There is a small skirmish in the civilization wars going on in the elementary schools. Many schools have dropped cursive writing from the instruction list. You can probably see the divide immediately. Those with artistic and civilized dispositions are crying “the horror, the horror”. Those with cold utilitarian logic are saying “why waste the time”. While my cursive styling was never one to be captured for the ages, there is still something about it that encourages a wistful melancholy at the thought of my children never physically learning it themselves. Yes, it is probably never to be used, but neither are any of the better things in life. Some jars are made for common use while others you bring out at Easter.
Tied in with that wistfulness around handwriting is a story about the scriptures. For 1500 years, just counting the NT period, the scriptures where transmitted by laborious hand writing. Some copies, like Codex Sinaiticus are professional scribes’ straight lines and uniform lettering. At least 4 hands poured over that manuscript checking and correction any perceived spelling errors. Sometimes causing fights over spelling as corrector #1 would correct and corrector #2 would restore the original. Codex Sinaiticus is roughly the earliest fullest collection of the Bible that we have, but individual books and sub-collections earlier are plentiful. (Much more plentiful than any other ancient document. For example if you had to drink a milliliter of soda for each ancient manuscript of the Illiad, the closest in number to the NT, you would only have to drink two cans of Pepsi. For the New Testament you’d have to drink 12 two-liters.) Paul’s letters would circulate together. The Gospels would circulate together. But the most interesting history is probably Revelation. That book has an almost completely separate transmission history. The professional scribes are nowhere as numerous which can be told by the handwriting and spelling. Revelation was transmitted and kept in the cannon not by the skilled and the professional but by the lovers and the convinced. It is truly a letter to and from the church. The skilled and professional might scoff at the church being out of its mind, just like the utilitarians silently laugh at the mothers trying to preserve cursive.
I ran across what is a beautiful lay-woman’s continued use of Revelation in that tradition, and a beautiful if rough (like the copyist handwriting) expression of the Gospel. You can find the entire letter here from Hunter Baker and I’d encourage you to read it, as I can’t capture it all. The writer goes to the letter to the Church in Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17). The letters to the churches follow a general pattern, a description of the risen Christ, a praise, a correction, a call to repent and a promise. Pergamum is praised for holding fast to the name of Christ, but corrected for tolerating false teachers who lead people astray. And this anonymous writer gives us a modern application. Quoting…
To those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum. “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” You are willing to compromise the word of God to be politically correct. We are not deceived. If we accept your willingness to compromise, then we must also compromise. We must therefore accept your lying, your adultery, your lust, your idolatry, your addictions, YOUR sins. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation.
The Gospel is not about acceptance of sin or our natural condition. We are all born sinful. We are all inclined to things we ought not to do. And the law of God holds us accountable for those things, even when we can’t help it. But Father didn’t leave us in that pitiful natural state. First he sent his Son Jesus who paid for all that wrong on the cross. In Christ we are part of the family, and families love each other, even the black sheep – and in this case we are all black sheep. Second – proceeding from the Father and the Son – the Spirit has been placed within us. And that Spirit wars against our flesh.
The letter writer citing Revelation clings to that hope. Not acceptance of sin, but forgiveness and conquest. Not simply condemnation, although calling a spade a spade is necessary, but in the freedom to speak the truth, finding love and fellowship. We have all fallen short. Even the best church in the letters in Revelation has “fallen from its first love (Rev 2:4).” We are all in need of hope. That is what the church is about – a family trying to preserve the beautiful, the things that remind us of our hope in Christ, until this war ends.