David Chilton, pastor and writer from Diamond Springs, Calif., died March 7. A stroke and heart attack three years ago had ravaged the energetic and often controversial thinker, leaving him in a coma for more than a month and prompting medical experts to suggest he would never speak again--much less carry on a preaching and writing ministry.
Indeed, Mr. Chilton's life was profoundly different after what he described to WORLD readers as a "near-death" experience. Known to some as a hard-nosed postmillennialist, reconstructionist, and proponent of Reformed thinking, he established close fellowship with a number of friends in the charismatic community. He also toyed with the idea of joining the Orthodox Church, backing off from actually doing so only at the last moment. Friends wondered whether the sickness had stripped away his roots.
In fact, David Chilton was always an adventuresome thinker--but careful to anchor his spirited explorations in allegiance to the Bible. He was critical of sloppy and superficial thinking and theology in others, and sometimes the vigor of his writing was mistaken for arrogance. But he was critical also of himself. "Besides my uncanny ability to see dark clouds," he once wrote, "I'm a skeptic--and probably a conceited skeptic to boot."
Yet nobody who knew David Chilton only for the last three years of his life would have called him conceited. Like his handwriting, his message took on new childlikeness and simplicity. "I don't have so much interest in reading newspapers anymore," he told us at WORLD as he struggled to regain his jaunty ability to critique current events. "I find myself just wanting to read the Bible."
Increasingly, the Chilton trademark was a rare combination of tough analytic and exegetic skills sheathed in a compassionate heart. He was just a few months past 45 when his terribly weakened heart finally gave up.