It has been the blessing of my life to have encountered some wonderful teachers.
I was not very successful with my algebra teachers, but that was more my problem than theirs. But with literature and history and theology, I have been blessed.
None was more significant to me than Dr. W.C. Dobbs.
Dr. Dobbs was about four-foot-nothing in height. If he had been a little shorter, he would have been perfectly round.
But he was brilliant.
He was my first teacher of Greek, and he made the New Testament come alive with his love of the language.
He was also a master of church history. He made Clement and Origen and Augustine come alive in ways that were unbelievable.
One of the most important things I learned from him was that the world is always in flux. Things do not stay the same.
He had a sense about the ebb and flow of history. He understood how kingdoms rise and fall. In fact, he had some serious opinions about our own kingdom.
What he left me with was an appreciation of the mutability of culture. We need to be careful about how deeply we devote ourselves to any particular moment in time.
There is a tendency in us, as human beings, to want to believe that our place and our time is the best time. My parents want to live in the 1950s – as if that were the golden age. My preference is the 1970s – but that will be a topic for another time.
But the point is – and this is what Dr. Dobbs tried to get across to all of his students – culture and history are always in movement. There is no golden age, there is no perfect time. There is now, and we need to make the best of it.
So what we do with now? What are the issues of our day and our time that should concern us?
There are serious issues with our environment. People who tell us that the things happening with temperature and the changes at the polar caps and changes in the ozone don’t matter will also lie to us about other things as well.
And there is a commitment to violence in our culture that is absolutely insane. We entertain ourselves with violence, we celebrate it. It approaches a religious devotion.
There is also a disdain for the poor. This, of course, is not a new problem. For some reason, going all the way back to the days of Jesus, there has been a negative disposition for the least of these in our midst.
And this is the irony of our existence. Things constantly change. History and culture move forward and tomorrow is not the same as yesterday.
But we keep encountering the same issues. Even as kingdoms rise and fall, we keep bumping into the same issues of humanity and community and human frailty.
Dr. Dobbs would say to us on a regular basis, “Gentlemen,” – and there were no women in the classes in those days – “Gentlemen, the world will always be changing, and it will always be the same. Your responsibility is to be faithful to the Christ who has come into the world to be one of you.”