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The River of Knowledge

I came across this pic in an article about keeping a digital commonplace book and wanted to save/share it here. At our school we talk about how We stand downstream in the river of Western civilization, and the Omnibus curriculum is one attempt to swim in waters.

The river of knowledge is as broad and fertile as the Nile, which is to say, full of nuggets of excrement, viral diseases, and the occasional crocodile. We don’t want most of this stuff to stick….

But the valuable concepts, ideas, and stories that drift our way are worth retaining. If we want to get compound interest on our knowledge, we have to stop all these precious ideas from draining straight back out the holes in our colander-brains.

How to Get Compound Interest on Your Ideas, Richard Meadows

There’s junk and treasure in the river. I thought the image above was worth collecting.

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WokEd

For whatever reasons, and I think by God’s grace there are probably many, the Christians I spend most of my time with are not trying to be woke. My impression is that many of them don’t even know that being woke is a thing, to pursue or to avoid. Yet I do read about it, have watched a pretty poignant documentary about its effects on business, and like many of the worst parts in our culture at large, have concerns about how the squeaky wheel demands to be praised.

Take for instance this article about “woke interlopers” (which sounds like a bad band name) who are “transforming” Christian higher education. It lists a number of (so-called) Christian colleges/universities that are working hard, apparently, to play the placating game. If only it were a game, not a power grab. By woke rules, there must be acceptance of the message (no matter how irrational) and acknowledgement of wrong (no matter how unprovable). Maybe there will even be the making of an Office of Diversity.

Our early, little, local higher ed effort doesn’t have these problems and may the Lord protect us from ever promoting such envious wokedness.

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Together 4 Dualism

This article, No Longer Together 4 the Gospel, is a few weeks old. The problem is even older than that.

I’ve traveled with a dozen or so men from our church to a couple T4G conferences. We always had a great time together. It is also true that the Reformed-ish, conservative theological perspective is often very narrow, and I’d agree that it applies to the T4G gist.

I don’t agree with Mr. Sandlin that worldview is more important than theology, but that could be just an apparent disagreement. I’m sure he believes that God’s revelation is the source, and the authority, for shaping weltanschauung. But I would say that the problem is a theology problem. The problem is a misunderstanding of God proper, and especially of God’s interests.

The problem is at least implicitly denying that the Creator-Theos cares about time and space, and behaving as if God changed His mind about all the goods in Genesis 1. It ignores the first great commission to man for relationships (be fruitful and multiply) and responsibilities (fill the earth, subdue it, have dominion) on the earth, here and now (Genesis 1:28). That’s at bottom a Bible-reading issue, a doctrinal issue, not a philosophical one, as if worldview came apart from God’s revelation.

While such a limited worldview could be connected to one’s eschatology, I believe that the theological error leading to the dilution in T4G circles is a form of dualism. All of the headlining T4G speakers act and teach as if what God cares about the most and, therefore, what all of us should care about the most, are “spiritual” things. But, ironically, spiritual fruit is earthy. Spiritual people are husbands and fathers (Ephesians 5:18 then look at the family responsibilities that flow out of the Spirit’s filling), not just pastors and missionaries. Spiritual men serve and lead. They redeem the time (5:15), they don’t only work on their sentences about eternity.

It is the Christian confession that Jesus is Lord. It is the Calvinist who (most consistently) acknowledges that God is sovereign. It is a Kuyperian who grasps that the lordship of Christ applies to the rest of the day after our “quiet time” in the Word, and that the sovereignty of God in science and history and families and businesses and education is more than just a token pointing to heaven’s throne.

T4G does exalt Jesus and does preach the Word. And also they do so with a limited expectation of where the incarnate Word and inspired Word apply. Seek the things that are above with the things of earth.

Anyway, read the original article and let’s work to believe bigger than just defending a “privat(ized) theology limited to soteriology.”

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Est. 2020

A little over two years ago I wrote that we were starting a college in Marysville. At the time, we had just decided on our name: Comeford College, but the image I found to use was just of a plain, navy pennant with the word “college” on it.

Thanks to one of our students (who is also my oldest daughter), I’ve got my very own Comeford pennant!

It. Must. Be. Official.

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Gas for the Guitar

I like guitar, I like “Classical Gas,” and I like this edition (which I saw because Mike Rowe shared it):

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Tackling Virgil

We’ve made the call that our 2022 Raggant Fiction Festival will cover some of the epics. The festival’s title is: Monumental Myths – Lit That Made Western Man. When talking about which epic I wanted to cover my first response was anything except for the Aeneid. Ha. Turns out, due to a number of variables, that I am now very excited about tackling Virgil. As I get going, I found this fantastic looking resource that I’ll be trying for doing some work in the original Latin text. I told my Latin students in class today that they can help keep me accountable.

