Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, by Paul Johnson ★★★
I had this book sitting on my shelves for years, and finally got around to reading it. Ireland: the Emerald Island, the land of pots of gold and Leprechauns, of St. Patrick, of fields of green as far as the eye could see. What more could a person want? Truth be told, Ireland has been anything but a land of peace and prosperity. The British originally invaded Ireland in the 12th century and found there to be barbaric, savage conditions among the Irish. Any attempt since then for the Brits to bring law and order and civility to the Island has been thwarted. The Brits certainly were never saints toward their treatment of the native Irish, and many of their decisions only brought increased sorrow to the Irish. But, whether it be by allowing the Irish relative freedom or ruling with an iron fist, peace has been wanting on the Island. Much has been the fault of the Irish; whether it be sectarian or religious issues, the island has been rent with the clash of differing ideologies, whether it be the Protestant vs Catholic clash, or the amount of tolerance for the British ruling their Island, discord among the Irish has always been the prevailing theme. Natural calamities, such as the potato blight, only contributed to the pathetic state of the inhabitants of this island. Ireland has served best at exporting its population to other countries, such as Canada and the United States. Johnson ends the book in the early 1990s (when the book was published) with a glimmer of hope. Sadly, based on Irish history, this glimmer is probably wishful and illusory. I can only hope that Johnson is correct in his optimism.
I’ve read many of Paul Johnson’s books, and have rated them as 4-star and 5-star books. He is an excellent author and historian who can hold your interest. This book assumed better than a cursory knowledge of Ireland, and so a modest amount was missed as to what he was talking about. Johnson, being Catholic, did a fair job of hiding that from the reader; still, it is impossible to have a neutral, unbiased opinion regarding the disaster that we call Ireland. This book is very much worth reading, though I hope that the prospective author is a bit more informed as to the history of Ireland than I was.
Thy Word is Truth: Thought on the Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration, by E.J. Young ★★★★★
This is not a so-called scholarly text. It is a set of 11 short chapters that I presume were originally lectures or sermons that Dr. Young gave regarding the issue of the inspiration of Scripture. In this short book, Young systematically attacks first the old German school of higher Biblical criticism and then segues into an attack on Barth, Brunner, and this school’s newer neo-orthodox position. Scattered throughout, Young constantly reminds us of what the orthodox position was until about 1800.
The fundamental theme is that either the Scriptures are the very words of God or they are not. If they are the words of God, then minor translation errors and minor scribe errors might be present, and translation will yield some differences in the rendering of various passages, especially from the old Testament. Under no circumstance will there be found fatal flaws, though there might be sets of passages that seem to be at odds. These so-called contradicting passages are few, and explanations could be offered that we simply don’t know. The contradicting passages do NOT warrant trashing Scripture or offering an explanation that is anything less than the full inspiration of Scripture.
I’ve always appreciated Dr. Young. I’ve heard a few of his lectures (on audiotape) and read a few of his books. He has stood as a true scholar of Scripture and is unwavering in his defense of the word of God. His arguments against the documentary hypothesis (that the Pentateuch is actually the product of 4-5 authors), as well as the claim that Isaiah is actually the product of 3 authors in differing time periods, still stand as a high point in the defense of the inerrancy of Scripture. You can’t have it two ways. The New Testament attests to the Old Testament. Thus, either Jesus, the apostles, and Paul were wrong, or the higher critics are wrong. It can’t be both ways. I’ll put my vote in for the NT authors as well as the words of God incarnate as found in Jesus Christ.
I had this book on my shelf for about two years before getting around to reading it. It was purchased from Amazon, and the price for a hard-bound edition is now too high to be affordable. It is a gem, and readable by anybody of any educational level. A clear-cut exposition of the inerrancy of Scripture should be read by all mature faithful Christians. Young’s text certainly fills the category of an inerrancy text that could/should be read.
Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West, by Hampton Sides ★★★★
Hampton Sides masterfully assembles a picture of Kit Carson that is worth remembering. This book is the story of the life and times of Kit Carson. Carson was a short, not terribly muscular man, illiterate, yet succeeded in becoming a legend in his time. Many contemporary books about Carson were fiction paintings a super-human person, exactly what he was not. Yet, Kit Carson was a man most deserving of the highest honor. He left home at a young age, not wishing to be bound by an apprenticeship. He became a trapper in the wild west, where he learned various Indian languages as well as French and Spanish. His trapping experience and Indian language fluency allowed Carson to eventually serve as a mountain guide. He was greatly responsible for blazing the Oregon Trail. He also guided military missions in California and was as responsible as anybody in helping California gain freedom from Mexico. Numerous were his touches with death throughout his life. Kit Carson fought tirelessly to defend the Indian from thoughtless military action, though he served as a military guide to put down Indian misdeeds, eventually even acting as an Army colonel to quell Indian rebellions. Sides is fair in his treatment of the Indian nations, neither idolizing them or turning them into heroic innocent savages, nor of picturing them as subhuman beasts. Kit Carson seemed to show better balance than most regarding public policy toward Indian affairs.
This book is a riveting story of Kit Carson, a most amazing person. It is also the story of the US siege and conquering of the Southwest United States. Untold by Sides were the many eventual battles that would be fought to finally subdue the Indian tribes. Carson interacted with many other well-known characters, including Presidents Polk, Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant, as well as Fremont, Kerny, Sheridan and Sherman. He was well known (and often friends) of many of the great Indian chiefs at the time. Based out of his home in Taos, New Mexico, Carson seemed to be called away for duty more often than he was able to stay home. He had eventually fathered six children and adopted Indian kids. Sadly, both his wife and he died within a month apart, leaving penniless orphans to the care of distant relatives. Side stories in this book included glimpses into the Mexican campaigns, the western aspect of the Civil War, the numerous pre-civil-war Indian battles, the American conquest of California, most of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the numerous attempts to find something useful to do with the land of New Mexico. This book was a delightful reading experience, though the interweaving stories often left the reading to be a little choppy. I’m not sure what Hampton Sides could have done to prevent that. If you hold an interest in American history, then this is a fair, even-handed recounting of the Wild Southwest and Kit Carson.
Theistic Evolution; A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, Edited by Moreland, Meyer, Shaw, Gauger, and Grudem ★★★★★
This book sat on my shelves for a number of months before I was able to read it, and even then, I interrupted the reading of this book in order to complete other books that needed my attention. It’s a thick text, and cannot be speed-read. Thus, there was a challenge of time in making it through the book while being able to savor its pages. There were many days on the back porch of our house (which was most conducive to reading) that afforded me the luxury of devouring this text.
This text is an expansive though not exhaustive compendium of a current intelligent design response to theistic evolution. There is no major “new” material. The essays represent a collection of some of the best thinking rebutting theistic evolution. Yet, the papers are well organized in order to offer a smooth flow of material for the reader who chooses to read the book from cover to cover. That is what I chose to do. The book, as the title suggests, breaks up the issues into the scientific critique, the philosophical critique, and then the theological critique of theistic evolution. I am not going to explain theistic evolution; if the reader of this book review doesn’t know the basic tenants of theistic evolution, then the best starting point would be to purchase this text and read it.
The scientific critique of theistic evolution is no different than the critique of atheistic evolution. To that end, there are a plethora of texts, including (some of the best texts) written by authors of this section, notably Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, and others. There is no “bad” chapter in this section. There are more recent texts that have been published that would provide better source material for debate. Honestly, speaking as a scientist myself, I find this section personally supererogatory though essential in the public square. It is a bit of wonder that the “theory” of evolution as it is taught could be found so strongly believed by people who consider themselves the cream of human erudition. I would find the origin of life coming from little green men from the planet Xylon more believable than that of Darwin’s ramblings. Chapter 17 by Christopher Shaw “Pressure to Conform Leads to Bias in Science” particularly hit home to me, and was a real gem. One of my professors in graduate school had a sign over his desk that stated “The object of research was to get a grant”. Most laboratories operate to a large degree under that motto, since the cost of doing research is astronomical and it is impossible to have independent laboratories. Either the government or wealthy pharmaceutical firms are funding these ventures. Funding demands compliance with prevailing norms, which is precisely what Shaw is referring to in chapter 17.
