Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.  I know it falls on a different day in Canada and some countries don’t have this holiday at all.  However, I assume most, if not all, of you are thankful for something whether you father with family for a feast on this day or not.

May I invite you to post here ONE THING you are thankful for OTHER THAN the usual things Christians express thanks for (viz., Jesus Christ, salvation, family, health, etc.).  Be original, please.

I am thankful for the seminary I attended and from which I graduated.  After being thoroughly confused and abused (spiritually) at a fundamentalist college, I entered that seminary hoping for something–I didn’t know what.  As I look back on it now, I think I was hoping for a new way of thinking Christianly.  The seminary was pietist in heritage and orientation; it had not been corrupted by the fundamentalist controversy and so was not all about fighting liberalism.  It was solidly evangelical.  The anti-intellectualism I grew up with and experienced in college was totally absent.  One of my first experiences in seminary was given to me by a dear professor who is now in his 90s and who I visit as often as I can.  I dedicated one of my books to him. Sometime during my first year he took me aside and told me he wanted me to do an independent study in theology with him.  It was only one credit.  He assigned me to read and respond to the 1960s radical theologians–Van Buren, Robinson, Cox, Altizer and Hamilton.  I was shocked and somewhat dismayed.  But I carried it out and read their main books and many articles responding to them and met with my professor several times to discuss all this.  By no means did he want me to “buy into” radical theology; he wanted to shake me out of my taboo mentality that previously wouldn’t have even touched such books for fear of being possessed by something evil.  His approach, which became mine, was to find the good in them and leave the harmful behind while discovering how best to respond critically.  I knew this professor as a man of prayer; he was also my teacher in a course on spirituality.  He and other professors (Gerald Borchert, Lee McDonald, Sam Mikolaski, James Montgomery Boice, Steve Brachlow, et al.) lifted me out of my morass of confusion into a whole new way of approaching theology and thinking Christianly.  In a certain sense seminary was my salvation–mentally and theologically.  Later the seminary changed in ways I am not comfortable with.  It adopted an inerrancy statement and required professors to sign it even though many of them had been hired with the understanding that they did not have to espouse inerrancy.  The fundamentalist hammer came down on the seminary via certain constituents who had crept into the denomination without knowing anything of its pietist heritage and ethos.  For whatever reason I have never been invited back to the seminary even though I have returned to that city literally scores of times over the years (and the seminary’s leaders know that). Still, I am deeply grateful for the education I received there.  Probably it, more than anything else, is responsible for the whole direction of my theologian pilgrimage.  It was there that I came into contact with my theological mentors-at-a-distance Bernard Ramm and Donald Bloesch.  The professor I mentioned that I am most grateful for was not a well-known, published theologian, but he was like a surrogate father to me.  His name is Ralph Powell and on this Thanksgiving Day I am grateful to him and to the seminary as it was for lifting me out of almost total confusion about the Bible and theology.  It was there I discovered, for example, that one could be Holy Spirit filled and not speak in tongues.  It was there that I discovered that one could believe the Bible is God’s Word without believing in its plenary, verbal inspiration or inerrancy.  It was there that I discovered one can read the likes of Tillich, for example, and not be contaminated or lose one’s salvation.  I’m thankful for North American Baptist Seminary as it was in the 1970s.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    I’m thankful for my work at FedEx. They hired me over 7 years ago when I was at a very low point in my life. From them I’ve learned some very important life lessons – the value of physical labor, the importance of teamwork, how be a leader, and how to make friends. While its only been a part-time job, it has provided full-time benefits and become a significant part of my life.

  • Matt

    Roger,

    I am a Canadian, working on a PhD close to the border, so I will pretend I’m an American for the day. I too am grateful for my time in seminary – including stimulating Hayward Lecturers who issued a challenge to always be reforming! But here’s what I am most thankful for: Having been raised in a quasi-fundamentalist/anti-intellectual environment, I will always be grateful for my personal “heart being strangely warmed” moment in the Spring of 2004, when something like scales fell off of eyes, and I realized the profound yet simple truth of John 1:18 = The people who negatively impacted my faith and almost ran my spiritual life into the ground by their own emotional problems, fear and spiritual abuse are not God. More to the point, these people are not an accurate representation of God’s character. For far too long I had (unconsciously, of course) equated people’s treatment of me with God’s disposition toward me. John 1:18 cuts through such nonsense like a surgeon’s knife. Jesus shows us what God is like because He is God in the flesh, and what we witness is grace plied on top of grace. Oh the wonderful depths of John’s prologue! I may have celebrated Thanksgiving with my brothers and sisters of the great white north back in October, but today I am thankful for the truth of John 1:18. Your blog’s pretty great, too. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • CarolJean

    You wrote that at seminary you found out that “that one could be Holy Spirit filled and not speak in tongues.” Could you recommend a good book that looks deeply at the scriptures and proves what you said to be true? I’ve been in Pentecostal churches since becoming a believer and I just don’t see that taught in the Bible.

