“That house must have gold bricks in the basement,” I laughed as we passed an untidy home with its woodwork falling off its facade that just sold for $US950,000. Down the street a home teetering off its foundations was going for more than $US600,000. No matter the state of the home, no matter how sketchy the location, no matter the barriers to renovation, it was all systems go for the historic houses of Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, in the 2000s. 

Even a hack can demolish. It takes intellectual strength, high-level critical thinking and insight to build the case for Christ.

Only a few years earlier much of Capitol Hill was a “no go” zone. The streets were rife with crack dealers and muggings, and trash blew through the alleys. But now gentrification was underway as the lure of living in part of a real community, ditching the long commutes and fleeing the cultural death by suburbia kicked in. As I walked across Capitol Hill’s Staunton Park on a beautiful spring day the bug hit me. Why wouldn’t we live in this amazing place full of history, architecture and culture? 

We rented a home to see if city life was for us. It was. I loved walking to my office across from the US Capitol, strolling along the beautiful city streets in the evening and down the National Mall on the weekends. Everyone we met on the Hill seemed larger than life. There was the congressional staffer next door—who had loud, late-night parties but was so nice we couldn’t really complain. Diplomats, artists, secret service agents, academics, senators, writers, activists, lawyers and journalists. Everyone was right there on the Hill. This was the place for us! 

But making it our permanent home would prove difficult. We were getting real estate crushes, putting in offers but having our hearts broken as we were outbid over and over again. Maybe our fate was to move back out to the boring ‘burbs? 

And then our real estate agent called about a home that was just listed. “It’s a little rustic,” she said using real estate speak. We rushed over. Rustic? The townhouse, circa 1878, was on a little tilt due to subsiding foundations. Inside it looked like a rat’s nest. But we didn’t see the stark reality—we saw our glorious vision—and we snapped it up. Soon work began.

It turns out I have a gift for demolition. I spent days covered in dust as I smashed through walls, pulled down ceilings, ripped out the kitchen and part of the bathroom. The difficulty, however, came when it was time to put it all back together. For that you need serious skill. And in our family skill is spelt B-O-B (my father-in-law: Bob the builder). 

Bit by bit Bob put the home back together. By the end of it all, it was splendid. Classic yellow interior with broad white cornices, an antique chandelier we found in Manhattan and a fireplace surrounded in marble. Coming home from work on cold winter nights there was something particularly cheering about turning the corner of the block and seeing the warm glow shining out of our little historic gem.

Knocking down was the easy part. But it was in the building up that the magic really happened. Not entirely dissimilar to the world of faith.  

It doesn’t take a great intellect to knock faith. We all know society’s wind is blowing—even howling—against Christianity. Anyone can Google up a mountain of arguments against everything from creation through to the Christian view of sexuality and then repeat them as if parroting these critiques is a sign of intellectual greatness. It isn’t. Even a hack can demolish. It takes intellectual strength, high-level critical thinking and insight to build the case for Christ. And it takes courage. Ellen White puts it this way: 

When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should . . . our courage [. . . be] the most unflinching. To stand in the defence of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few—this [is] our test. 

That is why I admire the work of intellectual giants like Dr John Ashton, Dr Grenville Kent, Dr Sven Ostring, Dr Ross Grant and my brother, Dr Timothy Standish. They are intellectual builders—standing up against the prevailing winds, putting forth the positive, powerful case for faith. Sure, it’s a lot easier to be a demolition man. But I’d much rather be like them; I’d rather be a builder.

James Standish is editor of Adventist Record.