Charles Blanchard on the Bible

BlanchardThe life of Dr. Charles Blanchard (1848-1925), second president of Wheaton College, was nearing its end just when the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversey was heating up. These hotly divisive years presented stiff challenges to conservative Christians as traditional assumptions were routinely overthrown or mocked. Is the Bible flawed? Is evolution true? Is scripture merely a collection of fictional morality tales? These questions, then as now, plagued educational institutions across the nation. Eventually the battle lines were drawn – and Dr. Blanchard made it very clear where he stood, as evidenced by these words from the Preface of his book, Visions and Voices: Or Who Wrote the Bible (1917):

It is not strange that such a book should be assailed. We do not wonder when we read that its translators, teachers and followers have been strangled, beheaded, burned, drowned and by thousands have died for this wonderful book on bloody fields. It is, however, strange that today men who profess to believe the Bible and are paid for teaching it should join hands with the Paines, Voltaires and Ingersolls of our race to destroy the faith of the people in this book. I do not understand their motives, but I do know the deadly work they are doing, and I entreat all men who honor God or wish well to humanity to resist their desperately evil assaults on this the only hope of the human race.

Conflict Resolution

Mark Lewis

As the lights dimmed to black in Arena Theater’s last play of 2005, the audience was left with the image of a young couple gazing at one another across a divide, their future together suspended in the distance between them.

Discussions following this production, The Cover of Life, by R.T. Robinson, have been engaging. What happens to that couple? It seems that the playwright does not intend us to know.

Furthermore, as the director of the play I was committed to creating a final image that would leave all of us squarely in the middle of the question.

Why? I am sometimes asked why so many of the plays we produce in Arena Theater do not resolve neatly, or sometimes even positively. Why not offer our audience encouragement by doing plays that offer more definitive resolutions? Are we trying to discourage or frustrate the faithful friends who come to support our work?

No, nothing could be further from my intent in choosing and directing plays. But I am fervent in this belief—”theater” operates or works most powerfully at the level of our shared and ongoing questions. There is immense value in evaluating a play not only by what message or moral it might offer, but also by the quality of the questions it leaves us asking.

So much of what we call “entertainment” is not meant to affect us in this way. Questions, if there are any, are beautifully crafted to resolve completely. One can practically know what time it is in an hour-long television drama by the story’s proximity to its resolution, which is usually very simple. When we are fed a steady diet of this type of ending to a story, what becomes of our ability to trust God in a world where endings so often seem, from our human perspective, to be unresolved or ambiguous?

Theater is intended to land differently—to leave a different kind of impression. It relies absolutely on writing that demonstrates honest conflict springing from opposing points of view. If a play is to succeed, these opposing views must be brought to life by actors advocating honestly for their character’s choices.

Additionally, theater demands that an audience struggle with its own presuppositions. Unlike film or television, where a camera focuses our attention for us, we decide where to look and whom to incline to. We may disagree completely with a character’s point of view and the actions it leads her to, but a good play asks us to lend our attention to that character’s story, and to consider it, for better and for worse.

Hamlet says, “The purpose of playing was and is…to hold a mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image.” We need to be open to seeing our image in both parts of that mirror if an experience in the theater is to fulfill its potential to reflect and challenge us.

Wheaton Magazine (Autumn 2005)

Masked: The Life of Anna Leonowens by Al Habegger

A brave British widow goes to Siam and—by dint of her principled and indomitable character—inspires that despotic nation to abolish slavery and absolute rule: this appealing legend first took shape after the Civil War when Anna Leonowens came to America from Bangkok and succeeded in becoming a celebrity author and lecturer. Three decades after her death, in the 1940s and 1950s, the story would be transformed into a powerful Western myth by Margaret Landon’s best-selling book Anna and the King of Siam and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical The King and I.

But who was Leonowens and why did her story take hold? Although it has been known for some time that she was of Anglo-Indian parentage and that her tales about the Siamese court are unreliable, not until now, with the publication of Masked, has there been a deeply researched account of her extraordinary life. Alfred Habegger, an award-winning biographer, draws on the archives of five continents and recent Thai-language scholarship to disclose the complex person behind the mask and the troubling facts behind the myth. He also ponders the curious fit between Leonowens’s compelling fabrications and the New World’s innocent dreams—in particular the dream that democracy can be spread through quick and easy interventions.

Exploring the full historic complexity of what it once meant to pass as white, Masked (published by University of Wisconsin Press, 560 pages) pays close attention to Leonowens’s midlevel origins in British India, her education at a Bombay charity school for Eurasian children, her material and social milieu in Australia and Singapore, the stresses she endured in Bangkok as a working widow, the latent melancholy that often afflicted her, the problematic aspects of her self-invention, and the welcome she found in America, where a circle of elite New England abolitionists who knew nothing about Southeast Asia gave her their uncritical support. Her embellished story would again capture America’s imagination as World War II ended and a newly interventionist United States looked toward Asia.

