"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 10, Number 9, September 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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The Unpardonable Sin

 

“The sin against the Holy Ghost [Matthew 12:31, 32] seems evidently to include in it a willful, deliberate, and contemptuous rejection of Christ in opposition to the clearest convictions of our own minds; and there is every reason to believe that this sin has often been committed.”

Charles Simeon (1759-1836)

Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, (Baker, 1955)

Vol. 13, p. 145

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The Imperative of Immediate Belief

 

“There are some of you standing in these aisles and sitting in these pews, who I feel in my soul will never have another invitation, and if this be rejected today, I feel a solemn motion in my soul--I think it is of the Holy Ghost--that you will never hear another faithful sermon, but you shall go down to hell impenitent, unsaved, except ye trust in Jesus now.  I speak not as a man, but I speak as God’s ambassador to your souls, and I command you, in God’s name, trust Jesus, trust now.  At your peril reject the voice that speaks from heaven, for ‘he that believeth not shall be damned.’  How shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?  When it comes right home to you, when it thrusts itself in your way, oh, if ye will neglect it how can ye escape?  With tears I would invite you, and, if I could, would compel you to come in.  Why will ye not?  O souls, if ye will be damned, if ye make up your mind that no mercy shall ever woo you, and no warnings shall ever move you, then, sirs, what chains of vengeance must you feel that slight these bonds of love.  You have deserved the deepest hell, for you slight the joys above.  God save you. He will save you, if you trust in Jesus.  God help you to trust him even now, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

Vol. VIII (1862), p. 564

(italics in original)

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“Set Up” or “Cast Down”?

The interpretation of Daniel 7:9

 

“Hey, Doug--

 

Thanks for your AISI.

I just have one question that you can help me with.

I was looking at Daniel 7:9 where the KJV says: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.”

NIV: “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”


Most, if not all, scholars agree with the NIV version.  I was just wondering if there was any room for KJV onlyists to argue (based on the Aramaic) that it could be ‘cast down.’  Or do we know it means ‘set in place’?  Any help will be grateful.

God bless,
R---“

---

 

Dear R---

 

The word in question is *rema’--a fairly common Aramaic verb, both in the brief Aramaic portion of the OT and in Aramaic writings outside the OT.  In this particular stem (the peil, a passive) the word occurs both here and Dan. 3:21, there with reference to the three men thrown into the fire.  And although the primary root meaning of the word is “throw, cast,” it can also mean “set in place,” as it is in fact used in Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation of Jeremiah 1:15, of chairs/ thrones being put in place.  So, either meaning is possible, the determining factor being context alone.  (It should be noted that there is in the Aramaic text no definite article “the” in the phrase “the thrones were cast down,” rather, it is literally simply “thrones” / “chairs” rather than “the thrones,” which article might be interpreted, if present, as an “anaphoric use of the article,” referring back to a previously mentioned object in the context). 

 

The KJV rendering seems to follow the lead of some medieval Jewish interpreters.  In contrast, both the LXX and the Theodotian Greek versions translated the word “set in place” as does the Latin Vulgate and also the Peshitta Syriac, among ancient versions.  Of Reformation and Post-Reformation versions, Luther’s German (1534, 1545) and the Geneva English (1560) give the meaning “set up,” as does Ostervald’s 18th century French version.  The Reina-Valera Spanish version (1602) has “chairs were brought” in the text, though in the margin it allows for the alternate translation “chairs were removed,” specifying those of the previously mentioned four monarchies (the 1909 and 1960 R-V revisions read “were put in place”).

 

For a discussion of the interpretation options here, see the commentary of Calvin on 7:9 (he opts for “set up”), that by John Gill (d. 1771), and that by James Montgomery, the “International Critical Commentary” volume on Daniel.

 

Doug Kutilek

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On Bruce M. Metzger Once Again

 

In our last issue, we reviewed the late Bruce M. Metzger’s autobiography, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian, and noted that in the body of the book, Metzger nowhere gave a testimony of a personal conversion experience, or of adherence to any of the foundational doctrines of the Bible (nor did he deny them there).  We noted that we were aware of individuals who testified of personal familiarity with Metzger and were persuaded of his genuine born-again state, through conversations, letters and such.  We are happy to report that we received additional anecdotal reports from readers supporting this conclusion, including the hearing of a sermon by Metzger in which he set forth in the clearest of Biblical language the way of salvation through faith in Christ, and of a seat companion on an airplane flight who had a direct conversation with Metzger about his beliefs, and was satisfied that his views were consistently evangelical.  We only wish that Metzger had been bold to openly declare his personal faith in his autobiography!

