The Bulls of Bashan

In honor of Dr. Morton Smith.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the God, who vindicated David and David’s Son, will vindicate Dr. Smith. I have no doubt that Bulls of Bashan will finally be put to shame. The Bulls of Bashan are fierce and sometimes they win for awhile, but always they are utterly defeated.

 

Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me (Psalm 22:12).

Psalm 22 is beyond doubt prophetic of our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is also descriptive of the experience of its author, King David. In both cases, that of David and David’s greater Son, the Bulls of Bashan are strong and ferocious enemies who surround with the intent to destroy the righteous sufferer.

While the ultimate and redemptive fulfillment of Psalm 22:12 is in the sufferings of Jesus, since it also describes David, who is both a type of Christ also an example of believing faith and experience, it is applicable to Christ’s church and people today.

I have been thinking of the Bulls of Bashan for several days – since word came that 94 year old Dr. Morton H. Smith suffered a stroke last Thursday and that tests  revealed that Dr. Smith is also suffering from a brain tumor. To the surprise of his doctors Dr. Smith survived the stroke and today (Monday) is eating, but, as might be expected, but to our grief, the brain tumor will not be treated. Presently an effort is being made to find a residential hospice in which Dr. Smith can finish his course.

I have had a “mixed” relation with Dr. Smith. When I was a kid in seminary and arrived to take the exam for the third quarter systematic theology exam, Dr. Smith was not pleased that I was wearing Bermuda length shorts. He kicked me out, and told me to go home and change. I thought him wrong then, and I think him wrong now. A good number of years later, word got to me that Dr. Smith had criticized me for the position I had taken in defending an interracial marriage. I thought I was right then, and I think I am right today.

But, today, I, who will reach threescore and ten this week (should I be spared till my birthday) can say that through the many years since I graduated from seminary in 1972, and today, while I respect many, there is no one I respect more than Dr. Smith. It is hard to use the word “love” with regard to Dr. Smith, because, while he has always been a gracious Christian gentleman in my dealings with him, I have  never felt what we now call “empathy” and “warmth” from him. But, if love is appreciation, respect, and steadfast loyalty, then I do love Dr. Smith.

Dr. Smith was attacked by the Bulls of Bashan a couple of years ago. It was not because of his having in old age turned away from Christian or Reformed orthodoxy. In fact his is a stalwart of Biblical faith. It was not because in old age he had turned away from godliness. His is a consistent godliness, and he has only grown to love and reflect his Savior more.  In fact, when I think of a godly old man, no one comes to mind more quickly or naturally than Dr. Smith. No, it was not for lack of Biblical faith or Biblical godliness that Dr. Smith has been surrounded by the Bulls. It is because Dr. Smith, a man born in the South in 1923, believed in and wrote in defense of segregation. You see, mistaken views about race are not only mistakes; they are sins. They are not only sins; they are grievous sins. They are not only grievous sins; they are the worst of sins.

Now many of these brothers are young Bulls, and, while they are full of bull, they can be excused for lacking the judgment and maturity needed to judge either the times or Dr. Smith rightly. Some, however, including one who went to confront Dr. Smith and to call him to “repentance,” are old enough to know better and cannot be excused for a lack of time to develop judgment. The surrounding of Dr. Smith by these Bulls reminds us that, if Dr. Smith can be described as “sinning,” he is surely more sinned against than sinning. These Bulls are misguided at best, merciless at worst. What they have done to this old saint is, in any case, inexcusable.

When Dr. Smith was undergoing relentless attacks by the Bulls two years ago, I wrote three blogs to try to give some perspective and to defend Dr. Smith. If you are interested, here are links to them:

6.24.15 Somebody Must Defend a 92 Year Old Man
6.25.15 Heaven’s PCA Hounds
6.26.15 No Country for Old Men

I know that Dr. Smith has other defenders besides this Reformed Episcopalian. What I do not know is if any of the leadership of Reformed Theological Seminary or of the Presbyterian Church in America have risen to his defense. Perhaps they have, but, if they have not, their failure to do so is a great example of ingratitude, cowardice, and not having done what they ought to have done. So, brothers, if you are going to speak up for a godly man, the time is short, and the time to do so is now.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the God, who vindicated David and David’s Son, will vindicate Dr. Smith. I have no doubt that Bulls of Bashan will finally be put to shame. The Bulls of Bashan are fierce and sometimes they win for awhile, but always they are utterly defeated.

May our Lord grant his servant a safe journey, a peaceful passage, and a happy arrival in the heavenly kingdom.

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon, to faithful warriors cometh rest.
Sweet is the calm of Paradise the blest.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(“For All the Saints Who From Their Labors Rest”)

William H. Smith is a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church; he lives in Water Valley, Miss. This article is used with permission.

See Also:

In Memoriam: Morton Howison Smith, Faithful Servant of Christ’s Church