Jul 04

James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser ★★★★

I had originally planned on reading Ralph Ketcham’s biography on James Madison, a lengthy and well written document, though written in a very dry fashion. Getting through a few pages of Ketcham’s book, I realized it was not a good “fit” for me, and purchased the biography by Brookhiser. Though Brookhiser shared in Ketcham’s love for dry writing, this was a shorter book and one that I was able to read within the course of a few weeks. Brookhiser offers a very brief summary of Madison’s childhood, how he got involved in politics, and how he developed a life-long friendship with Thomas Jefferson. The details of Madison’s life through the Revolutionary War, and his involvement in the writing of the constitution, as well as his friendship (and loss of friendship) with Alexander Hamilton are mentioned though not developed at any length. There is much discussion as to how James Madison brought the art of politics to the US government, including the development of the political parties and factionalism in government. Madison’s service in Jefferson’s government led to him being promoted to two terms as president of the United States, a presidency best marked by the foolish engagement in war with England, known as the war of 1812. The greatest lesson of the Madison presidency was how incompetent the government was at that time. The government had poor means of taxing citizens, no funds for war, yet voted to go to war with England when entirely unprepared to do so. How the USA survived that episode in its history is nothing short of a miracle. Madison, in the aftermath of his presidency, turns again to writing, while living in his estate at Monticello. He does not present himself as a wizened statesman like Washington or Jefferson, but manages to outlive all the other presidents including his successor, James Monroe. Issues with the supreme court are discussed, but oddly, in the chapter on his post-presidency years. More odd, the most important court decision of his time, Marbury v. Madison, is left unspoken of. The issue of slaves is discussed, this time Brookhiser suggested that Madison’s approach to this difficult issue was to simply ignore it as a problem; Madison did not free his slaves at death.

Brookhiser does not give me a reason to consider Madison as one of the “greats” of the founding fathers. There is nothing peculiar about him, save for his establishment among the elite classes of Virginia. The Madison presidency was a complete disaster, with Madison failing to make good decisions, and ending his life as a near pauper, having poor management of his household economics. What in particular makes James Madison stand above many of the other founding fathers of the USA? This book certainly does not answer that question. It is a brief but lackluster recount of the life of a perhaps great man. Maybe I should have labored through the much lengthier tome by Ketcham?

I will next be reading more on the Indian wars before tackling the life of James Monroe.

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Jun 23

The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won, by Edward Bonekemper III ★★★★

I have already read and reviewed a number of books on the civil war, including biographies of Lincoln and Sherman, as well as the magisterial biography of Grant by Ron Chernow. Those reviews can be found far below on my website. I still have on my bookshelves waiting to be read the classic (though abridged) biography of RE Lee by Freeman as well as tackling Shelby Foote’s 3 volume history of the civil war. Bonekemper, in this short volume, does an excellent though not complete work of countering the “Lost Cause” arguments of the South and present-day Southern sympathizers.

Bonekemper addresses a number of myths regarding why the civil war was fought and why the south lost. Most prominent of those myths was that the war was NOT about slavery, but mainly about other issues such as state rights. The author thoroughly dispels this myth from a number of angles. State rights were never a discussed issue until after the war. In fact, state rights were off the table when the issue of run-away slaves in northern states was brought up. The argument that the use and profitability of slaves were withering and would have been gone in a few years is countered by the increasing economic advantage of slaves as well as the demand of southern states to grow into the new territory. Bonekemper does not bring up a recent argument that issues of import/exportation taxes that were unequally affecting the south; yet, even this argument fails when doing a strictly historical examination of the export tax issues.

There were war issues. After the war, the argument went that the south could never have won the war against a numerically superior north. This statement misses the point. The south did NOT need to win a war. The north needed to win, but the south needed only to drag things out a few years, and the increasing unpopularity of the war in the north would have ended the conflict. Instead and against the advice of many generals, Lee decided to engage in a completely unnecessary offensive war, with two invasions of the north (Antietam and Gettysburg) which were both essential losses to Lee and most costly to him in terms of life and materiel lost, something that he did not have replacements for. Was Lee a great general? Was he the best general of the war? The answer is most clearly “no”. Though Lee was beloved by his troops and carried himself with an aura of aristocracy and of Christian exemplary nature, he made multiple failed decisions as a general which ultimately cost the south the war. Bonekemper details these decisions, so I will spare the current reader and encourage them to get a copy of this book and read it.

