Thursday, December 30

Wyclif: Yet To This Day

On this day in 1384, John Wyclif died of a stroke—but there would be no rest for his bones. Almost thirty years later, the Council of Constance condemned Wyclif's teachings and ordered his bones dug up and burned.

But of course, the burning of his bones would not end his influence.

Wyclif had been a leading scholar at Oxford, a chaplain to the King of England, and the benefactor of the powerful Prince John of Gaunt's patronage. He boldly spoke out against the pope, the organizational hierarchy of the Roman Church, and the corruption of the clergy. He criticized not only the organization of the medieval church but its theology as well. He believed the church should return to the Scriptures. Pastors should live lives of simplicity and holiness, shepherding the flock the Lord had given them.

In addition, under Wyclif's direction, the entire Bible was translated into English for the first time. The translation was completed by Wyclif's associates in 1395, eleven years after Wyclif's death. Though repeatedly condemned and burned by the authorities, copies of Wyclif's Bible continued to bring the truth of the Gospel to England for over a century. It greatly influenced William Tyndale and the translators of the King James Version.

John Foxe in his book of martyrs well described Wyclif's influence when he wrote, "though they digged up his body, burnt his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the Word of God and the truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn; which yet to this day doth remain."

Monday, December 27

The Drawing of the Dark

John, the beloved Apostle, was one of the founders of the church in Ephesus. He carried out his pastoral charge with particular compassion to the hurting and forlorn. As a result, his testimony has long been commemorated during this season of practical charity: the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany. And so according to long-held tradition, it is that on St. John's Day, December 27, the winter beers are uncasked, distributed to the poor, and the dark is drawn for the blessing and benefit of all the townspeople and those who live beyond in field and forest.

Sunday, December 26

Childermas: Sanctity of Life Sunday

Often called Childermas or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the first Sunday after Christmas has traditionally remembered and solemnized the slaughter of the children of Judea by Herod the Great following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It has long been the focus of the Christian Church’s commitment to protect and preserve the sanctity of human life--thus serving as a prophetic warning against the practicioners of abandonment and infanticide in the age of Antiquity, oblacy and pessiary in the Medieval epoch, and abortion and euthanasia in these Modern times. Generally set aside as a day of prayer, it culminates with a declaration of the covenant community’s unflinching commitment to the innocents who are unable to protect themselves.

Boxing Day

December 26 is commemorated as an official holiday in Britain and in several other English-speaking lands--known as Boxing Day. On this day boxes of food are to be delivered to the needy, and in days gone by were given to servants from their employers. The spirit of Wenceslaus is demonstrated so that the entire community may celebrate with joy the manifestation of the Good News. Often churches organize the day to particularly serve the physical and spiritual needs of their neighbors and thus demonstrate that the Scriptural injunctions to exercise Word and Deed compassion are still in full force.

St. Stephen’s Day

Like the Good King Wenceslaus, Stephen (c. 35) was killed because of his convictions about the revelation of Christ in the world. Indeed, according to the Book of Acts, he was the very first martyr of the Christian faith—bearing testimony to his accusers of the historicity and transforming power of the Gospel. For centuries, Christians have remembered his boldness, courage, and faithfulness on the day after Christmas, December 26. Because Stephen was a deacon in the early church—charged with caring for the orphans and widows in their distress—his day has generally been set aside as a day for selfless care for the poorest of the poor, the despised, the rejected, and the unloved.

Thursday, December 23

Christmas Bells

Bells have long been used to summon, to ring for joy, or to sound alarm. Apparently, some early bell-ringers even believed that the sound of bells might frighten away evil spirits.

The Church however has more commonly used bells throughout the centuries to spread news of victory, calamity, or celebration. Some bell ringing traditions, such as change-ringing, are quite intricate and involve complex patterns of sound based on mathematical formula as well as musical aesthetics.

Whatever the form, the pealing of bells have become distinctive heralds to the Good News of Christmas. On the island of Guernsey for instance, church bells toll all through the day of December 23--which is known there as La Longue Vielle. It is a beautiful pre-Christmas celebration affording the people with a relished opportunity to stay up late eating biscuits and cheese while drinking mulled wine and contemplating the blessings of the season.

All of these varied notions are beautifully portrayed in the Ukrainian "Carol of the Bells."

Hark! how the bells
Sweet silver bells
All seem to say,
"Throw cares away."
Christmas is here
Bringing good cheer
To young and old
Meek and the bold

Ding, dong, ding, dong
That is their song
With joyful ring
All caroling
One seems to hear
Words of good cheer
From ev'rywhere
Filling the air

The American Cincinnatus

According to the majority of eighteenth and nineteenth century historians, the most remarkable event during America's Founding Era did not take place on a battlefield. It did not occur during the course of the constitutional debates. It was not recorded during the great diplomatic negotiations with France, Spain, or Holland. It did not take place at sea, or in the assemblies of the states, or in the counsels of war. It was instead when the field commander of the continental armies surrendered his commission to the congressional authorities at Annapolis.

It was instead a humble demonstration of servanthood. It was when General George Washington resigned his officer's commission.

At the time, he was the idol of the country and his soldiers. The army was unpaid, and the veteran troops, well armed and fresh from their victory at Yorktown, were eager to have him take control of the disordered country. Some wanted to crown him king. Others thought to make him a dictator--rather like Cromwell had been a century earlier in England.

With the loyal support of the army and the enthusiasm of the populous, it would have been easy enough for Washington to make himself the ruler of the new nation. But instead, he resigned. He appeared before President Thomas Mifflin, his cabinet, and the assembled Congress of the United States and submitted himself to their governance on December 23, 1783.

Writing of the remarkable scene that then ensued, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, exclaimed, “Which was the most splendid spectacle ever witnessed--the opening feast of Prince George in London, or the resignation of Washington? Which is the noble character for after-ages to admire--yon fribble dancing in lace and spangles, or yon hero who sheathes his sword after a life of spotless honor, a purity unreproached, a courage indomitable, and a consummate victory?”

The answer to most Americans was obvious: Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Though he had often wrangled in disagreement with his superiors over matters of military strategy, pay schedules, supply shipments, troop deployment, and the overlap of civil and martial responsibilities, there was never any question of his ultimate loyalty or allegiance. In the end, he always submitted himself to the authority God had placed over him. And that was no mean feat.

“His true greatness was evidenced,” said Henry Adams, “in the fact that he never sought greatness, but rather service.” The dean of American historians, Francis Parkman concurred that it was this “remarkable spirit of the servant” that ultimately “elevated him even higher in his countrymen's estimations than he already was.” And biographer Paul Butterfield, wrote, “He never countenanced the sin of omission when it came to duty to God or country. His was a life of constant service in the face of mankind's gravest need.” Thus, historian John Richard Green commented, “no nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a country's life. Never did he shrink from meeting the need of the hour. He was our national guardian.”

Following the surrender of his commission Washington quietly retired to private life at his home on the Potomac River, Mount Vernon—becoming an American Cincinnatius.

