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Re-telling stories of gems from Special Collections, Buswell Library
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Faculty Voice – Plotting and Theming: Why I Became an English Major

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 10:45

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Professor of English Emeritus Wayne Martindale (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-2011) was featured in the Winter 2011 issue.

Almost like a dare, students (and parents) often ask, “What can you do with an English major?” Because Philip Ryken was an English major, my answer could now be, “Serve as the eighth president of Wheaton College!”

Wayne Martindale, c2011

Actually, I do take this question seriously and often relay the vocations of former student teaching assistants. Statistics from the College help round out this list. Then, I get to the answer that has mattered most to me: Literature is about life and helps me understand it.

I didn’t come to an English major easily. My own undergraduate sojourn led through four majors: engineering, Bible, psychology, and English.

Looking back, I see that the hook was first set in my high school senior English class. We had to memorize 40 lines of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I grumbled with the rest, but secretly, I loved it. For one thing, here in my previously unbookish life, was beauty. It was a beauty laced with the tragic sense that the future might be ugly or hurtful-or worse, count for nothing. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time.”

Shakespeare’s potent vision made me see that actions had consequences and could invite unnecessary pain; that unwashed guilt is living hell; that evil may and must be confronted.

I had found high seriousness. Choices mattered. Despite Macbeth’s claim that life was “a tale told by an idiot,” all lives had themes. There was a pattern of meaning we readers could see, even when the characters could not. They were all born for something noble, even if they missed it.

From Shakespeare to Dickens and Dostoevsky, there were many books filled with “seeings.” I discovered the truth of T.S. Eliot’s dictum that we come back from imaginative explorations to “where we start…And know the place for the first time.” In the plots of our lives, the sequence of events might seem random and the patterns fraught with apparent trivia- I sleep, I eat, I wash the dishes-over and over. Yet, even amidst the messy clutter of life, our experience is always suggesting some goodness and beauty and meaning beyond “ordinary” living. A literary plot skips the clutter and stages the patterns of life. As Lewis says, successful writers “throw off irrelevancies” and usher us into “whole classes of experience” closed to us before, and thus, “instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.”

But even plots and poetic images must move through time and space. What we really want is to connect with something that transcends both. That’s where the theme comes in: it is the meaning bigger than the sum of the parts. The author, like an interior designer, has come in and permanently rearranged the furniture of our minds. It’s an easy step for the Christian reader to see that the teeming plot of human history is everywhere pregnant with the theme of the necessity of salvation and the reality of reconciliation. The plots of our lives move through time and space, not randomly, but crafted by a Divine Author into a meaning beyond the sequence of events to fit an eternal theme. All stories are God’s story.

Billy Graham’s Class of ’43 celebrates 75th reunion

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 08:13

This year marks the the 75th reunion for the class of ’43 which includes it’s most famous alumnus, Billy Graham.  Twenty-five years ago, the famed evangelist gave the commencement address during his 50th reunion weekend.  Below is a transcript of his address to the class of 1993 taken from the Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 1993.

Today’s Investment, Tomorrow’s Return

Returning alumnus and renowned evangelist, this undergraduate commencement speaker urges graduates to use God-given time wisely.

 by Billy Graham, ’43, Litt.D . ’56

In a few minutes, you’ll walk out the door of Edman Chapel with a diploma in your hand and a life of uncertain length ahead of you. For some, it will be a long life. For others, it will be a surprisingly short life. And if you reach my age, you’ll wonder where the time has gone. It passes so quickly. A student at a university once asked me what was the greatest surprise of my life. I replied, “The brevity of life.”

Time is a nonrenewable resource that moves inevitably toward total depletion, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Time is our investment capital. Our choice is to use it or lose it, either invest it or let it dribble away like sand through our fingers.

Jesus told the story, in Luke 19, of a nobleman who, before going on a journey, commanded his stewards to invest his money carefully. The Lord expects us to use what he has given us–whether it’s money, time, or talents–in profitable ways. And he promises his personal audit of our lives when he returns.

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day: 1440 minutes, adding up to 168 hours per week.

In Psalm 90:10, the Bible indicates that our allotted time span on earth may be 70 years, or possibly an extension to 80 years. The psalmist goes on to say, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Let’s think about the numbers in a typical lifetime. The first 15 years are in childhood and adolescence. We spend a total of 20 years sleeping. So we have only 30 years left, and part of that time must be spent eating meals, building family and social relationships, working at our jobs, and figuring out our income tax.

