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Memoirs of Dr. Johnson C. Philip

Systematic Theology: The Birth of a Classic 001

JCP_Bondwell

Pic: Me with my Bondwell laptop, that weighed 7 kilograms, at BBI in 1995. It went everywhere with me in my backpack!

The Brethren Bible Institute at Pathanmthitta opened its doors in June 1989. I was part of the faculty and I was the person who took the first class on the first day. This was to become a turning-point in life in many ways. One of these was in the matter of writing books.

In 1994 I relocated to Kerala, and started spending every week in BBI. In 1995 two students (Saneesh Cherian and Shibu K. Paul) joined BBI which had a great impact upon me. Of tender age and appearance, both of them one day approached me and inquired about my health. They also offered to help me with shopping and other such things so that I am not strained. I was deeply touched by their love and concern, but neither they nor I realized how they were going to impact my life in an amazing way.

In their second year, Saneesh and Shibu approached me one night. With great hesitation but with great enthusiasm they told me that they wish to write a book. They sought my help and guidance. The Mentor in me was awakened on finding two more writers and I encouraged them to go ahead and write. It was during my school days that I developed this habit of encouraging everyone who sought my help, because if we encourage ten, at least two will make it. If we do not, perhaps none will make it to success.

I then asked them exactly what book they were planning to write. They said they wanted to write a book on Systematic Theology. I never expected that and I almost fell down from my seat. I was under the impression that it might be some kind of a devotional booklet. The Brethren Movement in Kerala was almost 90 years old at that time, and none of our writers had tried their hand at Systematic Theology though the Lord had given us many highly gifted writers in those 90 years. What is more, they were mere lads who were hardly fluent in English (to read key works in theology). Nor did they have any prior experience in writing.

Anyway, I did not want to discourage them. It is easy to quench light than lighting it. So I told them that it was a good idea and asked them to go to their room and think further about it before we discussed the matters further the next evening. The next evening they were back in my room in BBI with greater determination and commitment to write the book. They were only second year BTh students, but so great was their determination and commitment that I asked them to go ahead with their writing. I assured them of all help. However, things did not end there.

They then asked me if I would join them as a fellow writer. This was a shocking question. They were only students and had nothing to lose even if their writing efforts did not succeed. I was already a well established and widely known/published writer. Thus if the project did not succeed I would be a great loser. So I asked them to visit me the next evening. They went away with great expectation and I went to bed a totally puzzled person. On one had I did not want to disappoint them by saying no, on the other hand I did not want the embarrassment of failure. [To Continue]

 

 

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