Of course, it would only be a short retirement. The controversy over the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation, the wrangling of rival states, and the need for a new form of republican federalism ultimately brought him back into public life and ultimately to the presidency itself.

John Greenleaf Whittier would later write a ballad to celebrate Washington's extraordinary commitment to liberty and his submission to authority. It is among the greatest of Washington's memorials:

The sword was sheathed: In April's sun
Lay green the fields by Freedom won;
And severed sections, weary of debates,
Joined hands at last and were United States.

O City sitting by the Sea!
How proud the day that dawned on thee,
When the new era, long desired, began,
And, in its need, the hour had found the man!

One thought the cannon salvos spoke,
The resonant bell-tower's vibrant stroke,
The voiceful streets, the plaudit-echoing halls,
And prayer and hymn borne from Saint Paul's!

How felt the land in every part
The strong throb of a nation's heart,
As its great leader gave, with reverent awe,
His pledge to Union, Liberty, and Law!

That pledge the heavens above him heard,
That vow the sleep of centuries stirred;
In world-wide wonder listening peoples bent
Their gaze on Freedom's great experiment.

Could it succeed? Of honor sold
And hopes deceived all history told.
Above the wrecks that strewed the mournful past,
Was the long dream true at last?

Thank God! The people's choice was just,
The one man equal to his trust,
Wise beyond lore, and without weakness good,
Calm in the strength of flawless rectitude!

His rule of justice, order, peace,
Made possible the world's release;
Taught prince and serf that power is but a trust,
And rule alone, which serves the ruled, is just.

That Freedom generous is, but strong
In hate of fraud and selfish wrong,
Pretence that turns her holy truth to lies,
And lawless license masking in her guise.

Land of his love! With one glad voice
Let thy great sisterhood rejoice;
A century's suns o'er thee have risen and set,
And, God be praised, we are one nation yet.

And still we trust the years to be
Shall prove his hope was destiny,
Leaving our flag, with all its added stars,
Unrent by faction and unstained by wars.

Lo! Where with patient toil he nursed
And trained the new-set plant at first,
The widening ranches of a stately tree
Stretch from the sunrise to the sunset sea.

And in its broad and sheltering shade,
Sitting with none to make afraid,
Were we now silent, through mighty limb,
The winds of heaven would sing the praise of him.

Tuesday, December 21

Dickens and Christmas

Charles Dickens burst onto the literary scene in England with a series of prose sketches published in a monthly magazine and later in a daily newspaper. The young journalist—who had endured dire poverty and deep shame as a child—was suddenly thrust to the forefront of celebrity and fame. The stunning success of those first sketches—later published in book form as Sketches by Boz and The Pickwick Papers—was followed in quick succession by Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.

There was little doubt that Dickens had become the most influential novelist in the English language. His plots, his characters, and his images defined for many the Victorian dystopic standard. But more than that, his prolificacy, his versatility, and his creativity defined the modern literary standard. As G.K. Chesterton later said, “The boors in his books are brighter that the wits in other books.”

He became the Victorian equivalent of a pop-star—rich, famous, pampered, and lionized. His was a rags-to-riches dream come true. Never entirely comfortable with his exalted role though, Dickens began a deep and impassioned search. He tried his hand at lecturing. He dabbled in acting and theater production. He launched innumerable journals, tabloids, magazines, and newspapers. Finding little satisfaction even in these professional successes, he turned to arcane philosophies and sundry esoterica. He explored the occult. And he sated himself in the pleasures of the flesh.

But the great fascination of his life was the Christian faith. At the heart of most of his novels is evidence of an impassioned quest for significance--in and through the spiritual system that ultimately gave flower to the wonder of Western civilization. He wrote innumerable essays on the disparity between Christian teaching and Christian practice. He lectured widely on the nature of Christian ethics and society. And he penned a groping, probing, yearning sketch of the life of Christ.

But the forum for his most sophisticated musings on the faith came in his annual Christmas stories. There, he not only rehearsed his own tragedies and commemorated his own injuries, but he cast about for some metaphysical meaning or comfort for them.

The stories were written beginning in 1843, when Dickens was at the pinnacle of his writing prowess. The first--and probably the best—was A Christmas Carol. It is the familiar story of Scrooge, Marley, Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and ghosts from the past, present, and future. It is also the recollection of that strange mixture of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, sanctities and perversities, approbations and imprecatations inherent in this poor fallen world.

With unsurpassed artistry Dickens painted a picture of depravity, dispossession, and depression with an impressionistic palate—while vividly portraying the power of repentance, redemption, and resurrection with the clarity of a photo. This was undoubtedly the master at his best. Not only did Dickens do something special for Christmas, but Christmas did something special for Dickens.

St. Thomas’ Day

Though he was doubter at first, the Apostle Thomas (c. 10-60) came to believe that Christ was not only risen from the dead, but proclaimed him “My Lord and my God.” His anticipation of the full revelation of the Kingdom is celebrated on December 21. Traditionally this has been a day for well-wishing--friends, neighbors, and loved ones going out of their way to remember other and to bless one another. Though Christmas cards are a Victorian innovation, they were conceived as a kind of St. Thomas’ Day gesture of kindness, encouragement, and graciousness.

Sunday, December 19

It's a Wonderful Life

On this day in 1946, It's a Wonderful Life was shown in a charity preview at New York's Globe Theatre, the night before its official premier. The film was directed by Frank Capra and starred James Stewart--and it became an instant holiday classic.

Based on the story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, it focused on a man who believed he was a failure because he never left the small town where he grew up. George Bailey, ran the town savings and loan after his father died, something he swore as a child he’d never do. Bailey, a decent and good man who served his town well, struggled to make ends meet at the job he never really loved. When disaster strikes and the savings and loan funds are lost, Bailey decides to commit suicide. But then, in a Christmas Carol-like twist of fate, an angel named Clarence helps George see what life would have been like in the town if he had never been born.

It’s a Wonderful Life was reportedly the favorite work of both actor Stewart and director Capra’s from their long and illustrious careers. It's certainly one of my favorites.

Friday, December 17

Sleigh Rides

Mimicking the supposed pattern of pastoral care practiced by Nicholas of Myra, the sleigh ride—particularly on Christmas Eve—gradually was woven into the joyous celebration of Christmas. Beginning in Scandanavia, spreading to Germany, England, Scotland, and finally New England, the sounds of the jingling bells, the tramping of horses through the snow, and the brisk wind through the trees became essential elements in provoking the Yuletide Spirit.

Holly and Ivy

Throughout the Celtic lands of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, holly and ivy were symbols of victory won. Holly, representing masculine triumph, and ivy, representing feminine triumph, were often woven together as a sign that men and women need one another. Homes were decorated during Advent with both—often woven together—as a picture of the healthy family under God’s gracious providential hand.

Saturday, December 11


Carols are songs which are usually narrative and celebratory in nature with a simple spirit and often in verse form. The ancient term carol has a varied and interesting past and is derived from several root words that include the idea of dancing as well as singing. It has been often mentioned that the first carol was sung by the Angels to the shepherds on the night of Christ's birth. Mary's song, the Magnificat, could also fit in the category of early Christmas music. The idea of caroling from one home to another seems to have started sometime during the 18th century or earlier. Carolers would visit each house of a parish on Christmas Night to sing songs of the Nativity and to call forth blessings on every home. The term wassail means "Good health!" Carolers would often receive food, money, and drink for the spreading of good cheer.

