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Review: Luther by Those Who Knew Him by E. R. Charles

This devotional and encouraging book presents Luther and his ideas through the eyes of various members of a family that knew him.  From Fritz, a monk who travelled to Rome with him, and Else, who struggled with not being religious enough because she was not a nun, to Eva, a nun who rejoiced to share Luther’s ideas with the other sisters including a certain Catherine von Bora, the characters in this story all have their fundamental ideas about God and life challenged by Luther’s teachings. Parents, grandparents, younger siblings, and others all respond in their own ways, and this gives a multifaceted approach to Luther that I have never encountered before.

Here is a quotation that both sums up the book and gives an example of its style:

Hours and hours Fritz and I spoke of Dr. Luther and what he had done for us both — more, perhaps, for Fritz than even for me, because he had suffered more. It seems to me as if we, and thousands besides in the world, had been worshipping before an altar picture of our Saviour, which we had been told was painted by a great master after a heavenly pattern. But all we could see was a grim, hard, stern countenance of one sitting on a judgment throne . . . Then suddenly we heard Dr. Luther’s voice behind us, saying, in his ringing tones — “Friends, what are you doing? That is not the right painting. These are only the boards that hide the master’s picture.”

Even though this book was first published in 1862, the characters’ struggles make it exceedingly relevant to our age.  Many devout Christians of today think that they are not ‘good Christians’ because they are not devoted enough to God. They devalue the work God has given them in this world and wish to creep away from the everyday world into the cloister of ‘ministry’.*  Many fundamentally misunderstand who God is because they do not read the Bible.  Many are kept away from the Bible by the foolish ideas of others, society, or the media, or are kept from seeing its truth by refusing to learn from those who came before and struggled with the same issues.*  And often we 21st century Christians mistranslate the gospel into social actions that it does not support, twisting the command to love into an economic or political platform. It was the same during Luther’s time, as this book clearly points out.

This all may sound dry and dull, but the characters are endearing and the plot beguiling.  Although this is not a thriller by any means, it is an excellent story in its own way.  I loved the characters, felt completely at home in the book, and found it a source of real joy, for it is filled with truth and comfort.

And this is its comfort:  Luther by Those Who Knew Him shows the transforming power of the Bible.  It shows the tremendous love and kindness of God who sent Jesus to give us his righteousness, because our own righteousness is completely inadequate.  It also shows the incredible value of the faith by which we are saved.  And, throughout the book, the glory is given to God, not to Luther.  You may recognize the Five Solas of the Reformation here; although they were formulated after Luther, they are the basis of his thought and of this book.

Luther by Those Who Knew Him is neither an ordinary biography nor an ordinary novel, although it has elements of both.  Nor is it a volume of theology.  Perhaps it is most accurate to describe it as a devotional in story form based on Luther’s writings and life.  Even so, it deals with politics, everyday life, revolution, and even romance in a way that draws the reader into all strata of 16th century German life.  It is among my favorite books on Luther and I think it would benefit anyone who knows the basics of his life and ideas (e.g. from Simonetta Carr’s Martin Luther, the great 1953 movie, Martin Luther, or Robinson’s Luther The Leader, which I have read to my children several times).

Luther by Those Who Knew Him could be used in homeschools to study the society, thought, and religious ideas that were challenged by the gospel truths that Luther discovered; it also clearly presents those truths.  The book is written so that one could summarize the ideas or plot elements of each chapter to gain a clear understanding of that the Reformation.  Of course, it can also be read simply as a devotional story.  If used in homeschools, a good companion novel would be Farenhorst’s Katharina, Katharina which describes many historical details.  (My review of Katharina, Katharina will be posted October 24.)

This book is not available on Amazon and you will need to go directly to the publisher’s website to order it; it is near the bottom of this page.

*See Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth for a discussion of aspects of these ideas.

2017 is the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, so a plethora of books is being published about him;I am blessed to be able to review several of them.  This  is probably the most devotional of the many Luther books I’ve read in my life.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This is yet another book in the in the 2017 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

DisclosureI received a copy of Luther by Those Who Knew Him as well as Martin Luther:  The Man and His Work from Inheritance Publications and have chosen to review this one.

