Doc & Cedar
The contrast between the two friends, and co-laborers, was marked. On the one hand Doc was a brilliant orator and disciplined intellectual, while Cedar was a dynamic promoter and consummate people person. They were different, but both were smart with significant educational backgrounds. Each earned Master’s degrees from prestigious educational institutions. Cedar held a Th.M. from Princeton Seminary and Doc a M.A. from the University of Chicago. Not surprisingly the two men were very different in their personalities, gifts and abilities. Those realities should not be unexpected, but they obviously played into the conflicts that developed.
I revered both men in my formative days. I’ve often said that Doc Clearwaters was the most brilliant man I knew up close and personal. He seemed to possess what was popularly referred to as a photographic memory. I don’t know whether that trait came from innate capabilities or from studious discipline. It always was amazing to hear him launch into long passages of epic poetry, or recite segments of scholarly works in the course of a sermon.
He preached without notes, and advocated that practice in both informal and classroom settings. It was said that he had extensive written outlines and notes, but that he always left them on his study desk and entered the pulpit with only his Bible. There were times when you could tell he was rehearsing, or reviewing, his message points while in the middle of a sermon. However, it was not obvious whether he was doing that to aid his memory recall or simply using repetition as an effective tool in his sermon delivery. He was a master at commanding the pulpit with language and timing. Because his services were broadcast for years he had the ability to always draw a cogent conclusion in accordance with the large clock and radio cues.
In contrast, Cedar was more of a barnstorming preacher, to draw on an analogy from the days of touring actors and speakers and later depicting entertaining stunt pilots. For almost 20 years he stormed back and forth across America promoting the cause of church planting and church growth. Sometimes he would preach a series of evangelistic meetings in a revival tent, but most often he traveled from church to church inspiring, motivating and promoting the cause of Christ.
Cedar was constantly in motion until he finally retired in 1983. Doc was much more careful about his health and energy. Cedar spent his energy on ministry travel, preaching, promoting and most of all on people. For many years I never saw him slow down, and it ultimately caught up with him.
During the 70s I would usually travel once every school year to Maranatha to preach for a Monday chapel service. I would leave St. Paul after the evening service and arrive on the campus sometime past mid-night. Never once did Cedar return home to Watertown before we pulled in to the college parking lot. He was always out serving in the churches weekend after weekend.
Doc was more of a homebody and dedicated to his consistent ministry in the church, the MBA, Pillsbury and Central Seminary. I once visited the Clearwaters home before 9 pm and the Doc was already in bedtime attire wearing a very dignified robe. Doc was very careful with his vacation time, and never took time off during the beautiful Minnesota summers when everyone else was going to the lake or on vacation trip. He always took his vacation in February – and went to warm Florida for most of the month.
Both men were fiercely loyal to the local church. Both taught a high view of the biblical importance of the New Testament doctrine of the local church. Doc was very rarely missing from the pulpit of the Fourth Baptist Church, unless it was for his winter vacation time, or because he had invited an evangelist or other guest speaker to preach. He taught local church importance by both precept and example.
Cedar, on the other hand, rarely had the privilege of attending the church where he had his membership. He was always on the go – but, always among the churches. One of the keys to the early growth of Maranatha Baptist Bible College was directly related to the number of dinner tables Cedar had put his feet under in parsonages across America. He knew pastors in an intimate way, and he knew their children just as intimately. He was coaching preacher’s kids, deacon’s kids, and other church member’s kids all across the country about the need to attend a Bible college, and Maranatha benefited in a dramatic way. He was the best recruiter for MBBC’s football program for a number of years – plus the choirs, and the drama department, and other programs at the college.
It was in this contrast of personalities and style that some of the later conflict, I have come to believe, could be traced – or, at least, seen. Doc was the thinker, strategist, leader of organizations and of a very influential local church. Cedar was the doer, promoter, and personal influencer of many pastors and local churches. Both men were consistent warhorses in the battle for the souls of men, but they worked out their ministries in decidedly different ways.
6 thoughts on “Doc & Cedar – Part 4”
Thank you! This was so very insightful and I can see it clearly even though I didn’t know them nearly as well as you did! It makes so much sense!
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Very well done, Jerry. I appreciate the balance with which you have represented these two remarkable men, who were so influential.
