apologetics

This category contains 136 posts

Book Review: “Mapping Apologetics” by Brian Morley

ma-morleyAlthough there is widespread agreement over the need to have a defense of the faith (a biblical charge–1 Peter 3:15-16), there is much disagreement over exactly how that defense should proceed. Brian Morley’s Mapping Apologetics is a way forward in helping interested readers discern how they may defend the faith.

There are few books that deal exclusively with apologetic methodology by outlining various approaches. Perhaps the most comprehensive is Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr. Mapping Apologetics is distinguished from this other excellent work by having a narrower focus that provides more in-depth comments on the individual proponents of the various systems. Whereas Faith… attempts a synthesis of the varied methods, Mapping… is geared more towards giving readers understanding of each method.

After a couple introductory chapters on apologetics in the Bible and history, the following chapters each highlight individuals who are major contemporary proponents of different apologetics methods. Included are such people as Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, E.J. Carnell, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and John Warwick Montgomery, just to name a few.

Each of these chapters presents an extended overview of the apologist’s method of defending the faith along with several quotes and often detailed analysis of their primary arguments with examples. Thus, readers are given the resources to compare and contrast the various approaches on the level of the actual arguments and counter-arguments presented.

The people chosen are each major contributors to their specific variety of apologetics, so both those who are well-versed in apologetics and those who are just beginning will get insights from top defenders of the faith. I personally have an MA in Christian Apologetics, and I was familiar with each author, but the way that each was presented gave me a good refresher on their method and primary arguments–and sent me scampering to re-read some of my favorites!

The book includes some great follow-up questions after each chapter to help readers review the material in the chapter, along with useful further reading sections for those interested in learning more about specific defenders. Each chapter also includes criticisms of the specific type of apologetic the individual puts forward. These are often only about 1 1/2 to 2 pages, though, and it would have been nice to have a bit more space dedicated to the critiques and rebuttals to each approach. Morley also very quickly dismisses the fideistic approach as being “unbiblical” with only a brief argument. Although I am not at all a fideist, I do think that the approach has at least some merit and the aforementioned work by Boa and Bowman has some great insights into how it might also offer some insights into apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics is an excellent read for those interested in apologetic methodology, with sympathetic interpretations of many of the primary contemporary defenders of each approach. I recommend it highly for those interested in apologetics and how we are to defend the faith.

The Good

+Great summaries of top apologists from multiple methodological approaches
+Invaluable insight into different apologetics methodologies
+Helpful review questions and resource lists

The Bad

-Dismisses fideism too quickly
-Could stand to have more reflection on criticisms of each position

Disclaimer: InterVarsity Press provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

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– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Brian Morley, Mapping Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

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.

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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.

Sunday Quote!- Darwin and Design

god-design-mansonEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Darwin and Design

I’ve recently started reading God and Design, a collection of essays from both proponents and skeptics of the teleological (design) argument in both its biological and cosmological forms. In the introduction, Neil Manson outlined numerous versions of design arguments whilst also offering some analysis of each version. In his discussion of the biological design argument, he considered whether the argument could even get off the ground:

It should be possible to define a biological system such that, if it were to exist, its existence could not be explained in Darwinian fashion. If it is impossible to define such a biological system, then it will be impossible to formulate an empirical test that might disconfirm Darwin’s theory. Darwinism’s claim to be a genuine scientific theory would suffer a serious… blow. (11)

The reason Manson argues that the bare possibility of such a definition is required is because of the notion of “falsifiability” in science. While it is debated as to whether falsifiability is an actual criterion for “true” science (at least in the philosophy of science I have read), it has become largely assumed that, in some sense, a theory must be at least in principle falsifiable in order to avoid being question begging or too broadly defined.

Granting that, Manson’s point seems to be a valid one: in order for Darwinism to be viable, it must also be falsifiable. If we can’t even imagine a system that would falsify it, then that may have extremely broad implications. Whether we have imagined such systems–and whether we have discovered them–is a matter of no small amount of debate.

What do you think? Is falsifiability a required criterion for science? Are we able to such a defined biological system to challenge Darwinian evolution? Do such systems actually exist?