---Doug Kutilek

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Summer 2007, Post Mortem

 

I am aware that summer officially begins with the summer solstice (June 21 this year) and ends with the fall equinox (September 23 in 2007) and so the show isn’t over so to speak for this year for a couple more weeks; nevertheless, for all practical purposes, the months of June, July, and August, being the hottest in the year in Kansas and the rest of North America, are the real summer.  These, especially in the Great Plains, are characteristically months of weather extremes--the highest temperatures of the year, the most intense rainfalls (and, paradoxically, the longest periods without precipitation), the strongest storms, and often the highest wind velocities.  I have often remarked, only half in jest, that when new weathermen are hired by local TV stations here, they are instructed to use the word “extremely” with great frequency in their reporting, because whatever the weather here is, it is likely to be “extremely” so--hot, dry, wet, windy, foggy, cold, it matters not what.  And even when we have one of those rare days of collectively excellent conditions, this is extremely surprising!

 

All these potential weather variables often conspire to crush the plans and destroy the labors of the hope-filled backyard gardener and also the professional farmer.  And this year there seemed to be a conspiracy of monumental proportions.

 

First, there was the very droughty period beginning in March 2006 (and really reaching back to September 2005) and extending to mid-March 2007.  I spent a great amount of time in the summer of 2006 watering newly-planted trees as well as those planted in previous years--not to help them grow prolifically, but in desperation merely trying to keep them from dying.  2006 was by far the poorest growth year for trees I have ever witnessed anywhere at anytime, and I’ve been in the tree business for 40 years.

 

During the tree planting season, last November through early March, I regularly found the soil powder dry down a full 18 inches in the holes I dug and prepared, and an extraordinarily large quantity of water was needed to properly saturate the soil as each new tree was planted (and I planted 65).  We did receive occasional winter rains and snows which helped alleviate the dryness to a degree. 

 

Ah, but the rains came in satisfying abundance in March.  The ground was well-watered down two and three feet and more into the subsoil, and everything sprang to life in response to this bounty of moisture--the wheat grew a foot tall and more in a matter weeks, putting forth the beginnings of heads.  All the flowering trees (fruit and ornamental) erupted into bloom and sent forth the first green leaves of a very promising spring.  The spring-flowering bulbs thrust their flowers up into the sunshine.  The early planted garden crops--onions, potatoes, cabbage and broccoli--set themselves to growing and all seemed poised for a year to remember.  The average last frost date here is April 11, and we were almost there, and even if we did catch a late frost, only the fruit tree blossoms were in any real danger, or some tomatoes that were set out too early by some overly enthusiastic gardener.

 

But the day before Easter, the temperature dropped into the low 20s--potentially very damaging.  But Easter morning, April 8, the temperature over a large section of mid-Kansas fell to record-shattering lows in the teens.  Devastating.  A lesser frost on April 15th added to the damage.  Almost every blossom on every fruiting tree and shrub was destroyed, even on such late-flowerers as apples (strangely, only the gooseberries, already in full leaf, showed not the least spot of blackening or loss of fruit.  I cannot even suggest an explanation).  The potatoes were blackened back to ground level.  Onions were decimated.  Cabbage,--as cold-hardy a plant as there is--though covered with 3 inches of straw as frost protection, was stunned.  And the wheat was practically annihilated--leaves blackened, developing heads destroyed.  And all the new growth on all the trees was burned back and killed.  Back to square one.

 

The garden onions never recovered--out of 200 plants, not more than 2 or 3 reached normal size.  The rest were nearly all the diameter of quarters at best, if they survived at all.  The potatoes, both whites and reds, resprouted, but the whites produced so poorly and the tubers were of such low quality as to make them not worth the trouble digging; the reds did make a commendable showing somehow, though far below their potential.

 

Some farmers cut their damaged wheat for hay (the best choice, as the train of subsequent events would reveal) and planted the ground to something else--beans, corn or milo.  Others left the wheat in the field, hoping against hope to at least get something from it.

