"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 10, Number 3, March 2007

 

“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

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“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]

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Real Fire From Heaven

 

“And let it never be forgotten that here is the real test: ‘The God who answers by fire, let him be God.’ [I Kings 18:24].  Men have made finances and figures the test, and the church with the most statistics in its favor has been adjudged most favored by God.  Fame has been made the criterion and publicity has created much that God never approved from heaven.  And their number is legion who, in their Christian experiences, would have it read, ‘The God Who answers by feelings, let Him be God.’  But the test is FIRE, supernatural fire, not the strange fire of Nadab and Abihu [Numbers 3:4], but the heavenly flame of Pentecost.” 

 

“Too many of our meetings can be accounted for on purely natural grounds: we meet and sing and talk and pray and nothing happens that cannot be explained.  We need some meetings that cannot be accounted for nor be explained away, where men must shake their heads and say, ‘We have seen strange things today.’  Some may attribute it to new wine, but it was that sort of meeting that added three thousand souls to the church in a day.  The infidel who stood at a burning church and explained his presence there by saying, ‘I never saw this church on fire before,’ would be found multiplied by thousands if spiritually our assemblies caught on fire from above.” 

 

“Even fundamentalists do not escape here, for all too often they have the facts but still lack the flame.  God is not revealed so much in correct theology; heads may be right and hearts still wrong.  Painted fire may even be added to touch up the doctrine, but painted fire is not Pentecost fire; it will not burn.”

 

“Think of the many tricks by which the church today apes the world to attract men and money.  The business and financial and social methods of the age have been brought into the sanctuary, and the cleverness of man is employed to do the work of God.  But the world has us beaten from the start at that game and God will not honor it.  God works from above with fire from heaven and we put the Gospel to shame by stirring up a fire from our own sparks.  Even the world knows the difference, and men only laugh at a church trying to beat the world at its own game.  One meeting where God answers by fire is worth all our convocations in the energy of the flesh.”

Vance Havner

Road to Revival

(Fleming H. Revell, 1940)

,pp. 14-15

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The Creature’s Murderous Hatred for the Creator

 

“Every sinner, if he could, would kill God, for he says in his heart, ‘No God.’  He means he wishes there were none.  He would be rejoiced indeed if he could learn for certain that there is no God.  In fact, that is the bugbear of his life, that there is a God, and a just God, who will bring him into judgment.  His secret wish is that there were no religion and no God, for he might then live as he pleased.”

 

Charles H. Spurgeon

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

Vol. 21, 1875, p. 344.

 

I find it remarkable indeed how precisely Spurgeon described the attitude expressed, for example, in the persistently popular song “Imagine” by the late ex-Beatle John Lennon, which says, in part,

 

“Imagine there’s no Heaven

It’s easy if you try

No Hell below us

Above us only sky”

 

“Imagine there’s no country

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill and die for

And no religion, too”

 

Spurgeon read perfectly well the darkest recesses of the human heart, and Lennon publicly displayed those corruptions, unwittingly demonstrating that Spurgeon was exactly right.  (See our analysis of this theme song of spiritual anarchy--and political tyranny--in As I See It, 4:11). 

 

Since Eden, fallen mankind, like Satan before it, has wanted to dethrone God and enthrone itself--“you shall be as God” has a remarkable allure to the human heart--elevating itself to complete autonomy and sovereignty over its little universe, with a corresponding spiritual anarchy that admits of no restraint upon its evil will.  And therein is the inherent “draw” of Darwinism to the fallen soul of man--it gives him an excuse, however groundless, to exclude God from his reasonings (Romans 1:28).

 

There is an expanded “paraphrase” in the old Palestinian Aramaic Targum to Genesis (dating to the earliest centuries A. D.), wherein the paraphrast puts into the mouth of Cain, after the Divine rejection of his self-willed sacrifice, an expression of this very attitude of contempt for God, spiritual atheism and self-serving anarchy:

 

And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out into the field.”  And it happened that when they were in the field, Cain spoke up and said to his brother, “I used to think that the world was created in mercy, but I see that it is not governed in accordance with the merit of good works.  There is no future judgment, and no Judge, and no future state where good rewards shall be given to the righteous, or punishment meted out on the wicked.”

