Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

I received a phone call 30 minutes ago that Jerry Falwell has died. Don't you believe it! He is more alive right now than he has ever been. He left "the land of the dying" and entered the "land of the living." That is the way that he would see it, and all of us who love the Lord Jesus should agree. For the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

You may not have agreed with Dr. Falwell on some points of theology and you may not have even liked him. But you should certainly have respect for him and compassion for his family and many ministries that will miss him.

I had the privilege of meeting him and spending an hour in his office with a mutual friend in May 2000. George W. Bush was the Republican candidate for President. Dr. Falwell explained to us how Bush would have to "dance" around certain issues and that the evangelicals and Fundamentalists would need to give him room to do so, in order for him to be elected. He predicted what the polls would do, and how the vote would turn out--Bush by the slimmest of margins. I remember being very impressed with his political presence of mind, and even more impressed 6 months later when the election fiasco erupted and was finally sent to the Supreme Court.

Dr. Falwell and I discussed Baptist colleges and universities as well as Baptist seminaries. He was still a new Southern Baptist at that point, but I was amazed by how much information he had at his command about the various institutions affiliated with the SBC. He knew about religion departments, faculty members, recent hires, struggles, enrollment figure...and other matters that I had never even considered. I remember leaving his office thinking that he would be a very formidable opponent on any field of contest.

It is no secret that Dr. Falwell has made some statements about the doctrines of grace that are regrettable. I have taken issue with these statements, and more notably with those of some of his staff, on more than one occasion. Those differences, as significant as they are, should not in any way diminish the loss that all Bible believing evangelicals should feel on this occasion of his home-going. He was a rare man who used his considerable gifts to advance the cause of His Savior in the best ways that he could.

Pray for his wife and children and grandchildren. Pray for the Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University and seminary families. Many have contemplated this day, and have done so with some understandable trepidation. Dr. Falwell was an incredible leader. May the Lord raise up other leaders who will be able to build on his legacy and lead those bodies and institutions to even greater usefulness in Christ's kingdom.

27 comments:

Mark Combs said...

Tom,
Excellent post!!! Thank you for the reminder of the mercy of God in eternal life & also for a quick and very gracious word from the reformed community.

As someone who is reformed, when news broke of this today, I had hoped that in spite of our disagreements with Falwell, we would respond with Christian love.

Again, thanks.

Jim said...

Good words Tom. Thanks for exhorting us to focus on the work that Dr. Falwell did and not our disagreements with him.

-Jim

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom,

A wonderful post indeed. Dr. Falwell has certainly had his homecoming -- and truth be told, is better off than we are right now!

As always, I appreciate the manner in which you write.

SDG,
dbh

Arthur Sido said...

A very gracious post Dr. Ascol. Despite our differences, he was a man used mightily of God. Pray for his family and rejoice in a brother who has gone home and is now truly alive.

YnottonY said...

Dr. Falwell is now "into particular love," for he knows the depths of the meaning of this verse far more than we do now:

NKJ Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.

May God be with his family in their grief to comfort them and to encourage them in the faith.

gljjr123 said...

Great Post Tom,
Agree with him (Dr. Falwell) or not, God has used his ministry to advanced the Kingdom.
Gary

Byroniac said...

Excellent post.

I am sad at his passing. I disagreed with him in many areas, and I confess that I strongly disliked some of his actions and statements. However, misguided as I believe he was in some areas (and concerning sovereign grace in particular), I have no doubt he is a brother in Christ, and is at home with the Lord. I believe we'll never know the full extent of all the good works God predestined in his life until the time we all as Christians appear before the judgment seat of Christ. I also believe that in that day, he will rejoice in Christ and His glory alone, as all of us will.

DataLore said...

Wow what a way to put it. From the land of the dying to the Land of the Living.God does choose to use us sinners to bring about His will

Bryant King said...

I have been reading this blog for a couple of months now since starting to attend Grace Baptist Church where Tom Ascol pastors. I am too theologically ignorant to typically respond here, but I am learning.

I first heard of Jerry Falwell's death today on a secular web page. I immediately felt saddened. I did not know him, but he is a very public Baptist figure, and as much as I identify myself as a Baptist, I liked to pay attention to what he was saying publicly. I worry that this world will be a worse place for my children without the voice of Jerry Falwell, and I wonder who can fill his shoes.

I followed the secular news page where I learned of his death to a forum where I saw vicious, irrational posts taking pleasure in his death. This sinful world hated Jerry Falwell and is happy to insult him at his death. At first I was incensed. Then I thought of John 15:18-19

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you."

