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Remembering Dad, 30 Years On

Thirty years ago today, my Dad went to meet his Lord. He was just 59 years old.

Paul was born January 4, 1931 in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. His full name was Paul Innis Gallant; by those initials, you will quickly discern that his mother was illiterate.

Paul was raised by his grandfather, who in the classic terminology was a “tough old S.O.B.” You know the type: When Dad came home crying after being beaten up on his first day of school, the old man let him know he had better learn to take care of himself, or he’d get it worse at home. Or there was the time that grandpa Cormier, who was legally blind, was attacked by a bunch of twelve year old boys. What they didn’t know was that he could see shadows, and he laid a good licking on them with his cane.

The family was a familiar sort of devout-not-devout Roman Catholic one where nobody goes to church except on Christmas and Easter, but God forbid you go a different religious direction (when my Dad converted, his aunt told him to get out of her house).

Growing up, my Dad was not exactly the studious type. The teachers used to get him out of their hair by sending him out to get them cigarettes (these were the 1930s and 1940s, okay?). Eventually, he ran away at 14, having achieved a grade three education. He was functionally illiterate in those years; he used to say that he “had a hard time with a Donald Duck book.”

After a rough and tumble life as pretty much a hobo, in 1958, Dad was in the southern U.S. It was winter, and from what I recall of the story, he went in to sort sort of church service to warm up. I’m sure he heard something of the gospel there, but he didn’t really indicate so.

It was the next day on the highway (Dad was an inveterate hitchhiker) that it all went down.

Although he was not a reader, someone had given Dad a King James Bible. He couldn’t get past the “thees” and “thous,” he used to say, so he never looked at it. But for some indefinable reason, he carried it around with him. On that particular day, his hand involuntarily went into his pocket and pulled out that Bible — he would say later that it was like someone else had hold of his hand. He opened it randomly and it fell to Romans 10. He didn’t see or hear the Elizabethan English. What he did hear directly from the Word of God was that if he believed in his heart and confessed with his mouth the Lord Jesus, he would be saved. He did, and was.

Dad ever after always credited the Lord with teaching him to read.

There are so many things about Dad that I could say — his foibles and his strengths, his experiences and his beliefs. But there are a handful of things that I carry with me to this day.

One of those most astonishing events was the story of Ed Young.

Ed and Dad were friends for years. They had met when Dad did an odd job for him; and although they were not believers, we were regularly in their home whenever we were in Port Alberni. (That was where Mom and Dad met, and we lived there several times when I was young.) Dad was never ashamed to speak of his faith, but he never hammered on Ed incessantly about it.

I think that pretty clearly, Ed Young knew there was something to all this. One day while we were there, a Jehovah’s Witness came to the door, and Ed essentially said that if he ever got religious he would go the way Paul was.

But he never did.

We moved away, visiting on those rare occasions when we got back in town. Years went by, and we had not been back in forever. We heard that Ed was dying. I don’t even remember what from anymore.

What I do know is that Dad really wanted to see him one more time. We eventually ended up in Port Alberni for a visit.

But when we got there, Betty informed us that Ed was in the hospital and had been in a coma for a couple weeks.

We drove to the hospital and Mom and Dad went inside. It was as Betty had said. Ed was unresponsive. Dad prayed over him, and they started to go. But at the door, for whatever reason my Mom looked back and said, “He’s coming out of it.”

They went back to the bed. Ed’s eyes were still closed, but he seemed to be showing signs of consciousness.

Dad asked him, “Do you know who is here?”

“Paul.”

“Do you know why I’m here?”

“I believe so” — a very typical Ed response.

“I want to lead you in a sinner’s prayer.”

There, in that hospital room, Ed Young gave his heart to Jesus Christ. And as soon as they were done praying, he slipped back into his coma and never reawakened this side of glory.

There are so many lessons in that story for me to learn. I hope one day I do.

The other story I want to relate today goes back to the early days of my Dad’s ministry. In 1969, he rented a hall a couple doors down from us for six months. For the first 3 ½ months of that, he preached there every night.

What he said later was that throughout that period, he felt like God was distant all day long — like his prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. His only release was when he stood and preached, and the Word of God carried him.

