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THE WAY I FIGURE

 

When our church was organized, it was a mission church of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City.  They are our mother church.  Dr. Fenwick Talmage Fowler was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City at the time.

 

On March 2, 1958, Dr. Fowler preached a sermon on his philosophy of life, which was published into a small booklet, which follows.

 

The Way I Figure

By Fenwick Talmage Fowler

One Baptist’s Philosophy of Life

 

Every man has some philosophy he lives by.  He may never express it chronologically or coherently, but he lives by it.  With multitudes that philosophy is simple and unvoiced – Get all the things you can and have fun while you live.  Hope you don’t get sick and forget that eventually you die.  More people in America that way than any other.  

 

LIFE’S OBLIGATIONS

 

Over against them may I tell you how I figure?  Well, I start like this:  Looking at the universe and the fearful and wonderful way it has been made, with the men who have been put in it, with all the mystery that surrounds the whole creation, I figure that whoever gave man life expected him to do something very important with it.  Living for oneself and giving oneself a good time seems too trivial a way to use a life when so much cost and significance have gone into the setting.

 

THE CREATION

 

I start with the universe and life, but immediately that takes me back to who made them.  Now either someone created them or all is an accident.  I observe that man is so constructed that each organ moves in response to the impulse of a certain section of the brain.  If a certain area of the brain is disaffected, the man can’t raise his left arm.  That indicates how much intelligence has gone into the creation of man.  Looking at the earth with the ever recurring seasons, the universe with the unvarying rhythm.  I am further impressed by the Intelligence behind it all.  If the creation were an accident, all we know would not reflect such orderly systematic planning.  The results of accidents are chaotic, not systematic.  So I find it not possible to believe the creation is an accident.  Someone must have made it,  I call him God.  You can call him the First Cause, the Creator, or what you will.  

 

GOD’S EXISTENCE

 

Countless books, marshalling numerous arguments, have been written to prove the existence of God.  Three evidences of God have been sufficient to establish Him as the center of my world.  I know He exists for the same reason that Arab knew that a man had been outside his tent during the night.  The Arab saw the man’s footprint in the sand.  Everything I see – the rose, the sky, the sea, the land, man – is God’s footprint in the sand.  Again, I know God exists because a voice from another world keeps prompting me about right and wrong.  No matter how I try, I can’t be rid of it.  But the most significant fact is that all men have it in varying degrees.  Yet again, the most compelling evidence for God arises out of what I know about myself.  I know I am.  I know I am talking to you right now.  I know I am intelligent.  (For instance, I can memorize a sermon and I know the names of the congregation.)  Now, because I am intelligent there must be intelligence behind the universe, otherwise the universe has produced something greater than itself because it has produced me.  That would make me greater than what produced me, which couldn’t be because I cannot produce myself.  I can reproduce according to the God-given plan, but no man has ever produced a man.  That which is created is always less than what created it.  So if I have intelligence, a greater Intelligence must have created me.  As a matter of fact, when I look at the universe I see many, many things which that Intelligence has done with my intelligence I could never do.  For these powerfully poignant reasons I figure there is a God

 

THE NATURE OF GOD

 

Believing there is a God and being incurably curious, I next want to know what He is like.  Any boy can tell you what his father is like by the way he treats him.  Is this not my clue to discovering what God is like?  How has He treated me?  He has given me a beautiful world to live in.  It is not only beautiful, but it contains everything to supply my need.  The raw material for my food, my clothes, my health, my amusement and my adventure are all here.  When unhappiness or affliction descend on me they usually are the result of my own willful wrongdoing or that of other men.  And even a boy does not feel a father is mistreating him if the father administers a much needed spanking.  Spanking a boy often proves just how good a father is.  God has treated me well – He must be a good God.  The few inexplicable misfortunes that may befall me from His hands cannot tip the scales of my judgment against the overwhelming evidence in favor of His goodness.  Again God must be good – that is, better than I, for He made me and being my Creator He must be better than I.  At my best, I am a fine fellow: generous, merciful, kind, aspiring.  God can be no less for He made me.  Yet again He has filled my head with high hopes for this life and higher ones for the next.  He must have done it, because I have them and He created me.  As a matter of fact, they have come as standard equipment with every race of men since the beginning of recorded time.  All this evidence makes me believe in a good God

 

OUR PERSONAL GOD

 

Since a good God made me, He must be interested in me personally.  He certainly wouldn’t be as good as I am to my family if He set in motion the forces that produced me and then ignored me.  I don’t do that with any member of my family,  I have additional proof of His interest in me in the provision He has established for communication between us.  No one can tell me He is not interested in me for I have felt His approval and His disapproval.

