"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 2, Number 11, November 1999
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. They may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly.
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
A Debased Presidency
We now begin to see the abysmal depths to which our conscience-free, morals-free, and character-free President, William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, has dragged the high office he has defiled for nearly seven years. Among presidential hopefuls, waiting with abated breath to cast their political hats into the ring and seek the presidency are a veritable dog's breakfast of depraved men. Donald Trump, big-time gambling promoter and womanizer believes he is presidential material. Warren Beatty, perhaps as lewd and adulterous as any person who ever appeared on the silver screen (and that is saying a great deal) and perhaps just a bit to the right of Mao Tse Tung in his politics (I did say "perhaps"), believes he just might be the man to fill Clinton's shoes. Jesse "the brainless" Ventura, who ridicules Christians as weak and boasts of his exploits in Nevada whorehouses toys with a presidential race (if he can find a party that doesn't want to throw him out).
It seems that being utterly devoid of character has become a plus on a potential president's resume. A decade ago, such dishonorable people would have been ridiculed into embarrassed silence at even a hint that they would make a suitable President. Yet Clinton by his unworthy example has so debased, defiled and corrupted, not just his own presidency but the once highly-respected office he has been entrusted with, that the very basest of men feel themselves worthy successors to Clinton. And judging them on the basis of their character--or lack thereof--they are quite likely right.
To what greater depths might the situation descend? Perhaps even now Ted Kennedy is forming an exploratory committee regarding a presidential race.
"Grammar and Preaching" by A. T. Robertson, An Excerpt
"The physician has to study chemistry and physiology. Other men may or may not. The lawyer has to study his Blackstone. The preacher has to know his Bible or the people suffer the consequences of his ignorance, as in the case of the physician or the lawyer. The extreme in each instance is the quack who plays on the ignorance and prejudice of the public.
It is true that the minister can learn a deal about his Bible from the English version, many of which are most excellent. There is no excuse for any one to be ignorant of his English Bible, which has laid the foundation of our modern civilization. But the preacher lays claim to a superior knowledge of the New Testament. He undertakes to expound the message of the gospel to people who have access to the English translations, and many of these are his equal in general culture and mental ability. If he is to maintain the interest of such hearers, he must give them what they do not easily get by their own reading. It is not too much to say that, however loyal laymen are to the pulpit, they yet consider it a piece of presumption for the preacher to take up the time of the audience with ill-digested thoughts. The beaten oil is none too good for any audience.
Now the preacher can never get away from the fact that the New Testament was written in the Greek language of the first century A. D. The only way for him to become an expert in this literature of which he is an exponent by profession is to know it in the original. The difficulty of the problem is not to be considered. One will not tolerate such an excuse in a lawyer or in a physician. They only alternative is to take what other scholars say without the power of forming an individual judgment. Some lawyers and physicians have to do this, but they are not the men that one wishes in a crisis.
The preacher lets himself off too easily and asserts that he is too busy to learn his Greek Testament. In a word, he is too busy about other things to do the main thing, to learn his message and to tell it. Fairbairn says: 'No man can be a theologian who is not a philologian. He who is no grammarian is no divine.' Melancthon held that grammar was the true theology, and Mathias Pasor argued that grammar was the key to all the sciences. Carlyle, when asked what he thought about the neglect of Hebrew and Greek by ministers, blurted out: 'What!? Your priests not know their sacred books!?'
One is familiar with the retort that the preacher must not be a doctor dry-as-dust. It is assumed that technicalities sap the life out of one's spirit. The famous German professor who lamented on his death-bed that he had not devoted his whole time to the dative case is flaunted before one's eyes. So the preacher proudly reminds us of the 'Grammarian's Funeral,' [a poem by Robert Browning--ed.] and scouts 'Hoti's business' and all the other dead stuff while he preaches live sermons to moving audiences. 'Grammar to the wolves,' he cries. No gradgrind business for him! He will be a preacher and not a scholar. He will leave scholarship to the men who cannot preach. Such a preacher seems to rejoice in the fact that he does not look into his Greek grammar, lexicon, or Testament, and not often into his commentary.
