Monday, June 2, 2014

Scholarship and the Theological Library Part 2

Humanism’s Encyclopedia

In an effort to disseminate knowledge, encourage scholarship and a broad understanding of the world books of knowledge were written called encyclopedias. Various types of these books were published since early antiquity beginning with the collected works of Aristotle and Pliny the Elder.

During the Middle Ages encyclopedias were published both in Europe and in China. Depending upon the world and life view of those that compiled the works they would either be God-glorifying or pagan in origin, purpose and conclusion. These encyclopedias were a strategic attempt, either consciously or sub-consciously, to impose a certain worldview upon its readers. For the most part the encyclopedia publications were humanistic at best, blatantly anti-Christian at worst

According to Herman Kogan the Encyclopedia Britannica was the idea of Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell of Edinburgh in the mid 18th century. It was a conservative reaction to Denis Diderot’s volume which propagated the anti-Christian sentiments of the French Enlightenment. Diderot’s work was not at all Christian since it based its presuppositions upon the Scottish Enlightenment and not Scripture. It is clear that his intentions were toward the establishment of a humanistic dominion philosophy by virtue of an elaborate and comprehensive  encyclopedia. If Diderot could camouflage  his humanistic epistemology in the guise of and encyclopedia then everyone would use it as a reliable source of truth.

Martin Selbrede rightly observes,
 “Diderot's intentions [were to establish] humanistic dominion with an encyclopedia: when the only codification of human knowledge is humanistic, then that's the lens everybody will use to look through. The concept of the library as a tool of dominion, [is] one used heavily by our opposition, but neglected by us. When you look something up, you get the humanistic perspective on it, because it's the only one available. This is due to Christian dereliction.”

Dr. Selbrede’s insight is eye-opening. What the Christian community needs is an encyclopedia source-book which is faithful to Scripture and one which can be used both as a defense against Diderot’s version and a tool for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.

William Smellie’s  version was also a manifesto of humanism. He was commissioned to produce the work even writing most of the first edition by emphasizing the ideas and worldviews of Voltaire, Benjamin Franklyn, Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson all Enlightenment humanistic thinkers with some only a slight semblance of Christian ideas and tradition.

Scholarship in the Truth

Modern Christianity lacks, not only sound theological libraries that are
structured expressly for scholarly research for the defense and application of Biblical Truths and strategies, it lacks the passion for scholarship. The admonition by the apostle Paul to “Study” is taken far too lightly and even at times ignored entirely. The “common pew sitter” expects the pastor or the Theological professor to study but they do not think it necessary for them to study.When is the last time a cry was lifted up for a thoroughly Reformed, Biblically sound library to be erected in a local community. I say a local community so that anyone can delve into the knowledge of God’s Truth.

The New Geneva Initiative

I have always loved books. I saw a wisdom in them that was beyond my intellect and a purpose that I knew far excelled my wildest imagination. Perhaps it was my father’s love of books that influenced me. He cherished them more than any other possession. Whatever the case, God had instilled in me a love and passion for books. When God first called me in 1985, in order to learn more of His will and His theology, I began buying books. Good solid Christ-centered books along with some books that were useless. I read everything I could get my hands on. Along with the reading and studying Scripture I was reading incessantly. In the first year of my introduction to Biblical Christianity I read almost one book per week. I began selling many of my personal belongings in order to buy more books. Without consciously knowing it I was building a personal library that would impact many generations and ultimately launch the Theological Library at The New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy.

Eventually, after being called to the pulpit in 1992, I had more books than my home could support. Remembering the work of the great reformers and the importance of scholarship and study I decided to add all my personal books together with the books that our Theological Institute had already purchased in order to recreate The Genevan Academy library that Calvin, Viret and Beza must have had at their disposal. It was time to make all those books available to anyone with a passion for Truth and Biblical learning. It is this library that now is used at our Leadership College and Seminary.

The Strategy

I believe every city, county, town and or village should have a Biblically sound theological library available for its citizens – those with a thirst for Truth. This is the first step in Christian education and Christian Reconstruction. Without the knowledge of God’s Word and the practical application thereof, cultural revitalization God-ward is impossible. This type of library can be set up by anyone within or without the church but it first must be established in the homes of every family.

The love of great Christ-centered books should be inculcated in every home

and to every child. A passion for scholarship must be impressed upon each family if Christendom is to take its place of honor in the world. With his dry wit, Selbrede admonishes all of us in the battle for the Kingdom, “With teeny libraries comes 90-lb.-weakling faith that deserves to have sand kicked in its face. A book will be important to you if you expend resources to purchase it, and especially if you esteem them at their true value. And expositions of God's law are worth more than much fine gold.”
As a college New Geneva is mandated to house a wide range of study and research material but you do not have to start a college to build a family or a local theological library. All you need is passion and a will to see it through.

