Wednesday, June 30

Waving an Umbrella

“It is an equally awful truth that four and four makes eight, whether you reckon the thing out in eight onions or eight angels, eight bricks or eight bishops, eight minor poets or eight pigs. Similarly, if it be true that God made all things, that grave fact can be asserted by pointing at a star or by waving an umbrella.” G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, June 29

"Snopsing" Chalmers and the "Gap Theory"

It is often asserted that the Scottish reformer, educator, and pastor, Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), was one of the originators of the so-called "Genesis Gap Theory" as a part of his effort to harmonize the ideas of evolution and creation. Scan the internet and you'll see this claim repeated again and again. Even many of the most reputable Intelligent Design or Creation Science sites perpetuate this peculiar notion.

It has no real substance however. Indeed, it is an "urban myth."

The actual origin of the "ruin-reconstruction" view of Creation comes from the writings of late 19th century writers like Hugh Miller, G.H. Pember, and I.T. Taylor. It was then popularized by early 20th century dispensationalists such as A.C. Dixon, A.J. Gordon, and H.A. Ironside. And it was particularly propounded in the best-selling study Bibles of Finis Dake and C.I. Scolfield. The theory asserts that some indeterminate amount of time elapsed between the first two verses of the Genesis narrative--this "gap" could then account for millions of years of geologic time or the fall of Satan or any number of other perceived textual difficulties.

There is no record of Chalmers endorsing this view--or anything like it. The notion that somehow he did comes from a single statement in a single lecture out of the more than fifty volumes of his writings.

This is what Chalmers actually said: “The detailed history of creation in the first chapter of Genesis begins at the middle of the second verse.”

Clearly, Chalmers posited no gap, no ruin and reconstruction, and no attempt to reconcile evolution and creation here. At most, he made a simple exegetical observation that Genesis 1:1 declares God's ex nihilo creation; Genesis 1:2a introduces the Spirit's moving amidst the material void; And Genesis 1:2b begins to unfold the details of that glorious moving and its resultant redolence.

Regardless, debates about the age of the earth and possible conflict with the historicity of the Bible would actually not come into common discourse until well after the death of Chalmers. Indeed, he made his isolated comment in 1815--long before Darwin ignited the controversy with the publication of "Origin of Species" in 1859.

Thomas Chalmers most assuredly wrestled with ways to find a common ground for scientists and theologians--his Astronomical Discourses were particularly effective examples of his apologetic methodology. But never would he compromise the integrity of Biblical truth for the sake of scientific accommodation.

Saturday, June 26

Upholding Honor

“On the battlefield, when surrounded and cheered by pomp, excitement, and admiration of devoted comrades, and inspired by strains of martial music and the hope of future reward, it is comparatively easy to be a hero, to do heroic deeds. But to uphold honor in ordinary circumstances, to be a hero in common life, that is a genuine achievement meriting our highest admiration.” Booker T. Washington

Thursday, June 24


In an effort to relieve the besieged Stirling Castle, England’s King Edward II, the effeminate son of the cruel Longshanks, sent troops northward into Scotland—a land that had been in constant rebellion against his sovereignty for more than a decade. First there was William Wallace and his ragged corps of Highland warriors. Now there was the loyal army of the presumptive king of an independent Scottish nation, Robert the Bruce.

Though the great castle overlooking the wide plain of Bannockburn had thus far been able to resist Bruce’s assault, Edward knew it would not be able to hold out much longer. The taking of this fortress was an achievement of which Edward was prouder than of anything else he had done in his invasion of Scotland—in the royal annals, he made it of far greater moment than even his victory over Wallace at Falkirk.

The time and the place of the inevitable battle were thus fixed by an obdurate necessity, on this day in 1314; The English were bound to relieve Stirling Castle; The Scots must prevent them. If the invaders were not met and fought at Bannockburn, they might outflank the Scots and reach the castle. And if the Scots did meet and fight them there, it was not likely there would be any other favorable field for a pitched battle anywhere in the whole of the land. The battle, therefore, would of necessity, be under the walls of the castle. Nevertheless, the odds were against the Scots—they were outnumbered by at least three to one. They would have to rely on strategy—and Bruce had a brilliant strategy.