It is not argued that the preacher should bring the dust and debris of the shop into the pulpit, only that the workman shall have a workshop. There is music in the ring of the hammer on the anvil when the sparks fly under the blows. Certainly the iron has to be struck while it is hot. No parade or display of learning is called for. Results and not processes suit the pulpit. The non-theological audience can usually tell when the sermon is the result of real work. The glow is still in the product. There are men who study grammar and never learn how to read a language, men who cannot see the wood for the trees, who see in language only skeletons and paradigms, who find no life in words, who use language to conceal thought, who have only the lumber of learning. These men create the impression that scholarship is dry. Ignorance is the driest thing on earth. One does not become juicy by becoming ignorant. This is a matter of temperament. The mind that is awake and alert leaps with joy with every scholarly discovery that throws light on the thought of a passage."
A. T. Robertson
The Minister and His Greek New Testament
Baker, 1977 reprint, pp. 80-83
THE FUNDAMENTALIST MINDSET AT ITS WORST
A reader drew our attention to a perceptive quote from Southern Baptist historian Leon McBeth regarding the psychological profile or make-up of Fundamentalism.
“Fundamentalism involves a mindset as well as a set of beliefs; it includes attitudes as much as beliefs; it is perhaps as much a psychology as a theology. The Fundamentalist tends to see issues in terms of black and white, either absolutely right or completely wrong. The Fundamentalist must be absolutely certain even in areas where human certainty is suspect. The seeking for extreme certainty may in fact mask a deeper level of doubt. This kind of mindset can often tolerate error better than ambiguity; at least a known evil can be confronted. Fundamentalists also tend to be 100 percenters, a trait commendable at times but with a potential for excessive actions which at times may border on fanaticism.” (The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, Leon McBeth. Broadman Press, Nashville. 1987. Pages 767-777).
First, we would respond by saying that there are indeed some things which are absolutely certain and where anything less than absolute certainty is evil. Doctrinally, we would include the full inspiration, inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture, the true Deity and full humanity of Jesus, His miraculous conception, His sinless life, His vicarious, substitutionary atoning death--and the companion doctrine of salvation by grace--His bodily resurrection and ascension, and His second coming. These are the clear and indisputable "fundamental" doctrines of the Bible. On these there is no room for dispute. McBeth is admittedly no adherent to these fundamental doctrines.
Moreover, while I would object to McBeth's broad-brush characterization of Fundamentalists as though all were of a piece in their demand for absolutes even where absolutes are not possible, nevertheless he sees what we Fundamentalists may not be able to see in ourselves: a strong tendency to demand certainty where God has left matters uncertain. For example, in matters of clothing, we sometimes too closely define modesty and acceptable styles ("skirts must be one inch below the knee"--why not two inches below, or at the knee, or to the ankle? "Culottes are acceptable, but pants are not." "Sideburns may reach to the middle of the ear," or "to the bottom of the earlobe"), imposing absolutes when God gives us instead principles (in the case of clothing styles, "modesty" and not being a stumbling block to others).
Or we demand absolute certainty regarding Bible versions, or should I say, one single version among the many from which there can be no deviation. The facts of history, of Bible manuscripts, printed texts and Bible translation editions (no two manuscripts of the New Testament are identical, no two printed editions of the KJV are identical), and Bible doctrine itself render such absolutism impossible. Yet the Fundamentalist mind-set at its worst demands of God something which He has not promised to provide.
This mentality also spills over into Bible interpretation: we often cannot endure someone who interprets a particular text different from ourselves. I think of a man I know who was fired from a Bible college because he was sincerely convinced that Psalm 126:6 had nothing to do with soul-winning; the college president could not or would not tolerate that divergent view and the man was canned (in case you are wondering, I agree with my fired friend). I have more than once learned that the accepted "party line" interpretation of a Biblical text was not that intended by the Author (was not the "gap theory" the accepted view in the 50s and 60s, yet it is almost entirely abandoned--and rightly so--by Fundamentalists today?).
The conflict over what is and is not acceptable music in the church is no "end-of-the-20th-century" phenomenon. In the 17th century, Baptist Benjamin Keach was in the center of a storm because he introduced hymn-singing into his London congregation (beforehand, only the singing of the Biblical Psalms was the orthodox "norm"). This new hymn-singing--entirely acceptable to even the most persnickety Fundamentalist today--was roundly denounced as way over the line of the acceptable.
