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Brown leaves legacy as a towering intellect with a pastoral spirit

July 19, 2007

In the death of prominent theologian Harold O.J. Brown earlier this month, evangelicals lost a stalwart supporter of the biblical view of gender roles.

In the death of prominent theologian Harold O.J. Brown earlier this month, evangelicals lost a stalwart supporter of the biblical view of gender roles.

Brown, who is best known for his activism against abortion, died July 8 after a long battle with cancer. Brown served as a member of the board of reference for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). CBMW Executive Director David Kotter points out that Brown’s defense of unborn children grew out of his view of men and women as being created in the image of God.

"We rejoice that Harold O.J. Brown has gone to see the face of his beloved Savior, celebrate his enduring legacy of biblical engagement of the prevailing culture, and feel a deep sense of loss at the passing of a towering complementarian intellectual," Kotter said.

"Brown's defense of unborn children and care for women in crisis is widely known and continues to grow in effectiveness. We must remember that this work flowed naturally from his understanding of God's beautiful design of men and women."

Brown served as a professor as well as a mentor to many at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Reformed Theological Seminary. He was an ordained Congregationalist pastor and a prolific evangelical writer.

He authored numerous books, including The Protest of a Troubled Protestant, Christianity and the Class Struggle, Death Before Birth, The Reconstruction of the Republic and Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present, among many others.

Mike Kruger, academic dean of Reformed Theological Seminary, told Christianity Today that Brown was "one of the brightest thinkers that this generation of Christians has seen. He has been a monumental influence over the last 30 years in American evangelicalism."

After earning four degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School in biochemistry and church history, Brown pursued further education in Europe.

"His legacy will be felt not just in the broader public he's met, but [also through] the people he's trained to be the next generation of Christian leaders," said Kruger.

Kotter recalled a personal encounter with Brown during his time as a student at Trinity that demonstrated the veteran theologian’s warm, pastoral heart.

"I was studying over lunch in an empty cafeteria just a few days before Christmas," Kotter said. "Hearing the rattle of silverware on a tray, I looked up to see Harold O.J. Brown, clad in an ancient Harvard Crimson sweatshirt, approaching my isolated table. He asked for permission to join me, though we had never met personally before.

"As I shifted my attention from studying to eating, he gently and pastorally asked me questions about my studies, plans and relationship with God. Everything that he said was both intriguing and encouraging. It is amazing that of all the important scholarly topics he was qualified to discuss, he chose to focus his attention on individual people. For one day many years ago, I was that person and will never forget encountering the heart of Dr. Brown."

Brown is the second death in the past few weeks of a prominent evangelical leader who was clear in his complementarian convictions; Jerry Falwell, who died May 15, also served on CBMW’s board of reference.

"With the recent loss of Jerry Falwell and Harold OJ Brown, both members of the Board of Reference of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, we sense an urgent call for scholars and pastors to take on this mantle and continue engaging our culture with the truth of God's Word about manhood and womanhood," Kotter said.

To read more about Brown’s contribution to evangelicalism in general and to the pro-life movement in particular, please see CT’s article.

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