You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2008.

“. . . modern times did not develop in ways the generation of 1920 would have considered ‘logical.’

[. . .]

“The outstanding event of modern times was the failure of religious belief to disappear.”

[. . .]

“What looked antiquated, even risible, in the 1990s was not religious belief but the confident prediction of its demise once provided by Feuerbach and Marx, Durkheim and Frazer, Lenin, Wells, Shaw, Gide, Sartre and many others.”

  • Paul Johnson, Modern Times, page 700 in Chapter 20 on “The Recovery of Freedom

Today’s Western Civ Four class concluded with a discussion of the last chapter of Johnson’s book. Twenty-five years after its first publication, and 17 years after he added the more upbeat, concluding chapter, Johnson’s work holds up extremely well.

Johnson’s overarching thesis is that the 20th century saw politics replace religion as the “one legitimate form of moral activity.” The results were a tragedy of world historical proportions. Now, as we look back on the bloody excesses of the 20th century, there is hope that mankind may be regaining some perspective. The state cannot reshape human nature. The state cannot usher in a utopia. The state, given free reign, turns out to be a murderous tyrant.

Mankind was saved from the twin evils of politics and statism by the arrival, sequentially, of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.

I have a message of hope and good cheer for you, gentle reader: The 21st century, like the 20th, will NOT develop in predictable ways – certainly not in ways foreseen by the pundits of the dying liberal intelligentsia. There IS hope. There ARE signs that God continues to build his kingdom. The vibrancy of the church in China and in Africa gives hope. The collapse of the liberal elites (both secular and religious) in the West proceeds and even in some cases appears to be accelerating.

Keep watching. Keep praying. Keep following Jesus. And wait and see what God will do.


SchliemannThe Hero Schliemann
The Dreamer Who Dug for Troy

by Laura Amy Schlitz

I found this delightful biography after Schlitz won this year’s Newbery Medal for her Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Laura Amy Schlitz is a delightful writer, with a real knack for making historical figures real by sketching them with the details of their lives that help us understand who they really were.

In Heinrich Schliemann, she has a fascinating subject. Schliemann was born in 1822 in Germany and has been variously described as a brilliant archaeologist, a liar, a fraud, a treasure-hunter, and an astute, self-taught classical scholar. There’s evidence that he was all of those things.

Schlitz does an excellent job of presenting the contradictions and faults in his life, while at the same time celebrating his remarkable achievements. Schliemann is the man who found Troy. While archaeologists and classical historians were skeptical over whether such a place actually existed, Schliemann took his dog-eared copy of Homer, went to Turkey, and started digging. He found Troy. In the process, he probably clumsily obliterated a great deal of what he was looking for, but almost everyone now admits that he found Troy. He was quick to label the jewels and gold he found as Priam’s Treasure. It probably wasn’t. And Schliemann undoubtedly committed a crime when he smuggled it out of Turkey, but what he found remains remarkable. For many years, Priam’s Treasure was on display at the Pergamon museum in Berlin. It disappeared at the end of World War II, and in 1993 it went on display at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

One such find in a lifetime would make an archaeologist famous. But Schliemann moved from Turkey to Greece and began searching for the tomb of Agamemnon – and found it, of course. The site of Mycenae was well-known, but a reference in a classical Greek text to the tombs being within the city walls had been ignored because the space was thought to be too small. Schliemann got permission to dig in the city – and found the tombs. Here’s how Schlitz describes it:

“As Heinrich had hoped, the graves were royal tombs, and they were magnificently rich. Fifteen royal corpses were heaped with gold. The men wore gold death masks and breastplates decorated with sunbursts and rosettes. The women were adorned with gold jewelry. All around the bodies were bronze swords and dagggers inlaid with gold and silver, drinking cups made of precious stones, boxes of gold and sliver and ivory. Once again, Heinrich was half-mad with enthusiasm. “I have found an unparalleled treasure,” he wrote. “All the museums in the world put together do not possess one fifth of it. Unfortunately nothing but the glory is mine.” The tombs of Mycenae were even more spectacular than Priam’s treasure.” The artifacts were exquisite, but that was not all – many of the artifacts matched exactly the descriptions found in Homer’s Iliad. Wine cups, swords, jewels, bracelets, helmets – everything was in keeping with Homer’s Bronze Age world.”

Can you see why I really enjoyed this biography? It works on two levels – as an account of how the historical reality of Homer’s world was confirmed by nineteenth century archeology, AND as an account of a fascinating, bold, entrepreneurial amateur – part huckster, part con-man, but highly intelligent, larger than life and favored by fortune.

The book is a 6.5″ x 9.25″ hardback, 72 pages with black & white illustrations throughout. Reading level is upper elementary / junior high – but high school and adult will find the information quite interesting and the narrative style very engaging.