Examples of High School Records for Multiyear, Literature-Based History Courses

At one point I was asked exactly how I recorded my teens’ Canadian history studies for their university admission records.  I could see no other way to answer the question than to cut and paste the relevant sections from their comprehensive records, which makes this article incredibly long.  Hopefully it will benefit some of you.

I have included 3 examples. Two are very similar and are at the level of Ontario Canadian history course, which is usually taught in grade 10.  The other one has Canadian history folded into an intense Western history course and is at a grade 12 level.  Notice that even though the courses are all spread over several years, the different readings and emphases make the level different.  In all cases, my teens helped decide which texts they used and also selected most of the other books they read.

The reading lists, which I did eventually decide to include in this article, clearly show that these courses cover a span of years.  Some of the books are rather simple; others are very intense.  It is obvious that these records represent teens who loved to read and, having studied How to Read a Book, knew how to make reading work for them.  Please do not be intimidated by them!  Every teen is different; the teens represented by these records loved history and that shows in these records (and in the fact that they each did several of such history courses in high school).

You will notice that I wrote the course descriptions in the future tense; this is what seems to be done in high school course catalogues.  Of course, I wrote the descriptions after we had decided that particular course was completed, which was helpful because our goals for courses like this change throughout the years.  Even so, I tried to keep the descriptions relatively generic.  The records themselves follow the format suggested by Lee Binz in Comprehensive Record Solution and Setting the Records Straight.

And, I want to repeat once again, please do not be intimidated by these records and please do not use them as a template for your teen. A reading course like this should be tailored to the student’s interests, so these record-keeping examples are mainly meant to be inspiration for record-keeping. If you and your teen ever plan a course like this, be aware of what is being taught in local public or private schools (often libraries will carry textbooks), and combine that with your teen’s own interests, remembering that a high school credit is somewhere between 100-180 hours of work and that the level of a course can be adjusted by changing the difficulty and amount of readings and the depth of the assignments.

Note:

  • I myself did not read each of the books on the lists because there are only 24 hours in the day. On the other hand, because I do try hard to ensure that my teens read suitable books, I did skim many of them.
  • My teens were responsible for their own reading records; recording what they had read that week was part of their Friday homeschool assignment.
  • For structured courses, like science or French where we followed a textbook, our records are very different.

So, on to the examples:

Example 1:  Canadian History   

Course Description:

In this reading course, spread over several years, the student will learn about all aspects and times of Canadian history using biographies, historical fiction, textbooks, collections, and monographs.  Field trips to museums, discussions with old-timers, research into fashions, and studying the effect of history on current events will all form a part of this course.

Overviews: 

Challenge and Survival:  The History of Canada by Herstein, Hughes, and Kirbyson

The Story of Canada by Janet Lunn

Famous Canadian Stories by George E. Tait, Ed.

The Upward Trail by George E. Tait

One Dominion by George E. Tait

The Pageant of Canadian History by Anne Merriman Peck

Canada Our Country Part 1 by Aileen Garland

Canada: Portraits of Faith, Ed. Michael D. Clarke

Reading List:

The Refugees:  A Tale of Two Continents by Arthur Conan Doyle

The King’s Daughter by J.E. White

My Story:  Spy Smuggler by Jim Eldridge

My Story:  The Trenches by Jim Eldridge

My Story:  The Flying Ace by Jim Eldridge

My Story:  The Battle of Britain by Jim Eldridge

Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin

Champlain:  Northwest Voyageur by Louise Hall Thorp

The Luck of the La Verendryes by Lyn Harrington

The Talking Wire:  The Story of Alexander Graham Bell by O. J. Stevenson

Drummer Boy for Montcalm by Wilma Pitchford Hays

Viking Treasure by Henry Bamman and Robert Whitehead

Roughing it in the Bush, or, Life in Canada by Susanna Moodie

Letters of Love and Duty: The Correspondence of Susanna and John Moodie by Susanna Moodie

Life in the Clearings versus the Bush by Susanna Moodie

The Backwoods of Canada by Catherine Parr Traill

Canadian Wild Flowers by Catherine Parr Traill

The Canadian Settler’s Guide by Catherine Parr Traill

Canadian Crusoes: A Tale of the Rice Lake Plains by Catherine Parr Traill

The Force Carries On by T. Morris Longstreth

Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel C. Brill

Jeremy’s War: 1812 by John Ibbitson

Mary Cook:  All of her local history books

Introduction to New France by Marcel Trudel

A Picture History of Canada by Jessie McEwan and Kathleen Moore

More Famous Canadian Stories, Donald G. French, Ed.

