"AS I SEE
Volume 4, Number 12, December 2001
["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.
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WHY DID JESUS
THE ANSWER FROM HIS OWN WORDS
On July 18,1976, in a hospital
waiting room in Warsaw, Indiana, I picked up a copy of Time magazine, hoping to
relieve the tedium of several hours' wait for the birth of our second child. In
that magazine, I discovered an article about the then new-on-the-scene
Korean-born cult leader, the Reverend Sun Yung Moon. One particular quote from
Moon caught my attention. Moon affirmed regarding himself that he had come to
finish the things which Jesus had failed to accomplish in His lifetime.
Naturally enough, I bristled at the suggestion that Jesus failed in any purpose
or goal which He had.
But Moon's comment set me to thinking--what exactly did Jesus set out to accomplish during His first coming? What did He Himself declare to be His purpose on earth? So I began to search the Gospels for statements from Jesus' own words declaring the nature and design, the purpose and intent of His first coming, to see if indeed He had accomplished all that He designed to achieve.
First, as a preliminary consideration, where did Jesus come from? He boldly affirmed, "For I have come down from heaven. . . ." (John 6:38a; see also John 6:41, 42, 51, 58, et al.). This automatically sets Him apart from all the other sons of Adam. We are from the earth, earthly; He is the Lord from heaven. Naturally, this also presupposes His pre-existence, as John so eloquently and profoundly describes in John 1. He did not begin in Bethlehem. And He is not merely a man.
I am persuaded that the most profound statement ever made is "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). God became man, the Creator was made in the likeness of the creature, He who inhabits eternity entered time, He who is light entered this realm of intense spiritual darkness, He who is life entered this world of universal death and would ultimately die, He who is omnipotent became a helpless, wholly dependent infant in a pure mother's arms, Deity became humanity. All the theologians and all the philosophers of all time cannot begin to fathom the immensity and profundity of that single sentence, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Jesus tells us more by His declaration, "I came from the Father" (John 16:28). Not merely from heaven. Rather, He came as the agent of the Father, the Father's personal emissary to this world hostile to God.
He is acting on behalf of Another, and with Another's authority: "I have come in my Father's name," (John 5:43). "I have not come of myself" (John 7:28, NASB). And yet once again, "I have not come on my own, but he sent me" (John 8:42). Those who spurn the message of Jesus, who reject His teaching, who despise His person, who disregard His miracles thereby spurn and reject and despise and disregard the One who sent Him. He is the Father's proxy, is the Father's plenipotentiary on earth. To reject the Son is to reject the One who sent Him.
But why did Jesus come? To what end, with what design was His earthly sojourn? First, He instructs us, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus was no spiritual anarchist or antinomian. He did not thumb His nose at the precepts of the Law. To the contrary, He displayed the greatest respect that anyone can show to the Law of God, not by merely knowing it and professing to believe it (as did the Pharisees and, we must add, not a few of today's professing Christians), but actually doing what it commanded and obeying all its requirements perfectly. He did fulfill the demands of the Law, always doing those things which pleased His Father. Love does no harm to its neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law. This Jesus perfectly understood and perfectly achieved.
And in a different sense, Jesus fulfilled all that the Old Testament prophets foretold regarding His first coming: His miraculous conception and birth at Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2), but especially His atoning suffering and death, His vicarious sacrifice (Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22:1-21; Zechariah 12:10). Those prophecies of an earthly kingdom which yet await fulfillment (Psalm 72; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11; Isaiah 35; Amos 9:11-15; and a great many others) are reserved by design for His second coming, and were not any part of His purpose in His first advent. He neither announced nor offered such a kingdom during His first coming.