 

Once the rains in March began, they continued in April, and May, and June, and into the first week of July.  Pouring rains, torrential rains, ceaseless rains.  And destructive rains.  Many wheat fields became and stayed so wet that no attempt was ever made to harvest them.  The farmers merely burned them off as a total loss.  Those fields which were cut (perhaps 40%-50% of the planted acres in the county) yielded poorly--10-15 bushels per acre (35-45 b.p.a. are considered average); what wheat there was was so poor in quality as to be unfit for anything except livestock feed.  They say wheat has nine lives--capable of surviving drought, rains, wind, frost, even hail--but this year, it used up all nine.  The loss to local farmers ran into the millions of dollars.

 

The rains did make possible the growing of first-rate dryland corn in south central Kansas--always a very “iffy” proposition.  Those who got soybeans and milo planted between the rainstorms in May were also rewarded with excellent crops (at least as of this writing; it isn’t a “good crop” until it’s in the bin).  And even late beans planted in the burned off wheat fields should make a respectable crop.

 

The rains naturally stimulated the growth of grass, as well as long-dormant weed seeds, and by keeping the ground too soppy to mow for days and weeks at a time, meant that mowing became a huge and difficult task that was almost impossible to keep up with.  I never did get one particularly damp patch tamed--unmown for three months now, it sports giant ragweed and other plants towering 6-7 feet.  And oh the frustration--crabgrass and foxtail grew seemingly everywhere, though they were hardly noticeable in previous years; neither adds to lawn or pasture “esthetics.”  Crabgrass cannot be mowed so as to look acceptable by any technique or machine known to man.  And foxtail, though it can be cut, nevertheless manages within 24 hours of being cut to send up the seed stalks that give it its name and ragged appearance.

 

To my utter surprise, some species of trees seemed to recover remarkably well from the devastating frosts of April and put out prodigious growth.  Chief among such were my many Osage orange / “hedge” trees which nearly all grew 4 feet or more this year (making up for last year’s poor production of a foot or less; 3 feet is about average here).  Far exceeding my lowered expectations as of mid-April.

 

One side benefit of the excessive rains was the suppression of summer temperatures.  In over 130 years of weather records, Wichita has never gone through a summer without hitting 100 or more at least twice (the record is 53 such days, in 1980).  We passed July 28, the latest previous date, without hitting 100.  Could this be the first summer without 100? 

 

What was I thinking?  This is Kansas!  The heat set in with a vengeance (in part in response to the ceasing of the rains in early July, and the drying out of everything).  Relentless heat and drought--at least here.  Tomatoes, prospering in the rainy weather, were scalded and ruined by the heat; cantaloupes and squash that looked fine just days before were shriveled, in spite of frequent hand-watering.  Other plants held on by their fingernails, waiting expectantly for the cooler and wetter days of September and October.  Even the heat-loving sweet potatoes looked quite a bit worse for the wear (but they should come through okay, as they almost always do).  Only the okra seemed to not notice the heat (but just how much okra can you eat?). 

 

Perhaps the heat of summer here seemed worse to me this year since I haven’t spent a whole summer in Kansas since 1992--I’ve regularly spent at least 2 weeks in Romania, usually at summer camp, and always in July or August.  And last year, I spent an additional week each in Minnesota and Arizona away from home as well (though a week in the summer in Phoenix is worse than two months of the same in Wichita).  Even so, the heat became to me, as it nearly always does, not just physically exhausting but mentally oppressive, sapping all motivation and energy, all will and desire to do much of anything.  It cannot end soon enough to satisfy me.

 

Having done its best to go to all possible extremes, summer 2007departed in silent mockery on August 31.  That day was, in bizarre and remarkable fashion, a perfectly “average” August 31--the average high and low for the date are 88 and 65, respectively.  And those were precisely the official high and the official low at the Wichita airport office of the United States Weather Bureau of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

Even now, and all contrary to what this year’s experience might seem to teach, the farmers are busily tilling their fields, and some have already begun planting next year’s wheat crop.  And even I have been preparing scattered portions of the garden, working under crop residue, adding organic matter and spreading rock minerals.  In spite of bad, even nightmarish recent experience, hope springs eternal.  I’ll no doubt plant another garden next spring, as I have every year for decades.  And I’ll once again expect it to be “the best ever.”

---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Ugarit and the Old Testament by Peter C. Craigie.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1983.

