Like the other 75 wide-eyed Wheaton College freshman, giddy with dopey excitement, I had no idea what lay before me when I sauntered into Dr. Robert Webber's "Theology and Culture" class and sloppily took my desk toward the back. I had no adequate language to anticipate what we would be encountering. This was my first ever theology class. I knew not Barth from Brunner. In fact, I'll admit this: I was more interested in making my presence known to candidates of the fairer sex than I was in learning of matters of life, death and eternity. I thought I had all that figured out anyway.
Bob Webber was a gifted teacher and an enthusiastic presence. He provoked students with questions and kindled little flames of passion for God: for the history of God, for the history of our relation to God, and for the history of our reflection on his marvelous, redemptive presence on our little planet. Above all, Dr. Webber inspired students to worship God and to pursue authentic ways--both fresh and ancient--of entering the presence of the Holy One.
That brief encounter, as a clueless freshman with a name and a face like so many others, was a gift. I was one of those flames Webber kindled. I never took another class with him, though I wish I could have. But now as I teach theology at Bethel Seminary, I hope to awaken my students to the mystery and beauty of God and to the unsurpassability of his light. In the spirit of my first theology teacher, I want to light little sparks of desire for the one who gives hope for our present, because He is our future. Dr. Webber passed away Friday, April 27, 2007. May he rest in peace and enjoy the fullness of the marvelous presence of the Trinitarian God as he worships him with unbounded passion, unceasingly.
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