The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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About – The Substance of Faith

 sub·stance  [suhb’- stuhns] n. that of which a thing consists; the actual matter of a thing


The Substance of hosts the reflections, insights, and study of  Joel Snider, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Rome Georgia.

Are you searching for information on the “the substance of faith?”  More searches for that phrase bring readers to this site than any other.  If that’s why you came, here is a simple summary:

The phrase comes from the King James Version’s translation of Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   J. B. Phillips translation clarifies the idea: “Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for…”

Clarence Jordan has a famous sermon using the phrase “the substance of faith.” .  When Jordan’s sermons were gathered and published, the editor took the title from that particular sermon.

Clarence always made this point: faith is a verb, not a noun.  He based this statement on the fact that the Greek New Testament contains both a noun and a verb form of “faith”  but, the verb is more common than the noun.  English has no verb that can be translated “to faith,” so in our Bibles, the verb is most often rendered “to believe.”  The poor English equivalent leaves us thinking that faith is a mental activity: believing facts about Jesus.

So here is the idea behind “the substance of faith”: If you hope for something, then you live for it even if you can’t see the outcome.  Living for what we hope for makes hope tangible; it gives hope substance.  Living the convictions  of our faith makes our hope concrete.  Hope is just an idea – it is simply a wish – until we give it genuine substance through our actions. Living for the convictions we cannot see is the substance of our faith.   As Clarence Jordan said, “Now faith is the turning of dreams into deeds; it is betting your life on the unseen realities.”

I wrote my dissertation on the preaching of Clarence Jordan and his theology still has a major impact on what I believe.  Thus, I took The Substance of Faith as the name for this website.  I hope that you will find concrete expressions of faith in my posts.  My goal is to apply real faith for the real lives we live.

The menu headings above are:

Bucket Books are the 50 books that have had a significant impact on my life.  They include literature, fiction, business, theology and more.  What books have been most influential in your life?

Other Reads are any other book I’ve been reading.

Observations are comments on life, culture, and faith.

Prayers –  I’ve written some of these prayers.  I’ve found the prayers written by others helpful.

Meditation Texts are printed in our order of worship every Sunday.  They are printed to encourage engagement beyond the worship service.

Quotes – I’ve collected thousands over the years.  Here is a place for some of the best ones to see the light of day.

Elsewhere contains anything I’ve found on the internet that I want to highlight.

Life is my place for travel, hobbies, or anything that doesn’t fit the rest of the categories.

To continue the conversation for any post, click on the title of the post and a comment section will appear.



A Forced Sabbath

Geography influences your reaction to snow.  I doubt that people living in northern regions or at higher elevations have the same reaction as many of us in the south.  We start with a milk and bread panic.  Everyone goes to the grocery store, even if the snow is only projected to last one day.  We stock up for a single snow fall like pioneers used to stock up for winter.

But once we arrive at home, the groceries are put away, and the snow starts to cover the ground, we shut down.    We have less snow removal equipment and more unpredictable roads than in other parts of the country, so we stay home for a while.  The initial snow is pure white and  muffles all sound.  Everyone else is also at home; there are no expectations to return phone calls or to respond to emails.   we can take a deep breath and rest for a moment in this weather-forced Sabbath.

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses repeats the commandments given at Sinai, including a refresher course on the Sabbath.  As he teaches the children of Israel, Moses recalls that they were once slaves.  He says to them, “Remember you were once slaves and remember that God has ordained the Sabbath Day as a day of rest.  He has given this day to you who had no choice when you worked or how long you worked.  No longer is your life all work, uninterrupted by rest.  God has given you the Sabbath as a gift.”   Their former taskmasters gave them forced labor; their new Master gives them rest.

Do you remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees who complained about the way he and his disciples observed the Sabbath?  Jesus said, “The Sabbath was not made just so you could observe and obey it, but the Sabbath was made for you.”  He is reinforcing the idea of Sabbath as a gift.

