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Chris Strom

1961-1963 / NZBTI Diploma and Third Year Diploma (Henderson Campus)

J.O. Sanders opened the new Henderson campus with a fortnight of Keswick messages, including "And they came to Kadesh Barnea" all about entering the land of promises. "What you are ten years from now is what you have claimed by faith from God." So I claimed by faith and was dozing off to sleep when God clearly spoke: "DON'T BE PRESUMPTUOUS, CHRIS!" That woke me up and I knelt beside the bed and said "No, I won't be presumptuous, Lord!" Then I had to look up the word to see exactly what it meant :)

We were all given a Greek New Testament and I wondered what the words were below the line. When I was told they were variant readings, that precipitated a huge crisis. I had just signed the Rule Book that I believed the Bible was inerrant as to its original documents and now I discovered that the original Greek had variants that may or may not be authentic. I hardly slept. But JO Sanders said something very precious: If you come across something you don't understand, "put it on the shelf". Leave it until one day there is the answer.

That actually happened over the Deity of Christ. It worried me immensely that Jesus never seemed to claim that He was equal with God. In fact He said, "The Father is greater than I." So I "put it on the shelf" and tried not to worry about it. And some months later I was reading John 12:41 - "These things said Isaiah when he saw His glory and spoke of Him." What? In context, the person being spoken of was JESUS! Isaiah saw JESUS! And something went - click - "No man has seen God at any time - the only begotten Son, He has declared Him." Yet Isaiah saw God. I rushed back to Isaiah 6, yes! capital letters, Yahweh, Isaiah saw Jesus who was Yahweh! And when I studied John 1:18 I was thrilled to discover that textual evidence was clearly on the side of THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN GOD - HO MONOGENES THEOS - with P.66 (c.200) clearly saying so!

This made so much sense of the entire OT appearances of Yahweh. Pre-incarnated Jesus! This was the first of three years of exciting discoveries like that.

I entered BTI as a rough farm-boy from the sticks. I hated being cooped up in a prison cell. After a month I was going stir-crazy and one sunny afternoon I couldn't stand it any longer, rose up from my books and went for a walk down Owen Henton's orchard. At the end of the apple trees was a grassy slope down to the wide Henderson Creek. And some student had tied a fishing line to the rusty wreck of a fence by the water. I pulled it in. No eel, no bait. I threw it back out and thanked God that there was at least one sane student who knew what a creek was for and I determined to find him. Maybe we could help each other get through this BTI ordeal. I looked around for rough looking guys and Bruce Downes was the second one I asked. "Was there an eel on the hook?" he asked. That question alone made him my friend for life. He knew what really mattered :) We shared exciting discoveries together. He was interested in power, in the gifts of the Spirit. We became Bible students together, checking everything out. Amateur theologians. He now checks the theology of candidates for the ministry of his denomination. In his eighties he still preaches. His main message is the atoning death of Jesus. He knows what really matters.

My wicked step-father told me to forget about university as he would take me out of school as soon as he legally could. He did. So I worked on his farms, then farms around the district. BTI brought back the yearning to study, and I went to Teachers College and from there to university full-time. Teaching children from a Christian perspective is very rewarding.

Immediately after BTI I pastored a small Baptist Church for a year. I had formed a pleasant relationship with a young lady at BTI (we were even permitted to sit together in the dining room and to speak to each other for ten minutes after the evening meal! But we could only drive together if a third person was present. Ah, the good old days!) Diana and I were married the year after leaving BTI. I'm sure the faculty was certain it would never last. But we are still together after 57 years, with four kids, lots of grandkids and even four great-grandchildren!

Jesus is faithful! Acres of problems but somehow He brought us through them all.

I’m currently painting and praying! I paint heaps and heaps of Scripture, cryptically, word-puzzles, Bible disguised as art. I've only managed to get one into an actual art gallery - Luke's account of the Road to Emmaus - into the Pah Gallery in Hillsborough. But 54 of the Messiah libretto filled a North Shore Hospital corridor for five years, some paintings went into doctors' surgeries and pastors' offices and quite a number in churches. And amazingly in BTI/Laidlaw itself. When I hung the huge "To everything there is a season" in the main lecture room I had an amazing experience. A time-warp. As I climbed down the ladder I thought, "Now I must hurry home to the farm and get the hay in!" It was 1962 again! Unreal. Just for a moment I was back in BTI!

In 2021 lockdown stopped me from distributing Gospels, mainly of John, to kids as they go home from school. 3,300 went into often eager hands.

I’m grateful to God for basic theological understanding - NZBTI faculty in 1962 didn't have a single doctorate amongst them. They were practical pastors who had no time for esoteric academic arguments. They taught us a working knowledge of the Bible and its basic teachings. That has been invaluable over the years.

That’s given me a solid foundation to build on. New Testament Greek has been my greatest treasure. No one can side-track me away from basic evangelical Christianity. I have been known to shake my head slowly as ignorance was propounded from the pulpit. It's amazing how many speakers say, "The Greek says" when the Greek says no such thing. In the lectures of Prof. Blaiklock, he had a chair placed for him on the platform because "The ancients sat to teach and stood to pray." And he would say "Now here is the latest translation of the NT" and he would read the Greek and translate, then expound, with only the NT in his hand. Or sometimes Expositor's Greek NT. I bought my own. I remember his "He must CONTINUALLY increase; I must CONTINUALLY decrease" of John 3:30 pointing out that present infinitives have an ongoing quality of expression. A great man. Thank You, Jesus.

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