"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 1, Number 1, January, 1998
"As I See It" (AISI) will aim at quality, not quantity. I don't plan on wasting your precious time with trivialities or petty controversies, nor will I ride hobby horses or run a matter into the ground. I will frankly and, I hope, intelligently address important issues in the world of contemporary Christianity with some attention given to the culture and society in which we live. I will major on issues rather than personalities, though personalities sometimes must be addressed.
AISI will also major on good literature. In 28 years as a Christian, I have very greatly benefited by the reading of books and periodicals. Oftentimes, I have searched for years for good treatments of various subjects (e.g. the matter of wine in the Bible, or a biography of Calvin), not knowing were to look and knowing no one sufficiently well- informed to serve as a competent guide. If the reader can benefit from my reading and study and can be thereby directed to a book, an author, an article that will increase his understanding, improve his perspective, inform his opinion, or encourage his spirit, my intended purpose will have been met.
One of the "curses" of our modern world--at least one of the things people complain about most--is that "there just isn't enough time!" We are busy and rushed most of the time. Dozens of different activities crowd our schedule, and drag us from place to place to place. Work, school, studies, church, sports, TV, music, recreation, all demand our time. It certainly seems as if "there just isn't enough time."
But in reality, almost everyone has time to do the things he really wants to do. It is true, there are unpleasant obligations that absolutely must be done--those late night room cleanings before an SMI [Saturday Morning Inspection], brass to polish, tests to study for, boring textbooks to read (of course, all of these obligations were entered into voluntarily, and so, in effect, you did have time to do the thing you wanted to do). But even in the most pre- occupied life, there is discretion in what we give our time, energy and attention to. And what we do when we can do what we want tells much about our personal priorities.
Some people live for fishing. The fact that I haven't dropped a hook into water in at least 2 years tells you that I am not one of them. For some folks, a K-State home football game is the most important thing on their calendar on an October week-end. Such doesn't interest me at all. For many, staying out late on Saturday and making up the lost sleep by sleeping in on Sunday is a vastly more important matter than their personal relationship with their Creator. God is not a priorty in life to them.
Setting priorities--setting proper priorities--is crucial . Left to themselves, most people end up with warped, self-centered, or insignificant things crowding their lives, while things of vast eternal significance are shoved aside. Stuff that seems so all-powerfully important now turns out to be of so little consequence later on (let me tell you, I speak from much sad experience). But we rejoice that God has not left us without instruction about what should be our priorities in life.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus was talking about the mad rush to get things, to make money, to earn a living which pre- occupies most of the time of most of mankind. That is not to be our first priority. Rather, He commanded, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. God is a king. He has a kingdom. It is presently located in the heart of people. God wishes to be ruler and king in our lives. When we submit our will to His, when we do those things which are pleasing to Him, when we put obedience to Him above all other earthly considerations, we are "seeking first" His kingdom. "His righteousness" is the right kind of lifestyle which He requires. His promise to us is secure: if we put Him first, He will take care of every earthly need we have.
An illustration of this is in 1 Kings 17. Elijah, after bringing on a serious drought by his prayers, is instructed by God to go to the town of Zarephath, to a widow there. When he comes, he finds her in complete despair: she has only a handful of flour left, and is collecting some sticks to start a small fire to cook the last of her food for herself and her son. Then, she fully expects to starve to death in the great famine which followed the drought. The prophet tells her that God will meet her needs if she puts God first. "Go, make your meal, but first, make some food for me." If she fed the prophet first, there would, humanly speaking, be nothing for her or her son. Nevertheless, she put God first, obeyed the command of the prophet, and God was true to His promise: she and her son and the prophet had enough to last until the famine ended.
Another priority which God commands is the priority of self- examination. Before we examine the faults of others, we need to carefully examine our own life and soul for defects. Jesus explains it in Matthew 7:5. First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. On a regular basis, we need to expose our acts and words and thoughts to the light of Scripture. How does my life compare to what it ought to be, according to Scripture? Some compare themselves to other people. This is nothing. Anyone can easily find dozens of people inferior in conduct to himself. The wise man, in contrast, compares himself to the Bible. The Bible is a brighter light, and more clearly displays our defects and sins. And when we discover sins in ourselves, Jesus has a word about what to do about that as well:
And that is the priority of setting right the things we have done wrong. When we do wrong--lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do, among many other things--this places a barrier between us and God. We cannot be in a proper relationship to God, until these things are remedied. And that is why Jesus commands us: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift ((Matthew 5:23-24).
