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The Legacy of Russ Bush From a Student’s Perspective

In my years at Southeastern Seminary, I was privileged to have a great deal of personal interaction with Dr. Russ Bush. I took his infamous Intro to Philosophy course on the MDiv level at SEBTS (contrary to popular opinion, he did allow questions in class–we had 2 for the entire semester). I also took two PhD seminars from him and worked to develop an orientation to American culture seminar for new international students. I was privileged to eat a few meals at his home, and I shared his weakness for Dairy Queen soft serve. There are too many memories to share them all, so I want to relate just two.

The first came from his philosophy seminar that I was taking the semester he was diagnosed with cancer. It had become tradition for Mrs. Bush to bake cookies for the students in his PhD seminars and interrupt the class one day to bring the freshly baked treats and sodas. For some reason, Mrs. Bush found a extra soft spot in her heart for this group of philosophical delinquents and decided to grace us with her presence at least four times. The first two times, Dr. Bush happily welcomed her into the room to interrupt the seminar for half an hour. On the third occasion, you could see that he was a little frustrated but happy to see his wife. I imagine that he mentioned to her at home that the interruptions were preventing him from covering the material for the class. On the fourth time, he simply gave up. There was no frustration, no rush to get back to class. He gave in to the hospitality of Mrs. Bush for the students, and you could see the love he had for his wife even if she prevented him from covering all the material he wanted to discuss for the day.

The second memory came from a trip to an apologetics conference 6 months after he was diagnosed with cancer. I shuddered when he walked into the room to listen to my paper. The sinking feeling in my stomach came from the fact that I was presenting a paper on the work of Francis Schaeffer. I had read almost everything Schaeffer had written–Dr. Bush had known Schaeffer. I knew that I had no chance to exhaust his knowledge of the subject, and I was certain he could exhaust my knowledge quickly. On the way back from the conference, we were driving back up I-85 from Charlotte. He asked me about my dissertation so I bounced a few ideas off him regarding my premature dissertation topic. He looked over at me and mentioned a topic related to my dissertation that he said he had never been able to figure out. He then told me to answer that question in my dissertation so it could be settled in his mind. The very idea that I could answer a question unsettled in such a brilliant mind as Dr. Bush's was a ridiculous thought to me. The fact that he genuinely expressed to me that he thought I could do it was probably one of the most encouraging moments of my academic career.

Dr. Russ Bush was a brilliant man and an impeccable scholar. He also had a caring and loving heart. He will be missed by Southern Baptists, especially his former students like myself.