Against the apotheosis of General Lee was the charge that General Grant was a bloody, drunken hack that won the war merely by brute force. Oddly, no mention is made of the Vicksburg campaign, where Grant was at a severe numerical disadvantage on foreign territory but conducted a campaign strategy of such brilliance that he is easily identified as one of America’s greatest generals of all time. Further defense of Grant might be found in Chernow’s biography on Grant, another book very much worth reading.

Bonekemper also takes an interesting side discussion of the issue of Longstreet. The Lost Cause folk have decided that Longstreet was the cause of the failure of the Gettysburg Campaign, and thus the ultimate cause for the south losing the war. Unfortunately for this argument, this argument was NEVER raised immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, especially by Lee. It was Lee’s own incompetence, well discussed by Bonekemper, that cost the south a horrible loss. Perhaps it is because Longstreet became Republican after the war and worked to aid in the reconstruction of the south, that he was pounced on by the Lost Cause folk. Contrary to Longstreet, Lee did not end the war in an honorable fashion, but instead worked to develop the Lost Cause myth, and sink into a pity party that continues to this day about a glorious South with the noblest intentions, the most Christian of all possible cultures, but defeated by a savage, unChristian, barbarian North. Our pity is that many today still believe in the Southern myth, and fail to see that the resultant behaviors (the KKK, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, etc.) in the South have since contributed in large part to the race problems that the USA (and the world) are now experiencing.

Bonekemper’s text is heavily referenced and very well studied. One cannot fault him for conjuring up data. My only dislike for this book is its repetitious nature. His summaries, which are found at the end of each chapter and finally in the last chapter of the book, offer simple word-for-word restatements of the main points that were made. A concluding analysis would have been far more beneficial. I can heartily recommend this book; I enjoyed reading it, and it is short enough to be read in several evenings.

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Jun 21

Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. ★★★★

Fault Lines is a presentation of the social justice movement from a black and Christian perspective. Baucham writes in an easy-to-read style, and offers a heavily researched account of the panorama of the social justice movement, from social “justice” to critical race theory to intersectionality to black lives matter.  Baucham brings into light how the social justice movement is intrinsically pagan and entwined with Marxist ideology while being in bed with the LGBTQRST! movement. Baucham details how the modern conservative church has fallen to the deception of critical race theory, and how it is destroying the church. At the beginning of the book, Voddie Baucham spends two chapters chronicling his early years growing up in Los Angeles and playing football. He goes to school in Texas, which is where he became a Christian. As a black man, Baucham has experienced prejudice against him and thus can speak from the heart. One chapter identifies events within his own Southern Baptist “denomination” that showed a strong leaning towards the social justice mentality. He also discusses the black lives matter movement in a full chapter.

A few years ago, it was very trendy to discuss the philosophical movement of post-modernism. The associate pastor at the church I was attended offered a lengthy class to teenagers discussing post-modernism. To me, post-modernism can be summarized in a short sentence, “Communication is not possible”. Such a sentence is self-negating, similar to the sentence “This sentence is a lie”. I bring this up because the basic tenets of critical race theory and the social justice movement are also self-negating. Critical race theory may be summarized by the statement “All whites and only whites are racist” is in itself a deeply racist statement, and thus self-destructing. Whether one is presented with questions of post-modernism or critical race theory, logical arguments can’t exist because the fundamental philosophical base for the two movements is nonsensical. What is amazing is how so many prominent Christians and Christian denominations have caved into the social justice movement.

Baucham is excellent at heralding the warning call to the Christian church about the devious and anti-Christian nature of this movement. Fault Lines offers a good summary of the basics of the social justice movement & critical race theory, and thus is a reasonable book to read. Baucham definitely has a heart for upholding the pure word of God, and his pleas for a true Biblical/Christian approach for issues of race are to be heeded.