Jesus further affirms, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 6:38; see also John 4:34, 5:30, 8:29, Matthew 26:39). His food and drink, His life and breath, His whole purpose for existence on earth was to perfectly fulfill the will of God for Him. And He was not deterred in the smallest matter from achieving that which He intended to do. Not once did He fail to perfectly fulfill the Father's will. Even in the depths of agony in Gethsemane as He contemplated the excruciating suffering in body and soul which loomed large a few short hours ahead, His heart's prayer was that not His own will but that of God the Father would be done. He challenged His enemies to point out flaws in His obedience to God, and they were compelled to remain silent. In truth, when His enemies did address the issue, they had to confess that there was no fault in Him, that surely He was a righteous man, that His was innocent blood that had been betrayed. Likewise, so too, the apostles affirmed that Jesus knew no sin, did no sin, that in Him there was no sin, and that though He was tempted in every way that we are, yet He was perfectly without sin. One marvelous, pure drop of humanity in the vast churning sea of human corruption. He alone obeyed the Father's will in all things.
And Jesus came as a revealer of God: "For this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (John 18:37). In the smug skepticism of that age, Pilate sought to deflect the force of Jesus' words by asking, 'Yes, but what is truth?' Our own day, under the corrupting influences of pluralism, and post-modernism, denies that there is even such a thing as absolute objective truth. But truth remains truth, though man try as he may to excuse himself from addressing the reality of truth.
And what, you may ask, is truth? Well, first of all, the Holy Spirit, who testifies in Scripture and in our hearts, is the truth (I John 5:6). And because He is truth, all that He affirms, all that he teaches, all that He inspires is truth. The Scriptures, the Divine product of the Spirit's inspiring influence and control (2 Peter 1:20, 21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) are the truth, as Jesus expressly confirmed in His high priestly prayer (John 17:17). And of course Jesus is Himself the truth (John 14:6). Dull-souled, self-excusing Pilate was so blind as to fail to see the very embodiment of truth that stood directly before his eyes. Jesus informed those who followed Him that if they continued to follow His teaching they would genuinely be His disciples, and they would come to know the truth, and this truth from God would set them free spiritually (John 8:31, 32). How often is that phrase "the truth shall set you free" quoted without the qualifying remark about following the words of Jesus!
The truth, unvarnished, unadorned is often unpleasant. A doctor's diagnosis of cancer is unwelcome news but necessary, if there is to be any hope for a remedy. Because Jesus told the people the truth about sin and judgment, some wanted to kill Him (John 8:40), and did in fact carry out their diabolical purpose. Yet the truth about personal corruption, guilt and accountability to God, hard and unpleasant realities that they are, are absolutely essential knowledge, if a sinner is to come to repentance, faith and forgiveness.
Did Jesus testify to the truth? Ever and always. And the truth He spoke was precisely that which He had heard from His Father. No man ever spoke like this man.
In two enigmatic sayings, Jesus indicated yet another facet of His earthly purpose: "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34); "I have come to bring fire on the earth, . . . . Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division" (Luke 12:49, 51). The stark contrast of these words with "peace on earth goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14, KJV) is more apparent than real. It is obvious that Jesus was not speaking of a literal sword, after the manner of Muhammad who urged upon his followers and exemplified by his own practice the use of material weapons to crush and destroy all enemies of his new religion. In the garden, when the armed horde came to arrest Jesus under cover of darkness, Jesus sternly rebuked Peter for employing his sword in defense of Christ, as though the kingdom of heaven were to be propagated by the sword. No, Jesus was speaking of a different sword and a different purpose. That purpose is to banish indifference regarding Himself. Now that Christ has come, no man can remain indifferent and undecided about Jesus. He must be willing to set aside the closest earthly ties to follow Jesus. He must count the cost, and pay it. To ignore Jesus is to reject Him. You must decide and answer for yourself Pilate's question to the mob: "What shall I do with Jesus?" Throughout the Gospels, we find that the crowds were divided about Jesus (see Matthew 12:30, John 7:40-44, 9:16, 10:19-21). So it is today, Jesus is the great divider of mankind. This is the force of his words "For judgment I came into the world" (John 9:39). He compels us to decide for Him, or against Him. Indecision is rendered impossible. And each man is responsible for how he decides.
