Festschrift—a Fitting Tribute to F. Burton Nelson, Scholar, Teacher, and Churchman

by Phil Johnson

Reflections on Bonhoeffer: Essays in Honor of F. Burton Nelson. Edited by Geffrey B. Kelly and C. John Weborg. Covenant Publications, 1999.

This book in Dr. Nelson’s honor is a treasury of essays by distinguished scholars. There are seven sections: "Burton Nelson: Friend and Theologian," "Bonhoeffer and Resistance to Nazism," "Bonhoeffer’s Spirituality," "Bonhoeffer and Jewish-Christian Relations," "Bonhoeffer’s Circles," "Ecumenical Connections," and "Contemporary Issues."

F. Burton Nelson has been a North Park Seminary Professor and leading Bonhoeffer scholar for years. For example, along with Geffrey B. Kelly, Burton edited A Testament of Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which was published by HarperCollins in 1990.

The festschrift’s editors, Kelly and Weborg, are delighted to have managed this project without Professor Nelson getting wind of it. They write: "It is always gratifying to put one over on a person who likes to surprise others with tongue-in-cheek teasing or pleasant practical jokes."

They conclude their preface as follows:

Occasions like the presentation of a festschrift for a distinguished professor of a prestigious seminary need no rationale other than the worthiness of the contributions of the honoree to scholarship and ministry, not to mention joviality, sociality, conviviality, and his perennial conniving. Now that last qualifier should be seen only for what it is worth in the context of Burton’s ethical sensitivity and even greater sense of humor (viii).

This is a book worthy of its objectives. There is plenty here for edification and reflection.