"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 14, Number 8, August 2011

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”   Job 32:17-21

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“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.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but 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 upon request.]

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Should Laymen Be Allowed to Read the Bible?

 

The Problem Stated:

 

“If the average person is allowed to read and interpret the Bible for himself, isn’t he likely to misinterpret the Bible, and to misinterpret the Bible may have serious eternal spiritual consequences.  Therefore, he dare not be allowed to interpret the Bible for himself, lest he err in his interpretation.” [In writing this just now, I realized how much this parallels the modern Big Government “Nanny State” which wants to take all life decisions away from the masses, because they--the masses--allegedly aren’t smart enough or well-informed enough to make the right decisions.  But I digress--ed.]

 

The Answer:

 

I will readily acknowledge and affirm that whenever people read and study the Bible for themselves they are guaranteed to misinterpret, misunderstand and misapply at least some of what they read.  That is inevitable; but of course, the same is true if the same people read the newspaper, a textbook on chemistry or a magazine article on backyard gardening.  Do we, then, forbid them to read and interpret these?

 

Does the fact of this certainty of to some degree misunderstanding the Bible, therefore, mean that either--

 

1. the masses should not be allowed to have direct personal access to the Bible? and / or,

 

2. only authorized, authoritative interpreters of the Bible should be allowed to interpret for the rest of us what it means?

 

Some, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have appealed to 2 Peter 1:20 as proof of both the above affirmations: “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,” (emphasis added) which is explained to mean that only Church authorities have the right to interpret the Scriptures, and all must follow that authoritative interpretation.  However, in context, this verse is not speaking about those who read Scripture, but those who wrote Scripture.  Verse 21 continues, “but being carried along by the Spirit, men spoke from God.”

 

This passage demonstrates conclusively why delegating all Bible interpretation to “authoritative” interpreters is fraught with danger: they themselves can be very much in error in their Bible interpretation, as here!  There are NO “infallible” Bible interpreters on earth, no matter what some individuals and organizations claim for themselves.

 

Not only so, but the person who gets what passes for “Bible” doctrine only second- or third-hand, after it has passed through the “sieve” of someone else’s theological perspective, is apt to receive a decidedly warped, incomplete and inaccurate view of the teaching of Scripture.  Thomas Linacre (c. 1460-1524), personal physician of Henry the 8th, Oxford Professor of Greek, and late in life an ordained Catholic priest, exclaimed in astonishment upon reading for himself, for the first time at age 60, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), “Either this is not the Gospel or we are not Christians.”

 

Of course, the far greater danger than the individual to a degree misunderstanding the Bible is his being completely ignorant or greatly misinformed of its contents, which is the guaranteed consequence of denying people’s right to personally read and interpret the Bible for themselves.

 

By both command and example the Bible itself teaches the importance, indeed the necessity, of the “average Joe” hearing (and by extension, reading) the Bible directly for himself.  Many Biblical passages either command or commend the direct personal hearing or reading of the Scriptures by everyone, without distinctions of age, education, office or gender.  Among the texts:

 

Deuteronomy 31:9-13--“Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the LORD’s covenant, and to all the elders of Israel.  Moses commanded them, ‘At the end of [every] seven years, at the appointed time in the year of debt cancellation, during the Festival of Booths, when all Israel assembles in the presence of the LORD your God at the place He chooses, you are to read this law aloud before all Israel.  Gather the people--men, women, children, and the foreigners living within your gates--so that they may listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law.  Then their children who do not know [the law] will listen and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing Jordan to possess.’” (all quotes from HCSB)

 

Joshua 1:8--“This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night, so that you may carefully observe everything written in it.  For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.”

 

Joshua 23:6--“Be very strong, and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left.”

 

II Kings 23:1-3--“So the king [Josiah] sent [messengers], and they gathered to him all the elders of Jerusalem and Judah.  Then the king went to the LORD’s temple with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as well as the priests and the prophets--all the people from the youngest to the oldest.  As they listened, he read all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the LORD’s temple.  Next, the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant in the presence of the LORD to follow the LORD and keep is commandments, His decrees, and His statutes with all his mind and with all his heart, and to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book; all the people agreed to the covenant.”

 

Nehemiah 7:73b-8:4, 8,18a--“When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate.  They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the LORD had given Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding.  While he was facing the square in front of the Water Gate, he read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand.  All the people listened attentively to the book of the law. . . . They read the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.  Ezra read out of the book of the law of God every day, from the first day to the last.”