To say that there is room for diversity in music is of course not to say that just anything at all is acceptable. Obviously, any hymn, Gospel song, chorus or cantata must be first of all true to Scripture in content (and it is easy to find songs with aberrant theology in almost every hymnbook, not just the latest "praise choruses" book--and worse, such songs are sung with enthusiasm by thousands who never question whether the hymn they are singing is true), and must have music congruent with the words, besides being played or sung in a manner glorifying God and not man. Once again, it is guiding principles and not absolute decrees that must govern our behavior in this regard.
Where there is clear, unmistakable Biblical certainty, then we must be certain. But where the Scriptures are not clear or absolute, or are even silent, then we dare not dogmatize. In those areas of life and conduct in which God does not give us firm and absolute rules of behavior, He does give us principles that we may apply in our ever-changing world. And herein see we the Divine wisdom. Hard and fast absolutist rules of conduct would be so culturally specific that they could not transfer to other societies and cultures. However, as the message of the Gospel spreads from nation to nation and culture to culture, these principles can be applied in the new cultural situation. Making such applications of principle requires thought and spiritual discernment, and we are sometimes left with a measure of uncertainty, but if God left us in such a condition, then it must be for our betterment.
Let us be swift to first examine ourselves regarding the matter of absolutes, principles and preferences, to discover if we are dogmatizing and judging others without Biblical warrant. And when our honest self-criticism is complete, then and only then, let us pass judgment on others, and always with a spirit of humility.
FROM THE MIND OF GOD TO THE MIND OF MAN, edited by James B. Williams. Ambassador-Emerald International. 1 Chick Springs Road, suite 203, Greenville, SC 29609. 231 pages, paperback.
The subtitle reads "a layman's guide to how we got the Bible," and aptly describes the book's contents, with particular focus on the "King James Only" controversy. The nearly dozen authors are all currently or formerly pastors, many, perhaps all, associated with the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship.
All the steps in the process of the Bible coming from God to man are discussed: inspiration and authority, the canon, manuscripts, the textus receptus and other Greek texts, English Bible versions from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day, with particular emphasis on the King James Version, its origin and various revisions. And along the way, various errors, false assumptions, incorrect assertions and other flaws in the literature espousing KJVOism are refuted by factual information. Each chapter has a brief bibliography for further study. An extensive glossary of technical terms is appended.
The level of accuracy is generally high and the treatment is both readable and comprehensible. I would say by way of critique that the chapter on the canon was disproportionately long, and showed no knowledge of what is surely the best book on the subject of the canon of the Old Testament: THE OLD TESTAMENT CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH by Roger Beckwith (Eerdmans, 1985), or even Milton C. Fisher's worthwhile article "The Canon of the Old Testament" in volume one of THE EXPOSITOR'S BIBLE COMMENTARY edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Zondervan, 1979). The one disappointing chapter in the book was that on "Printed Greek Texts" which was rather incomplete and marred by many factual errors, not the least of which was the usual misspelling of Westcott as "Wescott."
There is none of the bellicose and inflammatory language that characterizes much of the literature espousing the KJVO point of view. This book should make a valuable long-term contribution to remedying the error of KJVOism, with its false doctrines, factual inaccuracies, false emphases and extreme divisiveness.
WHEN GOD DOESN'T MAKE SENSE by James Dobson. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1994. 250 pp.
James Dobson needs no introduction. His "Focus on the Family" is famous nationally and internationally, as are his numerous books on various aspects of family life.
This particular book addresses the problem of a God Who does not always explain His purposes for allowing trials and troubles into believers' lives. Dobson does a good job of refuting the fraudulent "name it and claim it" nonsense that is the common fare of numerous televangelist "ministries" (though he names no names). One chief source of frustration and disillusionment among Christians when going through deep struggles is faulty expectations. Our 20th century American Christianity has taught us to expect freedom from the grief, pain, sorrow and miseries endured by others. We have been led to expect that we need never be sick, poor, deprived or aggrieved, and when we find ourselves facing such unexpected trials, we blame or question God as though He had made such false promises to us.
Dobson draws on a wealth of anecdotal examples--Christian people he knows, has met, or ministered to, and shows that the trials we face are neither unexpected nor unusual. God has not singled us out for special torments, but suffering and sorrow are the common lot of all people, including believers.