What he learned from that experience was that you can’t live on feeling. You have to stand on the naked Word of God. (Leave it to my father to learn from experience that you can’t live by experience.)

That devotion to Scripture is one of the most fundamentally important things that my Dad left me. Through all the changes in my thinking over the years, that has stuck with me.

The other thing he left me was a high view of God. While he had far too high of a notion regarding the reality of apostasy to be a “classical Calvinist,” he was unapologetic regarding the power and greatness of God. One time, a fellow minister was speaking derisively regarding a doctrine of (I would assume) irresistible grace. “It was me who got down on my knees! It was me who repented!” he exclaimed. To which Dad retorted, “Yes, and how long did it take God to get you there?”

God and God alone is the orchestrator of salvation.

Thirty years ago, after a 2 ½ year battle with ALS, my father breathed his last. He is now absent from the body and present with the Lord. And someday, this body will yet put on immortality, and the God whose Word is unshakable, whose power and greatness are without limit, shall fulfill what he has promised.

The Climate is the Lord’s

Reflections on the Man-made Climate Change Discussion

I do not frequently write about the perceived climate crisis.

There are numerous reasons for that. I am not a science buff, much less a scientist.

Moreover, I don’t have time to write all the things I really want to write. There are books in biblical studies and novels residing in my head, along with numerous shorter pieces, and they await me impatiently: I frankly have little time to write at this stage of my life.

Aside from that, the climate issue is a polarizing debate, and it’s not necessarily the discussion I want to serve as the cause of alienation.

Nonetheless, I am writing now in spite of it all. I am not presenting myself as an expert in climate science, nor am I primarily interested in putting forward expert expositions of others defending competing scientific viewpoints. My curation would surely be inadequate for such a task.

My aim here is to approach things from another angle. (Although I do want to come back — and who would not? — to the wonderfully scientific subject of cow farts, attributed with being responsible for more greenhouse gas [!] emissions than “cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.”) The reason I am willing to risk such a polarizing discussion is that biblical reflection is at the heart of my calling, and the crisis of the times virtually demands at least a bit of such reflection. So here it is, very briefly.

A Brief History of Experts: A Firsthand Nutshell Account

The full decade within which my childhood occurred was the 1970s. When I was child, I distinctly remember two things which the experts were telling us.

The medical science experts were telling us how bad breastfeeding was, and that concocted formulas were healthier for babies than their own mothers’ milk.

And throughout the decade, climate experts were warning us of an impending ice age. (You may have seen the Photoshopped covers of Time magazine; but make no mistake, the stories were real, as is witnessed by this Time archive as an example.

For much of my lifetime, the medical community almost universally assumed that consumption of saturated fat led to obesity and heart disease.

In the 1980s, health experts were warning us that AIDS was going to kill huge swaths of the (heterosexual) population.

By 1990, the climate scientists had taken the pendulum ride: in place of an impending ice age was the momentous threat of impending global warming.

Throughout that same decade, tech experts warned us of the catastrophic effects the turn of the millennium would bring with it, because so much core civil infrastructure was based on computing that had failed to prepare for the year 2000. Yes, the “Y2K” debacle.

I have learned two things over the course of my life. (Okay, perhaps more than two, but these two are particularly pertinent in the context of our current discussion.)

One, the experts are frequently wrong — catastrophically and uncategorically so. (For a sampling of failed ecological predictions, for example, see this page.)

And second, the world seems to instinctively lean toward a secularized apocalypticism—a notion of a world-shattering event coming up fast on the event horizon. And more often than not, that apocalyptic vision is tied to attempts to meet the challenge by governments wresting absolute power, thus saving the day. Every apocalyptic vision, it seems, needs a savior.

But This Time Is Different (?)

Despite the failures of the previous apocalyptic visions, there is a desperate push to act against man-made climate change “before it’s too late.” Yet despite the fact that worldwide efforts to mitigate the disaster have been only a fraction of what the experts said was required, early prognostications have by and large proven false. (Just one example: In 2004, experts predicted that major European cities would be underwater by 2020. Time is running out.…)

But like the dispensationalist preachers predicting the rapture, failed predictions have proven no disincentive; there are always more dire predictions to be made.

I am no expert in climate science, but I can’t help feel that somebody is at least exaggerating.

