From Creation to the Promise, from the kings to the prophets, CHC’s School of Theology learned an insightful way to study the Old Testament from Vanguard University Professor Doug Petersen.
By Sharon Teo
“The Bible is God’s own story, a love story between Him and His chosen people,” said Professor Doug Petersen as he opened his five-day teaching on the Old Testament at City Harvest Church’s School of Theology students, which ran from 15 to 19 May.
SOT had the privilege of hosting Prof Doug, as he is popularly known, co-director of graduate studies at Vanguard University and founder of ChildHope, an organisation dedicated to building schools for the underprivileged in Latin America. The captivating sessions he taught on the Old Testament left an indelible mark on the students, as they explored the significance of Biblical concepts at work in their own lives and ministries.
HOW TO STUDY THE OLD TESTAMENT
From the creation story to God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, from the laws and covenants to the rebellion of the children of Israel, and from the kings to the prophet, Prof Doug brought the students through story after story, showing them who God is and how far He went to keep His promise. In each book of the Old Testament, the professor taught the students the techniques of analysing the text and to identify principles that are still applicable today.
A key distinction of the course is in Prof Doug’s teaching on the art of reading and interpreting Old Testament stories. He shed light on how to recognise mini-narratives in each book and their relation to the overarching mega-narratives of the story. The professor encouraged students to go beyond understanding the scriptures on the surface to engage with the intricate details of each story. By dissecting scenes, dialogues, settings, plots, characters, narrators and the intended audiences of each book, students gained a deeper appreciation for the complexities and nuances present within Biblical narratives.
Prof Doug also emphasised the importance of not allegorising while using Bible stories in sermons and to avoid applying hidden meanings to the stories. He explained that there is no “colour” in the narrative, and one should not focus too much on insignificant details. Instead, students were encouraged to appreciate the broader context and overarching themes of the Old Testament.
One of the outstanding moments during the week was a Biblical reflection on leadership. Drawing from the story of Moses in Exodus, Prof Doug gave an insightful analysis that provided students with invaluable lessons on leadership, encouraging them to embody qualities exemplified by Moses in their own lives and ministries.
LEARNING TO EXPLORE THE WORD OF GOD
Throughout the sessions, Prof Doug skilfully wove in personal anecdotes, drawing from his 75 years of life experiences and encounters with God. His authenticity and unwavering faith, even in the face of visual impairment, resonated deeply with the students. It became evident that he genuinely treasured people, leaving an enduring impression on all who attended his classes.
Kimberley Koh, a 48-year-old SOT student from Singapore said, “In the sessions, Professor Doug emphasised the concept of imago dei—the belief that all people are created in the image of God. He urged us to respect and include everyone—believers and unbelievers alike—because each person carries the divine imprint within them.”
This message resonated deeply with Kimberley, prompting her to reflect on the importance of treating others with kindness and recognising their inherent worth as beings created in God’s image. The emphasis on inclusivity left a lasting impression on her, serving as a powerful reminder to embrace diversity and extend love and compassion to all people.
Another student Khym Lim, 41, found the course illuminating and transformative. Khym expressed his interest in the in-depth exploration of characters and situations in the Bible, which offered a fresh perspective beyond the traditional third-person storytelling approach.
“Usually, when we read the Bible, we treat it as a storybook and try to recall the main events,” Khym explained. “But this course showed us how to delve deeper into the characters and the narrative. Prof Doug guided us in understanding why the characters acted the way they did and why certain situations unfolded as they did. It was eye-opening to realise the significant influence of the narrator on our interpretation of the story and its characters.”
Khym learned the importance of reading the Bible slowly and analysing each event meticulously. By breaking down the narrative into smaller portions and considering the influence of the narrator, he found a richer and more profound understanding of the text.
Carmel Repulda, a 36-year-old Filipino student shared, “I found the sessions to be both interesting and informative. They breathed new life into my Bible reading experience, making it more colourful and alive, akin to watching a captivating drama scene or a movie unfold before my eyes.”
Carmel found delight in exploring the concept of God’s ability to use ordinary individuals, like herself and her fellow students, for special purposes. Her main takeaway from the teachings was the profound understanding of God’s character—God is not only good but also just, caring for the poor and marginalised in society. She deeply resonated with the belief that God speaks for those in need when they cry out to Him.
Apart from the current batch of SOT students, alumni were also invited to return to school for a week.
Alumna Jasmine Kon, a 38-year-old pastoral secretary shared her testimony and reflections on the impactful teachings: “I was very excited to hear from Prof Doug and wanted to delve deeper into God’s Word.”
She went on to highlight a key takeaway that resonated deeply with her and is still lingering in her mind after the lesson. As he concluded the lesson on King David’s life, Prof Doug noted that not everyone called by God ended their journeys well. Jasmine contemplated this sobering reality, and this revelation prompted her to engage in introspection, examining her heart, attitude, and life. She recognised the vital importance of never taking the call of God for granted, understanding that she and others are accountable for their actions.
“My prayer is that my heart will remain pure, wholehearted and faithful to the Lord, regardless of what happens,” she said.
Arian Dave, 40, serves as a pastor at El Shaddai Creative Community Church in Bandung, Indonesia. He flew in from Indonesia specially for the course on Old Testament. “Apart from the sessions, the thing that I enjoyed most is reconnecting with all the friends from CHC and other churches, after the long pandemic,” he said. “It’s also a good time for resting, to just sit in class, learn, worship and enjoy the presence of God together. Ministry can be very exhausting, and being in the class for one week has really recharged my spirit. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to come back to Singapore!”