Kenneth Feucht

The Crown

The Crown: Seasons 1-4, produced by Peter Morgan

The Crown is intended to be a “made for television” series that will run for six seasons. The fifth season has currently been shown but is not available for download. The series is written and produced by Peter Morgan. The Crown is the story of Queen Elizabeth II from the time of her coronation up to her death. Season 1-4, which I am now discussing, covers the Queen up to about 1990, which would be just before the divorce of Charles and Diana.

Apparently, the series was very expensive to produce. Settings include palace props that I believe were not in the actual location, such as the events transpiring within Buckingham Palace were not actually filmed in Buckingham Palace.

While Morgan is not a historian, he has endeavored to create a story that reflects actual history. Morgan utilized respected historians in the weaving of his tale. A large portion of this series portrays private conversations with family or other personal relationships, or on a government level that could only be conjectured by Peter Morgan as to what actually happened. The reconstruction of closed-curtain affairs might resemble the truth or could be wildly in error. I’m inclined to believe that there is a little bit of both.

This series has come under heated debate, perhaps because it has a disparaging leaning toward the royal family. Numerous independent articles, as well as a book, have been written, mostly in regard to the truthfulness of the series to history. The book, The Crown Dissected was written by Hugo Vickers, who is a royal historian and takes issue with much of the veracity of this series. Yet, Vicker’s issues seemed to be over issues of minutia rather than the general course of what historically transpired. Even with multiple errors, the greater story is not destroyed. Trivial issues, such as the question of who actually burned the portrait of Winston Churchill or whether or not there actually was a “Balmoral test” don’t distract from the storyline. Some articles offer complaints about the factual content of the series, but are written by those who claim that they were “in the know” regarding royal proceedings behind closed doors, though most of the harshest royal conversations had no third-party observer. Besides, an intimate friend of the royal family would be biased to protect the family rather than have the truth be told.

This tv series brings up the issue of historical fiction. One might read James Michener as historical fiction yet be aware that it is truly just fiction within a true historical context. The movie industry offers the pretext that their story is a mostly non-fictional account of past events. Though I am not a fan of “Hollywood” historical fiction, it provides a fruitful curiosity and engages my mind to explore the true histories of events. Usually, there is a blank wall, since most events in life are not historically recorded. Thus, a screenwriter like Morgan necessarily must engage in presumption as to the events which occurred behind closed doors, and, as is said in 1 Samuel 15:23, “presumption is as iniquity and idolatry”. There may be moderate inaccuracy behind the story that Peter Morgan is painting, but there still may be a general ethos of the royal family that is accurate even though the events are only partially true. I’ve watched a number of other historical fiction series including those from ancient Rome, the medieval popes, and 14th-16th century kings of England, and find them informative only in that they get the general events correct. Specific events are dramatized and created to improve the theatric impact. Videntium cave: let the viewer beware.

An minor side comment need by stated since the first season brought up the matter. Those of my dear readers who know me also know how much I detest Winston Churchill. It is true that the Winston Churchill fan clubs, both in the USA and in Great Britain, tend to be drooling, fawning, and adulating folk of all stripes, including conservative, liberal and confused folk. This series did not paint Churchill in a kindly light, but rather as a petulant, arrogant, and obnoxious personality. If pride were Churchill’s only fault he could easily have been forgiven. His deceiving, lying, belligerent manner does not get so easily excused, and his lust for war and incompetence in managing war make him a competitor with Stalin and Hitler for the lowest rungs of hell. (Just my two cents worth)

The western concept of Royalty was based on the mistaken medieval notion of the divine right of kings, a notion that seems to be missing from the pages of Scripture. It is true that all of society is ordered by divine providence, including that of kings, emperors, dictators, Führers, presidents, and any other legitimate or illegitimate potentate. It has rightly been said recently by the head coach of the Boston Celtics Joe Mazzulla when asked what he thought of the royal family (referring to William and Kate Middleton who attended a game involving the Celtics). His response was “Who, Jesus, Mary and Joseph?”. This should be all of our responses when asked about “royalty” since there is only one true King of the universe.

