Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tree Gallows

Haman, undone by Mordecai's refusal to pay him homage, follows the counsel of his friends and wife to build gallows for the Jew. The word in Hebrew for gallows is "tree"; Haman builds a tree to hang Mordecai on. Of course the story reverses the plot, exalting Mordecai to Haman's position and Haman gets hung on the tree he built for Mordecai.

Christ was crucified on a tree according to Peter, and for all we know, it may have even resembled the sort of gallows Haman had built. And all of this is part of the rich symbolic menagerie that surrounds our celebration of Christmas. A tree in one's living room conjures all of the biblical lore, millenia of providence and faith. From the garden trees in Eden to the trees that were built into arks and temples, from the gallows of Haman to the staff of Moses and the rods of Aaron and Jesse, we invoke the same Spirit into our homes as we celebrate the birth of the King of all the earth. The same Spirit that parted the roaring waves of a sea with a length of ordinary wood in the hand of a man, engrafts us into the tree that is Christ. And we form the tree of life that is for the healing of the nations, whose leaves do not whither, that produces its fruit in season.

So deck the halls with bows of holly; string a million lights around that gallow-tree and put a star on top to guide the wisemen from the east. Christ is born in Bethlehem; Christ is born to die. Christ is our ark, our rod, our gallows. Christ is Mordecai on Haman's tree.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Another connection to the 'qadesh' of the previous post is in 1 Samuel 2 where the sons of Eli are laying with the women who come to the tabernacle to (presumably) worship. The sons of Eli are called 'sons of Belial' which is exactly what the men of Gibeah are called in Judges 19. 'Scoundrels' is probably a good translation but there seems to be a fairly recurrent theme of sexual perversion and in this case some sort of ritual prostitution.


Visitors in an Evil City

There are a number of archtypal narrative "sets" throughout Scripture. The woman at the well and a man looking for a bride and the pharaoh/exodus motif are probably some of the most prominent. Perhaps Judges 19 and Genesis 19 are pieces of another narrative set which culminates in the birth of Christ. Both of these stories have foreigners visiting an evil city. They are taken in to be protected from the wickedness of the city. Sodomites come out demanding that they be given the guests for sport. Substitutes are offered, daughters or beloved concubines, and in the end someone close to the family dies and judgment falls on the city.

In the birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph are of course the travelers, ending up in Bethlehem as a result of a census. While there is no room in the inn, there is wickedness in the city in the person of Herod who is willing to go to great lengths to secure his reign, even butchering a number of baby boys. Men do hear about the visitors and seek them out, but they are not sodomites, they're gentile wisemen and shepherds. And they bring gifts and worship the baby. The baby boys of Bethlehem are the substitutes; they are Israel, the beloved daughter and concubine of God. The Christ child is spared only to rise up and bring judgment on Israel for her wickedness, eventually destroying the wicked city which has become even more depraved than Sodom and Gomorrah.

Just as a side note: while the word does not show up in either Judges 19 or Genesis 19, the Hebrew word for "sodomite" is 'qadesh' which literally means 'holy one'. Sodomy was ritually practiced in many ancient religions; thus to visit a harlot ('qadeshah') or a male temple prostitute ('qadesh') was not only a sexual perversion it was also an idolotrous act, an act of false worship. Which is an interesting back drop to the fact that Herod, hearing about the birth of King Jesus, tells the wisemen to tell him where the baby is so that he can go worship him also. This Herod while perhaps not a literal sodomite, wants to offer a pagan kind of worship; he wants to "un-man" the Son of Man.


A City Without Walls

Zechariah 2 is a glorious advent reading, promising the coming of Yahweh to His people. It's hard to miss the international flavor of the prophecy. It's not merely that Yahweh is returning to renew His people, but the renewal is going to turn Israel inside out. Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls because it will be bursting at the seems with people and animals. Many nations will be joined to Yahweh in that day. And He will dwell in their midst, and that's how you'll know that Yahweh of Armies sent Zecheriah to Israel. This new Jerusalem has burst wide open spilling out into every nation, making the ends of the earth the plunder of our King and spoil for his servants.


Friday, December 09, 2005

John Calvin

Marilynne Robinson points out in her introduction to The Death of Adam that John Calvin is regularly condemned, harangued and set forth as 'religion gone wrong' in many a university classrom, and yet it is simultaneously the unwritten assumption that it is highly suspect to actually read his writing. He is often labeled as tyrannical, seeking to build some narrow minded theocratic empire in Geneva. He is accused of sectarianism and has been made the poster boy of Salem-Witch-Trial-Puritanism, burning the heretic Servetus at the stake an all that. But Robinson makes several helpful points particularly on the bit about Servetus: "One man is one man too many, of course, but the standards of the time, and considering Calvin's embattled situation, the fact that he has only Servetus to answer for is evidence of astonishing restraint... Geneva in the time of Calvin had in fact reformed its laws so that religious infractions could not receive a penalty harsher than banishment. Servetus came there perhaps for this reason, having escaped imprisonment by the Inquisition in Vienna... Then the Genevans brok their own law by trying and burning him. Disheartening as that fact is, it nevertheless indicates that Calvinist Geneva was eschewing a practice which was, and for centuries had been, commonplace all over Europe--as Geneva was well aware since their coreligionists elsewhere were chief among those being burned."



I need to read more of Stanely Hauerwas, but he commonly refers to himself as a "pacifist". At least one sermon of his indicates that he would apply this even as far as the repudiation of self-defence or defence of a loved one. Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount and other passages which deny the supremacy of the family (e.g. the necessity of hating one's father, mother, etc. in order to inherit the Kingdom) Hauerwas takes (it appears) in an absolute, unilateral sense, apparently insisting that Christ's words override the Old Testament allowence of self defence (Ex. 22:2). However I don't know what he would say about capital punishment, just war theory, etc.

Jim Jordan points out in "Pacifism and the Old Testament" (Occasional Paper 6) that a just war is merely an extension of the doctrine of Hell. He says, "The Christian doctrine of war is surely an offense, but is only an extension of the doctrine of eternal judgment, which is also an offense... Christ is the Prince of Peace, true enough; but not for all men, only for His own sheep." Of course this doesn't really answer Hauerwas directly, but perhaps it's a start.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Worth Doing Well

That late, great Anonymous once said, "If something's worth doing, it's worth doing badly." But as with many things, we must say yes and no. Applying this to education in particular, one of the great concerns I and others have with the Classical Christian School movement (I speak as one from within the movement) is the possibility that we are inoculating our students to literature, history and classical languages. In other words, many classical Christian schools seem to have the, "if one's good, two is better" mentality when it comes to classical studies. Of course sometimes this is true. God apparently liked a number of things to come in pairs, if one arm was good, two was certainly better. And other things like fingers and hair certainly came packaged in greater quantities. But two heads is not better than one. And so it is with classical education. If Latin is good, perhaps Latin, Greek and Hebrew is better. Perhaps if 200 pages is good, 2000 is better, but not necessarily.

And for this reason, I would want to argue that in an important sense, especially when children are young, less is more. If education is worth doing, and it is, it is worth doing well. And in some areas, it would be far better to let things go, if it would mean doing them badly if we tried. It is far more important teach our students love for truth than for them to know the entire history of Rome. It is more important for our students to love beauty than for to know the history of Western Art from the Minoans to the present. It is far more important for our students to love the goodness of God than to remember who came first Odysseus or Othniel. They will not remember all the details of the Odyssey from when they were 10 or 11, but they will remember how it felt. Do their eyes light up and their imaginations wander, or do they roll their eyes and wish they were still at home playing Halo 2? My fear is that many schools are turning the greatest books and the classical languages into vaccinations. Are we igniting flames of imagination and excitement and wonder? Or are we ensuring that they never need another drop of Latin, thank you very much.

I am more and more convinced that how we interact actually creates the what. The method creates the content. When students are introduced to the world of history and literature, we should want them asking for more. It should be like so many evenings I remember when I was young, when Dad would come to the end of another chapter, and we would all beg for him not to stop. That kind of joy and anticipation is true Christian Education.

Douglas Wilson spoke this morning in Greyfriars Hall about the need for evangelists to have a deep awareness of the sovereignty of God. And I think the same is true for teachers and educators. This is not to say that it doesn’t matter what we do ‘cause, heck, God’ll fix whatever messes we make. Sure, God will do that too, but more importantly, we can be free to love our studies, love our students, and encourage them in their pursuits, not over anxious for their souls, not finicky about whether they ‘got it all’. Because, of course, they didn’t get it all and they won’t here and now. But God is faithful, He’ll make sure they do eventually.

And this is why less is more. If a class can handle 200 pages, a great teacher will assign 150. If students could enjoy a forty minute lecture, a great teacher will lecture for 30. The greatest teachers are not only concerned to impart wisdom; they are also concerned to impart the desire for wisdom. And thus, less is more: if we can give our students just a taste of the glorious story of history, just a glimpse into the beauties of Scripture, just a line of some silly song in Latin it is possible that they will come begging for more, hungry to learn, hungry for wisdom.


Staying Put

Once again the Daily News, that bastion of fundamentalism, has made a declaration regarding the future of Atlas School. I've come to enjoy the Daily News as a sort of extended comics section in general, although I must say they are improving in some areas here and there.

However, late last week, perhaps Friday, a front page story was run on the outcome of the Board of Adjustments hearing. The headline ran something like: "Atlas to leave downtown Moscow." With a number of qualifications that statement might be true. But as far as journalism is concerned it's like announcing that NSA is a worthless education or that peas and carrots are gross. As Jeff Bridges once said, "that's just like your opinion, man." And opinions are generally relegated to the 'Opinion' page.

But the fact of the matter is that Atlas School has no current plans to leave downtown Moscow. The law allows for due process, appeals and other judicial forms of discussion, and we’re still pursuing those rabbit trails.

The Board of Adjustments did reject our appeal of the zoning administrator's decision to 'enforce the code against Atlas School'. In a 3-2 vote it was their determination that Atlas School was a "school" and as such was excluded from the downtown because the word "school" does not appear in the Central Business District zoning guidelines, even though it does specify that "similar institutions" are allowed. And one would think that "churches, synagogues, commercial schools" would be "similar" to "schools." One brave man, who incidentally was accused of being affiliated with Christ Church (he wasn’t), argued in our favor that "schools" could be considered "similar institutions" because after all, "similar institutions" are nowhere defined in the holy writ as excluding schools. That man can follow an argument. But, as the courageous gentleman found out, diversity and open mindedness are code words for getting rid of anyone remotely related to the aforementioned institution.


Monday, November 14, 2005


I dropped the side bar of books a while back because I could never keep up with it. But here are a few of the current books on my plate: C. Stephen Jaeger, The Envy of Angels. Jaeger teaches around the corner at the University of Washington. This is a fascinating study of the cathedral schools that existed around 950-1100 A.D. Jaeger's thesis revolves around the concept of 'charismatic education', an educational experience based upon the personality and personal interaction with instructors. Stanely Hauerwas, The Hauerwas Reader. Hauerwas is a professor of ethics at Duke Divinity School. I started with Unleashing Scripture, an essay followed by a series of sermons on the subject of the Word of God and its rightful place within the community of the Christian Church. I've really enjoyed Hauerwas so far. Just one quote: "Any religion that doesn't tell you what to do with your pots and pans and genitals can't be interesting." (Actually that's Chuck Primus, an instructor from Notre Dame, but quoted by Hauerwas and thoroughly in keeping with his rhetoric.) John Millbank, et al, Radical Orthodoxy. Millbank was Peter Leithart's advisor at Cambridge. I haven't gotten any further than the introduction, but I'm curious and look forward to more.


The Odyssey

Some of the most interesting elements of the story are the illusions and shadows that remind, mimic, and misrepresent various aspects of the Gospel. But before delving into some of those, it may be necessary to give an admittedly short defense of what follows. First, the epic poem is obviously the product of a pre-Christian paganism, and thus must be properly analyzed and appreciated from that context. However, pre-Christian or not, the world is inescapably the handiwork and symphony of the Triune God. Being a creature in the created world means confrontation with our Creator. Homer no less than any individual in the history of the human race came face to face with his Maker and either bowed his neck with thanksgiving or scorned the Truth with ingratitude. Further, it may be maintained by some that is simply unreasonable to cast a Christian shadow over the myth to see what fits. However, it must be asserted that the mysteries of redemption have not been confined to Old Covenant signs, shadows, and prophecies. In fact, the entire cosmos has been groaning and continues to groan in expectation for the redemption of the world (Rom. 8:21-22).

This said, The Odyssey is a ‘nostos’ or a return. The king has done battle with the enemy and is trying to get home to his wife, son, and kingdom. He is accompanied by a number of men who prove to be for the most part, bumbling fools. Here begin some interesting comparisons: Jesus is accompanied by disciples during his ministry, who often have a knack for putting their feet in their mouths, disobeying their master, and lacking faith in their master. Odysseus’ men are no better. From the Lotus Eaters to Circe’s island, his men disobey their master and wander into trouble at a terrific rate. Odysseus’ lifestyle of feasting and storytelling is another interesting comparison, particularly with the theme of hospitality so prominent throughout the story. Odysseus is given good food and rest by some hosts, and others seek to make him their meal (ie. the Cyclopes). Jesus is recorded throughout the gospels as being at meals and feasts, and many of the arguments and discussions that He takes part in are centered around the propriety of His eating habits. The Pharisees despise Jesus for eating with sinners, and some go so far as to invite Jesus to banquets in order to mock him (Lk. 7:36-50). Ultimately Jesus institutes a simple feast, the Eucharist, which will culminate at the resurrection in the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb. At the same time, the suitors are in Ithaca eating Odysseus and Penelope out of their house and kingdom. The men of the kingdom who should be guarding the Queen intrude upon the royal house and take advantage of the vacant throne, seeking to make Penelope their wife. Odysseus’ return has interesting aspects as well. He returns to his own and his own do not recognize him. He comes disguised by the gods. He spends the early part of his return seeking out those who have been loyal and labeling those who have betrayed him and done harm to his household. Even as Jesus who is the promised Messiah is not recognized by many of his own household. It also seems significant that Odysseus is disguised as a beggar. He has been humbled for a season in order to bring justice to his kingdom. As did Jesus. It is only a few of the oldest members of Odysseus’ house who recognize him. Likewise, it’s Simeon, Ana the prophetess, and other faithful Israelites who recognize Jesus for who he is. The actual unveiling of Odysseus can be seen from a number of different angles, but here are a couple. The clearing of his house is a miniature of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. The actual clearing of the house is spoken of by Odysseus as a feast, and after the suitors have met their fates, Odysseus commands the servants to make like there’s a wedding feast taking place. This can be taken several ways of course, but in an important sense, Odysseus has returned to his bride and the whole event is a wedding renewal. These themes can compare with Jesus first coming, but there is much that might also sound like His second. Finally, Odysseus, like Jesus, is recognized by his people by scars. In the end, Odysseus also returns to his father and sets the kingdom at peace. And in these events, there are hints of the ascension and rule of Jesus at the Father’s right hand.

There are also a number of contrasts that can and should be made. Obviously, Odysseus lacks many of the necessary characteristics to what we might call Holiness. The Greek idea of a faithful husband obviously falls short of Christian standards. Nor can Odysseus be seen as the mediator between God and men: his justice is limited to a small portion of Greece (though it might be argued that his struggle to return is in some senses cosmic). And ultimately the justice that Odysseus brings falls short if only in so far as Odysseus does not give up his life for his loved ones. Death is not conquered by Odysseus, even though the story does center on his “descent” into Hades.

How might these observations be helpful? One of the most important reasons is for showing how the gospel story is inescapable, and how ultimately the story of Jesus is the only true one. Drawing these correlations can be helpful for teaching both the details and themes of the true gospel as well as showing the weaknesses and lies in the ‘gospel’ of ancient Greece. We ought to ask questions about how these themes work themselves out in the story and their cultures. What was the Greek view of marriage? Of masculinity and femininity? What is justice? What is hospitality? What is love or nobility? These questions are some of the most important questions in life and are answered very differently depending upon whether our savior is the Lord Jesus or a mere man like Odysseus.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's True

As reported this morning, gas prices are around $7 a gallon in Europe right now. Meanwhile, SUV's are at a record high in sales, particularly in France.



Thursday, September 29, 2005

Alexander Archibald

From Hodge:

First, in the section on Original Sin in his Confession of Faith, he says, "Even infants are redeemed by Christ. And in their case, as in all others, he redeemed them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them." (emphasis his)

So there you have it, infant faith from the great A.A. Hodge.

Later, in discussing the Covenant of Works he discusses the connection between works and grace, "All Christian graces also involve Christian duties. So that Christ at once purchases salvation for us, and applies salvation to us; commands us to do, and works in us to obey; offers us grace and eternal life on conditions, and gives us the conditions and the grace and the eternal life. What he gives us he expects us to exercise. What he demands of us he at once gives us. Viewed on God's side, faith and repentance are the gifts of the Son. Viewed on our side, they are duties and gracious experiences, the first symptoms of salvation begun--instruments wherewith further grace may be attained. Viewed in connection with the covenant of grace, they are elements of the promise of the Father to the Son, conditioned upon his mediatorial work. Viewed in relation to salvation, they are indices of its commencement and conditions sine qua non of its completion."

Which is to say, "You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith only." (Js. 2:24) AND "knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith Christ and not by works of the law; for by works of the law no flesh shall be justified." (Gal. 2:16)

Even granting that James and Paul are using differing definitions of "works" here, the fact remains that it's all grace first to last dumped on us and piled up high and BECAUSE it is grace, we do not cease to faithfully exercise and implement this grace in every square inch of our lives, working out what He works in, as my pastor likes to say.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


It's been a while since we've had a dose of Barth, so here's a bit:

"And, in conclusion, we hold entirely to God's Word. Faith is not concerned with a special realm, that of religion, say, but with real life in its totality, the outward as well as the inward questions, that which is bodily as well as that which is spiritual, the brightness as well as the gloom in our life. Faith is concerned with our being permitted to rely on God as regards ourselves and also as regards what moves us on behalf of others, of the whole of humanity; it is concerned with the whole of living and the whole of dying. The freedom to have this trust (understood in this comprehensive way) is faith."

-P. 21 of Dogmatics in Outline


Saturday, September 24, 2005

All of It

As it turns out, at least one (although it’s more than likely there are more) of the people involved in crusading against Atlas School claims to be a Christian. This person brought this to my attention perhaps thinking that this would alleviate some of the concerns I might have about the situation. But the fact of being a Christian doesn’t actually make things better; it actually makes this tangle far worse.

Christians already have a bad enough name in the world. People avoid the fish signs in the yellow pages because they know it stands for ‘shoddy work’. There have been more than enough televangelist scandals, not to mention the fact that we are so painfully adept at mimicking everything the world does with our own cheesy lyrics and smarmy innuendoes.