God and Design is shaping up to be a really solid read with differing perspectives on design arguments.

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Neil Manson, “Introduction,” in God and Design ed. Neil Manson (New York: Routledge, 2003).

SDG.

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.

Is Natural Theology Excluded for Apologetics? – Sunday Quote!+

ffs-molnarHere’s a special edition Sunday Quote which features a more extended discussion. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Is Natural Theology Excluded for Apologetics?

Paul Molnar’s Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is a massive study on the Trinity–specifically the economic Trinity–with much insight from contemporary theology. Early on, Molnar makes a statement which, as a trained Christian apologist, seemed a bit like “fightin’ words”:

If contemporary theologians were to make explicit the role of the Holy Spirit in enabling our knowledge of the triune God, then there could be wide agreement that natural theology of whatever stripe is not only unhelpful but is directly excluded from any serious understanding of theological epistemology. (82)

Now, “natural theology” is, according to Justo Gonzalez’s Essential Theological Terms, “A theology that claims to be based on the natural gifts of the human mind, and on the ‘general revelation’ granted to all… rather than on a ‘special revelation’ in Scripture or Jesus Christ” (118). Natural theology, that is, is the attempt to show that God exists and certain other truths through looking at the world. From this quote, it seems that Molnar is arguing that if we had a better notion of the role of the Holy Spirit, we would basically think that natural theology is worthless related to knowledge of God.

Molnar develops this notion further throughout the next 50 pages or so. His argument basically is that if we acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who enables faith and knowledge of God, then any “knowledge” of God which is not directly through faith (i.e. through something like a cosmological argument) is not objective knowledge of God.

Although some of what Molnar argues resonates with me–particularly the notion that the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts faith rather than it being some kind of choice we make–I think that his dismissal of natural theology is unnecessary and mistaken. First, the most obvious question to be asked is whether the Spirit can use natural theology to create faith. If it is the case that the Holy Spirit can work through natural theology–something which seems to be clearly correct to me–then the objection that natural theology ignores the role of the Spirit is mistaken.

Second, Molnar’s argument seems to rely on a concept of natural theology which is entirely about trying to impart knowledge of God to those who do not have faith. This, however, ignores the use of apologetics in strengthening the faith of believers. Natural theology can be a valuable tool for those who have faith to pursue the call of 1 Peter 3:15 and have a reason for the hope within them. Whatever one’s view of whether natural theology can bring people to the true God, it seems that it can and should be used for believers to explore the natural world and bolster their faith.

Third and finally, it seems to me that Romans 1 in particular demonstrates that natural theology is not a worthless project. If God’s invisible attributes are capable of being discovered in the things God has made, then surely natural theology has some value in tracing God’s handiwork.

Should we think that natural theology is a failed project? Can it have other uses like those I listed? Is it possible to go from God to Christ? What of the role of the Spirit in apologetics?

Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is a thoroughly thought-provoking read which I recommend to those interested in the doctrine of the Trinity. It has certainly gotten my wheels turning!

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). 

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.

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah – “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersKathy Tyers’ Firebird series is renowned by many for its explorations of worldview questions in a stirring science fiction setting. I have written on the Firebird Trilogy before. Here, we’ll take a look at the two concluding books in the series- Daystar and Wind and Shadow. Specifically, I’ll be analyzing them from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the whole series below.

Human Nature

Both books have much to say about human nature. In particular, questions about the extent and nature of our free will abound as we as readers are confronted with different concepts of determinism and free choice. Although this theme is never, perhaps, fully developed in philosophical terms, the very activity of the characters makes a kind of argument towards the notion that we have free choice that is genuine, though the question of whether this might be compatibilist–set alongside determinism–or not is left open.

Daystar also raises major questions about the nature of humanity itself–are we purely material beings; or perhaps purely spiritual and trapped within a material body; or are we a unified center of body and soul? The organization known as the Collegium puts forward a kind of mystic view that we are eternal souls which, when we die, go back to the infinite, impersonal divine. There are strong elements of both Gnosticism and Platonism to be found in this teaching, and it is one which resonates with New Age type beliefs and other worldviews today. We need to think on this for ourselves: when it comes to the very concept of what it is to be a human, are we essentially matter, or is there something more? Christians need to think on such issues deeply and consider our own standing in the universe.

