His theology was his biography. I can think of no higher praise for a theologian — a “doctor of the church” — than to memorialize him with the enduring legacy of his own teaching. The legacy of Dr. Robert L. Reymond Sr., who was called home to his Lord as he slept Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, will no doubt be in the lives of the thousands of pastors and missionaries he trained.
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1, 2 KJV)
This, Dr. Reymond did with unrestrained joy and unsurpassed success in the Gospel ministry. For nearly 20 years at Covenant Theological Seminary — I can hear his deep bass voice now in my mind’s ear: “Mike, I will always owe Dr. Robert Rayburn for believing in this ‘Bob Jones Calvinist’ and giving me the opportunity to teach future pastors the Confessional faith.” And more than 20 years at Knox Theological Seminary, where with other American Presbyterian worthies now in glory such as Drs. D. James Kennedy and Laird Harris, he, too, was a founding professor.
“Mike,” he told me as we were praying about the offer to study at Knox and intern under Dr. Kennedy, “Jim Kennedy has a vision for an Old Princeton revived, combining strong academics, evangelism, and a worldview that sees Christ as Lord of every sphere of life. That is why I am here. Come join us, Mike.” And we did — and how glad I am that we did, for those men and others there shaped and reshaped our lives and continue to do so unto this day.
Dr. Reymond not only taught systematic theology to thousands of clergymen of the largest evangelical Reformed denomination in the world for a half century, in addition to countless other denominations — impacting millions of souls, when even the most conservative count is extrapolated — this tall, noble Southern gentleman of French-Swiss lineage taught systematic theology in what I called the Reymondian way. Yes, I am a Reymondian. I used to tell him that. He would shake his great head, laugh, and decry my playful sectarianism: “Brother” (all who studied under Dr. Reymond know how to imitate him when he said “Bru-u-ther!” and who among us will not cherish that as an authentic utterance of pure fraternal love in Christ for the rest of our lives?). Let me reflect, lovingly, on what I meant — on what I will always mean when I say I am a Reymondian:
Dr. Reymond believed and principally taught that the Bible was “a Word from another World.” That phrase was actually the title of one of his early publications.
Dr. Reymond believed and principally taught that the Bible was “a Word from another World.” That phrase was actually the title of one of his early publications. He taught his students that the Westminster Confession of Faith began with Scripture for a reason: Supernatural Revelation is our ground for knowing. He would never waiver and never back away from that apologetic. He sent thousands of ministers into the pulpits, mission fields, and classrooms holding fast to the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures as the only rule for faith and praxis in their ministries and lives.
Dr. Reymond believed and plainly taught that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the One Triune God, the only Lord and Savior of mankind, and that we who preach must preach Christ died, Christ risen, and Christ coming again. Dr. Reymond, who preached in full Presbyterian clerical attire in the highest expressions of Reformed worship, also conducted street preaching, and door-to-door evangelism in the urban and poverty-stricken areas of city and country, called on us to “urge” our listeners to turn to Jesus Christ while there was time. He was an extraordinary evangelist and yet forcefully taught the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation and renounced any forms of emotionalism or psychological coercion. Yet he also was repulsed by preaching that he felt was “sub Apostolic” — which failed to impress eternal realities of heaven and hell to listeners. In this, Dr. Reymond was very much like Charles Spurgeon, and, indeed, Dr. Reymond became one of the more popular preachers and professors at Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.
Dr. Reymond believed and powerfully taught that the Westminster Confession and Larger and Shorter Catechisms were the surest expressions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever produced. Every student who graduated from his course of study received a thorough three-to-four-year intense examination of the faith of the Westminster Standards. To be sure — to answer any critique — one studied copious amounts of Scripture. Yet Dr. Reymond never saw a need to apologize that the Scriptures studied were, for the most part, those cited by the Westminster Divines in the 17th century. Dr. Reymond was sometimes accused of “fideism.” He never winced. He stood on the shoulders of giants to see further than he could see otherwise. Yet he could never see further than, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
Once, someone told him, “Dr. Reymond, you are living in the 17th century!” He smiled, adjusted his glasses on his prominent aquiline nose, and retorted, “Bru-u-ther, that is 17 centuries more than where I want to be living.”
Once, someone told him, “Dr. Reymond, you are living in the 17th century!” He smiled, adjusted his glasses on his prominent aquiline nose, and retorted, “Bru-u-ther, that is 17 centuries more than where I want to be living.” It was his way of saying, “This teaching is simply the teaching of Jesus.” Before the course was over — frequently through the tears of Dr. Reymond in those classes when his expansive, theological mind carried us to the very throne room of God and when teaching became homily and homily became prayer and prayer transformed to unadorned, pure worship of Jesus the Christ by Robert Reymond the man — many of us were aware of a spirit greater than our own. We were aware that revival was possible as we witnessed the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of a man on fire with the flames of the very altar of God. This, too, was Dr. Reymond. This is the man’s legacy. His students experienced what Dr. Reymond made known. I believe this is one of the greatest misunderstandings of Dr. Reymond’s theology; he, like Calvin, was, very much a “Doctor of the Holy Spirit,” though he was strongly opposed to any codification in the church of any hint of “continuing revelation.”
In the last consideration, I would say that Dr. Reymond believed that all systematic theology was to be pastoral theology. Indeed, I learned to appreciate “pastoral theology” — I prefer that phrase over “practical theology” because of Dr. Reymond’s influence — from seeing that a systematic study of the truths of God in His Word best form and inform our pastoral work. Instruction on the shepherding work in the church must never become a collection of human reflections on technique or professional “best practices” but must be, if it “will pass a radical Biblical muster,” thoroughly rooted and grounded in a supernatural revelation. We have supernatural work to do. Thus, we must have a ministry that is supplied by “supernatural means.” Now make no mistake, his systematic became pastoral and took on “applied” dimensions. His hospitality, for instance, was famous. He and Shirley cared for so many of us. When we went to seminary, my wife and daughter lived with the Reymonds for three weeks. My son spent the first week of his life in Dr. Reymond’s home. I will never forget going through Hurricane Andrew together. Dr. Reymond fell asleep on the couch. Shirley awakened him from snoring the next morning. “Bob, Bob! Wake up!” Alice Kramden-like, she folded her arms and scolded him in jest: “Okay, Bob, you managed to sleep through the worst natural disaster in American history.” Dr. Reymond smiled, stretched, and replied, “Shirley, a good conscience will allow one to sleep anywhere, anytime.”
So, Dr. Reymond, as you have, by God’s grace, been called to the “Intermediate State” of being, and you await the Second Coming and the “Final State” and the “apocalyptic dualism” of Christ our Lord fully realized, I will remember your words as you roared with your unforgettable laugh, “Bru-u-ther! Don’t be a Reymondian! The world doesn’t need any more sects! Just be … a Christian.” All right, Dr. Reymond. No Reymondians.
And off he would wander, down the hall and off to class with a massive syllabus and several ancient texts under his arm, greeting every student he came upon, trying to be quiet — an impossibility — as he would choose one blessed soul to focus upon, wrapping his giant arms around the student: “Now, Bru-u-ther, tell me about that new baby. …”