Dr. J. M. Boice: Another Appreciation

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As we were all pondering the death of Elisabeth Elliot this week, Rick Phillips reminded us of another June 15 death - the passing in 2000 of Dr. James Montgomery Boice, pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church.  My first pastor.  My hero.  I'd like to offer a short echo and "amen" to Rick's words.

For all we hail Dr. Boice as a theological powerhouse (as we should), he was more.  He was a pastor.  I've always wondered what he made of the fact that after he married Angela and me in 1978, I called him, from our honeymoon cottage, to ask his advice about....well, a sensitive subject. Let's just say it was in the category of "practical theology."  Very practical.  I'll spare you the details, but it had to do with encumbrances to, um,  marital success.  Think of it!  Here we were, naive newlyweds, seeking sex advice from a servant of God whose stature and influence in the evangelical world we were yet to fully realize.  And he was humbly giving it.

I wonder if Calvin and Spurgeon took calls like that.

Like Rick Phillips, I came to faith in part through Dr. Boice's extraordinary preaching.  Angela, a recent convert and my new girlfriend, took me to Tenth to hear him.  He seemed a little dorky, like me - those glasses, that slightly over-sized cranium.   The voice - baritone with a touch of gravel.  And what an impact.  We, and hundreds of other college students, marveled at the depth of it all.

Through Dr. Boice we met the doctrines of depravity and grace, regeneration and providence. God is supreme.  He rules over all.  He lovingly inclines rebel hearts to trust in Him.
Through Dr. Boice we met Luther and Calvin, Augustine and Edwards.  We met - through Boice's invitation to the majestic pulpit at Tenth - the likes of Stott and Sproul and Packer and Gerstner.  The waters of grace ran deep.  So did our spiritual roots. 
Years passed.  We moved away, and our journeys were no longer Presbyterian.  But Dr. Boice's discipling imprint was stamped on our hearts, and as I taught the Bible to others, it seemed I could always hear that gravely voice in the back of my head. 

We watched from afar as Dr. Boice stood his ground, Luther-like, as fierce winds blew against his high view of Scripture and as he led his flock out of a denomination that he believed had lost its moorings.  He resisted the siren call of the suburbs and dug in his heels to minister to the city. He persisted in calling his church, and the wider Church, to acknowledge the greatness of God's sovereign grace.

I don't want to pretend that we were close.  But he always remembered Angela and me by name when we would visit Tenth.  I don't recall that hugging was his thing - he was fairly proper - but my Italian wife is as munificent with hugs as God is with grace, and   Dr. Boice would unleash that sunny grin and enjoy the embrace. In 1987, he and I exchanged letters over the possibility of my becoming the announcer for his radio ministry.  (Things took a different course; my broadcasting career was in news.)  I closed one letter by saying, "We were infant Christians when we began at Tenth and our experience there has given the sure foundation upon which the Lord has built in the years since. Thanks!"

That "thanks" is such an anemic word for someone who helped you to see God, helped you to cherish grace, helped you to think Christianly, helped you to follow the Lord Christ.  Boice wrote in the 1970s, "We do not have a strong church today, nor do we have many strong Christians."  Well, it was not for lack of effort on his part - effort and zeal and conviction and love for the Word of God faithfully preached.  Many of us are not only molded forever by this man who was "mighty in the scriptures" (Acts 18:24 KJV) but are still learning from him today.  Just last week, Angela and I ordered Dr. Boice's two-volume commentary set on the Minor Prophets.

And so I say "thanks" to the Lord for Jim Boice.

Rob Vaughn is a news anchor at WFMZ-TV in Allentown, PA and a graduate of Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, PA

Posted June 24, 2015 @ 5:56 PM by Guest

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