The Powers

There is a fantastic meld of science fiction technology and the reality of the spiritual realm found throughout the Firebird series. Wind and Shadow, in particular, moves the concept of spiritual warfare front-and-center. A Shadow being possessed Kiel, a kind of priest, and attempted to convince him that he ought to proclaim himself as the coming Messiah. In this way, the spiritual being sought to gain control over the course of events. The interplay of the spiritual and physical was something that was interwoven throughout the Firebird series, and it is important to reflect as Christians on how that might play out in our own lives.

Not long ago I read an excellent book on spiritual warfare which presented several views on the topic. I think we need to be prepared to dive into such challenging topics and see what the Bible has to say about them.

Messiah

Daystar reads much like a lengthy biblical Gospel. The story therein is that of the coming Messiah. But it is far more complex than that. It is also a story of the attempt to exterminate an entire people group; the story of religious conflict; of materialism; and more. However, the core of the book, and much of the series, is the hope for the coming Boh-Dabar, the Messiah. That Boh-Dabar ends up being Tavkel, a herdsman from a secluded place.

Tyers brings forth themes about the Messiah in surprisingly insightful ways. First, she integrates several parables into the text as Tavkel instructs people in the faith. (See a recent Sunday Quote! post for one of the parables from the book.)Some of these parables find parallels in those Jesus taught; others are clearly inventions of Tyers’ mind to try to put forth spiritual truths. All of them are unique and engaging. Second, Tavkel is very explicit about his own nature as divine. I think this was a good move on Tyers’ part because sometimes it can be easy to miss how clear Jesus’ own claims of divinity were. When Christ claimed the authority to arbitrate and expand the Mosaic Law, that would have been astonishing. In Daystar, Tavkel points to himself as a divine figure.

One conversation with Meris, a character who is a foreigner and who holds to rival beliefs, depicts Tavkel explaining the notion of being fully divine and fully human. Tavkel explains it by pointing out that “My father created the human form. He has mastery over it…” Meris objects by arguing that it doesn’t make sense that Tavkel can be “one hundred percent” human and one hundred percent God. She asks “Which [are you]?” Tavkel responds, “Both.” When Meris says “That’s not possible,” Tavkel responds: “Is light a wave or a particle Meris?” (426). Though the analogy is not perfect, it does help us to envision how we might assume to much in our own ability to comprehend reality.

Third, there is also much discussion over how the Boh-Dabar may fulfill some prophecies in unexpected ways and that even some preconceptions of what the Messiah figure should be or what verses are even about him might be mistaken. This finds its parallel in some ways in Jesus, who, being the Messiah, yet did not come as a military leader as many expected. To see the people in Daystar figuring out the implications their Messiah has for their understanding is a unique insight into how the Christian story itself might have played out during its earliest days. Confronted by the reality of a risen Lord, notions of what the Messiah should be had to fit this risen Savior.

Daystar is filled to the brim with interesting conversations and speculations like this, and the best part is that they point beyond themselves to the truth of God’s word.

Conclusion

Daystar and Wind and Shadow are excellent works in a fantastic science fiction series. I highly commend the whole series to you, dear readers, not just as a great way to think about worldview, but also simply as excellent science fiction by a bestselling author of the genre.

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!

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues in the Trilogy in this post.

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.

Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).

Sunday Quote!- A Science Fiction Parable– What might a parable look like in the future? Well, not too much different from one now. Check out this post on Tyers’ speculative parable in Daystar.

Sources

Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 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.

“Never to Live” by Just B. Jordan – Madness, Self-Loathing, and Hope?

ntl-jordanNever to Live is a fantasy novel about redemption, even in the face of madness and self-loathing. Here, we’ll discuss some worldview-level issues in the book. For a straightforward review, check out my other site. There will be some SPOILERS in what follows.

Madness and Self-Loathing

The main character, Elwyn, is at least apparently insane. Through the first part of the book she is tortured by her own memories into self-loathing madness and must be brought forward out of that same madness in order to be used by God.

