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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