 

Nehemiah 9:1, 3--“On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, [wearing] sackcloth, [and had put] dust on their heads. . . . While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day and [spent] another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the LORD their God.”

 

Psalm 1:1-2--“How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers!  Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.”

 

Psalm 19:7-11--“The instruction of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.  The precepts of the LORD are right, making the heart glad; the commandment of the LORD is radiant, making the eyes light up.  The fear of the LORD is pure enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are reliable and altogether righteous.  They are more desirable than gold--than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey--than honey dripping from the comb.  In addition, Your servant is warned by them; there is great reward in keeping them.”

 

Psalm 119--every verse but three in this longest of Psalms commends the knowledge and study of God’s word

 

Jeremiah 36:1-2, 4-6, 8--“In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king in Jerusalem, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Take a scroll, and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time I [first] spoke to you during Josiah’s reign until today. . . . So Jeremiah summoned Baruch son of Neriah.  At Jeremiah’s dictation, Baruch wrote on a scroll all the words the LORD had spoken to Jeremiah.  Then Jeremiah commanded Baruch, ‘I am restricted; I cannot enter the temple of the LORD, so you must go and read from the scroll--which you wrote at my dictation--the words of the LORD in the hearing of the people at the temple of the LORD on a day of fasting.  You must read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities. . . . So Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet had commanded him.  At the LORD’s temple he read the LORD’s words from the scroll.”

 

Like 4:16-19, Jesus publicly read from Isaiah to the synagogue attendees.  This was the universal practice of the ancient synagogues.  Sections of the Pentateuch were read consecutively, week by week, so that following either a one-year or a three-year schedule, the whole was read through publicly to the people.  Each week, a selection from the former prophets (“history”) or the latter prophets (the prophets proper) was also read.  And on set feast days, the scrolls of Esther, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Ruth respectively were read in the synagogue.

 

Luke 16:27-29--“ “Father,’ he said,’ then I beg you to send him to my father’s house--because I have five brothers--to warn them, so they won’t come also to this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ “

 

As indeed they would do week by week, if they attended the synagogue.

 

John 5:39--“You pore over the Scriptures.” 

 

The form of the Greek verb here is ambiguous, and may be imperatival-“Pore over the Scriptures.”

 

Acts 13:14b-15a, 27b; 15:21--“On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue.  After the reading of the Law and the Prophets. . .  . the prophets that are read every Sabbath, . . . . For since ancient times, Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, and he is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”

 

Acts 17:11--“The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

 

Colossian 4:16--“And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read the letter from Laodicea.”

 

The “letter from Laodicea” is probably our Ephesians

 

I Timothy 4:13--“Until I come, give attention to public reading,” which the NIV correctly renders as “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture.” 

 

It is clear that the early churches continued the practice of the synagogues of reading extensively and publicly from the written Scriptures each week.

 

II Timothy 3:14-17--“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have know the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

 

Note that Timothy, even in earliest childhood, was capable of being directly taught the Scriptures, which are not only not “dangerous” for the layman to know, but to the contrary, they are essential for him to know, if he is to be a complete, fully prepared and equipped believer.

 

James 1:22-25--“But be doers of the word and not hearers, deceiving yourselves.  Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was.  But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer who acts--this person will be blessed in what he does.”

 

Revelation 1:3, 11a--“Blessed is the one who reads [i.e. publicly] and blessed are those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near. . . . Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches, . . . .”

 

Revelation 2: 7a (11a, etc.)--“Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

Revelation 22:7--“Look, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book.”

 

The writings of Christian leaders from the first three centuries (and beyond) contain many descriptions of the public reading of Scripture, and admonitions for all believers to regularly hear or read the Bible for themselves.

 

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the president [i.e. pastor] verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”

Justin Martyr (d. ca. A.D. 165)

First Apology, chapter 67

italics added

 

[See some additional examples in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David W. Bercot (Hendrickson, 1998), pp. 598-599].

 

In reading the Bible, the reader, especially the Christian reader, has the indispensable assistance of the Divine Author, the Holy Spirit.

 

John 14:26--“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit--the Father will send Him in My name--will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”

 

John 16:8--“When [the Counselor] comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.”

 

Acts 16:14--“A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God, was listening.  The Lord opened her heart to pay attention what was spoken by Paul.”  Compare Luke 24:44-45--“Then He told them, ‘These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you--that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

 

I Corinthians 2:9-16--“But as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him.’  Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the concerns of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him?  In the same way, no one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God.  We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.  For the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually.  The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone.  For, ‘who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him?’  But we have the mind of Christ.”

 

The reception by every believer of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation is in part so that the believer may be equipped to comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures for himself.

 

I John 2:20, 27--“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. . . . The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you.  Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it taught you, remain in Him”

 

John is not declaring that every believer is an infallible, autonomous Bible interpreter, nor is he here denying that there is a proper place for Bible teachers--of which he himself is one, instructing others in this very letter!  Bible teachers are one of God’s gifts to the churches (Ephesians 4:11; Acts 13:1; and many other passages).  Well-trained, doctrinally-sound Bible teachers can and do facilitate a faster and more ready grasp of Biblical truth by believers, and indeed they are one of God’s appointed means for “disciplining all nations”.  Philip the evangelist’s encounter with the royal Ethiopian treasurer is illustrative of this point (Acts 8:30-35): “When Philip ran up to [the chariot], he heard [the Ethiopian] reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’  ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone guides me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. . . . The eunuch replied to Philip, ‘I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about--himself or another person?’  So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from this Scripture.”

 

What John is saying is that the believer is not absolutely, abjectly dependent on mere men for his understanding of the Bible, but can look to the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, enlighten and instruct him, and he must always look to the Holy Spirit to give him understanding.  John elsewhere advises caution in listening to human teachers, who may be true or false: I John 4:1, and repeatedly.

 

Allowing people to read the Bible for themselves is a “threat” only to those whose doctrine or conduct is in conflict with Scripture!

 

“The Word of God is intended for the use of all classes of men.  In the early ages of the Church its universal perusal was not only allowed, but urged by bishops and pastors.  It was not until the general reading of the Bible was found to interfere with the claims of the papacy that its ‘perils for the common mind’ were discovered.  As the use of Latin disappeared among the people, the Vulgate Bible became less and less intelligible to them, and this fact was early welcomed as an aid to the schemes of the Roman hierarchy.  In the 11th century Gregory VII (Epist. vii, 11) thanks God for it, as tending to save the people from misunderstanding the Bible. 

 

The reforming and heretical sects (Cathari, Albigenses, Waldenses, etc.) of the 12th and 13th centuries appealed to the Bible in all their disputes, thus furnishing the hierarchy an additional reason for shutting up the Word of God.  In 1229, the Council of Toulouse, in its 14th canon, ‘forbids the laity to have in their possession any copy of the books of the Old and New Testament, except the Psalter, and such portions of them as are contained in the Breviary, or the Hours of the Virgin; and most strictly forbids these works in the vulgar tongue.’  The Council of Tarracone (1242) ordered all vernacular versions to be brought to the bishop to be burnt.  Similar prohibitions were issued from time to time in the next two centuries by bishops and synods, especially in France and Germany, though with little direct effect.

 

In the ‘Ten Rules concerning Prohibited Books,’ drawn up by order of the Council of Trent, and approved by Pius IV (Buckley, Canons and Decrees of Trent, p. 284) we find the following: In Rule III versions of the O.T. may be ‘allowed only to pious and learned men at the discretion of the bishop’; in Rule IV it is stated that ‘if the sacred books be permitted in the vulgar tongue indiscriminately, more harm than utility arises therefrom by reason of the temerity of men.’  The bishop or inquisitor may grant permission to safe persons to read them; all booksellers selling to unauthorized persons are to be punished.  The Jansenist movement in the 17th century, and especially the publication of Quesnel’s N.T. in French (Paris, 1699), gave rise to new stringency, of which the bull Unigenitus was the organ.  In the 18th century there was a reaction, and the publication and reading of vernacular version was even encouraged by the better class of Roman bishops.  The establishment of the Bible Societies in the beginning of [the 19th] century gave new alarm to the Roman hierarchy.  Ordinances or encyclicals forbidding the diffusion of Protestant Bibles were issued by Pius VII (1816), Leo XII (1824), and Gregory XVI (1832). 

 

Though the animus of these encyclicals is hostile to the free use of the Bible, they yet do not, in terms, prohibit it.  At this day, it is well understood and admitted by all intelligent Romanists themselves, that the laity are not only not required, but also not expected to read the Word of God for themselves by the Roman Church.”