Agnes: The Biography of Lady Macdonald by Louise Reynolds

Ordeal by Fire:  Canada 1910-1945 by Ralph Allen

Shakedown by Ezra Levant

Beginning Again:  Further Adventures of a Loyalist Family by Mary Beacock

Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hemon

The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning

I am a Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirkby

The Discovery of Insulin by Michael Bliss

Flint and Feather by Pauline Johnston

Hudson’s Bay: or Every-day Life in the Wilds of North America by Robert Ballantyne

Grading Criteria:

The final mark will be based on readings, narrations, and discussions.  Detailed, accurate knowledge and analyses of events and persons will be expected.  Percentages will not be recorded for this course.

Example #2:  History of Western Civilization (400 – the Present)

Course Description:

This literature-based, multi-year course, covering the western world from late Roman times until the present, will feature in-depth studies of historical writing.  It will emphasize knowledge of ideas, events, and people as well as an understanding of their interrelationships. Special emphasis will be placed on Britain, Canada, and the United States. Readings, tests, reports, projects, and discussions will be key components of the course. Whenever possible the course will include primary source documents, biographies, field trips to museums and historic sites, discussions with old timers and veterans, and documentaries.  Studying the effects of history on current events will form part of this course.

Texts:

Omnibus 2: Church Fathers Through the Reformation Edited by Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer, selections

Omnibus 5: The Medieval World Edited by Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer, selections

Omnibus 3:  Reformation to the Present Edited by Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer, selections

Omnibus 6: The Modern World Edited by Gene Edward Veith, Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer, selections

World History:  The Human Odyssey, Jackson J. Spielvogel, ch 7

Supplemental Resources:

Museums:  Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, The Canadian Aviation Museum, Diefenbunker:  Canada’s Cold War Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Bytown Museum, Goulborne Museum, Watson’s Mill, Upper Canada Village, Heritage Mica Festival and the Silver Queen Mica Mine, Medieval Festival at Upper Canada Village, Fort George,

Film: Documentary series such as Victorian Farm, War Time Farm, and Edwardian Farm, and individual documentaries such as Sisters in the Wilderness and The Queen and the Skipper.

Course Contents:

World History:  The Human Odyssey, Jackson J. Spielvogel, ch 7, The Americas (400-1500)

Omnibus 2: Church Fathers Through the Reformation: Confessions by Augustine, Ecclesiastical History by Bede, The Rule of Saint Benedict, Beowulf

Omnibus 5: The Medieval World: The City of God by Augustine, Summa Theologica, selections, by Thomas Aquinas, The Divine Comedy by Dante, The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo, The Prince by Machiavelli, The Institutes, selections, by Calvin, St. Matthew Passion by Bach,

Omnibus 3:  Reformation to the Present:  Animal Farm by George Orwell, Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, Pride and Prejudice by Austen, Autobiography of Charles G. Finney by Finney, Post-Modern Times by Veith, How Should We Then Live?  by Schaeffer

Omnibus 6: The Modern World:  Robinson Crusoe by Defoe, Huckleberry Finn by Twain, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Leaves of Grass by Whitman, Modern Short Stories, Poetry of T. S. Eliot, The Stranger by Camus

Reading List:

As listed under Course Contents, Omnibus 2,5,3,6  above

Note:  For Historical Fiction Reading List, see Introduction to World History

Famous Canadian Stories by George E. Tait

The Story of Canada by Janet Lunn and Christopher Moore

Canada: Portraits of Faith, Ed. Michael D. Clarke

More Famous Canadian Stories by Donald G. French

Tomb of Tutankhamen by H. Carter

Prime Ministers of Canada by Jim Lotz

Canada and the First World War by John Swettenham

George Washington’s World by Joanna Foster and Genevieve Foster

Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster and Joanna Foster

The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster

The Landmark History of the American People by Daniel J. Boorstin

Indians by Edwin Tunis

El Escoral by Mary Cable

The Song of Roland by James Baldwin

Story of Britain by R.J. Unstead

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, selections, translated and compiled by Anne Savage

Luther the Leader by Virgil Robinson

The Rise of Great Britain by R.J. Unstead

Her Majesty the Queen by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd

Wilderness Mission by John F. Hayes

Bay of the North by Ronald Syme

Champlain by Lourse Hall Tharp

The Loyalists by Christopher Moore

With Pipe, Paddle and Song by Elizabeth Yates

The Luck of the La Verendryes by Lyn Harrington

Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard

The Little Duke or Richard the Fearless by Charlotte Yonge

Stories from the Heart of Canada by Lane

The Life of Charlemagne by Einhart

Salt in His Blood: The Life of Michael De Ruyter by William R. Rang

Saint Patrick by McHugh

O Canada by Karla Akins

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher

L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer

Little Britches by Ralph Moody

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart

Man of the Family by Ralph Moody

The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody

Mary Emma and Company by Ralph Moody

The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody

Papa’s Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn

Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody

Snow, Stars and Wild Honey by George Morrill

Tracking Marco Polo by Timothy Severin

Photographing Canada from Flying Canoes by S. Bernard Shaw

A Century of Change by R.J. Unstead

Louis Pasteur by Linda W. Smith

The Doctor Who Never Gave Up by Carolynn Scott

War Stories by Gregory Clark

The Children’s Homer by Padraic Colum

The Assault on Reason by Al Gore

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

Going Rogue by Sarah Palin

The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin

A Soldier First by General Rick Hillier

Vet in a Spin by James Herriot

The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan

Hitler’s Second Book by Adolf Hitler

Gideon’s Spies by Gordon Thomas

Nickles and Dimes by Nina Brown Baker

Moe Howard and the Three Stooges by Moe Howard

George Alfred Henty by George Manville Fenn

Pigeon Hero by Shirley Ray Redmond

J.R.R. Tolkien by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull

Sadam’s Secrets by Georges Sada

Decision Points by George W. Bush

America by Heart by Sarah Palin

J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter

Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen

The Faith of Ronald Reagan by Mary Beth Brown

Mayday Mayday by Lowell Green

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

The Prince by Niccolo Machivelli

The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (selections)

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr.

The Consequences of Ideas by R. C. Sproul

After America by Mark Steyn

Art of War by Sun Tsu

Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh

Righteous Indignation by Andrew Breitbart

Gravity by George Gamow

History of the House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson

History of World War II, all volumes, by Winston Churchill

History of the English Speaking Peoples, vol 1 and 2 by Winston Churchill

The Ecclesiastical History by Bede

Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Canterbury Tales, selections, by Chaucer

Beowulf

Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

Other Documents and Speeches:

The Riot Act

The Magna Charta

The US Declaration of Independence

The Constitution of the United States

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Churchill’s Blood, Sweat, and Tears Speech

Grading Criteria:

The final mark will be based on studying the texts and overviews, reading widely, and discussing historical topics.  Detailed and accurate knowledge of events, ideas, and persons will be expected.  Essays, homework, and tests will be assigned.

Example 3:  Canadian History  

Course Description:

In this multi-year course the student will learn about all aspects and times of Canadian history using biographies, historical fiction, textbooks, collections, and monographs.  Field trips to museums, discussions with veterans and other senior citizens, research into fashions, and studying the effect of history on current events will all form a part of this course.

Main Texts: 

Challenge and Survival:  The History of Canada by Herstein, Hughes, and Kirbyson.

Making History:  The Story of Canada in the Twentieth Century by Bain, DesRivieres, Flaherty, Goodman, Schemenauer, Scully

Supplemental Resources:

Museums:  Canadian Museum of History, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Aviation Museum, Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Bytown Museum, Goulborne Museum, Watson’s Mill, Upper Canada Village, Heritage Mica Festival and the Silver Queen Mica Mine, Fort George, National Art Gallery.

Films: Sisters in the Wilderness, The Queen and the Skipper, Summer on Ross Farm.

Reading List:

The Backwoods of Canada by Catherine Parr Trail

Famous Canadian Stories by George E. Tait, Ed.

The Story of Canada by Janet Lunn

Hudson’s Bay: or Every-day Life in the Wilds of North America by Robert Ballantyne

The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Alone in an Untamed Land by Maxine Trottier

With Pipe, Paddle and Song by Elizabeth Yates

The Memory of All That by Ruth Latta

A Liberation Album by David Kaufman, Michiel Horn

If Kisses Were Roses by Helen Shewchuk

Promise You’ll take Care of My Daughter by Ben Wicks

Blackouts to Bright Lights edited by Barbara Ladouceur and Phyllis Spence

Agnes: the Biography of Lady Macdonald by Louise Reynolds

A Rebel’s Daughter by Janet Lunn

With Wolfe in Canada by G. A. Henty

The Pork Chop and Other Stories by Lowell Green

Canada: Portraits of Faith, Ed. Michael D. Clarke

Song of Acadia series Janette Oke by T. Davis Bunn

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freeman

Strangers and Sojourners by Michael O’ Brien

All Else is Folly by Peregrine Acland

Project: Canadian war brides.

Grading Criteria:

The final mark will be based on readings, narrations, projects, and discussions.  Detailed, accurate knowledge and analyses of events and persons will be expected.  Percentages will not be recorded for this course.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This article may be linked to Finishing Strong 

Review: All Saints by Spurlock and Windle

When we think about church history, our minds often go back to Reformation times in Europe but, of course, God works throughout the whole world and all time.  All Saints presents the harrowing recent history of persecuted Karen Christians in Myanmar (formerly Burma), as well as the miraculous story of a dying American congregation, All Saints, in Tennessee.  Subtitled The Surprising True Story of How Refugees from Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church, this book shows how God works in human lives, cultures, and institutions.

After being wounded in battle and leading a group of refugees through chilling dangers to safety in Thailand, Ye Win returned to the Christian faith of his family.  Some of his fellow Karen people fought and some did not, but all suffered.  Many, like Ye Win, became refugees, living in camps in Thailand or starting anew in other countries.    Eventually Ye Win became the leader of a large group of Christians who were given asylum in the United States.

Meanwhile, in Smyrna, Tennessee, a dwindling, debt-ridden congregation prayed for new members.  To the astonishment and initial consternation of the All Saints Anglo congregation, God brought Ye Win’s community of Karen refugees to Smyrna, and under the guidance of Father Michael Spurlock these two disparate groups, united in the love of Jesus, became one.

This is a true story of youthful folly, God’s irresistible call, great sacrifices, perplexing difficulties, and increasing trust and obedience.  Beginning with misunderstandings of God’s sovereignty, it ends with a total reliance on it.  Sin, heartbreak, quarrels, illness, unresolved issues, and difficult questions form the background for miracles, trust, love, and conversion.  This is real life, with PTSD, illness, and racism, and although these problems do not go away, God gives hope in the midst of hardship and encourages his people to keep on trusting and obeying him.

Essentially, All Saints is the story of a church whose members committed to place Jesus Christ squarely in the center of their community and daily lives, and to place themselves completely under his authority.  It tells of Father Michael, a new vicar who realized that the only one capable of helping and healing the Karen refugees was Jesus Christ.  It shows God working in human hearts and lives in amazing ways, ways that we might be able to see in our own lives if we would only open our eyes and notice.

Church history stories of centuries ago can be inspiring, but seeing that God is still the same and still works through his Word and broken people in the same way, is encouraging in a completely different way.

I highly recommend All Saints for teens and adults as an inspiring story of God’s work.  It could also add value to home high school studies of Bible, church history, history, and geography.

Note:  A major motion picture, All Saints was released this summer and is still playing in some North American cities.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This is yet another book in the in the 2017 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Why Study Science?

After reminding students that scientific laws are not infallible, Jay Wile, author of Exploring Creation with Biology defends the study of science this way:

If science isn’t 100% reliable, why study it?  The answer to that question is quite simple.  There are many interesting facts and much useful information not contained in the Bible.  It is worthwhile to find out about these things.  Even though we will make many, many mistakes along the way, finding out about these interesting and useful things will help us live better lives.  Because of the advances made in science, wonderful technology like vaccines, the television, and the computer exist.  Thus there is nothing wrong with science.  In fact, it is even a means by which we can celebrate the awesomeness of God.  When we learn how well the world and its organisms are designed, we can better appreciate the gift that God has given to us in his creation.  The problem occurs when certain people who are enamored with science end up putting too much faith in it.  As a pursuit of flawed human beings, science will always be flawed.  Because the Bible was inspired by One who is perfect, the Bible is perfect.  As long as we keep this simple fact in mind, our study of science will be very rewarding! (p 15)

There is a lot of truth in this paragraph, and Wile’s dedication to homeschool science is evident in all the textbooks he writes.  Yet, in defending science to those who would suggest that only the Bible is necessary, he almost misses something very important that is eloquently expressed in a document from 1561, the Belgic Confession.

Article 2—How God Makes Himself Known to Us

We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature, as the apostle Paul says in Rom 1:20. All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.

This shows another aspect of the study of creation—it tells us about God.   And, yes, some people misuse the idea that creation is like a book and instead say that certain scientific theories are like a book; often this idea is used to support the idea that scientific theories can be used to correct the Bible (as in the suggestion that, if God created at all, he used evolution).

However, the Bible clearly shows us how creation does play a large part in God’s self-revelation.  In Psalm 8, the psalmist looks at the stars and is overwhelmed by praise.  Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God for all the intricacies of creation.  Isaiah points to creation to remind us that God is the creator and is powerful—and he also reminds us that this great God loves us.  Most memorably, when Job was facing the limits of human thinking about God, life, and justice, God’s answer was to show Job himself through nature.  Romans 1 points out that God’s power has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made, so clearly that no one has any excuse to doubt his existence.  Over and over, the natural world is used to teach us things about God and about the spiritual world.

Now, Wile’s focus is to explain why it is a good idea to study science even though science is not 100% reliable and the Bible is; on the other hand, the Belgic Confession is occupied with explaining how God reveals himself to us.   Putting the two together and discussing the question ‘Why study science?’ in a general way, here are some considerations.

The Belgic Confession as well as Wile’s quotation, aimed at different audiences and therefore showing different aspects of this discussion, both agree that God’s creation is an expression of who he is and deserves to be studied simply on that basis as well as for utilitarian purposes.  In fact, approached wisely both science and nature study can be a form of worship just as Bible study ideally is. And, just as it is both foolish and dangerous to avoid studying God’s Word, so it is almost as foolish and dangerous to avoid immersing ourselves in and learning about God’s creation.

Nature is given to us to use responsibly and to develop (Genesis 1:26-30), but it is also a way in which we learn about God.  There is a horizontal, people-directed way of looking at science and that is good, but Christians should never forget the vertical, God-directed aspect either.  Ideally both are present.  Christians need to learn to value creation as a gift from God to help us see who he is as well as a resource to treasure, understand, and harness for the good of other people.

Of course, all that does not mean that everyone needs to become a scientist, but everyone does need to gratefully notice the world God has put us in, to make time to see the gifts he has given us, and to be full of awe and wonder at the things he has created.  In practical terms, we need to get outside, look, listen smell, feel, and enjoy.  We need to keep our eyes open and be ready to exclaim in grateful amazement.

On the other hand, some of our young people will be drawn to a career based on understanding creation and on applying scientific knowledge for the benefit of other people.  This is good and necessary, but they, too, need to remember awe, gratitude, and worship in their work.

In conclusion, then, why study God’s creation (i.e. science)?  The answer to that can be summed up in Jesus’s words.  We study God’s created world in order to be better equipped to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Thus this study has both God-directed and people-directed aspects.  In fact, the study of creation is part of both the great commission (Matthew 28: 18-20) and the cultural mandate (Genesis 1:28-30), although understanding how to make this work is an ongoing challenge.  And, for all these reasons, studying science is vitally important.

So let’s learn science joyfully with our children, and let us together be in awe of the God who made this amazing world.

Soli Deo Gloria—praise to God alone!

This is part of a series of articles exploring why we teach our children the things we teach them, and why we, too, need to learn.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I share what I read. 

This article may be linked to Finishing Strong , Raising Homemakers.  

Review: Trunk of Scrolls by Darlene Bocek

While there are many novels about Reformation times, and many church history biographies throughout the ages, we have come across very little fiction about early church history and even less about the creeds.  However, Darlene Bocek’s novel Trunk of Scrolls  covers the time after 526 AD, after the council of Chalcedon and during the continuing debates about who Jesus actually is—only God or both God and man.  If you wonder whether this is important, yes, it absolutely is.   As Marcellus’s Aunt Sophia told him, knowing who Jesus is identifies the very God you worship.

