Doctors Craig and Médine Keener speak with PneumaReview.com about their new book, Impossible Love.
PneumaReview.com: Craig, you are a highly respected biblical scholar and a seminary professor. In Impossible Love, you mention that the Presence of God played a very important part in your conversion and that after becoming a Christian you prophesied regularly in church. Do you think that more emphasis on experiencing God should be part of a theological education?
Craig Keener: In an academic setting (at least a specifically Christian one) we can, and I do, talk about the life of the Spirit, but talk alone does not impart the Spirit nor substitute for mentoring in the ways of the Spirit. At the same time, teaching is a spiritual gift, and I believe that those of us who teach can model the life of the Spirit. Somehow the students see it and sense it; it can whet the appetite of students who don’t know about that empowerment and can also encourage those who do. There have also been times when the Spirit moved deeply during a student’s opening prayer and prophecies and other gifts occurred. But the clearest indication of the Spirit’s work is when lives are changed for the long term. The Bible of course is good at that, and I trust that the Spirit is always ready to speak through the Bible. Even if I were teaching Bible in a setting where I could not express my personal faith convictions, which I am not, I trust that God would work in people’s hearts through the Scriptures the way that he desires.
PneumaReview.com: It has been said that God does not waste any experiences in our lives. Craig, in the book you said “I discovered that a broken heart can help us to feel what matters to God, whose heart breaks for the world” (page 23). Please share with our readers some of the positive qualities that your own brokenness has produced in you.
Craig: One of the changes was a much deeper compassion for the broken and greater passion for justice. In the midst of my brokenness, I learned to share the good news not from a position of spiritual superiority but from one broken person to another about what is good news for us both. I found healing and strength in the African-American church, which knows how to deal with pain in a way that a lot of predominantly white North American churches don’t. Also my calling was something that I could no longer even pretend to hope to achieve; only God could make it happen. Things He spoke to me decades ago are happening in my life now; I’m full of gratitude now. But at the time, I could only humble myself beneath God’s hand and trust that, if He wished, He would exalt me in due time. It’s biblically normal to go through testing before fulfilling our callings, and I would guess that is the pattern for most of us. That way when God does choose to lift us up, we can look back and remember and know that it wasn’t us. It’s the faithfulness of our precious Lord.
PneumaReview.com: Médine, your experience in Congo was filled with many difficult circumstances including war, scarceness of resources, and family separation. Which was the most difficult for you to endure?
Médine: I would say family separation; it was easier for us to endure the lack of food, drinking water and other resources while together, but when my two brothers were separated from us, it was very hard. We often had dreams about them at night and during the day we wondered if they were sick, in danger or dead. The day we reunited with each of them was a glorious one.