If North Dakota was the best three consecutive years of my life, the year back in Cleveland (1979-1980) was the most bifurcated. Cheryl refers to it as the “year of the black hole.”
Before entering a doctoral program I felt strongly I needed an intensive study of Pentecostal theology at our seminary. Specifically I wanted to learn everything I could from Hollis Gause, the “Dean” of Church of God Theologians. The plan was for us to both spend a year studying in Cleveland and then to begin our doctoral programs. The plan began to be challenged before we left Minot. First, God spoke explicitly to me that our house was not going to sell (see http://jackiespeaks.blogspot.com/2010/01/i-am-thankful-for-words-of-knowledge.html). Second, Cheryl decided to postpone further studies until I had completed mine. I felt strongly she was wrong but God spoke to me with instructions to stay out of the way and trust her with Him.
We moved to Cleveland just in time for me to enroll in seminary. We had a house in Minot that wasn’t selling. Jimmy Carter was President. Inflation was around 18%. There was a major recession in process. Unemployment was high. Cheryl couldn’t find work and neither could I. I struggled to trust God and not get in the way of whatever He was doing. My parents helped us out financially. (I highly recommend young adults never say they will never do anything again such as take money from their parents. I didn’t ask, but I didn’t turn it down either.] It was a most horrible year.
On the other hand, it was a glorious year. I was like a sponge at school. I took everything Dr. Gause taught that year. I was in class with him several hours every day. His rapid fire lectures were like an artesian well in a desert. I already had a firm spiritual foundation and the skeleton of a solid Pentecostal theology, but my ability to articulate that theology was weak. His lectures were like muscles attached to the frame. What I knew in spirit became sculpted with words, words to the glory of God. Every lecture was like Ezekiel’s dry bones coming to life.
There were several bonuses of coming to the seminary, Dr. Arrington, Joe May, and Bob Crick (May and Crick would later become doctors). I had taken Greek II with Arrington at Lee. At the Seminary I took Old Testament and New Testament with him. His lectures were always precise and engaging. I loved hearing him bring passion to study of God’s Word.
Joe May had already established himself as the Prince of Preachers in the Church of God. He was renowned for his expository preaching at camp meetings. His classes were unexpectedly methodical and punctuated with humorous anecdotes. I had to study more than I expected.
I had Bob Crick for a counseling course. He was provocative and forthright. He said things no one else was saying. He pushed the envelope and helped me own my personal theology of life. Thus, he strengthened my belief that the best theology flows out of the experiences of the people as they strive to know and glorify God.
Or as I would later write, orthodoxy is purposive; it is the port toward which we sail and the stream in which we sail. Our purpose for being is to “show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are destined to see God, to know Him, and to glorify Him in perfection. Theology should express our participation in the truth we have received, that truth in which we live and move and have our very being, Christ Himself, the Hope of Glory.
I am thankful for my teachers at the Church of God Theological Seminary. Each of them helped me articulate the faith that first dwelt in my mother Ernestine Johns and her mother Maggie O’Quinn, and was born in me at an early age. Those teachers further showed me that for the Spirit-filled believer a passion for God and a passion for knowledge are not only compatible, they are inseparable. To worship God truly is to know Him and to communicate the truth about Him.
July 5, 2010