Category Archives: Alumni

Looking to the God of Peace

Chaplain Stephen B. Kellough

Since September 11 there has been a lot on my mind, and there has been a heaviness on my shoulders that is associated with the privilege and responsibility of serving as Wheaton’s chaplain in these days.

For this generation of students, the charged atmosphere brought about by catastrophic world events is unprecedented. Columbine comes closest, and maybe Oklahoma City. But Vietnam and even the Gulf War are off the radar screen for most students. Korea and Pearl Harbor are ancient history. For that matter, even those of us on the faculty and staff at the College have never faced the kind of assault on American turf that we have witnessed.

During these difficult moments, we are finding that the resources of our Christian faith and the value of living in Christian community are becoming near and dear. Wheaton College is a good place to be right now, even for students who are many hours from home.

Shortly after the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a special chapel service was called for the College community. Within hours of the attacks, students, faculty, and staff were assembled in Edman Chapel reading Scripture and praying to our heavenly Father. We were together in worship when we needed to hear from God and to speak to God.

Classes were not dismissed on September 11, and that was a good decision. But we followed the news reports on televisions around campus, and phone calls were made to family and friends. Caring faculty assisted students in processing the events that were shaking our world, and don’t think that students didn’t minister to professors as well. We were together in community, trying to understand, assisting each other in struggling to focus the lens of our Christian worldview on the events of the day.

As most Wheaton alumni remember, it is our tradition to designate a passage of Scripture as a “year verse.” The verse for the 2001-02 academic year is Hebrews 13:20-21, the words of a blessing, a benediction that reminds us of our position in Christ and our resources in God: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Little did we realize months ago when this text was chosen that we would be in such need of this reminder of our resources in the God of peace. The letter to the Hebrews was written to people of faith whose faith was being tested. They needed to be reminded of what they knew but what they were struggling to hold on to.

The letter to the Hebrews is more than a letter; it is a sermon. It’s an encouragement, and it’s a reminder. In my role as chaplain, that is my goal—to encourage and to remind. In these days it is my duty and delight to point our community to the God of peace. This is a title for our Lord that we need to savor right now. In the midst of very uncertain times, it is important for us to understand with our minds and to embrace with our hearts the God of peace and the peace that God gives.

Wheaton Magazine (Autumn 2001)

From “For Christ and His Kingdom” to the Magic Kingdom

CosgroveNo common book cites among its Acknowledgements celebrities such as Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Steve Allen and Jack LaLanne along with theologian E.J. Carnell and evangelist Charles E. Fuller, but Joseph Patrick Cosgrove (’54), producer, director and broadcaster, happily thanks  these and others in his memoir, Walt Dreamers Me (2013), for contributing to the rich diversity of his life.

Originally from Boston, Cosgrove includes a few entries about his days at Wheaton College. A sampling:

Arrival – Wheaton College. With a letter of recommendation from Dr. Ockenga, I am off to Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. I am the only one from my neighborhood seeking higher education. I am now on my journey of life and closer to my goal of going to California.

Overwhelmed College Daze. Taking a full load of classes and working full time to pay tuition overwhelms me and I withdraw from Wheaton at the end of six weeks and return to Boston. As I meet with my pastor, Dr. Harold Ockenga, I am convinced to return to Wheaton after only one missing week. Dr. Ockenga personally pays for my first semester and arranges with the college Dean for my return to college life. Dr. Ockenga has become a father figure to me. There is no going back to Boston. I am off and running and work long hours through each summer and spring break to pay my living expenses as well as my tuition and books.

The Learned Campus Lessons. Living in a college dormitory and attending college class is a challenge for me. Daily chapel is mandatory at Wheaton College in 1950. Wheaton is a well-known and conservative evangelical institution with a reputation for high scholarship. I learn as much working in factories and doing construction work as I do in the classroom. Students at Wheaton must sign a pledge not to dance, play cards, smoke, gamble or attend the theater, opera or stage plays. I sign because I do not have the time or money to do these things anyway. Because I saw firsthand what alcohol did to my father, I do not drink or smoke.

Christmas Comes in October. As Head Cheerleader I decide to celebrate Christmas in October. The City of Wheaton decides to let me borrow city Christmas decorations. Overnight the Wheaton College campus is decorated with Santa Claus and his reindeer. Music of the season, from “White Christmas” to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” as recorded by Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters, rocks the campus the next day. I am called to the Dean’s office to explain myself. The Dean is a bit rattled by my antics but the campus cheers me.

