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5 MUST-READ Inspirational Stories of Apostolic Missions

Missionary biographies are, in one sense, a dime a dozen. Thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of Christians have held that title in some capacity since the days of the Moravians, and hundreds have published their own stories in English alone. In another sense, I believe that, despite their commonality, missionary stories are worth their weight in gold, and I collect and read all of them that I can; I would say the exception is when their stories are not worth reading.

But there are some missionary stories that give us a lens into a greater work of Christ in history. The apostle Paul said that he disposes the times and places of men and women for the purposes of the glory of his kingdom, but seldom are we able to see such obvious evidence of his sovereignty as when the gospel message brings transformation to an entire culture. If that is our subject of study, we can do no better than to begin with the following five stories of national and cultural transformation.

1. Uganda

Outside influences in Africa were, from the beginning, most strongly felt along the coastlines. After David Livingstone led to an explosion of missions work in Africa, Uganda became a major beachhead. Alexander MacKay was among the most famous of the Christian workers there; James Hannington, appointed Anglican Bishop of East Equatorial Africa, was martyred on his arrival to Uganda (or Buganda), leading British Christians to

Books: Pilkington of Uganda (C. F. Harford), The Last Journals of James Hannington (ed. E. C. Dawson), Uganda’s White Man of Work (Sophia Fahs).

2. Fiji

Fiji, like Uganda, is a story of national revival. Like Uganda, it is also the story of a place that was organized into chiefdoms, and it was not always clear who held what territory. James and Mary Calvert were at the storm-center of a national revival that overtook Fiji when the chief who ruled much of the islands chose to become a Christian.

During their lifelong stay in Fiji, Mary Calvert boldly challenged the age-old custom of wife-burning at the death of a patriarch. She and others put themselves in danger to save the lives of other women who would have been killed in the funeral celebrations of their husbands, thus playing a key role in the ending of a dark and ancient custom.

If you haven’t heard this thrilling story, Vernon’s Dawn in Fiji is a must-read. If you prefer a book with more facts and details, Rowe’s James Calvert of Fiji gives the best account that I have found.

Books: James Calvert of Fiji (Rowe), Mary Calvert (Rowe), Dawn in Fiji (R. Vernon).

3. The Karen peoples of Myanmar

The story of the Judsons themselves carries interest far beyond their status as the first American missionaries. Right through from their shaky beginnings—when they committed to overseas work, there was no agency to support them—they amply vindicated the title of “missionary” by doing apostolic work that has impacted Myanmar (then Burma) for two centuries.

This story, first told in Edward Judson’s masterful biography of his father, was re-popularized for twentieth-century readers by Don Richardson in his bestselling book Eternity in Their Hearts; however, there is much more to the story than Richardson’s quick survey. After meeting a liberated slave, Adoniram Judson heard that the Karen people would be receptive to Christ’s message of forgiveness. Little did he know that two centuries later, millions of Karen people would consider themselves Christians because of this one meeting.

Readers of this story will think it no coincidence that the first American missionaries stumbled into a people group so utterly primed for the gospel of Christ. The Karen people had unique myths and customs that pointed to a future message that would bring them freedom. Wylie gives the fascinating details of these pre-Christian myths in her classic book, The Gospel in Burma.

Books: The Gospel in Burma (Wylie), The Life of Adoniram Judson (Edward Judson), Eternity in Their Hearts (Don Richardson)

4. The Huaorani people of Ecuador

The Huaorani became the dinner conversation of the entire Western world after they speared five missionaries to death on a remote riverside in 1959. Those five men had come, fully aware of the Huaorani’s violent tendencies, hoping to make peaceful contact and eventually share the gospel with this people. After all five were martyred while venturing for the gospel, in another stunning turn of events, their surviving family members, Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot, were able to accomplish that dream of sharing the gospel with them.

The End of the Spear tells the continuing story in the 1990s, when God called Steve Saint and his family back to the jungle to serve where the people that had killed his father. Steve saw the Westernization and the dependence that had crippled the Huaorani, and he has spent the past 25 years working to give indigenous peoples independence and freedom through both the gospel and education.

Books: The End of the Spear (by Steve Saint), Through Gates of Splendor (by Elisabeth Elliot), The Journals of Jim Elliot.

5. The Motilone people

Unlike many authors who gain traction through mainstream publishing, Bruce Olson has remained utterly outside the limelight. His wonderful biography begins with his own conversion and his family’s harsh disapproval. Led specifically to reach the remote Motilone people, Bruce ended up in Colombia, disowned by his family, unknown to any sending agency, and unable to communicate even a basic greeting in Spanish. The miraculous story of how, after years of patience, he was able to find the remote Motilone people, learn their language, and bring them the gospel, is one that is better told in the book itself.

Originally titled For This Cross I’ll Kill You, Bruce’s autobiographical story of bringing the gospel to the Motilone brought him a hailstorm of criticism for his unusual tale in which he acted as a missionary apart from any denomination or agency. The same criticisms have been resurrected after the death of John Allen Chau in 2018. But God calls each of us to walk the unique path that he gives us, and wisdom will be finally justified by her children. I, for one, think that Bruce’s story is remarkable evidence of the hand of God in our day.

