f The Wittenberg Door: February 2015

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Thought of the Day: Separation of Church and State

If we are to use the term “separation between Church & State,” we must do so honestly, remaining faithful to the original context: Thomas Jefferson was writing to Baptists who were being persecuted by an officially Congregationalist state government. Thus, he was not calling for a wall that protected the government from the church, but the church from the government. Something to keep in mind when discussing this issue.

--The Catechizer


Friday, February 27, 2015

Why Do People Leave for Rome?

Except for one wedding and one funeral, I haven’t spent any non-tourist time in Roman Catholic churches. (The funeral was my grandmother’s and it was a horrible experience: when the priest went to place the wafer on my tongue, I drew back, and the Eucharist fell to the floor; the gasp from the crowd was palpable, and if the priest’s eyes could kill . . . .)

Both before and after becoming a believer there was never any “there” there for me with regards to Catholicism . The former because no church held interest for me, and the latter because I never found it theologically appealing, especially after becoming Reformed. So I’ve often wondered, “What’s with these people leaving Evangelicalism for Rome?”

At The Aquila Report, former Roman Catholic Dr. Christopher Faria, Teaching Elder at Westminster Presbyterian Fellowship in Falcon, CO, offers eight reasons why people make the exodus:

  1. It represents the religion of my youth

  2. It pulls on my legalism

  3. It draws on my idolatry

  4. It mesmerizes my eyes.

  5. It appeals to my lack of faith

  6. It teeters on the mystical

  7. It permits my autonomy

  8. It legitimizes my isolation

Click here for an explanation of each.

--The Catechizer


Friday, February 20, 2015

Rome, the PCUSA, and God’s Name

From the Witteberg Door archives . . .

Retiring Netherlands bishop Tiny Muskens (not to be confused with any inhabitants of Middle Earth) offered the following proposal to the religious world:

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem.”

Drawing upon their centuries-old tradition of dealing ruthlessly with heretics, Rome responded with a scathing rebuke . . .

"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning.”

Harsh words.

Meanwhile, in Our Own Backyard

Fresh off their recent triumphs of supporting Palestinian terrorism, endorsing the use of marijuana (for medical purposes, of course), and granting local congregations the authority to ordain practicing homosexuals, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has also decided that God’s name needed a little sprucing up.

In an attempt to top those slackers at the Second Ecumenical Council who took a year to produce the Nicene Creed (381), the PCUSA spent six years developing "fresh ways to speak of the mystery of the triune God." Knowing how much God loves the theologically novel, PCUSA churches may now refer to God in any of the following ways:

  • Rock, Redeemer, and Friend

  • Lover, Beloved, and Love

  • Mother, Child, and Womb

And if these don’t strike your liturgical fancy, the PCUSA offers seven other nifty, new names to choose from!

PS. Rumor has it that the PCUSA is already working on a follow-up to their Trinitarian Greatest Hits. It’s an updated version of the Bible where you’ll read about “. . . the Womb of God moving over the face of the waters.” (And if you’re a Trinity Hymnal fan, just wait until you hear the new version of O for a Thousand Tongues!)

God’s Name

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

(Exodus 20:7)

Q. What is required in the third Commandment?
That we must not by cursing, or by false swearing, nor yet by unnecessary oaths, profane or abuse the name of God; nor even by our silence and connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others; and in summary, that we use the holy name of God in no other way than with fear and reverence, so that He may be rightly confessed and worshiped by us, and be glorified in all our words and works.

The Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 99

God’s name represents who He is. Our human languages are woefully inadequate when it comes to revealing the glories of God’s nature. For this reason the Scriptures use many names to cast a ray of light upon His character (e.g., Yahweh Jireh, The Lord will Provide, Gen. 22:14; Yahweh Sabbaoth, The Lord of Hosts, 1 Sam. 1:3; Yahweh Tsidkenu, The Lord our Righteousness, Jer. 23:6). But this is done by the Scriptures and not by us. It is God Who chooses how and by what name He’ll be called; in other words, He has the right of self-definition and self-disclosure. He retains this right as sovereign Lord and creator, and as such is not a wax nose to be toyed with by self-aggrandizing bishops or wayward Presbyterians.

