Do you sometimes feel that the deck has been stacked against you?
Why do people often instinctively ask “Why?” when encountering adversity?
If everything is just a matter of chance, why do we even care about meaning?
How do we know that humans have any real worth in the universe?
Is it at least possible that God is so great as to be able to turn pain into blessing and the greater good?
Give Ryan Goding (AIIA Institute and Anchor New England) just seven minutes to provide some powerful and thoughtful answers to such questions.
Earlier this morning — May 19, 2020 — renowned Christian apologist, international speaker, and best-selling author Ravi Zacharias died at his home not far from Atlanta, Georgia.
The immense record and scope of Ravi’s life and work, and the notice of his move on this date from earth to heaven, are all available in detail at RZIM.org.
Just four years ago this month Ravi Zacharias was the keynote speaker at WHY JESUS? 2016, a major conference on Evidence for Christian Faith hosted right here in northern New England. AIIA was privileged to play a leading role in organizing that event. But those of us present on that occasion could hardly have imagined that Ravi’s life on earth would be over so soon.
A few hours ago I received an email from a personal friend who had just heard the news of Ravi’s death and was asking: “What was God thinking? Just being honest.” Here’s how I answered:
I’m supposing that long before the foundations of the world God determined that May 19, 2020, would be the very best day to reward Ravi Zacharias for his faithful years of service — by welcoming him home. I suppose that God was also simultaneously planning to fill the void of Ravi’s absence by raising up another individual of exceptional ability and passion and commitment to Himself, and to the work of Christian apologetics. But I believe that God was also determining from long ages past to bless and use the continuing work of RZIM and many smaller sound regional apologetics ministries such as the AIIA Institute as they carry the torch until that next apologist comes into place.
We know that physical death is a curse which affects all people, because of sin (Romans 5:12). For that reason, God’s great gospel plan for the world is never dependent on any one person. Just as He has raised up great men and women in Bible times, and others in modern times such as Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and Ravi Zacharias, so He will raise up others to effectively speak and defend his truth in the years ahead.
Today we pay tribute to Ravi’s unique life and powerful influence in the defense of historic Christian truth — and we pledge to do what we can in our own smaller way to continue to defend that same truth, and to honor Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life, here in spiritually cold New England and beyond.
Here is an updated statement on AIIA’s status, policies, and response to the coronavirus pandemic, as of Tuesday, May 5, 2020.
• AIIA remains fully committed to participating in the effort to deter the further spread of the coronavirus as per current CDC and State of Maine guidelines.
• All AIIA-related public events remain canceled through May 31, 2002.
• FAITH MATTERS monthly events are currently scheduled to resume on June 6. However, while the situation remains fluid, please be sure to watch our website for possible last-minute changes. For the foreseeable future we will welcome guests to FAITH MATTERS events by reservation only, so be sure to call ahead. This policy will ensure our ability to observe recommended protocols and provide appropriate distancing in our meeting place. Please bring and be prepared to wear a face mask. If you are not feeling well we ask that you do not plan to attend these events.
• AIIA’S STUDY CENTER WILL ONCE AGAIN BE OPEN to drop-in visitors as of June 15. We will limit visitors to groups of no more than five at a time. Please be prepared to wear a face mask. If you are not feeling well we ask that you do not visit the Study Center.
• WE WELCOME ALL INTERESTED constituents and friends, regardless of worldview, to be in touch with us by phone (207.997.3644) or e-mail (AIIAInstitute@aol.com) as desired. We always try to promptly respond to e-mails, phone calls, and surface (USPS) mail.
• WE CONTINUE TO PUBLISH AND MAIL THE PROCLAMATION THOUGHTLETTER. If you or someone you know is not currently receiving this free one-page bimonthly publication and would like to receive it, please provide us with complete name and home mailing address information via the Contact Form on our website.
• WE HOPE THAT BY MID-JUNE the 2020 Summer Appalachian Trail hiking season will be underway, even if at some sort of scaled back level. If so, we plan to once again be outside exchanging with hikers, as well as with art students participating in local art workshops and residencies.
• PLEASE CONSULT the events calendar on AIIA’s website for developing information and other future events.
• THANKS TO THOSE OF YOU WILLING to continue (or begin!) your support of this work financially, and in prayer. We’re fully convinced that all that is happening is within the framework of God’s great plan for world history. He is sovereign over every microbe in the universe and His purposes will not be thwarted. “For by [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” — Colossians 1:16-17, ESV
Are you feeling hopeless?
Is there any hope for life beyond coronavirus?
What is hope? What’s the difference between hope and just wishful thinking?
Take just eight minutes to listen to this calm objective message about the basis for a real hope and a sure hope in the midst of crisis, confusion, and despair.
Click here to watch A Sure Hope.
NOTE: This is the first of what we hope will be many future video clips on apologetics-related subjects produced by ANCHOR NEW ENGLAND with Ryan Goding for the AIIA Institute.
To respond or for further information, click AIIAInstitute.org
Here is an updated statement on AIIA’s status, policies, and response to the current coronavirus crisis, as of Friday, April 3, 2020.
AIIA remains fully committed to participating in the battle to deter the further spread of the coronavirus, and to meet the challenges that will surely result from the long-term secondary effects of this crisis.
Because a significant portion of our work is done online and is dependent on the United States Postal Service, we hope to remain operative and productive for a while to come. But some changes are necessary in order to comply with current and developing CDC and governmental guidelines — as follows:
• All AIIA-related public events have been canceled through at least May 15. This includes the FAITH MATTERS meetings on April 4 and May 2. Please consult the events calendar on AIIA’s website for developing information on other future events.
• AIIA’s Study Center will be closed through at least May 15. I will continue working at the Study Center alone (or with Mary) at times, but the building will remain locked. (How strange it seems to write that!)
• We welcome all AIIA constituents and interested friends, regardless of worldview, to be in touch with us by phone (207.997.3644) or e-mail (AIIAInstitute@aol.com) as desired. We intend to promptly respond to all e-mails, phone calls, and surface (USPS) mail during this time.
• We intend to continue to publish and mail the PROCLAMATION. If you or someone you know is not currently receiving this free one-page bimonthly publication and would like to receive it, please provide us with the complete home mailing address(es).
• We plan to continue with most all other aspects of our normal work and routine that do not entail direct personal contact with others.
• We hope that by June 2020 circumstances will allow for the Appalachian Trail hiking season to be underway (to at least some extent) and, if so, we plan to be outside once again, exchanging with both hikers and the many art students participating in local art workshops and residencies.
Meanwhile, we are most grateful to God for friends like you who are willing to continue to support this work financially, and in prayer.
All that is happening is within the framework of God’s great plan for human history. Current circumstances are pressing many people from the previously mindless routines of their lives to think about the issues of life which really matter. As that happens, we are ready to be available, open for business with an account for our hope in Christ.
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” 1 Peter 3:15, NASB
The Northern Maine Apologetics Conference (NMAC) is currently scheduled to be held on July 15, 2020, in Mapleton, Maine.
This event is sponsored by Baptist Park and coordinated by the Rev. Dr. Kenneth E. Phelps, Aroostook Resource Minister.
Featured speaker will be Ryan Goding of the AIIA Institute and coordinator of AIIA’s newest initiative, Anchor New England.
Let’s think positive and look ahead, anticipating that these plans will become reality in July, according to the will of God.
Here are three relevant links:
• Click here to download the NMAC flier with mail-in registration form.
• Click here to visit the NMAC page on the Baptist Park website.
• Click here for details on time and location on AIIA’s website.
It’s a good time to think about heaven.
It’s an especially good time to sing songs about heaven.
The current COVID-19 crisis has triggered widespread uneasiness and discouragement — among even those who are not directly suffering from the virus itself.
Where can one turn? This crisis is international in scope. Its ripple effects have implications for everyone on the planet.
We can turn to God. And we can draw hope from His promise of a better future in a better land.
Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley have made popular these lyrics (originally attributed to A. E. E. Kennedy):
On heaven’s bright shore
There’ll be no more dying
Not one little grave
In all that fair land
Not even a tear will dim the eye,
And no one up there will say goodbye
Just singing His praise through endless days
On Heaven’s bright shore.
The Bible says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, ESV
In other words, Christian believers can not only consider what is now happening to be a reminder of what is to come — and that we’re just not quite there yet. By faith we can also read the future back into the present and actually consider what is happening today as solid evidence of better times ahead.
The coronavirus is “proof” of heaven!
If you are a follower of Jesus, allow this crisis to significantly increase your “conviction of things not seen.” If you are not a follower of Jesus, click here.
As of this writing (Wednesday afternoon, March 19, 2020), here at AIIA’s Study Center in north central Maine, we’re still feeling somewhat removed from the vortex of the COVID-19 pandemic that rages across the nation and around the world.
We realize that local developments might change tomorrow. So even at this point we’re resolved to do our part by participating in the great battle to deter the further spread of this virus, and to rise to the challenges that are bound to result from the longer-term secondary effects of this crisis.
In that regard, and in an effort to comply with current CDC and governmental guidelines, we have canceled all AIIA-related public events through at least April 30. This includes FAITH MATTERS on April 4. Please consult the events calendar on our website for developing information on other future events.
The Study Center will also be closed, except by appointment, through April 30. We will continue to be working at the Study Center most days and would welcome your call to 207.997.3644 to arrange terms for a personal visit inside.
We will continue to publish and mail the PROCLAMATION. We will continue to take calls and respond to email. And we will otherwise proceed with most all other aspects of our normal work and routine that do not entail direct contact with others.
We hope that by May circumstances will allow for the beginning of a fairly normal Appalachian Trail hiking season and, if so, we plan to be outside once again, exchanging with both hikers and the art students participating in local art workshops and residencies.
Meanwhile, we are most grateful to God for friends like you who are willing to continue to support our work financially, and in prayer, during this trying time.
For those of you who have expressed concern — yes, Andrew & Maureen and the children arrived safely back in the United State on Monday, March 16. After self-quarantining for two weeks, they plan to resume their normal routines in Harrisonburg VA.
These are, at least within our lifetimes, unprecedented developments. But we must not doubt in the dark what we’ve known to be true in the light. We must rather stubbornly stand firm when the ground all around us is shaking.
“For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5, ESV
ReasonableFaith.org is the website of William Lane Craig, a widely respected philosopher and one of the leading evangelical Christian thinkers of our time.
Reasonable Faith has produced a number of very excellent videos on the issues that matter most in life. Here is the link to a Youtube video entitled “Is There Meaning to Life?”
I think that you’ll find the illustration work as impressive as the content is profound.
Check it out by clicking here:
Here’s a brief reminder that the window of opportunity for sharing a tax deductible year-end financial contribution with AIIA is about to close.
In order to be able to deduct the value of your contribution as a charitable gift under IRS ruling 501(c)(3) that donation must be processed via PayPal or postmarked by the USPS no later than midnight on Tuesday, December 31.
If you believe in the worth of AIIA’s mission to defend historic Christian truth we would be most grateful for your support at this time.
Click here for ways to help AIIA, financially and otherwise, now and throughout the year.
On November 5, 2019, InterVarsity Press (IVP) published a book authored by Stephen Witmer titled: A Big Gospel in Small Places, © 2019 InterVarsity, 216 pages, ISBN 0830841555. The book is now available through Amazon, Christianbook, Barnes & Noble, and numerous other book vendors.
In the short time since its release the book has been garnering significant attention, praise, and awards from a variety of Christian media sources, including:
• WORLD Magazine’s 2019 Book of the Year (Short List: Accessible Theology)
• The Gospel Coalition’s 2019 Book Award (Ministry)
• The Send Institute’s Top 10 Church Planting-Related Books of 2019
You can read the official review from IVP itself by clicking here.
The paperback’s title (A Big Gospel in Small Places) and subtitle (Why Ministry in Forgotten Communities Matters) make the thesis of this book fairly clear. And while it may be of primary benefit to pastors and church leaders serving in small places, it should also prove informative to any and all believers living at a time when culture seems bent on promoting the idea that bigger is always necessarily better.
