September 2012

Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul

Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul, by John Hale, through the Teaching Company ★★★★
John Hale is mostly an underwater archeologist and did much work in the Mediterranean Sea. This video course in 24 half-hour lectures, takes you on a “tour” of the mostly archeological aspects of Greece and Turkey, including the Greek Isles, showing where to go, what to see, and offering many tourist tips along the way. Hale is both entertaining as well as informative, and his teaching style is quite relaxed but never sloppy. Betsy and I both watched this series through, enjoying it totally. It provided motivation for someday going to Greece and Turkey.

Authority of Scripture

The Authority of Scripture, by Edward J. Young, as found on iTunes U, Westminster Seminary ★★★★★

This series is 12 lectures averaging an hour each. It was given during the mid-1970s, of moderate recording quality.  I found this lecture set to be totally awesome. I don’t understand why Dr. Young is only limited in his popularity, as he is a true theological giant. Young was a professor at Westminster Seminary, worked with JG Machen, and is best known for his lengthy commentary on Isaiah. Young gives some general lectures on Scriptural authority and infallibility, mostly in the context of discussing the attacks that have come upon denying the authority of Scripture. He spends a number of lectures on Genesis, discusses the issue of the authorship and authority of the Pentateuch, provides several lectures discussing the issue of the authorship of Isaiah, and then of Daniel. He speaks in a raised monotone voice, like an old-time preacher. Each sentence is thick. He has no trouble holding one’s attention. There are some particular aspects of this lecture series that I deeply appreciated.1. He doesn’t coddle with the documentary hypothesis. For those who are unaware, the documentary hypothesis claims that the Pentateuch is an assembly of writers, the Eloistic writer, the Jawistic writer, and the Priestly writer, with one other thrown in at times. The immediate way to spot a documentary hypothesis believer is when one speaks of two accounts of creation. Now, Young does a superlative work of demolishing the entire notion of the documentary hypothesis, showing how it is unnecessary, unScriptural, irrational, and inconsistent. Why so many conservative scholars give credence to the documentary hypothesis is beyond me. They should have had Prof. Young as their teacher.2. He doesn’t force a young earth/old earth distinction but completely destroyed the notion of theistic evolution. Young admits that when he gave the lecture series, theistic evolution was not yet been suggested, showing insight in Young’s ability to know what darling heresies might arise among conservative theologians. He was definitely ahead of his time. He absolutely demolishes the Francis Collins theistic evolution theory.4. His refutation of the Barthian notion of Historie vs. Geschichte is priceless. Young explains in detail Barth’s thinking, and it is best to just hear it from him.5. He is magisterial in his response to the 2 or 3 authorship theory of Isaiah, the other authors being a Deutero-Isaiah and a Tritero-Isaiah. Young makes clear that many of the so-called assaults on Scripture are simply nothing more than unbelief. Why so many conservative scholars have given in to these assaults, including professors at Westminster and Covenant Seminary, is beyond me. Young has every choice and humorous words for these folk. The series is a total must listen to series, and it is free. Just get into iTunesU and download it onto your iPod, and then enjoy some of the best teaching on Scripture available,  for the next 12 plus hours.


