on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: March 15-21

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Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …

March 15

March 15, 1943 – While the exact day of writing is not known, it is during the month of March 1943 that Bennie Lee Fudge pens the preface to his book entitled Can a Christian Kill for His Government?

Note the date of publication: early 1943. World War II is in full swing and the outcome of the war is still up for grabs, an Allied victory not even being a clear likelihood at this point. It is in this stormy context of Allies vs. Axis powers that Fudge pens and publishes his work, offering it to a brotherhood that, though once strongly pacifist in nature, is now anything but. In his work, Fudge argues that the Scriptures teach that a Christian must not kill for his government. Obviously, this is not a popular position to take at this time and in the book’s forward, Fudge faces that very matter head-on:

“Somebody is teaching error. Either I am wrong in advising Christian boys against accepting combatant service, and I will be held responsible before God for encouraging them to shirk their duty, not only to their country, but to God; or those are wrong who teach young men to go willingly into combatant service, and will be held responsible in the judgment for encouraging them to violate one of the most sacred commands of God in shedding the blood of their fellow men.”

“Many preachers far removed from the conflict itself, and under the pressure of public opinion, will remain neutral now, or will encourage the boys to go on into the business of bloodshed. Later, when the war is over, as popular enthusiasm dies, they can think calmly, and as the inevitable reaction against the war sets in, they can change their position. The tragic part is that many of the boys who have gone into the slaughter with their blessing will not come back and will not have a chance to change their positions. A gospel preacher is assuming a tremendous responsibility when he encourages a sincere, conscientious young man to  deliberately take the life of his fellows, made in the image of God, believing on the basis of the preacher’s word that he is doing God a service.

“May God hasten the day when churches of Christ shall present a united front on this vital question, when all speak as the oracles of God, speak where the Scriptures speak, and be silent where the Scriptures are silent.”

Bennie Lee Fudge is the father of current day author, minister, and attorney, Edward Fudge, popularly known for his digital ministry gracEmail.

March 16

March 16, 1912 – Who was your favorite teacher/professor in school? Why did you admire them? And who did ‘The Sage of Bethany,’ Alexander Campbell, think was the best student to ever walk the halls of Bethany College?

From an article penned by R. H. Crossfield, and published in the Christian Standard on this date in 1912, we learn that Campbell thought Bethany’s best student was Charles Louis Loos (1823-1912). Campbell said of Loos:

“… no better mind, no apter scholar, had ever come under observation and tuition.”

As soon as Loos graduated from Bethany in 1846, Campbell hired him on at Bethany as both a professor and his personal secretary. He taught there for a total of twenty-five years (1846-1849,1858-1880) until Kentucky University in Lexington successfully wooed him away in 1880 to make him not only a professor there, but their president (1880-1897).

Throughout his time at Bethany College and Kentucky University, Loos was a favorite of ministerial students. His zeal in teaching the Biblical languages, especially Greek, and his devotion to his students, earn him (at least at Kentucky) the nickname of “Daddy Loos.” Given the following a description of him by W.T. Moore, we can readily understand some of the reasons behind his popularity:

“Professor Loos is just five feet ten inches high, has dark hair, light hazel eyes, and weighs about one hundred and forty pounds. His personal appearance and manners indicate his French origin [his father was French], while his speech is decidedly German [his mother was German]. The influence of these two races is still more clearly marked in his mental characteristics. The studious thoughtfulness, the philosophical acumen, the plodding industry, and the generous hospitality of the German are happily blended with the volatile spirit, fire, and enthusiasm of the French. He is a deep, earnest thinker, and generally takes a broad, comprehensive view of things. As a public speaker, his style is very original. His gesticulation is rapid, and, when warmed up, his thoughts flow like a torrent. His whole soul seems to be absorbed in his theme, and sometimes, in his happiest moods, he speaks as if he were inspired.”

When Loos dies in 1912, the simple inscription on his gravestone reads:

“A teacher come from God.”

