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“Inside Out” – Feelings, Family, and Fun: A Christian Perspective

inside-outI recently got to see “Inside Out” in theaters and it was a huge treat. The plot was fairly predictable, but it was delightfully done and thought-provoking. Here, we will explore the film from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in the following review.

Talking about Emotions

It is often quite difficult to talk about our feelings. “Inside Out” provides a springboard for having these discussions, whether with children or, frankly, with adults. Christianity is a faith of not just the mind but also the heart, and we need to be able to talk about how we feel and engage with our emotions in the context of faith.

As a parent, I was pleased to see how little there was objectionable in this movie, as it is one I could see using with my son (who is now 10 1/2 months old) in the future to talk about emotions.

Gender and Family

There are some issues with gender in the film as Riley’s parents were fairly stereotyped in some ways. However, this stereotyping was offset in many ways by Riley herself, who was a highly complex character with different interests and motivations that went beyond such gender stereotypes. As Christians we can have conversations about how our culture so often shoehorns people into strict gender categories without acknowledging its own cultural biases.

Another edifying aspect of the film is its focus on the importance of family. It does not undermine the value or struggles of those families that are non-“nuclear,” but it does affirm the ways that family can shape the lives of children. The formative impact of the parents in this film cannot be understated, and it showed not just in the “core memories” that Riley cherished, but also in her interests and concerns.

As Christians, there are a number of takeaways from this, but perhaps the most important one would be the way that our faith lives can shape our children. I sure hope that Luke has a formative experience that lets his “core memories” include faith at the center of his emotional and rational life. Like Riley’s parents, I am not going to just stand back and watch but rather be sure to expose him to the faith and prayer and allow him to ask questions and learn from an early age.

Emotions Rule?

One possible concern with the film could be the notion that it seems like the emotions are that which rule Riley’s life and actions. Indeed, the emotions cause specific acts in her day, and as different events occur, the different emotions take the controls to drive Riley entirely.

From a Christian perspective, we should interpret things generously (see Martin Luther on the 8th commandment), so the first aspect of a response to this would be to allow that the film had to make things fairly simplistic because, well, it is actually a kids movie, isn’t it? It would be tough to multiply complexity and discuss the importance of reason, logic, and abstract thought for action in a way children could easily understand.

Second, too often in Christian circles I have seen the downplaying of the importance of emotions for our reasoning process. The importance of passional reasoning (having emotions as part of the overall logical process) should not be forgotten. For older children, this film could be a great jumping off point to have a conversation about the interplay between such abstract thought and the emotions, and how they might interlink to form a life of faith and reason.

Third, related to the previous point, we sometimes need a corrective–particularly those of us who lean towards critical thinking–to remind ourselves of the importance of emotions. In a thoughtful, humorous way, Inside Out opens us to such conversations.

Conclusion

Inside Out is a delightful film with comedy, fun, and family all interwoven in a thought-provoking mix. I think it provides several ways for Christians to start conversations about a number of important topics, including reasoning, emotions, gender, and family. I recommend it.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Inside Out– One of my favorite websites, Empires and Mangers, shares some thoughts from a Christian perspective on the film. Anthony Weber approaches it from a slightly different angle, and his post is well worth the time spent reading it. Be sure to follow his excellent blog as well.

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Response to an Article on Welfare Recipients in Seattle

IMG_0691The purpose of this blog is to discuss things related to the Christian worldview. I tend to try to avoid political issues, but I recently saw a number of friends sharing an article entitled “Workers in Seattle Have Their Precious $15 Minimum Wage. But Now They Want Fewer Hours” and I wanted to respond. I will be analyzing the article from the Christian worldview perspective.

Summary of Article

The article in question points out that Seattle’s minimum wage was raised, but some who are working minimum wage have asked to work fewer hours so they do not lose their government benefits. The author writes:

[E]mployees of a non-profit group in Seattle who’ve achieved their glorious goal of the $15 minimum wage are actually asking their employers for FEWER hours. The reason? Now that they make more money, they no longer qualify for subsidized housing. So they figure if they work fewer hours, they’ll make less money and they can stay in their government-provided cheap apartments –

After sharing a few quotes, the author comments:

HOLY SOCIALISM, BATMAN!

Basically, they want a “living wage” (whatever the heck THAT means) AND they still want all the freebies the government gives them. Because that’s TOTALLY the point of working hard and being independent.

A Response

First, I ran the numbers given in the article regarding minimum wage and cost of living in Seattle. It’s fairly straightforward, as the author shared a quote (without disputing it) of the prices involved. According to the article, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment is 1200$ a month. The cost of child care was about 900$ a month. That adds up to 2100$. Now we do the math on the wages. $15 an hour, 40 hours a week, about 4.5 weeks per month = 2700$. Now this is basically granting the most possible money because some months do only get 4 pay checks, but we’ll go with it.

