"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 6, Number 11, November 2003
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;
Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.”
["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.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
“The Adventures of Douglas in Bookland”
For the devoted Christian bibliophile, there is no earthly journey viewed with greater delight and anticipation than a pilgrimage--cash or credit card in hand, of course--to that Mecca of Christian publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Major publishers, outlet stores, but especially the used books available in the confines of Kregel’s venerable store and at Baker’s, these are the draw. When you live at some distance from southwestern Michigan--and Kansas is by universal consent a substantial distance from there (and from most every place else, for that matter)--one does not casually make such a journey.
My first and, until recently, only trek to Grand Rapids was in the late spring or early summer of 1975. I was living in Warsaw, Indiana, less than an hour south of the Michigan line and due south of Grand Rapids, studying at Grace Seminary. My pastor, a Michigan (albeit Detroit) native was game to the idea of going to Grand Rapids on a book-hunting jaunt. I pocketed my small store of ready cash, some $45, U.S., more or less, and we set off. In just a couple of hours, after passing farms and fields, we arrived, going first to Baker’s and then to Kregel’s. I had recently become greatly interested in the writings of Sir William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939), classical scholar and NT apologist. I found several of his volumes and some others of great interest, and purchased all that I could afford--and left regretting that there were a great many more books I wanted that I could not afford.
We returned to Indiana with literally only pocket change, and just enough gas to get home.
For nearly thirty years, I have been longing for a second visit to that book-lover’s “heaven on earth” but circumstances have blocked my path at every turn. Until the second week of October 2003. Business took me to just east of Lansing, Michigan, and a brief perusal of the Rand-McNally Atlas revealed that, wonderful to behold, Grand Rapids was still there, just an hour or so to the west, and the day was not far spent (this had been the plan all along).
Kregel’s was the first stop, and we had two hours till closing time!--not enough to carefully search the miles of shelves, but certainly something could be done. Hyper-ventilating as I hurriedly walked the aisles, scanning quickly shelf after shelf of book titles, I occasionally stopped to open a volume, and not a few times seized a prize from the shelf, and tucked it under my arm. When my arms became full, I secured a hand-carried shopping basket, and finally a shopping cart. Not a few times, I muttered sub voce ”There’s just not enough time!”
I bombarded the clerks and store manager with questions about the locations of certain kinds of books, or the availability of this or that title or author. I passed from room to room and into the massive basement, filled with well-organized shelves and books. By closing time, I had an admirable pile of tomes, and readily offered “plastic” for “paper.” How much did I spend, or rather, invest? Let’s just say it was more than the $45 spent in 1975.
In my frantic search, I had the satisfaction as a by-product of realizing that a very large number of books which I would have desperately wanted 28 years before had been acquired by me in the years since, and were no longer gaping holes in my study resources.
An inquiry of the proprietor, Ken Kregel, brought the welcome news that the Baker used bookstore was open for several more hours, and he even provided us with superb directions for the quickest route there.
Baker’s store was not the old house that I had been in years before, but a combined new and used store in a large structure of recent vintage on a main road. Hastening to the used section, once again the shelves were hurriedly paced and scanned and more than a few books were procured, as were some “bargain books” from among the new books.
At one point, I remembered a book that I had been looking for more or less continuously since I first learned of it in Spring, 1974. That book, Modern Rationalism as Seen at Work in Its Biographies by Canon Henry Lewis (London: S. P. C. K., 1913; 418 pp.), had first been brought to my attention by a chapter in Wilbur M. Smith’s 1951 book, Chats from a Minister’s Library (chapter 18, pp. 248-262). Smith (1894-1976) gave that book his strongest recommendation and lamented the surprising scarcity of copies of so valuable a work.
I thereby began my search for a copy, ever without success. I once even borrowed it through inter-library loan, but realized that I could not wade through this weighty book in the time available, and after returning it, resumed my search.
As this book came to mind and I began to hasten to the “L”s, I prayed, “God, let it be there!.” And it was! Priced at $10, I grasped it with joy. Two days later back home, I made a most remarkable discovery--this book, which has not a single mark in it otherwise, has a name written across the top of the title page in fountain pen (as opposed to ball point)--“Wilbur M. Smith.” Could this possibly be?
