"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 7, Number 4, April 2004

 

“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.”

Job 32:17-21

 

["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.]

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Finding True Self-Esteem

 

“No honour or reward, however great, can be equal to that subtle satisfaction that a man feels when he can point to his work and say, ‘See, now, the task I promised you to perform with all loyalty and honesty, with might and main, to the utmost of my ability, and God willing, is today finished.’ ”

 

Henry Morton Stanley, discoverer of David Livingstone.

Quoted in, Bula Matari: Stanley, Conqueror of a Continent,

by Jacob Wasserman (New York: Liveright, 1933), p. 321.

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Why I Hate KJVO Extremism

 

KJVO extremism, that insidious view that there are no reliable Bible translations in English, or indeed in any other language, except the King James Version only, is a pernicious and destructive heresy, and I hate it.  I do not hate it for its ignorance.  If it were merely a matter of gross ignorance (that it is rooted in massive ignorance is entirely true), we might pity its adherence, without hating it.  Were it a mere grab-bag of absurdities (among them the denial of a pre-Christian Greek version of the Old Testament, and remaking of Catholic priest Erasmus into a closet Baptist), we might laugh in incredulity.  Were it just a string of unbiblical theological presuppositions and misinterpretations and misapplications of various Bible texts, we might write against it and correct its errors.  But I do in fact hate it, because of the spiritual wreckage that it makes of people’s lives.  On my most recent trip to Europe, I encountered three utterly distraught Dutch Christians, whose spiritual foundation had been torn from under them, whose faith had been utterly devastated by KJVOism.  Some American zealot had convinced them that they should place no confidence in their Dutch Bible--one they had read and believed and followed for years--because it was not exactly like the KJV.  They were fed bogus arguments--the usual KJVOism stuff (the misrepresentation of Spurgeon as KJV only; errors regarding the nature of Luther’s Bible; matters regarding the Septuagint Greek OT; the nature of Erasmus’ Greek text; and much else).  Employing a whole series of false, inaccurate and dishonest arguments, this one, whoever he may be, annihilated the foundation of their faith: their confidence in reliable and dependable Dutch Bible translations.  These three, with only limited knowledge of English, were robbed of the Bible in their own language by KJVOism, a dogma  which masquerades as a defense of the faith.  They were told that only this one English Bible, the KJV, is dependable, and that whatever they had learned from any other Bible was suspect.  When I met them, they were utterly distraught, actually trembling and in tears that there was no trustworthy Bible in Dutch.  And of course, that is a lie.

 

There are and have long been good, accurate, and reliable Bible translations in Dutch from the Reformation era on, many of them strongly influenced by Luther’s German Bible, a Bible which KJVOism acknowledges as reliable.  Yes, the standard Dutch Bible, the States-General version from the 1630s, does sometimes differ from the KJV, but in one place I recently examined specifically (Daniel 3:25, “son of the gods”), it agrees with the Masoretic text (and Luther) against the KJV, and is in fact BETTER than the KJV on this verse.

 

I wish I could say that the destruction by KJVOism of the faith of these three Dutch believers was the only such incident known to me, but it is sadly far from it.  I could relate accounts of similar incidents in Romania where KJVO radicals from Utah, in Romania not 10 days and knowing not a word of Romanian, began to tell Romanians in the southern part of the country that they should not trust their Romanian Bible (the Cornilescu version), the standard Bible used in virtually all Baptist churches and the means of the conversion and edification of hundreds of thousands.  And why should Romanians abandon the Bible that has been blessed of God to the saving of their souls?  Why, it differs from the KJV!  Other KJVO zealots attempted to split a sizeable Romanian church in the northern part of the country, seeking (unsuccessfully, praise God) to impose a “King James Only” statement of faith on this large and long-established congregation.  Not a few other incidents within Romania have come to my attention as well.

