A Day in a Michigan Lumber Camp – B. Catton

Michigan-logging-camp

The big day was the day Father took us out to a lumber camp.

We rode out in the caboose of a freight train, which by itself was enough  to make this a great occasion; past Boyne Falls, and off on some temporary branch line that led to the lumber camp, where our engine was to drop its empty flatcars and collect loaded cars for the return trip. While the train crew did this, Father took us up to the cook shack for a midday meal. …I got my first look at an old-time Michigan lumber camp. I did not actually see a great deal, and anyway a scene remembered from early childhood is glimpsed as through a glass darkly, with the real and unreal looking much alike. Looking back now I can recall little more than a set of log-and-tarpaper buildings in a clearing on rising ground, a wilderness of stumps and unwanted saplings all around, and somewhere in the distance a swampy plain where spiky trees without leaves or needles stood bleak and lonely against the snow – tamaracks, undoubtedly, although I could not have identified them at the time.

The camp was singularly quiet, and hardly any men were in sight. The men, of course, were off in the woods, hard at work; from first to last, the lumberjack never saw his camp in daylight except on Sundays – he went off into the forest before sunrise and he came back after dusk, and he knew his home place only as a warm spot in the cold darkness, where he ate and slept and on Sunday boiled his socks and long johns and waged ineffective war on the bedbugs that infested the bunkhouse.

Taken from chapter 5, “The Ax, the Log and the River,” in Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987). Though I can only quote a small portion of Catton’s history of the logging industry in Michigan, it is fascinating and sad. Next time I will give you some statistics he provides on how quickly the beautiful northern forests were stripped and how the promise of an inexhaustible supply of lumber was quickly shown to be utterly foolish.

If you want to read a little more about the logging industry, visit this Michigan history page. And if you want to see some more pictures of the logging camps, check out this Detroit News gallery.

Published in: on January 18, 2018 at 10:51 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reading the Christian Classics: Milton’s Epic Poem – L. Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenOver the last few years we have been working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). Of late, we have been in chapters 7 and 8 where the author treats the great classics of literature that may be identified as Christian.

Having completed our look at Ryken’s thoughts in chap.7, we turn to some of his thoughts in chap.8. Here he continues to consider various categories of Christian literature, including one that he classifies as “the Christianized secular text.” This is how he explains it with a true Christian classic – Milton’s Paradise Lost:

…There are some Christian classics that were intended by their authors to serve the polemical or argumentative purpose of refuting a non-Christian tradition. The technical term for this is intertext – a situation in which a work is designed as an interaction with an already-existing text or body of literature in such a way that the meaning of the enterprise can be viewed as existing between the two texts. The dialogue or refutation is an important part of the meaning.

Milton’s Paradise Lost is the best example. Milton participated in a tradition that began relatively early in the Middle Ages to determine how the Christian faith related to the classical tradition in which the authors and readers had been educated. There is evidence within Paradise Lost that Milton intended his epic to refute the epic tradition that he inherited, not at the level of epic form but at the level of ideas and values.

paradise lost-milton

That last point Ryken explains and develops further in the next paragraphs:

The classical epic tradition was humanistic in orientation. Its heroes were not irreligious, nor were the gods absent from the action, but the heroes achieved their feats mainly through human self-reliance. The goals that these heroes pursued were earthly fame, success, and empire. The epic feat was winning a battle, and it was axiomatic in this tradition that the crucial events of history happened on the battlefield.

Milton introduces aspects of this into his poem only to expose their deficiency. For example, he introduces a boastful warrior – Satan – only to show how evil he is. Overall, Milton’s anti-epic strategy… consisted of replacing the epic hero with the Christian saint as hero, and replacing military values with pastoral and domestic values. Milton made the garden rather than the battlefield the scene of his epic feat. And what is that feat? Eating an apple – not an act of glory but of shame, thereby exploding classical and humanistic illusions of human greatness. The setting for the epic feat was not the battlefield but the human soul, and it was not a physical act but a spiritual one.

And so Ryken finishes this point with these thoughts:

Epics always represent the author’s verdict on what constitutes heroic (exemplary) action. Homer assumed that human self-exertion and earthly success constitute heroic action. Milton’s version of heroic action is seen in Adam and Eve’s virtuous life in Paradise and consists of devotion to God, perfect married companionship, harmony with nature, contentedness, and living the simple life. These virtues are virtually the opposite of the virtues of classical epic [pp.74-76].