    I’m thankful for the variety that God has placed in this world.

    • rogereolson

      What is it you don’t see taught in the Bible? The Pentecostal doctrine of tongues or my claim that one can be filled with the Holy Spirit without tongues? It seems to me the burden of proof is on Pentecostals, not on those who, together with all the churches before 1901, didn’t find that taught in scripture. But don’t get me wrong, I value my Pentecostal heritage and friends. I just came to believe the doctrine of the “initial physical evidence” is not taught clearly in scripture and is contrary to tradition and experience. (By “experience” here I mean Billy Graham, for example, who even my Pentecostal relatives and friends admitted must be Spirit filled even though he has never spoken in tongues by his own admission.)

      • CarolJean

        Your claim that one can be filled with the Holy Spirit without tongues. I was wondering if you knew of any good books that elaborate on your claim.

        • rogereolson

          I’m not on a crusade against the Pentecostal doctrine of tongues as initial physical evidence of Spirit baptism. I simply reported that I left Pentecostalism in part because I could not find that doctrine clearly taught in scripture and I encountered Spirit filled people who had never spoken in tongues. Anyone who wants to believe tongues is the initial physical evidence may, of course, and I won’t argue with them unless they insist I must also believe it. Then I will simply say “prove it from Scripture, tradition, reason and experience.” It has never been proven to my satisfaction.

          • Matthew

            I DO NOT intend this to be mean-spirited in ANY WAY. It is simply a matter of historical fact. The reason I left as a minister in a pentecostal denomination was because there was a huge focus on tongues and the power of the Holy Spirit without the evidence of changed lives; me included. That concerns me. Even though I experienced the classical version of speaking in tongues I do not think that I am any different than any other committed Christian I know. Thoughts?

          • rogereolson

            When I asked about this my Pentecostal mentors told me that speaking in tongues only makes you a better person (spiritually) than YOU would be otherwise; it doesn’t make you better than any other specific person.

      • CarolJean

        Specifically a good treatment of Acts 8, and 19 which explains why these believers did not receive the initial baptism/infilling of the Holy Spirit at faith/the moment they first believed in Christ.

        • rogereolson

          The issue there is not tongues as evidence but subsequence of Spirit baptism to conversion.

    • Tim Reisdorf

      Hi CarolJean,

      I would look to the writings of Gordon Fee. I’ve found him to be a man of the highest scholarship while also making that scholarship accessible to the common person. And while he is Pentacostal, he does hold a variety of un-Pentacostal (more moderate) positions concerning some aspects of The Spirit.

      I’d recommend two books of his especially: God’s empowering Presence and Gospel and Spirit. And you cannot find a better commentary on 1 Corinthians than his.

      There was a comment in Wikipedia about a particular article that Fee wrote in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society of Pentecostal Studies 7:2 (Fall 1985) that is likely to address your point most specifically.

      • CarolJean

        Thank you.

        I found the name of the article on Wiki:

        Gordon D Fee. “Baptism in the Holy Spirit: The Issue of Separability and Subsequence,” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society of Pentecostal Studies 7:2 (Fall 1985), p. 88.

        I have Fee’ s book, God’s Empowering Presence. I’ll check it out and see what he says about the baptism of the Spirit and the evidence of tongues.

  • http://www.educatingbrian.com Brianmpei

    I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my 3 children. My great fear before they were born was, “What if my kids don’t like me?” They’ve grown up way too fast but they have been a delight and a pleasure to raise. They’ve always included me and their mom in their lives and we have been able to have great talks about anything and everything. Besides the joy it is to know them, when I see how it is for other parents I’m doubly thankful and grateful for the gift they are to me and their mom.

