Why I Went to Western Seminary for Only One Year

I was fully intending to get a Masters degree at Western, and therefore to remain there for as long as it took. However, something happened that caused me to change my mind. I was sitting in the library at a large table reading, or studying, or just preparing for my next class, when this woman, who happened to be sitting across from me, asked me in very quiet voice (as it was in the library) if I could possibly help her carry some things into her apartment that were too heavy for her.

Well, being a gentleman, and seeing an opportunity to help someone in need, I gladly said I would. She gave me the address and I was there at the time she wanted me to come. Her things really weren’t that heavy, and when I stepped into her apartment, for some reason she started crying and unloading her problems. So, I sat down and listened and tried to show her some sympathy. And then, still crying, she came closer to me and began unbuttoning my shirt. Well, I wasn’t sure what was happening or what her intentions were, but I knew it was wrong. I can’t remember in detail what I did next, but I know that I excused myself and left.

The next day, trying not to think too much about what happened the day before, and not wanting to run into her, I just put my head down in my books and continued with my studies as always. But I did run into her. And once again she needed help, and I agreed to help here again. And, you guessed it, the same thing happened. What was I thinking? Well, clearly, I wasn’t thinking very rationally.  Maybe I was just wanting to give her a second chance at doing the right thing. And maybe I thought I could help her and counsel her and pray with her. Yes, I remember doing that. But I also remember that she wanted to undress me as before—and she tried without success.

Now you probably are thinking that I had learned my lesson, that I would never agree to help her again. But you would be wrong. She came to me a third time and asked me, desperately, to help her again. And I did. And the same thing happened with the buttons. But this time I was willing to let her continue. Apparently, I can’t remember, but apparently, I had given in to her wishes, and into my lusts before I even arrived at her apartment. I was not vigilant against sin. I was not prayerful or in any way prepared. So, she undressed me, and herself, and sin happened. But only for a few minutes. Thankfully, it was interrupted by her having to use the rest room. And then, suddenly, I was compelled to escape. I quickly dressed and ran out the door. She followed me, being still naked, but I was long gone.

The next day she saw me in the library and smiled. Then for the first time I knew what she was, and I also knew more about myself. I never came near her again—though I could tell that she was still after me. Soon I decided that I would finish that year in Western—which was almost over—and not return. My decision was final, and it was based on the feeling that I was no longer qualified to be in ministry. Looking back at it, I think I should have at least talked to Dr. Rodmocker the President of the Seminary. I’m not sure I would have changed my mind, but I know I should have done that. Also, there is something else that I haven’t done until now: I haven’t taken the time to really evaluate what happened. Thanks to this blog post, I have recently spent a good deal of time doing just that.

First of all, as for the woman, I don’t know of her background or the details of how she may have been abused, but I think it must have happened. She no doubt had mental and emotional problems, and I think she also had a sexual addiction. In my brief study of this I read that sex is used to escape depression, to cope with stress and to medicate pain. I saw in her a terrible depression and she was definitely trying to use sex with me to medicate her pain.

Why didn’t I see who she was? Why was I taken in by her three different times? I see now five reason why: 1) I felt sorry for her and saw an opportunity to help someone in need; 2) I was seeking friendship and she was friendly; 3) I wanted to give her a second chance; 4) I had no discernment or wisdom and I wasn’t prayerful; and 5) in the end, I had a secret sexual desire that I was denying and it finally came out.

Do I have any regrets about my decision to quit Seminary?  Sometimes I wonder what would have been different for me if I had stuck it out and graduated at Western. I think that if I had talked to someone at the Seminary and confessed my part of it, they may have forgiven me and let me stay. At the same time, I sort of feel that I did the right thing in quitting, that God used that incident to point me in a different direction. If I had a chance to change my decision, I don’t think I would do it differently, mainly because I wasn’t that good of a student anyway, and I was growing weary of all the studying with getting hardly any sleep—since I had to work so much. I had no free time at all. So anyway, I felt at peace about it and I just continued on in life, day by day. What else could I do? God is good.

Western Seminary: Trusting God, Painting and Classes

This is this Mount Saint Helen erupting, on May 18, 1980.