The names of God are not of human invention, but of divine origin, though they are all borrowed from human language, and derived from human and earthly relations. They are anthropomorphic and mark a condescending approach of God to man.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

Commenting on Bishop Muskens, Father Jonathan Morris said that referring to God as Allah was “impractical.” What if I started referring to the fetching Mrs. Catechizer as Selma Hyach. Would that be “impractical”? Anyone who knows my wife will tell you that several minutes will pass before I regain consciousness. How much more forcefully will our Righteous King respond when He is called by the name of a false god? Or when our Creator, who revealed Himself in masculine terms, is told that He can no longer be Father because it’s not politically correct?

A Plea

I ask Rome (considering their weak-kneed response to the bishop), and especially the PCUSA, to consider the Third Commandment and its New Testament counterpart, The Lord’s Prayer (“hollowed be your name . . . Matthew 6:9); I also ask that they—and all the rest of us—observe the following three points from the Institutes of the Christian Religion:

. . . first, whatever our mind conceives of God, whatever our tongue utters, should savor of his excellence, match the loftiness of his sacred name, and lastly, serve to glorify his greatness.

Secondly, we should no rashly or perversely abuse his Holy Word and worship mysteries either for the sake of our own ambitions, or greed, or amusement; but, as they bear the dignity of his name imprinted upon them, they should ever be honored and prized among us.

Finally, we should not defame or detract from his works, as miserable men are wont abusively to cry out against him; but whatever we recognize as done by him we should speak of with praise of his wisdom, righteousness, and goodness. That is what it means to hallow God’s name.

John Calvin

--The Catechizer


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

For Whom did Christ Die? Problem Texts

. . . For the record, I'm not an Arminian, but I have been wrestling with the concept of Limited Atonement for a while.

What, then, do we do with verses like 1 John 2:2, Romans 5:18, and 1 Timothy 2:3-5? Either the Bible contradicts itself (which I don't believe), or there must be some other explanation, perhaps beyond the logic of finite creatures? If Christ's blood is not sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world -- past, present, and future -- then where is its power?

The chagrin expressed by the above commenter is something I’m familiar with; I, too, was there. Particular Redemption was the last of the Calvinistic dominos to fall my way. But once it did, everything made sense. There was a cohesiveness to Scripture (not to mention to soteriology) that was lacking in Arminianism. But now that static was gone.

We are called to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). But this certainly isn’t always an easy task. We often get it wrong. The message doesn’t seem clear, or maybe we think it contradictory. Whatever the conundrum, we have to remember that the problem lays with us, not with Scripture. It’s like static on the radio: Is the station sending a garbled broadcast? Or is the problem with the receiver? God’s message is clear; the static is on our end.

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all (2 Pet. 3:16); yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them (Ps. 119:105, 130).

Westminster Confession of Faith (1.7)

So when we think that passages contradict each other we have to realize that we’re missing something. We need to dig deeper and find the answer that’ll bring the verses together. And one of quickest paths to resolution is interpreting the difficult passages in light of the clear—and that’s how we're going to answer the questions above.

For whom did Christ Die?

The answer to the question, “for whom did Christ die?” is required before we look at the texts mentioned in the comment. We’ll also need to answer the related questions, “Did Christ actually save anyone? Or did He simply make salvation possible?”

  • Christ Came to actually save men (Mat. 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:3-4; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 3:18).

  • Christ accomplished justification for His people (Rom. 3:24; Rom. 5:8-9; Gal. 3:13; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:13-14; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 2:24).

  • Christ secures regeneration and sanctification for His people (Phil. 1:29; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:3-4; Acts 5:31; Titus 2:14, 3:5-6; Eph. 5:25-26; Heb. 9:14, 13:12; 1 John 1:7).

As a matter of fact, the Scriptures do not speak of Salvation in tentative terms. Instead, salvation is spoken of as being accomplished by Christ, not merely as being made possible by Him. That’s why on the cross he proclaimed “it is finished,” not “it is possible.”