The math therefore shows that, ignoring any taxes whatsoever, there would be 600$ left over a month for utilities, food, auto/renters/life/health insurance, transportation and related costs, and the like.

Whatever else might be in question here–whatever economic theories one favors–these are the numbers the article itself acknowledges. For Christians, this is the kind of data that we should seek out and try to form our opinions around. Of course we need to have economic practices which are sustainable, but as Christians we must also keep in mind the demands on our conscience towards the “other” in need. We should seek more information and be cautious about making broad statements on either side; whether we agree or disagree. Misrepresenting liberals is just as bad as misrepresenting conservatives.

A Christian Moral Response

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no way around the biblical teaching about caring for the poor and needy–even if we don’t like their “life choices.” Thus, the tone of this article is highly inappropriate as it mocked those who were in need throughout with phrases like “I’m not addicted to government welfare…” thrown in as snide remarks towards those who are on some kind of welfare.

A Christian response to this should be to immediately shut down any kind of mockery of other persons, period. There is no space in the Christian moral system for carelessly decrying those who are in need. Regarding the exact phrase in question, suppose we take it literally–what is the Christian response to addiction? Should it be to point out how we ourselves are not addicted and move on from the one who is? I don’t think so. I believe that we must continue to help those in need–even if addicted. That said, the dubiousness of taking the meaning literally is of course clear. It, like the rest of the article, was directed as mockery of those in need and those who have rival economic theories trying to help them.

I’m not trying to favor one theory over another–whether pure capitalism or pure socialism or some mix is best is a topic for a completely different day and post–the issue involved is rather the tone we should carry even in disagreement. Rather than mock, should we not aid and instruct as needed?

A Rejoinder

The most frequent response I received when I shared concerns related to the article was that I needed to be instructed on economic theory.

Note that I have not commented on whether we need to raise minimum wage or whether we need to make it a “living wage.” I don’t particularly want to enter that debate and the quagmire that follows it. My comments have been on the ethical concerns with the article and its tone. We have looked at the numbers involved, and I suggested those should be a consideration regarding a Christian response to such issues. Other than that I think that we must at all costs avoid the kind of tone present in the article. We ought to treat others as we would be treated.

Conclusion

Finally, as a practical concern, would not a reasoned response sharing one’s own disputes about the economic theory(ies) involved in the article be more convincing than poking fun at the specifics of another’s situation? I believe so. I certainly don’t respond well when the beliefs I hold are mocked. That is a surefire way to shut down conversation rather than spur it forward. If the intent is to convince, would not a winsome approach work better?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

John Wesley’s Directions for Singing Hymns

449px-NürnbergReformationsGedKircheA while ago, I was visiting my Grandma’s church. She goes to a United Methodist church. When I visit other churches, I like to go through hymnals, bulletins, etc. and see what they say about where they’re coming from. I was delighted to come upon some comments from John Wesley in the beginning of the hymnal, because I think they’re fairly well on-point for how we should sing in worship to this day:

1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find a blessing.

2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim to pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing; and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I’ve excluded his first two from this list because he also exhorts readers to learn hymns in a specific way and try to unlearn other ways (presumably to help with unity in singing). These comments are from Wesley’s Select Hymns (1761), according to multiple sources I found. However, I was unable to track down a copy to browse online to ensure this is the correct citation and I apologize if I have incorrectly cited it.

As I said, I believe these instructions are just as good for today as they were in 1761. Too often, I go to a church and very few people are singing apart from those in the choir. Hey, my voice is not that great, but if I follow the directions above, my average-quality voice will lend itself alongside some better singers and together we’ll make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Just a thought! Let’s all sing along to those words which sing praises to our God.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Jurassic World”- A Christian Perspective: Gender, Dinosaurs, and Genetic Engineering

See this? This is what would have happened if we'd lived with dinosaurs.

See this? This is what would have happened if we’d lived with dinosaurs.

I had the chance to watch “Jurassic World” this weekend. It was pretty cool to see the dinosaurs back in action on the big screen. I enjoyed the tie-ins to the previous movies as well. Here, I will reflect on some of the worldview issues the movie raised. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Genetic Engineering

I’ve reflected on genetic engineering of humans in the past, but Jurassic World brings up some other difficulties that would perhaps be brought about by such a practice. Unintended side-effects were part of what created the Indominus Rex, a truly terrifying beast that had aspects of all kinds of different dinosaurs mixed into it to make it scarier.

I am by no means an expert on genetic engineering, but I do wonder whether tampering with the human genetic code could lead to some unintended side effects as well. Is it possible that our messing around with certain factors could deeply impact others? If so, what might that suggest about the moral status of genetic engineering?

Dinosaurs Would Kill People!

