"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 16, Number 2, February 2013

 

“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

 

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 upon request.]

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part II

 

Man the Taker, Man the Exploiter

 

God provided man with a remarkably rich world to inhabit--abundant in edible plants (man and the animals all being originally vegetarian, Genesis 1:29) and land that could be agriculturally extremely productive when worked by human hands.  There were great expanses of fresh and salt water for human use and teaming with huge quantities of fish (Genesis 1:20-22).  The skies and the land supported vast numbers of birds, mammals and reptiles (Genesis 1:20-22, 24-25), some of which were suitable for domestication.  There were immense forests of thousands of distinct species of trees suitable for an endless list of uses (a list limited only by man’s ingenuity), to say nothing of the herbaceous plants, whose species number in the tens of thousands (Genesis 1:11, 12).   And the world was richly provided with minerals--in all, more than 100 separate elements, and untold compounds of those elements.  From these, man could refine metals, purify or create chemicals, and fabricate an endless number of objects for his material needs, comfort or whim.

 

Amidst the very hostile external environment of outer space, earth provided man and the other earth-bound creatures with a long series of defenses against what would otherwise be certain and immediate death from radiation, heat, cold or toxic substances.  Our dense gaseous atmosphere composed of a remarkable mix of elements and compounds shields us from the worst radiation, and moderates the earth’s temperature from extremes of hot and cold.  It also facilitates the essential water cycle of evaporation, transportation and precipitation without which nearly all of earth’s landmass would be completely uninhabitable.  Earth’s magnetic field provides a further shield against harmful solar radiation that would be detrimental to all life.

 

The highly productive world as it came into existence at God’s command was efficiently “solar-powered” for the greater part (through plant photosynthesis, and sun-generated weather patterns) and the supply of plants (and later animals) for human consumption and use as well as the supply of fresh water and useful minerals were potentially perpetually renewable for as long as man would dwell upon the earth.  Potentially.

 

Even though all of the original creation on earth’s surface was desolated and transformed by the year-long universal flood in the time of Noah, and no doubt much of its original diversity and richness was washed into the sea or buried in the mile of sediment that, on average, covers the surface of the planet, even so, the world of plants and animals that developed in the centuries afterward was still very diverse, very rich, and potentially very productive so that it might continue to meet every genuine, earthly human need.  And not only was the supernatural world of God’s creation rich and abundant, it was also extremely resilient--able to restore itself in short order even after the worst of calamities: tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, fires, earthquakes, droughts, meteor impacts, and even extensive human abuse of resources.

 

And just how has man conducted himself in his Divinely-appointed role as the earthly king over God’s productive creation?  Fallen man being fallen man--inherently selfish and extremely short-sighted--, he has left a rather dishonorable record on the whole as the steward of creation.  As with everything else that has fallen under human control and domination, man’s “stewardship” of the creation has often been characterized by short-term utilization--exploitation--with no thought or concern for either the immediate or the longer term consequences of his actions.  “Instant gratification” has been the driving motive far too often, to the immediate and longer term detriment of the environment, the squandering of natural resources, and subsequent human suffering from hunger, disease and deprivation.

 

In truth, a great deal of the history of human existence on earth is of Man as exploiter and plunderer--

--over-grazing, especially in the Middle East, but also in Greece, Romania, and America (to note but a few locations among the many that I have seen personally);

 

--soil “mining” by farming year after year once pristine soil without replacing the extracted soil nutrients until it will no longer yield a profitable crop, but is fit only to revert to weeds and scrub trees--or desert--, at which point the land wreckers move on to new virgin land and repeat the process, until there is no more new land;

 

--timber cutting of the worst kind, with much waste, severe damage to the forest’s capacity for natural regeneration, extreme loss of topsoil to erosion, degradation of the water supply and worse;

 

--mining, whether of coal, salt, precious stones, copper, lead and other metals and more, that leaves the landscape littered with mining debris, often creating strongly acidic conditions (which ruins water supplies), heavy metal residues and land ruined for any agricultural or forestry uses;

 

--metal smelting that leaves toxic metal residues for miles around;

 

--petroleum exploration, extraction, hauling and refining that can pollute the soil with oily residues and brine, pollute ground water, and poison the air. 

 

Then there has been the slaughter of wildlife--sometimes to near- or complete-extinction--for food, sale, or merely for “sport.”  These, and more, are part of man’s legacy as a sometime--often-time--selfish exploiter of earth’s resources, for immediate gain with no concern for long-term consequences.  Man seems to regularly “foul his own nest” in a very short time, while the process of reclamation and restoration, if undertaken at all, is considerably more time-consuming and expensive than prevention in the first place would have been.