Stephen includes many stories from real life (including his growing-up years in Monson, Maine) to illustrate the importance of gospel ministry in every place. He cites studies and commentary by respected church leaders to make the case for ministering the gospel to all “the ends of the earth,” no matter the size, in obedience to the commission of Christ (Acts 1:8).
Stephen has pastored Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell MA since 2008, so he is able to draw on his own experiences as a minister.
This book is not apologetics-related per se, but along with reporting on this work by one of our own Witmer family members (Stephen is our son), we believe that you will find it enlightening in principle no matter where you live, shine, minister the gospel, and defend historic Christian truth. This book should prove well worth your time and while to read. You may then also decide to encourage your pastor by sharing a copy with him. (By the way I do not receive a commission for book sales!) — Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director
Someone recently wrote: “So America, a while back you decided to base your morality on the subjective shifting sands of political correctness instead of on the objective bedrock of Judeo-Christian values. How’s that working out for you?”
Consider these recent developments:
• In November 2019 PragerU conducted an impromptu survey on the campus at UC Berkely, asking students how many genders there are. One young lady stated that there are “72 genders” and began trying to list them. Another student asserted that there are an “infinite number” of genders. Another said: “You can define yourself as whatever you want.” And yet another claimed that gender is just “made up.”
The fellow conducting the survey asked a female student whether someone with male genitalia could be a woman. Without blinking she said “yes” — as if it was curious that such a question would even need to be asked.
• Also in November authorities in San Francisco announced that, from now on, no one was going to be prosecuted for urinating in public. They explained that such action is always the result of homelessness and poverty — and that victims of homelessness and poverty need the state’s (taxpayer-funded) support, not jail time.
• Mass shootings are on the rise all across the land. As of November 17, 2019, there had been 369 mass shootings in 2019 alone — already more than the number of days in the entire year.
• A Gallup poll revealed that in just over a decade there has been a marked increase in America’s acceptance of adultery, human cloning, suicide, homosexual relations, divorce, and polygamy.
Having rejected God’s Word (Decalogue, teachings of Jesus), we’re now off on a dangerous and impossible search for a viable substitute. But the options are limited. Human convention, social construct, political correctness, and universal acceptance, when posited as the basis for morality, are all doomed from the start. Why? Because they are human-based. What human or select group of humans are all other humans going to authorize to tell us (or maybe even order us!) what to believe and how to behave?
No one person and no group of persons, acting autonomously, on their own self-appointed authority, are in a position to decide what is moral or not moral for all other persons. Why? Because no humans, apart from Divine revelation, have any objective way of even knowing what is moral or not moral. Not even the most ardent self-assured secularists. And some of them, incredibly, seem to now be realizing that.
At AIIA’s Faith Matters event last month we reviewed the classic (2007) debate between famed atheist Richard Dawkins and Christian apologist John Lennox entitled The God Delusion. I was astounded when at one point I heard Dawkins say: “How do I know what’s moral? I don’t, on the whole . . .”
Amazing! He actually admitted that he doesn’t know what is moral. But then, as if suddenly realizing that it would never do to leave it at just that, and lest he be accused of laying the groundwork for rampant social breakdown, he began to desperately propose a basis for morality, including:
• “a kind of universal human acceptance that certain things are right and other things are not.”
• “a broad consensus.”
• “a kind of something in the air about what is regarded as moral.”
Something in the air? Really?! It’s my sense that any morality based on a foundation that is floating in the air will soon disappear into thin air. That would be nothing more than an imaginary morality. Fake morality. And it would fall upon its own crumbling foundation. Which is exactly what is happening. Twelve years after saying what he said, Dawkins now seems to be seeing just how baseless and nonviable any such construct really is.
On November 4, 2019, Jonathon Van Maren, posted a blog in which he explained that Dawkins, Bill Mahar, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and other notable secularists, are now evidently realizing how ugly things are becoming due to secularization and the ban on all things Christian. He wrote: “Many optimistic atheists recently believed that once God was dethroned and banished, we could finally live as adults and get on with the utopian project of creating a society based on faith in ourselves.” But that plan doesn’t seem to be turning out as well as projected.
Here are few particularly insightful quotes from his blog:
• “There is a very real possibility, [Douglas Murray] noted, that our modern concept of human rights, based as it is on a Judeo-Christian foundation, may very well outlive Christianity by only a few short years. Cut off from the source, our conception of human rights may shrivel and die very quickly, leaving us fumbling about in a thick and impenetrable darkness.”
• “Without the Christian underpinnings of our society, it will be up to us to decide what is right and wrong, and as our current culture wars clearly illustrate, our civilization will tear itself apart before it regains consensus.”
• “As recently as 2015, Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) was arguing that children needed to be protected from the religious views of their parents, and made a series of alarming comments regarding the rights of parents to educate their children in the tenets of their religious faith. By 2018, however, Dawkins was warning that the ‘benign Christian religion’ might be replaced by something decidedly less benign, and that perhaps we should take a step back to discuss what might happen if the evangelical secularists are successful in destroying or banishing Christianity.”
• “Dawkins’ conversion to the belief that Christianity is good — and perhaps even necessary — for Western civilization to function in harmony is nothing short of mind boggling. Dawkins has been one of secularism’s most intolerant fundamentalists, a man who believed that parents should be denied the right to pass on their faith and that the government should actively side with the godless over the faithful. In a few short years, he is changing his tune. Human beings, he seems to have recognized, cannot be counted on to be automatically good and to operate in the spirit of harmony and solidarity that he and his fellow New Atheists treasure.”
For further reflection on this subject, click here to watch a thought-provoking Youtube video posted by the Veritas Forum which presents an insightful (and rather lengthy) exchange with William Lane Craig, a leading evangelical Christian philosopher and apologist.
Here’s information on a significant apologetics event coming to north central Maine, this time sponsored by Ratio Christi and hosted at the University of Maine campus on November 13, 2019 at 6:00 PM.
Frank Turek is one of today’s leading Christian apologists. He is scheduled to be at this event in person.
AIIA endorses this event and encourages attendance by believers, skeptics, and seekers.
Click here to download and view the full-sized poster.
This blog is addressed to you if you are an agnostic willing to acknowledge that there may be at least something to the claims and person of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you are not fully persuaded at this point. But you have at least encountered the possibility of the reality of Christ. Maybe in the Bible. Maybe in the testimony of certain intelligent people. Maybe in the authenticity and hope that you’ve noticed in the lives of some people who follow Him.
You have also come to conclude that, if it really is true that the cosmos is all there is and that we as humans are nothing more than evolved chemicals, a certain void and purposelessness in life is inevitable, understandable, and logically justifiable.
You may have considered reaching out to God at some point. You may have considered giving God a try. But for now you’ve decided to play it safe and just remain agnostically neutral.
If that describes you, I’m bearing what may be some unsettling news. In defaulting to what you have considered to be a neutral position, and in not making a deliberate choice for Christ, you have actually forfeited your neutrality and are making a choice against Him every day.
An old Christian hymn says, “What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be. Someday your heart will be asking, ‘What will He do with me?’”
In the 1950s Sheldon Vanauken was in a similar position. Vanauken was a writer, a thinker, and a personal friend of C.S. Lewis. He and his young wife Davy (her maiden surname was Davis) were self-proclaimed pagans. But then in the course of just a few years they unexpectedly wholeheartedly converted to Christianity. How did that happen?
Vanauken recounts their journey from unbelief to agnosticism to Christian faith in a book that has become somewhat of a classic in Christian literature: A SEVERE MERCY, ©1987 HarperOne. The book is worth purchasing and reading in its entirety. But here I will try to relate the crux of how their conversion came about.
During a time of study at Oxford University, Sheldon and Davy became personally acquainted with a number of committed Christians. These people were educated and gracious. Over time they came to know them well and to deeply value their friendship with them. They had also been reading C.S. Lewis and the account of his conversion to Christ from atheism. Then also there was a series of plays on the life of Christ by Dorothy Sayers that deeply impressed them. At some point they both began to realize that their previous conclusions about Christianity being baseless and ridiculous were unfounded.
Then they read the Bible itself. For the first time they came to personally be aware that Jesus was more that just an isolated irrelevant historical figure.
Davy was the first to actually pray and come to Christ. Sheldon also began to believe that Jesus may be real as he encountered Him as described in Scripture. But, for a while he held out, wanting more hard proof before he would actually make a decision.
Then suddenly one day he came to the “chilling realization” that he could not ever realistically go back, turning away from Christ. He said it this way:
“The position was not, as I had been comfortably thinking all these months, merely a question of whether I was to accept the Messiah or not. It was a question of whether I was to accept Him—or reject. My God! There was a gap behind me, too. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble—but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not. If I were to accept, I might and probably would face the thought through the years: ‘Perhaps, after all, it’s a lie; I’ve been had!’ But if I were to reject, I would certainly face the haunting, terrible thought: ‘Perhaps it’s true—and I have rejected my God!’”
At that point he realized that there was only one thing to do — and he did it — flinging himself “over the gap towards Jesus.” He then wrote to C.S. Lewis, who by that time he had met personally, visited numerous times, and become friends. He told Lewis that after he had chosen to believe in God his life was “made full instead of empty, meaningful instead of meaningless.” But he also described in important detail what it meant for him to believe even without complete proof.
He wrote that even “choosing to believe is believing.” He said that he prayed: “Lord, I believe—help Thou mine unbelief.” He confessed his doubts and asked for God’s help to overcome them. Then he told his wife: “I have chosen — the Christ! I choose to believe.” Choosing to believe, for him, in the end, came down to nothing more or less than a conscious deliberate act of the will.
Vanauken says that Davy “looked at me with joy. Then she came over to me and knelt. I knelt, too, and committed my ways to my God. When we rose, we held each other a long moment. It is perhaps significant that we prayed first.”
The AIIA Institute was incorporated in 1991. It has been headquartered here in Monson, Maine, ever since.
Like many other small towns in Piscataquis County, the town seemed to be in decline for a long time. Then something happened a few years ago that changed that trend — something that has the potential to make a long term difference in this town.
Some of you have noted what we’ve periodically written about this new development since 2017. Now, in its September 2019 issue, Down East magazine — probably the state’s leading Maine-based monthly periodical — features a carefully-researched and very well-written article on what’s happening in this little northwoods village. The article includes a gallery of great photographs. It is well worth reading. It might even make you want to come visit Monson, eat locally, and tour AIIA’s Study Center.
There’s a photo of the Study Center in the article, and of even our silver van parked in the driveway. Can you spot it?
Here’s the link — click here.
Let us know what you think.
My sons have long sung the praises of novelist Wendell Berry. So about a year ago I bought Berry’s most famous fictional work, Jayber Crow, and began listening to it last week on our return trip to Maine from Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Jayber Crow, the main character in the novel by his name, grew up as an orphan. In this book he relates the story of his struggle with loneliness and love and meaning. He settled in Port Williams, Kentucky, and eventually went on to serve for over 30 years as that town’s barber. But earlier in his life, for a short time, he thought that he might have experienced a call to ministry. So he enrolled in seminary.
At some point, however, he began asking lots of questions about life, truth, the reliability and relevance of the Bible, and various other matters of faith.
Jayber Crow approached a number of his professors with these questions, but he says that they all only told him to have more faith, to pray, and to give up his questioning — which was “a sign of weakness.”
Finally he arranged an interview with perhaps the most greatly respected seminary professor of all — a scholar by the name of Dr. Ardmire.
He went in and said, “I’ve got a lot of questions” — and began listing them: “If Jesus told us to love our enemies, how can it be right to kill them in war? If Jesus told us not to pray in public, why do we do it anyway? If Jesus prayed, ‘Thy will be done,’ then why shouldn’t we also? But what’s the point of praying for God’s will to be done if God’s will is going to be done anyway?”
