"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 2, Number 4, April 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.
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CHRISTIANITY'S DEBT TO SCHOLARS
"[L]et it be remembered that the heretics were refuted by the scholars, and much more by the scholars than by the martyrs. By dying for a conviction a man proves only that he is sincere, not that he is right."
Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536).
Quoted from ERASMUS OF CHRISTENDOM by Roland Bainton
(New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1969), p. 22.
AGRICULTURE AS A MEANS OF GRACE
After the bleak months of Winter, the fresh green of Spring with its manifold and varied flowers stirs up in even the most city-bred heart the desire to "grow something." Usually a Saturday morning lugging sacks of fertilizer or turning prospective garden soil with a shovel is enough to make the itch to "get back to Eden" go away, at least until the next Spring. Too much of that "by the sweat of thy face" thing, I suppose. It hasn't been that way with me.
My maternal grandfather, E.R. Johnston, was a devoted city gardener. He'd been born on a farm near Isabell, Kansas, and had done farm work, either as a hired hand or on his own farm (rented) until driven from the farm by Roosevelt's farm policies in the mid-1930s. With a large family (seven girls), he gardened extensively to help feed them, but also simply because he liked doing it. He grew both vegetables and richly diverse flowers. I first became fascinated with growing things when I was 10 or 11 years old by spending some time in his varied and quite productive garden. I was amazed to think that yellow crook-neck squash could be had simply by putting a few insignificant seeds into the ground and waiting a few days (I subsequently learned that there was a bit more to it than that!). I decided, along with my older brother Frank, to try my hand at gardening. We planted some squash as well as some radishes, which did quite well in spite of a very shady location. We had been "bitten" with the gardening bug.
We really couldn't grow much around our house then, because the yard was all in grass (and tearing some of it up for a garden never entered our heads), but when I was just into high school, we moved to a house with six and a half acres, most of it in native buffalo grass which had never been plowed or planted. We went "nuts." We plowed up about two and a half acres, which we then tilled up and planted to sweet corn (at least a full acre), nearly 300 tomato plants (which we grew from seed), melons, cucumbers, radishes, okra, potatoes and much else. All was planted and tended (or rather, mostly untended) by hand. We sold dozens and dozens of ears of corn, and were picking at one point about a bushel of tomatoes a day--which we couldn't even give away. We made $283 from that first real garden (I still have the ledger book). The next year, we reduced our planting to about one-fifth of that first year. I have been gardening (usually on a much smaller scale) ever since.
I am somewhat surprised at the general ignorance and lack of interest most people have--even in Kansas--of things that grow. It is more than a slogan that "Farming is everyone's bread and butter." We image that lettuce and potatoes and apples come from Kroger's, and not from some farm or garden somewhere. Man, created from the soil by God and destined because of his sin to return to the soil from which he was taken, is absolutely dependent directly or indirectly on a thin 12-inch (or less) layer of topsoil for his very existence. He battles the ground, the weeds, the weather, the insects and diseases just to feed his body--and ultimately he loses the battle and surrenders in death, when the human becomes humus.
I knew very little about trees growing up. I knew redbuds, because grandpa had them and transplanted volunteer seedlings from his trees into the yards of most of his daughters. And I knew pin oaks, since they were almost the only oaks grown in Wichita back then (I was never sure whether pin oak was one word or two). And of course, hedge trees (a.k.a. Osage orange and hedge apple, or, if you live in the Ozarks, bois d'arc), and cottonwoods. "Evergreen" was the catch-all term for whatever trees didn't lose their foliage in the Fall.