Tuesday, December 7

The Hanging of the Mistletoe

The little berries of the Mistletoe plant, renowned for their healing powers (used in salves and ointments), became a medieval symbol of God’s provision and grace. Even when the vast northern forests were buried in deep snows and the hardwood trees had lost all their foliage, the Mistletoe continued to bloom—to offer its medicine of hope to the afflicted and the needy. Often, families would decorate their doorways with little sprigs of the plant as reminders of providential love. It became a happy ritual for lovers to kiss beneath the sprigs as a kind of covenantal affirmation of their fealty in the sight of God. A single berry was to be plucked from the sprig for each kiss. Often the bare sprigs were kept as testimony to the couples’ vows. Sometime in about the tenth century or so, the hanging of the Mistletoe became an Advent and Christmas tradition.

Sunday, December 5

Football and Life

On this day in 1815, the Earl of Home led the men of Ettrick against Sir Walter Scott and his team from Yarrow in a game of "football." In honor of the match which took place at Carterhaugh in Ettrick Forest, Scotland, the always-prolific poet penned two songs to inspire his team, including the words:

Then strip lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,
And if by mischance, you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble in the heather,
And life is itself but a game of football!

I suppose the moral of this story is simply that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Wednesday, December 1

After More than a Half Century

Fifty-five years ago today, the Civil Rights movement was suddenly launched when Rosa Parks, exhausted after a hard day’s work, refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger. She was ultimately arrested and the humiliating incident galvanized a growing movement to desegregate public transportation, and marked a historic turning point in the African American struggle for freedom and equality.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born in 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama where she grew up under the shadow of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. The granddaughter of former slaves the future civil rights leader attended the all-black Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1932 she married Raymond Parks, a barber, with whom she became active in Montgomery's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 1943, when Rosa Parks joined the NAACP herself, she helped to mobilize a voter registration drive in Montgomery. That same year Parks also was elected secretary of the Montgomery branch. Six months before her famous protest, Rosa Parks received a scholarship to attend a workshop on school integration for community leaders.

The segregated seating policies on public buses had long been a source of resentment within the black community in Montgomery and in other cities throughout the Deep South. African Americans were required to pay their fares at the front of the bus, and then reboard through the back door. The white bus drivers, who were invested with police powers, frequently harassed blacks, sometimes driving away before African American passengers were able to get back on the bus. At peak hours, the drivers pushed back boundary markers segregating the bus, crowding those in the "colored section" so that whites could be provided with seats. On the day of her protest, Parks took her seat in the front of the "colored section" of a Montgomery bus. When the driver asked Parks and three other black riders to relinquish their seats to whites, Parks simply refused. The driver called the police, and Parks was arrested.

The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been looking for a test case to challenge the legality of segregated bus seating, and to woo public opinion with a series of protests. Within 24 hours of her arrest, the community had mobilized a massive boycott of the bus system. By December 5, the city buses went through their routes virtually empty. Martin Luther King Jr., who had just moved to Montgomery as the new pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church helped to mobilize and inspire the entire African American community to stand by their principles. The boycott lasted 381 days, during which time 42,000 protesters walked, carpooled, or took taxis, rather than ride the segregated city buses of Montgomery. It was the beginning of what would become the Civil Rights Movement--and it was the beginning of the end of segregation.

Of course, the protest proved to be costly for Parks. She lost her job and was unable to find other work in Montgomery. Parks and her husband finally were forced to relocate to Detroit, Michigan in 1957, where they continued to struggle financially for years. Even so, she remained unwavering in her conviction that she had done what was right. And so was the freedom of millions of Americans secured by her solitary courage.


The holiday season—what we generically just call Christmastime—is actually a long sequence of holy days, festal revelries, and liturgical rites stretching from the end of November through the beginning of January that are collectively known as Yuletide.

Beginning with Advent, a time of preparation and repentance, proceeding to Christmas, a time of celebration and generosity, and concluding with Epiphany, a time of remembrance and thanksgiving, Yuletide traditions enable us to see out the old year with faith and love while ushering in the new year with hope and joy.

It is a season fraught with meaning and significance. Unfortunately, it is also such a busy season that its meaning and significance can all too easily be obscured either by well-intended materialistic pursuits—frenzied shopping trips to the mall to find just the right Christmas gift—or by the less benign demands, desires, wants, and needs which are little more than grist for human greed. The traditions of Yuletide were intended to guard us against such things—and thus, are actually more relevant today than ever before.

Monday, November 29

On the Art of Browsing

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them be your acquaintances." Winston Churchill

The Coming of Advent

“When I think of Christmas Eves, Christmas feasts, Christmas songs, and Christmas stories, I know that they do not represent a short or transient gladness. Instead, they speak of a joy unspeakable and full of glory. God loved the world and sent His Son. Whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. That is Christmas joy. That is the Christmas spirit.” Corrie ten Boom

“It is in the old Christmas carols, hymns, and traditions—those which date from the Middle Ages—that we find not only what makes Christmas poetic and soothing and stately, but first and foremost what makes Christmas exciting. The exciting quality of Christmas rests on an ancient and admitted paradox. It rests upon the paradox that the power and center of the whole universe may be found in some seemingly small matter, that the stars in their courses may move like a moving wheel around the neglected outhouse of an inn.” G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, November 10

Dr. Sproul's Must-Read Book

In the two decades since this landmark book was first published, four different presidents have occupied the White House, seven justices have come and gone on the Supreme Court, and eleven sessions of Congress have held sway in the Capitol.

These federal magistrates have faced economic booms and busts. They have weathered terror attacks and foreign wars. They have witnessed the collapse of the Soviet empire and the rise of the al Qaeda menace. They have wrangled over corporate bailouts and health-care reforms. They have endured Tea Party protests, campaign scandals, personal embarrassments, and policy failures. They have been plagued on every side by mounting demands, frustrated expectations, declining resources, and diminished prestige.

Through it all, the divisiveness of the abortion issue has remained constant. The many and varied political turns of events during the past twenty years have done nothing to ameliorate it—much less, to resolve it. If anything, the divide over abortion has become more pronounced, more acrimonious, and more entrenched. While political gridlock on nearly any and every other issue ultimately has been overcome, no rapprochement on the issue of abortion is anywhere in sight.

Of course, matters have not exactly been helped by the fact that the politically protected international abortion business has grown into a multibillion–dollar industrial complex. Utilizing its considerable wealth, manpower, and influence, the abortion industry has proven itself adept at muscling its way into virtually every facet of modern life. It now plays a strategic role in the health and social-services community. It exerts a major influence on education, providing the majority of sex-education curricula and programs in both public and private schools. It carries considerable political clout through lobbying, campaigning, advocacy, and litigation. It is involved in publishing, broadcast media production, judicial activism, public relations, foreign aid, psychological research counseling, environmental policy-making, sociological planning, demographic investigation, pharmacological development, contraceptive distribution and sales, mass advertising, and public legal service provision.

