J.W. Wartick

This tag is associated with 279 posts

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.

——

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.

Sunday Quote!- Does Concordism Fail?

ec-lamoureuxEvery 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 Concordism Fail?

Denis Lamoureux argues in his book  Evolutionary Creation against concordism–the view that there is correspondence between science and Scripture. His argument proceeds by tracing various difficulties found in the biblical text for those who want to argue that it is scientifically accurate. This argument is lengthy, so interested readers should go to the book itself, but he basically appeals to things like the apparent belief in a 3-tiered universe, the notion of the “firmament” as a solid dome across the sky, and more in order to try to demonstrate that the attempt to show that concordism must reinterpret these texts rather than allow them to speak to their background worldview.

After rather exhaustively making this point, he asserts:

It is obvious that scientific concordism fails. There is no correspondence between the conceptualization of nature in the Book of God’s Words and our common knowledge of the Book of God’s Works. (149)

Lamoureux’s argument is lengthy and challenging. I think it presents at least two major difficulties for concordists. First, his argument demands that we who are concordists take the texts seriously at what they are teaching. If we want to affirm that the Bible is scientifically accurate, then we cannot simply dismiss these apparent discussions of a three-tier universe, firmament, and more as “background understandings” of the ancients. Instead, for the sake of consistency, we must explain how these texts will be in concord with a right scientific understanding. This task is one I will not undertake, but I think some have done an admirable job in this regard, particularly groups like Reasons to Believe.

Second, it provides a direct attack at the roots of the concordist position: can the concordist justify their position through the Bible rather than falling into the danger of misrepresenting what the Bible actually teaches and what the authors’ understanding actually was?

I do not take these challenges as insurmountable, but they do provide food for thought. I am wary of arguing the Bible should be anything like a science textbook, and particularly wary of thinking that it might have some kind of prophetic 21st century science written into the background. However, I am equally wary of acting as though the Bible has nothing to say about the natural world and that we can just blithely dismiss anything it might say as background understanding.

What are your thoughts? Does concordism fail? What is the best way to treat the interplay between Christianity and science?

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

Denis O. Lamoureux, Evolutionary Creation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008).

SDG.

Debate Review: Al Mohler vs. Chris Date on “Should Christians Rethink Hell?”

IMG_0691

Not hell. But it is a pretty picture I took with a kind of intriguing/ominous path.

I want to preface this post by saying I am by no means an expert on the topic of hell. I’ve only read two books on the subject and listened to several lectures. I approach this as one who is still learning and seeking understanding. I hold to what would be called in this debate the “traditional” view of hell as opposed to a literalist view of hell. That is, I believe hell is a place (spiritual? physical?) that is eternal; but I am unconvinced that the fire references made in the Bible are to be taken literally (i.e. how are they literal flames and yet the place is in darkness? – seems to me to be metaphorical language).

I was very interested in listening to this debate between the traditional view, as espoused by prominent conservative theologian Al Mohler and the conditional view (that of annihilationism–those who are unsaved are annihilated at the judgment [typically–please correct me if I have misportrayed this) as put forward by Chris Date. Here, I’ll offer a brief summary of major statements in the debate, followed by my own analysis. Note that these are my summaries of what was said, not necessarily direct quotes. I welcome critique and comments. Let me know if you listened to the debate, and feel free to offer your own thoughts! The debate may be found here.

Summary

Justin Brierly asked Mohler to speak on what he thought about the biblical basis for conditionalism.

Mohler- Anyone who speaks on a doctrinal question sees their side as more biblical, and I find the evidence for conditionalism wanting. We must also present the picture of hell which is that which should be presented to others–we have to see what the biblical picture of hell is. The biblical “meta-narrative” points to dual everlasting destinies–eternal life in a New Heaven and New Earth–and also for eternal punishment. The unified consensus reading of Scripture for the history of Christianity has been the traditional position.

Date- Regarding Matthew 25, the question is not the duration of the punishment but the actual nature of the punishment. The context suggests that the wages of sin is death, physical death and not living any more. At judgment, the conditionalist holds that the second death will be just that–death. Moreover, the alleged consensus opinion on hell has not been completely on the side of traditionalism, and in the last few centuries conditionalism has gained support. [Outlines the biblical evidence for conditionalism while citing a huge number of texts.] The preponderance of Scripture points to conditionalism. The concept of eternal punishment is correct; the question is what the nature of this punishment is.

Mohler- The normal Christian reading of Matthew 25 has been eternal conscious torment, not destruction. The infinite wrath and infinite grace of God are each being experienced. To say that eternal punishment is not an eternal state but just something that endures until it is taken away does not seem to be what the text itself implies. Humans have a life beyond this life–not an inherent right to immortality of the soul but because of the image of God in humanity–we are made for eternal life.

