Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller (1936–2012) was a pastor, professor and storyteller, best known for The Singer Trilogy, a mythic retelling of the New Testament story in the spirit of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Miller passed away on the afternoon of August 19, 2012, due to complications after heart surgery. He was 75.

A prolific artist and a writer's writer, Miller garnered respect and praise throughout his career from peers like Luci Shaw, Max Lucado and Philip Yancey. He was the author of more than forty books of popular theology and Christian inspiration including such recent books as Letters to Heaven, The Path of Celtic Prayer, Letters to a Young Pastor and his memoir Life Is Mostly Edges.

In addition to his twenty years of pastoral service at Westside Church in Omaha, Nebraska, Miller was also a great mentor to many students and leaders through his preaching and pastoral ministry classes at Beeson Divinity School. Calvin Miller, never one to multiply words, used just four to describe his rule of life: "Time is a gift."

Read IVP's press release: Celebrated Author of The Singer Dies.

How Miller Got Started

In their history of InterVarsity Press, Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength., Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll tell the story of how Miller's first manuscript was received at the Press:

Rescue from the Slush Pile

In October 1973 one important book was rescued from the slush pile (the stack of unsolicited manuscripts every publisher receives) by assistant editor Don Smith. He read a manuscript by a little-known Baptist pastor in Nebraska that was a poetic retelling of the life of Jesus—portraying him as a Troubadour. Both he and Linda Doll excitedly encouraged Jim Sire to take this imaginative manuscript seriously. In February 1974 Sire wrote the author, Calvin Miller, that IVP wanted to publish his book The Singer.

Months before, Miller had been waking up nights, stirred to write this tale, perhaps unconsciously inspired by the recent Broadway hits Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Later Miller wrote:

When the manuscript was done, I sent it to Jim Sire at InterVarsity Press. “It’s good,” he said, “but we want to think about it a couple of weeks before we give you an answer.” So I waited until finally the letter came. They were going to do it. Jim Sire had done his Ph.D. on John Milton, and the fact that he liked it was joy immeasurable to me. “But,” he cautioned, “we’re going to print five thousand of these. They may not do well—in fact we may end up with four thousand of them on skids in our basement for the next ten years. Still, it’s a good book and deserves to be in print.”

Far more than a thousand copies sold. Actually, over three hundred times that amount sold in its first decade. It became “the most successful evangelical publication in this genre.” The Singer was followed in two years by The Song (paralleling the story of the early church in Acts) and two years after that by The Finale (inspired by the book of Revelation). Publication of The Singer changed Miller’s life. Even though he stayed in the pastorate for many years, it set him on a course of writing and speaking that he could not have imagined.

Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller
Christian T. George
Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller
Klaus Issler
Klaus Issler

Tributes from Friends and Colleagues

From the publisher, Bob Fryling

"Calvin Miller's The Singer was a work of great biblical spiritual imagination. We will miss Calvin, but his writings continue with beauty and wisdom."

From the associate publisher for editorial, Andy T. Le Peau

"IVP was proud to have put Calvin on the map of the publishing world with his surprisingly successful 'mythic retelling' of the gospel story…. I enjoyed sitting side-by-side with him as we worked through his prose…sometimes line by line. What I loved about Calvin and about these times together was his joyful love of words. Of course, he was a voluble character with a ready smile. He always had something to say about what he was up to, his family, what he'd been reading or writing, or where he'd traveled. He was happy to be in your presence and let you know that."
—Excerpted from Le Peau's "Remembering Calvin Miller"