I have lost one of my very best friends on earth in the passing on of Dr. James Grier. I first met him through our mutual speaking opportunities at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London (often called, “Spurgeon’s church”), some fifteen years ago. We became great friends in Christ. I soon realized that my “old pilgrim” friend, as he liked to call himself, contained a storehouse of knowledge, both theologically and spiritually as well as practically in terms of running a seminary, since he served as vice-president of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary for many years.
In response to our invitation, Dr. Grier soon began teaching various courses at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS), including Apologetics, Philosophical Ethics, and Critical Thinking for Ministry. I sat in on all of his classes the first time around, and was captivated by his teaching. I don’t say this lightly, but I believe he is one of the two best professors I have ever sat under in my life. His clarity of thought, his command of complex subjects and vocabulary, his humble demeanor and spirituality, his freedom to confess his own shortcomings, were all simply astonishing. He was a born teacher, a disciplined teacher, a loving teacher, and above all, a perpetual student. He read two or three books a week. Only ten days ago, while under hospice care at Trillium Woods, he told me that he was working his way through A Puritan Theology (a 1000 page book), and that he was hoping he could finish it before he died! How this reminded me of Paul who called for his parchments and books at the very end of his life (2 Tim. 4:13).
Dr. Grier also played a huge role in PRTS. He has been a great mentor for me. Soon after I met him, he became my first “go-to” person for advice on many issues that surfaced at our Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He patiently and wisely answered all my questions over the last fifteen years, always lovingly pushing me to strive for greater excellence in our seminary—including persuading me of the importance of pursuing ATS accreditation and helping us get started in this lengthy process. He never complained that I called too much or talked too long. He had one of the biggest servant hearts of any Christian I have ever met. We met together for lunch often. We talked together, brainstormed together, and at times wept together. This past year, he finally felt his declining health was compelling him to resign from our Scholarship Committee, which he faithfully served for ten years. At that meeting, he got tears in his eyes when he said to us, “Brothers, I trust you realize that the hand of God is on this place.” This dear brother loved our seminary and everyone here at the seminary loved him. Our seminary community and I myself owe far more to our old pilgrim friend and the grace of God in him than we can put into words.
Being a people person, Dr. Grier loved to preach and teach. But he hated to write. I once talked him into writing one chapter for one of my books, but it became such a burden for him that I never dared to ask him again. A few months ago I took him out to lunch, and asked him if Reformation Heritage Books could work on putting some of his sermons and lectures into print after his death. He was deeply humbled and moved by that request; for the next hour, he let me know those items that he thought he had lectured on that would be worthy of being turned into a book. I treasure the notes that I took at that lunch and in due time hope to act upon his desires.
The aroma of Christ exuded from this dear brother. Allow me to mention only one example. My last two visits with Dr. Grier in the last month were unforgettable. When we spoke together of the great Bridegroom and the perfect marriage to come, his weary face would break out into a full smile and his eyes would light up, and his voice would quiver with joy as he contemplated being with Christ forever. When I lifted him up in prayer about the eternal abode of the redeemed, he could not restrain himself, and broke out with holy joy in the midst of the prayer. I said to my wife after that visit, “This is a visit we will never forget as long as we live.”
We pray for Jim’s dear Shirley that God will fill the huge empty place in her own life with His fatherly presence, and we long for the day when we will meet our brother, infirmity-free and sin-free, in Immanuel’s land, and behold our Savior face to face, no more through a glass darkly. “Lord, fill us with holy jealousy that that experience is now his!”
On behalf of PRTS,
Joel R. Beeke, President
Obituary: Pilgrim James arrived at The Celestial City on January 9, 2013. He was born in Staten Island, NY to James Murray and Mary Helen (Hannah) Grier. While Jim was growing up, his father pastored at South Baptist Church of Tottenville/Staten Island, NY. He earned his B.Th. from Baptist Bible College, M.Div. from Grace Theological Seminary, Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and Th.D. from Grace Theological Seminary. Dr. Grier taught and preached extensively across the United States, in Canada, Hungary, the United Kingdom, and Zambia, pastored two congregations, served for 16 years as Executive Vice President and Academic Dean at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary of Cornerstone University, was Chairman of the Evangelical Seminary Dean’s Council (ESDC) 1993–1998, consulted pastors for more than 50 years while advising numerous hospital boards on medical ethics, was a highly sought after conference speaker on philosophical theology and Christian worldview across the globe, and was the distinguished Professor of Philosophical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (GRTS) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His publications include: The Relation of the Law to Christ, Demonstrating Truth in Our Lives, Doing Theology in the Context of Church Ministry, and Calvinistic Philosophy. Before coming to Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 1982, he taught at Cedarville College (now Cedarville University) as a Professor of Philosophy (1969–1982) and served administratively in various roles. Beyond GRTS and Cedarville College, Dr. Grier had been a visiting or adjunct professor at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and London Reformed Baptist Seminary. Since 1978, he had been an Adjunct Professor at Grace Theological Seminary while holding a similar position since 1984 at Evangelical Baptist Seminary of Quebec. He also served two years as the Acting Academic Dean of Grand Rapids Baptist College (Cornerstone University) from 1985–1986. His very first and final sermons were in the church that his father served for 47 years in Tottenville/Staten Island, NY. His various professional memberships were The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. His philanthropic endeavors included work at Home of Hope and Blodgett Hospital. Jim is survived by his wife of 58 years, Shirley (Stewart) Grier whom he married on July 30, 1954, his son and his son’s wife, Dr. Kevin Blaine Grier and Dr. Robin Grier; and his sister, Joyce Elizabeth Grier, as well as several cousins, nieces and nephews. Memorial service will be at Grace Community Church, 3500 New Holland, Hudsonville, MI on Monday at 7:00 pm.