Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective


We don’t have a furnace in our mobile home. Where it once was, there is now a heat exchanger that takes heat from a hot water line that comes from our neighbour’s coal-fired boiler. A furnace fan mounted above the heat exchanger sends warm air through the duct work to heat the house.

A few evenings ago we heard strange noises from this apparatus. I took a look and found that an old stove pipe had worked its way down and was touching the electric motor of the fan. I turned the system off, worked that stove pipe out of the way, turned the switch back on and went to bed. The next morning the heat did not come on. I checked the programmable thermostat and it was calling for heat. Then I looked at the heating apparatus and at first all looked to be in order. Then I saw a little black wire dangling loose; there was a little connector on the end that looked like it might go with another connector on a switch box. I pushed the two together and we had heat.

I began wondering if there is sometimes a disconnect like this in my spiritual life. The warmth, the power, is right there, ready to be used. I want it, but nothing is happening. It must be that a connection is missing somewhere.

Perhaps I became frustrated and upset at someone, lost my temper and said words that I regret, but I haven’t been willing to apologize to this person.

Or perhaps someone did or said something that hurt my feelings and I am brooding over it. The other person probably has no idea that his action caused me any problem, but I just can’t forgive him and let it go.

Perhaps I felt the Spirit asking me to do something and I just wasn’t willing to do it.

All of these things, and many others, interrupt our connection to God and we find our spiritual life cooling off. We know there is a problem somewhere, but we are not able or willing to look where the problem really lies and make the correction needed. And when our spiritual life cools off because of disobedience in small things, we are more apt to give in to the bigger temptations, because there just doesn’t seem to be much benefit in trying to live a Christian life anyway.

That is why it is important to look after the small things as soon as we become aware that something isn’t working as it should in our Christian life.


Does the U.S. Postal Service know where Canada is?

Years ago, when I worked for Canada Post in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, I was instructed that the regulations of the Universal Postal Union required that mail to another country had to be sent to that country by the most direct route possible. Thus, if we received mail addressed to Boston we were not to send it to Montreal, the nearest Canadian centre to Boston, but to Minneapolis. The U.S. Postal Service would take over from there.

I have always wondered if the employees of the U.S. Postal Service have the same rules, or if they even know which direction to send mail addressed to some place in Canada. That question arises from a long history of receiving mail sent from places in Europe, Africa or Asia within a week, while mail from the USA takes anywhere from one to three weeks.

Thirty years ago, while we were living in Ontario, my wife had cancer surgery just before Christmas. Friends of ours were on their way to spend Christmas with family members who were missionaries in Belize. They bought a get well card in Texas and put it in the mail. They went on to Belize, spent almost two weeks there and then drove home. Their card arrived two days later – a full three weeks after the date on the Texas postmark.

Twenty years ago we were living in Montréal. I bought an Epson ink jet printer; the price was pretty hefty back then, but they were offering a nice rebate. This required sending a form and proof of purchase to an organization in Minnesota. I received a letter back explaining that the rebate was only available to people living in North America. I wrote back and asked them to look on a map, Montréal is a major North American city. I sent a copy of the letter to Epson. I got my rebate.

An acquaintance of ours told of how her family had moved from Montréal to Florida when she was still in elementary school. Her first day in school the teacher asked her to come up and tell the class about her trip across the ocean to the USA.

“But, we didn’t come across the ocean.”

“How did you get here then?”

“We drove.”

“How is that possible? Where is Canada?”

Whereupon the girl pointed out where Canada was on the classroom map.

“Oh. Is that Canada? I always thought that area up there was part of the USA.”

I suspect that at least some employees of the U.S. Postal Service had that same teacher, or one very much like her. I ordered three used books from Amazon last month. The first got here in a week, from England. The second, from the USA, took three weeks. The last one, also from the USA, came yesterday, a full four weeks after I had ordered it online.

There was a Royal Mail sticker over the top right corner of the address label and customs declaration. That mystified me. Why would a package from the USA have a postal sticker from the UK?

There seemed to be another sticker under it, so my wife tore off the Royal Mail sticker and there we read “La Poste, Paris, France,”still covering the corner of the original label.

I rest my case.


