Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Review of Books on the Reformation

OCT 17 WILL BE THE FIVE HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY of the Protestant Reformation. Here are some books for fun Summer reading. There are too many to settle for one. 

Brand Luther, by Andrew Pettegree was a delightful read. In 1517, at the age of 34, Luther began publishing. Although Gutenberg’s printing press was sixty years old at this time, no one had figured out how to make money with it. Most printers were going bankrupt. 

Along came Martin Luther. The subtitle says it all. How an unheralded monk turned his small town into a center of publishing, made himself the most famous man in Europe—and started the Protestant Reformation.  Pettegree concludes that Luther was a communications genius. What was his secret? He broke the rules by printing in German. 

Before Luther all publishing was in Latin, the language of scholarship. Because the common man didn’t read or speak Latin, books sold poorly, and publishers didn't make money. Luther did something different. He bypassed the academic world, and wrote for the common man. He published in German, and within 24 months he was the most widely read author in Europe. Luther was history’s first best-selling author.

The sheer volume of his writings astonishes the modern reader. Today, his published works fill 80 volumes, and this he accomplished, not with a word processor, but with quill and ink. Brand Luther is informative, and motivational. I highly recommend.

For a good biography of Luther's life  I recommend Here I Stand by Yale Reformation scholar, Roland Bainton. Published over fifty years ago, this classic has sold in the millions. For anyone wanting to understand Luther and the Reformation Bainton is the place to start. Written in an engaging, easy to read style, this book is highly accessible by the non-academic.

To understand the century in which Luther lived, read A World Lit Only By Fire by esteemed historian, William. The subtitle is The Medieval mind and the Renaissance, a Portrait of an Age. Manchester is a world class story teller writing about daily life in the time of Luther and the Reformation. People lived, acted, and thought very differently, and until this is taken into account, it is difficult to understand the Reformers. It was an age of witches, knights, the Spanish Inquisition, Magellan, the divine right of kings, sexual immorality, burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, the Black Plague, dreadful ignorance, and short, brutish lives. Because Manchester details the cruelty and immorality of the era, I only recommend this book for adults. 

Last, skipping to the 18th century, everyone should read Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas, the story of William Wilberforce. Converted in his early 20s, Wilberforce, who was only five feet tall, served as a member of Parliament for over forty years. Despite his diminutive size, he possessed a very large gift of oratory. According to one observer, as he began speaking I thought, “what a shrimp,” but by the time he finished I realized I "this man is a whale."

Wilberforce joined the “Clapham Fellowship” a band of Christian brothers and sisters devoted to ending the British slave trade and reforming the moral temper of the British people. He persevered until the job was done, and it took fifty years. You will learn about the horrors of the slave trade, John Newton, Wilberforce’ mentor, life in 18th century England, and what a man who perseveres, despite numerous obstacles, can accomplish. 

Amazing Grace will also encourage those working to end abortion in the Western World, which also requires Wilberforce's steely-perseverance and long term perspective. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Francis Asbury: American Saint (Book Review)

EVERY GENERATION PRODUCES a forgotten character that is foundational to the experience of later generations. Such was Francis Asbury
(1744-1816). The great Methodist biographer, Abel Stephens, wrote, "No one man has done more for Christianity in the western hemisphere" than Francis Asbury.

A student of George Marsden, historian John Wigger, in his book, American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists, contends that Asbury is the most important American Christian that no one knows anything about today.

Historians call the nineteenth century the Methodist Century. The reason is simple. Under Asbury's leadership the Methodists grew from 300 souls, when he arrived in 1771, to about 200,000 members and 3 million attendees by the time of his death in 1816. Thirty years after his death, Methodists occupied one out of three church buildings in America.

This influence was not due to Asbury's pulpit eloquence. He was not a good preacher. It was due to the power of his example. He was a servant of massive proportions. Riding 5,000 miles per year on horseback, never taking more than $65 salary per year, he was an apostle of the Christian religion. In other words, he was a modern Paul. He trained and disbursed circuit riders throughout the U.S. during its westward expansion. They traveled circuits of remote home-churches, preaching and pastoring on the way. Eventually they became local churches. The hardships Asbury endured to accomplish this task were remarkable.
Traveling conditions were always difficult in the backcountry, and Georgia was no exception. He preached nearly every day while riding about 30 miles a day. “Frequently we have not more than six hours’ sleep; our horses are weary, and the houses are so crowded, that at night our rest is much disturbed,” he complained on March 4, after preaching near the banks of the Ogeechee River. “Jesus is not always in our dwellings; and where he is not, a pole cabin is not very agreeable.” (Pg. 187).
He was fruitful. As the nation expanded West the Methodists did also, riding on the backs of Asbury's fiercely loyal, dedicated, band of itinerants. These men were well-suited for frontier life. Long after Asbury's death they were still imitating his example. While the Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Congregationalists rooted themselves in their East coast congregations, sent their young men to seminary, and lived the genteel life, Asbury's boys were taming the western frontier. This despite the fact that most of them had little formal education.

