Shurden reviews Charles Kiker’s “Haunted by the Holy Ghost: Memoirs of a Reluctant Prophet”

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the wit and wisdom of the Rev. Dr. Charles Kiker.  What you likely don’t know is that Charles has written a wonderful book, Haunted by the Holy Ghost: Memoirs of a Reluctant Prophet  This review of by Walter (Buddy) Shurden, published in the most recent edition of Christian Ethics Today, will make you want to read the book.  AGB

Haunted by the Holy Ghost: Memoirs of a Reluctant Prophet by Charles Kiker (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2013. 226 pages.)

Reviewed by Walter B. Shurden

Charles Kiker may not be your vintage household Baptist name. But for those of you who read this important journal, believe me when I tell you that he is the kind of fellow with whom most of you will gladly identify, if not admire. This entertaining, at times humorous, memoir is the story of a guy who took a serious liking to Jesus in his younger days and for the rest of his days, by his own testimony, has been Haunted by the Holy Ghost. This “Holy Ghost haunting” unfolded in a challenging life of Christian ministry rather than in religious emotionalism.  The haunting led to justice-making, mercy-giving, truth-seeking, and risk-taking.

Here are some of the facts. Charles Kiker is a farmer who became a preacher, a Methodist who became a Baptist and a Methodist again (and for good reason), a Swisher County, Texas boy who, proud of his conservative roots, grew strong ethical liberal wings, a high school graduate who resisted the idea of college but later received a Ph.D. in Old Testament, a professor who became a pastor, a pastor who questioned the status quo, a husband who married Patricia, his childhood sweetheart, and a father who is obviously a committed family man.

Grady Nutt often said that one needed to learn to love Jesus without knocking John the Baptist. He meant, of course, that we need to embrace our future without amputating our past. Charles Kiker began and has ended up in Swisher County, TX. He grew up with an ice box, a crank telephone, kerosene lamps, an out-house, hordes of family members moving in and out of his uninsulated home, and a little Methodist church that had preaching once a month. He learned to milk when he was five years old, and the chickens on the family farm constituted his first preaching audience. Unspoiled by the luxuries of life in his upbringing, he never expected to be treated as an honored guest who deserved privileges as a gospel minister. Theologically and ethically, Kiker moved far beyond his Swisher County upbringing, but he never lost his love for the region that birthed and nurtured him. That in itself is no mean moral and ethical accomplishment.

A good student even in elementary school, Kiker once made a “C” in Art. Color blind and not well physically coordinated, he said that he often colored outside the lines. Those two traits—color blindness and coloring outside the lines—got him in trouble down through the years.

Kiker thought he would be a farmer all of his life, but deep in his soul was a quiet haunting by the Holy Ghost that he should be a preacher. Having grown up as a Methodist, he enrolled in Asbury College in Wilmore, KY. But there he encountered  among the students a strong dose of the teaching of sinless perfection as well as Wesleyan holiness on the faculty. Charles and Patricia joined a Baptist church.

Moving back to Texas, Kiker enrolled at Wayland Baptist College where he studied with a religion department faculty that stretched his mind and his Swisher County, TX soul. Wanting more education and receiving a scholarship from Southern Seminary, he and Patricia struck out for Louisville where he received both the M. Div. and Ph.D. I will let you read the book to discover what followed in their lives of ministry, but I do want to leave you with some practical, ethical, and theological gems that you will find in the book:

“Professional, paid ministry is hazardous to one’s spiritual integrity.”

Kiker exhorts us to be as theologically open minded as Peter was after his rooftop dream: “. . . in every nation anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:35).

“Once a pastor loses favor with a major segment of a church with congregational polity, his days are numbered.”

“Worship of Mammon is probably the besetting sin in the church, followed closely by identification of the national interest with the will of God.”

“It was incomprehensible to me how people who claimed to take seriously the Good News could perpetuate religious apartheid to the degree that Sunday morning at eleven o’clock was the most segregated hour of the week.”

“Struggling churches, wherever they may be are prone to become fixated on keeping the doors open to the detriment of living out reasons why the doors should stay open.”

“Jesus attracted as much criticism as praise by his healing miracles.”

The real value of this book for most of us is that it does not come from religious celebrity mouthing theological triumphalism. It comes from an ordinary couple, Charles and Patricia Kiker, who tried to do ministry by taking seriously what Jesus took seriously. Many ordinary Baptist ministers in their 60s and 70s will identify with much in this book. But I think that young ministers in their 20s and 30s and 40s may benefit from this book the most. They will discover a couple who, though encountering disillusionment in the church and churchly institutions, kept returning to one type of Christian ministry or another. And they kept coming back because they were haunted by the Holy Ghost.