Regent Faculty & Staff Tributes - Late Dr. Charles L. Holman
To Rose Holman and the Holman family:
I deeply regret that I cannot be with you today to share in your great loss. I am in Nigeria teaching a course on Church History in the West African Theological Seminary in the city of Lagos. Like many other friends, I have prayed daily for Charles to once again be healed, but in His wisdom, the Lord has answered our prayers by calling Charles home to a much better place.
I have known Charles Holman for over 30 years, first as a participant in the Society for Pentecostal Studies and for the last twelve years as his dean in the School of Divinity. In all these years I saw in Charles Holman the epitome of a Christian teacher and scholar. There was not a more loved and respected person on the faculty of the School of Divinity. We all looked up to him for wisdom and guidance. In a way he was the academic conscience of the school. He was especially effective as the Chairman of the Curriculum Committee. He always challenged us to the highest moral, ethical and academic standards. When it came to love and respect, he was surely the dean of the faculty.
We all loved his personality, his sincerity, and his sense of humor. He was a unique brother who loved the Lord with a deep and abiding passion. He was equally a lover of the scriptures and delighted in rightly dividing the word of truth with his students.
I have had the privilege of being a student and a colleague of Dr. Holman. As a student the greatest privilege came in the summer of 1995 when I registered for an exegetical elective. Through a turn of events, I ended up being the only registered student in the class. With Mrs. Holman’s permission, Dr. Holman invited me to their home to host the class in a tutorial fashion. My fondest memories included the time we discussed the scriptures and his kind inquiry, “Diane, what did the Lord show you in the passage this week?” I was humbled and challenged by our interaction, but mostly by Dr. Holman calling me forth, treating me as a colleague and listening, not only to the voice of the Spirit, but to me as we met around the Word of God.
The last time I had visited with him in the hospital, I had asked Charles if he would like me to read from the scriptures and, if so, what specific passage. He replied, “John 10”, the great passage where Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…”
Charles listened to the shepherd’s voice, communed with God, and demonstrated to all of us the gracious, tender character God as a fruit of that ongoing communion.
Rose, we are so grateful that you shared Charles with us so willingly as he fulfilled fully God’s calling upon his life and now has reached the ultimate fulfillment of His life message.
Dr. Holman was not only a dear brother but a dear friend and colleague. He always encouraged me in my mission vision and reminded me of how he brought the heart of God for missions into his classes. His input into my life was invaluable and lives on. The same goes for hundreds of students that he taught in his tenure at Regent University.
Every so often in life we have the privilege of encountering someone who, through the grace of God's Spirit working in his/her life usually for many years and through numerous struggles, has come to truly exemplify what it means to be a follower of Jesus - one who over time has come to resemble Him profoundly in character and selfless love for others. Dr. Holman was such a one. His devotion could be seen and heard as he walked about the university grounds praying under his breath for his students and his fellow faculty and staff. He always had a kind word of encouragement and expressed sincere concern for everyone. Surely it would hard to find a more humble and genuine man who truly demonstrated the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The authentic way in which he integrated his spirituality with his research and teaching served to deeply enrich his students and set the standard for teaching in our school. Always in faculty and curriculum committee meetings he stood both for rigor in our programs and for depth of devotion to Jesus.
Although he has ceased teaching classes, I believe Charles will continue to teach all of us who knew him as we remember his example and strive to follow it. I know that I will always treasure his friendship and that of his dear wife, Rose. When I think of Charles, I am reminded of the promise of Jesus in Matthew 10:42, "And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded." I think Dr. Holman is receiving a great reward indeed.