We’ve seen thus far that Christ was successful in his mission. Consider John 6:35-40, where Christ declares that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me.” He further promises that He’ll lose none and that He’ll raise them all up on the final day. A good Shepard indeed!

In the tenth chapter of John we learn more of our good Shepard. For instance, we learn that he laid down His life for His sheep. He also promises that His sheep will hear His voice. Moreover, He explained to the unbelieving Jews that the reason they didn’t believe is “because you don’t belong to my sheep.”

What are we to make of this? Christ died for His people—the sheep—not the goats. Furthermore, He declared that His sheep will hear His voice, meaning that His elect will respond to the gospel call. Finally, the reason the unbelievers are unbelievers is because they are not His sheep. Consequently, Christ’s death was not for everyone, but for His elect (sheep) only—not a drop of Christ’s blood was wasted!

Also consider: Mat. 1:21, 20:28, 26:28; Rom. 8:32-34; Heb. 9:15, 28.

Many more Scriptures could be cited, such as Christ’s high-priestly prayer in John 17, where He prays “not for the world,” but “for those whom you have given Me.” Even though this is but a brief survey, the Scriptures are clear: Christ died for the elect, those whom were given to Him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Furthermore, Christ actually accomplished salvation for His people, not merely making it possible. Once again, as Christ said on the cross, “It is finished!”

Problem Texts

Now that we’ve established that Christ died for the elect only, and that He accomplished their salvation, we have the needed clarity to review these problem texts.

1 John 2:2

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

John is writing his letters to warn his readers of the Docetics and their teaching that Christ did not have a material body and that He didn’t actually die. This is important because the “us” refers to is his audience. He’s telling them that Christ’s death is not only sufficient for them, but for the “whole world.” This language matches John 11:51–52:

Now he did not say this [on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Christ died to gather God’s people from around the world (Isaiah 53:8; Matt. 1:21; John 10:11; Rev. 5:9), and not just from the church to whom John was writing. It’s also import to note here that Christ’s death is sufficient to save all, but efficient for the elect only (i.e., applied to the elect only).

. . . if we take into consideration the magnitude and worthiness of the merit, we admit that it would suffice for the redemption of ten worlds; but if we take the plan of God and the intention of Christ into consideration, then it is false to say that Christ died for every person. For this reason others say that his death was sufficient for all, but not effective for all;1 that is, the merit of Christ, because of his worthiness, is sufficient for all, but it is not effective for all in its application, because Christ did not die with the intention that his. death be applied to all. Why should he die for those for whom he would not pray? But he told us that he did not pray for the world On. 17 :9). Those who oppose us argue from passages in which there is reference to the whole world, or to all men, [ Timothy 2:4 and 1 John 2:2, in which all men in general are named. But in I John 2:2 the meaning of "the whole world" is, by metonymy, "the elect scattered throughout the whole world," and in 1 Timothy 2: 4 "all men" means men of every sort, whether gentiles or Jews, kings or private citizens, and so not individuals in a class, but classes of individuals, as the words that follow make plain. The word "all" is used in the same sense in Genesis 6: 19 and Joel 2:28.5

Johannes Wollebius (1586-1629)

Romans 5:18

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

What makes this verse difficult is that “all” does not mean the same thing in each usage. The first instance is referring to Original Sin, and that usage is not in question: clearly Adam’s condemnation is passed on to his all progeny without exception (Rev. 12:9; Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 5:12-21; Romans 3:10-12).

But the second usage can’t mean “without exception.” Justification is a legal term that refers to being declared righteous (in right standing) before God. In other words, the person who has been justified has been saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9). If “all” refers to every person without exception, then everyone is saved: Universalism. But we know that universalism is not true, so “all” cannot mean without exception. That leaves us with the meaning “without distinction.” In other words, Christ justifies both Jews and Gentiles. The verse therefore means that through Adam death spreads to all men (without exception), but through Christ some men, “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), are saved from this condition.