Smith’s marvelous personal library of some 24,000 volumes (some quote a higher figure) was legally donated to Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California when Smith served on the faculty there (his tenure was 1948-1963). The seminary in turn agreed to build a separate room to house Smith’s collection and allow him use of the books as long as he lived. When apostasy at Fuller made Smith’s continuance there impossible, Smith sought to have the library donation revoked, but the seminary refused. If this book was part of the 24,000-volume donation, how could it have been offered for sale in Grand Rapids? I learned the very next day--even before I discovered Smith’s signature--from a book dealer and bibliophile in Springfield, Illinois, that Fuller Seminary had sold off significant portions of Smith’s 24,000 volumes (as an aside, I must declare--isn’t that trashy? When the school’s apostasy caused the donor to regret his donation of books, the school refused to alter the prior arrangement regarding his library. They simply would not allow the books to go back to him. But so little, in fact, did they value his books, that they have sold off major parts of one of the finest libraries of Bible-related books assembled in the 20th century. Despicable). Perhaps this was among those sold off.
There are no library plates or stamps in the book--as I said, no marks at all except the one signature--and likely a pre-1950 signature at that, since the ball point pen was a novelty that appeared just after World War II. Perhaps the explanation for the absence of any library marks is that the book was never catalogued. Or perhaps this was a second copy of the book acquired by Smith. The thought even occurred to me that perhaps someone who had read Smith’s review of the work had had Smith autograph the title page. I like to think, though, that this was the very copy that Smith read in preparing his review, and that I now possess that book. At the very least, Smith held this very copy in his hands at one time, and autographed the title page. I shall value the book all the more for this reason.
I hope that my next pilgrimage to Grand Rapids will not be delayed so many years (whether I have another 28 to go is much in doubt), and that I will have more time, perhaps days and not merely hours, to search the shelves.
And now, I must get some reading done.
“What’s With That?”--Our File Code
Some have noted the file identification code that is present on AISI when sent as an attachment. For this issue, it is: “v6n11-03HC.rtf”. It seems at first blush a bit strange. One reader even worried that this attachment might be some virus. Actually, it is quite simple: “v6” is ”volume 6,” of “As I See It”; “n11” is “number 11”; “-03” is the year, “2003”; “HC” indicates that it is this file from which I print out a “hardcopy” for my paper files; and “.rtf” is the extension for “rich text format,” an older computer format that doesn’t have a lot of extraneous code, but does allow for boldface, italics, and a few other basic matters--all that I need or want. I use it because almost no one ever has trouble opening such a file, while other formats occasionally cause problems. And besides, it readily converts to almost any other formatting in common use.
So now you know.
The Ten Commandments Once More
Shortly after publishing the October 2003 issue of “As I See It,” (vol. 6, no. 10), I realized that there was one more feature of the external appearance of the stones on which the ten commands were written which I did not expressly mention. The ten commands as commonly represented today in Hebrew are written in what is called “square script,” a form of the Hebrew alphabet which was first used by the Jews after the Babylonian captivity. The square script was the form or style of the alphabet used in the writing of Aramaic in the Babylonian and Persian empires, and was adopted by the Jews after 586 B.C. (for example, the archive of Aramaic documents from the Jewish community at Yev, also called Elephantine, near Aswan in Egypt, which span nearly the whole of the 5th century B.C., are written in square script).
Prior to that date, the Jews used what is called archaic or Phoenician script. All the preserved writings from the monarchial period in Israel (11th to early 6th centuries B.C.), whether inscriptions in stone, writings on ostraca, or seals, etc., are in this script, as are some of the earliest scrolls from the Dead Sea archive.
This archaic script originated sometime around 1500 B.C. or before, and likely among the Phoenicians on the far eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The earliest preserved examples of this script come from wall graffiti in turquoise mines in the Sinai peninsula, ca. 1500 B.C. They were probably written there by slave-laborers, captives in wars between Egypt and the cities of the Levant coast, or perhaps their Phoenician supervisors. The Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet of the mid-2nd millennium B.C. seems to be directly adapted from the Phoenician alphabet.
