The Great Reset and the War for the World, by Alex Jones ★★★★
I received this book in the mail several days ago, a personally signed copy by Alex Jones. Jones is an erudite and perceptive individual, though his manner and style of expression sometimes is a touch bothersome to me. His literary style would be well served with a smidgen of polish. Alex is highly controversial to many people, and the manner in which he has been silenced and sued by the Marxist left stands as a witness that America is no longer a great country. Globalism has been the liberal theme song ever since I was in college in the 1970s, and we are now witnessing its ugly face as it manifests itself in a maturing form. Much of the book is a review of the writings of Klaus Schwab and his minions. I laud Alex for even being able to read much of that garbage!
The first few chapters of the book detail the nature and character of the great reset. Using 4 books recently published by Klaus Schwab, Jones proceeds to show how the great reset is none other than a takeover of the world order. It is a Platonic dream in which a few enlightened individuals will be the world managers. Democracy and the choice of the people have no regard. People will NOT have private property, and all of their moves will be monitored. A version of Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World will be the theme song of the great reset. It is an atheistic world, God has no place, and hedonistic pleasure is the summum bonum of existence as well as the means of control of the populace. Alex provides a brief history of Schwab’s World Economic Forum (WEF), in that it was an outgrowth of the Trilateral Commission, started by Jimmy Carter and his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. The effects of the Wuhan bat virus (COVID-19) on creating a crisis to further strengthen the globalist power is detailed. Jones spends an entire chapter discussing Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli intellectual and praised by Klaus Schwab, who proposes a dystopian future where humans will be phased out, with the replacement being robots, cyborgs, genetically recombinant humans, and, of course, the rulers.
Alex selects three areas of concern that are under the evil eye of the WEF. The first is the digital age and its ability to selectively control not only the media but also the financial world. A “rebel” can become a non-entity, losing any ability to interact, purchase things, or travel. The WEF is also focusing on the issue of energy. Environmentalism and climate change have become perfect means of creating a crisis to control people. Energy will soon become a scarce commodity. Equally scarce will be that of food, when the WEF and Great Reset take control of the food supply of the world. Meat will be removed from consumption (except for the controlling elite), and bugs will be offered in replacement.
Jones ends by discussing the bungling nature of the world’s elite globalists, and how they may become their own worst enemy. Such may be true, but it is amazing how often the most incompetent, inept people rise to positions of power; just look at our current president and members of Congress!
Alex Jones has tended to be correct in his predictions. In this book, I don’t think it is a perfect portrayal of the future, but offers a serious warning about where our world is headed. The Bible suggests a one-world government and authoritarian control of the masses; whether we are reaching that point or not remains to be seen. Jones attests that he is a Christian, and I have no doubt about that. I am troubled that oftentimes, Jone’s Weltanschauungen is everything but Christian. Jones reflects on a high point in Western Civilization being during the enlightenment; I would take serious issue with that. Though Jone’s heart is right, I believe he needs to spend a bit more time thinking through the full implications of his philosophical approach to the New Word Order, aka The Great Reset.
An Introduction to Covenant Theology, by JI Packer ★★★★★
Curiosity left me restless until I re-read Packer’s treatise on Covenant Theology, following my reading of Vos’s exposition of Covenant Theology (see my preceding book review). The contrast could not be more profound. If a dog comparison could be made, Vos was a raging pitbull and Packer a loveable golden retriever. Packer, in a much shorter space than Vos, elaborated more fully, replete with multiple Scripture arguments, the fundamental themes of Covenant Theology, while still giving it a historical perspective. Perhaps I have a bias because I took Systematic Theology from Packer. But it is his approach to theology that I have learned so greatly to appreciate; Packer is NOT a bull in a china shop like Vos. While Vos mostly held up the example of Cocceius as representing covenant theology, Packer takes issue and contends that Cocceius was “a stormy petrel” who “muddied his exegesis by allegorical fancies and… needless attacks on the analytical doctrine-by-doctrine approach to theological exposition”. For Packer, Witsius is the less tempestuous theologian who “manages to correct some inadequacies and errors that poor exegesis in the Cocceian camp had fathered”. Cocceius essentially fathered Biblical Theology, which attempted to separate itself from the then predominantly Systematic Theology techniques of doing theology. Witsius was able to calm a turbulent contention between the Cocceians and Voetians by showing the importance and necessity of both branches of academic theology. Witsius remains the text that Packer advises should one wish to go into depth regarding the study of covenant theology. Interestingly, while Vos tended to attack the Lutherans for having a substandard theology, Packer will frequently quote Lutheran theologians including Luther. The difference in styles could not be more plain.
This brings us to the topic under discussion… this book. After a brief introduction of Herman Wits (Witsius, 1636-1708), the question is first asked, “What is Covenant Theology?” The simple answer is that is really nothing but a hermeneutic or a perspective for reading Scripture. Packer would call a successful hermeneutic a consistent interpretative procedure yielding a consistent understanding of Scripture which in turn confirms the propriety of the procedure itself. He contends that covenant theology meets that description and then goes on to explain. I won’t detail Packer’s arguments as this book is easy to read and inexpensive on Amazon.
