"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 2, Number 5, May 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.]
THE COMPASSION OF GEORGE WHITEFIELD
"They who heard [George Whitefield] most frequently could not remember that he ever stumbled at a word, or hesitated for want of one. He never faltered, unless when the feeling to which he wrought himself overcame him, and then his speech was interrupted by a flow of tears. Sometimes he would appear to lose all self-command, and weep exceedingly, and stamp loudly and passionately; and sometimes the emotion of his mind exhausted him, and the beholders felt a momentary apprehension even for his life. And, indeed, it is said, that the effect of his vehemence upon his bodily frame was tremendous; . . .'You blame me for weeping,' he would say, 'but how can I help it, when you will not weep for yourselves, though your immortal souls are upon the verge of destruction, and, for aught I know, you are hearing your last sermon, and may never more have an opportunity to have Christ offered to you!' "
Quoted from John Gillies, Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield (London: E. & C. Dilly, 1771; reprinted New Haven, Connecticut: Whitmore & Buckingham and H. Mansfield, 1834; and Portland, Ore.: Robert Kendall, 1978; quoted from last-listed edition), p. 274.
"But individual churches and Christians can make the same mistake the Galatians were making: they can fail to cast out Hagar and Ishmael. Legalism is one of the major problems among Christians today. We must keep in mind that legalism does not mean the setting of spiritual standards; it means worshipping these standards and thinking that we are spiritual because we obey them. It also means judging other believers on the basis of these standards. A person can refrain from smoking, drinking, and attending theaters, and still not be spiritual. The Pharisees had high standards;
yet they crucified Jesus."
Warren Wiersbe, BE FREE, p. 108
SPURGEON ON TRUE WORSHIP
"It has sometimes been the boast of Episcopalians that Churchmen go to their churches to pray and worship God, but that Dissenters merely assemble to hear sermons. Our reply to this is, that albeit there may be some professors who are guilty of this evil, it is not true of the people of God among us, and these are the only persons who ever will in any church really enjoy devotion. Our congregations gather together to worship God, and we assert, and feel no hesitation in so asserting, that there is as much true and acceptable prayer offered in our ordinary Nonconformist services as in the best and most pompous performances of the Church of England.
Moreover, if the observation be meant to imply that the hearing of sermons is not worshipping God, it is founded on a gross mistake, for rightly to listen to the gospel is one of the noblest parts of the adoration of the Most High. It is a mental exercise, when rightly performed, in which all the faculties of the spiritual man are called into devotional action. Reverently hearing the word exercises our humility, instructs our faith, irradiates us with joy, inflames us with love, inspires us with zeal, and lifts us up towards heaven. Many a time a sermon has been a kind of Jacob's ladder upon which we have seen the angels of God ascending and descending, and the covenant God himself at the top thereof. We have often felt when God has spoken through his servants into our souls, 'This is none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven.' We have magnified the name of the Lord and praised him with all our heart while he has spoken to us by his Spirit which he has given unto men. Hence there is not the wide distinction to be drawn between preaching and prayer that some would have us admit; for the one part of the service softly blends into the other, and the sermon frequently inspires the prayer and the hymn. True preaching is an acceptable adoration of God by the manifestation of his gracious attributes: the testimony of the gospel, which pre-eminently glorifies him, and the obedient hearing of revealed truth, are an acceptable form of worship to the Most High, and perhaps one of the most spiritual in which the human mind can engage."
C. H. Spurgeon,
Lectures to My Students, First Series
(London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1875; Baker reprint, 1977),
THE WORST ADVICE ANYONE EVER GAVE ME REGARDING READING
When I was in grade school, particularly the 4th and 5th grades, I had begun to do a great deal of reading. My cousin Kenny introduced me to the Hardy Boys. His father was an only child and when he was growing up in the 30s, his parents had purchased for him a complete set of that popular adventure series as they were published. It was this complete set that my cousin had access to, and to which he introduced me and my older brother. Since we were frequent overnight guests at my cousin's house, numerous times we fell to reading Hardy Boys stories, often staying up til one or two or three, until we had each completed our chosen volume, and then sat up discussing them. After reading a half dozen or more of these books on various occasions, I had begun to develop a real enjoyment of reading and had branched out somewhat into other reading as well.
