I have been teaching Religion and Humanities for the last 20 years and I have really enjoyed learning about both disciplines.Teaching and learning about the many world Religions has informed and enriched my life and assisted me to better understand and live out the faith that I have chosen to follow. Over the years students have asked me what I believe and which religion I personally practice. This blog post is a brief response to those two questions from my students.
The short answer is that I follow the Christian religion. And I practice this religion as a protestant with a particular focus on the Reformed teachings of John Calvin. If you want too, you can google his name and I am sure you will find all kinds of interesting things about him and his brand of Christianity. I am not going to go into “Calvinism” with this blog, but would be happy to discuss his teachings with you at another time. For now I want to share with you how and when I became a Christian.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was 8 years old. A Sunday school teacher simply shared the gospel story with me. Showing me how I was separated by sin from God and that to be saved from sin I need to accept Jesus into my heart. She followed what later became known as the “Four Spiritual Laws” format. You can google that if you don’t know what I am talking about. I remember thinking that this made sense to me and I prayed with her to receive Christ. I was fortunate enough to grow up in churches that were willing to have youth participate in ministry. By the age of 12 I preached my first sermon and felt God calling me into ministry. My parents were Dutch immigrants and we followed the traditions of the Dutch Reformed Church. They became missionaries and as I was growing up we lived in the Philippines where I learned to temper our Calvinistic theology with Dutch tolerance and East Asian philosophy as well as Catholicism. Later my parents divorced and my Dad moved to Hawaii and my mother back to her Dutch roots in Michigan. I split my time between them. During this time my Grandmother introduced me to the Power of Positive Thinking and the ministries of Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peal. I enjoyed the teachings of Dr. Schuller and made regular visits to the Crystal Cathedral and attended the Leadership Institutes. Later, Dr. Schuller was kind enough to endorse my ministry in both the churches I served. While I was in High school I became involved with Youth for Christ and later became a staff member while attending College. I was drawn to their teachings about the whole person: Mental, Physical, Social, and Spiritual. While in seminary I had the opportunity to work at fusing the many different religious experiences I had and the various faiths I had encountered into a way of ministry that addressed the holistic health of each person. After my ordination I continued my interest in a holistic health approach and how East Asian spirituality can inform my Christian faith.
I accept the following creeds as a statement of my faith; The Apostles Creed, The Possibility Thinkers Creed, and the Heidelberg Catechism. I believe that my theology must be practical, and spiritual and not some religious dogma which may not relate to life. I emphasize the Grace of God and give gratitude to God for the union I have with the Lord Jesus Christ, and express that by accepting others where they are in their journey, even if they are of another religion. I believe in the healing wholeness and regenerative power of the Holy Spirit and strive to share the joy and comfort of that healing with others who may also be seeking it. I believe the Bible is God’s word which shows us the truth and its fullness. I work to be open to different and varied faiths and religious experiences, from all histories and traditions.
Although I am not a Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim I have found that these religious traditions can enhance, sharpen and inform my own faith.
Now as a full-time Professor of Religion and Humanities I continue to grow and learn about my own faith and the faith of others each semester. It’s always a privilege and a joy!