“We See in a Mirror Dimly”: Thanking God for the Life of Dr. Geoff Adams

Our dear brother and colleague, Dr. Geoffrey Allan Adams, the beloved husband of Betty, went to be with his Lord last week on Wednesday August 9, 2006. Dr. Adams had served during the Second World War in the Royal Navy aboard H.M.S. Indomitable during which time he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour.A funeral service was held for him at Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Toronto, today at 11:00 a.m. It was a time in which Christ was truly glorified. Dr. Adams had requested that something be said about Toronto Baptist Seminary, to which he had devoted so much of his life. What follows are some words given at the funeral.

How applicable are the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12—“we see in a mirror dimly”—to all things historical. Some of the most important aspects of the history of this world will only be known in the light of eternity.

When our dear brother, Dr. Adams, started teaching at Toronto Baptist Seminary in 1954, the Korean War had just ended. Five years later he was appointed Principal, a position he faithfully exercised for thirty-five years, until 1994. How tumultuous those years were with such things as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the student revolts of the 1960s, the FLQ crisis, Watergate, the Iran crisis during the presidency of Jimmy Carter, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the horrors of civil war in the Balkans and of the massacres in Rwanda, and the first Gulf War. Yet, alongside all of these events that loom so large in the telling of the history of this period by earthly historians another history was being written. This one concerned the advance of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Penned in the annals of heaven, ultimately it will prove to be the far more important of the two histories. And in this latter history our brother had a part to play as the Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary.

During his thirty-five years as Principal he faithfully led those who trained men and women for the Kingdom work of Christ. Many of the students who sat under his teaching and who are now scattered around this globe will never forget the rich vision of the history of redemption that Dr. Adams gave them in what were his favourite courses, namely those in biblical theology. From the Word of God itself Dr. Adams laid out for these students the essential unity of the Scriptures in their focus on the Messiah—in the Old Testament they saw the Messiah prefigured, foreshadowed, and whose coming was longed for; and in the New Testament they saw the refulgent glory of the Christ who is our Saviour, Jesus the Lord. A favourite image, the growth of the mighty oak tree from the tiny acorn, was frequently used by Dr. Adams to set forth the progressive and unified nature of God’s work as recorded in the Scriptures. Of course, like all seminary teachers, he taught other courses—in such things as English Literature and Baptist Distinctives—but his great delight was in teaching biblical theology and the Scriptures.

It needs to be noted that when he came to retire as Principal in 1994, he continued to be vitally involved in the life of the school, teaching, spending time with the students and alumni, sharing wisdom and giving advice at faculty meetings. For me, I count it a great privilege to have known him, to have had him as a fellow teacher, and especially for setting me a model of what faithful Christian leadership looks like.

Why did he invest the better part of fifty-two years in this school? It was because he knew from the Scriptures that leadership is vital to the local church and that in the providence of God this Seminary had come into being to provide such leadership. The days in which Dr. Adams led the school are past, but the need is still the same and still pressing.

Today our Canadian society and culture finds itself in sorry shape, hollow and empty. Men and women are spiritually hungry and we need churches that can fill their souls with the Bread of life, the Lord Jesus. Dominating the headlines is a resurgence of Islam, which offers a spiritual answer to the heart-needs of the West, Canada included. But it is not an answer founded on truth, for it misses the mark about the most important matter in this universe: God’s utter determination that his Son, Jesus the Christ, be glorified and worshipped and adored.

Where then will men and women be trained to share the riches of Christ with those outside of the Church? Where will men be trained to preach the Word in all of its fullness and riches? Where will they be taught to stand Daniel-like for biblical orthodoxy? Where will church-planters with the passion of Paul to see Christ exalted be nurtured and mentored? Where will potential pastors learn how to lead God’s people in all of the areas of church life? Where will they—and the women whom God calls to give leadership to other women—learn the disciplines of walking with God?

In God’s providence, in the heart of this province of Ontario, God has provided a school, Toronto Baptist Seminary. It would be sheer arrogance to think that TBS alone is doing these tasks. But we are seeking to build on the foundations laid by Dr. Adams and be found faithful as he. And if you would honour the memory of our dear brother, may I encourage you in three things:

1) To pray regularly for TBS. 2) To encourage those in your churches whom God has gifted for ministry and leadership to come to TBS. 3) To think about giving to a foundation that we are setting up: The G.A. Adams Foundation in Biblical Theology, that will provide the resources to fund a Chair in Biblical Theology.