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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 22)

~~ Ch. 22 ~~
Monday morning’s “Theology 101” class was one of Hornby’s most enjoyable. Because the students were freshmen, their questions created great discussions, sometimes generating debates between various perspectives.

“Debates are good,” Hornby said as he closed his office door and began walking toward the classroom. “I really want my students to think for themselves.” He remembered G.K. Chesterton’s statement in defense of good argumentation: “What good are words,” Chesterton asked, “if you can’t argue over them?”

Hornby especially appreciated the beginning few minutes of class, a segment his students also looked forward to. It was his practice to share a short devotional from the Bible in every one of his sessions, and today was no exception. He had been working his way through John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus. Hornby had entitled this little series “Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die!” “But that’s exactly what Jesus did with His friend Lazarus, right, students?”

Hornby’s short devotional was followed by a vigorous discussion of God’s allowing — sometimes arranging — difficult circumstances in our lives for His glory.

After a brief word of prayer, Hornby said, “This morning, class, we’re going to talk about a subject that is very much related to our present discussion about the death — and subsequent resurrection — of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. The topic is the sovereignty of God.”

“But, Dr. Hornby, isn’t that a topic that pretty much divides Christians from one another?”, asked a young coed on the front row.

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Typically the topic of God’s sovereignty has divided believers into two categories: those who emphasize man’s free will (the Arminians) and those who put their emphasis on God’s control (the Calvinists).”

“Which category do you fit in, Dr. Hornby?”, asked Michael Delganey, obviously intrigued by the topic.

“Great question, Michael. But in some ways not a very easy one to answer.”

“How do you mean, Sir?”

“Well, above all I want to be biblical in my theology. And the challenge in this area is that there is biblical data on both sides of the debate.”

“What would be some of the data on the Armenian side?”, asked a student in the back.

“Great question,” Hornby said. “And I hope you won’t be offended, but the term you want is ‘Arminian’, not ‘Armenian.’ Armenians are those who come from the country of Armenia, a former Soviet republic in Asia. I guess you could have an Arminian Armenian, couldn’t you?”

The class laughed, including the student who confused the two terms.

“But back to your question. We get several Scriptures that emphasize man’s free will (the Arminian perspective) such as Mark 8’s statement about ‘whosoever will come after me’ and Joshua’s famous challenge in Joshua 24 to ‘choose you this day whom you will serve.’ The Bible is filled with expressions that imply man has the power to choose or not choose the Lord. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 23, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ I’m quoting the King James’ version. It just sounds better! Such statements certainly seem to imply man’s free will, don’t you think?”

Hornby could see the students’ thinking hard.

“But, Dr. Hornby, what’s the evidence for the other side, the sovereignty of God side?”, asked an older student.

“Well, we do get verses about predestination, such as Romans 8 which says, ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.’

“And we also get some challenging statements like Acts 13 which tells about the Gentiles who heard Paul and Barnabas share the gospel: ‘And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.’ ‘Ordained to eternal life’ — hmmm,” Hornby said.

“So God sovereignly chooses who will believe in Jesus?!”, asked a tall, lanky young man.

Hornby thought for a moment. “We need to be careful not to overstate our position. I once heard a Bible college president (not ours here at FBC) say that our challenge is to “remain in the center of biblical tension.”

“What in the world does that mean, Dr. Hornby?”, asked the same student.

“It means that our theological perspective, our theological framework, should not have power over what the Bible actually says. We don’t determine what the Bible says and what it means by our theology. We should derive our theology from what Scripture teaches.”

“So, I believe there is truth in both the Arminian and the Calvinist views. For the Arminian, the emphasis is on responding to the gospel. For the Calvinist, the emphasis is on God’s electing those who will believe. The danger for the Arminian is that it can fairly quickly become a kind of works-salvation. The danger for the Calvinist is that it can degenerate into a kind of fatalism (God knows who will believe and there’s nothing for us to do).”

“So, what’s the answer, Professor?”, asked a female student who was sitting at the back of the classroom.

“The answer, I would suggest, is to take all of the Word of God seriously, allowing every text to make its point, and not try to force any verses into our preconceived notions. The answer is that the gospel must be proclaimed and believed. And God will bless our efforts — both here and in other countries — to be faithful in our evangelism and missions.”

“There are other issues that are impacted by the Arminian/Calvinist debate,” Dr. Hornby said. “Such as the question, ‘Can one lose his salvation?’”

