Kenneth Feucht

The Case for Christian Nationalism

The Case for Christian Nationalism, by Stephen Wolfe ★★

This book was obtained free from and read in digital format. Wolfe attempts to describe how a nation would look governed entirely by Christian leadership and (mostly) Christian citizens. Wolfe provides a heavily referenced text, though the most relevant text, the Bible, seems to come short. Tacitly assumed by Wolfe is a post-millennial world where everyone is Christian. Efforts to form a Christian society and government in this fallen world will segue into the millennial kingdom. Therefore, it behooves us to imagine how to best establish a Christian nation.

Wolfe spends much of his time describing either what he is going to do, or what he is doing at the moment. A huge portion of the book consists of quotes regarding a Christian government, written by (mostly) Protestant saints within the last few hundred years or medieval Scholastics. After introducing at length what Wolfe is going to write about, he begins by hypothesizing what sort of government would exist had the fall never occurred. Such idle speculation really doesn’t get one anywhere, since Scripture is silent on the topic. Scripture is silent perhaps for good reason; thankfully, the Bible wasn’t written by medieval scholastic scholars who would debate at length the imponderables, such as how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Wolfe then discusses the fall of man and how this affects the establishment of a nation. Of importance is the identification of people groups or cultural groups, who would coalesce and govern themselves. Nations need a well-defined set of values and objectives, agreed upon by the masses. Issues of war were not discussed. Cultural Christianity would have an elevated status and thus define normative behavior in society. Wolfe discusses the construction of civil law in Christian society. He also describes what a Christian “prince” would look like, which sounds more like an unfallen sinless human than the fallen Christians who could lead us.

Wolfe then takes a turn and attempts to develop an argument for revolution. Wolfe doesn’t say overtly but does imply that bad government loses its legitimacy in God’s eyes, and thus it is right to overthrow such a government. Not mentioned is how one determines when a government is ever evil enough to call for revolution. Certainly, Christian history doesn’t help, as the early Christians in Rome probably were as great as a 1/4 of the population, and never ever sought to overthrow the government. In the chapter on conscience, Wolfe mulls over how much authority the state should have to suppress heresy, idolaters, false teachers, etc. Though his answer is quite lengthy, he really doesn’t provide even guiding principles for the management of heretics, save to identify how much harm a heretic might do to society and punish them accordingly. Wolfe’s attempt to go back to the founding fathers and show how the USA was essentially established as a Christian nation fails. Christianity was indeed the prevailing religion of the 17th and 18th centuries in America, yet evangelical movements such as with Whitfield and later Finney demonstrated that much of Christianity was in name only. Wolfe fails to demonstrate that the bulk of leadership in the American Revolution was only nominally Christian, thinking of such greats as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, etc.

Stephen Wolfe fails miserably in his attempt to provide us a model for Christian nationalism. He is not wrong that for a Christian government to work properly, the subjects also need to be more than nominally Christian. Consider the eras in history when there was a truly Christian nation with Christian nationalism. Actually, there are many, but I’ll list a few. 1) Outre Mere (Jerusalem of the Crusaders) 2) Byzantium, 3) The Holy Roman Empire, 4) Oliver Cromwell’s England, 5) the New England Pilgrim states, 6) Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and 7) The Colony (Belize). These are only a few attempts to set up an isolated group of people who will preserve and protect divine truth. All have (so far) failed. In the absence of a post-millennial hope, this book becomes relatively meaningless, or perhaps idle speculation and wishful thinking. Of course I wish we had a perfect, peaceful, Christian society, but with fallen man, such wishfulness remains nothing but fanciful daydreaming.

Scripture speaks plentifully about government. The clearest statement is found in Psalm 2, which paints man as forever attempting to overthrow God from His rule. The author Robert Case also develops an excellent argument as to why the book of Esther is relevant for developing a philosophy of politics (Esther & Trump, published by Saluda Press). Why Wolfe has so few Scriptures to defend his arguments is itself most telling. The VanTillian notion of the primacy of Scripture in philosophy and politics is defied by Wolfe, whom I might presume would consider himself a VanTil disciple. Wolfe’s suggestion that nations that restrict personal freedoms delegitimize themselves, yet Scripture would be at odds with this notion, starting with Psalm 2. I am not opposed to Wolfe’s desire to think out the characteristics of a Christian nation, though his inability to reckon with the dirty facts of life in a fallen world weakens his argument. Thus, I didn’t find this book very helpful at thinking through the ramifications of life in a political world. Who should I vote for? What laws are most fitting? Should our nation consider itself under the obligation of behaving in a Christian fashion with other nations? Should we allow open borders that provide for a large group that could be evangelized? Is Capitalism any more Christian than Marxism or other forms of government? If the nation is controlled by a Christian tyrant, is that bad? How should the nation treat citizens who reflect poorly on our nation’s Christian image on the international stage? Why does Christ occasionally mention non-religious people who have the art and skill of managing a nation? Should any nation identify as the world’s policeman? Is there a role for international law, and how is it developed and enforced? Many questions come out of this book; the book has value mostly at stimulating thought as to what government should look like. Otherwise, The Case for Christian Nationalism most fails in actually making a case for and against Christian nationalism. This book reminds me of a song by John Lennon, which imagines a fictional world that escapes reality. I quote the lyrics in full…

