About Rob

As director of publications, I edit the award-winning Trinity magazine, I blog, and I'm all around Trinity storyteller. I also write for places like The Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today, and InterVarsity Press which published my book The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come. My writings, here and elsewhere, can be found at www.robmoll.com.

Woodbridge Releases Hitler in the Crosshairs at Downtown Celebration

Dr. John Woodbridge and co-author Maurice Possley introduced their book, Hitler in the Crosshairs: A GI’s Story of  Courage and Faith to a packed audience at the Pritzker Military Library in downtown Chicago last night. The book tells the story of Ira “Teen” Palm, a soldier who’s attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in the waning days of World War II could have cost him his life but instead resulted in the dictator’s golden pistol finding a home in Woodbridge’s house when he was a boy. In addition to the riveting narrative, Hitler in the Crosshairs reveals untold and little known details about the final days of WWII.

Woodbridge told the audience that he was watching the news one night when the ticker scrolled a note about Hitler’s golden pistol. Immediately Woodbridge recalled his dad owning a golden handgun that he claimed to have been Adolf Hitler’s. “How did my dad get Hitler’s gun?” Woodbridge wondered. After calling friends and family, he confirmed that indeed his father, pastor of a Presbyterian church, had owned the golden pistol and that a GI named Teen Palm had given it to him. Thanks to his wife’s memory of a meeting with Palm’s daughter, Woodbridge tracked down the GI’s letters from the final days of WWII and learned how this unassuming man–nicknamed “Teeny” as a baby because he was so small–tried to kill the murderer of millions.

As the Allied armies worked their way across France and Germany, the Nazi war machine was falling apart. But military officials knew that the war wouldn’t be over, no matter how much territory they controlled, until Hitler was dead or captured. The military had intelligence that Hitler may have fled Berlin. Fearing that he would hole up in the Alps, where he might be impossible to dislodge, Teen Palm and a handful of others attempted to intercept Hitler in his Munich apartment before he could escape to the mountains.


He was aided in this effort by a group of what Woodbridge calls, good Germans. These Nazi solders were actively working to overthrow the regime, and launched a revolt in Munich and the surrounding areas. This part of the story is little known today, even in Germany, says Woodbridge. This insurrection allowed Palm and his team to work theirway into the city. They burst into Adolf Hitler’s apartment with Palm leading the way. The rooms were empty except for a few souvenirs, including the golden pistol.

After the war and back in the US, Palm gave John Woodbridge’s father the gun as well as gold-lettered stationary. It was all eventually stollen from the family’s house. Woodbridge suggests his father’s showing off the gun probably attracted too much attention.  The whereabouts of the pistol are now unknown, presumed to be in the hands of a private gun collector/dealer. In the 1980’s it sold for $140,000 at auction.

See the whole event at the Pritzker Military Library’s website.



Christianity Today Reports on Dr. Priest

In it’s March issue, Christianity Today reported on Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s recent missiology conference and its focus on how to respond to accusations of witchcraft on the mission field. The article heavily referenced Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies and Director of the Doctor of Philosophy in Intercultural Studies Program Dr. Robert Priest.

An entire track of the annual missiology conference at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School this February was devoted to witchcraft, a topic usually neglected by the field.

“We had thought this was a phenomenon that would die out,” said Robert Priest, professor of missions and intercultural studies at Trinity. “Instead we are finding that the conditions of modernity—urbanization and social differentiation under capitalism—are contributing to accusations getting stronger and stronger.”

Missionaries have commonly responded in two ways, said Priest. The power of witches to harm others is dismissed as superstition, but this seldom persuades local Christians to abandon the concept; or the reality of witchcraft is endorsed by missionaries not wanting to be “post-Enlightenment rationalists” with a non-biblical skepticism of spiritual warfare.

The result is that traditional witch ideas are fused with Christian theology, which obscures the social consequences: Accused witches are often destitute or outcast, and thus socially defenseless. Instead of seeing old women or children as scapegoats, said Priest, Christian leaders suggest that witchcraft participates in genuine spiritual evil and that the accusations are reasonable. “The church is providing the cognitive underpinnings for the past system in the contemporary world.”

Priest says the approach is unbiblical. “Nowhere in Scripture do we find anyone attributing affliction or death to a human third party acting through evil occult means,” he said. “We’re not questioning Satan’s power; we’re questioning the diagnostic system that blames another person.”

“Missiologists have not yet done an adequate job of wisely engaging these realities,” said Priest. “We have a solemn responsibility to mobilize the effort to rethink our role in this.”



Prayers for Japan

With more than 100 alumni living in Japan as well as a number of students from the country, Trinity International University is deeply saddened and concerned by the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the following tsunami that hit the country early this morning. The prayers of the Trinity community have been constant since we learned of the disaster.

In addition to expressing our prayers and concerns, Trinity is working to connect students and alumni who have been effected by the earthquake with others who are available to help. Trinity’s denominational affiliation, the Evangelical Free Church, has representatives in Japan who are providing relief and assistance. The church is accepting offers of assistance in their efforts. We are also working to make contact with the Japan Free Church.