Books: Bruchko (Bruce Olson).

Review: What I Saw in America

Rating: ★★★★

Author: G. K. Chesterton was a devoutly Catholic journalist, poet and novelist of the early 20th century. His most apt nickname is “The Prince of Paradox.”

Genre: Non-fiction, travel, essays.

Overview:

This is a long book of essays, first published in 1922, mostly about America and English-American relations in the wake of World War I. They were written during and after a lecture tour in the United States. Chesterton includes a few funny anecdotes from his travel but otherwise avoids any details concerning his trip—that is to say, this is by no means a travelogue; it is a book of essays reflecting on his time in America.

To cover this rather lengthy book, I will have to divide the themes into headings. There are four topics in What I Saw in America: 1) American culture; 2) understanding foreign cultures in general (and what is today known as “culture shock”); 3) American politics; and 4) international unity efforts (then called “internationalism”)


Chesterton on American Culture

The first chapter (“What Is America?”) sets the tone for the whole book and is probably its most important chapter. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t enjoy the rest of the book. In its title, Chesterton hearkens back to Crevecoeur’s famous Letters from an American Farmer, published in 1782, in which he asks the question, “What Is an American?” Crevecoeur’s conclusion:

The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence.—This is an American.

Chesterton’s conclusion in this chapter is not far off:

America invites all men to become citizens. (p. 8) . . . [America] is making a home out of vagabonds and a nation out of exiles. (p. 14)

Chesterton continues along this line in two important later chapters, “The Spirit of America” and “The Future of Democracy.”

He makes many other general statements about American culture and work ethic. Here is another (from “The Spirit of England”):

The Englishman is moody. . . . In America there are no moods, or there is only one mood. It is the same whether it is called hustle or uplift. American sociability is . . . like Niagara. It never stops, under the silent stars or the rolling storms. (p. 288-289)

And there are, in the book, many, many other amusing notes about the differences between the Englishman and the American.


Chesterton on Culture Shock

Chesterton has a refreshing way of discussing culture shock in this book. He points out the discomfort that is inevitable in travelling.

A foreigner is a man who laughs at everything except jokes. (p. 163)

He also argues that as long as we think we understand a people or nation, we will be unable to learn anything new about them. He illustrates this by a strange anecdote in the chapter “The Extraordinary American,” which is about an inexplicable meeting in Oklahoma. His apt summary:

We have never even begun to understand a people until we have found something that we do not understand. (p. 182, emphasis mine)


Chesterton on American Politics

The modern Briton sees American politics from afar as a circus. Chesterton calls it—along with his own nation—a plutocracy (rule by the rich), a term which has only grown in relevance.

Vulgar plutocracy is almost omnipotent in both countries; but I think there is now more kick of reaction against it in America than in England. (p. 264-265)

Political representation in democracy, for Chesterton, is a sleight-of-hand trick: we go to pains to elect whomever we want, and then spend their term criticizing them. He writes that the King of England is a popular figure, and that “pure democracy” leads inevitably to tyranny. (He first said this, I believe, in his novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill.) This agrees somewhat with statements made by James Madison in Federalist Paper no. 10, written in 1787.

Along with many British believers or young American Christians, Chesterton would be considered conservative on moral issues but liberal on social issues. Firstly, he sees the American republic as having a theological foundation:

America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. (p. 7, emphasis mine)

This rings true, of course, with most conservative Christians; but his other opinions may raise some feathers—especially his view of economics, which is definitely not capitalist, but not exactly socialist either.

A wise man’s attitude towards industrial capitalism will be very like Lincoln’s attitude towards slavery. That is, he will manage to endure capitalism; but he will not endure a defence of capitalism. (p. 226)

Politically moderate Christians, who are today called “politically homeless,” will definitely be interested in Chesterton’s views.


Chesterton on Internationalism

The League of Nations, which was later replaced by the United Nations, was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization, founded in 1920. Although we may have forgotten it after the disillusionment of World War II, the original goal was to maintain world peace and international unity. Novelist H. G. Wells had written that if we could not maintain such a peace, then only war is possible.

