A Theological Pilgrimage: Preface
By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
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15 | 16 | Conclusion
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A Theological Pilgrimage derives its title from the fact that
the material included in this book represents an ongoing theological
pilgrimage. For a number of years I have been gripped by the reality
of the Holy Spirit and have sought in various ways to express this reality
through speaking, teaching, and writing. It has been, and continues
to be, an exciting theological pilgrimage.
In a larger sense this book reflects the contemporary spiritual renewal
known as "Pentecostal" or "charismatic." As a theologian,
I have been active in the renewal since 1965. The writings in this book
accordingly are set within a renewal context.
During this time I have served as professor of theology in three institutions:
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas; Melodyland
School of Theology, Anaheim, California; and Regent University School
of Divinity, Virginia Beach, Virginia. I have authored four books that
deal with the Holy Spirit: The Era of the Spirit (1971); The
Pentecostal Reality (1972); The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today
(1980); and Renewal Theology, Volume 2, Salvation, the Holy
Spirit, and Christian Living (1990). Also I have participated in
many gatherings, spoken to numerous groups, and generally helped to
give direction to the renewal.
This book is a collection of writings and addresses in the area of
the Holy Spirit that date from 1971 to 1995. Included are selections
from several books as well as various articles and addresses relating
to a diversity of situations. Because of the span of years, some materials
reflect the particular period when written. However, by the Spirit's
help, I believe that throughout there is a controlling unity.
My theological pilgrimage began in November 1965. All of the writings
on the Holy Spirit included in this book derive from a spiritual encounter
on the day before Thanksgiving. I will now relate some of the events
leading up to that date, give some description of the encounter, and
then what has happened since that time.
During the academic year 1964-65 I was on sabbatical leave with my
family from Austin Seminary. In August 1964, as a theological consultant,
I attended an official gathering in Frankfurt, Germany, of delegates
from Presbyterian and Reformed churches around the world.1
The theme for the meeting was "Come, Creator Spirit!" The
theme itself was significant because Presbyterian/Reformed churches
have traditionally been more inclined to stress the sovereignty of God
or the lordship of Christ than to take cognizance of the Holy Spirit.
Further, the theme was not simply doctrinal (as, for example, "The
Holy Spirit and the Church" would be) but actually a prayer, an
entreaty, for the Holy Spirit to come. The New Testament, it was pointed
out, is much more concerned about the question "Did you receive
the Holy Spirit" (Acts 19:2) than "What do you know about
the Holy Spirit?" In an article that I later wrote for the Austin
entitled "The Concerns of Frankfurt," I summed up with these
words: "Whatever else may come from the meeting, no one who was
a part of it will soon forget that Presbyterians and Reformeds from
all over the world have seriously prayed 'Come, Creator Spirit!' and
exposed themselves to whatever may happen in answer to such a prayer."
I had absolutely no idea at the time of writing how prophetic, indeed
in my case how personally prophetic, these words would be. I recall
one Presbyterian leader saying, "I wonder what would happen to
us Presbyterians if the Holy Spirit really did come." In any event
we exposed ourselves "to whatever may happen"-and that indeed
was a risky prayer!
In November 1964 I went down to Rome as a guest observer at several
sessions of the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Council, Vatican II.3
This Council had been earlier convoked by Pope John XXIII who in a prayer
to the Holy Spirit said, "Renew Your wonders in our time as for
a new Pentecost." I was impressed by the continuing invocation
of the Holy Spirit, and the spirit of openness to the renewal of the
church. Late in the fall the Council promulgated the document entitled
Dogmatic Constitution of the Church which at one point asserts
about the Holy Spirit: "Allotting His gifts 'to everyone according
to His will' (1 Cor. 12:11), He distributes special graces among the
faithful of every rank....These charismatic gifts, whether they be the
most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received
with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable
and useful for the needs of the Church."4
This new official openness to the Holy Spirit and His charismatic activity
would have significance for the future of many.
Throughout the fall and early winter I spent much of my time doing
research near Geneva, Switzerland, for a book on systematic theology.