Jurassic World is not a friendly place for humans. Carnivorous dinosaurs–and even herbivorous dinosaurs–would be extremely dangerous to humans to say the least. Sure, the Velociraptors would have been smaller, and there is no Indominus Rex, but there were Ultraraptors and Giganotosaurous and the like. Why care about this from a worldview perspective? Well, most simply, because it seems that any worldview which would suggest that humans and dinosaurs managed to survive alongside each other has some serious difficulties with which to deal if it is to be believed. The young earth creationist position does hold to this exact view: that humans and dinosaurs at one point lived alongside each other.

Perhaps the young earth creationist would simply argue that the really powerful and dangerous dinosaurs did not exist alongside humans. The Earth is indeed a massive place–perhaps God simply ordered things such that the T-Rex and the human were not living in the same area. This counter-argument has some power to it, but then we must consider the very foundation of the young earth perspective: that this view is allegedly based on the Bible. Yet the authors of the Bible are allegedly aware of dinosaurs, according to some young earth creationists, and used words like behemoth to describe them [I do not think this is a legitimate interpretation; the behemoth is not a dinosaur]. In that case, it seems that such dinosaurs did indeed live alongside humans.

Moreover, the question would have to be asked of what biblical evidence there is for such convenient ecological sorting that would keep dinosaurs from utterly obliterating humanity.

Men and Women

There are a number of issues with statements or assumptions about gender that come up in the movie without being addressed. Why does Claire keep her high-heels on the whole time and how do they not break? Is it for the sake of the viewer? What about Zach’s continual lusting after the young women his age when he has a seemingly loyal girlfriend back home?

Interestingly, it is Claire who ultimately saves the day, despite Owen seeming to be the hero throughout. Her quick action to grab T-Rex to fight Indominus was a good turnabout on the expectations the movie built up regarding men and women.

Are You Not Entertained?

The investors in Jurassic World were worried that the profit margins weren’t as high as they had hoped. The answer was, as argued by Claire, was to genetically modify the dinosaurs to make them more fearsome and interesting. There was something deeply ironic about this because the movie almost seemed to be referencing itself: perhaps people have gotten bored by seeing T-Rex doing stuff: they need INDOMINUS!

I was thinking about how this might reflect on our culture and our insatiable need for newer, bigger, and better. But is this a true need or is it something that we are using to fill the voids in our world? I think too often we try to fill the holes in our view of reality with the wrong things, and the ironic commentary here–intended or not–was well-taken.

Conclusion

Jurassic World is not a movie made for deep reflection on the various issues it raises. But the fact that it does raise this issues is, in itself, interesting and worth thinking about. What are your thoughts on the movie? What of genetic engineering, gender issues, or humans living with dinosaurs?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Giver”- Hope, Freedom, and Suffering

the-giver-movieI recently got “The Giver” from the library. I remember quite enjoying the book but admit I haven’t read it in… well over a decade so I didn’t remember it hardly at all as I watched the film. I enjoyed the movie and have taken the time to reflect on it here. There will be SPOILERS for the movie in what follows.

Freedom

One thing that humanity in this apparently post-apocalyptic world lacks is freedom. They take drugs to prevent emotions, demand “precision of language” that eliminates the use of words like “love” from the vocabulary, and live under a set of rules in which sameness is not only encouraged but enforced. It is only “The Giver” and “Receiver” who know what humanity used to be like, with all the joys and sorrows that accompanied it.

Perhaps the most prevalent theme throughout the movie is the notion that this loss of human freedom, though it apparently ensures survival of the species and eliminates much evil, is itself doing great harm to humanity. People commit infanticide and euthanasia without even having knowledge of what they are doing. A kind of blissful ignorance surrounds acts that would be considered morally barbaric. But the people’s ignorance means that it is more sad than appalling at first.

The film asks us to reflect on our own nature and think what we have done with our freedom. How have we used our freedom of choice to bring about good or evil? Is it worth sacrificing this freedom in order to have a facade of civility and “ending” of suffering.

Suffering

A theme that is extremely prominent in the movie is the notion that freedom leads to suffering. This is not because freedom is inherently evil or painful, but rather because humanity so often uses freedom to bring about suffering. As noted above, the society in which people live seems to be free from evil, but has real atrocities being committed even without knowledge of the magnitude of the actions.

The movie itself is a kind of exploration of the problem of evil and the “free will defense” to this problem. Supposing that our world was created by a benevolent being, why is there evil? The answer in “The Giver” seems to be that we have used our given freedom to bring about great wrongs. Even when we attempt to create our own perfect society, that society remains inherently corrupt. We have squandered our freedom.

Hope

What “The Giver” paints is a picture of humanity as being inherently good; not in the moral sense in which we are perfect, but in the sense that humanity as created–along with the freedom of the will to use for good or ill–is a good thing. At once this hearkens back to the notion of a “very good” creation by God in the beginning and also looks forward to a day of hope.