Last summer, a number of Trinity staff and faculty, including Harold Netland, a former missionary to Japan who lived north of the epicenter, met with alumni in the country. We will be making contacts to ensure that the needs of alumni, students, and their networks of friends and family are adequately met.

Prayers for Mel Svendsen

Mel Svendsen, lead teaching pastor for Riverview Church in Bonsall, California, and former Senior Vice President of Student Life at Trinity International University, was hospitalized after having a heart attack on Saturday. According to the church, Svendsen underwent a difficult surgery but is now recovering.

For more information, please visit Riverview Church’s Facebook page, where the church is making regular updates.

Church History Alum Receives CT Book Award

Eric Miller received the Christianity Today book award in the history category for his biography of Christopher Lasch, Hope in a Scattering Time. Miller graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s church history program in the early ’90s, when he studied under John Woodbridge.

CT’s review described the biography this way:

“In Miller’s sure-footed and penetrating narrative, we discover that prominent 20th-century social historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch grew up under atheistic liberal parents, but laboring under ‘a longstanding looming sense of alienation’ discovered its roots by examining and eventually deconstructing American liberalism. For a post-Christian era struggling with social responsibility and moral integrity, I can recommend no more salutary biography than this one.”

Miller also recently co-edited a book on the practice of Christian history with other TEDS alums, John Fea and Jay Green.

TEDS Grad to Be Inaugurated as RTS President

Don Sweeting (PhD ’98) will be inaugurated the president of Reformed Theological Seminary on February 9. After studying at Oxford University, Sweeting came to Trinity where he received a doctorate in church history. Since then, he has taught church history at Denver Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He served as chairman of the theology committee for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and is a trustee on the board of Colorado Christian University.

Sweeting was the senior pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Greenwood Village, Colorado, and he was the founding pastor of Chain of Lakes Community Bible Church in Northern Illinois. Sweeting blogs at The Chief End of Man.

Sweeting joins a number of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School graduates who lead educational institutions, including, Mark Young at Denver Seminary, John Senyonyi (MA ’92) at Uganda Christian University, Maureen Yeung (MA ’90, ThM ’91) at Evangel Seminary (Hong Kong), Julie Wu (MA ’76) at China Bible Seminary (Hong Kong), Kent Fuchs (MDiv ’84), Provost, Cornell University, Dennis Hollinger (MDiv ’75) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, David Demchuk (DMin ’07) at Summit Pacific College, Steven Hostetter (PhD ’03) at Oak Hills Christian College, and Larry McCullough (MA ’67) at Laurel University.

Snow Forces TIU to Close Thursday

TIU’s Deerfield and Chicago campuses will remain closed on Thursday, February 3, due to the significant volume of snow from the blizzard, and the time required to clear area roadways and the Trinity campus. All classes and activities on campus are canceled for Thursday. Students, faculty and staff are not expected to report for classes or to work. At this time, TIU plans to re-open Friday morning on a normal schedule. If there is a change, it will be announced by 6 a.m. Friday.

The Trojan men’s and women’s basketball games versus Trinity Christian College were originally scheduled for Wednesday, and are rescheduled for Thursday.  Both games will take place as scheduled on Thursday evening:  5:30 (women) and 7:30 (men).

Please pray for the TIU Facilities Team as they tirelessly work to clear our campus under extremely difficult conditions.

Remember that the best way to be informed with up-to-the-minute information about closings is to follow @TIU on Twitter!

Updated Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

TIU Closed Thursday

Inclement Weather
TIU’s Deerfield and Chicago campuses will remain closed on Thursday, February 3, due to the significant volume of snow from the blizzard, and the time required to clear area roadways and the Trinity campus. All classes and activities on campus are canceled for Thursday. Students, faculty and staff are not expected to report for classes or to work. At this time, TIU plans to re-open Friday morning on a normal schedule. If there is a change, it will be announced by 6 a.m. Friday.

The Trojan men’s and women’s basketball games versus Trinity Christian College were originally scheduled for Wednesday, and were rescheduled for Thursday.  Both games will take place as scheduled on Thursday evening:  5:30 (women) and 7:30 (men).

Please pray for the TIU Facilities Team as they tirelessly work to clear our campus under extremely difficult conditions.

Remember that the best way to be informed with up-to-the-minute information about closings is to follow @TIU on Twitter!

Updated Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.

Freed for Slavery

Michael Card played and spoke in chapel today at Trinity. He began by saying, “We have not yet begun to realize the extent to which Jesus has turned the world upside down.” One way he does that is by allowing his creatures to only be free in service to him.

Card referred to his book, from which his sermon is taken, A Better Freedom: Finding Life as Slaves of Christ. The title comes from a church father Ignatius, Card said, who along with others sold themselves into slavery, took the money, and bought others’ freedom.

“Why do you do this?” asked Polycarp, another church father, at the time.

Ignatius answered, “For a better freedom.”

The gospel often turns our world upside down, Card said. If you want to be wise, embrace the foolishness of the gospel. If you want to be free, submit to lordship of Jesus and become his servant.

