Robert E. Webber – his influence

This is a follow-up to my post yesterday about a mentor of mine, Dr. Robert E. Webber. For a more thorough biographical sketch, you can find a press release from Northern Seminary here.

Bob was the first person to get me to think historically about my faith and theology. In a Christian Thought class that I took with him while at Wheaton, I was introduced to the concept of historical theology and understanding our perspectives on theology through the wide-angle of church history. He introduced me to key theological ideas, such as the importance of the Trinity and the concept of Christus Victor, which Gustav Aulen popularized in his book by that title. Bob’s book, Ancient-Future Faith, flowed out of his thinking during these days. I remember times when Bob would stand on the top of desks to make a point or hearing fascinating stories about his days as a rebel student at Bob Jones University.

Bob also greatly influenced my understanding of worship. He pushed me to think beyond my upbringing (Presbyterian) and current leanings (charismatic) to face into historical and biblical understandings of worship. He led me to consider what liturgy was all about: that all traditions have liturgy (whether they understand it or not) and that there are certain elements that should be within every liturgy (invitation, word, celebration/eucharist, dismissal). His many works on worship – Worship Old and New and The Complete Library of Christian Worship – informed and formed me greatly. As a young worship leader with little thought about what I was doing, he shaped me in many positive ways for years to come.

While at seminary, Bob was influential in getting me to engage with the changes happening in the church that have now been dubbed as emergent or emerging Christianity. His thought at this point grew into what became his book The Younger Evangelicals. Though Bob was growing older in body, his mind was always fresh to engage with new thinking about Christianity, ecclesiology, and the manner in which we do ministry in a changing era.

Bob continued to be active in pushing out in new initiatives, spending energy on:
The Institute for Worship Studies
A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future
– developing resources around the ancient-future themes
– teaching at Northern Seminary

Through it all, Bob modeled for me the attitude of charity. He took God seriously, but didn’t take himself too seriously. He could laugh about his critics and his forgiven errors. He could maintain a sense of generosity in his pursuit of historic orthodoxy.

Since moving to Milwaukee, his thought and presence has been less visibly tangible in my life, but throughout my ministering and thinking there is much of Bob’s thought and presence that continue to make me who I am.

Thank you, Bob. I will miss you.

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