As if that were not enough, the current Democratic administration in Washington—aided and abetted by the Democrat-controlled Senate—is the most ardently pro-abortion in American history. With a bevy of executive orders, appointments, and administrative policy changes—to say nothing of its 2,407-page monolithic, partisan “health–care reform” legislation, which removed the longstanding ban on federal funding of abortions in favor of a much more easily overturned executive order—the abortion industry has logged more gains during this administration’s short tenure than in the rest of its history combined.

Yet the great divide persists. Despite its obvious cultural clout, its cavernously deep corporate pockets, and its carefully crafted public relations efforts, the abortion industry has yet to prevail in the battle for the hearts and minds of most Americans. Public opinion polls conducted during the first year of the Obama administration found that 51 percent of Americans now call themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion, while only 42 percent call themselves “pro-choice.” In addition, the number of Americans who favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion is up six percentage points in just five years. In 2005, 59 percent of respondents agreed it would be good to reduce abortions. Today, 65 percent take this view. One poll also found that fewer Americans, and fewer pro-life advocates, are willing to compromise on abortion by finding some “middle ground.” Indeed, support for finding a middle ground on the abortion issue is down twelve percentage points among conservatives and six points among all Americans. Yet another poll found that 58 percent of Americans say abortion is morally wrong most of the time. Just 25 percent disagree, and the rest have no opinion. The poll found women are more strongly pro-life than men, with 64 percent of women asserting that most abortions are morally wrong, a view shared by just 51 percent of men. Meanwhile, still another survey found a majority of Americans, 52 percent, think it is too easy to get an abortion in America. That's up seven percentage points from two years ago, when 45 percent thought it was too easy.

As a result, Dr. Sproul’s incisive analysis in Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue is as relevant and necessary today as it was in the last decade of the twentieth century. Indeed, he points the way to the only possible resolution of this deeply emotional issue.

This is has always been an enormously helpful book. Now it has been brought completely up to date and is more useful than ever. It is my prayer that God may be pleased to use this book as a means to provoke the church to boldly stand for truth, justice, and mercy in the midst of this poor, fallen world.

Wednesday, October 27

A Prophetic Machen

J. Gresham Machen was prophetic about many things. His insight into ideas and their consequences made him stunningly precient. Even so, it is difficult to believe that he could have the foresight to write this--and in 1923 no less!

"When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are--their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology--one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system."

Wow! May God have mercy on us--nearly a century on.

New College Franklin

Monday, October 18

200! 30! 12! 2! 1!

We really are going to do it! Soon! On the first weekend in November, we are going to run 200 miles, in about 30 hours, with 12 friends, accompanied by 2 support vans, all for 1 great cause!

The Great Ragnar Race is an organized run across Tennessee from Chattanooga to Nashville. Our team will be running in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the worthy and needy recipients of Chalmers Fund scholarships--particularly at Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin.

We believe that what we are called to do and what we are called to be ought not be hampered by financial limitations. Thus, the Chalmers Fund of the King's Meadow Study Center has been established to support substantive Christian discipleship and education though endowments, scholarships, and resource development from Franklin to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Won't you support our efforts? Visit our Sum Ergo Zoom project site to donate or help us fundraise today! And please do pass the word! There is a method in our madness! Really, I promise!

Mildred Jefferson: Pro-Life Stalwart

Mildred Jefferson, pioneer physician, teacher, reformer, mentor, and friend to an entire generation of pro-life leaders has gone home to be with the Lord at age 84.

Born in Pittsburg, Texas, in 1926, the daughter of a schoolteacher and a Methodist pastor, she was raised in the beautiful East Texas town of Carthage and graduated from Texas College in Tyler. She earned a master’s degree from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Then, she went on to become the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first woman to be a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital.

Dr. Jefferson gained renown as a clinical professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School--and over the years was awarded honorary degrees by 28 colleges and universities.

She was one of the early, visionary founders of the modern pro-life movement. A tireless servant-leader, she helped to establish more than 30 pro-life organizations, boards, and committees including the National Right to Life Committee--of which she remained the at-large director to the day she died.

Her credo was unequivocal, "I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live."

Dr. Jefferson was a dear and gracious friend to me, a ready counselor during the days when I first was researching and writing Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood, and a faithful supporter of LifeNet, the organization we established together to stem the rising tide of RU-486 and other pharmaceutical abortifacients.

Though we mourn the loss of one of America's greatest heroes, we rejoice that Dr. Jefferson is now in the presence of her Savior, beholding the glory of the risen Christ.

Saturday, October 16

"Autumn Poem" by Ben House

The jaded first look revealed that summer might stay.
Only the second glance revealed a changing leaf,
Casting an autumnal pall over a late day,
When so slight an orange tint could tinge weak belief.

In autumn I see the empiric decline,
When leaves are surrendered to the barbaric wind,
Leaving unshorn limbs’ barren skeletal design
As before scourging, they, their colored garments rend.

When like Persephone’s tears, hope turns to dark gloom,
With only fading memory of that last day,
And with the fade of petals, the sad droop of bloom,
Dusk covers the season with darkened sky of gray

And yet, that momentary discontent of loss
Is halted in shock of color of fallen days,
When from that foliate descent to bare limbed cross
Glimpses of life even in death breach through the haze.

The 3rd and Final Volume

Friday, October 15

"Theme in Yellow" by Carl Sandburg

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o'-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

Tuesday, October 12

Making a Difference

January 22, 2011 marks the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. On January 3rd, the 112th United States Congress will open with newly elected representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives joining the incumbents. This is an important opportunity to influence our nation’s leaders on the critical issue of abortion.

To coincide with both of these dates, Ligonier Ministries will send R.C. Sproul’s Twentieth Anniversary special edition of Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue to every member of Congress. Won't you help? Ligonier's goal is to raise $6,000 to fund this effort. Every $10 donation will send a book to one of our representatives.

May God be pleased to use this resource, along with a letter from R.C. Sproul, to make an impact on the hearts and minds of our representatives in Congress.

Sunday, October 10

"How Can It Be?" by Tristan Gylberd

Guard us Lord, from the Judas kiss;
Keep us Lord, from the way of Cain;
From the error of Balaam; From the rebellion of Korah.
We confess that we are Jezebels at heart, every one of us;
We are Icabods; We are Hamans;
We are Tobiahs and Sanballats;
We are Abimelechs and Absaloms;
We are Chedoloamers and Eglons.
Indeed, we are all Adams.
How can it be?
The seeds of destruction have been sown, even as You have blessed us:
Though You have offered us sweet fountains of life,
We have thirsted for the bitter waters;
Though You have laden high the festal table,
We have hungered for thorns and thistles.
How can it be?
We have become adepts:
In a reverse alchemy,
Turning gold to base,
Turning blessing to cursing.
We are waterless clouds and fruitless trees;
We are wild waves and wandering stars.
Meet us here, Lord:
Give us Gospel sanity,
That we might yet again relent;
That we might yet again repent.

