J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.
J.W. Wartick has written 1298 posts for J.W. Wartick – Reconstructing Faith

Book Review: “How to Read Daniel” by Tremper Longman III

How to Read Daniel by Tremper Longman III is an introduction not just to the text of the book of Daniel but also its world. Though it is clearly marketed and intended as an introductory text, I was surprised by how much depth the pithy work had.

Longman III splits the book into three parts. The first part is “Reading Daniel in its Original Setting.” Here, he notes the genre, structure, and language of the book while also providing historical context and thematic details about the book of Daniel. Daniel is something of an enigmatic book, with some clear seeming narratives combined with rather baffling visions and prophetic literature. This first part helps decipher some of these difficulties. The second part is “Reading Daniel as Six Stories and Four Visions,” which is about as straightforward as it sounds in outline. However, Longman III gives much insight in each chapter about the various visions and narratives in the book.

The third part is “Reading Daniel as a Twenty-First-Century Christian,” and I was surprised by how very insightful I found it. It’s clear that Longman III rejects approaches that treat Daniel as a newspaper, trying to pick storylines out of it to match up with modern day events. Instead, he argues that Christians can and should see it as a guide for living their lives and seeing the hope of God’s ultimate victory.

An appendix gives Longman III’s annotated recommendations on some commentaries for deeper readings. The indices are surprisingly robust. Each chapter features discussion questions, which would make the book excellent for a small group study.

How to Read Daniel is an invaluable tool for those wanting to approach the biblical text with knowledge and insight. It would benefit readers hoping to read the text either individually or in groups. I recommend it highly.

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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.

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.

Book Review: “Discerning Ethics: Diverse Christian Responses to Divisive Moral Issues” edited by Hak Joon Lee and Tim Dearborn

Discerning Ethics: Diverse Christian Responses to Divisive Moral Issues introduces numerous moral topics to Christians while providing insight into various approaches Christians have had to those same moral questions. Each chapter of the book introduces the moral topic at hand by providing a “real life” and “real world” example of how that moral question has arisen in the world and in real life. Then, different positions (in every chapter but one, three of them) are presented on that topic. Finally, each author gives a brief outline and defense of their own position on the question. The main text of the chapter is followed by discussion questions and recommendations for further reading.

The topics addressed in the book are broad and divided into four parts: ethics of the globe (climate change, poverty and income inequality, urban degradation, and immigration); of the body (access to health care, abortion, transgender, homosexuality and sexual identity); of violence (violence against women, war/nonviolence/just peacemaking, gun violence, and mass incarceration); and of formation (racism, disability, social and entertainment media, and public education).

The way the book is formatted allows for a surprising amount of depth despite the relatively short chapter length on each topic. For example, in the chapter on Access to Health Care by Brian White, the “real life” story reads, in part:

On April 8, 2016, the director of Uganda’s cancer institute at the Mulago Hospital announced that the country’s only radiotherapy machine, used for the treatment of a broad range of cancer patients, had finally broken down beyond repair. This machine typically treated around one hundred patients every day, and the hospital received nearly forty-four thousand new referrals each year, not only from Uganda but also from the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan… (91).

The story becomes my heartbreaking as Brian White notes that Victoria Akware, a woman who had cervical cancer, got the news just after having “sold her land to help pay for the long trip to the Uganda Cancer Institute to receive treatment…” (ibid). Clearly, this is a travesty on a major scale, as people’s lives are at risk due to inaccessible health care. The approaches to these topics White outlines are universal–everyone gets health care with a single-payer system; two tier, in which everyone gets a minimum level of care as a human right but can pay for higher levels of care; and private, in which health care is a commodity. As with the other chapters in the book, each of these positions has a specific thinker (or thinkers) the author draws from to expound their position. Ultimately, White argues for a position that he sees as a kind of middle way among these positions that provides for equality, need, and merit (see esp. 104-105).