This kind of thinking Chesterton consistently and utterly rejects. In numerous places in his writings, he shows outrage at the idea of a neutral assimilation along any lines, whether moral, political, denominational, linguistic, or cultural. He says twice that this is the main contention of the entire book:

I would insist everywhere in this book . . . that the remedy is to be found in disentangling the two and not in entangling them further. (p. 233)

The safest path for Anglo-American relations, he says, is for the English to be more English, not more American; and for the English to learn to appreciate America as American, and the American to appreciate England as English. In this way, he makes a great argument for diversity (as elsewhere). One of the characters in his early novel The Napoleon of Notting Hill makes a similar argument:

Do you really mean to say that at the moment when the Esquimaux has learnt to vote for a County Council, you will have learnt to spear a walrus? (Napoleon of Notting Hill, p. 41)

Chesterton’s objection to “internationalism” is summarized thus:

The objection to spreading anything all over the world is that, among other things, you have to spread it very thin. (p. 244)


Other Themes in What I Saw in America

As in any book of essays, numerous themes are discussed and couldn’t possibly fit into a review. Some other themes addressed prominently in this book are given here:

  • American humor
  • American journalism
  • American politics
  • American individualism
  • Political representation
  • Capitalism and work ethic
  • Egalitarianism vs. capitalism
  • The moral influence of new technologies
  • The fruitlessness of the Prohibition (1920-1933)

Quotes:

“The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose; and the text of Scripture which he now most commonly quotes is, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” That text has served to identify self-satisfaction with “the peace that passes all understanding.” And the text to be quoted in answer to it is that which declares that no man can receive the kingdom except as a little child. What we are to have inside is the childlike spirit; but the childlike spirit is not entirely concerned about what is inside. It is the first mark of possessing it that one is interested in what is outside. The most childlike thing about a child is his curiosity and his appetite and his power of wonder at the world. We might almost say that the whole advantage of having the kingdom within is that we look for it somewhere else.” (p. 279)

Prohibition:

“The first thing to be said about it is that it does not exist. . . . Prohibition never prohibits. It never has in history; not even in Moslem history; and it never will.” (p. 145)

American Culture:

“Americans are very unpunctual.” (p. 113)

“Individualism is the death of individuality.” (p. 169)

Read for Free: LibriVox (audiobook), Internet Archive (pdf), Project Gutenberg (epub & rtf), Kindle Store (mobi),

 

Review: The Trees of Pride (Spoilers)

Rating: ★★★★

Author: G. K. Chesterton was a devoutly Catholic journalist, poet and novelist of the early 20th century. His most apt nickname is “The Prince of Paradox.”

Overview: The Trees of Pride is one of Chesterton’s mystery novels, of which he has many. Most are in the Father Brown series; this, however, is a singlet.

The Trees of Pride takes place in Cornwall, in a quaint coastal village in the far southwest reaches of England. Cornwall, though a popular tourist destination, is also associated with occult practices, as well as its history of piracy. This makes it an obvious choice for a murder mystery.

Meat:

For starters, I have to admit, this was the first mystery novel I have ever read, and Chesterton did not disappoint. All of his books are stimulating and thoughtful. Chesterton skillfully speaks through the narrative as well as through the characters as voiceboxes.

Chesterton creates a fictional saint, St. Securis. Trees are moved by his prayers; a myth of Orpheus leading trees by his music is also referenced. These walking trees are also in Chesterton’s Ballad of the White Horse and are a favorite motif of the Inklings (who, readers should remember, were readers of Chesterton and not his personal acquaintances).

Chesterton sets up these trees as a foil: everyone believes the trees kill. Then the doctor sets up an elaborated faked death in order to ensure the trees will be destroyed.

In the end, the popular myth was in fact correct; although, all the educated people in the story had assumed that this was the one explanation to be scorned. Thus, the doctor says in the end:

I had something against me heavier and more hopeless than the hostility of the learned; I had the support of the ignorant. (loc. 927)

And again:

Your rational principle was that a thing must be false because thousands of men had found it true; that because many human eyes had seen something, it could not be there. (loc. 954)

Bones:

This book is a very quick read, and it doesn’t have as wide an appeal as some of his other novels. Some modern readers will definitely feel off-put by the blatant use of certain characters as a voicebox, a practice criticized in postmodern literature. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable read and will remain one of the better of Chesterton’s fiction works.

Read For Free: LibriVox (audiobook), Project Gutenberg (epub, rtf), Kindle Store (mobi).

You can find links to many Chesterton’s books for free here.

Author Guide: G. K. Chesterton

All of Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s publications are listed here by genre (edited from Wikipedia’s list). You can see the chronological list here.

Biography

  1. (1903), Robert Browning
  2. (1904), G.F. Watts
  3. (1906), Charles Dickens
  4. (1910), William Blake
  5. (1917), Lord Kitchener
  6. (1923), St. Francis of Assisi
  7. (1925), William Cobbett
  8. (1927), Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. (1932), Chaucer
  10. (1933), St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox
  11. (1936), Autobiography

Criticism

  1. (1905), Heretics
  2. (1909), George Bernard Shaw
  3. (1911), Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens
  4. (1913), The Victorian Age in Literature

Essays and Articles

  1. (1901), The Defendant
  2. (1902), Twelve Types
  3. (1903), Varied Types
  4. (1908), Orthodoxy
  5. (1908), All Things Considered
  6. (1909), Tremendous Trifles
  7. (1910), Five Types [selected from Twelve Types]
  8. (1910), Alarms and Discursions
  9. (1910), What’s Wrong With the World
  10. (1911), The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton
  11. (1912), A Miscellany of Men
  12. (1912), Simplicity and Tolstoy [selected from Twelve Types]
  13. (1914), The Barbarism of Berlin
  14. (1914), London
  15. (1915), The Appetite of Tyranny [includes The Barbarism of Berlin]
  16. (1915), The Crimes of England
  17. (1916), Divorce vs. Democracy
  18. (1916), The Book of Job
  19. (1916), A Shilling for My Thoughts
  20. (1916), Temperance and The Great Alliance (pamphlet).
  21. (1917), A Short History of England
  22. (1917), Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays
  23. (1918), How to Help Annexation
  24. (1919), Irish Impressions
  25. (1920), The Superstition of Divorce
  26. (1920), The New Jerusalem
  27. (1920), The Uses of Diversity
  28. (1922), Eugenics and other Evils
  29. (1922), What I Saw in America
  30. (1923), Fancies Versus Fads
  31. (1925), The Superstitions of the Sceptic
  32. (1925), The Everlasting Man
  33. (1926), The Outline of Sanity
  34. (1926), The Catholic Church and Conversion
  35. (1927), Culture and the Coming Peril
  36. (1927), Social Reform vs. Birth Control
  37. (1928), Generally Speaking
  38. (1929), The Thing: Why I am a Catholic
  39. (1929), G.K.C. as M.C. [collected introductions, edited by J. P. de Fonseka]
  40. (1930), Come to Think of It
  41. (1930), The Resurrection of Rome
  42. (1931), All is Grist
  43. (1932), Sidelights of New London and Newer York
  44. (1933), All I Survey
  45. (1934), Avowals and Denials
  46. (1936), As I Was Saying

Novels

  1. (1904), The Napoleon of Notting Hill
  2. (1908), The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare
  3. (1909), The Ball and the Cross
  4. (1912), Manalive
  5. (1914), The Flying Inn
  6. (1914), Trial of John Jasper, Lay Precentor of Cloisterham Cathedral in the County of Kent, for the Murder of Edwin Drood
  7. (1924), The End of the Roman Road
  8. (1927), The Return of Don Quixote
  9. (1931), The Floating Admiral [collaborative detective story]
  10. (1932), Christendom in Dublin
  11. (1934), GK’s: A Miscellany of the First 500 Issues of G. K.’s Weekly.
  12. (1935), The Well and the Shallows.

Plays

  1. (1913), Magic: A Fantastic Comedy
  2. (1927), The Judgment of Dr. Johnson
  3. (1930), The Turkey and the Turk
  4. (1952), The Surprise [published posthumously]

Poetry

  1. (1900), Greybeards at Play
  2. (1900), The Wild Knight and Other Poems
  3. (1911), The Ballad of the White Horse
  4. (1915), Poems
  5. (1915), Wine, Water and Song
  6. (1922), The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Poems
  7. (1923), Poems [reprinted from 1915 edition?]
  8. (1926), The Queen of Seven Swords
  9. (1927), Gloria in Profundis
  10. (1929), Ubi Ecclesia
  11. (1929), Christmas Poems
  12. (1929), New and Collected Poems
  13. (1930), The Grave of Arthur
  14. (1932), New Poems

Short Stories

  1. (1905), The Club of Queer Trades
  2. (1911), The Innocence of Father Brown
  3. (1914), The Wisdom of Father Brown
  4. (1922), The Man Who Knew Too Much
  5. (1925), Tales of The Long Bow
  6. (1926), The Incredulity of Father Brown
  7. (1927), The Secret of Father Brown
  8. (1928), The Sword of Wood
  9. (1929), Father Brown Omnibus [collected stories]
  10. (1929), The Poet and the Lunatics
  11. (1930), Four Faultless Felons, separately in US as The Ecstatic Thief; The Honest Quack; The Loyal Traitor; The Moderate Murderer
  12. (1935), The Scandal of Father Brown
  13. (1937), The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond [published posthumously]

Multiple-Author Works

  1. Williams, J.E. Hodder (1902), Thomas Carlyle
  2. Kitton, F.G. (1903), Charles Dickens: with Numerous Illustrations
  3. Garnett, Richard (1903), Tennyson
  4. Melville, Lewis (1903), Thackeray
  5. Perris, G.H.; Garnett, Edward (1903), Leo Tolstoy
  6. Shaw, George Bernard (1928), Do We Agree? [debate]

Anthologies

  1. (1911), A Chesterton Calendar. Compiled from the Writings of G.K.C. [calendar]
  2. (1926), Collected Works. Nine volumes.
  3. (1926), Collected Poems
  4. (1927), The Collected Poems of G.K. Chesterton
  5. (1935), Stories, Essays And Poems
  6. (1937), The Man Who Was Chesterton [anthology]
  7. (1938), The Coloured Lands.
  8. (1940), Sheed, Frank (ed.), The End of the Armistice
  9. (1943), The Pocket Book of Father Brown [reprint collection]
  10. (1950), The Common Man
  11. (1953), A Handful of Authors
  12. (1954), Collected Poems
  13. (1955), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Glass Walking-Stick
  14. (1958), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), Lunacy and Letters
  15. (1959), The Second Father Brown [reprint collection]
  16. (1961), Ten Adventures of Father Brown [reprint collection]
  17. (1961), Where All Roads Lead
  18. (1965), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Spice of Life
  19. (1970), Auden, W.H. (ed.), G. K. Chesterton. A selection from his non-fictional prose, Faber & Faber.
  20. (1972), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), Chesterton on Shakespeare.
  21. (1975), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Apostle and the Wild Ducks.
  22. (1978), The Hound of Heaven and Other Poems.
  23. (1981), The Penguin Complete Father Brown [reprint collection]
  24. (1983), The Father Brown Omnibus [reprint collection]
  25. (1984), Smith, Marie (ed.), The Spirit of Christmas.
  26. (1984), Basic Chesterton.
  27. (1985), Kavanagh, P.J. (ed.), The Bodley Head G.K. Chesterton.
  28. (1986), Smith, Marie (ed.), Daylight and Nightmare [uncollected short fiction]
  29. (1986), GK’s Weekly: A Sampler.
  30. (1986), The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Ignatius Press.
  31. (1986), Illustrated London News, 1905–1907.
  32. (1987), Illustrated London News, 1908–1910.
  33. (1987), The Best of Father Brown [reprint collection]
  34. (1988), Illustrated London News, 1911–1913
  35. (1988), Illustrated London News, 1914–1916
  36. (1989), Illustrated London News, 1917–1919
  37. (1989), Illustrated London News, 1920–1922
  38. (1989), Smith, Marie (ed.), Thirteen Detectives
  39. (1989), Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton: Plays
  40. (1989), The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown [reprint collection]
  41. (1990), Father Brown Crime Stories [reprint collection]
  42. (1990), Smith, Marie (ed.), Seven Suspects
  43. (1990), de Silva, Alvaro (ed.), Brave New Family
  44. (1990), Illustrated London News, 1923–1925
  45. (1991), Illustrated London News, 1926–1928
  46. (1991), Illustrated London News, 1929–1931
  47. (1991), The Mask of Midas
  48. (1994), Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton: Collected Poetry: Part 1
  49. (1996), Father Brown of the Church of Rome [reprint collection]
  50. (1997), Platitudes Undone (annotations), Platitudes in the Making by Holbrook Jackson.
  51. (1997), Sparkes, Russel (ed.), Prophet of Orthodoxy: The Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton.
  52. (2000), On Lying in Bed and Other Essays
  53. (2001), Criticisms and Appreciations of the Works of Charles Dickens
  54. (2001), The G.K. Chesterton Papers: Additional Manuscripts
  55. (2002), Chesterton Day by Day: The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton
  56. (2003), Essential Writings
  57. (2004), G. K. Chesterton’s Early Poetry: Greybeards at Play, The White Knight and Other Poems, The Ballad of the White Horse
  58. (2011), Illustrated London News, 1932–1934
  59. (2011), Stapleton, Julia (ed.), G. K. Chesterton at the Daily News: Literature, Liberalism, and Revolution, Part 1, volumes 1–4
  60. (2012), Stapleton, Julia (ed.), G. K. Chesterton at the Daily News: Literature, Liberalism, and Revolution, Part 2, volumes 5–8

Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

Rating: ★★★★★

Author: A. W. Tozer was an American pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In addition to the books that he wrote during his lifetime—of which the most famous are The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy—hundreds of his sermons have been preserved for us and published in various forms. He also wrote many short articles as editor of the Alliance Weekly, seen for instance in Of God and Men and Born After Midnight. He is Arminian in theology, but mystical in outlook.

Genre: Devotional, theology proper.

Overview:

Tozer makes a statement in the introduction of this book that encapsulates the meaning and importance of theology proper for every believer:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (p. 1)

After this challenge, he handles attributes of God one by one in 23 chapters, each of which has been carefully distilled.

Theology proper was the task of a lifetime for Tozer. In addition to The Knowledge of the Holy, he has numerous sermons and sermon series on God’s attributes, some of which have also been published in book form. His Attributes of God series goes into more detail on specific theological questions. Of them all, however, The Knowledge of the Holy is the clearest and the best.

Tozer sees theology as leading us first and foremost to worship. As such, his book only takes on controversial topics as they tend to the kindling of renewed faith. He is the consummate devotional writer: which is to say, his goal in his writings and sermons is always to lead his listeners and readers to worship.

Meat:

The first chapter, “Why We Must Think Rightly about God,” is an obvious high point.

A high point in this book for me was Tozer’s Arminian explanation of “The Sovereignty of God.” He writes that we may know with certainty that a steamer is bound for Boston without knowing who will be on the steamer; in the same way, we know that the “elect” are going to heaven, but who is included in the “elect” is a matter subject to change over time. This explanation should be lucid and helpful to most Arminians.