John's prologue tells us that "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:4, 5). Jesus declared, "I am come a light into the world" (John 12:46). The spiritual darkness of this world is oppressive, a darkness that can be felt. But in contrast to this darkness, as Paul wrote, "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). As the physical darkness of the original creation was banished by God's Divine fiat, "Let there be light," so the spiritual darkness is banished by the Word becoming flesh. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. So, too, Jesus, the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of God's being, is the light of the world. Now we can rejoice that, he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father.
When Jesus proclaimed "I have come that they might have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10), He was in essence declaring that without Him we do not have life. And of a certainty, we do not. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the way the truth and the life. In Him there is life and that life is the light of men. Without Him, we are dead in the corruption and guilt of our many sins, but in Him, by faith, we are made alive. Now Christ is our life. And not just our eternal life hereafter. He is the giver of purpose and meaning in this earthly life. Without Him, what larger purpose, what larger meaning is there than laboring for our few and miserable days on earth to sustain but for a brief while the physical existence that is certain to end in death, and which will be plagued every step of the way with sorrow, misery, distress and despair? He is our life and our purpose and our very reason for life. "To me to live is Christ." In Christ, life attains nobility, dignity, purpose. That we have life and purpose in Him is proof that He achieved this stated end as well.
"I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47). By so saying, Jesus was not denying the certainty of future judgment of all sin. In fact, the words of Jesus will be the standard by which future judgment will be conducted, as Jesus Himself affirmed in the very next verse: "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word will condemn him at the last day" (John 12:48). Paul plainly proclaimed in Athens that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world justly, and that judgment will be carried out by Jesus (Acts 17:31). In truth, all judgment has been entrusted to the Son (John 5:22). When the dead, great and small, stand before God's throne (Revelation 20:11-15), it will be God the Son who sits in judgment and with perfect, strict, unmingled justice will consign all the lost to eternal condemnation in the lake of fire.
Since there is judgment to come, what did Jesus mean when He said that He did not come to judge the world but to save it? Simply put: His first coming was in mercy, the second will be in judgment. At His first coming, He came lowly and having salvation (Zechariah 9:9), opening wide His arms of mercy and forgiveness to all sinners who would repent. At His second coming, He will come as the conquering King, bearing the sword of judgment to destroy His enemies (Revelation 19:11-16). It is for this very reason that Jesus rebuked James and John for seeking to call fire down on an unreceptive Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56); and for this reason, He refused to summon the legions of angels at His disposal to rescue Him in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:52-54). But at His second coming, He will come with a sword and with the angels, bringing justice without mercy.
In saying that He came to save the world, we must ask "Who did Jesus come to save, and 'save' from what, and how?" His own words give us a clear understanding: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). Let us note, it is the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the sheep, not the sheep who seek the shepherd. He seeks those who are lost. First, this includes "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6). The birth of Jesus was a source of great joy to all the people, that is, the whole house of Israel (Luke 2:10), for He did come to save His people, the Jews, from their sins (Matthew 1:21). But He also came as a light to the Gentiles, who are likewise lost, blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:3,4). He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, of all mankind, both Jew and Gentile. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.
"To save" means to rescue from grave and impending peril--as a person trapped in a burning house, or an individual without boat or lifejacket struggling against the raging waves of a shoreless ocean. Death and destruction are close at hand and certain in their result unless there is immediate action by Another to snatch them from the burning or lift them from the waves. Such is the sinner facing the righteous judgment of Almighty God. His condemnation is close at hand and inescapable by any means at his own disposal. Salvation must come from outside himself, or else all hope is gone.
And how does that salvation come to sinners? Through their repentance. Without repentance, there is no forgiveness and no salvation. Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). Jesus holds out the hope of forgiveness and restoration to all, but only through each individual's acceptance of responsibility for all his sins, and a definite turning from them (see Ezekiel 33:11). God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30), and Jesus solemnly warns that without personal repentance, a person was certain to perish (Luke 13:3,5). Those who are content with their own righteousness must be prepared to be content with eternal condemnation, for they shall certainly have it.