A covenant relationship is a voluntary mutual commitment that binds each party to the other. While many covenants are negotiated, God’s covenants are unilaterally imposed. Still, “the relationship depends simply on the fact that mutual obligations have been accepted and pledged on both sides”. God’s covenant promises are constantly repeated throughout the entirety of Scripture, the promise that God will be our God, and then the promise that God will supply our needs. The God-given covenant carries the obligation for a life of faith and repentance and obedience. Thus, the struggle that Lutherans had with salvation by faith alone is expanded to show how they are correct yet need not feel that obligations are in contest with sola fide.
Thus, Packer notes three things. 1) The gospel is NOT properly understood till it is viewed within a covenantal frame. 2) The word of God is not properly understood till it is viewed within a covenantal frame. This is elaborated at length, concluding “There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.” And 3) The reality of God is not properly understood till it is viewed within a covenantal frame. Again, Packer elaborates at length on what he means by this. He ends this part of the discussion by quoting numerous hymns of the past that refer to the covenant that we live under. Quoting Packer, “One way of judging the quality of theologies is to see what sort of devotion they produce. The devotional perspective that covenant theology generates is accurately reflected in these (the quoted) lyrics. I can think of many hymns to serve this end, including “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” (quoted by Packer), “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”, and even “Amazing Grace”, even though the word “covenant” is never used, it is the backbone to the meaning of that hymn.
Packer feels “that the Bible ‘forces’ covenant theology on all who receive it as what, in effect, it claims to be”. This is accomplished 1) by the story that it tells, 2) by the place it gives to Jesus Christ, 3) through the specific parallel between Christ and Adam that Paul draws, and 4) by the explicit declaring of the covenant of redemption.
Packer ends with a brief relapse to the history of covenant theology, arguing that it was a natural development in Reformed thought, starting with Zwingli, Calvin, Ursinus and Olevianus, etc. As a person convinced of the truth of Reformed thinking, I find nothing to disagree with in Packer’s treatise. I especially appreciate his thoughtful and always irenic process of presenting the case for covenant theology. I have left out much in this review, and any curious individual would be served best by downloading a digital copy of this short treatise which may be read within 1-2 hours’ time. I believe it would serve well both those for and against the covenant approach to theology to best understand what the hermeneutic is all about and how it can help in obtaining a better grasp of the riches of Scripture.
The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology, by Geerhardus Vos ★★★
This book was read by me on a Kindle device. I had read a concise treatise on Covenant Theology by JI Packer, and was hoping that Vos would offer more illumination. Vos actually muddied the waters. The strength of this short volume is how Vos elaborates on the history of Covenant Theology, beginning with Calvin, but focusing on the Heidelburg theologians Ursinus and Olivianus, and then moving on to Coccieus, and others in that time period. He spends much time distinguishing Reformed Theology from Lutheran Theology, suggesting that Lutheran theology starts from man as its foundation and works up, whereas Reformed Theology begins with God and works down. I felt that much of this argument was artificial and that contemporary Lutheran theologians would probably take issue with this. Vos labors much to identify the covenant of works that precedes the covenant of grace; thus, the book’s title should have been “Doctrine of the Covenants…” rather than the singular for covenant. Vos ends with a discussion of how the doctrine of covenants affects the position of paedobaptism.
The historical aspects of the book were interesting. His arguments for covenant theology were poor. His leaning toward supralapsarianism becomes quite plain. His intolerance for theological fine points that vary from his is remarkable. He does not present any Scripture argument for his position; I don’t believe I saw a single quoted Scripture verse. He is replete at quoting the voice of historical theologians, a strange approach for a man steeped in the sola Scriptura tradition.
So, I started reading the book with enthusiasm and ended with disappointment. Vos’s writing style is muddy. Most phrases needed to be re-read, even when he was stating simple theological premises. For this reason, I do not recommend this book to others. I’ve found that reading Vos is ponderous and thus left to theologically constipated folk. I welcome recommendations for a better text on this topic. Perhaps a recent book on the covenants by Michael Horton would be in order?
Churchill’s War, Volume 1, by David Irving, 1987, 666 pages ★★★★★
This book and its subsequent volume 2, published in 2001, hit shock waves around the western world. Churchill, who, in his own words, “saved” Christian civilization, is analyzed by the author by means of consulting those who were near and dear to him, and by an exhaustive investigation of whatever personal and war records remained. Oddly, many records were destroyed after the war, probably because the Brits knew that the evidence would not be kind to them in supporting their pre-war and war actions. The existing records do not portray Churchill as the noble, selfless hero who through brilliance and fearless devotion to the British Empire gave his all to the cause. In exposing the “real” Winston Churchill, author Irving was not acting unfairly or acting out of revenge; Irving wrote a similar book titled “Hitler’s War” which was equally harsh to Churchill’s arch-enemy. Controversy will rage and many will still esteem Churchill as being the greatest statesman of the century, facts be damned. Perhaps Irving was a little off-sided in his commentary on this man, so we will let Churchill have the last word on himself. Late in 1940, Churchill went down to Dover to be entertained by the bombers flying overhead, gleeful that he had finally gotten Hitler to start bombing civilian targets (Churchill first started by bombing civilian Berlin), hoping that it would get American sympathy and their involvement in the war. Without regard to his personal safety, Churchill commented at that time “Perhaps tonight I shall be in Hell…” Churchill was off by a few years, but the statement reflects a rare instance when Churchill the inveterate liar actually seemed to be speaking the truth. If Dante were to write an update to his Inferno, the amended version would surely include Hitler and Churchill being forced to spend eternity with each other in one of the lower rungs of hell, next to Attila the Hun.
