J.W. Wartick

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Is the Son “Equal To God”? – A reflection on an article from a Trinitarian Subordinationist

nes-jowershouse

One of the debates going on within evangelicalism today is the concept of the eternal subordination of the Son. That is, is God the Son eternally–not just in the Incarnation or some other temporal state–subordinate to God the Father? Setting aside the complexities of the debate, one of the central questions is whether this eternal subordination entails ontological subordination. The pro-subordination side says it does not; others charge that it does. There are, of course, many other issues, but here we will examine an article from Denny Burk written about Philippians 2:6 in the book The New Evangelical Subordinationism?. [NOTE: I am not saying that all who argue for eternal subordination would agree with Burk or that the arguments below would apply to all who hold to eternal subordination.]

Burk’s Thesis: The Son should not pursue “Equality with God”

Denny Burk argues that the Son “should” not pursue “equality with God” and the phrases “form of God” and “equality with God” are not synonymous. He surveys the use of the Greek article and concludes that the use in this instance is not anaphoric–basically the use of one expression carrying the meaning of another in context (I’m not linguist, so I hope I explained this adequately). Granting this distinction, I would suggest that Burk goes too far in concluding the Son is eternally subordinate and in fact arguing that the Son is inequal to the Father.

The Son , he argues, is in the form of God, but should not pursue “equality with God.” The final sentences of his article make this clear: “Therefore, in Paul’s Christology ‘form of God’ is something that Jesus possessed by virtue of his deity, while ‘equality with God’ is not. In fact, ‘equality with God’ is best understood as a role that Jesus refused to pursue so that he could pursue his redemptive work in the incarnation” (104, cited below).

Unequal Persons of the Godhead?

I found these statements astonishing, because I think they fundamentally do divide the Trinitarian persons on an ontological level. Consider the following premise:

P1- If two persons are “unequal,” those persons are not of the same essence.

I think this premise is eminently defensible, but simply asserting this premise begs the question against Burk’s position. Moreover, one would have to narrow down the definition and see what is meant by “unequal,” whether it applies to all forms of inequality, and the like. So rather than going down that route (one which I think would be ultimately successful but also highly complex), I’d simply suggest the following:

P2- If the Son is not “equal to God” to the same extent that the Father is “equal to God” then there is ontological division in the Trinity.

Unfortunately, we again run into the problem that without a demonstration of P2, it begs the question against Burk (and subordinationists who would use the same language). However, I think P2 is even more defensible than P1, so the establishing of P2 shall be the brief project to demonstrate Burk (and any who agree) have crossed the line with subordinationism into undermining the ontological unity of the Trinity.

Defense of P2 and Analysis of Burk’s position

There is no little danger in treating “God” as a kind of distinct entity from “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” because we may collapse into not just tritheism but rather quadri-theism where there is God, and then the the other three divine persons. Burk’s lack of defining what is meant by “equal to God” in his expressions seem to cross into this territory.

My defense of P2 will be quite simple. First, Christianity holds that Jesus is God. Period. Ergo, Jesus is equal to God. If Jesus is not just as “equal to God” as God the Father, then Jesus is not God but rather the Father is God and Jesus is some sort of quasi-divine entity having the “form of” but not “equality” with God.

Second, if we argue that two beings, x and y, do not equally share some aspect of nature, z, then it follows that x and y are not both essentially z. Converting that to our discussion of the Trinity, if we suppose that the Son and the Father do not equally have “equality to God,” then surely it must follow that the Son is not essentially God. The substance of the Godhead is not united in this view, but rather  divided. If one wants to argue that I am mistaken here, I’d simply ask for a defense of the opposite position. How can there be two entities that are not both reflecting some attribute but who are then said to both be that attribute?

Again, we run into the great difficulty that Burk never does (in this article) adequately explain what he means by “equal to God.” It seems he is using this phrase as though “equal to God” is semantically equivalent to “equal to the Father” but then Burk’s position surely assumes quite a bit and reads subordinationism into the text rather deriving it from this text. After all, we know that Paul is perfectly capable of referencing God as “Father” so if he meant to say that the Son “should not” (using Burk’s terminology) pursue equality to the Father, he could have just said that.

