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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 46

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues:

Associates. There are so many societies and lodges which crowd their claims upon people that the question of affiliation with them often arises. Such action should be summoned before these scrutinizing tests.

S. If the society has only worldly aims, is controlled by worldly people, and is sustained by worldly expedients, then the Scripture commands: "Come out from among them and be ye separate," and "Be not conformed to the world," should settle the matter without further investigation.

R. Would affiliation with it be right? Would time and money thus spent be for the glory of God? Would it lead to saying or doing anything that Jesus would not approve?

P. Is the way open for spending the time which would be thus taken without infringing on other sacred duties? Is there no other providential barrier?

R. Is it reasonable to unite with it? Will spirituality be blurred or brightened? Is it the best investment for the time and money it will take?

Will my example in uniting be such as I will be glad to have young converts and others follow? Have I reason to believe that Jesus would do likewise were He in my place? If there is doubt about a rightful answer to any of the above questions, reason will demand a stop, and refuse to affix her signet until the doubt disappears. He who turns a deaf ear to any one of these four friendly counselors does so at his peril, and sooner or later will find that he has grasped thorns instead of roses.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sunspots 623

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity:  Christianity Today reports on a Gallup poll that says that the thing most churchgoers are really looking for is solid Bible teaching in the sermon.

Christianity Today also reports on how the Coptic Christians of Egypt have forgiven those responsible for deadly terrorist bombings of their places of worship.

A Relevant writer asks why so many Christians don't seem to be bothered by sexual harassment scandals.

Finance: Listverse on the unexpected origins of some famous companies. (Example: Samsung started as a grocery store!)

Health: Statnews on the care of Alzheimer's patients at home, with state assistance, in North Dakota (which has a high occurrence of Alzheimer's.)

National Geographic reports that Dubai is well on the way to becoming one of the greenest cities on earth.

National Public Radio examines the possibilities of getting hearing aids over the counter.

Politics: Listverse gives capsule biographies, and photos, of 10 important, powerful North Koreans, who aren't part of their leader's family. They are all male.

Science: The Principles and Goals of the March for Science.

A Scientific American writer tells how climate change is affecting Bangladesh, and how it will do so in the near future.

National Public Radio reports on developments that may lead to an artificial womb, and on some of the issues that would raise, if it came to be.

NPR also reports that a caterpillar may be able to consume plastic bags, so that they are biodegradable.

(or something) Wired reports that thieves with two $11 devices can fool your wireless car key system, and steal your vehicle.

Sports: FiveThirtyEight has studied NBA players who are slow to get back on defense. (Too often, because they are complaining about a foul call or no-call.)

Image source (public domain)

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz

I recently finished the Deryni novels, by Katherine Kurtz. There are, so far, sixteen of these works, published over a span from 1970 to 2014, an impressive output, indeed. (Kurtz has written other books.)

What is a Deryni? The Deryni are people with magical/psychic powers. Many of them can read the minds of others well enough to know if they are telling the truth. A few of them can heal serious sickness or wounds. They can communicate with other Deryni over long distances, using telepathy. They have built a network of portals, places where they can magically travel, almost instantaneously over long distances, from one portal to another. The Deryni mostly live among ordinary people, and can't be told from them by appearance. They can marry non-Deryni. Some Deryni can appear to be someone else. (One Deryni, Camber of Culdi, took on another man's appearance for years, for unselfish reasons.) The only humans with Deryni powers have one or more Deryni ancestors.

The setting of these works is from AD 903 to 1128, in a fictional Europe, probably the British Isles. The geography appears to be fictional, too. The culture is based on the culture of the area during the times specified. That is, government is by a hereditary monarchy and aristocracy. The most important people live in castles, or other impressive dwellings, with their subordinates. The church is very powerful, in some things more so than the king. There are several female orders, and several male ones, all related to the church. There are priests, and bishops, and archbishops, one of which is always the highest authority in the land of Gwynedd, where almost all of the books take place. There is no mention of a pope in any of the books. The religion practiced is a form of Catholicism, or much like Catholicism. Young men of high blood become pages, squires, and knights. There are battles, using swords, lances, knives and bows and arrows.

Much of the plots involve Deryni keeping themselves secret from non-Deryni, especially from most of the church hierarchy, who persecute, and even kill, people with Deryni powers. There are evil Deryni who misuse their powers, which is one reason, other than fear of the unknown, that leads to occasional persecution of the Deryni. Most of the Deryni are not evil, however. I would say that, although there are important plots in all of these books, that they are also character-driven, and, furthermore, rely on descriptions -- their setting. Kurtz seems to enjoy describing church and state ceremonies. In most cases, ceremonies of state, such as becoming a knight, or swearing fealty to the king, are both spiritual and temporal. The books also have lots of descriptions of what the characters are wearing, and of the dwellings they inhabit.

