Out And About (2014/10/30)

It’s been a while since a did an “Out And About” segment, but here we go.



Civil Liberties


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“Remind me of my heavenly birth”: John Newton Brown’s Doctrine of Regeneration

Last night I posted a paper I wrote, “Remind me of my heavenly birth”: John Newton Brown’s Doctrine of Regeneration. The title is pretty self-descriptive. After having completed two biographical papers on Brown (hopefully to be published soon), this is a first stab at a paper on his theology.

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Anne of Green Gables’ Catechism

(a reference to the Westminster Shorter Catechism from book 1 chapter 7)

“I never say any prayers,” announced Anne.

Marilla looked horrified astonishment.

“Why, Anne, what do you mean? Were you never taught to say your prayers? God always wants little girls to say their prayers. Don’t you know who God is, Anne?”

“God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth,” responded Anne promptly and glibly.

Marilla looked rather relieved.
“So you do know something then, thank goodness! You’re not quite a heathen. Where did you learn that?”

“Oh, at the asylum Sunday-school. They made us learn the whole catechism. I liked it pretty well. There’s something splendid about some of the words. `Infinite, eternal and unchangeable.’ Isn’t that grand? It has such a roll to it–just like a big organ playing. You couldn’t quite call it poetry, I suppose, but it sounds a lot like it, doesn’t it?”

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How I Finally Got My Inbox Down To Zero

nonewmailI had an inbox problem. For years now, my personal e-mail account inbox has been quite full, usually containing somewhere between 400 and 800 e-mails.

This week, I finally conquered it. It’s down to 0.

Here are some strategies/principles/insights that I used. None of them are particularly ground-breaking, but perhaps they will be useful to you too:

  1. With a good search feature, folders/labels are often overrated and unnecessary. For the amount of time we spend labeling/foldering e-mails over the years, how often do these categorizations actually help us? This is especially true when our e-mail client (in my case, gmail) has exceptionally powerful searching options. I have not given up on labels completely and I’m not saying they are useless. Just don’t let it bog you down. Don’t let category indecision cause e-mails to linger in your inbox. Just archive them. If you can’t find them based on subject, recipient, date, or content, you may never be aided by the fact that they reside in a folder/label with some two thousand others.
  2. Use getpocket.com. It’s a way to store online articles to read later. They also have a nice text-to-speech option. This service will allow you to delete those myriads of e–mails which are basically just so-hey-here-is-a-neat-article-you-should-check-out. Often you do legitimately want to read the articles eventually, but don’t have time at the moment. This is a way to defer the reading of the article without having it clog your e-mail/inbox.
  3. Don’t use your inbox as a todo list. Delete/archive the e-mail, and then add the todo item into some other service.
  4. If you insist on working from your e-mail as though it is a todo list, then create a ‘someday’ escape hatch. What I mean is this: Make an “Eventually” folder/label. It can hold those e-mails waiting for a “slow day”. They are the sort of e-mails that would be nice to get to in the next year, but really could also slip through the cracks with no headache. Don’t use it for anything that has a deadline or will hurt you if it doesn’t get addressed soon, though!
  5. If you have a full inbox and are working on downsizing it, try not to just delete/archive one message. If you find an email that can be nuked, search for similar ones by subject/sender/etc. Chances are it isn’t a loner, and by finding its cousins, you can reduce your inbox by 5, 10, 15, or 100 rather than one at a time. With some creative searching, it’s amazing at how many e-mails you can eliminate at once!
  6. There are important account information e-mails that you need to keep in the event you lose a username or have other issues. However, the vast  majority of registration confirmation and mailing list confirmation e-mails actually contain precious little useful information and can be archived with little thought.

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An 18th Century Baptist on Delighting In Doing Good

Humphreys Burroughs was a messenger to the 1689 London Baptist Assembly on behalf of the Pennington Street Particular Baptist Church. His son Joseph Burroughs (1685-1761) was a minister, though an Arminian,General Baptist. Sadly, it appears that Joseph may have fell into seriously unorthodox opinions late in his life.

Nevertheless, on March 2nd, 1742, Joseph preached a sermon to a society for the relief of the widows and orphans of dissenting ministers. The sermon was titled: “The blessedness of a benevolent temper” and was based on Acts 20:35.

In it, Burroughs argues that taking pleasure in doing good is not only allowable, but important. It is “so far from being evil, that it highly becomes us.” He argues that it is a way we can imitate God, “who is the most happy of all beings”. When we do good to another person, we are “in the place of God towards them.”

“The man who relieves his distressed brother” is, in Joseph’s mind, not only partaking in another man’s joy, but taking a high delight of his own. And this delight can be pure and need not be mixed with pride.

Joseph also noted that those that pretend that God’s glory is the ONLY end and our happiness means nothing are reasoning in opposition to “the very nature of things, ” and God “never taught us to reason or to act after [that] manner.”

Joseph then concludes with a word of encouragement, stating that that “it is not the quantity of our contributions, which render them acceptable [to God]..but the delight it self in doing good, and the sincere gratitude of the heart, in remembrance of that goodness to which we stand indebted.”