Creation: The Theater of God’s Glory

Can the Christian faith offer a richer, deeper account of the natural world than its pagan or atheist rivals? The importance of the question is obvious. Both the credibility and utility of the Christian faith can legitimately be called into question if it fails to offer a better account of reality than its rivals.

Christian theology offers a distinct angle of gaze, a way of seeing things which both discloses the true identity of nature and mandates certain ways of behaving toward it and within it. Theology enables us to see the fullness of reality, the world as it really is or could be. For contrary to what most thinkers of the Enlightenment believed, nature is not an autonomous, self-defined entity; rather, it is something that is always interpreted, whether consciously or unconsciously, from a theoretical standpoint.

…Christians see the natural world through a theological prism. In the eighteenth century many Christians chose to interpret nature through a lens that was deist, rather than trinitarian. God was seen as the creator of nature, whose involvement with the natural realm ceased thereafter. This encouraged the emergence of a functional atheism, in that God was, to all intents and purposes, thought of as being absent from the world. Yet during the twentieth century, through the influence of theologians such as Karl Barth and Karl Rahner, there has been a rediscovery of the coherence and explanatory power of a specifically trinitarian vision of God.

…If God created the natural world, does it not bear the divine imprint? Is not one of the implications of a trinitarian doctrine of creation that the natural world displays in some sense the marks of its Creator? {Which leads the author to point to Psalm 19:1.}

Israel already knew about its God, and did not need to look at the natural world for proof of God’s existence. Yet it saw God’s glory reflected in the creation. To use John Calvin’s phrase, the natural world is to be recognized as the ‘theater of the glory of God.’ God’s glory is stamped on the world by the act of creation; this is supplemented by the mighty acts by which God chose to redeem the world, which take place within this same theater of nature.

PassionateIntellectbookTaken from Chapter 5, “The Theater of the Glory of God”, in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

While not agreeing with all that McGrath posits, I like his “apologetics” approach to the subjects treated in this book. He makes you think, and he makes you think about defending the Christian faith intellectually and rationally (of course, also by faith in God’s revelation of truth in the Bible alone), in the face of unbelief’s ridicule of our faith.

The title is still available for review if someone would like to do so.

Wielding the Sword for Our Fellow Soldiers

Tonight our monthly discussion groups from Faith PRC met, and our group gathered at our home to discuss Chapter 10 of the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective by Rob Ventura and Brian Borgman (Reformation Heritage, 2014). This chapter treats Eph.6:17, where we Christian soldiers are charged, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” It is that “Sword of the Spirit” which is the subject of the chapter that we discussed.

In the course of explaining this defensive and offensive weapon, the authors lay down six (6) principles for “wielding the sword” properly. Among those principles is this important one, one we admitted that we often neglect:​

“3. Wield the sword of the Spirit to strengthen our fellow soldiers.

We do not fight this battle in some kind of individual, Rambo-style combat. As we mentioned in chapter 4, we are in this war alongside our fellow believers. We need to strengthen and encourage each other (1 Thess. 5:11). The powers of darkness are not only assaulting me, they are assaulting my brothers and sisters. Satan is working hard to tear down God’s people, drawing them away from the faith, weakening them through his lies. How we need to speak truth to each other in love (Eph. 4:15)! We not only wield the sword of Spirit against the enemy, but we also wield it as we help each other, especially in the context of the community of believers in the local church. Paul reminds the Roman Christians, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14). A timely word from the Word may be exactly what our brothers or sisters need to help them stand firm in their evil day.”

So, what can you and I do this week to “strengthen and encourage” one another in our spiritual battles? What Word of God do you have for your fellow saint?

The Privilege and Blessing of Seminary Training

romans-10_15Perhaps most of our readers are aware of a series of blog posts on the RFPA’s website by some of our recent PRC Seminary graduates. They are informative, first-hand descriptions of each year of seminary training, as well as of other aspects of preparing for the ministry (including even pre-seminary).

Yes, these descriptions are personal and realistic, not hiding or down-playing the difficulties of the pursuit and the struggles of the studies. But they are also wonderfully encouraging, as the various seminary graduates relate the tremendous privileges and blessings of the call to serve the Lord as pastors and teachers.

The last one to be written is by Candidate David Noorman, a fellow church member at Faith PRC. He wrote on “The Privilege of Seminary Training: Personal Spiritual Development.” (Dated Jan.5, 2018)

I give you the entire post here, and also encourage you – and our young men especially – to read the other articles in this series. The need for pastors remains high in the PRC. May God use these articles to lead young men to consider prayerfully this high calling.