Burk’s own discussion of how “form of God” and equality to God may be distinct is brief:

[A]lthough Jesus actually possessed an identical characteristic of His Father with respect to his deity (i.e. “he existed in the form of God”), he did not want to grasp after another role that was not his–namely, “equality with God.”

…[T]he contrast between “grasping for equality” and “emptying himself” suggests both are functiona categories… Paul argues here that in his pre-incarnate state, Christ’s [sic] existed as theos [I transliterated this word–it is Greek for ‘God’]. Yet in this pre-incarnate existence, Christ Jesus did not seek to be like theos [transliterated] in every respect. (103-104)

These statements lead us to a related difficulty–one related to the first I noted in this section: Burk’s position seems to either turn into equivocation between “God” and “God the Father” without any distinctions (as just noted) or it seems to treat “God” as a distinct entity from the Trinitarian persons. But either of these is extremely problematic.

Moreover, one is forced to wonder how one might say of God the Son that he is God but not like God in every respect. How might one conclude that the persons of the Trinity are of one being if one is “equal to God” in role, but another is not? Burk offers little reason to think this is possible, and simply avers to roles within the Trinity. I contend that this offers little comfort to those with concerns over the possible ontological division within the Trinity coming from subordinationism.

Conclusion

I believe that P1 (properly construed) and P2 are each correct and that Burk’s subordinationism–along with any others who would draw similar conclusions–does indeed ontologically split the Trinity. Moreover, I believe that Burk fails to adequately ground any reason for thinking his position does not break the essential nature of the unity and the one being of the Godhead. It is well and good to assert different roles within the Trinity, but when one “role” is “equality to God,” and that “role” is not shared by all the persons of the Trinity, the implications for Trinitarian theology seem deleterious.

It is certainly possible I am misunderstanding Burk on these points, but it seems the conclusions I’ve drawn follow from his position. I’m happy to be corrected on this. I must, for now, conclude with a rhetorical question: In what sense can we affirm that the Son is God if the Son is not “equal to” God?

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Women, Complementarianism, and the Trinity- How getting subordination wrong has undermined the Trinity– I note how some complementarians have distorted the doctrine of the Trinity in order to ground their theological position on women in the ministry

Source

Denny Burk, “Christ’s Functiona Subordination in Philippians 2:6: A Grammatical Note with Trinitarian Implications” in The New Evangelical Subordinationism? eds Dennis Jowers and H. Wayne House (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 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.

Book Review: “Creative Church Handbook” by J. Scott McElroy

cchurch-mcelroyHow do we integrate the arts into our lives in the church?

As someone who is interested in the way we can more completely integrate our faith into our lives, this is a question that has interested me for some time. When Creative Church Handbook by J. Scott McElroy showed up as a book available for review, I immediately requested it, thinking it might be a good read. What an understatement! The Creative Church Handbook is a phenomenal guide for those interested in how to make arts ministries and integrate a love for the arts into their church.

The book is, well, a handbook for starting up, organizing, and thriving in arts ministries in your church. It is organized in a logical fashion, with an introduction providing reasons for supporting arts ministries and ways to get leadership on board, followed by numerous chapters on building said ministry, ideas for specific types of arts ministries, and moving the ministry beyond the church walls.

The chapters on setting up an arts ministry are wonderful because they provide a number of different concepts of what that ministry might look like, along with how to overcome potential challenges which may come up and advice on how to avoid burning people out or scaring them off. McElroy does a good job of envisioning the issues which may come up like funding, integration into worship, and the like.

The chapters on what an arts ministry may look like are where the rubber really hits the road as generalized suggestions about things like creating live artworks in worship are intertwined with concrete examples from successful arts ministries.

