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“The Path of Daggers” by Robert Jordan – A Christian (Re)reads The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time” is a massive fantasy series by Robert Jordan (and, later, Brandon Sanderson) that is being developed into a television show for Amazon Prime. It’s cultural impact is huge, the series having sold more than 44 million copies. Here, I continue my series exploring the books from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in this post for the series.

Systems of Power

At one point in The Path of Daggers, Rand is surveying his arrayed forces and he considers their loyalty (and lack thereof). But in this considering, he notes:

they feared him [Rand] far more than they did the Aiel. Maybe more than they did the Dark One, in whom some did not really believe… (327-328)

The people, it seems, were more concerned with firmly holding their own wealth or gaining positions of authority and power than they were with the true evil which threatened the world. Unconvinced by the coming tribulation, they instead sought favor from the most powerful man in the world. The condition, it seems, is one which mirrors our own at points. Rather than being concerned with evil facing our world, or rather than fighting injustice, people are obsessed with gain that cannot be carried over across death and the grave. The true powers which threaten the world are left to expand and strengthen,while people seek their own gain.

It is a kind of pragmatism which infects us: injustice is “over there” and we are “right here,” so why be concerned with it? The notion that there is a spiritual realm with any sort of power is shrugged off, ignored, or even scorned as ancient superstition, unworthy of concern. Like the people who surround Rand in the book, we convince ourselves that evil has no power in the world and “[the Dark One”] could [not] and would [not] touch the world harder than he had already (328).

Of course, broadening these insights, it is easy to see how this might apply to systems of power more generally. Far too many people are dismissive of how we are capable of setting up systems that continue to exclude or oppress for years and decades to come. Yet the Bible teaches us that we must fight oppression, even in the very systems and powers of the world that are set up.

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.

Ezekiel 22:29

We need to seek out how oppression works, even if it is unintentional, and seek to end it in any form. We need to be less afraid of the powers of the world than we are of doing justice and walking rightly with God.

The people of the Wheel of Time became more afraid of Rand than they did the very real (Satan-like) threat of the Dark One. That was because they feared what might happen to their wealth, their things, and their worldly lives more than they feared eternal consequences. They cared more about themselves than about others. As Christians, we are called to the exact opposite, though too often we also stumble. When calls come to end oppression and seek justice, it is too often Christians who are the first to try to dodge or diminish those calls. We should obey the word of God and fear God rather than humans.

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The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on The Wheel of Time (scroll for more).

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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: “Killing a Messiah” by Adam Winn

Adam Winn’s Killing a Messiah is a novel set in 1st century Judea that shows different perspectives before, during, and somewhat after Holy Week. The book follows several characters, invented or historical, as events swirl leading up to the Crucifixion.

Judah, a leader of a Jewish resistance group, is probably the driving force for action in the novel. Pilate has a much more prominent place than one might expect given the biblical narrative (more on that below). A shopkeeper, Caleb, attempts to avoid the major events taking place around him. Eleazar, the son of High Priest Caiaphas, has his own politically motivated agenda.

The novel introduces a number of factors that stirred conflict in Judea during this time, and Winn does a competent job showing how this may have impacted people at various levels in Israel’s hierarchy. I was surprised, however, at how little a voice was given to any female characters in the book. There are 4 main perspectives, none of which is a woman. Yet in the biblical narrative, we see women featuring hugely in the events. It feels a bit like a missed opportunity to not have a narrative perspective from someone like one of the women who helped fund Jesus’s ministry. What would she have been like? How would she have viewed the political turmoil happening around Jesus? Perhaps I’m just interested in parts of the narrative that did not interest Winn, but I, unfortunately, cannot help but feel a strong sense of “what might have been” throughout the novel.

What’s interesting is that Winn’s framing of the events throughout this period allow him to address several issues that don’t often come up in discussions of the biblical text. For one, he places Pilate directly in the midst of the events. While his use of fictional embellishments in the narrative underscore Pilate as being involved throughout the process, it also helps highlight the possibility that Pilate was intentionally being portrayed somewhat like a puppet for the Jewish leaders by the biblical authors. The theological possibilities of this aren’t drawn out by Winn.