My education in trees began when we moved to the 6.5 acres (later expanded by buying 2 more acres to the north). My dad hired a nurseryman to plant a double row of 2-foot pines on the south and west sides of the property (facing the street) and a single row of like-sized cedars on the north and east sides. The task of watering these trees and mowing around them fell to my brothers and I. We bought and planted dozens of the same kind of trees at random over the acreage. And the Summer of "the big garden," my older brother and I both got jobs with that nurseryman and quickly learned to distinguish dozens of species and varieties of species from each other. We also had a friendly rivalry going to see who could give the Latin names for the various tree species (we got "The Golden Press Field Guide: Trees of North America," and pored over its pages constantly). Years later, this knowledge stood me in good stead on my second trip to Romania. I stayed during that trip for three days with a family that knew almost no English, and I knew precious little Romanian. Somehow, while carrying on a very s-l-o-w conversation that required much looking up of words and phrases in grammars and dictionaries, we somehow discovered that the man of the house and I both were trained in forestry (he in a technical school and I self-taught). And we discovered that we both knew the Latin names of dozens of trees! That was the only conversation in my life where I actually communicated information via Latin! Since my youth, I have planted in excess of 10,000 trees in six states, including six birch trees just yesterday.
My "education" has also extended into the realm of animal husbandry. When we moved to the 6.5 acres, about an acre of the ground was fenced off and occupied by two horses owned by a neighbor (a purely accidental pun, I assure you). Well, with so much ground, we decided to try our hand at raising animals. We inherited two chickens from a cousin who got them for Easter, and we later raised turkeys (one got to be 42 lbs., dressed, and had to be sawed in two at a grocery store just to get it in the oven), ducks, a pig, pheasants and briefly geese (besides the usual complement of dogs and a cat). Much later, in the early 1990s, I took to raising rabbits in the backyard (which my Bohemian grandfather had done--unbeknownst to me--when he was a boy in South Omaha), chiefly as an experiment to see if I could produce all the meat my family needed if necessary. I could. "Tastes like chicken." Such experience has given valuable insight into the lives of the patriarchs and other Bible figures who raised livestock for their livelihood, and helped me comprehend the task Noah had as he tended thousands of animals for a full year.
Some might say that this is tedious or of little real worth. I much disagree. God placed man in Eden--a garden, or "park" we might say. Gardening is the only occupation that is not a consequence of the Fall. Man has not gotten far (for most of human history) from the soil. There is something about spending time in the natural world (or, I prefer to say, the "supernatural world") of God's creation which refreshes and rejuvenates the spirit. The creation of parks and national forests and the establishment of wilderness areas all are effects of this inherent need in man.
I have discovered that a number of preachers, missionaries and Bible scholars have also had an enthusiasm for botany. Among this number were William Carey (whose botanical garden in India was among the best in the world), B. F. Westcott, Alva J. McClain (founder and president of Grace Seminary), and Wilbur M. Smith, the Christian bibliophile. Carl Linnaeus, who invented the science of plant (and animal) taxonomy (i.e., classification) was the son of a Swedish Lutheran pastor.
I value my knowledge of agriculture (used in the broadest sense to include gardening, farm crops, trees, grasses, and weeds) above every other subject except for the Bible itself. Such knowledge is first a window into God's creation. The fact that I can identify on sight most common species of trees (usually with their Latin names), and many species of grasses, weeds and shrubs and can describe where they are best-suited to grow and the purposes for which they are most useful has instilled in me a greater appreciation of God's creation--its diversity, complexity, and the necessity of its direct creation, there being a complete absence of any evidence of macro-evolution in the world of "higher plants" (those that flower).
Second, equipped with a working practical knowledge of agriculture, I can as desire and necessity dictate, provide for my own nutritional needs. I could eat like a king on a quarter acre, if necessary, and would get valuable exercise in the bargain.
Third, since many mission fields (like Romania) are agrarian societies, with large percentages of the people directly engaged in gardening and farming for a livelihood, I can immediately develop a rapport with the people, and in some cases can offer very helpful advice. If I were pastor in a farming community somewhere, such knowledge would be all but indispensable, just so I could empathize with the people and the life they live.
Fourth, a knowledge of agriculture has given me much greater insight into the Biblical world, where the vast majority of people lived in the country or in very small villages, where nearly everyone tended a plot of ground and kept a few animals, and where when Jesus instructed them, He used parables and imagery about sheep and pigs, of grain fields, of orchards and vineyards, of trees and grasses, of planting and harvesting, of land-owners and laborers. Anything that can increase one's understanding of Scripture is a huge plus, and studying--and practicing--agrarian pursuits even on a small scale is ideally suited to such an end.
