J.W. Wartick

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Book Review: “Total Church” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

total-churchTim Chester and Steve Timmis aim to present a gospel-centered vision of the local church as a fellowship community oriented towards missions in  Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community

The notion that the church must be community- and gospel- oriented is absolutely central to the whole book. Time and again examples are put forward towards how the house church can make a huge impact on individuals. The authors rightly emphasize the notion that sometimes measuring success by pure numbers is misleading and, yes, misguided. Throughout the book, a commendable call is issued to seek using the gospel of Christ and making missions a priority in church.

Many stories are provided throughout the book to help make these insights into a practical application. They are appreciated because it gives readers some hands-on ways to deal with situations. I also enjoyed much of the discussion on youth groups and “children’s church.” Basically, it was argued that we cannot simply make the kids a separate unit from the rest of the church. Youth groups cannot just be a game night, because once the youths get past that, “real, adult” church is so vastly different. We need to emphasize the truths of Christianity throughout our children’s lives from the very earliest stages.

The book, however, has some deeply problematic elements. First, the view put forward of counseling and psychology was, frankly, disturbing. There’s a lot going on in this chapter, but it really seems to come down to the authors saying that “secular” psychological treatment doesn’t help, only the gospel can. We just need to embrace the truths of the gospel and all will be well. One representative quote: “The Bible addresses the entire range of problems we experience in living in this world… It addresses all the basic and essential issues of what it means to be human, both in our sin and in our salvation” (Kindle location 1802; all references are to Kindle locations hereafter). Later, this is made into an application that if we just focus on Christ, our sufferings won’t seem significant. At the end of all of this, there is a vague reference to how some kind of counseling outside of church might also be needed, but it is too little, too late, too vaguely stated.

I think this is a deeply misguided attempt to describe a “Christian” view of counseling which simply is–ironically–not outlined in the Bible. Choosing a couple quotes about how our present suffering can be alleviated or overcome by God does not mean that going to “secular” [whatever that means–and in exclusion of the reality of Christian] psychologists and therapists is a poor decision. Yes, we should try to deal with and help with these issues in the context of a community of faith. But God forbid that we approach someone who self-harms [one example they used] and just tell them that their problem is reducible to a spiritual problem, as the authors do: “The term ‘spiritual’ is not simply another category alongside biological, physical, environmental, upbringing, or relationships. Each of those forms of suffering, passive or active, is always and at some point a spiritual and theological issue” (1881). This seems clearly reductionistic and potentially damaging. I felt this whole section was quite disturbing.

Second, there is a very dim view of academic theology put forward. The authors complain that academic theology is often just for academics and compare the probably legendary story of medieval debates over the number of angels on the head of a pin to modern evangelical theological journals as “no less obscure” (2159)! This is another huge difficulty in the book because it ignores the wide implications of “obscure” theology being done in academia for the church at large. By reducing theology to the task merely of the local church (2148), it seems there is something of a denial of the Holy Spirit’s work in guiding the church at large, and, yes, a danger of local churches simply deciding that soul-destroying heresy is sound theology without any support from those “obscure” academics. A blithe dismissal of this enterprise relegates authors like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and more into the scrap heap of obscurity.

Third, the book largely dismisses the enterprise of apologetics as dealing with issues of the mind and instead argues that “The problem is not that we cannot know God. The problem is that we will not know God. It is a problem of the heart rather than the head” (2344). Later, this leads the authors to the claim that the goal of apologetics must be to “demonstrate that unbelief is a problem of the heart rather than a problem with the head” (2419). Apologetics is envisioned as not being intellectually engage but rather engaged with trying to show people the relational problems they have with God (2467). Not only does this reduce apologetics quite a bit in scope, but it also performs some serious psychoanalysis of those who do not believe by saying that the ultimate problem with every non-Christian is that they somehow have some passionate anger against God.