I wrote several preliminary chapters, sent them off to a Presbyterian
publishing house, but received only a negative response. Much better
was my success with a book on existentialism, which was finally published
in the summer of 1965 under the title of Contemporary Existentialism
and Christian Faith. Although this book was essentially a vigorous
polemic against existentialism-"Existentialism is ultimately wrong,
because it fails to understand man in the light of God"5-I
did seek to draw out the existentialist value of recognizing that ultimate
truth must be inwardly, even passionately, appropriated, if it is to
have any vital significance. Both philosophy and theology may be so
dispassionately concerned with the rational, the objective, as to miss
this altogether. However, existentialism did probe my inwardness, but
offered little or nothing by way of positive results. As I later came
to look back on both my unsuccessful effort to get a book in theology
published and my success in the publication of the book on existentialism,
one fact stood out startlingly clear: the almost total lack of reference
to the Holy Spirit in both.
The second half of my sabbatical was spent in Taiwan. On the long
trip to Taiwan from Geneva, we visited many places, the most memorable
being the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. While we stayed there in a
Franciscan convent-hospice, a storm quickly arose one day on the Sea
of Galilee below and a beautiful double rainbow appeared in the clouds.
The presence of the Lord was strongly sensed, and the rainbow seemed
a sign of God's future blessing.
From February through June 1965, I taught a course on systematic theology
at the Tainan Theological College, Taiwan, and likewise gave lectures
on existentialism at the Tunghai Christian University in Taichung. So
it was that I continued with both theology and philosophy; and though
there was much satisfaction in teaching Taiwanese students, I increasingly
felt an emptiness in what I was doing. There were Sunday evening meetings
for fellowship and prayer with the English-speaking faculty, and thereby
some uplift. But by the time we left Taiwan for the United States in
June 1965, I personally felt much spiritual hunger.
Now let me put in place several factors that further led to the spiritual
encounter of November 1965. First, there was the rise in the mid-60s
of the so-called "death of God" theology.6
The language is still both shocking and absurd, but it became the "in"
thing for several younger theologians. The reality of God's presence
had become so distant and seemingly unattainable that, as they viewed
it, only "death" could express the total loss. I knew two
of the three leaders personally, so felt all the more deeply disturbed
by the paths they had taken. My problem, however, was that I seemed
unable to make any vital response. The climax came when I heard a public
address of one of them who asserted that the task of the theologian
was to explain to people how to live in the darkness of God's total
absence, indeed His death. This address precipitated for me a deep crisis
that in part led to a Thanksgiving week of spiritual breakthrough. I
will say more later about this.
Second, and of much significance, during the late summer and fall
of 1965 I became acquainted with the opposite extreme: a movement of
spiritual revitalization among many Christians. Rather than God being
dead, He seemed to them very much alive! My wife and I began to attend
some meetings of these believers and at first were put off by their
highly enthusiastic faith: God, the Lord, Jesus, they were constantly
praising. The people-about a dozen of them from several mainline denominations-gathered
together on Sunday evenings in the kitchen of a Presbyterian church,
not being allowed by the church authorities to meet in the main sanctuary.
Although for many years I had known Christ and His presence, these people
seemed to have a far deeper and more intimate awareness. They read the
Bible with much zeal, spoke out words of prophecy (I had never heard
such before), were quick to minister to any expressed need, and prayed
expectantly for miracles to occur. They also now and then referred to
an experience of being "baptized in the Holy Spirit." I was
amazed by it all-and confused. These people were surely none other than
fellow believers, and it was a meeting outwardly not too different from
innumerable ones I had attended over the years; but here was a certain
almost qualitative difference from anything I had before experienced.
And it was all happening in a church kitchen!
After about two hours the meeting concluded, whereupon the group moved
quietly into the church sanctuary to pray at the altar (such action
presumably was not prohibited!). My wife and I sat in the back frankly
a little fearful by now of what these strange people would do next;
however, one of them soon called back to me, requesting that I come
forward and say the benediction. I felt somewhat relieved since I knew
I could officially do that as the only ordained minister present! But
by the time my wife and I were down front at the altar I was sensing
my need for a benediction more than they, and begged them instead
to pray for me. And pray they did-not as I had expected, someone offering
a single prayer-but asking us to kneel and then laying hand after hand
upon us to receive God's blessing.