 

Generally speaking, whenever there has been a present “surplus” of natural resources--water, fertile soil, timber, wildlife, fish, or whatever it might be--there has been little or no motive for humans to conserve or preserve present resources, since there seemed to always be “more where that came from.”  This was especially true in North America.  It took almost 300 years of continuous cutting of the native forests in New England, then the Great Lake States, the Southern pineries, and finally the beginning of the harvesting of the great conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest, before someone said “Wait a minute--at this rate, we’ll be running out of timber soon.” 

 

More than 200 years earlier Englishman John Evelyn (1620-1706) famously said, "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," (quoted from Trees: the Yearbook of Agriculture 1949, p. VII).  The time of that realization had finally come to the forests of North America.  Greater efficiency in utilization of forest products began to be practiced as well as replanting of cut-over land, stand improvement by thinning or removing undesirable species, sustainable harvesting, and other practices that led toward a permanent, renewable domestic wood supply.  (For an account of the abuse, over-use, and exploitation of our forests and the beginning of their conservation, see The Great Forest [1947] by Richard G. Lillard). 

 

One of the little-considered factors that led to a remarkable resurgence in the percentage of forested land in North America, especially in New England, was the development and wide-spread use, beginning in the latter half of the 19th century, of so-called “fossil fuels”--coal, oil and natural gas--as industrial and domestic fuels, thereby greatly diminishing the demand imposed on the forests to supply fuel in the form of wood.

 

Only as late as the 1890s was the first professional forester employed in the United States--Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), who got his training in Europe (where the timber shortage had been felt centuries before--see John Evelyn’s epic book Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-trees and the Propagation of Timber [1664] ), and was employed at Biltmore, the Vanderbilt estate in Asheville, North Carolina, where he and a sizeable crew of laborers worked for almost a decade to repair and improve the nearly 10,000 acres of forested land. 

 

And it was only after the great thundering herds of bison--originally numbering as many as 60, maybe even as many as 90 million animals--were reduced to perhaps as few as just 88 animals, did anyone seek to save them from extinction (and successful it has been--they now number between 450,000 and half a million).

 

In ancient Israel, the inheritance in land was “inalienable,” that is--the land could not be permanently sold, but at most “leased” for 50 years, at which point, the year of jubilee, the land would revert to the original owners.  Any sale or transfer of the land had to remain within the tribe, as in Boaz’s acquisition of the land of his deceased blood relative, Elimelech, as reported in Ruth.  It was a refusal to transfer land outside the family that led to Naboth’s judicial murder at the behest of Jezebel and her acquiescent husband Ahab (I Kings 21).  The fact of permanent possession of the land would have been a strong motive to be good stewards of the land, to preserve, protect, maintain and improve its fertility and agricultural productivity for the sake of the coming generations who would be directly dependent on it for their food, fuel and fiber.

 

In contrast, in originally land-rich North America, whenever the typically extractive farming practices exhausted the soil (a matter of a few decades, at most), the owners could simply pack up and mover further west--to New York and Pennsylvania, then the Northwest territory, then across the Mississippi River to the prairies and the Great Plains, at which point--again nearly three centuries since the first European immigrant farmers worked the soil of the North America--did anyone realize that there was no more new land to move to, and stewardship of what we had was essential (for an instructive account of pioneering American agriculture, see  A Long, Deep Furrow: Three Centuries of Farming in New England [1976] by Howard S. Russell).  The utter ruin of the soil that characterized much of the land in the deep South where cotton was “king” (and the cause of much of the devastation), and which persisted into the 1930s and beyond is chronicled in Rich Land, Poor Land: A Study of Waste in the Natural Resources of America by Stewart Chase (1936; his proposed “big-government” solution to the problem, however, is not persuasive).

 

There have been some “bright spots” in human history regarding stewardship of the land.  In his famous book Farmers of Forty Centuries, or Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan (1911), F. H. King reported how the fertility of agricultural land in the population-dense Far East was maintained for millennia by the careful return to the land of virtually every last scrap of every kind of organic waste--from crop residues to manures to leaves to ashes even to laboriously dug and spread river sediment, along with intentionally grown cover crops or “green manures,” all in the pre-chemical fertilizer days.