Segue to the library at the public school I attended: it is Thursday morning, about 10:15. My 5th grade class is in the library for its weekly library hour. The librarian is asking us what kinds of books we read. One student--perhaps it was me (my memory isn't quite precise on the point)--spoke up: "Hardy Boys!" A look of horror and disgust came over the librarian's sour face. "You shouldn't read such books. They are just pap." (I remember specifically her calling them "pap," because it was a word none of the students knew, and which caused a great deal of embarrassment to Brent Ricketts, the student assigned to look it up in Webster's, when he stated that it meant "a nipple"). We were told in no uncertain terms that such reading was a waste of time or worse, positively harmful. I was devastated. The deep impression left on me by this "authority figure" and presumed expert in books was that I was wholly incapable of correctly deciding what books I should read. My own judgment on what kind of reading I enjoyed was apparently fatally flawed and never to be trusted.
And since I was led to believe that I was incapable of choosing rightly, I virtually gave up any discretionary or pleasure reading for years--I doubt that I read a dozen books (outside of required school work) between that day in the library and my junior year in high school. Since I didn't know what I should choose, I chose nothing. I didn't resume extensive reading until my senior semester in high school (I graduated in January) when I read six books in that one semester, including the first volume of Churchill's six-volume history of World War II.
As a consequence of that otherwise sunny spring day in the library, I lost all the reading that I might have done between grade school and the middle of my high school years, perhaps as much as a hundred books or more, and I lost all the mental development that could have taken place, all because of the ill-considered, wrong-headed, and destructive remark by one busybody librarian. Curses upon you, wherever you are! May your bindings always be slack, your pages worm-eaten, yellowed and brittle--and underlined--and your books always overdue!
To this day, I still feel that I am hurrying to make up for the reading I lost in those years. And I still occasionally will grab a Hardy Boys book (my boys got all the books in the set they wanted, just for the asking) and will read it when I need a diversion. Yes, it is light reading, yes the plots are fantastic and somewhat preposterous, but they are highly suited for training a child to enjoy reading, and to develop the lifelong habit of reading. A far better approach for that librarian would have been to say, "Yes, Hardy Boys books can be a lot of fun to read. Let me suggest some other books to you that you might also find interesting." And then she could have pointed us to other things: Twain's TOM SAWYER (which is, I think, a far better book than HUCKLEBERRY FINN), Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Stevenson's TREASURE ISLAND, and other fiction, the then-recently published LITTLE HOUSE series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, juvenile biographies, and whatever stuff she thought wasn't "pap" (though I wonder if she could have recommended something worthwhile even if she had tried).
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the famous English dictionary writer and quintessential curmudgeon grew up in the bookshop which his father owned and did vast amounts of very diverse reading as a youth. He gave what I believe is excellent advice on the matter:
"I am always for getting a boy forward in his learning; for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention; because you have done a great deal, when you have brought him to have entertainment from a book. He'll get better books afterwards. . . . Snatches of reading will not make a Bentley or a Clarke. They are, however, in a certain degree advantageous. I would put a child into a library (where no unfit books are) and let him read at his choice. A child should not be discouraged from reading any thing he takes a liking to, from a notion that it is above his reach. If that be the case, the child will soon find it out and desist; if not, he of course gains the instruction; which is so much the more likely to come, from the inclination with which he takes up the study." [James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. New York: The Modern Library, pp. 866-867; 920].
Baptist theologian A. H. Strong gives a valuable testimony regarding his youthful reading:
"My literary development I attribute in part to a thorough course in dime novels. One of my fellows at the district school had a pile of yellow-covered literature, such as The Phantom Ship and The Pirate's Bride. He was also a subscriber to the weekly journal called The Star-Spangled Banner, which contained the thrilling stories of "Ned Buntline." Before I was fourteen years of age, I must have read a hundred such novels. They were incredibly silly and worthless, but they gave me a love of reading. It matters not so much what one reads, provided he learns the art of reading at all. I have sometimes thought that a young woman who read absolutely nothing but novels might get from them a good education if only the novels were well chosen. The novels I read were not well chosen, but in the bushels of chaff there were, after all, a few grains of wheat. An occasional quotation of poetry took my fancy and led me to wish that I had more from the same author. A historical allusion moved me to read sober history. Little by little I learned to discern between good and evil; I sloughed off the evil; I read good books as omnivorously as I had previously read the worthless or the bad. My father's great generosity in permitting me to buy pretty much what I chose at the bookstores and so to gather a little library of my own greatly strengthened my literary bent. A reading circle composed of teachers and older scholars of the Wadsworth School met one evening of each week, and I received great stimulus from it. Side by side with my scholastic training, and in fact outrunning it, was this constant reading of books. Before I went to college, I had become familiar with Shakespeare and Milton, Dryden and Gray, Tennyson and Longfellow, Byron and Burns; I had read Macauley's history of England and Gibbon's history of Rome; and from many sources I had gathered quite a stock of literary and historical material which afterwards proved of the greatest service. My college course was especially successful simply because I had larger resources at my command in competitive writing and prize debates than most of my classmates possessed." [Autobiography of Augustus Hopkins Strong, ed. by Crerar Douglas. Valley Forge, Penn.: Judson Press, 1981, pp. 50-1.]