Volume 1 covers up to mid-1941, but gives a very brief account of Churchill’s early life. The focus of the text was the era between 1939 to 1941. Churchill was raised in the aristocracy with a silver spoon. Though performing somewhat mediocre in school, he excelled in the English language. He ended up as a reporter in the Boer War and was briefly captured by the enemy before escaping. Churchill’s interest in politics and war grew. During the Great War (WW1), Churchill is best known for the Gallipoli affair, a massive military blunder in Turkey leading to a great loss of British lives and materiel. This did not affect Churchill the least, and his efforts in politics remained steadfast. Churchill did have the penchant for switching sides, flip-flopping between the conservatives and liberals, siding for whatever would serve his best advantage. Though a highly effective and persuasive orator, he fell out of favor among peers in the political realm. Many lean years followed (during the 1920s and 1930s) where Churchill desperately tried to re-establish himself in politics. He lived a life of most elaborate existence at Chartwell, with multiple servants and great expenditure. His main income was through book publishing, which did not provide cash flow commensurate with his profligate lifestyle. He married an American wife and had three children, the oldest, Randolf, ended up costing Churchill dearly in the financial realm as a compulsive gambler, and he never supporting the “Churchill” political cause with consistency. Wealthy benefactors needed to occasionally bail Churchill out of crisis economic events. Churchill was a massive cigar smoker, exceeded only by his drinking habit, and all his most intimate friends knew him to be an incorrigible alcoholic who could not survive without the bottle, with brief moments of sobriety finding Churchill at his worst. Churchill rarely held the pen; almost all of his writing was while he was lying in bed with his housecoat, dictating to his secretary. This is true even of his massive multi-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples as well as the other multi-volume sets that he “wrote”.
Chamberlain was Churchill’s enemy in the British system, and as prime minister, Chamberlain behaved with the desire to keep England out of unnecessary wars. Much to the chagrin of Churchill, any effort for a benevolent solution to the “Hitler problem” was a symbol of appeasement and not strength. The empire must be preserved at all costs, and any competition for world domination was considered an affront to the British empire. Hitler had no grievance with Great Britain and no desire to be militarily involved against the Brits. Throughout the book, multiple attempts by Germany to cease and desist fighting each other and have Churchill stay out of Hitler’s affairs were clear. Churchill had no problems with other nations (Russia and Japan) engaging in power-plays; it was clear through Churchill’s writings and actions that he harbored a personal vendetta against Germany, and come hell or high water, at an enormous loss of British lives, and destroying the British Empire and bankrupting the British Empire, Churchill was going to persist. Almost sounds like Hitler, doesn’t it? Churchill made desperate attempts to return as a member of parliament to no avail as he had too many enemies, and England wasn’t interested in another war. Even with German (and Russian) invasion into Poland and declaration of war, Chamberlain remained prime minister. Without dealing a blow-by-blow account of this history, eventually, Churchill was able to oust Chamberlain and establish himself as PM. Churchill realized that Great Britain was not ready for another war, and needed to stimulate public interest into fighting the “Hun”. This demanded one of Churchill’s greatest skills, the ability to be a pathological liar. Lying to the public about the threat of Germany (even when he knew there was none), lying to Parliament, and lying to his hopeful allies like the USA, Churchill hoped to drum up the war cause. I didn’t realize this, but one of Churchill’s three greatest speeches, often quoted, “their finest hour”, occurred long before England had ever been attacked.
Churchill made a colossal blunder at Dunkirk by overestimating the capabilities of the French army, and when begged and pleaded for help from France while the German attack was faltering, Churchill refused air support and refused the deployment of troops, instructing the troops instead to run. They did so at the mess that is called Dunkirk. Thus, the “finest hour” speech was everything but England’s finest hour.
Germany was receiving iron and steel from Scandanavia. The Germans intercepted radio signals that showed that Churchill was going to invade neutral Norway in order to stop iron supplies to Germany, and so Germany wisely preempted their strike. There were a few battles on the Norwegian coast; Churchill had several Norwegian towns bombed, but ultimately had to withdraw in shame from Norway. The propaganda arm of Churchill kicked into motion, blaming Germany for invading neutral Norway, something to which Churchill wished the Brits could have beat the Germans.