 

It came to be recognized as late as the 1930s, even in the West (Europe, America) that an extensive, intensive utilization of organic waste of all kinds was essential, even where chemical fertilizers were available, to keep the soil fertile (or, more often, to restore its original fertility).  Some pioneering work in this regard was done by Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) whose book An Agricultural Testimony documented the successful use of composting in maintaining the fertility of farmland in India, and is considered one of the foundational works in the modern organic gardening movement.  In America, Louis Bromfield (1896-1956), prize-winning novelist-turned-farmer, pioneered modern conservation and restoration agricultural methods on a thousand-acre farm near Mansfield, Ohio.  He wrote about his experiences in fully restoring the original fertility in less than a decade in the widely-popular and influential books Pleasant Valley (1945), Malabar Farm (1948), Out of the Earth (1950), and From My Experience (1955). 

 

In more recent decades, the older farming practices of deep plowing and clean tillage have to a large degree given way to “no-till” and “trash” farming, whereby a maximum of organic crop residue is left on the soil surface to reduce erosion and maintain tilth, and to reduce the number of trips across a field necessary to produce a crop (one negative is the heavy dependence in this practice on the use of chemical herbicides and insecticides to control weeds and insect pests--things formerly chiefly controlled by tillage).

 

Of course there are things more permanently damaging and more difficult to remedy than the consequences of bad agricultural and forestry practices--depletion or polluting of ground water as well as creeks, rivers, lakes, and even to a degree the ocean, chemical toxicity, brine dumping, nuclear waste and other collateral damage to the environment of the modern age.  Nearly the whole of such environmental harm is caused by negligence, carelessness, or disregard for the consequences to present and future generations, and is, as with most things, best remedied by prevention.  It is notable that in cases where such damage has been done, followed by the halting of further destruction, the natural world shows a great resilience in recovering and repairing the damage.  It is not that many decades since the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire due to the large quantities of flammable chemicals that were routinely dumped into its waters, or the Great Lakes were nearly devoid of fish due to pollution of the water with industrial and chemical waste.  That wholesale dumping has been stopped, and the river and lakes have to a large degree recovered.  And even around Chernobyl in Ukraine, the site of the worst nuclear accident in history, though the radiation level in the immediate vicinity of the reactors is too high for human habitation, in the absence of human beings the trees, grasses, and especially wildlife have proliferated to an unimagined degree.  This “no man’s land” has become a veritable “wildlife preserve.”

 

As long as men are still self-absorbed sinners, and as long as the “Golden Rule” of Jesus--“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”--is ignored in practice, there will be cases of exploitation and short-sighted abuse of natural resources, and the need of laws and regulations to restrict or prevent damage by one party to the life and property of another party.  Of course, the kind and degree of regulation is the point at issue.  Far better is the instilling of sound ethics and a sense of personal responsibility that “does not harm to its neighbor.”

 

Those who think that a political-economic system tightly controlled by government is the best safeguard against such devastation of the natural world should reconsider.  In the June 1991 issue of National Geographic, the ten most polluted locations on earth were spot-lighted, complete with graphic color photos.  More than half--six out of ten--were locations in the old Soviet bloc of nations--Chernobyl in Ukraine, Copsa Mica in Romania, and more.  In truth, rather than being guardians of the natural world, totalitarian states are consistently the worst plunderers of the creation, as their lust for continuing power trumps all other considerations, and it is just those relatively rich capitalist societies that have the resources--and the enlightened self-interest--to conserve resources and restore and repair damage done in early eras. 

 

We must also recognize that governments are not somehow endowed with wisdom that has eluded the common citizen; in fact, government actions can be incredibly counter-productive, even highly destructive.  In the time of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, the government imposed a tax on trees in that sparsely wooded region.  The result--the chopping down of most of the remaining trees to avoid taxes.  Far better would it have been to tax the absence of trees, which would have resulted in their being planted by the millions.

 

In America, it used to be the accepted “wisdom” of the Agricultural and Interior Departments that the best way to deal with flood-prone areas was to “channelize” streams--straighten, shorten and often pave them, thereby hastening the removal of excess water from a region, sending it hurrying downstream.  Channelizing regularly reduced the amount of water that a stream could hold within its banks by half or more, worsening flooding in the immediate area, and by increasing the volume and speed of the flow down stream, causing worse flooding and erosion downstream as well. 

