Archive for August, 2008

The tiniest of memories: David Scholer (1938-2008)

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Relishing the influence of the tiniest of memories

In memoriam: David M. Scholer (1938-2008)

By Allan Roy Andrews

As I write, a funeral has taken place in Pasadena, California, for David M. Scholer, a New Testament scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary who died on August 22 after a six-year battle with colorectal cancer. Scholer was 70 years old.

In the Los Angeles Times obituary for Scholer, he is cited as singling out the “dividends,” if that word is appropriate, of his fight with the debilitating disease:

He discovered the importance of memory, reveling every day in recollections of the people he met and loved, the places around the world he visited. “The joys and the achievements of the past don’t mean I live in the past,” he said, “but I do celebrate with gratitude what has been.”

I celebrate with gratitude my memory of Scholer; he was my tutor and guide in New Testament Greek during my seminary studies at Gordon Divinity School in Massachusetts in the mid-1960s. I write of the tiniest of memories; what is here is more about me than about Scholer, though his cited words tell me he would understand and appreciate my memory.

With no intention of entering the ministry, I enrolled at seminary to expand my understanding of theology, but my advisor insisted I had to study biblical languages and put me in an independent-study course with Scholer as my tutor.

He was a third-year student at the seminary and worked as a teaching assistant to faculty in the New Testament department (three men who eventually produced an outstanding college-level introduction entitled, The New Testament Speaks [1969]).

This meant that several days each week I met with Scholer and his best friend at the seminary, Ken Swetland (now a senior professor of ministry at Gordon-Conwell), while they ate their brown-bag lunches in a classroom. As they chatted and poured drinks from Thermos bottles, Scholer casually and quickly reviewed my lessons from Machen’s introductory greek textbook.

I was a bipolar (in the statistical sense) student of Greek. The work I did for Scholer was either feast or famine, and on those days when it was apparent I’d neglected my lessons and homework he would dismiss me courteously but quickly with encouragement to try again and matter-of-factly resumed his conversation. Swetland sat silently as I was tutored, waiting patiently to pick up the conversations he and Scholer enjoyed each day.

My memory of those minor, forgettable lunchtime sessions is anything but forgettable in my brain. Unwittingly, these two friends and future scholars and seminary professors were indoctrinating me in an unseen part of the scholarly culture—friendly but focused conversation. I picked up tidbits of New Testament study (as well as faculty scuttlebutt) during those casual lunches that students never get from classroom study; I was bathed daily with unassuming anecdotes and attitudes of frustration and love that I absorbed in the depth of my consciousness.

I squeaked by in Greek, but unlike Augustine, who was alienated from the language by his initial tutoring, I became an enamored spectator to it, largely because I saw how easily and comfortably Scholer handled it. I still covet his grace and ease with the ancient language.

Neither Scholer nor Swetland at the time, I think, knew that I was their age (give or take several months). I’d finished college late and spent a year in graduate school before I entered seminary. These friends, a Minnesotan and an Oklahoman, alumni of the same college, were in their last year of seminary and were unwittingly demonstrating academic maturity to a beleaguered Brooklyn student.

I went on to become a journalist, and in the pedestrian way that journalists have for tucking away information, I took note of Scholer’s career:

• his years at Gordon as a Greek and New Testament professor during which he labored—as did his mentors before him—almost two decades to earn a Th.D. from Harvard;
• his years at North Park and Northern Baptist, where he was as much administrator as teacher, but where he forged his quiet, ground-breaking work in support of women as leaders in the church; and
• his years at Fuller, where his quiet, creative and ever-challenging mind seemed to have found a theological home where “perfect love casts out fear.”

Those conversations over lunch and Greek in the 1960s constitute the only time I ever spoke with Scholer. However, his work as a bibliographer, as a faithful and tedious scholar of the New Testament in its original language, and as a quiet champion for the full discipleship of marginalized Christians planted seeds I didn’t know were growing in my own life.

As a layman in my own Episcopal church I labor to encourage more Bible study, to foster deeper appreciation and encouragement of the ordination of female disciples, and to prevent the abandonment and marginalization of those living disparate lifestyles within the body of Christ. I thank God for the unassuming and unwitting influence of David M. Scholer in shaping my thinking.



Scholer, who since 1994 taught at Fuller Theological Seminary, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2002. On September 18, 2005, he preached in Pasadena, Calif., a sermon called, “Living with Cancer.”

