Back when I was editor of a denominational magazine (the Mennonite Brethren Herald), I used to delight in receiving submissions from many ordinary people with something to say. Some were well-written and some not, but I was glad to publish them if they had something important to say. An editor can fix poor grammar. An editor cannot fix a well-written article that does not say anything useful or important.
And then I began receiving submissions from an ordinary philosophy professor with something to say. Elmer Thiessen’s articles were clear, well-written, well-researched, thoughtful, theologically sound, and relevant. They were a delight to receive and publish.
I remember one article in particular. It was a thoughtful and well-reasoned critique of a denominational program, with the critique based on the denominational statement of faith. The denominational program was useful but had some limitations, which Elmer’s article clearly pointed out.
Some denominational leaders were very upset that I had dared to publish an article critical of their program, but I never regretted my decision. I was far more interested in truth, knowledge, clear thinking, and the welfare of the denomination as a whole. I was convinced that a free and thoughtful discussion would make the program more useful and the denomination stronger.
That program has largely dropped out of use, but my appreciation for Elmer Thiessen has remained.
Therefore, when Elmer asked if my Mill Lake Books imprint would publish his autobiography, I was glad to agree.
Stumbling Heavenward: One Philosopher’s Journey was published last year. The biography covers the usual topics—Elmer’s early life, his education, his family life, his work as a college professor, his writings, and his church involvement. Therefore, this book is of special interest to the people who knew him and worked with him—his family, his friends, his colleagues, fellow scholars, and members of his church and his denomination. But because Elmer is such a good writer and because he makes such wise, thoughtful, and insightful observations on his experiences, this book can be read far beyond those in his immediate circle. It can be read with benefit by all who are interested in the family, the church, the university, and important issues.
Elmer Thiessen’s book—and his life—demonstrate that it is very possible to be a thoughtful, intelligent Christian.