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Jun 16

Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West, by Bill Yenne ★★★★★

This book is a historical recounting of the Indian wars that were fought on American soil. While the book focuses on the wars that occurred west of the Mississippi, it is impossible to chronicle those conflicts without looking at the precedent in American history. Yenne begins with the earliest conflicts with the first settlers on North American soil and uses the first chapter as a lead-in to the greater conflicts that occurred in the western USA. It’s not that the Indians were new to war. Even during the conflicts with the European settlers, the majority of Indian battles were Indian against Indian. The first chapter is titled “Clash of Cultures”, and indeed, the entire story of the Indian wars were clashes of two radically different cultures. Though there were a few settled Indians staying for long periods of time in one place, the life of the Indians throughout North America was mostly nomadic, and much of their activity was that of raiding other tribes and taking their “stuff”. The European settlers only provided another source of “income”. Many of the Indians possessed extreme cruelty, and it was better to end up dead rather than alive in Indian hands.

Yenne details the pre-civil war conflicts, the few conflicts during the civil war, and then the major battles that occurred between 1865 and 1890. I’ll not discuss the entire contents of the book but summarize a few points. The far-west conflicts of California, Oregon, and Washington were settled fairly early on, with few major battles. The notable exception was the Modoc War which occurred in Northeast California among the lava beds in 1872-3. There were scattered limited conflicts elsewhere, in Texas particularly, but also scattered throughout the southwest and in Montana and the Dakotas until a concerted conflict with the Sioux tribes occurred. This was in 1876, the year of the Custer massacre, though battles occurred throughout the year, as the US Military pursued the ever-evasive conglomeration of Indian tribes. A year later, a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings between the US Military and the Nez Percé tribe of Idaho, Southeast Washington, and Northeast Oregon led to what were previously relatively peaceful interactions, into all-out war. The Nez Percé tribe sought to escape from the US Military by fleeing to Canada. The Nez Percé were among the most skilled warriors to ever be faced, and Chief Joseph, educated in western schools, among the greatest of all military strategists. Yet, the unrelenting pursuit of the military on their fleeing tribe ultimately led to Chief Joseph finally throwing in the towel.

Indians in the southwest region of New Mexico and Arizona were a nuisance to both the USA and Mexico, both seeking to stop the raiding and slaughter of settlers. The culminating events were the pursuit and capture on 4 (four) occasions of Geronimo, finally leading to Geronimo’s imprisonment in Florida. Based on Indian actions and the cruelty of the Apaches and Comanches, it’s a bit hard to feel sorry for them. The final Indian battle, Wounded Knee, occurred in 1890, with an attempted re-hash in 1973. The Wounded Knee conflict, while often cited as raw evidence of US aggression against the Indians, really does not stand up to the historical facts. The US military was concerned about a new Ghost Dancers religion among the Indians, and seeking to avert another military conflict, attempted to intervene when a battle broke out. There were a number of both US soldiers and Indians slaughtered in the conflict, but the Indians were subdued into submission.

The Indian wars are hard to analyze. After reading this book, I am more sympathetic to the American settlers who migrated into and across the plains of the midwest. While many Indians were eager to assimilate into European culture, many were not. The Indian Wars were the story of those resisting assimilation. The solution for the “resisters” was to funnel them into reservations, which gave the Indians a defined plot of land to use and abuse as they wished. Often, a war was created when otherwise unruly Indians refused to stay in the reservation (or assimilate to the living style of the US). To placate the Indians, government largess was steadily poured out on the Indians, which persists to this day. Thus, it was perhaps a poor solution to create reservations and force Indians onto those reservations. Yet, I don’t see any other reasonable alternatives. The book is quite thought-provoking. It has applications for many other situations that we see in the world and in the US, where cultural clashes create conflict. From a Christian point of view, there is a hierarchy of cultures, and some cultures are better than others, in so far as the culture follows Scriptural norms. An abundance of faults could be found with both the US Military and with the Indian tribes. Yet, the ultimate judgment is a cultural judgment, which I will leave to the reader to decide.

