Dr. David O. Moore - "Apples of Gold"

Last week marked the passing of a remarkable man, one of my true heroes, Dr. David O. Moore (3/11/21 - 10/28/16) longtime professor and chair of religious studies at my alma mater, William Jewell College. Tributes and words of appreciation have been posted from countless students, colleagues, and friends. His full obituary can be found here. I want to add my words of appreciation, knowing I am just one modest example of the blessing of D.O.'s life.

Dr. Moore came to Jewell in 1956, but I didn't show up on campus until the fall of 1978. I think I underestimated Dr. Moore as a professor initially. His warmth and gentlemanly charm belied his brilliant mind and his rigorous academic standards, but I caught on right away. I soon realized that this was no glorified Sunday School class. We were soon up to our necks in the Hebrew scriptures with a lifeguard who was unafraid of deep water. His love for the Bible and for the God of the Bible did not keep him from asking tough questions and wrestling thorny theological issues. A door had been opened for me into a grander vista of study and devotion, scholarship and faith. And for Dr. Moore, the two could never be separated. It was his own profound faith that he scrutinized and tested. When he spoke freely and personally of "Yahweh," (pronounced with an Ozark twang) I knew the two of them were well acquainted.

Not everyone was a fan of David Moore. In fact to some of the fundamentalist preachers in Missouri, Dr. Moore was a godless liberal, an infidel, even the devil himself. Under Dr. Moore's leadership, the religion department at Jewell chose to educate rather than indoctrinate, and for his trouble Dr. Moore was denounced and attacked, publicly and personally.

Through it all, Dr. Moore displayed the grace and poise of a Christian gentleman, never resorting to the tactics of his accusers, but standing true to his convictions and letting his life speak for itself. And it spoke volumes to me.  

By the spring of my sophomore year at Jewell, I was becoming quite enamored with the world of academia and professors like Dr. Moore made me ponder if perhaps I should give up on this call to become a pastor and instead become a teacher like my new heroes. One afternoon I stopped by Dr. Moore's office to tell him the news, my idea to follow in his footsteps and become a professor. I was sure he would be thrilled. He took time for me that day and heard me out, but his response surprised me.

"That would be fine, Drew. Teaching is a noble profession. I've given my life to it, and I'm certain you would do well. But, keep in mind, this is not the front line."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, what we do here in study and preparation is very important. You know that. But this, the college, is behind the lines. The front line for the Kingdom of God is the Church. That's where it happens. That's where the action is. And, I tell you the truth, Drew. I think you are a front line kind of guy." I left his office that day back on track, more focused and excited about my calling and the journey ahead.   

When Dr. Moore retired in 1986, I was one year into my first full-time pastorate in little Lincoln, Missouri. I invited Dr. Moore to come preach for our annual "College and Seminary Day." I walked out to the car to greet him as he arrived. He said, "There are two bags in the back seat, Drew. Would you mind carrying them in for me?" I found two large grocery sacks filled with books.

"What's this, Dr. Moore?"

"They're for you, Drew. I decided when I retired, I would share my library with some of my students. I picked out some books that I thought might be helpful to you. I hope you'll benefit from them." I was stunned.

"Are you kidding me? Thank you, thank you so much. I can't tell you what that means to me."

Most of Dr. Moore's books still sit on my shelves, a few I have given away. I continue to benefit not only from the books he chose for me, but also from his extensive notes penciled in the margins on nearly every page. Some days I feel like I'm back in his classroom. That's a good feeling.

That Sunday in Lincoln, Dr. Moore preached on Proverbs 25:11. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." I knew he would choose an Old Testament text, but the proverb surprised me. As I look back now that verse seems an appropriate benediction for D. O.'s life. A word fitly spoken, a timely word, a wise word, a word in season, how good it is. God bless him.


John McCallum said…
Thanks, Drew. He was right: you are a front-line kind of guy. The church and the kingdom are the better for it. And people like Dr. Moore got your ruck sack ready for the mission.

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