Thus in a relatively short time I experienced the utter incongruity
between the two worlds of a God so totally distant as to be called dead
and that of a God so dynamically present as to be almost shockingly
alive. Could it be that what was going on in a church kitchen was at
least one way of the living God making Himself vividly manifest? I began
to wonder if the death of God theology was not a cry of despair over
the lack of vitality in much of the church and the call for a deeper
experience of the reality of God. Could it be that the Holy Spirit was
the key to an answer?
Third, and of critical importance, a particular Scripture passage
began to speak in a fresh way to me. It was Luke 11:5-13, the parable
of Jesus which climaxes thus: "If you then, who are evil, know
how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" I began to wonder
for the first time seriously if I personally had received that gift.
But let me first briefly review this Scripture.
The background for Jesus' words about the gift of the Holy Spirit
is that of a man who, having no bread to give a friend who has arrived
late on a journey, goes to another friend's house at midnight to ask
for bread: "Friend, lend me three loaves." The man inside,
already in bed with his children, replies, "Do not bother me."
However, this does not stop his friend outside from persisting. Then
Jesus adds, "Because of his importunity he will rise and give him
whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek,
and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one
who asks receives, and he who seeks find, and to him who knocks it will
be opened." Then shortly the words follow about the heavenly Father
giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
Several things in this passage of Scripture began to stand out for
me. First, since the gift of bread being sought was not for the personal
benefit of the one seeking but for that of another person, it follows
that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the same: to help, possibly to bless,
others. Second, even as the seeker expressed his earnestness by persistent
asking, seeking, and knocking, so there needs to be earnest zeal on
the part of one asking for the gift of God's Holy Spirit. Third, this
gift being sought was from a friend, not a stranger; even so, the gift
of the Holy Spirit is from the heavenly Father: it is available to His
The passage in Luke spoke to me increasingly. During the fall of 1965
I was back at my regular job of teaching students. More and more I yearned
to minister the life-giving bread of the gospel, but often felt empty.
The right words were generally spoken, my theology was evangelical and
orthodox, but there was a definite lack of spiritual fervor. My students
were not being truly fed. At the same time I sought to continue the
writing on systematic theology, but found myself writing and rewriting,
especially in the area of the doctrine of God. I despaired more and
more of "getting it all together," or of saying anything that
would make a significant impact on others. My problem, I must quickly
add, was not that I was an outsider to faith. In terms of Jesus' parable,
I could call God "Friend" and He was indeed my "heavenly
Father," but I still lacked the spiritual dynamic for truly delivering
the bread of the word. Indeed, in many ways I felt like the apostles
probably did before Pentecost. They had been commissioned by Jesus to
proclaim the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20), but still needed the gift of the
Spirit to impart life (Acts 1:8). However, I identified more with the
man in Jesus' parable who was almost desperate to receive that same
gift. I was ready to ask, and seek, and knock.
But now before proceeding to the climax, let me review my rather complex
situation. First, there was the background of Frankfurt (and to a lesser
degree of Rome) with the theme "Come, Creator Spirit!" and
my own statement that the people there "exposed themselves to whatever
may happen in answer to such a prayer." Second, in my book on existentialism,
while decrying its basic orientation, I stressed the value of the existential
concern that ultimate truth must be inwardly appropriated. Third, the
"death of God" theology brought home deeply to me both the
despair of many for whom God was no more and my own spiritual incapacity
to offer any vital response. Fourth, our meetings with the small group
in Austin came as a total opposite to both existentialist and "death
of God" human-centered orientations: God was indeed alive and at
the center of everything. Fifth, and most importantly, I found myself
again and again pondering Luke 11:5-13 and praying about the gift of
the Holy Spirit. I did that not only in relation to my felt need for
life-giving bread in teaching and writing, but also in regard to the
surrounding theological emptiness.