I smiled a little. What a glorious commendation Jerry Falwell received through the mocking of an unwitting world! What a confirmation of his work for Christ!

Then I thought of the debate I read on this blog regarding Jerry Falwell and I thought of 1 Corinthians 13:12.

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."

From now on, Jerry Falwell should have a way better theological perspective than any of us here trying to find our clearest part in the dim mirror.

When I think of all that, I think, what a glorious day for Jerry Falwell! And what a sad day for those of us left in this world.

Just my humble understanding,

Bryant King

David said...

Good post, Tom.

For several years I was a Dean in Student Development at Liberty University. Now I am a reformed church planter whose congregation meets in a brewery. Though Doc disagreed with my theology and methodology I know that he celebrated that the gospel is being furthered and churches are being planted.

I did not agree with all his positions, but I loved the man. I pray that Liberty staff pulls back from villianizing reformed theology. Regardless, I pray for my friends there and at Thomas Road.

David Thew

scripturesearcher said...

So much could (and will) be written about Jerry Falwell.

I especially appreciate the comments of Tom Ascol and Al Mohler.

lordodamanor said...

Bryant, I really think: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known," has more to do with the fulness of revelation and why the Spirit's gifts were active at the time, not that we do not have a full revelation, now. It does not quite make sense in light of Paul's statements in Ephesians 4, "for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we should no longer be children...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ....the whole body....edifying of itself in love." I would say the cannon is complete and except for those portions that are expressly hidden, the doctrines of "the faith," were fully revealed through the writers of Scripture. At least the writers knew what they were writting. This is why Tom can say:

"Such inflammatory rhertoric can still incite an audience, and perhaps it will continue to draw students and revenues to institutions, but it is not helpful to the cause of Christ in either fellowship or evangelism.

It is time for this generation of believers to learn how to disagree over substantive issues without falling into the sins of slander and bearing false witness. When the Word of God that we love gets trampled underfoot by those who profess to defend it in the very process of their defense, it is more than ironic. It is tragic."

And that is the point of praise of Falwell on one hand, and how Tom can condemn his rhetoric and that of those he was associated with on the other. Fire is called down from heaven by both sides, and though I would disagree that the terms heresy, blasphemy and the like should be shunned since the Scripture itself uses them, those words call for the most expertise in their application, since they call for the highest condemnation. But, the application must be made fairly, openly and honestly.

Falwell's orthodoxy has been a strong hand to many, but where he was wrong it must not now be made a forbidden topic to discuss his faults. That is why Tom was correct in reminding his readers of his caustic references to Falwell and Caner. Much of Falwell's system of theology did as much to undermine Christianity, as it did to advance it, and that history cannot and should not be relegated to the back of the library.

We can thank Falwell in that his vitriollic attacts of both theological and sociological liberalism brought out the hidden hate in the hearts of the enemy's of the Gospel. It has made it necessary for all of us to learn to defend it. We can praise him for his steadfast proclaimation of salvation through Christ alone by faith alone. We laud his defense of the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. We can thank him for stirring our obligations to pursue holiness inspite of the allurements of the world. Yet, for the charges he made, he must be held accountable, even posthumously, for the very principles upon which he stood: edifying one another in love. For the unity that he so loved and longed for cannot be found by not taking sides for truth. We should not profane his testimony by not challenging his charge of heresy. Let his champion, Caner, come forward, or any others, and defend him in an honest testimony. Let the world see how two brothers can fight for the reconciling of God's truth. What a glorious memorial that would be.

Will said...

Tom
Well said, brother well said. Your gracious spirit as communicated in this blog is a blessing.

May this all remind us, particularly myself, that our days are numbered, we do not know how much longer we have. Our we all making best use of what time we have?

YBIC
Will
Cedar Hill Texas

SavedbyGrace said...

As a Liberty Alumni, people have asked me how I'm doing. Dr. Falwell will be terribly missed. He had such amazing faith and such an incredible love for the students at Liberty. I remember several times when he tried to run me over in his Suburban. It was just one of the ways he had fun with us. And while I didn't always agree with some of his positions, I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for him. How am I doing? I'm rejoicing that he is now home among the living! He is in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The trials and troubles of this world are no more. So I rejoice for Dr. Falwell and look forward to seeing him again.

Thanks Tom for the excellent words.

John/Donna said...