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today, Ah

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace You

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world You

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

The Early Church

The Early Church, by Louis Markos ★★★★

I’ve appreciated the writings and lectures of Louis Markos and found this book to have an interesting theme worth reading. It was. Markos excels in literary criticism, and that is exactly what this book does in looking at the writings of some of the early church fathers, rather than just recording their historical details. Markos addresses a variety of topics including early church sermons, early letters of the Patristic saints, writings regarding the church itself, martyr accounts, apologists for the faith, and heresy hunters. This book provides a slightly different flavor to the church fathers through focusing on the church literature per se. Thus, Dr. Markos accomplished his objective well. My only problem with the book is that I’ve essentially read all of the source documents contained in this book. It would probably be of more value to those without the exposure to the early church literature as I have had. Hopefully, the book will encourage more people to pay closer attention to early church writings.

The Lost Art of Dying

The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom, by L.S. Dugdale ★★★★

This book was recommended to me by my past surgery practice partner, Dr. D. King. It is written by an internist who directs a medical ethics center at Columbia University in New York City. Dugdale writes in a very personal fashion, recounting many of her patient and family experiences with dying. As a retired surgical oncologist, the stories she shares are very much in common with what I’ve experienced over my lifetime of a surgery practice that focused on cancer. I held in common with her many of her experiences with patient encounters and family encounters when death was imminent.

The strength of this short book is in recalling ancient wisdom. Much of the focus is centered on a manual titled ars moriendi written in the 14th and 15th centuries to guide folk in the art of how to die. There was an age when a person was surrounded by death, and society did not shield a person from observing the death process. People died at home among a community of friends. Dugdale doesn’t mention that the attitude toward death was radically different in medieval times, in that a good death was a long drawn-out painful event, and to die in your sleep was the ultimate bad death. Still, our historical fathers did not avoid discussions of death. The churchyard of every church older than 150 years ago had an associated cemetery in front of the church that you had to walk through before entering the church, a reminder of our true place on earth.

Dugdale does well at emphasizing how we have made death to be a theatrical, yet exceedingly lonely event. Nobody dies without being on a bucketful of expensive medications, all of which add to the misery of the dying process. Death is sterile, shielded from the prying eyes of family and friends. Dr. Dugdale describes some horrible scenarios that she encountered early in her training, such as a person who arrested three times in a night before actually dying, with each CPR (including the first) that never should have been done. Death in history is described, most notably entailing the plague (black death) from the 15th century. Death becomes a useful reminder of our personal finitude, that we here today, gone tomorrow. Dugdale speaks of how it has become common for people to die alone in their homes, only to be discovered days, weeks, and even months later, and how community in the process of dying is most relevant to offer the dying person the honor and dignity that they deserve.

Where we die is important. It is only in the last century that the end of life most commonly occurs in the hospital setting. There is no need for this, and in fact would be far better for death to occur at home. The fear of death is discussed as a component of the dying process, something that not everybody experiences. What about the body? What significance do we place on the corpse? Dugdale spends much of a chapter discussing the Isenheim altarpiece which illustrates Jesus on the cross and in death with skin ulcers similar to what would have been seen commonly during the plague. Dugdale then treads the issue of the spirituality of death. Here, she tries to be sympathetic to all faiths and beliefs, and struggles with the issue of being spiritual without being religious, ie., not trying to offend those that do not match her Christian faith. To this end, she comes up a touch short. If the reality of the Christian faith suggests a finality and ultimate judgment, it would be impossible to smooth out the stark reality of most people ultimately facing a judge rather than a savior. Is a generic spirituality really congruous with a person nearing the irreversible prospect of an eternity in hell? I don’t think so.