What New Geneva has established in a very small community is an extensive Biblical library which includes, not only theological works, but also works of history, philosophy, economics, history, counseling, education, art, music, science, leadership and business. Of its more than 100,000 books and documents including periodicals, pdf file and thousands of micro prints from the American founding Geneva is a well stocked resource. As the saying goes, “You can’t beat something with nothing” and a library is a good place to begin to regain Christian scholarship and formulate a plan for Christian Reconstruction.

The Tactics for Local Promotion

In order to promote Geneva’s library further we advertise that it is also an “Academic Café”. We host special speakers and conferences, offer library memberships, and have installed a modest coffee shop with snacks and free WiFi for its members, hence the name.

We  invite members of the town and county government to hold some of their meetings in our conference rooms which are stocked wall to wall with books. Part of our promotion is offering free coffee to the local Sheriff, his deputies, EMT and firemen just to get them introduced to our project. Local Christian schools are invited to tour our facility which we converted from a broken down tractor repair shop making small improvements little by little, year by year for the last 14 years.

Geneva’s Café foyer hosts a book store with some of the best Reformed and Puritan books dealing with every topic imaginable but focusing upon Theonomy and Christian Reconstruction.

Libraries like Geneva’s can undermine and eventually replace the local public library. It is one of the tactical tools for Christian dominion and Cultural Reconstruction. This should be a fundamental cog in the area of educational resources so that the only knowledge that men can access is the Knowledge of the Truth, used in its fullest cultural application, for then they will see God, and hopefully glorify His Name.

1.    Plotez’ Epitome of History, Tillinghast, Blue Ribbon Books, 1883,191
2.    Ancient Civilzations, Calton J.H. Hayes, Macmillian, New York University,1968,
3.    Kogan, Herman (1958). The Great EB: The Story of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Library of Congress catalog number 58-8379

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Scholarship and the Theological Library Part 1

It seems as if the priesthood of humanism’s academia have finally claimed victory over what
passes for scholarship today. They have successful filled both the public and university libraries with so much junk that it is almost impossible to tell one lie from another. Among too many modern Christians the topic of scholarship, serious research, and the importance of books is one of the furthest things from their mind. Scholarship seems to be a thing of the past. Even books themselves have lost their allure being replaced by superficial internet surfing, iphones, ipods, video games and anything that can easily distract the modern man from serious reading and study

Instead of serious reading and research material, our modern age has filled American  libraries with computer terminals, audio books and videos than with books. Libraries are becoming a thing of the past as a result of scholarship becoming a thing of the past. Even most church libraries, (if they even have one) are seldom used if they are ever used at all.

There seems to be a direct coloration between a nation’s reading level and scholarship capabilities with its national prosperity and ethical integrity. Before the collapse of the Roman empire reading was at an all time low. Scholarship was replaced with 365 days each year of Bread and Circus at the Coliseum. When finally the Visigoths sacked the Empire in AD 410, nobody cared. They were drunk on entertainment. It wasn’t until the smoke of the takeover cleared did the people realize what had happened. They had been destroyed. Yet, that destruction didn’t suddenly come upon them in AD 410. It was slowing destroying them intellectually for years until finally the culmination of their academic sloth took its toll.

The Library at Alexandria

The Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. It was founded by Ptolemy I Soter1 and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC when the Roman’s set fire to it almost completely destroying it. The library housed a collection of thousands, if not millions, of works, and had an array of lecture halls, meeting rooms, and gardens as part of its construct. To be sure this was to create an atmosphere of relaxation so as to encourage reading and study. It was here at Alexandria where many of the most famous and influential thinker of the ancient world studied. The library was a symbol of wealth and power and was a cultural center for the ancient world. This of course  tells us something about how the ancients viewed wealth. Wealth was contained in knowledge. It was contained in their books. The destruction of the Alexandrian library was and probably always will be a symbol of the destruction of cultural knowledge

After the destruction of the library the ancient scholars, not able to be without a resource of scholarly books and scrolls, built a smaller version called the “daughter library”. It was housed in the Serapeum Temple but that too was destroyed in AD 391 by Pope Theophilus. Historically libraries, serious scholarship and cultural advancement always went together.The problem with the library at Alexandria is that it was primarily filled with pagan works. It was not a Theological center of Truth and it certainly did not have as it ultimate goal the reconstruction of the culture God-ward. For this reason the destruction of Alexandra’s great storehouse of knowledge may have really been a blessing.