One downside to the book is that there is little if any mention of several art forms like music and technical arts. McElroy acknowledges this in the Preface and notes that, in part, it is because music has been integrated fairly well into worship and the technical arts are, well, technical and would require a different type of book. However, it seems to me that much of McElroy’s advice in this book could be modified slightly to apply to these other forms of the arts. The copy I received was a pre-release and so I was unable to evaluate the index as this was not included.

Overall, I would highly recommend Creative Church Handbook for the libraries of leaders in churches and also for laity interested in starting arts ministries. It is an extremely insightful guide with many ideas to help foster growth. You will almost certainly have your mind filled with all kinds of excellent ideas for developing the arts in your faith community. It comes highly recommended. I know I’ll be trying to start a ministry like this up when my wife gets a call after graduation.

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever. 

Links

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Source

J. Scott McElroy Creative Church Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 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.

 

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

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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.

Bible Note: Judges 14:14- Samson, a Riddle, and Dramatic Irony?

question-week2I’ve been reading through the Bible and making a kind of commentary on the whole thing as I go. Needless to say this has been a lengthy project!

A note from the NIV Study Bible on the Samson narrative–my current reading clued me in to something pretty interesting. I wonder how intentional this parallel might be. Here’s a note I put into my running Bible commentary:

“The NIV Study Bible (p. 380 note on 14:14) notes how this riddle could be foreshadowing Samson’s own fate- out of the eater (Samson), something to eat—Samson grinding grain after being blinded; out of the strong (Samson), something sweet—the joy of seeing their enemy cast down.”

What do you think? Is this parallel in the text? If so, is it intentional? What might we learn from its presences/lack thereof.

Microview: “Searching for an Adequate God” edited by John Cobb Jr. and Clark Pinnock

sadg-cobbpinnockSearching for an Adequate God (how’s that for a provocative title?) is a dialogue between process theists and open theists (aka free will theists). Process theism is most basically the notion that God is fully involved in and impacted by temporal processes like the free actions of creatures, the changing of nature, etc. (for a good summary of process thought, see here). Open theism (aka “free will theism” in this volume) is essentially classical theism, but with the notion that the future is “open”–that is, that some aspects of the future are yet undetermined and unknown (in that they are unknowable, because there are no facts about these open aspects of the future to be known).

Given the major divergence between these positions, this book provides a fascinating dialogue and real insights into points of division between two radically different concepts of God. Intriguingly, the two positions also share many basic premises (as is emphasized by every author) such as an emphasis on human free will as a way to handle theodicy, the notion that God is temporal and impacted in some way by creation, and so on.  The essays herein revolve, therefore, around these dual notions–the radical differences between the groups and the shared insights they argue they provide for theology.

The essays by David Ray Griffin (process) and William Hasker (open), along with their rebuttals to each other, frame the debate in an extremely interesting fashion, as their essays truly show the great differences between the positions. In between, essays by the other contributors (and their responses to each other) offer frequently autobiographical reflections on the two positions.

Perhaps most enlightening is the way that both positions show their distance on various points from classical theism and Christianity. Each of the Process contributors (and David Ray Griffin in particular) blithely dismissed or redefined the Trinity as a tertiary (as Griffin described it) doctrine for Christianity. This astounding claim demonstrates how vast the chasm is between the process view and Christianity. The open position, particularly as represented by Hasker, is highly critical of views of providence which entail God being even a secondary cause of evil.

The Good

+Fascinating interaction between two radically different yet frequently similar non-standard theistic positions
+Solid lineup of major representatives on both sides of the debate
+Good format
+Interesting insight into two positions which challenge classical theism

The Bad

-Too frequently autobiographical rather than topical in the middle essays

Conclusion

The value of Searching for an Adequate God is found in its many areas of clarification and insight: distinctions between process thought and classical Christian thought, clarifications on the meaning and extent of open theism, areas of mutual engagement between these divergent views, and more. It is a wonderfully fascinating book, even if I as a reader am deeply critical of both positions. I found it quite excellent.

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

John B. Cobb, Jr. and Clark Pinnock, eds. Searching for an Adequate God (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000). 