Now, unless we are to assume that all of these people are lying to us, plenty of atheists throughout history have grounded their rejection quite clearly in intellectual issues. Numerous modern studies have shown that the people leaving the church often do so because of perceived anti-intellectualism or a failure to engage the mind. The task of apologetics can not, and dare not do this, be reduced to vague exploration of the heart rather than the mind. We must engage with the intellectual attacks on Christianity and put forward our position in a winsome manner.

Fourth, the Chester and Timmis often say they are not saying their position is the only way to do something, but then continually pound the notion that their way is the only biblical or gospel-oriented way so often that one wonders whether they do believe other approaches might work. The discussion of the biblical warrant for house churches is but one example, where, after asserting that there is nothing inherently wrong with larger churches, the authors compares them to pagan temples founded due to Constantine’s making Christianity the civil religion of the Roman Empire [a historical reality that should be questioned, as it was not the official or exclusive religion until Theodosius I, though this is a complex topic not worth getting deeply into here] (1255). If one approach is “biblical” and other other is merely capitulation to replicate paganism, which one is acceptable? Speaking inclusive approaches but following up with things like this makes me wonder whether there is much generosity happening towards those with whom the authors disagree.

The kindle edition of the book also has some typos, such as replacing “initially” with “Initial” (yes, capitalized in the middle of sentences) at several places in the text. Another one is this portion: “I have used the Initial person, but not to trumpet my experience… I have used the Initial person to show that what I am describing is not impossible rhetoric or unrealistic idealism… At Initial they expressed concern that we did not have an accountability structure over and outside us…” (2782). Looking at the print edition on Amazon, I find that it says “first” in all these places. I don’t know if this is the same with all Kindle editions or just the one I received for review.

The Good

+Several good insights into how we might build communities in church
+Emphasis on holistic approach to youths and children

The Bad

-Extremely problematic discussion of counseling
-Often paints an inclusive picture, but then contradicts it with exclusion
-Some questionable exegesis
-Largely dismisses academic theology
-Largely undermines the majority of Christian apologetics

Conclusion

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community was, unfortunately, not what I had hoped for. Will readers get insights into founding house churches and making communities therefrom? Yes. But unfortunately there is an awful lot of baggage to go along with those insights, including, but not limited to, rejection of massive amounts of Christian academic theology, undercutting Christian apologetics, distorting a Christian view of therapy and psychological treatment, sometimes questionable exegesis, and more.

Crossway provided me with a copy of the book for review purposes. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any kind of review whatsoever.

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

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).

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.

Book Review: “Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit” by Paul Molnar

ffs-molnarPaul Molnar’s Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is an extremely ambitious project. Its main thrust is the exploration of Trinitarian theology–particularly a distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity–in light of Torrance, Barth, and others.

The book is packed with insights into numerous topics, whether readers are interested in learning more about Barth and Torrance (and Rahner) or the relations within the Trinity, Molnar sweeps broadly but takes the time to dissect many topics in helpful ways.

A primary topic is how we relate to God, and through Barth (though alongside other theologians), Molnar argues that God is perfectly free in relation to us and frees us through grace. It is not our work that saves us but rather God entirely and miraculously revealing Himself to us through Christ by the power of the Spirit.

Throughout the entire book, the aforementioned theologians are highlighted, often providing readers with lengthy quotes and expositions of their positions in order to lend more detail and analysis to topics related to the Trinity.

There seems to be a bit bit too much discussion of various other scholars’ dissent from Molnar’s position or misunderstanding it. At times it reads as though there are journal articles put into the book rather than developing as a book itself. Responses to specific authors seem to often be esoteric rather than helpful, though I’m sure in the broader project Molnar is tracing, it makes sense.

Another downside is that it seems that at a few points the “low hanging fruit” is that which is engaged. For example, Molnar’s discussion of eternal subordination was interesting–in particular his insight from Barth and Torrance about how such a position confuses the immanent and economic Trinity–but then he went on to focus on specific views of select scholars which were blatantly subordinationist in the Arian sense rather than on some of the more nuanced approaches of others. Another example is his discussion of natural theology, which did not seem to take into account the various ways in which Barth’s attack on the notion are undermined by other considerations.

