Terminal 3, at Los Angeles International Airport, used to be inhabited by two airlines—Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Eastern Airlines. The regal red and white 707s of TWA, and the sleek, blue L1011’s of Eastern are long since grounded, most probably wasting away in the desolate airplane graveyards of Tucson. As a teenager in the late 1970’s, during the twilight of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, I worked at Terminal 3, LAX.
That seems like such a long time ago.
It is for that reason that the death of Dr. Gene Scott, Ph.D., Pastor of the University Cathedral in Los Angeles, has left such a gaping hole in my heart. In the late 1970’s, Dr. Scott was on KHOF, 99.5 FM, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week. With the strange shifts that I worked at LAX, his teachings were my constant companion. I listened to him all the time. When KHOF was sold, Doc moved to short wave, broadcasting on WWCR-5935 from Nashville, Tennessee and KAIJ-9815 from Dallas, Texas. I have worn out three short-wave radios listening to Dr. Scott.
On reflection, I would say that 98% of my aggregate knowledge on Christianity came from the teachings of Dr. Gene Scott.
Without Dr. Scott opening the deep reserves of God’s book, I would be just another kid who grew up in a traditional church, but didn’t know a damn thing about God or His book. What truer words did Christ ever speak other than these, "Your traditions have made the word of God of none effect."
It would take me 50,000 words to scratch the surface of how Dr. Scott re-energized Christianity, bringing original thought and brilliant insight to the pedantic, traditional theological oeuvre of his day. He often referred to himself as a "Paulinst." The meaning, I think, was clear: he saw himself as the spiritual descendant of the Apostle Paul with a clear directive to highlight the message of the Epistles in this particular day and time.
And, oh how he did it with a style uniquely, and wonderfully, his own. Dr. Scott’s teaching on Ephesians consisted of such profound biblical truths that I could listen for just 15 minutes at a time before stopping the tape. I could digest but tiny morsels of what he was saying. I can’t forget the day he taught that "God whispered the names of the ‘called ones’ before the foundation of the world. I couldn’t get my mental arms around that. To this day, that thought still give me chills—it is comforting, but it also chilling. I was one, so beaten by traditional, conventional theological thought, that the notion of God even being interested in me was more than I could grasp.
A broader understanding of Doc’s thirty-year landscape of teaching reveals that he, like Paul, delivered a consistent, unwavering message. His appearance and hairstyle may have changed, but the message remained forever on-point. It was a message that placed Jesus Christ and God’s word at the absolute forefront.
Doc exploded the teaching on faith to a new level: In his brilliant, scholarly way, he conceived the "The ABCs of Faith." Faith is Action, based on Belief, and sustained by Confidence that God is going to do what He said. Through an expansion of the Greek word PISTEO, he helped students understand that faith and action were inseparable, moving us away from the constricting English notion that faith and belief are identical. This delineation is essential because without faith, so the scriptures say, it is not possible to please God.
Doc would inject this quote from the Book of Numbers into many messages: "God is not man that he should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent. Has he said and not done, has he spoken and not made it good." Therein lies the undergirding principle of the "C" of the ABCs of faith: You can sustain because God is faithful.
Then, there is communion. As a boy, our Pentecostal church offered communion on "fifth Sundays." I was always terrified of partaking because ministers would talk about ‘eating and drinking unworthily.’ I would take communion because I never felt I good enough.
Dr. Scott presented to the church a clear, uncomplicated teaching on communion explaining the difference between "unworthy" and "unworthily. " The manner of partaking…how one discerned the "Lord’s body" was essential. "Christ," he said, "made us worthy to partake." Thus, we could engage in this act with a focus on what Christ did versus a focus on our condition and ourselves. Who, ever, taught this before Dr. Scott? How many people were freed from traditional theological constraints by this teaching?
Doc, for nearly a year, lectured on Demonology. He took the foundational scriptures from Ephesians that begin with the erstwhile warning, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood…" and delivered stunning prescience into the workings of the evil one.
Listening and watching him read from Gerald Brittle, "The Demonologist," left me too frightened to turn the lights off. How can anyone—ever -- forget Ed and Lorraine Warren and the stories of "The Devil in Connecticut?" I can vividly recall Doc telling the story of the night an entity manifested itself in Ed Warren’s study ‘sucking all the heat’ from the room. Or, "…this wicked lover crept…"
Dr. Scott wanted us to know the forces of evil were more real than we could imagine, marshaled in ‘the air about us’ seeking to destroy and inflict pain into our lives, restricting our ability to faithe. He made a point of educating his students about the real enemy.
Doc, one late night on Festival, started talking about "Bird’s Nest Soup," reading a story from Smithsonian magazine about the international secrecy and millions of dollars surrounding the trade in nests required to produce this Asian culinary delicacy. I had never heard of "Bird’s Nest Soup." Doc, ingenious and insightful, linked the story to Christianity by posing this question: "How do you act or respond to something of value? The people in this story are willing to risk their lives to obtain the pristine nests of a sea swallow. What are you willing to do." He would deliver this line regularly, "If you’re going to be a Christian, be one."
Then there is resurrection of Christ. Doc often said this: "Most people saying that the resurrection didn’t happen because it couldn’t happen haven’t spent 15 hours in their entire life studying it."Doc, every Easter, would construct out a point-by-point logical rebuttal of anyone who would challenge the validity of Jesus’ resurrection. I, then, could defend the attributes of Christianity to all-comers…thanks to Dr. Scott’s brilliance.
There were seven messages Doc would teach every year. After his heart attack, he called them "Nitro Pills." Who can forget Psalms 84: "Blessed go through the valleys of weeping…from strength to strength."
Isaiah 50. Doc reminded us of the ever-pressing danger of ‘walking by the light of our own fire."
Psalms 91. How close do you have to be to someone, to be underneath their shadow? We are in helpzone of the Most High…call Him by Name.
Deuteronomy.The God of the Bush. Doc reminded us that Moses, at the end of his life, recounted the day when YHWH appeared to him in burning bush. The Lord is there.
It is, therefore, fitting that at the end of Dr. Scott’s life, he was unpacking the Magnum Opus of his spirtual antecedent Paul-- the Book of Romans.
Clara Grace, of Melodyland fame, once said that Dr. Gene Scott’s teachings would remain a compass point in the last days of mankind, providing a clear alternative from the tangential voices subtly leading people astray.
There are no words to express the rippling magnitude of this loss. To his students, his death is akin a renegade tsunami. It seems, at least for me, that it isn’t possible to recover from such a loss.
I have often wondered why Christ’s followers were in such disarray after his death. I used to think, "They had Jesus with them for three and half years, how could they come unglued so quickly?"
In a weird sort of way, I understand how frail and alone they felt. There has never been a day in my adult life when I couldn’t reach out to KHOF 99.5FM or WWCR 5935 or KAIJ 9815 and hear Pastor’s voice.
I do not know what is ahead for University Cathedral, Kings House I and Kings House II, the Bible Collection, Caribbean beacon, Novosibirk, High Adventure, or Shalom Services.
I do know that Christ won’t leave the flock without a shepherd.
Those who remain must continue ever-faithful to the cause, never wavering, never forgetting. We are sentries, on post, enjoined to behave as if the outcome of the entire battle depends on us. Still.
It is what he would have demanded.