 

Ugarit, an ancient 2nd-millennium B. C. city and civilization on the Mediterranean coast of Syria directly opposite the eastern tip of Cyprus, is never mentioned in the OT, yet its importance for OT studies is second in the past 100 years only to the Dead Sea Scrolls.  When excavations first began in 1929 (they have continued with brief interludes ever since) on this 50+ acre tell (mound of ruins), “Ugarit” was merely a name known from Akkadian documents.  What the archaeologists’ spades would uncover would revolutionize OT studies in several ways.

 

First, a previously unknown minor kingdom was revealed.  The city proper, with an estimated 6-7,000 residents, ruled a territory of more than 1,000 square miles, home to some 25,000 inhabitants.  Due to its location, the economy of the kingdom involved extensive agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, and extensive international trade, by land and especially by sea.  Though several centuries older in its founding (circa 1860 B. C. ), the kingdom greatly flourished for nearly 2 centuries, from circa 1360 B. C. until 1180 B. C., or contemporary with the first 2/3s of the period of the Judges in Israel (over 200 miles to the south).  The city-state was by turns allied with Egypt, but especially the closer Hittite empire in central Anatolia.  The culture and customs, social, political, religious and economic, are of great importance for illuminating the general background of the OT. 

 

Linguistically, the city was multilingual (as evidenced from the thousands of written clay tablets unearthed there), with writings in Akkadian (international documents), Egyptian (a relative few), Cypriot, Hittite, Hurrian (Biblical “Horite,” a little understood language of the Mitanni empire), but especially a hitherto unknown language, now dubbed “Ugaritic.”  Ugaritic, written in a unique cuneiform alphabet (perhaps patterned after the earliest Phoenician alphabet) of 30 letters, was quickly deciphered and discovered to be clearly in the Northwest Semitic group of languages, most closely related to Phoenician, Canaanite/ Hebrew, and Old Aramaic, but unlike them, written (as with Akkadian) left to right, rather than the right to left practice of Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic. 

 

And here, linguistically, Ugaritic casts much light on the OT.  Because there are many hundreds of OT words that occur just once or twice or a few times, with insufficient context to fully clarify their meaning, we are dependent in part on related, cognate words in other Semitic languages to fully understand their sense.  In Ugaritic there are many words related to OT Hebrew words, and in some cases these give valuable insight into their meanings in the OT.  For example, the cultic language of Ugaritic pagan worship of Baal, El, Dagan, Astarte and other gods (agreeing with the OT’s description of such) is linguistically similar to that of the worship of Yahweh in Scripture, showing that the vocabulary of sacrifice of Leviticus and higher criticism’s fictitious “P” document (imagined by critics to be as late as circa 400 B. C. in date) find their closest linguistic parallels a full millennium earlier, that is, in the very time frame claimed in the OT for their writing. 

 

Furthermore, much of the Ugaritic literature is written as poetry, in a form often similar in style to that of OT poetry, especially the Psalms (particularly in the use of parallelism, but also in vocabulary and imagery).  The result being that many of the Psalms, formerly ascribed by hyper-critics to poet-exilic times and even as late as the Maccabees, have been re-dated even by radical critics to much closer to their traditional Davidic and first temple period dates, certainly long before the Maccabees.

 

Besides the focus of the findings at Ugarit, there is also a chapter on (then) new discoveries, including Ebla, a 3rd millennium site, that in the 1970s yielded cuneiform texts in an ancient Semitic language/ dialect whose precise nature is still in dispute.  Extensive bibliographical references for further study are included.

 

Peter Craigie, English by birth and Anglican by religious affiliation, but educated in England, Scotland and Canada (the latter being where he spent his professional career) was a noted OT scholar of considerable competence until his death in 1985 at just 47 years of age (automobile crash).  Tremper Longman III’s Old Testament Commentary Survey (Baker, 1995.  2nd edition) lists more than half a dozen meritorious books written by Craigie (a sympathetic account of the life and labors of Craigie is to be found in Bible Interpreters of the 20th Century, edited by Walter A. Elwell, and J. D. Weaver [Baker, 1999], “Peter C. Craigie,” by Lyle Eslinger, pp. 411-422).  Craigie was a specialist in Ugaritic studies, and had published numerous scholarly articles in that area before publishing the book here under review.  The volume is “popular” as opposed to “technical” and is both highly informative and readable.  Generally “evangelical” in perspective, Craigie was a late-date Exodus adherent, and seems to have progressively embraced more closely higher critical views toward the end of his life, a fact reflected in several comments in this volume.