March 17

March 17, 1846 – On this day perhaps* the first known meeting of a congregation of those of the Stone-Campbell Movement west of the Rocky Mountains takes place in the home of Amos Harvey (1799-1877) on the banks of the Yamhill River in Oregon Territory. Thirteen people are present. In an article published in an 1848 issue of the Millenial Harbinger, Amos recounts some of the happenings in the first years of life of that church family and the immediate area:

“I came to this country late in the fall of 1845, and learned that a few families of Disciples lived on Yam Hill, west of the Willamette river. I settled there in January, and in March we organized a congregation upon the Book alone — and this was the first congregation built upon this foundation in the Territory. We numbered at first but thirteen members. We met, as the disciples anciently did, upon the first day of the week, to break the loaf, to implore the assistance of the heavenly Father, to seek instruction from his word, and to encourage each other in the heavenly way. …

“During the summer five persons in our neighborhood made the good confession, and were immersed for the remission of sins …”

“The immigration of 1846 brought two proclaimers (brothers Dr. James M[c]’Bride and Glen O. Burnett) who, though encumbered with the care of providing for large families, in a new and uncultivated country, have spent much of their time in proclaiming the word. Their labors have been particularly blessed, and their success beyond any thing that could have been anticipated in a new and thinly settled country.

“The immigration of last year [1847] brought three other proclaimers. Our meetings are well attended, and generally more or less make the good confession at every meeting where the gospel is proclaimed.

“There are many calls from various neighborhoods which the teaching brethren are entirely unable to fill. Would to Heaven that we had a number more brethren of teaching talent and Christian character, to teach the way of life and salvation to an inquiring population!

“We now outnumber in the American population any of the sects, and if we only live up to our high profession, Oregon will soon become as noted for the religion of Jesus Christ, as it already is for its ever-verdant pastures, its grand and varied scenery, and its mild and healthy clime.”

How had Amos come to have connection with the Stone-Campbell Movement? As a youth, Amos had lived in the same county in which Thomas & Jane Campbell, lived: Washington County, Pennsylvania. And though Amos was a Quaker, as he became a man he came to regularly read the periodical published by Thomas’ son, Alexander – the Christian Baptist. Further, whenever he was given half-a-chance to hear Alexander speak, he would make the effort to go hear him. And so, shortly after thirty-three old Amos married a nineteen year-old young lady by the name of Jane Ramage in 1832, Amos and Jane both were immersed into Christ by Dr. A.W. Campbell, an uncle of Alexander Campbell.

[* Several historians record the date of March 17 as the first day of meeting for the little congregation. However, March 17 fell on a Tuesday, not a Sunday, in 1846. As we read in Amos’ account recorded above the church first met “upon the first day of the week.” I construe Amos’ account to refer to the congregation’s regular practice and assume that the historians are also correct in their stating that the first meeting was on a Tuesday. Naturally, this assumption might not be correct. I am not aware of any of Amos’ records specifying the specific day in March the congregation first met and, likewise, am not aware of the historians’ sources for such information.]

March 18

March 18, 1929 – Arguably the finest, and most widely loved and respected, Restoration Heritage preacher of his time, Theophilus Brown (“T.B”) Larimore, Sr., dies at the age of 86 in Santa Ana (Orange County), California due to complications from a broken hip. His body is buried in the Fairhaven Memorial Park Cemetery there in Santa Ana.

Born in Jefferson County, Tennessee and living there until the age of 9, T.B. and his family moved to the Sequatchie Valley in Bledsoe County, Tennessee. At the age of 17 (1859) he enrolled in Mossy Creek Baptist College (known today as Carson-Newman College) and attended there until 1861, doing extremely well in his studies in Greek, history, Latin, literature, mathematics, morals, natural sciences, and philosophy.

During the Civil War, T.B. filed as a conscientious objector and so, came to serve as an unarmed scout in Co. H of the CSA, 35th Infantry Regiment. Captured by Union troops in the fall of 1863, T.B. was one of the fortunate ones who did not have to spend the rest of the war in a prison camp, being granted release instead upon his oath not to ever take up arms against the Union. He kept his word and no longer served with the Confederacy in any capacity (a somewhat uncommon occurrence among Confederate troops who managed to gain early release and were in good health in the early and middle part of the war).

