Tuesday, August 09, 2022

The Passing of David Riggs

We are deeply shocked and saddened at the unexpected passing of Dr. David Riggs of Indiana Wesleyan University today. I do not know the full details, but his trip to church Sunday morning apparently became a trip to the hospital followed by unexpected medical events. We grieve with his dear family and mourn a life that should have flourished for decades more.

David came to IWU not long after I did. The Honors College had only just started. There is no question that he made it into the national success it has become. Over the years he brought scholars of the highest quality to teach for the HC, many of them at the very beginning of what have become stellar careers. He brought a regular string of world-class scholars to speak on campus. In some respects, David should get a good deal of the credit for Indiana Wesleyan becoming a place of high scholarship. Some of the brightest alumni/ae that IWU has would not have come to IWU if it weren't for David.

I received a Facebook message from David a little over a week ago. Apparently, we had both been mentioned by a former student as "leftists" who had infiltrated the Wesleyan tradition. We had a good electronic chuckle at the absurdity. He asked me when the next meeting of the leftist Wesleyans was so that he could be sure he was sticking to the agenda. I suggested we might schedule the next meeting of the secret society on a beach somewhere.

David was extremely principled. He was a fearless warrior for orthodoxy. When I told my mother of a friend's passing, she asked if he was right with the Lord. I answered without hesitation. David was a fully and fiercely devoted follower of Jesus Christ. If at any time he was involved in controversy, rest assured everything he said and did came from a fervency for Jesus Christ and the truth.

I taught Honors New Testament for him several years before the HC created its own unique integrated curriculum. He was always a champion for me to teach Latin in the School of Theology. His doctoral work was in North African Christianity. He also did some great work with Chris Bounds on the concept of grace in early Christianity. Like Wesley, he brought organization with his enthusiasm, and it has paid off over the years for IWU.

Our differences will ever bring a smile to my face. I think he used to be surprised at them because we liked so many of the same things. I used to lead worship for a "Liturgical Service" that he often attended. It was important for him to partake of the Eucharist every week. But our investment in the service was different. I thought it was valid and should be an option. He leaned more toward it being the best option. I thought infant baptism was preferable and should be an option. I think he thought it should be the option.

I am a pragmatist. I considered him an idealist. He loved Augustine. I am more shaped by Wittgenstein. He had the flavor of the phenomenologists and the post-liberals who relied more on faith than reason. I'm more of an analytic philosopher and a critical realist. He was no fan of online education and emphasized learning in a physical community. I think online is destined to predominate, whatever we might think the ideal is.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that we had reached a turning point where textbooks would increasingly be replaced by interactive media. He responded on Twitter: "C’mon. There’s no doubt a place for multimedia, but books remain fundamental to genuinely formative education."

I have other IWU stories about David that I'll keep to myself. Let me simply say that I am deeply grieving the loss of such a great and godly man when he had so much more to give the church and the academy. And dare I say, I grieve the loss of a dear old friend. May God give peace to his family and to generations of the Honors College community.

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