 

 (See the commentaries of John Gill or Adam Clark at Genesis 4:8 for Abel’s contrary assertion, and other particulars in the Palestinian Targum here).  What Cain is here imagined to have said, in fact is the deepest hope of most of humanity to this present hour--no God, no judgment, no restraint. 

 

This all brings into clear relief the sign I once saw posted in the office of a church building maintenance manager.  That sign, much more profound that it may at first notice seem, said, “There are two, and only two, things which you must understand: First, yes, there is a God.  And second, no, you are not Him.”  Oh how by nature we hate that second truth, and by whatever means necessary try to convince ourselves that it is not so.

---Doug Kutilek

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William Carey Prayed Here

 

In early February, I visited the village of Moulton in the English Midlands, about an hour (or two or three, depending on traffic) north of London.  There is no great cathedral there, nor was it the site of a famous battle.  It is not a seat of learning and has no natural wonders to fill the visitor’s gaze.  The village has by zoning control been preserved and maintained more or less in an 18th century style of architecture, and the visitor, as it were, steps back in time more than two centuries when he enters.  And that is perfectly fine with us, because we are here to visit the site of some remarkable events--not as the world would view them, but as a Christian would--which transpired in the 1780s.

 

From 1785 to 1789, the small and struggling Baptist church near the village’s edge was led by a rather short, virtually bald (though just in his mid-20s) pastor who had no formal college or university training, and who struggled to provide for a growing family on a meager salary, which he supplemented by working with leather cobbling shoes, and running a small school (a mere 3 or 4 students).  Though born and raised in obscurity in a nearby village, this young man had been touched by God, was born again to new life in Christ and had associated himself with the Baptists, because of his conviction that the Bible required baptism be for believers and by immersion.  That young man: William Carey (1761-1834).

 

Carey was a great reader of travel books, particularly those of Captain Cook who on his various sea voyages discovered new and exotic lands, with strange animals, geologic wonders, but especially new peoples who spoke unrecorded languages and, most importantly from Carey’s perspective, neither knew God nor had the knowledge of the Gospel.  As Carey read his Bible, and read Cook, he came to understand his personal responsibility to do all he could to take the Gospel message to these still in darkness.  Carey made his own paper wall map of the world, and as each new land and people came to his knowledge, he added to his map the location and the principle products of each land, and the total numbers of souls, recording their spiritual state--“Romanists” and more often “pagans.” 

 

As he worked his leather, he prayed repeatedly and regularly over the map, and his burden grew deeper and more intense.  As he instructed his handful of pupils about world geography, he wept over the peoples of this land and that, noting their multitudes and lamenting, “and they are pagans!  Pagans!”  And he studied languages--Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Dutch, and more.  Without teacher, without assistance, without much encouragement he labored in the languages (one Baptist businessman, Thomas Gotch, did “subsidize” Carey so he could spent less time at a trade and more time in his language study.  Oh, for more such far-seeing men today!).  He was a man driven.

 

Carey sought to instill in other Baptist pastors’ hearts the burden for these pagans that God had laid on his own soul, but he was met with cold discouragement.  Some, on the basis of certain theological presuppositions, dismissed his calls for action as unnecessary since God in His sovereignty would tend to the matter.  Others dismissed the task as too large and too idealistic, and besides, who were they to undertake it?  But Carey would not let the matter rest.  After repeated rebuffs and delays, finally, a Baptist missionary society was formed in 1792.  Now if they could just find some missionaries to send!  Carey proposed himself, and sailed for India, where he exhausted himself in 31 years of continuous labor’s for the Gospel’s sake, and in the process became recognized as the world’s greatest linguist of that era.  But back to Moulton.

 

The Baptist church in Moulton persists to this hour.  The present structure yet includes some walls which existed in Carey’s day, with later additions and alterations.  And nearby is the parsonage, the stone street-facing rowhouse where Carey and his family lived; along one side is the room, perhaps not more than 15 by 7 feet, with a low ceiling of just 6 and a half feet, where Carey cobbled, instructed his charges, and prayed.  The water trough where Carey soaked his leather before working it is still there, white-washed.  The open beams of the ceiling are present--many a devout heart-cry of intercession rose past these beams from Carey’s lips to the ear of God, as Carey wept over the pagans of this world.  Carey’s workbench, some period leather tools and leather scraps found beneath the house’s floorboards, his pulpit, and the church minute book, with Carey’s notes in a beautiful and highly legible hand, are on display here, along with other memorabilia of this life which, under God, transformed forever the spiritual landscape of this world.

