I’m not Dutch. I’ve never been to the Netherlands. (The closest I’ve come is a brief visit, many years ago, to Grand Rapids in January.) Nor am I a philosopher, theologian, or scholar of any kind. But on December 6, when Dr. Richard Mouw was awarded an honorary doctorate in the Netherlands, you better believe I was offering up a heartfelt “Gefeliciteerd!” from afar.
The truth is, while we’ve only met in person once, Dr. Mouw has been one of the most important teachers of my life. Through books, articles, interviews, and personal email exchanges, he has taught me more than I can probably express. But I’ll give it a shot anyway.
He has given me eyes to see and words to express God’s loving concern for every square inch of creation (including the political realm). He helped me understand the doctrine of common grace, something that was not emphasized in the church circles that had nurtured me in my earlier years.
He persuaded me that conviction and civility belong together, despite all evidence to the contrary. With Saint Peter, he exhorted me to honor everyone, no matter what. God knows I need that reminder today more than ever.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Ships of Tarshish.
Finally, he taught me that the same God who cares for the condition of my soul also “looks down on oppressive structures and impoverished cities and war-torn villages and grieves over the fact that all is not well in his creation.” One day, all shall be made new, souls and bodies and social structures alike. In the meantime, we have work to do. And that work itself is a gift.
More than any of these things, though, Dr. Mouw has modeled a life of integration. Wisdom, compassion, intellectual honesty, and good humor are just a few of the character traits I admire in this man.
He’s a world-class theologian and philosopher who is equally comfortable slumming it with laypeople like you and me. I mean, how many seminary presidents write books like Praying at Burger King and Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport? My unscientific answer: not many.
All this to say, I’m grateful. Thank you, Dr. Mouw, for being you. And thanks for helping to show us the way.
(This reflection was prompted by a wonderful little “book of friends” celebrating the life and work of Dr. Mouw. It was published late last year in conjunction with the honorary doctorate in the Netherlands. You can snag it here.)