Christianity was a slave religion, Card said. Christ was referred to as a slave in one of the first references to him in secular literature. Paul’s language is full of slave imagery, Card said. The idea behind redemption is to be purchased in the marketplace. Some translations of the phrase “Jesus is Lord” render the meaning as Jesus is our owner or master.

“We’re confessing that he owns us,” Card said. “Why? Because he bought us. That is a comforting idea to me.”

The Bible does not give you a choice between freedom and slavery, Card said. The only choice we have is between masters. ” ‘Take up my cross.’ That’s slave language.”

To be a slave was a badge of honor in the Old Testament. Card said David called himself a slave of Yaweh. “Remember you were slaves in Egypt,” God said. The identity of Israel is rooted in slavery, even though there was not much practice of slavery in the nation of Israel.

“Roman slavery was a different kettle of fish,” Card said, “based on cruelty.” In Roman religion, there was no kneeling, because that was a slave posture. So, when Jesus kneeled to wash the disciples feet, it makes sense that Peter objected. At the time, slavery was horrible and wretched. Archeologists have dug up collars that said, “Capture me for I am fleeing.”

The slavery experienced by African-Americans in the United States was just as brutal as that in Roman times. The vast majority of slaves in the Roman world died in their bondage. “When Paul identifies himself as a slave,” Card said, “it was not a badge of honor within the Roman empire.”

Yet the Christians embraced this image of slavery. The first song the church sang was a song about a slave. “It would have never made it on Christian radio,” Card joked. The song is quoted in Philippians 2:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

It is a miracle, Card said, that African slaves who came to this country, who were abused by their Christian owners, still embraced Christianity en mass. Card suggested they did so because the heart of the faith, that of a slave, struck a chord in their own hearts. They understood gospel at a depth that their abusers did not remotely understand, Card said.

“If you don’t know Jesus as your servant, you don’t know him,” Card concluded. “If you aren’t following Jesus as his servant, you’re not following him. If you’re not washing feet with what you do, you ought not to be doing it.”

Engaging Biblical Diversity

A church must be intentional if it is to fully embrace the idea that there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, barbarian or free, as the apostle Paul wrote. Bill Hamel (MDiv ‘72), president of the Evangelical Free Church of America has been intentional.

In the 14 years that he has been president of the Evangelical Free Church, Hamel has sought to continue the work of his predecessor in making the denomination look like the country it is a part of. “I can buy into that,” he says. “That’s been a focus for the EFCA.”

It’s also a passion for Hamel, who grew up among church-goers who had trouble understanding the idea of biblical diversity. “I grew up under the homogenous unit principle,” he says. “We are homogeneous.”

But that is changing. Hamel and the rest of the EFCA leadership have taken specific steps to embrace the role of minorities and other ethnicities within the denomination. Through the church’s reconciliation ministry, urban and intercultural ministries, as well as its missions outreach, the face of the EFCA is changing.

“One of fastest growing groups in the Free Church is Hispanic churches,” Hamel says. “When you have a critical mass at leadership level, it makes it feel like this is a place where different ethnicities will feel at home.” The EFCA intentionally sought to increase minority representation in the leadership so that they were at least 20 percent. “If the leadership buys into it,” he says, “people will trust us.”

Hamel says the most important thing as the EFCA embraces the idea of biblical diversity is that the church is grounded in Scripture. “In the Free Church, you have got to be biblically accurate. If you can show biblically why this is right, the Free Church will go with you.”

To that end, Hamel has worked with professors at Trinity to better understand the issues from a biblical perspective and to learn how to successfully move the denomination forward. As part of that effort, the church is engaged this week in “Almost Heaven: Together Reaching All People.”

“We want to learn from students and faculty,” Hamel says. “We want to expand the kingdom, and we’re open to having students join with us in that, whether they are lay leaders, pastors, or missionaries.”

During the week, students will have the opportunity to hear from a number of EFCA leaders working toward reaching all people. Ministry leaders on campus include:

  • Dante Upshaw, African-America Ministries
  • Dr. Alejandro Mandes, Hispanic Ministries & GATEWAY training for leaders
  • George Klippenes, StartChurches Church Planting Ministries
  • Jackie Redmond, RESOUND Women’s Ministries
  • Chris Holck, EFCA ENCORE, Ministry to 50+ adults
  • Shane Stacey, ReachStudents Ministries
  • David Park, Asian-American Ministries
  • Alvin Sanders, Reconciliation & Holistic Ministries
  • Greg Carlson & Fritz Dale, Family & Children’s Ministries

The schedule for the rest of the week includes:

Wednesday, January 26

  • Sem. Student Interview Day
  • College chapel with Michael Card
  • RN Directors/Seminary class participation
  • 11-1pm Affinity Group Lunches-Melton Hall for college and seminary students

Thursday, January 27

  • RN Director/Seminary class participation
  • 11-11:50am Seminary Chapel with Michael Card
  • 12-1pm Michael Card Speaker Brown Bag Lunch Reception for seminary students in Hinkson Hall
  • Concert of Prayer-college and seminary students – planning with David Whited and Michael Card