Dr. Ardmire asked Jayber Crow if he had any answers to the questions he was raising. Crow said, “No.” So the professor said, “You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out — perhaps a little at a time.” Jayber asked, “And how long is that going to take?” Dr. Ardmire said, “I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.”
So Jayber Crow walked out of that room, dropped out of seminary, lost his confidence in much of Scripture, and ostensibly renounced a great deal of the faith that he had previously professed.
I have not yet finished the book, but as I listened to even just this part of the story, I thought, “Oh, the answers to all of those questions are fairly easy. What a shame that there was no one at the seminary, or in his life, who could have pointed him to intellectually accurate and credible answers.”
This is yet one more illustration of the critical need for effective Christian apologetics!
The story of Jayber Crow’s life would have almost certainly taken a different trajectory if he had been given guidance when he needed it. Instead of becoming a barber (as honorable as that profession may be), he may well have gone on to serve a church. But even more importantly, if the claims of Christ are true — as I believe them to be, and as there is much evidence for them being — Mr. Crow and the lives of all he influenced would most likely have been far better prepared to meet their Maker on the day when God will judge every human in Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16).
If you’re within driving range of Harrisonburg, Virginia, this coming Monday evening, August 12, we’d love to spend a little time with you at an AIIA-sponsored reception.
Our entire Witmer family plans to be present.
From its very inception we have tried to make AIIA more than a ministry of mere sterile academic apologetics. We’ve attempted to make it existential, alive, and connected with the real world in which we all live.
One major way in which we’ve done this is by sharing our family’s journey in life and in matters of faith — the good, the bad, and the ugly. In every single issue of our thoughtletter publication, the Proclamation, since April of 1991, we’ve included a Witmer Family Report with this byline: “An Album & Diary of One Family’s Efforts to Anchor the Business of Life in the Bedrock of Truth.”
This week our family’s focus is on five-year-old John Wyatt Witmer. Wyatt means “warrior.” Since his birth in May of 2014 he has had to be warrior-tough in facing the challenges of life with a serious congenital heart defect: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).
So far John has undergone two open heart surgeries. Tomorrow (Thursday, June 13, 2019) morning at 7:00 AM he is scheduled for his third surgery, the Fontan procedure, which is intended to divert the venous blood supply from the lower part of his body directly to his pulmonary arteries, bypassing the right ventricle altogether.
Surgery and recovery from any heart surgery entails substantial risk but with a five-year-old a whole other set of challenges and potential issues arise. So we’re seriously bracing to trust God in this chapter of our family’s life — especially throughout the long day tomorrow and in the weeks ahead.
Mary and I have nine grandchildren. John Wyatt is the youngest.
The parents of our daughter-in-law, Maureen, are in Charlottesville, Virginia, this week with John’s immediate family (his parents: our son Andrew and our daughter-in-law Maureen, and his siblings: Katie and Ben.) Charlottesville is home to the UVA Hospital where John will be admitted and undergo his operation very early tomorrow morning.
If all goes well, two months from now, after his initial recovery, our entire Witmer family hopes to gather in Harrisonburg VA (where John and his family live). But meanwhile, tomorrow and in the immediate days ahead, there is surgery and recovery.
So this is where the “rubber” of apologetics meets the “road” of life.
Does God exist? Is He reliable? Can we totally surrender John to Him? Is He altogether sovereign? Does He know and care about all of what is happening in our world this week? What is His true nature? Why did He allow this little boy to be born with a heart defect in the first place — suffering once again now all of the pain and trauma and limitations that go along with it? Is the Bible really God’s Word? Can we bank on all of its promises at a time like this? Do our prayers make a difference? How should we pray?
We invite those of you who are interested in following this story in real time, and maybe joining us in praying for the Harrisonburg Witmer family, to view and/or subscribe to their own current family blog by clicking here for unfolding details and updates:
What do you know about Buddhism?
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What question often leaves Buddhists stumped?
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You may be among those who follow and pray for our family as well as our ministry.
If so, we’d appreciate your prayers for our youngest grandson, John Wyatt Witmer (age 5), son of Andrew & Maureen Witmer (Harrisonburg VA) in the time before, during, and after his third major open heart surgery, now scheduled for June 13, 2019 at the UVA Hospital in Charlottesville VA.
John was born on May 1, 2014, with a serious heart condition known as HLHS.
Thanks to the grace of God, much loving care from his parents, family, and friends, and amazing advances in medicine for dealing with this condition, John has had a great active five years of life. But now the time has come for this third critical surgery.
The best and most direct way for you to follow this story is to view (and subscribe to) the VA Witmers’ family blog at this link.
Lots of photos and details already posted, with more to follow.
Thanks for being “with us” all during this time.
Did God supernaturally inspire the king of Israel to write about the coming Messiah’s death by crucifixion 1000 years before it actually even happened?
If so, what are the implications for the Divine authorship of all Scripture?
On this Good Friday 2019, here’s an up-to-date revision of a thoughtletter that was originally published fourteen years ago.
In the May-June 2019 issue of AIIA’s Proclamation thoughtletter (scheduled for publication later this month), I refer to an exchange that I had with a Buddhist some time ago in which he contended that in 325 A.D. the Council of Nicea purged all references to reincarnation from the Bible. He said that prior to 325 A.D. reincarnation was a common Christian belief.
In my account of that exchange I explain that I quickly refuted that contention. But how? Exactly how do we best refute such a claim?
Well, other that for stating boldly that the claim simply isn’t true, we might ask the person making the claim for documentation. If the one claiming that reincarnation was once standard Christian doctrine knows what he/she is talking about, they should have no problem citing and producing reliable and convincing sources. But of course they won’t be able to do that, because there are none.
It might also be helpful to ask the individual making the claim just how such a mass deletion of selected lines would even be practically possible. For example, I might say, “Can you please explain to me how the relatively few Christian leaders meeting at Nicea would have been able to physically get ahold of the thousands of handwritten New Testament manuscripts that had already been circulated all over the Middle East (and beyond) for approximately 300 years by that time, and completely expunge (secretly or otherwise) every single mention of reincarnation from every single document?”
In addition, if reincarnation was truly an established Christian belief at the time, why wouldn’t there have been an outcry among many Christians and churches who held this belief and were presumably convinced that Jesus Himself had endorsed the doctrine of reincarnation?
Finally, as Christian apologist Greg Koukl points out: “How would anybody know it [if all references to reincarnation really had been taken out] a millennium and a half ago? How would you even know that it used to be there and now it’s not there any more? Would you find eraser marks or something?”
In his book, Tactics, Koukl articulates most of the points mentioned above in order to demonstrate just how preposterous the whole idea is that Jesus, the early Church, or the Bible ever endorsed the idea of reincarnation at all.
The truth is, as Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” We only go around once. We only live one life here on earth in the present age. And we only physically die one death.
This is why it is absolutely crucial for us humans to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord now, in this life, and to receive Him as the only one able to forgive our sins and make us right with God. As John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
— Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director
On March 8, 2019, I completed an initial cursory read-through of Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution, ©2019 HarperOne, by Michael J. Behe, PhD.
Behe is a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and author of the previously-published highly-noted work, Darwin’s Black Box.
In this just-released book Behe explains how recent scientific advances demonstrate for the first time just how impossible it would have been for random mutation and natural selection, acting alone and as traditionally understood (i.e. mechanisms of evolution rather than devolution), to explain the development of life forms on this planet. He makes it clear that neo-Darwinian materialism and its underlying assumptions are categorically false. But then he goes further; he makes the case for mind as the critical component behind all purpose and design.
I personally wish that Dr. Behe would go still further in declaring that it is the mind of the infinite personal God of the universe — as revealed in Scripture — that is behind life, just as the Apostle Paul got specific about the identity of the “unknown God” in Acts 17:16-34. But for whatever reasons, Behe does not do that.
Nevertheless, this new book has the potential to be a real game-changer.
Dr. Tom Woodward — research professor, apologist, AIIA Ministry Associate, and keynote speaker at the Why Jesus? 2016 event in Bangor, Maine — says this about Behe’s latest release: “I view this as potentially the single most important book ever published — ever published — critiquing Darwinism and setting forth the case for design.”
Woodward says that he believes that the Neo-Darwinian Paradigm “is going to falter badly and quickly, perhaps in 2019.” He says that he has “been so encouraged, chapter by chapter, by the clever strategy, the rich detail, the sheer excellence of scientific content and felicitous/humorous writing” by Dr. Behe in Darwin Devolves that “it is really hard to put in words how historically pivotal this one book can be.” In anticipation of the book’s release, Woodward says: “. . . let the tsunami begin.”
Actually, it may turn out to be just as much of a war as a tsunami. Darwinian evolutionary doctrine is so entrenched in our academic centers and culture today. If Darwinism were to fall, the pride and reputation and investment of so many would fall with it. More significantly, people would be forced to acknowledge the increased likelihood of a supernatural intelligent Creator — and the fact that they might be accountable to that Creator, even morally, if it turns out that the Creator instituted a moral code for humanity.
If this new book really was to send Darwinism into a final death spiral, I have no doubt that there would be a scramble to advance many alternate evolutionary theories. But Dr. Behe seems to have anticipated even that, and effectively refutes many such alternative theories in this text.
Much of Darwin Devolves is highly technical and I am not a biochemist or career scientist. But even if you are like me in that respect you will be able to capture the major concepts set forth here, and therefore be better informed and better equipped to counter the weary old arguments for mindless materialism the next time you hear them being asserted. For that reason — and even if you currently do affirm Darwinism — I recommend that you read this book. It’s now available via AmazonSmile, and listed among many other valuable resources in AIIA’s web store. — Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director
Robert Valiant, an AIIA Ministry Associate from southern New Hampshire, recently authored an 11-page critique of BIOLOGY (©2008 edition, Prentice Hall), a major textbook that has been used for many years in public school classrooms across the country.
Mr. Valiant’s critique is respectful, yet precise and candid in exposing the macro-evolutionary assumptions that undergird much of its contents.
We believe that this critique is worth reading regardless of your views on evolution. Teachers, students, homeschoolers, administrators, and parents should all thoughtfully consider what is written here.
Click here to download a free .pdf file of the paper.
If you have resulting questions or would like to exchange directly with the author of this critique on the contents of the paper, please direct your comments and questions to :
So many wars and conflicts throughout history have been driven by religion. Why believe in a God who advocates war and violence? Why accept a Bible that seems to repeatedly condone horrible human atrocities?
How should a Christian respond to such charges?
Here are three salient points:
1. The Bible does not always condone all of what is recorded in its pages. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus is an example.
2. In a fallen world, a case can sometimes be made for the lesser of two evils. Sometimes violence has prevented even worse violence. What might have happened if World War II had not stopped Hitler? In the Old Testament God commanded Israel to destroy nations that were sacrificing living children on altars — and other horrible practices.
3. It’s not only religion that has sourced war and violence. In the twentieth century alone, atheistic anti-religious leaders and regimes accounted for more killing than in all previous nineteen centuries combined. Incredible but true.
In her excellent book, Is the Bible Intolerant? Sexist? Oppressive? Homophobic? Outdated? Irrelevant?, © 2005 InterVarsity Press, Amy Orr-Ewing dedicates one very helpful chapter to this subject: What About All the Wars?
In elaborating on the second point above, for instance, Orr-Ewing writes: “Would it be a demonstration of goodness to show no opposition to evil?” She later adds: “We need to take a big-picture view of war and struggle from the beginning of the Bible to the end and see the whole as a cosmic struggle between good and evil.” “. . .a Christian reading of the Old Testament would interpret the battles it depicts in this context of a larger struggle.”
If this brief commentary raises other associated questions in your mind, chances are good that Orr-Ewing has addressed them in this chapter. Purchasing and reading this book would be a worthy investment of your time and money.
Are all Christians intellectually deficient?