But the Bible is very clear about how Christians are to solve disputes. Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The passage goes on to explain the steps to follow if your brother does not hear you, bringing others to help persuade leading eventually to bringing the matter before the Church.

Obviously there are some matters that need immediate civil intervention. Paul says in Romans that the civil magistrate bears the sword for the defense of the innocent and the punishment of evil doers. I’m not saying that you ought to confront the burglar one on one first. “Now, ahem, do you reallythink you should be doing this?” Nevertheless, the vast majority of problems that arise in the world are not of this caliber. And Jesus tells us exactly how to deal with them. Go to the one who has sinned, confront them with humility and seek to bring about repentance. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for taking disputes to the civil magistrates that could have been solved by the elders of the Church.

The fact that at least one of our accusers claims to be a Christian does not make things better; it actually makes it worse. This is not said because I do not want to talk with this person; actually quite the opposite. I’m actually trying to point out how necessary it is that we meet, how necessary it is for us to come to peace. But in order for this to be fruitful everyone has to agree at the outset that Scripture is our ultimate rule. If Jesus says it, we’ll do it. And that means all of it.


In Da Newz

Atlas School was in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Friday. The article is a fine piece giving all the basics of who we are, what we do and the complaints that have been brought against us.

Huskey and Lund, however, continue to play games with the motivations for their complaints. They cite the safety of Atlas students and the allegation that we were running "under the radar" of city officials as their primary concerns. They say that Atlas should have known, since NSA was also being harassed for the same zoning issues. But their "concerns" prove too much. Why have they not also registered complaints with Spectrum Dance School which has regular classes for children? Why have they not sent complaint letters to the city about the playground in Friendship Square or Hodgin's Drug which probably attracts far more children every day than Atlas?

Atlas students have walked on the sidewalks of Main Street for over four years. We've spent time picking up trash; the students are picked up at lunch time everyday in Friendship Square. We occasionally have small group recitations in local coffee shops. If that's "under the radar", then I guess we're guilty. To anyone who actually spends time downtown, we've been as open and obvious as the fountain in the square.

If you're interested, Dale Courtney has been following all the fun over at his blog Right Mind. Take a peak.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The Epic of Gilgamesh was found in 1839 in the ruins of a library in modern day Iraq. The fragments of the cuniform tablets found create a picture of a magnificent king of Uruk who probably lived in the mid to late 3rd Millenium B.C., around 2500-2200 B.C.

Some of the most interesting elements of the story are the parallels that exist between it and the Bible. The most commonly noticed and obvious parallel is the flood narrative. Utnapishtim is the Babylonian Noah who was saved from a flood in boat, landed on a mountain, sent birds out to find out if the land was dry yet, and offered pleasing sacrifices to gods afterward. But there are others parallels as well. Enkidu, the wild man created by the gods to rival Gilgamesh, is a beastly man who is raised in the wild as an animal. He reminds us of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who was reduced to a beast for his pride before the God of heaven. It's intriguing that sex is what 'tames' Enkidu, but more truly weakens him from the status of beast. Enkidu is humanized by love with a harlot, but this actually makes him weaker than he was as a beast. But it is bread and wine that is the final mechanism of humanization. Obviously there are significant diversions from the Bible, but nevertheless sex, bread and wine make Enkidu human, human love (community), and sacrament: bread, "the staff of life" and wine "the custom of the land".

Later after Gilgamesh has slain Humbaba, the monster of the Cedar Forest, he is accosted by Ishtar, the goddess of love and war (the two are never far apart). Gilgamesh says 'no way', and she throws a fit, asking her daddy to release the Bull of Heaven in order to bring great disaster on Uruk and Gilgamesh. In particular, she says that the Bull will cause seven years of famine, but (says she) she has saved enough food and grain from the last seven years in order to support the people of the land. Of course that reminds us of Joseph (of Joseph in Egypt fame).

When Enkidu dies (sorry, but it's true), he lies for seven days while Gilgamesh mourns and rages against his death until "the worm fastens to him". That of course reminds us of Christ's words concerning death in the gospels. It is better to enter life maimed, with one eye, or with one hand than to be cast into the fire that shall never be quenched where "their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." This fact of having laid out until the worm fastened to him is repeated over and over again through the final chapters of the tale every time Gilgamesh relates the story.

Finally, Gilgamesh comes to be a kind of Solomon character by the end of the story. Gilgamesh is shaken up by the death of Enkidu and comes to face his mortality. The final portions of the story are his quest for eternal life, particularly hoping that Utnapishtim (who was granted eternal life by the gods) might tell him the secret. Gilgamesh comes to conclusions that sound like Ecclesiastes in many ways. Siduri, a young woman he meets on his quests says, "fill your belly with good things; day and night, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man." And the finale of his life is summed up describing Gilgamesh as a wise man, understanding the secrets of the world, and also having declared the stories of ancient times to his people. This coupled with the fact that he is also remembered as the king who built the walls of Uruk reminds us of Solomon who was also a renowned kind who had many building projects.

The point of these connections is not to try and score points with unbelieving archaeologists or historians. The Bible doesn't need to take any test for reliability. It is God's Word pure and simple. It is the test for everything else. So in some ways the fact that there are parallels may actually grant some credibility to archaeological finds like the Epic. But more importantly, these parallels show us the story of Christ unfolding outside of the covenant people of God. We know that the entire Old Testament is the story of Christ, a parable and play enacted before the nations pantomiming the purposes of God in history to save the world from its sin and transform it from glory to glory. But seeing these same themes in Babylonian literature is exciting evidence that God always planned to save the gentiles too. God raised up Josephs and Solomons in other cultures to be fuzzy shadows of the authentic Christ.

At the same time The Epic of Gilgamesh is still chalk full of lies and perversions, and that needs to be remembered too. Israel was so blessed to have the stories and promises direct from God, while the surrounding nations could only go off of what they saw and heard from a distance. But even the lies still bend around and show us the truth. For instance, throughout Gilgamesh, sexual prolificacy is extolled and praised as noble and godly. But this is hardly surprising when this is exactly what the gods of Babylon are like. Ishtar and her ilk are just as much sexual conquistadors as these so-called heroes. And the Bible clearly indicates that this is what we should expect. People become like the gods they serve. "Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts in them." (Ps. 115:8) What are the gods like? They're deaf, dumb, blind, and senseless. And if your god happens to be a sexual predator, this is what you will become as well. Thus the lie that sexual promiscuity is godly turns out to be true when we consider who the god or gods are.

One last thought: It really enlivens the world of Christ when we realize that central to his ministry was the eradication of demons and evil spirits. Furthermore, more often than not, people that were tormented by these gods were deaf, dumb, blind or mad or some combination of these. Jesus came to an Israel enslaved by the gods and god of that old age. And central to his ministry was the work of freeing them to worship the true God who sees and hears and speaks. Refashioning Israel and the nations into true image bearers was the same as doing battle with the gods and demons of the old world. Not only was He casting them out, He was also recasting the image of man into the image of the one, true God.


Press Release

This went out late last week, and it reiterates what I've already posted on this site. Nevertheless, here is an official release regarding the operations of Atlas School.

Atlas School Press Release: For Immediate Release

September 15, 2005

A Christian Boys School In Downtown Moscow

Atlas School is a small Christian boys school that meets in the Nuart Theater at 516 South Main Street in downtown Moscow. The school has met there for four years after being started in 2001 to meet the needs of a number of home schooling families that desired a more structured learning environment for their sons. Currently there are 15 students enrolled at Atlas, and over the four years of its existence, it has never had more than 18. The school continues to serve the needs of home schooling families and is structured with this kind of flexibility in mind. Classes meet in the mornings from 7:45 to 12:30, and a number of the students attend classes part-time. The headmaster, Toby Sumpter, is a graduate of New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, and he continues his studies in theology at Greyfriars Hall, a ministerial training seminar offered through Christ Church also in Moscow.

The boys at Atlas School study many of the same subjects that are offered in most schools like math, science, reading and writing. But there are several things that make Atlas unique.

Atlas focuses more attention than most on classical languages. Boys begin studying Latin, Hebrew and Greek fairly early in the curriculum with the goal of being able to read classical texts fluently by the time they are in high school. These languages are also taught as living languages, spoken and acted out through stories and plays. Until about an hundred years ago, this kind of literacy was assumed to be standard for educated men.

Atlas School seeks to be a learning community, a familial atmosphere where education takes place. Since we are serving home schooling families that already put a lot of emphasis on the importance of having a strong family culture, Atlas seeks to continue that sort of personal interaction among teachers, students and families. One example of this is the feast that Atlas students and teachers celebrate every Friday at the end of school. Mothers take turns cooking meals, making side dishes and providing deserts for the students. Students recite poetry, sing songs, tell one another jokes, and a “head boy” is chosen from all the students, a young man that has excelled in some particular ways in the previous week. Occasionally, fathers or men from the community are invited to join the meal. The fellowship that occurs around this feast is a picture of what Atlas School intends to be doing the rest of the week studying literature, Latin, or Algebra.

Atlas School is also a worshiping community. While the school has no denominational affiliation, all faculty and board members are baptized and professing Christians. Central to the mission of the school is that of training young men up to be Christian fathers, husbands, workers, and citizens. For this reason Atlas students begin every morning with a short prayer service where Psalms are sung, prayers are said, and Scripture readings are heard. There the students and faculty commit themselves to the ancient Christian faith and prepare themselves to courageously confront the future.