“The broader topic — God’s sovereignty — has very practical implications, students. It means, for example, that nothing in this life is accidental. God either ordains all things or allows all things. The biblical perspective is that He actively ordains some things and He, in a sense, passively allows other things. So human beings have, at least to some degree, free will or choice.”

“The book The Gospel of Coincidence makes the point that things don’t just happen. People do things.”

Michael Delganey thought to himself. “No accidents, huh? So what happened to my Uncle Bubba?”

Hornby did not miss the pensive look on Michael’s face and decided then and there that he would do a bit of investigating that critical event in his student’s life.

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 21)

~~ Ch. 21 ~~
“How’s it going, Son?” Henry Delganey asked over the phone. “Classes going well?”

“They’re going great, Dad,” Michael said. “I’ve made a few friends. I’m getting really challenged to do my best in my studies.”

“That’s wonderful, Michael. What are the teachers like?”

“Dad, that’s one of the best parts of being here at FBC. The faculty really care about us students.”

“Good to hear, Michael,” said his father. “So it’s not just a lot of boring lectures and endless homework assignments?”

“There’s plenty of work to do, that’s for sure. But I’m talking about the teachers’ making themselves available for the students.”

Henry squeezed Miriam’s hand as they were listening to their son on their cell phone’s speaker. “Have you had any serious personal conversations with any of the faculty?” Henry and Miriam were concerned with Michael’s grief over the loss of his uncle.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. My favorite prof is a Dr. Theophilus Hornby. He teaches biblical studies.”

“Really?”, asked Michael’s mom. “But he’s spent some time with you?”

“That’s the great thing about it, Mom. We were talking in class about the after-life and what happens when people die without Jesus. And, well, Dr. Hornby pretty much laid in on the line.”

“What do you mean, Son?”, Henry asked.

“Dr. Hornby really knows the Scriptures and he showed us the awful truth that those who die without Christ are lost forever.”

“What happened then, Michael?”

“Well, Dr. Hornby could see that I was upset and approached me after class — and even had lunch with me the next day — to help me with my questions.”

“You’re referring to Uncle Bubba’s passing, right?”

Henry and Miriam had been praying every morning that Michael would find peace about that tragedy.

“Yes. And he sympathized with my sadness. But he didn’t water down or compromise the Bible’s teaching about eternal lostness. He did ask me a few questions about the accident.”

“Really?”, responded both parents in unison.

“And you know what I think? I think he’s going to do a bit of looking into Uncle Bubba’s car accident for himself.”

************
“It’s amazing how easy it is to wire tap someone’s phone,” John Smith said to himself. He had been listening to every word of their conversation. “Hornby, huh? I guess I’ll just have to look up this Hornby character.”

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 20)

~~ Ch. 20 ~~
“I have never felt such abandonment in my life!”, Bubba said to himself. “Where am I? Am I in a coma from the accident? There’s this searing pain throughout my body. Why aren’t they giving me drugs?”

As he tried to look around Bubba became acutely aware that he was in a dark place. Not a dark place like one’s closet or out in the woods camping. No. A darkness like being in the bowels of a damp underground cavern.

He remembered hearing a Sunday School lesson when he was a young boy about a darkness that “could be felt” which God inflicted on the Egyptians as He prepared to free His people from slavery. “I can almost touch this darkness,” Bubba said. His own voice sounded odd, ethereal, distorted, as if he were stuck in some deserted, isolated pit.

“Sunday School!, that was a joke! What a bunch of nonsense that whole church thing was! What a waste of time!”

Bubba’s pain seemed to be increasing. He reached his right hand to touch his side and his side felt really strange, almost numb. “How am I ever going to get out of this place?”, he cried out in the darkness.

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 19)

~~ Ch. 19 ~~
Wednesday morning was one of Hornby’s most anticipated classes. He had taught “Eternal Destinies” as an upper-level theology course for several years, and, although only five seniors had signed up for it this semester, he was pleased with their enthusiasm.

With the Dean’s permission, Hornby invited leaders of several cults to come to his class and lecture on the topic of the end times from their perspectives. As he lined up his guests, he gave each of them a brief overview of the course and the kind of Evangelical students they would be speaking to.

For the next eight weeks Hornby scheduled 30 minute lectures by such guests as: the head of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the state, a female orthodox rabbi, two Christian Science ladies, a couple of Mormon elders from the neighborhood, a Buddhist priest, and a chiropractor who represented the Baha’i religion.