After I graduated from Northwestern, I very quickly started thinking about Seminary. It was my plan all along to go into some kind of Christian ministry, maybe even a pastor of a church. One Sunday, after the church service, I approached the pastor and asked him what Seminary he would recommend. He said that Bethel (in Saint Paul) was good, but that Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon was the best. So, without question, I went with his suggestion. And before long, I was all signed up to go to Western—Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

Seminary didn’t start until the fall, so I had the summer off—except for work. For the last three summers I had been working for a company called Super Painters, painting houses. It was kind of fun, but also a lot of work. They had quite a large operation, maybe about 20 employees. Usually there was 3 or 4 crews working on different projects. But sometimes, when a job had to be done quickly, they would put everyone together. Those were the most fun. Can you imagine 20 painters at work, with ladders and plank all around the house, and paint brushes flying? Oh, it was great. A little chaotic but great. I am so thankful for my start with them. Not only did I learn how to paint, I also was given confidence to later start up my own painting company. I’ll talk more about that later.

A car driving in white ash from Saint Helen’s eruption.

When the time came to start Seminary, I took a leap of faith with my car, and also with my financial situation. My car was quite old and had some issues, but I thought it could make it—driving from Minnesota to Portland, Oregon. And it did, without any problems. Thank God. One thing I will always remember on the trip was that from South Dakota, all the way there, it looked like it had snowed. But it was white ashes from the eruption of Mount St. Helen that had blew its top the day before. So bizarre.

My financial situation was simple. I had no money, but I was trusting God to provide. So, when I approached the clerk at Western, I explained that I was planning on paying my way a little at a time by the painting jobs that I would get. That was my plan. And it worked. Thank God. Each day at Seminary, between classes and in the evening, I walked around the neighborhood and asked people to let me paint a room or two. And I got work, enough work to pay my tuition and all my bills while at Seminary!

Surprisingly, my Seminary classes weren’t any harder than my college classes at Northwestern. They were really just more of the same, classes like Hermeneutics, Bible Survey and Greek. The only thing that was different was a couple classes that were more geared toward being a Baptist—like the class called Baptist History and Principles. I got a D in that class! All the other class I did pretty good—A’s and B’s. Oh, except Greek. I also got D’s in those classes.

Northwestern: Churches, Internship, Dating

This is the inside of Grace Eden Prairie, what Edina Baptist eventually evolved into.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Northwestern, and I was fully engaged in my classes. However, on Sundays I always went to church and was involved as much as possible. For about the first couple of years in college, I attended a small community church in Golden Valley, Minnesota, about ten miles from college. I was going there before I started college, so there was no reason to make a change. The pastor wasn’t that good at preaching, but he was quite friendly and I liked him. The thing I liked most about him was his commitment to prayer. I remember going to the men’s prayer meeting, which was attended mostly by the church elders and deacons—and me. As you can imagine, going to that group made me feel important, and they really made me feel welcome.

The pastor, Pastor McDonald, was eager to help me fulfill my internship requirements for college. When I told him that I was interested in evangelism, he set me loose canvasing the neighborhood. That was kind of fun, and I think I remember getting into some spiritual conversations, as well as distributing material for the church. Also, as part of my internship, I preached two or three sermons. I was excited about it; but truthfully, I’m not sure I was that true to the Scriptures. I would get better. And I did. Each time was a little better than the last.

Also, totally separate from Golden Valley Community church, Northwestern gave me the chance to preach at a few very small churches. It was kind of scary, but also invigorating and a faith building experience. Most of those churches were way out in the sticks and it took me a couple hours to get there. None of them had more than 30 people in attendance, and they were always very welcoming and glad to see a real preacher come—me! To tell you the truth, they were so eager to get a preacher, I could have said almost anything, true or not, and they would have accepted it.

During my last year or so of college I started going to another church. I can’t remember why I changed, but anyway, it was a lot different. Oh, one reason I decided to go there was because I didn’t have to drive. There was a church bus that brought a group of us there and back. The church, then Edina Baptist, was huge. It had a very good pastor and his preaching was excellent. I immediately got involved in the singles group, and I also joined the choir—great fun! Those were the days. God was giving me some great spiritual teaching. What I wasn’t getting at Northwestern College, I was getting at that church. My feet were being firmly planted, and I was also enjoying it.

