My friend died this past weekend. Stan Grenz suffered a brain aneurism and died within 24 hours. Stan was one of the pre-eminent theologians of our time. He was a professor at Carey College. We worshipped at the same church where his wife, Edna, was also the worship pastor. He was a sought-after speaker. He has written some of the most cutting-edge books on the challenge of postmodernism for the Church. He was also my friend, and I miss him.
Stan was so humble and endearing. He was always accessible to students. I remember when I was struggling with criticism I had received from someone. Stan advised me to look at the source of the criticism, evaluate what has been said and then learn from it and move on. I always thought that was such wise counsel.
My dad read Stan’s book on postfoundationalism, and Stan was quite thrilled at that fact, commenting,“He’s probably the only person in North America who has finished it!”
When I heard the final news of his passing, I sat on the couch in our apartment and felt my stomach just sink. I was (I still am) in such shock. I had seen Stan at school just hours before the aneurism. He looked fine. How was I to know that that was the last time I would ever seen him? We usually exchange greetings, but that day I was chatting with someone else when he walked by me.
The obvious question of “Why?” comes lurking out from wherever I keep it buried. Why did God take Stan when he was contributing so much to the global Church? Stan was a mentor and guide to many young pastors in the Emergent Church movement in North America. He was sought after for his insightful thoughts on how the Church should respond to the challenges of postmodernism. In the academy he was publishing books and journal articles that were causing waves and provoking discussion.
Why did God take such an asset to His kingdom here on earth? I have no answers, just difficult questions that gnaw at me. I count it a privilege to have known him over the last few years. It will take me some time to truly integrate this loss into my life. I pray that Stan’s family will find the comfort that they need, not just from the God of all comfort but also the community of faith to which they belong.
Bruce Cockburn is one of the greatest lyricists of our time. When his friend Mark Heard died, he wrote a song called “Closer to the Light.” Cockburn captures how I feel about Stan’s passing.
Death’s no stranger
No stranger than the life I’ve seen
Still I cry
Still I begged to get you back again
Gone from mystery into mystery
Gone from daylight into night
Another step deeper into darkness
Closer to the light
Stan has stepped into the light of Christ’s presence. We remain on the other side, longing to join him. Those of us who love the same God that Stan loved will join him someday. The tears we shed now will be wiped away for all eternity. But this in-between time is difficult. I guess that’s why Christ made such comments as “blessed are they who mourn” and “in this world you will have trouble.” C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is hard to see clearly when your eyes are blurred with tears.” I am still waiting for my eyes to clear so I can see again.
We do mourn and we feel hurt and we get angry and we are confused. We question God’s wisdom and God’s timing and God’s goodness. And then we stumble into His mercy, and the pain we feel is redeemed into something better.
Stan—we miss you. Your legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of your students and colleagues and all those who were impacted by your lectures, sermons and books. You are where we will be someday, and we will meet again. See you then.
DR. STANLEY J. GRENZ 1950-2005 (www.stanleyjgrenz.com)
[Santosh Ninan is an MDIV student at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. He has authored several other articles for RELEVANT magazine.]
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