Today I was surprised and saddened to learn that Dr. Harold Hoehner, long time New Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, passed away today at the age of 74. Hoehner had recently retired after teaching at my alma mater for 42 years.
While I was never a top-drawer seminary student, Dr. Hoehner nevertheless took a personal interest in my life and ministry.
His class on Romans was demanding, yet inspiring. I'll always remember what he proclaimed about Romans 3:21-23: "The Gospel is not, 'Believe in Jesus and then your sins will be forgiven.' Rather, the Gospel is, 'Your sins are forgiven, will you believe?'" After every class in Romans, I carefully filed away his charts and outlines. Later I took his class on Revelation. The smaller class size gave me the chance to know him better. While he was quite adept at handling Scripture, seeing him exposit the last book of the Bible revealed to me his passion for the Good News. But taking his New Testament Introduction class nearly killed me--I could never master all those dates and events! But his bad Texas A&M Aggie jokes kept us all engaged.
After graduation in 1995, I visited with Dr. Hoehner a number of times when I returned to campus. Because Dr. Hoehner grew up in a liberal Congregational church, he was pleased to learn that I had taken an untradtional route for most DTS graduates--by going to a pastorate in a mainline Congregational Church that was leary of its liberal denomination. He graciously took my phone call when I called to discuss the issue of same-gender marriage. On another occasion, he made a point to thank me for the card I sent him when his commentary on Ephesians finally came out.
The last time I saw Dr. Hoehner was in July of 2008. He was pleased to learn I was teaching New Testament at Sterling College and he inquired about my church and family. When he shared that he was retiring, I thanked him for everything he passed on to me. In hindsight, I think Dr. Hoehner was firmly resolved to retire; he said the time was right and the seminary was in good hands. In his mind, the decision was correct. But I sense that maybe his heart wasn't quite as persuaded.
And now, Dr. Hoehner has gone on to his heavenly home-- and to marvel at the glory and riches of his justification made real through Christ's death. May the Lord 's grace and peace be upon Dr. Hoehner's family and friends.