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A New Standard

I’ve been thinking again about starting a newspaper (or a newsapp) for Marysville.

It’s an idea and conversation I’ve had before, but at that time there was the “Marysville Globe.” According to Wikipedia the paper was established in 1891. That was even before the internet. For the two decades I’ve lived in Marysville it was the only local paper I knew about. It’s also the local paper I rarely read due to the less than scintillating copy. It might have been bad, but at least it was ours.

Sometime in the last year or so it disappeared. The url – www.MarysvilleGlobe.com – redirects to the Everett Herald. Bleh. There’s just an archive of the Globe available now.

Which means we’ve got a real opportunity and zero current competition.

There’s a fantastic book called, Rules for Reformers. It focuses on place rather than media, but one of the principles is finding a city that is both strategic and feasible. It is a place that matters and is also a place that can be taken. A “paper,” so-called,” isn’t a city, but it is a source of information and perspective that could really start a fire.

So what if we started a paper that was Local first, State second, Nation next?

What if we loved our city in a way that brought out more of its loveliness?

What if we provided a biblical perspective on what’s happening among and around us, re-presented our Constitutional liberties to our fellow citizens, and pushed our local magistrates to remember their authority and responsibilities to protect us against so much tyrannical overreach coming from the “power” cities of our State?

What if we celebrated our local businesses – where you could enjoy coffee and beer and more – and promoted entrepreneurial opportunities?

What if we highlighted the ridiculousness of some of the official positions in our public schools, and also highlighted some of the other educational movements that are actually awake to the deadly dreams of the woke?

What if we connected churches, not to be under the same roof, but to build a better culture on behalf of the same Lord?

What if we acknowledged that Jesus is the Lord (Romans 10:9), that He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 17), that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and that we will give an account for everything to Him (Hebrews 4:13)?

So what if we called this venture The Marysville Standard? A friend of mine started working with this name a couple years ago. That name might remind us that we are under a (transcendent, eternal) standard, it could urge us to set a new standard for local news and editorials, and it respectfully recalls the name of the paper Abraham Kuyper started in Holland, De Standaard, the same guy who said that Jesus claims lordship over every thumb’s-width in the domain of human existence. That includes Marysville.

Let me know what you think, if the juice would be worth the squeeze, how you could help.

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A Strange Idea Indeed

Here’s a strange idea — what if a university marketed itself as a place to acquire an education?

“What if a university took a completely different tack? What if it rejected the claim that subjects like philosophy, theology, literature and history are basically useless? What if, to the contrary, it insisted precisely on the usefulness of the great books, books like the Iliad, the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov? What if it sought not to coddle students, but to strengthen and toughen them for the challenges of adult life?”

These are good questions.

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The Collision between Faith and Forced Vaccinations

In God’s providence we are still being confronted with COVID panic, or we are being confronted again, or we are being confronted somehow with heretofore unprecedented measures. (Didn’t it seem like the box labeled UNPRECEDENTED was already dumped out?) We have been told to stay home, we’ve been told to mask up, we have been told to vax up, and now we’re supposed to re-mask up. We’ve been told if we stayed home for 15 days we could get back to normal (which I think was more than 500 days ago). We were told that if we wore masks we could get back to (a new) normal. We were told that if we got vaccinated we wouldn’t have to wear masks. We were told that if a certain percentage of the population got vaccinated we could be done with all restrictions. And now, a number of our church members are being threatened that if they don’t get vaccinated then they can’t keep their job. It’s also being teased that if we all don’t get vaccinated none of us might be able to travel or shop in stores or eat in restaurants. Just this past week in Washington state, government employees were given an ultimatum for vaccinations, as well as health-care workers, and all school employees, whether public or private schools. It is surprising, and it would be just silly if it weren’t for how many people are taking it seriously.

So I preached a sermon about how our Christian faith collides with these medical mandates. If you’d prefer to listen or watch, you could go to our church website. But I’m posting a good portion of my notes here as well because I want to be on the record for the sake of the Lord’s servants.

