Dr. Robert L. Saucy was a faculty member at Talbot for 54 years. He began teaching here in 1961—the year JFK was inaugurated as President, the Andy Griffith show made its debut, and Henry Mancini received a Grammy for “Moon River.” The Dean of Talbot, Dr. Charles Feinberg, hired Bob to Chair both the Systematic Theology Department and the Department of English Bible. At that time, Talbot was less than 100 students.
Bob served Biola University for exactly half of its existence. That is a long time when we consider that Biola began in 1908. Our enterprising Math professor, Matthew Weathers, has calculated that fro the precise date that Biola began to the time that Dr. Saucy was hired was exactly 19,557 days. From that point of hire to the date of his memorial service (May 29, 2015) was also exactly 19,557 days.
When news of Bob’s recent accident went out, I immediately received an email from Dr. Bingham Hunter, former Dean of Talbot and now Executive Vice President and Provost of Phoenix Seminary. Bing summed up Dr. Saucy’s career very well when he said, “Bob in many ways is Talbot School of Theology.”
Bob had more influence on Talbot than anyone else, not by position and power, but by his wise, gentle, and biblically-informed counsel. Former Biola President, Dr. Clyde Cook once said, “When I am faced with a tough theological issue, Bob is one of the first persons I go to. His calm, thoughtful, reasoned advice has stood both me and Biola in good stead.”
Treasuring God’s Word
All who know Bob would say that one of his defining characteristics was the way he treasured the Word of God. He read, meditated, studied, and poured himself into knowing Scripture. For him this truly was the living and active Word of God according to which we should order our lives. He certainly did. I do not know if there is anyone I have ever met whose life was so thoroughly consistent with the Word. The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control he exhibited was a testimony to God’s ability to transform and shape someone’s life. And this is what we all respected so much about Bob and why so many sought him out.
Bob was chair of the Department of Systematic Theology for many years at Talbot. His contributions to the field of Systematic Theology were known far and wide. His book, The Church in God’s Program, published in 1972, was used as a textbook in seminaries and Christian colleges literally all around the world. Bob was never a speculative theologian engaging in abstract thought experiments for other theologians. He was thoroughly committed to a life of doing theology for the benefit and health of the church. Consequently, his 1972 Presidential Address to the Evangelical Theological Society was entitled, “Doing Theology for the Church.” He concluded his address with the challenge: “The theology that captures people’s minds has always been that which springs from the heart engaged with the practical needs of a living faith.” These convictions about a practical, living faith, lived in the context of the local church has shaped the Talbot of today.
But Bob had a lot of other things to say.
- He was a passionate defender of the inerrancy of the Bible—that you can trust everything that it says.
- He helped many people make sense of what the Bible says about the Kingdom of God.
- He taught that God still had promises yet to be fulfilled among the Jews and the Land of Israel
- He affirmed the priesthood of all believers, sought to minimize the clergy/laity distinction, and advocated the plurality of leadership in the local church.
- He taught the complementarity of men and women in the home and in ministry.
The Integration of Faith and Learning
Dr. Saucy was also one of the pioneers of the integration of theology with the other disciplines on our campus. He taught theology for Rosemead School of Psychology in the early 1970s when it was still in the city of Rosemead. In a 1972 letter to then Dean, Dr. Charles Feinberg, Bob reflected on a seminar he team-taught at Rosemead with a clinical psychologist. He noted, “I feel personally that the exposure to some of the areas of psychology has been of real benefit in gaining new insights into some of the application of theological doctrines which contributes to my overall effectiveness in these areas here at Talbot.”
Ten years ago, President Clyde Cook said that we, as professors, “multiply ourselves through the lives of our students as each student takes a little bit of us. A good example of this is the time and love that Bob invested in Josh McDowell and how Bob’s ministry has been multiplied around the world through Josh. Bob has not only influenced our students, but his colleagues, and the direction of the school.”
It is difficult to calculate the number of lives that Bob Saucy has touched. He spent over 100 semesters teaching with 70-100 students every semester. It is staggering. There are Christian professors all over America (and around the world) who have had Dr. Saucy, as well as pastors, para-church leaders, and Christians involoved in all kinds of vocations.
But as Talbot’s Dean, I am most grateful for the influence he had on me. I always kept a mental list of questions I wanted to ask Bob. I already miss him. Talbot will miss him.