Date- Saying that Christ purchased eternal salvation for us in Hebrews does not imply a continued state of Christ forever redeeming; it was an act in time with eternal consequences. Eternal life is something only experienced by the saved–the punishment is death and its effect lasts forever.

Mohler- It is difficult to square this view with the actual texts. Rather than appealing to a different passage in Hebrews, Date must explain the parallelism in Matthew 25 regarding the phrase eternal–does it mean two things in the same context?

Date- Eternal means forever in both cases–eternal life and death which lasts forever.

Mohler- Substituting death does not explain away the parallelism in the text. The Christian church has long understood that this passage means eternal torment.

Date- That’s why it’s called the traditional view!

Mohler- The traditional view does not rest on isolated texts of Scripture but on the church’s understanding of the weight of the texts as a whole. There is no indication in various depictions of hell in which there is an end to the torment as spoken.

Date- Mohler’s interpretation is incorrect; the Greek can be taken in different senses in the places he cites.

Mohler- These interpretations are based on arguing that when we look at a text, we have to say it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means.

Date- Many Christians held to a conditionalist view in historic Christianity. Moreover, we should not forget that we come to the text with presuppositions, and such giants of the church as Augustine who held to the traditional view had a Platonic view of the soul which influenced their interpretation of the Bible.

Mohler- There was development of the doctrine of hell. Regarding Augustine, if we argue that Augustine’s view was due to Platonism, we have to see that his entire picture of reality was Hellenized and so his view of other important doctrines like the deity of Christ is undermined.

Date- Nobody is claiming that everything found in the Platonic view or the Hellenistic view is wrong. Scripture is the authority, however, not the culture. The Platonic view specifically imported mistakes into the view of the soul and its indestructible nature according to that view.

Mohler- Jesus held to what we call the traditional view. However, Jewish thought at the same time didn’t have much developed thought regarding hell, which is largely a distinctively Christian view.

Date- Jesus’ language speaks of destruction and seemingly endorsed the view of annihilationism through his use of language of destruction and burning up.

Mohler- Gehenna does not point to Jesus endorsing an annihilationist view because the use of that term was a reference to continued endless fire, despite being a distinct historic view. …Jesus spoke more about eternal punishment and hell than about heaven. Our understanding of the Gospel is impacted by a different view of hell. The urgency of the Christian message is undermined by the conditionalist position because it effectively removes any urgency for conversion because the materialist already believes they will just cease existing.

Date- Atheists often reject Christianity because they see the traditional view as unjust, which means that a conditionalist view has greater apologetic value. Moreover, the Gospel can continue to be presented as either the gift of life or the punishment of death. Conditionalism does not undermine urgency of spreading the Good News.

Analysis

It was edifying to listen to both presenters on this program and get a better idea about the differing views related to hell within Christianity. The speakers were each respectful and gracious–something that should be the case!

Chris Date cogently argued for and defended his position against major objections. I think one of the most pressing issues for the conditionalist/annihilationist remains the notion that, on their view, there really is no major difference between the end of the unsaved and that which the materialist believes will happen. However, it should be noted this is less a biblical challenge than it is a philosophical/theological one. Date’s defense of the biblical capacity for conditionalism was challenging to my paradigm as I think he presented some passages which do possibly read more easily on his view than on the traditional view.

I do think, however, some of Date’s claims were a bit of a stretch. For example, his assertion that Jesus endorsed conditionalist teachers perhaps goes beyond the evidence we have. Moreover, his style of argument in some sections was problematic because he simply through a number of texts out (without quoting the text, simply citing the locations) without giving any sort of context. Of course, this latter issue is more due to the format than a defect of his position.

One of the biggest problems with Al Mohler’s defense of the traditional view is how much he appealed to, well, tradition. It seems to me like the traditional view has a solid scriptural basis, and to appeal to the notion that the church as a whole has largely leaned towards the traditional view is inadequate as a defense. Thus, it was his method which I think was greatly problematic. However, towards the end he got deeper into the issues and I think made some solid points, particularly in regards to whether Gehenna necessarily entails the conditional view and on the seeming parity of the unsaved on the conditional view vs. their own position. That said, I think a stronger focus on exegesis would have been more compelling rather than a continued appeal to traditional church teaching.

Overall, I came out of this debate feeling challenged to consider my own position. I also think the conditionalist view is not, as some assert, clearly unbiblical. If one wants to continue asserting that, I think they must deal very closely with the texts Date and others cite for their position. One can’t just cite a single proof text and say that other texts must be reinterpreted in light of a single text.

What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments.

Links

Should Christians Rethink Hell?- The link for the audio of the debate along with some related links from Premier Christian Radio.

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!

*The image in this post was taken by me. I claim the copyright as noted below.

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!- A Science Fiction Parable

daystar-tyers

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!

Science Fiction Parable

Before I dive in here, I want to note that there are SPOILERS for the last book of the fantastic Firebird series by Kathy Tyers in what follows.