A common answer obtained when I’ve asked many people as to why Great Britain still has a royalty is that it generates revenue for the state. So does Disneyland. The royalty no longer is the leader of the state in the most important matters, which is the duty performed by the prime minister. They may serve as advisors, but usually are marginal in that duty. They may serve as public relations officers, but the prime minister stands as the most important “public relations officer”. Frankly, royalty in today’s world is as useless as an ice delivery service to the South Pole. The British people now have the BBC to entertain them, and they don’t need royalty to accomplish that function. The only entertainment function of the philandering royalty is to generate an astronomical volume of gossip.

I am told that the royalty is not terribly costly to the British government. Last year, British taxpayers supported the Crown to the tune of £104 million, which is a pretty penny in my estimation. Any expense seems in need of accountability, something lacking with the royal household. The royal family does pay income taxes, but that is not obligatory. I presume that property taxes and other taxes are waived. The British government is essentially funding a single family to live a life of leisure and pleasure. Few other people enjoy the delights of having minimal responsibilities, minimal risks, and minimal fears. The only negative aspect of being a part of the royal family is that you live in a glass house. Something in my brain suggests that I am missing something. Am I? Could an entire country be so stupid as to be paying a single “privileged” family massive amounts with minimal return on their investment? The British taxpayer would probably be better off eliminating the royalty, confiscating their properties, and turning their palaces into museums, parks, and public showplaces. The entrance fees alone would probably return much of the £104 million annually that it costs taxpayers. Besides, the castles of the royalty will allow prime minister Rishi Sunak more room to house illegal aliens.

Queen Elizabeth was portrayed as a Christian Queen. She said her prayers before bed. She often attended church on Sundays. She had a heart for the poor and downtrodden. If her true faith is reflected in her children and many of her actions, then we have a problem. Only God knows her heart, and He will deal wisely with her soul. It is not ours to judge her Christian status. I respect her as a past Queen only in that she could have been infinitely worse. Her children and grandchildren leave great doubts in many minds as to the viability and sustainability of the royalty concept in Great Britain. Muckraking, as performed by Peter Morgan, may have done the royalty and image of Queen Elizabeth II a minor disservice. Perhaps the royalty of Great Britain is their own worst enemy and not the imaginative portrayals of the BBC and Hollywood. I probably will not be living long enough to see the final outcome.

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, compiled with comments by Philip Schaff ★★★★

This is the first of a series of 37 volumes comprising the Ante-Nicene and Nicene/Post-Nicene Fathers, compiled by Philip Schaff. Each volume contains translations of writings of the early church fathers, and this volume has many of the first fathers of the church, including Ignatius, Polycarp, and Irenaeus.

It is a healthy exercise to read what our fathers in the faith had deemed important enough to put down in print. The thoughts and concerns of these early fathers related mostly to moral purity, and combating the enemies of the faith. Predominant in the writings of the earliest church fathers was opposition to Gnosticism, which was creeping insidiously into the church all the way up to the bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope). It is fascinating how our church doctrines were formed as a response to the various heresies that arose. JI Packer once commented in Systematic Theology class that systematic theology was always written as a response to the ongoing heresies of the age, and historical studies of the fathers prove this to be quite true.

Most of this volume entailed the five books of Irenaeus titled Against Heresies. This was a lengthy segment and quite tedious to read; I’m not sure I grasped all of his points, and often because he tended to repeat simple truths of the faith without a specifically stated objective. It is fascinating how only a few hundred years and such greats as Augustine taught the church how to write in a more concise, organized, systematic style.

I am already blazing into volume 2 of this series, but not sure that I’ll make it through all 37 volumes. Eventually, I may end up skipping around a bit. Particular authors that I’ll be interested in are Tertullian, Athanasius, the Cappadocian Gregories, Chrysostom, Anselm, and Augustine.

