23 February 2012

My Credentials and Views on Education- 1

I frequently receive emails asking for my credentials. I don't have any formal credentials to speak of. I'm literally a nobody. So what gives me the right or authority to discuss these issues? Why should anyone listen to what I'm saying about history, theology, current events and the rest?

I can't really give any good reasons. All I can do is attempt to explain my path. I've already talked quite a bit about how my ideas have been shaped and have shifted over time in the 'Why and How' series. So in this series I will try and focus a bit more on education and credentials and how I approach these issues.

I started this blog during the summer of 2010. I had just started to write when I was afflicted with a sickness putting me in bed for the better part of two weeks. Even after that I was able to slowly return to work but every free moment was spent in bed trying to recoup.
I used the time to start writing and I wrote in a bit of a flurry. I haven't really slowed down, in fact I'm just getting started.  
I wasn't converted until I was a young adult and yet I felt so much time had been wasted. I'm afraid I was the typical wastrel American teenager, just lost and wretched. I always had a love for learning but I was so easily distracted by things that just didn't matter.
Post conversion I went into hyper-drive and consumed everything I could get my hands on. Looking back I realize now what was happening with my life. Providence was guiding my steps. Though today I wouldn't go into the American Air Force and wouldn't recommend for anyone to join the American Military...for me at the time... it was the place I was supposed to be.

I was newly converted, alone and somewhat isolated and that's exactly what I needed. Returning to my home and being near old friends at that point would have probably been a disaster for me. I had a few months alone in Texas and then found myself stationed in northern Italy on a small airbase near Venice.

I had even tried to be stationed elsewhere at first...it was really interesting how it all played out...but I obviously was meant to be sent to this particular location. It's all clear now as to why.

Not knowing what to do as far as Church I wandered into a local Baptist Church. This was part of mission organization that specifically targets American Military people. I was kind of sick about it. I had come out of those Churches. I grew up on Hal Lindsey books, Scofield's theology and had attended a couple of different Christian schools which were associated with Baptistic-type Evangelicalism. 

Prior to my arrival in Italy I had already embraced Calvinistic soteriology and was daily growing and wrestling with the corollary issues. I was reading Pink, Francis Schaeffer, Spurgeon and others.

I knew the Baptist Church in Italy was going to be Arminian in the Charles Finney tradition, as well as Dispensationalist and so I decided to keep my head down and not make waves. Well within a very short time another young man approached me and wanted to get to know me. Over coffee he specifically brought up predestination...and I cringed. Well it turned out he too was a Calvinist and was proselytizing a bit. He was shocked when I affirmed what the Bible teaches on these matters. We became fast friends and in fact it was through this friend that I later met my wife. She's from the same small town he hailed from. There were other Calvinists there and I was quickly brought into the group.

I benefitted from these friendships in so many ways. One of the men was married and I was greatly blessed watching how he dealt with his family and his children. I learned things which I later applied to my own family.

There was another man within our larger group that was a Dispensationalist. We spent hours going round and round over the issues. I cannot tell you how beneficial these exercises were, because not only did I have to come to a better understanding of the Dispensational theology I had been raised on, but I had to work through why I no longer agreed with it. Thankfully this friend later abandoned that error.

With my Calvinist brothers there were many late nights and long discussions. Being young and single I possessed precious commodities and I only had a faint notion as to how valuable they were. I had endless time, the freedom to pick up and go, and certainly more disposable income.

If I wanted a book, I bought it. If I wanted to take a trip, I went. I was part of the hard travel school. I took trains that left at night so I could sleep on the train and not have to pay for a place to stay. Arrive at your location, find a place to brush your teeth and you're ready to go for the day. Other times if I hired a car, it also served as my hotel room for several days. I slept in hostels, stayed with friends and contacts. I was not idle.

Those couple of years marked the commencement of my education, or at least the foundation of a new and better phase. I was learning about theology...reading Calvin's Institutes and commentaries, reading endlessly from Systematic theologies, Church History, the Puritans, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Packer, Iain Murray, John Murray, the Hodges, Warfield, Sproul, Van Til, and many more.

Early on I had been exposed to Steve Schlissel through a relative. Schlissel is a well known Theonomist. I received sermon tapes from him, his newsletters and before long I was reading Rushdoony, North, and listening to, as well as reading Greg Bahnsen. I never agreed with them, but since they represented the opposite extreme contra Dispensationalism, I found them intriguing and challenging. I spent hours listening to Bahnsen cassettes as I checked my mail and went about my work.

I hiked the Italian Dolomites and spent hours thinking through these issues and sitting in the woods, on mountainsides, and I cannot even begin to guess the number of hours I spent on trains travelling Europe...always reading.

There were a couple of local coffee shops and they knew me well. The barracks/dormitories were Sodom and Gomorrah...wicked dens and wretched. My roommates were often pretty intolerable. They'd eat my food, steal my belongings, leave piles of dirty clothes on my bed...and endless noise, thumping stereos, smashing bottles...it was not a very nice existence. I spent very little time there. On days off I'd get up early and do laundry and listen to sermon and lecture tapes. You had to stay with your laundry or it would be stolen...even your underwear. Evenings I was in the coffee shops drinking tea for the most part.

In addition to theology, I was learning history and I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to read history, and then the next weekend get on the train and go see where it took place. It's a nice way to learn. I spent a lot of time in Rome, and visited nearby Venice more times than I can recall. As a good Calvin disciple I took a trip to Geneva, wandered Milan and the lakes, journeyed through the Alps...I particularly fell in love with the Salzburg region of Austria and the adjacent Berchtesgaden area where Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus (aka the Eagle's Nest) was located.

Slovenia was nearby and oft visited. Croatia, and Hungary also beckoned...the Iron Curtain had just come down. The British Isles have always been dear to me and though they weren't as conveniently located I ventured there as well. I had been to England, Wales and Ireland back in high school. But now I ventured back and spent a good deal of time in Scotland as well.

At first I was disappointed with my assignment to Italy. I had wanted very much to go to Britain or Germany. But I later had to repent of my attitude. Northern Italy became my favourite place in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed all my travels but I came to really love knocking about the Friuli and Veneto regions. Wonderful places...the little towns in the mountains, always some new discovery to be made. The scenery is as good as it gets...the people were great, the food unbeatable. And best of all a never ending supply of history around every bend.

Part 2

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