Abstract of Systematic Theology by James Boyce

While today “the World” lies open at our fingertips, in 1979 our small town in Colorado was more concerned with local issues than problems outside of our community; denominational arguments did not concern our small Baptist church. When one retired member, who had gone to the mission field as a volunteer, wanted to attend the 1979 Convention in Houston, Texas, we all voted to send her; no one had ever asked to attend the Convention before. She wanted to go because of the rising debate over the literal interpretation of scripture. Even though she tried to explain the issues, most of us had no idea what was happening and really didn’t care much! That was the year conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention organized and put into action a plan to placed conservatives into key positions within the denomination.

 In 1993, our daughter and her husband attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They arrived on campus at the very end of the conservative transition and saw the emotions that stirred those in the faculty affected by the changes. The period from 1979 until the early 90’s saw a big change in our denomination. In the early years, “The Abstract of Systematic Theology” by James Boyce was given out to students who would accept it. A conservative document, it swayed many of its readers. It is available on the Internet today.

The Tortoise of the Mystic Isles

This picture of a tortoise might be what the crew of the Mitchell saw when they stopped in the “Mystic Isles” (Galapagos Islands) to stock up on Tortoises. These creatures provided meat and water during a long voyage west along the equator. They could be kept alive for months in the hold of the ship.  

Melville:   “These mystic creatures, suddenly translated by night from unutterable solitudes to our peopled deck, affected me in a manner not easy to unfold. They seemed newly crawled forth from beneath the foundations of the world. Yea, they seemed the identical tortoises whereupon the Hindu plants his total sphere […] The great feeling inspired by these creatures was that of age: datelessness, indefinite endurance. And in fact that any other creature can live and breathe as long as the tortoise of the Encantadas, I will not readily believe. Not to hint of their known capacity of sustaining life while going without food for an entire year, consider that impregnable armor of their living mail. What other bodily being possesses such a citadel wherein to resist the assaults of Time? […] With them I lost myself in volcanic mazes, brushed away endless boughs of rotting thicket, till finally in a dream I found myself sitting cross-legged upon the foremost, a Brahmin similarly mounted upon either side, forming a tripod of foreheads which upheld the universal cope. Such was the wild nightmare begot by my first impression of the Encantadas tortoise. But next evening, strange to say, I sat down with my shipmates and made a merry repast from tortoise steaks and tortoise stews” (Melville 1967 [1854]).

Holidays on a Whaler

We just celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For whalers, as for us when we are away from home, these holidays brought fond memories of past celebrations with families now far away. The cook might make something a little special; the watches might be given a little more free time. But,  whales always took precedence. The watch at the tops was always kept. 

In First Fury, Ann sits alone at the masthead picturing celebrations from the past, now gone from her life.

Would You Die For The Bible?

In 1555, at the age of 19, William Hunter was burned at the stake for believing he had the right to determine what he believed to be true. In “The Martyrs,” he is given a copy of the Bible written in English, one that he can understand. It answers his questions and gives him the strength to face what will be coming. It became the most relevant book in shaping his life. Others thought the Word was only correctly understood by those who had been trained. How relevant is God’s Word to you? Would you be willing to give your life for a conviction that the Bible’s truths belong to you? You can view a PPT slide show here including pictures of a monument to William Hunter.

Layout of an 1840’s Whaling Ship

The Alice Knowles (take the link for an image) was a whale ship and can be used as a type for the Christopher Mitchell. She was 115 feet in length, 28 feet wide, and 16 feet deep.  

In the side view, the following is visible. The Captain and the Officers bunked aft. The 15 or 16 common hands made the front half home. Just below deck, in the bow, was the forecastle containing the bunks. This is where common hands lived. A ladder is visible leading from the companionway (a box cover on the deck) down. The opening in the companionway was the only source of fresh air. In storms, even this opening was closed. The bowels of the ship were for storage, mostly oil. Just forward of the main (middle) mast is the blubber hold. Between that and the forecastle companionway, on deck, is the tryworks and carpenter’s bench. 

In the top view, the whale boats are visible, three on the port side and one on the starboard. Two spares rest over the cookhouse. Notice how restricted the area was for 21 men (a normal full ship’s complement) to live and work for 3 years.

Believer Baptism–A Break From Tradition

In1608, a small group of English “non-conformists” went to the Netherlands to spend time discerning God’s will for their lives. After searching the scriptures, debating key issues, and discussing with other believers, this group, now led by Thomas Helwys, determined a list of basic beliefs. These were compiled into the Helwys Confession of 1611. One point addressed Baptism.

That baptism or washing with water is the outward manifestation of dying unto sin, and walking in newness of life. And therefore in to wise appertains to infants.

To state that Baptism was only to be performed on believers was a BIG break from tradition. And then, as a further affront to the establishment, the mode soon changed from sprinkling to immersion. Baptism, being the most outwardly visible manifestation of their new beliefs, became the focal point for persecution. Roger Richards in his book The History of Southern Baptists, mentions that “Baptists felt the heavy hand of persecution, not only from Anglicans but from other groups as well…” [p 20, ebook] In England, in the 1640’s, Colonel John Hutchinson and his wife Lucy, after reading Baptist literature, began to question infant baptism. The fact that she was with pregnant at the time raised the importance of that issue in her mind. Ultimately, they turned from tradition, choosing to follow Baptist teachings. They were rejected by friends; he lost his position and died in prison.