Phil Roberts on the campus
of Florida College,
April 30, 2004.
Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
A Tribute to Phil Roberts
Published in Biblical Insights, June, 2005
He Loved God With All His Mind
by Ferrell Jenkins
He Loved God With All His Mind By Ferrell Jenkins The Lord said, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5). Jesus quoted this as the great commandment of the Law. Mark (12:37) and Luke (10:27) use four terms: heart, soul, mind, and might (strength). Matthew uses only three: heart, soul, and mind.
The three (or four) terms likely indicate that man is to love the Lord with all of his being. It means to love wholly, or totally. We do think, however, of the separate elements. Many say they love God with all their heart, thinking of an emotional attachment to Him. Others put their whole effort (strength) into their service. Perhaps fewer love the Lord with all their minds. Louw-Nida describes the mind (Greek dianoia) as "the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning, thinking, and deciding - mind." Soon after Phil knew how sick he was, I determined that this was the way I wanted to remember him - a man who loved God with all his mind.
Many of us lost a good friend in the death of Phil Roberts. It was my privilege to work with Phil in the Biblical Studies department at Florida College for many years. Phil prepared himself well for the work of teaching and preaching the Word. I sometimes suggested to Phil that he should put his class materials in some written format for the benefit of brethren. Even after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer we talked about this. I think he never thought he had the material in good enough shape to present it as a finalized work. He was not one to provide simplified answers to those who inquired about various biblical issues. He did provide several good essays in the annual Florida College lecture books.
Phil thought that his main work had been in the classes he taught and in the students who completed those courses. These students now have big shoes to fill and I trust that some of them will imitate his good example. When we think of Phil we think of academic excellence, but many may not be aware that Phil was one of the most practical preachers among us. He knew what he was talking about but he never became pedantic in his presentation.
When we made arrangements in 1980 to participate in the archaeological expedition at Lachish, Phil joined James Hodges, Harold Tabor, and me in that project. He continued to work at Lachish and then at Jezreel for several seasons. Phil, Melvin Curry, and I made a study tour in Turkey and Greece in 1984. Phil and I roomed together several times when attending professional educational meetings. I will miss the spiritual and intellectual stimulus he provided.
Our deepest sympathy is extended to Eileen and his two young sons, his parents, his brother and sister, and to the extended family. The photo of Phil was made April 30, 2004, on the campus of Florida College where he gave of himself for 27 years.
Conversations With Phil Roberts
by Martin Pickup
On April 10th my good friend and brother in Christ, Phil Roberts, passed from this life after a two year struggle with pancreatic cancer. For fifteen years Phil and I were colleagues in the Department of Biblical Studies at Florida College. It was a daily association that allowed many opportunities for discussion of matters that interested us both: chiefly, the Bible and preaching the gospel of Christ. Phil was one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever known, and I thought it might be good to share with the readers of Biblical Insights some of the things he said to me in these conversations over the years.
"Why Do You Need All Those Books?"
It is not unusual for people who come to my home to comment on the number of books I have in my office. "Why do you need all those books?," they ask. "Isn't the Bible enough?" Actually, my library is not all that large. With a wife and three kids to support, there just never seems to be enough free cash available to spend on all the Bible commentaries and study tools I might like. But Phil Roberts was a bachelor most of his life; he was in his late forties when he married the love of his life, Eileen Dalrymple and later adopted two children. So he had ample time and ample funds to purchase just about anything and everything he wanted to help him with his Bible studies. All told, Phil's personal library totaled more than 5300 volumes.
I remember Phil telling me how he answered people who asked him why he needed so many books. "Yes," he would say, "the Bible is the only book that's really important. But I'm not smart enough to know everything there is to know about the Bible. Other people who have studied have things they can teach me." I think that's a good answer.
If any of us think that our understanding of the Bible is exhaustive or flawless, then we're fooling ourselves. What a great benefit to be able to learn from the studies that other people have done. Now I'm not saying that for one to be a good preacher or Bible teacher, he must own a lot of books. But the person who says, "All I ever need to read is the Bible," may just be rationalizing his own laziness. We need to reflect on the counsel of the ancient sage who said, "Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning" (Prov. 9:9).