Finally, Jesus summarized first His whole perspective on His life, then its ultimate aim: "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). Those accounted great among the nations are those who are served by vast retinues of servants who promptly fulfill their sovereign's least desire or command. But not so with Jesus. He was among us as one who served (Luke 22:27). He took the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Isaiah's name for the coming Messiah is the servant of the LORD (Isaiah 49:5,6; 52:13; 53:11). We call Him "the Teacher" and "the Lord," and truly He is. He taught by example and He commanded by the force of His own character and actions and not merely in words, yet though He has left us such an example of wholly unselfish service, to say nothing of His express command regarding the same, we are too often remiss in emulating and obeying (John 13:13-17).
Yet, much more than an example of service, Jesus came as an unparalleled sacrifice. He laid down His life for the sheep. No one took it from Him. It was His own voluntary act. And in declaring that He gave His life as a ransom for many, we must not assume that He was thereby denying that His death was for all. "Many," taken from Isaiah 53:12, is clearly to be understood as a term for all of lost mankind, as Paul's usage in Romans 5:15, 19 clearly shows, "the many" being in parallel to the term "all men" in verses12 and 18.
The crowning act, the pre-eminent aim, the all-encompassing purpose and achievement of the life of Jesus was His perfect, complete and final offering of Himself as a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. This Man offered one sacrifice for sin forever. Christ suffered for sin once for all, this Just One for those of us who are unjust, so that He could bring us to God. He uttered with clarity and force the great Victor's cry from the cross: "Accomplished!" By so saying, He announced the completion of every last particle of every single purpose for which He came to this earth. And the Father's "Amen!" echoed on the third day, when He raised Him from the death.
"My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34). So He intended and so He accomplished.
Paul summarizes succinctly the whole of Jesus' purpose: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Let us contemplate deeply and bow humbly at these precious words.
THE ESSENTIAL ENLIGHTENING WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS
"Is it not evident from our
Lord's observation [viz., "flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee,
but my Father which is in heaven," Matthew 16:17], that it requires an
express revelation of God in a man's soul, to give him a saving acquaintance
with Jesus Christ; and that not even the miracles of our Lord, wrought before
the eyes, will effect this? The darkness must be removed from the heart by the
Holy Spirit, before a man can become wise unto salvation."
---Adam Clarke's Commentary, vol. V, p. 171.
[Adam Clarke (1762?-1832) was certainly the most learned Methodist (and an "Arminian") commentator and theologian of his time and likely of all time. Had I not given the name of the author of this quote, even John Gill could have given a rousing "Amen!" to the sentiments expressed by Clarke.--Editor]
THE EVOLUTIONIST'S OWN WORDS TESTIFY AGAINST THEM
In their most candid of moments,
evolutionists sometimes admit the most amazing things. Dr. Richard Lewontin of
Harvard acknowledged in print that evolutionists are driven by presupposition
rather than evidence in their dogmatic adherence to atheistic evolutionism.
Indeed, they are compelled by their presupposition of absolute materialism to
brazenly reject contrary evidence in their zealous devotion to their
"religion" of evolution:
"[Evolutionists] take the side of science [by which Lewontin means atheistic materialism--Editor] in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, . . . in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated commitment to materialism, . . .we are forced by our a priori adherence to [purely] material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying for the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." (New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997; quoted in "Acts and Facts," 30:12, December, 2001, p. 2). So much for scientific objective consideration of evidence!
In describing that compromise position between creationism and materialistic evolutionism, namely, theistic evolution, Will Provine of Cornell University, perceptively analyzes the situation:
"[B]elief in evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism." (William Provine, "No Free Will," in Catching Up with the Vision, ed. by Margaret W. Rossiter, University of Chicago Press, 1999, p. S123; also quoted from "Acts and Facts" 30:12, December, 2001, p. 2).