There is a chapter titled “Ritual” which discusses what we do with the corpse. Do we embalm it? Do we cremate it? Do we quickly bury it, as is consistent with Jewish tradition? Does the corpse become a meaningless hunk of matter, or, is there symbolism in the body that deserves respect even after death? This is not well addressed. Dugdale wraps up by insisting that in order to die well, one must live well. This is a truism that needs no further expansion. Indeed, part of living well is in accepting one’s mortality and preparing each day for death. To this end, nobody has tackled this issue better than the Puritans of the 16th/17th century.

This book is excellent at helping one reflect on death, and in preparing for death. Such an action is counter to our culture, which wishes to sterilize death and medicalize death. The stories about patients being abused at the moment of death by the medical-industrial complex are very familiar and consistent with what I experienced as a physician. I’ve seen patients whose lives were gone long before the family was willing to withhold interventions. I’ve seen patients who were undergoing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) while simultaneously receiving an intravenous infusion of toxic chemotherapy. Too often the intensive care unit was nothing but an insensitive care unit. In academia, too often the patient was maintained on life support solely to improve the numbers for some research project. I could go on and on. Where Dugdale most seriously misses the point is in the grasp of the entire nature of healthcare. Healthcare is intrinsically a religious activity, and secularizing healthcare, making it devoid of a Hippocratic ethic, does both the patient and the system an injustice. Having served for years as a chairman of a hospital ethics committee, too often ethics is reduced to an ephemeral “gut” feeling as to what is right or wrong. Ultimately, medical ethics committees are to placate the medical industrial complex for their misdeeds while protecting the hospital from liability in a diverse cultural setting where norms for ethics do not exist.

Cemeteries should return to the churchyard. Hospitals should return to the church. Death should occur in the context of the family, with a pastor/priest, and not with a highly technical health care system in attendance. Churches should assume a greater role in discussing death and preparing for the inevitable. To this end, Dugdale accomplishes the marvelous task of describing the contemporary 21st-century problem with how we approach death but fails in part at offering the best solutions to the death problem. Without Christ, death is a veritable tragedy. With Christ, the curse of death is overwhelmed by the victory of life eternal in the presence of God. Dying and the Christian faith cannot be held as soft options.

The War On Conservatives

The War on Conservatives, by Mark Dice ★★★★

Mark Dice is a YouTube commentator whom I regularly watch and demonstrates great perception in what’s going on out there in our government and political circles. Mark offers many insights in his videos, which is further reflected in this book. Though Mark has written a number of books that focus on a singular theme, this book covers a broad spectrum of themes. Much of what is discussed in the book is also covered in his videos, though the book takes the freedom to discuss issues and circumstances which would lead to a YouTube ban. Topics include 1) the decline in public school education, 2) the war on the family, 3) the attack on the symbols, traditions, holidays and historic culture in society, 4) Christianity and churches under siege, 5) the promotion of sexual perversion (please Mark, call it what is is, and NOT LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ+), 6) the invasion of our country through illegal immigration, 7) critical race theory (anti-whiteism), 8) main stream media and other government censorship, and 9) the failure of conservatives to stand up for the truth.

All of these issues are critical issues, and all of them are interconnected. Dice takes to the end of the book to circle around the real problem with the USA. It is not the politicians. It is not the deep state. It is not a select elite that control the country. It is not so-called “conspiracy theories” or secret societies. A cartoon best states the problem…

Old Testament prophets railed against evil leadership, but hit hardest on the general public that had lost faith in God, while retaining a gloss of religiosity. Americans are told a lie because they don’t want to know the truth. If they believe the “truth”, it relates to everybody but themselves. I look back on the hyper-conservative Amish-Mennonite church that I had grown up in, which is now in the throes of liberal thinking; their past attitude of “let the world go to hell, but we will hunker down in our own private little world” has served them no good. Even in the most conservative churches, you will rarely if ever heard preached the wrath of God, lest someone get offended, or the necessity of moral imperatives, lest the preacher be accused of legalism. The USA maintains a religious gloss but is rotten to the core, and so why shouldn’t God’s judgement be noted in all aspects of life? Not even Mark has the courage to state that America needs to repent, and no other action will solve her moral and social issues.

So, I diminish Mark’s book by one star. Is the book worth purchasing and reading? Absolutely yes! Does the book hit at the true root problem with Amurika? No. I know that Mark has a wonderful faith in God, and though we don’t expect him to become a soul-coach or preacher-man, perhaps his next book could attack the loss of faith among all, liberals and conservatives alike.

