I heard from the man with the genealogy information last night, and he seems to know pretty much everything Cousin Trygve wants to find out. I got the highlights to pass on to him, and I’ll get documents with details when I go down to Decorah this weekend.
Another crisis met and mastered, less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels.
I was back at work today, inventorying books. I found a commentary on Revelation called something like The Letters of Jesus Christ to the Churches. The title hit me funny, and I realized I’d always had a misconception about the New Testament. I’d thought that Jesus left no personal writings behind, but for those of us who believe in the full inspiration of Scripture, the first three chapters of Revelation clearly constitute seven epistles to churches, dictated by the Lord Himself.
Then a second thing occurred to me. If 20th Century American Christians were to imagine an epistle from Jesus, it wouldn’t be like the real ones at all.
Here’s the sort of thing we’d write:
My dear children,
How are you? I just wanted to write and tell you how much I love you. I derive such pleasure from watching you living and growing, enjoying your lives and your families.
I’m not happy about some of the things you do, but I want you to know that no matter how often you fall, I’ll always be right there to lift you onto your feet again. I have such wonderful plans for you—if you could just see what they are, you’d be amazed…
You get the idea.
Now look at what He actually writes. He compliments the churches a little (if He can), and tells them very clearly what they’re doing wrong. He warns them in no uncertain terms that if they don’t straighten up and fly right there will be serious, eternal consequences. The only warm fuzzies he has to offer are to churches under severe persecution, and the best He can promise them is a reward if they hold out to the end (that is, until their enemies kill them).
Compare and contrast.
Later, I picked up a book called The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, by Charles P. Krauth, D.D., published in 1871 by the United Lutheran Church Publishing House in Philadelphia. The first line of the Preface caught my eye:
That some form of Christianity is to be the religion of the world, is not only an assured fact to the believer in Revelation, but must be regarded as probable, even in the judgment which is formed on purely natural evidence.
That was how it looked in 1871, folks. Everybody, even skeptics, were pretty sure that Christianity was so obviously superior to all other religions that it must inevitably be universally adopted in time. This idea went hand in hand with the certainty that Western Culture, in its obvious superiority, was destined to be taken up by every nation and tribe, as each was educated and gained enlightenment.
It’s a depressing thought, considered in light of how the world has changed since then.
But I prefer to think of it in a more positive way. It’s a reminder that things that look inevitable in one age often turn out to be very evitable indeed. Global warming, Islamicization, ever-increasing government power, homosexual marriage… any and all of them may fizzle and end up as a bad joke.
We’re not as wise as we think, and that’s often a good thing.