 

And then in Egypt, the Aswan Dam project of the 1960s was hailed as a great contribution to Egypt’s future, since it would retain for agricultural use huge amounts of water, and would generate immense amounts of “green” (as they would say today) electricity for the nation.  In fact, the dam has turned out to be an ecological disaster (and an archeological one, too).  The pre-dam annual flooding of the Nile (usually in September) regularly deposited a layer of rich sediment on the farm fields in the flood plain and recharged the soil with water essential for crops.  The dam stopped both of these things, resulting in a worse agricultural situation than before the dam was built. 

 

In America, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations often do nothing substantial to improve the environment, but merely make things more expensive, or less productive.  And the zeal among the environmental left to impose a very heavy “carbon tax” on energy use as a preventative of man-made global warming (a scenario which is very dubious at best, scientifically) has all the earmarks of misguided, good-intentioned (or maybe not) folly.

---Doug Kutilek

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Church Growth: the Evil and the Good

 

"The only multiplication of the Church of God that is to be desired is

that which God sends: 'Thou hast multiplied the nation.' [Isaiah 9:3] If

we add to our churches by becoming worldly, by taking in persons who have never been born again; if we add to our churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the worldling, our increase is worth nothing at all; it is a loss rather than a gain.  If we add to our churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions, rather than by explaining truth to the understanding; if we add to our churches otherwise than by the power of the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Christ Jesus, the increase is of no worth whatsoever." 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 38 (1892)

Sermon #2265, p. 339

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Spurgeon Not KJV-Only: Another Quotation

 

“Notice that I made a correction in the version from which I am reading.  The Authorized Version has it [i.e., Isaiah 9:3], ‘Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.’  This is not consistent with the connection; and the Revised Version has very properly put it, ‘Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased their joy.’  I have not any learning to display; but I think I could show you, if this were the proper time, how the passage came to be read with a ‘not’, and I could also prove to you that, in this instance, the Revisers were right in making their alteration.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 38 (1892)

Sermon #2265, p. 337

 

[Note: we have long battled to refute the wholly false yet often-repeated claim by KJV-Only zealots that Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great 19th century British Baptist pastor, held to the same notions of an unalterably perfect King James Version Bible translation as the KJVOers hold today.  We have published dozens of documented quotations from Spurgeon’s writings that directly discredit this claim.  We chose to publish yet one more, in as much as this quote is from the last years of Spurgeon’s life, expressing his most mature thoughts on the matter--which, by the way, correspond precisely with his earlier views--and happen to be absolutely clear as to where he stood on the issue--Editor]

 

 

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“Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” in Older English Translations

 

“Sir:

 

I use the KJV exclusively, but recently our church started a study of the "Holy Spirit". Please help clear up the confusion that exists surrounding the use of "Holy Spirit" and "Holy Ghost" when the original Greek is identical. (Matt. 1:18, Matt. 3:11, Luke 11:13, Eph. 1:13)
 
Of course the confusion continues when dealing with "spirit," "Spirit," “Spirit of Jesus," etc. many times having the same Greek to work off of.


Thanks for any help.

 

Bill S------“

---

 

“Mr. S-----:

 

In the Greek NT, the word always used for the Third Person of the Trinity is pneuma (from which we get our English words, pneumatic, pneumonia, etc.), whether translated "Ghost" or "Spirit" in the KJV and other English versions of the Reformation and post-Reformation era.  Besides the Holy Spirit, pneuma is also used in the NT of angels, evil spirits (demons, satan), of the human spirit, of human attitude, and even of the wind (see any standard Greek dictionary--Thayer, Abbott-Smith, BAGD or Vine).

 

The variation in the older English versions between “spirit” and “ghost” is due to the nature of the English language, which is a "hybrid" between Anglo-Saxon (a member of the Germanic family of languages, along with German, Dutch, Danish, and others) and French (which is descended from Latin).

 

The word for "spirit" in the Germanic languages is Geist (German), geest (Dutch), gost (Anglo-Saxon), ghost (English), etc.; in Latin and daughter languages, the word is spiritus (Latin), espiritu (Spanish), esprit (French), spirit (English), etc.  So, in English, these two words, "ghost" and "spirit” were originally synonyms.  The KJV and its predecessor translations by Tyndale, Coverdale, the Geneva men and others, were made under the influence of both Luther's German translation, and Jerome's Latin translation.  When he came to the word pneuma, Luther translated it "Geist"; when Jerome came to the word pneuma, he translated it spiritus.  The KJV merely followed Luther's practice some of the time, and followed Jerome's practice some of the time, since both ghost and spirit meant basically the same thing in English of that time.  The use of two distinct English words to translate one and the same Greek word when it had just one sense is an example of the excessive synonymy that the KJV and its predecessor English versions are justifiably criticized for.  By employing sometimes “ghost” and sometimes “spirit” to translate pneuma in the NT when it has reference to the 3rd Person of the Trinity, instead of consistently using one English word is to introduce a “distinction” which does not exist in the Greek. 