The Kenneth & Margaret Landon Papers (SC-38) are cited as primary source materials and are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections, available to researchers.

———-

Alfred Habegger is professor emeritus of English at the University of Kansas. His previous biographies are The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr. and the highly acclaimed My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson. He lives in northeast Oregon.

Why She Stayed

In 2006, Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church, author and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, shocked America when he confessed to drug abuse and an illicit affair with a male prostitute in Denver. GayleConsequently, Haggard quit his numerous leadership positions and sought pastoral counseling. Not only was Haggard publicly humiliated, but so was his wife, Gayle. Inundated with a persistent question, she responds in her memoir, Why I Stayed (2010). She recounts her marriage to Haggard, from their meeting as students at Oral Roberts University to the present. Gayle Haggard summarizes her conclusions in the final pages:

Why did I stay married to Ted Haggard? I think the more pertinent question — the one I had to settle in my heart — was, Why should I go? My reasons for staying with Ted were far more compelling than any that would have propelled me toward divorce. I stayed with Ted because to me he’s worth the struggle…But even in the midst of my pain, I believed Ted loved me…I decided that he was worth fighting for, our marriage was worth fighting for, and our family was worth fighting for. I stayed with Ted because commitment means something to me. I’ve committed my life to God, which means that I’ve chosen his ways and I follow his example of love and forgiveness. I’m committed to our marriage, to stay in this journey till death do us part. I am committed to our children, and I want to restore honor and dignity to their lives.

The papers of the National Association of Evangelicals (SC-113), from its inception in 1941 until the mid-1990s, are housed in the Wheaton College Special Collections, available to researchers. The NAE is currently headed by Dr. Leith Anderson.

Letters to Jody

Letters to Jody, published in 1971 by Thomas D. Parks, is a collection of fictional letters from Dr. Blake, an industrial chemist, to Jody, his Bible class student who has just entered a state university. JodyIIAs she adjusts to academic and social expectations, Jody shares various issues with her wise friend. An article from the January 28, 1972 Record explains the book.

If it is true that many parents send their children to a Christian school because it is a “‘safe’ place for my little Frerkowitz,” then there is greater truth in the statement that going to a Madison, University Park or Berkeley will be a crucial period in the life of a Christian youth. A unique insight into a parent’s mind on this subject may be viewed in a recent book entitled Letters to Jody. The author is Dr. Thomas Parks, father of Jody Parks, a Wheaton junior and literature major. However, the Jody of Wheaton is not the Jody of the State U. in the fictitious correspondence. Supposedly the letters are received from Jody’s Bible class teacher. Her name is employed merely as a personifiation of “the Christian University co-ed.” Dr. Parks combined his experience as the father of a Christian college student with his ideas of the current university picture to elucidate his understanding and convey this to his audience.

Letters addresses itself to anyone who would be involved in answering the problems and questions in the mind of the Christian at college or in any other student-related experience. Also, it serves as a representation to a non-Christian or a new believer of some positions held by most middle-class Christian parents. In an interview, Miss Parks said, “Some of the issues in the book were touch to me.” This especially pertained to the letters the book’s cover reviewer termed “race relations,” since Jody serve with SMP in Spring City, Tennessee, a Bible camp for black children this past summer.

Jody aided her father in analyzing content and style in Letters. There were some personal references which she did not want to see printed. Stylistically she said, “The book was too much like a textbook. I helped him cut down some of the letters in length and add more also.” There aren’t any letters by Jody in the book. She did help edit it, however.

Long out of print, Letters to Jody still offers valuable insight into the cultural shifts emerging during the early 1970s, in addition to reflecting the conservative positions held by Dr. Parks, who graduated from Wheaton College in 1942.

Christians in the Public Schools

As an education professor, I am frequently asked about the three types of educational opportunities: homeschooling, public schools, and private schools—each of which I believe is viable and valuable.

My own experience included a private Christian elementary school, public high school, a private Christian college, and a public university. My children attended public school until they enrolled at Wheaton. Our experiences have been rich and stimulating for academic, social, and spiritual growth. In these settings, we have encountered gifted Christian and non-Christian teachers who challenged our faith by helping us examine what we believe and why we believe it.

When asked to recommend one of these forms of schooling, I encourage parents to examine their own educational views and their child's characteristics in order to find the best fit. Similarly, when education students ask where to begin their profession, I respond that they need to prayerfully match their educational philosophy with their own God-given personality He calls some to private schools and others to public schools. And often the call changes within a career.