Each chapter is outlined like this, and no matter what one’s own position is on the topic at hand, it will likely be challenged by having other positions presented fairly and own their own merits. Possibly the author’s perspective will provide its own challenge as well. Each chapter was excellent in its own ways, and several chapters provided surprising perspectives that I didn’t necessarily expect.

One example of the latter was the chapter on homosexuality and sexual identity by Matthew Jones. The author of this chapter is a gay man who is celibate because he believes that his conscience is bound to not act on his sexuality. His own “real life” story includes being removed from a pastoral internship for even admitting to his sexual identity (144-145). Jones’s analysis of the varied positions is insightful and should give a challenge to readers from any position. For example, he notes that the position that holds to a kind of sexual essentialism often fails to provide any context for people to live out their lives in a way that can comport to the expectations of their beliefs (154). On the far other end, Jones argues that Christians who hold to full biblical acceptance of differing sexual identities do not do justice to the texts involved (155). Again, wherever one falls on this spectrum, one will likely find their position challenged to do better by both real people involved and by their own work to live out Christ’s commands in the world.

The one caution this reader would give for the book is that readers should try to see it for what it is–an introduction to the topics it discusses. There is no way to fully engage with all of these topics in the length given, but the editors and authors set up a way to at least get an idea for why people, and Christians specifically, may think differently on these important issues. The book would serve as an excellent guide for one’s own exploration of contentious topics, a superb book to read in a study group, or as a textbook for a class on ethics.

Discerning Ethics is a fantastic introduction to numerous moral topics. It affords Christians access to diverse voices on important moral topics that are challenging in our own time. I recommend it highly.

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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.

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.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Succinct Question on American Nationalism

Living in the United States today, one may wonder about what seems to be a rising surge of national pushback against anything that seems to be “Unpatriotic.” The most obvious example is the outrage against Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee during the national anthem at games played by the National Football League.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in New York City at Union Theological Seminary in 1930-1931. He saw his own version of nationalism rising in the United States. As he took notes during his class “Ethical Interpretation of Current Events,” he jotted down “Nationalism militant + economic.” Those words certainly ring true for the United States now. But what are we to do about it? Right after that brief line, Bonhoeffer wrote a question that still somehow answers what we ought to do. And with six words he undermined all attempts to unite nationalism and Christianity together:

What is the flag to God?

DBWE 10:429

And we must ask ourselves the same question. If we are enraged by those kneeling to the flag, we must reset. “What is the flag to God?” It is nothing. And we ought not to elevate it–or our nation–more than we ought.

Moreover, if we turn our hopes and trust towards the flag–towards the nation–we replace God with the flag and the nation. It becomes idolatrous. Our hope is not in the nation, which rises and falls. God stands forever. God is our hope. In God we trust, but we cannot say that while truly meaning “our country.”

What is the flag to God?

Links

Dietrich Bonhoeffer– Come read all of my posts about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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.

Book Review: “‘He Descended to the Dead’ – An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday” by Matthew W. Emerson

Matthew Y. Emerson’s ‘He Descended to the Dead’ An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday explores the doctrine of the descent of Christ to the dead (sometimes translated “descended into hell”) from an evangelical perspective. In doing so, Emerson offers a biblical, theological, systematic, and historical defense of the doctrine.

Creedal authority is, of course, a major question. Unfortunately, Emerson’s brief survey of the topic shows just how freely many evangelicals dismiss any kind of authority of the historical creeds of the church. Emerson proceeds to a biblical defense of the doctrine of the descent, noting that a holistic view of what the Bible teaches about Sheol and the dead lends additional support to the doctrine. Additional texts that can be seen as directly supporting the Descent are also mustered (Acts 2:25-28 and Psalm 16:8-11). Additional Pauline allusions to the descent, which are often ignored in the evangelical pushback against the doctrine, are of note as well (eg. Ephesians 4:9 and Romans 10:7). These (and many other) texts supplement the discusion of the clearest text, 1 Peter 3:18-22. The total sum of the evidence leads Emerson to conclude that dismissing the doctrine as unbiblical is unwarranted.

