Carmelina Read and Kanishka Raffel are Alumni of Moore College
On Tuesday, March 14th, 2023, Matthias Media launched Dr Peter Jensen’s latest work, “The Life of Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine”, at Moore College. The event featured two speakers, Carmelina Read and Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, who reflected on their time as first-year students in Dr Jensen’s classroom and the significance of his new book.
In his speech, Raffel emphasized the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Jensen’s book: ‘The genius and gift of this book – and it is a gift for which I thank God and his servant Peter Jensen – is that it begins and proceeds and ends with a firm commitment to the idea that God makes himself known in the gospel of Jesus Christ. From the gospel, we learn who God is and what God is towards us. All else – humanity, salvation, the church and the last things – flow from the central and primary truth of the gospel – Jesus Christ is Lord.’
Raffel also highlighted the need for a cross-shaped Christian life and ministry, quoting from Jensen’s book: “The Life of Faith is aptly titled because, for Peter, the implications of the knowledge of God in the life of the disciple are inherent and essential. For example, Peter asserts that ‘the preaching of the cross both depends upon and reveals the doctrine of God. At first sight, it may seem that the cross is the abnegation of the power of God. It seems like defeat. The New Testament has an entirely different perspective. Indeed, the doctrine of the cross is a constant reminder that God’s ways are not our ways…God has appointed weak and foolish things to display his power'”.
Carmelina Read focused on Jensen’s unique teaching style and his impact on his students. She shared personal anecdotes showcasing his interactive teaching methods, such as using children’s books and reading poems by William McGonagall. Read recalled, ‘Long before interactive teaching was the in-thing in educational circles, Dr Jensen was never one to stand out the front and boringly read out his notes. We students were in awe that he led every lecture in true Socratic style without referring to any notes. He just bounced off the Bible and interacted with the students.’
Read also reflected on her experience with Jensen’s teaching on the resurrection, recalling a lesson that deeply affected her:
‘One lesson that really struck me from the first-year doctrine was his emphasis on the resurrection. A few days after Princess Diana’s funeral, we started our lecture with Dr Jensen asking us for our thoughts on the Princess’s funeral. Naturally, we wondered how this discussion would lead to the day’s lecture. I vividly remember Dr Jensen saying with tears in his eyes that watching the hearse with Princess Diana’s coffin leave Westminster Abbey to start the long, lonely procession to her burial was one of the saddest scenes he’s ever witnessed. He said it moved him to tears because it reminded him how desperately sad death is. And that without the resurrection, there is no hope.’
Read mentioned how the resurrection is a crucial but undervalued aspect of the gospel, quoting from his book: ‘Failure here means that we cannot understand the whole work of Christ’.
As the speeches continued, it became clear that both Read and Raffel held Peter Jensen in high regard, not only as an author and theologian but also as a mentor and friend. They shared stories highlighting Jensen’s character, such as when he dressed up as Zorro during a lecture, showing his playful side and willingness to connect with his students. Read recounted, ‘One day, Dr Jensen asked a few of us whether we had any unrealized wishes. He then told us his. Being loving, dutiful students, we decided to make his wish come true. Just as he was about to start lecturing, I asked if I could make an announcement. We explained that his wish to dress up as one of his heroes was about to come true. We asked him to close his eyes and dressed him up. Dr Jensen became Zorro! [H]e spent the entire lecture strutting about with his sword, flicking his cape over his back!’
Read highlighted Jensen’s lasting impact on students, including those outside of Moore Theological College. She explained, ‘In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of assisting Dr Jensen in his role as a guest lecturer at Christ College, the Presbyterian theological college. For me, again seeing Dr Jensen in action was like settling into a well-worn armchair with a favourite book. It was déjà vu. Watching our students experience Dr Jensen’s teaching for the first time was magic!’
In response to these speeches, Dr Jensen explained the genesis of this book, namely that it started as lecture notes for a doctrine course. He realized that students often took notes that didn’t quite capture his intended message, so he decided to create a set of notes for them to study from. As far as his intended audience, Dr Jensen remarked: ‘[The book] is aimed at students. It may well be aimed at the same audience TC Hammond aimed his famous ‘In understanding be men’. Of course, first-year and old preachers looking for fresh thoughts, [as well as] lay leadership in the churches.’ The book’s purpose is ‘that it will shape your mind and you will never be the same again…it will inspire your worship for the rest of your life’. It is not a systematic theology textbook: ‘I’m aiming to provide an overview and to show the interconnectedness of Doctrine, how it all fits together.’
The speeches by Carmelina Read and Archbishop Kanishka Raffel at Peter Jensen’s book launch showed the profound impact of Jensen on his students and the broader Christian community. With the release of ‘The Life of Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine,‘ Dr Jensen’s teachings will continue to inspire and challenge future generations of Christian learners.
As Archbishop Kanishka Raffel put it, ‘There is a great lesson here for gospel ministry since our prevailing temptation is to embark on the ‘quest for power,’ given the state of the church and our weakness compared with society. We must learn that the gospel of the cross is the power of God for salvation; we must be willing to trust it and to let God’s word do its work.’
To watch the recording of the book launch, visit: https://youtu.be/tSUl1MIMAQQ