Repeatedly, Churchill’s poorly made decisions and rash pronouncements should have brought him down and removed as PM; yet, his slithering tongue held him in power. Germany began to bomb strategic military targets on the English mainland. Churchill desperately tried in vain to lure Hitler into bombing civilian centers. Churchill knew from decoded Enigma signals that Hitler had absolutely no intention of bombing civilian targets, though Churchill’s public speeches were at odds with what he knew to be true. Churchill had hoped that the bombing of civilian London would bring the USA into the war, so desperately hoped that he could ultimately lure Hitler into bombing the civilian centers. Ultimately, one misguided German bomber accidentally dropped some bombs on some civilian houses, killing nobody, but serving as a justification for British reprisal. Churchill immediately ordered a fleet of bombers to hit civilian Berlin. Repeated civilian bombings of Berlin ultimately persuaded Hitler to start bombing London. This WAS Churchill’s finest hour, the joy of seeing London bombed, hoping that it would bring the USA into the war. As an aside, an example might be used to illustrate Churchill’s character, as seen in the war up until now. Imagine being in the deep south many moons ago, when the Ku Klux Klan were active. A group of KKK members come upon a n***er (dark skinned man of African origin) who is minding his own business, and wishes no contention. The KKK members begin to irritate, poke and prod, and ultimately come near to threatening the life of the poor n***er. The black man, in defense, suddenly fights back in defense, which then gives the KKK the justification for inflicting mortal harm on an innocent soul. (These events happened frequently in the south!) Churchill was that KKK man, relentlessly irritating Hitler until Hitler had no choice but to respond in defense. To think of Churchill as representing the paragon of Christian virtue turns the devil into a saint. Blessed are the peacemakers…
British losses at sea, in Greece, at Crete, and in North Africa were devastating to their economy. A fool-hearted invasion of Vichy France in Syria and Iraq led to no military advantage or great victory. The United Kingdom was bankrupt, thanks to Churchill’s war. Hitler continued to offer Britain reasonable terms, and Churchill aggressively made sure that peace offers from Germany were not known to the public. The entirety of British gold was in US hands, and Churchill sought to bargain off British islands in the Caribbean to the USA, something that Roosevelt had enough sense not to bite at. Ultimately, the USA conceded to a land-lease arrangement to Britain, though this came short of Churchill’s intention of luring the USA into the war.
An interesting aside is noted. In mid-1941, Rudolf Hess, a leading Nazi, flew a plane into England with the offer to help negotiate a peace settlement, as he was opposed to Nazi foreign aggression. Hess was held in prison, and remained there the rest of his life, dying in 1987. Much of his life was in solitary confinement. Most of his writings, memos and messages have either not been released yet to the public, or else destroyed. Sounds like GB was trying to hide something there!
The book ends with the beginning of Operation Barbarossa by Hitler, leaving more of the story to be told in volume 2.
There are great lessons to learn from this book. Government rarely ever tells the truth, and when they are the most desperate, they are probably lying the most. This book documented Churchill’s lies and deceptions on nearly every page. A slick-tongued orator like Churchill (or Hitler) should be most greatly feared. The deep state has had a long existence and knows no country boundaries. It is said that the first casualty of war is truth; this book makes it clear that this statement is simply not true, as truth dies long before the fighting ever begins; lies serve as the stimulus for an otherwise pacifist public to offer up life and limb for the cause. We knew that this was true in the Great War, when British propaganda spoke of the mindless Hun raping women and slaughtering children, exactly what was NOT happening. Present events bear witness to the “Churchill phenomenon” in Ukraine, where most of the information that we are given is highly suspect, yet leads to countless billions of dollars flowing into a needless war against a hypothetical barbarian foe (Russia). Peter, Paul and Mary were completely correct when they sang “when will they ever learn?”.
This book had the quality of generating a profuse flow of questions and reflections on how we are experiencing deja vu all over again and again and again. Politics doesn’t change, save to exceed in the corruption of preceding generations. I am left in complete bewilderment as to why people on the right adore Churchill (see for example the Hillsdale College website, where they are offering a complete lecture series on this “great” man. The link is https://online.hillsdale.edu/landing/winston-churchill-and-statesmanship I have serious disagreement with every one of their six main points as to why one should study Churchill). The blindness of the hard political right explains why the UCSA (United Communist States of Amurika) is in our current mess. Peter, Paul and Mary…! On to volume 2…
This review addresses a collection of five books written by Michael Denton for the Discovery Institute, addressing the theme of the wonders of creation. It probably should have been titled “The Privileged World series”, but that is not for me to claim. I have read these texts on my Kindle or iPhone. I presume that there is some intended sequence for reading these books, but I’m not sure what it is, so will choose my own order as I read through them. I will offer a summary at the end of the five reviews.
Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet, by Michael Denton ★★★★★
The subtitle of this short work does not do justice to the content of this book. It is a marvelous text, discussing many issues regarding fire that I had never ever contemplated. Regarding humans, if we were much smaller, we would not have had the capacity to handle fire. If we didn’t have human hands with opposable thumbs, the dexterity to start a fire would have never occurred. If we were too large, other issues arise, including physiological issues of human mass preventing us to be able to stand erect as bipeds.
The physics of this world is actually a more interesting story. The nature of water is vital in being able to allow trees to develop and grow. Wood in its various forms is essentially the fuel that is used for starting and maintaining fires. Progress in working with wood and charcoal allowed for hotter fires, first in order to kiln ceramic pots, and then to be able to work with metals. The atmosphere must not contain too much oxygen or too little. Too large of a planet or too small of a planet would have been unsuitable to maintain a fire-safe atmosphere. Oxygen is a fairly stable molecule, allowing for its safe use in forming fires. Wood is also very stable, as witnessed by the challenge of getting campfire wood hot enough to produce the fires we love to sit around, warm ourselves, and roast marshmallows on.
