I could spend hours explaining why I love and appreciate Dr. Tom Nettles so much. He is a man of exemplary Christian character. He is a faithful churchman, a loving husband and a devoted father. His classroom lectures are legendary and his writings have blessed countless thousands. It was my joy to have a hand in adding him to the faculty at Southern Seminary where he has served with distinction approaching close to twenty years. For all of this and more, I give thanks to God for His servant.
However, there is one thing in particular I would like to highlight in my tribute to Tom Nettles. I had the joy of taking him for Church History when I was a student at Southwestern Seminary from 1980-83. The class, as anyone would know who had this same privilege, was challenging and stimulating. The fact is, the fires were kindled in my own heart for church history in this class and I would go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Humanities with my primary focus being the history of Christianity.
Still, this is not what I wish to highlight. Rather, it was Dr. Nettles clear and unwavering commitment to the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. Of course Tom, along with Russ Bush, established beyond any reasonable doubt that an affirmation of the Bible’s complete truthfulness is the heritage of Baptist in general and Southern Baptist in particular. Modern defections from this heritage are indeed just that, defections. An allegiance to an inerrant Bible was not an interloper or a “Johnny come lately.” Baptists and the Bible set the record straight once and for all on this issue. In the class, I saw this same unwavering commitment trumpeted even though at the time it was an unpopular thing to do on the campus of Southwestern. It may surprise some, but the seeds of neo-orthodoxy were already being sown on “The Hill.” Most of my professors, though not all, were not willing to publicly confess their confidence in the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God. Some no doubt feared for their jobs. Others, tragically, had defected. Not Tom Nettles. With kindness and conviction, he made it clear to all of us what he believed and where he stood. The encouragement and strength I was able to draw from this man was critical and pivotal in my own life. Thus, there is a happy debt I will always owe Tom Nettles. He was my colleague and he is my friend. But, he is also a hero in the faith I will always look up to and admire.
Dr. Daniel L. Akin, President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary