Author Archives: Peter Kazmaier
It is about the one year anniversary of our trip to Israel. I am grateful I had the opportunity to complete this trip of a lifetime. I would like to finish this series with a description and images from our trip to Scythopolis. After a year it remains a trip of a lifetime and I gladly remember the many wonderful people Kathyrn and I met in our group.
A Description of Scythopolis
At the junction of the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan Valley one finds the ruins of the ancient city of Scythopolis one of the towns of the Decapolis. These Greek settlements were founded after Alexander the Great’s conquests. Likely Pella and Dion were founded first, since they are Macedonian names.
Scythopolis is the only Decapolis town on the west side of the Jordan River and sits athwart one of the key access routes connecting the coastal region with the caravan routes skirting the fertile crescent.
According to E. M. Blaiklock, the presence of a Greek city in Palestine had a significant influence on Jewish culture and Jewish awareness of Greek culture. For example, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the far off land where he fed the swine may have been modeled on Scythopolis.
The presence of Scythopolis may also indicate that Jews and Galileans in biblical times had an understanding of Greek since they likely traded and interacted with these Greek cities.
Acknowledgment. The excellent article by E. M. Blaiklock in The Zondervan Pictorial Dictionary of the Bible on the Decapolis was most helpful in the writing of this article.
Joanne Rolston, in her book THE END: A WAYFARER’S GUIDE TO THE APOCALYPSE, wrote in the Epilogue, “I hope I’ve given you a different view of the enigmatic end-times book of Revelation.” She has certainly done that!
In the personal, storytelling style reminiscent of PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, Wayfarer is a traveler looking for the house of wisdom after hearing Wisdom speak in a town square. When she finally comes to Wisdom’s house she meets the sisters, Wisdom and Prudence, their father Abba, and Miles who is in charge of the house library.
What follows is a detailed journey through the book of Revelation mostly guided by Abba, but also with input from Miles and his resources in the library. Rolston has worked meticulously to make contact with modern-day events as she expounds on the various passages in Revelation. These modern-day touch points of Rolston’s narrative make this book of special interest to me since I like to check things out. For example, I did not know that the Greek word for the pale rider is transliterated chloros (green), the root word for chlorine, a green-colored elemental gas. I also looked up the UNESCO World Heritage site for the birthplace of Gautama Buddha (the site number is 666 which a significant numeral in Revelation). Finally, I looked up the Halloween asteroid of 2015 on the Near Earth Object database. These are only a few of the significant observations that are open for further investigation and verification by the reader.
In summary, if you have an interest in the book of Revelation and would like a new, easy-to-read perspective that touches on many recent events, this book would be of great value to you. I highly recommend it.
To my thinking, THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND is really two books which I would rate very differently and as such the average overall rating (three stars) is misleading. The first three chapters are excellent and I would rate that portion of the book as four or five stars. They delineate the root causes behind many of the disturbing trends one sees in the thinking and conduct of undergraduates today and analyzes these causes in terms of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). They distill their observations and recommendations into three lies and about nine pit falls in thinking CBT attempts to counteract. I found these ideas very helpful and continue to use them to analyze my own thinking. I will read these chapters over and over again.
I am much less sanguine about the second part of the book which provides anecdotes, supposedly in support of the early chapters. Reiterating the events at Evergreen State College was useful, but for most of the anecdotes and discussion, I found that the authors broke their own rules. They used labeling extensively without clearly defining their labels. Many of the labels were highly pejorative, yet as far as I could see the authors did not explain why the labels were appropriate. They seemed to engage in mind reading (another of the pitfalls) in that they seemed confident they knew what motivated the various non-university groups which they also seemed to blame for the anxiety-ridden undergraduate mindset.
When I finished and thought about what I had read, it seemed to me they were aiming for an “equality of blame” in their analysis of the anecdotes. This made no sense to me. The university administrations establish codes of conduct, enforce them, hire faculty, permit or exclude external speakers, and ultimately decide if they will support or not support teachers and students that are under attack for their views. Similarly the reading lists, course work, examinations, and grading are carried out by the faculty. Furthermore professors, by their own conduct and the way they approach questions provide examples to the students on how one should behave as one purses truth in an unbiased and objective manner.
It seems ludicrous to me to argue that outside forces or groups that have trouble even getting an invited speaker onto campus can share equal culpability for how students are turning out.
In summary, the early chapter are excellent and deserve a rating of four or five stars. The rest of the book, to my mind deserves only one or two stars. The average or overall rating, is perhaps, 2.5 to 3 stars.
This story describes an epic battle between good and evil. However, it is a battle with a difference. Good, strives to keep the battle from ending, since the ongoing battle permits the operation of grace and the rescue of the lost.