The intricacies of our planet that allow such a simple thing as fire to take place and to allow man to control those fires for their own uses is astounding. Denton does a wonderful job at leaving the reader in awe regarding the wonderful creation that God has designed for us.
The Wonder of Water, by Michael Denton ★★★★
This wonderful little tome discusses the nature and properties of water that make it a very special and unique substance. Unlike any other liquid known to man, it possesses very precise qualities, that even if slightly altered, would make life on our planet impossible. Water’s freezing and boiling point, water’s viscosity, water’s reactivity, it’s solubility, it’s transmissibility of light, it’s nature when it freezes and boils, are all properties that make it a very unique fluid, “almost” as though it were specifically designed. We so readily can imagine a complex organism like man, or even a simple bacteria, as being irreducibly complex. Yet, water is also an unimaginatively complex substance that forms the basic substance for life as well as for the modeling of our planet into a habitable orb. Plate tectonics, the oceans, the atmosphere, the physical form of the earth with mountains, plains, polar icecaps, and continual “recycling” of that landscape is all a result of water’s properties. Truly it is a substance that goes unnoticed because of its ubiquitous presence, yet Denton anticipates that we will discover many more properties of water that form its distinctive significance in our universe.
Children of Light: The Astonishing Properties of Sunlight that Make Us Possible, by Michael Denton ★★★★
“And God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was light”. Though some will joke that God spoke Maxwell’s equations, the newer Quantum Electrodynamics still fails at grasping the dual nature of light being both a wave and a particle. Yet, even Richard Feynman would agree that we haven’t really grasped the nature of light and electrodynamics with our inadequate models. Denton explores these thoughts as well as the nature of light. Looking at the entire spectrum of electromagnetic waves, visible light forms only the most minuscule portion of that spectrum. There is no reason why the visible spectrum should predominate in the universe, from the emission of stars to the emissions of man-made light-emitting products. Yet, the visible spectrum is the only portion of the spectrum that could sustain life and allow for all of the natural and biological wonders that we see. Slightly more energetic waves would denature DNA and proteins, and slightly less energetic waves would be insufficient for photosynthesis and being the earth from being nothing but a frozen tundra. Light is so mundane, and yet such a remarkable miracle.
The Miracle of Man: The Fine-Tuning of Nature for Human Existence, by Michael Denton ★★★★
This book seems to be more of a summary of the last three books. It serves as a good summary. While evolutionists seek to determine how the “development” of the species is in adaptation to a very complex universe, Denton takes another approach by looking at the world that species are “adapting” to, and looks at how that universe seems to have intentionally been designed to permit life. This is the anthropocentric nature of the universe, as though the universe and its laws and characteristics of all its elements seem intended to allow life to take place.
This book was an intimate reminder to me of my days in medical school. I recall nearly weekly taking long walks or runs meditating on human anatomy and physiology and being perplexed at how perfect the entire system was designed and assembled. Life, from the smallest cells to the most complex organisms such as man, has such a remarkable intricacy; how reproduction with embryological development is so intriguing as to defy man’s greatest efforts to unlock the mysteries that we observe. Denton marches through many of the systems of the body, the circulatory, the respiratory, the musculoskeletal, and the nervous system, showing that they were all perfectly designed. The size, structure, design, and physiology are just right; i.e., they are just too perfect to have happened by accident. No other possibilities for evolution could have created the same superior function that we see in the observed bodies.
The Miracle of the Cell, by Michael Denton ★★★★
The Miracle of Man addresses the macroscopic wonders of life on earth, especially the life of multicellular organisms. The Miracle of the Cell takes a look at the microscopic and biochemical wonders of the cell. As usual, Denton focuses almost entirely on the biophysical properties of nature, and especially the nature of the elements and simple compounds that allow life to exist. His appreciation as to how organometallic enzymes just seem to find the correct metal atom to accomplish a certain task and none other is greeted by great wonder and suggestion that only intelligent design could possibly accomplish the task. It was a delightful ending to the story of just how privileged we are as a species, and how special it is that the world “seems” to be a perfect fit for life. It is remarkable how alteration of any of the properties of the chemical world we live in, such as a slight lowering of the freezing point of water, a slight shift in the spectrum of light emitted by the sun, a slight alteration in how oxygen absorbs light in the atmosphere, a slight difference in the viscosity of water, and a plethora of other properties of nature, would have made life not only different, but rather, frankly impossible to have occurred. It is a wonderful world that we live in!
There are several reasons why I gave the books in the series only 4 stars. There is excessive repetition in these books, and eventually, Denton might consider publishing them all as a single volume, reducing redundancy in the process. Each individual volume is well contained, yet the books are presented as a series, which I (perhaps wrongly assumed) were intended to be read as a series.
Denton is a physician-scientist, something that I also am. Reading the 5 books was a matter of suffering through the (appropriately) simplified language of how a physician would speak with a patient. For me, it was frustrating. For the non-biologically in-tuned reader, it is most appropriate what he did. Still, there is a lot that I learned from reading these books, and a perspective that was beautifully scripted.
