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.