"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 3, Number 7, July 2000
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
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Flags of Our Fathers, by James Bradley. New York: Bantam Books, 2000. 376 pp., hardback. $24.95
The most intense, violent and costly battle (in terms of human casualties as a percentage of combatants involved) in World War II--or in any war ever fought by Americans--was the conquest of Iwo Jima. That isolated, barren, sterile, sulfurous volcanic island, some 600 miles south of Tokyo, had value only as an airfield, either for Japanese fighters protecting the motherland from American bombers, or for American bombers seeking to force the surrender of the aggressor nation, the empire of Japan. Some 22,000 Japanese held this heavily-fortified island barely five and a half miles long at it greatest extent, occupying only 8 square miles, and having but one notable geographic feature: 550-foot high mount Suribachi, an extinct volcano, at the southwest tip. 70,000 Marines and 800 Navy ships made the assault on this unavoidable obstacle to victory.
Preparations for the invasion of Iwo had been under way for more than a year, and such extended preparations were scarcely adequate. Though the island was bombed for 72 consecutive days in December 1944 and January 1945, and the invasion was preceded by a naval bombardment that occupied the better part of three days, the Japanese defenses were scarcely touch. They had honey-combed the island with caves, trenches, and tunnels (the command center was 75 feet below the surface), and scarcely any targets were visible above ground. Only by a frontal assault on the entrenched enemy positions by infantry could the enemy be rooted out. This kind of attack is always the most costly in terms of lives (consider Pickett's charge on the third day at Gettysburg), but it could not be avoided.
The battle lasted thirty-six days, with the virtual extermination of the entire Japanese force--they collectively refused to surrender--and 25,851 American casualties, including nearly 7,000 dead. Of the Marines in this battle, Admiral Chester Nimitz, the commander of all American Naval forces in the Pacific, said, "Uncommon valour was a common virtue." And indeed it was. Of the eighty-four Medals of Honor awarded to Marines during all of World War II, twenty-seven (just short of one third) were awarded for heroism during the thirty-six days of fighting on Iwo Jima.
It was during the fighting on Iwo Jima that a famous photograph was taken, indeed the most famous photo out of the millions taken during the war, in fact, the most famous photo ever taken anywhere at anytime: the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on the fourth day of the battle. Six men--five Marines and one Navy corpsman--are shown raising the Stars and Stripes as the flag unfurls in the ocean breeze. The photo was snapped as the pole was at a forty-five degree angle. This photo was immediately reproduced across the nation in countless newspapers, was emblazoned on hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of war-bond posters, was issued as a three-cent stamp (150 million copies were made), and served as the basis for the massive bronze Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. It even graces the mousepad for my computer.
James Bradley is the son of one of the flag-raisers on Suribachi, and he here tells the story of the six men--the oldest just 25, the youngest still in his teens--who were immortalized by this one photo. Bradley traces the steps, even from childhood, by which the six, from such diverse places as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, northern Wisconsin, south Texas, and Arizona, came together. All were part of Easy Company of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division. And to a man, they saw the raising of this particular flag as among the least significant things that occurred on Iwo. (The book has many photos and good maps).
In reality, this was not the first flag-raising on Suribachi, but the second. On the morning of February 24, a group of 40 men were assigned to reconnoiter the upper slopes of the mountain. There were able to reach the top without resistance, and finding a length of pipe suitable as a standard, attached a modest-sized American flag they had brought with them to the pipe, and erected it. A roar of spontaneous cheers went up from all the Americans on the island, and the ships far at sea, viewing the event through field glasses, sounded their horns. This was not the flag-raising in the picture.