Fifth, preachers who grew up on farms as a class just seem to be more interesting. When I was a Bible college student, my pastor for a time was the late David A. Cavin. He was a farm boy himself (born, in fact, not far from my grandpa's birthplace), and he never lacked for interesting stories and illustrations taken from his boyhood.
Anything that can so readily serve as an aid to a better understanding of Scripture and enable a better presentation of Biblical truth is a very great asset to acquire.
[Though I did take a college course in botany (because of my interest in growing things; I would have taken courses in horticulture, agriculture, forestry, and much else, if they had been offered where I went to college), most of what I have learned about gardening, trees, grasses, "weeds" and animals has been through extensive reading and re-reading, with a strong dose of practical experience. With none to guide me, I have had to search far and wide and have wasted valuable time and money on inferior books, but have found some excellent ones in the process. The best book on plants of the Bible is called, not surprisingly, PLANTS OF THE BIBLE by Michael Zohary, Professor of Botany at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Cambridge University Press, 1982). Beyond this, let me note some of the best books on plants, et al. that I have encountered. The first book that strongly impacted my thinking was A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, and SKETCHES HERE AND THERE by Aldo Leupold. I read this book while a student at Wichita State University in 1970. In it, Leupold, a professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin in the 1930s and 1940s, presents a "land ethic" which might be described as wise use and conservation, not preservation, of natural resources, with a view to our responsibility to future generations (it is somewhat tainted with evolution, though also often quoting or alluding to Scripture). For agriculturally-important grasses and legumes, see the U.S.D.A. YEARBOOK FOR AGRICULTURE 1948, GRASS, especially pp. 637-726 (very easy to find used); and FORAGES by Maurice E. Heath, Darrel S. Metcalfe, and Robert F. Barnes (Iowa State University Press). On trees, nothing is better than TREES OF NORTH AMERICA by C. Frank Brockman, one of the Golden Press Field Guides; and the unique TREE CROPS: A PERMANENT AGRICULTURE by J. Russell Smith (published by Devin-Adair in 1953). Among several good books on weeds, WEEDS OF THE NORTH CENTRAL STATES published by the University of Illinois Agriculture Experiment Station is a good guide to the identification of most commonly-occurring weeds. A highly informative book (but seriously marred by evolutionary presumptions) is THE BEGINNINGS OF AGRICULTURE IN AMERICA (McGraw-Hill, 1923) by Lyman Carrier, which discusses native American crops raised by the Indians (corn, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelons, sunflowers, etc.) and the crops introduced after European settlement began. For livestock, see RAISING SMALL LIVESTOCK by Jerome D. Belanger (Rodale Press, 1974). AN AGRICULTURE TESTAMENT by Sir Albert Howard (Oxford University Press, 1943) addresses the subject of long-term soil fertility and the importance of organic matter to soil productivity. For the gardener, I know of no better volume than GARDEN SECRETS by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and Diane E. Bilderback (Rodale Press, 1982). Louis Bromfield wrote four books about his highly-successful efforts at restoring three broken-down farms in central Ohio (near Mansfield) in the 1930s and 1940s. They are PLEASANT VALLEY, MALABAR FARM, OUT OF THE EARTH, and FROM MY EXPERIENCE. Reading these books, especially the first two (beginning in 1984), was epoch-making in my life and outlook. And finally (though I could expand this list with another two dozen books clearly worth reading), for sheer delight, pick up WILDLIFE IN YOUR GARDEN by Gene Logsdon (Rodale Press, 1983), which is about a city-bound farmer wanna-be in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania. It is instructive and highly entertaining.]