The notion of going into and coming out of madness was a unique way to convey the notion of human sinfulness and our incapacity to bring ourselves out of it. Only when Elwyn is confronted by the notion that she could not herself right her wrongs was she able to move beyond them and out of madness.

Moreover, the concepts of madness and self-loathing themselves are things that I think we as Christians need to be more cognizant of as we consider how these can impact a life of faith and our own witness. As with Elwyn, we need to be messengers bringing hope to those who have no hope, and the realization that Jesus is the only way to get beyond our own sinful desires and the self-loathing that comes with the consequences of our sinful activities.

Open Theism and the nature of God?

It is unclear as to whether the character “Weaver” is a God stand-in in this book, but there are many hints that this is the case. If so, the concept of deity put forward in Never to Live is interesting, as Weaver is portrayed as not knowing the entirety of the future. This would be akin to the concept of open theism (which I have discussed at length in various posts). To see this concept translated into fiction was interesting because it meant that the God stand-in had to work with people in a closer way and hope that they accomplished what was needed.

Weaver, if indeed the God stand-in, was also female, which was an interesting choice by the author. The notion that God can be conveyed through female imagery is something with a basis in the Bible as God is portrayed as nursing, as a mother hen, etc.

Conclusion

Never to Live has some very interesting themes that are not often explored in fantasy works. Although I don’t think the book delivers on its promise (see my review), it can’t be denied that behind the seemingly random nature of the work, there are some thoughtful themes.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Enclave publishing. I was not influenced or required by the publisher to write any kind of review.

Source

Just B. Jordan, Never to Live (Colorado, CO: Enclave, 2009).

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: “Knife of Dreams” and “The Gathering Storm” – A Christian Perspective

knife-of-dreamsRobert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, “The Wheel of Time,” has much to reflect upon from a Christian perspective. Here, I’ll be examining books eleven and twelve, “Knife of Dreams” and “The Gathering Storm.” These fantasy books are masterworks and deserve to be read by any interested in the genre. There are SPOILERS from both books here. Please do not share spoilers from later books for the sake of readers.

Acting Becomes Reality

In Knife of Dreams, Faile and her companions are being held captive by the Shaido Aiel. In the process, they are forced into servitude and beaten at the whims of their overlords. Faile soon realized the best strategy would be to fain timidity, but also realized the dangers of this:

[Faile] hoped that Sevanna [one of the Aiel] thought her tamed… She hoped that she was not being tamed. Pretend something too long, and it could become truth… She had to escape before [her husband] got himself killed in the attempt [to rescue her]. Before she stopped pretending. (167, cited below)

There is a similar notion built into much discussion about Christianity. Pascal, for example, after outlining his famous wager (which I defend here), noted that one may align oneself towards belief. That is, when someone begins to act as though one believes a certain way, it can turn into a reality that one believes a certain way. From a worldview perspective, then, we should always be wary of how we live our lives and what we surround ourselves with. After all, it may be that our pretending becomes reality.

Preparing for War

The upcoming “Last Battle” is the primary theme of the entire series. In Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm, we get our first real experiences of that upcoming war. The series has built up towards this climax, and one can feel the coming “storm” in the books to come. For our world, we know that war is a constant reality. With the reality of terrorist organizations, civil unrest, deep-seated cultural hatred, and the like, war is a constant companion. The same is true in the Wheel of Time. There is an eschatological awareness in the series of this “Last Battle,” just as Christians have an awareness of the Second Coming. In one scene, a military man, one of the great captains, Bashere, reflected on the reality of war:

“Let’s hope it really is the Last Battle. If we live through that, I don’t think we’ll ever want to see another. We will, though. There’s always another battle. I suppose that will be the case until the whole world turns Tinker.” (459)

The awareness of the coming eschaton for the Wheel of Time comes with it a bitter awareness that people of all backgrounds continue to war with each other. Perhaps, it is said, the way of the Tinker–people who have sworn off violence–is best.

In The Gathering Storm, we find a dramatic reversal of the biblical theme of coming peace (found in passages like Isaiah 2:4) which speaks of a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares. Instead, the people of the Wheel of Time must prepare for a day of chaos and war:

“take your best scythes and turn them into polearms…” [advises one farmer to another]
“What do I know about making a sword? Or about using a sword, for that matter?” [the other replied]
“You can learn… Everyone will be needed.” [The first responded] (8, cited below)

The Last Battle is a day in which the nations will unite, but they will unite for war. Again, this is in contrast to the biblical theme of the abolition of war in the eschatological hope. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming books.