Jonas’ actions to bring back emotions and memories to humanity is a quest of salvation. It is salvation from a kind of hell that humanity built for itself, putting up walls around the very things that could be used for good. The answer to the problem of evil is a solution from the “outside.” From beyond the capacity of the humans themselves, salvation was brought to them in the restoration of their free will. Yet the ultimate hope remains fleeting: the hope for a world in which suffering can be brought to a final end.

Conclusion

“The Giver” has a kind of eschatological scope in its study: a human-made utopia has failed. Can there be better waiting for us? With questions of free will, the problem of evil, and more in view, it is a worthy movie to watch and discuss.

The image in this post is an official movie poster and is used under fair use.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

The Hunger Games (category)– Like Dystopia? Check out my posts on the Hunger Games series of books and movies.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Robert Sawyer’s “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Faith, Scientism, and Humanity

neanderthal-sawyerI recently finished reading Robert Sawyer’s trilogy “The Neanderthal Parallax.” I found the plot intriguing, but the worldview issues the books brought up had great difficulties in how they were conveyed and the kind of hidden premises smuggled in. Every story has a worldview, and the worldview of these books was surprisingly hostile and disingenuous particularly to Christians. I have enjoyed Robert Sawyer’s work in the past, but feel forced to interact with these books in a fairly critical fashion. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I’ll not summarize the plot, but interested readers can see summaries on Wikipedia. I have written a review of the books here.

Faith

Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the books is that Sawyer seemingly did not put anything close to the amount of research and care into his portrayal of faith as he did his portrayal of biology, cosmology, and the like. On the latter topics, great detail is put into explaining aspects of various sciences and even invented science that Sawyer employs to support the plot. But people of faith are put up as frequently hypocritical but also lacking in erudition and thoughtfulness.

The central faith figure is Mary Vaughan, a specialist in ancient genetics. She consistently is put forth as the faithful counterweight to the faithlessness of the Neanderthals. However, she is an alleged Roman Catholic who later reveals she denounces and disagrees with the Roman Church’s view on abortion, women, homosexuality, birth control, and more. She rejects the doctrine of original sin. One must wonder how Roman Catholic this woman actually is to begin with. I’m not suggesting that there are no people who have great cognitive dissonance in their beliefs–obviously many people do. The problem is that Sawyer uses Mary as the central image of Christianity throughout the novels, but she is woefully inept at even holding to the faith she claims for herself.

At one point in Humans, Ponter is talking to Mary at the Vietnam Memorial about life after death(188-207). He simply asserts that if you can’t see something it doesn’t exist. But of course this is as absurd as he claims “Gliskins'” (homo sapiens sapiens as opposed to the Neanderthals) belief in things like God is. I cannot see my own thoughts, yet they exist. Neither can I observe other people’s mental life, yet I am not irrational in believing that the people around me are also having thoughts.

In Hominids, Ponter speaks to Mary about the Gliskins’ viewing of a Mass taking place and again basically asserts that Christian belief in deity is absurd on its face. Mary struggles to articulate even the slightest defense of the Incarnation and other central Christian doctrines. Again, plenty of believers would struggle in this fashion, but Sawyer uses Mary as a kind of foil for all of Christianity. She’s got the best defenses Christians have to offer, and she can’t do anything but stutter when challenges to her faith are raised.

At several points, Big Bang Cosmology is challenged as something the Gliskins cling to because of their necessity of belief in a finite universe to support deity. Yet not only was Big Bang Cosmology initially rejected by the scientific community for this and other reasons (and only later accepted due to the mounting evidence for it), but even were the universe infinite, it would hardly follow that it is uncreated, as Ponter asserted without challenge. Sawyer seems to be unaware of–or at least makes his characters ignorant of–the entirety of Scholastic thought on the topic of continuous creation. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world, defended this view in several places in his writings. Thus, for Christians it is hardly an either/or of either eternal universe or finite universe. Either fits in with various strands of historic Christian theology. But again, Sawyer seems to have been either ignorant of this or willfully ignoring it to portray belief in deity in a more negative and indefensible light.

All of this wouldn’t be as unfortunate if Sawyer didn’t put discussions like this forward as if they were the best defenses Christians could come up with for their positions. Had they been simply believers who were also uninformed or insincere, it would not be as great an error. But Sawyer paints these interactions as though the defenses are the best Christians can come up with. As we have just surveyed very briefly, this is mistaken. I enjoyed the stories Sawyer put forward here, but his portrayal of people of faith is deeply flawed.