Upon his release, T.B. returned to the Sequatchie Valley, but he and his surviving family members soon relocated to Hopkinsville (Christian County), Kentucky. It was there that his mother (Nancy Elizabeth Brown Larimore) entered the Restoration Heritage and, shortly thereafter, on his twenty-first birthday (July 10, 1864), T.B. was baptized into Christ. T.B. then entered Franklin College (near Nashville, Tennessee; think Tolbert Fanning) and graduated from there, as class valedictorian, in 1867, having simultaneously occupied himself as a student, preacher, and logger. The title of the first sermon he ever preached was “Christian Union” and that theme soon ascended to dominance in his life and work.

In 1871, T.B. and his wife, Ester, founded and operated a school for boys and girls at Mars’ Hill, near Florence, Alabama. Daily memorization of the Bible was strongly emphasized in this school and no small number of graduates from Mars’ Hill went on become preachers. In 1885, the Larimores closed the school so that T.B. could devote all of his time to full-time evangelistic preaching and that he did until 1912.

Throughout the late 1860’s until the mid-1920’s, T.B. was a traveling preaching machine, keeping his calendar heavy with evangelistic preaching meetings across the States as well as occasionally out of country (e.g. – Canada, Cuba, and Mexico). Deliberately distancing himself from hot button issues of his time (e.g. – instrumental music, missionary societies, located preachers, attendance at ‘cooperative meetings,’ etc.), T.B.’s ministry was not only highly sought after by churches from every quadrant of the Stone-Campbell Movement, but even by other tribes, too (Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.). He preached wherever he could speak and, having the choice of speaking virtually anywhere, anytime, he deliberately chose to speak across the spectrum of faith expression within our heritage, and to a degree, outside, all the while emphasizing unity among all who claimed faith in Christ. While he had his own views on sensitive subjects, he flatly refused to make any of them tests of fellowship or reasons for the erection of barriers to Christian unity, which, coupled with his humble demeanor, only endeared him all the more to many.

T.B.’s speaking skills put him in great demand for engagements outside of a strictly religious context; however, T.B. consistently turned down such opportunities so as to dedicate his time and efforts toward preaching the gospel and uniting believers, his two great passions in life. We can see how T.B.’s focus on preaching, unity, and deflection of hot button issues merge in a snippet from one of his preaching experiences. During the course of a sermon, after referencing how he was often asked to speak at the exceedingly popular Civil War veterans’ reunions of the time, he said:

“I do not have the time to attend a Veteran’s Reunion.”

He went on from there to explain that he must focus his attention on preaching instead.

As he advanced in years, T.B. slowly scaled back his speaking engagements and devoted time to “local work” in Henderson, Tennessee (1914-1915), Berkley, California (1918-1922), and Washington, D.C. (1922-1925), but he did not give up his extensive travels until 1926 when he moved back to California at the age of 83.

T.B. married twice in life (Julia Ester Gresham [1845-1907] and Susan Emma Page [1855-1943]) and, sadly, he outlived his firstborn son, Theophilus Brown Larimore, Jr. (1872-1903).  And, it was T.B.’s brother-in-law, Rufus Polk Meeks, who came to be a powerful influence in the life of a young college student, resulting in that student’s conversion to Christ in 1890; that student soon to become a well-known preacher in our tribe of the next generation: N.B. Hardeman.

[Personal sidebar: Prior to (and after) the Civil War, my great-grandfather, William Anderson (“W.A.”) Smith and his family, lived in the Sequatchie Valley not far from the Larimore family. They knew each other. W.A. and several of T.B. Larimore’s kin, including a brother (Cassander Porendo; aka: ‘Prendo’ or ‘Prends’) served in the same company during the Civil War, Co.F of the CSA, 2nd Tennessee Cavalry (Ashby’s). W.A. spent time as a POW in Camp Chase and there is some evidence that one of the Larimore kin might have been imprisoned with him there and even died there. In 1888, W.A. had a son, my grandfather, whom he named “Brown Wadsworth Smith.” Since W.A. had been a teacher for a time in life, my family always knew where the name “Wadsworth” came from; however, we’ve always wondered how the name “Brown” came about. Now, after learning that the “B” in “T.B. Larimore” stands for “Brown,” I’m left to wonder if my grandfather was named after the beloved preacher, T.B. Larimore!]