Leadhead and the Golden Rule

I first took note of Norman when the camp leaders took us all on a hike to Lebret.  He was a quiet boy, walking with us, yet alone.  He seemed like the rest of us, except that he could not hold his head up straight.  It tilted towards his right shoulder, almost resting on the shoulder.  Some of the other boys called him Leadhead.

We were at the Anglican Church summer camp  on the south shore of Mission Lake between Fort Qu’Appelle and Lebret, in the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley of Saskatchewan.  We slept in bunk houses, spent our days  learning Pilgrim’s Progress, swimming in the lake and hiking through the hills; in the evenings we all gathered around a campfire for singing and stories and an evening prayer.

At first, I didn’t like to hear the other boys making fun of Norman and calling him Leadhead.  However, by the third day my conscience had been dulled and I began to call him that myself.

The morning of the fourth day, I woke up with pain in my neck and shoulder. The pain became excruciating if I tried to straighten my head — overnight, I had become Leadhead II!  I went through that day with my head in the same position as Norman’s and got the same unkind remarks from the other boys.  Late in the day my muscles began to loosen up and the next morning I could hold my head up with no discomfort.

One would think that such a dramatic lesson in the Golden Rule would be unforgettable.  I have found that there is a difference between remembering the lesson and learning the lesson.

Forty years later, I was a quality assurance inspector in an automotive parts plant.  One day, while making my rounds, I heard that a lady working on car door weatherstrips in another part of the plant had cut some of them too short.  I knew Sandy, she had been in our home, her mother lived a few doors away from us in a small village.  I walked over to where several others had gathered and were making jovial, but unkind, remarks about her workmanship.  For some reason, I felt compelled to join in and made a smart alecky remark.  Sandy looked at me and quietly said, “Oh no, not you too!”

Sandy knew about the faith that I professed, she had expected something better form me, and I had let her down.  I believe she had a right to expect better from someone who professed to be a follower of the one who said, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

Have I now learned the lesson?  I’m afraid that I can’t claim that my attitude and conduct toward others has been faultless since that time.  Yet, those painful memories have taught me that I am a very fallible human being and I believe it has made me kinder to others than I otherwise would have been.

This was first posted more than three years ago and it has been on my mind again of late. So here it is again. Norman was not the real name of the boy at summer camp.  After sixty years, it probably wouldn’t matter if I used his real name, but I have long ago forgotten the names of all the other boys at that camp.

In My Hot Little Hands

Bob Goodnough:

Congratulations to my wife!

Originally posted on Christine's Collection:

The Power of Touch

I’ve envisioned it for so long, dreamed of it, sighed over it. Procrastinated over it, too, far too much.

I’ve worked on it ever since the day I wrote a short part of it for my website, then expanded on it — and abandoned it in despair a number of times.

I’ve pushed myself to get it done, pleaded with an illustrator, hassled about the scenes, set it up, discussed it with a printer. I’ve daydreamed about being a REAL published author.

Tuesday afternoon my dream finally landed in my hands. My book. I can touch it, hold it in my hot little hands, turn the pages, sniff the printer’s ink. I study the cover, taking special note of my very own name right there at the bottom. Doesn’t everyone love to see his or her own name in print?

It’s now a wish or a…

View original 138 more words

Freedom of religion

From the time that mankind began to form separate nation states it was the custom of each to have its own gods and for each to believe that their gods were superior to the gods of other nations. Thus, if any individual or family in a nation would choose to worship another god, that was treason and was usually punished by death. When one nation conquered another, that was taken as evidence of the superiority of its gods and the conquered people were required to abandon their old gods and worship the gods of those who had conquered them.

In theory, Israel and Judah were no different in this than other nations, except that their God commanded them not to make any visual representations of Him. But it was difficult for people to grasp how Yahweh, the unseen God, could be more powerful than a god that they could see. For hundreds of years they often succumbed to the desire make themselves gods that they could see, to the point of offering hideous sacrifices to these gods, even their own children.

Finally Yahweh allowed Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to conquer Judah and remove many of the people to Babylon. At first he took this as evidence that his god was greater than Yahweh. Then strange things began to happen; Nebuchadnezzar had a succession of vivid dreams, with dramatic consequences.