Overall, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is worthy of careful consideration. Readers may not always find it helpful in its discussion of specific scholars, but the broader theme of the economic Trinity and the channeling and condensing of the thought of several important theologians makes it well worth the time and effort to read it.

The Good

+Insight into many aspects of the economic and immanent Trinity
+Deeply thought-provoking
+Solid critique of some views of the Trinity which (potentially or actually) stray from orthodoxy

The Bad

-A few too many rabbit trails make it feel like pieced-together journal articles at times
-Fails to distinguish adequately between types of apologetics
-At times feels repetitious

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity. I was not required to give any kind of review whatsoever. My thanks to the publisher for the book.

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

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

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 “Dependency” Argument for Abortion: A Dilemma

PersonhoodSupremeCourtOne common argument for the pro-choice position is what I shall call the “dependency” argument for abortion. This argument suggests that because the unborn is dependent in a unique way upon the mother, abortion is permissible. For example, one might argue that because a fetus cannot survive without the direct use of the mother’s body, the unborn does not have a right to life. The status of dependency upon another being in such an intimate and unique fashion means that abortion is permissible, according to this argument.

One way to respond to this argument is to show that the dependency of the unborn upon the mother is not relevantly unique. For example, one may cite the dependency of a newborn upon his or her parents, of a person hooked up to an artificial heart or some other dependency-creating situation. However, here we will consider what I think is a more direct and intractable problem for the abortion advocate. Namely, that the dependency argument yields an inescapable dilemma for their position.

The Thought Experiment

Suppose we were able to create artificial wombs–something which doesn’t seem all that preposterous given that it’s being worked on right now–to which we were able to move the unborn at any point up to birth and allow to grow there. In this case, the growing being is not dependent upon its mother or even any woman or person. We may cut out the people doing maintenance on the artificial wombs by having some kind of automated maintenance system.

The Dilemma

Would it be permissible to terminate the unborn within the artificial womb?

If so, then the grounding for abortion on the notion that the unborn is in a relevantly dependent situation related to the mother cannot be correct. For in this case the unborn is not in that dependent situation, yet the pro-choice advocate still maintains a right to abort. If it is not permissible, then there must be some reason why it is not permissible to abort once the unborn is no longer within the mother, and this reason would have to be one that could, in a way that is not ad hoc, not apply to the unborn when inside the mother.

I think this is a serious dilemma for those who use the “dependency” argument in order to ground objections to abortion.

Answering the Dilemma

Perhaps one might try to answer the dilemma by embracing the second horn of the dilemma and suggesting that once the dependency situation is removed, then the right to abort is also removed. However, the same type of dependency which the unborn is in with the mother has simply been transferred to an artificial womb. Perhaps, however, one cannot be relevantly (morally) dependent upon a machine. But this is to effectively beg the question, for the very grounds of the pro-choice argument is that it is dependency which creates a state of permissive abortion. Perhaps they could modify their stance and say that it is actually dependency upon the mother alone. But here is where the danger of an “ad hoc” stance rears its ugly head, because the relevant criterion–dependency–is maintained while it is the location of the unborn which has shifted. If dependency is alleged to be enough to ground abortion rights, then smuggling in additional premises alongside dependency defeats the initial argument.

The point needs to be emphasized: I think this is the best route for the pro-choice advocate to try to go to avoid the conclusions of the dilemma, but if they do go down this route it raises even more questions for their position. First, if we suppose that dependency must be on a person to be morally relevant, than it undermines the notion of dependency as the reasoning for allowing abortion to begin with. For, in this case, it would be the person grounding the moral status, not the dependency. Second, to embrace this horn means that the pro-choice advocate is effectively granting that the unborn has some right to live, so long as it is not in this relevant state of dependency. This is a startling admission, and it must be emphasized that this means, frankly, that according to the pro-choice advocate a being with a right to live has that right suspended so long as a valid “dependency criterion” can be met. The implications of this would be enormous.

Moreover, if we grant that the second horn may be embraced by means of saying that if dependency is removed, then it follows that any possible way to remove the dependency situation, if such a way could become reality, makes abortion impermissible.