Atheism on Trial

Atheism on Trial: Refuting the Modern Arguments Against God, by Louis Markos ★★★★★

I had this book on my shelves for a year or two before tackling it. I was mostly interested in the book due to my encounter with Louis Markos with a Teaching Company series on literary criticism/post-modernism, which is probably the best refutation of post-modernism available, that is also comprehensible to the non-philosopher layman. Indeed, Markos has a peculiar knack for making very complex ideas simple and understandable to the man on the street. After reading, I realized that this book is a gem, tackling complex issues without using the philosopher’s jargon.

Marcos counters the atheist with four approaches, by addressing the nature of the universe, epistemological concerns, the nature of God, and the nature of man. All of these approaches demonstrate the failures of the atheist mindset. Marcos tackles a number of very touchy subjects, such as the problem of pain (and evil) in the world, which he shows to prove rather than disprove God. He also used a term that I thought I had coined, but apparently not, in speaking of science-of-the-gaps, which is a more legitimate argument than the God-of-the-gaps argument used by atheists.

Marcos’s most relevant arguments entailed his ability to recount historical thinking from the ancient Greeks and since then. Indeed, his introduction to the book was titled “nothing new under the sun”, and Marcos was quite capable of showing how modern atheistic arguments have been around for well over 2000 years. What the atheist presents as new thinking is everything but that.

This book was awesome. I recommend this strongly to anybody interested in presenting the Christian faith to a faithless world. I also recently reviewed a book on witnessing the faith titled Tactics, which had interesting information, but really presented nothing more than cliché-ridden arguments for the faith. Marcos presented a vastly more insightful discussion on how to challenge those who question your faith in God. Get it and read it!

Early Christian Doctrines

Early Christian Doctrines, by JND Kelly ★★★★

I have read this book many years ago and decided on a refresher course in early Christian thought. JND Kelly writes a wonderful text detailing the systematic development of the most relevant doctrines of Christianity, including the formation of the canon of Scripture, the nature of Christ, the Trinity, and the nature of man, as well as the origin of the current practice of the Sacraments, and development of the doctrine of Mary. It is a delightful book to read and should be within the knowledge of every mature Christian man and woman. I will not go over the details of the text. Needless to say, doctrine was developed in response to heresy, and those heresies, such as Arianism, Sabellianism, etc., etc., still exist and often unknowingly in the theological constructs of many otherwise orthodox Christian people. My greatest complaint with the book is that it assumes that one is already quite familiar with the Patristic saints. Summary charts or illustrations could have been used to better clarify competing doctrines. Even still, it is the best text out there for gaining a grasp as to why our theology emerged the way it did.


Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, by Gregory Koukl ★★★

This book was highly recommended to me by friends. Evidently, it has been around a while, now existing in the 10th anniversary edition. The focus of the book was in detailing how one can encounter the unbeliever in the public square. He offers sage advice, such as to avoid being argumentative, to be kind, to ask questions in order to focus the contact person toward discovering the logical inconsistencies of their thinking. Koukl owes a deep debt to Francis Schaeffer, who he quotes frequently. Koukl talks a lot about abortion issues and intelligent design issues.

The strength of this book is in reminding Christians to witness, and that their witness needs to be as ambassadors for Christ, while behaving always in a Christ-like manner. The weakness is that the tactics are presenting in a cutesy “Columbo” style, which was a little annoying. This approach is great for a teenager but not for a more mature adult, in that it reminded me of the pop books of yesterday, like Fritz Ridenour’s books or Josh McDowell’s Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door. It’s easy to get hung up on tactics when one just needs to “do it”. Witnessing should come as natural as breathing.

I purchased a second book by Gregory Koukl Street Smarts, which looks like it is more of the same thing. I’ll probably skim the book and then offer a second Koukl review.

Why I detest the PCTA

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was originally conceived in the 1930s, though it took an act of congress to form the official Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (now the Pacific Crest Trail) in 1968. A Pacific Trail Congress was formed in 1977 to offer some oversight of the trail, and in 1992, it became the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). In 1993, the PCTA formed a written memorandum with the National Forest Service, having the PCTA serve a major role in the supervision and maintenance of the trail. Since the 1990s, the PCTA has been quite active at promoting and maintaining the trail, as well as acquiring land from private landowners in order to make the trail truly a national heritage. Over time, the PCTA has been instrumental in developing use-restriction permits to prevent overuse of the trail. With time and the acquisition of increased control of the trail, the PCTA has done what so many agencies do, which is to lose sight of its original mission, which was to promote, maintain, and protect the PCT.