Let’s imagine that somebody gave you a very expensive piece of clothing as a gift —an expensive cashmere sweater.  Would you ruin the sweater by taking it out and washing the car with it?  Of course not.  What if somebody gave you a signed, first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird for Christmas?  Harper Lee’s signature is one of the most coveted among book collectors.  Would you tear out a few pages of the book to use to start a fire in the fireplace?  Would any of us you ruin a special gift? Of course not.  I wonder why we ignore the gift of rest God has worked into every single week of our lives.  What a shame that snow has to shut down our town for me to take a Sabbath.


The Anti-Beatitudes —- Cursed Are…..

A few years ago I was researching the Beatitudes for a sermon when I came across a quote by St. Francis de Sales who lived in the early 1600s.  After repeating the first beatitude (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”), he adds this commentary:  “Cursed then, are the rich in spirit for the misery of hell is their portion.” By reversing the saying of Jesus, he shed new light on the original Beatitude.   Here’s the way I understand his statement.  People living in poverty always know what they need. They need to eat, they need a roof over their heads, they need clothing.  They simply need someone to help. In the same way, the poor in spirit recognize they need help.  They depend on God and the they find themselves in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The View from the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking down toward the Sea of Galilee

The View from the Mount of the Beatitudes, looking down toward the Sea of Galilee

The rich, however, are self sufficient.  Only the rich are described as “self-made.” They don’t have to ask for a thing and depend on no one.  Thus, the rich in spirit never ask for anything related to their spirits because they’re so sure they already have what they need.  They never depend on anyone else and, as a result, their portion is to be alone. While Scripture often refers to Hell as a place of burning it also refers to it as a place of loneliness and outer darkness where we are by ourselves (see Matthew 22:13 and Jude 13 for two references).  Following De Sales logic,  the poor in spirit ask God for help and get the kingdom of heaven.  Needing nothing for their souls, the rich in spirit ask for nothing of anyone and get to be by themselves.  Hell is their portion.  Only those who have never been lonely could miss what a curse loneliness is.

De Sales’ statement started me thinking about turning around all the Beatitudes.  Can we see the truth of what is blessed by seeing what is cursed?  If those who mourn are blessed by being comforted,  what about people who don’t care about their spiritual condition?  Cursed are those who don’t care what their heart is like because they get no relief.

Denying sinfulness is a bit like denying you have a physical disease. If you deny that you have an illness and never go get treated for it, that disease can damage, if not kill you.  Sin works the same way.  Left “untreated,” sin will kill you.  Those who mourn over their spiritual condition are blessed by God’s forgiveness and comfort.   Those who don’t care never mourn – never repent – thus, they don’t receive the blessing of peace and forgiveness.  What a curse.

Let’s take “Blessed are the meek.  Meek is a word that no one likes.  Who has meekness as a goal in life?  We think of  the meek as people who are afraid to stand up for themselves, afraid to demand their place at the head of the line.  In the land of assertiveness training, which personality test lists meekness as a strength?

Yet, meekness is, if we understand it correctly,  self-control.   It’s deeper than being well-mannered, but well-mannered might be a good image to convey its meaning.  Add a dose of chosen humility and we may have an accurate picture of meekness.  The meek do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time.  They can put others first because they have the self control to put themselves last.  The meek are blessed with inheriting the earth because they know how to be satisfied.  (See “Hobart and Manners” for a post on a meek man.)

So what is the opposite of meekness?  Is it the need to be in control constantly?  The anti-meek demand that their lane move the fastest, that their children’s “C” be changed to an “A,” and that life gives them more.  The people who try to control life instead of themselves find that life never pays off as they expect it to.  They can never control enough of life to get what they want; they come up empty-handed every time.  Cursed are the demanding because they never get enough.

Do you see how the anti-Beatitudes work? It is very easy to see how certain things are cursed.   If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied then those who have no moral bearing whatsoever will never be satisfied. If the merciful shall obtain mercy, then the hardhearted will find that what goes around, comes around.  If the peacemakers are called children of God, what are the troublemakers called?  We can even turn around the beatitude on persecution: cursed are people who don’t have anything beyond their own lives to live for because that must be the most empty and barren of all lives. Cursed are those who never have to pay any price, because there isn’t anything they care enough about paying the price for.