The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, in one of the ships off-shore, decided he wanted that flag as a souvenir. When 2nd Battalion commander Colonel Chandler Johnson heard this, he was enraged by this request and acted quickly to secure the flag as a souvenir for the battalion, whose men had put it up. He ordered the first flag replaced and secured--and a bigger one put in its place. (It just so happened that the second flag--8 feet by 4.5 feet--had been rescued from a sinking ship on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor). This flag was hurried up the mountain, a second length of pipe (weighing over 100 lbs.) was located in the rubble, and as four marines struggled to raise it to take the place of the first flag, two others lent a helping hand, and the famous photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal, one of three photographers present. Joe was using a still camera and black and white film, as was a second man, who shot the simultaneous lowering of the first flag. A third cameraman took color motion pictures of the event. All was spontaneous and nothing about it was staged.
Because this was merely a replacement flag, none of the six participants (who just happened to be there at the moment) gave their action a second thought. Indeed, it was only after the photo was published nation- and world-wide that the event was viewed with great interest. The participants were with some difficulty identified (one man was mis-identified for nearly two years)--three of them died before the battle for the island ended, and a fourth was seriously wounded. The surviving three were hurried back to the States, hailed as heroes, and used by the government to promote its Seventh War Bond Drive.
The spotlight of fame and notoriety had a highly negative impact on all three survivors. They knew that this particular act for which they were lauded was of minuscule significance, though its symbolism is surpassingly great. The photo is symbolic of the courage, valor, honor, commitment and self-sacrifice of not just six men, but all 70,000 Marines who fought at Iwo Jima, and those who fought before and after at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Okinawa (and we might add, Korea, and Khe Sanh in Vietnam and a thousand other battlefields).
As I read, my eyes filled with tears many times as I considered the sacrifice, suffering, pain, grief and sorrow endured by both the Marines and their families (perhaps the fact that one of my sons is a Marine was a contributing factor).
Almost nothing sparks my ire--bordering on rage--more quickly and vehemently that seeing some mindless fool desecrate the American flag in "protest" of something he finds disagreeable about this country. No, it is not perfect, but to defile this flag is the grossest of abominations, and is an inexcusable insult to the bravery, courage and sacrifice of those who gave their last full measure of devotion to secure our freedoms from foreign tyranny. May we never forget.
"Newsman Jim Lehrer would later write about the special Marine warrior pride ingrained into him in boot camp: 'I learned that Marines never leave their dead and wounded behind, officers always eat last, the U.S. Army is [gutless] in combat, the Navy is worse, and the Air Force is barely even on our side.' " (p. 71)
"There was a saying in the Corps that there are only two types of Marines: those who are overseas and those who are about to go overseas." (p. 81)
"Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem." (quoting Ronald Reagan, p. 182)
"I was semiconscious. I heard someone screaming. Then I realized that it was me." (quoting a seriously-wounded Marine on Iwo, p. 187)
"The fighting was cramped and vicious. Five men of the 5th Division were awarded the Medal of Honor on this day, a record unmatched in modern warfare." (p. 234)
"History is filled with examples of high casualties in battle, but few armies with front-line losses of over fifty percent have been ordered to keep attacking, especially in the face of heavy fortifications. No troops with less esprit de corps than these Marines could have kept going." (p. 239)
"Easy Company had suffered eighty-four percent casualties." (p. 246)
"Most of our buddies are gone. Three of the men who raised the flag are gone. We hit the beach on Iwo with 250 men [in Easy Company] and left with 27 a month and a half later. I still think about that all the time." (quoting flag-raiser Ira Hayes, p. 312)
"The last two Japanese defenders on Iwo surrendered on January 8, 1949. They emerged from the caves clean and well fed. They decided to give up after reading, in a fragment of the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, of how American forces were celebrating Christmas in Japan. This told them that the war was over. For four years they had foraged food and clothing in nighttime raids on the compounds of American occupation troops on the island." (p. 321)
"There are no great men. Just great challenges which ordinary men, out of necessity, are forced by circumstances to meet." (quoting Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, p. 341).
When Goldie Price, the mother of flag-raiser Franklin Sousley learned of his death on Iwo Jima, "the neighbors could hear Goldie scream all that night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter-mile away." (p. 271)
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today
Inscription outside Iwo Jima cemetery (p. 247)
THE RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY OF THOMAS JEFFERSON
The Declaration of Independence is indeed a precious historical and political document. When I taught American history to high schoolers, I required that about one-third of it be committed to memory. "When in the course of human events, . . ."