Of course, a child should be directed away from harmful literature (the amoral, immoral, sacrilegious, or profane). The unspeakable evil of such literature, read in youth, on a person's life may be seen in the cases of Franklin, Jefferson and Edison, a subject I hope to address in detail in the future.
Youthful reading is to be encouraged in every possible way, because of its very real and immediate benefits. First, it increases the vocabulary. I recall the trouble I had with "determine," which I assumed was pronounced "DEBTOR-mine" and which therefore made not a lick of sense, until I sought assistance. And then there was a book with a character named "Juan," which phonetically ought to have been pronounced "JEW-on" which I thought was a really strange name. I could multiply examples.
It also helps with good spelling and stimulates the imagination. My experience as a high school teacher was that almost invariably, students who did the most reading did the best on tests and got the highest ACT and SAT scores. One student in particular lived in a home with no TV, and entertainment consisted chiefly in reading. She read over 100 books in a single year, and she was far and away the best student in her class in spelling, in composition, and in test taking.
He who wishes to write well must also read much. Almost every accomplished writer starts by imitating the style of authors he likes, and then, drawing some here, some there, he develops his own style. Anyone familiar first with Mark Twain who then reads H. L. Mencken sees immediately Twain's impact on Mencken. And anyone familiar with the writings of both Noel Smith and A. T. Robertson can quickly discern the impact of Robertson (and, I will, add Mencken) on Smith. And I would admit that you don't have to read far in what I write to find hints of Mencken, Robertson and Smith. In short, people who read much usually write better as a result.
Let us hear the end of the matter: reading much and reading well is an essential ingredient to a satisfying and productive life. The sooner children are set to reading, the better. Let them read what interests them (assuming it is not evil in content), then direct their attention to better stuff. By no means discourage reading. Every truly educated person will tell you that the overwhelming majority of what he knows he has learned from reading, not from classes or schools or teachers.
MOTHER SWEET: FIFTY-ONE YEARS A MISSIONARY TO CHINA!, edited by Fred S. Donnelson. Chicago: World Fundamental Missionary Fellowship, ca. 1945. 96 pp., paperback.
Recently I helped a preacher's widow dispose of her late husband's library. Among the books put up for sale was this brief one on Josephine M. "Mother" Sweet (1864-1945). I purchased it from the book dealer.
Anyone with a moderate degree of familiarity with the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship (later shortened to the World Baptist Fellowship) or the Baptist Bible Fellowship has at least heard of "Mother Sweet," though most are no doubt like I was: familiar with the name only, but knowing none of the details, and not knowing where to go to learn more.
Pastor W. S. Sweet and his wife Josephine went as missionaries to China in 1893 under the missionary board of what became, in 1907, the Northern Baptist Convention. They labored long and hard in teaching school, training Chinese workers and preaching the Gospel, chiefly in Hangchow. After they had a falling out with their mission board because of its apostasy and refusal to permit them to teach the pre-millennial coming of Christ, they became independent Baptist missionaries.
On a furlough to the States in 1917, made necessary by Mr. Sweet's health (injured by his intense exertions), Mr. Sweet died. What should Mrs. Sweet do? There was only one thing she could do: return to China and continue the work, and this she did. She assisted national workers and pastors in building the work in Hangchow, and had an orphanage for Chinese girls. She led thousands to Christ and helped train hundreds of Chinese Christian workers. Above all else, she was a woman of intense and effectual prayer (the book is full of incident after incident where God gave specific answers to her specific and believing prayers).
Mrs. Sweet was also instrumental in leading Chicago pastor Fred Donnelson and his family to surrender to go to China in the 1930s. The Donnelsons worked closely with Mother Sweet for over a decade.