And of great significance is one more priority--that of bringing other people to Christ. Andrew met Jesus the very day He returned from the 40 days of temptation in the desert. What did he do as soon as he discovered that Jesus was the Savior of sinners? He first found his own brother Simon, and he said to him, "We have found the Messiah"....And he brought him to Jesus. I have discovered that it is best to be bold up front in telling people about Christ, and in seizing the first opportunity that presents itself, because "another time" frequently never comes. And it often happens, if your life is consistent, that a week, a month, six months after you talk to someone, they will come to you with a spiritual problem, a Bible question, a desire to know your Savior, and then you can point them to Christ. ----Dad
In his long tenure (46 years) as Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1937) wrote more than 40 books and countless articles for periodicals. I have read en toto about half of his books, and have read significant portions of most of those I have not yet finished. Without exception, all of Robertson's books are marked by a thoroughness in research, a spiritual warmth often lacking in scholarly literature (even his 1,500 page Greek grammar has such, though to a necessarily much more limited degree), and an absolute loyalty to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. I value Robertson's writings on the New Testament above those of any other writer, indeed probably more than any other 2 or 3 writers put together.
In The Christ of the Logia, Robertson responds to the various theories of liberals and apostates of his day about the person of Christ, the so-called "quest for the historical Jesus," the "historic Jesus versus the theological Christ" controversy, the "Jesus of the Synoptics versus the Jesus of John" theory, and "the Jesus of the Logia versus the Jesus of Mark," etc. Robertson shows that in every case, the Jesus of the Logia (a tag for those portions of Matthew and Luke which they have in common but which are absent from Mark, and which is believed by some to be the oldest written document about Jesus, perhaps even compiled by one of the disciples--Matthew?--during His lifetime), and the Jesus of Mark, of Matthew, of Luke, and of John is one and the same Jesus: God incarnate, who performs miracles, claims to be and by His followers is believed to be the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, and who claims a unique and exclusive relationship to God.
To be sure, there are different emphases in each of the Gospels, but it is the same Jesus in every case. It is futile, and fraudulent, to try and drive a wedge between the Synoptics and John, or between the Gospels and the Epistles, as though Christ as interpreted by the writers of the New Testament is different from the One who walked among us in history. Many portraits, but one and the same Jesus.
The crux of the matter, of course, is the critics' rejection of the authority of Scripture. Having presuppositionally rejected the one source by which they could find the true Jesus of history and theology, they stumble about in ever-gathering darkness, searching but not finding, ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Robertson also refutes handily the critical rejection of the genuineness of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, then debunks another critic's claim that Judas, not Peter, was the leader of the 12 apostles (there are no limits to the bizarre and unfounded claims the critics can fabricate). Only one chapter of this little volume is not today worth reading--"The Life of Christ in Mark's Gospel in the Light of the World War" (and he means World War I), which is very dated, and frankly, rather tedious.
This volume is not in print (why has no one reprinted the best of Robertson's topical books in the past 20 years?), but it can probably be met with in seminary or Bible college libraries, via inter-library loan, or, with diligent searching, in the used market (I bought my copy from an English bookseller in 1978, but have seen no copies for sale since).
