It is the 10th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Oh boy. You are in for a treat today- a curious, curious man whose life intersected with so much of popular culture in the late 19th century. Let’s get right down to it with the story of a man born on this, the 10th of September in 1839 the Reverend Dr. Isaac K. Funk.
His life started out inconspicuous enough, Funk was born in Clifton, Ohio OTD and went to Wittenburg College followed by the Wittenberg Theological Seminary (both in Springfield). He was ordained in 1861 and took his first call in Indiana. 1861. He would go on to pastor in Ohio through 1864. Think about taking your first pastorate as the Civil War is breaking out! And while he was in Indiana and Ohio there were still legitimate pockets of confederate sympathy in his towns. I’m gonna guess that this made his first pastoral calls difficult.
He took a call to Brooklyn as the pastor of St. Matthews Lutheran Church. He served for 7 years and then resigned from the ministry to travel across Europe and Asia. His interest in lexicography led to a business venture with his old classmate Adam Wagnalls. The two would publish one of the most important dictionaries AND encyclopedias in the history of the English language: The Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary and Encyclopedia.
Coming back to New York the former Lutheran pastor became a prominent proponent of Prohibition. Lutherans and Prohibitionism don’t always go together but it seems Funk had a loose relationship with the Lutheran Church by this time. He ran for mayor of New York on the Prohibition ticket.
[Real fast: don’t always think of Prohibitionists as just prude moral crusaders- there was this element, there was also an economic element to it such that prohibitionists sought to curb the power of the liquor industry, others were anti-immigrant (especially anti-Irish and Italian), and with those groups involved prohibitionism had an anti-Catholic side to it as well]
In his lifetime he was famous for his publishing firm that printed both sacred and secular reference works, but it was his interest in spiritualism that caught the eye of the press. In fact, his obituaries hardly mention his publishing work and go into great detail into his fascination with mediums and psychics. He wrote “the Widows Mite” and “the Psychic Riddle”. The former was a story about a time when he lost an important coin, sought a medium, and she was able to locate the coin for him. He claims to have spoken with Theodore Parker, Thomas Paine, and his mother with the help of Mediums. While he attempted to have an open mind about spiritualists, some have claimed that he was often duped by less than scrupulous actors.
Upon his death in 1912 his funeral was attended by prominent New York pastors, including the pastor of his old parish in Brooklyn. Funk had left the Lutheran Church, however, and his funeral was held in a Brooklyn Congregational church.
Isaac K. Funk- pastor, lexicographer, publisher, quasi-spiritualist… we remember him on the 182nd anniversary of his birth on this, the 10th of September in 1839.
The last word for today is from the first chapter to the epistle to the Ephesians:
11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who always brings the Funk, he is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who always brings the Wagnalls, I am 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.