  • http://desposyni.blogspot.com Matthew Dowling

    I appreciate this Thanksgiving testimony. It accords with my own experiences in my seminary, which was once given to strict fundamentalist tendencies, but thankfully is no longer. What a gift professors like these are to the kingdom of God.

  • Yvette

    Pascal’s Pensees.

  • http://www.teologicafet.tk Andreas

    I am thank full for two American missionaries coming to Sweden where I live. Through them I moved into a deeper understanding of the Bible and I became more hungry for understanding it myself and not only understanding it through listening to what others say it says.

    Even though these two missionaries carried with them beliefs which I did not hold to, and don’t hold to now either they always treated me with respect and understanding even where our beliefs did contradict. Such as on issues on once saved and always saved. I am grateful that God put those Americans in my country.

  • Lee

    I am also a grad of NABS (Class of 74) and can share my own memories of the significant impact of men like Ralph Powell. I always use him as an illustration of a right way to “admonish one another”. He called me into his office one day to express his concern that in recent weeks I seemed to have become content with mediocrity. He reminded me of the privilege of full time study and the eternal value of the subject matter. After some initial defensiveness I suddenly saw his compassionate commitment to me as a person and to excellence in theological study. My passion to study was restored. Thank you for prompting me to some additional thanksgiving.

    • rogereolson

      I entered in the January interim of 1975, so we just missed each other!

  • http://notdarkyet-commentary.blogspot.com/ Charles Kinnaird

    Roger,

    Great post! I recently recalled a similar feeling of gratitude when I went back to my alma mater for Homecoming and heard Wayne Flynt give a talk which reminded me of the blessings I received in my experiences in higher education. I posted on my blog on Oct. 31 at http://notdarkyet-commentary.blogspot.com/2011/10/somebody-was-wrong-and-it-wasnt-jesus.html

    I was finally able to “Honor Wisdom wherever you find it, welcome Beauty whenever it arrives, follow Truth wherever it leads.”

  • LFDS

    Yesterday it was confirmed by a neurologist that my elderly mother has Alzheimers. I am thankful that although her memory will decrease in its capacity, her identity in Christ will remain. It will be a joy for me to remember this for her as I care for her in these last years of her life.

  • Mikael Stenhammar

    I am thankful for my Greek teacher Ove Strid who helped me overcome frustrations and learn to read the NT, and my research supervisor, Peter Williams, who patiently guided me in exegesis.

  • http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/ Russ

    I too had a mentor who I first met through church as my Sunday School teacher and later, as my seminary professor, of an evangelical school I later attended. He was as brilliant as he was a patient and studied teacher; as deeply versed in biblical theology as he was in the original languages that he constantly read out of; who felt out-of-place with the incipient narrowness creeping into the institution where he taught, as he was hopeful that with time and distance a theological wideness could still occur. He re-taught to me the fundamental truths of the bible in a way that opened up all the many labors of those that had preceded him in my young life. His name was Dr. Carl Hoch, NT Studies, Ph.D., Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (Dallas Theological Seminary).

    A second and third thanksgiving would be for my Baptist preacher who proved adept at preaching the Word as I’ve heard no other since. A young man also from Dallas Theological and the farmlands of Iowa with a “fun streak” a mile wide, gracious with people, and committed to discipling and mentoring. From that basis I met an amazing Jewish preacher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I majored in mathematics and minored in science. Also from Dallas Theological but born and bred in South Africa and pastoring an IFCA church squarely at odds with the liberal college culture but focused on Jesus’ love. His fervent zeal for Christ has been unmatched since both in Jewish temperment and in hot evangelical outreach. The college/career classes at Grace Bible were likewise conducted by a converted practising doctor and drew several hundred kids each Sunday. It was as popular, or even more so, than our local campus Crusade chapter which I attended during my 2nd and 3rd years at Michigan before leaving at the end of my junior year. There I met new Christians come to Christ who had deep testimonies tinged with suffering for their personal choices. Several I remember were from young men and women excommunicated by their Catholic families for chosing a Protestant Jesus and church. Then there were my Chinese friends direct from mainland China who came to Christ by the dozens and counted me as their friend. Lastly, I too learned to be Holy Spirit filled without becoming Pentecostal… His strength, power and constant abiding in a time of deep spiritual struggle on a campus torn in the waning days of the Vietnam War, drugs, drinking, wanton lifestyles, spiritual oppression, and a dismaying sense of hopelessness to abandoned agnosticism if not downright atheism. It proved a hotbed for Christian rebirth, not only for myself, but for the many growing Christians I would later meet.