Abraham Kuyper

Abraham Kuyper was one of the most remarkable men of the twentieth century. A true poly math, the Dutch statesman made his mark as a pastor, theologian, journalist, educator, orator, publisher, politician, and reformer.

He was born in 1837, just seven years after Belgium and the Netherlands separated. Though his pious family background, quiet rural community, and meager local schooling combined to afford him only very humble resources, he was a bright student and was early on marked out for great things. He attended the university at Leiden and quickly demonstrated an aptitude for serious scholastic work. Following his postgraduate work, he pastored a succession of churches—first in Beesd, then in Utrect, and finally in Amsterdam. He became the leader of the theological conservatives who were working hard to hold at bay the encroachments of modernists and liberals.

By 1872, he had begun publishing a daily newspaper, De Standaard. He was already the editor of the inspirational monthly magazine, De Heraut. In addition, he had founded a new legal organization to protect the concerns of private Christian schools and had spearheaded the reorganization of the political conservatives into the Anti-Revolutionary Party. He was elected to the lower assembly and quickly became the leading exponent and spokesman for spiritual orthodoxy, fiscal restraint, and judicial tradition.

As if all these activities were not enough, he continued the serious academic research he had begun at the university, he wrote a flurry of books, pamphlets, and broadsides, and he managed a heavy speaking schedule at home and abroad. In later years he would also establish the Free University of Amsterdam, give vision and direction to the new Dutch Reformed Church, and lead a coalition government as the Prime Minister. He was a genuine renaissance man in every respect.

He first entered politics as a member of the lower chamber of the Dutch legislature, at the head of a new Conservative and Christian coalition party. After breaking with the national church and forming the Free Reformed Church in 1886, he united the Calvinist and Catholic parties and in 1901 formed a reformed Christian Conservative ministry, serving as minister of the interior until 1905 and Prime Minister until 1907. He served in the upper house of the legislature from 1913 to 1920.

Beginning on this day in 1898, he gave an influential series of lectures at Princeton University in New Jersey in which he developed the idea of a comprehensive and universal Christian woldview—rooted in the Reformation doctrines of Calvinism. Before his death in 1920, he was able to successfully mobilize the ordinary citizens of the great Dutch nation to do the difficult work of societal transformation—through the consistent application of the Christian worldview he so articulately espoused.

Friday, October 8

The Quintessential TR

At a campaign stop in Milwaukee on this day in 1912, a deranged, out-of-work bartender emerged from a crowd and shot Theodore Roosevelt in the chest at point-blank range. Staggered by the impact of the bullet and the shock of the injury, the great man nevertheless righted himself. As the crowd converged on the man, the wounded former president cried, “Stand back! Don’t hurt the man! Bring him to me!” After examining his would-be assassin with a dismissive glare, he told his aides to get him to the rally. “This may be the last speech I deliver,” he admitted.

Seeing that he was bleeding heavily, several doctors in Roosevelt’s party wanted to rush him to the hospital at once, but he waved them aside. “You just stay where you are,” he ordered. “I am going to make this speech and you might as well compose yourselves.” When they persisted, he said, “Get an ambulance or a carriage or anything you like at ten o’clock and I’ll go to the hospital, but I won’t go until I’ve finished my speech.” He then demanded that his driver proceed to the auditorium.

The crowd was told what had happened. But as Roosevelt appeared on the platform, the familiar figure smiled and waved weakly to the awestruck crowd. “It is true,” he whispered in a hoarse voice, “I have just been shot. But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Now beginning to gain his composure, he said, “Friends, I should ask you to be as quiet as possible. And please excuse me from making a long speech. I’ll do the best I can.”

He then took his manuscript from his jacket; it had been pierced through by the bullet and was soaked with blood. “It is nothing,” he said as the people gasped. “I am not hurt badly. I have a message to deliver and will deliver it as long as there is life in my body.” The audience became deathly still as he went on to say, “I have had an A-1 time in life and I am having it now.”

He always had the ability to cast an intoxicating spell over crowds. Even now, his physical presence was dominating. Though he was bleeding profusely, he went on to speak for an hour and a half. By the end he had almost completely regained his typical stump fervor—rousing the crowd to several extended ovations. When at last he allowed his concerned party to take him to the hospital, the audience reached a near frenzy chanting “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!”

At the hospital he joked and talked politics with his attendants. But his condition was hardly a joking matter. The surgeons found that the bullet had fractured his fourth rib and lodged close to his right lung. “It is largely due to the fact that he is a physical marvel that he was not mortally wounded,” observed one of them later. “He is one of the most powerful men I have ever seen on an operating table.”

Nevertheless, he was no longer a young buck at the age of fifty-four. He was required—against his quite considerable will—to sit out the remainder of the campaign. Later, his biographers would view the incident as quintessential Roosevelt: imposing the sheer force of his will upon a seemingly impossible circumstance, and yet prevailing.

Tuesday, October 5

"A Vagabond Song" by Bliss Carmen

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood--
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets my gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

This one is courtesy of Ben House and for TaraJane.

"Fall, Leaves, Fall" by Emily Jane Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Monday, October 4

"October" by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

1934: Deja Vu, All Over Again?

Sunday, October 3

"Show Me Dear Christ," by John Donne

Show me dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
What! Is it she which on the other shore
Goes richly painted? Or which, robb'd and tore,
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self-truth, and errs? Now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travel we to seek, and then make love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild Dove,
Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
When she'is embrac'd and open to most men.

Saturday, October 2

Ragnar Relay

What we are called to do and what we are called to be ought not be hampered by financial limitations. Thus, the Chalmers Fund of the King's Meadow Study Center has been established to support substantive Christian discipleship and education though endowments, scholarships, and resource development from Franklin to the uttermost parts of the earth.

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-mile, 30-hour, run across Tennessee from Chattanooga to Nashville. Our twelve team members will be running in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the worthy and needy recipients of Chalmers Fund scholarships--particularly at Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin.

Really! 200 miles, 30 hours, 11 friends, in 2 vans, all to raise scholarships for worthy, needy students: surely that warrants your support! Visit our Sum Ergo Zoom project site to donate or help fundraise today!

"Love and a Question" by Robert Frost

A Stranger came to the door at eve,
   And he spoke the bridegroom fair.
He bore a green-white stick in his hand,
   And, for all burden, care.
He asked with the eyes more than the lips
   For a shelter for the night,
And he turned and looked at the road afar
   Without a window light.

The bridegroom came forth into the porch
   With, ‘Let us look at the sky,
And question what of the night to be,
   Stranger, you and I.’
The woodbine leaves littered the yard,
   The woodbine berries were blue,
Autumn, yes, winter was in the wind;
   ‘Stranger, I wish I knew.’

Within, the bride in the dusk alone
   Bent over the open fire,
Her face rose-red with the glowing coal
   And the thought of the heart’s desire.
The bridegroom looked at the weary road,
   Yet saw but her within,
And wished her heart in a case of gold
   And pinned with a silver pin.