"The world has tried to do without Jesus, but it has failed. Men have tried hypocrisy, but Jesus at last uncovers the wolf beneath the sheepskin. They have denounced Him as a dreamer and as in the way of progress of the superman, but the very wrath of man has turned to praise at last. The law of the jungle in war and rapine and selfishness have driven man back to the foot of the Cross. The law of love is the law of life. The whole world lay in the grip of the evil one in John's day (1 John 5:19). The only deliverer now as then is Jesus. Men have tried to laugh sin away, but the grim reality mocks their laughter. Scholarship has dealt relentlessly with the sources of our knowledge of Jesus according to the severest tests of modern science. Some thought that the new knowledge had explained Jesus away as a myth of the morning or a legend of the night. But Jesus remains after all is done. He stands forth in clearer light than ever before. He stands on the heights of purity and of pity and calls to a lost and ruined world to follow Him as of old" (pp. vii-viii)
"One has no right to complain of rigid scientific research into the facts. This is what all men should desire. Only one must be sure of the facts. It matters not what the real attitude of a critic may be toward Jesus. One must patiently examine all the facts that are presented in order to be sure that they are facts." (p. 17)
"The Sermon on the Mount is still the highest ethical note struck by any teacher in all time and is to-day considered impractical and idealistic by some business men and politicians who find it difficult to square their practices with the type of righteousness here set forth....The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is meant for the present life, not for the life in heaven." (pp. 56, 59)
"The greatest force in human history is not Moses, not Caiaphas, not Alexander, not Plato, not Caesar, not Napolean, not Shakespeare. Jesus has molded human history as no other man has or will. He is the Lord of Glory today and the Lord of life. He is the world's hope and guiding star. He is the only Savior from sin." (p. 67)
"Science cannot say to God how far he can and cannot go in the working of his will." (p. 71)
"We want to know all that is true, whether it is palatable to our predilections and prejudices or not. Only we wish to know that the new is true. Let the scribe bring out of his treasure things new and old. The old is not true because it is old, nor is the new untrue because it is new. The only way to get at the truth is to try the spirits. We must criticize the critics. There is nothing infallible about modern criticism any more than about the old." (pp. 82-3)
"The best way to read the Gospels is to begin with Mark's simple description of Jesus the Power of God. Then read Matthew's account of Jesus the Messiah of promise. Then read Luke's portrayal of Jesus the Savior of the whole world, irrespective of race or sex or rank. Finally, read John's portrait of the Eternal Christ, the Incarnate Logos, the Son of God and King of Glory. The scene changes, but the Person is the same. We look at Jesus all the time. A different guide has interpreted Christ, but it is the One Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." (pp. 101-2)
"But if we leave the critics and let John's Gospel tell us of Christ, we shall walk in the high places of the Spirit....The Fourth Gospel challenges interest from every point of view. It is a work of supreme art, some would say 'the supreme literary work of the world.' It has the dramatic quality of Shakespeare, the simplicity of Homer, the profundity of Job. There are only thirty pages of it, but it tells us more about Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels and all other books in the world....John's Gospel, in my opinion, is the greatest book in all the world." (pp. 102, 138, 175)
"Mark's Gospel is the briefest of all; and yet, because of these lifelike pictures, his account is fuller in most of the incidents which he narrates than the other gospels." (p. 180)
"There are no hard cases for Christ." (p. 206)
"Every teacher has moments of despair over his pupils." (p. 208)
"The soul of man is competent to deal alone with God, apart from Church or priest." (p. 231)
"It is needless to say that the teaching of Jesus has not been popular when it has been really understood. The crowds in Galilee left Jesus in a body when they saw that, instead of loaves and fishes, he offered the spiritual appropriation of himself and the incarnation of his teaching in their lives." (p. 231)
"Any church that is a mere asylum from the world with no mission to the world will die and deserves to die." (p. 236)
"The reign of God is in the heart, but it must find expression in the life....Morality includes the conduct of the individual towards others as truly as toward God." (p. 245).
William Tecumseh Sherman, as he prepared to begin his invasion of Georgia in early 1864, so hated and so feared Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry that he declared that Forrest must be hunted down and killed even if it cost the Union 10,000 men and bankrupted the Federal treasury. That is the highest possible complement he could have paid to "the wizard of the saddle."