I should add in relation to the small group that, although my wife
and I attended most Sunday evenings and sensed God's presence there,
I was also often quite uncomfortable. They seemed to move much more
freely than I in a dimension of the Spirit's presence and power. I knew
that I was a believer (I had a powerful conversion experience many years
before), but I still did not really fit in. Perhaps I was even being
led astray from the true pattern of faith. Yet I could not really believe
this was so. They recognized the Scriptures to be God's infallible Word,
their faith was in the Triune God, they rejoiced in Christ's salvation;
indeed, at no point could this group be called heretical. In fact, it
was the very deep experience of the reality of Christ in faith that
seemed to mark their existence. The only new area of outward experience
for me was that the members occasionally spoke in tongues.
Now a word about tongues. I of course knew that there was reference
in the New Testament to speaking in tongues in Jerusalem on the Day
of Pentecost and at some other places and times, but I had not thought
much about it, saw little reason for it, and certainly had no desire
to do it. Then one day my wife greeted me with the news that she had
just begun praying in tongues! Despite her obvious joy, I thereupon
felt like withdrawing from all association with the group: things were
getting too close for comfort. What if I somehow likewise became a "tongue
speaker"? What would "people" think? How would the seminary
react? What might happen to my professional future? To be sure, I was
eager to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit but surely not tongues!
Here I must interject a brief account concerning Dennis Bennett and
his ministry to me. Dennis was the Episcopal priest who a few years
before in Van Nuys, California, had received national publicity for
announcing from his pulpit that he had recently begun to speak in tongues.
On one occasion Dennis came to Austin, and I was much impressed by his
testimony to his own baptism in the Spirit. He spoke with enthusiasm
and sincerity-and not with the least touch of irrationality. Afterward,
upon my invitation, Dennis graciously agreed to visit me in my seminary
office and to pray on my behalf about the Holy Spirit. I got out of
my chair (of theology) and knelt on the floor while Dennis laid hands
on, and prayed over me. At one point in his prayer he asked if I cared
whether he continued by praying in tongues. I surely had not expected
or wanted that to happen, but still managed to respond: "It's all
right if you think it will do any good." To this Dennis replied:
"Yes, I think that you particularly need to hear and accept this
because you are still too locked up in the mind." At the conclusion
of Dennis's prayer for my reception of the Holy Spirit I remarked that
I did not sense anything had happened. His reply was simply that I might
yet have to become more childlike, humble, and willing to receive what
God had to give.
Weeks went by. I continued to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The gracious heavenly Father heard my prayer and answered during Thanksgiving
week, 1965. I shall be forever thankful. Praise His glorious Name!
I had returned the previous Saturday from Atlanta, Georgia, where
I heard one of the death of God theologians go to the ultimate extreme
by proclaiming (hear this): "The theologian must will the death
of God." I was sick of mind and heart. Sunday was a rather dismal
day. When it came to a decision about whether to attend the prayer group
that night, I said no. The tension between the deadness of theology
and the aliveness of the group was simply too much to take. So we stayed
home and sought to relax.
On Monday with an extra effort of willpower I turned again to writing
the book on theology. Although I labored at my desk through the day,
I felt myself accomplishing absolutely nothing-it all seemed wordy,
dull, lifeless. Also, I knew that on the following Monday I was to begin
lecturing at the seminary on "The Doctrine of God." But in
spite of all my teaching in the past, I simply felt I had no idea where
or how to begin. For a while I turned aside to write a letter to one
of the "death of God" theologians (a personal friend) urging
him not to give up on God, the church, or prayer. However, I found my
letter to be so powerless that rather than mailing it, I simply threw
it into the waste basket. By late afternoon I was in abject misery and
began to cry out, "O God, O God, what shall I do-what, what, what?"
I felt empty-through and through.
Tuesday was a day of relative calm. Somehow I sensed God's peace and
blessing. The book? The course? After an hour or two of work in my study
a new outline on the doctrine of God began to emerge: one in which God's
glory was paramount and His love occupied a central place. The "death
of God"?-the whole idea seemed even stranger, more absurd than
ever. So I felt calm: all was somehow O.K. I was not sure quite what
was happening, but everything was in good hands; this I knew.