It is also not lost on me that the tech experts of the 1990s knew infinitely more regarding their subject than the most brilliant climate scientists know of theirs.

That’s not a denigration of climate scientists, but a reminder that computer infrastructure is wholly man-made and therefore actually intrinsically knowable by tech experts. And yet, the fact was that “Y2K” ended up being an utter fiasco for many of them.

In comparison to technological experts, natural scientists know a miniscule fraction of their subject, because creation has its source in the infinite mind and inscrutable wisdom of God and not the minds of men, and we have barely begun to probe its mysteries. Is it so strange to think that natural scientists not only do not account for all the data they have available to them now, they almost certainly do not have all the data they would actually need in order to understand and predict long-term climate patterns? These are legitimate questions, even were the track record not so … spotty, shall we say.

The Earth is the Lord’s

The bigger perspective is that the earth is Yahweh’s. Now there are many sides to that, and one corollary is indeed that we should treat it with respect and care. Yahweh’s earth is the gift of home, and as I wrote in Metanarrative (p 8),

All that God has already created is given to this man and this woman. The biblical terminology is indeed dominion, which of course gets a pretty bad rap, because it’s popularly taken to mean selfish pillaging.

But that’s the wrong picture. When God presented the man and the woman with the world he had created, he was giving them the keys to their home.

When you think home, do pillage and plunder come to mind? Surely not. You likely want to make the most of it, yes, but you do so by looking after it, by making it everything it can be. That’s how you treat your home.

In view of this, we should indeed care about the earth. We should indeed minimize pollution. As those who look forward to a new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells, the appropriate way to lean into that promised future is to live as stewards of the earth that is now. It certainly is possible to harm our environment, and we can see countless instances of that. The faithful Christian response is to minimize that harm.

At the same time, we must resist the temptation toward primitivistic utopianism. The goal of God’s story is not a return to an unpopulated Eden, but the unveiling of a New Jerusalem teeming with people, and adorned with the various ways in which they have glorified the creation for the glory of its maker.

Human stewardship of the earth is delegated by God and forward-looking, but in this age human stewardship always involves tradeoffs. I suspect that on this side of glory, we are probably quite unable to come up with an absolutely unmitigated good.

Consider, for example, the explosion of food production that the earth has seen since the Industrial Revolution. More people have been raised out of starvation in the past two hundred years than ever before.

And yet some of those same advances have brought problems: after thousands of years eating bread, suddenly we are developing “gluten intolerances” (more likely: reactions to how wheat is now processed). We are discovering all sorts of accompanying issues with our advances.

Whether or not that is the most apt example, the point is that human development is always flawed and always has downsides.

The development of industrial means of travel has enabled unprecedented access to health care, communities and more. It has also has been the occasion of countless accidents causing death and injury, as well as serious property damage.

As Adam was told after his rebellion, he still retained his calling to till the ground, but now it would resist his efforts and he was going to sweat until he died in order to fulfill that calling.

But the calling remains a gift, and the gift is a mandate, both to exercise faithful dominion over the earth, and to act on behalf of its wellbeing.

Above and beyond this delegated human calling is the sovereign creator and sustainer. In his covenant with Noah, he promised that seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night would not cease (Gen 8:22). It is he who establishes the boundaries of the earth and makes summer and winter (Ps 74:17). He has fixed the patterns of heaven and earth, rain and harvest (Jer 5:24; 33:25).

In the face of every competing apocalyptic vision, the believer confesses: “I fear not, for I belong to the Lord of the heavens and the earth.” The shrill threat of climate change is answered by the Living One’s enduring promise of climate continuity, of the fundamental stability of creation until he himself renews everything as he has purposed.

Utopian visions and apocalyptic visions both are poor substitutes for the gospel’s affirmation of the creation, its adoration of the world’s creator and sustainer, its exaltation of the Lordship of Jesus the Messiah, its real world implementation of the kingdom, and its anticipation of a graciously given new heavens and new earth.

Conclusion

So what about those cow farts?

It seems clear to me that the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills is not destroying his creation by virtue of that very ownership. It is much more likely that cow farts are a feature of his wise governance rather than a demonstration of divine destruction.