Having offered this advice, I am frequently asked to defend my support of public education. Not only have I attended and taught in public schools, I consider it to be a vital area of service today.

First, the vast diversity in public schools includes both Christian and non-Christian students.While Christian teachers need to demonstrate God's love to non-Christian families and colleagues, they also offer an important ministry by affirming Christian students for their core belief and values. Respecting every student requires that these individuals' views be heard in the marketplace of ideas. In caring for all learners, Christian teachers in public schools can provide a model of Christianity in action for a student who might otherwise feel marginalized in a secular world.

Second, public schools offer an opportunity to reflect Christ's love to students of all economic levels. Christ calls us to meet the needs of the poor. Public schools are increasingly the only option for our poorest students.They (like all students) deserve the most committed and compassionate teachers.

Economic hardship often creates the need for stability. When Steve Mcllrath '93 began his teaching career at a public high school on Chicago's west side, his young math students questioned whether he would still be there when they graduated. During his ten years there, Steve has seen nine principals and almost 50 other math teachers come and go. As the epitome of a Christian teacher who serves faithfully in a public school, Steve is much more to me than a former student; he is my hero.

Dr.Jillian Nerhus Lederhouse '75, Associate Professor of Education, began teaching courses at Wheaton in 1978 while still an elementary teacher in the Chicago public schools. She joined Wheaton's faculty full-time in 1989 and currently serves as coordinator of the elementary/middle grades program. Recipient of the 2001 Senior Faculty Achievement Award, she has been published in several education journals addressing topics ranging from classroom management to assessment and Christian teachers in public schools. She holds a B.A.from Wheaton, an M. Ed.from DePaul University, and a Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Chicago. She and her husband, Wheaton swimming coach Jon Lederhouse '74, have three children. (Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2005).

The Invisible PM

David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, was voted the third greatest British Prime Minister of the 20th Century in a recent UK poll. LloydGeorgeAs a Member of Parliament, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War and tireless social reformer, Lloyd George expertly navigated the political field, winning the hearts of his countrymen.

Visiting the United States in 1923, the “Commoner,” fulfilling a promise, rode the train with other passengers enroute from Chicago to Mooseheart, Illinois, passing through Wheaton, intending to present a speech in the open-air ampitheatre at the famous orphanage. Excited to hear the great statesman, many students from Wheaton College joined the throng at Mooseheart, expecting at least a glimpse of this renowned international guest. Sadly, their hopes were dashed when Llloyd George’s personal physician forbad him from publicly speaking due to health concerns. Instead, he delivered his address on radio in a building which accommodated only a fraction of those who had gathered for the occasion. The former PM returned to Chicago, where he later delivered another address.

Self-Criticism?

“Tell us your impression of the U.S. Is there anything that strikes you?”

As a visitor from “Old Europe,” I am often asked this kind of question. Actually, I have seen very little of the country. I’ve only caught a glimpse, through the Wheaton window.

What I have glimpsed, however, may be worth mentioning. I have been struck by the amount of self-deprecation in current discourse (not within College bounds necessarily), having heard and read a lot of self-critical talk, concerning American ways and values, especially “individualism,” and, in Christian circles, concerning evangelical tradition, or lack of tradition.

Self-criticism is praiseworthy—one hesitates to criticize it! Self-demeaning, to some extent in all cultures, and in some cultures hyperbolically so, it belongs to polite demeanor. It oils the wheels of social exchanges. Since every human group or institution tends toward inflated images of self, often bordering on idolatry, correction is salutary.

Individually and collectively, the ability to acknowledge weaknesses and faults reflects maturity. Combating pride, the ever-present enemy, is always timely-for pride disguises itself as loyalty or gratitude. (Remember the account in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee’s thanksgiving met the outward expectation of religious life, and yet, he did not go home justified.) But cannot self-criticism itself become a disguise? When we criticize our tradition, don’t we secretly feel that we thereby raise ourselves above what we censure?

We say “we,” and mean “they.” Of course, I realize that this boomerangs on me just now. Intellectuals in our societies, as they disparage established orders, often vent their frustration and resentment for not wielding power. (Nietzsche was not wrong on all counts.) Blaming the status quo, of which one is a part, relieves hidden anguish and projects the subject’s existential discomfort onto the world. An upcoming generation conveniently makes room for their own ambitions, brushing predecessors to the side. Not waiving their claim on the estate, they become “self” critical. In any case, as a general phenomenon of perception, attention is always drawn to what does not work properly, thus fostering exclusively negative assessments, and failing to honor that which is praiseworthy.

What are the marks of sound self-criticism? Balance and nuances, and recognizing that which is valuable and must be maintained—these are hopeful signs. Slogans or catchwords, conformity to fashions, ready-made generalizations, are all red signals. Critics are open to suspicion that keep enjoying the benefits of what they condemn. If it is truly self-criticism, it will entail some concrete steps of action.

