Since everyone is quarantined, or social distancing or whatever you call it in your area, because of the corona virus, or COVID-19, or the China Flu, or whatever you and your friends call it.
I thought I'd do my part by redeeming the time and providing you with some new articles over the next weeks. I hope you enjoy them.
If you don't, feel free to print them out and use them for toilet paper, since that seems to be in short supply.
Our next chapter begins with Paul and Rosemary on a date, or whatever the approved term is when two young people spend time together for the purposes of getting to know one another so that they may discern the will of God regarding whether they ought to be joined one to the other in holy matrimony.
They had been writing letters for a while and this is Paul's first visit.
By this point, plans are really in motion for Rosemary's family to move to Florida, and Menno Keim's family is moving to Hope Valley, so "the times they are a-changin' " as the song I heard recently at the filling station so aptly put it.
Too bad the church here could not stay together and find the Bible way to settle things," Paul commented.
What my reaction would be if someone suggested I stayed in a church as messed-up as Pinecliff.
I hate to break in after one sentence, but I just have to point something out.
Notice that the people who are leaving are the righteous godly conservative people.
Yet somehow, it is Oscar Smith's fault that "they could not stay together and find the Bible way to settle things."
Of course, on reflection, we know why it is that way.
It is because the bishop has made sure Brother Alvin's hands are tied. He is unable to take decisive action against the evil liberals, so clearly, the only option anyone has is to move hours away.
And it's still Oscar's carnal and sell-willed fault.
"It is too bad... but it seems like that is what we must expect," Rosemary ventured, choosing her words carefully.
"What?" Paul sounded slightly startled.
"Isn't that what happens to all churches, sooner or later? Either they go liberal or else split up." Rosemary felt warm color creeping up in her cheeks. She had not intended to say all this.
Clearly, Rosemary has the gift of prophecy, because she was able to foresee things that were literally decades in the future.
This paragraph, and the discussion that follows gives us a close-up look at the breath-taking arrogance that existed at the founding of the Nationwide Fellowship.
They believed that if they could do things their way, they would keep churches from going liberal or splitting. They would create something that was so solid, and so well-designed, that it would continue to function forever.
Of course, they had a fool-proof plan for this.
And their defense for the fool-proof plan was also fool-proof.
Any church which fell apart had clearly not followed the plan correctly, because if they had, they would not have fallen apart, because the plan was flawless.
Of course, we know now that the mythical plan did NOT work as expected to the point that Nationwide Fellowship had to take action in order to remove the bishop of "Hope Valley" to another congregation, because he created so many issues there.
Paul brought the car to a smooth halt at a stop sign. He sat for a brief moment fingering his chin in deep thought. What kind of ideas did this girl have? She had said more than one thing today that had baffled him. He pulled out onto the highway before he looked over at her again.
This paragraph is just sad.
Even though Paul, in all fairness, does turn out to be a decent guy fellow, he's a product of his warped culture.
Just look at him.
Rosemary can't ask honest questions about what's going on inside without him thinking she's got strange ideas, and being baffled by her.
Their eyes met, a question hanging in the air between them. Then Paul smiled. "It doesn't have to be that way. And I don't think it always is. We have problems at Hope Valley, too, but we try to solve them the Bible way."
Yes, Paul. I've heard of some of the problems that you had in your church.
You know, Paul, I think it's really funny, now that I think about it, that you were named after the bishop there at Crockett. That's super interesting, Paul.
I could tell you some stories, Paul, that would make your hair stand on end.
It would immediately lie back down again, because A) standards, and B) you would decide that they weren't true, because Crockett is perfect.
They wear the right clothes, and talk the right way, and that's what matters most, isn't it?
So, if someone were to tell stories about how your bishop knew about child abuse in his congregation, and didn't act to stop it, they would just be trying to destroy the church of Jesus Christ. Right, Paul?
You're a nice guy, Paul.
But you're naive. Very, very naive, and easily manipulated. And you'll never see it. That's sad, Paul. Really, really sad.
"What kind of problems?" Rosemary asked timidly.