When we stop and realize that the opposite of the Beatitudes are really places in life that we don’t want to be, we begin to understand better the blessings of Jesus’ original teaching.  Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who know that there’s poverty in their hearts that only Christ can answer because once they realize that poverty, the kingdom of heaven is available to them. Blessed are those who mourn over their sins because they shall be comforted with forgiveness. Blessed are the meek, for they will have all they ever need. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because they will grow in the direction of their hunger.  Oh, they shall never be perfect, but they will become more Christ-like.  I would feel blessed if I became more like Christ today.

We find that Jesus did not simply utter beautiful words on the hillside beside the Sea of Galilee, but he gave a road map to all who seek God’s blessing. It is a map that any of us can follow.

Garden tomb peace sign

Hans Kung on the Kingdom of God – and a prayer

Google gives me information about the content which people read on The Substance of Faith.  The most commonly searched subject that brings people here is “the substance of faith.”  I edited the ABOUT page to provide additional information in order to be helpful to anyone looking for help on that search. Google hides other helpful information because they want me to pay for it.

For instance, I know that the second most read page is Quotes on the Lord’s Prayer – Thy Kingdom come, but I don’t know why.  Are you searching for quotes on the Lord’s Prayer, or are you searching for help with “the kingdom of God?”  No matter.  Below is my favorite quote about the kingdom.  I find it inspiring and it will serve either purpose.  And at the bottom is a prayer I wrote to go with a sermon I preached on the phrase “Thy Kingdom come.”  I hope both the quote and prayer are helpful.

What kind of kingdom will this be?

It will be a kingdom where, in accordance with Jesus’ prayer, God’s name is truly hallowed, his will is done on earth, men will have everything in abundance, all sin will be forgiven and all evil overcome.

It will be a kingdom where, in accordance with Jesus’ promises, the poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are downtrodden will finally come into their own; where pain, suffering, and death will have an end.

It will be a kingdom that cannot be described, but only made known in metaphors: as the new covenant, the seed springing up, the ripe harvest, the great banquet, the royal feast.

It will, therefore, be a kingdom—wholly as the prophets foretold—of absolute righteousness, of unsurpassable freedom, of dauntless love, of universal reconciliation, of everlasting peace.  In this sense, therefore, it will be the time of salvation, of fulfillment, of consummation, of God’s presence: the absolute future. –From On Being A Christian by Hans Küng, p. 21

A Prayer for the Kingdom of God:

O God, we openly acknowledge  that we believe in your son’s miracles. We believe that the lame walked, that the blind were granted sight, and that hardened hearts were softened by his word.  We pray that you would work a miracle in our hearts, too. Work a miracle and change our will to desire nothing but your will. Change these cold hearts of ours into flaming torches of desire for you. If there is complacency within us, remove it as far as east is from west. Destroy the apathy that slows our hands from doing what our hearts know to be just. Move us by Your Spirit to participate in the work of your kingdom so that the lonely might be visited, that the fallen might be raised, that those who seek might find, and that the world might know that you are a good and great God. We pray these things for we know that if you will empower our living to do them, then our prayers would be answered and that your kingdom will come in us.  All we ask is to labor in the kingdom. And to know the blessing of your pleasure as we work. Remind us that you are indeed king and that we are your servants. May our obedience be perfect in this day. In the name of Christ we ask it. Amen.

Lenin on St. Francis

Most of us have in a passing knowledge of Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian revolution.  We know Lenin was an atheist.  We know Lenin was a materialist and rejected the spiritual dimension of life.  Here, however, is an interesting quote from Lenin when he looked back on his life and the accomplishments of the revolution he led:   “I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated. But our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. My living nightmare is to find myself lost in an ocean of red with the blood of innumerable victims. It is too late now to alter the past, but what was needed to save Russia were ten Francis of Assissi’s.”