Free Wombs?

Now, suppose further there were a foundation that was willing and able to pay for anyone (anywhere and anytime) to move their unborn into an artificial womb rather than abort the fetus. For the sake of argument, we will assume this is a risk-free type of procedure, with relevant clinical test results, etc., etc. This strengthens the dilemma posed above because at this point, there is effectively no dependency upon mothers beyond conception. For, the moment a woman finds she is pregnant, she could phone this foundation and transfer the unborn to an artificial womb, relinquish any claim to parental rights, and be done. But if this were the case, then dependency would in a sense no longer exist. The unwanted pregnancy could immediately be ended without the termination of the fetus.

Once again, it seems that in this situation only the location of the unborn remains relevant, should the pro-choice advocate wish to maintain the right to abort. The mother could choose to end her pregnancy by transferring the unborn and all rights/knowledge of/etc. thereof elsewhere at any point.

I realize that some may object and say that having a surgical procedure is an inconvenience, no matter how safe, quick, successful, secret, etc. it might be. But at that point I must wonder where the line is drawn for abortion. After all, if the scenario envisioned above really did exist, and someone really did want to maintain the right to abort, what they would have to be saying is that something thought to be inconvenient alone is enough to abort. Setting aside the fact that abortion is also a procedure–and one with risks–at this point I think I would point out that the dependency argument has been shown to be mistaken, because the pro-choice advocate must now base his or her argument upon the “convenience” of the mother.

Conclusion

It appears to me that the only recourse the pro-choice advocate has with regard to the dependency argument is to argue that location really is a relevant criterion for allowing for abortion. But in that case, dependency ceases to be the factor which grounds the right to abort, and thus the dependency argument fails.

I’m fairly sure I’ve read a similar argument to the one I present here somewhere. However, I do not remember where I may have read it and regret to omit a reference to it here.

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!

Pro-life– I have written a number of posts advocating the pro-life position. See, in particular, “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”

The image is courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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.

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.

——

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 Middle Knowledge Uncontroversial?

luis-de-molina-2I was reading a recent blog post at one of the sites from which I read every post–the Pastor Matt blog–and discovered a point of some importance for those interested in the debate over omniscience and divine foreknowledge. His post “Middle Knowledge Misunderstood” is a brief introduction to the concept of middle knowledge. My focus is not going to be on that topic so much as on a claim made in the article: that middle knowledge is uncontroversial. Simply put, this claim is mistaken. Middle knowledge is the subject of much debate to this day.

Middle knowledge is God’s knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom: specifically, God’s knowledge of “If x, then y” in regards to human and other created beings’ freedom. It is more than that, and yes I am simplifying this quite a bit.

Middle knowledge has been the subject of no little amount of my efforts in studying, and when I read the claim that it is uncontroversial, I was taken aback. Frankly, to say that middle knowledge is not controversial is just entirely mistaken. I shall now demonstrate that point.

First, middle knowledge is controversial among those who deny that God has absolute knowledge of the future, namely, open theists. William Hasker, John Sanders, Clark Pinnock, and other open theists each explicitly deny the existence of these counterfactuals that make up middle knowledge. Greg Boyd, another prominent open theist, argues in multiple places that the “would” counterfactuals of middle knowledge (i.e. in situation x, person would do y) should instead be “might” counterfactuals because “would” counterfactuals can have no truth value (see, for example, his response to William Lane Craig in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2001).

Second, middle knowledge is controversial among Calvinists. Paul Helm, a noted Calvinist philosopher, writes:

Since the Reformed held that all that occurs is unconditionally decreed by God and that men and women are responsible for their actions, they saw no need for a third kind of divine knowledge, a middle knowledge, which depended upon God foreseeing what possible people would freely do in certain circumstances.

In other words, middle knowledge is superfluous. Helm goes on to state as much:

Not only is middle knowledge unnecessary to an all-knowing, all-decreeing God, but the Molinists’ conception of free will makes it impossible for God to exercise providential control over his creation. Why? Because men and women would be free to resist His decree.