California: Here Comes Joe! In the fall of 1954, I began classes at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. Founded in 1947 by media pioneer Charles E. Fuller and Dr. Harold John Ockenga, Fuller Seminary is an innovative and inclusive graduate school situated in the heart of downtown Pasadena. Dr. Ockenga is featured speaker at my graduation at Wheaton College and afterward he enrolls me for the Fall Semester at Fuller Seminary. I find graduate school a real challenge compared to college.

Settling in California, he begins his career as a broadcaster and occasional employee of Disney, while also campaigning for Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. He also directs and produces fitness guru Jack LaLanne’s first media kit and “Jack’s Big Swim for Fitness.”

Summing up his life lessons, Cosgrove writes: 1) Follow your dreams. 2) Keep focused doing it. 3) Use your imagination and fantasy to create your vision. 4) Be optimistic. 5) Keep learning something new. 6) Be open minded. 7) Team up with talented people of like minds and attitudes. 8) Engage and entertain others through storytelling and music.

 

Fulfilling the Two Tasks

Twenty years ago this fall, as a new Wheaton freshman, I sat with hundreds of others on the lawn of front campus to witness the dedication of the Billy Graham Center. Sharing the platform with Dr. Graham ’43 and President Hudson Armerding ’41 was the keynote speaker, Charles Malik, a Lebanese educator and statesman whose words profoundly changed my attitudes toward learning and the gospel. Malik’s central argument was that Christians in general and North American evangelicals in particular stood little chance of having a deep impact upon their society unless they proved able to know and influence the intellectual life of the world. We are, he contended, admonished to save both the soul and the mind.

The speech found such resonance in the College community that it was quickly published in pamphlet form as The Two Tasks. Malik’s words, together with my subsequent four years at Wheaton, helped me begin to see past my dualistic and utilitarian views of evangelism and education.

While working with evangelical student groups in the city of Munich in the late ’80s, I found that Christian students in Germany also had a strong desire to view their studies from within the context of their faith. But my German friends wondered how they could ever hope to think as Christians or share the gospel with their peers when they could barely see past the boundaries of their own disciplines.

Wheaton has long valued the integration of faith and learning and the wholeness of a liberal arts education. Since joining the faculty four years ago, I’ve been a part of two initiatives geared toward helping students and professors work more effectively at the two tasks envisioned by Malik.

The first is Freshman Experience, a required course in which students explore such issues as consumerism, forming a Christian worldview and the theology of work and leisure. Above all, Freshman Experience mentors aim to get students excited about being students, to encourage them to see their studies and other activities not just as means to an end, but as part of the work of the kingdom. Not surprisingly, The Two Tasks occupies an important place in the syllabus.

During the 1999-2000 academic year, I benefited from the second initiative: the new faculty Faith and Learning seminar, which might be considered the postdoctoral equivalent of Freshman Experience. Our eclectic group (representing 11 departments) discussed topics ranging from biblical ethics, to Christology, to ways of knowing. It was inspiring to see that God had called such different people to pursue scholarship in a single Christian academic community. Though there was ample disagreement, we were united in our desire to think, speak, and live as new creations in Christ.

How well is Wheaton carrying out the two tasks that were laid upon us two decades ago? My experiences in the classroom and the seminar room over the past year give me reasons to be optimistic. I’ve observed colleagues and students striving to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. In my own teaching and scholarship, whether it be analyzing the roles of prayer and providence in a recent German film or outlining cultural differences in a Business German course, I’ve found that true joy comes in pursuing both of the two tasks wholeheartedly.

The following statement was included at the time of publication (Wheaton Magazine, Summer 2000)

Dr. Clint Shaffer ’84 is an assistant professor in the department of foreign languages and director of the Wheaton in Germany program. He received his M.A. from Middlebury College and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His scholarly presentations and publications deal with 18th- and 20th- century literature, German cinema, and foreign language pedagogy. His current research is a study of Christian responses to Asian religions during the German Enlightenment. He and his wife, Virginia Davidson Shaffer ’84, are the parents of Bill (5) and Sarah (3), and enjoy introducing Freshman Experience students to Chicago-style pizza.

Loving our Enemies

by Sarah Borden (Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 2003)

Today’s a high alert day in New York. I have been spending a few days in the Bronx with friends, and last night came back on the commuter train after dinner down in Manhattan. At a quarter before midnight, Grand Central Station was filled with National Guard men and women, dressed in camouflage and carrying large machine guns. I have certainly seen guards with guns stoically surveying a crowd, but, previously, they were in other countries and at the borders of other lands. Now they stand in our train stations, at our borders and airports.