Anyone who has talked to a seminary student or asked his pastor about his years in seminary will likely hear stories about the many great challenges of those years. The work is often difficult, and the amount of work that is placed before the students can be overwhelming for even the most gifted students. Seemingly every student of the seminary has some story to tell of a painful practice preaching session or a graded paper filled with a flood of red ink.

While those difficulties and challenges are real, they are only a small part of the story. It’s a shame that the “headline” about seminary training that most everyone sees or hears is “DIFFICULT.” And if that is the only thing that comes to mind regarding seminary, that is an incomplete, and therefore, an unfair perspective.

What’s missing from that perspective is the wonderful privilege of studying in the seminary. If the difficulties, challenges, and sacrifices of seminary are great, the privileges and benefits of studying in the seminary are far greater.

Here are just a few of the personal benefits of seminary training:

  • As with all education, there is much growth in knowledge, and the knowledge imparted in seminary is of the highest quality, a spiritual, life-giving quality. The words of instruction in seminary are the words of eternal life, imparting knowledge of the one true God. There are many people who have the privilege of being students, but not all have the privilege of giving themselves to the study of the very words of God.
  • Seminary humbles The doctrines of grace humble you, showing you your unworthiness. The amount of work humbles you, showing you your frailty and turning your attention to God. The correction of professors humbles you, showing you your errors and ignorance. The truths expounded in the scriptures also humble you, by showing you your sin and leading you to Christ. In these ways and more, the student is humbled, and in this he is prepared to be a servant of Christ and his church.
  • Seminary training is also a wonderful means of sanctification. Sanctification is God’s work of making us holy, and that work is performed by the Spirit through the means of grace. Sitting under the faithful instruction of professors is no different than sitting under the preaching of the word in church. There is the true privilege of seminary training: the daily practice of engaging in the means of grace and growing daily in the knowledge of God transforms the student’s heart. The men who walk through the seminary doors on that first fall morning are not the same as those who walk out four years later. God works powerfully in the hearts of seminary students through their training, transforming their hearts so that they are ready to serve in God’s house.
  • What about those difficulties? They have their benefits too. The student grows in his ability to read and write. He learns how to communicate effectively. He learns how many hours there are in a day (not enough), and how to be most productive in the time he is given. The difficulties and challenges of the work teach the student discipline, perseverance, patience, and trust. They force him to labor with a conscious dependence on the grace of God for the needs of both body and soul.

Prospective seminary students should not be discouraged from pursuing the gospel ministry by the stories of how difficult the training is. Seminary is challenging, but it is such a privilege as well. And while no man should enter seminary solely for the purpose of personal development, it’s only fair that the whole story is told.

The benefits will begin early on in the training. Taking pre-seminary Greek early in the morning isn’t easy for everyone, but as one emeritus professor told me, “The study of the original languages opens up grand vistas of the truths of the scriptures.” He was right, and those vistas are beautiful, even life-changing.

The benefits continued throughout the four years of seminary. Every day, the scriptures were expounded to us. Every day we were confronted by some truth concerning our majestic God and his wonderful works. Every day, we were humbled, corrected, instructed, and built up by truths of scripture and given the tools to do the same both for ourselves and others.

The calling of the ministry is weighty, and the challenges of seminary are significant and sometimes difficult to overcome. But ultimately, the most difficult obstacles are often the most beneficial, for they teach the student to labor with a dependence on the grace of God rather than his own strength. In the end, the seminary student receives four years of heart-shaping instruction. That instruction, the Lord willing, will benefit both the students personally and the churches they serve.

Friday Fun(ny)

einstein-library

A classmate and I were walking past a poster in our school hallway. It featured a photo of Einstein with the words ‘Even Einstein Read Books.”

My friend was amazed: ‘I didn’t know Einstein’s first name was Evan.’

Found and read in a recent issue of Reader’s Digest while waiting at my dad’s physical therapy session this week. I simply couldn’t resist sharing it with you. 🙂

Published in: on January 12, 2018 at 10:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

What Do You Know About Athanasius? M. Haykin/Crossway

At the beginning of this week (January 7, 2018) Crossway publishers had a post by author Michael Haykin on the great church father Athanasius (c.296-298 to 373).