They Ask Different Questions Than We Do
My library contains materials not only from those people whom I regard as faithful Christians, but also numerous volumes written by denominationalists and liberal scholars. So did Phil's library. We both did our graduate work at institutions where we were taught by men of a different faith. Phil and I talked a lot about this. We both recognized the need to be on guard lest we be influenced in a negative way by people of different beliefs. On the other hand, we also saw potential benefit in learning what those people of a different perspective were saying.
Phil often made this comment about denominationalists and academic liberals. "They ask different questions than we do. So because their perspective is different, they sometimes see things in the Bible that I hadn't noticed before." I've had the same experience. The word of God is our standard, and everything we read or hear must certainly be measured by it. But sometimes we need to force ourselves to look at the Bible from another person's perspective. We just might learn something of value.
The libraries of some preachers I've seen contain virtually nothing from anyone not among "our brethren." We dare not assume that only "our brethren" have any worthwhile insights regarding Scripture or the meaning of a biblical passage. Jesus said that sometimes the "sons of this age" can teach "the sons of light" a few things (Luke 16:8). So we don't need to be afraid of reading what non-Christians have written. Nor should we allow a sectarian or party spirit to cause us to encase ourselves within the publications of a select few. People who are looking at the Scriptures from a different perspective than our own may be asking some good questions that we hadn't thought of, and they may have some true insights to help us understand God's word better.
The Problem of Pride
In one of the last conversations Phil and I had before he died, he talked about the danger of pride. He said, "The more a person studies and the more he learns, the easier it is for him to get carried away by the sin of pride." That's so true. The apostle Paul said, "Knowledge makes arrogant" (1 Cor. 8:1). I've always liked the way the King James Version renders it: "Knowledge puffs up." We preachers and Bible teachers especially need to be on guard against inflated egos.
In most congregations the preacher is more knowledgeable about the Bible than any other member, and the members may look upon him as "the expert" in biblical matters. The same thing is true of Bible professors. Frankly, it can be a heady experience. And if any preacher or college professor says it's not, then he's not being honest.
Phil Roberts saw the trap of pridefulness that much learning can create. All of us need to heed his warning. Phil Roberts was a good friend, a godly man, and a marvelous teacher of God's word. I thank God for his life and for the chance I've had to learn from him. I'm grateful that I can continue to learn from him as I reflect upon our conversations through the years.
Phil Roberts Obituary
ROBERTS, Donald Phillip, 57, of Temple Terrace, died at Tampa General Hospital, Sunday, April 10, 2005, after an epic battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was born September 2, 1947. He grew up in Brentwood, Tenn., and was an Eagle Scout in Troop 1. He was an honors graduate of Franklin High School, 1965, Florida College in Temple Terrace, Fla., 1968, the University of South Florida (B.A., 1970), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., 1974), and Westminster Theological Seminary (Ph.D., 2001).
He is survived by his wife, Eileen; their two sons, Don, 9, and David, 5; his parents, Don and Lane; his sister, Marty Haselden; and brother, Hill. Phil was a minister of the gospel of Christ. He served as the minister for the churches of Christ at Bridgeview, Ill., (1970-1974) and Plano, Ill., (1974-1978), Cortez, Fla., (1978-1985), and Antioch Church of Christ, Thonotosassa, Fla., (1985-2005). Phil joined the Biblical studies faculty of Florida College in 1978, served for 27 years and was honored as the top rated teacher 10 times. Phil received the 2004 Friend to Youth award, Florida College's top honor for a lifetime of service.
He served with Tel Aviv University during four years of excavations at Lachish and two years at Tel Jezreel. A substantial portion of his collection of archaeological artifacts was donated to the Florida College Library.
Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Friday, April 15, 2005, at the Chatlos Library of Florida College in Temple Terrace. A viewing is provided 10-11 a.m. Saturday, April 16, 2005, at the Hutchison Auditorium at Florida College (no family present). A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Phil Roberts Memorial Endowment fund, c/o Florida College, 119 Glen Arven Ave., Temple Terrace FL 33617.
Published at TBO.com
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