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Jun 03

Who’s Afraid of Classical Music: A highly arbitrary, thoroughly opinionated guide to listening to and enjoying symphony, opera & chamber music! by Michael Walsh ★★★★

This is the book that I should have read first before reading Who’s Afraid of Opera? This book was published in 1989 and thus is considerably dated. The Berlin Wall had not come down, and comments about “East” German abound. A lot happens in 30 years! He has no mention of any of the great performers after 1989, of which there are many. Walsh even admits that he is reluctant to make recommendations knowing how those in their prime in 1989 will be either dead or well past their prime in 2021. This book details how Walsh came to enjoy what we now call classical music. Walsh broadens the definition of classical music, though I find him missing the close character of modern classical music to jazz music. Walsh offers suggestions for attending a performance, and which performances to go to. He goes through a list of his favorite pieces, including symphonies, chamber pieces, opera, and then an assorted mishmash of other music that doesn’t fit a perfect category. He is quick to promote modern composers, suggesting that historical composers also were not greeted well by their contemporary audiences. There are reasons for that. First, contemporary composers are mostly coming out of academia, an institution that has truly lost its way. Secondly, like modern art, modern music no longer promotes the higher ideals, the organized, the structured, the better man in all of us. Minimalist music should not be surprised when it is greeted with a minimalist response. We listen to classical music because we wish to transcend the ordinary, and not to be dragged deeper into the mud of daily life. It is not the music so much as what the music is saying that I find repulsive.

Each chapter has an “interlude” that discusses a few favorite composers, providing their history, and a sampling of compositions worth hearing. Oddly, Baroque and pre-baroque music is nearly completely ignored. The reverence that is owed to Bach is missing, Walsh somehow placing Händel and Bach within the same category of “historical” or “pre-classical” composers—the plethora of wonderful composers, Buxtehude to Vivaldi, all go completely unmentioned. Walsh started his classical life with fairly modern pieces of composition, so it is no wonder that he is preoccupied with the contemporary drivel that we have out there. Even Walsh is willing to admit the serialism, atonality, 12-tone music, and the like, are mostly failed experiments with different tonalities. There are truly great contemporary composers, like Arvo Pärt and Górecki to name two, but they are unmentioned, perhaps because they are eastern bloc composers of no economic value to the west. If Walsh is going to throw Broadway musicals into the wastebasket of being opera or classical music, then much jazz requires similar treatment.

The book was fun to read and can be read in the space of one or two evenings. If one really wishes to gain an interest in classical music or opera, a MUCH better review, both in being entertaining as well as informative, will be found with Robert Greenberg’s Teaching Company series titled How To Listen To and Understand Great Music and How to Listen To and Understand Opera. Both of these series are highly recommended though they will occupy not just 1-2 evenings, but a whole month or two of listening pleasure—an activity of truly great value.

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May 31

Who’s Afraid of Opera: A highly opinionated, informative, and entertaining guide to appreciating opera, by Michael Walsh ★★★★★

I recently read and reviewed another book by Michael Walsh (Last Stands), and thoroughly enjoyed his writing style and conservative outlook on the arts, politics, and life. I didn’t think that a Time Magazine writer could possibly be a conservative. Walsh wrote a previous book titled Who’s Afraid of Classical Music, and which is supposed to be read first. Amazon just happened to mail me this book first, and since I’m between historical tomes and desired some lighter reading before setting out to hike more of the PCT. So, it’s this book, Walsh’s book on classical music, and a few other short historical texts.

I loved this book. I admit that I do NOT have a similar taste in music to Michael Walsh, but that doesn’t distract from the general points he is trying to make. I love many of the operas of the bel canto era, and he does not. None of the operas of Bellini, Donizetti, or Rossini were seriously discussed. Walsh liked many of the newer operas available, including some 12 tone works, serial works, and minimalist works. I have not found minimalist works as compelling, or interesting, or even expressive. Like Walsh, I’m not ready to throw out modern pieces. I’ll give Phillip Glass a chance, as I didn’t object too strongly to his classical works. Walsh minimized the work of Händel, which I also concur with. Sadly, Walsh did not mention the obscure operas of Bach, the most notable being the Coffee Cantata, which is really an opera disguised as a cantata to escape the radar of the Lutheran critics of his music. Walsh also misses out on the creative forms of music found in the background of movies. Indeed, Shostakovich wrote many film music scores, many of which are classical works of art in their own right. Wagner, more than anybody, set the stage for the background music for films for which we can be grateful. We have abundant examples of highly creative film scores, ranging from Ennio Morricone to John Williams. One cannot go to the concert hall to listen to the music of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, yet it is most brilliant and creative, which in part makes the film as much as Clint Eastwood makes the film.

