Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

In Other Words. . . What Did This Atheist Really Mean?

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 20 May 2008

"The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

. . beautiful thought isn’t it? Extending Emerson’s reflection into Christian thought, we might consider the following:

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
-I Peter 4:9-10

Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
-Titus 1:8

Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. . . .
- I Timothy 3:2

. . . and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
- 1 Timothy 5:10

Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.
- Titus 1:8

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
- Hebrews 13:2

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.
- Acts 16:15

The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.
- Acts 16:34

Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven.
- Acts 21:8

The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. . . . There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us hospitably.
- Acts 28:2 & 7
I wonder if Emerson’s contemplative mind was wrapped around these verses when he wrote so eloquently of friends adorning our homes. Much of Emerson's poetry has been highly esteemed. His poems display tenderness, affection and a love for nature. But, when he penned the beautiful words about ornamenting one’s home, his thoughts were not wrapped around Christian hospitality!

Emerson has been described by biographers as “a poet by nature,” “a spiritual philosopher.” Emerson was in fact a “minister,” but admitted that he never relished the contact with people (i.e., the "calling" he was expected to do every afternoon – sometimes referred to as “hospitality”), though he claims he did love to “preach.” But what exactly was Emerson preaching? Many Christians of Emerson’s day criticized his use of biblical texts to illustrate his sermons, as opposed to actually preaching from the texts. (Sounds a lot like some liberal churches of our day: afraid to open the Bible for fear of offending someone.) It has been said that Emerson’s congregation was charmed with his non-typical sermons because he spoke to people’s emotions and dealt with things of the spiritual realm with an enlightened elevation – separating them from overused biblical guidelines. Sounds to me like the [false] gospel according to Oprah.

Emerson’s career in ministry ended when he resigned over an issue with communion – claiming he differed in convictions over the purpose of it. In 1833 Emerson began a new career as a lecturer. At first he lectured mostly on scientific subjects, in a poetic spirit, but over time he began speaking in protest against a stale, “inherited” Christianity and called for fresh religious inspiration. Sadly, Emerson considered his ideas consistent with the teachings of Jesus and was truly surprised when he was denounced in a storm of controversy.Emerson immersed himself in reading and becoming “enlightened.” He even became a vegetarian. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) It’s been written that for many months all Emerson did was read and read and read (although I doubt at this point he was reading God’s Word). He read hundreds of books and scientific publications in several languages. He also took a zealous interest in the newly translated sacred texts of Eastern religions. The influence of Hindu scriptures and Persian poetry were fully incorporated in his thought and work after 1845.

Was Emerson an 1800’s forerunner of the post-modern, anti-Christian movement? Or was he just a plain old atheist? You decide. Here are some more famous quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

We must get rid of that Christ, we must get rid of that Christ!
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, from John E Remsberg, The Christ (1909)

Other world? There is no other world; here or nowhere is the whole fact.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson: The Mind On Fire, p. 382

To aim to convert a man by miracles is a profanation of the soul.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "DivinitySchool Address"

The word Miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is Monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Divinity School Address"

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart, is true for all men -- that is genius.... Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.... What I must do, is all that concerns me; not what the people think.... Nothing can bring you peace but ourself; nothing, but the triumph of principles.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, oft quoted by Charles Bradlaugh, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Bradlaugh and Secularism: 'The Province of the Real'"

If a man fasten his attention of a single aspect of truth and apply himself to that alone for a long time, the truth becomes distorted and not itself but falsehood.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays (First Series, 1841), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters
compared to what lies within us.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Quote found at The Atheist BlogRoll.

Quite contrasts to the idea of hospitality in the “ornaments of a house” quote, huh? I don't disagree with Emerson's thought about the ornament of one's house. But you do have to wonder what kind of "friends" he entertained. The friends we keep say much about who we are. So much that - yes - they can be seen as the "ornaments" of our homes. But the true ornament of a house is not necessarily the friends who frequent it, but the atmosphere in which those friends are welcomed. The ornament of a Christian house is God's Word.

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
- Deuteronomy 6:9

Meaning: #1 Meditate on God's Words so that our thoughts are employed about them - including (tada!) hospitality. #2 Train our children in God's Word. #3 Frequent reading of God's Word - so we are familiar with it and have it ready to use upon all occasions - including being able to tell the difference between a secular, atheistic, postmodern, spiritually-enlightened, Ralph Waldo Emerson-view of things . . . and God's Word.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
- Joshua 24:15
(And, yes - that is the Goossen home right there in the picture!)

-Esthermay Bentley-Goossen

This week,
Heather is hosting "In 'Other' Words." Visit her at, Mommy Monk and see what others are blogging about Emerson's quote . . . "In Other Words."


Karen said...

That last verse you gave says it all, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." A fine ornament to hang alongside the ornaments of our friends.

Heather@Mommymonk said...

You've put a lot of effort into this post. I think it is important to know the source of our quotations and his/her background. It definitely gives it context. The friends gathered around us DO paint a picture of our convictions and personality. What's amazing to me is that (despite the author's personal beliefs) God can speak through anyone. Even a donkey. :)

Anonymous said...

That was an amazing and extraordinary post. Thank you so so much for sharing your insight behind the verse!

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