This issue: Summer 2018

Why I Teach: Javier Garcia

The former law student pursues his passions for ministry and great literary works in the university’s William Penn Honors Program

By Melissa Binder


hen Javier Garcia was a child, he told his father he was going to become a basketball player. Ever the practical businessman, the elder Garcia showed him statistics to prove that, frankly, it just wasn’t going to happen.

That’s fair, Garcia thought. How about an actor? Again, his father pointed to the numbers. Not going to happen. It’s better to choose something practical, something sure to be lucrative.

It’s safe to say theology professor is not what he had in mind. Garcia’s path to teaching began when he was a teen. Until that time, he’d had no interest in books, academic pursuits or even Christianity. His mother was a believer and, in the long run, had a profound impact on his faith. But his father – a wealthy businessman whose work bounced the Venezuelan family from one Asian country to the next – considered faith a crutch for the weak-minded.

At 15, an overwhelming experience with the Holy Spirit at his sister’s Bible study left Garcia confident in God’s existence and starving for more information. He started with C.S. Lewis, then Blaise Pascal, Martin Luther and Søren Kierkegaard. He fell in love.

“For many years I was devouring those texts,” Garcia recalls. “It became a way of life.”

During his junior year at Georgetown University, that way of life became a point of tension. He was expected to go to law school and had consented to the inevitability of such a career path. But during a summer job with a law firm he discovered an unfortunate reality: He hated it.

“I needed to be infused with something that was life-giving, and the law wasn’t,” he says. “I would read Kierkegaard on my commute. Then, I would put my book away and have to do this work, and it was too much of a clash. At that point, I decided to pursue academia or ministry.”

From there, providence led him to teaching.

“For me, the most beautiful moments are when I can see how God is working in a student’s life.”

He got into divinity school at the University of Cambridge, and though his father couldn’t understand the interest in theology he respected the prestige of the institution and encouraged him to go. Two years later, when Garcia received a PhD offer from Cambridge, his father’s surprising support sealed the deal. At every corner, scholarships came through.

“The doors to academia kept opening, and when I would consider ministry, those doors kept closing,” he says. “My prayer and my hope was always that God would guide me. I was open to whatever God had in store.”

Shortly after Garcia left Cambridge, those doors led him all the way to Newberg, where his passion for community resonated with George Fox University’s Be Known promise. Meanwhile, his academic chops suited him well to the George Fox University Honors Program, in which students are guided along an intensive journey through the greatest literary works in history.

Today, as a religious studies professor and associate director of the honors program, Garcia spends his days facilitating Socratic discussions about the books that changed his life. And though teaching was never itself a clear career goal, he’s found it to be the perfect fit. Not only does teaching allow him to share the concepts he’s most passionate about with others, but it taps into his affinity for public speaking and desire to walk alongside others in Christian life.

“I feel found,” he says. “Providence has led me to a place where I feel at home in what I do.”

Garcia considers himself a strict “teacher-dad,” setting high standards for his students – both academically and when it comes to soft skills, such as punctuality, politeness and work ethic. But he believes his students know this tough love comes from a place of genuine caring. Whether they go on to be lawyers or chefs – or even basketball players or actors – he wants them to thrive. And for that reason, Garcia sees teaching as so much more than simply imparting information or academic skills. For him, teaching is about picking up his cross and doing the day-to-day work of cultivating God’s kingdom – and he loves it.

“What’s beautiful about being a college professor is being with students in this formative time,” he says. “For me, the most beautiful moments are when I can see how God is working in a student’s life.”

Teaching might not be lucrative, and it might never make sense to his father, but Garcia is thankful every day to be one of the few who have this privilege.

“I teach because God has brought me here to teach,” he says. He teaches because it’s what his Father wanted.

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