August 1914 (Solzhenitsyn)

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Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. August 1914. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1972.

See here for a good introduction to Solzhenitsyn’s method. https://aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-center.squarespace.com/his-writings/large-works-and-novels/the-red-wheel/solzhenitsyn-on-method-of-nodes

This is Solzhenitsyn’s counter to Tolstoy’s view of history.  Actually, it’s a counter to everything Tolstoy believed. Solzhenitsyn arranges his philosophy of history around a series of “nodes” or “knots” that describe the fall of Russia.  Particularly fine is his brutal, yet fair and realistic critique of both liberalism and blind monarchism. How do I know he is being fair? If you can find yourself in the critique and say “Ouch,” then you know he is being fair to all sides.

Both liberals and Russian monarchists today think Solzhenitsyn was a pure Russian nationalist.  He might have been in his private life, but that doesn’t come through in his writings. He is very critical of the Tsar and in other writings (e.g., The Russian Question) he thinks every war Russia fought was a bad idea.  

And his take on the Jews is more balanced than people on either side realize.  He mocks the anti-Jewish attitude of conservative Russians just before the Revolution. One of the characters had the name Isaaki (named after St Isaac), so the University thought he was Jewish and wouldn’t let him in.  He proved he wasn’t Jewish and then realized, “His acceptance rested on his having proved that he did not belong to the nation through which Christ had come into the world” (Solzhenitsyn 20).

Solzhenitsyn is aware of the existential danger that Russia faced, and not just from Satanists like Lenin.  Russia had lost two big wars, Crimea and Japan. She could not afford another loss (112). Even worse, Russia had failed to listen to Dostoevsky and form an eternal alliance with Germany.  Such would have protected her against the Bolsheviks (and forever doomed the British banking clans). Neither scenario, however, would be realized. Russia was doomed before the war began.

What Russia Should have Done

1) Tell France to go pound sand.

2) Expand the invasion of East Prussia beyond the Maurian lakes.  Amputate the whole thing (208).

3) Following Dostoevsky’s instructions, Russia should have formed an “eternal alliance” with Germany (114). Indeed, “peace between Germany and Russia was far preferable to this disastrous alliance with those circus artistes from Paris” (348).

Nota Bene:

a) German General Hermann von Francois was of Huguenot descent (214).

b) “It was one of those moments in war when time contracts to an explosion, when action must be instantaneous and nothing can be put off” (191).

c) There is a fun scene where an old man finds out that Sanya and Kotya are Tolstoyan and Hegelian, respectively (399-401).  As someone who used to be a pure Hegelian, I enjoyed this part. It also reveals that a Hegelian affirms the existence of the state.  This means a Hegelian can’t be a Marxist. It’s important to make this basic distinction, otherwise conservatives come off as conceptually inept.

The whole section is a wonderful critique of ideology. We shouldn’t impose a government from top down as a way to “fix” society (409).  Rather, the people of a country should focus on developing its soul. An example of this is the misguided attempt to “make the world safe for democracy.” That is the essence of Revolution and Bolshevism.

d) One is often struck by the similarities of the Russian “intelligentsia” and the “Woke” Americans of today.  Both sneer at the idea of a nation’s history. Indeed, both sneer at the idea of nations. Both are socialistic.  Some characters in the book are accused of being part of the “Black Hundreds,” an ultra-nationalist (and probably xenophobic) paramilitary group in Russia. If someone is a patriot, then he is a Black Hundred by definition.  It’s similar to today when anyone who loves America is an evil nationalist and probably a member of the KKK.

That’s another lesson today’s conservatives should learn from Solzhenitsyn.  Revolutionary socialists want you dead. You cannot reason with them. You cannot tell them “No, I am not a racist or ______.”  They are only waiting to line you up against the wall.

 

Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, volume 1

Brown, Michael L. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus vol. 1.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

This volume introduces Michael L. Brown’s larger project of Jewish evangelism.  Working through these objections is a neat exercise for Christians, as you get to use your Old Testament knowledge in ways you didn’t expect.

Remind them that the rabbinic traditions which they follow aren’t any older than Christianity.  That means the debate is over who is the best expression of the Jewish tradition: Yeshua Messiah or the rabbis?

The Problem of Interpretation.  The key question is not whether Christianity or Judaism is true.  The key question is which is the biblical faith: the rabbis or Yeshua (Brown 1.7)? 