Religious Experience

Sawyer uses the books to explore the notion of a God part of the brain which, when triggered, can set off religious experiences. In Humans, it is discovered that Gliskins have a part in their brain which is able to have “religious experiences” triggered through electromagnetic interaction, while Neanderthals do not have a corresponding part of their brains.

A central scene in the entire series is near the end of Hybrids in Times Square, New York City. The Earth’s magnetic field is resetting and it triggers religious experiences, UFO sightings, and the like among the crowd gathered as this part of the Gliskin (homo sapien, remember) brain is triggered. People are crying out to their deities, fending off invading aliens, and the like all over Times Square. From this, Mary Vaughan’s faith is finally shattered:

The Pope had some ‘splainin’ to do.
All religious leaders did…
“It’s all a crock, isn’t it?” [Mary] said [to Ponter].
…”Look, I’ve changed my mind. About our child… Our daughter should not have the God organ…” (389)

Thus, we find that in Sawyer’s universe, the notion that we can induce religious experiences in the brain (and other types of experience like UFOs) means that these experiences are baseless in reality. Mary decides that her child should not have the capacity to have religious experience because it is all “a crock.” The Pope and others have some “‘splainin’ to do.” Presumably they are expected to take this as some kind of major challenge to their respective faiths.

The main problem with this is that we can conceivably trigger all sorts of things in the brain. It does not seem too outlandish to suppose that if we triggered a certain part of the brain, we might bring up a memory. If we extrapolate more, Sawyer’s vision of electromagnetically triggered religious experiences could be on par with memories as well, which could (in this scenario) be triggered in the same way. Should we start to distrust our perceptions or memories if we are able to trigger them with various impulses? Certainly not. This way lies (true) madness: distrust in our own memories and senses.

So what is left? What does the notion that religious experiences might be triggered by various brain activity demonstrate? Just that: religious experience may be triggered through manipulation. Full stop. This doesn’t in any way undercut evidence for theism or other beliefs from religious experience any more than our capacity to trigger scents, sounds, or memories would undercut our rational basis for believing this things to be real (or about real events).

Social Ills?

Sawyer uses the trilogy to attack all kinds of perceived and real social ills, from our treatment of the environment to gun control laws, and the like. But the question is how can he realistically put forward any kind of inter-cultural critique when the whole view he puts forward in the books is ultimately subjective. Mary Vaughan suffers a grotesque act of violence in a rape scene, but this is only used as an instrument in the plot (see my discussion here). Any moral critique Sawyer offers through his characters falls hollow because his only basis for it is some vague concept of pragmatism and self-preservation. Thus, it seems there is no ultimate basis for his criticisms of various ethical wrongs, and his use of several of these as mere instruments to advance the plot betrays this inability to provide an objective basis for right and wrong.

Conclusion

I’ve already written much on the difficulties with worldview in these novels. There are many more I could discuss. Again, I want to emphasize that it is very true that many Christians and believers would struggle to articulate their faith, be unable to defend various aspects of it, and not agree with at least some teachings of their church body. The problem is that Sawyer portrays this as the best Christianity can come up with. I was deeply disappointed to see that the overall thrust of the books was ultimately a kind of attack on my own faith, without any reasonable portrayal or interaction with stronger versions of it. Would that Sawyer had put the time into his depiction and study of faith as he had with the science behind this science fiction. For further reading, check out my reviews of the trilogy.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews: “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids by Robert Sawyer– I wrote a review of the trilogy on my other interests site. This review brings up some of the other worldview issues in the books, in addition to a brief summary of the plot outline and look at the science fiction elements.

Aliens that believe in God: The theological speculations in Robert Sawyer’s “Calculating God”– I write about a different Robert Sawyer book that I did enjoy quite a bit, Calculating God. I even wrote a second post discussing abortion, fundamentalism, and other issues the book raised.

Source

Robert Sawyer, Hominids (New York: Tor, 2002).

—, Humans (New York: Tor, 2003).

—, Hybrids (New York: Tor, 2003).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

“Dune” by Frank Herbert- Prophecy, Religion, and the Messiah

Dune-HerbertBless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and the going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.

Dune has been called “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.” I say that this tagline is accurate. The depth of the saga is breathtaking, and its majesty is at times overpowering. Here, I’ll take a look at some key themes in the book from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Prophecy

Prophecy is found throughout the various factions in Dune. The Bene Gesserit is a school composed of women who are working to bring about a prophesied man–but to use him for their own ends. The Fremen, inhabitants of the desert, also have prophecies of one who would bring their world–Arrakis–to fertility and unite the Fremen against their enemies.

Prophecy has a function, which will be fulfilled one way or another. Often, this involves the conscious working of persons towards the fulfillment. This is unlike prophecy in the Bible, which is sometimes fulfilled in quite unexpected ways or even has double applications (such as the virgin birth).

