A Pen­te­costal hon­ours a Ro­man Catholic

The Compass - - OPINION -

Ac­cord­ing to a cer­tifi­cate I carry in my wal­let, I am a Christian min­is­ter in good stand­ing with the Pen­te­costal As­sem­blies of New­found­land and Labrador. How­ever, I have not been in­volved in par­ish work for 15 years.

Though I wasn’t re­quired to earn a univer­sity de­gree as part of my min­is­te­rial train­ing, I de­cided to at­tend Memo­rial Univer­sity be­fore en­ter­ing East­ern Pen­te­costal Bi­ble Col­lege, Peter­bor­ough, Ont.

It was at MUN I sat un­der then Fr. Ed­ward Thomas Brom­ley. I re­call the coal black hair, glasses and clothes, and the bass voice re­flec­tive of a deep mind. My in­tel­lec­tual life has never been the same since.

On June 13, St. Pa­trick’s Ro­man Catholic Par­ish in Car­bon­ear cel­e­brated a Golden Ju­bilee, com­mem­o­rat­ing a half-cen­tury of priest­hood for Msgr. Brom­ley. The story of his life and ministry is told in the June 12 edi­tion of The Com­pass.

I sus­pect the mon­signor has a keen sense of hu­mour. Be­cause of this, I think he will en­joy the fol­low­ing story.

In the summer of 1976, I regis­tered for Brom­ley’s Phi­los­o­phy of Re­li­gion course. His of­fice was in the so-called “tem­po­rary” build­ings, where Queen El­iz­a­beth II Li­brary is now lo­cated.

A sign on the door iden­ti­fied the pro­fes­sor within: Fr. E.T. Brom­ley. Of course, we cyn­i­cal stu­dents im­me­di­ately noted what re­mained if you re­moved the full stops. Be­hind his back, we called him Fret Brom­ley! But we of­ten won­dered why he fret­ted so.

On a more se­ri­ous note, I will never for­get his lec­tures, based on John H. Hick’s “Phi­los­o­phy of Re­li­gion.”

Re­cently I pulled the book off my shelves to see what the Good Fa­ther was ac­tu­ally try­ing to in­still within our cap­tive minds. The text is lib­er­ally un­der­scored, in­di­cat­ing I read it, even if I didn’t un­der­stand many of the con­cepts. More than once I scratched my head in con­ster­na­tion as I strug­gled to fol­low the line of rea­son­ing, won­der­ing if a light would ever come on in my head.

Chapter one de­fines the Ju­daicChris­tian con­cept of God. We im­pres­sion­able stu­dents were guided through terms like athe­ism, ag­nos­ti­cism, scep­ti­cism, nat­u­ral­ism, deism, the­ism, poly­the­ism, henothe­ism, pan­the­ism, monothe­ism, and a few other “isms.”

Chapter two is the one which grabbed my at­ten­tion, and which con­tin­ues to chal­lenge me today: what are the grounds for be­lief in God?

Brom­ley high­lighted the most im­por­tant philo­soph­i­cal ar­gu­ments of­fered to jus­tify be­lief in the re­al­ity of God: the on­to­log­i­cal ar­gu­ment, first cause and cos­mo­log­i­cal ar­gu­ments, de­sign (or tele­o­log­i­cal) ar­gu­ment, moral ar­gu­ment, and ar­gu­ment from spe­cial events and ex­pe­ri­ences.

How­ever, chapter three pro­vides cause for pause: grounds for dis­be­lief in God. Hav­ing been raised in a pi­ous Pen­te­costal pas­tor’s par­son­age, I read with cau­tion about the so­ci­olog- ical and Freudian the­o­ries of re­li­gion and the chal­lenge of mod­ern sci­ence.

For me, the big­gest ob­jec­tion to be­lief in God was — and re­mains — the prob­lem of evil. Hick ad­dresses the age-old ques­tion head-on. “To many,” he writes, “the most pow­er­ful pos­i­tive ob­jec­tion to be­lief in God is the fact of evil.” The dilemma is of­ten couched in th­ese terms: “if God is per­fectly lov­ing, he must wish to abol­ish evil; and if he is allpow­er­ful, he must be able to abol­ish evil. But evil ex­ists; there­fore God can­not be both om­nipo­tent and per­fectly lov­ing.”

Heady stuff for a 19-year-old from “the Bay.”

Later, dur­ing my 15 years of par­ish ministry, I of­ten re­flected on the in­ten­sity of evil around me. Whether it was the death of a child, the on­slaught of cancer on an oth­er­wise healthy youth­ful body, or an earth­quake on some part of the globe, it can­not be de­nied that evil, in all its var­i­ous per­mu­ta­tions, is part and par­cel of what it is to live in an of­ten feck­less world.

Nat­u­rally, Brom­ley de­fended the Christian God, while never shy­ing away from the big ques­tions. He al­lowed for re­flec­tion, ques­tions and ob­jec­tions, do­ing his best to re­spond in an aca­demic, yet spir­i­tu­ally sen­si­tive, fash­ion. Much of what I be­lieve today about God is di­rectly at­trib­ut­able to what Brom­ley taught me in class. I am in his eter­nal debt.

So, as a Pen­te­costal, I am hon­oured to add my per­sonal con­grat­u­la­tions to a Ro­man Catholic who, more than many other profs, al­tered the course of my life, stretch­ing my mind, chal­leng­ing me to aca­demic ex­cel­lence and to con­tin­u­ally seek un­der­stand­ing for faith.

For those who are in­ter­ested, I man­aged to scrape a B in Brom­ley’s course. Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at


Msgr. Ed­ward T. Brom­ley cel­e­brated 50 years in the priest­hood last week dur­ing cer­e­monies held at St. Pa­trick’s Ro­man Catholic Par­ish in Car­bon­ear.

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