 

An obscure and outwardly unimpressive cobbler, without formal training, without money or influence in the world, and even viewed by his closest ministerial colleagues as an unrealistic visionary, such was young William Carey.  Yet he prayed and listened to the voice of God.  In this small, narrow room, which did triple duty as a cobbler’s shop, a school room, and a pastor’s prayer closet, William Carey prayed, and prayed with intensity and fervency, and see what God did!  Here William Carey prayed.

---Doug Kutilek

 

(Carey Baptist Church is currently pastored by Rev. David J. Gamston, a knowledgeable, outgoing and energetic man of an excellent spirit.  He welcomed us--unknown and unannounced though we were--and gave us a full tour of the church and workshop/museum; the house we did not get to see, since it is currently rented by a couple.  Pastor Gamston has a heart for the people of Moulton, and has in his seven years as pastor seen the church slowly come to life after a quarter century of lethargy without a single baptism.  May God prosper this ministry in Moulton.

 

For those who wish to read about Carey, his life and labors, we very highly recommend William Carey by Samuel Pearce Carey (413 pp.).  Originally printed in the 1920s, it was reprinted in 1993 by Wakefield Trust, London.  We reviewed and excerpted this great biography in As I See It 1:10.  Also of merit, is William Carey by Paul Pease.  Day One Publications, 2005.  This heavily illustrated 128 book is virtually a travel guide to the life of Carey, showing among many other things, the Moulton church and parsonage, plus scenes and places in India.  Brief enough to be read in an hour, it is full of information.  It is part of a series of such guidebooks, edited by Brian H. Edwards, and so far also cover John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, John Knox and others).

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Awards Shows Ad Infinitum

 

By this time each year, the public should be suffering from “Award show burnout.”  After all, just how many times must the entertainment industry celebs congregate to slobber all over each other with mutually laudatory, ego-stroking accolades, especially for this year’s awardees, of however dubious merit? (while the losers are also secretly being consumed by that green-eyed monster Envy).  It all starts in January, with an endless and annually growing torrent of such confabs--the People’s Choice Awards (I chose not to vote or watch--do they give an award for that?), the Critics’ Choice Awards (they didn’t ask for my opinion), the Golden Globes (suitably made of mere pot metal with a superficial glitzy veneer), the Academy Awards, the NAACP “Image” Awards, the primetime Emmys, the day-time Emmys, and blah-blah-blah ad nauseum.  Each show is hyped for days in advance, then on the “big night” interviewers fawn over the same old array of shop worn faces and shameless displays of bodies (revealing even more clearly empty, hollow souls) parading into whatever the venue happens to be, followed by the media talking heads spewing endless drivel about who won what, who wore what, who said what the day after, as though it actually mattered.  Is it just me, or does anyone else find this so unspeakably dull, and as far from “entertainment” by almost any reasonable definition, as watching golf tournament reruns?

---Doug Kutilek

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A Jehovah’s Witness at the Door

 

I was in my basement study one Monday morning preparing for my afternoon lectures in Greek and Bible exposition.  Though at some distance from the front door, I distinctly heard a knock (usually the dog barking is my notice that someone has come to the door, but not this day).  Since it was about the time that the postman comes by, I imagined that it was she, with some parcel too big for the roadside mailbox.

 

But no, as I opened the door, I discovered a well-groomed elderly woman, surely in her upper 60s, maybe lower 70s.  I knew immediately from the literature in her hand that she was an agent of “The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society,” a.k.a. the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

 

She opened the conversation with some casual pleasantry.  I decided to get to the heart of the matter right away.  “I worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and God, just as Thomas did in John 20:28,” I plainly stated.

 

“We believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” she replied.

 

“But you don’t believe He is God, equal with the Father, and that is a grave mistake.  Your own Watchtower Bibles declare that He is God--in John 5:22-23, it states, ‘For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.’ [New World Translation].  If you honor the Father as God the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, then this verse says you must give precisely the same honor to the Son.  And the Son could only deserve such equal honor with the Father if He were in fact God Himself.  To worship an angel or created being with the same honor given God the Father would be blasphemy and idolatry.”