The forces of evil, naturally enough, want evil to win the battle and triumph. But there is a third party called The Watchers. They are angels who have taken on immortal bodies and fathered children, the Nephilim. The Watchers also want the battle to end, but do not want Satan to win. So sometimes they help the forces of evil and sometimes they aid the forces of good.
High schoolers Sarah and David Krieger are orphans living in Boston. David is gifted with extraordinary abilities. Johnathan (Uncle John) Adler, their newly designated guardian, takes Sarah and David to his home in Washington state in the high country near the Cascade Mountains. Sarah notices that there is much more to Uncle John and his son Jake than meets the eye. There seems to be a shared secret between Jake, David and Uncle John from which Sarah is excluded.
If you like epic battles, hand-to-hand combat, and fantastic creatures, you will enjoy this book. It is filled with demons such as Baal and Moloch, hell hounds, gargoyles that come to life, and even familiar animals such as dogs and horses that have supernatural abilities.
I enjoyed the exhilaration of the combat in the story. I liked even better that the author uses the action to ask important thought-provoking questions that leave the reader with more than an action-packed story.
At one point, Samyael, one of the Watchers, had commissioned a life-sized painting of Christ upon the cross. He looks at it again and sees Mary crying at the foot of the cross. He asks:
“… why did Mary cry? If she believed in Him, then where was her faith? If she knew her son was the Christ, why did she weep?”
In the end Sarah surprises us. We learn John, Jake, and David’s secret. However, there are enough loose ends to let us know there will be a sequel.
To see the review on Goodreads
To see the review on Amazon
I am reading the Father Brown stories for the second time. I believe I now have a complete set and can read them all in chronological order. I particularly want to focus on one story I had not read before:
- Chapter 1 entitled “The Resurrection of Father Brown” in The Incredulity of Father Brown
The Resurrection of Father Brown (caution spoilers)
Father Brown is in an unnamed south american country (it is on the northern coast of the continent) quietly serving as a priest to some of the poorer citizens when his ministerial assignment is discovered by an american reporter named Paul Snaith. Mr. Snaith wrote so many glowing articles of the famous Father Brown serving in South America to readers in America, that Father Brown was invited to go on an american speaking tour (which he declined). At Snaith’s hands, Father Brown’s fame continued to grow. He received a bottle of wine from a Mr. Eckstein, asking him to try it and say what he thought of it. Knowing the lunacy of american advertising, Brown had a glass and went out for an evening walk. He realized he was not alone. But he was a man of courage and even stronger curiosity and walked on.
“All his life he [Father Brown] had been led by an intellectual hunger for the truth, even of trifles.”
He was beset by two men, one with a knife and one with a cudgel. This attack was observed through a window by John Adams Race an american engineer who happened to be an evangelical Christian. Race left his house and rushed to the scene. As he arrived, the cry went up: “Father Brown is dead!” Snaith was there and confirmed it. The death was also confirmed by Dr. Calderon.
The funeral, with Brown in a wooden coffin at the foot of a wooden crucifix, was held a short time afterward, and Mendoza, one of the local politicians gave a long oration, praising Father Brown. His political opponent, an atheist and revolutionary named Alavarez kept his peace until the oration grew to be too much when Mendoza, as part of his speech, began berating his political opponents.
Alvarez, beside himself with rage, berated and blamed God for this and every other tragedy. He ended up defiantly by saying:
“I defy the God who is not there to waken this man who sleeps forever.”
“Stop! Stop!” cried Snaith; “somethings up! I swear I saw him move.”
The wonder at this miracle, as expected, caused the crowd to roar with excitement. Surrounded by the adulation of the crowd and of Snaith, Father Brown sat up and tried to calm everyone down. When he failed he staggered off.
Later on, Race asked Brown where he had gone. Brown explained he had rushed to the telegraph office to tell his bishop to disregard the reports of this “resurrection miracle” since it was a hoax.
My Personal Thoughts
If I put myself in Father Brown’s shoes, wouldn’t I be tempted to use this supposed miracle to strengthen the faith of believers? Wouldn’t I be tempted to use a “noble lie?”
Father Brown’s answer to this question is telling. Brown told Race that he would praise God not for saving him from death but from disgrace.
“And if it had only been my disgrace! But it was the disgrace of all I stand for; the disgrace of the Faith that they went about to encompass.”
Snaith, Mendoza, Eckstein, and Calderon had set the whole thing up. Eckstein drugged Brown. Calderon confirmed his death. Snaith would have published the miracle broadly and then he have “uncovered” the hoax he had orchestrated. Snaith had even duped Brown into writing a few letters, although innocent at the time, later would have made it sound as if Brown had perpetrated the hoax.
For me this underlines that commitment to the truth is paramount. There are no shortcuts. There are no “noble lies” permissible. This, of course, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles, but rather I must, through diligence and a certain degree of skepticism make very sure they are indeed miraculous, much as the gospel writers and Father Brown did.