 

In checking a concordance, I discovered that nearly always when the attributive adjective “holy” is present, the KJV renders pneuma by “ghost,” (there are three or so exceptions) while the rest of the time, their rendering is “spirit.”  Furthermore, “ghost” is used only of the Holy Spirit, with the exception of a half-dozen or so places where an individual, at death, is said to “give up the ghost.”  To get a full picture of the situation, would require a compilation of a complete list how pneuma was translated in all the English versions preceding the KJV--Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew’s, the Great Bible, Whittingham’s, the Geneva, the Bishops’ and the Rheims, since the KJV is but one more in a long line of English Bible revisions and often merely imitates the practices (often inconsistently) of those that came before it.  As I don’t at present think the “results” of such an investigation would be worth the effort required, I will leave this task to you, should you want to undertake it.

 

Today, since ghost has in contemporary English come to mean almost exclusively disembodied spirits (that is specters, shades, ghouls, apparitions and such), virtually all if not all English Bible translations made in the past 100 years or more have uniformly translated pneuma when referring to the Third Person of the Trinity as "the Holy Spirit". 

 

The sum of the matter--there is NO distinction or variation in meaning in the Greek NT in the places where the KJV varies between "Holy Spirit" and Holy Ghost."

 

There are numerous other cases where the Tyndale, KJV, and other English versions use synonyms to translate what in the Greek is identical language, sometimes to the confusion of the English reader.

 

Doug Kutilek”

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

The Bumps Are What You Climb On: Encouragement for Difficult Days by Warren W. Wiersbe.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, 2002.  155 pp., paperback.

 

Long-time pastor, Bible teacher and prolific writer Warren Wiersbe here, in 30 succinct, warm-hearted, practical chapters addresses the subject of life’s multifarious difficulties, what Scripture has to say about them, why they exist, and what our relationship and response to them should be.  While there is nothing distinctly “profound” or “remarkable” in these chapters, there is sound instruction, occasional mild rebuke, and considerable encouragement to anyone struggling through life’s problems and challenges--which as far as I know includes everyone at one time or another.  These devotionals could be read with profit one-per-day over a month’s time in conjunction with one’s Bible reading.

---Doug Kutilek

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Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation by Ben Lowe.  Downer’s Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2009.  206 pp., paperback.

 

There is a need for a good, balanced, well-informed book or two on modern environmentalism from a Biblical perspective.  Unfortunately, this isn’t one.  There is in it no real attempt to present a Biblical perspective on man’s relationship to the earth over which God, the creator and sustainer, placed him as manager, with definite commands regarding the use of its resources.  Yet, this must be the starting place if one is to avoid the morass of environmentalist whacko-dom, and the adoption of truly anti-theistic perspectives.

 

At the time of writing, the author was a newly-graduated college student and environmental “activist” who lacked nearly every qualification necessary to write the kind of book I have in mind--limited in knowledge to a very narrow field of what he had been taught in the classroom (with an obviously strong slant toward the environmental left; I understand the problem-- as a college freshman in my salad days as a newly-“awakened” environmentalist radical, I joined the Sierra Club and believed every word of their propaganda.  At first).  Along with this lack or narrowness of knowledge is a considerable deficiency in experience (for example--unless a person lived in the 1950s or 60s or before, he has no idea of how vastly better air and water quality in the U. S. is today than then; the Cuyahoga River hasn’t caught on fire in decades), which can lead to unfounded fears about the present condition of the planet, and demands for immediate radical action (regardless of whether such actions are necessary, effective, or cost-effective).  The author also lacks historic perspective.  We have been told regularly and repeatedly since the time of Malthus (1766-1834) that we were on the precipice of annihilation via the total exhaustion of terrestrial resources of land, food, water, et al.  “We only have five years left!” we were assured 20, 30, even 50 years ago, yet somehow we are still here--and in greater numbers, with more material possessions and greater food resources than ever.  And the “guaranteed” extinction of most species--by the hundreds and thousands, daily--simply has not happened, and isn’t happening.

 

Along the way, the author manages to repeatedly condemn individualism (of which the alternative is apparently collectivism.   Hmmm.  Better ask some 50- to 80-year-old survivors of the Soviet Union how that worked out in the past).  Apparently he imagines that human beings collectively are somehow more virtuous or less blameworthy than human beings individually.

