Footnote 39 – Safed the Sage

Footnote 39 — William E. Barton, The Parables of Safed the Sage (Chicago: Advance Publishing Company, 1917).


I LOVE the work of William Eleazer Barton (father of Bruce Barton of Jesus-as-salesman genre of books). WE Barton was an Illinois native (and Lincoln scholar, particularly of Lincoln’s religion) who preached in the Chicago area before affiliating with Oberlin and then migrating to Vanderbilt when Oberlin’s School of Theology merged with Vandy’s Divinity School. Late in life he became a mentor to a young Vanderbilt grad student, Henry Lee Saint, who late in his life became my major professor at Vanderbilt. Barton was also Editor of Bib Sac for several years. His Safed & Keturah sagas are a hoot (but often with a serious kick). I especially like the Parable of the Potato Bug, among others. Here’s another good one:


“Now there came to me a man with a Sad Countenance, and he said, O Safed, thy words of wisdom are known to all men, and thy virtue exceedeth even thy wisdom; may thy days be long among men.

And I heard him, and I answered not; for the man who cometh unto me with a Little Too Much Taffy and Then Some hath an Axe to Grind. And I said, If thou hast Business, say on; for Time Passeth.

And he said, O Safed, I have a neighbor, and he is an Undesirable Citizen. His house joineth hard unto mine upon the North, and he annoyeth me continually. He and his Kids keep up a continual Rough House, which greatly annoyeth us. And he hath Daughters, and there come to see them Young Men, who sit with them on the Porch till Any Old Time at Night, and they Laugh and Raise Ned so that sleep is driven from our eyes, and slumber from our eyelids. Yea, and when we look that way we see things that Vex our Righteous Souls.

And I said, Are they Immoral? If so thou mayest call the Police.

And he said, They are not what you might call Immoral, for my wife hath watched them much through the Window; she hath a place where she sitteth and watcheth while she Darneth Stockings; yet are they noisy; yea, they are the Limit.

And I said unto him, How many windows hath thy house?

And he said, My house standeth Foursquare, and it hath windows toward the North, the South, the East and the West.

And I said unto him, Move thou over to the South side of thy House; thou shalt have more Sleep and Sunshine. Yea, moreover, speak thou unto thy wife that she Darn her Stockings where she hath less to see.

And he went away angry. But I counted it among my Good Deeds.

And I meditated thereon, and I considered that there are many people who live on the North Side of their own Souls; yea, they curse God that they hear the racket and are sad; and behold, their South Windows are unopened.”

-from The Parables of Safed the Sage, by Wm. E. Barton, Advance Publishing, Chicago, 1917.

Footnote 38 — God and Einstein

Footnote 38 — George Sylvester Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (New York, Macauley, 1930).


In an interview published in 1930, Albert Einstein responded to a question about whether he defined himself as a pantheist:

“Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.

“May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.”

Footnote 37 – Missionary Work

FOOTNOTE 37 — Charles Randall Paul, Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2018), p. 168.

Franklin Spencer Spalding, raised in Denver and educated at Princeton University, became an Episcopal “missionary bishop” in Utah, attempting to convert Mormons to the Episcopal version of Christianity from 1905 until his death in 1914.

“A visiting banker from an Eastern city asked the bishop, ‘What difference does it make what the Mormons believe? What harm does it do if they love Joseph Smith and his teaching? What business is it of ours?’ Spalding replied, ‘Well, I must feel about their acceptance and teaching of what is intellectually and morally untrue, just as I suppose you would feel if you knew a group of people were coining and passing counterfeit money.’”

Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner

Footnote 36 – Daniel Sommer Obituary by Frederick D. Kershner. Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290 (from James Stephen Wolfgang, “A Life of Humble Fear: The Biography of Daniel Sommer” [MA Thesis, Butler University, 1975], pp. 165-167).

Daniel Sommer was the last of the great pioneers of the Restoration Movement. Born in 1850, only twenty years after the dissolution of the Mahoning Association, his life stretched back to the days of the Campbells and spanned almost the entire circle of the growth and development of the movement. As the successor of Benjamin Franklin in the editorship of The American Christian Review, he became a dominant protagonist of the right wing among the Disciples and was usually regarded as the very tip of the wing. Sommer was opposed to all “humanisms,” as he styled them, and believed that the only way to preserve the purity of the church was by forbidding even the slightest compromise with erroneous tendencies. Hence he opposed missionary societies, Sunday schools, Christian Endeavor societies and above all, instrumental music in the worship.
He was roundly denounced by various groups of conservatives who permitted the camel to put his nose under the tent, in one respect or another, but he always held his ground. He was opposed to Bible colleges or special training schools for the ministry because he believed that they undermined the faith of their students and taught them everything except the Bible. In one way or another, he isolated himself from the overwhelming majority of the brotherhood, a fact which caused him much sorrow, but which never shook his own convictions as to the rightness of his course.

Notwithstanding his rather extreme theological views, Daniel Sommer was one of the most tolerant and fair-minded men we have ever known. He had the Christian attitude toward the search for truth and the Christian spirit in his method of dealing with people with whom he disagreed. He had no trace of that ecclesiastical bigotry which refuses to sit on the same platform or speak at the same meeting with another individual suspected of heretical views. Instead of this widely prevalent Pharisaism, the editor of The Apostolic Review would go anywhere he was invited to speak, no matter how much he disagreed with the people who were managing the program or the general point of view prevalent at the meeting. He rightly reasoned that unfavorable circumstances of this kind made it all the more incumbent upon him to deliver his message whenever he had a chance to do it.