Headed home that night, I realize that I increasingly find myself asking what it means to love our enemies. How, concretely, are we to be a neighbor to those who hate us? Jesus clearly asks us to pray for our enemies, and surely this includes asking God to convert the hearts and save the souls of Osama bin Laden and the members of Al Qaeda. But are we called to even more?

Consider the language that we use in describing our enemies. I admire President Bush’s concern for what is moral; he has strong and courageous convictions regarding good and evil.

But there is also a danger in calling any particular person evil. In calling someone “evil,” we run the risk of painting her as fully irrational, without reason or cause for her actions, as “other” than us. In so doing, we too easily allow ourselves the luxury of not asking why our enemy hates us, whether we have done something to wrong another, or whether we ourselves have also sinned. In calling the other “evil,” it becomes easy to presume that we are the innocent ones and are not therefore required to engage in self-examination, confession, and genuine repentance.

Our country and the American church certainly should be concerned about safety and protection. The guards, soldiers, police, and firefighters who have risked and given their lives for greater security for the rest of us are to be admired and thanked. But even as we are grateful for their great sacrifices, we should also take up the difficult and ongoing task of loving our enemies–praying not only for the salvation of our enemies’ souls, but also praying for our own souls and the full sanctification of all members of Christ’s church, that we may be presented to Him as a Bride without spot or blemish.

The following statement was included at the time of publication:

Sarah Borden ’95 is an assistant professor of philosophy at Wheaton. She holds master’s (1998) and doctoral degrees (2001) in philosophy from Fordham University in the Bronx. She has recently completed a book on Edith Stein for the Outstanding Christian Thinkers series and is a great, great grandchild of Hermann Fischer, Sr. (class of 1870) and a great, great, great grandchild of Jonathan Blanchard, Wheaton’s first president.

The Geography of Memory

JMWJeanne Murray Walker, poet and teacher, tells the tale of her mother’s slow, agonizing descent into the depths of dementia and eventual death in The Geography of Memory (2013). As her mother recedes increasingly into the past, Walker sees her own childhood illuminated. Better understanding their relationship, mother and daughter bind ever tighter as the days darken.

“Provides us with fresh glimpses into hidden joys and startling surprises.” — Richard J. Foster, author of A Celebration of Discipline

“I read it, mesmerized, wondering my way through this deeply moving portrait.” — Luci Shaw, poet

“A powerful tale of loss but also renewal, pain but also love. A treasure.” — Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian

“This deeply humane memoir is at once a memorial to a mother whose memory failed before her body gave way, a poignant reflection on the sister who lived close by while the author flew in repeatedly from afar, and an insightful exposition on memory itself. With a poet’s eye for the apt image, The Geography of Memory is also a case book of spiritual disciplines taught by what Jeanne Murray Walker calls “the ugly twins, aging and death.”   — Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

The papers of Jeanne Murray Walker (SC-72) are archived in the Wheaton College (IL) Special Collections.

“Quite an Aristocratic Negro”

Morris3Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., born in West Newton, Massachusetts, on June 11, 1899, was the great-grandson of ex-slave Frederick Douglass, and the son of a renowned Harlem pastor. Morris, Jr., entered the world equipped with extraordinary talents. Known during his early years as the “boy orator,” he was recognized for his dexterity with the English language. During high school he won the state oratorical contest over 120 white contestants.

As an African American, he frequently faced with poise and fortitude the humiliating challenges of the day. First attending Wilson Academy in New York and then Wheaton Academy, he matriculated to Wheaton College in 1919, studying English, geology, math, history, philosophy and German. In addition, he participated in the Student Army Training Corps (SATC). He was a fine student in all endeavors, but his creativity naturally blossomed in oratory, which he perfected in the busy social milieu provided by the Excelsior literary society.

After Wheaton College Morris attended the University of Chicago and Columbia University, then traveled the country, spellbinding audiences with his splendidly crafted speeches and captivating preaching before securing employment at Tennessee State College as Head of the Department of Speech, then Chair of English at Virginia State College, and eventually as Dean of Baptist Seminary and College, now defunct.