As approved and signed, this document makes four express mentions of God: 1. "the law's of nature and of nature's God;" 2. "All men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;" 3. "appealing to the supreme judge of the world;" and 4. "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence."
As is well-known, the chief author of the document was Thomas Jefferson. Though the youngest of the five members of the committee appointed to make a first draft for consideration by the whole Continental Congress, he nevertheless is its primary author. Revisions were made in committee, and then by the whole congress before adoption on July 4, 1776. These revisions are notable.
Jefferson, a self-professed deist, who rejected everything supernatural in the Bible (including but not limited to Christ's miraculous conception, sinless life, Deity, miracles, atoning death, and resurrection, and God's direct superintendence in human affairs), did not pen the final two references to God, namely, " appealing to the supreme judge of the world," and "a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence." These words were inserted by others. Deists, after all, if consistent, reject God's direct intervention in human affairs. God, in their thinking, was a "laissez-faire" deity, maintaining a posture of disinterest and uninvolvement.
Jefferson in his first draft wrote, "we hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable," which was changed in committee to the now familiar "self-evident." But we are compelled to ask, is it self-evident truth that "all men are created equal" and "that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights"? Strictly speaking, these are NOT "self-evident" truths; they are REVEALED truths. Apart from God's direct revelation of Himself in the Scriptures, there would be no certain knowledge that God created man, or that men have God-given rights, or even that there is only one God (and not many gods, as all pagan religions--all non-Bible-based religions--believe).
For most who signed the Declaration, accepting as they did the truthfulness and divine origin of the Bible--starting with that presupposition, I say--it is indeed a "given," a self-evident truth that God created man and bestowed on him certain rights. That is what the Bible plainly affirms. But for Jefferson, who rejected the supernatural origin of the Bible, there is no basis whatsoever for affirming that these rights were God-given. Indeed, he had no proper basis for believing that man was created at all, since creation--an unmistakably supernatural act--is part and parcel with everything supernatural in Scripture which he rejected.
In his famous Notes on Virginia, Jefferson continues his hypocrisy and inconsistency, when he writes, "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" (The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. by Adrienne Koch and William Peden. New York: Modern Library, 1944, p. 278)
It must be asked: how can anyone, who rejects the Bible as a supernatural revelation of God's person and will to man, assert that liberties come from God? Maybe they are just an accident of circumstances, or an aberration in human affairs, or merely the mutual agreement of people in a given society? And if they are anything other than the gift of God, their possession and continuance is entirely precarious, subject to mere human whim, and the political powers that be at any given moment. In short, if they are God's gift, no human can legitimately deprive another of them; but if they come only from man, then they may legitimately and properly be taken away by man at any time. The distinction is fundamental.
Jefferson goes on, "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probable by supernatural interference!" (ibid., p. 279). Again, we a compelled to know--how did Jefferson know, how could he honestly affirm with certitude that God is just, if he rejected the supernatural element in Scripture? The gods of the Greeks and Romans were not just, but arbitrary, immoral, and corrupt. The god of Islam is an implacable, arbitrary brute. Only if the Bible is true, only if it is a revelation, a supernatural revelation of God to man, could Jefferson affirm that God is just.
While President, Jefferson amused and busied himself for two or three nights by literally cutting out of the Gospels everything he found objectionable. This scissors-and-paste work is the so-called Jefferson Bible, which is a deist's smorgasbord: take what you like and approve of in the teachings of Jesus, and reject the rest. Yes--delete the supernatural, weaken the strictures of Scripture, and recreate the Bible in your own image. This is what Jefferson did. And by so doing, he gutted all real meaning from the words "nature's God," "Creator," "supreme judge of the world," "divine providence," "the gift of God," and "God is just,"--words long associated with his name.
