Written by Charles Zimmerman
Friday, 07 September 2012 00:00
This post brings us to the end of the updates of Biblical’s founding faculty. Thus far we have heard from “Doc” Newman, Gary Cohen, Bob Vannoy, George Clark, Bill Harding, John Grauley and Tom Taylor. This post is in remembrance of Robert J. Dunzweiler.
Mr. Dunzweiler taught at Biblical from its founding in September 1971 through the spring of 1996. He died later that year, December 17, 1996.
I remember Bob as being meticulous – about the Bible and theology, his desk, his books, the top of his lectern (which he built because the others were all too small), even his ice tea glass complete with paper towel securely fastened with a rubber band to keep it from leaving water spots on the furniture. One of my jobs as a new faculty member was taking minutes for faculty meetings. Bob would edit my notes with lots of red ink before I typed the final draft. Thankfully, he was patient – with new faculty members as well as students and staff.
I asked our two resident theologians, Dave Dunbar and Todd Mangum to share a few brief comments on how Bob shaped their study, teaching and life.
Comments by Dave Dunbar
I was deeply impacted by Bob Dunzweiler’s teaching from several perspectives:
I loved his focus on the Bible. Even though he was committed to a Calvinistic “system” of interpretation, he made it clear that theology was an attempt to articulate the truth of Scripture, not the truth of a particular system.
I thought he was particularly skillful in generating and leading class discussions built around specific texts of the Bible. Many of us probably remember spending days working through the text of Romans 6-8. Bob didn’t just tell us what the text meant. He asked questions and solicited our ideas about the meaning of what we read. And if you proposed a good idea (which he had probably thought about many times), he would look surprised and interested as if the light of understanding was just beginning to dawn and the student speaking was a new Luther, or perhaps Jonathan Edwards redivivus. Now that was fun!
Comments by Todd Mangum
For those of us who studied under the founding faculty, Robert J. Dunzweiler is etched in our memory as “the consummate theologian” the way Johnny Bench is remembered as the consummate baseball catcher, Walter Cronkite the consummate news anchor, or Andy Griffith the consummate small town southern sheriff. For most people training for ministry, “theologian” was not a personality commonly encountered anyway, but if you imagined what one was like, you’d think of someone like Bob Dunzweiler. Methodical, thoughtful — deep in thought about the deep things of God, careful, in awe of the subject matter, reverent, humble. What most of us didn’t know in those days is how rare such a combination of qualities actually is in the field of theology; or at least how rare they’d become. As Biblical’s original theology professor, Bob Dunzweiler embodied the humility and awe of God that Biblical Seminary became known for in general from its early days.
I once heard an old preacher say at a funeral that when a person dies, people don’t remember what the person knew but how they made you feel. Bob Dunzweiler’s great contribution as a theologian was not in his published insights or cutting edge breakthroughs, but in how he led his students to think and feel about God. He was reverent toward the Person who constituted the “subject matter” of theology, submissive to the Word that gave us our knowledge of Him, and keenly interested in the kinds of insights that would accurately reflect God’s character, prompt greater worship, and inspire a higher level of obedience to and love for God. It is hard to describe a better set of goals or aspirations for a Christian theologian.
Mr. Dunzweiler also sacrificed for his Lord — and for Biblical. He taught at Biblical in “the days of austerity” when even getting one’s paycheck was not a sure thing. He also taught at a time when coats and ties were the expected decorum. Many of us students noticed that he did wear a coat and tie to every class — but that he owned only one sport coat to teach in.
To this day, the memory of what Mr. Dunzweiler embodied impacts what we are as a seminary, and what I am as a theologian. Every time I used the word “unpack” to look at a biblical text for theological implications, or pause uncomfortably long before answering a student’s serious theological question, or insist on running my own copies of class notes for distribution, the legacy of Robert Dunzweiler lives on. He was even the one who first set the expectation to incorporate audiovisuals — complete with cartoon characters, charts and graphs! — into the teaching of theology. Yes, yes; there is no question that his legacy lives on.
Ruth Dunzweiler continues to live in their home doing pretty much what she had always been doing – caring for the property, teaching Bible Clubs, playing piano at church and nursery homes. Please pray for Ruth who has many physical challenges. Bob and Ruth have three daughters: Debbie, Patty and Kathy.
If you are a former student of Biblical Seminary and studied with any of the founding faculty, scroll back through the blog entries, take a stroll down memory lane and thank God for the experiences and education you received.
If you have only heard mention of the founding faculty or if you know nothing of them, scroll back through the faculty updates and learn about the DNA of Biblical as you learn about the men that got it started.
Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology. He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton. He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan. See alsohttp://biblical.edu/index.php/charles-zimmerman