 

She was a bit taken back by my bold assertion. 

 

I continued, “And just who do angels worship?” I asked her.

 

“Well, God of course!” she immediately replied.

 

“That’s right, just as we learn from Revelation 22 when John was overwhelmed by all he had been shown, and ‘fell down to worship before the feet of the angel that had been showing’ him these things. [Revelation 22:8, NWT].  The angel immediately rebuked John, saying ‘Be careful!  Do not do that!  All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll.  Worship God.’  

 

“Now, over in Hebrews 1:6, we see something very interesting on this same subject.  God the Father is giving instruction to His angels: ‘But when he again brings his First-born into the inhabited earth, he says, “And let all of God’s angels worship him.” ‘ [NWT].  Here, then, God Himself commands the angels to worship the Son--the Father must think the Son is God, too!”

 

And I didn’t let up.  “In your own The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures [published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in 1969], it tells us in John 8:58 that Jesus is the “I am,” that is, God who appeared to Moses in Exodus 3.  Sure, the English translation has ‘before Abraham came into existence, I have been’ with some convoluted explanation in the footnote, but the Greek, as you can see for yourself says ‘I am.’  And the Emphatic Diglott [a parallel inter-linear Greek and English edition], published by the Watchtower in 1942, also has ‘I am’ as the literal translation of the Greek--and in it’s English, it gives “I am he.”

 

“And then, of course, there is John 1:1 where the Word is identified as God, with a capital ‘G,’ not ‘a god,’ small ‘g.’  I am a seminary Greek professor--in fact, I have a class to teach in a couple of hours, and I can say with certainty, that no one who really knows Greek would ever translate John 1:1 the way the NWT does.”

 

“So, even your own Watchtower translation tells you that Jesus is God, that He is to be honored as God and worshipped as God.  The problem is that you have been led astray by those you thought you could trust.  Don’t believe the Watchtower literature--believe what the Bible says.  Worship Jesus as God.”

 

Somehow, she had no time to speak with me further just then.  I invited her to come back, and she said she would.  She hurried back to the car and has not returned.  May the Holy Spirit cut through the layers of lies this woman has sincerely believed, and may she fall at the feet of Jesus, worshipping Him in truth as both Lord and God.

---Doug Kutilek

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Which Bible--For Today?

 

“Greetings from Australia,

 

I would like to ask you a simple question.  Would you list what you consider to be the top three current translations?  I would like you to also give me a simple, easily understood reason for your selections.

 

I am teaching a college level class on this subject and would like to present your information.

 

Thanks,

 

T. S.”

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Mr. S.--

 

Let me make it FOUR rather than THREE versions.  Those I would recommend for regular use today are: the New American Standard Bible (updated edition), English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Version, and the New International Version (original edition, not the “Readers NIV” [rNIV] which is greatly “simplified” or “dumbed-down,” nor “Today’s NIV [TNIV] which is corrupted by “gender-neutral” shenanigans).

 

I have read the entire Bible in the NASB (original edition) and NIV, and all of the NT with significant portions of the OT in the ESV and HCSB.  I have published reviews of both the ESV [As I See It, 6:6] and the HCSB [The Biblical Evangelist, July-August 2006, vol. 37, no. 4., pp. 3-4.].

 

I would recommend all of them as having been done by teams of professed inerrantist Bible scholars with the requisite language skills to produce accurate and trustworthy versions.

 

And I would recommend all four of these for following in the NT Greek texts that take into account the findings of the past 400 years in the study of NT textual criticism, and abandon the unjustifiable readings that are in the KJV and which were left to stand in the NKJB.  While it is true that the differences in printed Greek texts do not at all affect theology, and infrequently affect the meaning of a specific passage, I think it is important that we follow as far as we are able the form of NT text which most closely approaches to the original writings.  E. H. Plumtre (in the article “Version, Authorized” in the mid-19th century Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by H. B. Hackett, vol. IV, p. 3,443) correctly described the absurdity of printing as Scripture what are demonstrably false, non-original readings: “It is clear, on principle, that no revision ought to ignore the results of the textual criticism of the last hundred years.  To shrink from noticing any variation, to go on printing as the inspired Word that which there is a preponderant reason for believing to be interpolation [i.e., insertion] or a [scribal] mistake, is neither honest nor reverential.  To do so for the sake of greater edification is simply to offer to God the unclean sacrifice of a lie.”

