Theologian Thursdays: Jim Elliot

Every thursday I hope to highlight a different person from church history, alive or dead, and point out the impact they made on the Kingdom of God. 

This is to introduce people to new ideas, thoughts, and to give us a glimpse into the many who have gone before us who have made a difference in their time for God.  


I'm going to start with those that have made a big impact on me personally, and then branch out from there.  This week our focus is on Jim Elliot.




Jim Elliot was born October 8, 1927  and died January 8, 1956.  He died as a young man on the mission field.  
He is mostly known by the journals and letters published by his wife Elizabeth Elliot after he died.  Elizabeth Elliot is an accomplished author in her own right, but the book Passion and Purity highlights their relationship before and after marriage, when they were in college and while he served on the mission field.  

Jim was a man of strong conviction, including being a pacifist.  But he followed God with abandon wherever he lead.  Through a series of starts and stops, he eneded up with several others working in Ecuador, reaching out to several people groups.

The most infamous of these was the Auca Indians.  They were a savage, ruthless people, and had not been reached with the gospel before.  It would take a great work and much dedication to reach them.  

Elliot and four other missionaries – Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and their pilot, Nate Saint – made contact from their airplane with the Huaorani using a loudspeaker and a basket to pass down gifts. After several months, the men decided to build a base a short distance from the Indian village, along the Curaray River. There they were approached one time by a small group of Huaorani and even gave an airplane ride to one curious Huaorani whom they called "George" (his real name was Naenkiwi). Encouraged by these friendly encounters, they began plans to visit the Huaorani, without knowing that Naenkiwi had lied to the others about the missionaries' intentions. Their plans were preempted by the arrival of a larger group of about 10 Huaorani warriors, who killed Elliot and his four companions on January 8, 1956. Elliot's body was found downstream, along with those of the other men, except that of Ed McCully which was found even farther downstream.  All of the men left families behind.  Jim left his wife of three years and an young daughter.  


Jim believed his work for the Lord was worth it, and his wrtings that surviived tesitfy to that.  His most famous saying

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose"

is a beautiful summary of his life's work.  

Almost all of what we know about Jim comes from his wife.  Her many books help document his life. 

Through Gates of Splendor
Passion and Purity
These Strange Ashes
Shadow of the Almighty

These are just a few of her books, but they are the ones that touch most heavily on Jim.

There was also a movie made about the experience.  One was a dramatic movie, but the better one is the documentary made by Bearing Fruit Productions called Beyond Gates of Splendor.  I have a copy of it, and it is a great window into the lives of all the men who gave their life for the Gospel.  

Most laws condemn the soul and pronounce sentence. The result of the law of my God is perfect. It condemns but forgives. It restores - more than abundantly - what it takes away.

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.”


"The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for, but we must believe that whatever it involves, it is good, acceptable and perfect.”


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