Republocrat, Confessions of a Liberal-Conservative, by Carl Trueman ★★
I read this book based on the recommendations of readers at and several of the reviewers. The book has a good deal of truth to it, in that Trueman refuses to take sides with either the Republicans or the Democrats. He successfully points out the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, showing that their antics and behavior tend to be as immoral as the Democrats, pointing out when the Republicans turn a blind eye on their own immorality. Specifically, Trueman spends an entire chapter attacking Fox News, which tends to be the darling child of the conservative right. Trueman is also honest enough to offer his own bias, including his love for socialized medicine and heavily restrictive gun laws. He comes from England and views our system in a very British manner. Trueman tends toward social conservatism and economic liberalism, though it would be unfair to say that as a blanket categorization of his position.
He strives hard to demand the use of words that are specific to their meaning. His pet misused word is “Marxist”, claiming that Marx’s system is simply that of the economic resolution of dialectic tensions throughout history. Actually, anybody that has read Das Kapital realizes that it is more than that, in that Marx prescribes an entire economic system and not just the philosophical basis for that system. Trueman fails in his own plea, in that even in the last paragraphs of the book, he speaks of Havel living in a “Marxist” state, suggesting that Marx offered more than a philosophical theory of economics. Trueman repeatedly uses the words “Capitalism” and “capitalist”, even though those are pejorative words coined by Marx himself, and tend toward the same meaningless statements as accusing somebody of being a Marxist.
Trueman’s greatest flaw is his inability to visualize anything beyond the political divides. As an example, he spends a great amount of time praising the British health care system and asks whether it is better to have health care controlled by politicians vs. Capitalist insurance companies. In reality, the British system is bankrupt and a very poor example of an ideal health care system. I need not belabor how euthanasia and extreme waits for care are now bedeviling the British system. Neither need I suggest that the American system that has insurance companies so heavily regulated that they are no longer capitalistic systems need to be mentioned. Trueman fails to mention that both systems are woefully broken and worthy of being completely dismantled. Third-party indemnification is the problem, not the solution, whether that third party is the government or the insurance company.
Truemans understanding of economics is a dismal lacuna. He fails entirely to see the problems of economics in the modern state, and the absence of morality of forced redistribution of wealth and artificial creation of “money” by the state. He praises the economic liberal pastor of Scotland ministering to Scottish miners living in poverty, yet becomes no different than American mega-church pastors that cater to the felt needs of their congregations.
I was extremely disappointed with this book. From the praise that so many conservative Reformed theologians gave to this book, it is clear to me that Reformed theologians should stay out of politics and stick to theology. This is seen clearly when JG Machen, a great Reformed theologian, lauded Woodrow Wilson, one of the worst presidents of all time. Trueman is caught in that same muddle. He argues for Scripture as a basis for viewing our politicians but immediately lapses into sentimentality. Perhaps the only author that has been able to force a biblical interpretation on economics and social issues of the state has been Gary North. Even though I don’t always agree with North, I always appreciate the fact that he refuses to tend toward sentimentality and forces his statements to maintain a biblical orientation.
In summary, Trueman does a muddled attempt in giving a Christian view of American politics. He is successful in showing that the Republican Party is not the moral or Christian party, but he fails entirely in offering a Christian alternative for thinking and action. Thus, I don’t consider the book worth reading.

