Feb 24

The Everlasting Way: A Study in Psalm 139, by E.J. Young ★★★★★

This book is a short Banner of Truth publication authored by Ed Young, who provides each chapter with a verse by verse interpretation and elaboration on Psalm 139. As stated in the back cover review, Young is the prince of conservative Old Testament scholars. He was one of the giants in academic theology that left Princeton Theological Seminary to found Westminster Theology Seminary, which also included J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius VanTil, all of whom are heroes of mine. Using both his skills in Hebrew and Aramaic languages, Young provides not only insightful but a greatly devotional reflection on the greatness of God in this Psalm.

Many use Psalm 139 as an anti-abortion statement, or as a ponderous statement about predestination. While it is both of those, neither abortion or predestination is a theme of this Psalm. Rather, it is a reflection on the complete transcendence and yet immanence of our God. It is a God who is wholly other, yet is imminentely with us, with His hand on us. We never can escape His presence, and we can never know something that God doesn’t already know.

David longs to identify with the morality of God, to hate what God hates, to love what God loves, to have the same enemies as God, and to cherish what God cherishes. Since God is intimate with us, knowing our thoughts before we know them, David desires God to search his thoughts, and lead him on an everlasting way.

Young skillfully offers many alternative interpretations to the text, especially where the Hebrew language is not so certain in its translation. Young, as a true Biblical scholar, is able to quickly demolish any liberal thinking, such as the idea that Psalm 139 was actually written long after King David since there are Aramaicisms in the Psalm. Truly, Young’s desire is to be first and foremost a Biblical scholar, holding the Scripture up as infallible and its own best interpreter, and demonstrates what is so often missing in the new generation of conservative Bible scholarship.

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Feb 22

Donald Drains the Swamp!, by Eric Metaxas and Tim Raglin ★★★★★

This is a children’s book and can be read in under five minutes. It is very funny, and like many of the comics of the past (Roger Ramjet, Rocky and Bullwinkle), were meant for adults as much as for children. It is quite funny, and I only wish it were completely true, that is, that Donald really did drain the swamp. His caricatures are priceless, like the name of one of the dinosaurs in the swamp is the George-o-saurus. Whether or not you like Donald Trump, most will agree that there is a horrid swamp in Washington DC which prevents the common man from really having a voice in his government. Eric makes a very good point in this book about the swamp. Maybe some day the swamp draining will become true.

Regarding the author Eric Metaxas, he spoke at our church once, and I found him to very courteous, humble, and listened well to what others had to say. I disagree with some of his interpretations of history but appreciate the way he interacts in a non-defensive manner when challenged. He is witty, bright, and very engaging, a wonderful person to have representing the Christian faith in today’s toxic culture. He signed the Bonhoeffer book for me which I promptly gave to Dr. King. His biographies of Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce are worth reading though at times I challenge some of his interpretations. His book on Martin Luther is probably his best biography to date, a book that brings the life of Luther into crisp focus and brings out Luther’s temperament and personality, his boldness, and faith, like no other prior Luther biography; it is a must read.

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Feb 18

18FEB2019

Only 45 days to go to start the trail, and 42 days to depart Puyallup. Am I getting the heebie-jeebies? Yup! Will I still do it? Yup! Am I totally physically and psychologically prepared? Nope!

Snow

My greatest concern at this time is the snow levels in the mountains. Though there is a large snowpack, the water content is low, so I might be okay with a straight thru-hike. If I get close to Kennedy Meadows (the start of the high Sierra) and I hear that the snowpack is still formidable, I might do a flip-flop and jump ahead to Soda Springs, finish the hike, and then come back to complete the high Sierra after everything else has been hiked. This is not unusual to be done, though I’d prefer to not have to do this. For Betsy’s peace of mind, I wish to exercise the greatest prudence and safety possible for the hike.

Exercise

The heavy snow in early February has prevented comfortable outside exercising. My training walks have been put on hold. In order to maintain some sense of bodily activity, I’ve been going with Betsy to the YMCA and pumping iron as well as using the elliptical machine, which seems to best simulate walking with pack. Hopefully, I can get back out on the trails soon.

