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Whitworth Theology Department Annual Newsletter 2020

Adam Neder (2004-present), Professor of Theology, Bruner-Welch Chair in Theology

Before I begin my update, I'd like to share a passage written by Nicholas Wolterstorff that I keep returning to lately.

"Standing on a hill in Galilee, Jesus said to his disciples: 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.' Blessings to those who mourn, cheers to those who weep, hail to those whose eyes are filled with tears, hats off to those who suffer, bottoms up to the grieving. How strange, how incredibly strange! What can it mean? One can understand why Jesus hails those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, why he hails the merciful, why he hails the pure in heart, why he hails the peacemakers, why he hails those who endure under persecution. These are qualities of character which belong to the life of the kingdom. But why does he hail the mourners of the world? Why cheer tears? It must be that mourning is also a quality of character that belongs to the life of his realm. Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God's new day, who ache with all their being for that day's coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm of peace there is no one blind and who ache whenever they see someone unseeing. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm there is no one hungry and who ache whenever they see someone starving. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm there is no one falsely accused and who ache whenever they see someone imprisoned unjustly. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm there is no one who fails to see God and who ache whenever they see someone unbelieving. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm there is no one who suffers oppression and who ache whenever they see someone beat down. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm there is no one without dignity and who ache whenever they see someone treated with indignity. They are the ones who realize that in God's realm of peace there is neither death nor tears and who ache whenever they see someone crying tears over death. The mourners are aching visionaries."

Much of what seemed important prior to the pandemic feels less important now. Nevertheless, I believe more strongly than ever in the value of face-to-face theological education, and the best part of my fall semester was getting to know a new set of students and reflecting together with them on the meaning and significance of the Christian message.

I participated on the search committee for our new provost, and I'm delighted with our choice of Gregor Thuswaldner. He is a remarkable person.

I have spent the spring plugging away with research and writing. I'm trying not to think about a number of cool speaking events that had to be canceled due to the virus.

My new book is out, so I'm happy about that.

Janet and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage in June. We really like being married to one another. We became empty nesters this spring, which is good, but we miss Claire and Mary.

If things go according to schedule, this time next year there will be a Chick-fil-A in Spokane. In the providence of God, it will be located less than half a mile from my house. If that's not reason to celebrate, what is?

Finally, this is Jerry Sitter's last year at Whitworth, and while I'm happy for him and his family, his retirement is a massive loss for us. Jerry is one of the most institutionally creative and resourceful people I know, and his positive influence on our university is incalculable. Personally, Jerry's friendship and counsel have been a source of unmixed happiness for me, and I can hardly imagine this place without him. But the theology department is thriving, and that has a lot to do with Jerry's extraordinary influence on us.

Take good care, everyone.

Adam