An Explorer's Explorer
(Books #4, March 20, 1999)
This issue's book is a rare and controversial one that I first located in my public library. Later I was able to obtain a copy through Amazon.com, our online associate. My review's a little longer than usual because the book is unusual and worth the space. I haven't linked it to our online bookstore, because it isn't still in print. You may be able to special order it, though. It's an adventure collector's treasure that's worth the search.
As always, I've also reviewed a letter from the Holy Bible—a difficult but important one for Christians.
Lost Trails, Lost Cities,Col. P. H. Fawcett, edited by Brian Fawcett.
At the turn of the Century Percy Fawcett was a Royal Engineer in
an army artillery unit. He was experienced in foreign service, and he
needed a career change. He volunteered for a project to survey a
stable frontier between Brazil and Bolivia to end their almost
constant border disputes. His first survey expedition began in 1906.
It would be a taxing task in extremely difficult wild country; but it
would continue to generate other, similar, tasks that would consume
the rest of his life.
Lost Trails, Lost Cities (published in Britain as Exploration Fawcett) is an edition of Fawcett's manuscripts by his younger son, Brian. The book spans some years and several of Fawcett's expeditions. It was compiled after the explorer disappeared in the Brazilian forest with his older son and another companion during his 1925 expedition. Though the arrangement is Brian Fawcett's, the words are Percy's. It is his story.
Fawcett begins with the tantalizing story of Diego Alvarez, a
Portuguese mariner who, shipwrecked only a few years after the
discovery of America, struggles ashore in South America and begins a
life filled with all the elements of any good adventure story—jungle
survival, capture by cannibals, and fabulously rich gold and silver
mines protected by hostile Indians in the Brazilian jungles.
In 1743 a man Fawcett calls Francisco Raposo decided to make an attempt to find those rich mines. Instead he and his men found, on a green plain below difficult mountains, a huge, ancient, city.
Fawcett heard this story some time after he had taken his first survey contract. Until he knew the story his expeditions were entirely oriented toward civil engineering productivity. The forest interested him keenly, and he made copious observations about everything he saw, especially the white settlers, the Indians of the forest, and the forest wildlife.
Fawcett's surveying team in the bush
To summarize Lost Trails... would be easy, but it would not do justice to the quality of Fawcett's commentary. Instead, I've quoted several passages from the book that illustrate the passion and variety of his observations.
Fawcett was fascinated by the way civilization fell away as he
went deeper into the forest. He was astonished at the barbarity of
the remote rubber camps and small settlements (barracas):
Fawcett's narratives are really detailed, very literate
diaries; reports on each of his expeditions. They are based on
simple chronological recounting of the events on his treks,
augmented by a profusion of observations of almost everything
unusual he experienced or wondered about on the trips. They are
surprisingly optimistic; he seems never to have doubted his ability
to complete a project successfully and return safely, until much
later when divulging his plans for his last trip in 1925. He was
clearly concerned about his physical condition and the likelihood
that he would not survive this one.
Brian Fawcett's epilog recounts his efforts to find his father
and brother after their disappearance. Numerous leads got him
nowhere, and he was forced to conclude that the men had been killed,
perhaps even eaten, by the Indians in those remote regions.
I personally don't care about Fawcett's "politics." His book is
engaging, mystifying, often graphic and terrifying. It's an
adventure classic treasure.
|And One From The Good Book|
"The Letter to the Galatians"Saul of Tarsus, called Paul
Wherever the Apostle Paul traveled he established congregations
of the Lord's church. By commission from God, and through agreement
with the Apostles, Paul taught the gospel to the Gentile world. In
every place he went he also converted local Jews to Jesus.
In his earlier years, Paul had severely persecuted Christians. Now that he was one, and a champion to the Gentiles, other Jewish men began to persecute him. They were always just a few steps behind him, and their technique seems to have been subtle and effective. They would not attack him physically. Instead, they caused doubt about the gospel he taught.
"Paul has not told you everything," they said. "It's OK to be a Christian, but you must first become a Jew."
Their particular focus seems to have been an insistence that new Gentile Christian males be circumcised, as were all good Jewish males. Circumcision was the physical sign of God's old covenant with Israel. If they succeeded, they would cheapen the spiritual sign of God's new covenant with Christians, water baptism.
"Paul is not really an Apostle," they continued. "Apostles were directly commissioned by Jesus, himself."
This subtle argument appeared correct, but it discredited Paul's experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus, when Jesus directly took control of his life and sent him to convert the Gentiles (see The Acts, chapter 9). Perhaps the fact that this happened after the death of The Christ was the issue. If this deception were accepted, it would discredit Jesus' resurrection in the new converts' eyes.
There seems to have been, too, the delicate question of whether Paul was teaching Jesus for the personal profit it might bring. In all, it was a whispering campaign designed to nullify Paul's success with the Gentiles.
John, in his first letter (John I), calls these men "the antichrist," one of the very few mentions of "antichrist" in The Bible. He correctly identifies them as having come from within the Church. Paul calls them "sham Christians."
They taught a modified gospel based, once again, on justification through deeds of law rather than Grace, the free gift of God, through faith in Jesus. They were confusing and upsetting the new Gentile converts everywhere Paul went. It is to these converts in congregations throughout Galatia that Paul writes this letter.
Paul effectively argues that the Jews had been under The Law only until they, as a people, became spiritually mature. The Gentiles, outside God's covenant, had never been under The Law, but had obtained spiritual maturity, nevertheless. (see Paul's letter to the Roman Church, chapter 2, verses 12-16). At just the right time, the present, both Jew and Gentile were being united as Christians. As spiritually mature children of God, no longer minors, they were now under Grace—the living spiritual principles of the old, physical law.
"Galatians" is one of the few places in The Bible where the transition from Law to Grace is explained clearly. It is a concept at the foundation of Christianity, and it is often misunderstood by modern Christians: in our life we show our love for God by performing righteous deeds from our hearts, because we want to please Him; not from our law books, because we have to. To equip us for that work, Jesus has removed all our condemnation, past, present, and future. We trust Him fully to keep his promises to us. This is the good news that Paul preached and that his opposition sought to quell.
His letter to the Galatian congregations, written from prison, is his long-distance way of getting those churches back on the simple track of Jesus' gospel. He also addresses the racial prejudice, even among the Apostles, that could divide the Church if it were allowed to continue. As that prejudice could separate Jew from Gentile, so could jealousy and insensitivity divide person from person.
Some of Paul's letter to the Galatians is a rehearsal of what they already knew. How could they be forgetting things they had already mastered? Other sections seem to reveal things he had not explained before, and which are found nowhere else in The New Testament.
"The Letter To The Galatians" should be read in company with "The Letter To The Ephesians," where Paul reveals, for the only time I've been able to find, God's true long-term plan for His people. These two letters are a remarkable basis for faith for those of us who ask "Why...?" and "How...?"
To get the most from Paul's letters, and
from all the other Bible scriptures, may I suggest
that you read it in at least one modern language translation,
like The New International Version, and one older translation,
like the King James Version or the Revised Standard Version.
In America, Bibles are easy to find; you can find several
You can protect your valuable hardbound books with our crystal clear polyester book jacket covers. See the selection in our Store.
See you next time for more reviews of interesting books. To read book reviews from previous issues see "Back Issues"
in our "Library."
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