A Pentecostal honours a Roman Catholic
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.