Emerson then moves to an historical defense of the doctrine of the descent. Though there are some deviations in exactly how the descent to the dead is read by some theologians (notably some Reformers as well as Hans Urs von Balthasar), the general point is broad historical consensus affirming the doctrine of the descent. This section is particular interesting because Emerson draws out the differing ways various strands of theology have read the descent, while noting the broad agreement that the doctrine itself is to be affirmed.

Moving along, Emerson then surveys how the doctrine of the descent can impact various aspects of Christian dogmatics for the next 6 chapters, closing with a brief note about how the descent can impact Christian life. These chapters outline numerous parts of Christian theology and how the doctrine of the descent can be seen to inform them in constructive ways. Another important feature of Emerson’s discussion is his tying the descent into broader Christological questions. This already happens early on in the discussion of the biblical evidence for the descent, where Emerson notes that Christ’s death had to be a real death instead of a kind of simulated one in order to satisfy Christ’s full humanity as well as the atonement (see page 64 for a brief summary of this). This helps show that the doctrine of the descent cannot be so blithely dismissed with potentially deleterious problems for the whole of Christian theology.

With ‘He Descended to the Dead,’ Matthew Y. Emerson has written a watershed book on the doctrine of the descent. As a Lutheran reading evangelical critiques of historical creeds, I’m often surprised by how swiftly some major evangelical theologians move to dismiss parts of the creed as unbiblical or even simply mistaken. Emerson’s book helped show why evangelicals ought to be moving to affirm the doctrine of the descent rather than moving towards such a swift dismissal. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in historical theology, as well as anyone who wonders about the historical Christian Creeds.

(All Amazon links are affiliates links.)

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.

“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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Links

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

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: “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.

(All Amazon links are affiliates links.)

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.

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. 

Links

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.

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

Book Review: “Embracing Evolution: How Understanding Science Can Strengthen Your Christian Life” by Matthew Nelson Hill

Embracing Evolution by Matthew Nelson Hill is a surprising and engaging book about Christianity and science. Hill is also the author of Evolution and Holiness (my review here), another novel book that looked at how evolutionary science could inform specifically Wesleyan notions of holiness and perfection. Here, Hill calls Christians to come to understand that, far from being something that undermines Christianity, evolution can provide a fruitful grounds for exploration of the Christian life.

The intriguing premise of Embracing Evolution means that as a reader, I was hoping it would provide even more exploration of that premise–that evolution can be grounds for exploring the Christian life. I was somewhat surprised to then see several chapters dedicated to showing the basics of reading the Bible and understanding the science of evolution and its relation to theology. These are good chapters to introduce readers who may not have considered this intersection in a positive light before, or who need some background on evolution to understand its potential applications. 

The rubber does finally meet the road in the final three chapters of this pithy book, as Hill explores how evolution can inform various aspects of Christian living. The first thing Hill points out is that acknowledging evolutionary heritage gives us knowledge which allows us to bring about change. Genetic lineage can help trace disease as well as potential mental illness, and this can help us care for our bodies. Additionally, instincts to eat certain kinds of food at all times have been outpaced by the changes we have made in the way we live. Because we have access to agriculture and (generally) more than just meat, humans have outpaced the rate at which built-in instincts with the brain can operate. This means that we need to shape behavior to work against various temptations which may entrap us. But, as Hill writes, evolutionary heritage isn’t just baggage, it can also bring about avenues for hope. We can work to “overcome [our] genes and live holy lives” (113, emphasis his). Here, Hill advocates again a Wesleyan approach that sees the Holy Spirit’s action and human free will working together to live holiness, as God works within creation (114-115). 

Embracing Evolution is an intriguing book full of new avenues for exploration. Readers interested in finding out how Christianity might be positively impacted by evolutionary theory–particularly if they favor a Wesleyan theology–will see this as a must-read. 

