Recently, I was asked to record a video reflection for the “last lecture” of Dr. Lyle Vander Broek. Dr. Vander Broek is retiring this year from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. I have only had one class taught by Dr. Vander Broek; but, it turns out that he has been a major and formative influence on my life and my ministry. Before I get into that, let me tell you what I know about Dr. Vander Broek from my own experience in his New Testament class.
I would easily describe his teaching style as enthusiastic and utterly joyful. He is a man who loves the Scriptures and truly loves talking and teaching about them. In many ways, he has the look of a professor directly out of central casting; so, it would be easy to find him intimidating at first…and I did. Yet, he has the warmth and the pastoral sensibility of a truly good soul who wants nothing more than to start a conversation about the wonders and revelations we can experience through God’s Word. He also has a quirky sense of humor that is refreshing when tackling the challenges of Biblical study. He is, in short, a delightful and loving man who takes his service as an educator and as a pastor to heart. I know that for me this meant that his class and his feedback made me feel cared for as much as it made me feel informed. His is the voice of expertise as well as the voice of compassion and all of us can follow his lead as we work toward being ministers and teachers.
I read Dr. Vander Broek’s book, The Life of Paul for Today, as part of preparation for giving my first sermon/testimony about my own conversion to Christianity. My pastor recommended it as way to become better acquainted with the Apostle Paul, whose conversion would be the frame for my own story. This book was like listening to a good friend talk about something and someone they loved deeply. This short book contains a truly comprehensive look Paul, his work, and his writings. For me, this book became a friend and a path to understanding a figure who challenges us to be a better people and a better church. Reading this kind of academic treatment of Paul is its own kind of revelation and it leads to meeting the Apostle all over again. As a person who has experienced the power of God’s ability to convert, this book helped me to relate to Paul and to grasp the serious and meaningful responsibility for ministry that comes from experiencing conversion. If you want to know Paul better or want to meet him for the first time, this is the book you need to add to your collection.
I met Dr. Vander Broek on my first trip to Dubuque. I approached him after chapel and introduced myself as a huge fan of The Life of Paul for Today. I remember him smiling and saying something along the lines of, “I didn’t realize anyone outside of my classes read that.” Not long after that, I had the great honor of being in his New Testament class and listening to some of the most engaging, entertaining, and informational lectures a seminary student could hope to have. Again, it was clear that this is a professor who loves the subject he teaches and it shows through the joyful enthusiasm that comes across in his voice and his manner when he teaches. He never avoided our toughest questions and often used them as the launching point for some really wonderful discussions. In fact, we were encouraged to use our papers, tests, questions, and all interactions as a meas of forming our own views and understandings and not simply to recycle lecture materials.
So, I thought I would close by offering a few things that I learned from Dr. Vander Broek that will be guideposts for me as a minister, teacher, and student (some of these are highlighted in Dr Vander Broek’s last lecture):
- The Bible is a constant source of revelation that never ceases to offer new perspectives and renewed hope
- Studying the Scriptures is both a communal practice and a deeply personal one which means that your own sense of revelation and understanding is important and has merit as does encountering the Word through Bible study in groups
- You bring your baggage with you when you encounter the texts of the Bible
- The Bible is self-critical and there are passages in some places that will contradict passages in other places, there are meanings and events that will be at odds with each other and this is part of the revelation and wonder of Scripture that we study and consider
- Probably my favorite part of the last lecture is the idea that love is driving force behind history…God’s love is pulling us forward
- The Word of God is about love, reconciliation, and justice
- Finally, Dr. Vander Broek reminds all of us who are working to be ministers that we mush have a hermeneutical (interpretive) center. We must work to understand that there are beliefs and priorities that shape our Biblical outlook. This center will inform our preaching and our teaching.
I regret that I did not have a chance to be in more classes with Dr. Vander Broek and I will pray that he has a retirement that is a joyful and rewarding as his classroom. For now, I simply offer my thanks to a man who has had more influence on me than he will ever know.
If you would like to watch Dr. Vander Broek’s last lecture, go to
Program begins at 6 mins 20 seconds.
Peace be with you.