The philosophical section is necessary since the philosophy of science itself is at stake. When science has lost its moorings, any craziness could be presented as “gospel” truth, and we are witnessing precisely that fact. This section also shifts toward specifically addressing the issue of theistic evolution. Essentially, science has forced out any explanation of our observable world outside of methodological naturalism, i.e, if you can’t see it, smell it, hear it, feel it, or detect it on some sort of instrument, there is no reason to believe that it is an explanation. Yet, evolution is mostly a retelling of a “historical” event, which by definition falls outside of the realm of science. Collins’ chapter is a gem in detailing how we think about God’s action in the world. This chapter is a brief summary of several books that he has written on the topic (all of which are excellent reading material), helping us to think of God in very active terms in this universe. It is just another way of saying that we are not deistic in our belief in God. It is strange that the theistic evolutionist has God active in the very first stages of the creation of the universe (setting preliminary conditions that necessitate the evolution of man), then disappearing during the development of life as we know it, and finally reemerging as a God that interacts with man; the theistic evolutionist truly has created a god in the image of man. Also worthy of special mention was Colin Reeves’s chapter on the interaction of science with Scripture; salient points about the realms of science and theology were most apropos. Other chapters on the problem (or pseudo-problem) of natural evil, and that of the development of moral conscience, remain issues explained by Scripture but left wanting by the theistic evolutionist. Finally, West removes any doubt that CS Lewis was a theistic evolutionist, as his writings remove any thought that he truly held to a belief in evolution.
The theological critique of theistic evolution should never need to be if the Scriptures were held to be the divinely inspired word of God. The inerrancy of Scripture is fundamental to the Christian faith and especially among those who label themselves evangelical Christians. Yet, we see that evangelicals will sadly call themselves theistic evolutionists. Grudem details twelve Biblical doctrines that are violated with theistic evolution, and Currid (with the Old Testament) and Waters (with the New Testament) quote and expound on the critical Scriptural texts to defend against evolutionary beliefs. I believe their arguments to be sound. Allison then proceeds to show how evolution was addressed in church history; though Allison is a great church historian, this chapter is a touch weak in expressing the diversity of thought in church history. As a simple example, Augustine suggested the possibility of an old-earth style of creation, but this was ignored in Allison’s discussion of Augustine’s thoughts on creation. Finally, a discussion of BB Warfield and his reluctance to accept anything but a most limited definition of evolution was discussed.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is definitely not a book that everybody should read. It is encyclopedic, yet individual topics all deserve more exploration by the interested reader. There are gems scattered throughout this book. It is a book that needed to be written, and for select folk would serve as an aide in knowing how to answer the Christian who claims that evolution as a blind unguided force in the development of man is true.
Within a month, Lord willing, I will be back on the Pacific Crest trail, and crossing Carson Pass in California. Kit Carson, an illiterate mountain man, has many geographical features named after him, including the capital of the state in which I currently live. I will be reading a biography of this most interesting man in the weeks to come, and hopefully have a book review available before I hit the trail. Carson’s biography will also provide me with a little lighter reading material, though it is already generating much intrigue and thought. Until then, до свида́ния!
The Truth in Both Extremes: Paradox in Biblical Revelation, by Robert S. Rayburn★★★★★
This book was read in digital format on my iPad. I did this for two reasons. First, the printed version was considerably more expensive than the digital version. Secondly, the book is very heavily referenced, and the references were quite valuable to read, which was much easier to do in the digital format. Rob Rayburn was my pastor for approximately 25 years, and the book was written in a pastoral format, quite easy to read, as though Dr. Rayburn were speaking directly to you. Rayburn gave a series of 8 sermons in 2001 which were the core of what this book was all about. In those sermons, pastor Rayburn summarized what is contained in this book. This book expands upon his sermons and provides a more systematic approach to the notion of opposing tensions in Scripture that are not intended to be reconciled.
The first two chapters develop the concept of opposing and seemingly contradictory truths presented in Scripture, with no Scriptural mention of how to explain these diametrically opposite truths. As Rayburn notes, he did not invent the notion of doctrinal tensions in Scripture. Giants of the faith, including Augustine, Calvin, many Puritans, Spurgeon, as well as JI Packer develop this notion that complex truths are presented in Scripture, both of which are to be believed, both of which must be held with equal weight, and both must not be attempted to be synthesized into a “new” truth, à la Hegel.
Subsequent chapters each individually cover a specific topic of two truths held in tension. I use the phrase “held in tension” as Rayburn frequently will use that term, though it is a tension that is held only if it really bothers you that a Biblical truth might be presented in two extremes. The first is that of the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one, yet God is three. It doesn’t seem right, but then, why would we assume that God is ontologically “simple”. (N.B., in a way, God is ontologically simple, but I am not interested in arguing this point at this time). The next chapter discusses how Jesus was both man and God, and not a fused entity (tertium quid), both natures present and distinct, both without suggestion that Jesus was “half-man, half-God”, but instead, fully man and fully God simultaneously. Next, Rayburn attacks the “sticky” dilemma of the sovereignty of God and freedom of man, i.e., man’s full responsibility for sin, yet God foreordains all that would come to pass. In my own humble opinion, for a God that exists outside of time and space, the converse would be more challenging for God to create; man’s full freedom without God’s sovereignty or the very dull and uncreative possibility of God’s sovereignty without man’s freedom. This doctrine shows God to be super-cool!!!!!
Pastor Rayburn then waxes pastoral (what he does best!) in the challenge of man’s assurance of salvation yet the need for attention to carefully walk the Christian life. This segues into the issue of how many people will be saved, few or many? The Scripture rightfully answers “both” without explanation, save for the admonishment to carefully attend to one’s own salvation. Are we saved by faith, or by works? Both. We are saved fully by faith, and fully by works, yet we have no reason to boast. It is God’s work. The Christian response to joyfully accept both polarities is most appropriate. The next chapter addresses two vexing issues. 1. Scripture promises both a life of wealth and blessing, as well as a life of troubles. Seeing both extremes in Christians throughout the ages leaves no doubt that both aspects may be true, and certainly with Job, that both may be true with the same person. 2. Does God answer our prayers? Yes and no. Whatever we ask in His name will be granted to us… or, will it? Scripture partially answers this question, as sometimes we ask selfishly or for evil gain, sometimes our prayers will be granted in the distant future, but often we may not ever realize an answer to our prayer. Yet Rayburn, in his inimical fashion, provides a good argument to continually seek the Lord in prayer, and that we will do.
The chapter on Biblical ethics and the dialectical truths contained therein is a bit problematic, and I find Rayburn’s arguments occasionally to be weak. Suffice it to say that Rayburn quotes (perhaps a touch critically) the ethical writings of John Murray, though I tend to lean in favor of Murray and not Rayburn. Yet, there is much in the Ethics chapter that is not controversial. Proverbs will often present opposing truths and expect a heart of wisdom to know when each truth should appropriately be applied. Issues of dealing with sinners in the church, dealing with the Government, dealing with the ordination of women in the church, and other issues are all discussed and not necessarily controversial. Then, Rob goes on to discuss the issue of lying vs. telling the truth. Should one lie to save a life? Doesn’t the Scripture occasionally advocate lying and show examples of God telling a lie? I tend to lean with Murray on this issue in the way he suggests that certain Biblical historical events are not necessarily normative. I feel that the issue is made problematic in that ethicists will usually present the dilemma as an either-or situation. Conversely, rarely do ethicists ever suggest that there might be a third alternative, and the ethical dilemma is more a fabrication than the way we should be thinking in complex situations. Finally, Dr. Rayburn delves into the sticky issue of unity in the church, while preserving the church from falsehood and heresy. Clearly, this is an issue that demands wisdom from on high, and will not be answered by weighing either unity or division too heavily.
Pastor Rayburn concludes by summarizing the need for the Christian to acknowledge that many of one’s beliefs will be two competitive, dialectical truths, both of which must be assumed to be true and yet both must equally be believed and acted upon by the Christian. To that, I heartily agree. There are just a few points that I wish would have been better developed in the book.
How is a biblical Christian dialectic different from a Hegelian dialectic? Is not a Christian concession that two dialectical truths suggestive that A and non-A are both true caving in to the notion that truth does not or cannot exist? Rayburn perhaps should have committed one chapter to the philosophy of Biblical dialecticism.
What are the boundaries to the dialectical principle? What about applying the dialectical principle to the issue of gender confusion? Could it be okay to say that one is both male and female as a dialectic? What about theological issues? Is Scripture the word of God or the word of man? While we accept the notion that Scripture contains man’s personality, is it possibly a dialectal issue that we can occasionally dismiss, as Karl Barth and others have done? How can the dialectical principle be abused in interpreting Scripture? If the 8th commandment against bearing false witness may be dialectical, what about the other nine commandments? Might there be an occasional reason, out of love, to commit adultery? Might I occasionally bow to other gods to save skin? Perhaps in edition 2 of this book a fuller argument might be presented.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is heavily referenced, and the references were also a delight to read. The book discusses a truth that is often poorly presented to Christians, leading to more confusion than good. It is a book that I would recommend to all Christians. It is not written in an academic style, and thus should be able to be consumed by most intelligent Christian folk.
