Professor of New Testament Served on Fuller's Faculty for 14 Years
Dr. David M. Scholer, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, passed away on Friday, August 22, 2008, after a long struggle with cancer. Scholer, who was 70, served on Fuller’s faculty for the past 14 years.
"David Scholer was a distinguished scholar, teacher, administrator, and mentor," said Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller. "His passion for New Testament scholarship was contagious, and he modeled in his life the joy of the truths he taught, even through suffering."
Scholer joined the School of Theology faculty as professor of New Testament in 1994, and served as associate dean of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies (CATS) from 1997 to 2006. He continued to teach and mentor students until recently, despite his diagnosis of colorectal cancer in 2002. "I have an incurable disease," he would tell his students on the first day of class—and then he would teach New Testament in a rasping voice with such joy and conviction that many students were deeply moved by his example.
Scholer was a specialist in several areas of New Testament studies, including gnosticism and second-century Christianity, but was perhaps best known for his contributions to the area of women in ministry; his course entitled "Women, the Bible, and the Church" was the most popular elective at Fuller for years. Students signed up for his classes in droves, many enduring lengthy waiting lists for the opportunity to be instructed by Scholer.
"As a professor of the New Testament, David has been to his students and colleagues a master teacher during what also has been a long and difficult journey with cancer during the past years," said Howard Loewen, dean of Fuller’s School of Theology.
Scholer was also an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches/USA. He often taught adult education classes at churches on New Testament topics, and on occasion shared insights from his journey with cancer and the strength drawn from his faith. A front-page article in the Los Angeles Times in 2007 featured Scholer and the model he offered to both church and seminary audiences.
"Cancer doesn’t change everything, but it does give everything a new perspective," Scholer said in a sermon at First Baptist Church of Pasadena, as reported in the Times article. "I revel every day in remembering all the good things of my life—all the wonderful things I have been given: my family, my friends."
"I really do trust in God," he said. "I believe in God’s comfort and love. I believe that God is the giver of life, and that means to affirm this life, as well as to have faith in the life to come."
Dr. Scholer spoke most recently to the Fuller community in early June, delivering a powerfully moving sermon, "It is About God…Not About Us," at the seminary’s 2008 baccalaureate service. Speaking from a seated position on the platform of the First Congregational Church in Pasadena, Scholer declared that "God has chosen to use fragile human instruments for God’s glory."
"God’s power is truly effective only in our recognition of ourselves as jars of clay," Scholer asserted, referring to the biblical passage 2 Corinthians 4:7. "I, and we, are broken and weak vessels through whom the glory of God shines."
"It is my firm hope for each of you graduates that you will drink deeply from the well of Paul’s wisdom," Scholer offered as his exhortation. "The calling of God is sure, but the paths you will walk in years to come are unknown now." Referring to his own struggle with incurable cancer, he spoke of God’s guiding hand that remains even when the path ahead is shrouded in darkness. "It is our prayer as Fuller faculty that this invisible hand of God may be manifest in your jar of clay," he said. Dr. Scholer's baccalaureate sermon may be viewed in its entirety here.
Scholer, who had announced his retirement from Fuller this year, had 39 years of seminary teaching and academic administrative experience. Prior to joining Fuller, he served as professor of New Testament at three other theological institutions: North Park Theological Seminary, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Scholer was widely published, with his works including the books A Basic Bibliographic Guide for New Testament Exegesis, The Caring God: Biblical Models of Discipleship, two volumes of the Nag Hammadi Bibliography (with a third currently in press), the booklet Women in Ministry, more than 200 articles and book reviews, and a number of edited volumes and publications.
Scholer held both BA and MA degrees from Wheaton College, a BD from Gordon Divinity School, and his ThD from Harvard Divinity School.
Dr. Scholer is survived by his wife of 48 years, Jeannette Scholer; two children, Abigail Scholer Strazzabosco and Emily Scholer Hernandez; and three grandchildren. His wife Jeannette is also a longtime Fuller employee, serving as director of Academic Programs in the School of Theology for 13 years before her retirement this past May.
A few of Dr. Scholer's friends have created a facebook page offering memories, reflections, and photos. To view the page and add your own comments, visit facebook.com and search for "David M. Scholer."