Dobson warns against the bitterness toward God which is so common among disillusioned believers, and strongly emphasizes the need for confidence in a sovereign God Who has not lost control or forgotten our state, but is working out His own perfect plans in our lives (plans which may or may not become evident in this life).
The book is not without its defects. Several Scripture verses are incorrectly applied, and there are some minor errors regarding Bible characters and events. Larger is the inadequate emphasis on the fact that sometimes Christians suffer, not by a sovereign act of God, but as a consequence of their own sins. Not all, indeed, probably not most Christian suffering is directly traceable to specific sins, but much is, and this red warning flag should have been waved a bit longer.
Likewise, Dobson says nothing about the blessing that pain can be. Physical pain is a God-made mechanism to warn us that something is amiss in our bodies: the sharp abdominal pain that warns of an infected appendix, the intense pain that informs the brain that a hand is too near the fire, etc. Pain can protect us from greater harm.
Dobson likewise fails to recount some of the beneficial lessons that the suffering of others may have on us: teaching us that this is a sin-cursed world and not paradise; compelling us to think about eternity rather than time; sparing a child (suddenly taken in death) from the multiplied sorrows that a full life would bring; etc.
In comparing Dobson's book with Philip Yancey's WHERE IS GOD WHEN IT HURTS? which addresses the same subject, I would say that Dobson is more anecdotal, Yancey more theological and philosophical, with Yancey being the more satisfying of the treatments. Dobson gets a "B+," while Yancey gets an "A" (and I am a tough grader).
THE TRAIL OF TEARS: THE STORY OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN REMOVALS 1813-1855 by Gloria Jahoda. New York: Wing Books, 1995 reprint of 1975 edition. $9.99
One of the darkest chapters in American history is the extremely unjust and brutal treatment of the various Indian tribes east of the Mississippi river in the first half of the19th century by the federal government and many of the citizens.
Before the Revolutionary War, the influx of whites to the lands west of the Appalachian mountains was limited, but after Independence, a strong surge of immigration from the coastal regions into the drainage basins of the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers began. Naturally enough, conflict with the prior occupants was inevitable. Ultimately, armed conflict took place (which the more numerous and technologically advanced whites won). A final solution to the bloodshed was found in simply removing the Indians from the lands the immigrating whites wanted.
All the tribes east of the Mississippi were compelled to surrender their lands to the federal government via a series of treaties imposed on them (and signed with an X by illiterate and drunken chiefs--gotten drunk deliberately by the white negotiators). Compensation was often promised and sometimes was given, but far below the real worth of the land and property surrendered. The Indians were then required to remove themselves, sometimes under armed guard and even in leg irons, to lands west of the Mississippi in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. These western lands--already with Indian populations--were given as their homelands "forever," which meant until white settlers coveted them. What originally had been more than 19 million acres in the new homelands was later reduced by steps to 1 million acres.
And not only were their lands taken, but their other property: livestock, houses and household goods, hunting and cooking equipment, harness, wagons, plows and nearly all else, was usually confiscated by covetous whites with no compensation and no legal recourse for the Indians. Those who resisted were slain or imprisoned. And when they arrived in the West, rarely were any of the tools necessary for farming and animal husbandry provided.
The tribes were herded off, often with the poorest of government-supplied provisions on a long trek, regularly in horrid weather, to the lands promised. Thousands died of disease, malnutrition and exposure along the way.
It was only very rarely a case of removing violent and murderous Indians away for the safety of settlers (and those who resorted to violence did so after repeatedly being cheated by the whites). Many of the Indians forcibly removed were "civilized"--many spoke English, farmed the ground with implements purchased from whites, and not a few in the South were slave owners and possessed of considerable wealth. Some were literate (which many whites were not). Many had embraced Christianity (the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians were all very active among the Indians), and were educated at mission schools. Yet, they were removed and deprived of property with only a fig-leaf of "due process," simply because greedy men more powerful than they wanted their land. It is a sordid tale.
My interest in the Indian removals is three-fold: first, as a student of American history, this is a chapter of considerable significance and a major feature of 19th century American history. Second, I recently became interested in the history of mission work among the American Indians. This book contains numerous bits of information on the subject (and to their credit, nearly all of the missionaries objected strenuously to how the Indians were being treated, and sought to have the wrongs corrected--rarely with any significant success). Third, my grandmother's grandmother, Rufina Vincent Warhurst, was, according to family tradition and evidence from photographs, at least half and possibly full-blooded Indian (probably Cherokee). Born in Kentucky in 1834, she escaped removal by being adopted into a white family.
