chapter 7: one system to rule them all

Friday, April 11, 2008

In early 1991 I arrived in Los Angeles.  Someone from the College I wanted to attend picked me up.  She immediately started to point the “touristy” features of the Los Angeles culture out to me.

The size of the city, the pollution, the numbering of the freeways, the water management systems bringing water into a thirsty city, Hollywood.

I remember thinking to myself,  “Gosh, I have NO interest in any of these.  I am here on a mission.  Let’s get on with it.”

For a few evenings, I stayed in one of the College dorms.  I was immediately introduced to Francis A. Schaeffer.  I read his book:  “The God who is there” in two days.  It was a good first step.

Days later I realised that the guy who promised to act as my sponsor and who would help me get my student visa was not in a financial position to help me. He was bankrupt and when I tried to go to the church a few months later to see if someone else could act as my sponsor, they very quickly determined that I was out to slander the good name of the guy who told me to come over to LA and that all would be sorted out once I was there.

He could not sort it out and the church was determined NOT to get involved because I told them exactly what happened and this somehow offended them.

To me, it was a small matter.  A temporary glitch.  One that I would be very grateful for, very soon.

I met a guy in his final year of College who would turn my entire life upside down.  I am not even sure exactly where we met, but Doug and his wife Nancy immediately decided that I can move into a small two-bedroom apartment with them and their newly born son.

I slept in the living room on the floor and would end up staying with them for the better part of a year.  A year that truly transformed my life and laid the groundwork for what was to follow.

My new friend and benefactor was a mature man, a committed Christian and a student of life generally who had a passion for Southern cooking which he did better than anyone else I ever met, business and the bible.

His wife was out-going, down to earth and extremely insightful with a passion to explore and discover all the good things that life offers.

My friend very quickly realised that my desire to study theology was probably misplaced and he correctly pointed out that people who are searching for theological and philosophical grounding in life make a grave mistake when they venture into a formal study of theology.

If I indeed go and study theology at college, as my plan was, I would end up being committed financially and emotionally and I would keep on serving theological and philosophical positions which may later in my life become untenable for me.  But I would be pressed to continue serving these positions due to the fact that I will derive my livelihood from this service.

I would be grateful for this advice for the rest of my life (along with the Christians who now shun me for the position I came to hold).

I remember the evening vividly in the Newhall apartment in Oak Nut Avenue when Doug asked me if I would not rather want to consider a career in business.

His suggestion immediately resonated with me and within days my career aspirations have changed to focus squarely on the pursuit of business as a career goal.  So started the one love relationship that will define me for the rest of my life.

I would search for the Holy Grail not as a pastor, but as a businessman.

Doug did not only introduce me to business.  He introduced me to an entire system of thought and the passion for life.  Jazz music, sport, good food, good company and endless discussions about God and the meaning of life.

The end of the year was approaching and I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the burden I placed on the resources of this very precious family.

I returned to South Africa to further my business aspirations and having been thoroughly introduced to the system of thought that promised a unified theological approach to the bible.

Very soon after my arrival back in South Africa I settled in Pretoria and joined a church that aspired to the same theological distinctive and this church soon called the number one student from the Seminary that I wanted to attend as their pastor.  I was part of the leadership committee that called the new pastor and who interviewed him.

From the word go I was hugely impressed with the new pastor who soon became one of my closest friends.

His Saturday Morning Bible studies were legendary.  So legendary that I correspond to this day with some of the members of that first group.  They are now scattered around the world, but to this day I believe that this group ended up being the best-taught leaders ever produced by the new Pretoria Church.

Joel is one of only a few people whom I met from around the world who in my opinion fully grasp the system that was developed and all its ramifications to biblical exegesis.

Under Joel, we studied every branch of theology as well as Greek and English.

Some of the following very basic assumptions were made:

  1. That universal and objective truth exists;
  2. That God, the creator of everything exists;
  3. That this God is moral and personal;
  4. That God SPOKE propositional truth that needs no proof and that can not be questioned;
  5. That the “speaking” of God is contained in the 66 books of the Old and New Testament;
  6. That these writings are without any error (in the original);
  7. That each passage in scripture must be read and interpreted in the literal way how the author understood it when it was written and how the first audience would have understood it;
  8. That God ultimately revealed himself in Jesus Christ;
  9. Jesus established the church who would be the body of Christ here on earth;
  10. The church would function with local, independent authority until the time when they are snatched from the earth, before the 1000 years millennial reign of Christ at which point the unbelievers would mount an assault on the city of God and his Anointed One who would finally defeat the Anti-Christ and his followers at the battle of Armageddon.

The distinctive that convinced me that that this was the Holy Gail I have been searching for all my life… a search that took me around the world and back, were:

–  The thoroughness with which they applied their logic.  EVERY salient bit of exegetical data was considered before any conclusion was made about any point of theology;

–  The responsible and committed manner in which they tried to overcome the language, location and contextual distances that separate the modern-day exegete and the original human author of the bible passage.

–  Archaeological evidence considered is recognised by the archaeological community at large and biblical archaeologists associated with this movement are recognised even by their unbelieving peers.

–  Greek scholars associated with them are some of the best Greek scholars in the world and are regarded as such by secular and religious scholars.

–  Some of their most imminent scholars come from scientific backgrounds and they pursue their approach to the bible with much of the same scientific commitment in terms of objectivity;

–  More than that, some of the leading scientists in the world are associated with them and are collaborators with them in their defence of creationism;

– In terms of their approach to the problem of applying the Bible to the human mind and life in practice, they have associated with them the very finest and most respected Biblical counsellors on the planet;

I was immensely impressed with the system that they created in order to understand the Bible. I am convinced that this is the finest system in existence for Bible Interpretation.

This was the Holy Grail and my friend Joel was teaching it to me.  The most competent man that I had direct access to.

It was the predicted culmination of everything that I ever hoped and dreamed for.  It was the realisation of years of searching.

It confirmed my suspicion that this is the Holy Grail – this astoundingly thorough system, created inside the confines of the 66 bible books of the Bible, handed down by God to us who not only spoke the bible, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but who finally spoke through his son who redeemed us and gave us eternal life.  The system was created in the circle of the 66 books and the presuppositions that they hold to.

My life was complete.

During this time I met Julie.  At church.

Was it yesterday when I sat down after church on the steps of the school hall where the church gathered and I told her that I would like to pursue a relationship with her.

Was it a few hours ago when I drove back from Durban where I was on business and asked her to marry me.

No, not yesterday or an hour – more than 12 years ago!  How quickly does time fly when you are having the time of your life!!

I found the Holy Grail and I found the love of my life!

Dawie went to the USA himself and graduated from the Master’s Seminary.  He wrote me an e-mail while he was there and asked me a question that would later come to haunt me.

He asked the one question that had the potential to destroy my perfect world.


(c) eben van tonder