 

I would recommend the NASB and ESV for being essentially "literal" versions into mostly contemporary English (with some minor exceptions where archaic language is retained--see my review of the ESV).  And I would recommend the HCSB for being a mostly literal version, but with a bit more eye to readability. 

And I would recommend the NIV as being the most readable of the 4, but with a sufficiently literal rendering (with a few, to me, maddening exceptions) that it remains useful in close and careful study.

 

While each of these is susceptible of improvements in clarity, style, and accuracy, every one of them is far better than the KJV for communicating to 21st century English speakers the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek.

 

And all four are likely to be around for the longer term, with periodic updatings likely (all or nearly all have standing committees assigned the task of making necessary improvements in style or accuracy in the future).

 

As for specific editions--I prefer a Bible translation with the text divided up into logical paragraphs (not individual verses as the KJV, NKJB and most editions of the original NASB, as well as the updated version), with a good system of cross-references and alternate renderings in the margin, the words of Christ in red, a basic concordance and a few maps.  I do not use a reference study Bible of any sort, such as Scofield, Ryrie, MacArthur, Geneva, Lindsell, etc., etc., since I had to unlearn a great many details and interpretations I first got from Scofield as a Bible college student in the 1970s.  Text only, please.

 

Doug Kutilek 

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BOOK REVIEW

 

The South to Posterity: an Introduction to the Writing of Confederate History by Douglas Southall Freeman.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1939, 1951.  Reprint 1983.  235 pp., hardback.

 

When invited to give a talk at a small Alabama college on literature regarding the Southern Confederacy and the Civil War, Douglas Southall Freeman, editor of the Richmond (Virginia) News-Leader and Pulitzer Prize-winning author for his masterful 4-volume biography of Robert E. Lee (1935) perhaps did not understand all that was expected of him.  He agreed to come, and then discovered that he was expected to give five lectures, and the lectures were to be written out for publication, a far more arduous task than simply giving informal talks.  And just then, deep in the research for and writing of his three-volume work, Lee’s Lieutenants, he could scarcely spare the time and trouble.  Nevertheless, Freeman fulfilled his obligation, and in his always conscientious manner, gave great attention to the manuscript to be published, taking great care to get his facts straight. 

 

The resulting volume, The South to Posterity, has become a classic.  From his vast store of reading and knowledge, Freeman gleans the best from all the literature--histories, biographies, diaries, official reports, anecdotal accounts, treatments of single battles or campaigns and special topics--written about the South and the Civil War, and lays before the reader an accounting of these recommendations.  Because of Freeman’s expertise, this book has been recognized as authoritative, and anyone interested in reading about the American Civil War will do himself great service by beginning with Freeman’s recommendations.  True enough, a great deal has been written, some of it most excellent (and not a little of it trash at best), in the 60-plus years since Freeman lectured in Alabama, but few of the titles Freeman recommends have been superseded, or at least substantially bettered, and I can say from experience that all of those I have read from Freeman’s list can be given enthusiastic recommendation. 

 

The lectures are most interesting and readable--chatty, informative and lively.  The more recent work, Writing the Civil War, edited by James M.  McPherson and William J. Cooper, Jr., which covers much the same ground but a half-century more up-to-date, is exceedingly tedious and in fact often almost unreadable, it is so bogged down in minutiae (reviewed in AISI 4:2).

 

Should you ever find The South to Posterity for sale, buy it at once.

---Doug Kutilek

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By Permission of Heaven: the Story of the Great Fire of London by Adrian Tinniswood.  London: Jonathan Cape, 2003.  339 pp., hardback.

 

In the millennia-long history of the English metropolis of London, likely the single most traumatic, city-altering event was the Great Fire of London of September 1666.  At the time, the total area of London proper--within the city walls--was about 677 acres (just over a square mile) with some 80,000 inhabitants.  About 300,000 in all lived in “greater London”--inside and outside the city.  London was then Europe’s third most populace city, coming behind only Constantinople and Paris.

