The donation of $850,000 comes from the Milburn and Nancy Calhoun Foundation and from the Calhoun children, Kathleen Calhoun Nettleton, who passed away earlier this year, and David Calhoun, a professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and a frequent speaker at the yearly NOBTS apologetics conference, Defend.
Legacy of service
David Calhoun pointed to his parents’ legacy of service and commitment to Christ as the inspiration for the gift.
“My dad was the first in his family to go to college. He knew the value of an education, specifically theological education,” Calhoun said. “That grew out of his sense of the importance of training the next generation and the next generation of pastors and leaders in the church.”
Milburn Calhoun was a medical doctor and a publisher. New Orleans’ Pelican Publishing Company was owned and operated by the Calhoun family for many years. Taking on the role of publisher while working full time as a family practitioner was a natural fit with his father’s love of reading and exploring ideas, Calhoun noted.
Through the work of two foundations founded and directed by the Calhoun family, various medical services and resources and institutions such as the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home have benefitted.
Pointing back to his father’s humble beginnings, Calhoun said his father taught him the importance of giving back.
“It was clear to [my father], from that start, that as God blesses, we find ways to give,” Calhoun said.
The Calhoun family donation provides support for apologetics in three ways: 1) The Calhoun Family Endowment for Christian Apologetics, to support the activities and work of NOBTS apologetics by providing funding for events, guest speakers, workshops and conferences. 2) The Calhoun Ph.D. Fellowship for Apologetics and Philosophy, supporting a Ph.D. in Christian apologetics student. 3) The Calhoun Defend the Faith Scholarship, supporting a master’s level student in apologetics.
“Christian apologetics is an essential part of Christian witness,” said Jamie Dew, president of NOBTS and Leavell College. “NOBTS has always been exceptionally strong in this important ministry, but gifts of this nature make it possible for us to do this work even better. We are grateful to God for this generous gift and look forward to seeing how God will use it.”
Defend, the NOBTS annual, week-long apologetics conference that began in 2009, brings together top scholars and thinkers on varied topics crucial to defending the faith. NOBTS offers master’s degrees and specializations in apologetics as well as a Ph.D. in Christian apologetics. Degrees may be earned on campus or through distance formats.
Being ready for today’s culture
Calhoun noted the value of the NOBTS Defend conference and the importance for believers to be ready to explain the faith in today’s culture.
“I think it’s inevitable that we’ll continue to see secularizing developments in culture,” Calhoun said. “And, that means Christians have to be much more deliberate about how they articulate and defend and give account ‘of the hope that is in us,’ as Peter puts it” (I Peter 3:15).
Robert Stewart, director of Defend and the NOBTS apologetics program, recalled his friendship with Milburn and Nancy Calhoun and his appreciation for their service. Stewart’s friendship with the Calhoun family began 20 years ago when Stewart served as interim pastor at Milburn and Nancy’s church in New Orleans.
“I found Milburn and Nancy to be committed to loving Christ with not only the heart and soul — but also the mind,” Stewart said. “They had read both the Bible and the classics of Western thought and brought them together in service to the church.”
Stewart noted that the gift is timely.
“At this particular cultural moment, more than ever there is an awareness of the importance of apologetics,” Stewart said. “I’m very grateful for how this gift from the Calhoun family will help us to train as many believers as possible to commend and defend their faith as well as possible.”