Rich people cannot buy more hours than the rest of us. Scientists cannot invent new minutes. Each day, we each have 86,400 seconds to invest. Time allows no balances, no overdrafts. If we fail to use each day’s deposit, our loss cannot be recovered. It’s not like putting savings in a bank and getting interest. We cannot hoard time to spend on another day.

Paul tells the Ephesians to redeem the time, because the days are evil. Redeem is a word from the business world, and in this context, it means to buy the time. Redeeming the time means making the most of every opportunity that you have, every minute, every second.

Our natural tendency is to count the days, but God tells us, make every day count.

Time is the capital God has given us to invest wisely. So the question is, “Where do we invest it?” God calls us to invest our time capital, our very lives, primarily in people. Not in projects; not in possessions. God invested his only begotten Son in us, as sinners–not because we were prime prospects to give him a good payoff, but because his heart is overflowing with love for us.

When I was your age, I said to people, “There’s one thing I don’t ever want to be. I don’t want to be an undertaker or a preacher.” And I put them in the same category.

But one night, 55 years ago, I said with tears at the 18th hole of a golf course, “Oh God, I’ll go where you want me to go and be what you want me to be.” I never dreamed what he had planned for the future.

God’s will, first and foremost, for all of us, is that you love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then God’s will for you is that you live a holy life, to become like his Son in your attitudes and actions, in your thoughts and words. To be and behave like Jesus did, which means delighting in doing His will and serving others.

Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no man can work.” What was the work of Jesus? Simply to do the work of his Father and finish the work that had been assigned to him. He lived and died for others–for his friends and enemies alike. Jesus told his disciples, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Invest in heaven.

What are those treasures or investments? They are people who need to know God. I’ve seen these people all over the world. I’ve seen them in every kind of situation, every kind of culture. I know that what they’re searching for can only be found in a relationship with God.

Time is the capital that God has given us to invest. People are the stocks in which we are to invest our time, whether they’re blue chips or penny stocks, or even junk bonds.

Jesus was willing to take a risk with twelve diverse disciples. And he took a great risk with us. But when we talk of investments, everyone asks, “What return will I get?” A meaningful, fulfilled life that will count for God is the dividend that we receive for putting our trust in Christ and our time into people.

From my more than 50 years of experience, may I say to you young people today, as you face careers and the uncertainties of life, the best of all investments you can make is to help people come to the Giver of eternal life and peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can’t count your days–but with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can make your days count. You can invest whatever time is yours for a high-yield return in the lives of people whom you introduce to Christ. Right now, you can decide to invest your life in such a way that someday, you will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness.”

So I would say to you today, don’t just graduate.  Commence.

Gordon H. Clark and His Correspondents

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:33

Dr. Gordon H. Clark taught Philosophy at Wheaton College from 1936-43. As a committed five-point Calvinist, Clark’s unswerving Reformed theology ran him afoul of certain members of the administration, including President Dr. V. Raymond Edman and trustee Dr. Harry A. Ironside, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago. Ironside wrote to Clark on July 13, 1942: “…I am thoroughly convinced that hyper-Calvinism is not consistent with a true evangelical attitude. Perhaps I should have used the word ‘evangelistic’ rather than ‘evangelical.'”

Though students like Ruth Bell (Graham) and others appreciated Clark’s precise, reasoned, self-described “cold” classroom presentation, contrasting the “warm” pietism popular at the time, pressure from various quarters resulted in Clark’s resignation. Leaving Wheaton College, Clark secured employment as the Head of the Department of Philosophy at Butler University in Indiana from 1945-73. After that he taught at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, from 1974-84.

Compiled by Douglas J. Douma and edited by Thomas W. Juodatis, Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (2017) presents an array of Clark’s exchanges with such prominent evangelical and fundamentalist leaders as J. Oliver Buswell, V. Raymond Edman, E.J. Carnell, Cornelius Van Til, Carl F.H. Henry and J. Gresham Machen. The compilation uses many letters scanned from the College Archives of Buswell Library.

The Trinity Foundation in Unicoi, Tennessee, continues to republish Dr. Gordon H. Clark’s many books, tapes and pamphlets.