After the first dream was revealed and interpreted by Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar’s response was: “Of a truth that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of lords.” After the dramatic results following the second dream, the king said: “Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall ne made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

Thus Yahweh intervened in the affairs of a pagan nation to establish freedom of religion for His people. But He still wasn’t finished with the king of Babylon: after a third dream and a period of insanity, Nebuchadnezzar went beyond acknowledging Yahweh as the God of Daniel and his friends and said:”I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought towards me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.”

Most of the Jewish captives in Babylon eventually returned to their homeland. They rebuilt the temple and seemed to have no more desire for visible gods. But they were never again a fully independent nation. There were pockets of Jews who stayed in Babylon, Egypt and other nations and were granted freedom of worship.

Christianity was never intended to be a religion confined to a single nation. The faith first spread among the people of the Jewish diaspora, but soon went far beyond them to include Gentiles of all description. The Christians were never a rival to the political power of nations, yet there was often persecution as nations struggled to maintain the primacy of their national gods.

It was not a step forward when Christianity was made the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire: it was a return to the bad old days. People who would not worship in the prescribed form in the prescribed places became enemies of the state. This included Christians who believed that state Christianity was no Christianity at all, plus Jews and later Muslims.

Someone who is forced to worship a state sponsored religion is not a true believer. Freedom of religion must include the freedom to change your religion. None of us want to see one of our own forsake our religion for something else. But forcing him to stay does not make him a believer. And if their is no freedom to leave, is there truly freedom for someone else to choose to unite with us?

This freedom is the cornerstone of all other freedoms, but it is under threat today from within and without.  Many people in our society feel pressured to acquiesce to the beliefs that are seen to be politically correct. Universities were supposed to be places for the free exchange of ideas; today it seems there is only one right way to think on most campuses.

Islam has never had a theology of freedom of religion. The fierce conflicts that are happening in Islamic nations are largely attempts by different Islamic factions to eliminate other factions that they deem heretical. We are inviting refugees from these horrors to come and settle in our country. Most of them simply want to escape the violence and live in peace. Yet it’s still not likely that the majority really get the concept of freedom of religion. It needs to be impressed upon them that Canada is a land of freedom in all ways, and that we will not look kindly on those who deem it necessary to kill someone who leaves their faith. Can Islam really adapt to living in such freedom?

Why I wear a poppy

One hundred years ago Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields.  McCrae was a surgeon with a Canadian artillery regiment in the First World War and a day earlier had buried a close friend on the battlefield near Ypres, Belgium. Poppy seeds lie dormant in the ground until the soil is disturbed by cultivation or some other cause.  The soil at Ypres had been thoroughly disturbed by the digging of trenches and graves.  As McCrae wrote, the area where his friend and many other soldiers lay buried was covered with red poppy flowers.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

This poem is the reason that so many people in Canada wear a red poppy pin on Remembrance Day and the days leading up to it. It is our way of showing respect for those who have suffered n war.

The last verse of the poem speaks of taking up the quarrel with the foe.  This militaristic sentiment might raise the question of whether a non-resistant Christian should wear a poppy.

I was four years old when I first saw my uncle Garry after the Second World War.  The scar on his chin was very striking to a young lad; he had been struck by shrapnel and part of his chin blown away.  When he was found and carried back to the hospital tent, they placed him on a board laid across two barrels and the wound was cleaned and sewn up without benefit of anaesthetic.

Uncle Norman was my mother’s youngest brother, born when she was 18.  She claimed that she was the one who raised him; her mother was busy with all the other responsibilities of caring for her large family.  One day when I was nine years old my father was waiting for me when I got out of school.  On the way home, he told me that they had received news that Uncle Norman had been killed in Korea.  A few weeks later my mother’s last letters to him were returned unopened.

Not many people who have been involved in war ever glory about what they have done.  The memories are too painful.  It is not unusual to hear stories of children going through a trunk of their father’s effects after his death and finding medals and citations for bravery in battle.  Dad had never mentioned them; he had been a hero in the war, but when the war was over he just wanted to forget what he had seen.

I have no desire to appear to be unmoved by the suffering of war. That is why I wear a poppy.

(This is a slightly edited repeat of a post from two years ago.)

Stamp collecting

I collected stamps when I was a boy. It was a fascinating and inexpensive hobby. Many stores sold packets of used stamps for less than a dollar, either mixed or sorted by country or theme. One could also buy from mail order stamp companies. If one had the money to spend there were more expensive albums and stamps available, but there was an abundance of stamps and supplies available that fit my small budget.

