I woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise. I received a photo via Whatsapp of two friends — Michael Low, who is now a student at Regent College, and Dr Bruce Waltke, one of my lecturers when I was studying at Regent (1981–85). Michael has been kindly conveying my warmest regards to the lecturers who had taught me when I was there. When he offered to do this for Dr Waltke, I wasn’t sure if he would remember me. I had not kept in touch with him since I left Regent. To my surprise, Michael reported that Dr Waltke remembered me fondly and sent his best wishes. I was delighted that he remembered me. I will never forget him. He opened my mind in such a way that allowed God to burn my heart.
It was an article by another Regent prof, Dr Sven Soderlund, that pointed me to the Emmaus Road passage in Luke as a key passage about Bible interpretation. Specifically, it showed that Christian Bible interpretation must involve both mind and heart. In Luke 24:45, we are told that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the Scriptures. Scriptures must be interpreted correctly so that we will understand the intended meaning of a passage under study. Hence on the Emmaus Road, we are told “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 NIV) Every passage of Scripture has an intended meaning. Surrendering our minds to Christ and using proper interpretive principles, we want to uncover that meaning.
But the disciples on the Emmaus Road also reported that their hearts burned (Luke 24:32) when Jesus talked to them and opened the Scriptures to them. It is not enough that our minds are informed by the content of Scripture, our hearts need to be seared by the Messenger Himself. The Living Word speaks to us through the written word. In reading the Bible, we are not just confronted by the truth; we are addressed by Him who is the Truth (John 14:6). Bible study then must involve both mind and heart. We must understand the Word accurately, hence the need for proper interpretation. But we must also study the Word personally, wanting to hear what the Author of the Word is saying to us.
Dr Waltke, like many of the teachers I had in Regent, exemplified this mind and heart approach to studying and teaching the Bible. Dr Waltke opened our minds. He was a brilliant scholar of the Old Testament and indeed of the whole Bible. He had doctorates from Dallas Seminary and Harvard University. Sometimes he would close his eyes as he was lecturing. At those times, I believe he could see in his mind’s eye the Hebrew Bible or some other relevant text. He was thoroughly at home in his subject.
But there was also a devotional dimension to his teaching. Alongside the technical and scholarly study of the Bible, there was the drawing out of theological principles that addressed the hearts of his students. When you finished one of his lectures, your mind was stretched but your heart was “‘strangely warmed”. Like many in Regent, Dr Waltke demonstrated the necessary marriage between scholarship and piety.
I had the privilege of taking three courses under Dr Waltke: Hermeneutics, Biblical Theology and Psalms. They were courses that shape my life and ministry to this day. There was an occasion when he invited me for lunch at the faculty club. I was blown away that a senior professor with two doctorates would make time to invite me for a meal and want to know me as a person. Those of you who know me will see how much I have been influenced by this approach to teaching. I hope my sermons and lectures are technically sound but I also want very much for what I teach to engage with the real questions my students are grappling with. And yes, I, too, like to meet with my students over meals to try to know them personally.
Hebrews 13:7 tells us:
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (NIV)
I remember Dr Waltke and the many teachers of the Word who have been used by the Lord to teach me, to speak to me, to change me, and to guide me. I thank God for each and every one of them. And I thank them. Thank you Dr Waltke for your investment in my life. I will always be grateful. And I will try to pass it forward.