The Returning King

The Returning King; A guide to the book of Revelation, by Vern Poythress ★★★★

The book of Revelation has a multiplicity of commentaries. If one were to read the commentaries without actually having read Revelation, one would think that they were reading commentaries on vastly different books. The interpretations among conservative Biblical scholars has great diversity, as well as a diversity of fanaticism. I recall well as a teenager when Hal Lindsey produced his dispensational premillennial spin on the book. Of course, his books (Late Great Planet Earth & Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth) required multiple revisions and updates during the 20-30 years that the Lindsey books remained popular. Conversely, I recently read a postmillennial preterist spin on Revelation by Doug Wilson titled When the Man Comes Around which was a bit of scholarly trash, in which I never even wasted my time to write a review. Both the dispensational premillennialists and postmillennialists have used their eschatology as a litmus test for orthodoxy, though they tend to have enough disagreements among themselves as to suggest that perhaps we should all have a little bit of humility with our opinions. Perhaps the best book I´ve read so far, and I´ve read it more than once, is William Hendrickson´s More Than Conquerors. He takes an amillennial approach and considers Revelation to be a 7-fold retelling of the history of the world from the time of Christ to the consummation. This book has been the most scholarly and convincing to me.

In The Returning King, Poythress suggests an eclectic approach to Revelation, using all 4 so-called interpretive schemes, the historicist, the futurist, the preterist, and the idealist. He would label Hendrickson as a perfect example of the idealist approach. It seems on reading Poythress’s volume that he tends to concur quite strongly with the Hendrickson approach, viewing Revelation as a seven-fold telling of Church history, progressing timewise from the first accounts of church history as focusing on early events and later accounts as focusing more on future events. Hendrickson would divide the 7-fold accounts a little differently from Poythress, yet ultimately the end interpretive result is quite similar. Poythress is soft on the millennial issue, but his discussion shows a very strong leaning toward the amillennial position.

Like most commentaries, the first few chapters of Poythress’s commentary discusses sundry issues such as the author, the date of writing, and technical aspects of how the book will be interpreted. This is followed by section-by-section interpretive suggestions. What do the various colors of things symbolize? What is the meaning of an animal with 7 heads or multiple eyes? Why does a last battle occur a number of times in Revelation—were there multiple last battles, or is the Apocalypse pointing us to a recurring retelling of the same story from various perspectives. Who or what is the beast? The prostitute? The dragon? What is the meaning of all the numbers given? Why is 7 so frequently used? What is 666? What is the meaning of the 144000? Why are precise measurements given to the new earth, something that would be an impossibility in the physics of our current world? Thankfully, much of the symbolism of Revelation has reference to Ezekiel, Daniel, other minor prophets, the prophetic speeches of Christ, and the prophetic discussions of Paul in his epistles. Dangers exist—the most popular danger is to read much of the book as figurative and yet to force literal interpretations on selective items, such as the 1000-year reign of Christ. Poythress is wise in not forcing interpretations that he might later regret, a trait most associated with Hal Lindsey. Poythress’s strength is that of bringing the necessity of reading and heeding the warnings of Revelation to everybody, young and old, in all generations. The book is an unveiling, not an encryption of the past, present, and future, and should be read as such. It is as much a story of the present as it is a story of the future.

Poythress does not offer us a thorough scholarly review of Revelation. There is no shame in that, and his little volume is quite effective at conveying an overall method for approaching what might be termed an obscure book. Poythress is no light-weight in the academic field, and this little tome on Revelation can be regarded as a decent summary of the book, releasing Revelation from either fatalistic obscurity or from livid and wild abstractions, as might be found in the premillennial dispensational approach of Hal Lindsey. Thus, I would commend it as a worthwhile summary of the book of Revelation.

We are currently starting through the book of Revelation in Sunday School, with the idea of completing the book within the span of several months. They are using a text written by a Southern Baptist individual J. Scott Duvall, The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible’s Final Book Reading the first pages of the book on Amazon, it is difficult to sort out its orientation, something Scott seems to try to avoid, focusing instead on the thematic material of the book, i.e., as Henrickson has stated, that we are more than conquerors. Duvall has written a commentary on Revelation, so this book attempts to serve not so much as a commentary as a discussion of the relevant themes in the book. I probably will not be reading that text, mostly because I feel that further insights into the book would not be gained by reading it. I’ll be most interested in the ensuing discussions at church.

