I watched as the sad news broke on Friday evening and through the weekend, but avoided posting anything. One could hardly have dipped in the pool of emergent blogging over the weekend without seeing the news, so I left the job at the time to those better informed. I did however reflect back to when a prominent Christian leader in our city died prematurely a few years ago… many of us called him a friend and the church in the region called him a great asset. Inasmuch as our tributes to him were heartfelt and true — we did lose a fine man in him — the tragedy was greatest not for his unfinished work or the things he could yet have achieved, but for the wife and children he left behind. Now with the passing of Stan Grenz, yes the church has lost much, but I wish to convey sorrow for that loss without belittling the greater loss to his family.
And yet, the Psalmist can say, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Is God a monster? What’s up with that? We struggle with tragic events, and a difficult text like this one can sometimes seem cold comfort. I don’t always like “The Psalmist.” Turning to Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, we find that according to Spurgeon:
The death of the saints is precious in the Lord’s sight. First, because he “seeth not as man seeth.” He judgeth not according to the appearance; he sees all things as they really are, not partially: he traces the duration of his people, not upon the map of time, but upon the infinite scale of eternity; he weighs their happiness, not in the little balance of earthly enjoyment, but in the even and equipoised balance of the sanctuary. ..Again, the death of the saints is precious in the Lord’s sight, for in it he often sees the very finest evidences of the work of his own Spirit upon the soul; he sees faith in opposition to sense, leaning upon the promises of God. Reposing upon him who is mighty to save, he sees hope even against hope, anchoring the soul secure and steadfast on him who is passed within the veil; he sees patience acquiescing in a Father’s will—humility bending beneath his sovereign hand—love issuing from a grateful heart. Again, the death of the saints is precious in the Lord’s sight, as it draws out the tenderness of surviving Christian friends, and is abundant in the thanksgivings of many an anxious heart; it elicits the sympathies of Christian charity, and realises that communion of saints, of which the Apostle speaks, when he says, “if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; if one rejoice they all joy.”… The death of saints is precious, because the sympathy of prayer is poured forth from many a kindly Christian heart… Nor is this all—the death of saints is precious, for that is their day of seeing Jesus face to face.
It certainly would be true to say that Christian tenderness is drawn out in this case, as posts at stanleyjgrenz.com attest. Again from Spurgeon we learn that “precious” in this context also means “(1) honourable; (2) much set by; (3) dear; (4) splendid and glorious in the sight of the Lord.” I like “honorable”. I am not personally acquainted with Dr. Grenz and cannot point out the specific ways in which his life and ministry have impacted mine… except to acknowledge with deep gratitude the many ripples which his life has created, ones which have intersected with my own and caused changes which I will not understand while my feet yet trod the earth. But as long as they do, I will of course, like all of us, wrestle to be at peace with the mysteries of God.
Those who knew him better have penned more in-depth memorials and I refer you not only to those listed at stanleyjgrenz.com but in particular to a memorial reflection by Brian McLaren and to Bob Robinson’s list of tributes and memorials by various bloggers.