GYPSY SMITH, EVANGELIST EXTRAORDINAIRE
Rodney "Gipsy" Smith (1860-1947) could well be characterized as "the evangelist to the common man." He was indeed born in a gipsy wagon in England. His mother died when he was nine. His father and two uncles were later converted and became preachers (as did Gipsy's two sons and daughter later). When he was a boy, Ira Sankey came out and visited his father, one of the three famous "Gipsy brothers" who were preachers. During that visit, Sankey placed his hand on the boy's head and said, "May the Lord make this boy a preacher."
Converted as a youth in a Primitive Methodist church in England (like Spurgeon a quarter century earlier), Smith became a preacher in 1877 and continued in the ministry until his death on shipboard, on his way to America for the ump-teenth time, in 1947. He had a beautiful tenor voice and was considered only second to Sankey in his ability to move an audience with a Gospel song. Smith's speaking voice was recorded as early as the 1890s--a process he did not like at all. (Was it recorded later as well? Do these recordings still exist?)
Never ordained and never formally trained for the ministry (though he was a diligent student of the Bible and Christian literature), he nevertheless was greatly used by God to call men of all classes to Christ. He exemplifies the great truth that it is not great human attainments but great devotion and likeness to Christ that God is pleased to bless and use in His servants.
Early on, Gipsy served in the Salvation Army, but was dismissed for a minor act of insubordination to "General" William Booth's rules, in a matter where Booth was likely in the wrong. He then associated himself with the Wesleyan Methodists, and was later designated "missioner" for the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches. For a period of three and half years during World War I, after his own church refused to sponsor him for service as a quasi-chaplain in France, he sought and got YMCA sponsorship. In his seventy years of ministry, Smith conducted evangelistic campaigns in all parts of England and South Africa, traveled twice to Australia and crossed the Atlantic to America more than twenty times, conducting city-wide, trans-denominational crusades in such cities as New York (J. D. Rockefeller attended), Boston (where he was invited to speak at Harvard), Nashville, Louisville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Denver, and many others. During his stay in America during World War II, he conducted 60 evangelistic campaigns--and he was in his 80s!
He was respected for his deep sincerity, sympathy for sinners, and exemplary life. The only hint of "scandal" (and it was unfounded) in his seventy-year ministry was his re-marriage in 1938, after the death of his first wife. His new wife was 27 years old--50 years his junior. She ministered to his physical needs in the last decade of his life in which he had a serious decline in health.
He did not preach in front of his audience; he preached right at them. And they responded abundantly to his message. He regularly and consistently filled to overflowing auditoriums seating from 1,500 to 5,000 and more, and did so at least into his mid-60s (I have no direct information about campaigns in his last two decades). His campaigns regularly saw hundreds, even thousands of concerned individuals pass through the "inquiry rooms" to be dealt with personally about salvation. The only campaign he considered a failure was one in London in the 1890s, and only because he was moved from church to church after a single week in each, just when things had begun to catch fire.
Smith was active during a period of great evangelists who brought multiplied thousands to Christ and who through the converts' changed lives shook cities--such men as Moody, Torrey, Sam Jones, Billy Sunday and others. Where are such men today in the English-speaking world? Where is ANYONE doing such a work? Certainly, Billy Graham is not. His large attendances are the product of carefully orchestrated efforts--not the overwhelming movement of the Holy Spirit, and the great majority of people streaming to the front are trained workers going forward to "prime the pump," and hopefully have some inquirers to deal with. What city has been left truly changed by any Billy Graham crusade in the past 40 years? Smith (and Moody and Jones and the others) came, stayed weeks, sometimes months, and left people and cities permanently changed.
READING ABOUT GIPSY SMITH
I am aware of four "popular" books about the life and ministry of Rodney "Gipsy" Smith. These include two autobiographical accounts. The first, GIPSY SMITH: HIS LIFE AND WORK (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1901. 330 pp.; a revised edition of this work, dated 1924, is reported in one source, but I have not seen it) was written when Smith was just past forty and gives an interesting and largely chronological account of his boyhood, his conversion, his beginning as an evangelist and his labors, including several trips to the U.S. There are a number of pictures of Smith and his family from different periods. Of the two books by Smith about his life, this is the better by a good margin.