In 1943 he was invited by Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., father of Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., to deliver the Twentieth Anniversary Sermon of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Morris’s father had served before Powell, Sr. Dr. Powell writes fondly of Morris, Jr., in his memoir, Against the Tide (1938), honoring his friend for defending him during a controversy:

The brilliant Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., then Dean of Virginia Seminary and College, dropped in at the Baptist Ministers’ Conference at Roanoke, Virginia, where I was being verbally assaulted. He got the floor and by eloquent words expressed his approval of my letter and convinced some of the brethren that my position was in harmony with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. He told them that they were fighting God and not Dr. Powell.

Eventually Morris moved with his wife to Los Angeles. Desiring to reconnect with classmates in 1946, he requested from registrar Enoch Dyrness a list of local alumni. Dyrness, responding in an interoffice memo, writes:

…Mr. Morris is one of our few colored former students, and was quite a silver tongued orator when he was in school. My last contact with him was at the University of Chicago where he was taking some graduate work. He is quite an aristocratic negro, and I am afraid he has some rather radical leanings. I would be very hesitant about releasing any kind of a list to him, but I thought you might suggest that he get in touch with the president of the Los Angeles club. I hope he has reformed, but my guess is that he is still something of a rascal.

Dyrness does not explain in existing correspondence his perception of Morris as a “radical” or a “rascal.”

Continually in demand as a speaker, Morris preached in 1958 at North Montgomery Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where Rev. Martin Luther King served as pastor.Morris  Opening remarks for the event were presented by King, who that evening wrote on the program: Tonight we have heard one of the greatest messages we have ever heard. It was inspirational, eloquent, profound and scholarly.

In 1987 Morris received a request from the Wheaton College Alumni Association, asking for a financial contribution to assist with the renovation of Blanchard Hall. On the back of the request he wrote:

While I do not wish to discourage your monetary efforts, my contributions to Wheaton are over as long as I maintain my sanity. I would not give 10 cents to complete Blanchard Hall. This man was responsible for a life-time insult. Please never, never, never ask me to make any further contributions to the College. As a soldier being asked out of the dining room (on the part of a so-called Christian college) which action was sustained by Blanchard, haunts my memory after 69 years. Nor do I wish any more pleas for funds. [The University of] Chicago does not even have to ask, nor does Columbia, both secular schools.

Despite ill feelings toward Wheaton College, Morris admired Edward Coray, director of athletics.  Morris wrote to Lee Pfund, then-director of the Alumni Association: “If they had about 10 persons at Wheaton like Coach Coray, then my attitude toward the College would be entirely different.” The origins of his discontent during his student career can only be surmised; nonetheless, Wheaton College is honored that this distinguished man passed through its doors.

In addition to his roles as lecturer and educator, Morris was the former National Executive Secretary for French war orphans, and a member of the National Security League. Charles Satchell Morris, Jr., died on November 20, 1999, in Santa Ana, CA.

Tradiquette

tradiquette1950 was a very good year for courtesy at Wheaton College. Concerned about campus decorum in daily routines, the Intersociety Council compiled a handy booklet for instructing the average clueless Wheaton student on the correct social behavior involved in such matters as successful interaction with the opposite sex, polite chitchat, appealing dress and proper dinnertime comportment. This instructional is titled “Tradiquette,” smashing together the words “tradition” and “etiquette.” The editors state:

No one wants to feel odd, awkward or ill-at-ease. To be known as a person of poise is very much to be desired. In order that this be true of one, he must know the answers — what the inhabitants of his particular little world considers important — “how to do what, when.” So in your hand you have, for that very purpose, a little guide book compiled by Wheatonites for Wheatonites.

The advice is sensible. For instance, “…be free with the toothbrush. After all, water doesn’t bite, and being friendly with it can take a lot of the sting out of life.” The entry called “Don’t be an iceberg” encourages smiling and friendly conversation with students, staff and campus visitors. The entry called “Don’t be a clinging vine” warns the young lady about excessive arm-in-arm strolling with her guy because “…maybe he doesn’t want the extra load.” She must be reasonable. “But very seldom,” it adds, “does a girl grab a wing without a reason.”

The entry called “Class in class” cautions students against disrespectful behavior like 1) coming in late 2) writings letters 3) looking out the window 4) chewing gum 5) combing hair 6) whispering 7) filing fingernails 8) sleeping. “If you’re guilty of this — to the doghouse, please.”

What would the editors think of cell phones and instant texting?

 

At the Core

by Ivan J. Fahs ’54 Professor of Sociology

During our first year of marriage, Joyce was finishing her work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and I was teaching high school in nearby Euclid. One of my responsibilities was to supervise a study hall in the school’s cafeteria where the students typically spread out around the spacious room, some of them taking up a whole table.