The PCTA is quite duplicious with trail promotion. They want people to support the PCTA, but they would rather that you NOT hike the PCT. It is a trail that they claim is overused. The PCTA seems hell-bent on keeping people off of the trail, usually citing hiker safety concerns, the Wuhan virus, or mating problems in yellow-legged frogs as the issue. I’d be happy if they worked as hard to keep people on the trail.

Safety is a trail issue since we live in a country ruled by lawyers, and any incident experienced on the trail would generate liability issues with the state. We can no longer accept that a tree may fall on a person, or snake unwarily attacks an innocent victim. Hikers will tend to do very stupid things, often in challenging themselves to set some sort of trail record, such as doing the fastest known time (fkt) hiking the entire trail. Some real safety policies, like expecting (demanding) that everyone on the trail carry personal locator beacons (plbs), would offer safety as well as provide information as to how many and where people are on the trail. One in a billion worries like the risk of transmitting the Wuhan virus from one hiker to another has clouded the judgement of the agency.

For several years, the PCTA had as their poster child the hiker Cheryl Strayed with her book about hiking (maybe) 500 miles of the PCT. One PCT hiker wrote a massive series of posts detailing how nearly everything in the book Wild was false. The reader is welcome to check this out at Cheryl Strayed in her book, though attempting to alternate between seriousness and funniness, shows how to cast environmental concerns, trail concerns, trail etiquette, and trail honesty to the wind. She shows just about everything one can do wrong on the trail, including poor planning, poor judgement, and misjudging many people that she met on the trail. Why the PCTA decided to use Cheryl Strayed as a poster child was very poor judgement, a trait shared between the PCTA and Cheryl Strayed.

Just a few years ago the PCTA decided that there were too many white folk on the trail, and so engaged in a campaign to get more “colored” folk on the trail, meaning, more black skinned folk. They even developed a system of trail “ambassadors”, i.e., colored folk, whom they would economically finance to hike the trail. Then, the PCTA developed a system whereby those of confused sexuality could find themselves “protected”. Various work crews would consist only of females (don’t dare have the males do an activity that restricts females!). Directly and indirectly, focus was placed on encouraging folk with various sexual perversions to make themselves known on the trail. I tend to be colorblind on the trail and I never ask a person to describe in full their sexual orientation as I’m not interested. I don’t care if your skin is white, black, brown, yellow, red or green. I do care that you maintain common trail courtesies and that your are respectful of the environment. From the PCTA promotion of Cheryl Strayed, it is quite obvious that the PCTA is more worried about the promotion of females on the trail, regardless of their sensitivity to the environment and leaving no trace, a trait that Cheryl lacked and never acquired during her summer sojourn on the trail. This shift can also be found within the board and administrative structure of the PCTA, where it seems they are more concerned about diversity than with finding the most qualified individuals. In essence, the entire organization became Woke!

I have volunteered many times in the past with the PCTA as well as with the Washington Trails Association in order to maintain or construct trails in the Cascades. What I found was the technology of trail construction/maintenance has not changed in the last 100 years. Pity. We spent much time rummaging for rock and dirt to fill in the trail. Steps and other structures were built by locating hemlock trees just off the trail, cutting them down, debarking them, then sawing them into appropriate lengths and using (mostly) rock to stabilize the structures. There’s nothing wrong with all of that, except that it is an environmentally destructive process, and the materials would not be guaranteed to last more than 10-20 years. Thus, a trail needs to be reconstructed about every 10-20 years. Surely there are materials with a much longer expected life span that can be made to appear as natural which could be used for the trail?

I find it amusing that trail technology has not sought for more durable solutions to trail construction or maintenance. The Romans could build roads that were environmentally pleasing and yet lasted for 2000 years. Our trails scarcely last 20 years! I surmise that part of the problem is the Wilderness Act of 1964. This act was seriously needed and yet is deeply flawed in how it was written. It needs to be completely replaced by more nuanced thought about the designation of sundry wilderness areas. The PCTA, like other trail organizations, thrive off of the restrictions placed on wilderness lands by the Wilderness Act. A segment of trail could easily be cleared of blow-downs and encroaching weeds through the use of a chain saw, gas powered weed wacker, and a three man crew. What would take a 3-man powered crew about 3-4 hours to accomplish would take a non-powered crew of 10-14 a week or more. Since large volunteer work crews are best accomplished by the PCTA or other state hiking clubs, keeping a non-automated restriction works to the benefit of the organization.