 

I received in the past several weeks reports of a congregation of some 80 souls in Belize, Central America, which exploded and was destroyed by KJVOism.  Similar pernicious, yea, spiritually deadly incidents could be repeated from Japan, Mexico, Hungary, Germany and elsewhere.  It makes me want to scream,  “You stupid, ignorant Americans--keep your heresy at home.  Stop poisoning the minds and ruining the faith of believers here on the mission field.”  KJVOism is part and parcel of the arrogance that all too often characterizes American Christianity-“We have all the answers, and what do you know, we alone have a perfect Bible in our language!”  I have said before that KJVOism is so absurd that only an American could believe it.  I do not understand why any church or missions agency actually concerned with the conversion of sinners would send out as missionaries adherents of this spiritually destructive heresy.

 

Rather than defending the faith, KJVO extremism undermines, weakens, and even destroys the faith of many.  It leaves not a few of its adherents in complete spiritual turmoil, with no foundation, no one and nothing to trust to lead them to God.  That is why I hate it, and declare undying, unyielding war against it. 

---Doug Kutilek

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Dead in Trespasses and Sins”:

A Biblical Metaphor Correctly Explained by Bob Ross

 

A Christian brother asks: “Since prior to being born-again a sinner was dead in their trespasses and sins [Ephesians 2:1], how is it that they come to have faith in Christ?”

 

Paul used "death" as a metaphor more than once, and it has unfortunately been misused by some to teach something more or less than Scripture justifies.

For example, in Romans 6 where Paul says believers are "dead to sin," some sinless perfectionists claim that the true Christian cannot sin because he is "dead to sin."  "How can a dead person sin?" they reason.  They are using the metaphor beyond its intended message.  We are plainly taught elsewhere that Christians do sin and are to confess their sins (1 John 1:8, 9; Matthew 6:12).

Some likewise misuse the metaphor of "death" in relation to the lost sinner and construct a doctrine of depravity on the basis of an exact comparison to physical death.  This was never the design of the use of this metaphor.  The basic idea of "death" is "separation"--sinners are separated from God. They are very active in sin and sensitive to the things of God in a negative way.  The Word of God "bothers" sinners; how could they be bothered by the Word of God if they were "dead" like a corpse?

Spurgeon said we are not to try to make a parable "stand on all fours."  We are to interpret and apply the metaphor of "death" by the overall teaching of Scripture, not form a doctrine based on an exact comparison to the metaphor.

In Ezekiel 37, some are compared to dry "bones" in that metaphorical illustration.  Yet Ezekiel was told to preach to them and bid them "hear the word of the Lord." Obviously, the Lord did not intend for this to mean that "bones" have literal ears.  You can only use the metaphor so far as it is illustrative of a particular point.

The metaphors simply illustrate, but they are not designed to "define."  We get the definition of doctrine in more explicit, literal language.

Our Confessions say that the sinner is brought to life when he is united to Jesus Christ by faith, through the instrumentality of the Gospel and its empowerment by the Holy Spirit.  God has given us MEANS--the Word or Gospel, and His Spirit blesses those means to the creation of repentance and faith.  This is regeneration, or the new birth.  The Hardshell idea of some mystical regeneration apart from means, without means, before means, etc. was hatched up in the 1830's as a basis for opposing missions and evangelism.

As Spurgeon once said, "If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate," (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 9, 1863, sermon #531, p. 532).

Bob Ross

Pilgrim Publications

[used by permission]

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Tools for Studying the “Church Fathers”

 

We who accept the sole and final authority of the written Scriptures in all matters pertaining to our doctrine and conduct naturally do not look to the “church fathers” as they are called (or any subsequent theologians, preachers or writers), for sure guidance as to what the Bible teaches and we are to believe and do.  Nor do we elevate “tradition” to a position equal in authority to the Bible.  Indeed, it has no inherent authority, except as it conforms to the Bible.  We do not “settle” doctrinal disputes by quoting Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius or Justin Martyr, though we may quote them if they well state some point or idea. 

 

That being said, it does not follow that such early writers, especially of the first 5 Christian centuries, are of no interest or importance.  They are valuable in tracing the rise of the formulating of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, and establishing the early Christian belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, to name but two subjects.  Another by-product of studying the earliest church fathers is the discovery that pre-millennialism was virtually the universal belief in the 2nd century A.D.  And the fathers are valuable in documenting the rise, spread, and refutation of a whole spectrum of heresies that were spawned in the first and later centuries.  Many of these heresies are still with us, sometimes somewhat modified.  How they dealt with them is instructive for us.

 

The writings, especially of the fathers of the first, second, and to a lesser degree third and fourth centuries are essential to understanding the history of professing Christianity after the close of the NT.  They contain not a few early traditions that may be based in fact, such as the claim that Paul was beheaded at Rome; that Peter was crucified upside down; that John was pastor in Ephesus late in life; that John Mark ended up in Alexandria; and much else.

 

In the fathers, we can trace the rise of such errors within professing Christianity as infant baptism; the false belief in the verbal inspiration of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX); the worship of Mary; the cult of the saints; etc.  It is instructive to know by what steps the truth of Scripture was abandoned for these serious doctrinal errors.

 

Anyone who has thought about studying the church fathers is immediately confronted with the immensity of the task.  Sets of the fathers run to many large volumes of rather small print (a famous 19th century set of the fathers in the original Greek, Latin and Syriac, published by Migne, actually runs to something around 300 hefty volumes!).  And such immensity of material is very intimidating.  Just where do you start?  What is worthwhile, if you can only read a small portion?  What is secondary and can safely be neglected, except for the most thorough study?

 

There are numerous guides through this dense forest.  F. J. A. Hort of Greek New Testament fame wrote Six Lectures on the Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York: MacMillan, 1895), 138 pp., which when I read it 20 some years ago, I found to be plain and dull.  More full and informative is Henry Barclay Swete’s Patristic Study (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1904), 198 pp.  For individual fathers, the entries in A Dictionary of Christian Bibliography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines, edited by William Smith and Henry Wace, 4 vols. (London: John Murray, 1877) is exceptionally full and thorough, covering the first 8 Christian centuries.  All these are out-of-print, but may be occasionally met with in libraries, and more rarely used; a circa 1908 abridgement of Smith-Wace has been reprinted by Hendrickson of Peabody, Massachusetts, and is available from CBD.  All of these give bibliography.  (The volumes in the Ante-Nicene and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers sets noted in full below also have introductions and extensive bibliography).

 

Still in print is the immense undertaking Patrology, by Johannes Quasten, in 4 vols.  Quasten was professor of ancient church history and Christian archaeology at the Catholic University of America.  It thoroughly covers the field, with up-to-date bibliographies on each father, as well as other Christian and quasi-Christian writings from the patristic period.  He will give the student all the introductory information he is likely to want or need.

 

Next, the reader needs the text, and in English translation, please!  The multi-volume 19th century sets, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, 9 vols.; The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, edited by Philip Schaff, 14 vols.; The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 14 vols.--sets still in print (relatively inexpensive from CBD) and also available on CD-ROM--present an extensive range of patristic writings (for all their size, they are very much less than exhaustive in reproducing the writings of the fathers).  Most of the more important or interesting of the fathers through about 450 A.D. will be included here, and these sets will probably be as much as the student will need.  Do not neglect to consult the extensive and detailed indices of Biblical texts, topics, and bibliography with which these sets are enriched.

 

For many of the fathers, separate translations of some or all of their individual works are available and in print, without having to buy large sets; Augustine’s Confessions comes to mind, as an example.  One series in which the writings of individuals are available separately is the extensive Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, edited by Johannes Quasten and Joseph C. Plumbe (Paulist Press).  This on-going series includes among others, the works of Patrick of Ireland (whose genuine writings show not the least hint of Roman Catholicism), a writer not included in most sets or series.  The reader will have to check with book dealers for information as to whether specific works are available separately in this series or otherwise.

 

For those who simply “must have” the Greek or Latin text of the fathers, the old Migne set can be consulted, if you live near a library with that in its holdings (a graduate school I attended in Cincinnati actually had the complete set, and I did in fact consult it a few times while there).  Purchasing it is pretty much out of the question--I have seen only two or three stray volumes from the set for sale in the last 25 years.  An inter-net search would yield somewhat fuller results, of course.  A complete set if ever available would cost an arm, a leg, a first-born child, and more.  For selected fathers, there are parallel Greek-English or Latin-English editions in the famous “Loeb Classical Library.”  The so-called Apostolic Fathers, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, much of Augustine’s writings, selected letters of Jerome, the Ecclesiastical History of Bede (a bit beyond the patristic era), and more (as well as Josephus and Philo of Alexandria) are to be found in this famous series (and of course a large part of classical Greek and Latin literature as well).  Volumes cost about $21.00 each, new.

 

For Greek lexicons of this literature, the standard NT lexicon, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Walter Bauer et al. in its title suggests its usefulness here.  But the real standard in the field is the massive Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford University Press) by H. W. F. Lampe, at the heart-stopping price of $325, more or less (probably more).  Well, I can dream. 

 

I do need to say a word about the Apostolic fathers--those who lived before about 150 A.D., and whose lives overlapped, and in some cases whose paths actually crossed those of the Apostles--Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, and a few other writings.  These are included in The Ante-Nicene Fathers set noted above, and in a Loeb Classic edition (2 vols.) but especially in a virtually exhaustive 5-volume study by J. B. Lightfoot, a set that gives the Greek text and English translation, along with introductions and extensive commentary.  And the set has been recently reprinted, cheap, by CBD!

 

One aspect of patristic study is the ancient creeds.  All that is likely to be needed in this regard is the 3-volume set edited by Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, which gives such creeds and early confessions of faith in the original Greek or Latin, with English translation and instructive introductions.  This set, too, is in print.

 

Another recent and quite useful tool for the study of the early fathers is A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, edited by David W. Bercot, an Anglican priest (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1998).  In 704 pages, documented quotations taken from the early fathers on more than 700 topics are presented, from “abandonment of infants” to “Zoroaster.”  Here, in brief compass, the views expressed by Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Rome, and many others, on a multitude of topics--many still very much relevant--are given (e.g., a simple reading of the quotes under “Septuagint,” noting the dates of the quotations, would put to death the absurd notion current in KJVO circles, that that Greek version of the Old Testament was a 3rd century A.D. production of Origen).  A brief introduction instructs the reader on how to use the volume, and brief single paragraph summaries of the fathers cited are included as well.  This is a truly helpful volume, a virtual “must have.”

 

And of course, for the whole history of the patristic period, Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, vols. 1, 2, 3 should be consulted.  He conveniently introduces the reader to many of these early writers and their literature.

 

Having described some basic tools, what in fact should the student read?  Speaking from the perspective of an occasional, non-systematic here-and-there reader of the fathers, I would recommend as follows: the apostolic fathers--including the famous “Martyrdom of Polycarp”--merit reading.  So, too, the second century apologists Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  What I have read of Origen has not made me an enthusiast--he allegorizes badly.  John Chrysostom, in contrast, adheres much more closely to the text.  The early creeds, before 325 A.D., are of note, both for what they include and what they leave out (there are parts of the Nicene creed which I find unbiblical--fodder for a later article).  Eusebius’ church history is definitely important reading.  The writings of Patrick of Ireland, ever so brief, are of interest in that they show him to be anything but a Roman Catholic.  Jerome’s commentary on Daniel--not in any set in English translation but available separately, translated by Gleason L. Archer--is of supreme importance on the interpretation of that book.  Some of his letters are also quite instructive.  Augustine’s Confessions are widely praised, but I have not read enough of it to form an independent judgment of it.  His City of God, his most extensive work, I have not read at all.

 

A vast field for study, one not to be entirely neglected.

---Doug Kutilek 

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Words of Wisdom from Vance Havner

from

Though I Walk Through the Valley

 

“When you face the light, the shadow is behind you.” (p. 15)

 

“You can go crazy considering the circumstances.  Plenty of people have.” (p. 17)

 

“If a man cannot turn to God in the hour of his deepest need and come boldly to the throne of grace for help in such a time, then the gospel means nothing and Christian experience is a delusion.” (p. 26)

 

“There are mountaintop experiences in our journey through this world, those rare and lucid moments when God is consciously near and speaks to us as a man speaks to a friend.  There are those ordinary days when we may not be thrillingly aware of his presence but neither do we doubt it.  But there are also those strange times when things do not add up or make sense, when we seem to be forgotten, when the heavens are brass, when instead of happy answers to our petitions, an ironic spirit laughs at us and makes mockery of our feeble faith.  We sit with Job and wait for an answer that seems never to come. . . . God may seem slow, but is never late.  Sometimes He says yes.  Sometimes He says no.  Sometimes He just does not say and we can only wait.” (pp. 44, 45)

 

“You had better not pray to be conformed to the image of God’s Son unless you mean business!  It may be anything but the delightful experience you had in mind.  God uses strange ways to make us more like Jesus.  But they work together for good and the finished product is worth all the cost.” (p. 57)

 

“Today at lunch a friend of mine told me that Spurgeon said that God is too good to be unkind, too wise to be mistaken, and when you cannot trace His hand, you can always trust His heart.” (p. 89)

 

“When God consumes the dross and refines the gold in His children, they feel it.  When He operates He does not use an anesthetic.  He does not develop His saints in their sleep.  We wrestle with the powers of darkness and we do not come from a wrestling match looking like we had just left a dress parade, well tailored and perfumed.  Artificial flowers may look better than real flowers because they have not been exposed to wind and rain.  God is not out primarily to make us happy but to make us holy--and holiness is not cheap.” (p. 101)

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

The American Indian and Christian Missions by George Warren Hinman.  New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1933.

 

The stereo-typical picture of white European interaction with the native populace of North America from the time of the Pilgrims until the closing of the western frontier around 1900 is one of exploitation, expulsion and extermination of the red man by the white man.  And while there is far too much reality behind the common understanding, this is very much less than the whole of the story.

 

It is true that many whites saw the Indians as merely a numerically, economically and militarily weaker people to be exploited by corrupt traders or to be driven from lands the whites coveted for themselves.  And it is equally true that the great majority of those who dealt wickedly with the Indians were Christians in name.

 

However, one of the unsung and largely unknown stories is the highly beneficial and very positive relationship between the various Indian nations and genuine Christian workers whose contacts with the Indians were marked by kindness, fairness, self-sacrifice and self-denial, with resulting great benefit to the Indians materially, economically, culturally and of course and especially spiritually.

 

Those Christians who had a vibrant, living relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and who took seriously the Bible they professed to believe all but uniformly had good relations with the Indians, and sought to be a blessing to them, rather than a curse.  From John Eliot, Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards in New England (to name only a few), to the Quakers, Moravians and David Brainerd in the Middle and Southern colonies, to the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other missionaries in the trans-Appalachian interior of North America, on to the Great Plains and to the West Coast and desert Southwest, the Indians were respected, helped, and advanced by their contacts with such people.  When, to note one case, the Cherokees were driven by force from Georgia to open up lands for greedy whites, with rare exceptions the preachers and missionaries of the various denominations working among them vigorously protested and resisted this terrible injustice (some even going to prison for their opposition), as did the white missionaries among other Indian groups who were mistreated, exploited, cheated and otherwise abused.

 

Quite consistently, not only was the spiritual well being of the Indians looked after, but so, too, their economic well-being, as they we taught farming, livestock raising, domestic industry, and reading and writing (with the various languages usually reduced to writing for the very first time by the missionaries).

 

The fact that the exploiters of the Indians claimed to be Christians was a great hindrance to the spread of the Gospel among them (not unlike the difficulty of reaching Moslems with the Gospel in part as a legacy of the “Christian” crusades conducted by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages).  But when the Indians were able to see first-hand consistent Christian character in action in the lives of the missionaries, their understandable prejudice against “Christianity” often dissolved.

 

George Hinman at the time of writing was with the American Missionary Society.  This volume is limited largely to events of the 19th century (and doesn’t cover all of the major developments of that century).  His writing is highly informative, and he mentions numerous other works in the course of his treatment (unfortunately, nowhere does he give full bibliographical information, nor is there a bibliographical appendix).  With great poignancy, he demonstrates the intense spiritual darkness and debased and debasing idolatry and paganism that was the lot of the Indians before they received the knowledge of the true God.  In short, their evangelization was absolutely essential, their condition and circumstances giving unmistakable testimony to their great spiritual need. 