1 Timothy 2:3-5

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

There are two ways of understanding this passage that avoid conflicting with the rest of Scripture: 1) this is an example of God’s moral will or 2) “all” is meant in the “without distinction” sense. We’ve already discussed the “without distinction” sense above, so here we’ll just look at the first interpretation.

I told my adult daughter that I don’t want her smoking cigarettes. It’s my desire but I don’t impose it. But what I would impose is my opposition to her smoking in my house. (Thankfully she chose to bid farewell to the Marlboro man.) This is similar to what we find in Scripture regarding God’s will: He reveals a moral will, which can be opposed, and a sovereign will, which cannot.

For example, we know that it’s God’s will for us to not bear false witness, but we do anyway. Likewise, we know that it was God’s will for Christ to be born, die, and to be raised, and there’s nothing that could stop that. The first can be resisted while the second can’t. Therefore, what we see in this verse is an example of his moral will: God desires all men to be saved (He does not delight in the death of the wicked, Ezekiel 18:23, 32), but He does not enforce this desire (all men are not saved).

--The Catechizer


Monday, February 16, 2015

Washington: A President, Not a King

Here’s my list of the three greatest American presidents:

  • Washington—for not becoming a king

  • Lincoln—for holding this country together during its greatest crises

  • Reagan—for restoring America back to her better self and for defeating the Soviet Union

“The Greatest Mischiefs”

Although our founding fathers had just cast-off the bonds of a king, there was a movement, especially among the military, to make Washington a king. This is exampled in a letter Washington received from Fort Mifflin’s former commander, Colonel Lewis Nicola.

Citing the unrest among the ranks due to Congress' inability to pay them, Nicola suggested to Washington that he use the military to make him, Washington, king.

To a lesser man, the temptation might be overwhelming. But Washington was no ordinary man. Washington responded with a brief and sharply worded letter:

No occurrence in the course of the war has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the army . . . I must view with abhorrence and reprehend with severity [an idea that was] big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my country.

Thanks Be to God for Washington, Scottish Presbyterians, and John Calvin

Praise be to God for His bringing forth and preserving our great nation, and for the stoutness of Washington’s character. We should also praise Him for the means He used to plant the seeds that grew into our form of government: John Calvin (particularly book four of the Institutes), Scottish Presbyterians, and, ultimately, the Scriptures. To God be the glory.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Holy Ghost and Fire

A sound . . . came from heaven . . . they saw . . . The gift had to be visible, so that the disciples might be roused through their physical senses. We are so slow to think about the gifts of God that unless he wakes up all our senses, his power passes away without our noticing. These physical signs prepared the disciples to understand more clearly that the Spirit Christ had promised had now come.

John Calvin commenting on Acts 2:2–3

During my years as a Pentecostal, praying for the “Holy Ghost and fire” to come was common. Typically the prayer would be for the uninitiated to receive the “gift of tongues,” or for the already blessed to have the spigot of “Holy Ghost” power turned to full. One of the main proof-texts for such requests was Acts 2:2–3:

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them

In these passages we read of three signs accompanying the Spirit’s arrival: 1) the sound of a violent rushing wind; 2) visible “tongues” of fire; 3) and each person hearing the “mighty deeds of God” declared in his own language (vrs. 11).

For the purposes of this post we’ll focus on the second sign and see if it really refers to an ecstatic gift or buster-shot of power.


First, the sign is visible: It appeared to them. Or, as the New King James puts it, “and one sat upon each of them.” This differentiates it from the other two signs which were audible.

Luke uses the word “tongue” (i.e., that muscular piece of tissue in your mouth) to describe what the sign looked like: a flame, like that dancing atop a candle, resting upon each person. (This is similar to describing the decent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus as being “like a dove.”) Luke is simply being a good narrator by using a common element to paint a word picture.