As a former theistic evolutionist myself, I can testify to the accuracy of Provine's assertion. The theistic evolution view is the worst of all worlds--it does violence to the obvious teaching of the Bible regarding creation and does absolutely nothing to attract materialist/naturalist evolutionists away from their atheism. Indeed, if anything, it encourages them in it since it refuses to take the Bible seriously and is quick to cast away all that the Bible says on the subject of origins, beyond a vague notion that God had a hand in it somehow, somewhere. No doubt the atheistic evolutionist would assert that if the universe can be explained by purely natural means--which the theistic evolutionist de facto admits--, why dredge up the quaint notion of "God," a thing rendered wholly unnecessary, if one accepts evolution at all?
Were I an evolutionist, I would be a consistent one, and would abandon the pretense which theistic evolutionism is. I would adopt the absolute logical conclusion of evolution: namely, that there is no God. And from there, I would soon plunge into utter despair, realizing that evolution requires that life is wholly devoid of any purpose or design. Evolution requires that man came from no place, is here for no reason and is going nowhere. His existence counts for nothing, his being is of no greater consequence than that of a maggot in the rotting carcass of a dead dog in a ditch beside the highway, or a particle of dust blown about by a hot summer wind.
From such a materialistic perspective, life must be recognized as an abyss of oppressive darkness devoid of even the smallest flicker of any meaning. Deepening the darkness is the awful reality that this meaningless existence is universally besieged by misery, suffering and death. And for what? To what end? For what purpose? Absolutely none. A vile, soul-torturing, perverse, insoluble enigma. Were I under such a cloud of darkness, I could not find the least reason to get out of bed in the morning and would prefer immediate death and annihilation to life. I would soon end up in the madhouse as did the atheist Nietzsche.
LITERAL BIBLE HERMENEUTICS: A REFORMATION ERA DEFENSE
"But as the apostle declares
that these things are allegorized [the author has reference to Paul's phrase,
"which things are an allegory," Galatians 4:24--Editor], Origen, and
many others along with him, have seized the occasion of torturing Scripture, in
every possible manner, away from the true sense. They concluded that the literal
sense is too mean and poor, and that, under the outer bark of the letter, there
lurk deeper mysteries, which cannot be extracted but by beating out allegories.
And this they had no difficulty in accomplishing; for speculations which appear
to be ingenious have always been preferred, and always will be preferred, by the
world to solid doctrine."
"With such approbation the licentious system gradually attained such a height, that he who handled Scripture for his own amusement not only was suffered to pass unpunished, but even attained the highest applause. For many centuries no man was considered to be ingenious, who had not skill and daring necessary for changing into a variety of curious shapes the sacred word of God. This in undoubtedly a contrivance of Satan to undermine the authority of Scripture, and to take away from the reading of it the true advantage. God visited this profanation by a just judgment, when he suffered the pure meaning of the Scripture to be buried under false interpretations."
"Scripture, they say, is fertile, and thus produces a variety of meanings. I acknowledge that Scripture is a most rich and inexhaustible fountain of all wisdom; but I deny that its fertility consists in the various meanings which any man, at his pleasure, may assign. Let us know, then, that the true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning; and let us embrace and abide by it resolutely. Let us not only neglect as doubtful, but boldly set aside as deadly corruptions, those pretended expositions, which lead us away from the natural meaning."
This excellent defense of sound Bible interpretation was made by John Calvin in his Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, translated by William Pringle (Baker, 1979 reprint, vol. XXI, pp. 135-6). Of the major Reformers, Calvin came closest in practice to the Reformation motto "Sola Scriptura." He departed the furthest from the traditions and practices of Rome and moved back toward Biblical teaching, though in a number of notable matters--infant baptism, union of church and state, persecution of dissent, and a-millennialism among them--he retained the errors of Rome, and of Augustine.
