With a very heavy heart, we announce the passing of our old friend and sparring partner, Chris Witmer. He was struck and killed by a car at 9 or 10 a.m. Thursday morning, Tokyo time. This was the final comment he left at SWB. Our server time is showing Pacific when it should be showing Eastern, and I think Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Eastern. If my calculations are correct, this comment was left the night before he died, and he was killed the next morning, presumably while trying to get to work on his bicycle in that crowded city. He was 48 years old.
As many of you know, Chris was a kindred spirit in many ways. He knew the score, and we have scads of private emails from him that clearly show it. But because of his personal situation, he was torn. He was “married” to a Japanese or Korean woman and had seven children by her. I can’t imagine how he must have made the natives seethe. As he once wrote to his group of friends:
I like to think of my own international marriage as an “exception that proves the rule” (solely by God’s grace) but in any case I suspect that even most people who are *happy* in their international marriages (at least when the cultural gap is large) would put all sorts of caveats in front of any recommendation of international marriage. Of course, by the time a young person has gotten to the point where one feels the need to warn him about a prospective marriage partner, he is no longer in any frame of mind to heed anyone’s warning, so everyone has to learn the hard way.
He saw that no pastors were really challenging us scripturally and trying to engage in debate. He grew tired of waiting for the fish to snap, and so he took the challenge upon himself to write the first biblical and systematic refutation of Kinism. He mentioned this here on the 8th. We were all looking forward to it. As I wrote the next day:
Chris is a rare bird. He is the only person I know who has actually considered refuting us in a logical fashion instead of simply calling us racists and pretending that the charge of racism itself is sufficient proof. I welcome his critique, because I know it will be responsible and well-reasoned. We truly desire to approach such critiques with an open mind and be willing to receive correction. The only trouble is that we’ve never seen one.
We normally deal with pastors in personal interaction, and their tendency is to denounce anything they don’t like as sin, rather than merely error, without first taking the steps that Chris is beginning. As a result, they tend to swim in logical fallacies, such as straw men, red herrings, and ad hominem.
Chris was always very friendly and loved to engage his mind, even with those with whom he disagreed. He said he took a lot of heat over his friendship with us.
He was extremely intelligent, and a worthy adversary. There aren’t many American adults who are able to learn the complex Japanese language, and Chris mastered it. He was much like us, having a profound respect for the Japanese, and a great deal of his respect was accorded to their homogeneity and the culture that flowed from it. This seems like a contradiction to us, but this is indeed what we witnessed.
He was not just brilliant and a hard worker. He also loved to laugh and create silly poems and puns. Perhaps this sanctified silliness is what caused our paths to cross.
Here is a good encapsulation of his views on anti-Semitism and white supremacism. This was very recent, but his always thought-provoking comments are spread throughout the archives.
One person who revolutionized his thinking is our compatriot and friend, Scott Mooney. Chris wrote:
In recent years I have become increasingly inclined to believe that lending money at interest has to be seen as a method of conquest (of enslaving people) in terms of the way it affects those who must pay the interest. There was a time when I dismissed this view of interest as utter nonsense but as much as I might try, I can’t shake from my head the thought that Scott C. Mooney’s basic thesis (http://tinyurl.com/czzc7f) is correct… For me, Mooney’s call to go back and take a new look at Jesus’ Parable of the Talents was pivotal.
Chris will be sorely missed. With him might have died our last hope at finding a courageous adversary willing to do his homework. I hope not, but let the record show that Chris deserves the honor.
We close this announcement with another comment from Chris, and I think it would please him if we consider these his final words:
From the perspective of eternity, even the most long-lived among us realize that this mortal coil is actually but a brief moment. Rather than attempting to cling futilely to life in this world, what is really important is that right now, while there is still time, we get right with God.