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Relics and Things Like That

 

Come along with me to Heaven for an imaginary visit: it is now the “year” 2050 and I have been here quite a while and, although we don’t count “years” in the heavens, I use them as reference point for mere “earthlings.”

I have been watching—whenever I am off-duty from polishing harps and clanging cymbals—some of the churches down there in Waco. One, in particular, is of interest: The DaySpring Church, near Lake Waco. Yes, the lake is still there, although difficult to make out clearly from Heaven because of all the discarded HEB plastic bags, dead fish and rotting boats.

About the “year” 2035, an unusual phenomenon occurred at DaySpring: a small cigar-shaped box was place in the narthex, just underneath a large painting of an oak tree. Inside the box was the right and left big toe knuckles of two former pastors, with their names engraved on the box and part of Romans 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet of those….” The names of the pastors were Saint Erickson and Saint Burlikson, although it is not our heavenly intention to draw attention or lend homage to any relics down there.

However, we must be truthful: upon entering the sanctuary, parishioners were allowed (some would say encouraged) to touch the box or bow slightly before it. It was not done by everyone—indeed, some people were inwardly exasperated that the box was in the narthex and not in the chapel, where other relics and trinkets were kept.

For in the chapel was one of St. Sid’s shoes, the right one, which he always used to tap out his offertory pieces on the piano. Also, hanging on the wall was the wand that one of the music directors had used to direct the choir. It was made of ivory and had been carved with great precision by the former owners of the “Silos.” I should also mention the cane and walker that had been used by an ancient and well-respected member of the congregation. These hung on the wall of the chapel, where once a cross had been. Just why this was done is not clear, even to us in Heaven, but it seems that the cane represented Leviticus 27:32, where every tenth animal passed under the shepherd’s rod and the walker symbolized the chariots that were submerged in the Red Sea.

To the right was a large glass enclosed diorama of various ancient, but sacred items: the ukulele once played by St Dale of Baroon, a hymn book opened to page 368 (or 563, the pages were faded and there were arguments about it every Sunday), a microphone, once spoken into by the head of the Baptist Convention, a King James Bible (autographed by President George Bush of Crawford, Texas), a pressed bluebonnet (planted by Lady Bird), a piece of sod from the original parking lot.

The people still drank coffee, especially on Sunday mornings, and a large wooden carved coffee mug, gifted originally by a St. Harvison, who once held the record for the most cups (mugs) of coffee consumed during a Sunday sermon.

Near the children’s Sunday school rooms—and there seemed to be dozens of them—was a collection of pencils that St. Joel had used in his sketches. Children were encouraged to draw with them and at least one such child had become a famous artist. The pencils were not magical, simply inspirational.

The pieces in the chapel were well-preserved and taken to the baptismal pool once a year for a ceremonial cleansing—a simple yet sacred act.

Within the sanctuary the “Seven Stations of the Cross” had been replaced by “The Seven Seasons of Texas,” with pictures of bluebonnets, football teams and pizza parlors.

I also noticed the “Bell Tower,” a modest edifice that of course had a bell in it, but also had inscribed the names of all the parishioners who had died. There were so many names that it was impossible to hear the bell ring, some names larger than others, but I was assured that it had nothing to do with the amount of their regular tithes or offerings.

Near the entrance to the Church on Renewal Road was a flashing neon sign that said, “No parking near the oak trees” and “Please give way to the handicapped.”

I was quite amazed at what I had seen and decided to question some of the former church members. I quickly found a wise person, a former Church Council member it turned out, and asked: Is DaySpring still a Baptist church? Why do they have relics and assorted religious stuff? Don’t they know what the Bible says about idols?

The wise person—a venerated Texan—spoke slowly and with a decided drawl. “We-all,” he said, “We Babdists had some larnin’ to do, so we invited some of those Katlicks for a meetin or two. They showed us that it ain’t rong to look at those things and remember other things.”

We don’t argue in Heaven and we certainly don’t discuss relics and things, (or one’s logic) so I let it go at that. But I will be keeping my eye on that part of Waco in the future. Lots of things start out like simple stories and become part of the local religious lore.

Even Baptists can leave the narrow Renewal Way.

Karl Franklin
April, 2019
Upon hearing a Bible study discussion

Genesis 201

 

It is getting near the end of the semester and, as “The Substitute,” I need to grade each of the members of our Men’s Bible Study. Normally Eric our teacher (and pastor of the church that most of us attend) would do it, but he is busy training for a marathon, running here and there, and doesn’t have the time for such a menial task. He hasn’t asked me for my assessment, but it doesn’t really matter because “someone has to do it.”