Students also take part in sports. Through a National Lacrosse Association grant, Atlas has acquired full sets of equipment for its team. While the team is still young, after two years, many of the boys are beginning to excel at the game. Other sports such as football and basketball are in the works for the coming years. Not only is Atlas committed to challenging the minds of their young men, it also believes that young men should learn courage and strength on the mock battlefields of athletics.

Atlas School seeks to aid the Christian community in Moscow in educating young men who are intelligent, brave, and full of good humor. Atlas School is thankful to be in the Moscow community and hopes to continue to serve families for many years to come.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"do not worry about how or what you should speak"

C.H. Spurgeon relates the following in Lectures To My Students in the chapter entitled 'On the Choice of the Text:

"do not be misled by the sound and seeming fitness of scriptural words. M. Athanase coquerel confesses to having preached on a third visit to Amsterdam, the words, "This is the third time I am coming to you." (2 Cor. 13:1)... It is still worse to select words out of a miserable facetiousness, as in the case of a recent sermon on the death of Abraham Lincoln, from the sentence, "Abraham is dead."


Monday, September 12, 2005

Kissing Joseph's Mouth

When Joseph is elevated over all of Egypt by Pharaoh after interpreting his dreams, Pharaoh tells Joseph, "You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word..." So saith the NKJV. Only that last part is not quite what the Hebrew says. Literally it says, "You shall be over my house, and my people will kiss your mouth..."

I can see where the translators get the idea of honoring Joseph's words, but I still think there's more to it than that. It's not just obedience that Pharaoh is promising; he appears to be promising affection as well. Joseph will be like a wise husband to the people of Egypt, and they will be the faithful wife, or something along those lines.

The story of Joseph has many parallels to the story of Christ. Joseph is a kind of restored Adam over all the known world who gives life to the nations by storing bread up for the seven years of famine. This is Jesus ministry breaking bread for the multitudes and ultimately giving his own body as bread for the life of the world. And in this, Jesus becomes the good husband to his wife, the Church. Christ rules over all the house of God, and all the people of God kiss the mouth of Christ.


Friday, September 02, 2005

How We Got Here and What We Do

It appears that there are a few questions as to how Atlas School began in the first place. At least one recent editorial in the local paper indicated that Douglas Wilson was the founder of Atlas School. While Pastor Wilson has been a cheerful well-wisher, the truth be known it was not he that started the school. Atlas School grew out of some private tutoring I gave one year (almost 6 years ago) to two middle school aged boys. At the end of that year, another family or two asked if their boys might join the classes, and I was happy to have them. These families were all home schooling families that for whatever reasons recognized the need for more structure in the schooling of their sons. Word got out that summer, and by August there were 12 boys. Parents asked if I would try to cover most of the subjects, and the ones that I couldn’t teach or that didn’t fit into my schedule were taken over by two other gentlemen. We realized that a house wouldn’t really fit our needs for space so one of the parents that knew the director of CCM asked if we might be able to use some space at the Nuart Theater. He said that it was fine, so we began having classes the Fall of 2001 in the theater at the Nuart. We brought in tables and chairs, and we set up and broke down each morning.

Since the families involved in Atlas were home school families, we tried to set things up to make what we were doing somewhat congruent with their interests and needs. Classes are only held in the mornings, finishing every day around lunch time. Since 2001 we have met in the Nuart and in the classrooms next door to the Nuart. We’ve never received a complaint until just a few months ago in the wake of numerous other complaints being filed against other organizations and institutions affiliated with Christ Church and friends. Many probably still don’t know that we even exist, but most people that spend any time downtown have at one time or another seen a small troupe of boys in navy blue sweater vests walking down Main Street. We have occasionally sat on the benches in Friendship Square reciting Kubla Kahn, and from time to time we have taken walks through the streets in our nature studies hunting for leaves and various species of trees. We have also had trash pick up days where the boys dress down and bring gloves and trash bags in order to help out with keeping downtown a little cleaner. On cold winter mornings I’ve been known to give into pleas and take three or four students down to a local coffee shop for hot chocolate and readings from Beowulf. The boys study math and spelling and science like most of other boys their age, but one of my passions is languages, particularly the old ones. All of the full time students take Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. We also try to read a lot together. I spend the last few minutes of every day reading out loud from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia or sometimes just silly bits from P.J. O’Rourke or Annie Dillard. We read and write poetry together, and sing as often as we can. We begin every morning with a short prayer service were we sing Psalms, pray and read Scripture together, and our week ends with a feast on Fridays. A festive table is spread by the mothers of the Atlas boys: good food, full goblets, and candles. There we laugh and sing together, and enjoy the fellowship of one another. And that’s about it.


Focus On the Shadow

A few clarifying points to my previous post: First nothing in the previous post should be read to indicate that Atlas is in any way flouting the law. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that I can pick and choose the parts of Scripture that best fit my whims or desires. I whole heartedly submit to all of it, and therefore I also am entirely committed to obeying all of the authorities placed over me. This would include but is not limited to: the city zoning administrator, City Council, and all others in authority in the civil realm. St. Peter says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to the governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers and for the praise of those who do good.” (1 Pet. 2:13-14) This means that Atlas School has every intention of obeying every ordinance that the City of Moscow requires of us whether the building code, the zoning code, or any conditions or provisions they may place upon us wherever we end up as long as we are not asked to disregard the clear teaching of Scripture.

The law allows for 30 days to appeal a decision issued by the city, and that appeal has already been filed. An appeal stays the motions of the proceedings until there is a hearing. We have been in contact with city officials, notifying them of our intentions throughout, and we have every intention of continuing to do so.

Secondly, as to an important technicality: New St. Andrews College, as I now understand it, did not actually have a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), although it did have the city’s permission to be downtown. It was thought that NSA complied with the zoning code in the “similar institutions” clause, but recent rulings have indicated otherwise. However the original point still stands: nowhere in Moscow are schools welcomed, that is, allowed by right.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Shadow of Atlas

I kind of feel like Sam in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, a small insignificant hobbit watching the enemy shouting, cursing, stumbling and running away. And no, I'm not trying to insinuate anything about anyone opposing me. It's just funny.

As many of you know Moscow is currently being looked after by a small group of self elected Nannies. These women apparently believe no one knows how a city is best run, not even the city officials, mind you, and so they are busy tsk-tsking with all manner of 'concerned citizen' letters regarding boys in sweater vests downtown.

There are 15 boys enrolled in Atlas this year, but if you read the letters you'd get the impression we were 60 going on 150 boys plus teachers and staff. This is what tips me off to the fact that they obviously have never been in the classrooms we use nextdoor to the Nuart although they're absolutely sure that the boys are in constant mortal danger. But I would happily agree with anyone concerned if we really were stuffing 100 boys into a telephone booth for Latin class.

The troubling thing is that most of the time these Nannies continue to maintain, straight faced, that they don't mean us any harm. They just don't think we should meet there they say. The problem is that this is a patent lie. They are on a crusade to rid Moscow of Christian Education, particularly those institutions that stand with Douglas Wilson and Christ Church, giving modernity an enthusiastic rasberry. Thankfully the veneer is beginning to come off. In at least one of the complaint letters, one of the City Nannies makes it clear that she doesn't think Moscow needs a Christian boys school like Atlas. We need more of that kind of honesty.

The other problem is that there is no zone in the city of Moscow that welcomes schools. All schools exist on a provisional use permit. And the City of Moscow has already indicated that this permit can be waived if a handful of wackos quote lengthy sections from the Holy Zoning Code. The point being, there is no safe place to do education in Moscow. Open-minded? Diverse? Multicultural? What the Nannies really want is comformity, submission and silence.

But we'll be open on Monday, and 10 or 15 young men will come downtown to learn Latin and read the Bible together. That may sound very scary, but between you and me, it's just the shadow.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Because of Sarah

Notice that at the end of Genesis 20 the reason that Yahweh had closed up the wombs of the women in Abimelech's house is translated "because of Sarah". The Hebrew actually says "on the word of Sarah" which seems to suggest that she prayed for God to protect/judge her abusers, etc. That's kind of cool. But also of interest is the fact that 'davar' (the word for 'word') has the same consonants as the word for pestilence or plague 'dever'. So there's a bit of a pun going on there. This fits because this chapter is an Exodus in miniature, with God's people being oppressed by a wicked king, God's people lying to protect themselves, and in the end being delivered from the king's hand and going out with great possessions (another example is Gen. 12). But in this instance, the 'plague' God sends is Sarah. And, as my wife pointed out, Sarah is barren. So God sends barrenness on the women of Abimelech's house. But of course after God has opened the wombs of the Philistines, He opens Sarah's womb too.


Saturday, August 06, 2005

Covenant Stuff

I haven't kept up with this stuff, and I'm sure everyone is way ahead of me here. There's a lot of great work being done on the Trinity right now and particularly the ramifications of a thorough going Trinitarian take on covenant theology.

But... I thought this was cool: Luke 22 has the last supper and the Passover and of course the institution of the Eucharist. It's weird that immediately after the Lord's Supper and the questioning as to who will betray their Lord, the disciples begin disputing about who should be considered the greatest. We know that the disciples were block heads sometimes, and so we (I) tend to read that everywhere. But Jesus doesn't miss a beat. He connects the dispute to the Lord's supper in verse 29-30. In 29 Jesus says "And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed upon Me." At least that's how it reads in my NKJV. But the word for "bestow" is the verb form of diathiki, the word for covenant or testament. Jesus is covenanting with his disciples a kingdom. There's some stuff there to unpack. But He uses the same word to describe what His Father did: "just as My Father covenanted (it might read) upon Me." Although I'm not one for 'proof texts' per se, this is a fine place to come to prove that a covenant does (or did) exist between persons of the Trinity.