I am fully in agreement with the sentiments of the Declaration regarding God, human rights, God as supreme judge, and divine providence, and Jefferson's own affirmations that rights are a gift from God, that God is just, and that we should indeed tremble for our nation, since God's justice cannot be delayed forever. But I flatly declare that Jefferson, who rejected all that is supernatural in Scripture, had no objective basis for believing any of the things he affirmed. His was a theology of wishful thinking, constructed on a nebulous foundation. You must take the Bible and its supernatural element or reject both. You are not free to pick and choose.
UNBALANCED PREACHING AND UNBALANCED PREACHERS
I never cease to be amazed at how unbalanced, warped, or distorted the preaching and teaching of some preachers regularly is. Supposing some pet doctrine or theory is the all-in-all of orthodoxy, they hammer away, week after week, month after month, year after tedious year on this and this alone, or with scarcely a nod to anything else.
In some cases, their circle of preacher peers "compels" that they be in lock step with them on some given point of doctrine. As a result, whenever they speak at preachers' meetings, they find a way to drag this into virtually any and every sermon, and can somehow cleverly find it in just about any text from either Testament. At whatever cost to honest interpretation and balanced preaching, they must regularly re-convince their fellows that they are just as "sound" on this particular doctrine as the rest. And for this cause, preachers' meeting rarely rise above the abysmal level of being merely "me, too" sessions in which the speakers let you know by their shop-worn and unimaginative sermons that they are "as orthodox as you are."
For some, the all-encompassing doctrine is local church autonomy. I recall even now one bellower at a preachers' meeting in Cincinnati more than 15 years ago, who chose as his text part of Exodus 3. "I'm going to preach today on 'Church Truth', " he proudly--and safely--declared, ignoring the obvious objection that if the church was a mystery not revealed until the New Testament, as indeed it was, then no honest interpretation of Exodus 3 could discover "church truth" in that Old Testament text.
For others, Landmarkism (Baptist successionism) is the end-all and be-all of doctrine, and merits, in their minds, weekly reiteration. For others, it is King-James-Onlyism, for still others, it is the decrees of God (nothing sets them ablaze more quickly than a "rousing" discussion of supra-, infra-, or sub-lapsarianism, and they are hard pressed to explain why their congregation visibly shrinks week by week). Or it may be the five points of Calvinism (Calvin most assuredly did NOT harp on the 5 points, as a reading of any of his commentaries--originally expository Bible lectures--will immediately show). Or prophecy.
Some of the brethren perceive themselves to be gifted "typologists." They can cleverly find a hundred types of Christ in the life of Joseph (there may be some typology there, but the Bible never affirms such) or can find some type in every curtain, bar, and ouch of the tabernacle (the abundance of supposed types being limited only by the skill of the "expositor" in conjuring them up, mostly from thin air). And while they can find Christ hidden under symbolism in ten thousand places in the Old Testament (in not a few of which he is not to be legitimately found), yet they somehow neglect to preach much from the Gospels where His presence is not in doubt and where His person is as plain as day! But who could display his hermeneutical acumen in finding Jesus in the Gospels? What preacher could impress his congregation by doing that?
Find Jesus where there is no doubt about finding Him! Be constantly preaching and teaching from the Gospels! If you must, neglect Ezekiel's whirling wheels and instead preach through the Sermon on the Mount! And if you must choose among sacrifices, preach on that made at Golgotha, rather than those laboriously detailed in Leviticus.
The brethren have fallen into the ages-old pattern of Rome in its pre-occupation with Mary, as though she were the center of the Gospel. In truth, in Scripture, she is not elevated above other women, nor once mentioned by name after Acts 1:14. When Paul summarizes the Gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-12, it is all about Christ, and nothing about Mary. And when Paul gives his extended theological exposition of the Gospel in Romans 1-8, it is all about Christ and His atoning substitutionary death, and not a syllable about Mary. If one had only a typical Mass to go by and no Bible, one might assume that Mary was at least as important--and likely more important--in the work of redemption than Jesus. Mary had her part, but so did Abraham and David and John the Baptist, and the Old Testament prophets, too, and many others--all in subordinate roles. And while we would vigorously object to Rome's faulty focus on Mary and neglect of Christ, we fall into a similar warped emphasis with our own pet doctrines, whatever they might be.