Yet, one may ask about the environmentally friendlier choice? With a large crew using nothing but handsaws and manual weedwackers, there is a far greater distraction to hikers from large crews on the trail, and the recruitment of crews usually cannot occur expeditiously, so that major blow-downs (logs across the trail) may take months or years to remove, and in the interim, destructive detours are created by hikers wending their way across the trail obstruction. Some hikers may complain about the noise of a chainsaw, yet that noise is brief compared to the noise of a large crew spending many days on the trail, with the noise of axes, hammers and lumber saw blades constantly grinding. I find also that those who complain about trail maintenance NOT being completely “natural” are the least likely to volunteer for trail maintenance. So, the Wilderness Act needs to be rewritten to allow the limited use of powered tools to maintain trails. With the PCTA operating largely in personal survival mode, its servant status is lost and the fallacious arguments regarding environmental concerns that it uses to defent itself is easily countered.

There are several other issues regarding trail maintenance where I think the PCTA has been deficit. First is the issue of campsites. The PCTA in general seems to frown on dispersed camping and for good reason. Yet, simple math tells a different story. A hiker will average 15-25 miles per day. The PCTA permit system allows for 50 people a day starting the trail. Not all permit holders will be starting at their designated time, and for the most part, other hikers will also be on the trail, which means that at peak seasons there will be between 40-80 hikers per day at a time on each 20 mile segment of trail. These 60 or so people will hike roughly 20 miles each day and set up camp. Thus, for each 15-20 miles, there needs to aveage camp sites for roughly 50-60 tents. There are VERY FEW 20 mile stretches of trail that would allow for 50+ tents. Thus, there is either massive amounts of dispersed camping, or perhaps there are far fewer than 50 people per day on the trail? Fact: planned and built campsites are actually much less destructive of the habitat than dispersed camping, and why the PCTA doesn’t see this as a problem and seek a solution is a mystery to me.

Second is the issue of water supply in the desert. There are several places on the trail where a hiker would be in trouble is there wasn’t a cache of water. These stretches of the trail would be nigh to unhikable by conventional means without a cached water supply. Examples include the gate 3 cache, water at Mike’s Place and Mary’s Place, three caches between Lander’s Meadow and Walker Pass, and the cache 22 on the Hat Creek Rim. I am told that perhaps the PCTA helps sponsor these caches? I don’t know. The PCTA is quite critical of people leaving cached water for all comers on the trail. The PCTA needs to be less duplicious on trail water caches. Considering that the water caches are necessary for the bulk of thru-hikers on the trail, why isn’t the PCTA more forthright about it and take seriously that trail safety necessitates the maintenance of at least a few of these water caches? Does the PCTA know the segments of the trail where water supply becomes a true safety issue? What are they doing about it? It’s just another mystery to me.

I’ve noticed that the culture of people who hike the trail has changed. Traditionally, a person would dream about the prospect of thru-hiking the PCT, knowing that it would take up about a half year to do. They would quit or take leave of their occupation, hike the trail, and then return to normal life. Some would do the trail after completing school or other education with the intention of returning to work after the hike is completed. Nowadays, it seems like a greater and increasing proportion of hikers are the permanently unemployed, self-identified hiker trash that spends their life on the trail. Their role-models are people like Heather Anderson, Yogi, and Billy-Goat, whose entire identity is with that of the trail. In addition, social media has allowed for increased communication between hikers and others. Facebook is a prime example, with multiple PCT and trail angel pages. The use (and need) for trail angels has always existed, but has gone up precipitously. I served as a trail angel several years and found it enjoyable though exhausting. My wife and I have developed a number of friends that I first met while on the trail who we were able to act as a trail angel. Now that we live further from the trail, such activity is no longer possible. Yet, I have no problem with trail angels. It’s just that hikers have spent less time planning and organizing their trip, forcing an increased dependency on the outside community including that of trail angels. All in all, the presence of trail angels has been both a blessing and curse for the hiking community. So, what do trail angels have to do with the PCTA organization? The PCTA offers a short web page offering advice for potential trail angels and caution for hikers seeking their assistance. Yet, their advice is moderately displaced. The PCTA realizes how many trail angels have created their own trail culture (Frodo and Scott, Hiker Heaven, Casa del Luna, etc.) though many of these trail angels have become temporary fixtures and when they retire from trail angeling leave serious voids. I would hope that the PCTA realize that trail angeling is a part of their problem and working out a better system would be in order. How does one handle the disappearance of Mary’s place now that she is shutting down? Where does one camp? Where does one get water in that stretch of the trail? Ziggy Bear, the Saufleys (Hiker Heaven), the Andersons (Casa del Luna), Dinsmore’s Retreat and more have all come and gone, while momentarily defining the PCT hiking experience. Meanwhile, the PCTA acts almost as though they never existed. The PCTA webpage discourages trail angels that operate shuttles from charging money for their services, yet their services would not exist if they couldn’t ask even reimbursement for gas. Trail angels being such a vital part of the PCT culture, it is surprising that the PCTA hasn’t expressed more interest in organizing trail angeling into a cohesive group.

