Bob believed; therefore he spoke

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Posted by Cal Beisner on November 24, 2003 at 17:05:34:

Bob and I go back almost as far as Bob and Gretchen do. When he appeared in a bookstore asking for help witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses, she referred him to me. We became a team, studying JW materials, figuring out refutations, going to Kingdom Halls and Watchtower study nights and asking embarrassing questions--loudly!--until the overseers finally took us off into a side room for conversations that would last till the wee hours of the morning. One night, one of the elders got frustrated and stormed out of the room. An hour or so later, the remaining elders and we had moved out conversation to the front porch when we heard the screech of tires on pavement. Around the corner came a Chevy El Camino, and it screeched to a halt in front of us. The angry elder jumped out, leveled a rifle or shotgun at us, and shouted, "Now you get out of here!" We went. We didn't shake the dust off our feet till we'd rounded the corner, where he couldn't see us!

When I took a job out of state for the summer of 1973, Bob needed a new witnessing partner. He took Gretchen on and trained her. By the time I got back, I was missing a partner--and, if I recall, they were already engaged. One of the most ironic things I know is that my parents worried when they gave their permission, "Will Bob"--who had little formal education--"be able to give Gretchen"--who was in graduate school--"the intellectual stimulation she'll need?" (It wasn't long after that that Bob, who worked at the time at a blueprint company, running a copier, in a job that really demanded only about an hour or two of his attention each day, read through the whole twenty-four volumes of the 1969 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica in a summer!)

Through the next six years, Bob and Gretchen and I worked together at CRI and then CARIS. Like others, I was always amazed at Bob's genius--the rapidity with which he absorbed information, picked apart arguments, and subjected everything to the critiques of Scripture and logic. Even twenty years ago, he had already become twice the apologist I've ever been; by the time of his death, he was a hundred times. But I also was always amazed at Bob's energy--unbounded, jovial, bursting energy that could keep him going fresh and strong right through the night when the rest of us would be gasping for air and pleading for some sleep--and his wonderful love, compassion, patience, and genuine friendliness toward all who came to him with questions, whether they were professors of street persons, Christians or atheists of New Agers or neopagan witches. He made everyone feel important, respected, welcomed. He never gave people reason to think he regretted the hours and hours he invested in them.

His path and mine turned different directions in our service to the one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of us all, one Church. But through the last twenty-three years of our geographic distance, I have continued to admire his work, to respect his genius, to be grateful for his integrity and devotion to truth--even when the truth meant bursting some popular Christian balloons. We disagreed on some things--I a Calvinist, he a Lutheran; I a classical presuppositionalist (and for those of you who don't know what that means, drop me an e-mail and I'll send you an e-file about it--but it isn't Van Tilianism!), he an evidentialist--but always I respected his understanding. Like many others, I cringed at the thought of having to argue against him--ever, about anything!

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 has been increasingly on my mind through the last six months to a year. As I contemplated the memorial service for Bob, it came to my mind again. All who knew Bob will recognize how well the passage fits him:

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is a twork in us, but life in you.

"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke,' we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

Bob believed; therefore he spoke. And he spoke, and he spoke, and he spoke. To all who, like me, learned so much from him, there comes now the challenge to follow his example: believing, we, too, must speak.

Gretchen, my dear little big sister, I just want to say . . .

I want to put you in a garbage can!

(Those of you who didn't grow up reading "I'll Be You and You Be Me" won't understand that. Don't worry. Gretchen will explain if you ask her.)

With undying love,
Your big little brother,

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