At daybreak they met the fierce charge of the English armies. A detachment of English archers quickly wheeled around the Scottish flank and took up a position where they could rake the compact clumps of Scots spear men. But the lines held just long enough for a host of decoys—actually just a group of camp-followers—to appear along the horizon of a neighboring hill. The women and children were mistaken for a fresh army of the Scots—just exactly what Bruce had hoped. The confused English lines began to scatter. Scottish pikemen were then able to confine the English to a small land mass between the Bannock Burn—the Gaelic name for river—and the Firth of Forth. With little room to maneuver effectively, the massive English were forced into flight by a final charge of fewer than 2,000 Scots swarming down from Gillies Hill—on that hill today stands the William Wallace Memorial.

The end was rout, confused and hopeless. The pitted field added to the disasters; for though they were able to avoid it in their careful advance, many of the English were pressed into it in the retreat, and floundered among the pitfalls. Through all the history of its great wars before and since, never did England suffer a humiliation deep enough to approach even comparison with this. Besides the vast inferiority of the victorious army, Bannockburn was exceptional among battles by the utter helplessness of the defeated. There seemed to have been no rallying-point anywhere. It was as if the Scripture had been fulfilled, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” At last, Scotland was free.

Scots Wha Hae

In commemoration of the victory at Bannockburn, Scottish poet Robert Burns penned one of his most famous verses--on this day in 1786:

Scots! wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots! wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour:
See approach proud Edward's power;
Chains and slavery!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha for Scotland's King and law;
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me!

By oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or die!

So may God ever defend the cause of truth and liberty, as He did that day! Amen.

Saturday, June 19


According to our present, prevailing cultural consensus truth is myth, and myth is truth. Likewise, it also affirms feelings and emotions as the essential framework for reality. Long before tenured university professors began calling such enlightenment "Postmodernism," we typically used another word to describe this peculiar worldview. We called it "Psychosis."

My Cry Ascends

Why do we worship as we do at Parish? Greg Wilbur explains in a beautiful new video produced by Thomas Purifoy, Ian Kern, and the gifted filmmakers at Compass Cinema.

Wednesday, June 9

Women and Children First

During the Senate hearing following the tragic sinking of the Titanic the doctrine of “women and children first” was very much the topic of discussion. Surviving Second Officer Charles Lightoller indicated that despite the fact that there were actually no maritime laws, which mandated the such chivalry in times of danger he, and perhaps many others like him, believed that the doctrine was a universally-recognized and uniformly-practiced principle of conduct. It was why the overall death toll in the Titanic disaster was nine men for every one woman—for the most part the men gave their places in the few available lifeboats to women.

That was the motivating virtue behind Nellie Taft’s efforts to establish a memorial to chivalry in Washington D.C. shortly after the Titanic tragedy. The First Lady mounted a national campaign to raise funds for a monument to be built in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Taft explained, “I am happy to do this in gratitude to the chivalry of American manhood.”

Using the one-dollar donations of American housewives, nearly $90,000 was raised and a commission was given to a prominent team of artists, architects, and landscape designers.

The monument, dedicated at a very prominent location near the White House on this day in 1913, bears the inscription: “To the brave men who gave their lives that women and children might be saved.” Atop a grand pedestal a beautiful bronze statue of a man, arms outstretched, eyes toward the horizon, was placed.

Sixty-three years later, during the Carter administration, the entire monument was removed and placed in a storage facility where it languished, all but forgotten, for several years. Finally, in 1979 it was given a new home, overlooking the Potomac River where it stands to this day as a reminder of the old virtue of chivalry and sacrifice.

Monday, June 7

The Road to Independence

His resolution “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States,” approved by the Continental Congress June 7, 1776, was the first official act of the United Colonies that set them irrevocably on the road to independence. It was not surprising that it came from the pen of Richard Henry Lee (1732-1794)--as early as 1768 he proposed the idea of committees of correspondence among the colonies, and in 1774 he proposed that the colonies meet in what became the Continental Congress. From the first, his eye was on independence.

A wealthy Virginia planter whose ancestors had been granted extensive lands by King Charles II, Lee disdained the traditional aristocratic role and the aristocratic view. In the House of Burgesses he flatly denounced the practice of slavery. He saw independent America as “an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose.”