Throughout the Scriptures fire is used to show both God’s glorious presence among His people (Gen. 15:17; Ex. 19:18, 40:34–38) and His all-consuming fire of judgment (Due. 4:24; Mal 3:2–5, 4:1; Heb. 12:29). Consider Luke 3:15–17:

Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ,

John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

"His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Here John the Baptist reveals that Christ will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Vrs. 17 makes it clear that the “fire” is the fire of judgment. This is significant because we see the church at Pentecost not being consumed by the fire. Reason being, Christ, as God’s sacrificial lamb (John. 1:29), bore God’s judgment in our place (Isa. 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:21).

"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

Luke 12:49–50

Jesus bears the baptism of God’s fiery wrath so that when He casts the fire of judgment upon the earth, His people won’t be consumed. That’s what’s taking place in Acts 2—the tongues-like-fire representing both God’s judgment (and our delivery from it) and His glorious presence among His people.


Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear

Acts 2:33

Peter reveals that on that Pentecost God fulfilled His promise and sent His Spirit. This makes the events of Acts 2 a unique part of Redemptive History. Pentecostals misapply these texts by reducing Pentecost to some personal, post-conversion experience. But it’s not about me and my experience—it’s about Christ and His glorious work of redemption.

--The Catechizer

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Avicenna and the Law of Non-Contradiction

Many Postmodern thinkers have taken to denying the law of non-contradiction. This law of thought states that A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense.

Despite their protestations, Postmodern-types violate this law when they claim that truth cannot be known. Since they mean for this claim to be taken as true (despite their verbal smoke and mirrors), they are saying that it’s the case that truth can be known and it’s the case that truth cannot be known.

Folly Revealed

With all the ills Islam has brought to humanity, I’ve found something commendable. Muslim philosopher Avicenna (Ibn Sina) deftly shows the folly of denying the law of non-contradiction.

Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned.

Avicenna (980-1037)

I recommend setting this to memory for use next time you encounter someone denying the law of non-contradiction—or if you simply want to recite flowery Islamic prose.

--The Catechizer


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Suffering and the Providence of God

Life is messy, and at times very painful. We Christians are given no promise of escaping the vicissitudes of this sojourn unscathed. There will be suffering. But how are we to view this suffering in light of the knowledge that God is sovereign and ordains all things that come to pass? How are we to respond?

R.C. Sproul takes up this topic in an article titled, For My Good? Here’s an excerpt:

Romans 8:28, which is a favorite for many of us, states that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). There’s no other text that demonstrates so clearly and magnificently the beauty of God’s sovereign providence than that one. The text does not say that everything that happens to us, considered in and of itself, is good; rather, it says that all things that happen are working together for our good. That is the master plan of God’s redemptive providence. He brings good out of evil. He brings glory out of suffering. He brings joy out of affliction. This is one of the most difficult truths of sacred Scripture for us to believe. I’ve said countless times that it is easy to believe in God but far more difficult to believe God. Faith involves living a life of trust in the Word of God.

As I live out the travail that follows life on this side of glory, hardly a day goes by that I am not forced to look at Romans 8:28 and remind myself that what I’m experiencing right now feels bad, tastes bad, is bad; nevertheless, the Lord is using this for my good. If God were not sovereign, I could never come to that comforting conclusion — I would be constantly subjected to fear and anxiety without any significant relief. The promise of God that all things work together for good to those who love God is something that has to get not only into our minds, but it has to get into our bloodstreams, so that it is a rock-solid principle by which life can be lived.

I believe this is the foundation upon which the fruit of the Spirit of joy is established. This is the foundation that makes it possible for the Christian to rejoice even while in the midst of pain and anxiety. We are not stoics who are called to keep a stiff upper lip out of some nebulous concept of fate; rather, we are those who are to rejoice because Christ has overcome the world. It is that truth and that certainty that gives relief to all of our anxieties.

You can read the entire article here.

--The Catechizer


Saturday, February 07, 2015

William Tyndale – Part 2 (Conclusion)

In part 1, we learned of William Tyndale’s early life and how he was drawn to the Reformation. We also learned of the Roman Catholic Church's murderess opposition to an English translation of the Bible. In this post we’ll pickup where we left off, the immanent danger in which Tyndale found himself.