What this post will not be is a set of reminders about your Constitutional rights as a United States citizen or citizen of Washington State. It will not be scientific or medical stats or stories (though that is available and I’d be happy to share what I’ve read and listened to). It will not be about the necessary questions regarding the believability of our public officials or media outlets, about their changing of the goalposts or flip-flopping messaging without corresponding evidence. It will not promote an alternative fear to the virus, a “conservative” fear about tyranny, even though we appear to be in MiniTyrant Season. Instead I want to remind us of what we know in summary form and to affirm our church’s support for your decisions made by faith.

So what I’m writing here is not a legal defense, nor will this help you seek a medical exemption. If pleading sanity was an option, I’m sure many of us would try.

A couple qualifications about terms. I will be speaking about religious exemptions, especially for those who wonder about the legitimacy of claiming that status or who desire to seek such an exemption from your employers regarding “forced” vaccinations via threat of termination or retaliation.

But even as I give the first point below, what we believe is not a footnote, a digression, an incidental allowance for ourselves as some sort of crazies. Seeking an “exemption” is what it has come to, but those who are acting in the place of God have the first problem. Playing savior of others is a hard job, and there will be no exemptions from judgment before God for such arrogance on their part. You may not even want to play along with the pride of men, or be put on their list like some sort of beggar. So be it.

But if a religious exemption is offered to you, and you believe it a God-honoring course of action, then here are some things to consider.

The Faith of Christians

There are three things that are part of our faith, truths we believe in this religious “sect” of ours called Christianity, that apply to your appeal for a religious exemption from mandatory vaccination. They are broad truths that are relevant to any “forced” medical procedure, and, ironically, these are the truths that established the principle of religious exemptions in the first place.

These truths are true whether or not your request is accepted. These truths are true even if we are persecuted for believing them.

1. God’s Sovereignty

Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8). He is God, Creator of all, and He “does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). His Son is the King of kings and Lord of lords, risen from the dead. There is none like Him.

As stated in our church’s longer What We Believe document, Section 3.2:

We believe that God upholds and governs all things – from galaxies to subatomic particles, from the forces of nature to the movements of nations, from evil to good, and from the public plans of politicians to the secret acts of solitary persons – all in accord with His eternal, all-wise purposes to glorify Himself

Which means that we believe that God is sovereign over sickness and health, that He works through miracles and medicine. It means we also believe that every authority on earth throughout history has been established by Him.

For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1, see also John 19:11)

We believe in God’s existence and power and authority, which already makes us weirdos to those busy trying to suppress their knowledge of God (according to Romans 1:18, 21). We are living in different worlds.

Part of the reason for our religious exemption is that we think there is a God over science, not that science is god. We think there is a God over the President and CDC and Governor and County Health District. In our current circumstances, these authorities are not just “doing the best they can” against a virus, they are acting without any reference to God at all. We object to their conceit, and to their entire lack of context “under God,” because of our faith.

As Christians we also are comforted by this truth of God’s sovereignty. He is God and Father. He clothes us, feeds us, cares for us (Matthew 6:26). He knows what we need before we do (Matthew 6:32). He knows that the Gentiles panic about getting their little greedy hearts less anxious. Because God is sovereign we are secure.

2. Limited Government

Though that phrase isn’t in Scripture, it is a truth found in Scripture. Limited government is a religious principle, and a particularly Christian idea, not based on political conservatism or libertarianism.

God sets up kings, and He removes them, at will. God also says what government must do, and what they must not do (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Peter 2:14). He also reveals that sinful men, in their power-hungry pride, will often abuse their positions (Ecclesiastes 8:9).

While He is in control of evil men, He prohibits us from obeying men rather than God (Acts 5:29). God has commanded us to submit to earthly authorities, but not absolutely everything that they mandate.

Plus, it turns out, our system of government in the United States is “the people,” as asserted in our Federal Constitution, which was established to limit the authority of our representatives in government. The Founders got that principle from knowing that the State wasn’t God.

God gave authority to rulers “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). He commands that we pay “taxes to whom taxes are owed…honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:6-7). This does not mean that we will never be on the government’s bad side, it means that when the government acts badly we may suffer for doing good (1 Peter 2:15; 4:19).

But again, this means the government does not have absolute authority. The State may make a “law” that theft is legal, and that will cause the people to groan (as in Proverbs 29:2), but it is wrong. The State may mandate a medical treatment, but it is wrong. Of course the State can use its force, but that is abuse of authority. We object because of our faith.

3. Liberty of Conscience

Scripture does not use this exact phrase, but the truth is there. It has been recognized in political and church history (see a good example of this going back to 1721). Because each man answers to God, we are not even allowed to speak evil against one another, let alone bind them to a moral good we’ve defined/declared outside of God’s Word.

