Calvin Miller R.I.P.

Yesterday, funeral services were held in Alabama for Calvin Miller, who died of complications from open-heart surgery at age 75. A nice obituary was carried by the Omaha World Herald.

I did not realize that Dr. Miller had been something of a celebrity pastor in Omaha for many years (and I mean this in a positive way). Miller founded Omaha’s Westside Baptist Church in 1966 and served as its pastor for 25 years. In this time it grew to be a church of 2,500 members. His daughter still lives here and is married to the pastor of a church in Papillion, NE, where Nebraska Christian College is located. Miller later taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas and Beeson Divinity School in Alabama.

Miller is best remembered as an author. When I was in college, many students were Miller fans because of his book, The Singer. This was a poetic retelling of the story of Christ. It was followed by The Song (Acts) and The Finale (Revelation). These three are sometimes called the “Singer Trilogy” although Miller sometimes used the term “Symphony Series.”

The Singer presents the life of Jesus as a medieval Troubadour singing/ministering to the people. Miller does some wonderful restatements of familiar verses of Scripture to fit this setting. Do you recognize any of these?

Blessed are the musical, for theirs shall be a never-ending song.

Earthmaker is love. He has sent his only Troubadour to close the Canyon of the Damned.

In the beginning was the Song of Love …

Come to the Singer you science-stained.
Cry for the crime and be unchained.

Here in the Great Invader’s reign.

Hailed at the time as the heir of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien for this fresh and lively writing, I’m not sure that the literary tastes of American Christianity have sustained Miller’s works as timeless classics. But I wonder if they are not ripe to be rediscovered and influence a new generation of college students. In my opinion, the first book, The Singer, stands head and shoulders above the others, and is still a worthwhile, inspiring read. It is only 168 pages, many of which have illustrations or have no print. It can be read in a couple of hours (what I call an “airplane book”). You will enjoy it if you have not read it before, and enjoy it again if you have not read it recently. I reread most of The Singer yesterday.

My personal copy of The Singer was given to me as a Christmas present in 1978. Here is what my mother wrote in it:

There is beauty and emotion in the words of this book. I cannot read it without tears. Many people do not understand it. I think you will.

Give it a try, I think you will understand it, too.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

PS: The four Scriptures above are Matthew 5:3, John 3:16, John 1:1, and Acts 2:38.


6 thoughts on “Calvin Miller R.I.P.

  1. Mark:
    When I was president of the Kansas Christian Convention (late 90s), I had Calvin Miller and Paul Williams as co-speakers. Calvin did a superb job and in our interaction was very gracious. I am sad to hear of his death.

  2. Mark,
    Thanks for the heads-up on the passing of Calvin Miller. I hadn’t seen it. And thanks for the reminder of this wonderful book. I think it’s time that I, also, reread it.

    Steve Smith

  3. Thanks Mark. I was introduced to Calvin Miller through Lee and Pat Magness who were at Boise Bible and did a musical based on The Singer. I believe we hosted a performance at Caldwell. I appreciate the encouragement to pull the trilogy off the shelf and read it with new eyes!

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