One thing that was lacking in my life at that time was establishing any close relationships. I don’t know why, but that was something that I just didn’t catch on to, or that I wasn’t taught. I seemed to be so involved with my studies that relationships with people was sort of forgotten. Sadly, that is still true of me today. I have always been a loner. I can be friendly with people, but establishing close connections is something else.

Because I was around the opposite sex so much at Northwestern, I became more and more interested in, or thinking about marriage. So, I awkwardly attempted to make some female connections. I had a few dates with Sally that went nowhere. I mean, she was a real hottie (as they say); but I could tell, she wasn’t that interested in me. Linda, on the other hand was quite interested in me, but I didn’t find her attractive.

Then there was Elise. I was on and off dating her for a long time. I really liked her, and I felt a real love for her. In fact, we were even engaged for a time, but I felt I had to break it off, because I just knew she wasn’t fully committed to me, she wasn’t being honest with me all the time. In a way it was a strange and stressful relationship. So that’s my sad story.

That’s all I will write about during my time at Northwestern. In my next blog I will write a little about my time at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

Northwestern: Food, Campus, Extra Activities

This is the chapel in Nazareth hall.

Besides finding out who my professors were and what my classes were like, I was very interested in what the food was like. I quickly found out that I would be spending as much time in the lunch room as I possibly could—because the food was delicious! And, if I remember correctly, you could come back for seconds. And the coffee was good too. In fact, I think I drank two cups of coffee for each meal. That’s six cups a day—more than I’ve ever consumed.

The campus was great too, old but great. Its oldest buildings, Nazareth Hall, and then later Riley Hall, use to be a preparatory Catholic Seminary. The most beautiful is its chapel—with huge marble pillars and stained-glass windows. I think my most memorable times at Northwestern were those times when I hung out with friends to study and chat. The library was one of those places, and I would always study at the same table where the same group would be. It was good to meet with friends, even though we didn’t talk much—we were all committed to studying.

In my first year at Northwestern I joined the band, and also the wrestling team. But after a while both of those activities went away. I don’t know what happened with the band; I guess I just didn’t have time for it. But I remember all too well what happened with wrestling. I was working out with this little guy, and well, I broke one of my ribs. It was sort of a freak accident. When it came to the next wrestling contest, the coach bandaged me up, but it really didn’t help much.  I was in so much pain that I had to forfeit the match. I loved wrestling, but I knew I had to quit. I couldn’t compete. Maybe it was for the best. Maybe God was guiding me to be more focused on my studies.

The only other extra activities that I can think of was being a security guard for the school and working in maintenance. I really liked the maintenance job. I mainly worked in the wood shop repairing chairs. All I did was take the chairs apart and re-glue them. The security job was not as enjoyable. It was a pain, and it gave me a reputation around school as a mean guy. My job was to walk around at night and check to see if anyone was breaking the rules. I basically was supposed to look with a flashlight into all the parked cars and other dark areas to check and see it there were any couples doing things they weren’t supposed to do. No necking! That was the campus rules. I was glad to finely quiet that job—and I don’t think I was even getting paid for it. I don’t remember how the Dean of Men talked me into it.

Northwestern Bible College: My Teachers and Classes

This is Nazareth Hall. This building, along with Riley Hall,l were the only buildings standing when I was there.

Getting started at Northwestern was a little chaotic, but it was also exciting. I had decided on what classes I would take earlier when I met with a counselor, so, on the first day of college, it was just a matter of buying the books I needed and finding out where the classes were and what time. I could tell that some of the students already knew each other, but I didn’t know anyone. So, I just smiled and waved as I went from class to class. The main thing I was focused on was getting to know my teachers—or professors, as you were supposed to call them. Most of them had “Dr.” in front of his name, but there were a few that were just “Mr.” Anyway, I liked most of my professors, and they were all different.

Dr. Hartill was a favorite of a lot of students—but, as I found out later, he may have been a little conservative in his views for some. He may have been the oldest teacher at the college. In fact, my mom knew him right away when I mentioned his name. He was one of her teachers. As far as I remember, I had him for three different classes: Bible Survey, which lasted for three quarters; Hermeneutics, and we used a text book that Hartill wrote; and Revelation. And in that class, we definitely got the most conservative view: the pre-trib and pre-millennium view.

