Jerry Falwell, 1933-2007

I received a phone call 30 minutes ago that Jerry Falwell has died. Don’t you believe it! He is more alive right now than he has ever been. He left “the land of the dying” and entered the “land of the living.” That is the way that he would see it, and all of us who love the Lord Jesus should agree. For the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

You may not have agreed with Dr. Falwell on some points of theology and you may not have even liked him. But you should certainly have respect for him and compassion for his family and many ministries that will miss him.

I had the privilege of meeting him and spending an hour in his office with a mutual friend in May 2000. George W. Bush was the Republican candidate for President. Dr. Falwell explained to us how Bush would have to “dance” around certain issues and that the evangelicals and Fundamentalists would need to give him room to do so, in order for him to be elected. He predicted what the polls would do, and how the vote would turn out–Bush by the slimmest of margins. I remember being very impressed with his political presence of mind, and even more impressed 6 months later when the election fiasco erupted and was finally sent to the Supreme Court.

Dr. Falwell and I discussed Baptist colleges and universities as well as Baptist seminaries. He was still a new Southern Baptist at that point, but I was amazed by how much information he had at his command about the various institutions affiliated with the SBC. He knew about religion departments, faculty members, recent hires, struggles, enrollment figure…and other matters that I had never even considered. I remember leaving his office thinking that he would be a very formidable opponent on any field of contest.

It is no secret that Dr. Falwell has made some statements about the doctrines of grace that are regrettable. I have taken issue with these statements, and more notably with those of some of his staff, on more than one occasion. Those differences, as significant as they are, should not in any way diminish the loss that all Bible believing evangelicals should feel on this occasion of his home-going. He was a rare man who used his considerable gifts to advance the cause of His Savior in the best ways that he could.

Pray for his wife and children and grandchildren. Pray for the Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University and seminary families. Many have contemplated this day, and have done so with some understandable trepidation. Dr. Falwell was an incredible leader. May the Lord raise up other leaders who will be able to build on his legacy and lead those bodies and institutions to even greater usefulness in Christ’s kingdom.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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