March 19

March 19, 1857 – While on a tour through the South, Alexander Campbell pens a letter to his wife, Selina, from New Orleans. The purpose of his tour was “the pleading of the cause of original Christianity” and “the claims of Bethany College as an institution of learning and science, based on the true philosophy of man as developed and taught in the Holy Bible in reference to his present and future usefulness and happiness as a citizen of the universe, and with special reference to his present development and mission as a citizen of the United States of North America in the second half of the nineteenth century.”

[Whew! Campbell can be, at times, one of the true masters of the run-on sentence. Whenever I feel I might be nigh unto death with that disease myself, I simply read a little Campbell and I typically, and quickly, feel much, much better.]

Campbell’s letter to his wife – remarkably free of run-on sentences – gives us a wee bit of a peek into some of his private world and how the preacher in him is ever preaching, even when he converses with his wife. I suspect our wives can relate. But then again, if I’m separated from my wife for even just a few days out-of state, this isn’t how I talk with her. How about you?

Campbell’s letter reads:

“My dear wife: I am thinking of leaving here in the course of the day. I have had a good night’s sleep, and feel somewhat better. Alexander [Jr.], too, enjoys fine health, and is very good company for me. I could not get along without him. He anticipates all that I want and is very much interested in my comfort in every particular. My visit here has been, on the whole, an advantage and profit to the great cause that I plead. But this is a worldly, sensual and generally a mere fashionable theatre. Still, there is some salt here that preserves the mass from absolute sensuality. I am still more attached to home the farther I am from it. There is no place on earth to me like it. But we have no continuing city here, and should always act with that conviction. We should feel that, wherever we are and whatever we do, we are on our journey home. There is nothing beneath the home of God that can fill the human heart, and that should ever rule and guide and comfort us. There are few pure, single-eyed and single-hearted professors of the faith and the hope. It is only here there we find a whole-hearted Christian. Like angels’ visits that are few and far between. But I am again called out and must say farewell. – Alexander Campbell”

Robert Richardson, commenting on the time Campbell spent on this trip in New Orleans, says that he “assisted D.P. Henderson, President Shannon, and others in the reorganization of the church there, which consisted of about forty members.”

Upon his arrival back home in Bethany, West Virginia, Campbell will write in the Millenial Harbinger of his general disappointment with the overall condition of local, ministerial leadership:

“In my recent excursion through Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, I found … The ministry are not now, anywhere, leading the people as they were wont some forty years ago. The people now rather lead them. And so it will be, because so it has usually been.”

March 20

March 20, 1849 – On this day, someone with the initials “R.O.W.” writes Alexander Campbell a letter, requesting him to define “the difference between the words Fact and Truth …”

Campbell publishes his reply in the April 5, 1849 issue of the Millenial Harbinger, and in doing so, relates these matters to God’s existence and God’s good news. His answer reads, in part:

“Truth and Fact are neither synonyms nor contrasts. Truth is the expressed agreement of words with things. Fact, is something done. To place them in antithesis,-fact, is an event, or something done; verbal truth, is the exact statement of it. Facts are proved by witnesses, truths, by demonstration of the agreement of words with things. All truths are not facts, even when enunciated, but all facts are substantive truths, when fully expressed.

“That God exists, is a truth, but not a fact. That he created the universe, is a fact. The expression of this, in adequate terms, is a truth. …

“The belief of the gospel is the belief of joyful facts;-the death of Christ for our sins,-his resurrection for our justification,-his conquest of Satan four our eternal liberation from his malice and power. Hope, is the expectation for future good,-the hope of the gospel is the hope of eternal good;-‘glory, honor, and incorruptibility.'”