Senator Mark Hatfield Advocates “Power of Love”

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 14:50

Over four decades ago in February 1974, Senator Mark O. Hatfield spoke on Wheaton’s campus during the height of the Watergate scandal and merely six months prior to the resignation of President Nixon.  Although having visited campus before as governor and later as senator, the Oregon Republican stirred strong feelings from students and administrators alike due to his opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, as well as his support for politically liberal students whom some on campus characterized as “anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-American.”

The following article from the Wheaton Record, 2/15/1974 (vol.96, no.14) contains excerpts from a floor statement given by Senator Hatfield.  The speech was given during a discussion on the Military Procurement Bill, but the underlying issues are particularly relevant even in a predominantly civilian liberal arts college and amazingly trenchant nearly a half-century later.  His death in 2011 was marked by tributes by both Special Collections, Buswell Library and the Billy Graham Center Archives.

U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, c1967

There is no doubt that people feel threatened today, and feel insecure.  But the threats they feel are not those that are supposedly met by our military power.

People feel that their liberty is threatened, but not from any invading foreign army.  Rather, that liberty is seen threatened by our own domestic institutions, and even by our government.

I can think of no more fundamental threat to our security today than the cumulative loss of confidence in our government felt by the people.  The truth is that our citizens are no longer believing that our government and its representatives actually function as their servants.  Government has become an institution of domination, losing the trust of those who are to be governed.

There is nothing more fundamental to our “security” that that.  Yet we continue to believe that the most fundamental threats to that security come somehow from the outside.

We are misled, we are deluded to believe so.

When people’s confidence in their government is lost, when people’s human needs are going unmet, and when the nation’s life-supporting environment is in deterioration, then our nation is utterly insecure and will remain so regardless of how many billions we may spend elsewhere.  The place to start in building a true security is with these internal needs, not with a continued obsession about the readiness to fight any foe any place around the globe.

We must recognize how victimized we are by our whole national psychology about our power.

We believe, first of all that our power is always good, and only used for righteous purposes.  The belief is that if the good guys have the power, then that power is justifiable.  And of course, we inevitably look at ourselves as the good guys in virtually any situation.

Power tends to make individuals, or a nation, self-righteous.  That is an axiom that holds true as much for us as for any other people.

We suppose that our security comes through an inherent belief in our nation’s self-righteousness.  So we create a civil religion that baptizes our established powers of government and creates an idolatry of the Presidency, and forget the truth that power corrupts.

In a very real way, restoring the strength of our people can only begin with a spirit of repentance.  It is only by recognizing our errors, our wrongs, and our false gods that we can come to a proper understanding of ourselves.  That is the beginning of any true security.

In the end, it will not be the power of our military might that will usher in greater reconciliation between the people of the world.  Rather, that will only come from the power of spiritual love.

Such spiritual love must take root first in each one of us — and then extend out to our neighbor, to our communities, through our nation, and to the world — even to our enemies.

That is our only hope for security.

As the words of the prophet say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”

P.D. James (almost) at Wheaton College

Wed, 03/07/2018 - 10:35
P.D. James

Great Britain offers an abundance of superb mystery novelists, but after Agatha Christie, the reigning contemporary “Queen of Crime” was undoubtedly P.D. James, who published 22 books, fiction and non-fiction, and several short stories between 1962 and her death in 2014.

A committed Anglican and lay patron of the Prayer Book Society, James’s stories usually feature at least one religious character. In fact, her hero, Adam Dalgliesh, Detective Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard and poet, is the son of a vicar. The dynamics of good vs. evil are typically explored in her books. As such, P.D. James is often compared to another Anglican mystery writer from an earlier generation, Dorothy L. Sayers, whose papers are archived in the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College.

Perhaps some of the material in this 2009 book comprises what James might have taught at Wheaton College.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Barbara Reynolds, president of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society, introduced Dr. Beatrice Batson, Chair of the English Department at Wheaton College, to P.D. James at a soiree in London. Batson and James immediately fell into a comfortable friendship, discussing books and faith.

Eventually Batson, ever seeking opportunities to expose her students to fine literature, boldly asked James if she would like to travel to the States to teach a course on creative writing for one semester at Wheaton College. To Batson’s amazement, James quickly agreed.

However, with Batson’s retirement encroaching in 1985, administrative plans fell apart and P.D. James never visited the campus.