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A Theological Pilgrimage: Preface

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Conclusion
Preface | Abbreviations | Bibliography


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 Seminary Bulletin2 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 children.

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 before.7

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 Spirituality"20 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, Jr."31 (1993).

I traveled to Seoul, Korea in 1994 to deliver addresses at Soon Shin University entitled "Theological Perspectives of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement"32 and 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 of God.36

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.


1This was the Nineteenth General Council of the Alliance of Reformed Churches throughout the World holding the Presbyterian Order (official title), August 3-13, 1964.

2November 1964, page 6.

3The Second Vatican Council met from 1962 to 1965 with lengthy sessions each fall.

4Section 12.

5Page 176.

6The 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?"

7The paragraph above is taken word for word from what I wrote down within twenty-four hours of the event.

8The 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.

9See Austin Seminary Bulletin, November 1966.

10Not 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).

11See The Pentecostal Reality, chapter 5, for the complete article.

12Ibid., 95.

13Not included in this book.

14December 1971. Chapter 3 in this book contains the entire article.

15For excerpts from this paper see chapter 4.

16A 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.

17David 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.

18The address is found in chapter 2 of this book.

19This "Charismatic Journey III" is detailed in the Charismatic Communion of Presbyterian Ministers Newsletter, September 1972.

20Included in The Pentecostal Reality, chapter 4.

21Included in chapter 5 of this book.

22The 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.

23Chapter 6 of this book, appearing as "The Missing Dimension."

24See chapter 7 in this book.

25See chapter 8.

26See chapter 9.

27See chapter 10.

28See chapter 11.

29See 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.

30Not included in this book. The article appeared in Charisma magazine, November, pages 25-29.

31See 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.

32See chaper 14.

33See chapter 15.

34See chapter 16.

35Now published as one volume, Renewal Theology.

36A 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.

37See chapter 1 "Renewal in the Spirit."


Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Conclusion
Preface | Abbreviations | Bibliography

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