In his highly-touted book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris (neuroscientist, atheist, author) caustically writes: “Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anybody else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book that he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity that will punish him by fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”
Require no evidence? Really?! Harris has evidently never read any of the hundreds of thoughtful evidence-filled texts in AIIA’s Study Center library, or met any of the thousands of sharp, intellectually-discerning, devout Christians who’ve lived on this planet down through time. For instance, can he really be serious in saying what he says when it comes to the likes of C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, and Jonathan Edwards (to name just a few)?
But perhaps Harris does inadvertently make one disturbing point — there may be too few Christians today who actually do engage their minds, demand credible evidence for faith, and are able to competently defend their faith.
That is precisely why AIIA exists — to promote thoughtful evidence-based belief through effective Christian apologetics. And what we and many others are doing seems to be working. Read on.
Ten years ago we were hearing a lot about an aggressive affront on Christianity known as the New Atheism. Leading proponents included the so-called Four Horseman (Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet). But today that initiative seems to be fading. Hitchens died in 2011 and the arguments of others have grown old and stale after being challenged by skilled learned apologists. In response to Dawkin’s The God Delusion, Alistair McGrath wrote The Dawkins Delusion. In response to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, Timothy Paul Jones wrote Misquoting Truth. In response to Sam Harris’ noted work, The End of Faith, Ravi Zacharias published The End of Reason. And so on.
Make no mistake — opposition to Christian truth has not gone away — and never will in this age. It will always inevitably rise in some alternate form. Today one rising form seems to be paganism and witchcraft. But it currently appears that the New Atheism is reeling — on the ropes — due to some serious blows being landed by faithful knowledgable defenders of Christian truth.
Psalm 14:1 says that it is fools who say in their heart, “There is no God.”
Individual atheists and skeptics come and go over the years. But the truth goes marching on.
Late last night I finished reading a new book by Abdu Murray, North American Director of RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries).
It’s entitled Saving Truth | Finding Meaning & Clarity in a Post-Truth World, © 2018 Zondervan.
This blog is not intended as a formal review of the book. Not at all. I’m only citing here a few of the provocative insights that I noted as I read through the book. Some of the insights I immediately and enthusiastically appreciated. One made me think more deeply, and that is also usually a good thing. What can you learn from, or what do you think about, the following quotes from the book?
• Murray writes about a young man with whom he once spoke who “wanted to disbelieve, so he turned to sources that would reinforce his preferences.” Murray says that “this is a quite human tendency, innate in all of us. It’s called ‘confirmation bias.’ Truth didn’t matter. His preferences mattered.” Wow — interesting — okay. But I wonder, can even Christians ever be legitimately charged with ‘confirmation bias’ rather than being extremely attentive, careful, thoughtful, and a objective as possible whenever we engage with those who are not yet believers?
• Murray says: “A skeptic won’t believe a truth claim until there is sufficient evidence. A cynic won’t believe even if there is.”
• In his chapter on science and faith Murray refers to “David Hume, the brilliant Scottish skeptic” who, in making the case for scientism (i.e. “that science is the sole method for understanding truth”), once actually stated that “if a claim or idea can’t be measured, experimented on, or mathematically proven, we ought to ‘commit it the flame . . .’ But Murray says that at this point Hume, despite his brilliance, “made a colossal error because his very argument can’t be measured, experimented on, or mathematically proven. And so Hume would have to commit his own argument to the flames. How fascinating that such a brilliant man stoked a furnace that would consume his own philosophy.”
• Murray says that “If we go to heaven, the pain of our lives will be wiped away. But God, no many how many are in heaven with him, will eternally remember—and perhaps eternally grieve—the loss of those who choose not to spend eternity with him. His pain over rejection is as eternal as he is.” Really? True? Do you concur? Is there a specific Scripture that corroborates Murray’s point? I’m still trying to process a lot of what’s packed into those few statements.
These are just a few of many other statements and insights that Murray offers in this book — whether you immediately concur with all of them or not.
In 2019 let’s resolve to be wide, attentive, thoughtful, discerning readers and believers!
THE WITMERS IN MONSON, MAINE
IS GOD’S TRUTH under serious attack these days?
IS THE INCREASED ATTRITION OF YOUTH from evangelical churches due in large measure to the fact that so many young people believe that there just are no good answers to the tough questions about life and faith and truth?
IS THE BATTLE FOR TRUTH particularly evident in northern New England?
DO YOU BELIEVE that AIIA is (and has been for over 25 years now) effectively and faithfully engaged on the front lines of spiritually needy Maine and New England regarding such issues?
MIGHT GOD MOVE YOU to financially support AIIA’S promotion and practice of Christian apologetics in 2019?
HAS GOD BLESSED YOU with a good salary, a recent special gift, or some retirement fund disbursements — enabling you to use discretionary income to support this work?
DO YOU SHARE OUR HISTORIC ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW? If not, or if you have not previously contributed to AIIA, we do not ask or expect you to do so now. But if you do, and if you are willing to support our work, please make your check payable to “AIIA Institute” and mail it with your complete name and current address to AIIA at:
PO Box 262 • Monson ME 04464-0262.
You can also contribute by credit card online by clicking the PayPal button on AIIA’s website at AIIAInstitute.org
All contributions to AIIA are fully tax deductible as per section 170 and 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Every contribution will be promptly acknowledged and receipted.
IMPORTANT NOTE: To qualify for a deduction on the tax return that you will file next Spring, your contribution must be made, postmarked, or emailed no later than midnight on December 31, 2018.
Someone once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
Do you know where you’re going today? Do you know where you’re going in life? Or are you just meandering along in a maze of meaninglessness?
Some of the most basic questions that Christian apologetics seeks to address are the questions of purpose: Why am I here? What really matters? Does my life count?
Do you have the big picture when it comes to your time of life on Planet Earth? Do you get up in the morning with that big picture in mind? Do you know why you’re going to go through the routine of another day? Can you explain how retirement will help to serve your ultimate purposes in life? How do you deal with life’s detours and delays?
There may be no greater ramifications to your being clear — or not clear — about your overriding purposes in life than when it comes to adversity and suffering. When your world suddenly falls apart you’re going to want to be clear about the big picture in life, or you may quickly capsize as powerful waves of loneliness, pain, fear, and desperation roll over you. Let me cite just one example of how this works.
John Piper has written a short booklet entitled Don’t Waste Your Cancer in which he lists ten ways that even Christians can forfeit powerful opportunities in the midst of the vortex of dealing with this terrible condition. The number five (#5) way that he lists is this: “You will waste your cancer if you think that ‘beating’ cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.” Piper says that “Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ.” He quotes both Philippians 3:8 — “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” — and Philippians 1:21 — “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Over a century earlier Charles Spurgeon said something similar: “If [God’s] glory will come of it, shall I not even crave the honor of being the agent of his glory, even though it be by lying passive and enduring in anguish.”
Why are you here? What will make your life matter most? Get the big picture. Make your destination the glory of God. Then chart your path accordingly.
Great news today from Homer Hill in Monson, Maine.
Yesterday (Wednesday, December 5) at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, Mary and I met with Dr. John Klemperer, the surgeon who performed her aortic valve replacement procedure on November 1. Mary had been making good progress for weeks, so we were optimistic that he would probably reduce the number of post-surgical restrictions in place since her operation. Still, we weren’t prepared for what actually happened when he walked in the door of the examining room at about 1:13 PM.
Mary had just undergone a number of tests in preparation for the appointment (EKG, X-ray). So Dr. Klemperer began by telling us that he had just reviewed the results of those tests. Then he looked carefully at Mary and said, “Things seem fine. So — no more restrictions. You can resume your normal routine. Except for any really strenuous activity, there’s no need for any further restrictions.”
Just like that. Mary was suddenly cleared to drive, sleep on her side, discontinue all post-surgical meds, stop wearing TEDS, end all spirometer exercises, vacuum the house, do the laundry, and resume most everything else that was part of her normal routine before aortic valve stenosis ever became an issue. And the doctor was saying all of this just five weeks (today) from the date of her surgery. Amazing. We couldn’t have asked for more.
He briefly examined Mary’s wounds, listened to her heart, and answered a few more questions. Then he verified what he’d said when he first entered the room and was gone. It all happened very quickly.
We immediately began trying to comprehend what this sudden development was going to mean for us.
On the way back to the hospital lobby to meet with Vin Upham (Vice-Chairman of AIIA’s Board of Directors and retired minister from New York who has been our caregiver over the past five weeks), we began to realize that, if this was indeed where things stood, Vin should probably be released to return to his home and wife, Charlene.
So when we got back to Monson Vin filled the wood box, filled both of our vehicles with gas, and took care of a few other odds and ends. Then, after a good night’s sleep, he was off — on the road even before 8:00 AM this morning.
What Vin has done for us since his arrival over five weeks ago should be carefully marked and remembered as a powerful example of what it means to serve others in the name of Christ. He set aside his own comfortable retirement schedule, took some unknown risks, got his hands dirty, hauled our garbage to the dump, painted a wall at the Study Center, made a cherry pie, baked fresh bread, built many wood fires, shoveled lots of snow, and much more. For doing this he sought no attention and refused all payment. And he did it with a positive spirit.
As an added bonus for me, Vin was conversant on key matters that we both care deeply about — theology, apologetics, the glory of God, and the best way to influence culture and introduce people to Jesus. The morning after helping me to get a hot shower he got up, put on the coffee, served up some waffles, and then — after discussing a morning devotional reading by Charles Spurgeon — engaged with me in a lively discussion on the critical difference between the economic and ontological subordination of the Son to the Father in the relationship of the Holy Trinity for eternity. Like I said, things that really matter.
Tonight we are most grateful to God for seeing us through the events of November 2018 which we had long dreaded but which are now history. We don’t know what may await us tomorrow or next week or next month, but tonight all seems well on Homer Hill.
Thank you for praying for us and journeying along on this adventure by means of reading this blog. I hope that you will continue to read as we post on other matters in the future.
Meanwhile, have a very Merry Christmas.
Daryl E. Witmer
NOTE: Although Mary and I read all of the public comments made in response to this blog, we typically only reply to personal email. If you choose to send us personal email you can address it to AIIA@AIIAInstitute.org and put the words “Personal to the Witmers” in the subject line.
EVERYBODY HAS TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING.
I believe I’ll have another piece of cake.
Chocolate cake. Lots of frosting. Eat, drink, be merry. Tomorrow we might . . . eat even more. Anything wrong with hedonism?
If you live within driving range of AIIA’s Study Center in Monson, Maine, plan now join us at our Faith Matters event this coming Saturday, December 1, 2018, to hear Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale talk (on DVD) about hedonism, relativism, and humanism — all part of our second review of a brand new curriculum kit from RZIM (Jesus Among Secular Gods) that addresses some of today’s major challenges to Christian faith. Click the link below for time, location, and other details:
Just a brief update here this morning to let those of you who are interested know that Mary continues to make good progress in healing from her aortic valve replacement procedure on November 1.
The one persistent challenge has been getting a good night’s sleep due to discomfort in her back and near her primary incision. To date the surgeon’s office has discouraged her from sleeping on her side and, because she is normally a side-sleeper, this leaves no real options but either lying on her back or sitting up most of the night. Neither makes for a very restful night’s sleep. Pain has been kept in check with Tylenol, though; there have been no wound infections, and we’re pleased that she otherwise seems to be steadily healing inside and out.
Winter has arrived early here in north central Maine. Yesterday we were planning to attend church for the first time since Mary’s surgery, but services were canceled due to a wintry mix which, as it turned out, didn’t become much of an issue until later in the day. Tomorrow a much larger storm system is coming in which makes it unlikely that we will be able to keep an appointment with Mary’s primary care physician.
Snowbanks are already piling up. In previous years we’ve seen far less snow in mid-December than we already have on the ground today. There have also been days when the thermometer didn’t make it about 10 degrees above zero (Fahrenheit). So the wood stove has been fired up and doing its job most days.