Then came Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving-THE DAY! I felt at
ease, and began to turn to letters on my desk. One letter was from a
pastor who described his experience of recently visiting the seminary
and being prayed for by a student to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He wrote about how later he began to speak in tongues and praise God
mightily. As I read and re-read the letter, the words somehow seemed
to leap off the page, and I found myself being overcome. I was soon
on my knees practically in tears praying for the Holy Spirit, and pounding
on the chair-asking, seeking, knocking-in a way I never had done before.
Now I intensely yearned for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then
I stood and began to beseech God to break me open, to fill me to the
fullest-with sometimes an almost torturous cry to what was in myself
to possess my total being. But for a time all seemed to no avail. With
hands outstretched I then began to pray to God the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit-and mixed in with the entreaty was a verse of Scripture
I kept crying out: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is
within me, bless his holy name!" I yearned to bless the Lord with
all my being-my total self, body, soul, and spirit-all
that was within me. Then I knew it was happening: I was being filled
with His Holy Spirit. Also, for the first time I earnestly desired
to speak in tongues because the English language seemed totally incapable
of expressing the inexpressible glory and love of God. Instead of articulating
rational words I began to ejaculate sounds of any kind, praying that
somehow the Lord would use them. Suddenly I realized that something
drastic was happening: my noises were being left behind, and I was off
with such utterance, such words as I had never heard before.
Waves after wave, torrent after torrent, poured out. It was utterly
fantastic. I was doing it and yet I was not. I seemed to be utterly
detached and utterly involved. To some degree I could control the speed
of the words-but not much; they were pouring out at a terrific rate.
I could stop the flow whenever I wanted, but in operation I had absolutely
no control over the nature or articulation of the sounds. My tongue,
my jaws, my vocal chords were totally possessed-but not by me. Tears
began to stream down my face-joy unutterable, amazement incredible.
Over and over I felt borne down to the floor by the sheer weight of
it all-and sometimes I would cry: "I don't believe it; I don't
believe it!" It was so completely unlike anything I had ever known
Finally, I sat down in my chair, but still felt buoyed up as if by
a vast inner power. I knew I was on earth, but it was as if heaven had
intersected it-and I was in both. God was so much there that I scarcely
moved a muscle: His delicate, lush, ineffable presence.
Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had not yet so much as glanced at
a Bible. Quickly I opened one up-to Acts 2. To be sure I had read the
Pentecostal story many times, but this was incredibly different. I
felt I was there. As I read the words with my eyes and my mind,
and began to do so out loud, I knew I could speak, as I read, in a tongue.
This I did, verse after verse-reading the account of the filling with
the Holy Spirit, speaking in other tongues, and what immediately followed-reading
all this with the accompaniment of my own new tongue! By the time I
arrived at the verse, "Being therefore exalted at the right hand
of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy
Spirit, he [Christ] has poured out this which you see and hear"
(v. 33), I was so overwhelmed that I could only stand and sing, "Praise
God, praise God," over and over again.
The whole event lasted about an hour. Then I felt strangely impelled
by the Holy Spirit to move around the house, room after room, each time
to speak out with a prayer in the tongue. I was not sure why I was doing
this, but it was as if the Holy Spirit was blessing each spot, each
corner. Truly, as it later turned out, He was preparing a sanctuary
for His presence and action.
Shortly after this I dashed over to the nearby school where my wife
was a teacher. At recess time with both faltering and excited words
I tried to tell her all about what had happened-and her tears flowed
in glad thanksgiving. When evening came, and the children were in bed,
we had the finest prayer time of our married life. At first I was scared
and anxious to try the tongue, but when she prayed first in her own
soft, gentle, and clear tongue, I finally "cut loose"-and
how can one express it? God was almost terrifyingly real. There was
praise in the tongues, and then intercession. Somehow we felt the whole
world had been prayed for, both in general and in particular (wherever
there was need). Finally, my dear wife asked me to lay hands on her
head and pray for the healing of a cold that was bothering her. That
I did-in the tongue-and after several moments of near ecstatic and delicate
silence, we went to bed.
I mentioned a paragraph ago how the Lord was preparing our home as
a sanctuary. In a few weeks people began to gather each Sunday evening
in our home for prayer, fellowship, and ministry. They were mostly from
mainline churches-Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and the like-but
some from Pentecostal churches, and some Roman Catholics began to come.
