The sayings of Dr. Bob Jones Sr are legendary around my alma mater. As a frequent victim of chronological snobbery, I was ready to be critical and dismissive of these statements when I first saw them tacked above chalkboards in classrooms. But I was won over by Dr. Bob’s homespun, humble wisdom. I’ve really come to like and even treasure a few of the sayings. I often pray, “Lord, give me strong shoulders to carry a heavy burden.” And I often think, “Pray like it’s all up to God, and work like it’s all up to you.” (I do admit that my theology leads me to add, “And, in the end, admit that it was indeed all up to God.”)
Another of the sayings that I’ve thought of many times goes like this:
There is no difference between the secular and the sacred; all ground is holy ground, every bush a burning bush.
I’m not sure if this is original to him. If it is, it’s quite striking. If not, still striking. I love the very last phrase; it’s so richly allusive and picturesque.
I’m writing at BJU Press right now about this very topic, the secular and the sacred, so I wanted to find out as well as I could what Dr. Bob Jones Sr., founder of my institution, meant when he said these things. For that I needed context. And the J.S. Mack Library Archives came through for me. Below, as best the Archives can tell, is Dr. Bob Sr’s first use of this saying, in a sermon dated Sep 14, 1948—very shortly after the school opened for its first semester in Greenville (after having been in Florida and Tennessee previously). As for the context of the statement, before this excerpt he just says, “We have a great school and people tell me all the time, ‘Don’t change it.'” And after it he just says it takes backbone to stick it out at Bob Jones.
So I’m not sure if the surrounding context really sheds much light on what he meant. He was kind of rambling, as university presidents (his son took over the role in 1950) are privileged to do on occasion.
Without further ado…