The bridegroom thought it little to give
   A dole of bread, a purse,
A heartfelt prayer for the poor of God,
   Or for the rich a curse;
But whether or not a man was asked
   To mar the love of two
By harboring woe in the bridal house,
   The bridegroom wished he knew.

Friday, October 1

"The Convert" by G. K. Chesterton

After one moment when I bowed my head
And the whole world turned over and came upright,
And I came out where the old road shone white.
I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
Being not unlovable but strange and light;
Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
But softly, as men smile about the dead

The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live.

"Among the Rocks" by Robert Browning

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
      This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
      Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
      Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
      Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

Thursday, September 30

"Autumn" by T. E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

Wednesday, September 29

Robert Frost's "After Apple Picking"

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

"Autumn" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o'er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven's o'er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer's prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!

Tuesday, September 28

John Donne's "The Autumnal"

No spring nor summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnall face.
Young beauties force our love, and that's a rape,
This doth but counsel, yet you cannot 'scape.
If 'twere a shame to love, here 'twere no shame,
Affection here takes Reverence's name.
Were her first years the Golden Age; that's true,
But now she's gold oft tried, and ever new.
That was her torrid and inflaming time,
This is her tolerable Tropique clime.
Fair eyes, who asks more heat than comes from hence,
He in a fever wishes pestilence.
Call not these wrinkles, graves; if graves they were,
They were Love's graves; for else he is no where.
Yet lies not Love dead here, but here doth sit
Vowed to this trench, like an Anachorit.

And here, till hers, which must be his death, come,
He doth not dig a grave, but build a tomb.
Here dwells he, though he sojourn ev'ry where,
In progress, yet his standing house is here.
Here, where still evening is; not noon, nor night;
Where no voluptuousness, yet all delight
In all her words, unto all hearers fit,
You may at revels, you at counsel, sit.
This is Love's timber, youth his under-wood;
There he, as wine in June enrages blood,
Which then comes seasonabliest, when our taste
And appetite to other things is past.
Xerxes' strange Lydian love, the Platane tree,
Was loved for age, none being so large as she,
Or else because, being young, nature did bless
Her youth with age's glory, Barrenness.
If we love things long sought, Age is a thing
Which we are fifty years in compassing;
If transitory things, which soon decay,
Age must be loveliest at the latest day.
But name not winter-faces, whose skin's slack;
Lank, as an unthrift's purse; but a soul's sack;
Whose eyes seek light within, for all here's shade;
Whose mouths are holes, rather worn out than made;
Whose every tooth to a several place is gone,
To vex their souls at Resurrection;
Name not these living deaths-heads unto me,
For these, not ancient, but antique be.
I hate extremes; yet I had rather stay
With tombs than cradles, to wear out a day.
Since such love's natural lation is, may still
My love descend, and journey down the hill,
Not panting after growing beauties so,
I shall ebb out with them, who homeward go.

Sum Ergo Zoom

What we are called to do and what we are called to be ought not be hampered by financial limitations. Thus, the Chalmers Fund of the King's Meadow Study Center has been established to support substantive Christian discipleship and education though endowments, scholarships, and resource development from Franklin to the uttermost parts of the earth.

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-mile, 30-hour, run across Tennessee from Chattanooga to Nashville. Our twelve team members will be running in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the worthy and needy recipients of Chalmers Fund scholarships--particularly at Franklin Classical School and New College Franklin.

Really! 200 miles, 30 hours, 11 friends, in 2 vans, all to raise scholarships for worthy, needy students: surely that warrants your support! Visit our Sum Ergo Zoom project site to donate or help fundraise today!

Monday, September 27

Henry Van Dyke's "Autumn in the Garden"

When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;
Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.

'Mid the crumpled beds of marigold and phlox,
Where the box
Borders with its glossy green the ancient walks,
There's a voice that talks
Of the human hopes that bloomed and withered here
Year by year,
Dreams of joy, that brightened all the labouring hours,
Fading as the flowers.

Yet the whispered story does not deepen grief;
But relief
For the loneliness of sorrow seems to flow
From the Long-Ago,
When I think of other lives that learned, like mine,
To resign,
And remember that the sadness of the fall
Comes alike to all.

What regrets, what longings for the lost were theirs!
And what prayers
For the silent strength that nerves us to endure
Things we cannot cure!
Pacing up and down the garden where they paced,
I have traced
All their well-worn paths of patience, till I find
Comfort in my mind.

Faint and far away their ancient griefs appear:
Yet how near
Is the tender voice, the careworn, kindly face,
Of the human race!
Let us walk together in the garden, dearest heart,
Not apart!
They who know the sorrows other lives have known
Never walk alone.

Friday, September 24

Everyman's Library

On this day in 1904, after several years of experience publishing quality books at popular prices, Joseph Malaby Dent (1849-1926) began to flesh out an ambitious vision for a series of reprints he would call the Everyman’s Library. It was to be a massive and diverse selection of one thousand classics—practically the whole canon of Western Civilization’s great books—sold at affordable prices.

Though the experts had decreed that the classics were dry, uninspiring, and hardly suited for the fast-paced industrial world of the twentieth century, Dent believed that properly presented, the great books would prove to be as appealing as ever. He was convinced this was due to the fact that while the classics exhibit distinguished style, fine artistry, and keen intellect, they also create a whole universe of imagination and thought. In addition, unlike the simplistic nursery tales manifest in the literature of modernity, he believed the classics portrayed life as complex and multifaceted, depicting both negative and positive aspects of human character in the process of discovering and testing enduring virtues. He also believed that the classics had an inevitable transforming effect on the reader’s self-understanding—stretching, shaping, and confronting him. He thought they invited and rewarded frequent rereadings—they were ever new. They had the uncanny ability to adapt themselves to various times and places and thus provided a sense of the shared life of humanity over the course of space and time. And finally, he held that their mere endurance across all the varied times and seasons of human experience demonstrated an interminable permanence amidst modern temporality that was simultaneously comforting and challenging.

Though the venture was obviously a commercial risk, Dent was confident that the very thing that made the classics classic would ensure success for the series. He was right. Public demand for books in Everyman's Library exceeded every expectation. Production began in 1906 and more than a hundred and fifty titles were issued by the end of that first year.

Wartime inflation and shortages of supplies more than doubled the price of each volume during the First World War. After the conflict, inflation and shortages actually worsened. Dent responded to the setbacks by expanding book sales to international markets. He expanded distribution to North America by setting up a Canadian subsidiary and by allowing E. P. Dutton to distribute Everyman titles throughout the United States. In addition, Dent hired agents to sell Everyman titles in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and most of continental Europe.

The Everyman's Library finally reached the millennial volume with the publication of Aristotle’s Metaphysics in 1956. In just fifty years total sales of the Everyman’s series had exceeded sixty million copies of the classics. Though his company was finally sold by his heirs in 1988, almost exactly a century after he founded it, the impact of the little publisher that dared stand against the tide of the modern conventions of uniformity, conformity, and efficiency is still felt. Joseph Dent’s literary habits reintroduced the pertinence, puissance, and propriety of the classics to a world all too desperate for permanent things.