Tyndale’s End

Fearing for his life, Tyndale fled London for Brussels in 1524 where he continued his translation work for the next 12 years. Tyndale’s time in exile was dreadful, as he describes in a 1531 letter:

. . . my pains . . . my poverty . . . my exile out of mine natural country, and bitter absence from my friends . . . my hunger, my thirst, my cold, the great danger wherewith I am everywhere encompassed, and finally . . . innumerable other hard and sharp fighting’s which I endure.

On the evening of May 21, 1535, Tyndale was betrayed to the authorities by a man he trusted, Henry Philips. For the next 18 months, Tyndale lived a prisoner in Vilvorde Castle, six miles outside of Brussles. The charge was heresy.

The verdict came in August, 1536. He was condemned as a heretic and defrocked as a priest. On or about October 6, 1536, Tyndale was tied to a stake, strangled by an executioner, and then his body burned. He was 42 years old. His last words were, “Lord! Open the King of England’s Eyes!”

Tyndale’s Legacy

Tyndale’s translations were the foundations for Miles Coverdale’s Great Bible (1539) and later for the Geneva Bible (1557). As a matter of fact, about 90% of the Geneva Bible’s New Testement was Tyndale’s work. In addition, the 54 scholars who produced the 1611 Authorized Version (King James) bible relied heavily upon Tyndale’s translations, although they did not give him credit.

Tyndale is also known as a pioneer in the biblical languages. He introduced several words into the English language, such as Jehovah, Passover, scapegoat, and atonement.

It has been asserted that Tyndale's place in history has not yet been sufficiently recognized as a translator of the Scriptures, as an apostle of liberty, and as a chief promoter of the Reformation in England. In all these respects his influence has been singularly under-valued, at least to Protestants.


--The Catechizer

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Friday, February 06, 2015

Today in Church History: John Calvin Preaches His Last Sermon

On February 6, 1564, John Calvin preached his last sermon. The circumstance was extraordinary, which befitted this extraordinary man. Although he would not pass for another three months, 23 years of gospel ministry in Geneva was coming to an end.

Fatally ill, and with blood flowing from his mouth, the 54 year-old pastor-theologian was carried to Saint Pierre in a chair. He was a man acquainted with pain. He suffered from terrible hemorrhoids, asthma, kidney stones, pulmonary tuberculosis, and gout. Fever was a consistent companion, and now he had ruptured blood vessels in his lungs due to his violent coughing spells. This same month he wrote of his tribulations to the doctors of Montpellier:

. . . But at that time [20 years ago] I was not attacked by gout, knew nothing of the stone or the gravel, was not tormented with the gripings of colic nor afflicted with piles nor threatened with haemorrhages. At present all these enemies charge me like troops. As soon as I recovered from a quartan fever, I was taken with severe and acute pains in my calves, which, after being partly relieved, returned a second and then third time. At last they turned into a disease of the joints, which spread from my feet to my knees. An ulcer in the haemorrhoid veins long tortured me . . .

But on this day, although every breath a battle, Calvin was a man consumed—consumed with the proclamation of Christ’s gospel. He must preach, and preach he would.

--The Catechizer


Thursday, February 05, 2015

Today in History: The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe, a writer, lecturer, and antislavery reformer, was visiting a Union army camp near Washington, D.C., during the Civil War when she heard soldiers singing the song “John Brown’s Body,” which began with the words “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave.” A clergyman who accompanied her suggested she write new lyrics to the tune. Howe went back to the Willard Hotel in Washington, and then, as she told it:

I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose . . . searched for an old sheet of paper and an old stub of a pen which I had had the night before, and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking.

Howe submitted her verses—which began “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored”—to the Atlantic Monthly which accepted them and paid her a fee of four dollars. The magazine printed the lyrics on the first page of its February 1862 issue under the title “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The song quickly became a favorite of the Union army. In the decades since, in times of war and peace, it has remained one of America’s most-loved hymns.

American History Parade

1846 - The Oregon Spectator, the first newspaper on the Pacific Coast of the United States, is published in Oregon City.

1913 - The Sixteenth Amendment, authorizing a federal income tax, is ratified.

