The Gift of the Holy Spirit
May 27, 2020
It was the Fall of 2011 and my first residency of my Ph.D. program. I sat quietly, intimidated by those I sat among, listening intently to a man who would come to influence me in ways that I could only have imagined. It was in that course that I was first introduced to Renewal Theology, and I wondered, “Is this for me? Am I in the right place?”
I had grown up Lutheran, went to a Presbyterian Seminary, and now found myself among Charismatics and Pentecostals. My experiences and education had not emphasized the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and my knowledge of the Holy Spirit was quite limited. It became evident that I had never greatly understood or placed much value on the role of the third person of the Trinity, and now I was in a program that was centered on just that. But, it was that professor, Dr. Amos Yong, who God used to get me accepted to Regent’s Ph.D. program months earlier, who would serve as an example of a great teacher and scholar, and ultimately who would introduce me to ideas that would reshape my theology and deepen my relationship with God.
At the close of my first residency, I found myself in Dr. Yong’s office discussing much more than my research paper. He told me about how he had prayed for each individual who would be a member of my Ph.D. cohort and took the time to share with me his connection to the seminary where I had received my Master’s degree. I was in awe of the connection between Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and Dr. Yong. Dr. Yong spoke of his relationship with my advisor from A.P.T.S., Dr. David Jensen, and the great Charismatic Presbyterian theologian J. Rodman Williams who had taught at A.P.T.S. and then ended his prolific career at Regent University. The Holy Spirit began to reveal to me how he had used Dr. Yong, the Dean of the School of Divinity at the time, to bring me to an institution where I would grow in Him.
A semester later, I started another residency at Regent, where I attended the weekly chapel service. To my surprise, Dr. Yong was preaching that day. I thought to myself, he’s an excellent teacher, but a preacher? However, the moment he began, I was drawn in. His message was fire, and by the time he spoke the word “Amen,” people were visibly moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. That was the first time I had ever witnessed anything of its kind. Dr. Yong showed me that one could be brilliant and yet be led by the Holy Spirit. They were not mutually exclusive but could and should work in tandem.
My coursework phase of my program was bookended by courses taught by Dr. Yong. I had not had him as a professor since my first semester, and now I found myself in a classroom for the final time with him at the helm. It was in this course where he spoke one simple, yet important question that has since greatly impacted my own understanding of biblical hermeneutics, “What about the experience of the Holy Spirit?” Many scholars have neglected the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation, so how does one incorporate and validate such an important aspect of Christian life into biblical interpretation?
A quality and rigorous education was obtained, beautiful relationships were forged, but the greatest gift Dr. Yong and others at Regent gave to me, was a hunger and great desire to seek more of the Holy Spirit. This hunger and desire is with me today as I serve in my church and teach in the classroom. I will always be grateful for my experience at Regent for it opened my eyes and heart to the transformative, life-giving power of the third person of the Trinity.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
Dr. Amos Yong is a Malaysian-American currently serving as the dean of both the School of Theology (SOT) and the School of Intercultural Studies (SIS) at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
This article was written by Dr. Celeste Gonzalez-Moreno who is the Director of Bachelor and Diploma Programs at Stark College & Seminary.