Another point Winn makes (see author’s note, 228-229) is that Jesus was still popular with many of the people in Jerusalem and instead the events were brought about by the High Priest Caiaphas and other elites attempting to stop what was perceived as “illegal and seditious” activity by Jesus and his followers.

The author’s note, in my opinion, is one of the more interesting parts of the whole work. In fact, I almost wish that we’d simply gotten a lengthy exposition of the points Winn raises in the note than a historical fiction novel. The novel reads well enough, but it drags at times and seems to struggle to piece the characters into the narrative rather than having them drive the narrative.

Overall, Killing a Messiah is a good read, but one that will leave readers wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the tantalizing hints Winn gives in the narrative and note at the end will make readers want to learn more about the points he’s making.

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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

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

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: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, Volume IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth” edited by N. Scott Amos

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series focuses on sharing insights from Reformation theologians on the Bible. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the commentary on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth

Joshua, Judges, and Ruth have an enormous number of issues that need to be addressed for any reader no matter when they lived. The introduction to this volume shows that several of the topics Reformation-era theologians were interested carry into today- the place of women, creation and providence, sacraments, and more. Reformation theologians also were more focused on some of these than modern theologians are, giving insight in ways that are often unexpected. 

The book of Joshua has many theological issues that continue to be debated to this day. The promise of the land to the people of Israel is seen by some of these Reformers as a conditional promise (eg. the English Annotations which note that the promise is given “if they would wholly follow the Lord their God….” (7)). The Reformers often provided highly figurative interpretations of passages throughout the Bible. John Mayer’s linking of Joshua to Jesus sees the crossing of the Jordan as a kind of baptism (20-21). Rahab was particularly controversial among the Reformers–should she have deceive to assist the Israelites? Is she an acceptable role model? Was she a woman of faith? Theologians from Philipp Melanchthon (Lutheran)  to Cardinal Cajetan (a counter-Reformer) weigh in on these topics. And again, this is one of the great strengths of this series and of each commentary in it. Readers will get numerous opinions from a range of theological perspectives, giving insight into the debates of the Reformation and the range of theological visions presented during that period.

Judges presents its own series of difficult questions. Jephthah’s apparent sacrifice of his daughter is approached from many directions, whether chastising him for making a foolish vow (Calvin) or noting that Rabbinic interpretation differs from most Christian interpretation of the passage (Johannes Brenz, 363). Other theologians try to make what Jephtah vowed non-literal (eg. Konrad Pellikan, 363-364). Once again this passage remains debated to this day and the multiplicity of voices from the Reformation can help guide that interpretation. Deborah is another hotly debated topic, as Reformers note her leadership or try to avoid the implications of the same. 

Ruth’s primary division of opinion–though there are many–is around Naomi’s plan for Boaz. Did Naomi plan for Ruth to seduce Boaz, or was something else going on? Most of the Reformers either play with euphemism here or are either unaware of or ignore the potential implications of Ruth 3. This section of the commentary is especially interesting, as the Reformers try to reconcile the passage with their expectations of the biblical text. 

The commentary has moments like this throughout the text, set alongside passages that clearly draw out the theological positions of individual Reformers. It, like the other works in this series, is an excellent read. It will lead you to delving back into the Scriptures yourself as you read the Bible alongside some of the major (and minor!) theologians of the Reformation Period. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Joshua, Judges, Ruth is a must-read for anyone interested in this field. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

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

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

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.

Down with Millenarianism- Reconstructing Faith

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There are theological stances that are worth making standards of faith. Increasingly, one’s view of the “millennium” is becoming one of the stances that schools, seminaries, universities, and church bodies are making a standard of faith. I cannot emphasize this enough: this is a terrible mistake.

