Semper Informanda: Prolegomenon

Grace through History
If by some chance you were to do a “Google” search of Ernest Godlove Eberhardt, you would find two categories of results. 

The first would include his primary occupation as a Pharmacist with the Eli Lilly Company. Upon his graduation in1886 as member of Purdue University’s first class of Chemist/Pharmacists, Eli Lilly hired him as the five year old company’s first scientist. Eberhardt’s responsibility was to establish one of the first pharmaceutical research and development programs in the nation.   Eberhard, also a botanist, worked with Mr. Lilly in the lab often using each other as trials in their quest for new medications. Amazingly, both men survived the drugs and lived long and healthy lives. 

The second result category directs you to websites that sell used books. For a leading chemist of his day, the book Eberhardt wrote was a thesaurus, simply entitled, Eberhardt’s Bible Thesaurus. Eberhardt was not only a scientist, but a self-taught Bible scholar and churchmen.  

122 years later, I was given the opportunity to be a recipient of grant given through the Lilly Endowment that enabled me to recruit two cohorts of pastors with the goal of promoting Cultural Intelligence and determining better methods of recruiting, equipping and coaching church planters in African American and Hispanic communities in North America. Who would have ever guessed that I would have benefited in this way from my great grandfather’s work. Yes, Herbert Godlove Eberhardt was my great grandfather.

Knowing the history of the significant role that my great grandfather played in the life of the Eli Lilly Corporation gave special significance to the funding I received. It gave my study deeper meaning as I reflected on how God used him not only as a scientist and author, but in the life of his grandson, my father.  

February was Black History Month. Though many fail to see its significance or rationale, it is rooted in an organization started in 1915 by two Harvard University graduates named Dr. Carter G. Woodson and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland.  Their desire was to “bring awareness to the largely ignored, yet crucial role black people played in American and world history”1 These men had a desire not only to document a history that was quickly being lost, but to use it as means to bring encouragement and hope to a desperate people. In 1916 Woodson would go on to publish a journal that “he hoped to educate black people about their cultural background and instill them with a sense of pride in their race.”2 It was through these men’s efforts that Black History Month was first recognized in 1926.

Just as looking back at my history brought a new perspective to my life, I have come to relish the stories of the both the triumphs and trials of the African American community. My studies have resulted in a range of emotion from rage to joy. At times it has exposed my own sin, however most often it has given me beautiful pictures of God’s grace. Will you take time to look at history, both yours and others, and see what God reveals to you?

Dr. Bob Orner
Guest Lecturer, Practical Theology
Director of Field Education

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1 Biography.com
2Ibid.


Orlando Semper Informanda | Volume 5 Issue 21