We confess that the earth is the Lord’s. He set his colorful bow in the sky as a promise to all of us that the world will never again be destroyed by a flood. I think it no leap to take that to mean that, not only will he not destroy the world with rain that he himself sends, but he will not allow us to destroy it by causing the tides to rise.

In the final analysis, the earth is sustained, not by us, but by the living God who created it.

The Debtor Metaphor of Romans 6

In Romans, Paul has an extended development of the idea of slavery and liberation—fundamentally, an exodus theme. In the midst of that development, he writes in Romans 8:12 that we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

That cryptic statement in context raises questions. Is this is a simple negation (“we are not debtors to the flesh”), a denial with an unspoken corresponding affirmation of where our debt genuinely rests (“we are not debtors to the flesh, but to the Spirit”), or perhaps an emphatic statement about a new situation that was previously not the case (“we are no longer debtors to the flesh”)?

Perhaps Paul doesn’t want us to answer the implicit question in just one of these ways; perhaps he wants us to acknowledge the truth of some or all of these ways of reading his statement.

It is interesting, though, to trace the idea of debtorship in connection with Paul’s theme of slavery. Under the social and de facto legal conditions of Paul’s world and Israel’s history, one could be sold into slavery for one’s debts, and was therefore bound to serve the creditor. That seems to shed some light on Paul’s argument in much of Romans 5–8, not least 6–7. (more…)

Righteousness in Romans 6

Wright suggests that in Romans 6, “righteousness” (dikaiosune) is a virtual proxy for God himself. In extensive use in chapter 3, “the righteousness of God” (dikaiosone theou) refers to God’s covenant faithfulness, and much of Romans 3–8 has an underlying narrative substructure of exodus—a transition from slavery to freedom. But then, 6:18 speaks of “slaves of righteousness.” Here’s Wright: (more…)

A Note Re: Wright on Israel’s Future

In his article, “Romans and the Theology of Paul” (reprinted most recently in Pauline Perspectives), N. T. Wright emphasizes that the narrative of Paul’s letter to the Romans is keyed to the story of Israel, seen within the light of Jesus as the Messiah. This is a crucial point that is often overlooked, but in a number of places, I think he takes wrong turns or doesn’t quite get the grasp of the handle in the right place.

For example, in regard to Israel’s “fall” of which Paul speaks, Wright frequently notes that Israel was called to be a light to the nations and she failed, largely because of pride in covenantal position.

(more…)

The Spirit of the Age as Foundation for Morals

It has been quite popular for some time now for people to engage in moral/ethical argument on the basis of what year it is (“It’s 2017.…”) or its sister argument (“the flow of history/right side of history”).

I haven’t decided whether such people really don’t realize how stupid the form of argument is, or whether they actually do, but are so cynical they use it anyway. It doesn’t seem nice to impute that level of obtuseness, but on the other hand, it’s not exactly complementary to impute that level of cynicism either.

If you want to see how frivolous the form of argument is, simply use it with reference to mindsets and attitudes in the past which we now denigrate. For example, the early twentieth century had an extraordinarily high regard for race-based eugenics, not only in Germany, but (sad to say) in much of the West, including the “free democracies,” especially among the intelligentsia. (Of course, this is now largely swept under the carpet.) (more…)

New (Old) Songs for Download

As I’ve planned for quite a while, I have finally made my Tim Gallant Anthology songs available for free download on this site.

These are collections that I recorded back in the mid-2000s, but were written much earlier. I used to (try to) sell them, but ultimately decided that music was never going to be an income stream, and I would much rather have the occasional person enjoy some of it than to have the songs collecting dust.

The present anthologies available are Vol 1: 1980–1983 (The Early Years); Vol 2 (1984); and Vol 3 (1985). I was born at the end of 1965, so you can do the math regarding my age when the songs were written. 🙂

Abraham’s Faith Revisited

When we correlate Genesis 15, Genesis 22, Romans 4, and James 2, we will come to understand that there is no tension whatsoever between Paul’s view of faith and works over against that of James. Both appeal to how Abraham’s faith in Genesis 15 is accounted for righteousness, but both in fact go beyond that.