Some people are a touch agast when informed that we just moved to “Sin City”. Actually, we don’t live in Sin City (Las Vegas), but in the town of North Las Vegas, and are about 1/2 hour drive from the Strip. People outside of the Strip almost never visit the Strip except when entertaining friends and family. We have now lived in North Las Vegas for slightly more than a month. If you would have asked me a year ago about moving to southern Nevada, I would have responded with an “absolutely not” answer, that is, until Betsy and I took the time to check it out. We are totally loving our new abode, and couldn’t be more content with our decision. Yet, an answer is in order as to why we changed our mind about our decision to move.
A year ago, we were still living in Puyallup, WA, but noted that the town was being very poorly managed. Traffic was becoming unbearable, taxes were out of control, and der Führer of Washington, Jay Inslee, felt quite comfortable with oppressive declarations that defied the US constitution. I loved living in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and loved the beauty of the woods. Still, the weather restrained outdoor activity, and 8 months of the year, trails in western Washington demanded either long hikes through snow, or else slogging through endless mud puddles and swampland. Roughly about last May, we received notice that my brother Gaylon from Portland, OR was moving to Ocala, FL, and soon afterward my brother Lewis (also from the Portland area) decided the same thing. We realized that a move was in order for us also. Much of my hiking in 2021 was placed on hold as we quickly decided to put our house up for sale and get out of Dodge. Our house was able to sell quickly. In the meantime, we (Betsy and I) sought desperately an alternative location to live. We considered Idaho, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and even out of the country (like Belize) as well as Nevada. The decision was to first live in an apartment and then gauge from there as to a more permanent location. We did a trip to Las Vegas and nearly signed on an apartment when I decided that perhaps a temporary move to the Spokane area might be a wiser decision.
We lived in Spokane Valley, WA for six months with mixed feelings. There were lots of outdoor activities, yet the fall and winter proved to be quite cold. I got in some snowshoeing but found that the trails were even muddier than in western Washington and less conducive to vigorous activity. Betsy found Spokane more akin to living in a refrigerator. I was VERY uncomfortable with the two churches we attended in Spokane. Thus, the thought of moving across the border into the Coeur d’Alene area was immediately stricken. We saw several options still persisting. Boise, Idaho? I would have loved Boise, yet it was colder in winter than Spokane, and hotter in summer. We wished for easy access to our grandchildren, some living in western Washington, and some in northwest Iowa, which was not convenient from Boise. Iowa? Iowa was VERY tax unfriendly to retirees, and bitterly cold in winter, with summers that were hot and humid. Perhaps Sioux Falls would be a good choice, though the weather issue remained. What about Florida? Florida was miserably flat, and though the weather is warm, it is also quite humid, and I tolerate humidity very poorly. We lived in the south (Biloxi, MS) for two years, and somehow did not find it as appealing as many others did. Arizona? Arizona is not terribly tax-friendly and is much more expensive to live in than many other places. So, that was out. Our thoughts returned to the Las Vegas area.
Originally, I didn’t want to live in a 55+ community, feeling that it would be desirable to have mixed ages. What we learned in the apartment in Spokane is that a broad community can be quite noisy, and crime is also much higher. Thus, we both felt comfortable with the possibility of a retirement community in Las Vegas. On another trip down to Las Vegas and a tour of several 55+ communities, we fell in love with a home in North Las Vegas in Sun City Aliante. It was not a gated community, yet the crime rate was very low, the HOA fees were very low, and housing prices were not astronomical. The 55+ community was not so isolated to leave one feeling that you had no one but old fogeys around you. It was close to outdoor activities, and we could move in within a month. Betsy and I both agreed without hesitation to make the move.
We were able to terminate our lease in Spokane Valley early without too great of an expense, realizing that in the long run, we would be saving a large amount of money by doing so. We had Gaylon fly up from Florida, and he drove a 26′ UHaul truck from Spokane Valley to Las Vegas. The route was simple with only one turn, driving east on I-90 to I-15 and then south to North Las Vegas. Gaylon was a real trooper for which we are deeply grateful. There was minimal furniture damage in the process, and we were able to arrive home in NLV completely intact. The back porch of our home overlooks the golf course, which is actually owned by the city, and thus of no cost to us. Here is our floor plan…
Our home actually has the optional casita, which is a perfect guest house. This means that if you come to visit us, you have your own little “hotel” room, with a kitchenette, bathroom, and entertainment tv screen (which was there when we arrived). The garage is the only issue to me, in that it is a little small, yet ingenuity is allowing us to make-do quite nicely.