I would contend that most any theological determinist should hold to a similar belief regarding middle knowledge. On such a position, middle knowledge is unnecessary and indeed contrary to their entire system. Certainly Calvinists in general would deny that middle knowledge is necessary or uncontroversial.

Third, Thomists, I believe, would also reject middle knowledge–and historically have–for a number of reasons, including the notion that it entails potentiality in God. The reason it would do so is because of the whole structure of modality–including possible worlds–which advocates of middle knowledge tend to put forward as well. If the assertion is that there is a different way that things God could have created, then that implies that there is a potential there–something that any Thomistic view of the world would deny. I believe the same point would go for Scholastic thinkers in general, but I’m not familiar enough with the range of scholasticism to say that is for sure.

All of this is not even delving into things like whether those who hold to simple foreknowledge would endorse middle knowledge. David Hunt, for example, in the aforementioned Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, also argues that counterfactuals of freedom required for foreknowledge are illogical. Frankly, I think any position of simple foreknowledge would have to deny middle knowledge because on simple foreknowledge the whole concept is just as superfluous and contrary as it is for theological determinists. After all, if we contend that God just knows the future, then there is little room for things like God’s knowledge of what creatures would do in varied situations: God just knows what the future is going to be. Again, I don’t know the range of thought within the simple foreknowledge position to say for sure, but I suspect the majority position would be to deny middle knowledge.

Now when I shared some of these thoughts with Pastor Matt, his response was to grant that open theists deny middle knowledge, but then later he also granted that some Calvinists do. My point is that even were these the only ones who denied middle knowledge, that would not qualify as being “uncontroversial.” But now, having demonstrated that it is theological determinists, Calvinists, some who hold to simple foreknowledge, open theists, and Thomists (and possibly others?) who would deny middle knowledge, I think that the point has carried: middle knowledge is not uncontroversial.

I say all of this as someone who thinks middle knowledge does exist. But I think that we need to confront the reality that Molinism–the position which most closely endorses middle knowledge–is itself highly controversial and hardly above criticism.

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!

Middle Knowledge Misunderstood– Pastor Matt’s post on middle knowledge.

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 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.

Sunday Quote!- Adam and Eve and Inerrancy

lwae-waltonEvery 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!

Adam and Eve and Inerrancy

Is it possible to deny the historicity of Adam and Eve and affirm biblical inerrancy? I’ve explored the issue of whether the historical Adam is a “gospel issue” before and concluded that it depends what is meant by the term. I was reading through John Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve and in his conclusion he had something to say about the issue of inerrancy and the historicity of the first couple. If someone wants to assert that denial of the historicity of Adam is denial of inerrancy, then they must:

…make the case that historical Adam is part of the authoritative message that the text provides… If someone were to contend that belief in a historical Adam was cultural… part of the framework of communication, then inerrancy would not apply… (201-202)

It is worth noting that Walton believes that Adam and Eve are indeed historical persons, though he believes they were archetypes rather than the only humans alive at the time or the first humans ever.

What do you think? Need we affirm a historical Adam in order to affirm inerrancy? Is there a burden of proof upon those who claim the two are necessarily linked? What is your view of the historical Adam?

Whatever your thoughts, The Lost World of Adam and Eve is a thought-provoking read worthy of your attention.

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)

Is the historical Adam a Gospel Issue?– What happens to the Christian faith should it turn out to be the case that there is no historic Adam? Can one remain Christian and not believe in an historic Adam?

Source

John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2015).

SDG. 

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.

Sunday Quote!- Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach a Millennial Gap?

kc-stormsEvery 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!

Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach a Millennial Gap?

Sam Storms’ Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative is a major work written in defense of amillennialism–the eschatological (end times) position that there is no 1000 year earthly reign of Christ but rather that the millennium is the church era (among other things). One argument premillennialists use to defend one aspect of their position is that 1 Corinthians 15:22-28. Because there is a gap between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of believers, premillennial believers argue that there can also be a gap between the resurrection of Christ’s people and “the end” in verse 24.