Statue of Lenin in Petrozavodsk, Russia.   (c) Joel Snider

Statue of Lenin in Petrozavodsk, Russia.
(c) Joel Snider

In his own assessment, Russia’s greatest need for the solution of its problems was ten examples of an extremely selfless and kind Christian.  Certainly ten St. Francis’s would have been a better solution than revolution.  Does anyone doubt that a change of heart would have a greater impact on the world than a body revolution?

I listen to the news over the last few weeks.  Putin is jockeys for power on the world stage. What happens to Ukraine?   The ruble is in free fall, but so is the Euro.  Greece calls previous German restructuring of their debt immoral.  No one can determine if falling oil prices is really good for the US economy; wall Street disagrees with the people who pay at the pump.  Since 2008, stock markets have improved, but the standard of living for the average person is stuck in neutral.

What are the solutions?  Everyone offers political and economic ideas. Make a buffer out of Ukraine, but give Russia a port on the sea.  Greece can leave the Euro community or reaffirm austerity.  Should the Federal Reserve fear deflations and keep interest rates low, or fear inflation and start raising rates?

Maybe the world’s  economic and political problems have a spiritual component.  At their roots, the problems are problems of heart:  Fear, Power, Greed,  If so, then the best solutions must include a change in us.  How can the world change if each of us  stays the same?

Therefore, maybe we need what Lenin admitted would have been a better solution: ten Francis of Assissi’s to spire us to better living.   Please don’t think of me as naïve; after all I am following the lead of  one of the most materially oriented individuals of the 20th century. If as a pragmatist, Lenin believed in the power of St. Francis, why can’t we?

My point is, today’s headlines are about war, currencies, governments, debt, interest rates, etc.  Look behind the headlines to see the spiritual factors involved.  What difference would it make if the followers of Christ truly sought the heart of Christ?  Who would say it would make NO difference?  That old atheist, Vladimir Lenin, thought otherwise.



Christ and Our Thoughts

One of the ways I develop sermon ideas is to create a file folder where I collect notes to myself, items torn out of magazines, or quotations. Newer folders are digital and contain links.  Scraps of paper and index cards fill the oldest folders.

Years ago I wrote “Christ and Our Thoughts” on a folder that has never become a sermon.  This week the folder has finally proved useful, with Sunday’s sermon addressing how we love God with all our mind (Mark 12:30).  The quotes below have proven helpful for the sermon.  Not all of them will make it into the sermon, but they all show wisdom about cultivating the way we think about life and God.

  • What a wee little part of a person’s life are in his acts and his words! His real life is lead in his head and is none to none but himself.                                                                                                  Mark Twain


  • We fail in our thinking before we fail in our behavior.                     Douglas Rumsford in Soulshaping, p. 99


  • Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day.                           Ralph Waldo Emerson


  • The only fault lies in our accepting it  (temptation), cultivating it, and taking pleasure in it.  I quote Luther saying that we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our head, but we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair.                                      Paul Tournier in Guilt and Grace, p.44


  • The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its unchastened desires – and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.Every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.                                                                                                      James Allen in As a Man Thinketh


  • Paul tells us that we are transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2).  The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.  Remember, the mind will always take on an order conforming to the order on which it concentrates.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline, p. 62f

A Brief History of the Christmas Truce

Stainsbury’s, a British Departments Store made an ad commemorating the Christmas truce

Here’s the video. It captures the essence of the moment.   Go to YouTube to find more about the making of the commercial.

One Hundred years ago “all heaven broke out” in no-man’s land, between the trenches in Western Europe.   The miracle of Christmas peace was the subject of my meditation last night at our Christmas Eve Service.  I found my inspiration from this video: an e-Christmas Card  from Luther College in Iowa.  One of our members teaches flute at Luther.  The story has long haunted me as a possibility of what Christ’s love can do in the “real world.”  After seeing this e-postcard  I did more research and discovered more about the miracle of Christmas peace.   Do your own research and see what you find out.  See if you wouldn’t prefer peace in the relationships of your life. If those troops made peace in the midst of war, what might you do?