The first section dealt with general objections to Yeshua.  None were formidable. These are the standard CNN/NPR objections.  In section 2 Brown deals with more scholarly opponents.

Why isn’t there peace on Earth? The OT Messianic prophecies point to worldwide peace.   This is a more sophisticated objection than we might think at first. It’s a devastating criticism of amillennialism. The objection is not saying that “We Jews expect a David-like conqueror.”  No, the OT messianic promises point to “the glory of God covering the earth.” 

Brown responds that Messiah must bring purification before peace, judgment before justice (2.1).  The peace that Messiah brings happens at the end of the age (Isaiah 2; Zech. 14). See Hagg. 2:6-9.  See also Daniel 9:24-27.

Daniel 9 is an important chapter for End Times Bible Prophecy, but it also provides an important point here.  Brown notes that “Final atonement for Israel’s sin must be made before the second temple was destroyed.”

If Yeshua is the Messiah, why have wars and famines increased (2.2)?  We’ve already dealt with the faulty premise of the question, as explained in 2.1.  Messiah does not bring in a universal, unqualified peace.

Zechariah’s Sequence of Messiah’s Return

The trumpet will sound; Messiah returns, then Day of Atonement.  Yahweh will protect the City (Zech. 14:1-5), and these nations afterwards will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  Here is the exciting part: this is laid out in the Jewish calendar: Passover, Firstfruits (Yeshua’s rising from the dead), Shavu’ot/Pentecost [Gap in Time] we are now waiting on the eschatological Feast of Tabernacles following the rescue of Jerusalem.

 

60 Questions Christians Ask About…

Brown, Michael L. 60 Beliefs Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.

Michael L. Brown, Semitic language expert and Jewish convert to Christ, writes a good primer introducing Christians to “why Jews do what they do.” While it points out inconsistencies and tensions in rabbinic belief, it primarily serves to a) explain the Jewish foundations of Christian thought and b) combat fringe Christian silliness.

Are there Jewish Denominations?

Reform Judaism was a humanistic reaction to Orthodox Judaism. The Reform motto became “Guidance, not governance.” Conservative Judaism, by contrast, respected the sanctity of traditions but acknowledged a historical development to them. The differing traditions view the following doctrines accordingly:

Scripture:

Orthodox–Tanakh is inerrant and authoritative.

Reform–imperfect human product, but special.

Rabbinic authority:

Orthodox–God gave Moses a written and oral law

Reform–respect their teachings but you aren’t bound to them.

Humor

When speaking of God, Orthodox Jews say “adonoy” (referring to the Eastern European pronunciation). Conservative Jews say “adonai” (referring to the Middle Eastern pronunciation). Liberal Jews say “I-don’t-know.”

What is Hasidic Judaism?

Originated in the 1700s with Eliezer ben Israel, known as Baal Shem Tov. He emphasized joy and laughter and that one good deed was worth more than the 613. Initially opposed by the Formalists, his teachings ended up becoming widespread, if not mainstream.

Unique to the Hasidim was the position of “rebbe,” Grand Rabbi of a community. This position had almost mystical importance and was passed down from father to son.

Lubavitch. They are known as the Chabad, an acronym for [​IMG]

(3) What is the Oral Law?

The oral law explains the written law? Where is the evidence for it? It’s oral, so you can’t find evidence of an unwritten law in a written text (sound familiar?). On one hand there is no problem with saying there are long-standing traditions. Brown, however, points out the irony: it is in their written form that the oral traditions have been preserved.

(4) What is the Tanakh?

It is the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.

(5) What is exactly meant by the term ‘Torah’?

On one hand, Torah is broader than “law,” yet the Talmud has legal discussions which are considered Torah, yet they insist that Torah isn’t law.

(6) What is the Masoretic Text?

It’s actually a textual tradition, since there are thousands of medieval manuscripts.

(7) What are the holy books of Judaism?

Babylonian Talmud. Commentary on the Mishnah. Covers every aspect of Jewish life.

Haggada. Non-binding rabbinic stories and commentaries.

Halakhah. A specific legal ruling.

Kabbalah. Jewish mystical writings.

Midrash. Rabbinic commentaries.

Mishnah. The oral law.

Targum. Aramaic translations of the Hebrew bible.

(10) Do Jewish People Expect a Literal Messiah?

Yes, but he will be fully human.

(11) Do Jews refer to God by the Name Jehovah?

No. Jehovah is based on a mistaken rendering by those who were educated in Hebrew, but didn’t know the scribal practices. They didn’t know the scribes put the vowels for adonai in the word yhwh.