Despite all this, Trunk of Scrolls is not a dusty description of doctrine but a gripping and suspense-filled novel of Byzantine times.

One terrible day in 526, Marcellus and his cousins saw their city of Antioch writhe and crumble as an earthquake devastated their lives. Not that Marcellus hadn’t already been devastated that terrible day when his cousin Byziana was betrothed to Captain Belisarius, the up and coming young soldier.  But this was horror unending, as the young people dragged survivors from the rubble, saving only a few.

Why had God send such trouble?  Was it because of the raging debate about the nature of Christ?  Were they abandoned by God?  Why did he allow such horror and so much evil?  Was there even an answer to these questions?  Aunt Sophia, and Marcellus, too, found help in the secret trunk of scrolls, those precious letters and gospels.  Often they read them—the letter to the Colossians, Aunt Sophia’s favorite, and also the rest of the twenty-one sacred scrolls—but they did not talk much about them because scrolls were being confiscated to be put into monastaries.

Soon afterward Aunt Sophia died from earthquake wounds, Uncle Gaius Justus was gone, intrigue and sadness were everywhere, and cousin Byziana decided they needed to travel to Constantinople where her father and Belisarius lived.  They would take the precious trunk of scrolls, of course.  And of course Marcellus could not let her and her siblings travel alone.  Needless to say, tragedy struck and it hounded Marcellus from Gothland to Antioch, and from Antioch to Constantinople.  But the scrolls were always in his mind and so was sweet Byziana, the betrothed of another man….

This fast-paced story is set against the backdrop of the two great Antiochan earthquakes and the dreadful revolt in Constantinople.  We see the beginnings of relic worship and of the removal of Scriptures from ordinary believers, and we witness the personal impact of the conflict about Jesus’ identity.  Bocek’s characters make us care about all of these things, and more, as they struggle with truth and with life, learning to find inspiration in the scrolls.

I found this to be an inspiring novel, full of substance and emotion.  Yet it is also very intense, with graphic descriptions of suffering (a movie would be rated R) and deep spiritual struggles.   We know that such intense suffering exists wherever there are natural disasters, revolts, and evil, and Jesus has come to this world to die for us, destroy the devil’s work, and, eventually, wipe all tears from our eyes.  Even so, I am not certain I will give this book to my teen daughters; is it right to put tears into eyes that are barely free of them?  However, my teens are sensitive; many other young people will be able to manage the distressing material quite well especially since some of it is presented in such a subtle way that not everyone will even notice.

Thus, if your teens are not too empathetic, Trunk of Scrolls could be an excellent book to accompany history, church history, and Bible studies.  It would go well with Veritas’s Omnibus 2 and Omnibus 5, and I am sure it would supplement other literature-based programs such as Truth Quest, Tapestry of Grace, and Sonlight as well.  If I decide to use it with my girls, we would begin after our autumn studies of Reformation times, supplementing Brandy’s outline for reading two church fathers, Eusebius and Athanasius.   Darlene Bocek has prepared a thorough free study guide as well as a list of links to background information, and the book includes a helpful timeline.

Trunk of Scrolls is not only for homeschoolers; it is also wonderful novel for any adult who wishes to understand history, theology, and the Bible.  The tragedies of these times lead naturally to a valuable exploration of suffering, God’s sovereignty, and the incarnation, as well as a renewed appreciation for the Word of God.

I find it incredible that this is a first novel.  The characters are well-drawn and easy to identify with, the plot is complicated and gripping, and the settings evocative.  Even the themes, though heavy, fit into the story well.  Also, an amazing amount of research went into this book.  Unfortunately, there is some awkwardness in language and structure, and a good editor could make a significant improvement.

Be that as it may, I recommend Trunk of Scrolls for adults and some older teens as a gripping novel, an introduction to early church history, and a devotional dealing with suffering and the incarnation.

Earlier I reviewed Athanisius by Simonetta Carr, about ancient attempts to understand who Jesus Christ really is, which discusses the struggle mentioned in Trunk of Scrolls.

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Disclosure:  I received a review copy of Trunk of Scrolls from Darlene Bocek.  As always, I am not compensated for sharing my honest opinions.

This article may be linked to 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Finishing Strong , Raising Homemakers, Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook

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