Friday, October 30

The Ninety-Five Theses

On this day in 1517, German theologian Martin Luther carefully recopied the scroll of his soon to be revealed Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences—a document that would be popularly called the Ninety-Five Theses. The next day he would post the scroll, consisting of a series of propositions that established a theological basis for opposing the sale of indulgences.

Though written in Latin and designed to provoke only a limited academic discussion, Luther’s manifesto would almost immediately be translated into the vernacular and then widely distributed, causing a great public controversy leading to the Reformation. Who would have ever dreamed that in the little town of Wittenberg, Germany, all of Europe would be shaken by the simple act of provoking a series of questions? Certainly not Luther. But in fact, his little academic exercise would lead to a dramatic realignment of men and nations--indeed, he would eventually be excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church and become the founder of Protestantism.

But as he prepared the scroll, he certainly had none of that in mind. Indeed, the tone of the document was clearly a moderate call for little more than a bit of dialog and some serious theological investigation. He wrote, “A disputation on the power and efficacy of indulgences: out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.”

The theses themselves were not any more incendiary. Instead, they discussed the character and nature of true repentance, the core values of the Gospel, and the essence of the justice and mercy of God. Hardly the sort of material one might expect to cause a furor.

Nevertheless, the faithful Augustinian monk’s attempt to open a dialog was, in the good providence of God, the catalyst for a movement which would ultimately reshape the whole of Western Civilizaton.

Thursday, October 29

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)

On this day in 1907, the entire nation of the Netherlands celebrated the seventieth birthday of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). A national proclamation acknowledged, "The history of the Netherlands, in Church, in State, in Society, in Press, in School, and in the Sciences the last forty years, cannot be written without the mention of his name on almost every page, for during this period the biography of Dr. Kuyper is to a considerable extent the history of the Netherlands."

The boy who was born in 1837 was at first thought to be dull, but by the time he was twelve he had entered the Gymnasium. Years later he would graduate with highest possible honors from Leyden University. In short order he earned his masters and doctoral degrees in theology before serving as minister at Breesd and Utrecht.

The brilliant and articulate champion of Biblical faithfulness was called to serve in the city of Amsterdam in 1870. At the time, the religious life of the nation had dramatically declined. The church was cold and formal. There was no Bible curriculum in the schools and the Bible had no real influence in the life of the nation. Kuyper set out to change all of this in a flurry of activity.

In 1872, Kuyper founded the daily newspaper, De Standard. Shortly afterward he also founded De Heraut, a weekly devotional magazine. He continued as editor of both newspapers for over forty-five years—and both became very influential in spreading the winsome message of a consistent Christian worldview.

Two years later, in 1874, Kuyper was elected to the lower house of Parliament as the leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party—and he served there until 1877. Three years later he founded the Free University of Amsterdam, which asserted that the Bible was the foundation of every area of knowledge.

Following a stunning victory at the polls, Kuyper was summoned by Queen Wilhelmena to form a cabinet and become Prime Minister of the nation in 1902—a position he held for three years. A number of politicians were dissatisfied with Kuyper’s leadership because he refused to keep his theological and political views separate. To him, they were identical interests since Christ was king in every arena of human life. He believed that Christ rules not merely by the tradition of what He once was, spoke, did, and endured, but by a living power which even now, seated as He is at the right hand of God, He exercises over lands, nations, generations, families, and individuals. As he famously declared at the Free University's inaugural convocation, "There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence, over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not say 'Mine!'"

Kuyper was undoubtedly a man of tremendous versatility—he was a noted linguist, theologian, university professor, politician, statesman, philosopher, scientist, publisher, author, journalist, and philanthropist. But amazingly, in spite of his many accomplishments and his tremendous urgency to redeem the time, Kuyper was also a man of the people.

In 1897, at the 25th anniversary of his establishment of De Standaard, Kuyper described the ruling passion of his life, "That in spite of all worldly opposition, God's holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the state for the good of the people; to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God."

Tuesday, September 8

Antediluvian Man

"A sharp antithesis cuts a wide swath,
Across the whole fabric of space and time,
It’s divide sets kith and kin on separate paths, 
It’s jagged serrated edge altogether divides,
With Cain to one side, and Seth to yet another,
‘Tis the tale of two cities, two destinies, two ways,
Enoch and Enosh twin sons of different mothers, 
Till mighty Rephaim impose a paler shade of gray,
Hoping to forget such bitter, tragic, noxious climes,
We skulk in caves, and graves, and bones, 
Heedless of the hope invested in archon-lines
As told in musty, dusty, glorious tomes." Tristan Gylberd

Thursday, July 23

The Song of Jenny Geddes by J.S. Blackie

‘Twas the twenty-third of July, in the sixteen thirty-seven,
On the Sabbath morn from high St. Giles the solemn peal was given;
King Charles had sworn that Scottish men should pray by printed rule;
He sent a book, but never dreamt of danger from a stool.