March 21

March 21, 1794Emily Harvie (Thomas) Tubman is born. She grows up to become one of the South’s best-known philanthropists and a strong financial benefactor of works of the Restoration Heritage.

Born into a a wealthy family and marrying into an even wealthier one, Emily never knows material want, but her life is not free from loss. One day in 1836 her husband of sixteen years, Richard Tubman, dies in her arms while they are on their way to visit Emily’s parents. As he dies, Richard expresses to Emily his dying requests: (1) free their 140 slaves and (2) continue their customary trip each year from Augusta, Georgia to Frankfort, Kentucky (not only to see her family, but to avoid the annual plague of yellow fever in Georgia). Forced to temporarily bury her husband’s body by the side of the road, Emily firmly resolves to keep her husband’s wishes.

However, due to the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in 1831, freeing one’s slaves in Georgia is now essentially impossible, requiring a special piece of legislation by the State Legislature for each and every individual who is emancipated. And so, after conferring with prominent statesman Henry Clay – her legal guardian following the death of her father when she was just nine years of age – Emily makes this offer to her slaves: stay with her or move to a portion of Africa now known as Liberia. Everyone who chooses to stay with her will receive some land and a steady salary to become independent farmers. Those who choose to move to Liberia will have their travel expenses paid for and will be emancipated in Liberia. Half of the Tubman slaves vote to stay with her and half vote to move to Liberia. Those moving to Liberia take the name “Tubman” as their own and form their own community called “Tubman Hill.”

Emily now turns to her brother, Landon Thomas, a graduate of Yale University, for advise as to how to invest her monetary assets. She learns quickly from Landon and soon becomes a very savvy investor on her own, ultimately tripling her net worth.

But we must trace Emily’s journey to faith. Such begins with her baptism at the age of thirty-six by a Baptist preacher, just eight years (1828) before her husband’s death. However, Emily is soon strongly influenced by Phillip Slater (“P.S.) Fall, a former Baptist who had, just a few years earlier, led the First Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY into the fold of the Restoration Movement. In time to come she meets Alexander Campbell and is mightily impressed with him, becoming an avid reader of his paper, the Millenial Harbinger. Ultimately, about the time of her husband’s death, she becomes a member of the First Christian Church in Augusta – and a summer-time member of the First Christian in Frankfort, KY. And, whenever Campbell finds himself in Kentucky or Georgia, he typically pays Emily a visit.

Following her husband’s death, being the sole possessor of great wealth, and never remarrying, Emily sets about a ministry of giving to fund good works of many kinds associated with the Restoration Heritage. She endows a professorial chair at Bethany College. A number of students find their college education supplemented or paid for completely by her. When the building of the Christian Church in Frankfort, KY burns down, it is Emily who pays to rebuild it. The American Christian Missionary Society and the Foreign Christian Missionary Society receive no small sums of money. She builds low-cost housing for widows and the elderly in Augusta. And the list goes on, and on, and on.

When Emily dies in 1885 at the age of 91, she is a legend of generosity and assistance in her own time. And years later, William S. Tubman, a third generation descendant of her slaves who made the move from her plantation’s fields to Tubman Hill in Liberia, becomes the nineteenth President of Liberia (1944-1971).

Emily’s body is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery (Franklin County) in Franklin, Kentucky.

links: this went thru my mind

 

American history & the Fourth of July: Debunking the Fourth: Top 10 Unsightly Facts about the American Revolution

“The majority of the Founding Fathers weren’t Christians, but deists.”

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: Ask a Conditionalist (Annihilationist) … Edward Fudge Responds

“Conditionalists begin with the premise that only God is inherently immortal. For humans, immortality is God’s conditional gift, bestowed at the resurrection but only to the redeemed. Those who reject God’s grace throughout life do not live forever. When John 3:16 says the options are eternal life or perish, conditionalists say that means just what it seems to say.