Athanasius-statueBy Giovanni Dall’Orto – Own work, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4639224

Haykin has written a book published by Crossway titled Rediscovering the Church Fathers and his online article “10 Things You Should Know About Athanasius” is based on his chapter on this important church father.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers

So, what do you know about Athanasius? Do you remember the oft-used expression “Athanasius contra mundum” for his stand against the Arians and for the full deity of Jesus Christ? If you need a reminder of how important this early father is, then Haykin’s post will help.

Here are the last 5 things Haykin gives about him (find the other five at the link above):

6. He was exiled five times.
This was the first of five exiles, four of which were for his defense of the deity of Christ against Arianism. The two longest, from 339–346 and 356–361, were in Rome and the Egyptian desert respectively. It was because of these exiles that the saying “Athanasius contra mundum” (Athanasius against the world) was coined

7. He chose his words carefully.
It is noteworthy that Athanasius did not frequently use the term “of one being” (homoousios)—found in the Nicene Creed to set forth the deity of Christ, specifically in him being of “one being with the Father”—until the 350s. Up until then, Athanasius had used other statements and images drawn from Scripture in his defense of the divinity of Jesus.

8. He wrote the first treatise defending the full deity of the Holy Spirit in 358–359.
His close friend Serapion of Thmuis, a town in the Nile Delta, told him about the Binitarianism of certain individuals in his church who confessed Christ as fully God but argued that the Holy Spirit was to be included among the angelic beings. Athanasius’s three letters to Serapion were the first of a number of important defenses of the Spirit’s deity written over the next thirty-five years or so.

9. He wrote a best-selling biography.
Athanasius’s biography of the Egyptian monk Antony, written not long after the monk’s death in 356, was a “bestseller” in Christian antiquity and played a key role in the conversion of Augustine of Hippo in 386. Among the things that Athanasius related about Antony was his phenomenal memorization of the entire Bible. It is most likely the case that Athanasius had also memorized most of the Scriptures.

10. One of his letters contains the earliest complete list of New Testament books we’ve ever found.
Athanasius’s Easter Letter of 367 contains the first known list of the books of the New Testament that corresponds exactly to the modern listing of the New Testament canon. Along with the Old Testament, Athanasius declared such books to be the “fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness.”

Grammar Quiz Review – Resolved to Learn More in 2018

hero-blue-bookFor our Wednesday post this week we will return to grammar, compliments of GrammarBook.com, only this time to take a quiz – a jumbo pop quiz! – to use the words of the website.

They call it a “year-end” quiz, since the 25 questions review various grammar lessons posted last year. But let’s call it our year-beginning quiz, part of our New Year’s resolution to use better grammar in speaking and in writing.

This is how GrammarBook introduces the quiz:

In 2017 we explored an array of ways to enhance your grammar and writing. We hope what you learned follows you well into 2018 as you continue your aim to communicate with even greater precision and eloquence.

The quiz includes twenty-five sentences addressing a range of subjects. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz. For your convenience and reference, each answer in the key also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic.

OK, now, go ahead and get started! Have fun, do well, and keep learning! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 You will find that answer key at the link provided above.

Jumbo Pop Quiz: 2017 in Twenty-five Questions

1. Jennifer is still choosing [between / among] three job offers: bank supervisor, financial analyst, or portfolio manager.

2. The principal has [appraised / apprised] us of the changes to school policy.

3. The coach [substituted / replaced] the bigger, slower player [with / for] a smaller, quicker one.

4. My uncle owns a [40-foot / 40-ft.] house boat.

5. The salesperson gave us three [choices / options] of current LED TV models to pick from.

6. My favorite book is [“To Kill a Mockingbird” / To Kill a Mockingbird] by Harper Lee.

7. Robert is an [honest, hard-working / honest hard-working] man.

8. The due date for the invoice is [September 1 / September 1st].

9. When hiring website developers for our company, we always look for [experts / trained experts] in JavaScript and SQL.

10. I [made the decision / decided] to attend grad school after earning my bachelor’s degree.

11. Jason is averse [to / of] doing the military press in the weight room because it’s adverse [against / to] his right shoulder.

12. By holding an auction for rare memorabilia, the VFW raised more than $60,000 [on behalf of / in behalf of] families of deceased or wounded veterans.

13. Between you and [I / me], I think the restaurant is way overpriced.

14. Please return the supplies you don’t use to Mark or [me / myself].

15. [Young people / Youth] today have to contend with more distractions.