That's probably old news for you. I think it's swell. But the other thing is the Kingdom-Covenant connection. The verb form for covenant has this regal connotation going on. To be in covenant is to be a subject of the King. The disciples were a lot quicker than I. They saw the cup of wine, and they heard Jesus tell them that it was His blood. When the 'testator' dies, the testament goes into effect (so saith Hebrews 9). The disciples saw the blood, heard the words and immediately they wanted to be made governors and princes. And Jesus didn't say, "No, there's no such thing..." He said this is how you get the highest position: by serving.


Monday, July 11, 2005

New View

So here's a new template. The old one was showing up with a grey background even though the coding said white. Anway, that means that I have to re-enter all the links and whatnot. I put a few up this morning, but I'm doing it all by memory so it may take me some time to remember everything I had up there.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Hey all. It's been a while. Summer has been charging along at a gallop. But it has been a grand ride thus far.

My summer has a number of layers to it. I'm a teacher which means I have the gift of summer time, for which I am very grateful. I hope that I might always have at least some part in a school if for only the gift of summer. But of course I really do love the teaching part too! This year, my summer job is an internship with a small church plant in Elk, Washington. In addition to preaching and leading the service each Sunday, I am also teaching a Sunday School class on a hodge-podge of topics. I've been preaching through Genesis, and we are in the middle of some of the great passages in Abram's life; Chapter 17 will be this coming Sunday. We made a few changes to the liturgy at the beginning of the summer, adding a number of traditional spoken responses throughout the service, and a corporate prayer of Confession. The service already followed a basic Covenant Renewal pattern, but these additions add to the congregation's participation in the 'work' of worship. It's interesting that in so many Protestant churches, worship is done 'up front'. But of course that's the very thing the Reformers were so concerned about.

In addition to the internship, I have been doing some work for Veritas Press. Veritas is the East Coast flagship of the ACCS, the East Coast Logos if you will. They're working on a fabulous project called the 'Omnibus'. Designed for both homeschool and day school settings, the Omnibus will be a series of books (6 I think) that work through the literature and history of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern eras. The books consist of a thorough introduction and background on the author and historical context of each work, a worldview essay and analysis, as well as a staggeringly detailed series of lesson plans for working through the material. From Homer to Genesis, Beowulf to Chronicles of Narnia, the books are all full color with loads of pictures and suggested activities, and they even come with an interactive CD/DVD of some sort (I haven't looked at mine to see exactly what it is yet). Check the whole catalogue out here.

Between preaching and writing, we visited my family down in Grants Pass, Oregon. My dad is the pastor of Faith Church (OPC) in Grants Pass. We were there for only a few short days, but our primary purpose was to celebrate my brother, Andy's graduation from highschool. Andy finished school homeschooling, but he (like several of my other siblings) has been taking classes at the local community college for the last two years. He's an athletic guy, a strong Christian, and probably the best looking of all the boys. Watch out girls.

And of course if that wasn't enough, I'm involved in Summer Theater. Jim Nance, an elder at Christ Church and a teacher at Logos School, is directing Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream this year. Apart from the joy of just doing theater, we are putting on shows particularly for the Trinity Fest. I have been assigned the role of Bottom the Weaver, the aptly termed 'ass of the play'. The part is excessively fun, and the entire cast is a blast to work with, including my other brother, Jesse, who also has a part. I'm also really enjoying the rehearsals for the fresh air, outside on the stage at East City Park where we will be performing in August. You don't have to go to the Trinity Fest to come to the play, but of course, why would you want to miss any of it?

Another exciting challenge has been my father-in-law's recent heart surgery. My in-laws just arrived to Moscow (Troy actually) about two months ago after his retirement from 30 some odd years at Westinghouse and Northrup Grummin (sp?) which are big defense contractors with the government. The cardiac specialists in Maryland which he has visited regularly for the last several years have been assuring him that his heart was as solid as a drum. But after a month or so here and reoccuring chest pains, he went in to get checked out in Spokane only to find that four arteries were clogged or nearly clogged. We're of course very thankful that God was so kind and merciful in giving hints and clues that all was not well, the Maryland doctors notwithstanding. Although they went in to do four bypasses and came out having done five, Dad has pulled through the surgery well and is home (as of Saturday) recovering. We appreciate your continued prayers for a full recovery with no infections or complications.

Yesterday was Independence Day and, like true patriots, we went outside to enjoy our country. I took River down to the fireworks stand in the morning in order to fill up a proper quota of munitions and to procure the necessary barbque supplies at the grocery store. We spent the afternoon down in Lewiston (about 20 miles south) at Hells Gate National Park where several of our friends were camping out through the weekend. We chatted and hung out there, and let the kids run around and find gross things to put in their mouths. We also went down to the beach (read river front with sand) and splashed around a bit. We took the scenic route up highway 12 from Lewiston over to Troy and ended up at Jenny's parent's house for dinner. Hamburgers on the grill were followed by fireworks in the backyard. Some of the Jackson's neighbors had a lot more money than us, and they put on a fantastic show across the street. River took the fireworks fairly well. He really enjoyed the 'pop its', the little white bundles that explode when tossed on the ground. The real fire crackers themselves were kind of overwhelming at first, and he cried some. But by the end he was watching with awe and was apparently also too tired to feel threatened.

At any rate that's what we've been up too. We do hope you and yours are having a fantastic summer as well. We're moving (yes, again) a few blocks over into the Robinson Trailer park at the end of this month. The sad part of this otherwise really great deal, is that we have to give Porter away. So we're looking for a home for our Australian Shepherd/Boarder Collie. But he's a great dog, and we're sure he'll make another family very happy.

All the Best!


Saturday, June 11, 2005

School's Out for the Summer

Last day of school was yesterday. God has been very kind: four years now teaching at Atlas. It, as they say, has certainly flown by.

In honor of the occasion, I offer this poem which is by one of my students (one of the younger ones, mind you).

A Cave Man

A cave man sat in a cave of stone
picking his teeth with an old steak bone.
He felt he was brave,
while in his cave,
though he didn't have a light or a telephone.

But all at once, he heard a roar.
A Sabertooth Tiger was at his door.
The poor old mole
was in a hole,
and the tiger would have his hide, he swore.

But just as the tiger wrinkled his snout,
the cave man jumped to his feet with a shout.
He grabbed the back wall
and gave it a haul,
and turned his cave right inside out.

Then he was out wih the tiger in,
so he rolled up a rock with a cheerful grin.
He blocked the way
for a week and a day,
and now he's wearing a tiger skin.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Passing the Peace

Is the practice of "Passing the Peace" biblical? Is it necessary? Isn't it just something Roman Catholics and "high-Church" types do? And doesn't it just make people feel awkward? Doesn't it distract from the rest of the service?

The principle behind the practice is that being united to God means that we are united to one another. The point of the Passing of the Peace is not supposed to be an awkward point where everyone tries to think of something they might have done to offend someone else. That’s not the point at all. The ‘Peace’ is not a time of confession. Rather, it’s a time of showing our unity and communion with one another. Shaking hands and greeting one another in the Lord is a visible, tangible opportunity to show forth the unity that we have in Christ (Ps. 133, Eph. 4:1-16). The way we speak, sing, listen, pray, eat, drink etc. in worship is the pattern for how we are to live in the world. Obviously we are not required to do EVERYTHING in worship that we do in the world, but we do have specific exhortations to greet one another. Romans 16 in particular is an entire chapter where Paul gives a host of greetings to be given to particular saints in the Church of God. See verse 16 in particular where he commands us to greet another with a holy kiss! I don’t think that’s just cultural thing, and we know that this is not just a first century version of shaking hands because of the fact that it is designated as ‘holy’. This implies a kind of liturgical connection. It is a particular greeting that saints greet one another with, differently than the rest of the world because we are family in Christ. The end of 1 Corinthians 16 is another passage of greetings from Paul and another command to greet one another with a holy kiss. 1 Thess. 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14, and 2 Corinthians 13:12 also exhort us to greet one another with a holy kiss. Philippians 4:21 exhorts us to greet all the saints in Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to greet all those who rule over us and all the saints (13:24, See also 3 John 1:14). We ought to see the importance of the concept simply on the grounds of how often it is repeated. I should clarify that I am not here arguing that the "Passing of the Peace" must include the 'holy kiss'. I'm rather arguing that the "holy kiss" is at minimum a principle that ought to be applied: a liturgical greeting among the saints.

Obviously ‘greetings’ are something that people often send in the mail, and we are reading first century mail (!). But greeting one another in peace and love is exhorted over and over in the New Testament because we have been brought together for fellowship and communion. The command we have to greet one another ‘in the Lord’ or with a ‘holy kiss’ implies that this is not just a “hey, how’s it going?” sort of greeting. That kind of greeting can be done before or after the service. The Passing of the Peace is a time for real, personal greeting ‘in the Lord’, extending peace and blessings to one another because that is what we have received from God through Jesus Christ.

As far as awkwardness goes, we’ve been doing it here at Trinity for the last 6 months or so, and I have not heard one single comment to that effect. Everyone I know has said that it is one of their favorite parts of the new liturgy. And again this is not a casual, “hey, how was your week?” kind of greeting. This is specifically a time to greet one another ‘in the Lord’. At Trinity we greet one another saying things like: “The Lord be with you/And with your spirit”, “The Peace of the Lord be with you/And with you”, and others just say, “God bless you!” And thus, it should not be a distraction or a sidetrack to the rest of the worship service. This, leading right into Communion is very fitting because Communion is not just a ‘me and God moment’. We are seated together at the table of the Lord, and this is a very tangible way to ‘discern the body of the Lord’ and prove the fact that there are not divisions among us as Paul warns against (1 Cor. 11:18-34).


Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Love that Overwhelms Us

In The Bondage of the Will, Luther notes that 'necessity' is an unfortunate term in describing the alternative to contingency. "Its meaning is too harsh and foreign to the subject; for it suggests some sort of compulsion, and something that is against one's will, which is no part of the view under debate." He goes on to use it, having no alternative on hand, but I appreciate the recognition of its deficiency. I'm not sure I have any better suggestions, but I agree with Luther completely here. When discussing foreordination and foreknowledge, no freedom is displaced or intruded upon; rather the sovereign will of God works in a mysterious and wonderful way upholding, enlivening and directing every last detail of the universe. We are not oppressed or coerced into the path that God would have us take. If any oppression or coercion is taking place it is solely as a result of our own freedom and will. We are only inhibited by our own nature. God does sometimes directly interfere in what we might call the 'miraculous', but the usual miraculous (if we dare call it usual) is a result of the constant joy overflowing the Trinitarian fellowship. The world is won over to God by His love. It's the sovereign grace of God that compels all things, the dance and song of the Triune fellowship that invites the world to follow the path laid out for it before the foundation of the world. It is no faceless necessity that binds us to the God of heaven. Like the perfect lover that He is, it's the rich and (seemingly) careless love of the Trinity that wins every detail of the universe. And thus the vast galaxies and every last stray atom sing his unending praises because we are all deeply smitten.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Devotional 1: Infant Baptism

We believe in Paedobaptism. This means that we believe that God has claimed our son and all children that are born into a family with at least one believing parent. They are set apart to God; they are “holy” to God in fact (1 Cor. 7:14). Leviticus 27 is one place where we learn what it means for something to be “holy to the Lord.” There, houses, fields, servants, fruit, tithes or anything else that is “holy to the Lord” becomes His property. It may not be sold for profit, but it belongs to the priests, God’s personal attendants. But we also baptize infants because salvation is of grace. Peter says that the promise of forgiveness of sins is for us and our children (Acts 2:39), and this is consistent with the Old Covenant which was a promise that flowed through generations (Gen. 9:12, 17:7, Deut. 7:9, 1 Chr. 16:15, Ps. 105:8, etc.). Also, while no children are explicitly mentioned, we do have record of early household baptisms (Acts. 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:16). The faith of one head of the household is enough for God to claim servants, children and any others in the household. The sign of the Old Covenant was circumcision, but the sign of the New Covenant is baptism. As the sign was placed upon both young and old, slave and free in the household of Abraham and his descendents, so it is with baptism in the Christian era (Gen. 17:9-14). Likewise as it was covenant breaking not to obey God in this, so it is disobedience not to baptize our children. Baptism is “circumcision without hands” according to Paul, and through the working of faith it unites us and our children to the death and resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:11-12).
In addition to believing that we should baptize our children and all household members who are willing, we also learn an important lesson about obeying God. His Word is sufficient and clear, but He sometimes requires things of us that we must infer. Sometimes the tidy-minded want everything spelled out explicitly. But this is called legalism; God expects us to grow up into maturity and connect the right dots as we do.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

American Civil Religion

Interestingly the late 1940s and 50s saw an upsurge in ‘religion’. At this point over 90 percent of American citizens readily claimed affiliation with some religion or sect. But this was another sign not of God’s blessing but of his curse on our nation. To have a proliferation of churches and not a semblance of repentance or sorrow over sin is a sure sign of a deep blindness.

“Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply religious faith, “ President Eisenhower proclaimed, “—and I don’t care what it is.”

This generic religiosity and faith-talk substituted for real heart felt faith and sincere repentance and obedience. “The Howdy Doody Show” likewise encouraged its young watchers to worship “at the church or synagogue of your choice.” This civil religion really was fairly innocuous simply because they got along so well. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews (the big three in America) all had leading figures who spent most of their time condemning the Great Red Menace, Communism, when immorality and decadence of all stripes and flavors was spilling out of the American family.

And just to make sure, in 1954, Congress added the phrase “under god” to the Pledge of Allegiance because Atheism was the official religion or faith of the Communist party. Of course it is fairly ironic that the aurthor of the pledge was himself an athiestic socialist, but hey, that's how it goes.

It should be fairly clear from what we’ve already seen that this was never meant to be an exclusive reference to the Christian Trinitarian God; no, it has always meant the generic ‘god’ that the masses of Americans believe in with no distinctive claims or demands for anyone. As others have pointed out very clearly, this is the same god that is invoked in the National Cathedral, the god of American Muslims, Jews and far too many Evangelicals.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005


In Genesis 35:8-11 shortly after Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, dies, God appears to Jacob, changes his name to Israel, and gives himself the name God Almighty. What I noticed recently was the fact that God's name God Almighty is El Shadai. In the context of the previous couple of verses it seems likely that a pun may be intended. Deborah was Rebekah's nurse, literaly "Rebekah's one who gave suck". "Shod" is the word in Hebrew for breast, and maybe this is a stretch, but God is also our 'nurse' in some sense. Israel literally means 'God preserves or perseveres', and there is a very real sense in which a nurse does the same thing. Just after Rebekah's nurse has died, God reveals himself as El Shadai, and shadai has the same root letters with an extra suffix. I'm not necessarily arguing against the translation 'almighty', I just think there's more going on than the English can reveal. Neat indeed.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Jacob and the Angels

In Genesis 32, just after Laban and Jacob have made their peace, the angels of God meet Jacob as he is going on his way. Jacob recognizes that he is surrounded by the presence of God and names the place 'The Camp of God' (32:1-2). However in the next verse, most tranlsations read, "Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother..." But the word for messengers is the exact same word as angels. It seems incredibly odd to assume a change of characters here. It seems rather that Jacob sent the angels of God ahead of him to Esau, and these same angels returned to him in verse 6 to advise him of Esau's approach with four hundred men.

Jacob's stature is furthmore impressed at the end of chapter 32 when he wrestles with God. The man that wrestles with God is surely suited to command angels. Jacob is an ancient picture of the status of Christians, placed over all things, even judging the angels in Christ (1 Cor. 6:3).


Thursday, April 28, 2005


Thanks to all who have prayed for Atlas over the last week or so. We received word today that we have been cleared on the zoning charges. Atlas is free to meet in the downtown district. There are always opportunities for appeals, if our enemies are so inclined, but pray that they might see the futility of further attacks.

Other than a few shuffles of class locations, we have continued classes as usual. And one hopes that the last six weeks of classes will be fairly uneventful. Thanks for your continued prayers.


Honest to God

Everyone tries to give a shot at the question, ‘what’s with the Moscow crowd?’ Or those already in town, ‘What’s with Christ Church and Doug Wilson?” So I fling this answer out just in case you care what I think. It is my blog after all. It’s what you’re here for right?

So what’s with Moscow? What’s with Christ Church? We believe that the Triune God made heaven and earth in six days. Our first parents sinned, disobeying God’s command and the world was plunged into sin and death. But God in his great mercy and kindness sent his Son to become a man and redeem us from the bondage of sin. Jesus came to set us free from sin. He did and so we are. Yeah sure, says the skeptic, lot’s of people believe that, but why Christian schools and colleges? Why poetry and stories? Why dancing and feasting? Why dark beer and drama and art? Why all the flack? The true and honest answer is that we love life. We love the God of heaven. We love the freedom we have been given. We are grateful, overflowing people astounded at the goodness of God and the goodness of creation. And we are thankful down in our bones.

But no one can love without hating. If something or someone is truly loved, that which might destroy it, is detested. Love assumes protection. Love demands a guard. The man who refuses to guard what he says he loves is a liar. We defend what we love.

We love God. We love his law. We love the freedom we have been given, and we believe it is the only true freedom. And this God and the life he has given us is more precious to us than anything else in the world. We would gladly die for it, and we will fight for freedom from sin and evil with all the gusto we can muster. That’s what we are. We are men and women and children committed to living honestly before God. We hate guilt. We hate sin. We hate every cultural attack on the freedom we hold so dear. We are freemen before God. And we are free down in our bones. We stand before God honestly, openly, and grateful. And that’s the truth, honest to God.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Joining the Fray

The last several years have seen a proliferation of attacks on anything remotely related to Christ Church. In fact for a while the intoleristas boycotted every restaurant in Moscow because they realized we ate there too. But realizing that meant they'd go hungry, they've eased up a bit and settled down in the area of zoning and building codes.

But that's pretty much the skinny. Atlas is under fire from two individuals who have far too much time on their hands.

It was only a matter of time really. You see we're scary. Boo. Gotcha didn't I? 15 boys in sweater vests. Yikes, I know. But it's true.

Pray for us that the final weeks of school would not be to disturbed. Pray that we would find favor in the eyes of city officials. And pray that God would bless our enemies with more fruitful work.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Atlas School: Missions Update

Atlas School continues to flourish under God’s blessing. Jamin White, Mark Reagan, Mark Beauchamp, and Toby Sumpter continue to teach and lead the young men in their studies. We are also grateful for the oversight of our board: Bruce Evans, Joe Kline, Bill Amos, and Jeff Handel. As spring is nearing, many of the students have begun training for Lacrosse. The Atlas “Giborim” (“Mighty Ones”) are particularly enjoying the new equipment we have this year through a US Lacrosse grant. Coach Kline already has the guys running and sweating happily.

