Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: history

Uncharted Seas

Everything is changing and we must change with the times or be left behind. Nothing we knew yesterday will be of any value to us tomorrow. But tomorrow will be better than today and the day after that even better. This is the age of progress.

But where is this progress taking us? Hush! It is heresy to even talk of a destination. There is none, only endless change. And all change is for the better. Any thought that things might not be getting better dare not be uttered. That too is heresy.

Things that used to be accepted as self-evident reality have been swept away. Things like gender and procreation for example. Gender is now changed, manipulated at will. We are getting beyond even the dystopian vision of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

As if being adrift in this restless sea of modernity was not enough, I hear some Christians quoting Hegel: “The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.” Do they not understand how profoundly anti-Christian such a statement is?

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Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

In the turbulent waters of change there are no reference points to tell us where we are or in which direction we are moving. We have to look outside of the waters of change to find stable landmarks to orient ourselves in the journey of life.

All of the Bible is history. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” Romans 15:4. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” 1 Corinthians 10:11. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.

The Bible is honest to God history, history that tells us that others have travelled through this life before us with a destination in mind, that God inspired them to believe that there was a destination and then guided them step by step through life to find that destination. This is history that we desperately need to read and learn from.

“But now they [we] desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their [our] God: for he hath prepared for them [usd] a city” Hebrews 11:16. “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” Hebrews 13:14.

We cannot see that city, but we have the Bible to show us the way. In addition there are the ancient landmarks set by our spiritual forefathers through their faith and experiences and their statements of faith.

Truth still stands, impervious to every attempt to deny it, dilute it, twist it, destroy it or pretend it never existed. Truth is not the popular choice, but if we look closely we will see that the impetuous waters of change destroy everything end everyone afloat on its surface.

Introduction to the Old Testament – conclusion

The Writings
Psalms – The hymn book of Israel and the source of many hymns of the church. Half of them were written by David and reveal his love for God and for the people of God. Some are raw with emotion, some are prophetic. If you look at the headings you will find that the family of Asaph wrote 12 and the sons of Kore wrote 11. Moses wrote Psalm 90 and Solomon Psalms 72 and 127. In addition, the Septuagint attributes Psalm 137 to Jeremiah, 119 to Ezra, and Psalms 120 to 134 to Hezekiah. These attributions in the Septuagint may not be entirely reliable.

Proverbs – Most of these were written by Solomon, his great wisdom coupled with experience and distilled into short and powerful lessons. Chapter 30 was written by Agur, of whom nothing is known. Chapter 31 is the instruction given to king Lemuel by his mother. No one by that name is known to history. Lemuel means dedicated to God and Jewish commentators considered it to be another name for Solomon, which would make Bathsheba the source of this counsel.

Job – Often called the oldest book in the Bible, in the sense that this story was being told before the Exodus and the time when Moses compiled the Talmud. The names and places given in the book identify it as coming from an area near Edom. The most probable explanation is that Moses heard this story while he was a Midianite shepherd and was divinely inspired to put it into writing for the edification of God’s people. The book reveals the greatness of God, the limits of Satan’ influence and the reward of faithfulness during affliction. It is notable that Job’s affliction was not fully relieved until he prayed for his friends who had falsely accused him.

Daniel – Begins with history, revealing God’s care for His people during their years of captivity in His dealings with King Nebuchadnezzar and in placing Daniel and his three friends in positions of great authority in the heathen kingdom. The prophecies of the latter part of the book reveal the kingdoms that would arise and fall before Messiah would come and gave a precise time for the coming of Messiah.

Chronicles is a recap of the whole history of Israel, revealing God’s guiding hand throughout. The genealogies are important in that they show that this is real history of real people and allow the tracing of God’s promise of a Messiah through the descendants of David. Chronicles does not condemn Solomon and reveals the repentance of Manasseh, the most wicked king Judah ever had. The author is Ezra, and the final verses of 2 Chronicles are the first verses of Ezra.

Ezra was the son of the high priest slain by Nebuchadnezzar and the spiritual leader of those who returned after the exile in Babylon. He oversaw the rebuilding of the temple. He appears also to have been the head of the Great Synagogue which established the canon of the Old Testametn Scriptures.

Nehemiah – this book is believed to have been compiled by Ezra from Nehemiah’s personal records. Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem by Artaxerxes to be governor. He oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Song of Songs – written by Solomon. On the surface it appears to be an erotic love poem with scarcely a passing reference to God. Yet it was regarded by Jewish rabbis as a most holy book, an allegory of the love relationship between God and His chosen people.