Indeed, the numbers grew so large that people gathered in every room
in the house with an overflow to the outside yard. Some said that as
they drew near they saw flames of heavenly fire upon the rooftop. Sunday
night after Sunday night for some five years we met-and the Lord blessed
richly and bountifully.8
During those same years (about 1966-71), I also wrote a number of
related theological articles. First, there was a reply to the "death
of God" theology. This article appeared in the Austin Seminary
Bulletin, April 1966, entitled "Theology in Transition-and
the Death of God," and was later reprinted by the Presbyterian,
U. S. (Southern) General Assembly for distribution throughout the denomination.
In this article I sought to give a careful examination and critique
of the writings of each of the three leaders. Near the end, I added:
"It might turn out that the 'death of God' theology does not signify
a dead end but, exposing the emptiness of much of our theology, confession,
and worship, it calls upon the whole church to a renewed concern for
the Holy Spirit....Theology in transition may be the movement to a theology
of the Holy Spirit." This was my farewell statement to this vain
and empty theology, for, praise God, by His grace I had passed through
and could thereafter focus on a theology of the Spirit. Second, I wrote
an article entitled "A New Theological Era." I gave this as
an address upon my inauguration as full professor of systematic theology
and philosophy of religion at Austin Seminary in the fall of 1966.9
My opening statement began: "The thesis of this Convocation address
will be that we stand on the verge of a new theological era. It could
be as profound and as exciting as anything that has happened in the
history of theology. The focus of the new era will be the doctrine of
the Holy Spirit." In the second part of the address10
I gave a brief historical overview of the church's reflection about
the Holy Spirit since New Testament times. Third, also in 1966, as a
member of the Southern Presbyterian Church's Task Force on Evangelism,
I wrote a paper entitled "The Holy Spirit and Evangelism"11
in which I said: "We need to be visited by the reality of God in
such fashion that we know His full presence....[and] the power of God's
Holy Spirit which alone can lead man to a deep conviction of sin and
to faith in Jesus Christ."12
Fourth, during the late 60s I served as a member of the North American
Area Council of the World Reformed Alliance and wrote two papers: "The
Holy Spirit and the World" (1967)13
and "The Upsurge of Pentecostalism: Some Presbyterian/Reformed
Comment" (1971). The latter paper was reprinted in condensed form
in The Reformed World.14
In it I sought to demonstrate how many Presbyterian and Reformed churchmen
and theologians were helping to prepare the way to a positive recognition
of the significance of the Pentecostal witness for the future of the
church. Fifth, also during the late 60s, serving as chairman of the
Southern Presbyterian Church Permanent Committee of Theology, I edited
the paper entitled "The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit: with
Special Reference to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit." The paper
was adopted by the General Assembly in 1971.15
This represented a significant step ahead in giving denominational approval
to a special working of the Holy Spirit.
Now I will add a few words about what has happened since those first
five years. 1971-72 was a transitional period. Increasingly I moved
beyond the Presbyterian/Reformed context into a wider ministry. During
the summer and fall of 1971 I made two trips16
through many countries in Europe to meet with pastors, priests, and
laymen in regard to the charismatic renewal. The first trip-my wife
and I with David du Plessis ("Mr. Pentecost")17
and his wife-was highlighted by a June meeting in Rome at the Vatican
to help plan for a forthcoming Roman Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue on
the Holy Spirit. Later in the summer I participated in an International
Conference on "The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit" held at
the University of Surrey in England. There I spoke on "A New Era
in History"18 and
led a theological workshop for other theologians and pastors. In the
fall the second trip to Europe was made in the company not only of David
du Plessis but also of Fr. Kilian McDonnell, the Roman Catholic scholar.
We spoke together in many places including New College, Edinburgh, the
World Council of Churches in Geneva, and again went to Rome to plan
further for the Vatican/Pentecostal dialogue. During 1971-72 I was on
sabbatical leave from Austin Seminary to be a resident fellow at the
Ecumenical Institute in Collegeville, Minnesota. While there a number
of my writings were published under the title The Pentecostal Reality.