Religion

Religion is a theme throughout the book, as there are many different philosophies of life on offer, but few which seem genuine. Herbert’s vision of religion is that it is essentially a function of humanity and one which is constructed through the interplay of power and belief. For example, in one biographical entry about Paul Atreides, the protagonist, the Princess Irulan writes:

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. The power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community… the leaders of such a community… must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic. (401)

Hebert also channels much wariness about any engagement of politics and religion throughout the book. Representative is a saying allegedly from the Muad’Dib–the name given to Paul Atreides after he is seen as the fulfillment of various prophecies: “When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual” (408).

Yet this is not to say there is no genuine belief in the world of Dune. Debates over determinism and divinely decreed futures are placed throughout the book, and Paul Atreides himself struggles with his own role as an apparent Messiah.

The religious mixture of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity found in the various factions provides much food for discussion and engagement for those who want to dialogue on these topics. How should we interact with those of other faiths? What lines of correlation may we see in other religions and how might we use these to engage believers in other faith traditions? These are questions which arise in Dune, and Herbert also offers challenges to believers to see what harm might be in their beliefs and to search out those aspects of their faith which lead astray from the truth.

Truth

There are many more philosophical, theological, and political questions which could be asked after reading a masterwork like Dune. A fundamental issue is that of truth. The issues of religion and prophecy listed above make one read the world of the work with a rather ambiguous eye: there seems to be some deception, but some truth, in various aspects of the different factions’ belief systems and what they present to the world as the truth.

From a Christian perspective, there is but one truth and that is found in Jesus Christ. Similarly, even on the world of Arrakis, we find that there is an objective standard of truth, it just isn’t always cut-and-dried as to how we might discern it. It is a reflection of the fallenness of the real world in which often the truth is intermingled with lies. We should work ever towards seeking the truth and working to bring it forward.

Conclusion

Weeks after reading Dune, I can still feel the hot sand under my feet, and still smell the Spice in the air. It is a simply incredible read which demands hours of reflection afterwards. I recommend it highly to you, dear readers. It will get your mind going, and it will also perhaps force some thought into one’s own faith and life–are we living a genuine life of faith, or have we turned it into a perversion?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

A Solar System and Cosmos Filled with Life?- A reflection on Ben Bova’s “Farside” and “New Earth”– I explore the notion that life should be expected all over the place in a post that looks at some of Bova’s most recent works.

“Fitzpatrick’s War”- Religion, truth, and forgiveness in Theodore Judson’s epic steampunk tale– I take a look at the book Fitzpatrick’s War, a novel of alternative history with steampunk. What could be better? Check out some of the worldview issues brought up in the book.

I have discussed the use of science fiction in showing how religious persons act. Check out Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber.

Source

Frank Herbert, Dune (New York: Ace, 1990). Originally printed 1965.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

The “Mistborn Trilogy” by Brandon Sanderson- Religion(s), Intrigue, and a Messiah

mistborn-trilogyBrandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is a wonderfully unique fantasy adventure that is absolutely filled to the brim with political intrigue and religious reflection. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the themes in this series from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS below.

Religion(s)

The character Sazed is a specialist in religions. Indeed, he has the memories of three hundred religions in the trinkets he keeps on his body and preaches them to different characters throughout the first two books of the trilogy. His goal is less to convert than it is to pass on knowledge. Through the foil of Sazed, readers learn about some interesting religions which used to exist before the Lord Ruler began to eradicate them all. Sazed himself asserts that he believes all the religions are true, but in The Well of Ascension, his faith is crushed when he is confronted by the notion that his long search for the religion of his people–and its prophecies–is fruitless.

Sanderson thus presents us with an interesting perspective, through Sazed, of religion. On the one hand, Sazed is seemingly a pluralist. He tries to affirm all the religions he knows about: “I believe them all,” he declares (Well… 504). But on the other hand, his faith in the truth of these religions is decimated by his discovery of direct refutation. The tension of these two views ends up shattering Sazed’s worldview. But, as we’ll see below, it turns out that all religions were false in some sense, but they all had some truth, which Sazed himself uses to piece together the world as it should be (Hero… 716-717).

Interestingly, this resonates in some fashion with what I think is the best way to approach other religions. Rather than assuming everything the religious other believes is false, we should seek the truth in other religions and show how Christianity provides a better and fuller explanation of the same.

Messiah

The “Hero of Ages” is thought by many to be a hero who will come to save them from the oppressive rule of the Lord Ruler and Ruin. Some think that it is Kelsier after the hero of Mistborn helps to destroy the Lord Ruler and then uses a body double to act as though he has been resurrected in order to give hope to the common people. This image alone is an interesting foil for thinking about Jesus and the rise of Christianity. There is no denying the parallels in the story of Kelsier and of Christ in the sense of being seen as resurrected saviors.