We had to quickly make some house modifications. There were tv mounts in almost every room, none of which were usable. We took one down, changed several others, and thus left a tv in the living room, in Betsy’s den, and in the casita. We pulled up the rugs in the master bedroom and master closet as well as the second bedroom (my office) and put in vinyl planking. The house is 17-18 years old with minimal improvements. It was originally owned by the madam that ran the brothel in XXX, NV, and she didn’t seem to do much to the infrastructure of the house. We will be replacing the air conditioning/heating unit, installing solar panels, and eventually putting in a garage floor surface, and possibly pavers for the driveway and patio between the house and casita, as well as extending the back patio. All in all, it has been a joy to be able to make a home again that has a personal touch, while simultaneously improving the home value.
Public transportation will take us down to the Strip or to the airport/bus station allowing us to easily get to either Iowa or the Northwest or to Florida, or anywhere else in the USA. Las Vegas tends to be very accessible by the airline! We are 45 minutes away from snow (present 8 months of the year) on Mt. Charleston (elevation 11,900+ ft), 30 minutes from Red Rock Canyon, 1 hour from the Valley of Fire, 2.5 hours from the Grand Canyon, 4 hours from Phoenix, AZ or San Diego, CA, and 3-6 hours drive from the Utah National Parks. Thus, we remain close to outdoor activities. Hopefully, I can get Betsy back into camping!!!!!
Those who know us well also know that we consider church to be of great value. We had our hopes on one church about 20 minutes distant, only to learn that they were turning more radical and of a theological flavor that we had learned to dislike. It is a church that would have worked if there was nothing else. Contrary to what seems intuitive, there are a number of orthodox, Reformed churches in the Las Vegas area, and we were able to find one a bit closer to home. The pastor is blind but has a real heart for God. They are Baptistic in their orientation, but we can live with that, should that be their only theological fault. Almost by accident, we discovered that one of the deacons of that church is also one of Betsy’s cousins! It’s a small world. It will probably be the church that we stay at. Las Vegas is a veritable mission field; one need not go overseas.
Summer tends to be hot. We know that, but it is less hot than Phoenix, AZ where Betsy grew up. This summer, I plan on completing more of the PCT. Betsy plans on visits to the grandchildren. Even in the heat of summer, mornings and evenings can be quite comfortable since the humidity is very low. There are very few bugs, so we don’t need screened-in areas in order to sit outside. I sit outside now almost daily and read. We just purchased a small Recteq barbecue (Lew’s recommendation), and hope to be making animal sacrifices quite soon on the bbq.
You are welcome to come to visit. Our casita (guest house) is begging for visitors, especially children, grandchildren, and siblings. Summer is not the most advisable time of the year to visit, and chances are high that we will be gone at least part of the summer. Neither Betsy nor I have a burning interest in acting as Strip tour guides; if you wish to visit the Strip, you are on your own. As we have learned, there is so much more to Las Vegas than the Strip. Please notify us in advance. You do not need a personal invitation from us, and we will let you know if the timing would work out for us.
The Red Rock Canyon Grand Circle Loop, hiked on 16APR2022
I am now starting to do longer hikes in preparation for the summer hiking season. Today, I decided to hike the Grand Circle Loop, which encompasses all that would be seen should one choose to drive the Red Rock Canyon loop, yet there is much more that can be seen.
It was a beautiful day but very windy, with gusts up to 60 mph. The wind was a blessing, as it kept me feeling quite cool. The route was mostly very well marked, though there were just a few areas in the Calico Hills where I had to retrace a bit to find where I was going. Here are some photos…
This was a most enjoyable hike, and I will definitely do it again, probably in conjunction with the White Mountain loop to add on a few more miles. Desert hiking can be quite cool, but hydration is most vital, and shielding oneself from the full brunt of the sun, using a broad-rimmed hat and long sleeve shirt with full length pants. It seems like it would be hotter being fully clothed, but it is just the opposite, so long as you are not wearing cotton.
Close by (within 10 miles) is Charleston Peak, at an elevation of over 11,900 feet, and still with snow on it. I will probably soon start attacking that peak. There I will encounter less of a desert environment and more of a bristlecone pine forest terrain. If I can talk my hiking friends to come visit, a chance to do the Grand Canyon will be in order, which is only a few hours drive from us.