Hence he preached the gospel everywhere, to all sorts of people and under the most bizarre and unusual circumstances. Money was no consideration whatever with him and he never received more than a bare living for his untiring labors in behalf of the church. He delighted in real missionary work and only a few days before his death he insisted upon going forth again to take up the task of evangelism. He had a tonic influence upon all who came in contact with him and his obvious sincerity and disinterestedness gave weight to his words far beyond the tricks of the professional orator or elocutionist.

Even in his advanced age, Daniel Sommer was a forceful speaker and his thinking was logical and clear. He was one of the great preachers of the Restoration and his memory will be affectionately cherished by multitudes who possessed only slight personal acquaintance with him. Old as he was when he left this world, his more intimate friends will be conscious of a keen sense of loss in his departure, a feeling which will only partially disappear with the passing of time. He was a great soul, perhaps one should say more correctly, he is a great soul, and many of us feel that we shall not look upon his like again.

— Frederick D. Kershner Christian-Evangelist, LXXVIII:11 (March 14, 1940), p. 290.

Footnote 35 – Teaching by Implication, Drawing Necessary Inferences

Footnote 35 — Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (2nd ed., Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2014), pp. 71, 256-257.

Learning Biblical truths by implication (and the inferences drawn from narrative, prophecy, poetry, legal mandates or prohibitions, etc.) has been a topic of controversy in some religious circles for awhile now. Christopher J.H. Wright’s work connecting various Old Testament texts with Jesus provides some insight into how that process was used by the Lord himself to teach those who were seeking the truth about him.

“In order to explain Jesus, the New Testament connects him to a whole range of Old Testament Scriptures that are all perceived as expressing God’s promise – whether directly or by implication” (p.71, chapter 2).

Wright picks up this dangling thread later in his work, for example, in explicating the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) –

“And once again, in the conversation afterward, Jesus helps them to understand the significance of John the Baptist. They knew the accepted teaching of the experts – Elijah must first come before God arrives. The staggering challenge lay in the implications. Here is the logic:

Elijah comes first, then God will come down (drawn from Mal 4:5).
 You know that John has already come first, and then Jesus came.
 So if John was Elijah, who is Jesus?
 Get it?
“In ways like this Matthew shows that Jesus used Scripture that spoke about God in ways that pointed to himself. He did not stand up with a banner proclaiming, ‘I am God.’ He did not need to. The people around him knew their Scriptures. Jesus pointed to those texts, pointed to himself, and in effect told them to draw their own conclusions.” (pp. 256-257).

Part of the issue, of course, is not so much about whether Jesus, and Biblical authors, taught by implication. That they did is an obvious truism — and expected others to draw the logical conclusions. The problem seems to be some of the UN-necessary inferences which some have drawn from Biblical teachings – “whether directly or by implication.”

Think about it, and draw your own conclusions!

Footnote 34 – John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (New York: The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2013), p. 213.

Lincoln on Emancipation, the Bible, and God’s Will

Lincoln gave voice to his thinking on the subject in September [1862] when a church delegation from Chicago came to the White House to present a memorial endorsing emancipation… He told the delegates that religious men regularly approached him with advice. They were invariably “certain that they represent the divine will.” But they came with radically opposing views (“the most opposite opinions and advice”), and not all of them could be right. It might even be that all of them were wrong.

And there was the nub of the problem. How could one learn God’s will, and if one could not, how could one make the grave decision…? “If I can learn what it is I will do it!” Lincoln said. But God’s justice was inscrutable. “These are not,” he reminded his memorialists, “the days of miracles.” There would be no “direct revelation.” …Confederate troops were no doubt “expecting God to favor their side” just as Union men thought that God would favor theirs….

But the Chicago Christians replied with a much older idea…Unbeknownst to them, their reply followed the course Lincoln’s own thinking had been taking over the previous weeks. Moral uncertainty, they observed, could not excuse paralysis. “Good men,” they conceded, “differed in their opinions.” But “the truth was somewhere,” and men could not merely set one opinion against another and throw up their hands. The moral leader had to act, had to bring “facts, principles, and arguments” to bear and come to a conclusion as to what justice required

…[W]hen the interview closed, it was clear that Lincoln and his Chicago petitioners were not so far apart after all. “Do not misunderstand me because I have mentioned these objections,” Lincoln told them. “Whatever shall appear to be God’s will I will do.”

34 John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (New York: The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 2013), p. 213.

Footnote 33 – Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74.

“[T]he sense of embattlement with the world is rapidly evaporating among many evangelicals, especially evangelical elites, among them those who belong to the “knowledge industry.” In the last half century they have enjoyed increasing success in the world of biblical and theological scholarship. They reacted against the separatism of the fundamentalist forebears, who precisely in their separation from the world knew they had a sure word from God for the world.… with the consequent whetting of our appetite for academic, political, and broadly cultural power and influence are coming the dangers of accommodation, of dulling the sharp edges of the gospel, of blurring the distinction between believers and the world, of softening—or not issuing at all—the warning that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers (John 3:36), in short, of only whispering the word instead of shouting him, speaking him boldly, as the Word himself did.”

Robert H. Gundry, Jesus The Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, Especially its Elites, in North America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 73–74; cited in Steve Wolfgang, “Good News of Victory,” in The Gospel in the Old Testament, Ed. Daniel W. Petty (Temple Terrace, FL: Florida College Press, 2003), p.202, LOGOS edition.