Over-emphasis on one doctrine necessarily requires the neglect of other areas. As a result, our teaching becomes warped, and distorted, even if the doctrine we are emphasizing happens to be true. Even true doctrine, overemphasized to the exclusion of nearly all else, takes on the character of or inclines toward false doctrine. Preaching on the humanity of Christ to the neglect of His Deity, for example, can lead to a virtual de facto denial of His Deity, and a minimizing of the incarnation.
Spurgeon commented "If you attend to a lecturer on astronomy or geology, during a short course you will obtain a tolerably clear view of his system; but if you listen, not only for twelve months, but for twelve years, to the common run of preachers, you will not arrive at anything like an idea of their system of theology. . . .[I]t is a grievous fault, which cannot be too much deplored." (Lectures to My Students, series I, p. 74)
What is the remedy for this error of emphasis? First and foremost: good, regular doses of study by the preacher, which is, after all, the preacher's and teacher's solemn and supreme obligation and great privilege (Acts 6:3). This study should be done in preparation for expository preaching which seeks first to understand what the text actually says, without imposing a preconceived interpretation on it, and then presenting it faithfully both in its actual meaning and in its legitimate application to those who hear.
The preacher who regularly preaches expositorily (though not to the exclusion of topical preaching as well), will be compelled to study, as he encounters difficult, obscure, or controversial texts. He will also be drawn to preach on famous and familiar texts which somehow suffer surprising neglect. And he will find "balance" in such a course of preaching--he will cover every doctrine touched upon in Scripture, and will cover it with the same degree of emphasis as the Scriptures themselves.
Martin Lloyd-Jones and W.A. Criswell in the past, and John MacArthur in the present--to mention just three examples--devoted themselves to expository preaching, and their congregations grew and the interest of the people never flagged. In this regard, they have set us a worthy example, and we will neglect it only to our own hurt--and that of those who are unfortunate enough to hear us. Happy is the congregation whose pastor faithfully studies the Scriptures and lets them speak for themselves, and then delivers, hot from the oven, the bread of life to a hungry audience.
The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. 242 pp. paperback. $13.00
Hoping to land a used copy of this book hardback at much below cover price, I delayed over a year in purchasing it, but when my long-continued search proved fruitless, I paid full retail, a thing I rarely do. My money was not misspent.
There are three leading characters in this historical account: first, Dr. James Murray, self-taught Scottish linguist and chief editor of the massive and authoritative Oxford English Dictionary; second, Dr. W. C. Minor, an American and a Civil War veteran and physician; and third, the work that brought them together, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
Murray was a child prodigy, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and reading, with a particular flair for languages. He had no formal schooling past age 14, but was so thoroughly self-taught that by age 17, he was assistant headmaster in a school, and by age 20 was headmaster. He is, apparently, the "professor" in the book's title, though it is not clear that he ever was a professor anywhere (teaching in grammar schools does not usually qualify one for the designation "professor"). By a series of fortuitous events, Murray was invited to become the third--and by far most important--editor of the OED project. Without his persistence, genius and strong guiding hand, it is doubtful that the OED would have ever been carried through, and it certainly would not have been the marvelous production that it is.
W. C. Minor--of course, by process of elimination--is "the madman." Born to Congregational missionary parents is Ceylon/Sri Lanka, he, too, had made amazing progress in language learning as a youth. At age 15, he was sent by his parents to the States, away from the physical temptations of life among scarcely-clad native girls. In Connecticut (where the family history went back 7 generations), Minor attended Yale University, and became a physician, serving for a time in the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. While at Yale, Minor abandoned all religious sentiments, becoming a self-confessed atheist. Minor remained in the army after the war, but was retired after just a few years for medical/mental problems.