Jerry Falwell meant so much to me. I went to Liberty in the mid-80's and that athiest must be just looking for attention or something because he is very, VERY, wrong about Rev. Falwell. I loved him. He would often come out on campus and joke with us kids and I remember how he used to wear his "bibbed farmer jeans". He was so much fun... He is one of the best God fearing people I have ever known. I have been baptised by Reverend Falwell. I only wish that someone could get through to that person who loves to come on TV and run Jerry Falwell down. He is a very mixed up man.

As we speak, he is in heaven still working on the additional 20 years he would have liked to have for Liberty Mountain and he loves and is watching over even the atheists and those that have harsh words for him and only did so after his death. I will pray for the family.

volfan007 said...

lordomanor,

oh brother.

david

kingofbleh said...

The attacks on Dr. Falwell in the major media and the blogosphere have been absolutely brutal. People have been storing up a lot of hate and anger over the years and are letting it out all at once. They are spewing their hate indiscriminately not just at Dr. Falwell but at all Christians.

We need to pray for our leaders like Dr. Mohler who are pointing out the hypocracy of the media for their handling of this. We also need to pray for Dr. Caner because like him or not, he is the one the media is going to look to as the hier-apparent to Liberty mountain. Dr. Falwell's sons are still unknowns while Dr. Caner has the media saavy needed to take a strong public stand against these attacks.

Luke said...

Tom,
Even though we have never met, and probably will not this side of heaven, my respect for you has grown mountain size with the short paragraphs that you have written here. How a man treats his "opponent" when his "opponent" is down is very telling, and this opportunity has given me a glimpse into your heart. I usually just lurk here in silence, reading and watching the fireworks. But today, in my opinion, I have truly seen the heart of Dr. Tom Ascol. I have been encouraged and challenged. Thank you so very much.

Luke

Tom said...

I am moderating these comments to avoid letting the ranters have free reign here as they have elsewhere. It is indeed tragic to read vitriolic, hateful words that some are employing to castigate Dr. Falwell in his death. It is a commentary on how sin leaves us deluded until God in His grace teaches us truth.

Bryant, you are welcome to comment here anytime, brother. Thanks for your good words.

I appreciate the spirit which characterizes all of the comments.

lordodamanor, though I don't think this is the time to get into all the things you mention and especially to debate Paul's meaning in 1 Corinthians 13, your point is well-taken, that we must not gloss over differences while trying to give honor to whom honor is due. I think the comments in this thread have struck that balance remarkably well.
Psalm 90:12.

kingofbleh said...

Dr. Ascol,

You are absolutely right. The fuel for much of the anger I am seeing out there comes from a conscience that accuses these folks of their sin. There's a lot of hurt behind some of them, especially from the homosexual posters. As tragic as these comments are, this is an excellent opportunity proclaim the gospel with grace and compassion.

At times like these we must remember that God's truth is not a hammer used to beat someone over the head. It is a sword used to pierce the heart.

irreverend fox said...

Dr. Falwell was a real bulldog...may God raise another up like him...

my favorite qoute of Jerry Falwell is:

"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them."

-- Jerry Falwell, on CNN's Crossfire, May 17, 1997

Scott said...

We have lost a true giant. Agree with him or not Jerry Falwell was a great pastor, and a great Christian. Until any of us have accomplished a fraction of what he has for the Kingdom, we should refrain from any comment except forthose of profound appreciation and admiration. As for Mr.Christopher Hitchens, the atheist who appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, he now has the very rare distinction of being outclassed by Larry Flynt.

Elizabeth at A Biblical Home said...

I am so thankful to Jerry Falwell for my four wonderful years at Liberty!

Doug said...

My favorite Falwell quote is, "I'm not homophobic; I'm sinophobic."

He will be greatly missed despite his fallacies. Fallacies which I believe we all can relate to.

Lance M. Roberts said...

Excellent Post Tom!

Dr. Falwell was a true man of God who deeply loved Jesus Christ. I think your post is one of the best I have read. He is where we all long to be!

ErgunIsMyHero said...

When preaching on Heaven, Dr. Falwell’s eyes would often tear up as he recited these words from the song, “Finally Home” written by L.E. Singer and Don Wyrtzen.

On May 15, 2007, all these words came true for Jerry Falwell.

"But just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven.

Of touching a hand and finding it God’s.

Of breathing new air and finding it celestial.

Of waking up in glory and finding it home."

Dr. Jerry Falwell
August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007

A Message to ALL his supporters

Boms said...

Amen... humbly, amen.