Because of Mary’s hospital stay, snow, ice, bitter cold, and holidays, I have been working from my home office more than usual over the past four weeks. Still, with Beth May’s help, I’ve been able to spend enough days in my office at AIIA’s Study Center to keep up.
In terms of Mary’s specific medical progress and her ability to resume daily tasks, driving, and routines, the results of an appointment with her surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, on December 5 in Bangor will probably be more definitive.
Meanwhile, thanks for continuing to track along with us on the journey back to what will be “normalcy.”
NOTE: Although Mary and I read all of the public comments made in response to this blog, we typically only reply to personal email. If you choose to send us personal email you can address it to AIIA@AIIAInstitute.org and put the words “Personal to the Witmers” in the subject line.
Daryl E. Witmer
In the four days since my last post on Mary’s status there have been a number of positive developments.
First, the bleeding from a secondary wound created during Mary’s open heart surgery on November 1 has now almost totally ended. That’s a huge relief. Second, she has been taken off Coumadin, the anticoagulant that she was put on because of some early-on bouts with afib (her heart reverted to sinus rhythm over ten days ago). Third, because she is no longer taking Coumadin there is no reason for her INR to be checked, so the visiting nurse service has now also been discontinued. And finally, she has been trying a new sleeping arrangement which seems to be significantly reducing her discomfort from back pain during the night.
These are all welcome steps in the right direction as we approach the three-week mark since her surgery this coming Thursday. So much for which we’ll be thankful to God on that special day.
A determinative five-week checkup with the surgeon himself is now scheduled for December 5 in Bangor. After six weeks, many aortic valve replacement patients can drive again and return to a more normal routine. And after six weeks Vin Upham, the retired minister from NY who has volunteered his time to be our caregiver, will be heading home. So we’re now just two days short of being halfway to that big milestone.
We know that many of you have been praying for us, for Vin (and his wife Charlene in NY) and, more specifically and recently, for Mary’s wounds to heal. We very much appreciate that. Prayer requires discipline and work and selflessness. But while we appreciate your prayers, we are giving all the glory to God, not you, for these positive developments. At the same time we are also fully aware that, in His great providential plan for this world, not everyone (including us) is always going to be delivered from adversity even though many people may be praying fervently for such deliverance. Mary and I know that our own circumstances may change tomorrow, and that we must somehow try to be resolved to give God glory even in times of adversity. Job once said, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10 HCSB) That was a rhetorical question. The implied answer was clearly, “No way. We can ask. He will determine. We must accept.”
One day during Mary’s hospitalization I met a man in the cafeteria whose wife was not doing well at all. In fact, he said that her heart was only functioning at 5% capacity and that, frankly, her life was in the balance. I prayed with him that God would intervene if that might be within the framework of His greater will. That very evening I happened to see this man again. He was full of joy. He said that her condition had suddenly dramatically reversed and that they were now even talking about the possibility of her going home within a few days. With much enthusiasm he exclaimed, “There’s real power in prayer.” I said, “No. I need to correct you. There’s real power with God. Our prayers might often serve to release His power. But we need to credit God, not our prayers, for the change in your wife’s condition today. I know what you mean, but words matter, and God is not willing to share his glory with any other person, being, effort, or thing (Isaiah 42:8) — not even with human prayer power. So, no — prayer doesn’t change things. Our prayers may play a supportive role, but it’s God who changes things. All glory to Him.”
The poor fellow hadn’t been expecting a sermon at that point, but he was so happy that things had turned around for his wife that he just nodded agreement with all that I had said, and he was smiling widely the last time I saw him.
Meanwhile, back on Homer Hill in Monson, Maine, we’re bracing for what forecasters are warning may be the coldest Thanksgiving on record in this region. Temps are to top out in the low single numbers. But Vin will have a warm fire burning in the wood stove. And he says that he is planning a meal of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Already today (Tuesday) he’s working on a cherry pie (my favorite) which he has warned will be totally off limits until Thanksgiving Day. What he doesn’t know is that I’m seriously considering setting my alarm for 12:01 AM on Thursday morning.
Thanks for reading along once again.
Daryl E. Witmer
It’s been a number of days since I’ve provided an update on Mary’s recovery from aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1.
In general she is making good headway but we’re learning that there’s a lot more to this experience than a one-time two-hour operation on the heart itself. Along with the primary incision to access her heart the surgeon made a number of other incisions for various other related purposes. One incision was used for post-op chest drainage and to channel a set of wires running directly to her heart. Mary said that pulling out those wires, which were still attached to her heart, on the day of discharge (five days after surgery) was probably the most painful moment of her entire stay in the hospital. That wound has still not healed and, because she is on Coumadin, it has continued to bleed. In fact, yesterday she needed to report in person to the doctor’s office for it to be examined. There is no infection or totally out-of-control bleeding as of this morning, but the surgeon’s office and Mary’s PCP are actively monitoring developments (a number of phone calls again today) and we will certainly appreciate your prayers that this situation will soon resolve.
Otherwise Mary is gaining strength, walking regularly (inside because of all the snow and ice), showering daily, and even entertaining a few friends who have stopped by for a brief visit. We’ve been blessed with plenty of food and grateful for all of the many gracious expressions (cards, comments on blog, phone calls) of concern and support. God has blessed us through the kindness of family and friends like you.
Vin Upham, AIIA board member and retired minister from New York who had made himself available as our caregiver, continues to work hard every single day — laundering, chauffeuring, cleaning, snow blowing, cooking, picking up the mail, baking pies and homemade bread, running the wood stove, grocery shopping, and so much more. He is always promptly available when we need him and he does all that he does with a cheerful spirit.
Without going into a great deal of detail (that might take a book) I will say that our normal space, privacy (I’ve always been rather intensely private), and my personal male dignity have all taken a hit during this time. Most of that is just unavoidable and perhaps even serves some greater purpose. But it’s been hard at times. If you’ve ever been physically vulnerable or dependent you know that it isn’t easy. I’ve been in the hospital many times but somehow what isn’t such a big issue there is more so here in my own home. Why is that? Our schedules and lives have been — and still are — significantly altered. But we’re all buoyed by the fact that this is time-limited, and mindful that for so many others that is not the case.
Because Vin Upham is on AIIA’s board and has spent a lifetime in Christian ministry, he shares my interest in theology and apologetics. That has made for some interesting conversations over the breakfast and dinner table. Yesterday his cereal was getting soggy and my coffee was getting cold as we conversed with much animation about everything from the doctrine of election to exactly what we Christians mean when we say that Jesus is “real” in our lives. Mary had long since excused herself to get on with the day.
Well, if you’re still reading at this point you must be more than casually interested in our lives — and very patient. That is also an encouragement. Thanks for being “with” us in this journey.
Daryl E. Witmer
Suppose someone says to you, “Everyone has their own worldview — which makes true objectivity impossible. If true objectivity is impossible then no worldview can be considered universally valid. Therefore Christianity is not universally valid. Christian belief may be fine for you but please don’t claim that it’s true for everyone.”
How would you respond?
Does the logic in that syllogism break down somewhere? If so, where?
Can you offer an intelligent reply (an apologetic) to such an argument — before reading on?
Well . . . if someone asserts that no worldview can be considered universally valid, you might ask them if that assertion itself is universally valid. If not, who decides when it is valid at all, or even if it is ever valid? If so, then wouldn’t that make the assertion self-defeating and meaningless?
HERE’S A LINK to a free 28-page e-book from Southern Evangelical Seminary — one of the leading educational institutions in the United States that specialize in Christian apologetics. In Chapter 6 this great little e-book makes a convincing case for Christian truth and provides a sound response to the questions outlined above. It’s readable and understandable. Take time to download and check it out a copy today.
Daryl E. Witmer, AIIA Executive Director
Mary continues to steadily recuperate from aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1. Thanks for tracking along with her progress here and on previous blogs.
Each day seems to be another step in the right direction. Yesterday she had an appointment with our family physician. Dr. Perlman confirmed that she is now back in sinus rhythm. That, and the fact that her heart rate has also now slowed to near normal levels, is very good news. Perhaps she will soon be able to come off the anticoagulant, Coumadin. Her primary wound is healing well but the site of another related incision had recently become red. However the doctor was not overly concerned and recommended some localized precautionary measures rather than prescribing antibiotics at this point, which was just fine with us. Enough pills the way it is.
Vin & Charlene Upham have been AIIA board members for many years. Vin is a retired minister who lives near Utica NY. Upon learning that Mary and I were unable to arrange for our home care needs less than two weeks before Mary’s surgery, on Saturday morning, October 20, at our AIIA Board of Directors meeting in Portland, Maine, Vin informed us that he was willing to serve us in that way. So with his wife Charlene’s blessing, on October 30 he drove 500 miles from his home to ours, arriving just before our seven day stint in Bangor, allowing me to be with Mary during her time in the hospital. Since arriving back in Monson on November 6 Vin has been cooking (some great meals, e.g. spaghetti and meat balls from scratch, stir-fry last night, blueberry pancakes this morning), cleaning, hauling trash, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, helping me with personal needs (Mary can take care of herself in that way with the help of a visiting nurse), and even making a few home improvements. He does all this with a smile, a positive spirit, and a lot of energy. We know that he’s first and foremost serving Christ, but we happen to be the chief blessed beneficiaries.
In spite of our best attempts to allay such feelings, Mary says that she sometimes experiences guilt about just sitting on a chair while meals are being prepared and the house is being cleaned. She knows that those feelings are not based on objective facts, but they’re there anyway, undoubtably driven by years of a strong work ethic and a naturally active industrious nature.
She is now walking short distances numerous times a day, sometimes in our daylight basement, while I sit and worry about her doing steps in her weakened condition and without holding the handrails. She is not to use her arms for any pulling or pushing for a few weeks yet. Try getting out of a prone position in bed with your arms crossed in front of you sometime.
I have finally been able to get back to the office the past two days, catching up on phone calls, emails, mail, and other back-logged administrative matters. But today we woke to about four inches of fresh snow which has not yet been plowed, so getting out and about in my wheelchair may be more challenging than normal.
Mary and I are keenly aware that so many others (perhaps you) are facing trials far greater than our own. We pray that God might use this blog — and the rest of this website — to make known the sufficiency of His grace in every such instance of need, and convincing evidence for His existence that works in even the more challenging of life’s passages.
Until next time.
Daryl E. Witmer
Today has been a day of nurses visiting, calling, and checking in as a follow up to Mary’s heart valve replacement surgery last Thursday, November 1.
I’ve been “picking up the pieces” here at home after nearly a whole week away — responding to phone calls, answering days-old emails, and sorting through a large bag of mail, bills, and now-outdated campaign flyers.
Mary slept well last night and has been up and awake all day today — engaging in some activity but resting at other times as her body continues to heal. We believe the afib is continuing, at least intermittantly.
Mary has been told not to pull or push with her arms, or to lift more than eight pounds, for at least 4-6 weeks in spite of how well she feels. It’s a trick to get out of bed or up from a low chair without using her arms, but she’s trying to find ways to do such things. She often impulsively begins to do more than is probably appropriate, so my role has become one of cautioning her when she crosses the line.
We’ve been told that there will be good days and trying days in this process over the coming weeks, but at least for now, in general, it’s been a good first day at home.
Tomorrow, God willing, it will be back to the office and a more normal routine for me.
Thanks for reading along once again.
Daryl E. Witmer
Good evening from Homer Hill in Monson, Maine!
That’s right — we’re home — and so far, so good.
Our friends Wayne & Jane Armstrong came to Eastern Maine Medical Center this afternoon to transport Mary home in the back seat of their car. The back seat of a car is airbag-free, making it a much safer place for a post-op heart surgery patient. I followed in the van on the long trek home. Vin Upham had arrived home a few hours earlier and had the laundry started, a warm fire started in the wood stove, and a loaf of fresh break baking as we came in the door.