Preparation

I have all of my resupply boxes taken care of, and extra supplies at home organized. My pack is packed, and is still a little heavy, but am not going to fuss too much about it. The weight will come down during the first few weeks of the hike. I’ll only keep several days worth of food on me during the first few weeks, but may need 5-6 liters of water at a time on the trail. I’ve also thought about the things that I would need to keep my mind okay while hiking. I don’t like hiking with earphones, but will have adequate music and stuff to listen to on my iPhone. To keep weight down, I will not be carrying any books, including a Bible, but will have books and Bible on my iPhone. That is also true of maps, which will all be on my iPhone. I also like to go over hymns, and so I’ve compiled my top list of hymns and hiking songs, put them in pdf format, and these can be found at the bottom of this page.

Fund Raising

I wish to raise funds for Huguenot Heritage. This ministry translates Reformed theology materials into the French language. My friend Francis Foucachon runs that ministry, and lives in Moscow, Idaho. We will be instituting a campaign that suggests donations per mile per Halfmile Maps. Since the maximum mileage is 2650 miles, a penny a mile will put you out a grand total of $26.50, and 10¢/mile will put you out $265.00. Please think seriously about supporting this effort. I will be going back to Moscow, ID next week to work out a campaign plan with Francis.

Transportation to the Trailhead

I’ve now purchased my train tickets and will be heading out on 01APR. As mentioned above, I’ll stay overnight at a hostel in San Luis Obispo and arrive in Oceanside, CA in the early afternoon of 03APR. On Thursday AM at the crack of dawn, my friend Tom Braithwaite will be dumping me off at the trailhead. After that, I’m on my own.

Other Tasks

Since Betsy will be without me for a while, I’m trying to get the house completely in order. Besides yard work, I’ve had a petty nightmare trying to get my stereo system working again. We have a Synology server with 30TB that takes holds all of our movies, music, and other information, as well as our security system and this blog site. It connects to a Mac Mini which in turn connects to a Denon receiver which connects to a large LG display. The Mac Mini was over 8 years old, and I could no longer upgrade the OS, so decided to upgrade the Mac Mini. The system will no longer connect properly. Many other people have had this problem, and I’ve tried a multiplicity of solutions to remedy it. I have a few other ideas in mind but ultimately may have to call in a “professional” to resolve the matter. Also, I am very near to the completion of my Memoirs. I am trying hard to be sensitive when I need to speak honestly and frankly about others. I am working on tailoring it to read easily and smoothly, while being grammatically correct. The easy part was writing the book as it took me about a week. The hard part is in doing all of the corrections and editing and putting it into a format which could be submitted to a printer.

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Feb 14


Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1-11, by C. John Collins ★★★★

I had purchased this book from Amazon last November when it just came out, but finally have found the time to read it. I know Jack Collins, and have enjoyed the other books that he has written. Thus, my interest in reading this text.

The title strikes me as a bit offensive. Reading Genesis well? Haven’t we read it well in the past? Is this book offering us the new definitive manner of “reading” Genesis? Is there some novel hermeneutic technique that we will be discovering in the course of this book? Do we read the book of Genesis differently than we read the remainder of Scripture? Is this book a rebuttal of liberal scholarship? Is it a caving in to liberal scholarship? Has Dr. Collins discovered a new version of Joseph Smith’s Urim and Thummin, a translation stone which some angel dude gave to him? Collins answers most of my more critical questions in the text of this book.

Dr. Collins starts his text in full speed. The initial discussion centers around historical literary criticism of the text. I’ve not heard of either Jowett or the 19th century literalists, and know about James Barr but unfamiliar with his attempts at literary theory. Neither does Dr. Collins give a summary of the issues at stake, so I’m left in the dark. In the subsequent chapters, Collins takes a literary critical approach to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, discussing how different literary approaches might lead to different ends in the interpretation of Genesis. Collins avoids the strict approaches which have been taken in the past, such as defining the genre of a literary piece (is a segment of Scripture poetry, strict history, allegory, etc., etc.). As a take-off of CS Lewis, he asks questions regarding the text audience, how they would have seen the world and what they would have taken the text to mean, and how the author might have intended his text to be interpreted by the reader.