Thanks Jerry for this series. The picture of the baby dedication is from my younger brother Vaughn’s baby dedication. You can see Doc standing in front of the couples. Youth Pastor Don Nelson is on the platform. My mom and dad are the third and fourth people from the right side. My dad is wearing a bow tie, and my mother is holding a piece of paper. Next to her is Roger Peterson and his wife Jo, good friends of my folks, who served as the Calling Pastor and Christian Education Pastor at Fourth. He is holding their oldest son, Phillip. I’m guessing this is the spring of 1959. This is in the old sanctuary at Fourth at 2105 Fremont Avenue North in Minneapolis. I accepted Christ with my Sunday school teacher after class in one of the second floor classrooms of this historic building.
In 1963, our family moved out to the Twin Cities suburb of Eden Prairie and eventually started attending Normandale Baptist Church. I reconnected with Dr. Clearwaters when I started attending Fourth Baptist Christian School in the fall of 1973 as a high school junior. (By this time, he was 73 years old but just as sharp as ever. You could always tell how old Doc because he was born in 1900 so whatever year you were in was his age.
I would visit with Doc in his office. His desk was always piled high with books and papers. He remembered my father and we would talk about the books on his shelves, Bible topics, theology and his experiences. I loved his wise and pithy sayings. For instance, the logo for Central Seminary has a picture of a bull with a yoke and an altar. Doc used that to say that one could either be a “servant or a sacrifice.”
I’m proud to be able to say I attended all four of the educational institutions that Doc started. I graduated from Fourth Baptist Christian School in 1975, attended Fourth Baptist Bible Institute during my high school years, graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in 1979, and started Central Baptist Theological Seminary that fall. I had Doc for a counseling class at Central.
In the summer of 1976, I worked full-time for the Fourth Baptist/Central Seminary radio station, WCTS-FM. I am not by nature a morning person, but that summer I had to be there each morning by 5:30 a.m. to warm up the old tube type transmitter and read the news off the UPI teletype when we started broadcasting at 6 a.m. There were some listeners who would listen to Doc’s Recorded Challenge sermon at 11 pm and drift off to sleep, leave their radio on overnight, and then I would awaken them in the morning. Doc was usually there in his office early in the morning, even on Saturdays. He would personally answer the phone if I was on the air at the time.
He had a brilliant mind. I enjoyed having him regularly come up to the radio studios where we would chat before he would record various radio programs. One I recall was the Bible and Poetry. I would play instrumental music softly in the background, as he would recite poems from memory. I have always struggled with rote memorization so that particularly impressed me.
When he preached, his sermons included references to the Bible and theology of course, but also illustrations from literature and history and he often quoted relevant poetry. He certainly wasn’t a “shouter” as a preacher and I appreciated that. I would say he was as much a teacher as a preacher. He called his style “expository preaching without notes.” I chose to be a history major at Pillsbury because of his influence and love for things historical. Because his sermons were broadcast on WCTS, he always finished right on time to the minute.
In his later years, when I served on the Minnesota Baptist Association board, after our meetings in Golden Valley I would always go visit Doc in the nursing home where he lived after his wife died.
The first time I ever met Dr. Cedarholm, he greeted me by name. He had a phenomenal memory for names and faces and had seen me in the Pillsbury Bulletin. We chatted again when Pillsbury hosted the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship regional meeting. This was when Ed Cunningham took the photo of the first four Presidents.
Thanks for many good memories of both of these men!
Wonderful thoughts Randy! I may use some of them in a summary post at the end of the series. Is that OK?
I’ve always been hard on these Type A fundamentalist leaders…. and I probably still am less than charitable concerning the turf war fights of the 60s and 70s….and even beyond.
Having said that…. This is not unusual in ministry organizations. I hate and I mean hate conflict … Sometimes it literally is not avoidable. Especially for these guys who had incredible values and commitments…. To them the honor of Christ and His principles were at stake…. My guess is a part of them hated fighting men who they had loved…..
The sad thing was the absolute hurt these turf wars caused. Massive damage…. Crazy….
It’s a good reminder to make sure when we pick up the sword….it’s the right sword…. And when we go to battle…. It’s really a necessary one…. Too often we are fighting the wrong battles….
Often you don’t really need to worry what the other guy does or say. Just be busy w your corner of the Vineyard…..
I’m thankful one of my schools of study was Central Seminary…..
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