Kathy Tyers’ Firebird Trilogy was an amazing piece of science fiction which integrated issues of faith and worldview into a stirring narrative. In Daystar, book five of the Firebird series, the prophesied Messiah, the Boh-Dabar, has come. The book is in many ways a science fictional retelling of the biblical Gospels. The Boh-Dabar, Tavkel, is a clear parallel of Jesus in many ways, including the telling of parables. One of these parables was particularly striking, and I’ve amended it to quote it here[mostly took out other dialogue and place names]:

 “Once there was a little girl… She had a little pet that she loved… It was a kind of creature she’d never seen…. It had four stubby legs, a big head, ans sharp little teeth… She opened the bag of pet food the dealer sold them, she put the food into [the pet’s] bowl, and she stroked it while it ate with those sharp little teeth… After a few days, the girl noticed something. Her pet wasn’t getting any bigger. In fact, it looked thin… She found out that [its] species was strictly herbivorous–but the pet dealer had sold them dried meat pellets by mistake…

“It looked like a carnivore. So she asked her parents to buy the right food… And it sniffed the good food, but it wouldn’t eat. It walked away from the bowl and looked up at her with desparately hungry eyes. It had learned to like the wrong food. It refused to eat what would nourish it, because that food seemed strange and mysterious. One day it lay down at her feet, looking up at her with those hungry eyes, and it died.” (430-431, cited below)

The story is powerful and emotionally charged. Like the parables of Jesus, it also hints at much beyond the mere words spoken. For the rest of the book, Meris–the non-believing character Tavkel is telling the parable too–reflects on it and tries to draw out its meaning. The meaning, however, does not become clear until the Boh-Dabar fulfills the same kind of prophecies which Christ fulfilled.

Looking at this specific parable, there are many layers of possible meaning. How might we be eating food that doesn’t nourish us? Could it be a sinful habit, a practice, a temptation we give in to? Have we made ourselves used to bad food so that we don’t recognize that which is good? Do we need to ask God to help bring healing to our own habits of life? But the text could go in other directions as well. Have we seen others in ways that are mistaken? Perhaps we see something about someone else and think we do not want to associate with them. We see “sharp teeth” and think “predator.” We flee from that which is different.

Daystar is a wonderful piece of fiction which points beyond itself to something even better. Tyers has done a great service to readers by uniting themes of faith with stirring science fiction action and intrigue. This parable, I’m sure, will stick with me for some time, and that is exactly what good fiction should do–point you towards truth.

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)

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future- I look at a number of worldview issues brought up in the “Firebird Trilogy.” Be sure also to check out my review of the trilogy on my other site.

Source

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colarado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave Press], 2012).

SDG.

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

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

Madness and Self-Loathing

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

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

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

Open Theism and the nature of God?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Source

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

SDG.

——

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

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

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

Acting Becomes Reality

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

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

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

Preparing for War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting the Darkness from Within

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Links

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

Sources

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

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

SDG.

——

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.

Really Recommended Posts 2/27/15- Egalitarian Black Women, Diatoms, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneOne day, my child will let me sleep again. It is not this day. 5 months of almost no sleep starts to make you a bit crazy! What year is it? Why do I walk on the ground and not the ceiling? Why did I put a picture of a Snowy Owl on this post? Anyway, I got myself coherent for long enough to assemble this great group of posts for your reading pleasure, dear readers! Read enough about 50 Shades? So did I, until I ran into the post I share below. It sets quotes from the book alongside definitions of abuse and stalking to some dramatic effect. We also have a great look at some egalitarian black women, young earth creationism, apologetics, and women in fiction. Check them out, and let me know what you thought! Be sure to also let the authors know!

5 Black Women Every Egalitarian Should Know- This is just a fantastic post that outlines the lives and impact of 5 black women who are major voices for egalitarianism (and other issues).

Issues of Abuse and Consent in 50 Shades of Grey- Here’s an excellent post that has specific quotes from 50 Shades alongside the definitions of abuse and stalking and the like. It’s quite disturbing to realize what’s in the book, and I wouldn’t have personally thought to write a post like this myself. This is a good resource to have on hand. There is some ADULT CONTENT in this link, which the author does a good job of warning beforehand.

Life in a Glass House: Diatoms Shatter Young Earth Flood Geology- What do diatoms tell us about the plausibility of young earth creationist models? Can Flood Geology really stand up under scrutiny?

The New Frontier in Apologetics: An Open Letter to the Apologetics Community- How do we move towards a broader integration of the Christian worldview into the culture and perhaps move back to the direction that Christianity is where the intelligentsia operate?

Oh No She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character Deconstructed- What does it mean to have a “strong female character”? Do we need to have specific tendencies for such characters? Can women just be women? Check out this interesting post from sci-fi publisher “Tor”‘s blog.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,649 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,649 other followers