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Thread: Our pastor and history

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    Our pastor and history

    Our pastor has an incredibly wide--and deep--knowledge of history. And not just ecclesiastical history, either; but also secular history.

    My wife has often commented that if he had not gone into the ministry, he should have become a history professor.

    Well, just last night--at Monday night class--I found out why.

    Way back in 1981, he became frustrated with watching television, and smashed his TV by throwing it to the ground--an old black-and-white set--and has not owned a TV since.

    In order to fill the time, however, he chooses to read--and mostly (presumably) about history. At least, when he is not studying the Bible.

    I like to think that I have a pretty good historical knowledge. But quite frankly, I am nowhere near the same class that he is in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pjohns View Post
    Our pastor has an incredibly wide--and deep--knowledge of history.
    Does he draw historical parallels in his sermons? I am skeptical about history. Much of it is a selection of information to glorify one group or the other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pjohns View Post
    Our pastor has an incredibly wide--and deep--knowledge of history. And not just ecclesiastical history, either; but also secular history.

    My wife has often commented that if he had not gone into the ministry, he should have become a history professor.

    Well, just last night--at Monday night class--I found out why.

    Way back in 1981, he became frustrated with watching television, and smashed his TV by throwing it to the ground--an old black-and-white set--and has not owned a TV since.

    In order to fill the time, however, he chooses to read--and mostly (presumably) about history. At least, when he is not studying the Bible.

    I like to think that I have a pretty good historical knowledge. But quite frankly, I am nowhere near the same class that he is in.
    One (really two) of my favorite books are my college textbooks concerning American History, pre and post 1865. However, I do enjoy my other books concerning History of the Caribbean and Pre Columbian American History.

    I love history when it concerns the United States and North America. @Pork Chop , don't get mad at me but I do not like English History.
    Last edited by Rickity Plumber; 08-13-2019 at 03:26 PM.



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    Quote Originally Posted by tom View Post
    Does he draw historical parallels in his sermons?
    It is a fair question; but I really am not sure.

    My wife (who is an accomplished pianist) was asked by another church, many months ago, to take over as pianist there. (The person who was previously the pianist was quite elderly, and could just no longer handle the job.) So we leave Sunday School before it is even over--and do not hear this pastor's sermons--to get on the other side of town.

    Prior to that, however--and that has been quite a good while--I do not remember his using his historical knowledge in his sermons. (I could be mistaken here, as I really do not remember.)

    Quote Originally Posted by tom View Post
    I am skeptical about history. Much of it is a selection of information to glorify one group or the other.
    It has often been said that history is written by the winner; and there is much truth in that.

    But I really do not know of a better source for information about the past.

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    Our local newspaper carries his columns. Here is a recent one:

    Joshua ben Sira (which is Hebrew for ‘Jesus the son of Sirach’) is the author of the longest book in the Apocrypha. Such was its influence that in the 3rd century AD it became known as “the Church book’ (Ecclesiasticus).

    Sirach is the last great example of this type of literature, exemplified in the book of Proverbs. Much of Sirach takes the form of proverbs. A short proverb is easy to memorize and call to mind at times of decision or reflection. Sirach probably had an academy in Jerusalem at about that time while Jews were living under the Greek rule of the Seleucid empire, political heirs of Alexander the Great.
    It’s a big book, but the kind that you can dip into and always find something useful and insightful. It has a definite tilt toward the need to seek the Lord in order to be wise, in this world and in preparation for the next.
    The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, and gladness and a crown of rejoicing. The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life.” (1:11-12) It is so closely tied to the inherited theology from Proverbs, Psalms, Job and Ecclesiastes, that you can trace direct lines to what we read in places in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
    When I read Sirach 2:18, “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, but not into the hands of men; for as his majesty is, so also is his mercy,” I also hear Psalm 103:11-12, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” with its description of God’s forgiveness of our sins (how far is the east from the west?) similar to Sirach’s description of God’s mercy as comparable to his majesty.
    When I read Sirach 2:15, “ Those who fear the Lord will not disobey his words, and those who love him will keep his ways,” I also hear, in a not far-off echo, John 16:10, when Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” as well as 5:2 of the first letter of John, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”
    These are not accidental echoes. They are the result of God’s providence, part of the way and reason God chose a people long ago in Abraham, that they might embody for others the notion and promise of the wisdom of the Lord.
    Gospel scholars of the 20th century wanted to rule out as inauthentic any of Jesus’ teachings that sounded Jewish. The most egregious example of this nonsense came from the “Jesus Seminar,” which had professors sitting around seminar tables “voting” on parables etc., with red, pink gray or black beads, as more likely (red) to not likely (black) to have been said by Jesus.
    There were all kinds of problems with their other methods, but to rule out something Jesus said as sounding too “Jewish” is not only rather shockingly anti-Semitic, but historically inchoate. It’s like saying, “we don’t think George Washington said this, because it sounds too much like what a Virginia planter from the Tidewater might say.” The incarnation of the Word of God as a son of David, a child of Israel, was God’s intended purpose to bring all of the world to “Mt. Zion,” to be restored in righteousness to the assembly of peace with God.
    So when I read, even in the Apocrypha, texts that trigger memories of Jesus’ words I know I’m not off track somehow, but am in the presence of a brother, a father in the faith, someone who sought to “trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.” (Sirach 2:6, but also see Proverbs 3:5-6).



