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Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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Regent University Theologian, Dr. J. Rodman Williams Goes Home to be with the Lord

CBN.comDr. J. Rodman Williams - 1918 - 2008

Revered theologian, teacher and author, Dr. J. Rodman Williams has died at the age of 90. He served as Professor of Renewal Theology, Emeritus at the Regent University School of Divinity.

He is survived by his wife, Johanna, two children and three grandchildren.

Dr. Williams was a Presbyterian minister who served as a pastor for several years before becoming a full-time educator. As a key figure in the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s, he was president of the International Presbyterian Charismatic Communion, and later a participant in the International Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue. In 1972, he became the founding president of the Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, California. He joined the faculty of Regent University in the mid-1980s.

For several years after his retirement from Regent University, Dr. Williams continued writing a popular weekly column of theological answers to questions posed by the audience.

Dr. Williams was recognized as one of the preeminent evangelical theologians. His book, Renewal Theology, is a three volume examination of systematic theology from a Charismatic-Pentecostal perspective. The release of this exhaustive biblical study as the first complete systematic theology written from this perspective was a breakthrough for Charismatic and Pentecostal scholarship when it was released in the late 1980s.

The book included chapters on the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and a chapter on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, arguing for the traditional Pentecostal interpretation. The three volumes were later published as one unabridged volume of Renewal Theology.

J. Rodman Williams was active in the Charismatic Movement as an early president of the International Presbyterian Charismatic Communion, as a participant for several years in the Vatican-Pentecostal dialogue, and as the organizer and leader of the first European Charismatic Leaders Conferences. He has also served as president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies.

Dr. Williams was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Davidson College in North Carolina (A.B. degree), of Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (B.D. and Th. M. degrees), and Columbia University in New York (Ph.D. degree in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics). He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Marine Corps, taught philosophy and religion at Beloit College in Wisconsin, pastored the First Presbyterian Church of Rockford, Illinois, taught theology and philosophy of religion at Austin Presbyterian Seminary in Texas, and served as president and professor of theology at Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, California.

Beginning in 1982, he taught theology at Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and became Professor of Renewal Theology Emeritus there in 2002.

Purpose For Writing Renewal Theology

Dr. Williams explained that the release of Renewal Theology was, for him, an expression of revitalization in the Church. "When I came into the renewal in 1965, 'God is dead' language was abroad in the land. What happened in my case and that of many others was God's own answer: a powerful self-revelation."

"John Calvin had long ago declared about God that 'the recognition of him consists more in living experience than in vain and high-flown speculation.' Now that there was an enhancement of 'living experience' in my life, there came about a fresh zeal for teaching theology in its many facets. As I said later in The Era of the Spirit, 'A new dynamic has been unleashed that has vitalized various theological categories.' Renewal Theology is an expression of theological revitalization."

For Williams, Renewal Theology also represented an effort to reclaim certain biblical affirmations that had been largely neglected or given insufficient attention. "In line with the setting of this theology within the contemporary renewal, there is also a deep concern to relate relevant renewal emphases to more traditional categories. Since it is my conviction that church tradition and theology have generally failed to treat adequately the aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit that may be called 'pentecostal' and 'charismatic,' Renewal Theology is an earnest attempt to bring these matters to light. Volume 2 deals particularly with this area; however, in many other places in Renewal Theology there is Pentecostal/Charismatic input.

"The concern of Renewal Theology in every area of study is truth. This is not an attempt to advance a particular cause but to understand in totality what the Christian faith proclaims. It is not only a matter of individual doctrines but also of the full round of Christian truth. With this in mind, it has been my prayerful desire that 'the Spirit of truth' at every point will lead 'into all the truth'" (John 16:13).

On the release of Renewal Theology, Pat Robertson declared. "If ever we needed a scripturally sound theology that also affirms the power of the Holy Spirit, the time is now. A leading theologian in the renewal movement and the founding professor of theology at Regent University, J. Rodman Williams has been a friend and colleague for over two decades. His Renewal Theology is a milestone in biblical scholarship."

Jack Hayford also praised the work as being a breakthrough for this important work. "J. Rodman Williams' work and workmanship are helping secure the moorings of solid theology, bringing doctrinal perspective to and fresh biblical accountability upon the charismatic movement. His scholarship and his spiritual sensitivity are beautifully blended and are a blessing to us all."

Dr. Williams' other works include Contemporary Existentialism and Christian Faith (1965), The Era of the Spirit (1971), The Pentecostal Reality (1972), Ten Teachings (1974), and The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today (1980).

Dr. Williams' life and teachings are mentioned in the Handbook of Evangelical Theologians. Further biographical write-ups may be found in the Dictionary of American Scholars, Who's Who in American Religion, and Who's Who in America.

More from Dr. J. Rodman Williams on

Dr. Williams' Faculty Page from Regent University School of Divinity

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