The archaic script actually looks very much more like our Roman alphabet than does the later square script, and the reason for that is no secret. It was sea-faring Phoenician traders who first introduced the alphabet to the Greeks (9th century B.C., more or less) who originally wrote “backwards”--right to left--like the Phoenicians, then both directions (changing directions and the orientation of the letters with each line; this was called “boustrophedon,” literally, “ox-turning” as in plowing), and finally left to right. The Greeks in turn passed this alphabet, somewhat modified by them, to the Etruscans in Italy, and the Etruscans to the Romans.
The Samaritan Pentateuch, the sacred Hebrew Scriptures of a nearly extinct religious sect pre-dating New Testament times, continued to be written in a modified form of the archaic script even into the late Middles Ages and later.
Because the original writing of the ten commands dates from the mid-15th century B.C., Moses would have certainly used the then-current form of the so-called archaic script. Only one time have I ever seen the ten commands actually written in Hebrew in the archaic script, as opposed to the usual square script. One summer--either 1977 or 1978--while enrolled in graduate school at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, I took work with a landscaper. We were planting trees along the streets of downtown Xenia, Ohio as part of a reconstruction project following the devastating tornado of 1974. In front of some building, there was a new granite monument, placed there, if memory serves, by the Masonic Lodge. Inscribed in archaic Hebrew script was the short version of the ten commands. I was, need I say, the only member of the landscaping crew able to read it. When I pointed out to the others the nature and contents of the odd-looking writing, they remarkably did not share my enthusiasm for this discovery.
How Rome Misrepresents Christianity
The increasingly feeble Pope Paul II, after 25 years in power, seems to be drawing quickly toward death and the giving of an account of himself to God.
The media collectively gush over the Pope, praising his accomplishments, his world-wide travel, his influence, his leadership. Of course, none of them addresses the most basic of issues: have his leadership, his influence, his accomplishments been in the narrow path of Divine truth, or along the broad road of mere human tradition that leads to destruction? (Psalm 1:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus with utter solemnity and seriousness warned, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Or, as it is stated in the words of an old Negro spiritual, “Ev’rybody talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there.” That’s bad grammar but good theology.
By what standard shall we evaluate this current pope (as well as all past and any future ones)? Not by the standards of men, nor by the traditions of men, for it is not men but God that shall pass judgement in that great and awful day. Rather, it is by the words of God Himself that the pope, his church, and yes, we ourselves, must be judged. Jesus assured us that His words would confront each man in his hour of judgment: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day,” (John 12:48).
But isn’t the Church of Rome the visible kingdom of God on earth, the guardian and guide of Divine truth? Hardly. Thomas Armitage (1819-1896), Baptist pastor and historian wrote, “Th[e] principle of infallibility and Church succession is the central corruption of Rome, and has so polluted her faith that she scarcely holds any truth purely, both in the abstract and the concrete. She believes in the proper Deity of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Spirit,--in the Unity and Trinity of the Godhead,--in the authenticity and inspiration of the Scriptures,--in the doctrine of incarnation and atonement,--and in eternal glory and retribution. But which of these has she not modified and perverted, under pretense that she is endowed with Catholicity and perpetual visibility, as the rightful Church Apostolic, all her defilement to the contrary? And now she makes her errors her real life.” (A History of the Baptists. New York: Bryan, Taylor, & Co., 1887, pp. 5-6).
Armitage speaks the truth. While asserting belief in the Divine inspiration and authority of Scripture, Rome has perverted this doctrine by claiming a higher, even final, authority for the Bible in a translation (the Latin Vulgate) rather than the original Hebrew and Greek texts. It has devalued the authority of Scripture by adding to it the authority of tradition, church councils and papal decrees, and in reality subordinating--often nullifying--the teaching of Divine Scripture to these mere human productions. It has diluted the authority of the Bible by adding the Apocrypha, the so-called “Deutero-canonicals” to the true canon, books rejected for cause by the ancient Jews, by Christ and the Apostles, and even by several of the leading church fathers, including Jerome and Augustine.
