Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted with permission from Doug Kutilek’s free newsletter “As I See It,” a monthly electronic magazine, and appears here with some editing. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at email@example.com.
Should my life extend to the 17th of this month, I will have attained to my “Heinz pickles” birthday (if you don’t catch the allusion, look at the label on a jar). Having lost a step or two in my race with the grim reaper—a race I must inevitably lose—I am compelled to reflect on life, particularly on my life. The inescapable decline in physical and mental capacity has long since set in, and is continuing apace. I can no longer labor physically with the intensity and endurance that I not so long ago could. My mental stamina for protracted and intense study is noticeably diminished, though I hope I am much more efficient in the use of my mental energies than I was at 20 or 30 or even 40. I’m over the crest and on the back side of the hill—and have no certainty as to how long or steep the slope is on the way to the bottom.
I ask myself, what have I accomplished in these nearly 57 years? Compared to a list I wrote up for myself when 25, precious little, indeed virtually nothing that I had planned to do back then. I had set an agenda of teaching in Bible college or seminary—continuous teaching at one institution was the intent (preferably one with an extensive library). I have in truth taught much in the intervening years, indeed almost continuously and in many places and schools and churches, but without the continuity (or livable salary—I’ve nearly always had to endure the distraction of “secular” work) to accomplish the second purpose on my list: to transform class lecture notes into books on theology, apologetics, Bible topics and the like. A systematic theology and a major book on OT messianic prophecy (to replace Hengstenberg’s work) were planned, along with several other works. I have written much and diversely for publication—enough to fill a dozen books (only one of which has actually been published), but certainly much less of a lasting nature than I had hoped at 25. I have thought several times of compiling and publishing topical books “from the pages of As Is See It”: one of biographical sketches (chiefly Baptists), another of selected articles on the KJV controversy, another on the history of Bible translations (English, Hebrew, Spanish, Romanian, and more), yet another on studies in OT texts, another on studies in NT texts, and more. But since self-publishing requires a considerable cash outlay, and more considerable storage space for unsold stock, I haven’t yet undertaken any of these (so far, my efforts to secure a commercial publisher have been frustratingly unsuccessful). I fully believe that “the writing that men do lives after them.” I know well Spurgeon and A. T. Robertson and Vance Havner and Wilbur Smith and a many other men—indeed, including Paul, Peter, John and Jeremiah—because of the extensive corpus of writings they left behind. I suppose it goes without saying that the first step in all this must be to write something worth leaving behind.
I have been an industrious and steady journalizer since 1977 with something on the order of 60+ journals and notebooks written during that time (and one semester’s journal from high school in 1969). These may someday be the raw material for an autobiography, should I ever decide to write one for family consumption (I often wish my grandparents and great grandparents had written some 20-30 pages, at least, “for posterity”). At the very least, should my children or grandchildren ever wish to get to know me better when I am gone, or learn what I was like “long ago,” they can consult my journals (if they can successfully decipher my often wretched penmanship). Whatever writing skills I may possess are largely a result of my journal-keeping, and my practicing and honing of my writing there.
What specific legacy will I leave for my descendants? Perhaps some money or material goods (books, mostly, I suppose), but this has not been and is not now a goal of mine. My financial goal all along has been to insure as far as possible that I will have enough money to last as long as I do, so that I am no material burden to anyone. Whether I am successful to this end remains to be seen. A legacy of money is much over-rated. It is often unappreciated by heirs, and if substantial can be a positive curse, leading to a lifestyle idle, corrupt, and arrogant.
I have sought to leave as a legacy to my children and grandchildren an example of diligence and hard work (the masthead of AISI contains a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear giving my perspective) and accepting personal responsibility for myself in all aspects of life. In this, I believe my wife and I have been successful. All of our children are productive and hard-working, assuming personal responsibility for their own needs and those dependent on them. I recall a day some 18 years ago now (dutifully recorded in my journal) in which everyone in the family was gainfully employed—my wife at the dialysis clinic, I and the boys working on my brother’s farm, the older daughter working at a job and the younger baby-sitting for someone. Independence and self-reliance, rather than dependence has ever been the aim. This legacy is taught—and learned—by example; I received it from watching my own parents, and grandparents. I will admit to at times being unproductive, and sometimes being unmotivated, but I would take great offense if someone ever called me lazy.