I learned a lot about history and geography from stamps. I learned that many countries called themselves something different than the name I had learned. Germany was Deutschland, Holland was Nederland, Norway was Norsk, Finland was Suomi and Hungary was Magyar. I learned of countries that didn’t exist anymore, such as Bosnia & Herzogovina. Bosnia has reappeared in recent years and I know where to find it on the map because when I was a boy I found out where Bosnia & Herzogovina used to be.

I saw how the stamps of Deutschland of many years ago had been continuously overprinted with new amounts containing many zeros and learned about the hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic. I saw the stamps of French colonies overprinted with France Libre and learned how Charles deGaulle had created a new French army to fight the Axis powers after the capitulation of Pétain during the Second World War.

Do boys still collect stamps? Stamps have become more and more colourful over the years, more and more expensive, and less and less useful. How many people today anxiously await the arrival of the letter carrier in the expectation that there will be an important letter? In our home, we only occasionally get a personal letter via the postal service and hardly any bills. Almost everything comes by email, including a lot of junk emails.

I believe there will be a need for the postal service for many years to come – but it won’t look much like the postal service of my boyhood and will never again be as important in our lives as it was back then. That makes postage stamps less interesting to boys and girls, despite the effort to make them look more interesting. And that’s too bad, there is so much that can be learned from stamps.

Something else that has been lost since my boyhood is the place of the Bible as an anchor for society. It isn’t that everybody read the Bible, or believed it, when I was a boy, many people didn’t. But enough people did at least believe that it had some worthwhile advice for our lives that it served as a stabilizing influence. The number of people who will even pay lip service to the Bible is quite small today.

We have lost much in many areas of life, but the most crucial is in our concept of family life. A large percentage of children growing up today will not experience a united home with the same father and mother during their growing up years. Those who grow up in such a setting may never have a chance to observe a stable, happy, two parent family. They probably don’t even know that such a thing is possible, or desirable.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). In French the last part reads “sans frein”, meaning unchecked or unbridled, literally “without brakes.”  That’s a good description of today’s world; we have lost the vision and so people rush on trying to fix their problems with solutions that are more apt to make their problems worse.

The Post Office may not be fixable, but this situation could be fixed if only the vision could be regained.

It’s all my father’s fault

It seems that I’ve been trying to learn French all my life, always getting a little closer but never quite arriving. I can speak French, but with a wooden tongue (that’s a French expression for someone whose pronunciation is somewhat lacking). I fear that my ears may be made of the same material, for I often miss some little nuance of spoken French. And it’s all my father’s fault.

You see, my father grew up with a mother who spoke French – and he was embarrassed by it. I never knew my grandmother – my father was very close to his mother and didn’t go looking for a wife until his mother wasn’t there anymore. Grandma was Franco-American, descended from a man who grew up in the province of Lorraine and served in Napoleon’s army as a swordsman before emigrating to the USA with his family. The French language was preserved in the family for several generations, despite the American melting pot.

When my grandparents came to Canada in 1908, they settled on the south side of Old Wives Lake in southern Saskatchewan. They did their shopping in the general store in Courval, their closest town. The store was run by a French-Canadian family. Many of their neighbours had names like Tremblay, Marcil and Pelletier. Grandma was right at home among these people and my father found that embarrassing. He had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the belief that the world would be a better place if everyone spoke the same language, which of course would be English.

He even seemed to feel that it was not right for people to have complicated names that he couldn’t pronounce and I grew up being embarrassed by his stubborn mispronunciation of people’s names. I always felt that wasn’t very wise when one’s own family name was Goodnough, a name that people didn’t know how to pronounce when they saw it in print, nor how to spell if they heard it pronounced.

He did know a few French words, mostly the words for common foods. He liked to tell how the USA would never have existed if it hadn’t been for the help of General Lafayette and countless other French soldiers during the revolutionary war. But he had no interest in learning the language. His attitude was, if you want to talk to me you have to speak my language.

My mother, on the other hand, spoke only Plautdietsch until she started school. Sometime in her youth she acquired a large English dictionary and studied it assiduously. By the time I came along she was speaking English with no trace of an accent. She often told about how her father had learned English from working with English-speaking people in his younger years. There had also been French-speaking people in the part of Manitoba where he grew up and he had often expressed his regret at not learning that language. To which Mom would add: “And if he had, I would have too.”