One kid drew my attention. He was at a table by himself and was moving books and notebooks around, scribbling a note here and there. I noticed he was smiling, and I thought I could hear him humming, too. Now, when a teacher observes a kid smiling in a high school study hall, there are several possibilities–Is this kid concealing a frog or snake in his shirt and is he is planning to let it loose to test out this new teacher’s skill at riot control? And that smile–was it a smirk or a impious grin? Trying to appear authoritative, I wandered over toward his table. He was underlining in a book and sure enough, he was humming a bouncy tune, When our eyes met, I said, “You’re Brian, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, And you’re new here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m new this year. Brian, you seem to be enjoying yourself this morning. You’re smiling a lot, and I heard you humming a song. What gives? Why do you look so happy?”

Brian’s response was instantaneous and genuine. “O, that? That’s just the Lord shining through.”

Obviously, Brian had not been admonished sternly enough to keep God out of his life as a public high school student. The spontaneity and brightness of his faith–what was inside him–showed on his face and was evident in his voice.

Often many of us portray a positive appearance that does not nicely dovetail with the “stuff” inside ourselves. Which means that sometimes we force an appearance, and we deliberately, some would say dishonestly, act in such a way to appear to he something we really aren’t.

What is in the core of our being? When anyone is “in Christ,” that person becomes a new creation. Christ profoundly changes our core. With that transformation we become capable of absorbing and transmitting the qualities of His Spirit–love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control.

This is the “good stuff” that presumably becomes integrated into the essence of who we are. If all that “good stuff” is an authentic part of me, then why doesn’t it bubble out more? Sometimes, I think it’s because we believe our Christian faith is a very private experience. But when we contemplate what Christ has done in us, how can we really keep it for ourselves? The “good stuff” is too good to be kept private. It is natural to spread the Good News everywhere. Another reason we don’t express what Christ has implanted in us is that we have not tended the garden inside adequately. Inside we are empty and sick and cannot bring ourselves to admit candidly how little of the “good stuff” we have. We need resuscitation, a new commitment to the Lord, or a refilling with His Spirit.

I struggle with dissonance between the realities of who I am and how I present myself. But I have learned from times like this that it’s okay, deeply okay, to let my core–even when my core is in a state of disrepair–to be revealed among caring people who love me in my brokenness; these people hold me up, and they send me on my way. That’s what Christian community life does for each of us who is needy. The personal and social toxins all around are minimized when caring people blow in spiritually pure air and offer us cool, refreshing cups of water. So even when we are less than the ideal, each of us has power to minister to one another with Christ’s Spirit and to overcome these toxins.

Because Jesus taught that every disciple when fully taught will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40), it is fair to ask who our teachers are. Cultural ways of doing things, religiously sanctioned beliefs, and focus on people’s physical appearances can distort the reality underneath. Our preconceptions about poorly clothed people, or someone illiterate or socially crude, can keep us from understanding the essence of who these children of God really are.

How well-rooted at our core are we in Christ-centered values? And does this “root system” function adequately when others need to see the authentic Jesus shining through? Does the Lord Jesus inside us make a difference in the way we appear to others? Does He come through spontaneously and joyously? Does He attract others to Himself?

I don’t know what is best for stirring us to deal with the incongruity of our inward reality with our outward behavior. Gentle persuasion and cogent argument work for some. A direct in-your-face approach works for others. It doesn’t matter. We must come to terms with a process of living before others in a way that draws upon the qualities God’s Spirit has imbedded in our inner core. Then we may be in the position where the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Luke 6:45).

———-

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Professor of Sociology Emeritus, Ivan Fahs ’54 (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-2001) was featured in the Autumn 1997 issue.

Children of Two Adams

by Laura Miguelez ’83

One of the most striking parallels the apostle Paul comments upon in Scripture is that of the First and Last Adam. The first Adam was to be the exemplar of all that is good in a humanity made in God’s image. Yet as Adam and Eve, who had only known good, chose to know evil in disobedience to their Creator, so follow we.

We, too, determine that God’s ways cannot be best and so choose to go our own ways. Nor do we see this condition as being problematic. When confronted with our failure to do good, we stand behind our first parents, claiming, “I’m only human”– claiming, that is, that we expect to fail in our quest to image a holy God.

