1988 Ivan De Silva
Police Detective & Religious Studies Instructor • New Westminster, BC, Canada
On Campus 1984-1989 ∙ DIPCS ’86, MDIV '88, THM '89
I am a Christian who each day tries to be a little more Christlike than the day before. I’m married to the valiant Carol Yan, and I work full-time as a Detective in the Vancouver Police Department and teach part-time at Trinity Western University and Pacific Life Bible College.
Most important lesson from Regent:
As with any study, the more you learn, the more you realize how much you still need to learn! That is where Regent helped. Regent equipped me with skills to study the Bible so that I could undertake a life-long journey of studying it on my own. My classes introduced me to the vast landscape of biblical studies and taught me how to navigate that landscape, with the tools of biblical languages, exegesis, hermeneutics, critical thinking, and so on. They gave me access to the vocabulary of the biblical studies discipline, and the discipline to master the vocabulary. In short, my time at Regent introduced me to a conversation about biblical studies that had been going on long before my arrival and made it possible for me to enter that conversation intelligently.
More From Ivan
How I arrived at Regent:
Two parts to this story: I came to Regent immediately after completing my undergraduate degree in Christianity and Culture at Trinity Western University. When I started at TWU, my plan was to become a commercial pilot. (Back then Trinity Western College had an aviation program.) However, a year into that program I had a change of heart. As a result of being "forced" to take introductory courses on the Bible, my love for it waxed and my desire to fly waned. As I struggled with the decision to drop aviation and take up biblical studies, I attended chapel on a Friday that also happened to be the last add/drop day of the semester (Fall 1981). I attended with one question on my heart: should I continue with aviation or not? The words of the guest preacher that day gave me my answer. I went straight to the registrar, dropped aviation, and signed up for the religious studies program.
I completed my studies at TWU, but knew I wasn't finished studying. One of my theological heroes at the time was Dr. Jim Packer. He was at Regent, so it was a no-brainer that I would come to Regent to do graduate work.
My journey since Regent:
My life has been one giant adventure with many high and low points. High points include having two children, becoming a police detective, marrying Carol, teaching at Trinity Western and Pacific Life Bible College, working with Dr. Bruce Waltke, preaching and teaching the Bible in various venues, leading trips to the biblical lands, and gaining many friends along the way. Low points include being unable to bring justice to some innocent victims, and a difficult twenty-two years of family life. As with nearly every family in the Bible, mine is one of great joy, and some dysfunction. My first marriage ended tragically in divorce and one of my children has chosen (at least for now) a life outside the faith.
For me, home is the place where I’m most loved, accepted, understood, and challenged. There are two physical manifestation of that place for me: my address in New Westminster, and my church community at Coquitlam Alliance Church. My church is a place of challenge and renewal where after a week of being dismembered by the worldliness of the world, I re-member myself to Christ my Saviour and to the story to which I belong. It is also a place where I’m able to multiply my talent by sharing my gifts to the benefit of others.
How Regent made a difference:
My time at Regent empowered me to go out into the world and live boldly as a Christian in whatever place or vocation I found myself. Knowing the biblical story and the Christian worldview means that no other worldview can intimidate me or threaten me. I know that God’s story is more powerful than any other, and Christ and his people will triumph in the end.
Here’s just one example of what I mean, from my work as a police officer in the Criminal Intelligence Unit. I once gathered intelligence on a notorious gangster who had been murdered, and I discovered that they read Psalm 23 at his funeral. I’d studied that Psalm in my Regent exegesis class some three decades earlier, and there it was being recited at the funeral of one of the wickedest people I knew. The irony was palpable. The gangster was dead, but David’s inspired poem, written over 3,000 years ago, was alive and well and still giving comfort to people who heard it.
I also want to mention a small thing that may seem trivial but has had a huge impact on my life, especially as I’ve had to deal with some dangerous people and situations in the course of police work. As a young twenty-something student, I heard Dr. Packer quote George Whitefield, who said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” I’d never heard that phrase before, but it seemed self-evidently true. As a police officer, that quote has given me courage to go into places I normally would do everything possible to avoid. Maybe I would have heard that quote even if I hadn’t come to Regent, but to me hearing it at Regent and later pursuing a vocation in which I needed its wisdom was a miracle of coincidence.