One of the central goals of Atlas is to instill in young men a love for life. This means among other things that our aim is to fill our days together with sacrifice. If any man would find his life, he must first lose it for the sake of Christ (Mt. 10:39). Worshipping, feasting, reading, laughing, drawing: these are all opportunities not only for joy but for service. Head knowledge is nothing without love. Please continue to pray that we would pursue this task faithfully. Pray that we would not only speak and read intelligently, but that we would do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Pray also that God would send the right students, families, and provide teachers, as we plan for next fall. We are grateful for your continued prayers and encouraging words.


The Justice of God

The book of Romans is about the justice of God. Paul's concern from the beginning is how God can be just and still reject Israel. Isn't God being unjust or unrighteous in cutting Israel off and grafting the Gentiles in? Paul's answer is no, of course. God is just because his faithfulness and promises are still in effect to those with faith. Abraham was not yet circumcised when God vindicated him. What did God vindicate him from? God vindicated him from the taunts of his neighbors and family in Ur, who may have believed he was crazy to take up the nomadic habit. God viewed him and showed him to be in the right when he had interaction with pagan kings and other inhabitants of the land of promise. Why did God say that Abraham was right? Why did God deliver him from his enemies? Because Abraham believed God and obeyed him.

One of Abraham's great vindications was when God gave him a son from the barren womb of Sarah. Isaac was a flesh and blood declaration from God saying, 'Abraham is right for doing what he does. He's with me.' Circumcision was a seal, a physical mark that said God had made a covenant with Abraham, but it was Abraham's faith that proved he was right. Abraham believed God, and therefore Abraham was right. And if Abraham was right then all that befell him necessarily required God's justice. Abraham was in the right. Therefore God the judge, in order to judge justly, bound himself to rule in Abraham's favor. But how can this be when all that Abraham ever did was not just or right. Abraham sometimes was unjust and not right. How can God rule in his favor every time, when sometimes Abraham was bound to be wrong? God basically said to Abraham, 'I will take care of this later. For now, you're right, even when your wrong. Trust me.'

But what about God's promises? God's promises remained unfulfilled to Abraham. The story that God had told Abraham was not at an end when Abraham died. Abraham's death before seeing the rest of the story cries out for justice. Abraham's sojourning, his altar building, his household building is worthless to Abraham if he does not see God's promises fulfilled. But Abraham dies believing God, believing that God will vindicate him. That even from death, God is able to vindicate. For death is necessarily wrong. It is wicked, it is backward, and it is opposed to the very nature of God. God's justice requires that Abraham's wrongs be acquitted and his death be revearsed.

But this is of course the rest of Paul's point. When Adam and Eve sinned, they died, and sin came into the world. But this same sin and death was placed upon Jesus Christ on the cross. This would have made the cross no different than any other cross in Palestine at this time, except for the fact that Jesus was innocent. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, having God for his Father, and therefore He was not under the reign of sin and death. But he submitted to death, humbling himself, taking upon himself the sin and death of the world. Christ's death was the answer to Abraham's (and our) wrongs. Christ's blood was the just due of all our injustice, every time we were, are, or will be wrong. But that was not the end. Christ was right and yet he died as though he was wrong. He was accused by the Jewish and Roman officials. They condemned him as a blasphemer. He was convicted of their charges, and he died before the multitude a guilty man, when he was in fact not guilty. This is the great injustice of history. This is the greatest injustice of history. Murder, rape, abuse, torture, famine, and calamity all pale in comparison. The problem of evil is here if nowhere else. How could a good and just God allow that?

And had the story ended there, God would be unjust. But it did not. The way that God has made the world is such that death cannot stick to the innocent. We often speak of life as being hard to preserve, death being difficult to beat. But for those who are right it is quite the opposite, death is hard to preserve, and life cannot be beat. Christ was right and the scribes and pharisees were wrong. Jesus was right, Pilot and the masses were wrong. How do we know this? Because Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection proves Jesus right. It is his vindication for the world to see. Jesus paid the penalty for our wrongs, so that God might justly say that we are right, even when we have been wrong, that we are just, even when we have been unjust. And He rose from the dead both so that the world would know that Jesus was right, but so that we might know what happens to people who die being right: They rise from the dead. In this sense, the death of every believer is unjust and cries out to God for vindication. The graves of the just are memorials before God demanding his justice.

But with Abraham, we are sure that we have been and will be vindicated because we believe God. We believe God, obey Him, and He says we're right and all of our enemies are wrong. He judges on our behalf because we believe Him. Faith is what makes us right. Unbelief makes others wrong. And whatever our accusers may say, whatever accusations they may bring, whatever they may convict us of, we may live confidently knowing that the Judge of the whole earth will do right. Every wrong against us will be declared wrong, and those who plot against us will be destroyed. Justice will be served, and though we may die, life will win out over death, and we will wake up like Jesus in indestructable bodies. And we will smile at our enemies, because we knew we were right all along.


Friday, March 25, 2005


Not withstanding an admittedly rudimentary knowledge of this jolly old pagan, I must give my judgment that he is perhaps one of history's greatest conspiracy theorists. To have grasped the breadth and depth of the radical and subversive work of Christ and to conclude that its fundamental traits are a sham and a farce is an accomplishment that no ordinary conspiracy theorist is capable. I raise my glass to you Friedrich on this Good Friday, the day in which we celebrate the death of all natural nobility and greatness because our hunger for joy is not so easily assuaged.



Edmund Clowney (1917-2005): one of the Church's great generals.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

That Jolly Old Pagan

In C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves he, on several occasions, refers to Ovid as that "jolly old pagan". It's not just once mind you, but at least two or three times. Lewis' remark is striking in a couple of ways not the least of which is the fact that in all my reading of Ovid which admittedly is on the lesser side of a tad, I don't recall Ovid being all that jolly. Old? Yes. Pagan? Obviously. Jolly? I'm not so sure, but that's Lewis' point. Secondly, although jolly may be meant in a rather ironic or facetious way in regards to Ovid's actual personality, Lewis surely means that he is jolly for our purposes.

Along those lies, I would commend to you The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. That jolly old pagan fought in the civil war, took up journalism, and when he had had enough of that, took for the deserts of Mexico and was never heard from again. But his dictionary is a handy dandy reference guide for anything remotely useful or not. In addition to the aforementioned desk tool, I might also recommend the H.L. Mencken. Another jolly old pagan who has written prolificly on nearly everything. I might also add that these last two authors are not only amusing and witty, but if you've ever wondered where Douglas Wilson gets his sense of humor, you might start here.

Go. Run along now. You've got more useful things to do. ttfn.


Learning Life

I'm no expert, I assure you. But life is for living. Here I am, Holy Week is coming to its climax, and I'm doing lesson plans.

I believe in the resurrection, ergo I believe in living.

I've decided to give my students assignments in living. I would feel embarassed and ashamed if I allowed any student to finish their studies at Atlas having not been taught to live: sort of like a traveling circus without any elephants. I would gladly take suggestions you might have but the following is the beginning of my so-called 'assignments in living' list: Climb a tree, examine the underside of a rather large rock, fly a kite, play with a small animal, tiptoe through tulips, watch a sunset & a sunrise, smell the flowers, learn a dance, meet a stranger, whistle.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Nominalism and Logic

In The Shape of Sola Scriptura, Keith Mathison quotes John F. Johnson in his description of the late medieval philosophy scene: "The realist school of thought, with its belief in universals, did not challenge the authority of the Church. Realists treated logic and dialectic as useful but clearly subordinate tools. The nominalists, on the other hand, were inclined to give a very important place to human reason."

This emphasis initially seemed almost backwards to me. But it makes sense. In pursuing order and meaning, realists found it outside the material and created world, whereas nominalists located it within human thought and language. Thus, nominalists might be more apt to place trust in a system of thought (e.g. dialectic) because that is the very organization of the world. While, realists might be more cautious, recognizing that the order and meaning of the world transcend what we may rationally conceive.

And if this be so, both seem inadequate. A blog post I read (dated two years ago), suggested that the best realists and nominalists realized that a marriage or fusion was necessary of the two extremes. The scholastic dichotomy was in the end false. It was suggested that Wittgenstein is a modern example of the merger between the two views. However that may be, the creation account seems to suggest some sort of merger of its own. Whereas form and meaning are assigned and given in the initial creation of the cosmos by God himself, man's initial task is that of naming the animals. And whatever the man called the animal, that was its name. Mankind shares in the creation process. We share in the gift of meaning, this is something of what it means to be created in the image of God.

Thus we might heartily agree with the realists that meaning does transcend us in that God is Creator and Lord, and at the same time we might recognize that the nominalists are right, in that we are co-creators and lords.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Trinitarian Gospel

And this is the gospel: that God is three in one. It is only with this God that humans may have any direct dealings. It is only with a God who can reveal Himself to and in us that we have any hope. We can only come to know a God who is simultaneously the Revealer, the Revelation, and the Assurance of receiving the Revelation. This is true monotheism; all other attempts are polytheistic and idolatrous.

This must be so because any attempt at knowing a Unitarian god must have some mediator. And this mediator must either a) be another divine being or b) a human being who is by nature incapable of revealing God truly and in enough fullness to be of any help. In which case we are left with worshipping a god unknown, as in the latter case, which is blind idolatry. Or, we are faced with another god altogether, in which case we are not really Unitarian but polytheistic, and we are no closer to knowing the original God we sought. Thus God is Trinity: three in one.