Another legacy I hope to leave is one of studiousness, a legacy of extensive education and mental attainments, though not necessarily or exclusively of the formal kind. In truth, everyone who is truly educated is so by personal application to study and reading and thought. A good formal education can at best lay a foundation upon which a person can then build for himself, or point in the right direction as to what ought to be learned. Prior to my father (and his brother) no one on that side of the family had ever been to college, and indeed, high school graduates were rare (my paternal grandfather, typical of his day, attended through the 8th grade only; on my mother’s side, several of her sisters were college graduates). My father, though himself rather unstudious, became an M.D. In my generation, my older brother is a D. O., and my two sisters are R.N.s (as is my wife); I have already recorded in AISI 11:9 some account of my own education. Of our four children, all have had some college, two are graduates, and one has an earned master’s degree, with some interest in and prospects for further formal study (none, however, shares my strong interest in languages).
But more than just a record of “skill” at jumping through the formal hoops to get a college degree of two, I have sought to pass on a legacy of life-long study and learning—ever learning, growing, thinking. And while I have admittedly regularly indulged my extensive desire for more, ever more books, I have also indulged my children’s desire for books. Any time they—and now grandchildren, too—have expressed an interest in a book, I have gotten a copy for them. Over the years, as I have done much reading, my knowledge has gotten fuller and my interests broader; the more I read, the more books I want to read, and the more topics I want to learn about. One son, the youngest, loves books nearly as much as I do, and is much better read in certain subjects: all things military, and especially the American Civil War.
But the most important legacy I hope to leave behind is a spiritual heritage. On my father’s side, in the old country (Bohemia) and during the first generation in America, my ancestors were non-religious Catholics. My grandparents, for reasons I never learned, became and remained members of a theologically non-conservative mainline Protestant denomination, the Christian Church, from their 20s until their 70s, but from their 70s to their 90s, they attended first, independent Baptist churches, then a Gospel-preaching Assembly of God (the latter mostly due to its close proximity to their apartment).
My maternal grandfather, Ernest Ray Johnston, raised with no known (to me) religious training, was converted during the 1911 Billy Sunday crusade in Wichita, Kansas (one of more than 5,000 converts). He was briefly a lay-preacher, long served as a deacon, and was a frequent witness for Christ. Through my maternal grandmother Rufina Teague Johnston, there is a solid lineage of Southern Baptists back at least 200 years (to before 1800), and of Protestantism (Huguenots) back another century more. My great grandfather, William Pleasant Teague, born in 1863 in North Carolina (Rowan County), was a lay-preacher; there were many Baptist preachers named Teague in North Carolina in the 19th century. I have no doubt that some of them were relatives.
In my own generation, on my mother’s side of the family there are 28 of us cousins, the off-spring of 7 sisters, all faithfully raised in conservative Southern Baptist churches, and more than half of whom grew up in pastors’ or deacons’ homes; a handful were educated for the ministry, though at a then-liberal Southern Baptist school (which did negatively impact their theological perspective). Sadly, of the 27 cousins still living, only about half have today what could by any reasonable measure be called a vibrant relationship with God through Christ. Some have aligned with liberal, apostate churches (which condone the corrupt lifestyle they have chosen); some have no church affiliation at all. Incidence of divorce among the cousins is about on par with those in American society who are completely unchurched. Of the many children descended from those of my generation, an even smaller percentage has an active relationship with Christ. The spiritual legacy of three centuries is being frittered away in just two generations.
A spiritual legacy is not secure when merely one’s own children embrace it. It is secure only when that generation assumes the responsibility to pass that heritage on to their own children, and they are raising them to fear and serve God. I am grateful to God that by His grace all four of our children have embraced this Biblical heritage, and are in turn actively instilling it in their own children. By God’s grace this most precious legacy will not be lost.
If this legacy is passed intact, I can die a contented man.
Doug Kutilek is the editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism and has been researching and writing in the area of Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, Mo.), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati; and completed all requirements for a Ph.D. except the dissertation); and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minn.). His writings have appeared in numerous publications including The Biblical Evangelist, The Baptist Bible Tribune, The Baptist Preacher’s Journal, Frontline, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and The Wichita Eagle. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he resides with his wife Naomi near Wichita, Kansas.