In the summer of 1972 I again traveled to Europe19
for three reasons. First, I went over to participate in the first international
Roman Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue. It was a dialogue sponsored by
the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity of the Roman Catholic
Church with both Pentecostal leaders from Pentecostal churches as well
as participants in the charismatic movement from Protestant, Anglican,
and Orthodox churches. For the dialogue I presented papers on "Pentecostal
and "Baptism in the Holy Spirit."21
It was indeed a challenging time! Second, I went to Europe as founder
and chairman of the first European Charismatic Leaders Conference held
at Schloss Craheim in Germany. The previous winter and spring I had
sent out invitations to many European leaders to attend. Approximately
one hundred persons from some twelve European countries came together
for united study, conversation, prayer, and planning. Third, I was privileged
later to go to southern France and speak at a meeting of Reformed pastors.
This meeting was in old Huguenot country, which long before had been
an area of charismatic activity. It was a joy to share with these pastors
what God was also doing in other sections of the Reformed world.
In the fall of 1972 I moved with my family from Austin to Anaheim,
California and began a School of Theology at Melodyland Christian Center.
At the peak time of the "Jesus Movement" in southern California,
it was a challenge to provide biblical and theological training for
many very "turned on" believers. The school began in January
1973, and soon had developed a program of theological study for high
school, junior college, and college graduates. By the mid-70s the number
of students enrolled was approximately 700. I served as both president
of the school and professor of theology until 1982.
During the period (1973-82) I continued other charismatic activity.
I will mention a few highlights. In the spring of 1973, the international
Charismatic Communion of Presbyterian Ministers22
(of which I was president) held its annual meeting at the Word of God
Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was an extraordinary event in
that the Word of God Community that hosted the meeting was largely Roman
Catholic! During the summer of that same year I was in Europe again
to chair the second European Charismatic Leaders Conference in Schloss
Craheim and later attended the second Vatican/Pentecostal dialogue.
(I continued to be an active participant on the dialogue each year until
1976.) In the fall of 1973 I traveled with my wife to Australia and
New Zealand to speak and teach at various charismatic seminars and conferences.
Particularly significant in 1974 was a conference at Princeton Theological
Seminary on "The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit" at which
I read a paper entitled "Theological Perspectives of the Person
and Work of the Holy Spirit."23
In 1974 and 1975 I was a speaker and teacher at the first and second
World Conference on the Holy Spirit held in Jerusalem. In 1975
I wrote an article for Christianity Today magazine entitled "A
Profile of the Charismatic Movement." The article was also expanded
into a paper, "The Charismatic Movement and Reformed Theology,"24
for a meeting of the North American Area Council of the World Reformed
Alliance. In 1977 in Kansas City at the National Conference on Charismatic
Renewal in the Christian Churches, the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion
section, I gave an address entitled "New Theology for a New Era:
God's Mighty Acts."25
This was a major attempt at providing a Trinitarian basis for the spiritual
renewal. In 1978 I wrote an article for New Covenant magazine
entitled "Why Speak in Tongues?"26
My third book on the Holy Spirit, The Gift of the Holy Spirit Today,
was published in 1980. In 1981 Pneuma magazine contained a brief
article by me entitled "The Holy Spirit and Eschatology."27
Since the fall of 1982 I have served as professor of theology at Regent
University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and devoted myself largely to
teaching and writing. For the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
(1984) I wrote articles on "Charismatic Movement" and "Holiness,"
and for the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements
(1988) several articles including "Baptism in the Holy Spirit."
As president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies I gave an address
entitled "A Pentecostal Theology,"28
at the annual meeting in 1985. This was an effort on my part to elaborate
a basic Pentecostal theology. Other articles and papers have been written.
Among these are: "The Greater Gifts"29
(1985), "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit"30
(1992), and "Biblical Truth and Experience-a Reply to John F. MacArthur,
I traveled to Seoul, Korea in 1994 to deliver addresses at Soon Shin
University entitled "Theological Perspectives of the Pentecostal/Charismatic
at Yonsei University entitled "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and
Their Application to the Contemporary Church."33
The second of these addresses was given at a conference on "The
Holy Spirit and the Church." In 1995, I read a paper entitled "The
Engagement of the Holy Spirit"34
at the Evangelical Theological Society Eastern Region conference on
"The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Interpretation of Scriptures."