Bones:

After the introductory chapters (1-4), Tozer spends five chapters introducing theology proper in a kind of Classical framework, which is obviously influenced by Greek philosophical thought. Although there is very little that I take issue with in chapters 5 through 10, the framework is based on systematic philosophical concerns. I think it could have been a more biblically grounded, rather than systematically grounded.

Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. . . . The God who worketh all things surely needs no help and no helpers. Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God.

While this is clear enough in systematic theology, it is not so clear in biblical theology. One of the misconceptions of Job’s friends (42:8) was that they believed that God puts no trust in his servants (4:18-19, 15:15-16). On the contrary, the theatrical frame for the Book of Job leads us to believe that God puts too much trust in his servants. God isn’t flippant concerning our spiritual outcomes; both Testaments lead us to the conclusion that he is truly invested—if anything, more invested than we ourselves are.

Quotes:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (p. 1)

The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid—that is the paradox of faith.

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.

The Armor of God (VIII): The Sword of the Spirit

This is the eighth and final part in an eight-part series on “the armor of God” in Ephesians 6. It starts here.


. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:17)

I mentioned at the beginning of this series that the entire panoply is defensive, with the sole exception of “the sword of the Spirit.” Now we arrive at a discussion of the meaning of this weapon.

The sword is a metaphor throughout Scripture for the Word of God, and not just in Ephesians or Hebrews. There are three elements that the word of God is compared to (whether in simile or metaphor):

  1. Light
    lamp [Ps. 119:105]
    fire [Jer. 23:29, technically a simile]
    mirror [James 1:23, simile]
  2. Food
    milk [1 Pet. 2:2, Heb. 5:12, 1 Cor. 3:2]
    meat [Heb. 5:12, 1 Cor. 3:2]
  3. Weapon
    sword [Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12-13, Rev. 1:16; see also Isa. 49:2, Hos. 6:5, Rev. 2:12, 19:15, 19:21]
    hammer [Jer. 23:29, simile]
    fire [Jer. 5:14, see also Jer. 20:9, 23:29]

There may be a few similes not mentioned here. For instance, the Word is like a seed that brings life (1 Pet. 1:23), and the Word is like water that cleanses (Eph. 5:26-27).

Overall, though, the most common metaphor used of God’s Word is a weapon. And out of the weapon metaphors, a sword appears to be the most repeated throughout both Testaments.

The Word Reveals, Nourishes, and Hurts

These metaphors that are repeated throughout Scripture enable us to see the Word as accomplishing at least three functions in our lives: It reveals, it nourishes, and it hurts. Needless to say, the third of these is the most surprising, especially since it is the most repeated!

The Word reveals. As a lamp, the Word reveals the way to live; as a fire, the Word brings safety at night, but in that passage in Jeremiah, it is also, yet again, a weapon. And as a mirror, the Word reveals to us ourselves.

The Word also nourishes. Both Peter and Paul compare God’s Word to “spiritual milk” that brings us to maturity. There is also a word from God that is like “meat”—it strengthens us and energizes us. The Word also takes time to digest! We need to take it pieces, not all at once, lest we miss the maturity that comes with each morsel of revelation.

The Word hurts. Take a look at Jeremiah’s word:

12 They have lied about the Lord,
And said, “It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
Nor shall we see sword or famine. . . .”

14 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts:

“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them.”

(Jer. 5:12, 14, NKJV)

God’s Word is amazingly powerful. The same Word that said in the beginning, “let there be light”—and there was light—still has power to build and destroy, to create and to undo. In a sense, some Creation processes have freedom to run “in the background” with or without divine maintenance—although truly “in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) But when he wants to tear down entire nations, he does it, not with lightning and thunder, with his arm and his power, but with his word.

Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. (Rev. 19:15, NKJV)

The same sword that, in the end, defeats Satan’s armies, is the sword that we as believers wield against him. His Word is that powerful. Amazingly, this “sword” is the only weapon mentioned.

Finally, the Word hurts to heal. When the author of Hebrews calls the Word “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit” (4:12 NKJV), we should take notice that he’s talking about believers. The author of Hebrews speaks of warning believers, to “be diligent to enter that rest” (4:11):

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. (4:1 NKJV)

The sword of the Spirit may pierce us now as a way of helping us to know if our efforts are from the soul or from the spirit. As we close our discussion of God’s suit of armor, let us make every effort to find ourselves among those that are pierced here and now by the Word of God—for everyone who is not pierced by it now, will assuredly be pierced by it hereafter.

A Bibliography of G. K. Chesterton

All of Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s publications are listed here chronologically (edited from Wikipedia’s list).

