I just read in the blog “Faith and Theology” that William Placher has passed away.
William Placher was a theology professor at Wabash College. I went to Wabash’s rival, DePauw University. But, although I never personally met Placher, he was a significant part of my undergraduate experience.
My Christianity class read his History of Christian Theology, which was good at explaining complex theological concepts in simple, understandable language. And a professor of mine who knew Placher lent me his Narratives of a Vulnerable God. To be honest, I forgot I read that book until just now, but what it contained has stayed with me for many years.
I remember Placher contrasting Herod’s lavish banquet–with its power struggles, jealousy, lust, and murder–with the simple meal that Jesus had, in which he showed compassion for the hungry multitudes and fed them with a few loaves and fishes. I recall Placher saying that we should always be sure to ask people, “Have you eaten?” That’s a powerful statement for me, for it undergirds something that all of humanity has in common. All people–those I like and those I hate–get hungry and have to eat. I tend to be more charitable to others when I see this universal vulnerability.
And Placher’s overall point was that God makes himself vulnerable. I don’t remember how Placher said God did so, but I agree that he does. He did when he came to earth and died for us on the cross. And he does so every day when he reaches out to us in love, with the possibility of our rejection always present.
I may read Placher’s book on the trinity sometime. I resolved to do so about ten years ago, but it’s better late than never!