 

LIFE’S PURPOSE

 

This leads me to the fundamental question of my life.  Since a good God, personally interested in me, has given me my life, what shall I do with it?  As an appreciative child shows his love and gratitude, I shall try to do what He wants me to do.  In fact, in love I will pay Him the supreme compliment any son pays a father – I will try to be like Him.  I will attempt to bring His purposes to pass.  As nearly as I can apprehend, God’s purpose in His creation is to bring about universal harmony.  That is where I notice the greatest difference between the works of God and man.  Where God works and walks, He leaves harmony and cooperation – the smooth working stars, the miracle working saints.  Where man walks, too often there is strife and cacophonous fury – the strident discords of our economic life, the hell of internal war.  In so ordering my life, I will prove myself worthy of further adventures with Him beyond the skies.

 

BIBLE LIVING

 

Trying to live a Godlike life brings me face to face with the Bible.  I dare not form my opinion about the Godlike life without comparing notes with others, the best men who have lived.  I must do this to be sure that some personalism is not distracting the compass needle of the revelation God has made to me.  I find other men’s revelations of God in the Bible.  It is a record of the experiences of thousands of people with The Divine over a period of 1500 years.  If the Godness in me checks with the Godness in all these, I may be sure I am ordering my life aright.  What’s more, I will get invaluable instructions on how to go about it.  The more I read the Bible, the more I become impressed with the adequacy.  There is no moral or ethical situation to which it does not offer solution.  The secret of its truth is that the truth was first.  Things are not true because they are in the Bible – they are in the Bible because they are true.  What the Bible writers did was to observe the rules God had implanted in the universe and then wrote them down.  If all the Bibles were destroyed tomorrow and all men forgot what was therein, we should learn again through the slow and painful way of human experience what has been bequeathed to us in the Bible.

 

JESUS, THE WAY

 

In the Bible I meet the most arresting life that ever has been lived on earth. I face Jesus.  More books have been written about Him than any other one.  His earthly life was so spectacular that those who witnessed it were forced to resort to the super-natural to explain Him.  The Bible quite frankly calls Him the only begotten Son of God.  While it is really irrelevant to debate His origin, it is obvious that He is inexplicable without some miracle of God.  At the same time, it seems indispensable that God should have given mankind some life pattern to follow. How could a good God, interested in His creation, withhold a definite blueprint
of His will for it?  In Jesus I find this specific attempt of God to reveal Himself.  His will and way for men.  It is apparent to me that if I surrender my life to Jesus so that His Way becomes my way. He becomes my Saviour and I find my salvation. By identifying myself with this essence of God, I claim for my life the essence of God.

 

REASONS FOR BEING A CHRISTIAN

 

This is the primary reason I am a Christian:  Because the most abundant life is opened to me as a follower of Jesus.  But there are at least eight other reasons. First:  Because I am grateful for the love God has expressed toward me in sending His Son. (John 3:16.)  Second:  Because I ought to be better than I am and if I confess my sin God wilt cleanse me from its power. (Rom. 6:14.)  Third:  Because the noblest characters I know have been Christ inspired. (Phil. 4:13.)  Fourth:  Because my largest usefulness on earth depends upon it. (Rom.3:11.)  Fifth:  Because the world needs Christlike lives more than anything else. (Matt. 5:30.)  Sixth:  Because I stand for the liberty of every personality and oppose its domination by the state. (Mark 2:27.)  Seventh: Because I want to cooperate with God in His great redemptive purpose for all nations. (Matt. 28:19).  Eighth:  Because I want to avoid what Jesus calls "the wrath of God" and "the danger of hell." (John 3:36.)  If I do not cooperate with God’s will and purposes here, why should I expect Him to want my fellowship or feel that He could use me in the hereafter?