Merry Christmas.   PS – watch this on full screen.  Hit the setting gear to select HD -quality and then double click anywhere on the video for full screen.

100th Anniversary of the Christmas Peace

Let Them Grow

Josie, our oldest grandchild turns three this week.  She spent the night with us Friday, two weeks since I last saw her.  I was amazed at how much she changes in a short time.  She can now hold the leash when we walk Rocky, our dog.  Her vocabulary increases geometrically and includes the words “actually” and “delicate.”  I think I got my first eye roll when I asked her if she knew how a car wash works: “Yes,” she said with a heavy breath of impatience, “The brushes come out an whirl around real fast.” How silly of me to ask.

Once again she’s grown while we were apart and I find myself pulled by the old temptation.  The one that doesn’t want her to grow up.  The one that wants her to stay small forever so that I can I can enjoy her as she is now without having to worry about what changes are coming.  Its the temptation to limit her life for my benefit.

I am forced to remember my own advice which I gave in a column written in our church newsletter a dozen years ago when our daughters were much younger.  I’m posting it for my own benefit – and in the hope it speaks to all parents and grandparents who would like to freeze their children in time.rachel ski

This Saturday represents a major milestone in the life of our family:  Rachel graduates from Samford University and Jordan graduates from Rome High.  The sentimental streak in me has worked overtime in anticipation of the day— I’ve been involved in a month-long task of reorganizing our photo collection.  What I see as I go through the stacks of old pictures are countless moments where I have frozen the girls in time, countless moments where I wished I could keep them this age forever.  

There is a picture of a toothless six-year-old with her first softball trophies.    There is one of a small red head skiing on my back while waving to the camera.  Deeper into the stack I come across Jordan’s picture from the Rome News-Tribune the day after Rome High won their first-ever softball victory.  There’s Rachel on a mission trip in China—the only Caucasian face in a sea of Asians.  It occurs to me that if I could have had my wish and frozen my daughters at age six or ten or thirteen, there are too many wonderful experiences we would never have had later when they were older.  

If you are a parent of smaller children or preschoolers,  I want to share a lesson with you.  It is a lesson I am learning both painfully and joyfully.  However wonderful you find your child’s age today, there is more goodness to come.  Whatever pleasure they give you now, there is more pleasure to be found in later accomplishments. 

As much pleasure as I received from teaching Jordan a little more about softball or holding Rachel in the water while waiting for the boat to snatch us up on my skis, I receive more today from talking with two beautiful young women about common values and a common faith.

On graduation day, it would be easy to yield to the temptation of wishing we could go back to a time when they needed me more—to carry them to the car or to help with their homework.  It would be easy to yield to the temptation of saying, “You will always be my little girls.”  But I am going to resist temptation on Saturday.  Instead, I am going to revel in the enjoyment of knowing two beautiful, independent, responsible young women who are ready to take their places in the world.  In parenthood, this is my greatest joy yet.

If watching my daughters grow was a great joy of parenting, I need to learn that lesson again – today with Josie, tomorrow with Jace and Lucy. Thus,  I wonder in great anticipation what they will learn next, what they will achieve next.  What adventures lie in store as they grow in stature and independence?    My prayer is not that they  always stay young, but that I get to see the children, the teenagers, the adults they become. 

Happy Birthday, Josie.  You are on your way!



