Amos Yong's formative moments

February 8, 2011

Six hours at a summer church camp altar in 1977 set the trajectory
for my life. It was then, at the age of 12, that over the course of
three nights I experienced what Pente­costals call the baptism of the
Holy Spirit. Responding to the invitation at the end of the evening to
receive more of God, my friends and I encountered God in such a palpable
way that I think we caught a glimpse of what the Gospel writer said
would happen when the Spirit is given and received: "Out of the
believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37). We
prayed, cried, worshiped, spoke in unknown tongues and simply soaked in
the presence of God. I have never been the same.

Later, when I was
going through theological seminary and encountering all kinds of
doctrines and ideas that challenged my Pentecostal worldview, I was
tempted to leave the church that had nurtured me in the faith. But
unlike previous generations of Pentecostals, I had mentors who suggested
that it was possible to be something that was once considered an
oxymoron—a Pentecostal scholar!—and that I could do so precisely by
pursuing the vocation of the mind as an authentic expression of a
Spirit-filled life.

This doesn't mean that I have since parroted
what I learned growing up. But everything I have written and published
has been part of a quest to understand at a deeper theological level
this encounter with the Spirit of the living God, undeniably registered
in my preteen years.

What does it mean that the Spirit of God and
of Jesus Christ takes up residence in human hearts in life-transforming
ways? This is the mystery at the heart of the gospel of God's redeeming
the world in Christ by the Spirit, and my own theological work has
repeatedly returned to trying to understand this afresh.

When I
was invited to join the faculty at Regent University School of Divinity
and to work especially with a new Ph.D. program in renewal studies, I
discerned that this was simply the next step charted by the Spirit
wherein I could continue to learn more about what had happened on those
summer nights. And I might now be a source of encouragement for others
with similar experiences who find themselves on a path of theological
inquiry.

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