In later chapters, Collins works through the pericopes of early Genesis, offering solutions to their interpretation. He then discusses issues of competing thoughts, such as, whether the formation of man was by strict evolution, theistic evolutionism, young earth creationism, and the many variants that fall between. Helpful is Collin’s insistence on differentiating one’s world view (the overall concept of God creating the world) vs one’s world picture (the notion of how we picture the world in our mind at this time). In ancient times, the world was pictured phenomenologically, but then, don’t we still describe our world in mostly phenomenologic terms?

I end up with an ultimate question—how has Collins helped our understanding of early Genesis? Is this a radical new approach to interpretation that Collins offers in this book, or is it a new cloak for traditional means of Genesis interpretation? Several concerns come to mind. Most contemporary authors offer interpretations of early Genesis that are overly concerned with maintaining concordance with the current state of science. Perhaps this approach is brutally chronologically arrogant, offering “science” to high of place in our thinking of Scripture. Do we really think that science has given us a substantive grasp on the nature of the universe, when all of our past ancestors lived in darkness? When science changes, will our hermeneutic change? I don’t say this critical of science, because I am myself a scientist and have a respect for what we’ve learned about the world, yet I also have a cautionary approach for the certain-to-be scientific paradigm shifts that will alter our “view” of Genesis.

Collins is correct that we must not read Genesis from a scientific perspective, especially since the ancient Hebrews did not think with the scientific context that we think. He is also correct that the various pericopes of early Genesis cannot be labeled as strictly poetry or history. Even if they were labeled as history, the Hebrews would have viewed history in a different fashion from the Greeks. So, what do we do with the stories of early Genesis? Is it even necessary to provide a contemporary answer to every story in Genesis that seems to clash with “modern” science? My personal approach tends to be more VanTilian, in that our approach to Scripture must allow that God’s word provides the interpretive framework for seeing the world, rather than our own framework as forming the structure for interpreting Scripture.

I provide a simple example of where I’m left swimming, in terms of interpreting Scripture. Using the first chapter of Genesis, I agree with Collins that the primary intention of the author was to offer the reader a world view, that of God being the creator ex nihilo of all things. Yet, I can’t leave it at that. Is Genesis 1 poetry? It doesn’t read like poetry! Is it history? It doesn’t read perfectly like history! Is it allegory? Perhaps, but then I can’t explain why the author structured the creation narrative in the manner that he did, giving a deception of some sort of historical event. Other events provide very similar questions. God forming Adam out of the dust of the earth; the fall; Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden; the garden????; civilization during the time of Cain and Abel; the flood; the tower of Babel; all of these offer questions as to the nature and extent of what really took place, that only imperfect solutions are available. If readers up to the contemporary epoch had it totally wrong and we’ve just now figured that out, that seems to do discredit God as being a terrible communicator, yet He is the ultimate author of Scripture. Perhaps God messed up???? Do we need to be specialized in literary criticism and ancient languages to grasp the new principles of interpretation of Genesis? If so, then we are trashing the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. Maybe the Pope was right, that only he and a few of his closest buddies had a grasp on interpreting Scripture—except that Protestants have exchanged the pope for people in academia. I don’t know what to think here in terms of where Collins is eventually taking us. I don’t think that Collins would be willing to offer an ultimate statement on precisely what happened in space/time during the accounts delineated in Genesis 1-11. It is not that Collins has failed, it is that nobody will probably be able to generate a true final statement while we spend our time on earth.