Ruth – portrays the love relationship between the aged Naomi, an Israelite and her Moabite daughter-in-law. This account is an antidote to ideas of ethnic purity. Ruth married Boaz, the son of Salmon and Rahab the Canaanite harlot. The great-great-grandmother of Salmon was Tamar, also a Canaanite. All three of these women are named in the genealogy of Jesus. The book was probably written by Samuel, as it carries the Messianic line only as far as David.

Lamentations – written by Jeremiah after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This book has a unique structure which is not evident in translation. In Hebrew chapters 1, 2 and 4 follow the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet, each verse beginning with a succeeding letter. In chapter 3 there are 22 groups of three verses each, following the same pattern. Chapter 5 has 22 verses, but does not follow the alphabetic pattern.

Ecclesiastes – appears to be the final work of Solomon, towards the end of his life. It speaks of the emptiness of all the things he did to prove his greatness, yet gives clear teaching of our duty to God. Chapter 7 verse 28 says that he did not find one woman in a thousand. The message here is not anti-woman, but appears to be a confession of his own failure. He had taken 1,000 wives, and not found one that was a true help meet for him.

Esther – probably written by Mordecai, the ending may have been supplied by Ezra. Gives a glimpse into the internal workings of the Persian court and supplies the history of the providential deliverance of the Jews in the Persian empire from a plot to destroy them. Haman was an Agagite, possibly a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag slain by Samuel, which explains his hated of Jews. The events depicted here are the basis of the Jewish feast of Purim.

Bean counters

People like myself (bookkeepers & accountants) are sometimes referred to as bean counters. The none-too-complimentary implication is that we spend hours at our desks sorting beans into little piles with no idea of what those beans represent. It isn’t necessarily so.

I used to work in the quality assurance department of a factory that made engineered rubber products for the automobile industry. The automobile companies asked for bids to produce parts for them. We had a team of engineers who would do a thorough analysis of the costs of producing a part and our company would bid on the ones we thought we could profitably manufacture.

One part that we contracted to make was produced on a very high tech, made in France, rubber injection moulding machine. The bid had been based on one person being able to load and unload the machine, hand trim the little bits of excess rubber and pack the parts in a shipping container. Once in actual production it was found that a second person was needed. The production management computer program showed that this skyrocketed the costs and we were losing a bundle on this part. After two years we did not bid on this part again.

Up to this point accounting had been done in an office in another city. Then an accountant was relocated to an office in our plant. She was intrigued by the huge cost overrun on this part and began to investigate. It didn’t take long for her to discover that when a second person was added for making this part, the computer program automatically added another expensive injection moulding machine and calculated the capital cost allowance and operating expenses for this second machine. When she removed that phantom machine from the calculation she found that the part had been a money maker, not a money loser.

At that point I left to become a missionary in Montréal, but I understand the company was preparing to bid on that part again the next time it became available.

$9.60 for a tonsillectomy

Saturday evening I was looking through some old papers and came across the following bill from when my tonsils were removed 71 years ago.

Providence Hospital, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

July 10, 1946

Tonsillectomy

Hospital      2 days X 1.50                                         3.00
Operating Room                                                      5.00
Medicine                                                                   .10
Laboratory                                                             1.50
Total                                                                   $9.60

Minimum Requirements For Farming

  1. A wide-brimmed hat, one pair of blue jeans and $20 boots from the discount store.
  2. At least two head of livestock, preferably cattle, one male and one female.
  3. A new air-conditioned pickup with automatic transmission, power steering and a trailer hitch.
  4. A dog to ride in the bed of the pickup.
  5. A gooseneck trailer small enough to park in front of a cafe.
  6. A little place to keep the cows on land too poor to grow crops on.
  7. A spool of barbed wire, three cedar fence posts and a bale of hay to haul around in the truck.
  8. Credit at the credit union.
  9. Credit at the bank.
  10. Credit from your father-in-law.
  11. A good pocket knife, suitable for whittling to pass away time.
  12. A good wife who won’t get upset when you walk across the living room floor with manure on your boots.
  13. A good wife with a full time job.

[Author unknown, published 1985 in the Craik history book (my home town)]

Winter’s adventure lost

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Seventy years ago, when our family wanted to go somewhere in winter we used a cutter much like the one illustrated.  We dressed very warmly, heated a stone or two in the oven, placed them on the floor of the cutter and draped horsehide robes over our laps and feet. Nowadays, I push a button to start the car before we go out to the garage, get in the car, push the buttons to heat the car seats and the steering wheel, and we’re on our way without really feeling how cold it is.