Having survived the turmoil in China of the Boxer rebellion, the republican revolution of 1911, and World War I, when World War II began (and it began in China in 1937 with Japanese bombing and then invasion), Mother Sweet, along with other independent Baptist missionaries refused to leave the work to which God had called them when the U.S. State Department urged all Americans to leave in 1940. Because of her advanced age and poor health, she was spared the misery of Japanese internment camps (which the Donnelsons, and co-laborers the Wells and others endured), she remained in China even after these missionaries were repatriated in 1943, and died April 15, 1945, in Shanghai, just 3 months before the war's end. Her body awaits the resurrection of the righteous in a Chinese grave.
The volume is a compilation of contributions from many hands (including J. Frank Norris), though the chief part is by Fred Donnelson and autobiographical material from Mrs. Sweet. There are numerous pictures that help tell the story. I have never before seen a copy, though I suspect that tens of thousands of copies were printed. It is worth hunting up and borrowing.
As I considered that no legal mission work has gone on in China since 1949 (that's a full fifty years!), and as I saw the now-60-year-old photos of young Chinese Christians, I could not help but wonder what became of them: did they die at the hands of the Communists? Were they imprisoned and tortured for their faith? Are any of them still alive, still faithfully serving the Lord under seemingly impossible circumstances? Have we--have I--prayed for them as I ought to have prayed? If China opened up to the Gospel as the Soviet bloc has in the past decade, would there be workers ready to enter that harvest field?
Quotes from MOTHER SWEET:
"There was a deep impression made as I rode through the streets of that great city of Hangchow, and looked into the little black places where people seemed to be living. It did not seem possible that these dark places could be homes, nor that these people could have souls, nor that the Father could love them as He loved me. How I wept as I rode along, and as I asked the Father to have mercy upon me, and upon them, and to in some way send the light into their darkened homes, and darker souls. The first impression and first lesson has never been forgotten." (p. 45)
"The weakness of the so-called 'co-operative program' missions is that they have destroyed the personality of the missionary." (p. 71)
AN EDUCATION FOR OUR TIME by Josiah Bunting III. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1998. 246 pp., hardback. $24.95
The author, Josiah Bunting III, is the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. He here presents, in the guise of fiction, his image of an ideal undergraduate college.
The premise: a self-made nearly-billionaire entrepreneur, one John Adams, is suffering from terminal cancer. Distressed with the kind and quality of American "higher education," and deeply concerned with the crisis (or lack) of character in America's leaders, sets about to establish a fully-endowed liberal arts college with the expressed purpose of training students for positions of leadership in the America of the 21st century. The book consists of letters from the dying Adams to his attorney and executor, Robert Parkman, and the attorney's responses, as they discuss what the college should and should not be.
The chief aim of the school, to be located in Wyoming (on Adams vast estate), limited to 1500 students (co-educational), all-expenses paid, and focusing on the liberal arts. The school is to admit students 16-17 years old, who have completed their junior year in high school, and will have a five year program of largely prescribed courses or areas of course work, with particular emphasis on history (30% of course work) and foreign languages (20%, and requiring acquired fluency in two languages). The school will be a self-contained enclave, with faculty living in close proximity to the students, with students doing much of the necessary work on campus (cooking, cleaning, building, repairing), and with particular attention give to physical training and fitness.
The chief aim of the school will be to develop character by instructing the mind with the lessons of history, and by faculty example, but also through practical experience in required terms in public service, and in instruction in basic mechanical arts. The college is to plant, or rather nurture, in the student the desire to spend a lifetime ever learning and growing.
While the account is purely fictional, the book gives much food for thought in evaluating the present state of American higher education (generally deplorable), its purpose, means, and end-product. Bunting's schema is open to valid criticism (a school so isolated would be excessively remote, in my thinking, from the real world, and could develop an unhealthy "and I alone am left" mentality). It would also be difficult to recruit qualified faculty to such a remote location. Then there is the proposal of no grades, merely a declaration of competence or lack of it in a given subject. This seems to me to be a mere modification of the failed "pass/fail" system.
Several years ago, I compiled an "ideal" Bible college curriculum, which on inspection seemed to be heavy in history (Bible, church, Baptist, world and American), and language (English composition, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin [the latter two elective]) as well as consisting almost wholly of prescribed courses. Bunting's ideal for a secular (but not wholly "secularized") liberal arts curriculum corresponds in broad outline with my own independent ideas.