Exactly when these problems began to appear and exactly what triggered them is not clear, but they were certainly manifested by the late 1860s. He was institutionalized for a time in Washington, and upon release went to Europe for a change of scene and a hoped for cure. He settled in a seedy side of south London, apparently to make his liaisons with prostitutes (whom he frequently visited) more convenient. It was here in 1872 that in a demented paranoid state, he shot and killed a man whom he imagined had broken into his apartment. He was arrested and tried and found not guilty due to insanity, and committed for an indefinite term (which extended to almost 4 decades) to an asylum for the criminally insane. (The author does not address the subject except in passing, but Minor's dementia may have its roots, or at least a large contributing factor, in his abandonment of God in his college days, and his subsequent debased lifestyle. There is more than a kernel of truth in the antique proverb "Whom God wishes to destroy, He first makes insane." Sin is an abnormal mental state. I have seen parallel cases with my own eyes).
The OED project had its roots in a speech made in 1857 by R. C. Trench, author of justly famous works on synonyms in the New Testament, and the parables and miracles of Jesus. Trench called for the production of a dictionary that covered the whole of the English language, covering all words in all their usages, with a documented history tracing those usages. This project was begun and some of the work of collecting citations from English literature had been made, but by the mid-1870s, the work began to founder, and was close to being abandoned. At this point, Murray was selected as editor, and the famous Oxford University Press was persuaded to become publisher.
While in the asylum, Minor, a very intelligent man, pursued a vast course of reading, and somehow learned of the published call of the OED editor for volunteers to read particular English works, and provide citations of interesting usages of works for inclusion in the OED. Minor became one of those volunteers. He had lots of time, abundant resources (he received an army pension and had no necessary expenses), and was meticulous in his literary work. Minor proved to be one of the chiefest contributors to the OED project, albeit from the luny bin. (To borrow the punch line from a joke, "he was in there because he was crazy, not because he was stupid.") His work on the OED in fact proved to be therapy for his mind, and when we was actively at work on his reading, his symptoms were mollified. His active participation extended over two decades.
James Murray, at first supposing that Minor was a retired or semi-retired country doctor of literary tastes and with much free time, eventually learned of Minor's condition and location, and went to visit this man who had done so much to advance the work of the OED. They became friends, with Murray returning again and again to the asylum, and doing what he could to improve Minor's circumstances, and cheer him when he was down. He seems also to have sought to turn Minor's attention to God as a source of comfort and consolation.
About the turn of the new 20th century, Minor's mental condition deteriorated, terminating in an act of self-mutilation (not unlike Van Gough's amputation of his ear, though involving a different body part) and his work on OED came to a virtual end. In 1910, old and feeble, he was released to the care of his brother, who returned him to the States, where he was institutionalized for a time, but released for the last year of his life.
Murray continued on the OED, employing at one time or another along the way in the project, among his many co-laborers, all eleven of his children. Striving to complete the entries for 33 words per day, he hoped to see the work completed by his 80th birthday, but he died at 77, and the work was not completed until 13 years after his death.
The year 1928 saw the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary, then in 12 immense volumes (now published in 20 of more manageable size). It is by far the most exhaustive, most detailed, and most authoritative dictionary in any language. It defines nearly a half-million words, and illustrates them with 2.5 million citations. If the text were placed on a single line, it would extend 178 miles. It was 70 years in the making from its first suggestion to its completion. And since its completion, a committee has been continuously active supplementing and correcting the work. After a series of supplemental volumes appeared over the decades, a complete second edition appeared in the 1980s, and a third edition is underway, made vastly easier for the editors by computer technology. "Any interested volunteer readers institutionalized by reason of mental defect, may write to the editor at . . . ."
Winchester's account is highly readable and informative. Besides tracing the intertwining histories of Murray, Minor, and the OED, he also gives a lively account of English dictionaries before the OED. A most interesting little book.