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.