Walsh offers a capable defense for opera. He starts by trying to define “opera” while admitting that opera can be challenging to define. As an example later in the book, he would define most of the Broadway Musicals and A. L. Webber productions (like Phantom of the Opera) as actually opera productions. He is probably correct in doing so. Walsh discusses how to listen to an opera, and specifically what it is like to go to an opera. Naturally, one MUST do their homework before entering the opera hall, having a clue as to what the opera is about, rather than trying to discover that at the time of the performance. Walsh gives a listing of some of his favorite operas, many of which I agree with. There are gems that he totally misses out on, such as Wagner’s Parsifal, and the mid-career operas of Verdi (La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Rigoletto), which he aren’t as bad as Walsh suggests them to be. Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz was given only a passing mention, even though it was most influential in affecting the operas of both Verdi and Wagner, as well as everybody after Verdi and Wagner. And, it’s a delightful opera with lots of great music. Walsh shares many anecdotes that he had while acting as the Time Magazine music critic, meeting influential musicians and opera stars, and encountering the vagarities of an art medium in flux. Walsh mentions the personal hell that each opera star must go through in a performance schedule. Indeed, he is correct that opera has got to be the most challenging and demanding of all the possible art forms existent today. He was most humorous and provided several nights’ worth of delightful reading. I will be looking forward to reading his text on classical music (which should have been read first!).

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May 20

Killing Crazy Horse: The Merciless Indian Wars in America, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard ★

There is so much wrong with this book that it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve always had a sense of Bill O’Reilly being a neoconservative hypocrite, but this book more than confirms it.

My first complaint is the book itself. The print is 14/16 point serifed text, with block headings using a very old decorative typeface that is close to illegible. A large text typeface as used in this book suggests the Bill has little to say but wants to make it appear as a full volume text. Secondly, the style of writing is written as though it was a movie script aimed at the reading level of 8th grade—scarcely a scholastic work. The chapters were short, incomplete, and often written in the style of historic fiction; details were added that contributed nothing to the overall aim of the book. Even a chapter on the death of Wild Bill Hickok had little to do with the subject of the book. Several maps were repeated, some maps were entirely useless, and nearly all of the maps were misplaced in the text, not being in proximity to the running narrative, leaving the reader constantly in search of the appropriate map for the text at hand. It is as though the book was just randomly thrown together in haste to achieve publication. Bill should have done better than that. But then, maybe he couldn’t?

O’Reilly offers no critical analysis of the historical events but panders entirely to the new liberal notions regarding the Indians. He always sympathizes with the Indians, and fails to point out that the Indian encounters with white man were a clash of radically different cultures. It’s not that a foreign entity encroaching on their land was an Indian novelty. Until the white man arrived, the Indians were in a constant war with each other for territorial dominance. Even before the final demise of Crazy Horse, he attacked other Indians that didn’t quite suit his fancy. The Indians had no concept of land ownership, leading them to imagine that their concept would be accepted by the European settlers who had a strong Biblical and Asian/European sense of property and land rights. The Indians were true savages. One never declared a truce or surrendered to the Indians. This was true from the start of Indian-settler conflicts. One did not expect the Indians to spare the elderly, women or children. One expected the Indians to savagely mutilate the dead; killing them wasn’t enough to meet their brutal, uncivilized tastes. The Indian “gods” were also savage, calling for self-mutilating rituals in situations such as in preparation for battle. Little mention was given to the French-Indian War, which set the stage for conflicts with the white settlers. Indeed, the Indians were used by all sides, French, Spanish, and British, as well as Americans, to accomplish their ends. Soon after the first settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts, conflicts with the Indians arose, mostly generated by the Indians themselves. The Indians widely practiced raiding (stealing) at any opportunity, and did not fit with the Western moral system. If the Americans could not be trusted, then neither could the Indians. The Indians had the opportunity to assimilate yet chose to wistfully hope that their lives of roaming the forests and plains would never come to an end.  The demise of the Indian world was from an absence of foresight on their part. Indeed, O’Reilly refuses to suggest that Indian behavior was troubling at best. Instead, they were the poor victims of a Christian culture.

