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Dordt College News
Professor Shim receives John Calvin Award
April 30, 2012
“Studying religion and theology is not just an intellectual discipline. In my case, studying theology was a matter of life,” said Dordt College professor of theology Dr. Jay (Jai-Sung) Shim. “Theology is not dead or just found in the old history books, it still matters in today’s life.”
Shim’s Reformed Christian perspective and dedication to teaching has earned him this year’s John Calvin Award from Dordt College. The award is given annually to a Dordt faculty member who is chosen from nominations given from graduates and faculty. Three selected graduate classes were asked which of their Dordt professors inspired them most in the development of their world and life view within their own area of study and expertise.
“Dr. Shim has a love for the study and application of Calvinistic theology and the broader Reformed doctrines,” said one of the students. “The lessons he taught in several courses encouraged me to look deeper at the core values of my faith and how that relates to interacting with others. Those lessons also directed me back to centralizing the Word in my calling and in my personal devotions.”
Another wrote how their similar backgrounds as native Koreans who grew up in the Catholic Church helped build a meaningful foundation for their discussions on faith. “Through this class my eyes were opened. I began to understand and take to heart a Reformed worldview. Professor Shim took time to explain Calvinism and made me want to grow in it more,” said the student. “Professor Shim was a great model of Calvin’s teachings and the Reformed worldview.”
Shim’s Reformed perspective took many years of study to develop. Having grown up in a Catholic home in South Korea, he journeyed to the U.S. when he was 24 to study graphic design at a school in Los Angeles. There he attended a Presbyterian church. It was not long before he decided to go to a Pentecostal Bible College where he studied theology for three and a half years. Even though he was only one semester from graduating, Shim decided that he couldn’t follow that path any further and he transferred to Calvin College in Michigan where he majored in philosophy. It was there that he first learned about Reformed Christian theology. He continued his education at Calvin Theological Seminary earning his Ph.D. in historical/systematic theology. “I loved that topic because I was struggling among many different Christian traditions: Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and now Reformed. All these four traditions were mixed up in my mind, and I couldn’t say which one was right,” he said.
To answer questions about his faith from his family and former parish priest, Shim was forced to dig deeply into the scriptures. “I couldn’t find good answers about the differences between us, but I found them in Reformed theology. I didn’t find all the answers to all the questions that I was bombarded with, but I found a good foundation from which I could build my answers.”
His journey also led him back to Korea where he taught from 2000 to 2004. Shim began teaching at Dordt College in 2004. In addition to his teaching, Shim has played an important role in Dordt’s international student and off-campus program, building relationships with international students, especially from Korea. This year more than 60 international students studied at Dordt. “This is my extra work; it takes a lot of energy, but I love doing this,” he says.
Teaching Reformed theology and building international relationships with students are important to Shim because they allow him to interact with others who are traveling a similar journey to his. “I am so appreciative of those who have taught me, and now it is my turn to relay this to other people in a relevant way. This is not only my profession; it is my personal mandate, too.”