Thursday, September 23

Alas, Harvard

Harvard College graduated its first students on this day in 1642. It had been founded some six years earlier, in 1636, as New College Cambridge for the training of Puritan ministers and leaders for the new Massachusetts Bay colony. In 1639 it was re-named in honor of John Harvard, a local Puritan minister, who gave the college the bulk of his library and a small sum of money, equal to just a bit more than half his estate.

The founders probably had in mind something along the lines of a faithful version of Oxford or Cambridge--perhaps eventually growing into a collection of Puritan colleges, some for ministerial training and others for the sundy professional trades.

Its first professor was Nathaniel Eaton, brother to Theophilus Eaton, who was the founder and first Governor of New Haven as well as Francis Eaton, who sailed on the Mayflower. In 1639 however, he was ousted by the board of directors, because of his overly strict discipline of the students.

The first real theological crisis at Harvard erupted when one of Eaton’s successors, Henry Dunster, abandoned the Reformed faith of the Puritans in favor Baptist antinomianism in 1653. Dunster's conflict with the colony's magistrates and the college’s board began when he refused to have his infant son baptized. Every effort to restore the brilliant and popular Dunster to the Puritan fold failed, and he eventually decided to move to the nearby Plymouth Colony, where he died in 1658.

Despite this early strife, the college was able to maintain stability and some measure of orthodoxy until 1805 when a concerted effort was made to take over the board of trustees by Boston's influential Unitarians. By 1850 Harvard was known as the "Unitarian Vatican."

The theological liberals at the school allied themselves with high Federalists and began to create a set of private societies and institutions meant to shore up their cultural and political authority--a movement that prefigured the emergence of the Boston Brahmin class. On the other hand, theological conservatives allied themselves with the more populist Whigs and attempted to restore Harvard to something akin to its original vision--mounting a print media campaign in an effort to expose the grave threat to Congregationalist tradition and republican political principles that the Unitarian oligarchy posed--but all to no avail.

Charles William Eliot, Harvard's president from 1869-1909, finally officially eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum. While Eliot was, by many accounts, the most notable figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was actually not motivated by a desire to marginalize faith, but rather by his heart-felt commitment to Transcendentalist Unitarianism. The effect was the same, regardless.

Alas, the college was lost, not to be recovered to this day.

Tuesday, September 7

The Past as Future Orientation

"People will not look forward to posterity who will not look backward to their ancestors." Edmund Burke

Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 near Nisbet, Scotland. Though little is known of his early life, it is clear that he was raised in a pious home that put great emphasis on education. In 1627 he completed his academic work at the University of Edinburgh, where he was appointed Professor of Humanities. That same year he became the pastor of the little parish church in Anwoth.

Anwoth was a rural community, and the people were scattered in farms over the hills. Rutherford apparently had a true pastor's heart, and he was ceaseless in his labors for his flock. Men often said of him, "He was always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing, and always studying." Even so, his first years in Anwoth were marked by great sadness. His wife was ill for a year and a month, before she died in their new home. Two children also died shortly afterward. Nevertheless, his faith never wavered.

Though it was said that he was not a particularly good speaker, his preaching drew great attention. An English merchant said of him, "I came to Irvine, and heard a well-favored, proper old man with a long beard, and that man showed me all my heart. Then I went to St. Andrews, where I heard a sweet, majestic-looking man, and he showed me the majesty of God. After him I heard this little, fair man Rutherford, and he showed me the loveliness of Christ."

In 1636 Rutherford published a book defending the Reformed doctrines of grace against the legalistic strictures of Armininism. This put him in conflict with the Church authorities, which were dominated by the English Anglo-Catholic Episcopacy. He was called before the High Court, deprived of his ministerial office, and exiled to Aberdeen. While in exile he wrote a series of remarkable letters which were later collected into a classic volume by Andrew Bonar (a tiny sampling of that remarkable work has recently been republished in a beautiful pocket devotion by Banner of Truth as The Loveliness of Christ and it has become the volume I give away more than any other in my ministry).

On this day in 1638, the struggles between Parliament and King in England enabled Rutherford to slip out of Aberdeen and return to Anwoth—but he was not allowed to stay there as long as he might have wished. The Westminster Assembly began their famous meetings in 1643, and Rutherford was appointed to be one of the five Scottish commissioners invited to attend the proceedings. Although the Scots were not allowed to vote, they had an influence far exceeding their number. Rutherford is thought to have been a major influence on the Shorter Catechism.

It was during this period in England, that Rutherford wrote his best-known work, Lex Rex, which argued for limited government, and a refutation of the idea of the Divine Right of Kings. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, it was clear that the author of Lex Rex would could expect trouble. When the summons came in 1661, charging him with treason, and demanding his appearance on a certain day, Rutherford refused to go. From his deathbed, he answered, "I must answer my first summons; and before your day arrives, I will be where few kings and great folks come." He died a few days later.

Saturday, September 4


"You can never dictate the future by the past--you may however, ameliorate its illest effects and heighten its greatest delights by its remembrance." Edmund Burke

Friday, September 3

Coeur de Lion

Richard the Lionhearted, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquataine, was crowned as King Richard I of England at Westminster Abbey on this day in 1189. After he was anointed on the head, breast and shoulders, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the officers of his royal army invested him with the cap, tunic, swords, spurs, and mantle of a Crusading Knight of Christ--an office he tried to live up to for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, August 25

King's Meadow Curriculum

The first installment of the all-new King's Meadow Humanities Curriculum is at long last available. This course surveys the history, art, literature, philosophy, music, theology, architecture, science, technology, sociology, and civics of Modernity—an epoch focusing primarily on the 19th and 20th centuries, but with roots extending as far back as the early Enlightenment. The curriculum includes more than forty hour-long audio lectures, student outlines, teacher notes, project ideas, exams with answer keys, literature planning guides, timelines, and various additional teacher resources.

In the next few weeks we will also have the audio edition of the Christendom series. We are recording (audio and video) for the American Culture series this year and Lord willing, we will record the Antiquity series next year.

You can get your copy of the Modernity series today at the King's Meadow Study Center online shop.

Tuesday, August 24

A Song Composed in August

And this, a bit of Scots verse from Robbie Burns. If so inclined, sing it to the old folk tune, "I Had a Horse, I Had Nae Mair."

Now westlin winds and slaught'ring guns
Bring Autumn's pleasant weather;
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather:
Now waving grain, wide o'er the plain,
Delights the weary farmer;
And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night,
To muse upon my charmer.

The partridge loves the fruitful fells,
The plover loves the mountains;
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells,
The soaring hern the fountains:
Thro' lofty groves the cushat roves,
The path of man to shun it;
The hazel bush o'erhangs the thrush,
The spreading thorn the linnet.

Thus ev'ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine,
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man's dominion;
The sportsman's joy, the murd'ring cry,
The flutt'ring, gory pinion!