Bucket Book – The Intelligent Investor

My first interest in the stock market began when I was six.  That’s right – six.  I remember being at my grandparents house.  We ate dinner after the Huntley-Brinkley Report, which always included a brief statement about three Dow-Jones indices: the Industrials, the Utilities, and the Rails (known today as the Transportation Index).   I can’t remember a specific conversation, but I do remember knowing that a portion of my grandfather’s retirement was in a stock called Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon).  It was better for his stock to be up than it was for it to be down.

intel invest

When I was in junior and senior high school, my father worked for Xerox.  At the time Xerox was one of the Nifty Fifty – the darling stocks of Wall Street – and from conversations between my parents, I learned that owning stock in a company means you owned portion of the company; stock prices often split after it went up for a long period of time; stocks paid and increased their dividends.  I also learned that most of the products we used around the house were made by companies whose stock could be purchased.  My grandmother’s Joy dishwashing liquid was made by Proctor and Gamble, as was my Crest toothpaste.  Holley carburetors (I was a muscle car enthusiast) were made by Colt Industries.  I was intrigued and continued to pay attention to the stock market report on the evening news.  Occasionally I’d look at a discarded copy of the Wall Street Journal to pick up information on other companies associated with products we used every day.

By the time Cherry and I were married and I entered seminary, we had scraped together $500.   It was hard to sell my new bride on the idea, but we eventually invested in the 18 shares of Squibb Corporation.  Somewhere along this journey, I learned of Benjamin Graham’s classic work, The Intelligent Investor.  My wife’s skeptical attitude about buying a stock at our age and with our limited resources convinced me that if I was going to be an investor, I had better be intelligent about it.  So I checked the book out of the public library and read it.

I learned about PE ratios, margins of safety, and book value.  In a day that was not only pre-internet, but pre-calculator, Graham’s book taught me formulas I used to performed my own manual calculations on companies that were candidates for investment.  I spent many Mondays in the Louisville Public Library reading S&P stock summaries and performing calculations from Graham’s book.

Across the years I’ve tried to participate in saving for my daughters’ college educations an in my retirement planning.  Thanks to Excel and a thousand websites, I don’t have to crunch numbers with a pencil and paper. Neither do I stick to strict Graham formulas when considering and investment.  But The Intelligent Investor  taught me what to look for, how to make reasoned decisions about a stock, and what data really matters.

My interest in economics and markets has never abated.  The Intelligent Investor provided a key piece of my informal education in these areas.



Bucket Book – Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong

In 1955, Rudolph Flesh wrote a critique of reading education, which he entitled, Why Johnny Can’t Read.  The phrase “why Johnny can’t” found traction in American culture; thus, in 1974, when Morris Cline wrote an indictment on the changes in math education, he borrowed heavily from Flesch when he called his book Why Johnny Can’t Add. Fast forward another two decades to 1992.  William Kilpatrick challenged the nation’s drift away from morality and virtues in Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong.  Kilpatrick saw the same type of failure demonstrated in in reading and math education replicated in character education.

According to Kilpatrick, the moral education framework in our country was failing children and American culture.  The system did not communicate the common core of accepted virtues which serve as the norm for constructive participation in society.  One might expect such a book like Kilpatrick’s to tend toward moralism or preachiness in tone, but the author avoids these temptations.  The end product is one of my personal “bucket books,” an essential influence in my life.

The Boston College professor makes four salient point in his thesis.  First, various forms of a failed moral education relied primarily on information to influence students toward safe and healthy conduct.  He uses as his examples the approaches to drug and sex education which were common to the era of his writing.  The contemporary wisdom was to teach youth facts about these subjects in the hope that they would make good decisions about them.  Kilpatrick believed the deficiency of this approach centered on the fact that it did not provide a character component.

On the need for common virtues to ground society, Kilpatrick says:

According to Aristotle, a culture that neglects to cultivate good habits will soon find itself the prisoner of bad habits.  p. 98

Communities and cultures depend for their existence on shared knowledge.  Without such specific knowledge and a shared ethos, it becomes difficult for members of a community to communicate and cooperate.  Those without this knowledge will always be condemned to the margins of society.  If the knowledge deficit becomes widespread, the culture will collapse. p. 117

With regard to morally neutral sex education, he asks:

How safe is any sex without character?  p. 63

Kilpatrick’s second point focused on a common practice of moral education from the 1970’s and 1980’s: Values Clarification.  VC most often presented moral dilemmas to children or youth and asked them to resolve the dilemma based on their feelings or prejudices.  The dilemmas might present a hypothetical group of thirteen people occupying a fallout shelter designed for twelve.  In an unfortunate foreshadowing of the popular Survivor TV show, classes (and church youth groups) were asked to determine which individual to exclude from the shelter:  the pregnant teen, the selfish business owner, the local drug dealer, etc.  Kilpatrick correctly pointed out that such exercises were popular with teachers because they created engaged discussion, but they failed youth because they provided no basis for making the decision beyond the opinions of the participants.

