Defending Christianity

Viktor Roudkovski, Ph.D.

Written by Rachel Stallard

Photographed by Randy Mallory

As Dr. Viktor Roudkovski stepped to the podium in July to present his two professional papers at the International Society of Biblical Literature in Tartu, Estonia, he reflected on how far his motherland had come in the past few decades. The bread, butter and milk lines were gone, thanks to an influx of capitalism and free enterprise.

Also, he had succeeded in leaving the Soviet Republic to pursue his true calling as a writer and scholar — not the trade he had spent three years studying at Technical and Industrial College. He wondered if teachers had finally stopped deriding Christians in the classroom. He hoped so, but he is grateful that his children, Nikolas and Viktoria, would not have to live that way.

The 36-year-old assistant professor of biblical studies also had the unique opportunity of returning and speaking to family members and their church friends about LeTourneau University. He said he had a hard time spelling it in his native language, but everybody in the congregation could tell how much the university meant to the naturalized American citizen.

Growing up in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the shadow of the Tian Shan mountain range that extends to the Himalayas, Roudkovski dreamed of being a hockey player who would someday beat the Americans. He had been told Americans were “greedy, mean, always ready to start wars; and that they thought they were better than us,” he said. Upon following his brother to the States in 1993 for school, “my opinion definitely changed,” he said.

Roudkovski was taught atheism in the Communist classroom and that religion was “a threat to Communism.” However, his upbringing, and that of his parents, made him unpopular and, at times, ostracized in his own

“I was very unusual because I was born into a Christian family,” Roudkovski said. His father was an evangelical minister and a school teacher. His mom taught Communist Economics at the university level. “I lived in two societies — one at school and one at home,” he said. “We tried to be good witnesses, and we’d tell people we were Christians if they asked, but generally Christianity was looked down upon.”

Because Roudkovski so despised being “put in the box of religion” at such a young age, he did not make a conscious effort to follow Jesus Christ until he was 17 years old.

“In the classroom, I try to stress that Christianity is not a religion, but a way of life,” he said. “Jesus didn’t call us to be religious. He called us to be loyal and faithful to Him.”

Roudkovski’s doctoral dissertation sets Jesus against the corrupt Temple establishment — a viewpoint Roudkovski continued to explore on his trip to Tartu where he presented to one of the largest gathering of biblical scholars in the world. This opportunity marked him as LeTourneau’s first professor to represent at this event.

Roudkovski’s personal spirituality began in earnest when he met a group of missionaries from Australia. Shortly thereafter, he left for Mueller College in Australia “mostly to better my English.” Several semesters later, when that government declined to recognize his student visa, he continued his studies on the Fiji Islands attending the South Pacific Missionary Training Center in Suva. In the afternoons he worked in the sugar cane fields to pay his way.

“This was a formative time in my life,” he said. “I knew God had called me to a ministry of some sort, but I didn’t know what it would be. I was very open to opportunities.”

His next step took him to the Deep South to study Bible at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi. From there he attended New Orleans Theological Seminary where he met his wife, Melanie (who was also pursuing her doctorate).

New Orleans changed him forever. That’s where he became a fan of the New Orleans Saints football team, got married, saw the birth of his two children and applied for U.S. citizenship.

Roudkovski has called himself a Russian-American since his ceremony in 2006. “Citizenship was an important step in my journey,” he said. “It was not an easy decision, but after living here for a while, it was something I felt I needed to do, and I’m proud of it.” He’s also proud of how nobly he defended his new homeland against anti-American sentiment while visiting his family on his trip to Moscow.

Roudkovski continues to be amazed at the number of churches he passes every day. There are 150 in Longview alone.

“I work with the most wonderful people,” he said. “I learn continually from my colleagues, and I get to share my passion for the Bible with students.” Roudkovski has been a full-time professor at LETU for the last three years.

“It is a privilege and a responsibility to introduce students to Christian concepts, as well as the worldview through biblical literature,” he said. “It is important because it impacts them for the kingdom of God.”

 NOW Fall 2010