Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Pilgrim's Progress

My wife and I recently spent a few days quietly strolling with Dr. Barry Callen. We relished this intimate walk with Barry, a longtime peer and fellow sojourner. Our casual journey took us back to Craig Beach, OH, and from there to western PA, central KY, Chicago, and his years in Anderson, IN.

Now retired as Anderson University Professor Emeritus, Dr. Callen served numerous educational posts within the Church of God, including distinguished service teaching and administering at the Anderson School of Theology (ASOT). He now serves part-time as Special Assistant to the General Director of Church of God Ministries--charged by the General Assembly to handle the interim affairs of the Assembly between its annual sessions.

We slowly read our way along Pilgrim Callen’s pathway. Sometimes we stopped to reminisce and contemplate on how we remembered things. Eventually, I finished reading aloud to my appreciative spouse this newest AU Press biography. Neither of us ever studied under Dr. Callen. We traveled in quite different circles within the church, yet our adult working years paralleled like two railroad tracks.

When Barry first launched, I had my own personal reservations, although he was both likable and competent as a scholar. Since that time, I have read many of his works and my library holds many of his volumes, which I value. I relish his work and recognize a kindred spirit.

Dr. Callen brought scholarly wealth to our body of church literature. Aided by his latest volume, we strolled the path with him, and contemplated thoughtfully about own journey. Before reaching the last page, we felt the satisfaction that comes with knowing and understanding this Pilgrim’s Progress in a more intimate and personal way than ever before.

It is an autobiography worth reading. It is scholarly in detail, and it is filled with a biblical understanding of life in the church, even if repetitious for some. At times, I found a sense of humor I did not realize he enjoyed. I discovered his deep feeling with-and-for people. He offers some great quotes and tells some great stories, (cf. “Never Have Your Dog Stuffed” p14). Best of all, he loves God and the Church of God with unmatched passion.

Barry. Callen has become the most prolific author in Church of God publishing history. One day, I believe he might very well be credited by scholars--perhaps the church--with providing us “the guiding light” that ultimately confirmed our century-old quest for holiness and unity and helped us regain our equilibrium as a body deeply rooted in Evangelical and Wesleyan church history.

Without doubt, D. S. Warner remains our Patron Saint. Warner’s preaching and “preaching pen” (“The Gospel Trumpet”) launched us as a reformation of the Church of God. He became the “flower” attracting differing theological species of “Bee’s” that currently hive together under the Church of God umbrella.

When Warner stepped outside of denominationalism, he was ahead of his time. However, like The Pope, Warner was not infallible. Some of his “Revelation” theology left us trying to find our way out of the come-outism of writers like F. G. Smith, Lillie McCutcheon, Richard Bradley, and Lowell Stultz.

The main body of the church has moved on, growing its roots deeply into sound historical soil, led by scholars such as O. F. Linn, Adam Miller, Marie Strong, Boyce Blackwelder, Leslie Ratzlaff, Barry Callen and others. Nonetheless, misunderstanding contributes today to a lack of identity and purpose as a Reformation Movement of the Church of God. Barry has spent his academic life helping heal that breach.

Much healing is still needed. The Church needs a wholesome understanding of the biblical message of the biblical Apocalypse of John. While Callen’s volume is a personal journey and not a biblical theology, it is a noteworthy read: A Pilgrim’s Progress, The Autobiography of Barry L. Callen. AU Press, 2008, Anderson, IN (available at Reformation Publishers). I recommend it as worth your time and effort.

No comments: