Pictured here are the key personnel at the “new” Seminary in Aix-en-Provence. From left to right, they are, Kim Tran, Director; Aline Dieleman, Librarian, instructor in church history; Ronald Bergey, professor of Old Testament; Frédéric Hammann, Boice Chair occupant, professor of practical theology; Yannick Imbert, professor of apologetics and church history; Michel Johner, professor of ethics; Paul Wells, Dean, professor of systematic theology; Donald Cobb, professor of New Testament.
Who is missing from this snapshot? Of course, it’s Pierre Berthoud. He began retirement in September (though he still teaches a course or two). And so we want here to salute Pierre, who has been one of the principal figures in the entire history of the Seminary. Born and raised in Lesotho, in southern Africa, to Swiss missionaries, his family moved back to Europe when he was a teenager. He attended the Theological Seminary of Lausanne, but found little there that related to the evangelical faith of his youth. Everything changed when he went to l’Abri, the remarkable Christian community in the Swiss Alps. Francis Schaeffer guided him into a robust biblical faith which has stayed with him till this day.
Pierre attended Covenant Seminary in St Louis. In the States he met Danièle, a splendid Jewish woman who had come to faith in Christ, at a significant personal cost. They married and today, over 40 years later, they have four children and eight grand- children! I know he would say of Danièle that she is the true secret behind his astonishing accomplishments. Upon graduation the young couple went to Paris to teach biblical languages at Vaux-sur-Seine, the other evangelical seminary in France. They then joined the families at l’Abri, where they spent several years assisting Francis and Edith Schaeffer in that vital work. Then, in 1974, the Berthouds were called to Aix-en- Provence, where Pierre would teach Old Testament up until the present.
When the legendary founding Dean, Pierre Courthial, retired, the obvious choice for his replacement was Pierre Berthoud. He was the Seminary’s head for 17 years, and then, after a brief hiatus, for three more years until his retirement. It is hard to summarize his accomplishments in a few words. Perhaps first and foremost, Pierre is a pastor. During his tenure as Dean he always sought to bring unity to the faculty, the students and the trustees. I watched him time and again ministering to the deepest spiritual needs of anyone blessed enough to approach him. He has an uncanny way of listening, and discerning the question-behind-the-question! He piloted the ship through some quite choppy waters. The evident health of the Seminary today is in no small part thanks to Pierre’s leadership.
Despite his heavy administrative load, Pierre has been able to do some significant writing. His En quête des origines is an exceptional study of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. In addition he has written numerous articles on such topics as Old Testament prophets, the knowledge of God, the contemporary church, and much more. Pierre is among the most trusted leaders in modern France. He has been the chairman of Scripture Union Europe, a trustee of Le parvis des arts, the director of FEET (the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians) and several more groups.
As I write these inadequate lines of tribute, my own emotions run deep. I have no dearer friend. Pierre and Danièle have stood by Barbara and me literally through thick and thin. Of course, as they say, we’re just getting to the good part! Be assured, neither they nor we have been able to find the word “retirement” in the Scriptures. So we soldier on. Though a little older, we believe we have a few more blows to deliver. Certainly we expect many good things from Pierre, through lectures, books, and personal service.
This is why FLTR is a “new” seminary. Of course its traditions and values have not changed. But we are now in the post-Berthoud years. The place has never been healthier. Paul Wells is the Dean. The younger professors are simply brilliant. Student enrollment has never been higher. Pierre is one of the reasons, humanly, for this wellbeing. So now, to honor him, would you please consider helping us support this crucial endeavor in the heart of post-Christian Europe? Thanks!
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President