The author of this volume is decidedly pro-Indian in this readable account. Research and documentation are adequately done. Photographs or drawings of many of the Indian leaders are reproduced.
FROM JERUSALEM TO IRIAN JAYA by Ruth Tucker. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983. 511 pp., paperback.
As with the previous volume reviewed, I first picked up this book in search of information regarding missionary work among the Indians of North America. Not that the book wasn't known to me earlier. Indeed, almost a decade ago, a friend whose opinion of books I greatly respect urged me to get and read this book. I regret that I did not heed his advice much sooner.
The subtitle of Tucker's book explains its focus: "A biographical history of Christian missions." In essence, the history of Christian missions from the first century A. D. to the present is traced by spotlighting the lives of representative missionaries in the various times, places and ministries. Of course, the greater part of the book focuses on the last two centuries, simply because it was in those centuries that by far the greater amount of mission work has been done.
Over the course of the past two millennia, the cause of world evangelization--missions--has ebbed and flowed, sometimes being all but wholly neglected, at other times rushing headlong and hastening to complete this Christ-given task. We do well to learn all that we can about those things which both hindered and hastened the spread of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to all nations. And we do well to learn about the lives of the great names of missionaries of the past (and of the present)--discovering what motivated them and what they achieved by God's grace and power. The task they left incomplete has fallen to our lot, and we must be busy in pressing forward with the task, learning all that we can learn from both their successes and failures, but especially from their devotion. Tucker does not present the missionaries sketched as perfect, plastic saints, but as ordinary mortals with faults and defects aplenty, yet instruments fit for the Master's use.
In the biographical treatment of missionaries, overwhelmingly focusing on those of fundamental and evangelical stripe of various denominations and groups, there are some of Roman Catholic and modernist-liberal persuasion, though Tucker usually adequately warns the reader of their theological corruption. Sometimes their courage and zeal, though in serious error, puts us to shame.
Sources are listed and information is footnoted. Each chapter has a recommended bibliography. Of those books cited that I am familiar with, they are regularly the best book or books on the subject under consideration. I therefore assume that those which I am not familiar with are of similar high quality. I expect to regularly glean from this volume titles and authors of books to get and read (there must be at least 20 that I would like to get started reading right now).
This very informative volume merits immediate purchase and very careful reading. It should motivate us to attempt much more for the spread of Gospel of Christ.
I WAS RIGHT ON TIME by Buck O'Neil, with Steve Wulf and David Conrads. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. 254 pp., hardback. $23.00
Buck O'Neil first gained a measure of national fame when he was in his 80s, thanks to the extensive interviews of him by Ken Burns which were aired in the PBS nine-part special series, "Baseball." Buck O'Neil was a player and manager in the Negro baseball leagues in the days before integration, and after integration was a coach and scout for the Chicago Cubs for 33 years. Among others, he signed Lou Brock to a Cubs contract.
O'Neil recounts the history of Negro league baseball, its leading figures, its successes and its failures. And that great irony: the segregation of the major leagues lead to the formation of the Negro leagues, and the successful attempt at integrating the major leagues led to the quick demise and disappearance of the Negro leagues.
O'Neil displays a joy for life, and none of the bitterness that many old men fall into. Listening to his stories is like listening to Ronald Reagan--you can't help but come away feeling better about yourself and about life and its possibilities. Buck enjoyed his life in baseball even with all of its troubles and inconveniences, and enjoys telling about it. For one like myself who believes that expansion, free agency, artificial grass and George Steinbrenner more or less permanently ruined baseball, I like traveling back mentally to the way it was.
There is nothing greatly profound here, but there is history of sport, and of America, and of victory of merit over prejudice. I picked up the book at a bargain store (for, appropriately enough, a "buck") and read it mostly as a diversion. I was pleased to find references to my hometown, Wichita, and a notable local annual baseball tournament, and to a now-deceased friend of mine, Bob Thurman, who played in both the Negro leagues and the majors.
I enjoyed this "quick read." Perhaps you will too.