By Alan Bean
I am gratified to see the many tributes to Glen Stassen that have been appeared in the wake of his death last week. My wife Nancy and I got to know Glen very well in the late 1970s when we were both students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The nuclear power industry was gearing up at the time and a plant was scheduled for construction across the Ohio River in Indiana. If Glen hadn’t brought this to our attention we would have remained oblivious–(Lord knows, none of our other professors were talking about it). Instead, Nancy and I found ourselves in Indiana protesting a nuclear plant that, thankfully, was never built.
Glen Stassen was in love with Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God. Other professors emphasized Jesus’ kingdom teaching on occasion (I am thinking of Frank Stagg in particular), but Glen built his entire theology on a kingdom foundation. Some would say he was more an Anabaptist than a Baptist, but Glen would have called that a distinction without a difference.
Glen was one of the most intelligent people on the planet, but that isn’t what anyone remembers about him. When you dropped by his office, the books were double stacked because the ample shelves couldn’t contain his personal library. But there was a humility to the man; he was all about converting the ideas of Jesus into action (“praxis” was the word he used).
I will never forget the “ethics luncheons” Glen helped organize at Southern. On one occasion, Duke McCall, the recently retired president of the seminary, defended American economic policy in South America against the critique of the liberation theologians. McCall counted the presidents of several international firms among his personal friends, he told us, and they had assured him that the American presence in the Third World was an unmitigated blessing. Glen didn’t agree, obviously, but he didn’t take the disagreement personally. Glen didn’t think about whether his shirt was tucked in, whether his hair was brushed, what neighborhood he lived in, or what other people thought of him. He just wanted to change the world. (more…)