The second autobiographical account is FORTY YEARS AN EVANGELIST by Gipsy Smith (New York: George H. Doran, 1923. 259 pp.). It covers the period from 1901 through 1923, but in a less orderly fashion than the first book, and is much more anecdotal in content. It also has numerous repetitions of material found in the first book. It does give a good accounting of Smith's labors among British troops in France in World War I, and specific information about some of his American campaigns in diverse cities.
A co-laborer of Smith late in his life, Harold Murray, brought out SIXTY YEARS AN EVANGELIST: AN INTIMATE STUDY OF GIPSY SMITH in 1937, carrying the account through Smith's 76th year. I have not seen this volume and cannot speak about its contents from personal knowledge.
A fourth volume, GIPSY SMITH: FROM THE FOREST I CAME by David Lazell (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973. 256 pp.) covers the whole life, through Smith's death in 1947. It is written as a popular treatment, in a chatty, conversational style, but lacks any bibliography or notes regarding sources
Other very brief sketches of Smith include "Smith, Rodney" by R. G. Burnett, p. 2893 in THE COMPACT EDITION OF THE DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, ed. by Edgar Williams (Oxford University Press, 1975); "Smith, Rodney," by J. G. G. Norman, pp. 910-911, in THE NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, ed. by J.D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978. Second edition); and, "Smith, Rodney," by David Lazell, pp. 761-762, in THE NEW 20TH-CENTURY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE, ed. by J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991. Second edition). I have been told that Warren Wiersbe ran an article about Smith in the March, 1985 issue of "The Good News Broadcaster."
Smith published numerous books, mostly sermons. These include AS JESUS PASSED, AND OTHER ADDRESSES (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1905) which has twelve sermons; EVANGELISTIC TALKS (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1922), which has twenty. Sermons delivered in Brooklyn in 1907 were stenographically recorded and published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper. These were then put in book form as GIPSY SMITH'S BEST SERMONS AS DELIVERED IN BROOKLYN (New York: J. S. Ogilvie Pub. Co., 1907). Other titles I have seen mentioned but have not personally examined include A MISSION OF PEACE (1904); THE BEAUTY OF JESUS (1934); THE LOST CHRIST, YOUR BOYS, and REVIVAL SERMONS.
There is still a crying need for a thorough, scholarly life of Smith (unless one exists of which I am unaware), based in part on a thorough investigation of contemporary newspaper reports, and materials gleaned from the lives of major figures he came in contact with (Moody, Sankey, William Booth, MacLaren, F. B. Meyer, G. Campbell Morgan, Thomas Spurgeon, and many others); records of the churches where his campaigns were conducted would also need to be examined in detail. The first step would be to compile a complete listing of where and when he preached, then contemporary reports could be sought. And of course, the writer would need to visit the places where Smith labored (no doubt many of the church buildings and auditoriums are long-since gone). Also, any living personal acquaintances of Smith would need to be interviewed, though in all likelihood, those with a personal knowledge of Smith are becoming increasingly scarce.
