William Rodney (Dad Rod) Rosenbladt (1942-2024) died in the faith today. He is now a member of the church triumphant. We who loved him so and are left behind wait for that day when Christ returns to bring us all home, and we will see him—and all who have gone before us—again. It will be a glorious reunion, for we will then be with Christ and our Heavenly Father forever.
I met Dr. Rosenbladt (Rod) in 1995 when I began as a student at Concordia University in Irvine. As I’ve often said in talks, he was an enigma to me initially—a little man by stature but a giant in force of personality and educational impact. I took so many classes with Rod that my advisor once quipped that I was “majoring in Rosenbladt.” I considered that remark an honor.
Rod was one of those very rare breeds that managed to do for hundreds of students throughout his career, just what he did for me. My experiences are hardly unique. He inspired me to love theology, philosophy, and apologetics, but this is true for so many others as well. He taught me what true masculinity that isn’t brooding or overbearing looks like, but this is true for so many others as well. He provided me with a picture of a gracious father—a picture that completely changed the way I fathered my own children. But I know this is true for hundreds of other men as well. He helped me when I was desperate, provided for me when in need, and guided me when I was aimless. And I know that this is true of many others as well.
My goal here isn’t to selfishly reflect on all the reasons I will miss Rod because I know that if you are reading this, you may miss this man, too. Rather, I hope here to remember him along with you. To remember and honor a man who was full of flaws, a deep sinner, stubborn as the day was long, but who was also kind, generous, gracious, and loving. In short, he was a saint who was also a sinner and still saved by God’s grace alone, through God-given faith alone, on account of Christ alone.
I will always remember the times on the back deck when Rod would quietly watch as we all gathered around him just to be together while also (and more importantly) enjoying the true mutual consolation of the brethren. His back deck was legendary because of this. If you experienced it, you would probably give anything to relive it, for it was on his back deck that he taught many of us what a good father looks like. It was here where we learned what he later described in his popular lecture, “When Good Fathers Die, it is Always Too Soon.”
Rod considered his primary vocation to be a father to his own children. But he was also a teacher—a theology and Christian apologetics professor. And he was a great one. Whether it was in a classroom or in a public lecture, Rod’s greatest gift was communicating and defending the Gospel of Christ Jesus through his powerfully spoken words. If you appreciate what we do at 1517, it’s because so many of us were inspired to preach, teach, and defend the Gospel by Rod Rosenbladt. An even cursory glance at the list of 1517 fellows reveals many who were inspired to become pastors and professors because of Rod. And he inspired many more who are not on that list (and who wouldn’t be where they are today without his influence, encouragement, and assistance).
Above all of this, when I remember Rod, I will remember a man who was thoroughly convinced that the good news of the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus alone was for you, for me, and was also for him. Tears would come to his eyes when he heard or read the account of Christ’s birth in Luke chapter two because he knew that the incarnation therein described was for him. Joy would arise on his face when a good preacher proclaimed that his sins were forgiven by the work and in the name of Christ. And tears would return when he heard of the Gospel’s life-altering impact on others. When you listen to Rod’s viral lecture, “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church,” you can hear the tears of joy as he proclaims Christ for you to his hearers.
To the family and friends of Rod Rosenbladt who might read this, know that I mourn with you. We mourn together. But remember: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13-14). We will see Dad Rod again in glory. We will rejoice with him on that last day. We will live with him in glory at the feet of the lamb of God forever. We miss him now, but he fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith and, to God be the glory, he died in the same faith.
And to my great teacher, tireless mentor, and good friend who loved Narnia so much I say, “further up and further in.” I will see you soon, my friend.