J.W. Wartick

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“Lord of Chaos” – Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time,” Book 6 and Christianity

loc-jordan“Humanity retreated, and the Shadow advanced.” – Robert Jordan, “Lord of Chaos,” p. 450.

Poignant words. Robert Jordan’s epic series, The Wheel of Time, continued with book 6: Lord of Chaos. In this post, we’ll explore a couple major themes that came through in this exciting fantasy adventure. There will be SPOILERS for book 6 (and possibly those before) in this post. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books for other readers.

The Shadow

One of the strongest themes throughout the book is the pending doom of the rise of evil. Evil advanced throughout the land, and had been making advances historically throughout the region with little opposition. In our world, it seems often that evil continues to exist unchecked. The parallels are palpable as one reads the book. One scene paints this reality starkly. Rand al’Thor is looking over a number of maps:

Borders and names were enough to rank the maps by age. On the oldest [nations were butted up against each other. Then…] Maredo was gone… Caralain vanished…. other nations… eventually [became] unclaimed land and wilderness. Those maps told a story of fading since Hawkwing’s empire crumbled, of humanity in slow retreat. A second Borderland map showed… the Blightborder fifty miles further north too. Humanity retreated , and the Shadow advanced. (440-450)

These names would be unfamiliar to those who haven’t read the series, but the implication should be clear: the maps showed the steady retreat of humanity in the face of the evil forces of the “Shadow.” The picture is breathtaking: one can easily imagine a series of maps showing encroaching darkness. But beyond the mere imaginary, it seems to be a fact that humanity–true humanity–is constantly retreating from evil. The evils of human trafficking, hunger, dishonesty, abortion, and the like continue to be perpetuated, and yet humanity is more interested–much like the people of The Wheel of Time–in the everyday mundane occurrences. Those things which “don’t harm me” are ignored. If we could see a map, we could see the Shadow encroaching as well.

It’s important not to completely focus on doom and gloom, however. In Lord of Chaos, the Dragon is Reborn, and the opportunity to defeat the Shadow is approaching. But those who know of prophecies know that this Dragon may also bring much destruction to the world. The Christian narrative presents a picture less bleak: evil is already defeated through our Lord. Final victory is inevitable.

Destruction of Life and other Injustice

The wanton destruction of life is found through much of Lord of Chaos. The forces of evil are not the only ones who are killing the innocent, however. Even those who call themselves the “Children of Light” bring about much evil through their actions. One scene which illustrates this is found in the way that a “Child of the Light” decided to deal with those who had sworn to the Dragon–the coming defender of the world:

He had managed to kill some of [the Dragonsworn], at least, though it was hard fighting foes who melted away more often than they stood, who could blend into the accursed streams of refugees… He had found a solution, however… The roads behind his legion were littered now, and the ravens fed to bursting. If it was not possible to tell the Prophet’s trash from refugee trash, well then, kill whoever clogged the way. The innocent should have remained in their homes where they belonged; the Creator would shelter them anyway. (611)

There is much injustice in this passage. First, the victims are blamed for their destruction: the reasoning is that they brought it upon themselves. Unfortunately, reasoning like this is frequently found today when people comment on various tragedies. We should not blame the victims, but rather go to their aid. Second, there is a kind of notion that “the Creator” (God?) would be pleased with this destruction, or at least could not be bothered to intervene. Again, this kind of reasoning is sometimes mentioned: God will sort them out, why bother with the possible consequences of bombing targets in civilian zones? Why deal with the plight of the refugee? Third, this plight of the refugee is found throughout the book. What of those who have been displaced by violence and war? In the book, it is actually Rand al’Thor who is the one who cares most about them. In our world, it should be the Christian who rushes to aid the defenseless.

Prophecy

The world of “The Wheel of Time” continues to be deeply steeped in fulfilled prophecy–whether coming fulfillment or already culminated. The emphasis on prophecy plays into the notion in Jordan’s world that there is a “Wheel of Time” which leads to a kind of cyclical universe model.

For our purposes, it is worth simply considering the notion that prophecies may have unexpected fulfillment. Rand does not always meet the prophecies of the Dragon in expected ways. Similarly, the way that some prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled is not the way that many at the time (or now) expected.

Onward!

We have seen that Lord of Chaos brings up a number of interesting themes. From here, we shall move onward into more books in the series. What are your thoughts on these themes? Do you have any other major themes you can think of as being found within the series? Remember- no spoilers for later books!

Links

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

SDG.

