The best way to learn from a person who is working out his or her intellectual salvation with fear and trembling is often not in the classroom. By “intellectual” I mean what the German language refers to as “geistliche.” The spiritual and the intellectual hang together, whether we like it or not.
A Jewish or Christian intellectual who does not understand his or her activity as a specific calling has missed the boat. A sense of calling of this kind most often expresses itself in terms of cultural loyalties – sometimes even disloyalities. It is often cause for soul-searching. As it should be.
The Christian bookstore I frequented as a teenager was run by John Koeshall who, along with his wife Anita, later became Assemblies of God missionaries to Europe. John and Anita organized summer backpacking trips to the Rocky mountains of Montana through the bookstore. The summer I went, the guest speaker was a young AG pastor named Larry Hurtado.
What was it like for a group of teenagers and twenty year olds to have Hurtado, who is now professor of New Testament at the University of Edinburgh, as their intellectual-in-residence during a backpacking trip in the pristine wilds of Montana? It was formative. I was a teenage bookworm reading Bonhoeffer, Ellul, and James Daane. I was also (and am) a charismatic; speaking in tongues and prophecy and such were part of my experience. To hear an AG pastor wrestle out loud with questions of faith and doubt and biblical interpretation during that trip gave me permission to do likewise.
It is typical of charismatics to have an awareness of God’s power and presence which scares a lot of other people. It needs to be said: the awareness is subject to the same laws that govern all of human existence. Distortion and self-deception dog it from beginning to end. Larry Hurtado knew that and communicated that, and still did not apologize for being a Pentecostal. That was exactly what I needed at the time.
Whenever former students of a professor get together, guess what they talk about? Anecdotes of a personal nature. Who our teachers are as it relates to what they said: that's what interests us. As it should be.