The heart, however, is so crooked, “deceitful above all things,” that discernment ultimately belongs to the Lord, the Lord alone (Jer. 17:9). His Word is the “critical” (kritikos) agent, to which only we will turn for true and healing criticism (Heb. 4:12).

Dr. Henri A. Blocher, Wheaton’s Gunther Knoedler Chair of Bible and Theology, was born a Frenchman in Leiden, Netherlands. He studied at Gordon Divinity School and in Paris and London. He has taught in the Faculté Libre de Théologie Evangélique, Vaux-sur-Seine, since its founding in 1965, and currently chairs the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians. His books include In the Beginning, Evil and the Cross, and Original Sin. He and his wife, Henriette, a psychologist, have three children and seven grandchildren. (Wheaton Magazine, Autumn 2004).

 

Perry and Tor

Judge Sam Perry of Glen Ellyn, intending to merely deepen the pond on his property, received much more than he expected when, on October 16, 1963, diggers unearthed a prehistoric femur. Professors from Wheaton College were summoned to investigate. Judging the find to be geologically significant, the decision was made to drain the lake and excavate. After several days additional bones surfaced, revealing 60% of a mastodon. Apparently, the unfortunate creature had broken its leg and died at the site of what had been an ancient lake. Eventually the bones and tusks, meticulously recorded, washed, dried, photographed and coated with dilute shellac, were reconstructed. The skeleton, held together by a steel frame, was proudly displayed in Breyer Hall on the campus of Wheaton College for nearly 40 years, until it was ceremoniously moved to the new science building in 2009.

The eight-day dig was accompanied by extensive media coverage and keen interest from the community. The students determined that it needed “a meaningful pet name,” so the skeleton was called “Bonaparte” (bone-apart). But soon the name was forgotten and the display was simply called Perry.

TorAfter centuries alone, Perry finally received a companion when Professor Mazzarella’s Short Story Class published, “The Quest of Tor,” explaining the origins of Wheaton College’s new mascot, a young mastodon who leaves his herd and stomps across the United States, searching for “the land of Wheaton,” where a monument has been erected honoring his legendary ancestor. Endearing himself to the campus, Tor is invited by Dr. Ryken to remain. These days at Wheaton College athletic events, Tor is often seen proudly displaying the Thunder banner amid applauding fans. The booklet, illustrated by Jack Kinyon, can be purchased in the Wheaton College bookstore.

Minding the Mind

I love maps I can spend hours poring over the details of a terrain that I have never seen and probably never will see. So when I travel somewhere, I am not content with a generalized map of the area; nothing less than a Delorme atlas with every gravel road marked will do.

How nice it would be to have such a detailed map of our spiritual pilgrimage—to have every decision clearly marked and the road for years ahead clear and straight. Some Christians try to get that kind of information out of their Bibles. They search for verses that will tell them what job to take, whom to marry, what school to attend. Of course, they are doomed to be disappointed—or worse yet, to think God is giving them specific direction in a verse that means nothing of the kind. Other Christians simply give up: since God has not told me anywhere what job I should take or what school to go to, it does not matter what I decide.

Both these responses miss the true nature of God's guidance of us through Scripture. God has not given us a Delorme spiritual map revealing every twist and turn of our lives What He has given us instead is a revelation of Himself. Who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will do, and what He values most in His people.

By reading, studying, and meditating on this revelation, we find our very worldview being changed. Paul describes this process in his famous call for Christians to "renew their minds" (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). It is by this transformation of our fundamental attitudes and values that we will be able to "test and approve what God's will is" (Rom. 12:2). God desires that we so immerse ourselves in Scripture that its values gradually become our values. These values, built deeply into us, will then guide us in all the decisions of life.

As my wife and I raised five children (now all grown), we were especially anxious to help them develop these renewed minds. We were not so concerned about whether they would agree with us on every lifestyle decision that we made. But we wanted them to make their own lifestyle decisions, not on the basis of the materialistic cultural values of this world, but on the basis of solidly biblical values.

I have a similar vision for the students I teach at Wheaton College. My goal is to expose them to Scripture in such a way that the very roots of their minds will be thoroughly Christian. For if, by God's Spirit, their minds are being so transformed, I can be confident that they will emerge as strong examples of righteousness in a world that desperately needs such a witness.

Dr. Douglas J. Moo is Blanchard Professor of New Testament and Director of the Ph.D. Program in Biblical and Theological Studies. A relative newcomer to Wheaton, Doug arrived in 2000 after a long ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He holds a B.A. from DePauw, an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from St. Andrews in Scotland He and his wife Jenny live in West Chicago. Three of their children have attended, or are attending Wheaton College. (Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2004).