Sam Storms analyzes this argument in extended fashion. Here’s a snippet of his discussion:

The premillennialist argues that the “end” [in verse 24] is the end or close of the millennial age, 1000 years after Christ has returned to earth. The amillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the present church age… all one need do is demonstrate which of these two options is correct… So, does Paul tell us when death dies? …As I read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, the defeat of death occurs at the second coming of Christ… (145, cited below)

If it is the case that Christ’s second coming is indeed the “end,” then it follows that the premillennial interpretation is mistaken and indeed, Storms argues, the whole system mostly collapses on itself. Storms concludes that 1 Corinthians 15 cannot be used to support the notion of a millennial gap.

What do you think? Does 1 Corinthians allow for such a lengthy gap in between parts of the text? What eschatological position do you hold to? How damaging is this text–if at all–for various eschatological positions?

No matter what you think, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative is cogently argued and something that anyone interested in eschatology should own and read.

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

Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Mentor, 2013).

SDG.

Book Review: “A Matter of Days” by Hugh Ross, Second Expanded Edition

amd-ross-2

Hugh Ross is one of the most influential Old Earth Creationists alive. The founder of Reasons to Believe, he has had a profound influence on putting forth Old Earth Creationism from a concordist–that is, the notion that the Bible and science will agree where they overlap [often including the notion that the Bible explicitly speaks on scientific issues]–perspective. A Matter of Days is perhaps the magnum opus of his position.

The book provides a huge amount of material for those wanting to interact with topics of creationism. Ross begins by surveying the contentious way the issue is often argued and noting that we as Christians ought to strive for more tolerant attitudes towards each other. Alongside this, he notes various statements by evangelicals allowing for some openness on the topic.

The book covers a massive range of arguments for and against young earth creationism, but the real meat of the text is dealing with various scientific arguments on either side. These are surveyed in a kind of question and answer or objection and rejoinder format in which Ross clearly explains a huge amount of scientific data for an ancient universe and deals with the major objections to such a position from the young earth creationist perspective.

Ross also confronts textual issues in a number of places, including much discussion on the concept of “day” and its meaning in Genesis 1. This, he covers from different perspectives including historic theology, exegesis, and science. He also puts forward a canonical view of how to see Creation in the Bible rather than limiting it simply to Genesis 1-2. There are a number of other texts that he argues also teach on creation.

Although he is an “Old Earth” believer, Ross is also clearly a creationist and puts forward several brief arguments about the faultiness of evolution. This is not a focus of the work, but through such arguments he establishes a clearer picture of his own position related to origins of both life and speciation.

One issue that might be raised with the book is whether the seemingly strict concordism Ross advocates is necessary. For example, rather than arguing that entropy and decay are spoken about in the Bible (100-102), could one not simply note that the human biblical author almost certainly had no concept of entropy and therefore was not addressing it? That is to say, a concept of divine condescension might be easier to hold to than one of future scientific knowledge revealed in the Bible.

The new edition is expanded and has noticeably featured references to some recent works as well as more arguments. It is a rather large re-write with much new information. Readers considering purchase should get this edition.

The Good

+Major point-by-point explorations of evidence for and against an old earth
+Strong defense of the Old Earth Creationist/Concordist position
+Many technical issues explained in understandable ways
+Charitable tone
+Excellent index
+Expanded arguments and new information for the new edition
+Really cool cover

The Bad

-Some questions about concordism remain
-Perhaps too brief on some objections

Conclusion

A Matter of Days remains a tour de force for old earth creationists. It is one of the broadest yet clearest defenses of the old earth creationist position which both answers young earth arguments and puts forth in brief an OEC perspective. Moreover, the updated edition is a true update rather than just having some corrections throughout. This is a book worth having for anyone interested in the controversy over origins in the Christian world.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy by the publisher. I was not required to write any sort of review whatsoever thereby. 

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!

Origins Debate– Read a whole bunch more on different views within Christianity of the “origins debate.” Here I have posts on young and old earth creationism, intelligent design, theistic evolutionism, and more!

Source

Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe, 2015).

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.

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