My major work since coming to Regent University has been the writing
of a three-volume work entitled Renewal Theology. Volume 1 is
subtitled God, the World and Redemption (1988); volume 2, Salvation,
the Holy Spirit and Christian Living (1990); volume 3, The Church,
the Kingdom and Last Things (1992).35
Under the book title each volume contains the words, "Systematic
Theology from a Charismatic Perspective." Thus even though volume
2 more directly relates to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, there is
a charismatic perspective in all volumes. My deepest concern, however,
is not the charismatic as such, but to speak forth the full counsel
As I said at the beginning of this Preface, the writings included
are part and parcel of a theological pilgrimage. On each step of the
way all that has been written stems from a passionate concern for spiritual
truth. I speak at one point of "a theology of explosion."37
That may well be the best expression to capture the dynamic that drives
my writing. For truly it was a theological explosion in November, 1965
that undergirds all my activity. It has resulted in a pilgrimage to
the praise and glory of God.
was the Nineteenth General Council of the Alliance of Reformed Churches
throughout the World holding the Presbyterian Order (official title),
August 3-13, 1964.
1964, page 6.
Second Vatican Council met from 1962 to 1965 with lengthy sessions each
three chief proponents were Thomas J. J. Altizer, William Hamilton,
and Paul van Buren. See, for example, Radical Theology and the Death
of God (1966) edited by Altizer and Hamilton. It was on April 8,
1966, that Time magazine had as its cover, "Is God Dead?"
paragraph above is taken word for word from what I wrote down within
twenty-four hours of the event.
opening chapter in this book, "Renewal in the Spirit," taken
from my book The Era of the Spirit (1971), reflects the spirit
of these meetings. However, wherever the renewal has happened, and continues
to happen, the same Holy Spirit of the Lord is gloriously manifest.
Austin Seminary Bulletin, November 1966.
included in the above Austin Seminary Bulletin, but in essence
appearing in a later address entitled "A New Era in History"
(see chap. 2 in this book).
The Pentecostal Reality, chapter 5, for the complete article.
included in this book.
1971. Chapter 3 in this book contains the entire article.
excerpts from this paper see chapter 4.
full description of these two trips entitled "Charismatic Journey
I" and "Charismatic Journey II" may be found in The
Charismatic Communion of Presbyterian Ministers Newsletter, September
and November, 1971.
de Plessis was a renowned Pentecostal leader who for years carried the
Pentecostal message to the established churches. See A Man Called
Mr. Pentecost by Bob Slosser.
address is found in chapter 2 of this book.
"Charismatic Journey III" is detailed in the Charismatic
Communion of Presbyterian Ministers Newsletter, September 1972.
in The Pentecostal Reality, chapter 4.
in chapter 5 of this book.
Charismatic Communion of Presbyterian Ministers was founded in May 1966,
in Austin, Texas, by six Presbyterian ministers (including myself),
with George C. ("Brick") Bradford being named general secretary.
Also present as advisees at this historic meeting (the first charismatic
organization to be formed in a mainline denomination) were John A. Mackay,
former president of Princeton Seminary, and David du Plessis.
6 of this book, appearing as "The Missing Dimension."
chapter 7 in this book.
chapter 12. This article was first an address given at the Society for
Pentecostal Studies meeting in 1982, and later appeared in the book
Charismatic Experiences in History, ed. by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr.
(Peabody: Hendrickson, 1985), chapter 3.
included in this book. The article appeared in Charisma magazine,
November, pages 25-29.
chapter 13. This article was first an address given at the Society for
Pentecostal Studies meeting in 1992, and later appeared in Paraclete
magazine, Summer, 1993.
published as one volume, Renewal Theology.
complete bibliography of my published writings through 1993 can be found
in the festscrift Spirit and Renewal: Essays in Honor of J. Rodman
Williams, edited by Mark Wilson.
chapter 1 "Renewal in the Spirit."
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15 | 16 | Conclusion
Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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