And historically, no one has fought so long and so hard to keep the Bible out of the hands of the common man than the Church of Rome. As Luther noted, the reason for that is simple: the Bible is not on their side theologically.
Roman has taken the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity and corrupted it by first, practicing the most blatant idolatry--anyone who excuses the statues of Mary, apostles, “saints” and such, as merely aids to devotion, is engaging in abject denial. Such idols are worshipped by the “faithful” in most societies where Rome dominates the religious climate.
Second, the doctrine of the Trinity is corrupted by the virtual deification of Mary--she is called by Rome ”the queen of heaven” (an old pagan term for the goddess Ishtar, co-opted by Rome), and “mother of God” (and dozens of other terms, many suitable only for addressing Deity) and deemed a necessary intercessor between God and man (contrast I Timothy 2:5). It is no wonder that Moslems, exposed to Catholicism, think the Christian Trinity is the Father, the Son, and Mary!
Rome has taken the Biblical doctrine of blood atonement and perverted it by declaring that Jesus’ one historical sacrifice of Himself on the cross is NOT a sufficient sacrifice for sin, but must be repeated again and again, multiplied thousands of times each day in the performance of the Mass (which in reality is a “magic show” as the priest, repeating the “magic words”--“Hoc est corpus meum” which became transmongrified into “hocus pocus”--transforms mere bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Jesus). Rome’s pretended sacrifices which must be repeatedly offered, can never take away sin or make the offerer perfect (Hebrews 10:1-3). But Jesus’ “one sacrifice for sin forever” can and does (Hebrews 10:12-14). To Jesus’ triumphal cry as His sacrifice was completed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)--“Done!”--Rome replies, “Not so fast!”
The doctrine of the church as God’s instrument on earth to propagate the Gospel message has been corrupted into a church which is not merely the distributor of the Good News, but actually the arbiter of grace--Rome determines who will and who will not be saved. It has its seven sacraments (remarkably absent from Scripture) which the seeker must fulfill or the Church withholds forgiveness. Being in the good graces of the Church in essence is more important than being right with God, or rather, the latter is deemed identical to the former.
And of course, salvation solely by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8,9) is replaced with a mongrel combination of grace and works.
The terrors of hell and the urgency of repentance in this life are lessened by the false hope of a temporary “purgatory” in which a person in essence gets a second chance, so a little--or a lot of--wickedness in this life is not a bar to a blissful eternity, and dying in sin can be “fixed,” for a price, after death.
In short, Roman Catholicism is not Biblical Christianity. It is at best a gross caricature, a hideous and grotesque perversion of the Jesus and Christianity of the Bible. It has long masqueraded as though it were actually Christianity, and has horribly distorted the nature of true Christianity in the eyes of the watching world.
J. L. M. Curry in the “Introduction” to Armitage’s Baptist History (p. vii) well-summarizes the matter--“Many infidels have taken refuge in deism, atheism, agnosticism, because they in their ignorance supposed the [Roman Catholic] ‘Church,’ as they saw it, to be the embodiment of Christianity, the authorized exponent of Jesus Christ. Much of the ridicule of priestcraft and denial of the inspiration of the Scriptures is directly traceable to the corruption of the clergy, to autos-da-fe [Spanish for “acts of faith”--a euphemistic term for the barbarities of the Spanish Inquisition--ed.], to the churchly opposition to science and support of political tyranny and kingly wrongs. The genesis of the painful skepticism, so abundant in France, Spain and Italy, one need not search far to find. ‘Le Clericalisme, voila l’ennemi’ [French for “the institutional priesthood, there is the enemy,”--ed.] is the belief of many.”