The Hero Schliemann can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press for $17.99

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

The Roman ArmyDavid Kennett is an Australian artist with a strikingly original illustration style. His historical drawings are an arresting mix of light and dark, impressionistic depictions of individuals and groups, and fascinating historical detail. His first book, on The Roman Army (subtitled The Legendary Soldiers Who Created an Empire) was published in 2004. Just this month, his second book, Pharaoh: Life and Afterlife of a God has been released. Each is 48 pages, hardback, full color, 8.5″ x 11″ format.

The Roman Army goes well beyond the standard depiction of the legionary. The inside flyleaves include detailed drawings of 28 “Enemies of Rome” mounted, and on foot. The text and interior illustrations make an compelling case that the Roman soldier (and his equipment, training, supplies, camps, and support corps) were responsible for the rise of Rome as the most powerful nation on earth.

There are detailed illustrations of officers, enlisted men, and auxiliaries. There is a full page devoted to the standard equipment of a legionary. Roman engineering abilities – especially their skill at building bridges, roads and camps is carefully portrayed. The heavy weapons, battle tactics, and siege engines of the Roman army all get full treatment.

The final 2-page spread shows a Roman triumph making it’s way through the forum. The Roman Army is a 48 page hardback, and sells for $17.95.

The text is written for upper-elementary readers through junior high, but even your older students will find the information quite interesting and useful as part of a study of Rome.

PharaohKennett’s second book, Pharaoh, is equally stunning. The dark tones of his drawings depicting the interior decoration of Egyptian tombs contrast sharply with the brighter colors (yellows, blues, & greens) of the scenes set in Egyptian cities and temples.

Pharaoh, as Kennett depicts him, is an imposing and intimidating figure – whether seated on the golden throne, decorated with hieroglyphs and lion’s heads, or standing on a leopard-skin rug holding his staff and glowering. The text focuses on the New Kingdom pharaohs, Seti I and Ramesses II. Their elaborate tombs were prepared (and hidden) in man-made caves carved into the rock floor of the Valley of the Kings.

Ramesses is shown in his roles as priest at the great temple to Amun at Karnak, as the overseer and organizer of Egyptian agriculture in the flood-zone of the Nile valley, as the merchant-prince who controls the import and export of Egyptian goods, and as the commander in chief of the Egyptian army – leading his division of chariots across the desert.

One of the most stunning illustrations is a two-page spread showing the great temple to Ramesses carved into the cliffside above the Nile at Abu Simbel. But Kennett shows us, not the faded sandstone colossi that are still to be seen, but the bright, red-and-white painted figures of pharaoh with a colorful procession of chariots arriving to pay him tribute.

Kennett’s drawings do an excellent job of helping us to imagine what ancient Egypt was really like. The imagines are arresting, and it makes it easy for us to understand why the Greeks and the Romans were so impressed. It also helps us to understand the impact of the Exodus as Moses led his people out of the wealth and comfort of Egypt into the desert and wilderness of Sinai.

The Roman Army is $17.95. Pharaoh is $18.95. Each can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

3 minutes by John Piper on adoption.

watch it all.

Hat tip to Nathan’s Pipe.

Elizabeth Lee Clarkson Waitt Shearer 1920-2008

Elizabeth Lee Clarkson Waitt Shearer

Elizabeth Lee Clarkson Waitt Shearer, 87, of Lexington, died Monday, April 7, 2008.

She was born in Washington, D.C., the first-born child of the late Bessie Virginia Clarkson and Lee Massey Clarkson. Lee Massey Clarkson was director of Public Health for the State of Georgia, and later taught public health at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Betty (aka “Betty Lee”) grew up in Atlanta, Ga., graduating from Girls High School in 1938. She attended Agnes Scott College, and worked for Southern Bell Telephone Company.

In June of 1941, she married Robert Graham Waitt, who had just graduated from the United States Military Academy. Graham was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation and four years later, in 1945 had attained the rank of Lt. Colonel, and was serving as the Executive Officer of the 652nd Engineering Battalion (topographic) attached to General George Patton’s Third Army. He later served on General MacArthur’s staff in Tokyo during the occupation of Japan. Betty and Graham were very active at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, where they served as co-superintendents of the Sunday school. Betty was also very active in St. Hilda’s Circle. She enjoyed playing bridge with her friends and volunteering in the community. Mr. and Mrs. Waitt had four children: Virginia, Elizabeth, Robert, & Miriam. Graham died in 1960.

In 1964, Betty married Vernon Hill Shearer (Don), after which she became an active member of the First Presbyterian Church. Mr. Shearer died in 1997. In 2000, Betty moved to the Kendal at Lexington retirement community where she quickly made many friends and led an active social life.

Betty enjoyed and excelled at creating a home for her family and was devoted to her children. She took great delight in entertaining her many friends and the friends of her family.

She is survived by her children, Virginia Atkinson Waitt Saunders, Elizabeth Graham Waitt Tomlinson, Robert Graham Waitt Shearer, and Miriam Clarkson Waitt Shearer; two sisters, Jean Theodosia Clarkson Rogers of Atlanta, and Charlotte Sayre Clarkson Jones of Memphis, Tenn.; 19 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Friday, April 11, at 3:30 p.m., at the Lexington Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Virginia. A second memorial service will be held on Monday, April 21st at 12:00 noon in the Atlanta area at St. James Episcopal Church, 105 Church St., Marietta, Ga. A graveside service will follow at Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta.

Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of choice, Rockbridge Area Hospice, the Lexington Presbyterian Church, or Habitat for Humanity.

This obituary appeared as part of the April 9, 2008 online edition of The Lexington News-Gazette.

And also in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 13, 2008.

Here’s a link to the guest book (which will stay online for a year) for Elizabeth Shearer.

Here is a photostory of photographs from her childhood in Atlanta, marriage to Graham Waitt, raising Virginia, Elizabeth, Robert, & Miriam; second marriage to Don Shearer; and her final years in Lexington VA. that I have also placed on Youtube.

Elizabeth Lee Clarkson Waitt Shearer 1920-2008

A Year in the Life of ShakespeareCyndy and I are huge proponents of studying history and literature together, and studying them chronologically. This books is perhaps the best example I have ever run across illustrating how much an understanding of an author’s context increases your understanding of the literature that he wrote. Shakespeare is arguably the most brilliant writer in the entire pantheon of English literature. He draws on universal themes and weaves a spell with language that both entertains, provokes, instructs, and challenges. His complex understanding of human nature, human emotions, and human passions is un-paralleled. The setting and world-view of his plays is decidedly Christian, but not simplistically so. For Shakespeare, guilt and sin are real objective realities. But so are repentance, redemption, love and joy.

If I could recommend only one book to students to help them understand Shakespeare, it would be this volume by James Shapiro.

1599 was the “annus mirabilis” for Shakespeare and for England. In that year, Elizabeth celebrated her 66th birthday and the 41st year of her reign. Only eleven years before, the little island realm of England had been threatened with extinction and absorption by the powerful global empire of Spain and its fearsome 150-ship Armada. The Armada was to ferry an invasion force across the English Channel – hardened soldiers, veterans of the wars in the Netherlands and sure to bring with them a legion of monks and inquisitors with their instruments of torture. English protestants had prepared themselves for martyrdom. And then God had miraculously delivered England and “good Queen Bess.” The lumbering Spanish ships had been pursued up the channel by the small quick English terriers commanded by the Queen’s little pirate, Drake and his fellow-admirals Howard and Hawkins. The Armada failed to rendezvous with the invasion army and was then swept north by storms. Two thirds of the Spanish ships were lost and England celebrated a miraculous deliverance.

In a marvelous coincidence, 1588 is also the year that a young (24 years old) actor / poet / playwright began his career in London. Over the next 25 years, until his death in 1613, he wrote 36 (or perhaps 38) plays. Usually only one or two a year, but the year 1599 was special. 1599 is the year that Shakespeare made the transition from employee to entrepreneur. He was 35 now and joined with a company of actors as a part-owner of a newly constructed theater called The Globe. Doing everything in his power to insure the success of the new venture, in 1599 he doubled his usual output and wrote FOUR plays. And what plays they were: Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet!

The first of the plays was Shakespeare’s greatest historical drama, Henry V. The mood and character of Henry V are shaped by the political events of the day. The Queen’s favorite courtier, the dashing military commander, Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex had been dispatched by her to put down a rebellion in Ireland. The rebellion had overtones of a religious war (the Irish rebels were Roman Catholics) and threatened to bring the Spanish out again for a another attempt to invade and conquer England. Shapiro shows, convincingly and in a riveting and entertaining style how the political events of the year made their way in to Shakespeare’s play. Essex’s subsequent rebellion and fall into disfavor with the Queen provides the backdrop to Julius Caesar. Essex attracted a number of malcontents who eventually involved him in a plot to stage a palace coup and displace Elizabeth. The plot failed and Essex was executed.

Shakespeare’s third play reflects more gentle, playful preoccupations. In As You Like It, there are numerous echoes, not of the politics of London and the Court, but the pastoral simplicity of Stratford and the nearby Forest of Arden. In the summer of 1599, Shakespeare made a trip home and spent time with his family, his neighbors, and the town of his youth. Shapiro shows us how Shakespeare worked all of the varied facets of his life into this delightful tale of love and mistaken identity.

Toward the end of the year, as Shakespeare continued his burst of creativity, he composed Hamlet. The plot is not original, but the depth of the characters that Shakespeare creates is a work of unique genius. Even the style of his writing and the vocabulary he uses is unique. Shapiro’s summary of the genius of Hamlet, the way in which it comments on contemporary issues for Shakespeare’s world while remaining timeless is a tour de force!

I cannot recommend this book too highly. I am, more than ever, convinced that it is impossible to understand Shakespeare without studying the details and the events of the twenty-five years that compass his life as a playwright. Thirty-six plays in twenty-five years. There never was another like him, nor shall ever be. To understand the plays, and the man, you must understand the times. There is no better introduction to both than this book by James Shapiro.

Originally published in 2006, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare – 1599 is available in paperback, 432 pages for $14.95 directly from Greenleaf Press by.

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press