Single-Author Works

  1. (1900), Greybeards at Play (poetry), London: R. Brimley Johnson.
  2. (1900), The Wild Knight and Other Poems (poetry).
  3. (1901), The Defendant, London: R. Brimley Johnson.
  4. (1902), Twelve Types, London: Arthur L. Humphreys.
  5. (1903), Robert Browning, London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd..
  6. (1903), Varied Types, New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.
  7. (1904), The Napoleon of Notting Hill (novel), London & New York: John Lane: The Bodley Head.
  8. (1904), G.F. Watts, London: Duckworth & Co..
  9. (1905), The Club of Queer Trades (stories), New York & London: Harper & Brothers.
  10. (1905), Heretics, London: John Lane: The Bodley Head.
  11. (1906), Charles Dickens.
  12. (1908), The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare (novel), New York: Dodd, Mead and Company.
  13. (1908), Orthodoxy, London: Bodley Head.
  14. (1908), All Things Considered, London: Methuen & Co.
  15. (1909), George Bernard Shaw, New York: John Lane Company.
  16. (1909), Tremendous Trifles, London: Methuen & Co..
  17. (1909), The Ball and the Cross (novel), London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., Ltd.
  18. (1910), Five Types (essays), selected from Twelve Types.
  19. (1910), William Blake.
  20. (1910), Alarms and Discursions.
  21. (1910), What’s Wrong With the World.
  22. (1911), Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens.
  23. (1911), The Ballad of the White Horse (poetry).
  24. (1911), The Wit and Wisdom of GK Chesterton.
  25. (1911), The Innocence of Father Brown (stories).
  26. (1911), A Chesterton Calendar. Compiled from the Writings of G.K.C. (Calendar).
  27. (1912), Manalive (novel).
  28. (1912), A Miscellany of Men.
  29. (1912), Simplicity and Tolstoy.
  30. (1913), Magic (play).
  31. (1913), The Victorian Age in Literature.
  32. (1914), The Flying Inn (novel).
  33. (1914), The Wisdom of Father Brown (stories).
  34. (1914), Trial of John Jasper, Lay Precentor of Cloisterham Cathedral in the County of Kent, for the Murder of Edwin Drood.
  35. (1914), London.
  36. (1914), The Barbarism of Berlin.
  37. (1915), Poems.
  38. (1915), Wine, Water and Song (poetry) – via Project Gutenberg.
  39. (1915), The Appetite of Tyranny.
  40. (1915), The Crimes of England.
  41. (1916), Divorce vs. Democracy.
  42. (1916), The Book of Job.
  43. (1916), A Shilling for My Thoughts.
  44. (1916), Temperance and The Great Alliance (pamphlet).
  45. (1917), Utopia of Usurers.
  46. (1917), Lord Kitchener.
  47. (1917), A Short History of England.
  48. (1918), How to Help Annexation.
  49. (1919), Irish Impressions.
  50. (1920), The Superstition of Divorce.
  51. (1920), The Uses of Diversity.
  52. (1920), The New Jerusalem.
  53. (1922), The Ballad of St. Barbara and Other Poems (poetry).
  54. (1922), The Man Who Knew Too Much (stories).
  55. (1922), Eugenics and other Evils.
  56. (1922), What I Saw in America.
  57. (1923), St. Francis of Assisi.
  58. (1923), Poems.
  59. (1923), Fancies Versus Fads (essays).
  60. (1924), The End of the Roman Road.
  61. (1925), Tales of The Long Bow (stories).
  62. (1925), The Superstitions of the Sceptic.
  63. (1925), The Everlasting Man.
  64. (1925), William Cobbett.
  65. (1926), The Queen of Seven Swords (poetry).
  66. (1926), The Outline of Sanity.
  67. (1926), The Incredulity of Father Brown (stories).
  68. (1926), The Catholic Church and Conversion.
  69. (1926), Collected Works. Nine volumes.
  70. (1926), Collected Poems.
  71. (1927), Robert Louis Stevenson.
  72. (1927), The Secret of Father Brown (stories).
  73. (1927), The Return of Don Quixote (novel).
  74. (1927), The Judgment of Dr. Johnson (play).
  75. (1927), The Collected Poems of G.K. Chesterton.
  76. (1927), Gloria in Profundis (poetry).
  77. (1927), Culture and the Coming Peril.
  78. (1927), Social Reform vs. Birth Control
  79. (1928), Generally Speaking
  80. (1928), The Sword of Wood (stories).
  81. (1929), The Thing: Why I am a Catholic.
  82. (1929), de Fonseka, J.P. (ed.), G.K.C. as M.C (collected introductions).
  83. (1929), Father Brown Omnibus (collected stories).
  84. (1929), The Poet and the Lunatics (stories).
  85. (1929), Ubi Ecclesia (poetry).
  86. (1929), Christmas Poems.
  87. (1929), New and Collected Poems.
  88. (1930), Four Faultless Felons (stories), separately in US as The Ecstatic Thief; The Honest Quack; The Loyal Traitor; The Moderate Murderer.
  89. (1930), The Turkey and the Turk (play for mummers).
  90. (1930), The Grave of Arthur.
  91. (1930), Come to Think of It.
  92. (1930), The Resurrection of Rome.
  93. (1931), All is Grist.
  94. (1931), The Floating Admiral (collaborative detective story).
  95. (1932), Chaucer.
  96. (1932), New Poems.
  97. (1932), Christendom in Dublin.
  98. (1932), Sidelights of New London and Newer York.
  99. (1933), All I Survey.
  100. (1933), St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox.
  101. (1934), Avowals and Denials.
  102. (1934), GK’s: A Miscellany of the First 500 Issues of G. K.’s Weekly.
  103. (1935), The Well and the Shallows.
  104. (1935), The Scandal of Father Brown (stories).
  105. (1935), Stories, Essays And Poems.
  106. (1936), Autobiography.
  107. (1936), As I Was Saying.