The most difficult part of the day for Mary was having four wires that were attached to her heart extracted (removed) out of the same opening in her chest through which the chest tubes had also run — and that was painful! The last IVs were removed. Atrial fibrillation (Afib) has been intermittent throughout the day, so she will continue taking Coumadin at least until her first follow-up appointment. With all the meds that have been prescribed for her as she came home, it looks somewhat like a pharmacy around here. But no narcotics — because Mary’s pain level has been almost negligible. For that we have been very grateful.
Tonight , in just a few minutes, I get my first shower in a week! For that and many other reasons, it’s so good to be home where our surroundings are familiar, safe, and quiet.
I hope to issue several more follow-up blogs over the next week or so, but not necessarily every day from now on.
Thank you all once again very much for your interest in our lives and for your prayers and support in so many ways. It’s all been a tremendous encouragement, although we have been unable to acknowledge that personally.
We give God the glory for all the positive that has transpired over the past week, and it is our desire to trust Him in all that follows, even though we know that may involve additional challenges and trials, and is often easier said than done.
Daryl E. Witmer
It’s been a long day of ups and downs, but one that on net seems to have ended well.
At about 8:30 AM Mary’s heart slipped back into afib. So disappointing. But then this evening at about 7:00 PM it once again converted back to sinus. Mary had just been praying and immediately credited God’s power as the explanation for this latest turn.
Her appetite is back, she is now independently ambulatory, and she was especially encouraged by a hot shower and shampoo late this afternoon.
But the most significant development of the day occurred when her surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, walked into the room and said, “I don’t see why you can’t plan to go home tomorrow, even with afib. I think that it’ll clear up in time.”
So the plan to depart EMMC for Monson is now in motion. Exciting and scary. Scary because Monson is a long way from this hospital.
Earlier this morning I drove across town to have studded tires put back on the van. What should have taken two hours turned into four and a half hours due to a number of factors. I so wanted to get back to Mary’s bedside, so it became a great test of patience. I probably got a C- on that test.
All three of our sons and their families continue to be in touch regularly. We also continue to note the comments and expressions of support from so many others — including you, perhaps. Thanks so much. It’s brought us tremendous encouragement.
Until next time — hopefully from Monson.
Daryl E. Witmer
The good news of the day is that, within minutes of Mary’s two chest tubes being removed, her heart rhythm suddenly converted from atrial fibrillation (afib). However, it converted to another form of arrhythmia — possibly atrial flutter, according to her nurse, although sinus tachycardia was also mentioned as a possibility at one point. But we’re generally pleased that, for now at least, the afib is gone. And with the help of medication (amiodarone) there is greater reason to believe that she’s going to end up back in good old sinus rhythm before long.
She continues to sit up and walk (with assistance), evidence more strength and better color, and her appetite is slowly returning (a half sandwich for lunch). She even asked for a book to read (one that she had brought along).
Mary’s surgeon today actually voiced the possibility of a discharge on Tuesday, although that’s still not certain, there’s criteria to meet, and any discharge would be contingent on no significant setbacks between now and then. Besides, we don’t wish to rush things. Going home will involve a host of other challenges. Mary will probably need daily help in some very practical ways (we’re not sure from whom yet), and if a major issue was to to develop, Monson is a long way from Bangor, especially this time of the year with snow and ice soon coming our way.
There have been some low moments. We are both more conscious than ever of our physical limitations and vulnerability to forces beyond our control. That usually also presents an opportunity for greater faith in the One who controls all things. So please pray with us for faith to pass such tests.
This is Sunday, so we had our own special devotional time together this morning, and later Vin Upham (the retired minister from NY who is my caregiver) briefly stopped by to pray with us and for us.
Thanks once again to you for your love and interest in our lives. I’m not able to personally reply to most comments or emails at this point, but I read them all and try to pass most all of them along to Mary.
Until next time.
Daryl E. Witmer
As of 2:00 PM Saturday afternoon, Mary’s heart continues in afib. This leaves her feeling very washed out. (I understand that feeling from years of experience with afib myself.) She speaks in a quiet voice, moves very slowly, and has almost no appetite. I’m used to her cheery smile and steady sunny disposition, but that has (understandably) been missing for three days now.
She was given a diuretic and insulin today to stabilize fluid retention and blood sugar levels. Her pain has been managed but continues to be a factor at times. She doesn’t like to ask for pain med in spite of my reassuring her that it’s okay to do so when she’s hurting here in the hospital.
In spite of all this and on a more positive note, her surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, was in about two hours ago and voiced optimism that medication and time will eventually eliminate the afib, although she will need to continue with afib meds for some time now.
Otherwise there has also been some good progress today, e.g. sitting up and even going for a short stroll in the hospital corridor, accompanied by two medical staff persons. Her oxygen line has been discontinued, her neck port bandages are off, and the chest tubes will probably be out by tomorrow. There is reason to believe that she may yet be discharged by next Tuesday afternoon, but we’ll see.
The days and nights are long for both of us right now, much like we had long anticipated would be the case.
We know that so many others in the world suffer far greater pain, heartache, loneliness, tears, discouragement, and indignity. And we’re exceedingly grateful for the sustaining grace of God and the love of family and friends like you.
More tomorrow, probably.
Daryl E. Witmer
Within minutes of my posting the previous blog from my hotel room at about 3:00 PM on Friday afternoon, while enroute back to Mary’s bedside at the hospital, Stephen phoned to say that Mary had slipped into an arrhythmic heartbeat pattern known as atrial fibrillation (afib). While not totally uncommon for patients who’ve just had their aortic valve replaced, this is still a concerning development.
Medication to control her heartbeat, which had more than doubled to about 150 beats per minute, was immediately administered by IV. As of this posting at 10:30 PM, her heart rate has slowed to some extent, but the afib continues. This turn of events also compromised other recovery plans for the rest of the day, such as walking and sitting up.
We are asking God to cause the medication to have its full effect so that this situation will not turn into a more significant complication or delay in her recuperation process — all according to His will, of course. Would you join us in also praying to that end — and that we, in any and every event, might trust Him instead of giving in to fear and/or discouragement.
Daryl E. Witmer
Over twenty-seven (27) hours following the conclusion of aortic valve replacement surgery, Mary continues to make good progress. She has had many IVs, catheter, and other tubes and wires removed. The chest drainage tubes remain and they, plus the incision, are still causing considerable discomfort and pain. But she has been much more alert and conversant today. She is sucking ice chips and sipping small amounts of homemade soup and beverages, although her appetite is still quite limited.
At about 10:00 AM this morning Mary was transferred from CCU to a private room in a beautiful new 6th floor wing at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where we are told she will probably remain until her discharge next week. This move is a great improvement for all of us.
The plan is for her to walk for the first time following her surgery sometime later this afternoon. Her vitals are all good and her spirits are positive and steady, which is all normal for Mary.
Stephen, with the blessing of his wife and family, is able to stay another day, which is great. Andrew and his family in Virginia, and Tim and his family (currently in Florida), have been in regular touch.
We have been very blessed by the continued concern and prayer support of so many of you as family members, friends, and acquaintances far and near. Thank you.
I’m not easily able to respond to emails at this point, but I do hope to continue posting about Mary’s status at least once every day or two over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, when no new posts appear, you should be able to assume that no news is good news.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary has continued to recover from aortic valve surgery throughout the afternoon and evening hours. She is still sleepy as the result of anesthesia administered during her surgery, but was actually sitting in a chair for an hour at one point. She will probably be walking tomorrow. Pain has been managed well. The CCU staff have been quite positive about her early progress. She has been in a good steady sinus rhythm with reasonable pressures and levels.
Stephen arrived from MA early in the afternoon. AIIA Board member Vin Upham, a retired minister from NY, has been here with us since Tuesday to help me with personal care now and in the coming weeks. Talk about real service in Jesus’ Name.
Thanks for your continued concern and prayers.
I’m not able to respond to most emails at this point, but will try to continue to post about Mary’s progress in the coming days and weeks.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary’s surgery ended just before Noon today, November 1. Her preparation time lasted somewhat longer that initially projected, so the operation itself didn’t begin until after 9:00 AM, although we were up at 3:30 AM and had arrived to register on Surgical Level 3 at 5:00 AM sharp. It’s already been a long day.
I just spoke with Mary’s surgeon, Dr. Klemperer, who told me that the procedure was quite straightforward. No complications or surprises. She remained stable throughout. And she now has a new aortic valve — evidently none too soon, based on what he told me.
She will soon be transferred from Recovery to the Coronary Care Unit where I will see her for the first time since her surgery ended.
The first hours and days post-surgery are critical, so thanks for your continued concern and prayers.
I’ll probably not be able to respond to individual emails until next week, but I will try to post once more late today and at least a few more times in the coming days.
Daryl E. Witmer
As of 8:00 PM this evening, October 31, Mary Witmer remains scheduled for aortic valve replacement surgery first thing tomorrow morning, November 1, at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.
We are to arrive on the surgical floor at 5:00 AM.
If all goes as planned, she will be out of surgery by Noon.
We hope to be able to post her progress in the early afternoon, and again at some point in the evening.
We’ll probably not be able to respond to individual emails for a few days.
Thanks for your concern and prayers on our behalf.
On June 6, 2013, The Atlantic magazine published an article by Larry Alex Taunton entitled Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity. Here is a brief excerpt:
“Sincerity does not trump truth. After all, one can be sincerely wrong. But sincerity is indispensable to any truth we wish others to believe. There is something winsome, even irresistible, about a life lived with conviction. I am reminded of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, David Hume, who was recognized among a crowd of those listening to the preaching of George Whitefield, the famed evangelist of the First Great Awakening. “I thought you didn’t believe in the Gospel,” someone asked. “I do not,” Hume replied. Then, with a nod toward Whitefield, he added, “But he does.”
My hope is in the Lord. My hope is in Jesus Christ. My hope is in the gospel of His salvation, available to all who trust in Him. My hope is in the reality of a relationship (by faith) with Him, beginning in this life.
I hope that my hope shows up as 100% sincere and authentic. I hope that it shines brightly, clearly, and consistently. I hope that it shines brightest against the dark backdrop of personal adversity when adversity comes my way — that my convictions will hold in the day of trouble. I hope that I will never lose grip on the powerful apologetics for Christian faith. I hope that the many powerful evidences for faith in Christ will aways remain in focus, and that my hope will even prompt others to ask me about it. Then I intend to be prepared and strong in explaining that my hope is reason-based, not just wishful thinking (1 Peter 3:15)
I suppose that we’re about to find out if all of that will be the case as God moves Mary and me from the (relatively) comfortable routine of life into the challenges facing us over the coming weeks.
If you’re a fellow believer, your willingness to pray on our behalf would be very welcome.
If you’re not yet a believer — you’re welcome to follow this blog, follow our lives, and let us know what you think.
— Daryl E. Witmer
Mary Witmer is now scheduled for aortic valve replacement surgery on November 1 at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.
We hope to be able to post regular progress reports here on this blog beginning on that date and following.
Thanks for your concern and prayers on our behalf.
Late last week an invitation to attend the 12th Annual Natural Living Expo in Marlborough MA arrived in the morning mail. This large-scale event is scheduled to take place on November 10-11, 2018. Three keynote speakers will be featured along with 275 exhibits, 90 workshops, seven healthy food vendors, and much more. It is being billed as New England’s Largest Holistic Health Event.
Expo Exhibitors will include: Science of Spirituality Jyoti Meditation, Spirit Guided Portraits, Eckankar: Path of Spiritual Freedom, We All Have Souls, Brahma Kumaris Inner Space Meditation Café, and Shamanic Spirit Song.
Keynote addresses will focus on themes such as: Awakening Your Soul Purpose — Through the Twelve Chakra Gateways, and Bridging Two Realms: Learning to Communicate with the Other Side.
Workshops will focus on the following subjects, among others: Drawing in Spirit: A Demonstration of Mediumship and Spirit Art, Far Infrared Energy: Chi Gong and Spiritual Purification, The Divinity Within — Understanding Your Own Divinity.