When I was getting my graduate degree, I signed off on a doctrinal statement with reservations for the school I was attending. That statement, at the time, allowed one to disagree with the school’s position (premillennial dispensationalism) so long as they were willing to learn about that position. I was and am Lutheran and hadn’t learned much about any endtimes position, so was perfectly willing to agree to learn about their own teachings on the topic. That school’s statement of faith has hardened on eschatology, to the point where it now seems to imply that their own particular brand of premillennialism is one of those make or break, in or out views related to sound Christian teaching. It’s not. 

One thing that immediately struck me as I was learning about the eschatological position of millenarianism more generally (reading some multiple view books, for example, to try to understand the different positions) was that the supposed plain and simple reading of the text I was told led to premillennial dispensationalism strangely yielded an untold number of divergent charts, timelines, and theories about exactly how it would all play out. One author was absolutely certain some events would happen in a seven day period, while another would say it would take place over 7 years, and another would have a timeline showing how the 7 days were correct but that they were not consecutive days. It was bewildering, coming from an outside perspective, trying to even understand the basics of why anyone would hold to such a view. Surely, if one’s view of eschatology and even the timeline of events of Revelation (usually borrowing selectively from parts of the Old Testament to bolster one’s case) is the clear reading of Scripture that anyone who was being honest about the Bible should come to, it shouldn’t be the case that basically every single adherent of the position would have slight or major differences in something as simple as when a major event should occur.

Of course, logically, divergence of opinion does not necessarily entail that a position is wrong or unclear. However, on the face of it, if someone makes a claim that something is clear and simple, and all the evidence at hand suggests that virtually no one can come to agreement on what this clear and simple fact means, then there seems to be very good reason to doubt that the initial claim of clarity is correct. And this, in part, is why I think we need to say “Down with milllenarianism.” Look, I have no problem with someone who wants to read about rapture theories or make some extensive timeline in which they splice a verse from Daniel into a prediction from Isaiah in order to clarify what sort of military hardware might exist in the endtimes. Go for it! But the problem is when people insist that everyone else must also do the same or else they’re rejecting God’s Word–that’s when it needs to be cut off (if not before). Here are some reasons I think we ought to be extremely skeptical of basically any form of millenarianism.

  1. Millenarianism is unnecessarily divisive.  The fruit of the Spirit does not seem to include divisiveness. Moreover, it seems like millenarianism is producing “bad fruit” if it means that churches and people are splitting when they need not be.
  2. The forms of eschatology united with millenarianism are fairly recent innovations. In one theology class I took (I can’t remember which), the professor would often say that if some aspect of theology is new, it’s probably heretical. While it’s true that theological innovation continues to happen, when an entirely new way of reading portions of Scripture comes onto the scene that insists on being the one true teaching about the end times, we ought to be highly skeptical. While attempts are made to tie premillenialism to early church theology (see the Wikipedia page on premillennialism, for example, which humorously refers to Irenaeus as an “outspoken premillennialist”), these attempts are misguided and tend to read views back onto historical figures that they did not have. Shared theological statements on eschatology does not mean that an historical figure is a premillenialist. Premillennialism is a system of thought that makes numerous claims, and attempting to ground it in early church history either makes one confused or dishonest.
  3. Millenarianism reads Scripture poorly. Attempting to go through today’s headlines and find where they might be shoehorned into Scripture is effectively the exact opposite of how we ought to approach applying the Bible to modern times. Any number of books on eschatology, particularly those which attempt to elucidate the exact events of the supposed “Millennium,” do this constantly. Moreover, most forms of Millenarianism insist upon reading prophetic literature “literally,” despite overwhelming evidence that these writings were not intended to be read in that way whatsoever. 

I think I could probably continue this list for quite a while, and each of these points will probably be endlessly debated, but this is the core of my objection. Millenarianism is divisive, a poor reading of Scripture, and suspect given its theological history. 

I’ve written before about how I’m reconstructing faith. For me, a complete rejection of millenarianism is part of that. It is important to take God’s word seriously, and I think it’s time to take it seriously enough to reject the poor readings that most forms of millenarianism require. Insisting on reading the Bible in a way that it was never intended is to do damage to the word of God. 

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Reconstructing Faith– Read other posts as I search for truth and navigate the messiness that is faith.

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.

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