 

“Bible, Use of by the Laity,”

M’Clintock-Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical,

Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. I, p. 808

 

[See also the similar but considerably more detailed article “Bible Reading by the Laity, Restrictions On,” by Georg Rietschel, in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, edited by Samuel M. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1963 reprint), vol. II, pp. 85-88]

 

"Martin Luther said that the Papists burned the Bible because it was not on their side."

  Augustus Hopkins Strong

Systematic Theology (1907), p. 308

 

In contrast, consider the words of Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon:

 

"Therefore, search all questions, try all by the Word of God.  I am not afraid to have what I preach tried by this book.  Only give me a fair field and no favour, and this book; if I say anything contrary to it, I will withdraw it the next Sabbath-day.  By this I stand, by this I fall." 

The New Park Street Pulpit, 1855, vol. 1, p. 113

 

And while it is indeed true that misinterpreting some of the Bible is a common occurrence among its readers, yet in its major teachings and doctrines, it is within the intellectual grasp of the ordinary sort of men.  The famous Westminster Confession of Faith of the 1640s addressed this very issue:

 

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

Westminster Confession, I. 7

 

Those “ordinary means” include reading cross-referenced passages in the Bible relating to the same or similar topics, reading more than one Bible translation, consulting reference works such as language and Bible dictionaries, commentaries and topical and theological books, as well as conferring with those more learned in the Scriptures such as pastors, teachers and the like.

 

Christian History repeatedly testifies of the happy result of widespread personal Bible reading

 

The Waldensian movement of the 12th and following centuries was begun and sustained by the translation of the Vulgate NT into the vernacular Provencal dialect, of which version the Waldensians were great memorizers, some reportedly having committed to memory the whole of the NT.

 

The Lollard movement in 14th and 15th century England was made possible by the readily accessible Scriptures in the vernacular contemporary English version of Wycliffe and his associates.

 

The Reformation of the 16th century was begun by personal Bible reading (Luther’s reading of the Latin Vulgate), and characterized everywhere by the translation and publication of the Scriptures into the various languages of Europe (German, English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, etc.)

 

The great missionary movements of the 18th and 19th century (Carey, Judson, others) were characterized by the translation of the Bible into the languages of the people in India, Burma, China and many other lands.

 

Conclusion

 

The individual, then, is both responsible, and competent (in dependence on the Holy Spirit), to read and interpret the Bible for himself.  Indeed, he dare not neglect to read it for himself and for his soul’s eternal sake.

---Doug Kutilek

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Neglected Bibles

 

“But let me say one thing before I pass on to the second point.  If this be the Word of God, what will become of some of you who have not read it for the last month?  ‘Month, sir!  I have not read it for this year.’  Ay, there are some of you who have not read it at all.  Most people treat the Bible very politely.  They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound; they put a white pocket-handkerchief around it, and carry it to their places of worship.  When they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning, then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat and goes to chapel.  That is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing.  That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger.  There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers. 

 

There are some of you who have not turned over your Bibles for a long, long, long while, and what think you?  I tell you blunt words, but true words.  What will God say at last?  When you shall come before him, he shall say, ‘Did you read my Bible?’  No.’  ‘Rebel!  I have sent thee a letter inviting thee to me; didst thou ever read it?’  Lord, I never broke the seal; I kept it shut up.’  ‘Wretch!’ says God, ‘then thou deservest hell, if I sent thee a loving epistle and thou wouldest not even break the seal.  What shall I do unto thee?’ 

 

Oh! let it not be so with you.  Be Bible readers; be Bible searchers.”

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

New Park Street Pulpit, 1855

Vol. I, pp. 112-3

[bold-face added]

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BOOK REVIEW

 

George Washington Carver by Rackham Holt.  Garden City, New York. 1950. [revised edition, 1963].  342 pp., hardback.

 

It is commonplace for people to lament the poor circumstances of their up-bringing, and then blame those ”under-privileged” beginnings along with later “circumstances,” coupled with the opposition, prejudice and bigotry of others (real or imagined) for their failures in life.  Instead of following this easy course of blaming others for one’s lack of achievement, George Washington Carver (1860-1943) rather devoted himself to achieving, with God’s help and blessing, as much as his capacities could accomplish.  And what he accomplished was remarkable.

