In Memoriam – John Webster, 1955-2016 and Kenneth Bailey, 1931-2016

It seems appropriate, though unfortunate, on this Memorial Day to remember two Christian scholars that have passed away this past week. Kenneth Bailey was the author of the very popular book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP Academic). During my time at the store I can say sometimes it was hard to keep his books on the shelf. They enjoyed wave after wave of popularity as people were introduced to him and his writings. You can read more about him here.

Kenneth Bailey

John Webster was Anglican British theologian and was the Chair of Divinity at St. Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. I was introduced to the writings of Webster in just the past few years. Scholars who wrote in areas of his interest knew they had to interact with his thinking. I think he was just starting to break through to the awareness of the educated lay reader. You can read about him here.

John Webster

We will keep their family and friends in our prayers. May the writings they left behind to the church be used mightily by God.


In Memoriam – Charles Ryrie, Gilbert Morris, and Buck Rambo

In the past couple of weeks the Christian industry has been hit by a couple of major losses. We have seen the death of seminary professor and author of the Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie; author of the 40-volume “House of Winslow” series Gilbert Morris; and the patriarch of the Southern gospel music family The Rambos, Buck Rambo. The one I’m most familiar with is, of course, Charles Ryrie. Many, many years ago (long before my student days) I was studying an issue in Christology. I tried to call Dallas Seminary a few times to see if I could talk to Dr. Ryrie. After several attempts his secretary told me that she was going to give me his home phone number and that he said I could call him at home that Saturday. I was amazed at this generous offer. I called him that Saturday and we had a wonderful conversation as he patiently answered all my questions.

I don’t really need to know that much about the other two gentlemen to know that they have each in their own way contributed to the church with their respective gifts. Morris by way of fiction and Buck through his music. It’s rare that so many departments of our store are affected by death (Bibles, academic, fiction, and music). We remember them and will keep their friends and family in our prayers.

Charles Ryrie (1925-2016)


Gilbert Morris (1929-2016)


Buck Rambo (1932-2016)

Remembering Joshua – 1986 – 2009

It was five years ago today that my son Joshua died. As has become common at this time of year my thoughts of him are vivid and more frequent than ever. A couple of weeks ago my wife and two daughters and I attended a weekend retreat sponsored by the military for parents and siblings of someone who has died while in the military. There were about 40 families each with their own story. I talked to fathers and mothers who also lost their sons or daughters. Someone said that we are part of a club we wish would never have another member. But we know there will be. On my daily commute to work there are electronic signs that give the drive time for certain routes, weather reports, accidents etc. On some days they simply note how many traffic deaths have occurred in Michigan so far this year. The current total is 624. The number is staggering and it gives me pause as I drive to work thinking of all the families involved. At Baker alone we have had two people die in traffic accidents in the past few years. In addition to that one of my coworkers recently lost his wife. Another has suffered a miscarriage. Death is painful and ugly. It leaves wounds which, while they may heal with time, will always leave a scar. So what helps me? Remembering. Joshua is gone but his memory is still very much alive and when I remember him it helps me get through the darker nights. I’ve shared memories before but allow me to share one more.

For several mornings I noticed it was getting increasing difficult to get Joshua up for school. He kept insisting he just wasn’t sleeping well. One night I got up and happened to look in his room. It was about 2:00 a.m. and, you guessed it, he wasn’t there. I was livid–and worried. I stayed up and then about 4:00 a.m. I heard some noise from his room. When I went in I confronted him and he confessed he had been sneaking out of his window and meeting a friend. Fortunately they weren’t being too mischievous but simply “hanging out.” That ended that night. He made a lot of mistakes as many boys do. He spent time in detention and was brought home more than once in a police car. About a year before he died he said to me, “Dad, you know everything you’ve told me was right. I simply had to learn it the hard way.” After the birth of his daughter I noticed a distinct change in him. He was now a father and he was going to be responsible. I saw maturity grow in him faster than ever. He made me proud. For me September 18th will always be a painful day but memories help me get through it. The picture below is a selfie of him. It is one of my favorites. He was quite the ham. Many say the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. That’s fine. I’m proud to be that tree.


Paul Crouch, TBN Founder – 1934 – 2013

The founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Paul Crouch,  passed away from degenerative heart disease. He is survived by his wife (Jan); two sons, Paul Jr. and Matthew; and several grandchildren. Crouch was often criticized and a target of controversy for some of his views and the guests that were hosted on TBN. See here for an sympathetic article from his friend Steve Strang. TBN will broadcast a special celebration of Crouch’s life and legacy Sunday, December 8th, at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. (Pacific) and Monday, December 9th, at 2 p.m. (Pacific).

James Grier – 1932 – 2013

Our local community is mourning the death of James Grier, Distinguished Professor of Philosophical Theology at Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. I met Dr. Grier only a couple of times. Once at a book table that I did last year and then here in the store. I heard numerous stories from students who only spoke of him with the highest praise. Joel Beeke says about him

“In response to our invitation, Dr. Grier soon began teaching various courses at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS), including Apologetics, Philosophical Ethics, and Critical Thinking for Ministry. I sat in on all of his classes the first time around, and was captivated by his teaching. I don’t say this lightly, but I believe he is one of the two best professors I have ever sat under in my life. His clarity of thought, his command of complex subjects and vocabulary, his humble demeanor and spirituality, his freedom to confess his own shortcomings, were all simply astonishing. He was a born teacher, a disciplined teacher, a loving teacher, and above all, a perpetual student. He read two or three books a week.”

Our prayers are with his family, friends and countless students who are feeling the loss of this beloved disciple of our Lord.

James Grier