    Steve Odom is pastor of Central Christian Church on E. Main St. in Murfreesboro.



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    And here is another of his recent columns:

    The phrase “splendid vices” is associated with Augustine Aurelius (354-430 AD), the bishop of Hippo, a small Roman town on the coast of what’s now Algeria, near ancient Carthage (Tunis). Augustine, born two generations after Christianity became licit in the Empire, took a winding path to faith in Christ, only being baptized when he was 32 and had heard the preaching and teaching of Ambrose, bishop of Milan, a much larger and more important city than Hippo.

    It was in 387, a tumultuous period in church and political history, that Ambrose baptized Augustine, who then made his way back to Carthage, in the Roman province of Africa. Augustine was a remarkable fountain of ideas and wrote many books, letters, and after becoming a priest and then shortly after, a bishop, sermons.
    His fame was such that most of his writings have been preserved, even though his city was invaded and burned by the Vandals while he was on his deathbed, dying on August 28. It’s thought that his books may have been the only books in Hippo.
    But what can be splendid about vice? Augustine, essaying to understand the human soul, its need for grace, its desire for God mixed with its constant running from God, examined the example of the Roman pagan, Marcus Regulus.
    Regulus was a General during the Punic Wars with Carthage, some seven centuries before Augustine. Regulus was considered to have done a bad thing in order to do a better thing. Have you ever found yourself in that quandary? But we shouldn’t confuse Regulus’ choice with modern “Utilitarianism,” for that is an entirely different calculus.
    Regulus had met with a defeat in the First Punic War in 255 BC. He was released on parole to go back to Rome and negotiate a peace with Rome for the Carthaginians. But his parole meant that he had given his word that he would return to Carthage with the results.
    In Rome, knowing that the terms offered were bad for Rome, he advised against them, and the Senate, taking his advice, rejected them. But then, to the surprise and over the objections, protests, and weeping of his wife and children and friends and relatives, he returned to Carthage (modern Tunis), because he had given his word, his parole; he had pledged his honor, which meant his very self. Upon return, having failed in obtaining a peace, he was tortured to death by the Carthaginians, which was what he had known would happen.
    I don’t know if this story can even be understood these days, for we seem to live in a time like the 1930s, that “low, dishonest decade,” as W. H. Auden described them. It was in 1933 that the Oxford Student Union at the end of a debate, approved the Resolution “This House will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country.” And in 1939, E. M. Forster wrote in his pamphlet What I Believe: if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.”
    Did Regulus have a higher duty to his honor than to his wife? Do we even know what that means? How should one measure such things? Regulus had taken an oath in service of his country, should he now violate that for himself and his family? What purpose would be served by returning to a certain death?Augustine admired Regulus in some ways, for it was a brave, expensive decision, and Christians of that time understood the cost of loyalty to God and their faith, and the price of honesty.
    To read more of Augustine, his own spiritual autobiography, The Confessions, is available in a new translation by Thomas Williams, and the best biography in general is Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, by Peter R.L. Brown.

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