According to conditionalism, at the end of the world, the good and bad alike are raised to face judgment. The righteous enjoy eternal life with God; the lost are sentenced to hell. But God does not keep billions of them alive forever to torment them without end. Instead, those in hell suffer such precise pains as divine justice may require, in a destructive process that ends in extinction. This is the second death, the wages of sin. Eternal punishment is eternal destruction, eternal capital punishment.”

Christianity, civil religion, nationalism, & nominalism, & the United States: 7 Marks of A Stereotypical American Christian

“Obviously, many Christians are more complex and inspiring than the attributes listed above, but we need to start realizing the influence American culture has on our faith. Unfortunately, many of these stereotypes are still perpetuated by American Christians who have strayed away from Christ’s example of sacrificial love and are using religion to serve their own misguided agendas. Nobody is perfect, but we need to start emulating Christ instead of subtly allowing our social surroundings to dictate our spiritual priorities.”

Climate change: Bill Nye The Science Guy Explains The Basics Of Something You Should Really Know [4 min., 34 sec. video]

“If you know anyone who’s having trouble wrapping their head around climate change as a human-driven crisis, this video could really come in handy.”

Culture, evangelism & outreach: Christians and Cultural Engagement

“… Jesus established a relationship in which he could speak and have it heard as a word of grace rather than a ‘I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong’ word of condemnation.”

Children, fatherhood, parenting & singles: The Rise of Single Fathers: A Ninefold Increase Since 1960

“In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.”

Communication, credibility, gossip, lies, slander, speech & words: Don’t Believe Everything You Read or Hear

“Slander is a serious sin, and according to Paul, slanderers will be barred from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).”

Divorce & marriage: Jesus Never Moves On

“…  he has chosen me, he has set his love on me, and nothing will cause him to abandon me. He will never give up.”

Doctors, health & medicine: Common End-of-Life Medical Terms

“Here are some terms likely to be used in such situations as defined by Dr. Darlene Nelson, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”

Head coverings, interpretation & women: Head Coverings in Worship: Why Female Hair is a Testicle (parts 1 & 2)

“Recently, my colleague Trevor Thompson, who is a New Testament scholar here at ACU, shared with me some of the work of another NT scholar, Troy Martin, who is a friend of Trevor’s. One of Martin’s areas of expertise is using ancient medical texts to illuminate NT passages, particularly passages that seem confusing to us. In various studies Martin makes the observation that some of these confusions stem from the fact that we don’t share the same medical understandings of the NT writers and their audiences. When ancient medical terms or ideas are used we often miss the meaning. A good example of this comes from 1 Corinthians 11.2-16.”

Ministry & preaching: * I Am a Preacher; * 10 Things You May Not Know About Senior Pastors

* “I offer this in tribute to all the brave men and women of God who bear up under the weight of our call. I hope it articulates some of the ambiguity, beauty and tension wrapped up in saying ‘yes’ when God summons you to the pulpit.”

* “… I know this is a representative list for many.”

Poverty: Greg Kaufmann on the Truth About American Poverty

“Greg Kaufmann, poverty correspondent for The Nation, says the poor in America are stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.”

Tipping: Tipping: To Ban or Not?

“If I had my way, we’d take this idea to its logical conclusion and get rid of the practice of tipping altogether. Just outlaw it …”

Worship: Ready to Worship

“As we prepare ourselves for worship each week here are three things we should keep in mind.”

this went thru my mind

 

Annihilationism, conditionalism & hell: The Legacy of Edward Fudge & the Future of Conditionalism

“The inaugural Rethinking Hell conference will be held on July 11th-12th, 2014, at the beautiful Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. This will be an historic occasion for the movement of Evangelical Conditionalism/Annihilationism, representing the first gathering of its kind.”

Anxiety, fear & worry: The Dark Doctrine All Churches Hold Dear [required reading]

“How do we become obedient to God’s stark call to refrain from worry?  Stop it.  It is a choice; not a circumstance.  It is obedience; not a mood. To ignore this strong Word from God is indeed to hold a very dark doctrine of rebellion.”