 

REASONS FOR BEING A CHURCH MEMBER

 

Since I find it impossible to make the most of my life without following Jesus as a Christian, I figure I should join the church where the only Christians without reservations are to be found.  But this is not the only reason I figure I should belong to the church.  There are at least eight others. First: Because of what the church is and what it has done for mankind.  Second: Because I need the help of God's church and the church needs me. (Ps. 73:2.)  Third: Because it would be wrong for me to accept the benefits of the church if I refused to join and sustain it.  Fourth: Because I would not want to live or bring children up in a community that was churchless. Fifth: Because by staying outside the church I am throwing my influence against Christ and His church. (Matt. 12:30.)  Sixth: Because if all people refused to unite with  the church there would be no church and I dare not do that which, if everybody did, would mean catastrophe.  Seventh: Because the church offers me the opportunity to invest myself in the worthiest cause of all, the Kingdom of God.  Eighth:  Because if I do not stand for Christ and His church here, how can I expect Him to claim me at my last day? (Mark 8:38.)

 

REASONS FOR BEING A PROTESTANT

 

Accordingly, one day I joined a Baptist church.  But the kind of church one joins is comparatively unimportant, so long as it is a Protestant church.  1 say Protestant church because Protestant churches, and they alone, are founded upon the Gospel with the least deviation from the primitive Christianity practiced by the apostles
and recorded in the Bible.  If God sent Christ to show me the Way, I want to follow His Way and not a way that has been altered by ecclesiastical systems, either ancient or new.  I find the ideals of Jesus' primitive Christianity in purest form in the Protestant Church.

 

REASONS FOR BEING A BAPTIST

 

I look for the day when all Protestants will be reunited in one great church.  I cannot believe when Christ taught His disciples about His body, His church, He ever meant it to be divided into the 260 divisions we have in America, for example.  But while I am working toward this union I prefer to be a member of a Baptist church.  First: Because its people are the ones who showed interest in me.  Second: Because the church is a fellowship of Christ among men and there will be more fellowship for me where people have shown an interest in me.  Third: Because the Bible, and no man made authority, is the only rule of the Baptist faith and conduct.  Fourth:  Because Baptists believe in the Priesthood of the Believer.  Each one can go directly to God without channeling through a system or priest,  Fifth: Because Baptists believe in a Believer's Baptism:  Baptism after one is old enough to know what faith in Christ is and to confess it.  Only such baptism is Scriptural or meaningful.  Sixth: Because Baptists believe in the liberty of conscience. This means I can believe whatever God reveals to my heart through Christ and the Bible.  I have to swallow no itemized creed, yet I can cooperate in a vast fellowship where opinions may vary as the sun and moon and still be true to what God has said to my own heart.  Seventh: Because hosts of Baptists believe not only in one world but in one church.

 

REASONS FOR BEING A BAPTIZED BAPTIST

 

Since the Baptist church uses the Scriptural form of immersion baptism, I figured I should be baptized.  But that was not the only reason -- there were several others. First: Jesus commanded it.  (Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.)  How could I be obedient to this commandment without obeying it myself?  Second: The apostles of the early church practiced it and taught it. (John 4:1-3) (Acts 2:38-41.)  Third: Because Jesus set the example. He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. (Matt. 3:13-17.)  If it was righteousness for Jesus, how much so for me? 

 

A soldier is a soldier as soon as he takes the oath, but people do not recognize him as a soldier until he puts on the uniform.  I might have been a Christian without being baptized, but I would have been a disobedient and (un)informed one. I
figured when was baptized I had my first chance to preach a sermon. The theme of that profound sermon as I went down into the water symbolizing my severance from the old life and rising to the new was "'I believe in Christ and I propose to follow Him."  I hoped that sermon might move others to do the same.  I figured if I was not baptized, there was a flaw in my love, a willfulness that made me guilty of the root sin of all -- the pitting of my will against God's will. 

 

When I fell in love with my wife I didn't say, "Let's go live together."  I procured a preacher.  I made elaborate preparations in the holiest place I knew -- in a church -- in front of all the friends I could get into the edifice and there publicly I married her so everyone would know what our relationship was.  In other words, a common law marriage was unworthy of our love.  I figured if I said I loved God and was not baptized, ours was a common law marriage unworthy of His great love for me.  Thereafter I laced the unknown vista of the years taking Paul's great confession for my own.  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."


My figuring began with my life and our world.  They led me to God.  Thinking about God and His will resulted in my becoming a baptized member of a Baptist church, living my life in accord with the concepts of Christ.  I cannot see where there is an error in my logic.  Therefore, why shouldn’t every person do as I have done.