Haddon Robinson (1931-2017)
I hadn’t planned to post today.
I received word today that Haddon Robinson passed away this morning. Haddon served as the the Harold John Ockenga Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He wrote Biblical Preaching, a classic textbook on preaching. He’s taught thousands of preachers in his tenures at Dallas Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell.
I had the privilege of taking my Doctor of Ministry under Haddon from 2004-2007. I learned much from Haddon as a preacher, but I learned even more from Haddon as a man. Haddon exuded integrity and humility. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever known.
I was more than a little nervous when it came time to defend my thesis before Haddon. My advisor was positive, but I knew his opinion would not stand before Haddon’s. Haddon asked some pointed questions and raised a few good points, but somehow forgot to tell me at the end if I’d passed. It turns out that I had.
Every year a group of D.Min. Graduates gathered to study a book of the Bible with Haddon and a commentator. We continued to learn from Haddon even after our formal studies concluded. You could tell when Haddon was speaking: every time Haddon rose to speak, the room was filled with the sound of typists trying to keep up with Haddon’s thoughts. I’m grateful now that we were able to capture many of his unscripted comments.
It’s tempting to write a hagiography when it comes to someone like Haddon. He wasn’t perfect, and he was the first to admit it. That, in part, is what drew us to him. It’s clear that Haddon walked closely with God, and as such he wasn’t overly impressed with himself. “There are no great preachers,” he said, “only a great Christ.”
I last saw Haddon in December of last year. He wasn’t doing well, but he continued to live as a man who loved God and loved his family. He was also loved by so many of us who had the privilege of knowing him.
I’m sad that I won’t have another chance to see Haddon for now, but I’m grateful that he’s safely home. I’m thankful that his legacy will live on, not only through his students but through those who benefit because he taught so many how to preach.
One of my fellow students collected some quotes from Haddon. I’m going to conclude with some of my favorites. Thank you, Haddon. I’m going to miss you.
I have a second-rate mind. Many communicators have a second rate mind. I live with that. I am inadequate. I realize that.
I wonder if I’ve ever done anything out of a pure motive. How in the world could I ever hope to have relationship with a righteous God? I find myself thinking that I can’t. So, I live with grace. If you knew me like God knew me, you probably wouldn’t like me. The marvel of the Bible is that God is gracious.
If God isn’t in it, you are in bad trouble. It is an exercise in futility.
Conceit is like acne on the skin, it is not attractive. Humility is like the blood stream. It is always of God.
The first child swallows a quarter and you race them to the doctor. The third child swallows a quarter and you tell them, “That’s coming out of your allowance.”
There is great freedom in the pulpit. You are not a slave. You are a prince.
I used to think of life as a highway with lots of potholes along the way. Now, I see it as a country road with a smooth place every once in awhile.
I look in the mirror and say, “What is a young man like me doing in an old body like that?”
If one person calls you a donkey, ignore it. If three people call you a donkey, get a saddle.
I think I would be more strategic in the way that I invest my hours, my months and my years.
If you chase that rabbit, you don’t get the bear.
In the words of John Calvin, lots of luck!