The Council and the Judges, with ermined pomp elate,
The Provost and the Bailies in gold and crimson state,
Fair silken-vested ladies, grave doctors of the school,
Were there to please the King, and learn the virtues of a stool.

The Bishop and the Dean came in wi’ muckle gravity,
Right smooth and sleek, but lordly pride was lurking in their e’e;
Their full lawn sleeves were blown and big, like seals in briny pool;
They bore a book, but little thought they soon should feel a stool.

The Dean he to the alter went, and, with a solemn look,
He cast his eyes to heaven, and read the curious-printed book:
In Jenny’s heart the blood upwelled with bitter anguish full;
Sudden she started to her legs, and stoutly grasped the stool!

As when a mountain wildcat springs upon a rabbit small,
So Jenny on the Dean springs, with gush of holy gall;
Wilt thou say mass at my lugs, thou popish-puling fool?
No! No! She said, and at his head she flung the three-legged stool.

A bump, a thump! A smash, a crash! Now gentle folks beware!
Stool after stool, like rattling hail, came twirling through the air,
With, well done, Jenny! Bravo, Jenny! That’s the proper tool!
When the Devil will out, and shows his snout, just meet him with a stool!

The Council and the Judges were smitten with strange fear,
The ladies and the Bailies their seats did deftly clear,
The Bishop and the Dean went in sorrow and in dool,
And all the Popish flummery fled when Jenny showed the stool!

And thus a mighty deed was done by Jenny’s valiant hand,
Black Prelacy and Popery she drove from Scottish land;
King Charles he was a shuffling knave, priest Laud a meddling fool,
But Jenny was a woman wise, who beat them with a stool!

Saturday, June 27

The New Barbarism

"We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles." Hilaire Belloc

Friday, June 26

Supremely Wrongheaded

The Supreme Court has a long history of brazen, wicked, deadly injustice: Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, Buck v. Bell in 1927, and Roe v. Wade in 1973 immediately come to mind.

The Biblical Worldview

A shorthand summation of the Biblical worldview in just four verses:

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

The kingdom of this world is the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)

Monday, June 8

"How Far Is It to Bethlehem?" A Hymn by Frances Chesterton

How far is it to Bethlehem?
Not very far.
Shall we find the stable-room
Lit by a star?

Can we see the little Child?
Is He within?
If we lift the wooden latch,
May we go in?

May we stroke the creatures there —
Ox, ass, or sheep?
May we peep like them and see
Jesus asleep?

If we touch His tiny hand,
Will He awake?
Will He know we've come so far
Just for His sake?

Great kings have precious gifts,
And we have naught;
Little smiles and little tears
Are all we brought.

For all weary children
Mary must weep;
Here, on His bed of straw,
Sleep, children, sleep.

God, in His mother's arms,
Babes in the byre,
Sleep, as they sleep who find
Their heart's desire.

Saturday, April 18

The Great Escape: Every Advantage for Every Need

By 1941, two years into WWII, large numbers of British and Allied Airmen had been downed and captured behind enemy lines, held in Nazi POW camps. The Crown began casting about for ways to facilitate their escape.

Now obviously, one of the most helpful aids to that end would be accurate maps. But, paper maps had any number of drawbacks: they can be cumbersome; they make a lot of noise when you fold and unfold them; they wear out rapidly; and if they get wet, they become unreadable. So, MI-5 proposed the idea of printing maps on silk--durable, compressible, and silent.

At the time, the only British manufacturer that had perfected the technology of printing on silk was John Waddington, in Leeds. It just so happened that Waddington was also the UK Licensee for the popular board game, Monopoly. And, board games qualified for insertion into packages dispatched by the International Red Cross to prisoners of war.

In a securely guarded old workshop on the grounds of Waddington's, a group of employees, sworn-to-secrecy, began mass-producing the escape maps. They were then folded and inserted into hollowed-out Monopoly playing tokens.

While they were at it, the clever workmen at Waddington's added: a token, containing a small compass, others with screw-together parts for a metal file, and useful amounts of genuine high-denomination German and French currency, hidden in the piles of Monopoly money.

Before taking off on their missions, Allied air crews were taught how to identify the rigged Monopoly sets--by means of a tiny red dot, having the appearance of an ordinary printing glitch, located in the corner of the get-out-of-jail-free square. Of the estimated 35,000 Allied POWs who successfully escaped from Nazi captivity, more than a third succeeded with the aid of the rigged Monopoly sets.

RAF Commander Colin Alexander who led 31 fellow prisoners to freedom in 1943, said the Monopoly sets proved to be, “the Swiss army knives of the war.” Indeed, he said, “In the most unlikely of ways, they had afforded us every advantage for our every need.”

Monday, April 13

Design Trend: Snappy Campaign Logos

With so much at stake and so much money invested, is any wonder that fledgling presidential campaigns give so much attention to their imaging? 2016 is likely to be a social media/new media extravaganza--and thus, the design of logos and imaging will be more important than ever before. And that is already in evidence at this early stage--as these new marks demonstrate.