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Derek Taylor '08

Bringing learning to life, putting faith into practice 

When Derek Taylor '08 was a Whitworth student, he learned to love coffee and pine trees and pull all-nighters, but his most lasting memories proved to be the people.

"Sharing countless tacos with Adam Neder and cups of coffee with Jerry Sittser was fundamental in shaping my sense of Christian identity," Taylor says of his former theology professors. "The conversations we had sparked some of the questions I'm still wrestling with today. Experiences like these inspire my own sense of vocation as a teacher."

Now, Taylor is helping Whitworth students to form genuine relationships and grow in their faith through the Emmaus Scholars Program, a new Christian living-learning community on campus. Taylor's main goals as the program's faculty director are to help students enter into intentional Christian community, integrate justice and spirituality, and take their theological formation out of the traditional classroom. En Christo, Whitworth's student club that provides meals and support for Spokane residents who are low-income, serves as a source of inspiration.

"Learning comes alive when we step out of the classroom and encounter people in the real world," Taylor says. "The most formative aspect of my Whitworth education was probably my involvement in En Christo. Both the students I served alongside and the friends I made downtown revealed to me new aspects of God's heart and altered my understanding of the gospel."

A scholar of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Taylor has also been greatly influenced by Bonhoeffer's book Life Together, in which Bonhoeffer reflects on his time leading an underground seminary for students in Nazi Germany. "For Bonhoeffer, theology was not a matter of ideas but of life, not a matter of theory but of practice," Taylor says. "All the great ideas he wrote about took on flesh and blood in this small community of formation and resistance."

Taylor is interested in scriptural hermeneutics (how to read the Bible) and teaches classes in the theology department such as Introduction to the Bible, Great Themes of the Bible and Old Testament Theology. His first book, Reading Scripture as the Church, was published in fall 2020 and focuses on Bonhoeffer's scriptural hermeneutic.

Derek and Lauren Taylor with their sons, Theo and Micah.

"When I was a student at Whitworth, I began wrestling with the Bible," Taylor says. "What is it, how does it actually work, and what does it mean to read the Bible wisely? For me, these ‘hermeneutical' questions penetrated to the heart of Christian life, and they carried me through grad school."

Taylor received his master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he met his wife, Lauren, and earned his doctor of theology from Duke University. The couple moved to Spokane in 2018 when Lauren was hired as Whitworth's campus pastor for discipleship & residence hall ministry and Derek as a theology lecturer. They and their two young sons live close to campus and love having students visit.

"My time here as a student allows me to empathize with current students," Taylor says. "The world is different now – I didn't even have a cellphone my first year at Whitworth! – but there is something lasting about the Whitworth experience that I understand in a unique way."

Be on the lookout this summer for "Tuesdays at the Taylors," a weekly opportunity for members of the Whitworth community to join the Taylor family for dinner.

"Every Tuesday evening throughout the summer we will toss some lawn chairs and blankets in our backyard, turn the grill up to high, and pump out a dozen or so homemade grilled pizzas," Taylor says. "All are welcome!" 


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