Listen to this sermon at:

That same sermon–slightly edited–is reprinted at:

The tract to which Scholer refers in his sermon–well worth reading–is available at:

A summary of Scholer’s thought on “headship,” which illustrates his high view of women in the Church of Jesus Christ, can be read at:

One of his students has posted a tribute on a blog that includes several other links:

Fuller Theological Seminary, where David spent the last 14 years of his distinguished academic career, has posted a tribute to his legacy at:

Obituary, Los Angeles Times:,0,4627887.story

Some innies and outies of spirituality

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Retreat & Exposure: When Extroverts Become Silent–

and Introverts are Exuberant

I’ve spent much of the past year considering and appreciating silence and trying to assess its role in my own spiritual life. I took an online course called “The Uses of Silence,” and came away convinced more than ever that silence is deeper and more profound than the simple absence of sound. I am moving in the direction of considering silence a form of revelation or a form of knowing. In a culture that appears to decry and belittle—indeed, to fear–silence, I am concluding that quietness and silence provide a pathway to a deeper relationship with God.

Wouldn’t you know that just when I think I’m beginning to understand the nature of contemplation and serenity as a part of our need for private, introverted time alone with God, along comes the argument in favor of deep spirituality for extroverts, extolling a life of prayer and devotion that “appeals to those who thirst for inebriation in the vast fullness of life.”

Father W. Paul Jones, a Roman Catholic (ex-Methodist) university and seminary professor, has brought me up short with a little tract he’s written entitled, A Spirituality for Extroverts. (This theme runs through several of the 11 books Jones has published, but this little pamphlet from The Forward Movement, the Episcopal devotional publishers in Cincinnati, summarizes his thinking on extrovert spirituality.)

Because of the culture of introversion in which he was raised–where quiet aloneness was cherished, where the deliberate, slow and silent processing of experience was encouraged, where deep and devoted mulling always preceded action–Jones grew up believing “I didn’t have a spiritual bone in my body.”

For over 30 years, Jones writes, “I was left with the conclusion that if ‘God’ was whatever was supposed to happen in the silent insides of me, then I was doomed to be a spiritual failure.”

Jones takes us through a tiny history of contemplative Christianity, noting that Teresa of Avila placed contemplation at the apex of one’s prayer life and advocated “a consuming silence transcending all relationships” as her spiritual goal.

Similarly, John of the Cross suggests spirituality is “divorced from all things external” to the extent that even the appreciation of natural beauty must be broken.

Where does this leave the exuberant energy that marks the Pepsi Generation? Jones asks. He says the introverted spirituality of these saints implied that any spirituality claiming his extroverted personality would need to reclaim what the saints appear to deny. His spirituality would involve “a yearning to taste, smell, hear, touch, and see in all things.”

Without giving away Jones’ solution to the extrovert’s spiritual dilemma with which he struggled (enough to say he finds a corrective model in the incarnation of Jesus Christ), I share a bit of advice that probably rescued me from similar introvert-extrovert bewilderment in my continuing search for a spiritual path; although, my dilemma probably had more to do with hyperactivity than a quest for spirituality, and my quest is by no means over.

A wise professor with whom I studied the New Testament urged upon his students a strategy of retreat and exposure. He argued that we needed time alone to think and get our professions properly ordered; however, he also argued that isolated aloneness was minimally helpful over an extended period; we needed to expose our well-honed thinking and beliefs to both friends and critics.

“Retreat and exposure,” he repeated as his scholarly mantra. “Retreat and exposure” must become the way of spiritual growth.

That mantra made sense to me. Each time I sought to retreat into some sanctuary or quiet place to “get alone with God,” I grew lonesome and fidgety. Conversely, in a crowd of worshipers, I found myself often longing for a quiet and isolated time to speak with God. Retreat and exposure outlined for me two facets of my spiritual quest, both valuable and necessary. The same God who urged stillness also urged going into the entire world, or in my professor’s words: “Retreat and exposure.”

I have never been able to classify myself accurately on the introvert-extrovert scale. If I can be permitted a sports metaphor: I’ve always valued true teamwork, but I know that when a player steps into a batter’s box or goes to the free-throw line, that player is utterly alone. There’s a time for retreat and a time for exposure. In sports, that usually translates into defense and offense, both of which the game requires.

Jones uses a series of poetic descriptions to capture this dual nature of spirituality. He calls it “a carnal spirituality,” a “fleshly mysticism,” a “sacramental living.” Deep spirituality, he suggests, is “a cello well played, a motorcycle aimed at the sunset, a contagious laughter, a friendship wanting nothing, a playful kite at the end of its string, a child’s giggle.”

Where seriousness characterizes the introvert’s spirituality, Jones notes levity is the mark of an extrovert’s spiritual life. “What silence is for introverts,” he writes, “music is for extroverts.”

The key, I think, for understanding Jones’ extrovert spirituality is recognizing that greed and self-centeredness have no place in his engagement of the world and of life.

Whether we are introverted or extroverted, our spirituality has nothing to do with us; it’s not all about me; it’s ultimately about God and who I am in my relationship to my Creator-Redeemer and the wonderful world I find myself trying to understand.

The apostle John probably captured this best in speaking about Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, KJV).