Ads throughout the invitation-flyer include: Be In Divine Oneness, Allow In Divine Love, Flow in Your Spirit, Illuminate Your Light; Flying Phoenix Heavenly Healing Qigong; Angel Alignment; Akashic Soul Mastery; Tarot Reading; Psychic Medium; Reboot Your Brain; Usui-Tibetan Enhanced Karuna & Shamballa Reiki; and Mental and Emotional Cleansing.
Astounding. So much interest in spirituality — mostly based on Indian-Eastern, monistic, pantheistic, Buddhist, Hindu, occult, and New Age thought.
Yet as I explored the 44-page brochure I realized that there was not one mention of Jesus or historic Christian faith in the entire publication. Not even one.
So many people searching so very intently for physical and mental and spiritual health while so conspicuously avoiding Jesus in their search.
Why is this? Why has Jesus been effectively banned from New England’s largest gathering on whole-person health and happiness?
Jesus, sometimes known as the Great Physician, once said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Jesus offers love and genuine well-being to all who turn to Him (John 3:16-21).
A fascinating story in Matthew’s Gospel says: “When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to [Jesus] all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.” (Matthew 1:32-34, NAS Bible)
If circumstances permitted, I would travel to Marlborough MA next month. I’d love to wade right into the middle of this marketplace of ideas and wellness-based alternatives — in a spirit of goodwill of, course — listening to seekers, exchanging with presenters, better understanding the thinking of promoters, and pointing people to the infinite-personal One who made us all. I’m convinced that it’s Jesus who alone can heal in the most profound sense of the word. How can any conference on well-being be ultimately regarded as legitimate without including Him — for without Him no one can or will ever truly experience “holistic” health.
We’ve been waiting to post this month’s family update until we got word about the results of Mary’s latest echocardiogram on October 1. Yesterday it came. The phone rang just before Noon. Mary’s cardiologist was on the line. Her aortic value stenosis has worsened considerably since July and, in spite of the fact that she is still experiencing no symptoms, is now at a critical stage. Pre-surgical tests will begin next week. Her aortic valve is to be replaced (open heart surgery) within the next six weeks. The moment is finally upon us. We will both require home care during her recovery, so this will be a period of challenge. We appreciate your interest, concern, and prayers as all of this unfolds in real time. You can check this blog for updates as the weeks go by.
Andrew and his family were in Monson for approximately ten days in early August. Mary and I had a great time with Maureen and the grandchildren while Andrew researched and conducted interviews for a book on the history of Monson which he’s hoping to publish in time for the town’s 200th anniversary in 2022.
Stephen and his family are now back in Pepperell MA from Europe where they were based during his two-month sabbatical. During that time he was able to get away for two weeks of quiet and work on his own, completing a draft of his book on ministry in small places, while Emma and the children spent time with her family in Northern Ireland. We’ll hopefully see them all in November when Stephen leads a Small Town Summit event in nearby Dexter, Maine.
Tim and his family were able to visit the Witmer grandparents and other Witmer and Lehman relatives in Pennsylvania over Labor Day weekend. Earlier in the Summer you would have often found them hiking and canoeing in the Maine woods, as well as gardening and working their regular jobs at Louisiana Pacific Company and in area nursing homes where Amy works as an Occupational Therapist.
I had a rough patch in early September when kidney stones, the beginning stages of pneumonia, and atrial fibrillation all converged into a perfect (or perfectly nasty) storm, requiring two separate ambulance rides to area hospitals. Thankfully, that crisis seems mostly resolved at this point.
Meanwhile Mary continues to cruise along without any remarkable symptoms of her aortic valve stenosis condition. Her next echocardiogram is scheduled for October 1, so we plan to update this blog after the results from that test are in and we know more about what might come next. Meanwhile we are grateful to God for what seems to at least be a miraculous delay in the normal deterioration of this condition, eventually leading to heart surgery.
Thanks for reading along, as well as for your prayers and interest in our lives over the years.
You do know why birds fly south in the Fall, don’t you?
Right. Much too far to walk.
Daryl E. Witmer
What’s the big deal about Christian Apologetics? Is it relevant? Is it necessary?
You’ll have your answer in less than 10 minutes if you’re willing to invest that amount of time in reading this timely new article by J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity.
This year, with an exciting multi-million-dollar rejuvenation project currently underway in our little village, and hundreds of Appalachian Trail hikers on their usual annual migration through town, there has been a marked increase in the number of people coming by AIIA’s Study Center. It’s clear that we are increasingly strategically located here in the northwoods as the world literally walks past our doorstep.
Hardly two days go by when I don’t see someone taking a picture of the grand old former Swedish Lutheran Church building that houses our offices, library, and classroom (see photo). The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, attracts a lot of attention and is the basis for many gospel conversations.
In fact, just this week I had a brief exchange with a man standing in front of the Study Center with a camera. He said that he lived in another state. Then he asked what happens inside the Study Center. I often tell people who ask that question that we offer guidance to those trying to make sense of life and faith. But this time I told him that we specialize in Christian apologetics and then asked him whether he’d ever heard that term. He said “No.” So I said, “Well, apologetics is the branch of theology that defends Christian faith.” Then I asked, “Are you a Christian?” He gave me a tight nervous grin and said, “Not any more.” I asked why he had renounced his faith. He murmured something about all the wars and conflicts stirred up by religion. But his answer seemed evasive.
When I asked him what he thought about Jesus, he notably pulled back and said, “I don’t really want to have that conversation at this point.” So I said, “I can accept that.” We chatted for just a moment more, and then he walked away.
I had previously asked him if he’d like to come inside and look around. He said, “No” — but continued taking pictures of the building’s exterior the entire time that we were talking. It occurred to me that this was a sort of metaphor of his relationship to Christ — or lack thereof. He was interested in the outer form of this place of Christian worship and study, but clearly uncomfortable with getting too close to the Christ whom we worship.
Just three days before this encounter I had initiated another conversation with a hiker sitting by the side of Lake Hebron, a literal stone’s throw from the front door of Study Center. We talked about Monson, the weather, and his work. Then the conversation turned to matters of faith and, specifically, to the deity of Christ. I said, “If Jesus was not God as He claimed to be, what do you make of Him?” Instead of pulling back, this man actually turned toward me and showed great interest. Later in our conversation he agreed to come into the Study Center where I gave him a free copy of Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) and More Than a Carpenter (Josh McDowell). He said, “Thanks for this discussion. Maybe these books will change my life. Maybe this is why I got off the trail and ended up here in Monson today.” I invited him to keep in touch. He indicated that he’d like to do just that.
Another day on the front lines here in northern New England — right where God has us stationed these days — and right where we want to be.
Daryl E. Witmer, Executive Director • AIIA Institute
Never before in my life has four months seemed to fly by so quickly.
Our sabbatical was wonderful. Except for the threat of Mary’s impending surgery and the considerable time spent in trying to arrange for home care when that happens, it was an almost totally positive experience.
I was able to relax in the sun on beautiful quiet Homer Hill, read more widely than I have for years, and together with Mary enjoy numerous day trips or overnight trips to some of our favorite spots along the Maine coast. Doing that also freed Mary up from cooking and cleaning and other routine responsibilities at home and here at the AIIA office.
Perhaps most importantly we were able to pray together and think about how we would like to focus our efforts in ministry with AIIA over the next few years, as God allows. More details on that coming in future months.
As regards the status of Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis, not a great deal has changed since her echocardiogram in early July (see previous blog entry). She continues to experience almost zero concerning symptoms, e.g. lightheaded, short of breath, weakness.
We are convinced that this is God’s power at work because earlier this year we were all — including the cardiologist — convinced that she would probably be due for surgery late this Summer or early Fall. But she really wanted to be feeling well for a visit from Andrew and his family in August — and that is happening now, as I write!
We have no guarantee of what next month or even tomorrow may bring (who does?), but it seems clear that for now God in His mercy has moved to grant us some additional time before the next step in this journey.
The photo at top was taken with my parents (Gene & Ann Witmer), my brother Randy and his wife Glenda, my sister Gina and her husband Jack, and Mary and me on July 16 in Lititz PA when we gathered to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. Dad is now approaching 91, so we were very blessed to have spent this time together with them all again, another benefit of God’s provision in holding off any further worsening of Mary’s condition for now, thus allowing us to travel to Pennsylvania.
Thank you for your prayers, concern, and interest in reading along.
Daryl E. Witmer
Mary had her most recent echocardiogram on Monday, July 2. The very next day we received a call from her cardiologist’s office with some surprising news — her numbers had actually improved since April. This is evidently not routinely the case with aortic valve stenosis, which typically progressively worsens. So we’re very much thanking God that — at the very least — we now seem to have been granted some additional time and normalcy. Her next echocardiogram is scheduled for early October — unless she begins to experience symptoms before then.
Many of you have been praying. God’s power is released through the effective prayers of His people (James 5:16b). He is also merciful. And He is always sovereign over all of the “whens” and the “whethers” and the “hows” concerning this matter and every other circumstance in your life and ours. Those are the truths that we intend to hold onto as this story plays out.
Our four-month sabbatical ends on July 31. Four days later AIIA’s next Faith Matters event is scheduled at 2:00 PM on August 4. A volunteer work team from Grace Point Church in Paradise PA rolls in later that same afternoon. And our son Andrew and his family are also planning to be with us during that first full week in August as Andrew works on a book about Monson’s past.
Between now and then we’re planning a quick trip to Pennsylvania to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.
So the pace quickens. See AIIA’s listing for more details about all of what’s happening this Summer and Fall.
Thanks so much for your interest in reading along once again.
One deeply memorable impression of my visit to L’Abri in Huemoz Switzerland in 1972 was of the water troughs in that picturesque little Swiss village. Water flowed freely and continually into those troughs from some higher alpine meadow or snow pack. Then the overflow would run down to a trough on a street below, then on down the steep slopes to another trough below, and so on.
In his book The God Who Is There, L’Abri’s founder, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer, describes how lakes in the Swiss Alps only ever form from water running down from higher lakes or sources. In other words, water never flows uphill. Then Schaeffer writes this: “Personality is like that; no one has ever thought of a way of deriving personality from nonpersonal sources.”
No scientist, naturalistic evolutionist, or non-Christian religious leader has ever offered a credible postulate for how human personality might have developed, or even could ever develop, from mere chemicals and inanimate matter, plus time and chance.
In contrast, the Christian worldview does just that. It includes the fundamental claim that an infinite yet personal God created men and women in His own image as distinct conscious reasoning beings.
How is it plausible for human personality to be sourced in an impersonal “Cosmic Force,” “ultimate underlying reality,” “pervasive principle” — e.g. Brahman — as is proposed by Hinduism and other Eastern or New Age belief systems?
The existence of human personality therefore becomes a powerful apologetic for the existence of the God of the Bible — the God who became incarnate in a real human, Jesus Christ, who invites us all to know Him personally and truly — though not exhaustively — by faith today, right now, in this life.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NASB)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV)
NOTE: The July-August 2018 issue of AIIA’s bimonthly printed publication, the Proclamation, has just been released. If you are among the 10,000+ addresses to which this thoughtletter is mailed, it should soon be in your mailbox. If not and if you would like to be included in this free postpaid mailing, we’ll send it to you for the asking. Contact us at: http://aiiainstitute.org/contact-us/ to receive this one-page paper — or with any other questions and/or response to the article above.
Mary and I were in the midst of our AIIA board-appointed sabbatical recently, quietly checking out a Native American Spring festival in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine, totally minding our own business, when I was suddenly ambushed by this Navajo Indian brave asking if he could have his picture taken with me!
Well, that’s technically true. But in the interest of full disclosure, there is the minor detail that I first asked him if I could have Mary snap a photo of the two of us. He agreed but then, when I mentioned that I might be tempted to tell people that it happened the other way around, he quickly obliged and actually did ask me for permission to pose with me. He said that way I would be telling the truth when I reported the story that way. Great idea. So I agreed, he handed me his gun, Mary snapped the photo above, and we all parted company with our scalps and integrity intact.