But the narrative of Kelsier is intentionally subversive, it has a political aspect to it that is intentionally driven towards the overthrow of the Final Empire. Moreover, his life and times don’t match up quite right with the expected prophecies. A final aspect that is missing is the divine claims and historical evidence. It is all well and good to invent a fantastical narrative of a risen savior by means of a morphing creature; it is another thing to actually account for the historical evidence of a risen human being as confirmation of divine approval.

Ultimately, however, the Hero of Ages turns out not to be a coming hero but rather “A Hero who would preserve mankind throughout all its lives and times. Neither Preservation nor Ruin, but both. God.” (Hero, 718.) Interestingly, it is not completely clear whether the “God” referenced here is Sazed himself taking on the powers of Ruin and Preservation or whether these powers are granted by means of a transcendent deity. One’s interpretation of the final few chapters on this point will radically change how one views the book from a worldview perspective. Regardless of how one does take it, it is still quite intriguing to note that the final solution to the problem is deity. In a sense, it is a case of deus ex machina but in a way that absolutely lines up with the plot and expectations of the world Sanderson created. The ultimate source of salvation is found in deity.

Conclusion

Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy is a fascinating look in a fantastical world of how religion may develop and grow. It also features a number of questions which Christians should resonate with. It is a simply wonderful read for those interested in worldview questions. There is so much more with discussing in these books, so please do let me know your own thoughts and again, I highly recommend you go read them!

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Interview with Christian Science Fiction Author Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersI am extremely pleased to be able to present my readers with an interview with New York Times-Bestselling author Kathy Tyers. Kathy Tyers has been instrumental in growing the genre of Christian science fiction and has published multiple books, including her award-winning “Firebird” series in this genre. She received the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference’s Pacesetter award for her work in developing science fiction. She has also published two Star Wars novels and appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list. She currently resides in Montana, where she continues to mentor other authors and work on her own future novels.

I have written several posts on Tyers’ “Firebird” saga (click here and scroll down or see links at the end of this post), and have immensely enjoyed her works.

What were some of the biggest science fiction influences on your writing?

The first SF novel I devoured was The Star Conquerors, an early space opera by Ben Bova. I was also a big fan of Zenna Henderson’s “People” novels. The original Star Wars movies swept me away, of course. I discovered Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series when the first novel came out, and I kept up as she released titles in the series. Whenever I’m called to teach the craft in a classroom, I draw on Orson Scott Card’s excellent book on writing SF and Fantasy.

How has your faith inspired you to write?

My faith inspires my writing as it inspires everything I do; it’s the air I breathe, the ground I walk on, the light by which I can see and the gravity that keeps me grounded. If ever I shut my eyes, quit walking and stop breathing, it surely shows in my writing.

What do you think of the categorization of “Christian” fiction? Is it helpful to have a distinct category of “Christian” fiction?

Some people want to know, before opening a novel, whether it’s going to challenge them to think more deeply about God. Should all fiction come with a worldview alert about the author? That’s probably impractical. But if I open a novel that I know was written by a fellow Christian, or by someone of another faith, of course I approach it with different expectations.

What value do you think Christian speculative fiction has for evangelism, defense of the faith, and theology?

Whether or not we see ourselves as evangelists, we’re ambassadors for a Kingdom that is not of this world. That applies to every Christian in every profession. An author who’s known to be a Christian will have his or her books analyzed accordingly by some of the reviewers. If the book survives scrutiny as a good witness to the craft and the Kingdom, AND if it’s a good story well told, the author has accomplished what good fiction is supposed to accomplish—even if it gets the occasional one-star review.

How awesome was it to write Star Wars books?

Absolutely.

What is one piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Writing will take more time than you could possibly imagine. Don’t use that as an excuse to stop reading, because you’ll unconsciously (or consciously) emulate the books you’ve been reading. So read the good stuff.

What’s next on your plate? Any new books to look forward to?

I’ve written a contemporary supernatural novel set in Montana that I’m looking into indie publishing. Just looking, so far. Haven’t decided.

Conclusion

I would like to once more extend my thanks to Kathy Tyers for being willing to get interviewed for my site and for her excellent work in the field of science fiction.

Links

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird” Trilogy- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– The “Firebird” trilogy is one of my fondest memories of a read from when I was much younger. I recently re-read the series and was once more blown away. Here, I reflect on several issues of humanity and faith that Tyers raises in the novels.

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- Kathy Tyers’ “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar”– I look into several worldview themes that Tyers raises in these sequels to her Firebird trilogy. What would a Messiah in the future look like?