But, Peggy dear, the ev'ning's clear,
Thick flies the skimming swallow,
The sky is blue, the fields in view,
All fading-green and yellow:
Come let us stray our gladsome way,
And view the charms of Nature;
The rustling corn, the fruited thorn,
And ev'ry happy creature.

We'll gently walk, and sweetly talk,
Till the silent moon shine clearly;
I'll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest,
Swear how I love thee dearly:
Not vernal show'rs to budding flow'rs,
Not Autumn to the farmer,
So dear can be as thou to me,
My fair, my lovely charmer!

Friday, August 13

Something as Simple as a Spire

"Catching sight of something as simple as the spiritualized beauty of the church spire brought to mind a twinge of regret at our modern loss: representative of something in the village more difficult to define than the social function symbolized by the pharmacist, the retired tobacco-inspector and the optician, but something which is, nevertheless, not unworthy of respect, were it only for the perception of it's meaning--pointing upward into the sunset where it loses itself so lovingly in the rose-colored clouds; and which, all the same, at first sight, to a stranger alighting in the village, looks somehow better, nobler, more dignified, with more meaning behind it, and with, what we need, more love than the other buildings, however sanctioned they may be under the latest laws." Marcel Proust

Wednesday, August 11

Courage and Tradition

"In literature as in love, courage is half the battle. Likewise, in virtue as in fashion, tradition is the surest guide to the future."
Sir Walter Scott

Thursday, August 5

Education and Life

"The most important fact about the subject of education is that there is no such thing. Education is not a subject, and it does not deal in subjects. It is instead the transfer of a way of life." G.K. Chesterton

Monday, August 2

Fast of Ab

On the Hebrew calendar this day—Ab or Tisha b'Av—is recognized as one of mourning and memorializing of the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem (586 BC and AD 70).

Sunday, August 1

Lammas Day

In early English history, August 1, the first day of harvest for the Celts, was called Lugnasad. Christians observed the day by baking bread from the first corn harvested and dedicating it to God. They called this day the Festival of the First Fruits. With the same concept in mind, Saxons called this day hlaf-maesse (loaf-mass) which eventually became Lammas Day.

Friday, July 30

Holiness: The Ordinary Christian Life

In his Lectures on Moral Philosophy, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) regularly reminded his students that, “In bygone days when God’s covenant people sought to strengthen their piety, to sharpen their effectual intercessions, and give passion to their supplications, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting. When intent upon seeking the Lord God’s guidance in difficult after-times, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting. When they were wont to express grief—whether over the consequences of their own sins or the sins of others—they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting. When they sought deliverance or protection in times of trouble, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting. When they desired to express repentance, covenant renewal, and a return to the fold of faith, they partook of the means of grace in all holiness with humble prayer and fasting. Such is the call upon all who would name the Name of Jesus. Such is the ordinary Christian life.”

Chalmers didn’t just preach such notions to others—he faithfully proclaimed the Gospel of grace and holiness to his own heart. As his daughter later testified, “His ambition was to know Christ, and this one aim simplified his life. His obedience in the smallest details was very striking. It was not so much that he did not do wrong, but he seemed always to do the things that pleased God. Those who lived with him can hardly recall a single unworthy action in his life of which he was not quick to repent. Step by step he walked with God, doing everything as in his sight. ‘You are not very holy if you are not very kind,’ he used to say, and this spirit of love characterized his actions.”

Chalmers not only attempted to live a righteous life marked by genuine sanctification, his message was marked by an uncompromising call to holiness. His books and sermons were filled with the theme—his Commentary on Romans was concerned with little else; his compilation of Sabbath Readings aimed at accenting matters of sanctification; and his preaching would admit little else.

How different is the temperament of the modern church and her churchmen. The erosion of the distinctiveness of the Gospel and the subversion of the idea of holiness has wrought an avalanche of decadence. The moral practices of the average Christian today are not discernibly different from the average non-Christian. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a social ethicist to figure out: that does not bode well for the church. What we do or don’t do, how we act or don’t act, what we want or don’t want, are all likely to be practically identical to what our unbelieving neighbors do, act, or want.

Perhaps that is why the experience of Chalmers seems so remote to us; to our modern ears, the painful self-examination of his Letters seems overwrought; his fierce denunciations of sins we hardly notice seems wildly exaggerated in light of his disciplined attention to holiness, “I lament the sins of coldness and earthliness; wandering in prayer; seeking to benefit others without being benefited myself; something of discontent at little annoyances; chagrin and envy; opportunities lost; sick persons ill-advised; my class of young people too little taught of Christ; and in all my preaching very inadequate setting forth of Christ and the Spirit.”

Oh, that we might regain even a modicum of his passion for this, the “ordinary Christian life.”

Sunday, July 25

A History in Photographs

Prentice Herman Polk (1898-1984) was fascinated with photography from as early as he could remember. He began studying through a correspondence course which he paid for with $10 he was mistakenly given as change for a candy bar at a local store. Before he was in his teens he had begun taking photographs of the everyday lives of former slaves and sharecroppers--the kinds of subjects which would occupy his work for the rest of his long and storied career.

In 1916, he had the opportunity to attend the famed Tuskegee Institute. Although the school was technically chartered by the Alabama state legislature to repay black voters for their support, its early history is almost synonymous with the name of its founder and first administrator, African American leader Booker T. Washington. Tuskegee's roots were in the post-Reconstruction era in the South, when higher educational opportunities for African Americans were still severely limited.

Washington's most significant contribution was his strong belief in industrial education and training as the key to success for African Americans. Students were required to learn a trade and perform manual labor at the school, including making and laying the bricks for the buildings that became the first campus. Tuskegee's charter had mandated that tuition would be free for students who committed to teaching in Alabama public schools. The students' labor helped with financial costs, and Washington solicited much of the remaining funding from northern white philanthropists.

Tuskegee was incorporated as a private institution in 1892. Because social conventions would have prohibited white instructors from serving under a black principal, Tuskegee became the first black institution of higher learning with a black faculty. In 1896 the school hired a young teacher who would become famous, George Washington Carver, whose groundbreaking agricultural research received international recognition. Washington also became nationally accepted as a social and cultural leader during the 1890s, because many whites appreciated his gracious and gradualist approach to race relations--as a result Tuskegee gained wide recognition and substantial funding.

Changes to the original industrial training approach came gradually after Washington's death in 1915. Tuskegee was able to award its first baccalaureate degree in 1925, and began its first full collegiate curriculum in 1927, with departments for business and teachers' and nurses' training.

When Polk completed his course of study on this day in 1920, he was appointed to the faculty of the photography department--which he and several other pioneers literally built from scratch. He then served as department chair from 1933-1938. From 1933-1982 he was the official school photographer, taking pictures of members of the Tuskegee community as well as visitors such as Henry Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to history though was the fact that he also chronicled the experiences of George Washington Carver--his experiments, his discoveries, his innovations, and his triumphs. By the time Polk retired in 1982, he had documented virtually the entire history of the Tuskegee Institute community in the twentieth century--a history that helped to shape the very destiny of the civil rights movement, African American opportunity, and the very character of the American experience.