It is a great pleasure to pay tribute to Dr. Tom J. Nettles upon his retirement from Southern Seminary. Dr. Nettles has been to many a professor, teacher, mentor and friend. He generously gives of his time and knowledge, and encourages all those he meets by his gracious demeanor and Christ-like life.
As an author, professor and preacher, the Lord has used him to do much good in His kingdom. For many, the first acquaintance with Dr. Nettles has come through his published work. Books such as By His Grace and For His Glory, Baptists and the Bible, The Baptists and the recent biographies of James Boyce and Charles Spurgeon are only some of the profoundly helpful products of his pen. These and many others, together with the multitude of articles published in various periodicals, have shaped the thinking of a whole generation of Baptist students. We have come to love history through Dr. Nettles’ writings.
For others, Dr. Nettles’ courses offered at various seminaries have been life-changing. My first encounter with his teaching was in a seminar on the English Dissenters after the Reformation. The memories of insightful lectures and discussions are fresh in my mind more than twenty years later. One wonders how many seminary students have listened to Prof. Nettles’ expertise ranging over the whole history of the Christian church? While his greatest interest has been with the Baptists, it would be a mistake to think that his contributions have been limited to their history. He always treated his students with respect, and was available to any of them for help – both with class matters and with counsel for their lives. His students love him for his kind and gracious demeanor. As a preacher, congregations have rejoiced to sit under his expositions of Scripture. He has been in demand for years at conferences, and frequently fills pulpits in local congregations.
There is yet another side of Tom Nettles – one not often seen. Ask him sometime about the role of Harold Hill from The Music Man, and see what happens! Memories like this quickly bring smiles to the faces of those who know him.
We wish him well in retirement, and pray that the Lord will send more men like him to bless the churches of Christ.
James M. Renihan
Dean, Professor of Historical Theology
Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Seminary California