Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Atlantic Ocean

Unstable as water

My wife and I once took a whale watch cruise from a little town in Massachusetts. To find the whales we had to go out on the Atlantic until even the skyline of Boston disappeared from view. There was no wind that day, the ocean was as smooth and flat as a prairie field, only the boat and the antics of the whales disturbed the surface of the water. The many stories of shipwrecks remind us that the Atlantic is not always like that. “Unstable as water,” was Jacob’s evaluation of his firstborn son (Genesis 49:4). That image of the changeable nature of water is picked up in other places in the Bible.

James applies it to Christians who are uncertain about whether they can expect much from God. They are “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Then he adds: “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8).

It only takes a little breeze to create waves on a body of water; if the wind shifts direction, the waves shift with it. A boat on the water tends to go with the direction of the wind and waves and it takes considerable effort to go against that direction. The apostle Paul admonishes us to “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

In Revelation 17:15, John is told by the angel that “The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Those of us who are a little older have seen chaotic, tumultuous changes in public opinion. There are winds of doctrine blowing which we were hardly aware of at first, but now have taken on such force that we begin to doubt whether Christians will be able to survive the storm.

Matthew tells of a time that Jesus and His disciples crossed the sea of Galilee at night. All was calm when they started out, but during the night a great storm blew up, the waves beat upon the ship and it began to fill with water. Some of the disciples were fishermen who were intimately familiar with the sea. Even they were terrified. Jesus arose, spoke to the wind and waves, saying “Peace, be still.” “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 4:39).

Are we in the boat with Jesus today? If so, there is no need to fear the storm. When Jesus speaks peace to our hearts the raging tempest around us is no longer a threat.

Where is Ottawa?

Judith Adler teaches a course on families and the cultural traditions of families the world over at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  A few years ago she began to suspect that her students had no idea where some of the places she was talking about actually were. So she gave them  a quiz.

The quiz consisted of a blank map and a series of questions. Questions like: label South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Label the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Three quarters of the students failed the test. Memorial University is located in St. Johns, Newfoundland, a port city on the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the students could not correctly identify the location of that ocean.

Ms. Adler gives this test every year now. She says the students are not dumb; when faced with the reality of their ignorance they get to work. When given a second opportunity to do the test they never flunk it the second time. They simply have never been taught the simplest elements of geography.

Classrooms used to have large maps that could be rolled down over the chalk board like a blind. There were probably large globes or atlases in every room. The world has become much smaller today. We are linked to the whole world via the internet and hear news from every corner of the globe. How are these students going to comprehend what is going on if they don’t even know where these places are?

My wife was only 17 when we married and had just finished Grade 11. She started Grade 12 that fall, but she was the only married lady on the bus or in the classroom, plus she had responsibilities at home, so she dropped out after a week or two. A few years ago she enrolled in a course to prepare for the GED exam. One evening the teacher began the class by giveing each student a list of 20 capital cities with a space beside them to write the name of the country. Chris thought there was probably a time limit so quickly ran through the list and wrote in the countries.

Then she looked up and realized the other students were completely at sea. The teacher then told them they could work together to find the answers. They came to Berlin, decided it was in China and proceeded to find equally astute answers for the other cities. Then they came to Ottawwa and were totally stumped. The teacher told them they could use the atlas. They found Ottawa and saw that it was in Ontario.

“But Ontario isn’t a country,” Chris protested.

“Well what country is it in then?”

“Ottawa is mentioned in the news every day,” hinted my wife.

“Oh, we never pay any attention to the news.”

These people were not immigrants, nor were they fresh off the northern trap lines, they were normal city folks, the product of our fine public education system. They had dropped out before finishing high school, but a Grade 6 student from years ago would have found that test a snap.

This is one of the reasons why we did not send our daughter to public school, and why our daughter does not send her children to public school.

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