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.