---Doug Kutilek

---

[Additional readily available information on Ugarit and Ugaritic can be found at “Ugarit” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman [Doubleday, 1992] (an extended, thorough and very technical article by several authors); International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley [Eerdmans, 1988] (the article, by an Italian author is tainted throughout by higher critical presuppositions); The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, edited by J. D. Douglas [IVP, 1980]; The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, edited by Merrill Tenney [Zondervan, 1975]; and The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary , edited by George A. Buttrick [Abingdon, 1962].]

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The Great Forest by Richard G. Lillard.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947.  399, xiv pp., hardback.

 

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love at least four things--God, my family, books, and trees (and in that order).  As a consequence of this last love--trees--I am constantly looking for worthwhile volumes that address the subject (back in AISI 2:4, I ran an article “Agriculture as a Means of Grace” about my interest in agriculture, including trees, where in I made mention of a number of valuable books on the subject; in AISI 5:10, “October,” I wrote of my admiration of hedge trees; in AISI 9:12, “December,” I sang the praises of eastern redcedar).  The present volume under review came to me, as do most of my books, used, via a local bookstore.  It is “ex-lib,” having been formerly part of the collection of the Wichita Public Library, but de-accessioned “1-6-86”; where it’s been for the past 21 years, I can only speculate.  But now it is mine.

 

Richard G. Lillard, about whom I know nothing otherwise, here traces the history of the American forest, from the coming of the white Europeans in the 16th century and later, up to the end of World War II.  It is a history of exploration, exploitation, despoliation, and ultimately conservation.

 

When the Europeans began to settle what ultimately became the United States, the forest was so vast that the common affirmation that a squirrel could have traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River without ever setting foot on the ground was only slightly hyperbolic (an estimated 95% of the land from the Atlantic to the Mississippi was forested, as was much beyond the river).  In the Europe from which the settlers came, the forests had long since been decimated (with devastating consequences for the soil and agriculture generally).  And what remained was as a matter of course locked up and reserved only for use by “the Crown.”  The wood and the game in the woods were “off limits” to the peasants, who could be and very often were prosecuted and severely punished for infringing on these reserves.  Not so in the New World; here, there was no shortage of wood or game, and all attempts by the Crown to impose European practices in this new circumstance met with derision, disobedience and rebellion.  The colonists had come here to get away from the European practice, with its rigid system of class privilege.

 

If anything, the vast American primeval forest was an obstacle, a hindrance to the new settlers.  They intended of necessity to farm, and it was impossible to raise crops (or livestock) as long as the trees dominated the land.  So the trees not needed for construction of houses, barns, fences, and various tools, implements and household goods, were destroyed wholesale: girdled, felled, piled and burned acre by acre (the thought of black walnut veneer-grade logs, worth easily $50,000 each in today’s market, being burned by the hundreds even thousands makes me cringe).  The stumps were plowed around until they eventually rotted into oblivion.

 

Besides the clearing of forest land to create farms, the American forests were heavily cut to provide wood for wood-starved Europe, especially spars for sailing ships, so important in war and commerce.  Even before the American Revolution, parts of New England were experiencing timber shortages (there was of course, inter alia, the constant demand for firewood by which to cook and heat; later the timber would be chiefly needed for the farms, towns, cities, and railroads of the rapidly-expanding American populace, as they moved west, eventually beyond the forests into the treeless plains).  But with reserves of standing timber so vast mile after endless mile inland to the west, there was not the least thought of conservation, or of reforestation.  When the soil, now exploited for agriculture, lost its fertility after a generation or two, the farmers merely relocated further west to a new virgin stand of timber and began all over again.  And again.  And again.  Until there was no more “again.”  The old worn out land reverted to weeds, brambles and forest, the latter almost always of inferior “weed” species of trees, far less valuable and useful than the species piled and incinerated generations earlier.

 

After New England’s forests had been exploited to the limit, the cut moved to the Great Lakes States in the post-Civil War era.  And when they were cut over, the epicenter of logging moved to the vast pineries of the South, and finally to the great conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest.

