Eliza Bridgman's lifelong ambition was to be a missionary. She began her work in China in 1844. Over the course of her career, she founded school for girls in Shanghai and Peking, giving opportunities for young women who otherwise would have ended up as prostitutes, in forced labor, or starving. Her school in Peking eventually became part of Yenching University, one of the first Chinese universities.
You can read more about a fascinating study about the positive long term affect proselytizing missionaries had on the cultures they served, in temporal terms as well as eternal. The pattern that emerges over time and across the globe is pretty astounding.
Timothy Richard was a Welsh-born missionary to China in 1870. He found it effective to immerse himself in Chinese culture to gain credibility for the Gospel message. He was also influential in bringing humanitarian relief to the Chinese during regular famines and taught the Chinese ways of avoiding future famine.
China was regularly subjected to famine. The missionary-led attempt to relieve the famine in the winter of 1876/7 was one of the first major programmes of humanitarian relief in modern history. Richard became the most important organiser and administrator of the famine relief and funds that arrived in several provinces from overseas.
In response to the severe famines that had ravaged the land, Richard believed that modern science was needed to avert similar future catastrophes. He spent four years writing and holding a series of lectures to the educated classes on apologetic and scientific issues. He also firmly believed in the importance of education for the spread of the gospel and dreamed of establishing a Christian college in every province in China.
He's been characterized as one of the greatest missionaries ever sent to China.
Dr. Ida Sophia Scudder was the daughter of missionaries in India. When she witnessed three Indian women die in childbirth one night, she vowed to get her medical degree and improve medical care for Indian women. She founded the Christian Medical College and Hospital near Madras. She later established a school to provide medical training for Indian women. Scudder spent her life in India improve the spiritual and medical welfare of women who were overlooked in their society and religion.
Michael Horton of the White Horse Inn will be joining Greg on the podcast today. (If you’re not familiar with the White Horse Inn, here’s a place you can start.) Greg will be speaking at the WHI conference in Vail, Colorado on July 24-26. The price for the conference has just gone up, but they’ve generously offered a discount to bring it back down to the early bird price for Stand to Reason listeners—just use the code “STR” (in caps) when you register.
“Do We All Worship the Same God?” is the conference theme, with topics like: “The Trinitarian Witness of Scripture,” “The Uniqueness of Nicene Christianity,” and “God at Work in the Muslim World.”
I appreciate the connection with history, the discussion of theology, the depth of thought, and the focus on Christ that the White Horse Inn weekly podcast offers, so I’m sure this will be a great conference if you’re able to attend.
Sometimes it’s hard to stay calm. But composure is typically an external expression of internal confidence. I’ve worked with SWAT officers who were the epitome of calmness in even the most harrowing situations. They never flinched; they never panicked. They knew we were well trained and prepared to address whatever challenge we could face. I think of these officers often as I navigate conversations with people who don’t share my Christian worldview; even people who aggressively oppose something I’ve written or recorded. Those of us who make a public defense of Christianity are likely to encounter strong disagreement on occasion. Sometimes this opposition is pointed, personal, venomous or shrill. I’ve seen some Christian case makers respond in a similar manner, quickly escalating the toxicity of the interaction until both sides are engaged in a frightful slugfest. If our beliefs about Jesus and the worldview He espoused are true, however, there’s really no need for such a panicky response.
Most of us are familiar with the “fight or flight” syndrome we observe in nature. When animals are in a weakened position and facing an eminent danger, they typically fight or run away. They remain calm and unmoved, however, when they are in a superior position and feel unthreatened. When we, as Christians, respond to a challenge with inappropriate aggression or hostility, we expose our own concerns about the strength of our position. This sometimes happens because we haven’t done the important work of examining the evidence to know the truth of Christianity with justifiable certainty. We happen to believe something that’s true without really knowing why it’s true. As a result, minor challenges sometimes seem daunting. Doubt and fear become a factor in our interaction. Panic emerges, and with it, the kind of behavior we sometimes see in the comment sections of popular blogs.
If you’ve ever caught yourself responding in a harsh, angry or toxic manner, step back and take a deep breath. Ask a few simple questions: Why am I in “attack” or “panic mode” if I possess the truth? Do I still have some unexamined doubt? What does my attitude express about my confidence? What do I need to study or learn to be better prepared so my internal certainty will result in external confidence? I’ve come to recognize times of anxiety as indicators. If I sense a twinge of panic, I look for the place of weakness in my knowledge. Once I’ve identified it, I can begin training. If I apply myself, these areas will shrink in size and my confidence and calmness will begin to grow once again.
If you already see yourself as a Christian Case Maker, you’re probably familiar with 1 Peter 3:15. Most of us, however, are more focused on the first half of this verse than the second:
“… 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”
Most exchanges we see online between Christians and non-believers are anything but “gentle” or “reverent.” Why is this true? I suspect it’s because we fail to see the connection between the first and second part of 1 Peter 3:15. The more you prepare yourself for battle, the calmer and more poised you will be in the height of the struggle. The more “ready” you are, the more “gentle” and “reverent” you will be. The Christian worldview is reasonable and evidential. As Christians, our external demeanor should reflect an internal certainty grounded in this evidence. If we have an informed faith, we’ll be prepared to proclaim passionately without panicking publicly.