 

He closes his discussion with an analysis of the then-current state of Christian work and missions among the Indians, with some positive and negative features (particularly the counter-productive creation of Indian dependence on white preachers and white Christian money to fund the work, rather than on native preachers and their own resources under God--this criticism applies to a great deal of mission work being done today as well).

 

Having for some while been interested in the subject of the history of Christian missions among American Indians, I have begun compiling a bibliography of important works on the subject, with a view to possible future publication.

---Doug Kutilek

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Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain by Justin Kaplan.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.  424 pp., hardback.

 

Mark Twain (the “stage name” and nom de plum of Samuel Langhorne Clemens [1835-1910]--really his stage persona) is generally thought of as a humorist and writer of children’s books, especially Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, books which present the presumedly idyllic life Twain himself experienced growing up in a small pre-Civil War Mississippi River town in Missouri.  The reality is something different.

 

Life in Hannibal, Missouri for young Clemens was so seemingly insufferable that he left it in his teens for what turned out to be a lifetime of more or less restless wandering (Kaplan begins his biography of Clemens as he is set to return from California to the Eastern United States at age 31, and only alludes to Clemens’ youth, rather than describing it in detail).  First, part of the decade of the 1850s spent on the River on steamboats, then a very brief stint in the Confederate army (two weeks), followed by several years in Nevada and California (here Clemens began making a living as a writer, as a newspaper reporter and author of short stories).  The region was in the throes of a great silver boom, and Clemens did his share of prospecting and mining.

 

Clemens left California in 1868--never to return, though his adventures out west, heavily dosed with exaggeration and pure fabrication were his stock-in-trade for his writing and lectures for years--and sailed to Central America, crossing by land to the Atlantic and sailing on to New York. 

 

His struggle to make a living as a reporter and humorist (a combination comedian and social commentator) led him to go on the lecture circuit, a forum he would return to again and again (especially when desperately in need of money).  He also set sail under writer’s contract with a ship full of Holy Land pilgrims, accounts of the trip becoming his first published book, The Innocents Abroad (a book so open in its mockery of Catholicism that I doubt it would get published today; much of his strongest ridicule was expurgated before publication).

 

Clemens’ writings consisted chiefly of semi-autobiographical accounts (such as Life on the Mississippi, the first half of which is probably the single best account of the steamboat era; Roughing It, about his trip west by stagecoach in 1862 and his 4 years out west; A Tramp Abroad, an account of travels in Central Europe, hoping to repeat the publishing success of the Innocents book; and of course several attempts at pure autobiography) and fiction (drawing often on his own childhood experiences, in such works as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Pudd’n-Head Wilson, and a number of others).  He had a lifelong streak of cynicism and seemed to become more and more filled with anger, even rage, increasing the vehemence and intensity of his mockery of both man and God; some of his writings were at his own request withheld from publication until after his death, due to their shocking even blasphemous content.

 

In his early 30s, Clemens hoped to marry Olivia Langdon, a decade his junior, and as a consequence made external and superficial reforms in his conduct to please her and her parents.  He attended church and even had plans to join.  These reforms had short life.  Not many months into marriage, he resumed his substantial and regular consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and his contempt for sacred things.  His own cynicism poisoned his wife’s once strong faith and she died in abject unbelief.  His own children cowered in fear of him and his explosive temper.

 

Clemens was ever the contradiction--denouncing materialistic and greedy capitalists, he very much enjoyed the friendship and company of such people, and lived a very extravagant lifestyle himself, often well beyond his means.  He was gullible to any promising “get rich quick” scheme and endured a humiliating bankruptcy as a consequence (he did ultimately repay his creditors in full).  He hated life in Hannibal, and yet glorified it in his novels.  He was forever reveling in the adventures he experienced in Nevada and California, but once he left there, he never returned.  He despised the invasion of privacy that fame and notoriety brought, yet he craved the accolades and public recognition of the masses (the white suits he adopted as his public “costume” the last years of his life were expressly for the purpose of drawing attention to himself).  And in spite of his own great success, he was often filled with petty jealousy of the recognition given to other writers.