The allegorical method of Bible perversion actually pre-dated the church "father" Origen in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish neo-Platonist and contemporary of Jesus, had popularized the allegorical method as he sought to make Bible teaching "respectable" in the eyes of the Greek philosophers. Everything the Greeks might deem "unacceptable" in Bible content was explained away by Philo, buried under a mountain of imaginative re-interpretations of Bible materials. This is, by the way, not unlike modern old-earth "creationists" and theistic evolutionists who wish to remain intellectually "respectable" in the eyes of secularists and atheists who call themselves scientists.
Origen, also of Alexandria, adopted Philo's hermeneutical methodology and popularized it among the Greek-speaking church fathers; in the 4th and 5th centuries, Augustine popularized this allegorical method among Latin-speaking Christians, and as a result of his broad influence, this soon became the dominant method of Bible "interpretation" with the natural consequence being the thousand-years-long "Dark Ages." In that period, the light of the true Gospel was largely extinguished in the Mediterranean world, and indeed throughout Europe, with only scattered pockets of those who took the Scriptures in their ordinary and obvious sense.
A return by fits and starts to the Bible alone, and the Bible taken at face value, resulted in the Protestant Reformation, with its widespread (but not universal) rejection of mere human tradition and imaginative allegorization.
Our present-day prophecy mongers who torture the Biblical text to find hidden meanings and new fulfillments are of the same stock as the worst of Medieval allegorizers.
Human ingenuity and cleverness in discovering novel interpretations in the Bible text--in reality obscuring the obvious--is a spiritually destructive process that leads away from the knowledge of God. God who invented human language, is surely capable of plainly saying what He wants us to know, and until we have exhausted the plain and obvious teaching of Scripture in both faith and practice, we have no business seeking some other meaning in the Sacred text.
[My attention was first directed to the Calvin quote by Pastor Mark Minnick of Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, in an article which appeared in the September/October 2001 issue of Frontline, 11:5]
COMRADES by Stephen Ambrose.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. 139 pp., hardback. $21.00
Ambrose, noted historian and writer (chiefly of books relating to World War II history, some which have been reviewed in AISI) here briefly sketches--sidelights from Ambrose's major written works in most cases--the relationships between selected "Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons and Pals," to quote the subtitle of this greatly overpriced book (I got it for just $4.99 at Sam's). These chatty, brief portraits include brothers Milton and Dwight Eisenhower, colleagues Eisenhower and Patton, the Custer brothers (not a happy outcome!), explorers Lewis and Clark, Ambrose and his brothers, Ambrose and his father, Ambrose and his best friends, Richard Nixon and nobody (in a perceptive chapter called "Nary a Friend"), and several others. I would borrow this book, which can be read in an hour or two, from the library rather than buy it at full retail. Interesting reading.
THE DISCOVERERS by Daniel J.
Boorstin. New York: Random House, 1983. 745 pp., hardback.
Daniel J. Boorstin was for twenty five years professor of history at the University of Chicago, then Librarian of Congress and senior historian of the Smithsonian Institution. He has been a prolific writer, especially regarding American history.
The subtitle of "The Discoverers" is "a history of man's search to know his world and himself" and describes the scope of this fascinating volume. Boorstin traces the human discoveries and progressively more accurate measurement and cataloging of time and space (both earthly geography and celestial phenomena), as well as the man's inventions of the clock, paper, printing, the microscope and telescope and much else. Boorstin presents the rise of modern science and the various sciences (including medicine), and the concept and recording of history. In short, Boorstin presents man's discovery of his world, and universe, and of himself.
Boorstin asks but cannot fully answer such questions as why did it take the Europeans so long to discover the New World and to sail south around Africa to the Orient? Why didn't the Arabs sail around Africa from the east? Why didn't the Chinese or Japanese discover America since they were much closer and had a far easier water route here?