Ultimately, the issue with so many organizations is that of a power struggle. When a volunteer/charitable organization becomes heavily financed by the government, the character of that organization usually changes for the worse. Being bound by a governmental agency, the organization ceases to be a volunteer organization and becomes a political monster. As a political agency, true care for the PCT diminishes and political power increases. You are told that it is for your own good, yet the increasingly impersonal approach of the PCTA leaves one seriously wondering.

What do we do about the PCTA? At the present time, it is a necessary evil. If you wish to do hiking that includes PCT in the high Sierra, one has no choice but to apply for a trail permit. The PCTA provides information on trail closures, but rarely offers alternatives for those who wish to complete the full 2650+ miles of the trail. Most trail information I obtained from sources such as, for suggestions on the best trail gear and trail strategies, or Yogi’s guidebook for resupply town information, to name a few. The PCTA does a few things well. They are good at organizing trail maintenance. They are keen on watching for when trail access becomes problematic secondary to private interests. Their PCT Days event is enjoyable. They make a PCT photo book that is good for the coffee table. Sadly, their strengths don’t make up for their weaknesses. Until the PCTA wakes up and realizes that they are just as detrimental as good for the PCT, we may only expect the PCTA to become ever more control oriented, rather than seeking a way to maximize the pleasure of the trail for all.

Revelation: A Shorter Commentary

Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, by GK Beale, with David Campbell ★★★★

By now, I have read many books related to the interpretation of the book of Revelation. The first books were written by Hal Lindsey, and formed my early impressions of the book of Revelation. Lindsey has a framework of Dispensational Premillennialism. I found the dispensational interpretation to be rather far-flung as it seemed to create more interpretative problems than solutions, which explains why Hal needed to offer revised versions every few years. Ultimately, with the help of the “Four Views” books and input from John Gerstner, I tended to lean toward an amillennial stance. The one post-millennial text that I read, When the Man Comes Around by Doug Wilson competed with Hal Lindsey in its weak interpretive base and was about as awful as Hal Lindsey’s colorful books. The book that affected me the most, Hendrickson’s More than Conquerors became my definitive favorite.

This book, based on a much larger commentary of Revelation by Beale and reduced to its essential elements by David Campbell, is an excellent text based on an amillennial perspective. It was still a rather lengthy text of over 500 pages. Its strengths and weaknesses will be discussed.

Strengths 1. Good orientation, showing how the book of Revelation has more quotes and allusions to the Old Testament than the entirety of the remainder of the New Testament. Thus, a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament is mandatory to grasp the many images described in Revelation. 2. Beale reflects on the overall theme of the book of Revelation, which is that Christians faithful to God’s word will eventually come out as the victors, even in death. 3. It does not dwell too heavily in speculations regarding interpretations of the imagery found in Revelation. 4. It is faithful to a solid amillennial (which Beale calls the Redemptive Historical Idealist) view of Revelation. This is probably a good renaming, since even amillennialists believe in the millennium, just not the way in which pre-millennial or post-millennial folk would tend to think. 5. Each short section of the book ends with a segment discussing applications and things to reflect on. After all, the idealist view contends that Revelation is a book that discusses the whole of the Christian era from the advent of Christ to his second coming. There is no dispensational bungee-jumping Jesus who returns to earth a minimum of three times. If Revelation is talking about the present age, then it would be exceedingly applicable, which is probably why John includes blessings to those who read and hear the book.

Weaknesses 1. Beale seems to be quite aggressive in interpreting all of the imagery in Revelation as being allegorical. I’m not sure that’s safe. It is possible that many images are real but interpreted by John’s best ability to describe the image in terms of what was known in AD 96. Perhaps the imagery has both a real and allegorical face to it. I don’t know. Safety suggests caution in assigning selective passages to be allegorical and other passages as literal based on one’s preconceived notion of Revelation’s interpretation. 2. Beale is great at pointing out the trees but weak at pointing out the forest, in that he spends minimal time rendering a big picture to Revelation. For that, Hendrickson’s text is much better. Any commentary on Revelation needs to focus on both aspects of the book. Where is John going with the text of the book? How do you put together the repeated narratives of the whole of the Christian era (according to Hendrickson, seven repeats!)? 3. Beale is very restrictive at discussing alternate views of interpretation. 4. Though Beale notes 13 other commentaries on Revelation that he used in his studies, about the only other text that he quotes is that of Richard Bauckham (actually, two books that he wrote) and rarely refers to other Christian texts that maintain an idealist (amillennial) scheme of interpretation. Perhaps his full commentary addressed some of my criticisms, though I will not be reading his magnum opus on Revelation (life is too short for me).

