As I approached my final year and a half in college I had been greatly affected by the experiences that I had during the first two and a half years. These experiences had caused me to completely re-evaluate my own personal theology and my own understanding of my relationship with God and the church.
There were many experiences during my college years that caused this theological pain. However, it was no more clearly highlighted than during the latter months of my third year during outreach to a church in northern New South Wales.
I had been chosen to lead a team to the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales and by chance of the pastor of the local church happened to be an old friend of mine. He had nurtured me during the early days of my Christian walk.
I was to come to realise how far I had come on my own journey of discovery when during a very innocent conversation while discussing how we studied apologetics at college he objected.
I was dismayed that my old friend was so vehement in his displeasure over the way in which we debated different worldviews as a means of learning apologetics. I happened to mention that we would each be given a different world view on which to debate and that I had been chosen to debate the Existentialists point of view.
From my own prospective I saw no problem with the manner in which we were being taught how to counter other theological and esoteric points of view of others. Unfortunately, my old friend was somewhat disgusted with the whole process and felt that it was against the will of God and that we should not do it in such a manner.
I think what struck me the most was how narrow his worldview had become. I can understand that somebody who had been a Christian all their life could hold this narrow view and that this was a result of, from my prospective anyway, a fear of the unknown forces that come into play when one questions the facts of the historicity of the Bible.
This narrow worldview has become entrenched within the fundamental Christian Right and is unable to deal with the apparent discrepancies found within the pages of Scripture. The whole issue of Biblical inerrancy and the way in which fundamentalist Christian groups hang on to what is becoming increasingly a very strict and rigid dogma is a topic for another discussion.
For now it would suffice to say that I have moved beyond believing that the Bible is 100% historically accurate. This does not mean that I had abandoned “the soul of Scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16) as a premise for interpreting the Bible but rather accepted that there were errors with regard to translation, dates and numbers within its pages.
This was to be an issue that I would struggle with for many years. Today I still believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that he guided those who wrote it and interpreted it so that it never lost its original meaning and purpose (2 Timothy 3:16). I have however been able to come to a point where I now can accept that these errors exist and that they do not in any way change the Bible’s intent, meaning or message.
To those on the fundamentalist right, this would be anathema to their sensibilities and would effectively close the door to my being accepted amongst them. This would probably be the single most important change, at least theologically, that I underwent during my time at college. It is however, the single most important theological change that I believe was necessary for me to become an effective servant of God.
As result I am no longer bound by the frailties of the fundamentalist position especially in facing the critics of Biblical inerrancy.
Moving on, as my third year at college wound down I was faced with the dilemma of not being able to afford to pay my fees for my fourth and final year. God had provided for us marvellously during the first three years of college through the sale of our business, however those funds were now becoming increasingly in short supply.
I had been fortunate in that I had picked up some work cleaning offices in a complex at the rear of Royal North Shore Hospital early in my second year at college. Likewise, our Lord had provided other means of supporting us financially. Probably the most memorable of these occasions was when we need to buy some new glasses for eldest son who had needed them since the age of six.
We had decided to step out in faith and order his new glasses not knowing where the funds would come from. As we did not wish to create a sense of anxiety in his wearing glasses we had always provided him with good quality and stylish frames instead of the cheap black plastic heavy types that were available for a lower cost.
This had always been paramount in our thinking when buying him glasses, especially, because over the years he had suffered terribly from being bullied, just because he wore glasses. This time we had no idea where the funds would come from and as such we turned it over to our Lord and left him.
To our surprise, on attending church that Sunday I was presented with an envelope from one of the ladies in the church at Clemton Park. I was told that it was a gift from all of the latest groups in the church. Late that evening after Alison and I have returned home we opened the envelope only to find that it contained almost exactly the amount that we needed to purchase his glasses.
This was not the first time that our Lord had provided for us and it was not to be the last. During the holiday break at the end of my third year (Christmas 1996/97) I was asked to take over the duties of the College maintenance Officer while he was on holidays.
During the Christmas break I was able to earn enough money to pay for all of my tuition fees for my final year at college. Our prayers had been answered as our Lord once again demonstrated his provision for us.
I should at this stage mention the struggles to Alison and I underwent with regards to our children’s education. During the years up to and including the year prior to our departure for college we had been able to invest in private school education for our children. We had made the decision to put them into a private Christian school because we became concerned that the public school system was letting them down badly. As a result we had seen their grades improve beyond our expectations.
On our arrival in Sydney in 1994 we enrolled our children back into public education with our two boys going to Peter Board High school and our daughter going to Kent Road primary school just up the road from college. Our concerns for our boys turned out to be unfounded as they quickly assimilated themselves into the school making friends quite easily.
However, the same cannot be said for our daughter who struggled badly to come to terms with not only attending a different school but also attending a separate school from her brothers. I can remember that for the first several months my daughter would cry all the way to school and that quite often once my wife left her there she herself would be in tears as she walked back home.
Fortunately by the time we entered into our fourth year of college all three of our children were attending Peter Board high school and doing very well academically. Once again we saw this as God providing for us.