Old books and strong faith

For Biola professor David Horner, who has an extreme allergy to even trace amounts of mold, reading the very books he loves can be deadly.

George Garcia, Writer

What keeps a man from abandoning all that he loves when the ground beneath him seems to crumble? What can keep someone from turning away from a God who is supposed to be all loving when one’s life is horribly shaken?

Life can undoubtedly be unfair and at times it can seem unjust. For a Christ follower, this can be incredibly discouraging. Trials can seem to knock the life out of a Christian following a God who is in control and sustains the world. But Biola professor David Horner views his suffering as a reality of God’s presence. In light of his continued faithfulness to God, Horner simply offers one question.
“Where else would I go?”

Horner is now in his tenth year teaching at Biola and teaches undergraduate biblical studies and graduate philosophy, although he is most commonly known for teaching Foundations of Christian Thought. Horner is a Denver seminary and Oxford University graduate and has had the privilege of growing up in the church.

Pursuing ministry all his life, he developed a love for books and knowledge, but little did he know his love for books would become the most deadly thing in his life.

In June 2007, Horner found himself on the verge of collapsing. Horner walked over to a bagel shop to prepare for a class he was teaching for campus crusade, but by the time he arrived at his class and began to teach, he could hardly function. Feeling dizzy, weak, and hardly able to form a thought Horner felt as if his body was shutting down. Ironically enough, the Bible and books that the accomplished professor studied made him sick.

Horner suffers from an immune system disorder which causes him to have a toxic. allergic reaction to various environmental toxins, particularly mold, which developed during his early years when he worked in a steel mill where he was exposed to toxic chemicals. Horner was given a small office on Biola’s campus which was poorly ventilated and mold infected everything, including himself. He was forced to leave his office and store away all his books, including his Bible and wear a mask and gloves to class with all his books that he needed wrapped in plastic.

How could a theologian continue to stand firm in his faith? What would keep an Oxford University graduate devoted to God in times trials?

“What’s the alternative?” Horner asked. “Jesus is the source of life. Once you see God is good, you see where life is. You can give it away because you don’t own it.”

Horner believes that the suffering and pain has helped strip away the scales from his eyes and given him spiritual authenticity and depth. Though he may not understand all that God does, he continues to serve him because of who he is.

Given a new perspective on suffering, Horner sees his life in God’s hands. With no alternate source of life, he counts it a privilege to serve Christ.

“I serve him because he’s good,” Horner says. “Not because I understand him.”

After examining Jesus’ life, the professor concluded that a worry-free life is not promised. Jesus experienced suffering, betrayal, loss, grief and pain. In light of following Jesus, the truth that Jesus owes nothing to anyone must be grasped.

“To think that God owes a worry-free life is an illusion,” Horner said.

As Horner has found through his own experience, Christians are essentially called to suffer for Christ’s sake.

“In Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings,” Gandalf tells Frodo he was called to this certain thing,” Horner said. “Frodo didn’t know he’d spend his life on this quest. God gives us life. He does. Some are called to far worse. But I’m not responsible for them. I am the way God made me and everything comes from God. If you put the two together you’re left with the question of how you will serve him today.”

Despite having to put nearly a lifetime of books in storage, having to move out his office, and having to cover his possessions in plastic, Horner finds hope amidst his sickness.

“He’s using me in ways far beyond myself,” Horner said. “Despite all the ‘no’s,’ I’ve experienced the great ‘yes’ behind it. You don’t see it until you’ve walked through it.”

Despite the continued sickness and bad days Horner continues to experience, God’s grace still is noticeable in his life.

“This is an ongoing thing to deal with everyday,” Horner said. “When I do, I see God’s power and grace in new ways.”

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