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12, see also Romans 14:4)

Your body does not belong to any Governor, but to God, and it is not the Governor’s prerogative to make you safe from every illness, from all cancers (or climate). You are responsible to God as a steward to consider what is best for your body. What great opportunities God has given us for learning and for seeking counsel with those who have done more medical “practice.” But a public professional cannot dictate your conscience before the Lord. We object to such “force” because of our faith.

The following passages from Scripture have their own contexts, none of which concern vaccinations specifically, but each passage does have broader application in principle.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)

You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2)

whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)

Though many governors have taken up our own Christian language of “loving our neighbors,” they do not get to define that. For what it’s worth, neither do other Christians (pastors, ethicists, bloggers) seeking to make Christians feel moral guilt for not submitting to certain medical treatments, like vaccines. (Here is a bad example of such an attempt, with a good response here.)

Additionally, there are specific questions of conscience related to the current vaccines for COVID-19. All of the currently available vaccines depend on cells from an aborted baby for their production, or they have been tested on such cell lines (here’s my source for that claim). At the same time, I thought this was a helpful article working through distinctions between production of and testing with cell lines by Randy Alcorn. Christians believe in the dignity and sanctity of life from conception to death. Certainly all of this is relevant to our choices, and our consciences.

The Abuse of Force

And so the use of “force” through threats of termination, discrimination and retaliation, are sinful abuses of authority. Can the State, and employers, promote, encourage, and provide help? Of course. Does the Bible authorize the State to quarantine persons with certain sorts of contagious illness? The Bible gives examples of that. But the Bible does not give State, or “masters”/employers, the authority to force any medical procedure on any person (or eat specific food, or only drive on Tuesdays, etc., for the “good” of your neighbor (Romans 14)).

What you must do is not go against your conscience before God.

For more see The Warrenton Declaration on Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, & Authority, most of which I could sign, and then also this statement by the CREC, a Communion which includes many of the kinds of churches we are like.

Conclusion

I am not saying that you must not get vaccinated. I am saying that you must make that choice, by faith, with wisdom through research and counsel.

Our church elders agree that we are not the boss of your medical choices, and we agree that elected representatives or appointed officials or public health officials or business employers are not the boss of your medical choices.

We are available to talk with you, to give you counsel, to give you support if applying for religious exemption including writing a letter on your behalf, to give you support in finding other employment. We labor for your progress and joy in faith (Philippians 1:25). These days, living by faith may bring you into collision with those who would try to force you to go against your conscience.

Today has its own trouble, who knows about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). Who knows what opportunities we will have to live by faith and call on the Lord. In our struggle against sin we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4), and we are not to grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3). As a congregation we are not really running lean yet, but we are running together, and that will continue to be important in whatever days the Lord gives us.

Again, if you’ve considered the risks and have been vaccinated by faith, if you’ve been vaccinated because you willingly chose to make a sacrifice by faith, then you have our support. But what you must do is trust God, thank God, and be ready to give Him an account.

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Comeford College Information Night

There are a lot of reasons for this project we started, and there are a lot of people who could benefit from it. That means you should come to our Comeford College Information Night next Wednesday, April 28, 7:00pm, at The Table building at Reclamation Church in Marysville.

I thought about including a bunch of links to various articles I’ve read recently about the state of most colleges and universities, which is to say, to show how ridiculous higher “education” has become. These places are debt factories. They are immorality playgrounds. They are so liberal that you are not allowed to disagree. They are so scientific that you can identify as any gender you want; shoot, change as often as you change your major, more more!

We are trying to do something better, for cheaper, with actual flourishing for our students and our community. We want them to learn true and transcendent things and then have courage to live for the Lord of them.

“Christian college graduates typically have commitment, but not confidence. They have ideals, but not vision. Except for those going into the professional ministry, no one has laid out for most of them either the possibilities or the responsibilities of penetrating every area of our society with the message of Christ.”

—Robert Briner, Roaring Lambs

We are four weeks away from finishing our first year of classes. Our students have taken Astronomy, Greek (see a Greek “class” in the pic below), Old Testament Theology, Ancient Philosophy, Music Theory, and Great Books. We are making plans for classes to start again in the fall, and we have room for more students, including part-time students or auditors.

The Information Night is open to anyone who is curious, there’s no commitment. There’s also no required masks or distancing, but we will have some dessert. Check out the FB event page and then come see what we’re trying to do.


Want to read some more? Here’s a post on why we wanted to start a college, and here’s another on why we chose the name Comeford.