Some quotations from GIPSY SMITH: HIS LIFE AND WORK by Gipsy Smith--
"No minister ever looked near our gipsy tent, no missioner, no Christian worker." (p. 35)
"It does not matter how old you are, as long as your mother is living you will still be a boy." (p. 68)
". . . I must have had about six or eight weeks' schooling at the most, one winter. These weeks comprise all my collegiate career. I had just enough schooling to learn my letters and a little more. The school was at Cambridge, the seat of learning; so I am a Cambridge man." (p. 69)
"I believe that with my conversion came the awakening of my intellect, for I saw things and understood them as I had not done before. Everything had a new meaning to me. I had already begun to spell out a little, but now my desire for reading was tremendously intensified. I now had something to learn for, and I seemed to have, I did not know how, a settled assurance that I should one day preach the gospel." (p. 84)
"My first books were the Bible, an English Dictionary, and Professor Eadie's Biblical Dictionary. . . . These three mighty volumes--for they were mighty to me--I used to carry about under my arm. My sisters and brothers laughed at me, but I did not mind. 'I am going to read them some day,' I said, 'and to preach, too.' I lost no opportunity of self-improvement and was always asking questions. I still believe in continually asking questions." (p. 85)
"A Mr. Goodman, in Brandon, Norfolk, advised my father to send me to Mr. Spurgeon's Pastors' College, and I was greatly excited over the idea. But events so shaped themselves that this project was never carried out." (p. 86)
"I have for years had a great longing for a peaceful period of calm study, and I chanced to say to Dr. Berry, 'I wish I could sit down and do nothing but study for a year.' He retorted, 'Yes, and then you would be spoiled. Just you go on with your work and do as much reading as you can.' " (p. 309)
Dr. Monro Gibson described in the "British Weekly" Smith's preaching--"He is more expository than any other evangelist whom I have heard, and neither his exegesis nor his theology would do discredit to a graduate of our theological schools." (p. 324)
Dr. John Clifford said of Smith in the "Christian World"--"[H]is methods are as sane as his gospel is clear. He has no fads. He is not the victim of vagaries. He does not air any visionary schemes. He knows his work and does it. . . .There is a tear in his voice." (p. 325)
Some quotations from FORTY YEARS AN EVANGELIST by Gipsy Smith--
"Great scholars have been among my dearest friends. I have never despised learning--God forbid!" (p. 13)
"When, years after, I began seriously to study at Hanely [site of his first pastorate], my chief reading, apart from the Bible, consisted of sermons by Wesley, Dr. Parker, Dr. McLaren, Robertson of Brighton, and Spurgeon, Matthew Henry's Commentaries and Rev. Charles Finney's 'Lectures on Revivals,' 'Lectures to Professing Christians,' and 'The Way of Salvation.' " (p. 14)
"When I first began preaching, however, I could not spell my name, and with those two books, the Bible and the Dictionary, I taught myself all I knew. I was preaching long before I could write a letter." (p. 15)
"I discovered long ago that if I could not be clever, and if I could not be a great preacher, I could be good, and loyal, and true. It is goodness that unlocks the doors. A preacher may be described in the press a thousand times as 'Sustaining his reputation by a magnificent sermon.' It is only his personal goodness that really counts." (p. 15)
"A pessimist is a person who sees a difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist is a person who sees an opportunity in every difficulty." (p. 26)
"In season and out of season I shall urge those who are building up a reputation for mere eloquence and oratory to put aside their brilliant theological, philosophical, historical or poetical essays, and, just as Ian MacLaren put it, 'say a guid word for Jesus.' " (p. 83)
Quoting Henry Drummond, "The vast majority of church members know no more about the new birth than the Hottentot." (p. 89)
"[O]ur religion is worth getting enthusiastic about, . . .we shall be stiff enough when we are dead. . . " (p. 90)
"Too many women think more of hats and furs and trinkets than of the soul of the child God put in their arms, which is going to live for evermore. They think more of a night's entertainment than they do of a child's destiny." (. p. 126)
"During the days of the war [i.e., World War I], from the beginning to the end, half a million British boys signed decision cards in Y.M.C.A. huts and other centres and gave themselves to Christ. Five hundred thousand officers and men!" (p. 156)
"In this one campaign [in Louisville in 1920] there were 15,000 professed conversions and re-consecrations--4,000 of them officials of the churches who re-dedicated themselves. I was in Louisville 29 days and addressed 232,000 persons." (p. 171) [Editor's note: these were typical of the campaigns conducted by Smith in American cities]
"When we get to Heaven we shall get three surprises. The first will be the people whom we never expected to see there; the second will be the folk who are missing and whom we expected to see there; the third, the biggest surprise of all, will be to find that we are there." (p. 231) [Editor's note: I have heard this comment many times, but never saw it ascribed to Smith. This is the earliest occurrence of it I am aware of. Does any reader know of an earlier occurrence, by a different writer?]
"The faith healing that Jesus does I believe in. I don't believe the nonsense that people try to practice when they make a living out of it." (p. 243)