“I hope this year’s class will be as courteous as previous years,” Hornby said to himself. Those former students had conducted themselves admirably as they listened, took notes, and asked questions of the guest speakers from the various cults and religions.

Hornby’s students had been trained well for they usually asked two probing questions of each of the guests after their lectures were finished: (1) What is your final authority for what you believe? and (2) What is your perspective on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ?

I’m sure this semester’s class will be just as polite — and perceptive, Hornby thought to himself.

He remembered a previous year when the leader of the local Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall gave his guest lecture. The students had challenged him on his dismissal of the biblical truth of eternal hell and had pretty much bested him on the topic of Jesus’ deity.

After the class was over, Hornby made it his practice to walk the guest lecturer to his or her car, giving them a small gift of appreciation for their lecture. He also took the opportunity to share the gospel as best he could.

He remembered talking with Mike, the Jehovah’s Witness leader, about the gospel. Mike was dressed in a three-piece suit and was doing his best to leave the campus as soon as he could. After he accepted Hornby’s small gift, Mike began jumping up and down and slapping at his legs! This was unusual behavior for a Jehovah’s Witness.

It turned out that Mike had been standing on a red ant hill and was being bitten by those fire ants! It was all Hornby could do to keep himself from saying, “You know, Mike, bad doctrine sometimes brings bad consequences!” But Hornby simply waved goodbye as Mike drove off.

Bad doctrine does bring bad consequences, Hornby thought to himself, as he got ready to lecture to his “Eternal Destiny” students. And what worse consequence could there be than eternal hell?

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 18)

~~ Ch. 18 ~~
“Who’s in charge here?”, growled Sargent Sanders. “Where’s my Officer Bondo?”

Sanders gripped the ER nurses’ station, leaning over to bark at the thin, blond young woman who was filling in charts.

“Sir, I’m afraid Officer Bondo is in the ICU. Only family members are allowed to see him.”

“I AM family, Miss Hunter!” Sanders looked like he was going to jump over the desk when the attending ER physician came around the corner. “What’s happening here?”, he asked.

“I’m Officer Bondo’s boss — and I want to see him right now!”

“I’m afraid that’s impossible, Sargent. He’s in a coma.”

“A coma? What in the world happened to him? His wife called me and told me he was taken to the hospital.”

“I’m not sure what happened, but he crashed his patrol car into a patch of birch trees off Highway 77.”

“Highway 77? That’s way out of our jurisdiction. And nowhere near Bondo’s home.”

“Well, all I can tell you is that he will survive. He’s got two broken legs, a ruptured spleen, and a pretty severe concussion. If it hadn’t been for the patrol car’s airbags and the patient’s excellent physical condition, I don’t think he would have made it.”

“Doc, please call me when he wakes up. He’s young, but he’s an excellent driver. I need to know what happened to him.”

“Will do, Sargent Sanders. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got some other patients to attend to.”

As Sanders started to leave, he turned around and said to the young nurse, “I apologize for my abruptness, Miss. Please do all you can for my Officer.”

“You can count on it, Sir.”

John Smith was sitting close by in the patients’ section of the ER and was overhearing most of the conversations. “I hope this accident will discourage Bondo from doing any more investigating. I don’t really have any desire to finish off this cop.”

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 17)

~~ Ch. 17 ~~

Officer Bondo had been with the Detroit/Fayetteville Police Department for five years. And he so wanted to become a detective! Writing parking tickets and chasing drugged teenagers was not his idea of serious police work.

“We’ve closed the book on the Delvaney accident, Bondo,” said Sargent Sanders as he slapped the file down on his desk. “I guess we’ll never know why he drove off that cliff!”

Well, that conclusion just doesn’t work with me, Bondo thought to himself. He picked up the file to take it to the cold case locker, but first he stepped into the copy room to make a copy for himself. “I’m going to make detective, if it’s the last thing I do!”

Bondo drove home after his shift and began laying out his plan. “I haven’t had Italian in quite a while,” he said out loud. As he set his gps for Pontefiori’s Family Restaurant, he thought to himself, What are you getting into, Bondo? You just gonna grab a seat next to the crime family and pepper them with questions?! “Yes,” he said to himself. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do!”

He waited until about 8 pm. He had heard that the members of Bubba’s family gathered at Mama Pontefiori’s on Thursday evenings to report on their “businesses” and just to spend some time together.

When Bondo walked in he was not in uniform. He walked right up to the family table and pulled out a chair. “Hey, Buster, what do you think you’re doin’?” said Fernando, Bubba’s bodyguard.