"Oh, problems come up like-- well, some of the young people a few months ago wanted to be rebaptized."
Rosemary sat up a bit straighter.
"They felt unsettled because their experience or understanding was lacking in some way when they were baptized. They had not had victory, or understood the Christian life as they do now. Or perhaps they had backslidden since they were baptized, and so now they wanted to be rebaptized."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a huge fan of rebaptism, myself. If figure if it doesn't take the first time, it's not likely a second dunk will do it. (There's a place for it, but it's a subject to approach carefully, that's my two cents.)
But I feel like Paul is being a little disingenuous here.
He's making it sound like in every case of rebaptism, it is the result of spiritual issues after baptism. In fact, in many cases, people want to be rebaptized because they were not actually born again prior to baptism.
If you deny these people baptism, it is inconsistent to require Roman Catholics to be rebaptized before they can be accepted into your church, because in both cases, baptism preceded repentance, which, to Anabaptists, is unacceptable. It's kind of our raison d'etre.
But you can't be this brand of Nationwide without being routinely disingenuous, can you?
Paul hesitated, and Rosemary said quietly, "That is exactly how my father feels. He feels strongly that such people should be rebaptized. That's mainly why he can't agree with the church here or at Hope Valley."
"Well, Paul said carefully, "I wouldn't want you to disrespect him, Rosemary. But our ministers explained that such rebaptism makes confusion and unrest in the church, because people soon put their confidence in Baptism itself instead of in the New Birth. It isn't Baptism that saves us."
"Whoa, camel, whoa! Whoa, camel, WHOA!"
I'm breaking right in the middle of Paul's discourse to address a few things here.
I Peter 3:21 says that "baptism doth now save us," and so I think it's playing a bit fast and loose to declare that baptism doesn't save us, when the Bible says that it does.
(I realize that there are a lot of points we could make in this discussion, and I'm not digging into the theology of baptism here.)
My larger point is that when the Bible says "Let the women be silent in the churches," these people say, "The Bible clearly teaches women shouldn't speak in church. End of discussion."
But when the Bible says that baptism doth now save us, these same people say, "Baptism doesn't actually save us," without even twitching an eyelid.
Also, I find it amusing that this church doesn't allow rebaptism, because baptism doesn't save us anyway, and if we allow it, people will soon put their confidence in the baptism instead of the New Birth.
These same people would say that Plain clothes don't save you. But it doesn't stop them from requiring them, even though it is manifest that some people are putting their confidence in their plain clothes, rather than the New Birth.
But that's par for the course.
Decide what to believe, and than think up reasons that it's totally what the Bible wants you to do.
"The ones who had been unsettled accepted this, and that problem was solved. But on top of all this, one brother began to teach that immersion is the right way to baptize."
"What happened then?"
"All the brethren got together with him and showed him from the Scriptures where he was wrong. He accepted this and admitted his mistake. But if they had just let him go on teaching his individual view, what confusion we would have had!"
I think the implied threat of excommunication and social ostracism had more of an effect in changing the guy's mind on mode of baptism than the Scriptural evidence that was brought to bear, and that's coming from someone who prefers affusion to immersion for a variety of historical, biblical, and practical reasons.
But I'm not silly enough to say that the Bible makes it clear that pouring is the "right way."
"I have often wondered so much about some of these things," Rosemary confided shyly.
"I don't know all the answers, either," Paul told her humbly. "Maybe we can learn together."
I wouldn't have even mentioned this paragraph, except that it's so typical of their way of operating. "Let's learn together" is code for "Let's work together to bring you to my conclusion."
No one will ever "learn together" with a Nationwide person and come to any conclusion than is different from the church's status quo.
The chapter ends with the family moving to Florida on their own, leaving John behind. "Why move off to the middle of nowhere just because of church disputes?" was his logical question. "Why even belong to such a church?"
And we have to say that it appears that John is one of the most sensible people we have yet encountered in this book.
Join us again tomorrow, as we continue along with Rosemary's journey to peace. As defined by ConMen.