TransAm Adventure

The Trans-America Bicycle trail adventure from Eugene, Oregon to Grangeville, Idaho, on 30AUG-08SEPT2012
The statistics for the trip were…
Calories Burnt: 36361 KCal
Kilometers (miles) ridden: 820.8 km (510 miles)
Ascent – meters (feet): 9065 m (29741 ft)
Day 0—On 30 August, a friend and I caught the Amtrak train in Tacoma at 3:00pm, and arrived in Eugene at 9 in the evening. We then rode about 2 miles to the Red Lion Inn.
Day 1—31Aug  This was the first day of riding. We went from Eugene to Alder Springs campground, a little over half the climb up McKenzie Pass 5959 cal, 1161 m ascent, 108.8 km, 6:19 riding time. The campground was quite sparse, and even no water, so we borrowed some from a car camper coming through.
Day 2—01Sept Alder Springs Camp to Prineville. Today, we had another 2300 ft of climbing until we reached the summit of McKenzie Pass. The scene was surrealistic with a lava landscape. We then descended to Sisters and Redmond before beginning our climb up to Prineville. The weather was cloudless, and about 80 F but not humid, so that it was quite tolerable. 4054 Cal, 894 meters climbing, 5:33 time, 104.3 km distance.
McKenzie Pass with the North and Middle Sister in the background
A close up of two of the Three Sisters
Mt. Washington from McKenzie Pass, the lava flows in the foreground
The Sisters are now in the distance as we head toward Prineville.
Day 3—02SEPT Prineville to Dayville—137.8 km, 7:32 time, 4810 cal, 1332 m ascent. After a long climb over Ochoco Pass, we quickly descended and then did a short ascent into Mitchell. The ride was beautiful, going by Lake Ochoco and up a Ponderosa pine forested pass. Mitchell was a little sparse, where we had lunch, changed a tube on my friend’s bike, and decided to head on. Another climb over Keye’s Pass was a bit more challenging, with a steady 6-8% grade. It was nearly a constant steady descent into Dayville, a beautiful green town on the John Day River, where we set up a tent in an RV park, had showers, and dinner at the local grocery store.
Yet another pass
The terrain in the John Day Fossil Beds Natl. Monument
Close to Dayville, the mighty John Day River
Day 4—Dayville to Prairie City, mostly a gradual uphill climb, 3:49 min, hot!!!, 71.93 km, 2373 cal, 485 m Ascent. This was beautiful country, mostly farming country in river valleys surrounded by mountains.  We stayed in a campground in Prairie City. Almost nothing was open in the town, where almost everything is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Day 5—04 SEPT Prairie City to Baker City. 109.1 km, 6:45 time, 3923 cal, 1302 m ascent total. This was a strenuous day, involving going over three major passes, before dropping down into Baker City. The weather was quite warm but not tortuous. The passes were most beautiful.
Summit of one of the passes
Day 6—Baker City to Oxbow. Super hot day, in the 90’s, one very steep difficult pass out of Richland, OR which had a persistent 7-8% grade. Travel time 6:11, 113.5 km, 954 m ascent, 3575 cal. Richland and Halfway were beautiful green valleys surrounded by mountains. Hell’s canyon is in the low 90’s, and moderately humid, so a bit uncomfortable.
Day 7—Oxbow to Council, 100 km, 6:20 time, 3872 cal, 1252 meters ascent. Today was a rough day, with lots of climbing, and sore muscles. I now know why they have rest days. But, my friend was in a hurry to get the ride over with, so, I persisted. The climb out of Hell’s Canyon was long and hard, going from sagebrush desert to heavily wooded hills. Cambridge to Council was farm country, somewhat hot and humid.
The start of the climb out of Hell’s Canyon
Day 8— Council to Riggins. 95km, 4:53 time, 592 meters elevation, 3295 cal.
Had a rear tire flat about 6 km from Riggins. Finished the ride about 2 pm, it was quite hot at the end, between 95 – 100 F. We ended up at a nice Best Western and went swimming in the hotel pool. One of the restaurants in town offered a superb steak dinner. It was a nice way to spend the last evening of the trip.
Day 9—Riggins to Grangeville, 80.4 km, time 5:39, elevation gain 1093 m, 3348 cal. Beautiful ride in the morning along the Salmon River, then a long persistent climb up Whitebird Hill in the heat of the day. Along the Salmon River, we saw firefighters preparing to stop blazes visible along the highway. There was the smell of burnt wood all along the route. My friend and I were separated when he decided to deviate off of our planned track on “old 95”. Eventually, we met each other in Grangeville. Based on a unilateral decision (not mine) the ride was aborted in Grangeville, and we went home.
Forest fires seen in the hills out of Riggins
The “real” summit of Whitebird Hill. over 2500 ft climb out of the valley of the Salmon River
It was a bit of a sad way to end an otherwise wonderful ride. There was no reason why we couldn’t have made it to Missoula. I did learn some lessons from the ride…

  1. Never go with somebody with expectations different from your own.
  2. Bring your own tent, as well as some survival basics, such as water purification.
  3. Stick with the plan. Don’t go with riding partners who make bizarre decisions on the spur of the moment.