I was personally challenged by this book in several ways. First, by the example of Asbury's single-minded dedication and holiness. Second, Asbury's willingness to risk all by sending very young men (19-22) into full time ministry challenged me. We would not do this today. Are we missing something? Third, I was challenged by Asbury's willingness to overlook the necessity of formal education. He believed in formal education, and so should we, but he was unwilling to see it as a necessary precedent to ministry, and so should we.

Asbury had weaknesses. He tended toward asceticism. He could be impatient. In addition, although he and his men were crystal clear on the gospel, as a group, they were not theologically oriented. In succeeding generations this proved to be a significant limitation.

Nevertheless, I heartily recommend this book. I profited greatly from it. You will also. The author concludes,
Asbury wasn’t an intellectual, charismatic performer or autocrat, but his understanding of what it meant to be pious, connected, culturally aware, and effectively organized redefined religious leadership in America (pg. 13). 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What's wrong with Social Media?

IN HIS BOOK, The Road to Character, David Brooks nails whats wrong with social media. “Social media encourages a broadcasting personality. Our natural bent is to seek social approval and fear exclusion. Social networking technology allows us to spend our time engaged in a hypercompetitive struggle for attention, for victories in the currency of “likes.” People are given more occasions to be self-promoters, to embrace the characteristics of celebrity, to manage their own image, to Snapchat out their selfies in ways that they hope will impress and please the world. This technology creates a culture in which people turn into little brand managers, using Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and Instagram to create a falsely upbeat, slightly overexuberant, external self that can be famous first in a small sphere and then, with luck, in a large one. The manager of this “self” measures success by the flow of responses it gets. The social media maven spends his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life. People subtly start comparing themselves to other people’s highlight reels, and of course they feel inferior.”

Brooks, David. The Road to Character (Kindle Locations 4819-4826). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Over Fifty Percent of California on Welfare

The following Statistics came from an individual named Hap Gotzian in Spokane, WA. 

 Rather amazing California statistics January 02, 2017

CA. stats are:

Hispanic............ 14,990,000 million
Asian.................  5,736.098
Black .................  2,552,858
Am Indian..............  648,172

Note, Hispanics outnumber Caucasians. But, another interesting statistic is this:

34% of the nations 67,980,000 million people who receive welfare live in California,
and California has only 12% of the entire U.S. population [Fed stats].

This means: 
23,113,200 million welfare recipients live in California.
39,487,345 million people total live in California. [more welfare recipients than workers]
According to your stats, Clinton beat Trump in CA by 2,708,893, so you could say she didn't do that well in California!

  We hear a cacophony of blaring and bleating from the media and the Hillary gaggle that she won the popular vote and therefore she should be president. 
65,124,828 to 62,652,263 or 48.2% to 46.3% with the remaining 5.5% going to the other candidates.

But here are the facts:
Trump led in the total popular vote for all states……. except California.
Hillary won California 5,860,714 to Trump’s 3,151,821.  61.6% to 33.1% exclusive of the other candidates.  [a margin of 2,708,893]
Thus, California gave Hillary the popular vote for all states as claimed by the Democrats and their media stooges.
But, deduct her California vote from her national vote, leaving her with 59,264,114, and deduct Trump’s California vote from his national total,leaving him with 59,500,442.
So, in effect, Hillary was elected president of California and Trump was elected president of the rest of the country.

This exemplifies the wisdom of the Electoral College, to prevent the vote of any one populace state from overriding the vote of the others.  Trump’s Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, whose expertise is polling, saw this early on and devised her strategy of “6 pathways to the White House”.  This meant ignoring California, with its huge Democrat majority, and going after the states that would give him the necessary Electoral votes to win, FL, NC, MI, PA, OH, and WI.  It worked and our country Will Be Secure - after January 20, 2017.

One other tidbit: California is one of 11 “welfare states” where there are more people living off the government dole than there are working for a living. A perfect example of those who vote for a living. Since they have some time on their hands they are the ones who have time to “protest,” (in other words riot)!