Kurtz is not shy about allowing her characters to die. Some die by violence, in battle, or by magic. Some die from sickness.

The kings of Gwynedd are all members of the Haldane family. All of them possess some psychic, or magical, powers, although not all who have such abilities are held to be Deryni.

A few years ago, I attempted to ask, and answer, the question, "what makes a novel a Christian novel?" My answer is this:
A Christian novel should include three things. First, some sort of important choice between good and evil. Second, there should also be evidence that a character has hope, beyond despair. These two are, in my opinion, required conditions for a Christian novel. Third, such a work should also contain at least one of the following options, as a significant part of the plot, or the theme, or as an attribute of an important character: 1) A Christ-figure 2) Belief in important orthodox Christian doctrine, on the part of a narrator or character 3) Practicing prayer to a monotheistic divine being 4) Having a relationship with such a monotheistic divine being in other significant ways, including receiving guidance from him, or being placed in his presence. (For more discussion of these points, see this earlier post.)

How do the Deryni novels measure up?

There are many choices between good and evil, and the protagonists almost always choose the good.

Several characters exhibit hope beyond despair. For example, Camber searches for a Haldane to place on the throne, even though there doesn't seem to be one. He finds such a man. There are several occasions where there is hope that children will prove to be worthy kings.

These two required conditions are met.

As to the optional conditions, I'm not sure that any character in these novels qualifies fully as a Christ figure. But there is plenty of belief in orthodox Christian doctrine. Here, for example, is a quotation from The Quest for Saint Camber:

“Why? Don’t you think God has a plan for each of us?” “Well, of course,” Dhugal said uncomfortably. “But only in a general sort of way. We have free will.” “To an extent,” Duncan agreed. “But what was my will, set against the will of God, Dhugal? He wanted me to be His priest. I’m not sure I ever had a choice in the matter—not really. Not that I mind,” he added. “Not now, at any rate, and not for many years—though I certainly minded after your mother’s death. “But there’s a certain heady comfort in knowing one has been chosen, warts and all. I don’t know why He wanted me so badly, but other than that one brief flare-up of rebellion—which may have been all in His plan anyway—I’ve been content in His service. No, more than content. He’s brought me joy."

Several characters, in most or all of the books, offer sincere prayer to God, or they are described as spending time in prayer, sometimes for hours. There may be occasions where someone received direct Divine guidance, but I can't think of one such.

There are two other features that are relevant. One of them is that every chapter, in all sixteen of these books, begins with a Biblical quotation. (A few of these are from the Apocrypha, or other non-canonical sources.) Another feature is that there are four Archangels who are occasionally dimly perceived, and exert influence, especially during the practice of Deryni magic for good causes.

I am satisfied that the Deryni novels, by Katherine Kurtz, are Christian in nature, without being preachy. They read, rather, like historical fiction, in imagined times, but with a Christian world-view.

Thanks for reading. Read Kurtz.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 45

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues, going from considering if, and who, to marry, to this topic:

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every believer soon after conversion feels a heart longing for the blessed baptism of the Holy Spirit, which will fully cleanse from all inbred sin, and thus give complete victory over fear, impatience, unbelief, pride, and all the uprisings which are felt from time to time in the heart which has not accepted the Holy Spirit as its complete sanctifier. This longing may find but incomplete expression, yet a deep heart hunger it is there, and craves satisfaction.

A strong impression soon conies to such a soul that complete victory is provided through the atonement, that God requires entire holiness, and that it should be sought and received as definitely as conversion. Flying to the fourfold tests for light it is found first.

S. That the feeling is Scriptural. God commands: "Be ye holy." The Word also declares: "Be ye filled with the Spirit." "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness but unto holiness."

It also promises cleansing from "All filthiness of the flesh and Spirit," and that "We being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life."

Jesus also promised that He would send the Holy Spirit, and commanded His disciples to tarry until they received Him. The Apostles and members of the early church received this induement and the Word declares that it is for all believers.

Prophets, Apostles and Jesus possessed this experience, and under its influence their lives glowed with holy fire.

Scripture command, precept, promise, experience and prophecy, all combine to show that every believer may claim by faith this precious legacy, and be as conscious that the Holy Spirit fully sanctifies as he is that Jesus fully forgives. Glory be to God for such assurance!

R. In regard to the rightfulness of such an experience there can be no doubt. If it is right to obey God, to be pure, and live a holy life, then this is right.

P. Next, is it attainable? If the conditions of receiving it are such that they can not be met, then all are providentially debarred from this privilege. On the other hand, however, they are simple, plain and practicable. A complete consecration which yields every power and possession entirely to God forever, and then a present faith in the promises which offer the gift of the Holy Ghost, are the sole conditions upon which this priceless boon is granted. These conditions all can meet who will, so that
this voice unites with the two preceding in proclaiming, that the impulse to be filled with the Spirit, is of God.