Multiple-Author Works

  1. Williams, J.E. Hodder (1902), Thomas Carlyle, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  2. Kitton, F.G. (1903), Charles Dickens: with Numerous Illustrations, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  3. Garnett, Richard (1903), Tennyson, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  4. Melville, Lewis (1903), Thackeray, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  5. Perris, G.H.; Garnett, Edward (1903), Leo Tolstoy, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  6. Shaw, George Bernard (1928), Do We Agree? (debate).

Posthumous Works and Compilations

  1. (1937), The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond.
  2. (1937), The Man Who Was Chesterton (anthology)
  3. (1938), The Coloured Lands.
  4. (1940), Sheed, Frank (ed.), The End of the Armistice.
  5. (1943), The Pocket Book of Father Brown, and many other reprint collections, including:
  6. (1959), The Second Father Brown,
  7. (1961), Ten Adventures of Father Brown,
  8. (1981), The Penguin Complete Father Brown,
  9. (1983), The Father Brown Omnibus,
  10. (1987), The Best of Father Brown,
  11. (1989), The Annotated Innocence of Father Brown,
  12. (1990), Father Brown Crime Stories,
  13. (1996), Father Brown of the Church of Rome.
  14. (1950), The Common Man.
  15. (1952), The Surprise (play).
  16. (1953), A Handful of Authors.
  17. (1954), Collected Poems.
  18. (1955), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Glass Walking-Stick.
  19. (1958), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), Lunacy and Letters.
  20. (1961), Where All Roads Lead.
  21. (1965), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Spice of Life.
  22. (1970), Auden, W.H. (ed.), G. K. Chesterton. A selection from his non-fictional prose, Faber & Faber.
  23. (1972), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), Chesterton on Shakespeare.
  24. (1975), Collins, Dorothy (ed.), The Apostle and the Wild Ducks.
  25. (1978), The Hound of Heaven and Other Poems.
  26. (1984), Smith, Marie (ed.), The Spirit of Christmas.
  27. (1984), Basic Chesterton.
  28. (1985), Kavanagh, P.J. (ed.), The Bodley Head G.K. Chesterton.
  29. (1986), Smith, Marie (ed.), Daylight and Nightmare (uncollected short fiction).
  30. (1986), GK’s Weekly: A Sampler.
  31. (1986), The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Ignatius Press.
  32. (1986), Illustrated London News, 1905–1907.
  33. (1987), Illustrated London News, 1908–1910.
  34. (1988), Illustrated London News, 1911–1913.
  35. (1988), Illustrated London News, 1914–1916.
  36. (1989), Illustrated London News, 1917–1919.
  37. (1989), Illustrated London News, 1920–1922.
  38. (1989), Smith, Marie (ed.), Thirteen Detectives.
  39. (1989), Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton: Plays.
  40. (1990), Smith, Marie (ed.), Seven Suspects.
  41. (1990), de Silva, Alvaro (ed.), Brave New Family.
  42. (1990), Illustrated London News, 1923–1925.
  43. (1991), Illustrated London News, 1926–1928.
  44. (1991), Illustrated London News, 1929–1931.
  45. (1991), The Mask of Midas.
  46. (1994), Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton: Collected Poetry: Part 1.
  47. (1997), Platitudes Undone (annotations), Platitudes in the Making by Holbrook Jackson.
  48. (1997), Sparkes, Russel (ed.), Prophet of Orthodoxy: The Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton.
  49. (2000), Eugenics and Other Evils.
  50. (2000), On Lying in Bed and Other Essays.
  51. (2001), Criticisms and Appreciations of the works of Charles Dickens.
  52. (2001), The G.K. Chesterton Papers: Additional Manuscripts.
  53. (2002), Chesterton Day by Day: The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton.
  54. (2003), Essential Writings.
  55. (2004), G. K. Chesterton’s Early Poetry: Greybeards at Play, The White Knight and Other Poems, The Ballad of the White Horse.
  56. (2011), Illustrated London News, 1932–1934.
  57. (2011), Stapleton, Julia (ed.), G. K. Chesterton at the Daily News: Literature, Liberalism, and Revolution, Part 1, volumes 1–4, Pickering & Chatto.
  58. (2012), Stapleton, Julia (ed.), G. K. Chesterton at the Daily News: Literature, Liberalism, and Revolution, Part 2, volumes 5–8, Pickering & Chatto.