To the Jew, Christianity means chiefly “persecutor” since the Roman Catholic Church has busied itself over the many centuries with repeated and severe persecution, even to the death, of many Jews. Of course, forced conversion and persecution of dissent is wholly alien to the Christ and the Christianity of the Bible, but it is part and parcel of Rome’s modus operandi. If the conduct of Rome in its various persecutions of the Jews were true Christianity, who could blame any Jew for not wanting to hear the message of the Gospel? Of course, as a sop to Jews, the Pope some few short years back “absolved” the Jews of responsibility for the death of Jesus. Such arrogance! Such presumption! Only the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sin (Mark 2:10). The truth is, every man, every sinner, Gentile as well as Jew, is accountable to God for the death of Jesus, because “he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was bruised because of our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5)
The Moslem believes that Christianity is an idolatrous religion (as does the Jew, frequently), and no surprise: the “Christianity” Muhammad was familiar with was the idol-making and idol-serving corruption of Christianity of Romanism. The Moslem believes that Christians worship three gods--the Father, the Son, and Mary. And again, no surprise, for what called itself “Christianity” in Muhammad’s world did worship Mary as a god. Yes, the Romanist will protest that they do not “worship” Mary, but merely “venerate” her. A rose by any other name, . . . . The truth is, Mary is worshipped and is a god in the historic Catholic theological system. She is prayed to, bowed to, her statutes are kissed and caressed, and her intercession is viewed as essential to salvation. No wonder Moslems misunderstand. Had I no Bible to instruct me, but only Catholic practice to go by, I, too, would believe that Christians worshipped Mary as a god.
And to the Moslem, Christianity is also synonymous with “persecutor,” an indelible impression left on them by the medieval crusades which sought to wrest by force the Holy Land from Moslem control. What could be more in violation of the clear declaration of Jesus: “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight. But my kingdom is not now from here” (John 18:36). Did not Jesus rebuke Peter for drawing a sword in Gethsemane, and miraculously repair the injury Peter had violently inflicted?
Spreading “the faith” by force has been standard practice with Rome, as the millions in Central and South America during the Spanish conquests would testify. Their choices were simple: convert or die. Perhaps the Moslems got their like doctrine from Rome.
The French Revolution with the subsequent and all-but-universal secularism and atheism in France is a direct reaction to the corruption, greed, tyranny and oppression that characterized the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy in France in the decades, even centuries, preceding the Revolution (the same clergy which orchestrated the slaughter of 100,000 French Huguenots--Protestants--on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, likely the spiritually most self-destructive act any nation ever committed). The masses were heavily taxed, abjectly poor and suppressed while the Catholic clergy lived in luxurious corruption and vice, and helped support and sustain the Bourbon dynasty.
And while Europe is in view, let it be noted that Europe, especially Western Europe, is by far the spiritually coldest and deadest portion of the globe--this region where Christianity once held sway. No doubt the unreality, the fraudulence, the mere facade that Catholicism is and has been has convinced millions that there is simply nothing of note or merit about Christ and Christianity--just old myths that are unimportant and irrelevant.
The world at large has largely bought into the oft-repeated but entirely fraudulent claim that the pope is head of the church, the true spiritual leader of Christianity. What must the watching world think of this “Christianity” with the widespread revelations of child-molesting priests, church cover-ups and pay-offs, and, reaching back in history, widespread official Catholic support for the likes of the Third Reich (this present pope during World War II worked in the factory that made the gas for Auschwitz and other death camps)? What would such “Christianity” have to offer to any thinking person? What would it generate but revulsion and contempt?
No, besides the spiritual harm done to those who embrace its Bible-denying, Bible-perverting and soul-condemning doctrines, Roman Catholicism has badly misrepresented the nature of Christianity to those “outside the camp.” It is no surprise that such “Christianity” is rejected out of hand by Jews, Moslems, and others--they have been presented with a false bill of goods, a gross mis-characterization of Jesus and the Bible.
The present pope has sought to vigorously sustain and propagate the historic errors and practices of Roman Catholicism. An honest evaluation in the light of Bible doctrine requires that he be declared a false prophet, a blind leader of the blind, an enemy of the truth and of the souls of men, indeed of his own soul.
The Unbound Scriptures: A Review of KJV-only Claims and Publications, by Rick Norris. 544 pp.
