Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The year was 1926, and we remember J.I. Packer. The reading is a word about Christian hope from Packer himself.

It is the 22nd of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1926.

You may have noted that we recently looked at an event from 1926 about a week ago. Today we go back to the same year, will look at different events, and then get to a very special remembrance.

It was in 1926 that construction began on Route 66. The so-called "Mother Road" sought to not only connect Chicago and Los Angeles with the first east/west highway, but it also sought to revitalize small towns by streaming motorists through specific areas for food, rest, and work. It was extremely useful for those heading west during the Great Depression and the Dustbowl.

Due to increases in car ownership and road building, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover realized that the European rubber monopolies could stifle American growth. It was in 1926 that Hoover worked with Harvey Firestone in exploring new sources for rubber. Firestone would sign a 99-year lease with Liberia to produce rubber for export on 1 million acres of Liberian land. The Firestone production center has long been bedeviled by charges of using child labor and wage slavery.

Speaking of cars, tires, and labor, back in the U.S., Henry Ford introduced the 40-hour workweek in 1926. Ford had long realized that the back-breaking and repetitive nature of work on an assembly line would have to be compensated appropriately, or the rate of employee turnover could be deleterious to the company. While some saw Ford's new 40-hour workweek as pro worker, it was a savvy move by Ford who loathed labor unions and used perks to dissuade employees from organizing.

It was in 1926 that the Scholastic Aptitude Test was first given nationally to American high school students. The test based on an Army I.Q. test was initially used for Ivy League scholarships. It became the standard test for college entrance in the second half of the 20th century. In the past few years, many schools have stopped requiring any standardized admission tests. Due to the coronavirus, the University of California school system, as well as Harvard and Yale, have stopped requiring any standardized admission test.

Looking again to deaths in 1926, two men with almost cult-like followings died in this year: the poet Rainer Marie Rilke died, as did five-time presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.

1926 saw the births of two women who would go on to become caregivers to fictional kids on television programs. The first, Ann B. Davis, played Alice on "The Brady Bunch," while Charlotte Rae would go on to play Mrs. Garrett on "The Facts of Life."

You may remember that just last week, we remembered Frederick Beuchner, the author and theologian born in 1926. And today, we remember one of the most influential Christian authors of the 20th century. It was on this, the 22nd of July, in 1926, that James Innell Packer was born in Gloucestershire, England.

James, who went by his initials J.I., grew up in a lower-middle-class family. After an accident at age 7, he took to reading and writing. He was awarded scholarships to attend Oxford University, and it is there, where during an event put on by the local Intervarsity chapter, that Packer claimed to have a conversion experience. Packer was taught by C.S. Lewis at Oxford and sat under Martin Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Cathedral.

He was ordained an Anglican priest but spent his life traversing the ecumenical roads between both Anglicans and Evangelicals, and between centrist and conservative Christians. While he fell out with Lloyd-Jones overstaying in the Anglican community (Jones argued that Packer should have left the church body sooner), Packer became an important figure for the new Anglican Church in North America. Packer moved to Vancouver, Canada, in 1979 to teach at Regent College. He held his post there until just recently when his vision began to fail.

He is the author of hundreds of books and articles, many employing and embodying the Puritan and Calvinist traditions. His most popular was a book called "Knowing God." Published in 1973, it has sold over a million copies.

You have likely heard that J.I. Packer died five days ago, five days away from what would have been his 94th birthday. The giant of Anglican evangelicalism was born on this, the 22nd of July, in 1926.

The reading for today comes from Packer himself, a word about Christian hope, which he carried until that hope was realized five days ago.

"Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark. Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse 'in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself. Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come. Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God's own commitment, that the best is yet to come."

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by a man whose favorite character was Tutti, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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