Like Paul, James affirms that Abraham’s faith in Yahweh’s promise was counted as righteousness (i.e. in Genesis 15, when God made the initial promise of seed). He affirms that within the framework of stating that Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac on the altar (Gen 22, frequently referred to as the akedah). The point he makes is that the faith of Abraham (which Yahweh counted as righteousness) was active, and that it was completed by action. The offering of Isaac, says James, fulfilled the Genesis 15 statement that Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. (more…)

2016 in the Rear View

So another year has fled. The biggest event in 2016 for me was the passing of my mother in June. She was less than two months shy of her 90th birthday, and had not had a full awareness of things for several years, but nonetheless we felt great loss. But though we mourn, we do not do so as those who have no hope.

That passing did provide the context for one of the high points of my year, too. When I went home to Grande Prairie to bury Mom, through the kindness of the Nashville and Grande Prairie churches I was able to take my wife, oldest daughter, and three littles, and we had a time of great blessing. We drew heavily on the love of the saints and had a wonderful time with my sister and her two kids as well.

A mini high point of the Grande Prairie visit was a day trip with them, the Wattels (who were our hosts) and “Oma B” to the Jasper area. Although I have traveled through Jasper many times over the course of my life, I had never taken the time to stop and just enjoy it, and I always wanted to take Kristi there. So much beauty—I think I took about 150 pictures—and it was so good to share it.

Another high point of my year was the completion and release of The Legend of the Dagger Prince, a novel that I had first envisioned and commenced in 2012. While it has not been a big seller, I can honestly say that I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and hope that over time more people will come to appreciate it.

In October, I got to take Kristi to the Ryman (the original Opry venue) for a Kansas concert. It’s not the sort of thing I get to do often at all, and we both really enjoyed it. It was the 40th Anniversary tour of Kansas’ Leftoverture album, as well as the first tour for their new album. While Steve Walsh retired a few years ago, the new vocalist, Ronnie Platt, was an excellent choice: he’s the right generation and has the right range, but his timbre and phrasing is different, so he avoids the trap of imitation.

Work-wise, I continue to work in the hospitality industry as a valet captain and am supposed to commence managerial training soon. I also continue to maintain my web and graphic business, Tim Gallant Creative; my biggest project in 2016 was the revamp of the CREC denominational web site.

Another even bigger web project, albeit not for a client, was the launch of the News Mutt site in early November. It was an idea I had toyed with for several years, and a slow patch with clients allowed me to give it a shot. It’s a tremendous amount of work to maintain, so I really need to build a good sized readership in order for the site to be viable long term, but I think there’s room for the niche: It’s a general news site that focuses on easy-to-read short summaries, and also keys on matters of interest to Christians. I’m trying to provide something that has a sound approach to news while also questioning mainstream media where I think it’s appropriate.

I also engage in preaching ministry when opportunity presents. Along with preaching at the wedding of Caleb and Lydia Strebchuk in Grande Prairie at the beginning of the year, and then again at the G. P. church when I returned for Mom’s funeral, I have preached several times at my home church in south Nashville, as well as a small Christian Reformed Church nearby.

Please continue to pray for all of us, that Kristi and I would meet the challenges of faithfully raising our large family, that all of our needs would be supplied, and that in particular, somehow we could improve our housing situation. (We had been hoping to buy this past spring, but my U.S. credit rating had not been sufficiently built up. I had a very good rating in Canada, but unfortunately, that doesn’t follow across the border, which I didn’t realize for the first couple years I was here.)

Facebook Disabled

UPDATE: I got back into Facebook on December 20. No real explanation that made sense was provided regarding the issue.

Just a quick note for those who follow me on Facebook: My Facebook account has been disabled/blocked to me since December 12. The ostensible reason is that they could not verify that I was using my genuine identity, or had multiple accounts. (Neither are true.)

The instructions indicated that I should upload a scan of a government-issued photo ID with the sensitive information (ID number and address) blocked out. I did that, but it’s been four days and I am still blocked until they have “reviewed my ID.” It seems odd that it takes them that long to look at a photo of a driver’s license.

While my Facebook account uses my personal identity, I do use a pseudonym (Anderson Alexander) on News Mutt, although that really has nothing to do with my Facebook identity, and in any case, I identify myself by name on the Anderson Alexander page on the site.