Change & conflict: The Reality of Change and Conflict

“Change invites conflict. You can’t escape that fact. But … avoiding change stifles growth. Which eventually leads to conflict. (Ever been a part of a declining organization…or church?) And … avoiding conflict allows tension to build. Which in the end creates more conflict. (Ever seen what happens when someone is silently angry with you long enough?) Therefore … In my opinion… avoiding conflict or change is impossible.”

Church & witness: Why the Church Can’t Seem to Get Traction in Society

“The reason the church cannot seem to gain traction in this mega-troubled society is we have joined the masses in trying to escape.  Ours is not the call to dodge incoming arrows of rejection; but rather for staying put in pain upon the cross that the hurting may find perfect and ultimate healing.”

Cicadas: The Return of the Cicadas [7 1/2 min. video]

“I’ve been working an a 1-hour documentary on cicadas since 2007 …”

Consumerism & minimalism: Living With Less. A Lot Less.

“Our fondness for stuff affects almost every aspect of our lives. Housing size, for example, has ballooned in the last 60 years. The average size of a new American home in 1950 was 983 square feet; by 2011, the average new home was 2,480 square feet. And those figures don’t provide a full picture. In 1950, an average of 3.37 people lived in each American home; in 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.6 people. This means that we take up more than three times the amount of space per capita than we did 60 years ago. Apparently our supersize homes don’t provide space enough for all our possessions, as is evidenced by our country’s $22 billion personal storage industry.”

Dignity, modesty, respect & swimwear: Jessica Rey – The Evolution of the Swim Suit [9 1/2 min. video; required viewing]

“… he had to hire a stripper to wear it.”

Meaning, significance, and work: God at Work: Not in Vain

“The things we do with our life will find their way, through the resurrecting power of God, into forever. Your work is important, not just because you can contribute to church, but because you get to partner with God! The resurrection of the world means that some of the best ministries, don’t have the word ministry in them!”

Ministry: The Pastor’s Job Description

“Three pastoral acts are so basic, so critical, that they determine the shape of everything else. The acts are praying, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction. Besides being basic, these three acts are quiet. They do not call attention to themselves and so are often not attended to. In the clamorous world of pastoral work nobody yells at us to engage in these acts. It is possible to do pastoral work to the satisfaction of the people who judge our competence and pay our salaries without being either diligent or skilled in them. Since almost never does anyone notice whether we do these things or not, and only occasionally does someone ask that we do them, these three acts of ministry suffer widespread neglect.”

hell: a final word, reviewed (part 2)

 

Understanding the Bible is not a simple matter. Contrary to how I was first taught, not just “anyone with one eye and half sense can quickly understand it.” Indeed, there is little that is truly “simple” about it.

Of course, a great deal of the difficulty comes from the many misunderstandings that surround it. No small amount of my life has consisted of shedding false understandings. What I was told the Bible taught and what I found it to actually teach has often been two very different things. This has been true of topics as widely varied as divorce and remarriage, just war, poverty, and the work of the Holy Spirit, not to mention the very character of God himself.

However, coming to awareness that there was actually a decided difference between my understanding of a matter and that of Scripture has often not been a quick or easy matter. In most instances, it has taken years of study and prayer, coupled with people crossing my path and challenging my thinking, to change my views. For some of those changes in perspective I have paid a personal price, sometimes quite high, but it has led to a clarity and grounding in my conscience that is priceless.

My development in understanding the ultimate end of the wicked has followed this same difficult path and I know that I am not alone in this matter. Further, I know there are many Christians who remain secretly – and needlessly – tormented and unsettled on this subject. And why? Precisely because it touches on the character of God and the nature of human beings.

Though it may come as a surprise to some, there are a variety of views of hell among those who claim faith in Christ and who hold to the Bible as God’s communication with humankind. These views fall essentially into three categories: the traditionalist perspective, the universalist position, and the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding.

The traditionalist perspective is dominant. It’s understanding of hell is that those who will not submit to, and are, therefore, not saved by Christ, will suffer everlasting torment in hell. Hell is for people and people will quite literally be tortured there by fire forever.

