I have an old set of the “World Book” encyclopedia. I remember that my mother bought it at a second-hand store when I was a kid. It was published just after World War II, and I have no idea why my parents bought it, probably because they could not afford a new set of encyclopedias. It was long obsolete even then, and likely neither I nor my brother ever used it much. I also have our old set of the “Funk & Wagnalls” encyclopedia. If I recall correctly, the grocery store where Mom shopped used these as a promotion, featuring a new volume every few weeks for a nominal cost. I’m missing a couple of volumes; we likely didn’t need groceries those weeks. With way too much stuff, I have considered throwing out these books. My kids will never want them.
But given recent events, I think I’ll keep these books. For reference. To pick up and read an entry here and there. To perhaps donate to an educational institution that might value them. Recent events feature people with no knowledge of history, no understanding of economics, no understanding, frankly, of much of anything, seeking to destroy and tear down the society. Burning books. Defacing monuments. Pulling down statues erected to honor people that they know nothing about. Violent anarchists and people who constitute angry mobs likely don’t spend much time reading, at least studying anything of objective truth. They are not interested in books – only in burning them, literally or figuratively. Cancel culture is a goal and a mantra.
A book published in the 1950’s “Fahrenheit 451,” describes a society intent on burning books in order to erase history (titled for the temperature at which paper burns). Even at that time, the author feared that the United States might eventually turn away from truth and true history. Destruction of books, statues, and historic sites, obliterating the remembrance of history, is anarchy leading to totalitarianism. Remembrance and respect for history, even the bad aspects of past events, is vital to a society, essential to a freedom-loving people.
My old encyclopedias are obsolete. They do not contain the most recent scientific data. They do not document more recent events, but they document facts and much real history to the point that they were published. They precede the Leftist textbooks and far-Left teaching in the educational institutions of recent decades. They record historic truths in a variety of fields that have been denied or ignored. They record much vital and important information, minus Marxist bias.
When one understands some of the information in these books, one can begin to understand why many of us believe in American exceptionalism. We come to understand that the American Revolution wasn’t fought just to make a bunch of old rich white guys richer as some today claim, and that the causes of the Civil War were complex. We come to understand that the “Noble Savage” myth is just that, a myth, and aboriginal societies were not exactly ideal. We come to understand that character, principles of personal responsibility, deferred gratification, and free-market capitalism bring prosperity to both an individual and a nation. We come to understand the progression and flow of history. We come to understand the basis of true science.
I have many hundreds of books. I’ve asked that if I should die before I move them along, at least an attempt be made to donate them to a Christian institution. I’ll add these old encyclopedias to that request.
While many of us are concerned for our nation and its fate, I am even more concerned for the fate of the church. We have an ancient Book – the Bible – that, unlike my encyclopedias, has no degree of obsolescence. It is timeless and completely true. And yet sadly it has lost its importance to much, maybe most, of the perceived faithful church. A “cancel culture” of ignorance, neglect, and denial has invaded the church.
Months ago, a seminary that once may have been the premier seminary among Bible believers featured a chapel speaker who is a graduate of that school. He is a well-known megachurch pastor in the southeast, a gifted motivational speaker, but no preacher of Scripture. He is noted for his almost disdain of the use of the Old Testament and exhorted the seminary students accordingly. Surely seminarians must be well educated in a variety of fields, able to deal with and relate to people and understanding the society in which people live, able to help people deal with the difficulties they face each day. But at the very foundation of the education a faithful pastor must be – the Bible. He must know systematic and biblical theology. And he must be able to teach and preach scripture, in its entirety, to confront people with the gospel and all of its ramifications for the lives of believers, to help them gain an understanding of scripture and develop a thoroughly Christian worldview and philosophy of life.
That is being forgotten throughout evangelicalism, to an almost stunning degree. “Cancel” the truths from scripture that might offend someone. In effect, “cancel” the gospel. Give people a more acceptable, up to date concept of Jesus. People are advised as to how to “achieve their dreams,” how to “follow their hearts.” People are given life lessons and motivational speeches, advice, formulas for success. Congregations (obsolete word, I know) are exhorted to develop a personal vision, to follow a vision, to have some sort of encounter with God. Self-esteem is big; God is “crazy about you.” God wants you to be prosperous, or successful, or feel good about yourself, or know your true self, or realize how special you are. Create your own reality through positive thinking. Unbelievers are affirmed in their sins, told that they are “awesome,” told that they are “special,” advised to, in effect, add a little Jesus to their life. Church has become a raucous rock/pop concert followed by such a “talk.” One wonders how that can even be considered a “worship service.” Is it really to be compared to hearing from God’s Word, of singing truth from the scriptures, of considering Who God is and what He has done for us in Christ? Did Jesus die to atone for our sins, or to make us feel good and make our dreams come true? Disney message, Disney music, a Disney version of Jesus. “Cancel” all of that absolutist, doctrinal stuff. Help people feel good and learn to be tolerant.
We live in a decaying and dying culture that is in desperate need of truth. Recent events remind us of that. The Gospel is essentially all that the church has. Found in both Old and New Testaments, God has given us the truth that we need both for life in this world and for eternal life. We dare not forget that. When society crumbles, people do not need anything so much as they need the timeless truth of scripture.
That puts a burden and a great responsibility on us as believers. It is not enough to hear a sound sermon and sing a few true doctrinal hymns on Sunday. We cannot merely lament decline. We may have to separate from churches that do not hold to Scripture and preach Christ instead of culture. We must become disciples and students of the Word. We must study it and read it, and we must live it so that we might relate it to the people around us.
In the Old Testament, there is an account of young Josiah coming to the throne in Judah, the southern Jewish kingdom. Israel, the northern kingdom and apostate from God, had already gone into captivity. Judah survived, sometimes apostate, sometimes knowing a time of revival. In II Kings 22, it is recorded that
Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. . . . And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the scribe . . . to the house of the Lord, saying: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house— to carpenters and builders and masons—and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. . . ” Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded . . . , saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
The ancient Jews forgot God. They forgot His Word. It brought calamity. When the ancient scrolls were discovered in the time of Josiah, it brought some degree of revival and postponement of ultimate judgement. It brought life and hope to another generation. As a nation, we cannot forget the truths found in the Old Books. The church dare not forget the truth found in The Old Book.
Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation. (Joel 1:3)