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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!- My Position is the Gospel; Yours is Not!

cadr-whiteEvery 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!

My Position is the Gospel; Yours is Not!

I recently re-read James Emery White’s fantastic Christ Among the Dragons. It is a book that encourages Christian conviction with charity. That is, it encourages Christians to stand firm in their beliefs, while doing so in ways that do not lead to name-calling, bitterness, and resentment. One highly interesting part was when White discussed how some Christians tend to reduce the Gospel to their own position:

when we condescendingly say that our position is simply the ‘gospel,’ as if it’s not really a debate worth having, then we are being arrogant. When we make our view the litmus test of orthodoxy, or even community, we are being neither gracious nor loving. When we say that our view alone upholds God’s sovereignty or that our perspective is the only one that cares about lost people, we are not being truthful. When we exhibit a haughty smirkiness, or we so state our position that we divide churches, student ministry groups, or denominations, then we are sinning. (126-127)

White suggests various criterion for when we might say that one position is, in fact, not the Gospel, but this means moving past our narrow definitions of what we want others to believe about things that are not essentials of the Christian faith. Yes, these things remain important, but they do not allow us to exclude from the church of Christ those who disagree with us.

Christ Among the Dragons is a fantastic book, and well worth the read. White’s insights on this and other issues are spot-on.

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

James Emery White, Christ Among the Dragons (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010).

SDG.

Book Review: “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” by Gregg R. Allison

rctp-allisonGregg Allison’s work, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment, provides a point-by-point look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church along with commentary and critique throughout from an evangelical perspective. The book thus provides an enormous number of avenues exploration, so we’ll focus on just a few topics here.

Evangelicalism in Dialogue

One issue that some may see rising from Allison’s approach is the notion of “evangelical thought” or perspective. Allison himself notes how difficult it would be to pin down one specific approach. He does, however, do a good job of approaching the various aspects of Roman Catholic theology in a way that allows for different evangelical voices to get a say. For example, in his discussion of the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/etc., he critiques Roman Catholic teaching from a number of different evangelical positions. That said, Allison is Reformed and focuses much of the space for critique on offering a specifically Reformed criticism. This means that at some points those outside of the Reformed tradition may feel they have differing criticisms to offer that are not fully covered.

One can hardly fault Allison for this approach, however, because the space needed simply to cover the Catechism and offer a critique is large.

Roman Catholicism Outlined and Critiqued

The value of the book for many will be found in the fact that it does present Roman Catholic teaching as found in their official Catechism. Allison does a great job simply presenting what the Catechism teaches in each section before he offers a critique.

Allison’s critique often focuses on either the Church-Christ identification or the nature-grace interdependence in Roman Catholic theology. It is the latter which is the most prominent critique offered. Roman Catholicism sees human nature and grace working together whereas evangelicalism sees human nature as corrupted through the fall and not working together with grace. Allison does an excellent job showing numerous difficulties with the Roman Catholic view on this topic and then showing how many doctrines of Roman Catholicism are dependent upon this faulty premise.

Allison’s critique of specific doctrines is also helpful. His criticisms of papal and magisterial infallibility are on-point, concise, and decisive. His outline and critique of Mariology, justification, etc. are each valuable and insightful. Again, however, readers may be left hoping there was more space to dedicate to each individual topic.

Some other issues

One issue that happens a few times is that Allison seems to inadequately ground his critique. This is particularly the case in a number of places in which the criticism amounts to “evangelicalism dismisses x.” Such a “dismissal” happens frequently through the book on minor topics, but it leaves the reader wondering on what grounds such ideas are dismissed. Often, the only grounds provided is something like not having sufficient biblical warrant or because of its reliance on one of the above mentioned overarching themes (Church/Christ or nature/grace).

Another issue is that Allison sometimes offers critiques that do not seem very convincing or are products of his theological presuppositions. For example, his discussion of baptism and his denial that Jesus is speaking of baptism in John 3:5ff seems confused, to say the least. Indeed, he confirms that the discussion of “water and the spirit” are being used in such a way as to refer to the same thing. However, no real alternative to baptism is given of this water- and spirit-filled notion. It is simply asserted that it cannot be baptism because that would mean an anachronistic notion (baptism) was in the text. But of course John the Baptist was around before Jesus, and he baptized with water… and the spirit. Now, I am Lutheran, so my perspective on baptism certainly differs from that of Allison’s, but his treatment of this passage seemed exegetically impossible.