Introducing Covenant Theology

Introducing Covenant Theology, by Michael Horton ★★★

I’ve read a number of books by Micheal Horton, and have appreciated not only his theology but also his teaching style. In this book, my expectations were a touch higher than Horton delivered, as I’ll explain later. Horton writes well, so this book was not a challenge to read. It’s 194 pages long, yet Horton has been able to keep repetition to a minimum.

The book starts out with a definition of a covenant. Horton breaks down covenants into two types, suzerainty covenants, and promissory covenants. Covenants, by their nature, are one-sided events, with suzerainty covenants entailing obligations on the part of the covenant individual, and promissory covenants based solely on the trustworthiness of the covenant giver. As examples, the Noahic covenant was promissory, in that it did not demand obedience for God to promise never to flood the earth again; the Mosaic covenant is a suzerainty covenant that states essentially “Do this and you will live, don’t do this and you will die”. Much of his references in the first part of this book were to Meredith Kline and to O. Palmer Robertson. I’ve read Robertson, whose writings on the covenants are superlative.

After developing the nature of the covenants, Horton explores several other areas related to covenant theology. Common grace is mentioned, which is the blessings God bestows even on the ungodly. Evil people also enjoy good health, a good brain, sunshine and rain, as well as a society in good behavior. These are all a part of the promissory covenants which God makes with man. The people of the covenant are discussed, as well as the status of the Israelites. Here, Horton drives a strong stance for amillennial eschatology as best fitting a covenantal approach to Scripture. Horton discusses the Sacraments and develops support for the Reformed thinking of the nature of the Eucharist. He discusses the means and implications of signs and seals of the covenant. Finally, Horton closes with a chapter offering last words on the law-grace tension.

What are my misgivings with this book, why do I only give it 3 stars? Firstly, I believe Horton holds too heavily of a stance with Kline. Kline appropriately noted how the Biblical covenants strongly resemble many of the covenants of the Ancient Near East (ANE) kings. Such information is helpful but certainly not necessary in grasping the significance of a covenant-making God. It also leaves one in the lurch; did God model His covenants after the ANE kings, or vice-versa? If the latter, then Biblical covenants explain the secular covenants and not vice-versa.

Secondly, Horton does poorly in detailing the history of Covenant Theology. Was Calvin adherent to covenant theology? Where could you prove it in Calvin’s writings? Why is Witsius only mentioned as a footnote? How do the Heidelberg and Westminster Confessions promote the theology of the covenants? In what ways do the theology of Cocceius and Witsius differ? How is it that covenant theology was developed out of the Biblical Theology movement, and not the Systematic Theology movement? How did Reformed thinkers after Cocceius and Witsius further develop the theology of the covenants?

Third, Covenants, including the covenant of grace in which we are currently living, say something about the children of believers, yet Horton is totally silent in this regard. Why?

Fourthly, what are the main arguments against Covenant Theology? A chapter comparing and contrasting Covenant vs. non-Covenant theology would have been very helpful. Is Covenant Theology truly synonymous with Calvinism/Reformed thinking? Can one be a partial Covenanter, or a halfway house covenant theologian? How does one answer the individual who claims that they are in the Reformed (5-star Calvinist) camp and yet disavow Covenant Theology? Reformed Baptists offer a distinctive twist on the theology of the covenants which would have deserved a mention.

Fifthly, many of the Israelites from Moses to Jesus were saved, and the saved Israelites were all saved by grace rather than by keeping the law, though Horton implies that the Abrahamic covenant (promissory, by grace) was in action here. This is a weak argument since the Abrahamic covenant applied to the land but not for personal salvation. This is an issue that could have been more strongly developed.

Finally, Horton seems sufficiently concerned about not being confused with advocates of salvation by works, so he doesn’t deal adequately with the beauty of covenant theology in reconciling the tension between salvation by faith and salvation by works. This is a bit understandable. Many of contemporary Reformed theologians’ most fierce battles have been over the accusations regarding grace “vs” works (sola gratia)*, as though grace and works were competitive ideas. Recent attacks on Federal Vision (not to be confused with Federal Theology) bear witness to how brutal Christians can be in their accusations of heresy over this single issue. Please make no mistake, I am not a Federal Vision advocate, mostly because it has failed to adequately define itself precisely. Or, perhaps I am a Federal Vision advocate since it has no clear definition????