16. The review panel found the film to be an [exploitive / exploitative] treatment of postmodern feminism.

17. Crystal composed her essay much (differently from how / differently than) Christian wrote his.

18. The house across the street belongs to the Sanchez family. The SUV in the driveway is the [Sanchez’s / Sanchezes’] car.

19. The lack of voter participation [affected / effected] the outcome of the election.

20. The band eventually left their rented practice space because of the [continual / continuous] drip from the ceiling. It never stopped while they tried to play.

21. The crowd [is / are] so large that the city may need to request extra security from the neighboring town.

22. For the following sentence, identify whether the verb used is a transitive or intransitive verb and whether the pronoun is a direct or indirect object:
Mrs. Johanssen likes to bring [transitive / intransitive] us [indirect / direct] freshly baked cookies every Sunday after church.

23. Peter is always ready to help [whoever / whomever] might be struggling with the assignment.

24. Which salutation punctuation would be appropriate for informal correspondence between good friends?
a) Dear Susan,
b) Dear Susan:

25. [Most importantly / Most important], her credit cards weren’t in her wallet when she lost it.”

Published in: on January 10, 2018 at 10:29 PM  Comments (1)  

Living orderly and peacefully in “the great sea of Christian communion” – M.Horton

Increasingly, we prefer to lynch fellow shepherds via social media than to submit to each other and address concerns face to face in private or in church courts – doing everything ‘decently and in good order’ (1 Cor 14:40). Our soul is too noble, our insight too keen, and our vision too soaring to be confined within the boundaries of a communion. Some will not bend their opinions to the common consent of the church; others will not limit what they think everyone should believe to that common confession. Some abandon the church altogether, while others make their own little corner in it for a private club.

When we leave the great sea of Christian communion to colonize our own rivers and shorelines, the party we lead becomes captive to our own narrow interpretations, view, and plans. Timothy was accountable to a council of elders to help keep him on track. Yet accountability is something that people, especially in my generation and younger, find difficult to accept in concrete terms.

Jesus did not establish a movement, tribe, or a school, but a church. Whether our divisive ambition is determined by extraordinary ministers, scholars, or movements, it is completely out of step with ‘the pattern of the sound words’ that is help humbly and guarded as a ‘good deposit’ (see 2 Tim 1:13-14) that we all embrace because it is taught explicitly by the prophets and apostles as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from the next chapter I recently read in Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). This was chapter 6 – “Practicing what we preach: no more super-apostles” and the quotation is found on p.113.

Though addressed primarily to pastors and church leaders, the principle driven home here is for all of us in the office of believer too. We are truly safe and at peace when we submit ourselves to Christ’s proper rule and order in the church. All of us as believers live best when we abide in the “great sea of Christian communion” and refuse to “colonize our own rivers and shorelines.”

Theological Humility – K. Kapic on St. Augustine

Humility reminds us that there is One far greater than us. We love and acknowledge this Lord who surpasses us in every way. Humility also bears in mind our finitude and fallenness. Our finitude constantly reminds us of our dependence on others and of the incompleteness of our theological constructions. Theological error develops not simply out of our sin but also because there are limits to our attempts at cognitive harmony. We cannot fathom how all things work together; every time we believe our accounts are exhaustive, we inevitably discover just how much we do not know or all that we have misunderstood. No divine reality can be flatly reduced to words, concepts, images or narratives. God is never less than these, but he is more than them. The reality of God always exceeds our expressions and our understanding of them. [pp.73-74]

And as a concrete example of this humility, the author points us to the great church father Augustine:

While Augustine is commonly considered the father of Western orthodox Christianity, he never saw his own conclusions as indisputable. In response to a letter that questioned ideas from one of his books, Augustine distinguished his own thoughts from those of Scripture’s binding authority. He described his theology as a work in progress, and he believed that since the goal was truthful reflection on God, he should constantly be open to revision. …It is the subtlety of ‘self-love’ that hardens us, keeping us wanting others to be wrong and preventing our spiritual development.

Near the end of his life Augustine put together a book titled “Retractions,” in which he looked at his own voluminous writings and revised countless claims he made earlier in his life. This was a sign of strength rather than weakness in Augustine’s approach. Anyone who stands at the end of his days and claims never to have changed his mind should not be praised for unwillingness to compromise but rather pitied for naïve pride [pp.72-73].

little-book-theologians-kapicTaken from chapter 7, “Humility and Repentance” in Kelly Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012), pp.64-70.