 

One real theological danger of a too-overarching environmental activism / pre-occupation for the evangelical Christian which I deduce from the content of this book is of this environmentalism becoming “another Gospel”--substituting of present-day attempts at attaining environmental “justice” for the supposedly “exploited” classes and countries, for the true Gospel of spiritual redemption through Christ crucified.  As the old “Social Gospel” of the 19th century and “liberation theology” of the 20th century, so the “environmentalist gospel” of the present era threatens to not merely supplement or assist the true Gospel, it threatens to become its end-in-itself replacement.

 

Among the evident motives for Christian college campus “green” activism is a desire to atone for one’s perceived “guilt” for living too well while others live in poverty.  In reality, of course, virtually all poverty and nearly all hunger on earth is a result of destructive personal choices, or, more often, deliberate government policies--in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea and the like--, or in the case of Hinduism, certain religious beliefs; it is not the result of Americans eating too much meat or leaving our taps running while we brush our teeth.  Another motive lurking in the soul of the guilt-ridden environmentalist is a desire to “feel good about oneself” because of one’s good intentions (even if they ultimately prove to be misguided or even counter-productive).

 

The book abounds in “jargon” (probably the most grating being the ubiquitous use of “creation care” for the general theme of environmental stewardship), and all the usual alarmist rhetoric about how we are tottering on the precipice of extinction.  The author swallows whole-hog the deliberately falsified (as we now know) information on global “warming” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , whose duplicity on the question of CO2-driven global warming was exposed when internal memos were released to the public--after the present book was written.  The author writes of Christian environmental activism as though it were an actual part of Divine redemption and restoration of the earth!  I believe that will have to wait for the Millennium or the Eternal State.

 

While I am decidedly an advocate (and practitioner) of wise stewardship of all natural resources, and favor--and follow--a generally “low consumption” lifestyle (by American standards, anyway), I don’t have a shred of guilt that I am using “more than my fair share” of earth’s resources because I drive a 16-miles-to-the-gallon pick-up truck, or live in America.

---Doug Kutilek

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Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings.  New York: Scribner, 2011.  289 pp., paperback.  $15.00

 

A “maphead” is a person who, nearly always beginning in childhood, is fascinated with maps--world maps, national maps, state and county and city maps, old maps, new maps, every kind of map--, and can easily spend hour upon hour examining and re-examining every detail of a map, never seeming able to get enough of map gazing.  “My name is Doug.  I am a maphead.”  I have a map of Europe on my wall, a pile of atlases on the shelf directly behind my desk, a box of maps on another shelf of European countries and cities I have visited, and scattered atlases of the Bible, the American Civil War, church history, and more in my library.  And whenever I am on a flight over land, I opt for a window seat, in case the skies below are clear, and I have opportunity to study the geography below, trying to identify rivers, cities, lakes, whatever, and “fix” my present location.  I have even taken a road atlas of the U.S. along on a few flights, for reference purposes!

 

The author of this volume, the all-time “Jeopardy!” champ (more than 70 consecutive wins and more than $2 million in prize money) chronicles in a witty, anecdote-heavy narrative his own life-long obsession with maps, and in a series of chapters discusses the history of maps, the problem with projection distortion (the difficulty of presenting all or part of the surface of a sphere--the earth [or moon, for that matter] on a flat surface), the increasing precision of manual surveying and map making, all the way up to modern satellite photos and Google Earth (and issues of invasion of privacy), the annual National Geographic “geography bee” contest, a geography club that admits into membership only those who have visited at least 100 separate countries (I’ve only been to twenty), and another for people who have visited the highest point in all fifty states, or on all six inhabited continents.  Even modern map “games” (facilitated by geo-positioning satellites)--“geocaching” (locating “hidden treasure” at specific map co-ordinates) and visiting “degree confluences” (where the lines of longitude and latitude intersect, such as 38 degrees n. longitude and 97 degrees w. latitude--all purely arbitrary locations, established by the selection of the 0 degree line of longitude at Greenwich, England) are given attention.  All in all, a most entertaining and instructive read.

 

As I have often said, the two supporting pillars of the study of history are chronology and geography.  Every good volume of history is well-supplied with maps, of necessity.  Most Bible editions are provided with a series of maps as an appendix, and rightly so.  The person who is not fascinated with maps, and rarely or never consults them, is depriving himself of a great amount of information, really essential information.

---Doug Kutilek

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