This volume will be beneficial to anyone who serves in a school (public, private, college) as administrator, teacher or trustee, or who has students in any such institution. It is always beneficial to reflect from time to time on "what is our purpose? What are our goals and aims with our school and its students, and how can we best attain those goals and purposes? And, what are we doing now that is not conducive of attaining those goals?"
Quotes from AN EDUCATION FOR OUR TIME by Josiah Bunting III--
Speaking of the 1990s: ". . . this last decade of the worst century yet. . . . " (p. 9)
"And in their care to avoid the merest chance of giving offense to any, by taking stout-hearted positions on such moral issues, universities nowadays unite to an essential soullessness, a cowardice they are pleased to call, 'Regard for All Positions.' Indeed, any controversy so engendered is at once forced into the ritualistic genuflection before a new God: The God of Consensus, Himself the child of an even greater secular Divinity--Consensus-Building." (p. 10)
"The business of undergraduate education remains the cultivation of character and mind, of instinct and ability of leadership and service. It is the way that men should live and behave in our culture and our country that is the proper business of our colleges. I don't mean as ministers and architects, chemists and executives; I mean as citizens. I set the education of character and virtue at least as high among our obligations as the preparation of intellect for a lifetime of self-education." (p. 11) [Among the best statements in the whole book.--Ed.]
'Yet this effort to train and influence character is more important than anything we do to educate students' intellects. Not less important, not equally important, more important. An ordinary citizen of sound mind and sterling character is infinitely better--as a product of our College, as a future leader--than a brilliant and cultivated intellectual of 'flexible' character." (p. 30)
"Jefferson saw as 'the sole antagonist of virtue, self-love. . . [that] leads us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others.' " (p. 39) [a description to a "T" of William Jefferson Clinton--Ed.]
"The Founding generation read few literatures and knew little historical scholarship. Like that greatest American of the nineteenth century, their reading was far less broad than it was deep. Lincoln learned to write like Lincoln by reading the Bible and Shakespeare." (p. 48)
"Lord Salisbury's dictum was never more pertinent than here: 'Nothing is so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you must never trust experts.' The word to attend to, of course, is not so much 'experts' as it is 'trust.' " (p. 57)
"We know that ultimately the 'key to heroic character is not the absence of failure but rather resilience in the face of defeat.' " (p. 59)
"Our mission in this regard is to stand for something." (p. 77)
"All aspects of College life are to be organized around an ethos of responsibility rather than of privilege, of duty rather than impulse, of need rather than want." (p. 96)
". . . a generation of high school students, now joining the College, . . . have attended schools where the majority are persistent and industrious cheaters; . . . ." (p. 112)
"When you realize [ancient Athen's] greatness, then reflect that what made her great was men with a spirit of adventure, men who knew their duty, men who were ashamed to fall below a certain standard." (p. 139)
"The fact is that no one can be liberally educated. The phrase we must always use--if it truly reflects our conviction--is liberally self-educating." (p. 146)
"I simply trust--hope--that the culture of history at our College will exclude the terrible corrosiveness, the snotty, arid, nasty temper of so much contemporary scholarship and history writing. Scholars today--so far from seeking to understand how men have lived and worked, their motives and their affections, their ambitions and the premises on which they made their choices--set out to attack, to tear apart, to demolish and trample upon reputations, always applying the standards and expectations--as they understand them--of our age to their subjects'. " (p. 154)
[These words perfectly describe Emory Thomas' recent "debunking" biography of Robert E. Lee, which seeks to denigrate the great man at every possible opportunity.--Ed.]
"I am troubled profoundly by the current addiction of large religions as mere confirmators of The Way I Want to Live: that is, as a man who lays up treasures on earth, and who is, not infrequently a [jerk] to everyone around him." (p. 169)
"Read good prose all the time, and you are bound to learn something that will help you write, and speak, more accurately, more usefully, yourself. Emulation here is as valuable as emulation in other aspects of our kind of education." (p. 172)
"For the character of a public man or woman cannot be hidden or disguised, and history--as with JFK--will have its revenge." (p. 175)
". . . we do not deter war by shrinking our forces to half their Cold War strength, or by forcing them to make do with weapons from the second worst decade of this century--the seventies." (p. 192)