Conclusion

Gregg Allison’s interaction with Roman Catholicism is enormously helpful in that it walks readers through the beliefs of Roman Catholics from their own Catechism. The strength of the work is its broadness, which is also its weakness as individual topics are sometimes skimmed over too briefly. That said, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment is a simply fantastic book for those looking to learn more about Roman Catholicism and the issues that divide it from evangelical theology. Allison has done a service to the church with this book that provides both a reference and a critical perspective when dealing with Roman Catholic theology.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Gregg Allison, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2014).

Links

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

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response” by Kevin Diller

ted-dillerKevin Diller’s Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response is a work that seeks to offer a unified approach from Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga to a major difficulty in Christian doctrine: reconciling the necessity of having theological knowledge with the notion that our cognitive capacities are somehow faulty due to sin. But the book is much more than that, for throughout the book Diller gives major, applicable insight into the thought of both Plantinga and Barth.

Diller first goes deeper into the epistemological problem, then analyzes Barth’s view of revelation and his theological epistemology, and wraps up the first part of the book with a deep look at Plantinga’s concept of warrant and how it may impact the question of theological epistemology. He puts forward a consistent interpretation that allows for a unified perspective of Barth’s and Plantinga’s thought. The second part focuses on this unified perspective and puts it forward in analysis of natural theology, human knowledge of God, and Scripture.

Such a brief summary of contents does not do justice to the broad scale of the book, which touches upon many different topics of importance, while always remaining centered on the question of knowledge in theology. Diller has thoughtfully brought forth key aspects of the thoughts of both Barth and Plantinga in such a way as to demand reflection from both philosophers and theologians.

Some of the most interesting insights come from Diller’s integration of Barth’s concept of revelation with Plantinga’s concept of warrant. By focusing on God as self-revealing and self-attesting (Barth), believers are able to maintain warrant in their knowledge of theology (Plantinga).

Another area of profound interest is the way that both Barth and Plantinga approach natural theology–they largely argue that it cannot succeed in its end goal–to demonstrate the existence of God. Barth’s thought reflects this because God will necessarily be hidden from unaided human reason, while Plantinga argues that the arguments of natural theology are part of but do not ground warrant for belief in God. This latter section has much to reflect upon for one who, like me, thinks natural theology can be largely successful.

Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma is a superb, worthwhile read for anyone with interest in the questions of how we may have knowledge within the worldview of Christianity. I highly commend it to my readers.

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

Source

Kevin Diller, Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014).

Links

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

SDG.

——

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

Sunday Quote!- Sola Scriptura and Reading the Bible

ioer-mcgrathEvery 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!

Sola Scriptura and Reading the Bible

Alister McGrath has done much work in the area of Reformation theology. Here, he has some extremely important words about how sola scriptura does not, in and of itself, yield a way to read Scripture:

The Reformation principle of sola scriptura is rendered either meaningless or unusable without a reliable hermeneutical program… The hermeneutical presuppositions of theologians inevitably exercise considerable influence over their theological conclusions. (148, cited below)

Too often, people assume that if we just look at the text, we’ll know what it says. If we just read the words, that’s the meaning. But everyone presupposes a hermeneutical system, and the danger is that if we are not aware of this, we may be using an unreliable one, and our presuppositions will influence us to read the text as meaning something it does not, in fact mean. McGrath shares this and many other insights in this important work.

What do you think of this? How important is it to be aware of the way we’re reading the Bible?

Links

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

Microview: “Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation” by Alister McGrath- I reviewed this highly interesting book by Alister McGrath. Be sure to read this as well!

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

Source

Alister E. McGrath, The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003).

SDG.

On Racial Injustice

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. -Galatians 3:28 NIV

There have been a couple very high-profile cases in which grand juries did not indict police officers related to the deaths of two African American men. I know this is not new news to my readers, but I wanted to briefly offer a reflection.

First, regardless of the evidence in either case, regardless of what happened, it is clear that racism continues  to be a very real and deadly threat in our country.

Second, we as Christians are called to fight against this injustice. The Galatians passage above is a clear demonstration: the distinctions that matter to the world are not to divide the body of Christ. A valid inference is that we as Christians should work against these unjust divisions. Whether it is Jew or Gentile, slave or free, black or white, male or female, or some other form of injustice: we must work at all points to end it.