 

Born into slavery in southwest Missouri, not far from Neosho, and orphaned of both of his parents while still an infant (and deprived of his one sibling while in his teen years), he remained on the farm of his former owner until about age 10.  As a boy, he was small and frail and sickly, but had a keen interest in and aptitude for the natural world, and a strong inclination toward artistic expression.  After leaving the farm and until age 28, he was constantly “in transition,” living in one town or place after another, for a few weeks or months, sometimes a year or two or three, first in Neosho, then in Fort Scott in southeastern Kansas, Paola and Olathe in the east central part of the state, Minneapolis in north central Kansas and on a 160-acre homestead near Ness City in western Kansas.  He worked--always worked, and hard--at a great variety of jobs, and in God’s providence, he met and was helped along the way by devout Christian people, both black and white.  By his 20s, Carver had completed high school (a rare achievement even among the white populace) and entered college in Iowa, ultimately completing in his mid-30s both B. S. and M.S. degrees, in agricultural science.

 

He was invited by Booker T. Washington to become part of the faculty at the struggling Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a school established for the education and training in practical arts of the Negro population of the South.  Carver without thought of financial reward or the personal inconvenience (to put it mildly) of strict southern segregation readily agreed; he remained for the rest of his life in the employee of the school, turning down vast sums--many times his teaching salary--and much better working conditions from other schools, as well as industrialists and corporations which sought his services. 

 

Tuskegee had several thousand acres of badly abused, worn-out, eroded, unproductive land in weeds, scrub and trees.  Carver set about to apply wise modern farming practices, first, to provide the ‘daily bread’ for the large but impoverished student body (all students worked on the grounds as part of their “tuition”), and then to transform the “wasteland” that Southern agriculture had become by the constant growing of soil-depleting cotton.  Year by year, the transformation occurred on the school’s land, and spread little by little to surrounding farms, counties and states.

 

Carver could have become fabulously rich by patents on his discoveries, but he freely passed on his discoveries for the betterment of the rural farming populace of the South, both white and black.  His search for alternative crops to cotton, cotton, and more cotton, led to his famous discoveries regarding peanuts and sweet potatoes, as well as cowpeas and numerous other potential crops.  And he was careful in it all to give God the glory and credit for his discoveries--to the point where his “mysticism” in this regard led some critics in the scientific world to accuse him of being more of a conjuror than a scientist.  No one today remembers the names of any of those critics!  (Here is a typical quote--from another source--“He used to say that the transformation of the plantations began on the day on which, falling upon his knees, he asked God to tell him why He had created the peanut."  From: Arrows of Desire by F. W. Boreham [1951], pp. 60-1).

 

And yet, in spite of his Bible-based certainty that God designed each earthly creature and gave it a discoverable purpose, Carver espoused theistic evolutionist, I suspect because that is what he had been taught, not as an independently-reached conclusion.  At Tuskegee, he regularly taught a Bible class to which as many as 300 students voluntarily came.

 

Carver didn’t “demand” respect from others--he earned it.  Invited to speak for 10 minutes before a U. S. Senate committee regarding his research, the senators asked him to extend his remarks for 2 hours.  He silenced his critics and those who despised him because of his race by his personal achievements and great personal merit.

 

I first read this volume in 1989 and had my interest sparked to read it again as I went in search of the quote from Carver about asking God to show him why He had made the peanut.  Being an avid gardener, committed grower of sweet potatoes (my most reliable crop, year in and year out), and with a newly-found enthusiasm for growing and eating cowpeas, to say nothing of my commitment to George Washington Carver’s God and Savior, I admire and appreciate him immensely.  Just see what a man in submission to God can do!

---Doug Kutilek

---

 

Some quotes from George Washington Carver by Rackham Holt--

 

“It was generally accepted that Professor Carver could identify any plant they brought in, whether he had seen it before or not, but his entomology [insects] class once rashly tried to hoodwink him.  They produced a bug neatly pinned to a piece of cardboard and laid it on his desk.  ‘We just found this strange bug, Professor.  What is it?’  He looked long at the curious creature.  It had the head of a large ant, the body of a beetle, the legs of a spider, the antennae of a moth, all ingeniously put together.  Finally he delivered his pronouncement, ‘Well, this, I think, is what we would call a humbug.’ “ (p. 150)

 

“ ‘I discover nothing in my laboratory,’ Professor Carver said.  ‘If I come here of myself I am lost.  But I can do all things through Christ.  I am God’s servant, His agent, for here God and I are alone.  I am just the instrument through which He speaks, and I would be able to do more if I were to stay in closer touch with Him.  With my prayers I mix my labors, and sometimes God is pleased to bless the results.’ “ (p. 220)

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