For a few moments that day, Christian apologetics was a thousand miles from my mind — and that, after all, is an important part of what sabbaticals are supposed to be all about, right? Breaking with routine. Gaining fresh perspectives. Clearing out cobwebs. Thinking new thoughts. Spending more time with God. Developing larger vision. Meeting Navajo Indian braves.
So thanks to all of you who have gotten behind us with gifts, prayers, and notes — encouraging us to make the most of this four-month hiatus. The time has been flying by and is now, alas, over half complete. How can I slow the clock down and lock this in?!
By mid-April we had reluctantly given up the idea of taking our long-anticipated trip West. But we have enjoyed a number of extended weekend trips right here in Maine. It’s been good, refreshing, and almost 100% positive EXCEPT for one black cloud — Mary’s impending open heart surgery (see previous blogs), which seems always to be hovering on the horizon, and edging ever closer.
With only one significant exception she has remained symptom-free. But as we await the results of her next echocardiogram in early July, we remain keenly aware that the cardiologist has projected late Summer or Fall as the time when symptoms will most likely begin to manifest. We’ll see. Meanwhile, the most pressing concern for me is arranging for reliable home care (for both of us) during the time that Mary is in the hospital and recovering for six weeks or so here in Monson. The majority of home care agencies are frustratingly short-staffed statewide here in Maine these days and, although we’ve had a few thoughtful volunteers step forward, we’ve thus far not been able to put a really certain plan in place. We’re determined to trust God in this, but I also believe that it is up to me to do what I can to make necessary arrangements. How difficult it has been to know how to balance the two.
Anyway — thanks once again for your continued interest in following along as the drama of this next chapter in our lives unfolds — and for your ongoing faithful support in prayer and otherwise.
Stay tuned by checking — or better yet subscribing to — this blog for updates on at least a monthly basis, or even sooner if or when there are any significant developments.
Mary and I met with her cardiologist in Bangor earlier today — May 3, 2018. Based on her most recent echocardiogram in April, and unless she begins experiencing symptoms, Dr. Crespo continues to advise that we await the results of her next echocardiogram in July before proceeding to set a date for open heart aortic valve replacement. Dr. Crespo’s best guess is that she will need surgery by late Summer or Fall at the latest. Meanwhile she is clear to continue maintaining her normal activities and routine while avoiding heavy lifting and especially strenuous activity.
So it seems that we have been granted one more window of time to make necessary arrangements in anticipation of this event. That is especially appreciated because we have yet to put a viable plan for my own personal care in place. Few home care agencies service our more remote part of Maine and two other tentative plans that we had been considering now seem even more tentative. We invite your prayers as we continue to consider the rather limited realistic options.
Thank you for your interest and support during this next challenging chapter of our lives. If circumstances change, we plan to keep you informed right here in this blog, on this website.
I once heard about a birthday card that on the outside read: “I was in a card store the other day looking for a card with a message that would fit you when suddenly this born again Christian guy came up to me and started quoting Scripture.” On the inside of the card it read: “So I shot him. Happy Birthday!”
Well, if you don’t like Christian truth, I suppose that’s one way of dealing with it.
In God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis describes another approach. “The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately ‘forgets’ to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor might tell him.”
Lewis continues: “The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity.”
Lewis concludes by saying that to evade Jesus and His claims, “to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because they might be from Him—this is a different matter [than having honest objections]. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand.”
Scott Sauls is the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Nashville TN. He wrote this in his blog on April 4, 2018:
“Recently, I spoke with a man who had heard the story of Jesus and the ‘many convincing proofs’ of the resurrection several times in his life. Yet, this man seemed deeply defensive, even overtly hostile, to the idea of becoming a Christian himself. I pointed out to my friend that he seemed not merely to disagree with the Gospel message, but that he seemed prone to also attack it. I asked him why this was so.
After a quiet pause, he answered, ‘Okay, Scott, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you the real reason why I dislike Christianity. It’s not because the evidence is unconvincing to me. In fact, the opposite is true. But I still don’t ever want to become a Christian because if I do, Jesus will ask me to forgive my father for the ways that he hurt me.’
Then Pastor Sauls wrote this: “I have had many similar conversations in which the person in front of me, when push came to shove, had no issues with the rational aspect of faith—but used the rational arguments as a smokescreen. For each of these friends and family members, beneath the surface was something about Christian discipleship—something about the narrow path of Jesus—that bothered them on a visceral level about the call to agree with and follow Jesus in every area of life. For my friend with the difficult father story, it was a painful memory of his deceased father that he didn’t want to release to God.” Sauls adds: “For others, it is difficult to envision surrendering to Jesus their approach to money, their sexuality, their prejudice, their addictions, their divisive and partisan attitudes, or their self-righteousness. And yet, the call to consider Christ remains the same. Embracing the resurrection and absolute lordship of Jesus Christ come as a package deal.”
Today’s culture regularly attacks Christian truth by marginalizing its message and openly ridiculing Christians, often with sharp sarcasm. Christian truth claims are seldom given the benefit of the doubt. They are viewed skeptically. They are not politically correct. Christian values are routinely assaulted, directly and subtly.
The Bible says that God becomes angry when people suppress and crack down on the truth that He exists in order to go on living and promoting immorality (Romans 1:18). But He will deal in mercy with those who accept the truth about Him in Jesus and turn to Him. He will welcome them as children (John 1:12).
Have you been shirking truth, ignoring truth, avoiding truth, attacking truth, or suppressing truth? Let me invite you to turn to the One who is truth. The meaning and peace in life that will result from knowing Jesus personally will surpass whatever cost there may be for you in turning to Christ. And God will grant you grace and strength to pay those costs.
If you are already a follower of Jesus and want to persuade others to Christ, keep in mind that some of those with whom you share the gospel, who cite intellectual objections as their reason for not believing, are actually throwing up a smokescreen. This is especially key for every Christian who strives to be an effective apologist for the faith (which should be every Christian) At some point we may have to realize that a particular person’s real reason for rejecting Christ is not intellectual at all. It’s stubbornness and selfishness. We may have to call them out on that score.
I remember once answering question after question that a man brought to me about Christian belief. I would answer one question and he would raise another. Finally I said to him, “Dennis, what would you accept as sufficient evidence? If I was to answer 101 more questions to your satisfaction, what then? Even at that point would you be prepared to turn to Jesus?” He looked at me and grinned. He knew the game was up.
Thanks to so many of you who have written, called, and/or been praying about Mary’s diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis since January. It means a great deal.
Mary’s latest echocardiogram on April 3 showed that her condition has now worsened and is considered severe, making her a candidate for surgery. Nevertheless, her cardiologist believes that at this point the actual decision to proceed with open heart surgery should be symptom-driven, and to date Mary remains totally asymptomatic. No shortness of breath, chest pains, or dizziness.
So unless or until she begins experiencing such symptoms, we will remain in a sort of holding pattern for at least another month. We are scheduled to meet with Dr. Crespo on May 3 for further consultation. Her next echocardiogram is set for early June.
Meanwhile, we are grateful for each good today together and are thankful to God for a little extra time to arrange for this major event. The home care system is complex and it has been frustratingly difficult to get a comprehensive plan in place for my own care when this event unfolds.
On a positive note, John Wyatt Witmer (our youngest grandson, now nearly four years of age, who was born with HLHS, a serious congenital heart condition) just had his most recent examination at the UVA hospital in Charlottesville VA this past week — and the decision was made to postpone his next heart surgery until 2019!
Mary and I are now two weeks into our four-month sabbatical and are already appreciating what changes in the routine have been possible. Thanks for your prayers about that, as well — especially that the sabbatical not be compromised by distractions.
We’re much anticipating a visit with our son Andrew and his family when they arrive in early August from Harrisonburg VA.
Our son Stephen has recently contracted with InterVarsity to author a book on the importance of serving in small-town churches, part of a larger movement which he is now spearheading and that includes Small Town Summit seminars throughout New England. See more at: https://www.smalltownsummits.com
And our youngest son Tim will be putting his Maine Guide license to good use when he co-leads a major wilderness trip on the Gaspé Peninsula later this Spring.
For now, thanks again for your ongoing interest and support of our lives and work.
NOTE: See the entire Witmer family by clicking on the thumbnail photo at:
On this Good Friday 2018 the words of the late Anglican minister, John W. Stott, come to mind: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross.” “In a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Is there any other religion or worldview whose leader and founder offers what Jesus offers — to come alongside us humans in our struggles and adversity — as a fellow sufferer?!
“No one understands like Jesus, When the days are dark and grim. No one is so near, so dear as Jesus; Cast Your every care on Him.” (John W. Peterson)
In spite of maintaining a normal rigorous routine (which includes walking on her treadmill most every day, carrying wash baskets up the basement steps, and much more) — all of which the doctors have encouraged her to do — Mary continues to experience absolutely no symptoms whatsoever of her aortic valve stenosis. Until or unless this changes, the next step will be another echocardiogram on April 3. We’ll plan to provide an update here shortly after we learn the results of that test. Meanwhile, thanks so much for your prayers on our behalf, and for your comments and encouragement. We always read and appreciate all of what you write, even if we don’t reply. At the very least, it seems that God has afforded us some additional time to adjust to the idea of what’s probably coming, and to make necessary arrangements.
Generally speaking, mainstream science today endorses a version of Darwinian evolution which proposes that humans are the unanticipated result of wholly natural random forces at work over long ages. But because the Bible makes it clear that a sovereign infinite personal God fully intended from before time that humans would exist, Christians who align with modern science have to somehow involve God in their explanation of human origins. That gets tricky. So theistic evolutionists and evolutionary creationists often avoid taking any explicit position of just how God was involved. Dr. Francis Collins and BioLogos claim that, while certain evolutionary mechanisms “could be” directed, once God created matter and evolution took over, no further divine intervention “was required.” Well then, which is it — directed or not directed?
In an introduction to a formidable exhaustive new critique of theistic evolution, Dr. Stephen Meyer points out that attempts to accommodate both possibilities can lead to a logical contradiction:
“ . . . if the theistic evolutionist means to affirm the standard neo-Darwinian view of the natural selection/mutation mechanism as an undirected process while simultaneously affirming that God is still causally responsible for the origin of new forms of life, then the theistic evolutionist implies that God somehow guided or directed an unguided and undirected process. Logically, no intelligent being—not even God—can direct an undirected process. As soon as he directs it, the ‘undirected’ process would no longer be undirected.”
This brief commentary is part of the result of my March 2018 review of THEISTIC EVOLUTION: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, © 2017 Crossway. This reference incorporates articles by over 20 contributors, including Stephen Meyer, Wayne Grudem, Paul Nelson, and J. P. Moreland. It’s a real tome — over 1,000 pages — and can be rather academic at times. But it’s a work that will hopefully serve the worthwhile purpose of demonstrating that Christians do not need to, and should not, “yield to contemporary evolutionary theory.” — Daryl E. Witmer, Executive Director, AIIA Institute.
Welcome to our new blog! I really hope that you’ll “follow” along by subscribing with your email address at right. Or bookmark this page and check in often.
The pace of life slows during the winter months here in north central Maine. So I try to catch up on my backlog of unread books.
I just finished reading Humble Apologetics by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Here’s a notable excerpt: “The heart of the Christian religion is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and it is this to which [Christian] apologists hope to point their neighbors.”
That’s certainly a major purpose in my life. So it will be a major purpose of this blog.
I also intend to keep you up-to-date between bimonthly issues of our thoughtletter. A lot can happen in two months.
Some blogs will be brief and others longer. The blogs will be posted on no regular basis. I’ll write when I have something to say, not just because of some arbitrary deadline.
As long as it works, we’ll allow response (below). So drop us a comment if you choose.
God’s best to you until next time.
Daryl E Witmer