“Calm down, my friend,” Bondo said. “I’m not here to make trouble.”

“Hey, he’s a cop from around here. What you want, Copper?”, said another rather large, muscled family member.

“I’m only here to ask a few questions. Our investigation of Mr. Delvaney’s accident gave us no answers why he would simply drive off that cliff.”

“No kidding, Einstein! What do you think you can do about it? You’re just a beat cop. You’re not even a detective!” This was said by Paschal, one of the older members of the family.

“You need to know that I don’t take delight in the death of anyone,” Bondo said. “But it bugs the heck out of me that my police department has given up finding some answers. That’s all I want.”

“Sure, Officer, uh . . .?” Fernando asked.

“Bondo. Alex Bondo. I may not be a detective. Yet. But I’d like your cooperation in my off-the-books investigation. What do you have to lose?”

“Lose? We don’t want no cop snooping around our business. Get lost, my man!” Paschal growled.

“Listen. My mamma always said I was stubborn. And I”m going to pursue this. Either with or without your help!” He swallowed hard, surprised at his own brashness.

“What do you need to know, Officer Bondo?” Fernando sat down and faced him. “We want to know what happened as well.”

He began with his list of questions about possible enemies, run-ins with competitors, angry family members. To each of his queries the family gave their best, but guarded, answers.

As he was about to leave, Bondo thanked the family and said he would do his best to get some answers. He hesitated as he thought about the last question he was going to ask. “But,” he said to himself, “this is no time to be timid.”

He turned to look at the table of Bubba’s friends and family and said, “I don’t know how to ask this, but was there anyone or anything that Mr. Delvaney was afraid of?”

Fernando let out an angry, “What?! That man was not afraid of anything! And how dare you imply that he was?”

Bondo almost feared getting slugged by the beefy bodyguard, but he quietly left the restaurant. As he was opening his car door, he heard someone say, “Officer Bondo?”

“Yes?”

Paschal stepped into the street light. “I really want to find out what happened to Bubba and it may sound crazy, but there was only one thing that I can think of that terrified Bubba.”

“And what would that have been?”, Bondo asked.

“He was afraid of . . . wasps. He would jump sky high if there was a wasp in the room. In fact, a few of us were laughing about that at Mike’s Tavern the other week. Just thought you’d want to know.”

“Thanks, Paschal,” Bondo said. As he drove away from the restaurant, he noticed that his brake pedal was a bit mushy. “I’d better get my brakes checked at the motor pool this week!” But that opportunity would not, unfortunately, present itself.

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 16)

~~ Ch. 16 ~~
“There is no accountability today!”, John Smith said outloud to himself. He was watching the evening news and its report of another school shooting. “There needs to be justice! Sin must be punished! Evil must be confronted!”

As he had his morning devotions, Smith gravitated to his favorite verses about God being an avenging God, a wrathful God, a God who cannot overlook sin.

“We have no ‘cities of refuge today,’” he said to himself. “So there’s no possibility of those who deserve wrath to hide themselves and wait for a trial. And that’s where I come in!” Smith smiled to himself as he began his plans of meting out God’s righteous punishment on wrong-doers.

He reread the obituary for Bubba Delvaney, noticing that there was one brother who was living somewhere in North Carolina. “I just may have to pay him a little visit,” Smith said as he packed a small travel bag. “It is,” he said, “a ‘fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,’” quoting one of his best-loved verses from the King James’ version of Hebrews 10. “It’s also a fearful thing to fall . . . into my hands!”

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 15)

~~ Ch. 15 ~~
Tuesday morning’s class was one of Hornby’s favorites. In reality, all of his classes were his favorites, for he considered shaping young minds an incredible privilege.

“Theological Methods and Issues” was an upper-level research class in which students learned how to investigate an issue and write persuasive, evidence-based papers on their chosen topic. And the topics were quite varied. Some chose to take on the issue of abortion and cultural values. Others worked on the topic of male leadership in the Scriptures. And still others investigated unusual subjects that they had thought about for a long time.

Hornby saw his job as helping the student sharpen his or her research question, pursue the best sources for information, and respond to the issue in a culturally-relevant manner. Each year as he taught this particular course, he was impressed with the excellent work of most of the students. In fact, last year he had self-published the top ten papers in the class as a book entitled “Thinking about Theology.” It had become a best seller — among the students’ parents and relatives!