(13) Why do traditional Jews have separate dishes for milk and meat products?

They think this is how they observe the prohibition for not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk. You can’t eat meat and drink milk together. The problem is that in Genesis 18:8 Abraham did both.

Part of Brown’s book addresses silly myths Christians tell themselves about Hebrew. No, the New Testament wasn’t originally written in history. Jesus’s real name isn’t Yahushua.”

Hebrew Roots

This is where some Christians take their silliness to full-orbed live action role playing. To be fair, there are Jewish roots to the NT. Jesus did not come into the world as a Greek Socrates to establish a Greek-Christian religion. He came to fulfill Moses and the Prophets.

Further, Romans 11:18 makes it clear that we are the branches, not the root. We are grafted into Israel’s new covenant. We understand that the Feast of Tabernacles points to the final ingathering of the nations. Israel is to play a special role in world redemption, whose salvation will be life from the dead. Yeshua himself will not return again until his own people welcome him back (Matt. 23:37-39).

Now for the silliness. If you watch these Hebrew Roots groups, you will see that Torah replaces Jesus in terms of centrality.

On another point, Paul didn’t always follow the LXX. When he quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17, he is not using the LXX. Half the time when Paul cites the LXX, he isn’t citing it exactly. Romans 11:27-28 appears to be a misquotation but is actually closer to the Hebrew.

Nota Bene

Reform Judaism on God:

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History of the Orthodox Church in Russia

Pospielovsky, D.  St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Mostly excellent account of the Church’s life in Russian history. It is somewhat marred by dated accounts of Constantine (as a nominalist tyrant) and a tendency to see fascists behind every monarchist.

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He begins in Byzantium. Gives a surface-level history of the Byzantine empire. Almost hostile to Constantine. He makes a number of assertions which not only does he not prove, but he refutes a few pages later. For example:

“That heresy [caesaropapism] is popularly associated with Eastern Christianity” (Pospielovsky 2).

Okay, that’s standard historiography. It’s hard to make that claim after Meyendorff’s Byzantium and the Rise of Russia. Pospielovsky is certainly aware of Meyendorff, as he uses M’s arguments on p.42. But then Pospielovsky (correctly) points out:

“[T]here were moral limitations to their [emperors] arbitrariness…[political monasticism] sets serious moral limits on the monarch” (5, 6).

Fascinating missionary tidbits, noting Nestorian Christianity spread to Japan (17).

Good speculation that had St Vladimir converted to Islam, Europe would have faced a three-pronged Islamic threat (Balkans, Russia, Northern Africa) and would not have survived. Russia’s conversion to Christianity saved Europe (21)

The heroes of this book, rightly, are the Old Ritualists. *Up to one-third of the population of Russia might have joined the Old Ritualists (73).

**With the loss of the Old Ritualists, the church lost its ability to resist absolutism (76).

***These persecutions were probably the causes of the collapse of the monarchy in 1917. As natural conservatives and deep patriots ready to die for their country and religion, Old Ritualists were the natural stuff for the most dedicated support of the Crown. Yet the Crown forced them into opposition, radicalized them, alienated them (77).

Post-Reform

The story of Russian church after the 1730s or so can be summarized by two points: ecclesiastical incompetence of the highest order and heroic, missionary evangelism

Pospielovsky gives a rather skillful handling of the 1880s Russian intelligentsia. Dostoevsky and Solyvyov acted as middlemen to make the Russian faith acceptable to its “cultured despisers.”

Communism

Very good section on the church under Communism, especially during WW2. Posp. feels the pressure of trying to explain how Orthodox churches under Nazi-occupied areas thrived vs. those in Soviet areas. One suspects that this is part of a larger anti-ROCOR narrative within American Orthodoxy.

The Soviets didn’t have an irrational hatred of the church. Nor were they scared of counter-societies, as some Anabaptists claim. It was just simple Marxism. Marx said religion functioned upon a material superstructure. Remove that and religion falls, which it must in a Communist society. The problem became apparent when the Church was gaining and Marxism was losing.

Conclusion:

While it is true that there is an ugly side to Fascism, Pospielovsky almost never defines what he means by that word or to whom it is applied. He also backs far away from any historical claim that secular Judaism had a role in the Revolution. And he is oddly silent about Dostoevsky’s criticisms of the Jews.

Aside from that, it is an excellent surface level account.