I have enjoyed reading Jack’s book. He writes well. He is very provocative to the thought processes, and I appreciate that. Not being a literary theorist, or even a theologian, I might have missed a bit of Dr. Collins thesis, and he might read this review wondering what kind of bozo missed some of the fundamental points of his text. Oh well. I will persist in remaining somewhat of a creation agnostic, clinging mostly to the emphasis that Genesis provides a Weltanschauung. When I encounter young earthers, I acknowledge that perhaps they are correct. When I encounter old earthers (which I tend to prescribe to), I acknowledge that they might be correct. When I encounter theistic evolutionists, I pray to God that He would forgive their heresy and unbelief in Scripture.

Which brings me to a point. Perhaps more time needs to be spent at “fencing” in orthodoxy, and defining the boundaries from which a person might go “off the edge” in terms of believing Scripture. Where do we draw the line on the interpretation of Genesis where we accuse the interpreter of unbelief in the text? I’m not a theologian, and will leave that to Dr. Collins to work on.

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Feb 01

Psalm 135 is a wonderful song of praise to God, lifting up God’s name. As I come near to completing my Memoirs (adding only finishing touches), it especially draws me to the 135th psalm for several reasons. Please read Psalm 135 before reading on.

  1. The power of God is displayed. As I write this, there is a massive cold front, beating all prior records, occurring in the midwest. The intellectuals attribute this to global warming, and offer “scientific” explanations. Dummkopfe! Verses 5-7 make very clear that weather is entirely in the hands of God. He controls the clouds, the rain, and the wind. He does whatever He damn-well pleases, to say it in street jargon. There is no other power in heaven or earth (the gods—and since we have established ourselves as gods, it would mean human activity on earth included) that controls the weather and seasons, but God alone. Hopefully, he will look favorably on me as I hike the PCT!
  2. He controls the kings and rulers of earth. Nothing escapes His control, and all bent like a cooked spaghetti to His will. We see global unrest and chaos in our government, yet I sleep at night, knowing that the Lord is Lord of the universe, all presidents, kings/queens, prime ministers, emperors, CEOs and petite magistrates do not escape his controlling hand.
  3. He controls history. My memoirs are history, and sometimes I am troubled why certain things in my life have happened, why the sorrow and grief, why the frequent misadventures and sins on my part, why the toil and sweat which sometimes seemed so futile, why it all happened. Was life just a dream? Am I really for real? Was everything that happened, my personality, my physical characteristics, my likes and dis-likes all a product of the hand of a loving, caring God. In Psalm 135, I can emphatically answer YES!
  4. It will be worth it all (verses 14,15). Those who love the Lord will be vindicated in the end. It really is worth walking faithful to God, even if you had momentary, or perhaps lengthy segments, of unfaithfulness. Returning to our Lord will more than pay off. We will be vindicated, if not partially on earth, then totally in heaven. Psalm 135 is an assurance that God really does love those that he has chosen and who trust in Him.
  5. Verses 15-18 show that the tendency of all mankind is to trust in anything and everything but God. How often I feel smug that I have a reasonable pension plan, and then fret because it could so quickly disappear, or be inadequate. How often do I depend on other idols, often just idols of the mind, to get me through. Schlossberg’s book Idols for Destruction show how so many other things in life that we would never think of as idols, truly are things that we worship and cast our care on. Verse 18 poignantly notes that those who trust in their idols become just like them, blind, deaf, and dumb. Perhaps that is why we see an entire nation, even an entire world, acting as though their eyes were wide shut.
  6. What should our response be? Praise! (verses 19-21) When I took systematic theology from JI Packer, he would open every class with a singing of the Doxology “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”. Packer emphasized that all of our life, including doing theology, should result in praise. Psalm 135 ends with a command for all of the church (Israel) and all that fear God (the entire world) should bless the Lord. If you’ve read this far, please take a moment to do that right now.

Psalm 135 reflects on history to evoke praise for His goodness. I found that happening as I wrote my memoirs. I was just astonished as I documented my life story how often the Lord took me through the valley of the shadow of death, and lifted me high on the rock. His blessings are without number. I would encourage everybody, at some point in time, to take the time to write one’s life story. I do believe that you will be astonished at how often God has blessed you and directed your ways to an ultimate better end.

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