But not all his students were eager to receive his wisdom in sharpening and researching their papers. One older female student proposed writing her paper on the Gullah people of South Carolina. Dr. Hornby, who knew a bit about that Low Country people group, suggested several ways in which that topic could a bit more focused.

“I remember that conversation as if it were yesterday,” Hornby said outloud to himself. “My student listened to my ideas, then looked at me and said, ‘If I followed your advice, Dr. Hornby, that would be your paper, not mine!’” Oh, well, he thought to himself. You can’t help everyone.

Hornby prided himself on his ability to find (and fix) every grammatical error in a student’s paper. He not only dealt with dangling participles and split infinitives, but simple matters such as punctuation errors, comma splices, and unclear antecedents.

He thought back on an email he received from one student who was considering taking his “Theological Methods and Issues” class. He wrote the student, welcoming her into the class, and added that he was death on grammatical errors and she should be prepared to proof-read her final paper several times.
He got back the following email: “Dr. Hornby, I read what you said about your correcting grammar mistakes, and I want you to know that you hurt my feeling.”

Hornby didn’t know how to respond. He wanted to write, “I’m sorry you were offended, and I believe you wanted to say ‘you hurt my feelings’, but I will do my best to help you compose the best paper you can.” Instead he left out the correction and assured her he was looking forward to working with her.

Some students thought that the FBC faculty did not carefully read student papers, but just skimmed them and assigned grades. “Ha!”, Hornby laughed to himself, as he recalled reading a rather lengthy paper on “The Mystics of the Middle Ages” by Kathy, an excellent student in his class. In the middle of her discussion of the philosophical foundation of mysticism, she wrote in a small footnote, “Dr. Hornby, if you are reading this whole paper, I will buy you a Burger King Whooper Meal Friday night at midnight!”

She and her friends were shocked to see Hornby enter the local Burger King at 11:59 pm on Friday night wearing a Burger King crown with a Burger King napkin tucked into his dress shirt and carrying a fork and a knife! That was one delicious meal, Hornby thought to himself!

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 14)

~~ Ch. 14 ~~
Henry Delganey was so proud of his son Michael. It had taken Michael a while to adjust to the move from Chicago, and he had seemed reluctant to start making friends.

But Henry and his wife Miriam had settled into a comfortable life near Faithful Bible College. They had been able to purchase a nice mountain cabin about twenty miles from the campus.

Miriam said, “Henry, is Michael doing okay with his studies? Any idea how he’s liking the dorm? Is he making any new friends? He really could do a better job keeping in touch with his mother!”

“Michael has texted me a couple of times. He’s still quite upset about his uncle’s death. But he’s told me some about his classes. His favorite professor is a Dr. Hornby. What a strange name!”

Miriam replied, “I just looked up that name on the internet and there was a famous Frank Hornby who was an English inventor back in the early twentieth century. He actually used his mechanical skills to create toys like the system called ‘Meccano.’ And he made a fortune from his model railways and the brand ‘Dinky Toys.’”

“Well, I don’t know if this Dr. Hornby is related to that toy guy or not,” Henry said. “I’m just glad Michael is enjoying his studies. Perhaps they will help him come to terms with our move — and the loss of his beloved uncle.”

“‘Beloved uncle?!,” Miriam said. “He was a criminal. And I’m glad we got out of Chicago!”

“Of course you are right, Dear. And I really don’t know how much Michael knows about Uncle Bubba. You and I have prayed for that side of the family for years. And we specifically prayed for Bubba’s salvation after I had that long talk with him last Christmas.”

Miriam said, “Did Bubba really call you a ‘religious wimp’?”

“I’m afraid so, Dear. I just pray that he got right with the Lord before, you know, his accident.” Henry looked at a photograph of Michael when he was eight and Uncle Bubba with Michael on his back.

Miriam put her arm around her husband. “You tried, Honey, to reach Bubba with the gospel. But I guess he was too blinded by the money he was making with that side of the family.”

 

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“STUNG! A Theophilus Hornby Mystery” (Ch. 13)

~~ Ch. 13 ~~
“You know, there’s a lot of verses about the sins of the fathers being visited upon their children,” John Smith said to himself outloud. “I would imagine that such Scriptures apply also to brothers, right?”

Taking out Bubba Delvaney was important, Smith thought to himself. But what other family members merit my expertise? He asked himself, “I think that Bubba had a brother, right?” I wonder where I might find him.

[New chapters in our story will be posted in July. Comments welcome!]

 

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