 

The fire began very early on a Sunday morning in a bakery not far from the London Bridge, and burned from that point chiefly west and north (but also, more slowly, to the east) through the densely packed neighborhoods of London hovels, houses, businesses and churches until contained on Thursday.  A particularly dry summer readied the city to tinder-dryness, and a persistent blustery east wind that came up just as the fire commenced combined to create the massive disaster that resulted.

 

At first, the fire seemed confined to a single street or two, and little was done immediately to extinguish it--a thing customarily accomplished by pulling down houses in a fire’s path, to prevent it from spreading further.  However, lack of timely action let the fire grow and spread until three-fourths of the heart of London (373 acres within the walls, another 63 outside) was incinerated, including some 13,000 dwellings (a testimony to how densely packed were the dwellings) plus innumerable shops and businesses.  Some 70,000 Londoners were made homeless by the fire.  Dozens of churches, including St. Paul’s, a London landmark for more than a millennium, were destroyed, many of which were never rebuilt.  The lead in the roof of St. Paul’s melted from the heat and ran like water down the streets.  London printers and publishers lost an estimated 150,000-200,000 British pounds’ worth of books in the fire (in a day when a man could live for year on just 10 pounds or less!).  Also apparently destroyed in the conflagration was the original translators’ manuscript of the King James Version of the Bible.  Remarkably, deaths from the fire numbered less than 10.

 

This was not London’s first disaster, nor its first major fire.  Just the previous year, 1665, the Great London Plague, had killed about a fifth of the city’s inhabitants (after the fire, there was no more plague epidemic, though a direct cause and effect is hard to trace).  In 1633, a fire destroyed some 80 buildings in the same general area where the 1666 fire began.  And much earlier, there was a previous “great London fire” in 1212 A.D.

 

After the fire, relief supplies were spontaneously sent to the city from all over the country and even from foreign lands.  There were claims and counterclaims regarding insured losses, including not a few fraudulent claims and bogus applications for government relief (shades of New Orleans, 2005), and lengthy “battles” over rebuilding plans, some relatively straightforward, others rather grandiose.  It was years, even decades, before the rebuilding was complete.  One thing the people did not do was sit around and wait for the government to “take care of them”; there was none of the ingrained mentality of idle dependence so widely demonstrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

 

The year date 1666 (with that “666” too inviting to pass up) had already provoked astrologers and professional prognosticators to publish in their annual almanacs dire predictions for the year, though none foretold a September fire or anything like it; the plague year preceding made gloom and doom prophesying rather inviting. 

 

Beginning the day the blaze began, conspiracy rumors flew about the city, variously blaming the fire (or a series of arsons, as it often was told) on the Dutch or the French (with both of whom the British were then at war on the seas), or Romanists (restored Stuart monarch Charles II was widely--and justifiably--believed to be a secret Catholic), or Jews or other foreigners.  One man made an obviously bogus confession of having started the fire and in spite of his known innocence was soon hanged.

 

This account of the Great London Fire set me to thinking about other great city disasters, some natural, some man-made, with some cities rebuilt, others left perpetually in ruins, and the lessons learnable from each--Carthage, 146 B.C. (destroyed by Romans); Jerusalem, 70 A. D., 135 A. D. (destroyed by the Romans); Pompeii and Herculaneum, 79 A.D. (volcano); Chicago, 1871 A.D. (fire); Charleston, South Carolina, 1886 A.D. (earthquake); San Francisco, 1906 A. D. (earthquake and fire); Tokyo, World War II (fire-bombing); Dresden, 1945 A.D. (fire-bombing); Hiroshima and Nagasaki, August 1945 A.D. (atomic bombs); New York City, 2001 A. D. (terrorist attack); New Orleans, 2005 A. D.(hurricane). Of those identifiable as “natural” disasters, human activity--chiefly building in harm’s way-- invited disaster.  Of all these, only in the case of New Orleans did survivors largely wait idly for someone else to “fix” their problem. 

 

Tinniswood’s book, one among numerous accounts of the Great London Fire, is informative, well-illustrated (including maps), and generally readable (though with the usual obscurities involved for an American reading British history).

---Doug Kutilek

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