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

The Wheel of Time “Towers of Midnight” and “A Memory of Light” – Reflection from a Christian

memlight-sandersonjordanThe conclusion to the Wheel of Time series has arrived at long last. It is a worth finish (well, there are no endings, nor beginnings in the Wheel of Time… but it was an ending) to the sprawling epic fantasy. There are not enough  superlatives for me to describe how much I enjoyed the series. Here, we’ll discuss Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, the concluding volumes in the Wheel of Time. There are, of course major SPOILERS for the entire series in this post.

The Plight of the Outsiders

The last several books of the Wheel of Time series highlight at points the plight of those who are not main characters. Refugees, those who have had their homes destroyed, the people who are not often even referenced in other works of fiction. In Towers of Midnight, there is a poignant vision of the future, one in which the Aiel have been downtrodden and their power broken. A family of Aiel are starving and they beg for food from some people passing through what used to be their land. They show no mercy:

[The mother’s] tears did come then, quiet, weak. They rolled down her cheeks as she undid her shirt to nurse Garlvan, though she had no suck for him.
He didn’t move. He didn’t latch on. She lifted his small form and realized that he was no longer breathing… (1038-1039)

One wonders how often this kind of story plays out in our world. How easily we dehumanize those who are in need, and how easily we ignore them or disregard their need. Embedded in this sorrowful tale, we learn that there are always “outsiders”; always those in need, for whom we should be caring.

Disability?

Rand lost a hand earlier in the series, and it leads him to wonder about his own sufficiency as a person. A Memory of Light eloquently deals with this issue in a scene which depicts Tam, Rand’s adoptive father, sparring with Rand and forcing him to “let go.” As they spar, Rand admires his father’s swordsmanship and his ability to fight with one hand. He continues to realize that one hand may not be such a disadvantage in life and even uses his hand-less arm to block a bow. As the fight ends, the scene drives home the point:

Sweating, Rand raised his practice sword to Tam… Tam stepped back, raising his own sword. The older man wore a grin.
Nearby, standing near the lanterns, a handful of Warders [elite bodyguards of Aes Sedai–female magic users] began clapping. Not a large audience–only six men–but Rand had not noticed them. The Maidens [warrior women] lifted their spears in salute.
“It has been quite a weight, hasn’t it?” Tam asked.
“What weight?” Rand replied.
“That lost hand you’ve been carrying.”
Rand looked down at his stump. “Yes. I believe it has been that.” (312-313)

The fight has opened Rand to an awareness of his sense of loss, but also to a new sense of completeness. He has one hand, but that doesn’t make him less a man.

Fate or Free Will?

Throughout the series, the question of whether people are free in their choices or whether they are fated to have certain destinies is found front-and-center. The notion that all destinies are woven into a Pattern is used by some characters to argue for fatalism, while others believe the Pattern can be manipulated. In A Memory of Light, Egwene’s dream–a way of seeing into the future–provides a way for exploring this issue. Rand, Moiraine, and Egwene debate the meaning of a dream in which Rand is stepping into the Dark One’s prison, but there is not enough information to tell them the course of action they should take.

The debate suggests more about the world than may appear at first glance. It seems in the world of A Wheel of Time there is a tension between determinism and freedom, one which appears quite a bit in Christian thinking as well. How are we to forge our way in the world? Has everything been set before us in a Pattern, or are we able to choose our own destinies? Most importantly, A Memory of Light leaves the ambiguity there. The tension remains. Though Rand ultimately seems freed from the Pattern in some ways, it is a freedom which is never fully fleshed out. I think there is much to be said for this approach. One wonders whether the dichotomy of free/determined should be maintained, or whether more complexity exists in this world than that.

Evil and Good

When Rand confronts the Dark One in A Memory of Light, he comes to a point in which he is shown a depiction of the world without evil (679ff). It is a hideous place; the people are without the stories of their lives which shaped them in ways beyond reckoning. Bravery is impossible; as is conviction. The scene makes one wonder about the problem of evil–the notion that the existence of evil shows an omnipotent good deity does not exist–and various answers given to it. One prominent response to the problem of evil argues that evil may be used to make greater goods. Without the possibility of harm, there is no possibility of true bravery. Richard Swinburne is a well-known proponent of this response.

We live in a world which has been deeply harmed by evil. We also live in a world in which God has provided the answer to evil in the person of God’s Son. One day, God will wipe away every tear. We won’t live in the hellish nightmare of a world in which our characters have been sucked away from the elimination of all possible ills; but rather in a world that God has planned for us, a world of overpowering good.

Conclusion

The Wheel of Time series is easily my favorite fantasy series of all time. I read it through in the span of about a year. The books raise an enormous number of worldview issues, and they are also epic fantasy stories with gripping tales that will, I think, never let me go. It’s a saga of epic proportions, and one which I think any fan of literature should experience.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Take a look at the other posts I’ve written on major works of fiction.

Sources

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Towers of Midnight (New York: Tor, 2010).

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, A Memory of Light (New York: Tor, 2012).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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