Born in Middle Tennessee, Forrest, inspite of very limited education and a lifelong habit of speaking and writing grammatically poor English, nevertheless became a wealthy--worth a million and a half dollars, by his own reckoning--and powerful man before the "War of Northern Agression" (which Yankees insist on calling the American Civil War). He owned a huge plantation in Mississippi, and was the leading slave-dealer in Memphis, though one must not suppose that he was brutal to negroes. In fact, he refused to break up families, and refused to sell slaves to whites who had reputations of being cruel. When he went off to war, almost 50 of his slaves followed him, serving as his cooks, horse-tenders, and camp servants during the war. For this service, he pledged and put in legal writing that they were to be liberated at the end of the war, regardless of which side was the victor. After the war, at least 20 of his former slaves returned to his Mississippi plantation to resume working for him. Once, he came to the defense of a negro woman who was being beaten by her husband, and was required by the circumstances to kill the aggressor. He was acquited of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Though past 40, Forrest enlisted as a private in the army of Tennessee in 1861. He soon became an officer, eventually rising to the rank of major general. He was the only private to rise to such high rank in the war. Though he had no military training, and almost certainly had never read a single book on military tactics, Forrest nevertheless had a genius for war that made him by most accounts the greatest military genius of the war, outstripping even Lee and Jackson (and of course, far above Sherman, Grant, and Sheridan). His philosophy was simple--"get there first, with the most men." He rarely had the most men in any of the many engagements he was involved in, but he almost always got there first, and struck hard and fast with everything available to him. Middle and West Tennessee, Northern Mississippi, and to a lesser extent, Western Kentucky and Northern Alabama were the scenes of his exploits.
His specialty was in outfoxing the enemy, intimidating the enemy into believing that he had far more men that he actually had, and then crushing the enemy with a rush. Always on the attack, when faced with a superior enemy, his order was always "Charge!" with himself usually at the front leading. Once, when his unit was sandwiched between two union forces, either one superior in numbers to his own, he ordered that his men charge against both opposing forces simultaneously, and they did, driving the Union forces from the field. Of more recent American generals, Forrest most resembles Patton (and used some of the same "colorful" language when addressing his men). I would not be surprised in the least if Patton in fact studied the tactics of Forrest and imitated them.
In the war, Forrest had 29 horses shot out from under (sometimes as many as 3 or 4 in a single day), and personally killed at least 30 Union soldiers--more of the enemy personally killed by an officer of such high rank than at any time since the great land wars in Europe two or three centuries earlier. He was wounded four times in battle, and once was shot by an irate Confederate lieutenant, whom Forrest then held with his left arm, and stabbed with a knife held in his right hand.
Repeatedly, Forrest bluffed much larger garrisons of Union troops into surrender, and secured for his poorly-supplied troops vast quantities of provisions--ammunition, shoes, rifles, cannon, horses, wagons, medicine. He disrupted Union supply lines, both on land and on the rivers (for a time, he commanded a flotilla of several captured Union transports and gunboats on the Cumberland River near Nashville, causing havoc in the process). The greatest Southern victory in the West--Brice's Crossroads in Mississippi--was lead by Forrest. His troops were never bested in battle, even when he was handicapped by very bad orders of his superiors (as he was at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee). Though not present at the crushing Confederate defeat at Nashville in December, 1864 (he was foolishly sent elsewhere by General Hood), Forrest's calvary was called upon to cover the lengthy retreat to Alabama, and accomplished this feat against overwhelmingly superior Union forces. Forrest's command was the last Confederate army East of the Mississippi to surrender, a month after Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
After the war, Forrest, bankrupted by the war, returned to his plantation and to Memphis, but proved a financial failure in the various business interests he pursued. He became the first Grand Wizard of the original Ku Klux Klan (created in 1866 or 1867 and disbanded at Forrest's order by mid- 1869). It had no organic or lineal connection to the later two organizations called by the same name in the 20th century, and was not a race-hatred group. Its purpose was to oppose and resist the oppressive Union occupation of the Southern States during the carpet-bagging era after the war.
In 1875, two years before his death at the early age of 57, Forrest became a convert to Christianity. In answer to years of prayers of his devote wife, he repented and became a believer in Jesus Christ, and joined a Presbyterian church in Memphis.
Robert Selph Henry's biography of Forrest is reportedly among the best if not the best biography of Forrest. It was written in the 1920s and slightly revised some 20 years later, before the historical revisionists and psycho-analyzers began corrupting the practice of biography writing. As a devourer of biographies, I affirm that it first-rate in every respect--thoroughly researched, well-documented, amply- illustrated with pictures and maps, and very well written. Anyone with even the slightest interest in American history, the Civil War, military history or the American South will find the time devoted to this volume to be time well invested.