In the turbulent seas of literature regarding English Bible translations in general and the controversy swirling about the King James Version in particular, it is disheartening to find that so much of what is published--especially that defending a “King James only” position--is filled with abject ignorance, factual errors and omissions of the grossest kinds, irrational and illogical argumentation, extreme subjectivism, selective presentation of evidence and inconsistent application of reasoning, and a mere parroting by most KJVO-ites of the errors of others with no independent investigation of the claims presented.
In contrast to this mass and mess of folly is Rick Norris’ work, The Unbound Scriptures. Norris has examined with great care and thoroughness--and patience that might make Job envious--an immense quantity of KJV-only literature. From it, he has compiled the general and specific claims of KJVOism and has shown by fully documented evidence that a very large percentage of what is confidently affirmed regarding the KJV is based on ignorance of the facts, denial of documented facts, and misrepresentation of the facts, all contorted by the most remarkable flights of irrationality and highly dubious “logic.” Written with an irenic spirit, Norris pleads with KJVO-ites to investigate the facts for themselves, and see for themselves whether the bold claims of KJVO writers are based on fact or on fancy. Of course there are a variety of degrees of KJVOism, and Norris effectively sorts outs and distinguishes the claims made by the full spectrum of KJVO-ites, avoiding the “broad brush” generalizations of which militant KJVO adherents are so fond.
Norris provides extended comparisons of the KJV--and various editions of the KJV--, with versions before and besides the KJV which are admitted by KJVO zealots to be “good” or “acceptable” (such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, the Geneva, the Peshitta, Luther’s German, etc.), and shows that the KJV often does not fare well in such comparisons. He also shows by extended examples that criticisms heaped on the NKJB, NASB, NIV, etc. by KJVO partisans can with equal validity be applied to the KJV itself, hoisting the KJVO-ites “with their own petard.” In short, a full and fair presentation of the facts, with all arguments consistently applied to all translations, would summarily discredit KJVOism.
Norris demonstrates that there is no Biblical reason for believing that any translation of Scripture (much less just one) in any language (much less in just one) would partake of the perfections of the originals, and become a de facto “final authority,” equal to or even superior to the infallible original writings. And there being no Biblical basis for such a belief, those who look to the Scriptures alone for doctrine are under no obligation to adopt this mere human tradition of KJV exclusivism. Most dangerous--and heretical--of KJVO claims is that made by some notable individuals that there is no salvation without the KJV. This in effect constitutes “another Gospel” and is to be vigorously rejected and denounced, as indeed even some KJVO partisans have done.
I give my strongest recommendation to The Unbound Scripture. If KJVO advocates, and those honestly seeking the truth, will only read it with a mind open to facts and the truth--checking for themselves against the evidence what Norris claims--they will see that KJVOism has no factual, rational, historical or Biblical basis. For those who are opposed to KJVOism, Norris provides a large body of evidence that can be used to expose and refute this great error that plagues fundamentalists in our day.
Note: the author provided us with the following ordering information:
Order information: regular price for one copy:
$18.00 plus $2.00 for shipping and handling and plus 7% sales tax for N.C.
Special price for the months of October and November 2003-- $15.00 plus $2.00 for shipping and handing and plus 7% sales tax for residents of North Carolina. Contact the author for quantity prices.
Send order and write check to:
3900 Lewisburg Court
Fayetteville, NC 28306
HOUSE OF CARDS: Hope for Gamblers and Their Families, by Tom Raabe. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 2001. 309 pp., paperback. $11.00
Gambling is a great evil, a cancer on society. I hate the gambling industry as much as I hate the liquor industry. I have seen close at hand how it can devastate a person’s life, and harm all those around him.
American society is awash in a swelling sea of gambling that was all but unknown 40 years ago. In 1960, legal gambling was largely restricted to horse and dog racing at a very limited number of tracks, plus casino gambling in Nevada. Illegal gambling involved small-time office pools, private poker, and bets placed with “bookies.” Today, nearly all 50 States not only permit gambling, but actively promote it in the form of state-run lotteries. Casinos are now found in many states with a strong push for even more, and the presence of legal--and illegal--gambling has spread coast to coast. The internet has a large and growing number of gambling sites where credit cards are readily accepted.
