Thoughts About Dr. Robert Saucy: Reflections from Dr. Tom Finley
Dr. Bob Saucy was a skilled teacher, beloved colleague, and friend. He greatly influenced my own theology and path in life. Having studied under him at Talbot, I have known him for many years. He was a tremendous man of God and truly a "Distinguished Professor." He will be sorely missed at Talbot by students, alumni, staff, and faculty.
Two areas where he most influenced my theology include the doctrine of the church and the doctrine of last things. Dr. Saucy was passionate about the concept of plural leadership within the church. He showed how the model of a "senior pastor" who casts the vision and does virtually all of the preaching does not square very well with Scripture. Instead, he advocated for a plurality of elder leadership that also included sharing of the pulpit. The church where I attend in the La Mirada area adopted that model and has grown much through it. Also I know of at least two other churches where Talbot graduates are serving that follow the same model. How we do church makes a difference, and Dr. Saucy had much wisdom to offer about that. He authored The Church in God's Program
that deals with the doctrine of the church.
Another key issue confronting the contemporary church concerns the role of women in leadership and teaching in the church. Here Dr. Saucy taught a position that recognizes the need for the top level of leadership to be men but that also recognizes the need for women to have a strong voice within the church, whether in leadership or in teaching. He also was open to learning from others in this area. He always listened carefully to what others were saying, whether he agreed with them or not. And he also was careful to test any doctrine against what the Scriptures actually teach. His book Men and Women in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective
, co-edited with Dr. Judy TenElshof, exemplifies his passion to help the church navigate through the stormy waters of complementarianism versus egalitarianism. The course on gender issues that he has co-taught with Dr. TenElshof also illustrates well this passion.
As to the doctrine of last things (eschatology), Dr. Saucy is known for his stance on "progressive dispensationalism" (see his book, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism
). Some of my earliest exposure to dispensational theology seemed confusing to me. For example, some taught that vast portions of the Gospels are not for today but for a future dispensation. Dr. Saucy's conviction that when Jesus told his disciples to teach all nations "to observe all that I commanded you" must surely apply to large chunks of teaching such as the sermon on the mount, that rang true with me. As with his views on plurality of leadership and complementarianism, Dr. Saucy had an irenic approach that was open to growth but also solidly founded on his conviction that the Scriptures are inerrant and life-giving truth. That rock-solid conviction is evident in his book, Scripture: Its Authority, Power and Relevance
Finally, I would have to say that how Dr. Saucy modeled a life of seeking to know God more intimately spoke to my own heart. His contributions to the spiritual formation movement at Biola and Talbot came through his active support of its development on campus, through his vigorous interaction with key faculty such as Dr. TenElshof and Dr. Coe, and through his personal example of someone who lived his life by walking in the Spirit. And that all led to the capstone book of his entire life, Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation
. In that book he teaches us how to examine our own hearts through the transforming power of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit who lives within the believer.