 

Clemens saw himself not as a humorist or novelist but a preacher, not of the Gospel, but of contempt for the human race, for God, and for himself.  The venom of cynicism that characterized his life is a toxin that infects the blood of a man, and poisons all his relationships.  Clemens is a classic example that long indulgence in such contempt for everyone and everything consumes a man’s soul.

 

Kaplan’s biography received the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1966.  It is an instructive volume, though not entirely all that we should want.  A specialized presentation of Clemens’ religious up-bringing and some attempt at discovering just how he became so bitter against God would be a worthwhile follow-up study.

---Doug Kutilek

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Give Me a Break by John Stossel.  New York: HarperCollins, 2004.  296 pp., hardback.  $24.95

 

John Stossel, long a reporter for ABC news and now co-host of their long-running “news” magazine 20/20, was a typical reporter--Ivy league background, accepting and reciting all the mantras of Leftist indoctrination: capitalism is evil, government control and state socialism are good, radical environmentalism is sound, feminism is right, and so on.  But experience and exposure to the real world has altered his perspective; he is now a self-professed libertarian.  He is part of a small fraternity of politically non-leftist on-air personalities at the national networks, and is the rarest of these--he still has his job (the likes of Bob Zelnick, Bernard Golderg, and others found themselves fired because of similar views)

Stossel’s stock in trade has been the in-your-face investigative reporter, exposing scams, phonies, con-men and such in his 20/20 segments and several hour-long specials over the past couple of decades.  The book is largely a re-visiting of the topics addressed in those segments and specials.

Though agreeing with much of Stossel’s presentation--that the environmentalist movement is dishonest, extremist and actually harmful to the physical and material well-being of the masses, that government almost never does anything as well as the private sector and in America is many times too large and intrusive, that lawyers and the immense number of lawsuits filed are highly destructive to freedom and prosperity, that transforming people into “victims” destroys their initiative, and more--in matters where “libertarians” differ from “conservatives,” Stossel invariably adopts the “libertarian” point of view, favoring abortion on demand, homosexual rights, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, and so on. 

His arguments are here rather thin and bogus, chiefly: outlawing these things hasn’t stopped them.’  The same could be said of bank robbery, murder, and drunk driving.  “But,” he would protest, “those things harm other people.  What people do with their own bodies that doesn’t hurt other people is no one else’s business.”  Herein he errs.  These activities do harm other people--abortion terminates a life separate and distinct from its mother’s.  Drug addicts become wards of the state, making others pay for their self-indulgence (Stossel exposes and condemns in a different context drug addicts who collect Social Security disability checks--this kind of burden would increase exponentially if drugs were legalized).  Legalization of promiscuous and perverted sexual behavior spreads disease, often to innocent spouses, and with a high financial burden on others (has anyone calculated the cost to the taxpayer of AIDS in research and treatment?  It is certainly in the tens of billions of dollars--and counting), undermines marriage which destabilizes society and breeds poverty.  Legalized gambling is a particular burden on the poor and less-educated and usually undermines other economic activity (retail stores, restaurants, entertainment), to say nothing of those whose lives are ruined by addiction to government-sanctioned gambling (and, notably, the spread of legalized gambling to almost every state has greatly increased the quantity of gambling, and its attendant evil consequences, not reduced them).  Pornography is often a catalyst to child-molestation, rape, and even serial killing (one common denominator of nearly all serial killers is that they were large consumers of pornography).

No, vice has historically been criminalized by governments because these things have been recognized as scourges on society.  The greatest error of the libertarians, Stossel among them, is that they fail to recognize the inherent evil that inhabits every human heart, to say nothing of the ultimate spiritual consequences of morally depraved behavior.

I am happy that there is at least one voice on network television protesting the leftist agenda, though I am sorry that on moral matters, he espouses the libertarian line, which is identical to the moral agenda of the political left.

---Doug Kutilek