A thinker ahead of his time:
LCU remembers James D. Strauss

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[March 27, 2014]  In 1962, an article entitled "Race, Redemption and Responsibility" appeared in the February edition of the Christian Standard, a Christian periodical in print since 1866. The article claimed it would be difficult to find any clear evidence that any one race is distinct and superior. It was published during the civil rights movement, one of the most volatile times of national division in America since the Civil War, and was written by a 33-year-old scholar named James Dean Strauss.

Full of biblical and intellectual passion, the young Strauss reminded his readers during that time of great discord and violence that "righteousness as well as sin has its social aspects." That was the driving force of Dr. Strauss' life  a Christ-centered, invigorating and wondrous righteousness that he knew would change the world.

Strauss died recently, on March 19, but hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues and students have been paying their respects to the beloved professor through visits, phone calls, email and social media.

Strauss served as professor of theology and philosophy from 1967 to 1994 at Lincoln Christian Seminary, now part of Lincoln Christian University.

For years, his intellectual capacity and wide academic interests amazed both his students and his colleagues. Those who knew him understood that his mental energies always pointed toward fulfilling the mission of Christ in the world. His appetite concerning the Word and world of God was insatiable as he wrote extensively in books, articles, papers and presentations. He once taught 47 courses in a single academic year, and it was said that his course summaries were 100 pages long.

Strauss graduated from Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis (BA, MA, MDiv) and the Chicago Graduate School of Theology (ThM). He received a Doctor of Ministry in 1975 from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where he majored in contemporary theology. He studied with the late Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland and took additional work at the University of Strasbourg in France, Tubingen University in West Germany, the University of Chicago Divinity School and the Institute of Christian Studies in Toronto, Canada.

In a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, Bill Redmond, an LCU alumnus and then representative for the state of New Mexico, called attention to Dr. Strauss' recognition from LCU as professor emeritus. Distinguishing Strauss as "one of America's living treasures," Redmond went on to note that the honor of "emeritus" was one that Strauss "in his humility, would deny that he has earned," and yet his "vigor and quest for service to God will no doubt give new meaning to the word emeritus."

Strauss was described by many to be the "Einstein" of the Restoration Movement, a Christian movement for unity that began in the early 19th century under the leadership of Barton Stone, Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell. The Restoration Movement promotes world evangelism by practicing church unity based upon the restoration of biblical authority and the essential elements of New Testament Christianity.

Strauss was a scholar and proponent of Christian apologetics, the branch of theology concerned with the defense and proof of Christianity. A collection of essays was published in Strauss' honor in 1997, entitled "Taking Every Thought Captive," a life theme of his, based on 2 Corinthians 10:5.

"What many discovered," wrote the editors and contributors, Drs. John Castelein and Richard Knopp, "was that for Dr. Strauss, it did not matter whether it was theology, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, sociology, biology, epistemology, logic, law ... it was all apologetics."

Strauss has been credited with introducing the concept of a "biblical worldview" years before it became a common phrase in Christian academic circles.

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A living testament to the scope and depth of his apologetics and worldview is the Strauss Institute at Lincoln Christian University. The institute sponsors lectureships each October to reinforce Strauss' convictions by inviting some of the finest minds in the Christian arena to address a variety of disciplines in the marketplace of ideas and the Christian response to them.

Through his life and teaching, Strauss' influence has spread both generationally and geographically.

Stephen Collins, interim dean of students and professor of Bible, knew Strauss for nearly five decades. "There are thousands like me," he said. "We are day care workers and university presidents. We are local preachers and world evangelists. We have written books and started institutions. We have fed hungry children and taken care of the elderly. We have ministered in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the slums of Nairobi and Port Au Prince. We minister around the world. We have started new churches and faithfully preached in the oldest congregations in the nation. We have started mission works all over the world and yet served right here where we first met him. We have taken on the world with the Word as he taught us."

A roster of LCU leaders bearing Strauss' mark would include men and women like Castelein, professor of contemporary theology, who said he was immediately comforted by "the person of Dr. James Strauss because he understood my questions ... and knew the resources to begin constructing answers."

Dr. Dinelle Frankland, seminary academic dean and professor of worship, called Strauss "an immense intellectual with a big heart." Knopp, professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics, summed Strauss' impact to be "incalculable," while Dr. Robert Rea, professor of church history and historical theology, believed Strauss to be "foundational to LCU, and especially to the seminary."

Amid the unending appreciation and praise of his work and ministry, Strauss lived contentedly with his wife, Jewel, for 60 years. Their union gave them two daughters, Joye and Jeaneen, both graduates of LCU, married, and living in the Illinois communities of Ashley and Lincoln, respectively. Jeaneen is the wife of LCU President Keith Ray, who is retiring from higher education at the end of May.

Jim Strauss was loved for his quick and lively sense of humor, a trait he used to his advantage as he engaged and awed his students and audiences for nearly 60 years.

In the months following the Strauss article on "Race, Redemption and Responsibility," riots raged, the Freedom Riders were attacked by mobs, and buses and churches burned. A man named Wilt Chamberlain made history by becoming the only NBA player to ever score 100 points in a single game. That's what many will remember about 1962. But a few Christians may remember a two-part article by a forward-thinking young scholar who challenged them regarding the cultural climate of their day: "This is one area in which we are daily being put to the test. Shall we succeed or shall we fail?"

[Text from file received from Lincoln Christian University]

Established in 1944, Lincoln Christian University's mission is to equip Christians to serve and lead in the church, the workplace and the world. Today, LCU offers a variety of degree programs for undergraduate, graduate and seminary students. Classes are offered on campus, at extension sites and online. To learn more, visit www.lincolnchristian.edu.

Obituary: James D. Strauss

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