Denton seems very reluctant to come to the conclusion that it must be an infinite-personal God that guided the “creation” of man. His reluctance is puzzling since he cannot account for one of the most intriguing properties of man, that of a conscious, communicable being with a sense of morality, with ingenuity, with those traits that so distinctively separate man from other living creatures. Besides, he is taking a science-of-the-gaps mentality, simply assuming that all it takes is enough time before science will determine the finer points of the development of the universe and life on planet earth. Man, with all his brilliance, has not yet even once competed with random “nature” to produce an enzyme that accomplishes a given task. Take for instance the Grignard reaction, one of the first learned in college organic chemistry; invent an enzyme that can accomplish what the Grignard reaction accomplishes at body temperature in standard organic conditions! There are thousands upon thousands of enzymes, none of which we can develop a better enzyme to do the task. Even in the laboratory, we are dependent upon biologically extracted enzymes to perform our molecular biological feats of wonder. It is easy to snipe that only time and research will be necessary to improve on what we find in nature, yet the absence of even a minor improvement upon nature still awaits us.
Just as a last word, please do not criticize my book reviews, as many of them were written under extreme duress in 110°F weather. If you have any criticisms, I will sic Greta on you!
I decided to retrieve most of my resupply buckets for a canceled PCT hike, and it happened that I was also able to drop off a PCT hiker that I met three years ago at her new starting point of Kennedy Meadows. Intrepid flew into Las Vegas, and after a day of rest, we ventured off on a direct path to Kennedy Meadows (South). This entailed going through Death Valley in the heat of summer, so I decided to make the journey as early in the day as possible. We left at 6 am in the morning, traveling through Red Rock Canyon, Pahrump, and then down into the south end of Death Valley. This allowed us to see the lowest point in the USA, 262 feet below sea level, at Badwater Basin.
There were several significant climbs in order to get out of Death Valley. This put us into the Owens Valley leading us to the curvy windy mountain road up to 6000 ft elevation to Kennedy Meadows (South) (KMS). Here, we had lunch at Grumpy Bears and wished Intrepid goodbye. We picked up the KMS resupply bucket and headed off to Independence, CA where we had the second resupply bucket left at the Courthouse Motel. We spent the night there, then traveled north to Bishop for breakfast at a Dutch Bakery, then took a short bypass to Mammoth, stopping at the Minarets Overlook. We crossed over Sonora Pass, a VERY tortuous, windy road (even worse than the road to KMS) in order to reach a Resort and Packstation, but ALSO named Kennedy Meadows, which I term Kennedy Meadows North (KMN). After retrieving our third resupply bucket and having lunch, we learned that there were no cabins available there, and the campgrounds were entirely full. We were prepared to camp but realized that this was not the place to camp. Off we drove, eventually making it to Mariposa, CA by the afternoon. While driving to Mariposa, I pointed out a cloud of smoke rising in the distance, noting that it was a forest fire, but we thought nothing of it. The hotels in Mariposa were mostly full and hyper-expensive, but we didn’t have much of a choice once we found a room.
In the morning, we wake up to learn that the forest fire is real, and that they shut down the roads to the south end of the park, as well as the Wawona Hotel where we were going to spend the first night, as well as the Mariposa Grove. The hotel reservation was automatically canceled, and we had no choice but to find something else to do for a day, knowing that we could definitely NOT enter the park. We drove to Merced, found a cheap hotel, and decided to get up very early the next day to have a full day in Yosemite National Park. The morning drive to the park was glorious, going through the very narrow V-shaped valley of the Merced River, and then entering the broad glacial carved valley of the Park. What we didn’t realize was that the forest fire smoke had engulfed Yosemite Valley and that we were unable to see anything. We did numerous stops, visited the Park center, and then checked into our cabin at Curry Village. Meanwhile, we were oblivious to our surroundings. That evening, some of the smoke temporarily cleared, offering a view of Half Dome and Glacier Point. Wow!
The next day, we checked out of Curry Village, and took a hike up the Mist Trail (the actual name of the trail) to Vernal Falls. We then checked into hotel #2, the Yosemite Valley Lodge, across from the infamous camp 4.
The next morning, we did a relaxed departure, spending time admiring El Capitan, and checking out the climbing routes up the face. We did not see any climbers on the rock. It was very hazy again. We departed the park by driving over Tioga Pass. This afforded views back into the Valley, including Half Dome. The views were quite clear from high up on Tioga Pass. We drove all the way to Tonopah, NV where we spent the night at Tonopah Station, a historical hotel but otherwise a real dive. It was an easy drive back home the next day, stopping only at the Area 51 Alien Center.
The trip was wonderful and relaxing. I was able to get in a little bit of walking, and Betsy and I were able to go places and see things that we’d never seen before. Because of the forest fire and visibility issues, the trip definitely whetted our appetite to return. The trip to the Valley from North Las Vegas would take about 7 hours of driving, easily done in a day if the passes were open from snow. A day later, we again watched the movie of Free Solo with Alex Honnold climbing the Freerider route up El Capitan without a rope or any protection. Being there gave us the perspective to realize what an awesome feat he actually accomplished.