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A Review of The Threefold Cord: The Dark Harvest Trilogy, Book Three

prpbooks_images_covers_lg_9781596381896The Threefold Cord: The Dark Harvest Trilogy, Book Three by Jeremiah W. Montgomery (P&R Publishing)

This is an engaging read in the fantasy genre. I first heard of Jeremiah Montgomery’s fiction in an interview he did with the Reformed Forum podcast. He’s an Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor,and it was interesting to hear about how his Christian faith comes to bear on his writing. I also listened to an interview he did with Shaun Tabatt. I found the interviews fascinating, so when I saw a review copy available on NetGalley, I quickly signed up for it, even though I hadn’t read the previous two books.

I was a bit concerned that jumping into the third book of this trilogy might leave me a bit disoriented, but thankfully that was generally not the case. Even when I found myself struggling at a few points early on to keep up with the episodes and names, there were enough hooks and twists to motivate me to press on. This is a rich fantasy story filled with war, alliances, intrigues, and complicated family relationships. The world Montgomery constructs is fascinating, curious, well-crafted, and ultimately believable.

Montgomery is a highly talented writer, and this book is well-written and readable. He has a great handle on how to surprise the reader and use indirection and there are plenty of twists and thrilling turns. Though religion is a prominent theme and the references to Christianity are very thinly veiled at some points, but they fit into the story well and are not over-the-top or “preachy.” It well reflects reality, which is often complicated and not always neat and tidy. Montgomery has done a good job tying things together satisfactorily, but yet leaving some intriguing loose ends!

This is a great read and I’d recommend it to those who generally enjoy fantasy books. I’m also starting to think that I might need to read the previous two books in the trilogy!

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Josiah Strong: Anti-Immigration and “Assimilation” Advocate

In my research about immigration and the concept of “assimilation”, I came across 534d959316ba5Josiah Strong (1847-1916), who was a Congregationalist minister from Ohio. He is an example of a leader in the “Social Gospel” movement who was, interestingly enough, also an early anti-immigrant advocate and and early developer of Anglo-Saxon supremacist theology. I think Strong is a fascinating character, in that he helps to show how interconnected anti-immigration thinking is with broader, and more serious xenophobia.

A friend of  Theodore Roosevelt, Strong published material vigorously and was a skilful propagandist with incredible influence. Strong had widespread support and, for example, his writings were featured in American Baptist and Southern Baptist publications.

Strong’s book Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis was not only an influential critique of immigration and urbanization, it also was a document which influential in the ongoing development of the ideology of “Anglo-Saxon supremacy”.

Strong held that the Anglo-Saxons have a destiny which involves possessing commanding influence over the world as the representatives of “the purest Christianity.”  He believed that God was preparing the Anglo-Saxons, centered in America, to be the “die with which to stamp the nations”, and that God was also preparing the nations “to receive our impress.”  The race, in Strong’s mind, was “destined to disposess many weaker races, assimilate others, and mold the remainder, until in a very true and important sense it has Anglo-Saxonized mankind.” Using America as its base, he saw the race as moving out, southward and eastward, in a grand competition of races, a “survival of the fittest.”  “Beyond a peradventure, the West is to dominate the East,” Strong said in another article.

It should be noted here, however, that he did not see the Anglo-Saxon’s role as destructive, he vigorously claimed that the assimilation which the Anglo-Saxon race would impose was “for their good.” He seems to have believed that the assimilation he proposed was “benevolent.”

Strong also saw cities as a threat to civilization. Why were they a threat? Cities attracted immigrants. And immigrants, he alleged, attract alcohol, Catholicism, materialism, socialism, and other things that he saw as wicked. Strong was highly critical of those who believed that Roman Catholics could be loyal Americans. He asserted that they were “Catholics first and citizens afterwards” and believed that Catholics were an inherent threat to American democratic institutions, especially in the Western territories.

Strong believed that America’s safety required that “strange populations” of immigrants be assimilated. He also believed that immigration must be severely restricted. He supposed that the more immigrants there are, the harder assimilation becomes. He suggested that widespread immigration would be more likely to “foreignize” American than “Americanize” the immigrants.

I would not pretend that every anti-immigration advocate or every person who insists immigrants should assimilate significantly agrees with every position that Josiah Strong took. That said, it is instructive to review the historical background and examine some of the historical precursors to modern day thinking on the issues. For, many of these ideologies are interconnected. If we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it.

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Charles Spurgeon Against Slavery

spurgeonThose who know a fair amount about Charles Spurgeon will not be surprised to learn that he hated slavery. Spurgeon took a lot of heat in the Southern United States for the following statements after hearing the testimony of an escaped South Carolinian slave:
  • “Slavery is the foulest blot that ever stained a national escutcheon, and may have to be washed out in blood. America is in many respects a glorious country, but it may be necessary to teach her some wholesome lessons…better far should it come to this issue, that the North and South should be rent asunder, and the States of the Union shivered into a thousand fragments, than that slavery should be suffered to continue.”
He then continued to confront those who “sugar coated” slavery:
  • “Some American divines seem to regard it, indeed, with wonderful complacency. They have so accustomed themselves to wrap it up in soft phrases that they lose sight of its real character…It is, indeed, a peculiar institution, just as the devil is a peculiar angel, and as hell is a peculiarly hot place. For my part, I hold such miserable tampering with sin in abhorrence, and can hold no communion of any sort with those who are guilty of it.”
In response, Charles Spurgeon was burned in effigy. So were his books. People made threats of violence. Eventually American publishers began to edit out his comments  about slavery.


  • The Chrsitian Cabinet, December 14, 1859
  • Larry J. Mitchell, Spurgeon on Leadership: Key Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers
  • Lewis A. Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers

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