It is true that there was some tendency for the white Americans to view the Indian in the same context as the negro, being somewhat less than an authentic human being. This was not discussed. Indeed, the greatest failure of this book was the need to write as responsible historians and at least make an attempt to give us a mindset that existed in America at the time of the Indian wars. O’Reilly does nothing of the sort.

I am thoroughly amazed at the number of Amazon reviewers that lavished praise on this book, some reviewers even calling it a great book or one of Bill’s “best” books. I haven’t read any other of O’Reilly’s books, and after reading this tome, will probably not pick up anything else that O’Reilly has written. Only a few reviewers saw the book for what it is, a piece of trash. Don’t waste your time or money on this book, as it isn’t worth it. There are better Indian war histories out there.

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May 17

The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America, by Walter Borneman ★★★★★

Like many topics that were taught in public schools, the French and Indian War was a war that was very poorly taught, and most Americans know little about when it occurred and the circumstances surrounding this conflict. Though the Europeans call this the 7-year war, it actually transpired over the span of about 9 years, from 1754-1763. The major players in this conflict were the British, the French, the native American Indians, and the American colonists. Spain was a minor player late in the war, becoming involved and losing Florida while gaining nothing. The French and Indian War was rightfully the very first world war, as it was fought throughout the world, on the high seas, in North America, in the Caribbean, in Europe, in the Mediterranean, in India, and in the Philippines. The war was essentially a struggle for world hegemony, a war to decide whether it would be France or Great Britain that would have world domination. Indeed, it was this war that turned Great Britain into the British Empire. At the beginning of the war, such details were not entirely clear. The British always maintained domination of the seas, and French ineptitude on the high seas cost it dearly. Yet, on land, the French mostly had the upper hand, having much better strategies and war delivery. The British suffered greatly under incompetent and weak generals, and when victory was won, such as at Ottawa, it was a weakly held victory that could have reversed hands quite easily. The French were not as interested in maintaining a North American colony as they were in maintaining military superiority on the European continent. The French lost North America due to their naval weakness, yet it was that French navy that decided the fate of the colonies in helping the British lose the colonies for good. History has its’ ironies. The Indians were another significant player in all of this. The Indians were used most effectively by the French. Indian favor was gained by giving them lots of gifts. When the British decided to cut off the free gifts, the Indians went on the rampage, where they remain to this day. It was partly the French and British attempts to manipulate the Indians that ultimately led to the issues that we currently see in forming a sensible Indian policy. British policy at the end of the war with colonists directly resulted in the revolt that led to the Revolutionary war. Those policies included forms of taxation to the colonists, as well as prohibition with the westward expansion of the colonies.

This is history worth knowing, and worth knowing well. Borneman is a master storyteller that keeps the reader interested. He writes well, and this book would be a very reasonable choice for those out there for learning about this most interesting war.

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May 06

More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, by William Hendriksen ★★★★★

I read this book about 20 years ago and decided to re-read it because of its persisting value in defining how I read and understand the book of Revelation. Hendriksen speaks as an amillennialist, interpreting the book of Revelation as seven sequential parallel stories of human history from the first to the second advent. The overarching theme is that of the saints are more than conquerors in this world, a world that seems to totally beat down the Christian faith. When John wrote the book of Revelation at the end of the first century, persecutions were occurring and there was a great question as to whether or not Christianity would survive. Revelation gives seven recounts of Christians not only surviving but of coming out of the struggles of life as uber-conquerors. I’ve appreciated the amillennial view as a distinct improvement over premillennialism with its very bizarre means of forcing interpretations of Scripture that simply don’t flow naturally, and of post-millennialism, which forces a structure to Scripture that is highly inconsistent. I suppose that no view of eschatology is perfect, and even amillennialism has its inconsistencies, yet seems to read most naturally into the description of the present and future in the Scriptures. Some day it will all come clear, but until then, regardless of the view, our primary focus needs to be that of living holy, devout lives, never wavering from the truth of Scripture.

