William Placher

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!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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4 Responses to William Placher

  1. Jefferson Davis Bedford says:

    I know that Dr. Placher was a big supporter of the idea of a jubilee year every 7 and 50 years and was proposed but never implemented. As a scholar do you know anything about this?? As a way to celebrate his life I wounder if you could expand on this notion. Especially as it related to the many black and brown men in our prisons.

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  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Jefferson. Are you sure you’re not confusing Placher with Yoder? I know Yoder liked the Jubilee.

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  3. Keith says:

    James,
    you might want to add yours to the list of recollections at http://wabash.edu/news/
    displaystory.cfm?news_ID=6499. I expect you might enjoy reading the others’ recollections there.

    Also, check out Bill’s latest book, about the Trinity; he was on WILL-AM a while back discussing it, and the audio is online at http://willmedia.will.uiuc.edu/ramgen/archives
    /ktf050904.rm I think.

    To see the young Bill I knew at his best, take a gander at http://www.wabash.edu/news/docs/
    Commencment.pdf

    [with all the urls above you’ll have to put the two lines back into a single string to use them.]

    All his friends are in a state of shock.
    –Keith

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  4. James Pate says:

    Thanks, Keith.

    Actually, if this is the right Keith, I also remember reading another article of his that you recommended. It was on whether or not the Bible is true. I remember him making good points, but I’ll have to refresh my memory about what they were.

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