Fighting the Darkness from Within

One of the most dramatic scenes in the entire series is found in The Gathering Storm as Verin, an Aes Sedai (female magic user in this series) who has seemed so loyal, reveals she is a darkfriend of the Black Ajah. However, it turns out that she is not wholly evil but rather did so, and did many evil things, in order to try to fight the Shadow from within its own ranks:

“You see, one rarely has a chance as this, to study a beast from inside… They [darkfriends] have many agents among us… Well, I thought it time that we had at least one of us among them. This is worth one woman’s life.” (836, 839)

Verin had sworn herself to evil, but did so in order to bring about great good. Her life was forfeit in order to expose wickedness within the ranks of the Aes Sedai. Her sacrifice forestalled a major weapon of the Dark One.

Thankfully, there is no need for we as Christians to go around swearing ourselves to evil. However, there is great need and sacrifice in going to communities in which Christians are persecuted and seeking to help in whatever ways we can.

Conclusion

The Wheel of Time continues to impress, both from the magisterial scope of its fiction and from the many issues of worldview it brings up. There are, of course, many, many more topics we could discuss related to the books and you may feel free to bring these up in the comments. There are many themes which resonate with the Christian worldview, but Jordan clearly borrowed from Eastern Mysticism as well as other religious traditions. This is a fantastic series to read and discuss at a worldview level.

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!

Sources

Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams (New York: Tor, 2005).

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Crossroads of Twilight (New York: Tor, 2009).

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.

“Eternity Falls” by Kevin Outerbridge – Faith, Extremism, and Cyberpunk

efalls-outerbridgeEternity Falls is a cyberpunk thriller with much reflection on the concepts of faith and redemption. It centers around a mystery: the Miracle Treatment, which is supposed to prevent natural death for all eternity, seems to have failed. It’s up to Rick Macey and Sheila Dunn to find out why. I have reviewed the book on my “other interests” site. Here, we’ll look at some worldview questions it brings up. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Faith and Redemption

One of the primary themes running throughout Eternity Falls is that of redemption. Rick Macey was once a Christian, but like many people in the future (and present), he starts off the book thinking that religion has been proven to be irrational–an ancient belief with little to recommend it in the present. However, he also realizes his own imperfections and regrets. When he is confronted by Virgil, a man with whom he had strong disagreements in the past, he is also brought face-to-face with faith that is still genuine.

However, it is not left at this. Virgil’s beliefs have become a bit unhinged (see below), and in a beautiful twist of storytelling, it is Macey who is brought back to faith and confronts Virgil’s own self-righteousness.

Outerbridge’s tale here demonstrates something that we should all take to heart–God can and will use anyone to wake us up to our own failures and call us home.

Religious Extremism- What Rationale?

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Eternity Falls are the conversations between Macey and Virgil about religious extremism. They both have backgrounds in combating terrorism, but their past experience led them in opposite directions and Virgil has come to conclude that facing death is the only way for humans to possibly turn to God. Virgil seeks to destroy the “Miracle Treatment” and thus make it so that everyone will once again die natural deaths, confronted with that moment when “eternity falls.” Macey, however, points out that God has used the extended lives of many of these people to bring them to the faith through their own realization of the pointlessness of an endless life of leisure.

Their conversations play out in this way through the book, and Macey ultimately makes a compelling case that God may, in sovereignty, use even things which may be apparently sinful to bring about great good. The melding of the concepts of human free will and God’s omnipotent control over events is powerful, and in what is truly a reflection of Outerbridge’s talent, it meshes very well into the plot of the book.

Moreover, the book portrays the impetus behind religious extremism in many philosophically interesting ways. It is not at all promoting extremism, but the fact that motivations beyond the tired “religious = violent” rhetoric that too often plays out in commentary on terrorism are brought up adds even more solid worldview-level bites to chew on. The key issue is that quote-unquote “religious extremists” certainly themselves believe they are acting rationally, and to have the story play this out in a way in which multiple extremists are spoken to on a logical level rather than simply discounted was fantastic.