There is a sense of a story repeating itself in Revelation when reading the book from chapter 1 to chapter 22. Many times, the saints are drawn up into glory and evil defeated. These repetitions are easier to see once pointed out. They are as follows:

Revelation 1: An introduction to the book of Revelation
Revelation 2-3: The story of Christianity when viewed from the example of the churches (the lampstands)
Revelation 4-7: The seven seals (not referring to the Ingmar Bergman film)
Revelation 8-11: The seven trumpets
Revelation 12-14: Christ versus the dragon, the two beasts, and the harlot Babylon
Revelation 15-16: The seven bowls
Revelation 17-19: The defeat of the dragon and his allies
Revelation 20-22: Ultimate Victory through Christ and the new heaven and earth

A careful reading of the book of Revelation with the divisions as seen above will point out that we are simply seeing human history from different perspectives. The greatest perspective is that of Rev. 20-22, where the dragon (Satan) is bound, and the gospel able to go out throughout the whole world. This should excite the saints to no end. Amillennialism is NOT Pessimillennialism as has been proposed by others, but offers the most optimistic view of world history: Christ and the saints ALWAYS come out victorious against evil. The warnings in Revelation against the dragon (Satan himself), the first beast of the sea (world governments), the second beast of land (also called the false prophet, being the world religions and institutions of human construct), and the harlot Babylon (the seductions of wealth, economics, power, sex, fame, and unrestrained freedom), should alert the Christian of the attack on our faith coming in from all sides. We need not fear. We can peek to the end of the story and see how it will all come out. Those who are faithful are guaranteed to be more than conquerors.

I appreciated that Hendrikson did not just provide a summary interpretation of the book of Revelation, but also provided a framework for reading the book. His insistence in constantly bringing to mind the theme of the book of Revelation, of grasping the context and purpose for which the book was written, and of viewing Revelation not as a blow by blow account of the story of history but as providing general themes as to human history, all are relevant to having the best grasp as to what this book is saying. In reference to the last point of the book NOT providing detailed history, general events are those happening throughout the Christian era, such as the differing types of churches, the opening of the seals, the four horsemen, the blowing of the trumpets, and pouring out of the bowls, are all judgments from God happening throughout the Christian era, though perhaps intensifying at the end of our epoch. Henrickson is often very helpful at grasping the symbolism of the book, even though often I felt that many other alternative interpretations could still remain faithful to the text.

Others have since written commentaries on the book of Revelation based heavily on the model discussed by Hendrikson. The last generation of scholars has produced a new generation of excellent thinkers, offering fresh insights into this book that are not difficult to understand once one grasps the overall means of reading and interpreting Revelation. More than Conquerors remains on my list of top books of all time, and one that you also might consider reading.

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Apr 17

Prepare to Meet Your God, by Rich Hamlin ★★★★

This short book of 155 text pages is a compilation of sermons that Rich Hamlin preached on the book of Amos in the year 2011 at the Evangelical Reformed Church in Tacoma, Washington. These sermons are very characteristic of the style of Rich’s preaching. In this volume, you will find solid, substantial preaching with both explanations of the text as well as applications that the listener may take home with them. Amos was a shepherd from Judea, but whose ministry was to the northern ten tribes of Israel. The preaching was that of the judgment of the Israelites for being unfaithful to their God. Rich makes clear that the truths taught then are still most relevant in today’s world and must be heeded. Rich’s preaching is not flowery, it is not deeply expository, he doesn’t impress the hearer with his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, or with his ability to quote the most obscure sources. Yet, it is preaching that always reaches the heart and soul of the listener. These are sermons most worthy of being read and taken to heart.

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