunity to teach young preachers was one he could not pass up.
“My call to preach and teach are one and the same,” Creamer said. “I still tell people I’m a preacher and I teach at Criswell College, because that’s the way I can accomplish that ministry right now. I get to preach in venues I wouldn’t otherwise get to preach in and I get to teach other preachers. It’s a multiplying ministry.”
Up to this point, Creamer’s course load consisted of 27 hours, or nine courses a year, comprising classes on culture, worldview and philosophy, with the occasional addition of a preaching class.
“My favorite cultural class is American culture,” he confessed. “It’s a literature review since 1850, and it gives a perspective on how the American culture came to be what it is today. There are so many facets of our culture that are not Christian, and Christians today embrace those ideas because they don’t recognize it. So it is important to challenge students to see in themselves the things that are less Christian and more American and help them understand that you don’t have to abandon being American, but you have to be aware of what things are American and what things are Christian.”
The main thing that Creamer wants every student to walk away with is the knowledge that all truth comes from God. “We don’t have to run from ideas,” he said. “We don’t have to hide ideas. There is nothing a believer has to fear if we’re willing to embrace the truth God has revealed. I want students to learn not to be afraid, but to know that the truth is in God’s Word and never have them doubt that.”
Though his new role as vice president of academic affairs will keep him out of the classroom much more, Creamer will hang on to some of his favorite classes.
He said he intends to focus on maximizing the gifts of each faculty member, directing them to where their strengths can most benefit students and the school.