The push for legalized gambling came in part as a supposedly “painless” way to raise revenue for state governments, a voluntary “tax” as it were. Opposition to expanded state-sanctioned gambling is usually met with promises that the new money will go to fund schools, and so the gullible buy into it.
In fact, gambling proves to be an effective money maker for a state only if at least half of the money wagered--and lost--comes from out of state. The reason for that, of course, is that gambling is a parasitic “industry.” It produces no product, it provides no service; it only extracts money from its patrons, many of whom can ill afford to lose it.
The truth is, the lower a person’s level of education and the lower his economic status, the more likely he is to gamble, and to gamble a higher percentage of his income than a person with more education and more income. A mere 5% of the purchasers buy 54% of lottery tickets, and these buyers are mostly from the lower income groups. Lotteries are a voluntary “tax”--on those least able to afford them, but who are lured by promises of great potential riches (which, if actually won, can also have a personally devastating effect).
Lottery tickets are a sucker’s bet. The odds of winning the big jackpot are regularly much less than your chance of being eaten by a shark or struck by lightning. (Psst--here’s a secret: the basic premise of all gambling is that “a fool and his money are welcome everywhere”). And the odds in casinos always favor the house. The only ones with a solid possibility of regularly being enriched by gambling are the casino owners.
Naturally, for gambling to thrive, the casino owners (or in the case of lotteries, state governments) must actively recruit new suckers, uh, “players.” The elderly, most of whom live on limited incomes are often ensnared. As a typical case, note that more than 300,000 busloads of seniors arrive in Atlantic City annually; the day each month after social security checks arrive sees the largest crowds. Two-thirds of all casino revenues in Atlantic City are lost by seniors.
And there are the young. The number of teenage (and even pre-teen) gamblers--often gambling over the internet using their parent’s credit cards--is staggering. And while casinos are supposed to be “21 and older” establishments, they commonly turn a blind eye to underage slots players--until they win big, then the casino “regrets” that they cannot legally allow the minor to collect the winnings.
And state lotteries use deceptive advertising to draw people, such as “where thousands win millions,” ignoring the important fact that before anyone can win anything in the lottery, someone else--many “someone elses”-- must lose something, and substantially more than is won.
Of course, the astronomical growth of gambling has caused a parallel growth in the social evils directly attributable to gambling: gambling addiction, poverty, financial ruin, bankruptcy, broken homes, ruined lives, abused or neglected children and spouses, despair, suicide, sky-rocketing rates of crimes against people and property in the vicinity of casinos, vice, the funding of organized crime, and more. The direct financial costs to society of the evils spawned by gambling are unquestionably much greater than the tax revenue generated by gambling. It is a losing proposition for both the gambler personally and society collectively.
And the notion that the casinos at least provide jobs is deceptive. The jobs are commonly short-term, and those employed in the gambling industry are twice as likely as the general population (15% vs. 7%) to become problem gamblers. In short, one out of seven of those who take casino jobs will see their life ruined by their employer.
“House of Cards” by Tom Raabe is chiefly focused on how to deal with a gambling problem, if you are yourself the person with the problem, or if you are part of a family with a problem gambler. People gamble for two primary reasons: 1) the “rush” of risking large sums on the roll of the dice or the turn of a card; or, 2) escapism (it’s just you and your slot machine for hour after endless hour). The long-term affects of problem gambling are terrible, not least among them a financial “hole” than can take 20 years and more to dig out of. There is hope and help, but recovery is painful. There are support groups for gamblers and their families, among them “Gamblers Anonymous,” which unfortunately has a low success rate, chiefly because it has eliminated the spiritual element that is found in other similar “recovery”-type groups.
In over 30 years in the ministry, covering the majority of gambling’s massive expansion in the U.S., I have heard only one message expressly addressing gambling--and I preached it. And I have seen only one Christian periodical that ran a series of articles exposing the evils of gambling. Preachers and other spiritual leaders have been much too silent for much too long. We need to inform ourselves first, and then instruct those under our care; no doubt almost every church has some in it who gamble, to their own hurt.