The Virgin Birth of Christ, by J. Gresham Machen ★★★★★
This book was originally written in 1930, and the version I read was a Baker House reprint (with a different cover from above) from 1965. It remains contemporary and relevant. I enjoyed reading this book, as I deeply appreciate the way in which Dr. Machen thinks and analyzes problems. It is scholarliness that is often missing nowadays in Christian circles. Dr. Machen, who dates from 1881 to 1837, spent a number of years in Germany studying in the schools of higher criticism, and thus became familiar with the work of Harnack, the Tübingen School, and other scholars of the liberal theological tradition, much of which he countermands in this volume. He was particularly troubled by the deep spirituality of those liberal scholars. Yet his ultimate conclusion was that they had abandoned the faith of Christianity. Machen fought the liberalism that was tearing apart the mainstream denominations in the US and Europe, appealing for a return to classical Christianity as it has been passed down through the ages. To be expected, the predominance of the references in this book refers to writings in German, with a few French, Latin and English references also included.
This book really is in two parts. The first is a review and analysis of the virgin birth stories as found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. First, there is a chapter that reviews statements found in the 1st through 3rd century by Christian writers, confirming that the virgin birth stories were not fabricated at a later date in the Christian church. Machen starts with Luke, analyzing first the two hymns in the first chapter of Luke, and showing their consistency with the Jewish culture at the time of Christ. Machen then analyses all of the passages under contention, including the visit of the magi, the two genealogies, areas where it might be contended that there are irreconcilable differences between the Matthew and Luke stories, the impossibility of there being a common source for both birth narratives, and how both narratives are consistent with the secular history of the Palestine region. In so doing, Machen concludes that the virgin birth is truly the only proper reading of the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. Machen also shows in a vigorous fashion that the virgin birth narratives could NOT have been inserted into the text at a later date.
The second section then addresses the possible origin for the virgin birth narrative if the story is not actually true. Two possibilities exist. The first is Jewish, being formed after the writing of Matthew and Luke in attempt to merge Old Testament prophecies into a New Testament narrative. The exteme unlikeliness of this happening is emphasized. The second possibility is from the secular realm. There are narratives from other religions that suggest a “virgin” birth (eg., the Siddhartha Buddha, or Alexander the Great) or in Greek/Roman mythology, yet a close examination shows that this is nothing of the case with those stories, and very unsimilar to the Scripture virgin birth narratives.
Much of the writing to this point is fairly technical in nature, and not easy to plow through. The final chapter of this book ends with asking why this is such a big deal. Is it really important to believe in the miraculous virgin birth of the Lord Jesus? Machen ends with an unequivocal “yes”.
Machen occasionally mentions an alternative to the miraculous virgin birth that should be mentioned now. There are stories of angels making women pregnant in the literature, and perhaps other means of getting Mary pregnant without sexual intercourse with another male person. This can be found both in ancient literature as well as throughout history since then. The possibility of Mary conceiving via an “alien/angel” interaction has been offered, especially since ancient humanity was quite naive as to the technical possibilities of the present. This is a rather weak argument since ancient civilizations were not as naive as we suppose them to be. The movies “The Gods Must be Crazy I and II” reinforce this notion that “primitive” man would believe almost anything. To suppose that “angels” using advanced technologies incorporated “sinless” DNA into Mary’s ovum has many problems, the greatest being that it reduces “god” (and man!) down to a digital information entity. Surely God (and man) is more than just an information scheme! Surely Mary’s conception did NOT (and could not) require an intermediary in order to serve the Scripture as it is written.
Machen gives much to think about. He was a brilliant mind and capable defender of the faith. This book is a technical volume and not meant to be read by anybody. For those who wish a scholarly defense of the faith, then this book is a must which I highly advise.
Sadness and sorrow are emotions easily felt but difficult to express on paper. It takes a poet to do that, which I am not. I have had a significant amount of grief in the last few days regarding hitting the trail again. There were moments when I thought that I had found a solution: I found a far more comfortable pack, and I found someone who would be hiking (sort of) with me. I knew that before I returned to the trail, I needed to try hiking some trails close to home with a full pack. That I did yesterday, only to find that strength-wise, there was no problem. Instead, back pain, neck pain, and pain radiating down the arms from the brachial plexus was an issue. True, it was a pack that weighed in at about 30 lbs., something that I would need to be carrying through the Sierras. It would not be an issue if I were doing a 2-4 day hike, but to be doing a hike with multiple segments, some of which would be 5-7 days in duration, will probably no longer be feasible for me.
Dreams die hard. Perhaps next year I will find a solution. Perhaps not. It is in God’s hands. Betsy certainly is happy that I am not hiking. Don’t get me wrong; my favorite person is Betsy, and my favorite times are with her. The adventure side of me rages on. What would that trail look like? What would it be like going over Forester Pass or hitting the region of the high Sierra? My hike through the Southern California desert was filled with great joy, though I developed momentary problems that demanded rest. I had mastered the art of long-distance hiking, which is a skill in and of itself, very much unlike regular backpacking. I had devoted hours upon hours to training hikes and preparation. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not doing more training hikes with heavier packs; the pack I used weighed about 17-20 lb maximum.
To assuage my sorrow, Betsy and I went down to the Strip to see Rich Little. He was quite funny and nice to listen to someone with a conservative mindset. In 1.5 hours he had us all laughing and enjoying some political humor, while he reviewed his life story of coming into show business, and then imitating all of the really famous stars that he had gotten to know (and there were MANY!). We got to sit within 6 feet of him, and he even ended by shaking Betsy and my hands. Super-cool! Go see him if you are in Las Vegas, as he won’t be alive too many years more.
