Spring 2001 · Vol. 30 No. 1 · pp. 2–3 

From the Editors: Education and Theology: Essays in Honor of Walter Unger

Gerald Janzen and David Giesbrecht

This issue of Direction is out of the ordinary for a number of reasons. It honors Dr. Walter Unger who will be retiring after thirty-two years of service at Columbia Bible College, fifteen of them as President. It also has been compiled under the guidance of two coeditors linked to the college. They are Gerald Janzen, who teaches Bible, and David Giesbrecht, former librarian and longtime colleague of Walter Unger. Michael Dick, Chair of the Columbia Bible College Board, took the initiative in the early stages to start the project. Douglas Miller, the regular editor, has been on sabbatical and will resume his full duties with the next issue.

In recognition of Walter Unger’s contribution to Mennonite Brethren postsecondary education, the majority of the articles are in some way oriented in that direction. Recognition, however, is also given to his interest in spiritual-theological issues. It will soon become evident to anyone who peruses this issue’s table of contents that there is also a contribution from Unger himself. In endeavors of this kind one attempts to surprise the honoree. When Dr. Unger discovered that his college and two of its employees would be responsible for the Spring 2001 issue of Direction, he enthusiastically volunteered to make a contribution. What was one to do without spoiling the surprise?

We followed Mennonite Brethren tradition and consulted within the “brotherhood” and came to the conclusion that a contribution from Walter would not only be valuable, but would also help to keep him from getting suspicious about what was going on. We were not disappointed in this hope. I am sure that readers will find his discussion of the Third Quest for the historical Jesus in “Evangelical Versions of Jesus” to be both enjoyable and enlightening.

Other contributors, of course, hewed more closely to the theme. George Schmidt, a longtime friend and colleague, shares little-known information and insights about Walter’s career in “The Measure of Five Decades: An Insider’s Tribute to Walter Unger.” Carlin Weinhauer offers a pastor’s perspective, seasoned with years of Christian college experience, in asking the question, “The Bible College: Whose Vision Is It?” The historical research of Bruce Guenther, “ ‘Monuments to God’s Faithfulness’: Mennonite Brethren Bible Schools in Western Canada, 1913-1960,” helps us to reflect significantly on the Mennonite Brethren contribution to the Canadian Bible school movement in which Dr. Unger has been an important participant for several decades.

In “Searching for a Safe Landing,” another historical issue of current importance is placed before us; James Pankratz helps us to think about the possible impact on postsecondary education of the divestiture decision of the Mennonite Brethren North American General Conference. In recent years there has been a considerable amount of attention paid to mentoring in business, religion, and education. Ron Penner, another of Walter Unger’s colleagues, gives us guidance on this issue.

Some of the writing, as mentioned above, steps outside the {3} educational theme. In addition to the piece by Unger himself, Myron Penner, who has been one of Walter Unger’s protégés, has recognized Walter’s interest in the spiritual classics of Western Christianity by his consideration of an important component of Jonathan Edwards’ theology in “Jonathan Edwards and Emotional Knowledge of God.” Pierre Gilbert addresses issues relating to the ever-current problem of free will versus determinism in a fresh interpretation of the Pharaoh of the Exodus: “Human Free Will and Divine Determinism: Pharaoh, a Case Study.”

No publication of this kind would be complete without taking note of some of the broader work done by the honoree. This is done in “Recognizing the Contributions of Dr. Walter Unger,” a bibliography of his writings compiled by Anne Andres and David Giesbrecht. It is accompanied by a short essay.

This issue of Direction is rounded out by our regular departmental contributions. Tamira Regier Wiebe brings to bear her considerable experience as a youth worker and student dean to reflect on “The New Adult” in our Ministry Compass feature. Ray Bystrom provides Books I Recommend on the church and our culture. Six Book Reviews precede Current Research, collected by Gerald Janzen and organized by David Giesbrecht. It is a full issue of Direction. We hope you enjoy it. We also hope that brother Unger will enjoy it.

Gerald Janzen
David Giesbrecht, Guest Editors