Universalists take the opposite position, that no human will be tormented in hell forever, for all will ultimately be saved by God. Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins (HarperOne, 2011) is perhaps the best known recent description of, and argument for, the universalist view.

While these two views might seem to cover all of the bases, there is, however, a third view, the conditionalist (aka: annihilationist) understanding of things. The conditionalist’s perspective is that while God will certainly and actively punish the wicked, they will ultimately suffer the ultimate punishment, being annihilated. The wicked will, one day, entirely cease to exist.

Here, allow me to introduce a personal note. Though my parents were not Christians, I was raised to believe that there is a God, that there is only one God, and that this one God is very good. Though it was not the evidence offered to me by my parents, the evidence for such that proved most persuasive for me on these matters was found in creation itself. Nature spoke, and still speaks, volumes to me of God.

Across the years, only two things have seriously challenged my belief in such a God and one of those was the teaching and preaching on hell to which I was exposed in church when I began my journey with Christ. What I was taught the Bible said about hell came across as a strong contradiction of the character of the God I thought I had come to know, and continued to seek through the Scriptures.

My personal conflict, my secret quandary, was completely resolved upon the publication (1982) and my reading (about 1986) of Edward Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes. Words simply cannot express my elation upon my discovery and digestion of this work. It’s description and development of the conditionalist perspective of God and Scripture not only fully addressed all of my questions, but did so in a compelling way. Now in its third edition, that book continues to provide strong light and guidance for me on the subject that challenged my heart and mind so early on in my walk with God’s Spirit. I owe Edward William Fudge a debt I can never repay and few days go by that I do not thank God for this brother of mine in Christ.

However, for years I’ve longed for the essence of that large volume, The Fire That Consumes, to be distilled into a much briefer and more readily readable format that I could confidently share with family and friends. And so, I’m thrilled to say that very longing has been fulfilled with the publication of Edward’s work entitled Hell: A Final Word. The serious Bible student or academic can appreciate the content and format of The Fire That Consumes, while everyman can easily engage Hell: A Final Word. This is the volume many of us have been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Thank you Edward, and thank you, Lord!

The text of Hell: The Final Word is divided into quickly readable portions, the vast majority of the text (pp. 13-172) being divided into fifty-one chapters. There is no multitude of footnotes in this work as was the case with The Fire That Consumes. In fact, there are no footnotes at all, just twenty-four brief endnotes (pp. 187-188).

There is nothing left dangling or assumed in the reasoning presented. Every stone is turned over and considered and no stones are thrown. The argumentation is coherent and tight, linear and clear, without in any way being argumentative. Grace and graciousness is pervasive in all of Edward Fudge’s work and this book is by no means an exception. Indeed, it is not only a true pleasure to read but, unlike most detailed presentations of Biblical teaching I have seen, is truly “a page turner.”

I can find virtually nothing I dislike about this work. Perhaps I would rather have seen the quiz (pp. 177-186) serve as a tantalizing introduction instead of appearing as something like at appendix. This Q & A alone is worth the price of the book.

The inclusion of a handful of discussion questions every few chapters would have made this work all the more instantly adaptable to use in a small-group or Bible class context.

I would like to have seen references to other works aside from those of Fudge in the chapter entitled “For Further Study” (pp. 175-176), but those who truly want to delve into things deeper need only turn to The Fire That Consumes and will find more than ample references there.

And some of the people I intend to steer toward this book would likely prefer to do without the autobiographical aspects of the work and would rather the author just stick straight to the issue at hand. However, I see the autobiographical style as a tremendous plus, especially to those reading it who have a history in the religious heritage in which Edward Fudge and I are of a part (Churches of Christ).

In sum, this book, like Fudge’s earlier work, The Fire That Consumes, is first rate. It’s precisely the sort of book I will happily be steering people toward for a very long time to come. I can easily see it as a resource for a mini-series in Bible class or for sermons, too. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of a great many, both those who believe already and those who are yet to believe. Would that every Christian would read it.

In short, I say: may this book live long and prosper, and may the same hold true for its author.