David Hume: A Skeptic for Conservative Evangelicals, by Robert Case ★★★★★
I was given an autographed copy of this book recently by the author and promptly proceeded to devour it. I was peripherally acquainted with Hume, having encountered him in a 3-term history of philosophy class in college. I don’t recall spending more than a day on Hume as the teacher did not regard the Scottish skeptics in a good light. Cornelius VanTil also spends time with Hume in his history of philosophy lecture series, pointing out how Hume led to the public acceptance of atheism and agnosticism. So, my thinking was that this book was akin to finding a book titled “Adolf Hitler: A Warrior for Pacifist Evangelicals”. Though Hitler was a deeply evil person, one could also find great good that Hitler accomplished. We have our interstate highway system thanks to Adolf. Curiosity mounted high, wondering how Case was going to extract the possibility that Hume offers good advice to conservative Christians. Yet, without performing logical acrobatics, Case accomplishes well his mission. The book is fairly dense to read and so cannot be properly consumed by speed-reading. I was also quite unfamiliar with the realm of political philosophy, which is the bulk of this book. So, the book ended up taking me a while to finish.
Dr. Case is fair with his treatment of Hume and doesn’t attempt to disguise his anti-Christian bias. Case points out how Hume carried the baggage of Scottish Presbyterianism in much of his thinking, though he rejects the notion of a God, which is the basis for Presbyterian thinking. Case first gives a historical context to Hume, then spends several chapters developing Hume’s political philosophy, before bringing in the raison d’être for the book, the good that we can glean from Hume’s politics. Certainly, Hume’s empiricism would not be heavily discussed. Hume spoke much about the necessity of communities and traditions for maintaining a stable society. Most conservatives would agree that the church is the most important of those communities but will forget that other social societies are of great relevance in maintaining our identity. We live in a society that is ever increasingly anti-social, such that even Christians opt strongly at times for “rugged individualism” without being sensitive to the notion of being an active participant in society at large. The tradition of family is emphasized. The need to be a participant in government is also mentioned. The concept of anarcho-capitalism/libertarianism is opposed (though not mentioned by name), which emphasizes personal rights to the exclusion of responsibilities of the individual to behave morally and positively within the culture at large.
This book was a delight to read. Dr. Case makes good points regarding David Hume, though I’m not sure the positive notions of Hume have not been well stated elsewhere by other authors. I would have appreciated a discussion in the book as to how Hume’s thinking led to logical positivism. I would have also appreciated some discussion as to the reaction to Hume’s thinking with the Scottish common-sense realism thinkers associated with Thomas Reid, and which heavily influenced American Presbyterian thinking, most notably with Jonathan Edwards. These are not serious criticisms of the book, which otherwise was very well written. Though one could object to Dr. Case making too much of David Hume’s political philosophy, one cannot object to Case’s skill at generating thoughtful reflection as to what makes for a successful society. Case is a brilliant thinker who is worth taking seriously in all that he writes, and this book is an example from Dr. Case of a worthy tome to devour.
27JAN2022 Dishman Hills Iller Creek Loop, 5.5 miles, 2:30 time, 1368 ft elevation gain. I did the hike to the Rocks of Sharon last week but was unable to go any further because of dense cloud cover. Thus, I decided to return on a day with less cloud cover. This time, I was able to actually see the Rocks of Sharon as well as the Spokane Valley and Mt. Spokane, and then to identify a parallel trail that ran down along Iller Creek which took me back to the car, making the entire trek a loop. The day was beautiful and I could see in the far distance. I obtained just a few photos of the Rocks as well as the trail back.
