Perspectives on Cairn

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[info]Mrs. Fran Emmons, Dr. Robert Figge, and Mark and Heather Evans, all alumni of the University who have been involved over the years in many different ways, share their thoughts on the University’s new name and their insights on the opportunities it brings.


Robert J. Figge, Jr., D.Min.


Bob Figge ’67 is the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia. He has taught for 32 years at Manna Bible Institute, a school in North Philadelphia which offers ministry training.

First impressions leave lasting memories. It was 1963 and the College was celebrating its 50th year. It was also the year I started at PCB as a freshmen student. I will always remember the banner that hung in the chapel throughout that Jubilee year, “Teaching Timeless Truth.” I’m convinced that next year, the University’s centennial, the same timeless truth will continue to be communicated and affirmed as faithfully as it has throughout all of its 99 years.

Timeless truth, after all, is stronger than the strongest of all those ancient cairns that dotted the landscape of the ancient Near East. Those ancient cairns made effective boundary markers and memorials because they were sturdy and durable, but not many of them are still around. The pile of stones the Israelites erected when they entered Canaan is preserved only in the timeless truth of God’s Word, pointing to the faithfulness of Israel’s covenant-keeping Lord.

Buildings, likes ancient cairns, don’t last forever. They accomplish their intended purposes, all the while depreciating in value. I remember the day in the early months of 1980 when I watched the demolition of 1800 Arch Street. There is always some sadness when a landmark comes down, but it was good to be able to put the demolition in perspective. The building had outlived its usefulness, but the College was well-situated on its new campus in Langhorne. That brick building was a marker, a memorial stone of the College’s progress. It had no value in itself, but what took place within its walls for many years was priceless and pointed like a cairn to God’s never-failing faithfulness.

Recently, I again drove around the 1800 block of Arch Street, now a parking lot. It was the day I heard the announcement that the University was taking steps to change its name. I had just come from teaching an evening class at a Bible institute in North Philadelphia where I serve on the faculty and as a board member. Discouraged, as so many of us were at hearing the news, I began to realize once again, as I circled the block, that nothing of lasting value had changed. It is not the name of a university that proves its biblical character; the proof is in the product.

Over the years, I’ve had opportunity to see the product of this University’s education: students who represented the University well as they ministered in various churches, students and graduates I’ve met on campus and have known professionally and personally, and especially a graduate several years ago who was called and served as a youth minister in one of my pastorates. His service to our church was exemplary and a testimony to all of us, not only of his deep commitment to Christ, but also of the quality of education he received. The character and commitment of students and graduates, more than a name, are the real indicators of what biblical education is all about, and I’ve seen them consistently evidenced in the lives of Cairn graduates, past and present.

I remember that Dr. John McGahey would often pray in class, “May the Word of God have its intended impact on our lives.” Through the sound teaching of faithful men and women, God’s Word had its “intended impact” on the lives of many students, and it continues to do so. That, indeed, is the marker, the cairn, that counts. The Lord, the church, society, and the world need Cairn students and graduates who live by the Word of God, who effectively articulate it in their ministries and vocations, and whose worldview is biblical in content and application.

Very recently I took the time to really look at the University’s new seal. The words of Lamentations 3:23 are prominent, proclaiming the greatness of God’s unchanging faithfulness that has sustained this University from its beginning. As the Lord of all who bear witness of His sovereign grace and love, Christ is the ultimate cairn, the living stone: “As you come to him, a living stone, rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a spiritual priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV). As Cairn University continues to produce students and graduates who serve the Lord with competence and character, the Word of God will continue to have its intended impact in the church, society, and the world.

Next Page: Mark and Heather Evans