Dr. Holman was a wonderful professor and friend. He was a great man of faith and of the Word. He was concerned with how we interpreted and applied the Word to our lives. I was greatly impressed in my Principles of Bible Study class when he talked about his Sunday School class that he taught at First Baptist. Here is a great intellectual that is sharing his faith outside of the classroom! Dr. Holman had a great care for the students and he prayed for us on a regular basis. It was nice to pass him in the hallways and hear, "Patricia, I prayed for you today." The care and compassion Dr. Holman shared for students academically and spiritually was very evident when I was a student representative on the Divinity Curriculum committee. His violin playing was beautiful and ushered us into God's throne room as we were privileged to hear him play at the Christmas staff party in 2004. But the most amazing thing that I will remember is his care and concern for students even in his last days here on earth. I will never forget Dr. Flynn rushing in to assist Dr. Holman to turn in his final grades for last Fall. Here is a man lying in the hospital who is more concerned about the students grades not being turned in on time. We all agreed he had the best excuse. Here is a man of integrity who cares more for others than himself.
When I first came to Regent as a Divinity student in spring 2004 I had Dr. Story for a class. In the class we used materials by Dr. Holman. Sometime in that semester I met Dr. Holman and in a conversation we were talking about the class materials. He asked, “How is the class going?” He then went on to say that if I thought of anything that could make the material better to let him know. As I thought about it, I was amazed at his humility. With all of his years of experience he believed that I could actually have something to add, even though it was my first semester. I knew that he really cared about my ideas.
Late in the summer of 1978 I was coming out of the Nottingham university library. What I had heard was true, a fine looking, tall American in his early 40s had come to do his PhD under James Dunn. For here he was coming towards me; I could tell by his bright clothes, and his accent confirmed his origins. From that moment we become firm friends. We read our academic papers at the regular Dunn seminars. We ate our sandwiches together over many lunch times. We debated issues of eschatology and historicity. I saw his love for the Bible and his keenness to know what it means for today.
Our families spent time together; their two girls and our daughter and son. We ate together and did Christmas together. Also, Charles and Rose are witnesses to our Catherine’s baptism when she was 5. And they later visited us when we lived in London.
The English winters were particularly severe on Charles, who was accustomed to warmer climes. His innocent individuality was obvious when he would come to the campus, day after day, braced against the icy winds wearing a rather ancient leather, close fitting, early aviator’s hat, still sporting its long chin straps which he never tied, even on the windiest day. None of my insensitive comments persuaded him to dispense with it.
As the years went by we watched each other’s children grow in the photographs we exchanged. Charles was now at Regent. We were in Australia. In the years we have been here our friendship has been able to blossom again. Charles was deeply caring for me as I settled into Regent. There have been more lunch time meetings, always with those healthy little carrots and pieces of fruit laid out carefully on a paper napkin on my desk. Of course, we would pray together.
Yesterday some of the Divinity faculty and staff at Regent gathered to pray for the family and remember Charles one of the founding fathers of our school. I was reminded of what a remarkable man has left our company.
I think of his character. He never spoke ill of any one. Even those with whom he disagreed strongly, he did so with grace and without malice or bitterness. He was punctual to a fault. Indeed, once, to his great consternation, he was 10 minutes late to one of his classes. And he found himself locked out of the devotions. When the truth came to light, it was discovered the students had advanced the clock by 10 minutes allowing them the prank of locking Charles out of his own class.
I think of his determination. He was determined to be a good teacher as well as a good scholar, and to give of his best in local ministry. Charles came late to computers. He was often convinced that his computer was “playing games” with him. Yet, through determination, he mastered it as a tool for teaching and communicating.
I think of his care of the students. He and Rose had countless students to meals. In the days when the divinity faculty had offices with walls that didn’t reach to the ceiling, late at night Charles could sometimes be heard praying, “Oh, Lord, help me as I grade this paper.” That shepherd’s care carried over from his regular prayer schedule that included faculty and staff, as well as his students. Indeed, if you heard him pray you will know that he was enthusiastic, and confident in God.
I think of Charles as a gracious gentleman. For example, in his interaction with the secretaries he would always say, “Thank you for your kind work.” Very few of us could be described, like Charles, with the words; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I am sad now that a planned trip Barbara and I had with the Holmans to Williamsburg a few weeks ago was cancelled because of heavy rain. But I have happier memories of an earlier outing. One evening the four of us went to the Pavilion. On coming out after hearing Beethoven’s 9th, I assume in some state of musically induced ecstasy, Charles walked off to get the car. We waited on the curb. When he brought the car around in front of us I opened the doors for the ladies to get in. As I closed the doors Charles promptly drove off. Thankfully, the shouts of our wives caused him to return for me.
