In an old catalog of Western Theological Seminary, Dr. James I. Cook writes: “I enjoy teaching that the Bible, like Jesus the living Word, is both human and divine; that the grace of God is the supreme miracle we are asked to believe; and that great literature is theologically rich and relevant.”
One notices Dr. Cook carefully chose just the right words to capture his views of Jesus, grace and scripture; that literature is given a prominent place; and that through the interplay of commas and semicolons he cared about grammar. Along with all the various New Testament courses he taught that are listed in the catalog is a course in Christianity and Literature. This course held a special place in Jim Cook’s heart.
Jim Cook earned a bachelor’s degree at Hope College, a Masters in English at Michigan State University, and was preparing to go on for a PhD in English when he fell in love with Jean, who was living in Holland, Michigan. Instead of pursuing the advanced English degree, Jim enrolled at Western Theological Seminary, and graduated in the class of 1952. He married Jean in 1950, and served as pastor of the Reformed Church of Blawenburg, New Jersey, between 1953 and 1963. Being located in New Jersey allowed Jim to complete a doctoral program at Princeton (he also did doctoral work in Durham, England) and in 1963 Jim joined the faculty of Western Theological Seminary. He retired from Western in 1995, but continued to teach as an emeritus professor until his death in 2007.
In 2013, Western Theological Seminary created the James I. Cook Endowment in Christianity and Literature to honor the legacy of Jim Cook.
The goals of the Cook Endowment are to:
engage life and faith through the lens of good books,
help discover new voices with something to say, and
sponsor events and the creation of learning communities interested in Christianity and Literature,
all with an eye toward “Good Reading, Good Writing, and Good Thinking.”
The first Cook Endowment event was held in May, 2013, with noted author Lauren Winner. Kathleen Norris, author of five NY Times best sellers, will be at the seminary in March, 2014.