R. That such an experience is "a reasonable service," is seen from the following facts: God commands it and promises it.

The wisest and most successful saints have claimed it and proclaimed it.

It satisfies the longings of the soul.

It delivers from besetments, and gives new power to work for God and resist the devil.

It convinces the world as nothing else will of the divinity of our religion.

God has given it to all who have met the conditions, and "He is no respecter of persons."

It is the only thing that will enable one to be perfectly holy.

Without it, it is impossible to be free from carnality.

With it growth in grace is greatly facilitated.

Without, our joy can not be full.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The New Earth and caring for the environment we have now

Tomorrow is Earth Day. E. Stephen Burnett has written a fine blog post, with plenty of scriptural material, on how care of the current earth relates to the New Earth.

You may also want to read my own post, more extensive, but not on the New Earth, about what the Bible says about environmental stewardship.

Thanks for reading. Read Burnett!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunspots 622

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Christianity Today discusses the significant role played by single women missionaries in translating the Bible.

Sojourners reminds us that the Resurrection of Christ was first revealed to women, and women were the first to tell others about it. (The article says that the men were in hiding).

Ethics: Sojourners examines the recent bombing of an airfield in Syria, and concludes that the action was not justifiable under Just War Theory, mostly because, they say, Mr. Trump did not have "right intentions." (Some of the criteria for a Just War were met.)

Humor: (Sort of) Nature tells us why and how our shoelace knots fail.

(and, again, sort of) Listverse tells us a lot about the history of the design of playing cards, both artistically and structurally.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight tells us that Mr. Trump is hardly the first US President to become more hawkish soon after installation in office, and tells us why this is so.

Scientific American discusses some of the challenges to building a border wall (and some of the kinds of damage such a wall would do.)

Science: Listverse discusses 10 extinct species that some scientists want to bring back to life.

Listverse also discusses the 10 most important scientific discoveries of the past 10 years.

The New York Times reports that climate change has re-routed an Alaskan river.

The Washington Post reports on a specimen of a giant worm-like mollusc. (Molluscs are the phylum to which clams, oysters, snails and slugs belong.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 44

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues, continuing on the subject of marriage,  from the previous post:

R. The sanction of Scripture being secured, then comes the test: Is it right? Will it wrong anyone?
Is there any physical or other disability?

At this point the Christian will remember that it is written: "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," and also further that, "Whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

If he finds that he is actuated by some minor motive, like the gratification of self, or bettering his position in society, or gaining wealth, or merely getting a housekeeper, and that God's glory is not his chief aim in the matter, he should wait until he knows that it is.

P. Next, does the way open? Providential barriers at this point have often settled this as well as other questions. If uncontrollable circumstances make the union an impossibility that proves the divine seal is not upon it, or that it must be deferred.

R. Finally, is it reasonable? Tastes may be so different, education so diverse, ambitions so opposed, and temperaments so unfitting, that this alone would show that they are not divinely mated.

But where these tests are all met, and there exists on the part of both persons a conviction that God unites them, and this conviction deepens as the days fly, there can be no doubt as to its divinity.

The careful application of these principles would prevent many hasty, unwise and unscriptural marriages, and hence dry up the fountain which feeds so many divorces.

It would lead to such unions as God delights to own, and families whose days would be as the "days of heaven upon earth."


Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sunspots 621

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: (And Christianity) A Relevant writer argues that marketers effectively isolated Contemporary Christian Music artists from the world at large, when they might have appealed to that world. The writer says that "Christian" film-makers are being steered in the same direction, when they shouldn't be.

Christianity: Christianity Today on the awful consequences of corruption, mostly (but not entirely) in other countries, where, in some, it's "normal."

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware tells us about an on-line audible pronunciation tool, which works in several languages.

Gizmo's also points to a source of music that can be used as background, etc., without violating copyright.

Education: The New York Times considers the question of whether pre-school teachers need college degrees.

History: Listverse reports on 10 ancient businesses. (Mostly from a thousand or more years ago.)

Listverse also reports on 10 islands in the Atlantic Ocean that you've probably never heard of. (I had heard of one of them.)
Science: Scientific American has posted a video, under 90 seconds, of a badger burying a dead cow. Really. (It took the badger longer than that.

Wired explains why it is so hard (or impossible) to prevent the production of sarin gas (the kind recently used in Syria).

Scientific American reports on a study about how couples can continue to be attracted to each other.

Scientific American also tells us that an asteroid is going to come pretty close to the earth on April 19.

Listverse describes 10 kinds of rocks that smell bad (or stink).