This is a text that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, even with the noted weaknesses.

Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Leisure: The Basis of Culture (Including The Philosophical Act), by Josef Pieper ★★★★★

This book was a gift from an old friend, Dane Waterman. We had been discussing how Carlo Lancellotti had translated into English and made the English-speaking world aware of the writings and thought of Del Noce. Pieper, writing from Germany and somewhat contemporary to Del Noce, reflects similar thoughts. Their thesis relates to demonstration as to how Marxism and liberal thinking is presenting an alternative “gospel”. This is especially poignant as Pieper and Del Noce, both being Roman Catholic, passed away before a truly Marxist pope (the current pope) was installed.

The text is divided into two sections, the first being the topic of leisure, and the second section is a discussion of the philosophical act. The two lectures are complementary. In the first section, leisure is defined and developed as an essential part of society. Clearly, leisure is not “labor” to speak of, but is also is NOT laziness or idleness. Leisure (in Pieper’s sphere) is not the act of going on vacation or of watching a good movie. Leisure entails the act of contemplation, meditation, silence, and reflective conversations. Such activity is vital for a society that wishes to sell itself as a free and open society, but is also contrary to the ideology of Marxism. A phrase that I was taught as a child “Arbeit macht das Leben suß” (work makes life sweet) is prevalent in German culture, yet even there, the rise of poets, philosophers, and theologians more than answers how a Christian-based society grasps the need for leisure.

The second section of the book addresses the issue of philosophers. Why do we need them? What do they do? What does it mean to be a philosopher? All of these questions are answered in an oblique style fitting for a philosopher. Is this nothing but an example of Pieper in the act of self-justification? I don’t think so. This section was a bit muddier and not an easy task for me to read, though the final pages demonstrated a wonderful ending. The ultimate end of philosophy is that of identification with Scripture, which allows us the ability to know. Perhaps it might be said that all theologians are philosophers, though their focus is different. It might also be said that all people are philosophers, as we all develop and maintain a personal Weltanschauung, which affects the totality of our thoughts, actions, and behaviors.

I have one concern regarding this book, and would have loved to engage Josef Pieper in a challenge. He begins with the challenge of the great Greek philosophers from Thales to Aristotle. I certainly enjoy reading the classics of philosophy. Yet, Clement of Alexandria and other 2nd century Christian writers were quick to note that that the Greeks were plagiarists, and reflected thinking that existed well before their time, in the writings of Moses and the Old Testament. Thus, as Cornelius VanTil has repeatedly argued, and philosophical starting point of necessity must be Scripture. You cannot get to Scripture by pure reason starting with a tabula rasa. Pieper’s argument could have been much stronger by having his arguments originate in Scripture, rather than by originating through reason in the human mind and ending up in Scripture. This mistake is plentiful not just with the Roman Catholics, but also with the Protestants and Orthodox brands of the Christian faith.

Why read the Roman Catholics? Simply stated, because many of them are Christians just like the Protestants and Orthodox folk out there. It was John Zmirak (see his website at, a devout Catholic, who noted that he was praying for Pope Francis’ salvation. I could say the same thing for many well-known Protestants out there, such as with Tim Keller, Francis Collins, etc. About 30 years ago, an old teacher of mine, JI Packer, was dismissed from the Ligonier Ministry conferences by RC Sproul since he signed a statement encouraging Evangelicals and Catholics to engage in discussion. I totally agree with Packer, and feel that Protestantism is at a loss for not seeing how others think about philosophical and biblical issues from a slightly different slant. My personal denomination (the PCA, of which RC Sproul was a member) is diminished through failure to communicate with the entire body of the Christian church. Packer did not find that rapport with the RC community diminished his theology or message. Neither should we.

So, even with my disagreements with Pieper, I was able to find many gems in this small tome. A great book is not necessarily a book you totally agree with, but with a book that is able to stir your thoughts and to force you into that delightful activity that we call leisure. And my thanks to Dane and Bernadette for giving me this book.