One defect that repeatedly mars the book is the assumption by Boorstin that Roman Catholicism is a fair and accurate representation of Biblical Christianity, a thing very wide of the truth. Catholicism is at best a caricature, a fun-house mirror distortion of Biblical Christianity, with its multitude of doctrines and practices which are not found in Scripture and which are more often than not directly opposed to Biblical teaching. Romanism has been historically dead set against the vast majority of innovations in thought, in knowledge, in discovery--in short, rigidly defending established Church dogma whether Bible-based or not (the medieval Catholic dogma of a geocentric universe was not Bible-derived, but taken over from the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy). The Roman Catholic Church attacked Copernicus' heliocentric views of the universe, and threatened Galileo for his discoveries with the telescope.
In contrast, the Protestant Reformation largely embraced the new astronomy and its rejection of the enslaving authority of mere tradition, and in fact set the stage for such new discoveries to be made. In truth, it was a firm commitment to the absolute accuracy of the Bible, and the complete harmony of Scripture and nature that led numerous scientists, including Kepler and Newton, to their great discoveries. From the Reformation into the 19th century, the all but universal characteristic of the great scientists was a strong personal commitment to Biblical theism. And those who rejected a theistic world-view in the 19th century did so for philosophical, not scientific, reasons.
In a book of such wide sweep, errors of fact are inevitable. Among the many I discovered: Boorstin surprisingly misidentifies the Sabbath commandment as the second, instead of the fourth (or third, in Roman Catholic reckoning), and he errs regarding the origin of the word "Sabbath" (pp. 13, 14). He gives a faulty date for the Talmud (p. 26), displays gross ignorance of the sun's position in the sky at the equator (p. 48), makes errors regarding chronology (pp. 108, 109), and regarding the date of Easter (p. 597). He wrongly says that Froben printed the first Greek NT (p. 339), and credits Calvin with a French translation of the Bible he did not make (p. 523). In discussing English Bible versions, he jumps from Wycliffe (ca. 1380) to the KJV (1611), ignoring everything in between, including Tyndale, the real pioneer in English Bible translations (p. 523). He incorrectly credits James Murray with conceiving the idea for the Oxford English Dictionary (p. 555; it was in fact the brainchild of Archbishop R. C. Trench). He fails to recognize that the word "evangelium" is a Greek word borrowed into Latin (p. 567). These and numerous other errors of detail mar the work.
And there is of course the general error of accepting biological evolution as a fact. It is as much a false world view as Ptolemy's geo-centrism, and the Chinese view of a flat earth.
Even with these defects, this was a highly profitable read. In every chapter and on practically every page there was information new to me. I read, for the first time to my knowledge, of one Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), reportedly the second most learned man in all of history (second only to Aristotle). I have since seen repeated references to him in my reading. This is but one of many new vistas opened to me.
Boorstin gives an extended list of books consulted for each of the varied chapters in this thick tome. Though I was familiar with not a few of the works listed, here again was a rich trove of information to be consulted and employed in future study. At least 30 or 40 of the works listed cry out to be read.
With its inevitable flaws, this is yet a work of immense erudition and labor, and always informative to the reader. It is very commonly met with in used bookstores at much below retail price.
"The obstacles to
discovery--the illusions of knowledge--are also part of our story. Only against
the forgotten backdrop of received common sense and myths of their time can we
begin to sense the courage, the rashness, the heroic and imaginative thrusts of
the great discoverers. They had to battle against the current 'facts' and dogmas
of the learned." (Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers, p. xv).
Though Boorstin intended these remarks to described Columbus, Copernicus, Galileo, et al., the thought occurred to me how perfectly they fit the battle of courageous creationist scientists like Henry Morris, Duane Gish, A. E. Wilder-Smith and many others who have stood strong against the "accepted wisdom of the age," the entrenched, well-funded, and government-sanctioned dogma of biological evolution. Darwinism is a construct so weak and unsupported by the facts that it must have the full weight of educational bureaucracy and governmental support (even virtual "establishment" as the state religion) to keep it from collapsing under the avalanche of scientific evidence that would bury it in short order were that evidence only given a fair hearing. One day, Morris et al. will be haled as great defenders of scientific truth again the prejudiced and willfully ignorant "powers that be," the high priests of the religion of secular atheism.