And this is the gospel: that we know God, or rather, we are known by God. And this Revelation of God is Jesus.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Genesis 7

A. And Yahveh said to Noach you go and all your house into the ark because you I saw righteous before my face in this generation.
B. From all the clean beasts you will take to you seven seven man and his wife and from the beasts that are not clean, it two: man and his wife. Also from flying creatures of heaven seven seven male and female for life’s seed upon the face of the all the earth.
C. Because for days yet seven I am sending rain on the earth: forty days and forty nights and I will wipe all standing things which I made from on the face of the ground. And Noach did as all that Yahveh commanded him.

A. And Noach was a son of six hundred years and the flood was water on the earth. And Noach went and his sons and his wife and the wives of his sons with him into the ark from the face of the waters of the flood.
B. From clean beasts and from the beasts which have no cleanness and from the flying creatures and from and all which creep on the ground. Two two came to Noach into the ark male and female as God commanded Noach.
C. And it happened to the seven of days and waters of the flood were on the earth. In the six hundred years to the life of Noach in the second month in the seventeenth day to the month in that day all the springs were broken open, the many deeps and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

A. In that day itself, Noach went and Shem and Ham and Japheth, sons of Noach and wife of Noach and three of the wives of his sons with them into the ark.
B. They and all the life according to its kind and all the beasts according to its kind and all the creeping things creeping on the earth according to its kind and all the flying creatures according to its kind and all the birds all the wings. And they went to Noach into the ark two two from all the flesh that in it is the spirit of life.
C. And they came male and female from all the flesh they came as God commanded it and Yahveh closed it from behind. And the flood was forty days on the earth

A. and the waters multiplied and they lifted up the ark and she rose from on the earth. And the waters were mighty and they multiplied exceedingly exceedingly on the earth and all the exalted mountains were covered which are under all the heavens. Fifteen forearms from above: the waters were mighty and the mountains were covered.
B. And all flesh perished: the creeping thing on the earth, the flying creatures and the beasts and the living things and all the swarming things that swarm on the earth and all mankind. And He wiped out all the standing things which were on the face of the ground from man to beast to creeping thing to flying creatures of the heavens and they were wiped out from the earth
C. and remained only Noach and who were with him in the ark. And the waters were mighty on the earth one hundred fifty days.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Socialism & Friends

As we have seen, the breakdown of the old feudal system of the middle ages brought all kinds of conflict with it. The French Revolution was the first all out break with Christendom, and with it came a host of difficulties. Where society had once been viewed in terms of how each part of society fit together to form the whole, under revolutionary ideals, men began being viewed as production hours and in terms of monetary value. This (de)valuation of men was of course done in the name of liberty and freedom, but in reality it created a view of the world that encouraged covetousness, greed, and envy.

From Estate to Class
The French Revolution, you will remember, was largely carried out by (what we would now term) an upper-middle class group of men known as the bourgeoisie. It was a movement by some who were usually wealthy businessmen, motivated by greed, hunger for power, and a disgust for the Christian faith, to have greater impact and say in a kingdom of corrupt royalty. This was the beginning of what moderns would term ‘classes’ of people. These classes are ways of categorizing people based upon their income and wealth. What had once been ‘estates’ (Clergy, Royalty, and everybody else ie. Families) meaning sectors of society that performed specific functions or aids to equip and encourage the health and growth of the whole people, came to be viewed as classes, defining men by their money rather than their gifts.

The word “socialism” came into the English language from the French somewhere around 1820. Finding its roots in Latin, the word refers to companions or neighbors and came to mean a belief in a certain way society should function or the role a civil government should play in society. In some of its earliest formulations, socialism envisioned a ‘utopian’ society, that is, a society that assumes the best about human nature. Socialism dreamed of a world where government was unnecessary, where men and women gave to one another freely as needed, traded, and served one another with complete justice and equality. More importantly, it dreamed of an egalitarian society, a society with no classes, with no inequalities.

These sorts of movements of course have origins. Socialism is no different. With the simultaneous outbreak of revolutionary thought, disrupting societies, questioning all of the glue that had held previous generations together, and the emergence of the industrial revolution, the increase of mass production and the growth of cities, another “class” appeared on the scene: the working class. This working class or “proletariat” was made of those who labored in the mills and factories, whose only assets were their bodies’ ability to work. As the world changed in dramatic ways it faced challenges that essentially boiled down to learning how to get along in new settings. While we must not idealize the medieval feudalism (for it certainly was not perfect), it is at least praiseworthy for its personality. Men made covenants with one another, vowing to provide, defend, protect, and be loyal to one another. This ‘faith’ among men, was a kind of bond that gave some stability to society (crusades and feuding knights notwithstanding). With that bond broken between men, a new kind of faith needed to be forged without which human societies cannot function.

The bourgeoisie, which continued its success, soon had a large working class which filled its needs for production. However, a number of things contributed to growing discontent among the working class. In many places the working environment was difficult, wages were extremely low because of the demand for work, hours were incredibly long, and a host of others. As the bourgeoisie had once banded together in order to redress wrong that they perceived in society, so too some began to see the need for the working class to band together for protection as well. Initially, socialist ideals were suggested and promulgated by members of the bourgeoisie and upper classes. Men and women who saw the sufferings of the workers in factories sought protections and justice for men and women, believing that they ought to be treated with more dignity and respect. But it was not long before these concerns and the hoped for solutions were shared by many within the ranks of the workers. Worker Unions began emerging at this time, and strikes became a symbol of the little man giving the corporate business owners ‘what for’.

Socialism and Scripture
As men began looking for solutions to the dilemmas they found themselves in, few thought to give heed to Scripture. But God’s Word gives instructions for the care of the poor and the working class. “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 23:22, 19:9-10, Dt. 24:19) “At the end of every third year you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall deposit it in your town. The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.” (Dt. 14:28-29) The Old Testament law also has provisions that require the forgiving of debts in certain years, as well as general laws that required the Israelites to treat their workers with dignity and justice, to pay their wages promptly, and not to oppress them in any way. The Proverbs declare that he who gives to the poor lends to the Lord and will be repaid generously. While the New Testament does not give many direct instructions regarding the poor or working class, the general thrust remains the same as the Old Covenant, treat all men as you have been treated. Since you were once slaves (literally and spiritually) and you have been given freedom and salvation, so treat all those around you generously, seeking the blessing of all. In Galatians, Paul recounts that the elders of the Jerusalem council gave their blessing to Paul’s ministry to the gentiles only insisting that his ministry not neglect the care of the poor (2:10).

But these Biblical requirements to care for and provide for the poor do not in any way set aside other clear requirements. The eighth commandment prohibiting stealing, assumes that an owner possesses property. Further, while the early church clearly experienced an abundance of community, which we ought to imitate, it was nevertheless voluntary as indicated by the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:4). Lastly, the New Testament lays the normal responsibility for provision of families upon the man of the house (1 Tim. 5:8). Taking all of this evidence as one, the Scriptures require that every man provide for his own household honestly and diligently. But, whether through hardship, irresponsibility, or some other providence, the poor will always be with us, and the Bible requires that all men be generous to the poor. Churches are also instructed by the authority of the apostles not to neglect the poor. Lastly, it is just and right for civil magistrates to require that land owners (and others that are well off) to give of their incomes to charitable causes (churches, ministries, or poor directly). However when civil governments assume that the actual care of and provision for the poor is their responsibility they go too far.

Marxism and Communism
But many flatly rejected the Bible’s teaching opting for their own ideas, and in the mid-1800s, Karl Marx and his friend Friedrich Engels developed a theory of history, economics, and politics that they called ‘scientific socialism’ which came to be known as Marxism. This theory believed that revolution was the key to bringing about the eradication of class. Competition or capitalism would be replaced by a dictatorship of the working class. It was believed that when the proletariat grasped the reigns of power, private property would be abolished, and civil government would whither away and disintegrate for lack of need, moving from the stage of ‘socialism’ (revolution to proletariat rule) to ‘communism’ (abolition of private property to disintegration of government). These visions for a new order and reorganized society were very attractive to many during this period.

While none of these dreams were ever to be realized, some aspects of them were grasped and developed. Socialist political parties and workers unions formed, societies and clubs working for socialist agendas. But more importantly for the 20th century, some of the bloodiest regimes in history rose to power in the name of Marxism, socialism, and communism, promising equality and justice but delivering oppression and slavery.

When men go their own ways, refusing to be guided by the wisdom of God, they become fools. Change is inevitable. New technologies, industrial advances, and cultural shifts must and will occur. This is because the God of history does new things. He raises up kings and emperors and puts them down. He raises up civilizations and empires and crushes them down to the ground. The Kingdom of God will never be destroyed, but it is growing throughout history in way that is different from all other kingdoms. It is a Kingdom made of men, lands, and blood, but all of the remnants of the old cities of men must be shaken down and torn away. As this occurs, men must always seek the wisdom of God found in the Scriptures.

As we seek to live faithfully before God today, we must seek to repent of the errors of our fathers. Men are not mere producers. Their value is not in their incomes. Viewing our neighbors according to income brackets is foolish and unhelpful. We must seek to return to a way of life that values different stations, gifts, and callings, and we must be generous with whatever we have been given and wherever we have been placed. Secondly, we must likewise repudiate all attempts to eradicate private property. Whether by legislation or theory, these are attempts to rob men of their gifts from God and responsibility before God to use them well. Lastly, we must recognize that God has ordained three basic kinds of government: familial, ecclesiastical, and civil. Each must do its part, seeking the good of all others and not grasping or envying.