Monasteries and the Modern University Model

During the Medieval ages books were very expensive and sought after by scholars like never

before. In them would be found all the treasures of wisdom. Monks would painstakingly copy out manuscripts and build extensive research libraries to satisfy their passion for knowledge and truth. Scholarship was honorable and something to be desired by all who understood its importance.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, European academies and universities were established at an ever increasing rate. These too, like Alexandria, were centers of cultural and academic knowledge. Out of these schools would emerge the leaders of the next generation. These schools, like the University of Salamanca, Spain, with its impressive library, was founded to be the “General School of the Kingdom.” While the idea was commendable, and its affiliation greatly desired, Salamanca as with other Universities of that era was steeped in Scholasticism which philosophy often argued with Biblical Truth.

The Academy At Geneva

It was not until the dawn of the European Reformation that academies, along with their libraries were founded with a focus explicitly upon the Biblical doctrines of Scripture and the application of Biblical Theology to every area of life.In 1537 the Lausanne Academy was formed within the city of Bern Switzerland under the oversight of Pierre Viret. It would become the hub of Reformation scholarship for the express purpose of training ministers in the doctrines of the Reformation and applied theology. Viret’s academy later relocated to Geneva, and with the help of John Calvin and Theodore Beza became the most influential University of the European world finally relocating to Geneva and changing its name to The Genevan Academy

According to one researcher Thomas Jefferson had once thought to bring Calvin’s Academy to Virginia.2 Although Thomas Jefferson carried a great hatred towards Calvinism, he had great respect for the academic reputation of Calvin's Academy in Geneva. It is interesting to note that a proposal was considered to transplant the Geneva Academy to Northern Virginia. The proposal was decided against by the Virginia legislature, but Jefferson's 1795 letter on the subject shows the tantalizing prospect (for those of us who live here) of what might have been.

Jefferson wrote To Fransois D'Ivernois Monticello, in Virginia, Feb. 6, 1795

“Your several favors on the affairs of Geneva found me here, in the month of December last…
Your proposition, however, for transplanting the college of Geneva to my own country, was too analogous to all my attachments to science, & freedom, the first-born daughter of science, not to excite a lively interest in my mind, and the essays which were necessary to try it's practicability. This depended altogether on the opinions & dispositions of our State legislature, which was then in session. I immediately communicated your papers to a member of the legislature, whose abilities & zeal pointed him out as proper for it, urging him to sound as many of the leading members of the legislature as he could, & if he found their opinions favorable, to bring forward the proposition; but if he should find it desperate, not to hazard it…”

While Jefferson hated Calvin, his theology and the tenants of the Reformation, being a secular libertarian, he nevertheless saw the glory in Geneva’s model and eventually established the University of Virginia with Geneva in mind. 

Next: Humanism’s Encyclopedia

1. Ptolemy I was referred to as Soter (lit. Savior) as a result of his military victories and his aid to allied kingdoms

2. The Puritan Board
1.    Plotez’ Epitome of History, Tillinghast, Blue Ribbon Books, 1883,191

2.  Ancient Civilzations, Calton J.H. Hayes, Macmillian, New York University,1968

3.  Kogan, Herman (1958). The Great EB: The Story of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Library of Congress catalog number 58-8379

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Do Something Before It Is Too Late

Dominion - Christian Reconstruction - Cultural Warfare - Kingdom Advancement...

All of these concepts, when pursued from a Biblical standpoint, without a doubt are good. Moreover, they are an essential part of the Great Commission. Yet, these ideas are nothing without the impetus of action giving them teeth. As the saying goes, 

“Good ideas are not worth a thing. Everyone has them – even the moron next door…” 

Christians who talk endlessly about the dismal affairs of the culture and the looming threat of aggregated tyranny are usually the ones that do nothing about it. Instead of complaining action needs to be taken. 

The implementation of Christian Reconstruction and Kingdom Advancement principles and ideas are absolutely necessary for things to change. It has also been said that even mediocre ideas which are actually implemented are far better than great ideas that never see the light of day in action.

While the wicked conspire together and wage a unified front against all that is
good and Godly, mainstream Christianity either is cursing the darkness, wringing their hands in fear and unbelief, arguing about the trivial matters of the law, or ignorantly waiting expectantly for the supposed rapture.

What the culture needs is a Biblical plan for Christian Reconstruction coupled with a execution strategy complete with tactics for a successful plan in  becoming a real force in the social realm God-ward. Christianity needs fearless leaders who are not only tenacious, but  who are immovably resolved to execute God’s will no matter what the sacrifice for the good and security of all people, especially Christendom. Nothing short of this will suffice. Anything less will destroy us.