1883 - The Southern Pacific Railroad opens a transcontinental “Sunset Route” from New Orleans to San Francisco.

1901 - Edwin Prescott patents a “loop-the-loop centrifugal railway”—better known as a roller coaster.

1937 - President Franklin Roosevelt proposes increasing the number of Supreme Court justices, leading critics to charge that he was trying to “pack” the court with justices to his liking.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Today in History: The Four Chaplains of World War II

In the early hours of February 3, 1943, the U.S. Army troopship Dorchester steamed through the icy waters of “torpedo alley” some hundred miles off the coast of Greenland. The ship, carrying more than 900 men, was having a rough go of it. Winter winds screeched across the North Atlantic, and heavy seas pounded the bow. Beneath the frenzied surface lurked a German submarine.

At 12:55 a.m. a torpedo ripped into the Dorchester’s side , and immediately the ship started to sing. Desperate soldiers rushed topside, stumbling toward lifeboats and jumping overboard.

Amid the confusion, four Army chaplains worked quietly and methodically, calming the soldiers, directing them toward lifeboats, and handing out life jackets. When they ran out, they took off their own life jackets and put them on other men.

They were four chaplains of different faiths: Jewish rabbi Alexander Goode, Catholic priest John Washington, and Protestant ministers George Fox and Clark Poling. They had joined the U.S. Army to tend to the spiritual needs of the troops. Now, in this hour of urgent need, they put their courage and faith to work so others might live.

As the ship slid beneath the surface, soldiers in the lifeboats took one last look at the Dorchester. They saw the four chaplains standing on deck, arms linked, praying.

Rescue ships plucked 230 men from the sea, but 672 died in the freezing Atlantic. The four chaplains were not among the survivors.

”They were always together,” one of the soldiers later said. “They carried their faith together.” The four chaplains died as they lived, serving their country, their fellow men, and God.

American History Parade

1690 - Massachusetts authorizes the first paper currency issued in American.

1913 - The Sixteenth Amendment, authorizing a federal income tax, is ratified.

1917 - Baseball’s National League is formed with eight teams.

1887 - The United States breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany after a German submarine sinks the liner Housatonic off the coast of Sicily.

1943 - The Army transport ship Dorchester’s sinks after being hit by a German torpedo.

1959 - Rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed when their chartered plane crashes in Iowa.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Monday, February 02, 2015

Today in History: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day, a holiday that, like so many American traditions, has roots in customs brought here by immigrants. Weather lore holds that if a groundhog emerges from his burrow on this day and sees his shadow, he will be frightened back into his home, and winter will last for six more weeks. But if it’s an overcast day, and he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

Why February 2? The day falls about halfway between the winter solstice (beginning of winter) and spring equinox (beginning of spring). Many ancient cultures observed rituals that marked the midseason. They also watched for the reappearance of hibernating animals, such as bears and badgers, as a natural sign that winter was coming to an end.

Early Christians observed February 2 as Candlemas, the day on which priests blessed candles and distributed them to the faithful. A superstition arose that if the weather was fair on Candlemas, the second half of the winter would be cold and stormy. “If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year,” an old Scottish saying ran. In Germany, it was said that if Candlemas Day was bright enough to make a hedgehog cast a shadow, he would go back into hibernation until the spring equinox, meaning six more weeks of cold.

Many of Pennsylvania’s early settlers were Germans, and they brought the customer with them. By 1887, Groundhog Day had become an official celebration in the town of Punxsutawney. Every year, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil is pulled from his heated burrow so he can look for his shadow and predict the weather. Punxsutawney Phil is the nation’s most famous forecaster, but other groundhogs, such as General Beauregard Lee near Atlanta and Staten Island Chuck in New York City, help keep the tradition going strong.

American History Parade

1653 - New Amsterdam, later to became New York City, is incorporated.

1848 - The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican War.

1876 - Baseball’s National League is formed with eight teams.

1887 - The first official Groundhog Day is observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

1940 - Frank Sinatra gets his big break when he debuts with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in Indianapolis.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America