Third, it is unacceptable to dismiss the concerns of others. Here I reiterate: whatever your view is of the evidence related to Eric Garner or Michael Brown, that does not matter in this context. What I am saying is that when others are expressing concern about racism it is inexcusable to dismiss their concern by saying the evidence in a specific case points against it being a racial incident. We can debate individual cases; what cannot be debated is the fact that racism continues to be a gross cause of injustice in our world. If you don’t believe me, feel free to slog through the comments on web sites about these cases. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fourth, we should ever be working towards reconciliation. This means that we should seek to understand, offer forgiveness, and work to walk arm-in-arm with our neighbor. This does mean obeying Jesus’ call to love even our enemies. We must constantly strive, pray, and work to end racial injustice in our community and in the systems that exist on higher levels in our spheres of influence.

Fifth, it is not enough to shake our heads and say “What a tragedy” when confronted with racism. When we hear a racist joke; a racist comment; it must immediately be addressed. It is unacceptable. It is unbecoming a Christian. This does not mean we react violently. It does mean that we condemn and actively work against injustice.

Finally, I would note that I am by no means an expert in this area. I simply felt the deep need to comment.

God has given us a higher calling, brothers and sisters. God has given us a higher calling.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1″- A Christian Perspective

mockingjay-p1“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1″ is yet another blockbuster hit in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Here, I will reflect on a number of themes found in the movie, drawing out places the film resonates with the Christian worldview. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Social Contract?

The concept of a “social contract” theory of government is put forward by President Snow. At one point, he is speaking out for peace (ironically, while executing several prisoners), and his argument is that the Districts are in a contract with the Capitol, which is to provide “order” and justice.

The scene is deeply ironic–and meant to be. It shows what is inherently wrong in a system which relies upon a contract (in this case, one that a side is forced into) as the basis for morality. Simply having such a contract does not, in and of itself bring about a moral system. Ultimately, people are able to distort meanings of terms and ask things like “what does ‘order’ mean?” and change it to suit their needs. The only sound basis for morality is something which cannot be changed on a semantic issue or on the whims of the masses.

If We Burn, You Burn With Us!

There is such a strong sense of injustice that pervades the film that I think little time has been spent thinking on this phrase that has become somewhat a tagline for the movie: “If we burn, you burn with us!” It’s a kind of “eye for an eye” statement which seems at first to have some sense of retributive justice but perhaps ultimately falls into a kind of self-administered vengeance. However, when one probes more deeply one wonders whether it is a species of a “just war” argument.

Such an argument opens up all kinds of avenues for debate, but I think it ultimately does come down to the question of which is greater injustice: allowing a clearly evil system to continue interminably, or stopping it with the only means that can bring about change. It’s a thorny issue, but one I think Christians should consider thoughtfully.

Slaves Among Us

Finnick Odair, one of the Victors, was sold by President Snow into sex slavery. It’s an extremely uncomfortable issue, but one I am glad the film raised. Snow used the threat of violence against loved ones to force Finnick into this system–a disgusting evil. Unfortunately, the reality of sex slavery, including for children, is an extremely real and pervasive vileness that continues in our present age. The United States has many hot spots for sex slavery, and it continues abroad as well. We must work to end this horrific injustice and bring down the systems of evil that help prop it up.

Conclusion

“Mockingjay Part 1,” like the Hunger Games titles before it, brings up many issues for Christians to consider. I encourage you to see it and discuss it with others. Let me know what you think in the comments! Check out the links below for a number of my previous discussions of other films and books in the series.

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!

Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy- I discuss the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, with a number of comments upon the themes and events found therein.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective- I wrote about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and provided some insight into what Christians may take away as talking points from the film.

“Catching Fire”- A Christian Reflection on the Film-

The image is from an official movie poster and I claim no rights to it. I use it under fair use.

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!- The Bible and Ancient Cosmology

ane-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!

The Bible and Ancient Cosmology

Often, people who are discussing the various positions in the Christian origins debate and lining up as young earth, old earth, theistic evolutionist, and the like on a continuum (see my post on different positions on Creation) do not take into account the way that God worked in the Ancient Near East to bring forth God’s revelation. John Walton has some perceptive words on this issue:

Yahweh did not reveal an alternative cosmic geography to Israel in the Old Testament. But there can be no discussion of creation or many other important issues without presupposing some sort of cosmic geography. With no alternative presented and no refutation of the traditional ancient Near Eastern elements, it is no surprise that much of Israel’s cosmic geography is at home in the ancient world rather than in the modern world. (175, cited below)

Of course, Walton does not suggest that this means we reduce all discussion of the OT into discussions of the ANE. There were important distinctions: “The difference was that the natural phenomena were emptied of deity… they were instruments for [God’s] purposes…” (175).

