Adventist Theologian and Educator Raoul Dederen Passes Away at Age 91

Dr. Raoul Dederen, the influential Adventist theologian and educator, fell asleep in Jesus on Monday, October 24, 2016, at the age of 91. From the moment he became a Seventh-day Adventist during his early 20s, Dr. Dederen dedicated his life to serving God and His Church with manifest enthusiasm. His love for Jesus and devotion to deep Bible study was always clearly evident to all who came in contact with him. His knowledge of, and familiarity with, the writings of Ellen White was astounding.

Dr. Dederen’s influence on Seventh-day Adventist theology can hardly be overestimated. He began his esteemed and long career as a pastor and professor of theology during the early 1960s. In 1964, after a brief period of teaching at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Collonges-Sous-Salève, France, he was called to serve at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs. There he became a professor of systematic and historical theology, beloved colleague, dean of the Seminary (1989-1991), mentor, doctorvater, and teacher of many future leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Following his retirement in 1991 he became a professor emeritus and continued to serve as a teacher and doctoral advisor until 2001. While at the Seminary he taught major courses dealing with revelation and inspiration, the doctrine of the Church, the doctrine of Christ, Roman Catholic theology, and ecumenical trends.

In addition to his pedagogical and administrative responsibilities, he devoted himself to publishing ministry. As such, he wrote a multitude of articles that appeared in numerous Adventist and non-Adventist peer-reviewed journals and magazines and also contributed chapters to numerous books. Serving as the editor of the monumental Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (2000) was one of his major contributions to the theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he also represented the Adventist Church during numerous inter-denominational dialogues.

The doctrine of the Church, or ecclesiology, was a particular passion of Dr. Dederen. During the 1980s and 90s he had a prophetic insight that ecclesiology would soon become a significant issue of discussion among Seventh-day Adventists. He thus encouraged his colleagues and doctoral students to immerse themselves in the study of the biblical doctrine of the Church.

Dr. Dederen was also known among his colleagues as a champion of equality in ministry. Flowing from his understanding of the church, the priesthood of all believers, and spiritual gifting and its relationship to ministry, he believed that women should not be prevented from exercising their spiritual gifts and should thus be allowed to function at all levels of ministry in the church. “With the move from Israel to the Christian church,” he wrote, “a radical transformation occurred. A new priesthood is unfolded in the New Testament, that of all believers. The Christian church is a fellowship of believer priests. Such an ecclesiology, such an understanding of the nature and mission of the church, no longer poses roadblocks to women serving in ministry. It in fact demands a partnership of men and women in all expressions of the ordained ministry. The recognition of the priesthood of all believers implies a church in which women and men work side by side in various functions and ministries, endowed with gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit according to his sovereign will (1 Cor 12:7-11).” Such convictions, deeply rooted in the Bible, motivated him to speak in favor of allowing the North American Division to ordain women to the gospel ministry during the 56th General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists at Utrecht in 1995.

“In Dr. Dederen we have lost a theological giant of our Church,” said the dean of the Seminary, Dr. Jiři Moskala. “He possessed a unique ability to take us into a deep study of the Scripture and bring fresh insights out of familiar biblical passages. He will be sorely missed as a colleague, friend, and mentor to many of us.”

Darius Jankiewicz is Professor of Historical Theology and Chair of the Department of Theology & Christian Philosophy at the Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.

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A giant of a man.
But apparently not liked well enough to agree with his Declaration — The Priesthood of ALL believers – men and women in all expressions of the ordained ministry in 1995.


When I was an acting elder and chairman of the nominating committee, one year, for a medium sized SDA church, I spoke with Raoul because there was a movement to unseat women elders at the church.
As you can see from the article, he was pro women position. I brought up 1 Tim 2:12 and he replied, “That is a problem”. What makes it a problem is how Paul supported his position. It was NOT cultural but God designed and a consequence of the deception of Eve, as recorded in the following 2 verses.

I remember Raoul being the SDA representative (not member) on the World Council of Churches and also presenting a couple of seminars at that same church. He was a good friend of a fellow elder friend of mine (now passed away also) at church.
He mentioned how he handed out the Great Controversy to all members of the WCC. Raoul also was asked by some there, how SDA members can return so much tithe as a denomination. He jokingly replied…"fire & brimstone ".
He also related running into Dr. Leslie Harding and a interesting conversation between the two.

As far as I am concerned…Gen 3:16 & IS 3:12 are relevant to the WO issue and what society is experiencing now.

Rom 10:2 & 21 are scripture clues as to why there is so much denominational discord.

I was impressed with Raoul during a question & answer seminar wrap up when a member got feisty with him over a question. Raoul handled it very graciously. I saw him as a person that was meek like ones who will inherit the Earth.


Sad loss for the church and the Adventist academic world.

I still remember him lecturing in Germany, translated by Rolf Pöhler. But … he actually was quite fluent in German. So when Rolf “interpreted” Raoul Dederen rather than “translated”, you could hear him intervene: “No, no, no, I didn’t say that…” correcting the translator with a cheeky grin on his face.


It was either in 1971 or 1972 when he went to SĂŁo Paulo - Brazil, to teach a couple of classes for active pastors, at the SDA School of Theology. Students were on vacation, but I was taking a few regular classes in the Summer, and since I was the student secretary to the Dean, I was asked to assist Dr. Dederen with copies and other materials for his two classes. What a fine man. Great theologian. Accomplished his mission very well.


He was a beautiful man and one of my best teachers ever.
Always full of vibrant, positive energy. Brilliant yet humble.


Sad news! As a BD student in 1967, I recall initially fighting through Dr Dederen’s French accent, and then becoming mesmerized by his lecture prose – and not a little distracted by his nearly ceaseless pacing!

He will be missed!

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How dare church administrators and politicians think that they have the right to create and enforce the policy against women’s ordination when the majority of our brilliant, educated, scripturally-literate theologians like Dr. Dederen have clearly stood for women’s ordination. They administrators will come to regret the day they so arrogantly discounted
and disparged the voices of our theologians.


Thanks for sharing. As a young man I thought it would have been good to have met him based on some articles read.

For many years, Dr. Dederen’s sabbath school class was the most popular one on the campus of Andrews University. I remember how packed his class was, with many standing in the back along the walls.


Can you share what particulars/specifics do you think made it so popular?
Did he tell fantastic stories?
Did he spend time talking about current news events?
Did he brag about how great the SDA church was doing?

I, too, sat in his Sabbath School classes. It was in the mid-1970s. I was attracted to his presentations because he didn’t stick to the dull pamphlet. He used it as a springboard to dive into deeper waters and explore beyond the surface. I found his classes to be enlightening and spiritually stimulating.


Dr, Dederen was one of my favorite teachers at the Seminary, but he was also a very kind person out of the Seminary as well. He was a great blessing to me.