Donald Bloesch (1928-2010)


It seems a generation of evangelical theologians is passing us by. I just learned of the death of Donald Bloesch, one of my favourite evangelical theologians. Bloesch passed away on August 24, 2010. He spent many years teaching and writing at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Bloesch is well known for his two volume Essentials of Evangelical Theology (completed in the 1970’s) and his more recent and extensive (7 volumes), Christian Foundations series in systematic theology. I continue to use several of Bloesch’s volumes in my own seminary classes. I was also privileged to supervise one of my former students, Dustin Resch, as he did a superb master’s thesis on Bloesch’s doctrine of Scripture.

For me, Bloesch was an important evangelical voice who was neither afraid to agree or disagree with Karl Barth (though it is probably the case that he agreed with him more often than he disagreed). But Bloesch was not content only to converse with Barth. Indeed, here is a list of those theologians to whom he dedicated some of the volumes of his Christian Foundations:

God the Almighty – “Dedicated to the memory of Karl Barth & Emil Brunner”

Jesus Christ – “Dedicated to the memory of Peter T. Forsyth”

The Holy Spirit – “Dedicated to the memory of John Wesley & George Whitefield”

The Church – “Dedicated to the memory of Philip Schaff”

It is a great little exercise to read through the quotations that invariably appear at the beginning of each of Bloesch’s chapters. One typically finds there a scriptural quotation alongside a quotation from Ireneaus, Kierkegaard, Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, Pinnock, Luther, Wesley, Forsyth, Chrysostom, Blumhart, Pannenberg…well, the list could go on quite extensively. What I’ve admired most is Bloesch’s ability to summarize (usually quite faithfully) the position of a theologian in a terse, well-placed phrase. This can be frustrating for the beginner, but for those who have read extensively in some of those theologians he summarizes, all one can do is admire Bloesch’s ability to “nail” the position so succinctly!

A couple obituaries can be found here and here.