Charles has been a gift from God to me. In him I caught a clear glimpse of Jesus. Thank you Rose for sharing this man with me. In an email yesterday morning James Dunn, our doctoral father, put it well for us all, “it’s easy to talk of the triumph of faith in such circumstances, much harder to bear the pain of separation. Please let Rose know we rejoice with her at the homecoming and grieve with her at the parting.”
People have remarked on the picture of Charles that is taped to my office door. Through the closed door, I can hear them comment on his extraordinary life as a teacher and exemplary character as a Christian. After a while, I began jotting down the words about Charles: a gentle, sweet and sincere man of God; a strict teacher characterized by his great love for God and compassion for his students; an uncompromising student of the Word of God; a lover of music; devoted to his wife and family. It is quite apparent that Charles was a beloved and respected person. Yet, all this is not the reason why I put the picture on my door. It is not the past but the present that I seek, reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I do not consider Charles as he was but as he continues to be. In many ways, Charles has not become an example of the past but a model for the future.
Rose, Family, and Friends,
It is with a mixture of joy and sadness this afternoon that I speak a few words about a man whom my wife Dindy and I have known and loved for over two decades.
In sharing about Dr. Holman--Charles, I'd like to focus on two areas of my relationship with him, first as a student and later as a fellow New Testament scholar. In the first capacity I am speaking today in behalf of thousands of his former students, including my wife, who are serving God in various ways around the world. Although they would like to be here today to honor Dr. Holman, because of distance and various responsibilities most cannot be present.
In 1984 I enrolled at then CBN University in the School of Biblical Studies. Dr. Holman was my academic advisor, and for the next three years he served as a mentor, teacher, and friend. During the first quarter I took Principles of Bible Study, Dr. Holman's premier course. The textbook that we used-Traina's Methodical Bible Study- was the driest text I'd ever used. Yet Dr. Holman's inspiring pedagogical approach revolutionized the way I read and studied Scripture. This course laid the foundation for the four subsequent classes I took with him during my MA program. This morning I was reading over my transcript to recall them: Hermeneutics and Criticism, Exposition of Ephesians, Unity of the Bible, and Hermeneutics of Eschatology. Even the titles of these classes are intimidating. Yet Dr. Holman was a fair but challenging prof as our final grades testify.
A highlight for his students was the periodic gatherings that he hosted in his home. Not only did we get a peek at the personal side of our esteemed professor, but we had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Rose and his family. The warmth and encouragement that his students and their spouses felt during these occasions caused us to bond into a Spirit-filled academic family.
During this past decade, as work and ministry have taken us back and forth from Virginia Beach, my interaction with Charles has been much more limited.
However, each year we usually spent time together at biblical society meetings. This is probably a side of Charles that few of you know much about. He was a member of four international societies-- the Society for Pentecostal Studies, the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. Often he presented papers dealing with a favorite research topic-- the role of the Holy Spirit in Luke/Acts. However, at the 2004 ETS meeting his topic was "Spiritual Formation in Biblical Times." To tackle a theme of Christian spirituality, a subject outside his normal area, shows the breadth of his interest and scholarship. Charles's careful hermeneutical exposition and attention to scriptural detail earned him the respect of scholars around the world. The international academic community has lost a great colleague with Charles' home-going.
Sometimes we were roommates at these meetings. At Toronto a couple years ago I remember Charles doing his pushups every day as well as the times of reading Scripture together. He was very busy, dashing off to a gathering of the former students of Jimmy Dunn, his own doctoral mentor, or taking a cab over to see the James ossuary at the Toronto Museum. His intellectual ardor and curiosity never dimmed, hence his passion in the classroom continued to the end.
Charles, your legacy lives on in the many lives you have forever touched and changed. We still "know in part" and "see only a reflection in a mirror." But for you completeness has come; you now see face to face. Thanks for handing us the baton so that we can continue the race you have now completed. Maranatha!