Seventy years ago there was no equipment for keeping driveways and roads open when the snowdrifts got deep. Nowadays, we expect driveways, roads, streets and sidewalks to be as clear in winter as in summer.

Seventy years ago we got up to an icy cold house, got the wood fire going in the kitchen stove and dressed around the warmth of that stove. We shovelled coal into the big old furnace in the basement and the heat would gradually rise up to warm the rest of the house. Nowadays the thermostat automatically turns the heat up when it’s time for us to get out of bed and turns it down again when it is bedtime.

Seventy years ago we wore long underwear and heavy socks in winter. To go outside we put on a parka with a hood to pull up over the toque on our head, put insulated boots on our feet, a scarf around our neck and two layers of mitts on our hands. Nowadays, we put on a coat, and sometimes gloves, and walk out to the car that is warming up already.

Seventy years ago I enjoyed winter. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?

The problem of ethnic pride

I read a number of English language historical novels when I was young. The English heroes were brave, honest, noble and kind. The villains, often French or Spanish, were shifty-eyed, cowardly dishonest and cruel. I accepted this as truth, and, being of English ancestry, it felt good to be able to identify with the good guys.

Later in life I learned to read French and read some books of the same sort. Imagine my shock to find that in these books the French were honest, noble and brave, considerate of others, kind to the weak. The English were traitors, untrustworthy, dishonest, promise-breakers and capable of incredible cruelty.

Through reading a number of books of history in my adult years I discovered that the French had ample grounds to consider the English as perfidious, dishonest and villainous. Our school history books had been quite selective in the information they provided.

I concluded that every nation and ethnic group has this picture of themselves as possessing all the virtues and of other peoples as possessing all the vices.

Does becoming a Christian take care of these attitudes? When God calls us and we come face to face with the ugliness of our sinful nature, that is a humbling experience. If we repent and find peace with God, the reality of our sinfulness should ever be with us to prevent us from thinking too highly of ourselves. Thus, a Christian is a humble person, on a spiritual, personal level. But does that change our attitude about the inherent superiority of our ethnic group? Not necessarily.

This is why a congregation that is predominantly of one ethnic group is in a precarious position. We cannot lose all of the attitudes that we have soaked in since we were little children. There are rough edges that are a stumbling block to others that we will never be aware of until we mix with people of other ethnic origins who hold to the same faith.

We will be exposed to the rough edges that other people have. Through mutual apologies and forgiveness we will learn to appreciate one another, our fellowship will be enhanced and the gospel witness will grow stronger. People looking on will grasp that it is not a shared ethnic background that brought us together and holds us together, but a shared faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ..

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.

How can we be sure that Christ arose?

There are people in our day who say that Jesus never existed. However, there are references to Jesus in first century writings by both Jewish scholars and Roman officials. No one from that era ever denied that Jesus was a real person. The gospels are eye witness accounts and the authenticity of their accounts on other points has been established.

Luke, in particular, was a meticulous historian. He placed the events in his gospel with reference to secular events and individuals. It has been found that the officials he mentions really did exist in the time and place that he ascribes to them. In both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Luke took great care to seek out authentic eye witness accounts to compile his history.

There is no attempt in the gospels to cover up the weaknesses of the disciples of Jesus. They fled at His arrest; Peter even denied ever knowing Him. When He died on the cross, they assumed that all was lost. When they first heard reports of His resurrection, they scoffed.

Yet not much later they were boldly preaching the gospel of the risen Saviour. What made the difference? Was it not that they had personally met Jesus, whom they knew to have once been dead, talked with Him, ate with Him, touched Him? What else could have given them the assurance to endure opposition, persecution and death for the sake of the gospel?

If the authorities could have produced the body of Jesus, the story would have ended there. If one of the disciples had ever broken down under torture and confessed to lying about the resurrection, the Christian faith would have died on the spot. Those things never happened, even though Roman officials did their utmost to make them happen. In time, the report was spread abroad that these men had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

So here is the question for Christians in the 21st century. This world needs to be turned upside down as badly as it ever has in ages past. We say we believe in the resurrection, we say we believe in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Why are we having so little impact on the world around us?

Is this why today’s society seems so childish?

To remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child.
– Marcus Tullius Cicero

Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
– George Santayana

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