01FEB2022 – Mt. Spokane State Park Snowshoe trails; 6.3 miles, 3:13 timing, 1,263 ft elevation gain. This was another beautiful day though it was cloudy in the Spokane Valley. I was a touch apprehensive with this new area, but it quickly proved to be a favorite of mine. I wondered what took me so long to discover the snowshoe paths of Mt. Spokane, save that I mistakenly thought that it was going to be a repeat of the snow conditions in the hills around Spokane Valley. It wasn’t. The snow was powder, there was little ice, and snowshoes were the perfect travel modality for these conditions. The trails were quite well defined. After parking in the snow park lot at the Kit Carson trailhead, I headed out. The trail was at first a snow-covered road. Following my nose, I eventually reached Smith Gap. There was an outhouse here, but there was also supposed to be a warming hut, which I didn’t notice. The trails went in three directions, but I chose a single file path upwards, with an arrow indicating that Mt. Carson would be ahead. After many curves and much climbing, I reached Saddle junction, where the road permitted snowmobiles. Throughout the trip up, beautiful glimpses of Mt. Spokane were noted but did not afford a photographic moment. A short side trail to the summit of Mt. Kit Carson was not yet broken in, so I decided against that route but did locate yet another alternate route back to the trailhead. This again went smoothly, save for the terror of having to cross a narrow log across a creek (see photo below). I reached the car feeling awesome and regretting that I had to depart. There were tears in my eyes all the way back home when I contemplated how much I loved the mountains, winter and summer.
I’m already studying the maps, looking for more opportunities to return to this area. I see more trails, more adventures, and more discoveries awaiting.
Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times, by Os Guinness ★★★★★
Many people attempt to present themselves as the pundits of the times, a person with a deep insight into “what’s really going on” and how to assess the ebb and flow of our culture. Os is one of those few people that I look up to in this regard. I first read his Dust of Death in the mid-seventies while in college; this book served, along with the books of Francis Schaeffer and other L’Abri authors, as a bulwark against a militantly liberal university system. Now as I edge toward the end of life, Guinness still stays contemporary in his analysis of social philosophy.
Time. Mick Jagger noted that time was on his side. But, is it really? I fear that time is running out for Mick. What is time? How do you quantify it? How do you assure that time does not have giant gaps or pauses which go unnoticed by the time-constrained observer? Paul Helm provides probably the best insights into an Augustinian-Reformed perspective on the nature of time. How does one reconcile an infinite being that exists outside of time and yet interacts with creatures and creation in time? Paul Helm, in his magisterial text Eternal God suggests a philosophical conclusion and shows how his conclusions give answers to the great dilemmas about God, such as his omniscience (of the past, present, and future), omnipresence, and omnipotence. I have also delved into treatises on the philosophy of time from a physics perspective. Unfortunately, the physicist has a mind that is constrained to think in space & time terms, which is a construct of our minds. To ask a physicist, philosopher, or anybody to truly delve into a precise scientific definition of time is like asking a fish to describe water; he can’t, since that is his world.
Carpe Diem Redeemed is a little book, only 139 pages. It is a gem from start to finish. After giving a brief description as to how our culture thinks of time, Guinness delves into the three ways that time is considered, cyclical, linear, or covenantal-linear. The Judeo-Christian mindset does not view the world as a relentless, repeating flow of years, nor as a simple linear, non-objective, non-controlled, non-teleologic fate for mankind. Rather, in the covenantal view, God is the God of time. If one has watched the Dr. Who television series, Dr. Who is the Time Lord. Compared to Scripture, he is a pitiful time Lord, still subject to time’s vagarities. The true Time Lord, the triune Jehovah God, not only controls time and moves back and forth through time, but creates time, yet always lives outside of time (see again Paul Helm). From that philosophical perspective, the cyclical and linear perspectives leave the creature caught within time without a purpose, a telos, or hope. Yet, as Guinness explains, the Christian doesn’t often live as a covenantal-linear creature. We wash in the philosophy of contemporary thinking and then find trouble in the reconciliation with Scriptural claims.
I won’t labor through the remainder of this book since it is a book that should, perhaps must, be read. Guinness describes how western culture has become obsessed with time. We are slaves of the clock and have a hard time thinking outside of the constraints of the tiny device most people wear on their wrist. Our culture identifies with time values; “Old is mold; new is true” is essentially the implications of the progressive movement. Yet the implications that newer “things” are always more correct than older “things” is a dangerous presumption. Generationalism has been a highly destructive mode of thinking. Historically, a “generation” used to refer to all people living at a given point in time, such as the 1550s; now it refers to people born within a certain segment of time, such as the greatest generation, or the baby boomers, or generation X.
Guinness offers reflections as to how to start thinking again with time in a Biblical fashion. He offers a warm personal perspective, reflecting on growing up in China. In being personal, Os offers a challenge to the reader to seize the day in a Christian/Biblical fashion. This is a book that is very much worth reading by the Christian who wishes to see how the secular culture has influenced our perspective on time as well as offering a Biblical means of thinking as a Christian.