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 43

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues:
Marriage. Usefulness and happiness for life may depend upon the rightful settlement of this question. How can people be sure their union is of God? Shall fancy, feeling or infatuation decide the matter, or shall it be submitted to reason, right and God? Let us apply the tests. Two persons are drawn towards each other, and feel that perhaps they should be one.

5. First of all they ask: "Would our union be Scriptural?" They find on general principles that marriage is commended in the Word. God instituted it. He declares that "It is not good for man to be alone," and that "Marriage is honorable to all."

They apply the principles of Scripture to their own peculiar cases. If one proves to be an unconverted person, then the explicit Scripture command: "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," makes further testing needless. Many rush blindly over this mandate to regret it when it is too late.

It may be that both are believers, but that one of them is divorced from a former companion for other than the one cause for which Scripture allows divorce, and that, therefore, it would be an adulterous union.

A member of a church, of which I was pastor, once called for me to perform his marriage ceremony. He was a noble Christian man.

I asked him a few questions, and soon learned that his proposed wife had a husband living, and while divorced by the law of the land, he was not sure that the sin on the part of her husband set her free by the law of Christ. I read to him Matt. 5:32 and parallel passages, and explained to him that on account of these Bible truths I was not free to perform the ceremony. "Then," said he, "I am not free to have it performed." He continued, "She is the only woman I ever loved, but I should have thought of this before. I dread to break the news to her, but I must be true to Christ."

He was all broken down, but remained loyal to his Convictions.

It may also be found that one of the persons is breaking sacred betrothal vows. Then the Scriptural rule of "doing as one would be done by" and honesty in paying sacred vows, prohibits the fondling for a moment of a new affection.

When the hearts of a man and woman have been united, and they have acknowledged it to each other, and promised to be one for life, they should hold their union as sacred as if the public ceremony had already been said. They are united in God's sight, and before Him have no more right to allow alienation than if the public seal had been already set. He who tramples upon betrothal vows plays with chain lightning, and will suffer for it.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Sunspots 620

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Christianity Today interviews an author of a study on cohabitation vs. marriage, which found that marriage is considerably better for the children involved.

It seems that Vice President Pence won't eat a meal alone with a woman other than his wife. Sojourners discusses this, and the reaction to this behavior.

(And Science) A pastor writer in Christianity Today has been in dialog with geneticists who are getting close to the possibility of producing "designer babies." He considers the morality of such activity.

Education: There is a British apostrophizer -- he adds (or deletes) misplaced apostrophes on billboards.

Health: National Public Radio reports that lonely people are more deeply affected by colds.

NPR also reports that the infant death rate has dropped significantly, world-wide, in recent years.

History: Listverse on how socks (the things we wear on our feet) changed history.

Politics: (or something) NPR reports on a man who spent 25 years in prison for crimes that he didn't commit has had his story written by a prominent TV executive. He explains his attitude, in spite of the wrong done to him.

Science: National Public Radio reports that there were far fewer cases of microcephaly, associated with the Zika virus, in Brazil, than were predicted.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 42

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of "Impressions from Above" continues:
I had always felt that if I was converted I would be called to preach. Soon after my conversion, the words: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," was applied to me in a wonderful way. I felt that God was calling me. I was "unspeakably" diffident, and did not see how I could ever succeed, but dare not say no. I mentioned it to but one person, but did all I could to prepare for it. I was assured that it was Scriptural and right, but the way did not open to preach for over four years. I began my studies preparatory to conference examination, and felt sure in my heart that God would unfold the gift within in some way, and that in His time the way would open.

It opened first by my being given charge of a rural Sunday-school, and next by being sent for to preach in a neglected neighborhood, where a revival at once broke out, and a class was organized which stands today. When conference came I was duly recommended and given work, and God has let the fire fall all along. To Him be glory forever!

To a woman called to preach the way of work often seems more hedged up than to a man, because the church may not officially recognize her call, or provide for her preparation to fill it as with her brother. God, however, if He be fully followed, will open a way through every hedge, and lead His loyal children to the work to which He calls; and the four-fold test being met they will be as certain of the divinity of their call as of their own existence.

I know a successful woman preacher, wife of a Methodist minister, who, when called to preach, was firmly opposed by her father.

All the tests of a genuine call were met, but his opposition continued to increase. She was of age, but shrank from crossing her father's will. Finally a call came to aid in revival work. She felt that she must obey God rather than man, and decided to accept of it. "Tell Bro. _____ that you come without your father's consent," was the painful message which followed her from her father's lips as she left her home for the ripe harvest field.

She had scarcely reached her destination, however, when a letter reached her from him giving full and free consent.

God tested her obedience and tried her faith, and then melted the opposition, and blessed her ministry to the salvation of many.

In His own time and manner He will thus level all mountains which are in the way of all who fully follow Him.

A call to mission work can be tested the same as a call to the ministry.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.