For me September 11, 2001 dawned as any other day for making the commute in to the seminary and my first class of the day. As usual, I awakened early and prepared myself for a day of teaching. However, I broke my routine in a major way—I turned on the TV to check the news. In New York City a fire raged in one of the World Trade towers. Someone said that a plane had crashed into it, but confusion accompanied the story—really? what kind of plane?
Two Fallen Towers
Then, as I watched, viewers could hear the approach of a plane and gazed, horrified, as it struck the second tower! There was no doubt—these plane crashes were purposeful. I strode to the bedroom, turned on the TV waking my wife and suggesting she might want to watch, “because the United States is under attack.” Tearing myself away from the TV, I stepped into my home office, gathered my things for a day of teaching, got into my truck, turned on the radio, and drove to the seminary.
That day is etched into my memory and does not go away. I’ll never forget the impact it had on our nation and upon me personally. No doubt about it, a dangerous and determined evil exists in our world and has changed our lives in ways we still do not fully fathom. Every 9/11 we remember and we work to prevent another attack.
Two Fallen Giants
But, today my mind and heart do not dwell on a rehash 9/11. Instead of focusing on the two fallen towers, I want us to focus on two fallen giants of the faith. There is another message imprinted upon my heart today that I want to share with the readers of this blog: a powerful and determined good exists in our world that can change our lives in ways we never imagined. Of course, that good is God Himself, especially in the person and work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Evidence resides primarily in the written revelation God has provided in the Scriptures. But, evidence also appears in the lives of those whom He has permanently changed for the good and who leave a lasting imprint for good and godliness in this fallen world.
Two towering cedars of Lebanon in God’s vineyard left this world this past week to stand in the presence of the Savior whom they loved and served with amazing faithfulness. Drs. Robert L. Thomas (1928–2017) and Stanley D. Toussaint (1928–2017) leave behind a legacy of good that God will use for many years to come, if Jesus does not return in the immediate future. Some might think it strange that an Old Testament professor would be eulogizing two New Testament scholars. Well, I believe that the New Testament is God’s own commentary on the Old Testament. Therefore, Thomas and Toussaint set a course for the study of the Old Testament by teaching us what the New Testament writers say about the former revelation.
Dr. Robert L. Thomas
My first encounter with Bob Thomas came when I was interviewed for a position on the faculty of The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA. He grilled me more closely and more technically than any of the other faculty members that day in September 1996. Not only did he demonstrate a marvelous grasp of the biblical text, but of the biblical languages, textual criticism, Bible translation, and a wide range of theological topics. Out of that grilling sprang a deep and abiding respect and a common purpose as faculty members. We dedicated ourselves to defend biblical inerrancy, biblical authority, accurate translation, and theological faithfulness (especially in the areas of bibliology, Christology, soteriology, and eschatology). Dr. Thomas completed nearly fifty years of full-time seminary teaching between his time at Talbot (1959–1987) and Master’s (1987–2008). His students knew him best for his demand for excellence and accuracy in his classes. To this day, many former students declare unequivocally that Dr. Thomas was their toughest professor. Many look back on breakfast at Norm’s with Dr. Thomas as a time when they could ask him any question. His colleagues learned that he was serious and light-hearted at the same time, an anchor of the theological soundness of the seminary he loved.
My own memories include the time we manually moved the seminary library from the basement of one building into the new library and office building. We worked side by side and spent the whole time discussing the intricacies of Greek New Testament textual criticism. And, as usual, we found that we had some very strong agreements and virtually no disagreement. When a faculty member tested the theological boundaries of the seminary, Dr. Thomas and I spent hours discussing the matter and promising each other to defend the biblical text without compromise. As the journal editor (1990–2011) he encouraged me to increase my submissions in both articles and book reviews.
Dr. Thomas’ two-volume exegetical commentary on Revelation (Moody 1992, 1995) might claim the status of his magnum opus. However, some of his other works might challenge that commentary. Lasting contributions to New Testament scholarship include his A Harmony of the Gospels (co-edited with Stanley N. Gundry, Moody 1978; reprint, Harper & Row 1991), Evangelical Hermeneutics (Kregel 2002), and The Jesus Crisis (co-edited with F. David Farnell, Kregel 1998).
Dr. Stanley D. Toussaint
Stanley Toussaint and I never talked, that I remember. Occasionally, I would see him or hear him at the national meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society. His superb articles on eschatology and dispensationalism in Bibliotheca Sacra always gained my attention and admiration. In 2012 he retired from teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary after forty-seven years on the faculty. Like Bob Thomas, Dr. Toussaint staunchly defended dispensationalism and steadfastly adhered to premillennial and pre-tribulational eschatology. Both men taught and loved the book of Revelation. Dr. Toussaint’s published legacy includes his Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Kregel 1980) and his participation in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism (edited by Herbert W. Bateman IV, Kregel 1999).
Two Giants in Glory
7 “For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
8 Though its root grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put out branches like a young plant.” (Job 14:7–9 ESV)
This 9/11 two giant cedars of Lebanon occupy my thinking more than two fallen towers. We must recognize the enduring contribution of godly, Christlike good in the lives of these two men, Robert L. Thomas and Stanley D. Toussaint. God has blessed His church with two heroes of the faith who served faithfully in this fallen, sin-ridden world. Last week these two godly men struck their desert tents, quit this desert sand, and now reside in the glorious presence of the Savior whom they loved and served without reservation. They will rise again with glorified bodies in the day of resurrection. May we follow in their footsteps and be found equally faithful.