I found out some sad news today. A former professor of mine named Robert Webber died on April 27 of pancreatic cancer. Bob – he wanted us to call him “Bob” not Professor Webber – was a professor at Wheaton College when I was in grad school in the early 90’s. He completely rocked my world.

I was majoring in Clinical Psychology but Wheaton required us to take some core theology-type classes as well. I initially signed up for a class in Church History. When I told my other psych classmates that I was in Church History, they all responded with “No way. Nuh uh. You need to take Christian Traditions. The professor’s awesome and there’s no tests.” No tests? Sign me up. So I signed me up and dropped the Church History class.

The first day of Christian Traditions with Bob Webber I was dumbstruck. The professor was this fiftysomething guy with curly white hair who had us all sit in a circle. He told us there were no tests but that we needed to keep a journal. He made us all learn each others’ names. And then he proceeded to dismantle the shaky structure of my fundamentalist faith.

He made us read books about the Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church. He poked fun at evangelicalism’s love for reason and logic and roasted Francis Schaeffer and Josh McDowell. I remember him standing in the middle of the circle and saying in a high-pitched, mocking voice “Evvvvidence That Demaaaaands a Verrrrrrrrdict”. I had worshipped at the altar of McDowell for several years prior to that so I was offended and yet intrigued as he talked about how few people come to faith through intellectual reasoning.

“Experience” was a word he loved. He helped me understand that Communion is an experience of God, not just emblems symbolizing theological truths. He taught me the importance of not just knowing about God but knowing God. The whole time in his class I felt like I was visiting another planet.

He was responsible for my wife’s and my decision to attend an Episcopal church the whole time I was at Wheaton. My sister later attended the same church and my niece was baptized in that church.

He introduced me to Christus Victor by Gustaf Aulen which continues to astound and inspire me today. He helped me become wary of some of the silliness Christians can easily fall into. And he opened my eyes to the theological implications of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic film Total Recall.

There are few people who have had such an impact on my life. The short 5 months I was in his class have left a lasting imprint.

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