    And lastly, for loving parents, though untrained in Christian things, who managed my early thrashings of young adulthood as I searched for answers to life’s bigger questions beyond degrees, scholarships and studies could provide.

    Thank you Dr. Olson for your rich observations, untempered committment to Jesus and His people, and unwavering patience and encouragement against religious pressures and practices that would so easily defeat lesser men and women. Who works at discerning movements and messages with a mental and spiritual acurity that only the Spirit of God can provide. And who prefers to glean from as many sources of truth as possible without limiting the message of the Gospel parachocially so desired by too many religious institutions and popular sentiments. Who criticizes with a warm heart and mature reasoning distilled in an open and merciful spirit to those seeking direction or affirmation of God’s leading. May God richly bless your ministries and past labors of love.

    Russ

  • Clay Knick

    Teachers! Mrs. Craig who saw my love for history in fourth grade and gave me two books at the end of the year, one on Lincoln, the other on Lee and Grant. Mrs. Hardy in 12th grade who blessed my love of words and writing and John Dever in college who noticed that I had “a thirst for knowledge.” Jay Hays in college who demonstrated a love for history and an ability to lecture beautifully about it that I remember to this day. Professors in theological school like Bob Culpepper who were masters of their material, loved it and gave me a thirst to know Christ and his Word. I’ve left out a few teachers in this post and for that I’m sorry. I had too many to name!

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    I thank God for my humble upbringing in the ‘hood” with its poor people during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Many memories of those years flood my mind at this particular time of the year, such as: our little house with its fake brick siding; also its old fashioned pump and outside privy. Those were the days when neighbors were true neighbors who looked out for each other. All of us kids had a second home too: the local ‘Roadside Community Center’ where we could get a lunch for five cents (free if we didn’t have any money), and a shower once per week whether we needed it or not.

    But one of my fondest memories (for which I will ever be grateful) was the little neighborhood church where I first attended Sunday School. I will always be grateful, too, for its pastor, Orville Olson, (Roger Olson’s father) whose ministry literally touched the lives of the entire community (it was he who preached the sermon the night I accepted Christ as Lord of my life). Yes, I’m thankful for my roots and every once in a while I take a drive back through that old neighborhood; just so I won’t ever forget and get too uppity.

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Ivan. I, too, am thankful for the Roadside Settlement House which is involved in some of my earliest memories. A few years ago my brother and I had a tour of the old building (which is now called “Rose Manor” for some reason). It stimulated so many memories even though the inside is a shambles now. I was especially touched by the room next to the kitchen where our church had Easter Sunrise breakfasts, business meetings and many special events (our church having no space for such things). But one memory was painful–that (the kitchen, I think) was where I was given my first immunization shots as a child. Boy, were those painful. But the waiting in line was the worst. I also remember your dear mother Gretchen who was my Sunday School teacher when I was in elementary school.

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    I’m thankful that God created us to be a community with Him in which we are unified by virtue of the unique individuals He created us to be, so that we are not borg but beings who truly co-operate with Him in His ongoing process of creation. I’m thankful that God has patiently brought me do this understanding after nearly fifty-one years of walking with Him. And I’m thankful for theologians such as yourself, Dr. Olson, who freely avail themselves to the kingdom in open conversation, even though it can be tiring at times. I know this is three things but, hey, isn’t three the number of completion?

  • Brian

    Hello! If you don’t believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible, which theory do you hold? What would be good books on that subject?

    • rogereolson

      I believe in the dynamic theory of inspiration; it is well expressed in Augustus Hopkins Strong’s Systematic Theology (among others). But one contemporary author who well expounds it is I. Howard Marshall in his little book on the inspiration of scripture.

  • http://wesleyanarminian.wordpress.com Kevin Jackson

    I found out in January that I had a type of cancer, and then subsequently had two surgeries to remove it. In October I had a checkup and they found no tumors! I’m thankful for that, and also that the experience helped me to refocus on what’s really important.

  • http://www.seekingfaithfulnessblog.blogspot.com Holly

    I am thankful for the hard road. It has made me stronger and matured me in ways I never would have experienced if life had only been easy.

    I’m also thankful (although it’s now two things….) that I know that the Lord has been with me while walking thru the hard days. He never leaves us.


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