Nevertheless, we should be aware of the ANE cosmology and see how that impacts our reading of the text. Rather than settling for ignoring the context of the text and what it meant to those to whom it was revealed, we should take into account this background. Walton’s book is simply superb for this.

Links

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

Microview: “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament” by John Walton- I wrote a brief review of this book, which I consider one of the best books I’ve ever read.

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

Source

Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Books; Editiones Scholasticae, 2014).

SDG.

Humanity on the Brink in Ben Bova’s “New Earth”

bb-ne

Ben Bova’s New Earth is a spectacular novel that mixes hard sci fi with a touch of space opera. I recently investigated a major theme of the novel: the notion that we may find hope in the stars. Here, we’ll explore some other major themes of the book, including exploration, the possibility of human extinction, and xenophobia. There will be major SPOILERS in what follows.

Exploration

A major theme found in New Earth is the urge to explore and possible benefits thereof. In a conversation between Anita Halleck–a wealthy investor, and Douglas Stavenger–the semi-retired leader of Selene, the independent sovereign nation on the moon, this theme is drawn out most poignantly:

“It’s a big universe,” said Stavenger.

“But what good is it [exploration of “New Earth”]?” she demanded. “What does it accomplish? So they explore another planet. Does that help anybody? Does that solve any real problems?”

…”There are always problems on Earth.[” said Stavenger. “]And here in Selene, too. That shouldn’t stop our push to explore.”

“Where will it end?”

“It won’t end. We keep on exploring, keep on learning. That’s where new knowledge comes from, the frontier. And new knowledge always leads to new wealth, new benefits for everyone.”

“Very philanthropic.”

“Very practical,” Stavenger corrected. (83)

There is some debate now over funding for NASA, for example. What good does it do to send people to the moon? Surely that funding could be better spent on, say, relieving world hunger. In fact, this exact argument is made within New Earth, because the planet Earth is itself suffering from catastrophes caused by global warming, among other issues.

Yet Bova, through Stavenger, makes an argument for exploration: the drive to explore, the imagination; these are things which drive invention and innovation. As Stavenger put it, the drive to explore leads to new wealth and new technology for everyone. It is interesting to see this debate play out in fiction, though this was largely where it dropped… However, one could argue that the ultimate revelation, that humanity was truly on the brink of destruction from the coming apocalypse from a local star, is itself an argument for the success of the project of human exploration.

Environmentalism 

Our home planet is in serious trouble in the time of New Earth. Global warming has devastated the environment, causing flooding across coastal regions, precipitation cycles to reorient and move. Drought and inundations of rain alternatively destroy their respective climate zones. Humanity flees the shorelines.

Through this bleak look into humanity’s plight, Bova issues a call for humans now to work against environmental catastrophe. Of course, some dispute the trend towards global warming, but even if global warming is some sort of myth, it seems to me that we must work toward caring for creation in such a way that we minimize our destruction of ecological systems. We are God’s stewards on Earth and so we should work to take care of the gifts of God’s creation.

Of course, in New Earth the consequences of forsaking this gift of God–our charge to care for the Earth–are put into fictional perspective. The destruction to the planet leads to destruction of human life.

Xenophobia

The resistance the human characters have in New Earth to the information presented to them by the “humans” on New Earth is interesting and, in my opinion, helps to characterize the reality of human nature. Many of the humans on the excursion to New Earth are deeply suspicious of the alien life they have found. Moreover, the way they react to the friendliness of the aliens reflects a culture that the aliens (and the sentient machine) view as deeply barbaric. The human tendency to be distrustful, it is said, is due to their evolutionary history and the way that such distrust helped survival.

However, I think this same portrayal has theological significance. Humanity is fallen, and our past is littered with the results of our fallen nature. It is not at all hard to imagine humans reacting just as those did in New Earth. The reality of human nature is such that one cannot but think that no matter how tactfully and amiably such aliens approached us, the reaction would probably be negative. To trust the aliens to tell us about a coming destruction for which we should prepare to survive is to take it to another level.

What does this say about human nature?

Conclusion

Bova’s work New Earth is one of my favorites from one of the masters of science fiction. I’ve already discussed how it explored the issue of hope from the heavens in materialistic literature. Now, we’ve seen how it explores other issues which are both current and historic. Let me know what you think of the themes brought up in 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!

Caring for Creation: A discussion among evangelicals- I write about creation care from a number of perspectives offered at a recent panel of prominent evangelical thinkers in this area.

Book Review: “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Steven Bouma-Prediger- Several issues related to the environment and Christian theology are drawn out in this extremely interesting 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.

