Tuesday 2 December 2008

William Placher

I was sad to hear that William Placher died this week, aged 60. There are reports here, here and here. Placher was an important Reformed theologian and a leading representative of Yale-school “postliberal” theology. He once said: “The way we best show our love to the whole world is to love with a particular passion some little part of it.”


Anonymous said...

I am so deeply saddened to receive this news. Like Colin Gunton, Bill was taken from us much too early. He was fine scholar, but even more importantly, a man of excellent character and a dear friend. I will miss him very much.

Anonymous said...

The last comment is mine. I have yet to learn how to make sure that my name is included. Some other time, perhaps.

Bruce McCormack

Anonymous said...

I am very sad. I came across Unapologetic Theology (1989), in 1995, found it to be an accessible, helpful, courteously critical conversation with contemporary culture, and went on to read three further books by Professor Placher. Writing on eternal life in Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith (2001), he says:

"It is probably best not even to attempt to imagine what this will be like, but simply to trust that in God nothing is lost - as Barth puts it, 'No suffering or joy ... no ray of sunlight; no note which has ever sounded ... no wing-beat of the day-fly in the far flung epochs of geological time.' God lives in eternity, and God welcomes into that eternity ..."

Enjoy the homecoming, Professor Placher.

The Ironic Catholic said...

This is sad...I really enjoyed his scholarship as a theologian, and he seemed like such a generous and wonderful human being in person (you don't always get both). Go with God, Prof. Placher.

Peter Carey said...

Oh, this is so sad, I have just begun teaching a class on "Jesus" in which we are using Placher's "Jesus the Savior" as one of our major texts. I found his work compelling and so helpful in seminary, and just re-read two of his books in the last week. So sad to see him go, but happy for his next stage of the journey.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

Peter Carey+

Anonymous said...

Bill Placher's great gift was taking thick, arcane, complicated ideas and translating them into words that dolts like me could understand. Unlike many of his colleagues in the world of theology, Bill always had non-professionals in mind: the congregant struggling with her doubts, the freshman trying to comprehend the Trinity, the adult Sunday School participant dipping his toe into theories of atonement.
A great friend, Bill was as generous a man as I have known, always inviting the newcomer to his table to feast on the wide array of interests he had: narrative theology, poetry, Wabash lore, the latest gossip. He looked for ways to help students advance; he sought out opportunities to aid colleagues, he diligently worked day after day humbled by the fact that he made a living doing what humans naturally do - questioning our existence and the purpose of life - and he was energized by the task of aiding others in that endeavor.
His humor, his kindness, his brilliance were more than most people enjoy, and his faith assured him that ‘in life and in death we belong to God.’

Anonymous said...

I am still reeling from this sad news. The loss is deep. I knew him for more than 35 years, and we collaborated on several projects. He was the kind of person that made you glad to be in the same room with him.

Among his many accomplishments, one should not be overlooked. At a difficult time in the life of the PCUSA, Bill gave selflessly of his time and energies, as Chair of a large drafting committee, to produce "A Brief Statement of Faith" (1983). Few people can imagine the intense internal quarrels that had to be negotiated in order to bring this document into being.

Like most such statements, it is by no means perfect. But it has helped keep the PCUSA within the bounds of Nicene orthodoxy, and is indeed far less imperfect than it might have been without Bill's wise and patient leadership.

This is only a small measure of the theologian and the man. He was uniquely gifted. His death diminishes all those who care about everything he did so much to advance.

Anonymous said...

I read a couple of his books and found him to be quite penetrating in his analysis. I like men like him who can delicatlely portray the creedal faith in a contemporary and even antagonistic setting.

Howard Lange said...

I've stumbled across this thread having just Googled "Placher", and though my post is woefully behind the times and I've never before seen this blog, I would like to make known my regrets at hearing of William Placher's passing and leave my testimonial in his praise. One of the required readings for a college class some 25 years ago was Placher's "A History of Christian Theology". What stands out in my mind was Chapter 7, "Light in the East". As a very new Christian, and of the Evangelical Protestant persuasion, I knew absolutely nothing about the Orthodox Church. Placher's one small chapter on Christianity in the East intrigued me, and prodded me to delve into a much more in-depth study of Church history, focusing on the factors leading to the Great Schism, then beyond to follow the development of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Within two years of reading Placher's book I joined the Orthodox Church, which has been at the core of my life ever since. William Placher unknowingly played a very discreet but critical role in my spiritual life, and I thank God for him. As we Orthodox Christians say of the departed, may his memory be eternal!

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