Why I support Regent today:
I support Regent because I believe God is at work in this place to educate, empower, and send out thinking Christians to do battle for him in the wasteland that is modern society. It is as simple as that. Regent needs to be kept alive because God's world needs Regent’s fruit: students with passion in their hearts, knowledge in their minds, and readiness to stand steadfast for God.
If I may offer an encouragement to anyone contemplating coming to Regent, it is this: come and do not tarry. Rarely has there been a more urgent time for the literate, learned, and empowered Christian. The hostility directed at Christianity, the church, and the Christian worldview is immense and shows no sign of abating. Such times call for Christians with more than a Sunday school level of biblical knowledge. The church and the faith need fully equipped Christians, the kind Regent produces.
I really have too many to mention, but here are a few.
I got to meet N. T. Wright when he taught a course on Paul and Palestinian Judaism in summer 1986. I audited the class, and he introduced me to the New Perspective on Paul. That view has deeply influenced my scholarship and discipleship ever since. The next year, he came back to teach on Jesus, and I got another surprise. I’d never heard the life of Jesus explored the way he did. He challenged me to put Jesus back into his Jewish context and to take seriously not just why Jesus was born and why he died (i.e., Christmas and Easter), but also why he lived. This was a new idea to me, and it revolutionized my understanding of the Gospels.[Editor's note: If Ivan's description sparks your interest, you can find dozens of lectures, discussions, and course recordings from N. T. Wright’s visits on the Regent Audio website, including his course and public lecture from Summer 2019.]
Doing my ThM thesis under the supervision of Drs. Jim Packer and Sam Mikolaski was a serendipity that I cannot describe. The rigour and erudition they demanded made me a better student, and the counsel and encouragement they offered made me a better Christian. Being awarded Regent’s Theology Prize for my thesis was a profound honor, but one that was due primarily to their demanding of me more than I thought myself able to give.
Meeting Dr. Bruce Waltke changed my life. The profound and deep friendship that has developed over the years was born when I was a student in his Exegesis class. Even though I only took one class with him throughout my Regent years, his impact lasted long after the class ended. My most memorable recollection of Prof. Waltke was when in 1993 TWU asked me to teach an Introduction to the Old Testament class. I had never taught the Old Testament before and I only had a few weeks to prepare for it. I felt overwhelmed. So I dropped by Dr. Waltke’s office and shared with him my trepidations. He reached behind him, picked up his Introduction to the Old Testament binder, gave it to me, and said, “Here, Ivan, go down to Kinko’s and make a copy of this and use it in your class.” I cannot explain the feeling that came over me as I stood there holding that binder. For a fledgling teacher, to be given the notes of one of the foremost Old Testament scholars in the world was humbling and empowering at the same time. Dr. Waltke’s grace and humility attracted me to develop a long-term friendship with him that eventually grew into a fruitful collaboration.
Keeping in touch:
Regent’s role in my life did not end upon my graduation. Time would fail me if I tried to describe the continuing impact of Regent’s library, or the yearly Summer Public Lectures.
In some ways, my personal relationships with some of the faculty have grown deeper since the time I spent there. I must be one of the only Regent graduates of my era who never took a full course with Dr. Houston (don’t ask me how that happened!), but since then I’ve availed myself of his books and audio/video lectures, and even visited with him with my wife, so I feel I have made up for what I lost while at Regent. As well, my friendship with Dr. Sven Soderlund—whose second- and third-year Greek classes were a highlight of my time at Regent—has grown deeper since I graduated. More recently, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Iain Provan as we regularly meet, along with a couple of other former Regent students, to share and encourage one another in our various vocations, where we all face challenges from the various ideologies of postmodernism.
1. I wrote my whole ThM thesis on a Kaypro computer in the old portable parked in Regent’s old parking lot.
2. I was the painting contractor who painted the entire College when the new building was built in 1988-89.
3. I’m currently working with Dr. Bruce Waltke to abridge and update his monumental commentary on Proverbs. We go to the publishers at the end of October 2019.
4. I'm planning to lead another biblical tour to Israel in May 2020. Please get in touch if you're interested in joining!
As a donor, I'm supporting Regent's ongoing mission.
Would you join me?