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.

Thomas Kinkade and Christianity- What do we learn from “The Painter of Light”?

thomas-kinkade-10

A favorite of Kinkade’s works.

Thomas Kinkade is a polarizing figure. His art is beloved and hated. Some see the art as picturesque and hearkening back to a simpler time. Others see his art as gaudy and outlandish with terrible lighting effect. Whatever your own view, it must be admitted that an artist with paintings in thousands upon thousands of homes is vastly more influential than most. Here, we will examine Thomas Kinkade’s art from a few different angles.

The image featured in this post, “Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride,” exhibits a number of features of Kinkade’s art. Light is featured prominently. It is used in a kind of spiritual fashion–its warmth beckons from the church to the cold, snow-covered land around it. The viewer’s attention is not upon the sleigh itself, because the light is centered upon the place of worship: the church. Note also the fish symbol displayed above Kinkade’s signature. The image is one of familiarity–particularly for those who are most assuredly Kinkade’s audience: broadly mainstream protestants.

There is something to be had in the image for different parts of the country. The mountains could place it in the winter of Colorado, but the feel of chill found in the image reminds me, at least, of the Midwest. The Northeast may reflect upon their love for sleigh rides. The uniting theme, of course, is found in the call to the church as found in the image.

Others who are better equipped for critique of art have noticed these themes in Kinkade’s work as well. I have been reading through Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall. The book analyzes Kinkade’s work from a number of angles. Some of the contributors enjoyed his work–or at least appreciated it as art. Others dismissed it as clearly obscene or hideous. One undercurrent in many of the essays was the notion of Kinkade’s professed religious values and how those may come out in his art.

One of the essays actually seemed to accuse Kinkade of specifically exploiting foolish middle-class Protestants through the use of pseudo-religion to cause them to open their wallets and spend money on his works. Another explored the way in which Kinkade consciously displayed light and other features in his artwork to convey a message he clearly conceived of as evangelical, while also appealing to a kind of picturesque, idealistic view of Christian culture (45ff, cited below). The artist viewed nature as imbued with God’s beauty revealed, and felt he should paint it as such (46).  In my opinion, the least flattering image portrayed of Kinkade was the essay entitled “The Painter of the Right.” In this essay, Micki McElya basically paints Kinkade’s project as one of glorifying a kind of civil religion of American Christianity (see especially p.73, 76 cited below).

There is clearly a broad spectrum of views as to the project Kinkade pursued through his life. The fact that he plastered his art over coffee mugs, blankets, ornaments, and anything else an image could be placed upon might strike the more cynical as truly an exploitation of the foolish religious masses with money to spend. However, one must wonder whether the sincerity of one’s professed religious beliefs must be reevaluated in light of consumer success. Of course, one might also suggest that Kinkade’s public failings regarding his marriage and alcohol may be grounds for doubting his religious affectation. But again, this would be to act in a fairly Pharisaic manner–to condemn another saint who remains yet a sinner while one is the same. Regardless, it seems there is much to perhaps learn about and from Kinkade, as ridiculous as that may sound to some.

Returning to the art itself, there is little doubt that Kinkade masterfully pursued his project of attempting to subtly evangelize through his art. The image I selected is more obvious than most, but the themes of light and other religious imagery may be found throughout his body of work. Perhaps one may see these as the marks of a man’s dedication to trying to use his skills most fully in the best way he knew how to adhere to his faith. Perhaps not. I tend to favor the former rather than the latter.

Although I realize some of the criticisms of his art may be on-point, I cannot help but be drawn in by his art. I don’t enjoy all of it, but “Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride” is one I particularly do enjoy. I realize it is constructed in such a way as to tug at my heart–I am most certainly part of Kinkade’s target audience–but that does not, in itself, belittle the art’s value. Nor does Kinkade’s own life, which stirred some controversy towards the end, destroy the possibility for his true belief. I’m keen to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I think that Kinkade’s did little to mar his own image as the “Painter of Light.” It is possible to be a sinner-saint, as are all the redeemed in this life. Kinkade’s art may not be your cup of tea, but it should be of interest to see how someone may integrate their faith into their life.

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!

Source

Alexis L. Boylan, Editor, Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall (Duke University Press, 2011).

The image is copyright Thomas Kinkade and I do not claim any credit for it. I am using it under fair use as a critical examination of the artwork. Be sure to check out Thomas Kinkade’s website if you would like to browse his art and purchase it in various forms.

SDG.

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

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