My mother was a Canadian, of Scots Irish descent, with the maiden name of Dodds. My father grew up in Nebraska, the second of six sons. All six joined the Navy, having heard wild tales in their youth about something called “the ocean.” My father was of Scottish descent, meaning, I suppose, that I am also.
At one time I thought that such details about ancestry were for the occasional family hobbyist who likes to have fun with family trees. Then I read two books that helped change my perspective on this entirely — one was Born Fighting by James Webb, and the other was How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman. These were good books in their own right, but one of the lights that came on for me was the explanatory power they provide for my own outlook, disposition, instinctive reactions, and so on. Such things are not destiny, but they were much more of a player than I had previously thought, a datum that was simultaneously reassuring and disconcerting.
And like the Cretans — and like everybody else — such characteristics would have to be the basis for a man like Titus to “rebuke us sharply, so that we might be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:13). Stop being so much like that, so you can learn how much like that you should be. Carlyle mentions somewhere, and I can’t find it just now, that Cromwell once beseeched the Scots to consider whether, in the bowels of Christ, they might be mistaken. This ability, Carlyle slyly states, was one that has not been vouchsafed to the Scots at present.
But this focus — doggedness? cussedness? — is how the suite of ministries that currently operates out of Moscow came to be here. My parents taught us that ingenuity was never to be expended on the text, making it tell you things you would rather hear. But rather, once you had let the Scriptures speak to you, straight up, ingenuity was fine in looking for creative and effective places to obey. Use your wits to apply the text, not to evade the text.
My father had graduated from the Naval Academy, and had done postgraduate work at the War College. In the courses of his studies, the thought occurred to him that the principles of war he was learning could be applied to spiritual warfare. The result was this book.
One of the things that must be considered in warfare is the concept of the decisive point. A decisive point is one which is simultaneously strategic and feasible. Because it is strategic, it hurts the enemy significantly if you take it. If it is feasible, it is possible to take. In our spiritual warfare, New York City is strategic, but not feasible. Bovill, Idaho is feasible but not strategic. My father decided that decisive points in North America were small towns with major universities in them. The university makes it strategic, the small town makes it feasible. This is the way to have a disproportionate impact. When he found out that Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho were two small towns, eight miles apart, and each had a major university in it, he moved here.
Now I should say a reassuring something here for the sake of those intoleristas who still read my blog, and who are consistently freaked out by military metaphors. We are talking about evangelism and persuasion, and nobody wants to set up a line of artillery along Paradise Ridge. This is a spiritual war, and our weapons are not carnal. But even though our weapons are not carnal, they are effective in the pulling down of strongholds that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. Spiritual warfare doesn’t mean airy fairy warfare. So maybe there is cause for concern.
As I mentioned earlier, the name of the game here is to think in strategic terms, which means to think in terms of disproportionate impact. This will happen when we repent of using our ingenuity to sit in judgment on the Bible — which is not the same thing as repenting of using ingenuity at all. Jesus spoke of this as being wise as serpents, innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). We just have to make sure to be serpentine and dovish in the right places, and at the right times. He did not mean to emulate the serpent in our deep hermeneutic graduate seminar, and the dove as we march out to war.
No, when we hear the Word spoken rightly, spoken straight to the heart, we see remarkable things start to happen. When the Spirit moves, He unsettles everything. We suddenly know more than our teachers (Ps. 119:99), and a hundred of us shall put ten thousand to flight (Lev. 26:8). Does that sound bad? Does that sound arrogant? Does that sound triumphalistic?
Yes, for some, it does. Especially the verses.