Kilpatrick’s solution was not to teach the morally correct answers to such dilemmas.  Nor was it to preach certain values vis a vis all other values.  Instead, Kilpatrick’s thesis was to ground children and youth in virtues.  The difference between values and virtues is a key distinction in all character education and represents Kilpatrick’s third point.  Values are always debatable.  Who’s values trump all other values?  Virtues, on the other hand, are qualities of character that pass the test of time and cross all cultures.   

[My review on How Children Succeed  highlights the importance of  functional virtues like grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity for a fulfilling life.]

The solution offered by Kilpatrick, and the fourth point I take form the book, is to capture the imagination of  youth with classic stories of virtue.  Examples of virtue inspire virtue in others.  Kilpatrick offers a significant portion of the book to an annotated list of age-appropriate classics that encourage time tested qualities of character.  The list includes such works as Diary of a Young Girl and Gulliver’s Travels.   Kilpatrick also suggests music and singing as a way to inspire virtues.

Kilpatrick’s book introduced me to the concept of character education, along with the role of stories and songs as a part of that process.  These approaches to teaching character evolved into an approach of “teaching” faith, which we have called “faith development” here at First Baptist Church of Rome.  Faith Development, as we practice it, stems from the belief that children need exposure to a core of Bible stories  and scripture verses that serve as a foundation to a more mature faith later.  Too often we’ve asked children “what does this (Bible) story mean to you?” as if children come with a built in understanding of all faith matters.

This error reflects the same type of mistake made in Values Clarification.  Instead, we’ve taken the approach that, at the earliest ages,  children need to be taught specifics stories, led to memorize specific scripture passages, and to sing particular songs of faith – all of which provide a foundation of knowledge about matters of faith.  Later in life, as they grow and mature, the basics serve as the foundation for the faith they appropriate as their own.

Kilpatrick’s book in on my list of life -important books because it served as the catalyst for one of the most distinctive part of our our congregation’s ministry to children and youth.  Here are a few more quotes:

 The first incident happened five or six years ago during an exam.  One of the questions concerned sex education and contained the word “abstinence.”  It was a poor choice of words.  In a few minutes a student came up to my desk.  “What’s abstinence?” she asked.  I thought for a moment, then said, “Oh, just substitute the word ‘chastity.’”  There was a brief pause, then . . . “What’s chastity?” she asked.   I mentioned the incident the next semester to another class, thinking that it might amuse them, but I was wrong again.  Half of them had never heard of “chastity” either.  I was reminded of Orwell’s observation about the difficulty of practicing a virtue or principle when one lacks the very words for expressing it.   p. 118

Referring to Bruno Bettelheim:   “The question for a child,” says Bettelheim, “is not ‘Do I want to be good?’ but ‘Who do I want to be like?’”  p. 167

It is a myth that parents don’t have the right to instill their values in their children.  Once again, the standard dogma here is that children must create their own values.  But, of course, children have precious little chance to do that, since that the rest of the culture has no qualms about imposing values.  Does it make sense for parents to remain neutral bystanders when everyone else—from scriptwriters, to entertainers, to advertisers, to sex educators—insists on selling their values to children? p. 249

I read because my father read to me.  And because he’d read to me, when my time came I knew intuitively there is a torch that is supposed to be passed from one generation to the next.  And through countless nights of reading I began to realize that when enough of the torchbearers—parents and teachers—stop passing the torches, a culture begins to die.  p. 267