Anthony Bradley laughs as he recalls teaching Old Testament Bible to ninth graders at Phil-Mont Christian Academy during his student days at Westminster Theological Seminary.
“If you can teach ninth-grade Old Testament, I think you can teach anybody anything,” he said. “That might be the toughest crowd, and I had them first thing in the morning.”
But, Bradley added, his face turning serious: “That’s where I learned to teach. And that’s where I learned that I love to teach.”
Now, Bradley plans to bring that same passion to the classrooms at Kuyper, where, starting this fall he will teach two courses a year in Biblical Interpretation.
He also will bring his two decades of experience in higher education to some of Kuyper’s student life efforts, will work on strategic initiatives with the president’s office, and plans, in general, to be a helpful presence on campus to anyone who might benefit from his experiences and connections.
“I’m at a point in my career where I’ve done a lot,” he said. “The Lord has really blessed me, and I’ve had incredible opportunities to write and speak and travel all over the world. And now in this next season, I’m focusing on investing in the next generation.”
In addition to his work at Kuyper, which will be part-time, Bradley also will be working for the Acton Institute, a Grand Rapids think tank that promotes the benefits of free enterprise to religious communities, businesspeople, students, and educators.
And he’s eager to get Kuyper students connected to the Institute.
“At Acton, I will be working on a lot of issues related to poverty and poverty alleviation,” he said. “And thinking about ways that the marketplace and the church can meet the needs of the poor and to help the poor really thrive. My other big emphasis is on criminal justice reform. And so, I think Kuyper’s majors really do speak into these issues and will present opportunities to get students more involved.”
Bradley also is eager to connect Kuyper students to a great network of people across the country that he has connected with during his career in higher education, including the last 14 years as professor of religious studies and director of the Center for the Study of Human Flourishing at The King’s College in New York City and also from his own days as a student at Clemson, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences, at Covenant Theological Seminary, where he earned a Master of Divinity, at Fordham, where he earned a Master of Arts in Ethics and Society and at Westminster, where he earned his Ph.D.
“I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I’m looking forward to connecting Kuyper students to some of those networks,” he said. “That, to me, is fun. I have all these different connections out there, and I’m looking forward to making those talent connections for Kuyper students.”
Bradley said he also is looking forward to getting to know Kuyper students personally.
“Over the years I’ve tried to get to know my students as people, beyond the classroom,” he said. “I’ve led Bible studies; I officiate weddings for students. It’s a joy to see them come in as freshmen and then perform their weddings a few years later. It’s just a real joy and a privilege to do that. And I think one of the best things that a Christian college can do is form people so that they can have stable marriages and families because that’s when they’re really going to be able to thrive in the other parts of their lives.”
Bradley also hopes to help Kuyper students understand what their path to a career might look like, based on his own stops and starts as an undergraduate.
“When I went to college originally, I was planning on being a doctor,” he said with a smile. “I was a Christian, but I wasn’t a very serious one at all. I went to Clemson University, and my first semester I had too much fun, so my grades were terrible. I ended up on academic probation, and it set me back a lot.”
Bradley tells his students and will do the same for Kuyper students, that whatever GPA they get their first semester is going to be a little like a thermostat.
“It’s going to set things for the whole four years,” he said. “So, I tell students that they need to be the biggest nerd they can be their first semester. My GPA was low, so I was trying to pull it up for the whole four years, and I never quite got it up to where a medical school would really be interested in me.”
By his senior year, he added, he became disillusioned.
“I was depressed and confused about my future,” he recalled. “I just remember at one point saying, ‘All right, Lord, I want to hop in the backseat, and you drive, and I don’t really care where this car goes, but I just I can’t do this anymore.’”
When he shared his Christian testimony one night at a Clemson college ministry, he felt a spark.
“People told me I needed to go to seminary,” he said. “So, I did, and I started doing youth ministry at an African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown St. Louis. I got the ministry bug there. Then I went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia to do a Ph.D. in historical theology, and while I was there, I got to teach at Phil-Mont, and I also got to be heavily involved in the youth ministry at the church that I was attending.”
The bottom line, Bradley said, was that God put him in a position to understand that he had a heart for teaching and forming students and putting them in a position to thrive and to be the sorts of people that God would have them to be.
“One of my frameworks for how I sort of work with students is Daniel, chapters one to six,” he said. “I see God calling and bringing students into an institution like Kuyper, where the formation happens, and then we send them out so that they can be whatever God would have them be. Our job is to teach them the language and literature, the culture, to encourage them and to give them a good grounding in Bible and theology, and then send them out and see what God does with their lives. So, I’m really excited about opportunities to be engaged in that at Kuyper and can’t wait for the fall.”
Bradley is especially excited about Kuyper’s work college emphasis.
“I think that given the way higher education is going, in particularly the way Christian higher education is going, Kuyper being a work college is a smart position in the marketplace. I also like Kuyper’s emphasis on work as a means of serving the needs of people and making sure that people are in a position to live well and thrive. Work as service I think is a brilliant way of framing what that vocation can look like beyond simply the individualistic focus on meeting my own needs, meeting my family’s needs, having a nice car, a nice house, and living in a nice neighborhood. It’s understanding that God would have his people see their vocations as a way to advance human flourishing. That emphasis makes Kuyper an exciting place to be right now.”