 

Somewhere along the way, around the end of the Civil War, men began to realize that even the great American forest, vast as it originally was, was not endless, and that if the nation was to enjoy the benefits and manifold uses of timber in the future, it was necessary to conserve (often, as much as 60% of a tree was “wasted” in the logging and lumbering process), reforest, and protect the growing woodlands from fire, insect, disease and man.  President Grant led Congress to set aside the Yellowstone region as a national park; succeeding presidents, especially Theodore Roosevelt, established numerous national forests and timber reserves, and conservation and reforestation began to be practiced on a wider scale.

 

Unlike the original cut-and-get-out timber magnates of the 19th century, companies and individuals with large woodland holdings began to recognize that their best interest was served, not by maximum immediate return, but by establishing practices which guaranteed a perpetual supply of trees for logging.  Trees are indeed an infinitely renewable resource, an agricultural crop with a long planting-to harvest cycle (the Forest Service is rightly part of the U. S. Department of Agriculture).

 

Lillard writes in an interesting manner of the life of the farmer settler, as he cleared his land, and of life in the lumbering camps of the North woods, of timber “barons” such as Weyerhauser, and of devastating forest fires, of attempts to unionize forest workers, and the beginnings of conservation. (The modern conservation perspective advocates wise use of forest resources, aiming toward endless perpetuation; preservation--the view at base of the “Green” and modern “environmentalist” movements--instead favors a return to the old European system, where the masses are shut out and prevented absolutely from using the resources in question; the “elites” would of course still have their privileges).  There are numerous suitable illustrations and photographs, and an extensive though very dated bibliography.

 

Developments since Lillard wrote his book just after World War II include the new discipline of “urban forestry,” a recognition that while city trees are of limited importance as sources of wood, yet they have great importance for temperature moderation, esthetics, air purification, sound suppression and wildlife habitat; at the same time, urban trees have special cultural problems caused by concrete, compacted soil, air pollution and more.  Likewise, the practice of total fire suppression in forests (“Remember, only YOU can prevent forest fires”)--a recurring theme in Lillard--is now recognized as misguided.  Minor and frequent ground fires help burn up excess “fuel” (downed branches, brush, etc.) before it accumulates to potentially catastrophic levels and such fires should often be allowed to do their necessary work, which in the longer term protects the forest from major fire.

 

There are economic, political, and spiritual lessons in this recounting of the fate and fortunes over time of the American forest.  First there is the recognition of man’s innate craving for immediate gratification (the writer of Hebrews speaks similarly of “the short-lived pleasures of sin,” 11:25).  This was evidenced in the cut-and-run exploitation of the vast woods by timber cutters large and small, with no view to longer term consequences.  All actions have consequences, on the individual who acts and on others.  Man lives not just for himself and not just for the present, but for his own future and that of others.  To abuse the forest, the soil, the water, the air, is an act of great selfishness and ultimate folly, and a violation of that greatest of ethical principles “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Man is not possessor of the land, no matter what his title deed, duly registered with the country clerk may say.  Man is but a steward, a trustee, and often an unfaithful one.  He holds the land (or whatever he owns) in trust, to be passed on, better or worse, to those who come after him.  What legacy shall he leave?  Shall future generations curse or commend his stewardship?

 

Devastated forests are invariably a sure path to national decline and often oblivion.  Ancient Greece of Homeric fame was heavily timbered; today it is mostly barren rocky hillsides and mountains--the trees were cut, the undergrowth badly overgrazed, and the topsoil eroded away, leaving perpetual desolation instead of productive land.  The same folly has been repeated in Sicily, Italy, Spain, Israel, the Levant, parts of China, sub-Saharan Africa, Romania and a hundred other places.  No once-great nation that lost in succession its forests, topsoil and agricultural base ever regained its former prominence.

 

In truth, in a concerted, conscientious, intelligent and informed approach to the growth and use of trees lies a solution, partial or complete, of many pressing problems of the age--whether it be in energy supplies, soil and water conservation, air pollution, the food supply, esthetics, unemployment, and more.

---Doug Kutilek

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Trees and Wisdom

 

“Men seldom plant trees till they begin to be wise, that is, till they grow old, and find, by experience, the prudence and necessity of it.”

John Evelyn (1620-1706)

Sylva (1664)

Cited in Trees: the Yearbook of Agriculture, 1949, p. vii

(Washington, D. C.: U. S. Department of Agriculture)

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