Conclusion

Eternity Falls is an excellent cyberpunk tale with surprisingly strong philosophical and theological themes. I highly recommend you read it. It presents humanity as a complex of different influences, and God’s plan as a theme throughout the world.

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!

Microview: “Eternity Falls” by Kirk Outerbridge– I reviewed the book, including giving some “good” and “bad” points along with a letter grade. Check out the review!

Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).

Source

Kirk Outerbridge, Eternity Falls (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

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.

On the Alleged Atheism of Early Christians

apologetics-romanIt is interesting to note that modern atheists of the internet-infidel variety share much with Pagan counterparts in the first few centuries after Christ. “How can this be?” one might ask. Well, the charge of atheism against Christians is shared both by the common internet-infidel comment that “We’re all atheists, I [the atheist] just take it one god further” and Pagans in the Roman Empire. Oddly, some atheists have gone so far as to suggest that the Pagan accusation is somehow evidence for their position.

The early Christians, it is true, were accused of being atheists. However, to suggest that this is somehow synonymous with contemporary usage of the term “atheist” is ahistorical and anachronistic. Frances Young notes several facets of the charge of atheism leveled against Christians:

What the charge [of atheism leveled against Christians] really amounted to was an expression of dismay and distaste over the fact that people were abandoning conventional ritual practices… The charge of atheism against Christians focused on their refusal after conversion to continue to participate in traditional religious customs… Religion, embedded in the ethnic cultures, was a matter not of belief but of loyalty. (99, 101, cited below)

The charge against Christians, then, was that they were abandoning the ways of the Romans. They were outsiders, outcasts, and, by extension, atheists. By refusing to worship the gods of Rome, they became targets. The fact that the Christians did this conscientiously–they intentionally abandoned the gods–led to the charge of atheism. It was a charge related not to belief in deity, but rather to rejection of shared societal practice, with a culturally charged impetus for making it.

In fact, others who yet believed in the gods were also charged with atheism. The Epicureans were accused of atheism, despite believing that the gods existed:

It is significant that these ‘atheists’ [Epicureans] did not question the existence of the gods. Rather, they liberated people from religion by suggesting that the blessed immortals were not the slightest bit interested in what goes on among human beings… (ibid, 100)

Thus, when modern atheists continue to perpetuate the claim that “we’re all atheists,” and then move on to argue that Christians should agree with them because, after all, Christians were considered ‘atheists’ by the Romans, it is difficult to take them seriously. The Pagan charge was made for cultural reasons, and is tied up in the notion of rejection of the societal norms of the time. It was also made even against those who acknowledged those gods existence. This last point is very important, because one attempted rebuttal I have seen from the modern atheist is that “You are an atheist to other religions.” Well, according to ancient Pagans, you could even be an atheist to your own religion! Of course, the point is that Christians are not atheists, but theists.

The word “atheism” was used back then as a damning charge of societal blasphemy–rejecting the ethnic practices of your own society in pursuit of another’s. Now, modern atheists attempt to forcibly include others in atheism with this kind of pithy phrase. The historical charge is interesting, but clearly entirely different from the modern one. Either charge, however, is inaccurate. Christians, by definition, are not atheists–theists cannot be atheists. The ancient cultural charge is of interest for its historical implications, but it is hardly evidence for the modern use of the charge of atheism against Christians.

I suspect that this post won’t silence many who will continue to persist in saying Christians are atheists. At that point, I suggest to others the following: the people who persist in this mislabeling should be written off as being just as irrelevant as the ancient Pagans with whom they share at least this part of their worldview.

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!

On the statement that “We are all atheists”– I evaluate the claim that atheists make which say that “we are all atheists.” I evaluate it from a philosophical point of view here.

On the Shoulders of Giants: Rediscovering the lost defenses of Christianity– I have written on how we may discover these enormous resources historical apologists have left behind for us. Take and read!

Source

Frances Young, “Greek Apologists of the Second Century” in Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price, eds., Apologetics in the Roman Empire (New York: Oxford, 1999).

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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