 

Book Review: “Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves” by John Stapleford

bbgc-staplefordJohn Stapleford’s Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves is a broad look at the application of Christian ethics to economics. It is stuffed with information from statistics to economic theory to ethics.

Often, when I read about someone putting forward a “Christian” view of economics, I get worried because what happens all too frequently is that the “Christian” view is taken to be equivalent to some existing economic theory and then anyone who disagrees with that theory is seen as being sub-biblical. By contrast, Stapleford does a fantastic job of never giving into the temptation to endorse wholly any one system, noting the impact of human sin and the real injustices that are possible in any economic system. Thus, he successfully navigates a kind of balancing act between liberal and conservative economic views throughout the book.

That said, his often incisive criticism of various economic systems from different angles is sure to challenge almost any reader. In favor of pure free market economies? Stapleford notes that these are the best way to increase overall wealth in a system, but calls them out for often falling victim to greed or ignoring the poor. All in favor of socialist systems? Stapleford argues that these systems can trample the rights of the individual while also making it difficult to anticipate and plan for the needs of societies. No one is safe from the cogent analysis offered in this book.

After outlining numerous ethical theories and practices that Christians can apply to the public square and economics, the book proceeds with a number of practical chapters that apply these to specific situations, whether it is international economics, the environment, and more. The topics treated are extremely wide-ranging and the analysis offered continues to be challenging and insightful throughout. Just as an example, the chapter on gambling points out the failure of several arguments put forth to attempt to ethically justify the practice, while also pointing to numerous injustices in the system. This kind of detailed analysis is found throughout the book on every topic Stapleford touches.

That said, the main downside of the book just is its broadness. At times, readers may feel blown away by how much information is being fed to them. The sheer amount of data can feel a bit overwhelming. Also, because of the broadness of the book, some of the solutions offered feel over-simplified and may leave readers wishing for more analysis.

Overall, Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves is a simply phenomenal read that will challenge all readers to live out a Christian life in the realm of economics.

The Good

+Eye-opening facts about numerous economic practices
+Excellent chapters on specific economic issues with applicable insights
+Bridges the seeming gap between liberal and conservative views in multiple places
+Consistently puts forth a Christian and holistic view of economics

The Bad

-Sheer amount of data can be overwhelming
-Some solutions offered seem over-simplified

Conclusion

I would highly recommend Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves to readers interested in exploring how Christianity can inform economic decisions and systems.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated to provide any specific type of feedback or review nor was I required to give a positive review. 

Source

John Stapleford, Bulls, Bears and Golden Calves (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015) Third Edition.

Links

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

 

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.

Sunday Quote!- Cessationism and Defining Miracles

occ-ruthven

Every 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!

Cessationism and Defining Miracles

Jon Mark Ruthven’s  On the Cessation of the Charismata was recommended to me as one of the premier arguments against the cessationist position–the position which asserts that the spiritual gifts like healing, speaking in tongues, and the like have ended. Having read the book, I’d have to say I found it largely convincing and very thought provoking. I’ve shared a different quote from it elsewhere, but here I want to focus one part of Ruthven’s argument. He notes that:

The validity of cessationism depends upon a clearly discernible and internally consistent model of miracle which can be applied transparently and uniformly to all candidate cases as they appear throughout history, both in the biblical accounts and afterward. (44, cited below)

Then, he argues–I think rightly–that the cessationist has yet to provide just such a model. It seems instead that there is a kind of arbitrary cut-off point at which miracles are said to be untrustworthy occurrences. Ruthven spends a lengthy portion of the book arguing that the cessationist models have failed this consistency test.

What do you think? Have you seen a model that can consistently affirm the miracles in the Bible but then uniformly and without qualification deny those which are extrabiblical and/or modern? What stance do you take on the issue of miraculous gifts?

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!

“Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?”- A look at four views in Christian Theology– I provide a look at four positions on miraculous/spiritual gifts in contemporary theology.

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

Source

Jon Mark Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata (Tulsa, OK: Word & Spirit Press, 2011).

SDG.

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