In 1764, when news of the proposed Stamp Act reached Virginia, Lee was a member of the committee of the House of Burgesses that drew up an address to the King, an official protest against such a tax. After the tax was established, Lee organized the citizens of his county into the Westmoreland Association, a group pledged to buy no British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. At the First Continental Congress, Lee persuaded representatives from all the colonies to adopt this non-importation idea, leading to the formation of the Continental Association, which was one of the first steps toward union of the colonies. Lee also proposed to the First Continental Congress that a militia be organized and armed—the year before the first shots were fired at Lexington; but this and other proposals of his were considered too radical--at least at that time.

Three days after Lee introduced his resolution, in June of 1776, he was appointed by Congress to the committee responsible for drafting a declaration of independence, but he was called home when his wife fell ill, and his place was taken by his young protégé, Thomas Jefferson. Thus Lee missed the chance to draft the document—though his influence greatly shaped it and he was able to return in time to sign it.

He was elected President--serving from November 30, 1784 to November 22, 1785 when he was succeeded by the second administration of John Hancock. Elected to the Constitutional Convention, Lee refused to attend, but as a member of the Congress of the Confederation, he contributed to another great document, the Northwest Ordinance, which provided for the formation of new States from the Northwest Territory. When the completed Constitution was sent to the States for ratification, Lee opposed it as anti-democratic and anti-Christian. However, as one of Virginia’s first Senators, he helped assure passage of the amendments that, he felt, corrected many of the document’s gravest faults--the Bill of Rights. He was the great uncle of Robert E. Lee and the scion of a great family tradition--a tradition that ultimately set America on the road to independence.

Thursday, June 3

The Habit of Thinking

The students in America’s earliest schools, academies, and colleges were educated according to the great traditions of the Christian and Classical heritage—beginning at the Latin School of Plymouth, established on this day in 1623. They were the beneficiaries of a rich legacy of art, music, and ideas that had not only trained the extraordinary minds of our Founding Fathers but had provoked the remarkable flowering of culture throughout Western Civilization. It was a pattern of academic discipleship that had hardly changed at all since the dawning days of the Reformation and Renaissance—a pattern though that has almost entirely vanished today.

Indeed, those first Americans were educated in a way that we can only dream of today despite all our nifty gadgets, gimmicks, and bright ideas. They were steeped in the ethos of Augustine, Dante, Plutarch, and Vasari. They were conversant in the ideas of Seneca, Ptolemy, Virgil, and Aristophanes. The notions of Athanasius, Chrysostom, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Abelard, and Wyclif informed their thinking and shaped their worldview.

The now carelessly discarded traditional medieval Trivium—emphasizing the basic Classical scholastic categories of grammar, logic, and rhetoric—equipped them with the tools for a lifetime of learning: a working knowledge of the timetables of history, a background understanding of the great literary classics, a structural competency in Greek and Latin-based grammars, a familiarity with the sweep of art, music, and ideas, a grasp of research and writing skills, a worldview comprehension for math and science basics, a principle approach to current events, and an emphasis on a Christian life paradigm.

The methodologies of this kind of Christian and Classical learning adhered to the time-honored principles of creative learning: an emphasis on structural memorization, an exposure to the best of Christendom's cultural ethos, a wide array of focused reading, an opportunity for disciplined presentations, a catechizing for orthopraxy as well as orthodoxy, and a broad experience honing the basic academic skills of listening, journaling, thinking, processing, integrating, extemporizing, and applying.

The object of this kind of Christian and Classical education was not merely the accumulation of knowledge. Instead it was to equip a whole new generation of leaders with the necessary tools to exercise discernment, discretion, and discipline in their lives and over their callings. Despite their meager resources, rough-hewn facilities, and down-to-earth frontier ethic, they maintained continuity with all that had given birth to the wisdom of the West.

It was the modern abandonment of these Christian and Classical standards a generation later that provoked G.K. Chesterton to remark, “The great intellectual tradition that comes down to us from the past was never interrupted or lost through such trifles as the sack of Rome, the triumph of Attila, or all the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. It was lost after…the coming of the marvels of technology, the establishment of universal education, and all the enlightenment of the modern world. And thus was lost—or impatiently snapped—the long thin delicate thread that had descended from distant antiquity; the thread of that unusual human hobby: the habit of thinking.”