Though Horton argues against it, his tendency is to regard the law as solely deontological, that is, consisting of nothing but a list of duties with promise (the land and health) rewarded for obedience. The authors who penned the Psalms seem to mention the law frequently, and always as a source of joy, wisdom, guidance, strength, and delight. The Psalms destroy the notion that the law simply addresses our actions and not our thoughts. Psalm 119 is especially noted as an encomium to the law. The mistaken interpretation of the law by the Jewish community at the time of Christ saw the law (works) solely as a source of salvation without the necessity of faith and true love for God. In this, I believe the Reformers rather than NT Wright were right (no pun intended).

JI Packer’s short Introduction to Covenant Theology as well as Geerhardus Vos’s The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology were previously read by me in preparation for reading Horton. Packer was definitely the most insightful, selling Covenant Theology not as a particular theological movement, but rather as a hermeneutic for interpreting Scripture. This seems to make the most sense to me. Vos is erudite but sharp in his readings, offering good historical insights and not being afraid to be mistaken as a “legalist”. For example, “Thus, it is that in the covenant of grace, too, the participants are exempt from the demand of the law as the condition for eternal blessedness, but not from its demand as being normative for their moral life.” With both authors, the superiority of seeing Scripture in a Reformed covenantal fashion is a necessity. JI Packer notes, “1. The gospel of God is not properly understood till it is viewed within a covenantal frame,… 2. The word of God is not properly understood til it is viewed within a covenantal frame”. I wholeheartedly agree with Packer on these points, and his short tome is valuable reading.

This was a worthwhile book to read, written in a scholarly but quite readable format. If Horton were to address my concerns mentioned above, the book would be awesome but also considerably lengthier. IMHO, I think it would be worth it.

-* moral law is not an arbitrary set of rules/laws given by God for man to obey, but is based on the very nature and character of God, ie, God is by his very being ontologically moral. Thus, any claim to be free from “the law” is a claim also to be free from God. Another way to say it, ontology and ethics are separate topics for created man, though with God they are a unity.

The Mortification of Sin

The Mortification of Sin, by John Owen, translated and adapted into Modern English by Aaron Renn ★★★★

Pastor Rayburn had recommended this book to the FPC in Tacoma, WA as an excellent treatise on dealing with sin. It has been a classic text regarding personally killing sin in one’s life, and quoted by JI Packer as an anecdote to the more casual or even “magical” ways in which sin is dealt with in one’s life. This book is now being reviewed in Sunday School at church, a chapter at a time. I opted for a modern rendition, very well done, by Aaron Renn. Owen could be a bit stodgy to read, partially because it is a language we don’t necessarily think with (King James English), and Owen’s academic accuracy sometimes clouds his ability to make clear what he is trying to say.

The book is 18 chapters long, Owen’s text being only 13 chapters long, but Renn turned one chapter into five, giving it a few more chapters. Owens makes very clear that Christians must always be engaged in a battle against sin, that there is no alternative for a Christian, and that the only victory against sin is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. Again and again, Owen stresses the necessity of the Christian not being lax against sin, and always battling for victory over sin. Though Owen doesn’t stress it in this text, sin will remain an enemy for life; there is no moment of absolute surrender and total victory over sin, that is, until we die.

Martin Luther had a different approach to sin, in part owing to his struggle to differentiate law from grace. Luther’s quote “Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ”. Luther, like Owen, had a strong repulsion for sin in a person’s life, yet tends to approach sin by advocating the replacement of the sin act with an act of obedience. Both Luther and Owen need to be taken seriously in their appeal for a righteous life of a believer in Christ. They offer contrasting but complementary means of killing sin in our life.

The Great Reset

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.

Introduction to Covenant Theology

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

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

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.

Note that Christian civilization as well as the British Empire has been lost. Churchill’s victory assured a new dark age, prolonged by perverted science (just think Wuhan virus as an example). He especially mentioned the US, which Churchill was desperately trying to persuade to enter the war. Rather than a thousand years, the Commonwealth lasted just a few years longer than the 3rd Reich.

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…

Denton: Privileged Species Series

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!

Summary

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!