Armenian Bible Church            

Հայ Աստուածաշունչի Եկեղեցի

Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 40322  Pasadena, CA 91114 USA

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By Thomas Cosmades


Chapter 2


             The years in Talas (1904-1910) were very advantageous. The student body was comprised of over one hundred girls from Armenian and Greek families. In those days it was hard to find any Turkish students in missionary schools. The school enjoyed a reputation for holding firm spiritual standards, while always aiming to acquaint every student with the claims of the Savior. A good number of the girls came from homes associated with the ancient traditional churches. Their prime interest was to learn English. Three subjects were considered of primary importance — religion, language and arithmetic. A student failing any of these had to abandon all hopes of ever graduating!

            During Aneta’s studies in this school, several spiritual awakenings occurred. Itinerant evangelists who happened to be touring the region and speaking in various localities often stopped by to share their spiritual experiences. Those were men for whom proclaiming Christ and his message meant everything. When they had committed their lives to Jesus Christ and His service, their dedication was irrevocable. Hazards and trials did not deter them. Therefore they could share their faith with awe-inspiring certainty.  They often left their families at home for months on end and traveled from place to place, mostly on horseback.

               Social life in the school centered on such gatherings enriched by these guest speakers. While some of the girls had little or no use for those meetings, Aneta’s tender heart was stirred afresh each time. The memory of them was inscribed indelibly on her mind. Disregarding the mockers, some of the girls regularly met together for Bible study and prayer. Aneta was not yet born again, but the more she searched for the illuminating truth of Christ, the hungrier her heart became.

            One stormy night with strong winds howling, thunder crashing and Mt. Argaeus emblazoned by lightning, she was struck with terror. Suddenly the thought occurred to her, “Where would I be if I died tonight?”  At this fearful prospect a well-known hymn flashed into her mind, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand.”

            Falling on her knees, her bed became her altar. A deeply-felt prayer ascended from Aneta’s heart, “Christ, you are my Rock. Rock of Ages, I come to you.” Immediately all fears vanished. The storm outside continued. But instead of the fearful trembling, an overwhelming peace calmed her entire being. It was the most memorable night of her life in school. The peace of Christ that passes all understanding took over from then on. Many storms were to be her share in life, but that extraordinary peace which flooded her soul that evening never left her.

            She was eighteen and about to be graduated from school. The circle of joyful girls advanced in spiritual knowledge. One day a girl ran excitedly into the room holding a Turkish book written in Greek script which had just been published, ‘The Second Coming of Christ.’   Its author was Haralambos Bostanjoglou.

            She gathered all the girls around her, exclaiming, “Lister to a wonderful exposition about our Lord’s return!” Everyone was thrilled, as they knew so little about this exciting theme. She read while the others listened. Could all these wonderful truths be real?  Or were they someone’s fantasy? The girls’ excitement grew. Until the appearance of this book the teaching concerning the Second Coming of Christ had not been dealt with in Anatolia. The missionaries from New England, true to their Reformed stance, espoused the post-millennial or amillennial interpretation of eschatology.  No one had presented the teaching of premillennialism.  This was a ‘first’ on the subject.  Naturally, all churches established by the missionaries followed the amillennial line.  In this new book the author was not only delving into a new subject, but was expounding the Lord’s reign of one thousand years on this earth as he presented his position of the eschatological teaching of the New Testament!

            No little commotion was stirred when this book came out. The Evangelical community throughout Asia Minor reacted with mixed emotions. The leadership of the churches was generally unwilling to accept this interpretation. Professor H. Krikorian, owner of the Evangelical publishing house Rahnuma − ‘Road Guide’ − in Constantinople, immediately took it upon himself to openly refute the book, considering it heretical. He wrote a long article in his widely circulated Evangelical periodical.  The teaching was said to be the product of Bostanjoglou’s imagination. The Protestant community was advised to disregard the book. Before long, both the book and the article became focal points of a growing controversy.

            Nouritsa Tavlian, later Mrs. Philibossian of Fresno, California, held the book in one hand and the article in the other. She read the paragraph titles and then the article.  Until then the whole concept of Christ’s premillennial return was an entirely unexplored subject. Being in agreement with Haralambos’ teaching, she rebutted the article point by point.  The girls at the school were puzzled by the upheaval the young evangelist’s book had caused.  In order to reach an objective judgment they first wanted to digest the contents of both the book and the article written against it.

            A few friends of Bostanjoglou were afraid of the church leadership.  Furthermore, being influenced by the article, they assumed a neutral position. Very soon they lost interest in the subject. But a persistent young mentor at the school suggested that those interested could study the issue on their own. Aneta was in the band of interested girls who continued searching out the truths of this teaching in their Bible studies.        

          It should be noted here that modern theology had already crept into the circle of missionaries in Asia Minor.   Being influenced by them a number of churches started following the same line. This development eventually became very detrimental to the life of the Christian community.  The church leadership was pretty much on the side of the missionaries, except for a few.