There are from 12 to 17 of us (the “mean” average is about 14), all getting on in years, except for Eric and Bill, who keeps fit playing golf as often as he can afford it.

Last fall I did a short study called “Genesis 101” in which I described where we meet (Ken and Eve Ann’s house). However only men are allowed to attend the study—according to certain Old Testament laws, women have to look after domesticated animals. Hopefully, Ken will remember what we talked about and tell his wife (and the dog).

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The Fourth Dimension

 

I have often heard about the “fourth dimension,” but never thought much about it. Recently, however, we (my wife, Joice, and I) have been taking one of the Great Courses called “The joy of thinking: the beauty and power of classical mathematical ideas.” Neither of us are very “mathematical,” but the lectures are brilliantly presented by Professors Michael Starbird and Edward B. Burger. Lectures eleven and twelve were on the fourth dimension when we introduced to the concept of the fourth dimension through analogy.

Dimension is defined by “degrees of special freedom” as we move about in the world. We are familiar with three dimensions, but the fourth requires that we somehow move out of the three dimensional world in which we are locked. For a four dimensional space we were told to imagine a one dimensional space or line that is stacked and build upon that concept. According to Professor Burger, “a four-dimensional creature would be able to see our internal organs simultaneously with our external world.” Sounds a bit far-fetched and creepy, doesn’t it? But imagining the fourth dimension can move us through space and time like movies or flipbooks do. (There is in fact a movie called “The Fourth Dimension.”

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Clans and Churches

There are over 800 languages in Papua New Guinea, perhaps as many as 850, depending on who is counting and how they count. And many of the languages have “dialects,” the soldiers who make up the language army. There may even be several languages (and certainly dialects) in one geographical area.

People of one language group are often comprised of clans and subclans, groups that trace their descents to common ancestors. Each clan will have one or more leaders responsible for interacting with outsiders or forming alliances with other clans and groups. Some clans are large and some are quite small.

Clans have certain geographical boundaries and there is often fighting, or at least hard feelings, if the boundaries are not respected. There are usually stories, passed down through legend and tradition that tell where and when the boundaries were established. They may be marked by rivers, creeks, ravines, swamps, ridges, or special trees.

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Samples on Classic Christian Thinkers

Samples, Kenneth Richard. 2019. Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction. Covina, CA: RTB.

Samples is a senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and an adjunct instructor of apologetics at Biola University. He is the author of several books, including Without a Doubt and 7 Truths That Changed the World.

Samples introduces us to nine scholars: 1) Irenaeus (Architect of Christian Thought); 2) Athanasius (Defender of Christian Orthodoxy); 3) Augustine (Theologian of Grace); 4) Anselm (Patriarch of Perfect Being Theology); 5) Thomas Aquinas (The Quintessential Catholic Philosopher); 6) Martin Luther (Father of Protestantism); 7) John Calvin ( The Reformation’s Systematic Theologian; 8) Blaise Pascal (Historic Christianity’s Renaissance Man); and 9) C.S. Lewis (Mere Christian Apologist and Writer).  His conclusion is for us to “Take Up and Read.” There are two appendices: A) Church History and Historical Theology Timeline and B) Promoting Truth, Unity, and Charity within Christendom.

Here we summarize only the chapter on Lewis: Samples notes his life and events, influential writings and the key positions Lewis held. He outlines seven key arguments that Lewis used as inferences to prove Jesus’s identity. One of them is the longing for meaning, suggesting that “A person’s profound longing for meaning and transcendence in life is best explained as a pointer to God” (171).

Lewis also argued from reason, as in The Case for Christianity and Miracles, as well as from morality, as in both Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man. Lewis’s underlying idea in Mere Christianity is that “individual believers cannot live as ‘mere Christians’ but rather must embrace a fuller version (a denomination or branch) of the faith” (174). But, regardless of denominational affiliations, genuine Christians must stand together.

Samples evaluates Lewis by looking at his books. In The Screwtape Letters “Lewis describes human moral virtue and shows how that integrity can be corrupted” (177). Lewis values apologetics and uses it as a basic kind of reasoning that emanates from God’s grace and demonstrate a faith that perseveres.

Samples closes his account of Lewis by observing his influence on today’s apologetics, by giving a timeline of his life, noting resources on C.S. Lewis and asking five questions about how Lewis has influenced anyone reading the chapter.

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