It was always fun to be in any of Hartill’s classes. You could tell that he really knew the material. He had everything memorized and he was a fast talker. Of course, he had taught the same classes for over 30 years, and probably used most of the same material. But he knew how to break up the monotony if he thought anyone was getting bored or if they were nodding off. He always had plenty of jokes and he on occasion surprised the class by going over to the piano and played a little jazz. I wondered why that piano was setting in the class room! It was for him.

Dr. Dunnett taught Doctrine and also bible classes. I had him for Genesis and maybe Joshua and Judges. He was a good teacher, but he was a little odd and a little liberal. Most of the students really liked him. I remember that for Doctrine class he graded us partly on how much outside reading we would do. He expected us to do an unbelievable amount of reading—and that kind of reading is usually deep! I remember trying to read at least 200-300 pages a day. And I am a slow reader.

I had Mr. Jack Smith for many of my Bible classes: for 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, and others which I can’t remember. But I remember that he always told stories as he taught, and he tended to preach to get his points across. I liked him. Oh yes, he also taught Sociology, and he had a way of making that subject interesting. I know that many other teachers on that subject would have bored me to death.

Another favorite teacher of mine was Stephen Farra. I had him for all of my Psychology classes: Into to Psychology, Psychology of Counseling, Developmental Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology. One thing about Farra is that he never really let on to how he believed—or maybe he didn’t know. His thing was just to present all the ideas. But I liked how he would compare the different ideas with what the bible said. And he was never one to preach. He just laid it out for us, and told us that it was up to us to decide how to believe.

Well, those are my favorite teachers and most of my classes, but there were a few other classes I took. Philosophy, logic and Christian thought were all classes that were generally boring to me, and the teacher didn’t help much. I also took a couple history classes that weren’t much better—boring. A class called Bible Customs and Geography was a little interesting; and an Anthropology class was also interesting—but not great.

Oh yes, I almost forgot; I took three quarters of Greek. You had to take Greek to get the degree I got, but it was kind of a waste of my time and money—because I just didn’t have the aptitude for it, or for languages in general. The only way it is a benefit to me now is when I will do a Greek word study. For instance, having studied Greek I understand most of the language used in Greek grammar books or in any Greek Lexicon.

Northwestern Bible College: Getting Set Up

This is the Northwestern campus as it looks now. When I went there from 1977-1979, the newer buildings you see in the front weren’t there.

After I graduated from Coastal Carolina Community College, it seemed right for me to move home to Minnesota, and to reconnect with my mom. Even though I did drive home every Christmas (with my friend Dave Peterson who also lived in Minnesota), I hadn’t been home for any extended time since I graduated from high school. I went from high school right into the Marines and Vietnam; and then after the Marines I stayed in North Carolina with the Navigators for the next four years. I was definitely ready to go home.

My mom was recently divorced, had sold her house, and was now living in an apartment in St. Louis Park. When I got home, I had no plans, so, at first, I was just bumming off of mom. But after a week or so I found a job as a kitchen Stewart at the Radisson Hotel in Bloomington. My job description was a kitchen supervisor, but I actually did a lot more than supervise. Yes, I supervised the dish washers, but I also did scheduling, made coffee for all the parties and events, and made sure there was enough dishes washed for all the events. It was a huge job and I didn’t get paid much more than a dish washer. I didn’t complain much, but now that I think about it, I should have gotten paid twice as much as a dish washer—because of all the responsibility I had. I think I worked there for about four months, until I started asking myself, “Why am I here?” and “What do I rally want in my life?”

The answer to myself, and really to my prayers, were to continue on the same course that I was on with the Navigators—something in Christian ministry.  I knew my mom had gone to Northwestern Bible College for a short time, so that seemed like the logical choice. I went right for it. I quit my job at the Radisson, I talked to a counselor at the college, and before I knew it, I was all set up. I was surprised at how fast things were moving. I was accepted almost right away, I had no problem getting a government school loan, and I had an entire year of classes that transferred from my previous college—no problem.

Well, I was going to college again. But this time I felt I had a clearer purpose and a stronger desire.