Spiritual Struggle And Conversion

Robertson was educated in prep schools.  He entered Washington and Lee University at age of sixteen and graduated with magna cum laude.  His father Willis gave him an opportunity to spend the summer in Europe as a student at University of London when he was nineteen.3  During the Korean War, he became a marine Captain in Korea, where he was called the “division liquor officer” by his friends.4  Some of his colleagues resented on his privilege as a son of a senator.  Consequently, he was haunted on this point during his presidential campaign that he could escape from combat because of his father’s influence.  Then, Robertson entered Yale Law School in 1955.  While at Yale Law School, Robertson led a dissipated life.  He was a playboy, heavy drinker, and gambler.  This extreme hedonistic life style probably triggered radical turn in his later life as a televangelist against sin, as St. Francis chose to be poor, radically abandoning a sensual life style and the wealth of his family.  Robertson flunked the New York bar exam, claiming that his heart was not in it.5  Shortly after this, Robertson secretly married a nursing student at Yale, Adelia Elmer, ten weeks before his first child was born.  These events seriously damaged his relationship with his father.  After he received a juris doctor degree from Yale Law School, he joined the New York Investment Company W. R. Grace, founding an electronics component business, but resigned within a year.

Even though Robertson failed in his business, the young couple continued to have a fashionable lifestyle, and went seriously into debt, especially to his parents.  Robertson’s discontented early life seemed to be one that often was in conflict with his father’s greatness.6  According to his own account he had a ‘roguish life, yet spiritually hungry.’7

“It was in that period that there was just this incredible emptiness in my heart and I was looking for something better.  I tried it all.  I had pleasure.  I had philosophy.  I had made good grades.  I had traveled all around the world. . . . And what I wanted was just not in any of those things.  And I didn’t know what it was.”8

Robertson’s mother Gladys went into fundamentalist churches, and began sending religious tracts to the couple when Robertson became increasingly weak.  Robertson began to consider the ministry that might offer him culture, dignity, and a regularly salary.9  However, his mother wanted him to be a converted Christian instead of a minister.  The decisive change occurred in his life when Gladys introduced him a missionary evangelist Cornelius Vanderbreggen.  At an elegant restaurant in Philadelphia, Vanderbreggen testified the Gospel and standard Christian message to Robertson, opening his Bible in the restaurant.  Vanderbreggen brought Robertson to an acceptance of Jesus Christ as his personal savior.10  The day after this, Robertson began laughing and rejoicing that he had been saved, but his wife disliked this radical change in him.  He even drained all of their alcoholic drinks.11

Robertson began to associate with conservative evangelists and fundamentalist preachers.  Shortly after the conversion, he enrolled in New York Theological Seminary.  He encountered Christians who emphasized charismatic gifts such as healing and tongues speaking.  He learned the second blessing of charismatic gifts from the fervent charismatic Korean student, Su Nae, Chu.12  In the seminary, he joined a tongues speaking fellowship.  Through these experiences, Robertson was convinced that he needed direct guidance from God.  Robertson began to consult the oracles of God by seeking God’s direction in prayer.  Throughout his life, this theocratic thought affected his business and politics.

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