Nor do we see how grievous this low expectation can be. We distance ourselves even more from our choices and speak of learning to “love the sinner” and “hate the sin” as though we were somehow capable of separating the two, not acknowledging that sin arises from the very inclination of our hearts. Sin is not ever disembodied “out there” somewhere, but exists in the context of the person committing it.

The only reality is that of the sinning sinner, and this is why Christ’s sacrifice is so pivotal: He died not for sin, but for sinners who could not keep themselves from sinning. We are children of the first Adam, a living being; children of dust. Yet we are called to be children of the last Adam, Jesus Christ, a life-giving spirit; children of heaven.

Jesus Christ–not Adam–is the one who defines for us what it means to be human. He chose to love the sinning sinner by dying on our behalf that we might know the love of God at work in our hearts by His cleansing Holy Spirit.

The basis of our being accepted before God does not change once we commit our lives to Him. We can come before God’s presence only because of what Christ has accomplished; we can remain in God’s presence only on the basis of the same.

And this is the great tension we feel in our earthly sojourn: that in God’s sight, as Martin Luther observed, we are at one and the same time both righteous–by Christ’s nature within us–and sinners–by our own nature. And although we continue to seek to
hide behind our human nature in explaining ourselves to ourselves, the reality is that Christ is the one to whom we should return. And this we will not do unless we understand ourselves to be sinning sinners.

Only we who are sick have need of a physician, and so we are told by Christ to “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:12-13).

And herein lies our hope: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

—–

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Assistant Professor of Theology, Laura Miguelez ’83 (who has taught at Wheaton since 1998) was featured in the Autumn 2000 issue

What Does Our Speech Reveal?

by Dr. Edwin A. Hollatz G.S. ’55

The Bible has much to say about human speech, about the way we use this wonderful gift that God has given us. This investment of creative expression through language is perhaps one dimension of the image of God imbued in the very nature of human beings, spoken of in Genesis 1-2.

It is this which lifts us from the level of the dumb brute and enables us to express not only what we think and feel, but who we really are. We can conceive of anything in words and images, with limitless possibilities of fact and fantasy. The panoply of literature throughout human history gives evidence of that which is most exalted as well as most debased.

During this past Christmas season we were reminded again of God’s supreme communication to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle John, in Chapter 1 of his Gospel, speaks of Jesus Christ as the Word of God, which became flesh–a veritable transmutation of the eternal, divine, creative Word, now come in human form. That Word, full of grace and truth, has the power to redeem us, bringing light and life so that we might receive Him and become children of God.

As new creations in Christ, what about our words? How true and clear are their statements in revealing the character of the life of a follower of Jesus Christ? Are our words an adornment to the power of the gospel of Christ?

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter twice denied being one of Jesus’ followers, even using and oath. But others standing by said, “Surely you are one of them; for your speech betrayeth you” (Matt. 26:73 KJV).

The Book of Judges relates another incident in which one is betrayed by one’s speech. The Gileadites could distinguish an Ephraimite if he mispronounced the word “Shibboleth.” If he said “Sibboleth,” he would be seized and killed (Judg. 12:5-6).

These two episodes from Scripture vividly portray how one’s speech accent may have unfortunate consequences. But at a more significant level, the “accent” provided by our manner of living can be crucial. Around 40 B.C. the Roman Publius Syrius said, “Speech is the mirror of the soul. As a man speaks so is he.”

Some 70 years later Christ said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:34-37, NRSV).

The Apostle Paul warns us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up accordmg to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29, 31-32, NIV).

May the eloquent words of the old Anglican hymn be true of us as gifted human beings, created in the image of God:

God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be in my head,
and in my understanding;

God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking.

———-

Twenty years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles, titled “On My Mind”, in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Former Professor of Communications Emeritus, Edwin A. Hollatz ’55 (who taught at Wheaton from 1954-2000) was featured in the Winter 1998 issue.

Having worked at the College since 1955, Dr. Edwin A. Hollatz has taught speech, coached award-winning debate teams, served as faculty advisor to WETN radio, and helped establish the theater program. He has held offices in professional organizations, authored numerous journal articles, and been chosen for membership in several honorary societies. Dr. Hollatz is a frequent speaker at Wheaton Club meetings and received the Alumni Association’s 1993 Distinguished Service to Alma Mater Award. He and his wife, Joanne Simon Hollatz ’55, whom he met when Joanne joined Wheaton’s faculty, held their wedding reception in the Memorial Student Center. They are the parents of Cheryl Hollatz-Wisely ’85 and Celia Hollatz Bergman ’87.