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.

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

“The Summoning” – The Christological Allegory of Babylon 5

I’ve never watched Babylon 5 before, but I got the whole series on a great sale and have been watching it from the beginning. In this post, please do not SPOIL anything past the episode discussed. There will, of course, be major spoilers for this episode.

“The Summoning” – The Christological Allegory(ies) of Babylon 5

I’ve often argued that science fiction can explore the deepest questions of the human condition. It allows creators to make stories of how humanity ought (or ought not) to be. It also lets people play with themes in ways that are unexpected, subversive, or meaningful in many different ways. Babylon 5 frequently explores religious themes in its episodes. “The Summoning” has several themes come to a head as we see just how deep some of the allegorical background of the show flows.

G’Kar is an alien character who has endured much throughout the series to this point. His people, the Narn, have been at war with another alien species, the Centauri. The Centauri have enslaved the Narn after defeating them. G’Kar has gone from a prestigious ambassadorial post to a pariah on the Babylon 5 space station. Finally, he is captured and put at the whims of the Centauri elite.

The Emperor of the Centauri at this point is Cartagia, a kind of Nero stand-in. He delights in tormenting G’Kar for his own pleasure, and for that of his court. G’Kar endures several ways of suffering which parallel Christ’s suffering. The image I used in this post shows him carrying one of the instruments of his torture in a scene that is surely intended to parallel Christ’s carrying of the cross. In one scene, he is wearing a kind of crown with spikes seemingly screwed into it around his head, akin to a crown of thorns. Though the imagery is somewhat overt, the subtleties behind the imagery is its own commentary on the depth of the show and its allegory of Christ. Cartagia wants to force G’Kar into some expression of pain, and finally resorts to a lashing. No one has managed to survive 40 lashes, and G’Kar is whipped 39 times before he finally cries out in pain. That number may not seem important, until one turns to Deuteronomy 25:3 and sees that punishment is not to exceed 40 lashes. Traditionally, some have said that Jesus was lashed 39 times. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:24, discusses being lashed 39 times on five separate occasions. Throughout this whole sequence in this episode, as well as the few before, we see that G’Kar is a kind of allegory for Christ, suffering in behalf of his people. 

I already mentioned how Cartagia is like Nero, but I wanted to draw that out. His hedonism at the cost of all else is one of the most obvious parallels. His utter contempt for any other people is narcissism, yes, but it’s so over the top and insidious that it takes it to another level. As he smiles, there is an ominous tinge to everything he does. Others try to emulate him to keep him pleased, and end up failing and being discarded or killed. The Nero parallels are there, but he could also be interpreted as a kind of stand-in for love of self over others, the easiest but also most easily corrupting sins. The greatest demonstration of this may be in his willingness to toss aside his own people for the sake of being remembered as a god. Cartagia’s delusions of grandeur could almost be humorous if he didn’t have the will and power to bring about some of his most dastardly plans. Cartagia then–whether he is a Nero, a Satan, or a kind of stand-in for human moral failing that evolves into monstrous evil–is another religious theme here. Is it a commentary on the overbearing power of the nation state? A questioning of the human condition? A nod to the spiritual power of corrupting evil? I think each viewer can take something away from it, and that is the power of a truly excellent work of art.

Babylon 5 is a show that inspires as much as it entertains. It makes viewers think, even decades after the show run finished. A powerful emotional response is almost unavoidable in an episode like “The Summoning,” and I’m sure I’ve missed some details as well for how the parallels might play out. Regardless, it’s a beautiful narrative that leads to reflection on the life–and death–of Christ, as well as how evil can so readily corrupt in heinous ways. 

Links

Babylon 5 Hub– My “Eclectic Theist” site features a number of posts discussing my first watch-through of Babylon 5. Check them out here!

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!

Also see my other looks into television (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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

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