Feeding a Passion for Books
As he looks back at the 50 years since he earned his degree, James Reetzke (BD '56) can see, distinctly, the influence of his Fuller days. His training in Greek and Hebrew from such professors as Everett Harrison and Gleason Archer have served Reetzke well in his study, writing, and training of other Christian workers. Charles Woodbridge, Reetzke's church history professor, traveled the path of Martin Luther in Germany in order to research Luther's life; decades later, Reetzke was inspired to do the same. Reetzke has drawn on the teachings of many professors, including Edward John Carnell and Clarence Roddy, as he has, throughout the years, authored several books of his own and devotedly worked to help plant the Church in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities in the Midwest.
One of the most outwardly visible signs of Fuller's influence on Reetzke's life, however, stands at 3931 West Irving Park Road in Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Bibles and Books, a Christian bookstore Reetzke helped launch 25 years ago, patterning it after the Fuller Bookstore he frequented as a student.
When Reetzke moved to Chicago from Pasadena in the 1970s, "I was burdened to start a bookstore like the one I had known here at Fuller," he says. "The Fuller Bookstore was my model and inspiration."
During Reetzke's student days, the Fuller Bookstore--initially located, as were most classes, at Lake Avenue Congregational Church--sold used books, Reetzke explains. "Once a week the store got a new shipment of those books," he says. "We would line up waiting for the store to open when we knew another shipment had arrived, so we could get our choice possessions."
Feeding his growing passion for books, Reetzke decided to ask for the list of book dealers the Fuller Bookstore worked with--and started placing his own orders. "I began to build up my own collection," he says. "My wife will tell you that more than once, the mailman arrived at our door with a whole cart full of books I had ordered!"
The person who helped fuel that passion for books and book collecting was Reetzke's professor of apologetics and English Bible, Wilbur M. Smith. "I knew of Dr. Smith before attending Fuller and he was one of the reasons I enrolled," Reetzke says. "He really got me into books...He instilled in me a love of books and a desire to build a library of significant Christian books." In class one day, Smith said he needed someone to help him reshelve books in his personal library; "when class was over, I made a dash forward and said I would take the job," Reetzke reminisces. And he loved his work: "I got to see Dr. Smith's massive library up close, and came to realize what books were important to him."
When Reetzke opened Chicago Bibles and Books in 1981, he stocked it with many of those same books he'd seen in Dr. Smith's library. He stocked it with apologetics books Dr. Carnell had recommended. He stocked it with books on the life of Christ Dr. Harrison had recommended. And the list goes on. "I wanted to offer the classics at Chicago Bibles and Books," Reetzke says, and looked back at his Fuller years to help him do just that.
Staffed solely by volunteers since its founding, Chicago Bibles and Books continues to thrive today. Reetzke continues to help select the books it offers. A tour of the store--available at the click of a mouse on its website, www.biblesandbooks.com--reveals an attractive, well-stocked display of classic books and more...all steeped with the flavor of Fuller.