I appreciate the supportive comments that many of my friends have sent me. Sadly, a few people have tried to offer instructions to me as to what I’m doing wrong, though clearly having no clue as to what it involves to do a thru-hike. Adding insult to injury is something that only Fortunato would do, but unlike Amontillado, I will not vow revenge.
Why did things go wrong? I consider several issues were problematic here. First, perhaps more extensive training with a heavier pack should have been done. Secondly, our life had a tremendous disruption because of our recent move to Las Vegas, and that was always on my mind. Thirdly, I knew that Betsy was uncomfortable being alone in a new city, something that pricked my heart well. Fourthly, there was a huge psychological aspect to the hike which I did not account for. The fire to abuse myself and suffer great pain was diminished. I had no cause that I was hiking for. I felt like I was endlessly engaged in a self-flagellating procedure that offered me no redemption. The joy of having a friend or comrade with me was completely absent. All of these things added up to the extinguishing of a dream.
So, I am exploring options with Betsy. I need to pick up my resupply packages, and in traveling to Kennedy Meadows (South) will take Intrepid with Betsy and me to help them start their hike. I will pick up most of the resupply packages that I sent. I hope to get in some car camping, though that is not Betsy’s forte. I will be looking for short trips (1-2 nighters) that I could do, perhaps with the grandchildren? Maybe I need to start cycling more? I love cycle touring, and it is easy to break up a trip into small segments, thanks to the liberal bicycle policy of Amtrak. Who knows what the future holds. I’ll try not to waste the rest of the summer moping. I welcome friendly and informed advice.
P.s. “Anfang und Ende” means “Beginning and End” in German
14June2022 Betsy dropped me off at the Centennial Hills Transit Station where I boarded an express city bus to downtown. Connecting with the Amtrak bus was not a problem. The bus also picked up passengers at the South Transit Terminal, and stopped in Barstow for a 40 minute break before heading to Bakersfield. The bus also stopped in Mojave and Tehachapi before arriving in Bakersfield on time. I was able to hop a city bus up to Lake Isabella and found my motel without a problem.
Early the next morning I was fully packed, back at the bus stop. By 7 am, I was at Walker Pass Trailhead, eager and willing to hit the trail. Thru-hikers who had camped at Walker Pass were now up and also eager to hit the trail. I started up with vim and vigor.
Within about 10 minutes, my back started to kill me. It was something that I just could not ignore, as it got worse and worse as hiking when on. Soon, the pain from the backpack dominated all thinking. I knew that something was wrong, and that I could not go on with the status quo. So, after about 1.7 miles and an hour on the trail, I turned around. I caught an 8:50 bus back to Lake Isabella, and was able to get back home by 1 am the next morning, though it would have been much sooner had I realized the problem with taking public transportation through the Strip late at night. The Strip is a zoo at night.
So, what am I going to do? I have a lot of options available. The first thing is to change how I did things from the start. This morning, I repacked everything in the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. To my surprise, everything fit. I figured out additional means of lightening up the load. I’ll probably only take four liters, and hopefully not start on a very hot day. Doing the trail with somebody could help. Training hikes with a full pack will be necessary, which I’ll start in the next few days. With the aching bones, being careful to maintain a Ibuprofen on board will be totally relevant.
If I find that I can’t manage, then I will do a road trip to pick up my resupply mailings at Kennedy Meadows South, Independence, and Kennedy Meadows North. The VVR package will be left for a needy person or two. It’s in God’s hands. Meanwhile, I’m home with Betsy, the love of my life, and life doesn’t get any better than that!
It is now only two more days before I depart for the trail. Suddenly, there is much on the agenda. I need to take care of the final resupply packages, which include a bucket that I’ll mail on Monday as well as four boxes that Betsy will send later on. I have not gotten in a few last raining hikes, but still think I’m ready. The forecast suggests that my first few miles will be hotter than average, meaning that I will need to limit my hiking in the heat of the day. Thankfully, the weather is cooling off a bit as I write this.
I made my final review of all my equipment. I set up my tent out on the golf course late one night. I tried out the Sawyer squeeze and realized that it was old, didn’t work, and needed to be replaced. I played around with my stoves, decided to get a 750 ml titanium cup with handles to use with the MSR pocket rocket stove. The final weight (without the fuel canister) is now 7.2 oz compared to the 13.1 oz I used for the Jetboil Flash Lite stove that I was previously using. I blew up my air mattress to make sure there were no leaks. Everything packed nicely into my backpack, so I now feel ready to go.
Other chores involved taking care of odds and ends around the house with Betsy, mailing my final resupply, and assuring that my electronics were up to speed. Finally, I am doing this post on my iPhone as a warm-up to doing this every night on the trail. I think I’m ready, and tomorrow I catch busses to take me to Lake Isabella. You can follow me on this blog page as I will NOT be posting to Facebook. My public InReach breadcrumbs which will tell you exactly where I’m at at all times (if I’m on the trail) can be found at share.garmin.com/PuyallupPilgrim
I welcome your prayers. You are welcome to contact me but please don’t use Satellite messaging unless it’s an emergency. Also, it may take a week or two for me to get back to you.