getting the history part of grammatical-historical

Just a thought that occurred to me while listening to Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds …It is extremely helpful to Bible interpreters to have an understanding of the culture and history in which the Bible was written. This particular “Great Courses” offering touches on some points of history that help us in understanding the culture the early Christians were saved from. I think that I am reading the New Testament with better understanding as a result.

Even better than this course are two other offerings: Herodotus: The Father of History, an excellent presentation by Elizabeth Vandiver and the actual work of Herodotus: The Histories.

These works are full of secular misconceptions and there are sometimes misrepresentations of Biblical information contained in them. However, one thing I’ve found fascinating is the Greek mindset on display. I suspect that many Greeks of the ancient world viewed their pagan superstitions cynically, yet they most likely “hedged their bets” and went along or adopted them as a “cultural practice.” Nevertheless, whether true believers or no, they had a culture to overcome in coming to Christ. “The Greeks look for wisdom.”

As we consider the preaching and teaching of the apostles in the context of the thinking of the day, we can gain insight to perhaps preaching and teaching the pagans of modernistic and post-modernistic society as well.

Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee–a review

Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee
Michael Korda
New York: Harper, 2014.

On a recent vacation, our family happened to go to a Barnes & Noble store (bookstores are a trap for me!). While there, I noticed Michael Korda’s new work, Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. Well, I am a sucker for books in general, and Civil War history and biographies in particular, so I picked this one up. (I did manage to limit myself to just one!)

Biographies can be easier to read than other non-fiction works because of the personal element. Well-written biographies are even easier, and this one is well written (though not entirely without flaws). I swept through the 693 pages in about a week and a half.1 For anyone who has read much Civil War history, a fair outline of those years will be in hand, so some of the material you will have read in other sources. Michael Korda’s approach seems to me to be fairly objective. He respects Lee, but does not worship at his shrine. He critiques decisions, argues with other writers on interpretation, and in the end presents a picture of an interesting Christian man.

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  1. a four hour plane ride from Atlanta to Seattle helped! []

a very special guy


This is our dear friend Al, receiving a knighthood from the Republic of France for his role on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944. He has been invited to a special ceremony there this year (all expenses paid), but at 92, he doesn’t want to chance it. He said to me today, “I made it off those beaches alive once, I’m not sure I can do it again!”

More importantly, Al testifies that he is depending on the work of Jesus Christ to save his soul from sin. He regularly attends our services with his wife and brings one of our other ladies along with them as well. Yes, he is still driving and is as sharp as a tack. He is actually kind of hard to keep up with, but he is a real blessing to us.

the double cross

A funny little vignette from my reading of A Brief History of Britain 1660-1851: The Making of A Nation.

It seems that in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the people of Britain were very concerned with crime. Many crimes were considered capital crimes, including theft. In 1693 a reward of 40 pounds was introduced to anyone who apprehended and successfully prosecuted highway robbers. Later this was extended to burglary. It was hoped that this reward would cut down on crime. One thing it did was create an entrepreneurial opportunity.

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enlightened on the enlightenment

I’m reading a series of books on the history of Britain. I picked them up at the British Museum in London last May. A very enjoyable read – usually accompanying my morning oatmeal! Currently I am in A Brief History of Britain, 1660-1851: The Making of the Nation, by William Gibson. This is volume three in the series; each volume has a separate author.

Came across this quote on the Enlightenment today… made me sit up and take notice!

The Enlightenment is one of those historical ideas that can easily give the impression of inevitability, methodically working towards some pre-determined event or goal. Folk practices and ancient customs, it suggests, irresistibly gave way to science and the laws of nature. This feeling of inevitability is partly because of the way in which historians approach it. The Enlightenment in Britain, and in Europe, was not a single monolithic phenomenon. It was a collection of processes and movements, some of which coincided, some of which were connected; others were disconnected and occurred haphazardly. These events and movements were as contingent and prone to reversal and failure as any other parts of history. The word ‘Enlightenment’ adds to the inevitability as it implies an emergence from darkness, and suggests a shedding of the light of reason on ignorance and superstition. In fact ‘Enlightenment’ was not used by people at the time and was only used much later to summarize all sorts of processes and trends in this period which were quite disparate. So we should restrain the tendency to see the Enlightenment as a victory of science over superstition.

The idea of the Enlightenment as a period of reason is challenged by much of the emotionalism of the period. The evangelical revival, the understanding of the human mind and the growing sense of individualism are examples of the way in which the Enlightenment was also preoccupied with emotions and feelings. How people felt, as opposed to how they thought, forms an important part of the Enlightenment. So while much of this chapter refers to ‘reason’, we should not discount the impact of emotions. (pp. 92-93)

I thought this was a remarkable observation, especially coming as it appears from a secular writer. Gibson is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University. He is also Director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. So perhaps he is not as secular as I thought. In any case, he makes a very interesting observation.


the USCC–a revivalist Civil War ministry

In the New York Times today, there is an interesting article on the United States Christian Commission, an organization dedicated to ministering to the soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War.

Like the Y.M.C.A. movement in North America, the commission drew its force from the Second Great Awakening, a flowering of evangelicalism in the decades before the Civil War. As they offered religious services to soldiers, the commission’s staff also spread its version of Protestant Christianity, grounded in the doctrine of the Trinity, the authority of the Bible, the priesthood of all believers and justification by faith. The commission emphasized conversion, too, and excluded mainline Protestants from serving in its volunteer corps.

D. L. Moody served as a preacher in the work of the USCC.

The comments on revivalism in the article are much more positive than some bloggers offer lately!


recommendation: Disunion, NYT

I’d like to make a recommendation for a fascinating series on the New York Times web site. The series is called Disunion, and is a daily blog about the Civil War, we being now in the 150th anniversary of that conflict. The articles deal with various historical details about the war and the people involved. There is also an excellent Timeline that provides links to the archives from the NYT of the day.

If you are a history buff, I think you will find this fascinating.

I have been following the series on Facebook (I’m thinking on an article about FB sometime soon). I imagine they have an RSS feed also.