Thus I had the moral support of my mother, if not my father, when I began making my first steps to try to learn French. I have worked at it off and on for many years. I have no problem reading French and not much in writing. But I still long to be able to speak it like a true native speaker.

To be fair to my father, his attitude was shaped by the era and the place where he grew up. He maintained a lifelong friendship with many of his French-Canadian neighbours. After he retired and moved to Moose Jaw, he would often encounter the owner of the Courval general store, also retired and living in Moose Jaw. He called him Mister Pippin. It wasn’t until I read his obituary that I realized that Mister Pippin had actually been Monsieur Pépin.

Is it really that bad?

This world is a horrible place. There are environmental catastrophes, threats of international terrorism, dangers in the streets. The danger of religious persecution threatens us even here in North America. There is sexual exploitation of women and children. There is abuse of power by those in positions of trust: police officers, preachers, teachers and parents. There are dangers on the internet. It seems that you can’t trust anyone anymore.

Um . . . let’s back up a little bit here and see if we’re getting the whole picture. Yes, all these things are going on; and yes, these are the things the media wants to tell us about. But is that really what most of us are experiencing in our daily life?

My grandchildren are blissfully unaware of any threats to their well-being. I am not experiencing any harassment because of my religious beliefs. I encounter friendly and helpful people wherever I go.

I started using a cane about six weeks ago and I am amazed how that triggers acts of kindness from others. I have even had young ladies hold a door open for me. A few days ago I bought my fast food lunch at Tim Horton’s and the lady behind the counter offered to carry my tray to a table. I declined, but not without a hearty thank  you. Someday I may need her assistance.

Today I was in my favourite coffee shop – the one where the young ladies behind the counter don’t need to be told that I want a cappuccino with amaretto syrup. This time I asked the young lady who served me if she  had ever heard an old, old song that has her name in the title. Her response floored me: “You remembered my name!” I have known her name for a long time, she has served my coffee countless times, we have talked about other things than coffee, but I had never called her by name. This is something I have encouraged others to do, and here I wasn’t even doing it myself.

That seems such a small thing, but it was a reality check. When I begin thinking that the world is such a cold heartless place, perhaps the first question I need to ask is “Am I the problem?”

By the way, she was all too familiar with the song. Her music teacher used to sing it every time she went for a lesson.

Book Review: Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

At the ripe old age of 17 I believed I had outgrown any need for the Bible. It was almost ten years before I opened the book again. I was sceptical, but I thought there might be something worthwhile somewhere in this collection of writings. I guess I was looking for answers, but didn’t really expect to find any.

After a few months the connectedness of this “collection of writings” became harder and harder to ignore. There was no way I could pick and choose what I wanted to believe of its content, every part of it was connected to all the other parts. This was one book and I ether had to reject the whole thing, or believe the whole thing. This conviction was a major step leading up to my conversion a year later.

It is difficult for me to understand why so many Christians don’t seem to have caught on to this fact. Perhaps it is because they read here and there without ever reading through a whole book of the Bible. Perhaps it is because of outside helps that purport to explain the Bible. Reference books can be helpful, but one should never put too much confidence in them.

The Bible explains itself. There are symbols that have the same meaning whenever they appear. The more you read, the clearer the meaning becomes. There are threads of meaning that can be followed through the whole Bible. Many Bible stories are impressive and meaningful to a small child, yet there are depths to those stories that can never be fully plumbed in a lifetime of Bible study.

One of the workshop leaders at the Inscribe Christian Writers Conference recommended the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. The editors of this book attempt to trace the continuity of images and themes throughout the Bible. I like the approach of this book, yet I’m not going to say that they got everything just right – none of us ever do. This is a good book for the serious student of the Bible, and for those who have never caught on to the idea of how the themes and images of the book are woven together so tightly from beginning to end.

This is a big book, over 1,000 pages. Beware of shipping costs if you try to buy it online. I ordered mine from Kennedy’s Parable in Saskatoon. The price was higher than buying it online, but there were no shipping costs.

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, General Editors: Leland Ryken, James C Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III.  © 1998 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 447 other followers

%d bloggers like this: