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 1355 posts for J.W. Wartick – Reconstructing Faith

Book Review: “First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament”

When I saw the First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament was coming out, I was intrigued. What kind of new things might it bring to the table? The editors of this version provide some explanation of choices made in the brief introduction. For example, they translated names while leaving the Anglicized version of the name in parentheticals in smaller font. Thus, Jesus is “Creator Sets Free (Jesus)” whenever the name appears. The editors tried to bring as many First Nations peoples into the process as possible, but of course there are so many that it wasn’t possible.

Even small things like the decision made about names made for some fascinating reading as I saw so many names with meanings I would have known if I’d sat and thought about them (or consulted my Hebrew or Greek Lexicons if I couldn’t remember the roots), but that I never had done the work for. It was amazing time and again to see these names with their meanings right in front of the reader.

The editors also added occasional italicized texts to help the story get told in a more oral fashion. Thus, there are occasional places in the text where an italicized portion (which the editors make very clear are not part of the original text, but there to help emphasize the oral recitation/hearing aspect of the text) adds some flare, such as Jesus “turning powerfully” to do something or confront someone. There are also some explanatory notes, italicized and set apart from the text that offer either context for passages or additional insight into reasoning behind some of the passages. For example, 1 Peter 3, with its discussion of the Flood and Baptism (translated as “purification ceremony”), has a brief explanatory note about the Flood so hearers unfamiliar with it may know what’s happening. These italicized portions are a remarkable addition that makes the text more readable and which give key insights into some passages.

I was driven near to tears time and again by the beauty of the text. I knew that “Jesus” meant “He Saves,” but to see Jesus’s name time and again translated as “Creator Sets Free” really drove the point home in a way that knowing it abstractly didn’t do. Headings occasionally made me sit back and think, such as the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) having the heading “He Talks to the Ancestors.” Growing up and hearing how “ancestor worship/veneration” would be seen as syncretism and bad, I had never thought of this particular passage as a species of the same. It’s just a fascinating and challenging way to put the passage, an this happens many times throughout the NT (another example is the Temptation of Christ being called in Mark, “His Vision Quest”). Parables are sometimes reworded entirely, such as substituting horses for talents (the coins) in some parables. These are examples of contextualizing the NT and I found them to be quite beautiful.

One way I analyze a translation of the Bible is by looking up some specific passages and seeing how they are translated. One I look at is Romans 16:7. This passage has a history of obstruction, as some biblical scholars have attempted to turn Junia into a man due to her being listed as an apostle. I was gratified to see the FNV translation: “I send greetings also to Victory Man (Andronicus) and Younger One (Junia), my fellow Tribal Members and fellow prisoners, who have a good reputation as message bearers. They walked with the Chosen One before I did.” The translation as “message bearers” is interesting, as the same term is used occasionally for the disciples (eg. Matthew 10:1). Thus, the FNV does a good job noting that Junia was both a woman and among the apostles/disciples/etc. Of course, this study shows that some of our theological interests aren’t necessarily shared by the translators of the FNV, as they are more free with using varied terms for offices than some other translators are. Again, the equivalence between “disciples” (translated in various way) as “message bearers” and “apostles” as the same suggests this.

Other passages are 1 Timothy 3, in which many translations add masculine pronouns where the are none. The FNV reads naturally on this section, speaking of spiritual leaders. Problematic passages like 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 have explanatory notes (see above) that show how the cultural expectations may be applied here, and contextualizing it for First Nations believers (in this specific passage, with a reference to women not sitting around the drum).

Overall, time and again I found some of the more difficult passages translated in ways I thought caught the meaning of the text. Some were given explanatory notes, while others were not. It’s clear the text provides one of the more egalitarian readings of the New Testament in any translation. Additionally, discussions of Baptism (called the “Purification Ceremony”) and the Lord’s Supper are well done.

The First Nations Version is a phenomenal work. It is poetic, beautiful, and striking time and again. It captures the feel of hearing God’s word spoken, and it corrects some mistakes other translations make. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I honestly might start using it as my preferred version for personal reading. It’s that wonderful.

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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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.

Bonhoeffer’s Life in Fiction- Critical Review of “My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love” by Amanda Barratt

Amanda Barratt offers an historical novel based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with My Dearest Dietrich. As the subtitle states, it is “A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.” Specifically, Barratt delves into Bonhoeffer’s letters and writings and builds a narrative around them focused on his relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer.

Barratt does a fine job of weaving that narrative around Bonhoeffer’s letters. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Bonhoeffer, but having read many books about him as well as his collected works, the narrative seems to at least largely follow the course of his life. Bonhoeffer’s close relationship with Ruth von Kleist-Retzow, Maria’s grandmother, is highlighted. Interestingly, Bonhoeffer’s first meeting with Maria is only presented in the briefest type of flashbacks. Historically, Maria’s grandmother had tried to get Bonhoeffer to accept Maria into his confirmation class, but he refused after seeing her as “too immature” to do so. In the novel, she’s upset about having embarrassed herself in front of him some years before.

In a sense, My Dearest Dietrich is a reframing of Bonhoeffer’s life. Essentially, Barratt turns many of his encounters with Maria or others into a kind of building of and reflecting upon growing love in order to make the plot work. However, much of this is done inside Bonhoeffer’s head rather than being drawn from historical documents. This is, of course, the way historical novels must work. Barratt’s goal of showing Bonhoeffer’s growing relationship and love for Maria requires this kind of internal monologue throughout in order to make sense. Thus, it has to be invented for the sake of the story.

Those who have studied Bonhoeffer extensively know that there is some question about his sexuality and more specifically his relationship with Eberhard Bethge. The most thorough look at these questions may be found in The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Diane Reynolds. Reynolds argues extensively that Bonhoeffer was in love with Bethge. Moreover, she argues that Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer was a kind of cover as his imprisonment loomed. His relationship with the much younger Maria would solidify him as a “masculine” German–something emphasized in Nazi propaganda–while also providing a cover for any hints of homosexuality. Gay people were one of the oppressed classes of the Nazis who were rounded up and murdered by them (homosexuality remained outlawed in Germany for sometime after, as well). Thus, Maria would serve as a kind of double cover for any questions about Bonhoeffer’s conforming to cultural expectations.

Reynolds’s book presents a strong, thoughtful argument with which any scholarship related to Bonhoeffer must contend (see my full review of the book here). Barratt’s novel ignores that and essentially offers a counter-narrative in which Bonhoeffer is struck almost immediately by the thoughtfulness of young Maria and eventually comes to fall in love with her and get engaged with the intent to marry. For Barratt, none of these questions about sexuality arise. The absence of Bonhoeffer’s growing love and thoughts of love in some of his other works is explained largely through having no time to reflect upon it and actively resisting reflecting on it because he believed, in Barratt’s account, that other things were more important.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not just a novel about Bonhoeffer’s life. It is a retelling of the events and framing them in a way that cuts away some of the more intriguing questions about his sexuality and love for Maria. Bonhoeffer’s relationship to Maria, and the age difference between them (he was her senior by 18 years) has perplexed some Bonhoeffer scholars. Reynolds’s exploration helps make sense of some of these questions. Indeed, even setting aside his sexuality, simply offering the explanation that he saw Maria as a way to show his German virility to the Nazi interrogators is plausible enough.

What one makes of My Dearest Dietrich, then, is what one may. Barratt’s clear influence from Eric Metaxas’s pseudo-biography of Bonhoeffer is found in her acknowledgements, where she makes it clear that she was most influenced by that work. Metaxas’s biography, however, is largely ignored or rejected by broader Bonhoeffer scholarship due to its transformation of Bonhoeffer into a character of Metaxas’s own choosing. That Barratt was so deeply influenced by this biography and then wrote a novel of Bonhoeffer’s life with virtually no reference to any of the possible controversies it may raise is an interesting detail.

Barratt does make a compelling narrative, though, and one which, if she’s right about Bonhoeffer’s relationship, does a good job explaining those historical anomalies she does acknowledge. For example, Maria’s constant theme of doubting Bonhoeffer’s love is partially balanced by Bonhoeffer actively resisting the same for the sake of what he sees in the novel as his more important work of resistance. If Barratt’s view of Bonhoeffer’s love and sexuality (again, the latter being wholly ignored as a topic here) are correct, then her novel at least offers a way to make more sense of it all.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not merely an historical fiction. Rather, it is a kind of apologetic for one vision of Bonhoeffer. One that stretches the man in ways that go beyond the historical record, his own writings, and perhaps even the deepest parts of his character. As Stephen R. Haynes put it, the “battle for Bonhoeffer” continues. This novelization of his life is another battle front offering an alternate narrative of the man’s life and legacy.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

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: “Winsome Conviction” by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer

Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer provides readers with a way to analyze conviction and acknowledge differences of opinion even on deeply held beliefs without causing undue division.

The book is divided into three sections. The first provides biblical foundations for analyzing conviction, along with several historical examples. The second section discusses how to communicate convictions, including questions about division and divisiveness, fellowship, echo chambers, and more. The third section provides five chapters on how to discuss convictions–even differing ones–in a more winsome way.

I especially enjoyed the authors using historical examples to highlight some of the problems we still face today regarding convictions. The first chapter, a “historical prelude,” used the example of Roger Williams and the formation of New England with its history of religious freedom. It’s fascinating to see how, historically, some of the people most concerned with separating church and state were those who had the most deeply held religious convictions. More recent examples, such as religious symbolism in the crest of a city, help to bring these discussions into modern light. This chapter alone makes the book well-worth reading, because it sets up a way to look at some neutral examples in history and other places and to use them in discussing convictions in one’s own setting.

The final five chapters on applying what the authors have case studies, such as differing opinions on how to read the book of Genesis, intermixed with advice on how to hold to sincere convictions while still maintaining unity in church. The book is therefore a valuable resource for those seeking to unite while allowing for significant disagreements. Not only that, it also provides a way forward in understanding how people with similar background ideologies may differ significantly on what seem like basic issues.

Winsome Conviction would make an excellent group read for churches, especially those looking to welcome people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.

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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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.

Susan Pevensie, C.S. Lewis, and Enchantment

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is one of the most instantly recognizable and beloved series of children’s stories of all time. In the series, there is a land called Narnia into which human children occasionally stumble, frequently to epic and long-lasting effect. Susan Pevensie is one of these children. She’s the eldest daughter of the Pevensie clan, one of four children to enter Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She goes on to eventually become Queen Susan the Gentle.

Later, however, when readers encounter The Last Battle, an apocalyptic exploration of Narnia that includes many of Lewis’s own beliefs, we discover that Susan is, astonishingly, not with the other Pevensies. Susan, we are told by her somber brother Peter, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.” Apparently, she has taken to calling the former adventures in Narnia as just some games the kids played when they were younger, and she’s now much too grown-up for that sort of thing. Susan, we’re told, is much more interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations” than she is in anything like Narnia.

I remember the first time I read this section. I was sitting in my parochial grade school, using the free time I had during the day to voraciously read anything that came my way. This book, I’d been waiting for. I’d been scared of reading it, because the cover with the unicorn, horn bloodied, was more than a little alarming. But I’d dived in, and discovered one of the strangest adventures I’d read. I didn’t know what to make of it, what with the deceitful animals, people who ignored reality right there in front of them, and more. But then Susan hit, and it hit me like a load of bricks. Surely Susan would never forget Narnia! It felt like a betrayal. Susan, who so practically believed what she saw. Susan, who thought of bringing coats into the always-winter Narnia. Susan, who was always the reasonable one. Susan, who was the Gentle. She was no longer a friend of Narnia? How was this possible? And how was it possible that Susan, who’d literally grown into adulthood as a Queen of Narnia, pretended it was all just a game? Was this the kind of horrifying thing that would happen to me when I grew up?

There has been a lot written about the problem of Susan. A friend shared a Youtube video that explained many of the problem(s) away by contextualizing some of the things within Lewis’s own world that he may have been referencing. I enjoyed it, but some of the explanation didn’t sit right with me because it felt so much like explaining away rather than simply contextualizing. A wonderful post on Tor.com, “The Problem(s) of Susan” by Matt Mikalatos, highlighted many of the issues I have with Susan as an adult. Mikalatos concludes:

“Jack [C.S. Lewis], believe me, if Susan looks for Aslan, she’ll find him. If she asks a question, he’ll answer. If she—even in her old age, even years and years from now—finds herself finds herself alone in that great house, and wanders into the old guest room and gently, not quite believing, raps her knuckles on an ancient wardrobe door, believe me, Jack, Aslan will be waiting to throw it open. And then at last the true happily ever after can begin.”

I love that, and I think it sits so well with me as an adult. Perhaps it is true that Lewis himself didn’t allow himself an expansive enough vision of Narnia–nay, Aslan’s–power. That’s something to think about.

The child in me wonders, though, if Lewis has outwitted me again. Perhaps that scene with Susan isn’t written for the adults–it’s for the children. It’s for children who, like me, would be stunned to think that Susan could forget Narnia. It’s a scene about the loss of enchantment, and one that teaches children to never let go of the enchantment of our own world–our own Narnia. A world in which God the Son entered human flesh and gave himself to die for us.

The notion of enchantment, wonder, and myth is absolutely central to Lewis’s writings throughout his life, whether from his younger period as an atheist, or as an old man. The idea that he might be sneaking this concept into one of his most powerful–and powerfully confusing–works doesn’t seem entirely impossible. If so, then Susan is a heartrending example of the loss of enchantment. Instead of Aslan’s call, she holds out for invitations to parties; instead of donning a bow, she cares deeply for nylons. It’s a tragic story, even as it stretches the limits of imagination given the character Susan has been established to be. Perhaps it is Susan’s nature as Susan the Gentle which leads her into disenchantment–she pursues the trappings of ostensible adulthood in order to continue to act as protector to her siblings. Her mannerisms and dedication lead her, tragically, towards disenchantment. It’s an awful story, and a jarring one. Perhaps it’s meant to be.

I don’t think that’s what Lewis was doing, but I wonder. Could C.S. Lewis have been playing a final twist, a final call towards enchantment for us–as children? A call to not give up on the world, and to realize that faith and hope really are powerful. I suppose I’ll always wonder whatever happened to Susan. Mikalatos’s answer is the one that resonates most with me. But I also like the idea of enchantment–as it feels exactly like something Lewis would do. Perhaps it is.

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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: “The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One” by Gregg Davidson and Kenneth J. Turner

The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One navigates the first chapter of Genesis against the background of many different attempted readings. Gregg Davidson and Kenneth J. Turner argue that the best way to look at Genesis One is a “Multi-Layered approach” that acknowledges that there is more than meets the eye in the text.

The advantage of Davidson and Turner’s approach is that they take the text seriously enough to not try to reduce it to a simplistic reading. Rather than offering multiple views that contradict each other, the authors offer what they see as different yet complementary ways of reading the text that help show the depth of its meaning for both ancient readers/listeners and those to this day.

There are 7 layers that Davidson and Turner argue may be found in the text: song, analogy, polemic, covenant, temple, calendar, and land. Each of these is the subject of its own chapter in which the authors note how this layer may be found in Genesis. For example, the chapter on Genesis 1 as song notes the many ways the chapter has parallels and other forms that could suggest it as a song, while also showing that these features forestall a simplistic reading of shoehorning it into a specific genre from the outset. Each chapter answers objections, and in the chapter on song, they answer objections that the parallels fall apart (they don’t), and that such a reading is driven by an attempt to harmonize with science (it’s not).

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Genesis 1 as polemic. I have long seen the polemical strands in Genesis, and having recently read an argument that the polemic isn’t actually there, found their answers to objections helpful. They note that while polemic is not the primary function of the text, it would be remiss to not see polemic as part of the background of what’s happening in the text. This, of course, adds to the argument for seeing Genesis as multi-layered. The polemic is not the central message of Genesis 1, but it is a message.

While a lot of the authors’ central point (reading Genesis means we should see more than one layer happening) seems pretty basic and maybe even obvious on retrospect, there aren’t enough scholars out there saying this, and many double down on a specific chosen reading. Davidson and Turner’s approach allows readers to fully explore the depth and breadth of Genesis one without feeling shoehorned into any one way of reading the text.

The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One is a fantastic read, even for those who have long been invested in reading about the earliest chapters of Genesis. It would also make a great first read for those looking to get more from the text or explore the doctrine of creation more fully. I recommend it highly.

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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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 Wheel of Time Season 1, Episode 7: “The Dark Along the Ways” A Christian worldview review

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, I thought it was worth looking at the show from a Christian worldview perspective. I will have reviews of the series on my other site, Eclectic Theist.

The Dark Along the Ways

Fighting for a Child

The beginning of this episode is a literal fight for a child as the mother of the Dragon, an Aiel, fights off many soldiers attacking her. It is easy to see this as a metaphor for powerful motherhood.

There’s also an interesting thread to explore with the mother of the Dragon contrasted and compared with Mary, the mother of Christ. The Aiel mother of the dragon is forged in violence and combat to protect her son; Mary is chosen by God to be most blessed. Tigraine–the Aiel woman–fought with spears to survive, while Mary brought forth the savior who would crush the head of the deceiving serpent. Mary’s song is not the “dance of the spears” (as the Aiel call battle), but rather the powerful call of the Magnificat to throw down the mighty and turn away the wealthy.

Self-Sacrifice

Each of the characters Moiraine has brought to Fal Dara seems willing to take the chance they might be the Dragon or die in order to bring about the possible saving of the world. Another obvious theme here is laying down one’s life for one’s friends, especially as it seems Rand discovers he himself is the Dragon Reborn.

Links

The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on the series, both the books and the TV show.

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: “A Short History of Christian Zionism” by Donald M. Lewis

Christian Zionism is a major force in today’s political landscape. It’s especially powerful in the United States, but it’s also a global force. Donald M. Lewis’s A Short History of Christian Zionism gives readers a background for understanding what Christian Zionism is, where and when it came from, and how it impacts us to this day.

The book specifically deals with the time period from the Reformation to the modern day. Chapters cover a huge range of topics, largely in chronological order. First, Lewis’s helpful introduction deals with the competing definitions of Zionism and related terms. Ultimately, he settles upon this as a definition for Christian Zionism: it is “a Christian movement which holds to the belief that the Jewish people have a biblically mandated claim to their ancient homeland in the Middle East” (3, emphasis removed). Lewis notes how Christian Zionism has played a part in identity formation, especially for those in the dispensationalist movement. From there, Lewis moves into tracing the history of the movement itself. The first chapter does give a brief history from the Early Church to the Reformation, after which several chapters deal with different strands of Zionism emerging from various links to the Reformation. From there, links are forged showing Christian Zionism in American Puritanism, 19th Century British Evangelicalism, and how prominent a role the British Empire played in establishing some of the groundwork for later Zionist movements. The vision of World War I and II as vindications for Premillennialism and the correlating rise of Premillennial Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism presents a fascinating case study in the tenth chapter, and multiple developments in Palestine and global revivalist and Zionist activities form out the rest of the book.

Each chapter is filled with enlightening information. I was especially surprised to learn about the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 document in which the British Government publicly declared its support for a “national home of the Jewish people.” This, despite it being opposed by or ignored by many Jews of the time. The chapters outlining the rise of Christian Zionism in the British Empire laying the groundwork for this Declaration and how that declaration impacted later Zionism were absolutely fascinating.

Insights like those are present in virtually every chapter. The early is often cited by modern Zionists to support their reading of Scripture, but Lewis shows how many in the early church were largely ambivalent to ideas that would later form the basis for Christian Zionism. Lewis also is consistently even-keeled in his evaluation of Christian Zionism, rarely offering direct critique or support for any specific aspects of Christian Zionism. It makes the book invaluable as a reference work with little to bother readers about how it reports the historical information.

A Short History of Christian Zionism is a commendably fair evaluation of the Christian Zionist movement. Any readers remotely interested in the topic would be well-served to pick up and read a copy of this fine historical overview.

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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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 Wheel of Time Episode 6: “The Flame of Tar Valon” – A Christian worldview review

“The Flame of Tar Valon”

Prophecies Are Clear

Any Christian who’s engaged with any kind of theological debate online will have heard the line “the Bible is clear” or something very similar. Here, we see Siuan and Moiraine discussing the prophecies of the Dragon, and debating over what they can mean. Siuan says “our prophecies are clear,” but Moiraine counters by saying they are three thousand year old prophecies with much that could be lost in translation, interpretation, or even lost to time (implied). While this is reminiscent of arguments against Christianity in some ways (i.e. the infamous attempt to compare the Bible to the telephone game as a way to discount any possibility of it being true on any level), it can also serve as a reminder for intra-faith dialogue. Too often, we like to appeal to the supposed clarity of the Bible on our own position while also looking for complexity in the positions of others with whom we disagree. This little vignette in the episode is a good way to reflect on our own biases in biblical interpretation.

Representation Matters

God’s people come from all nations and peoples. It’s important to realize that representation matters. Age old debates among Christians about how best to present the Gospel can be raised about how far to go when it comes to accepting cultural norms in order to transmit the message of Christ. Regardless, it is undeniable that representation matters. It was great to see Siuan’s father, Berden Sanche, humanized. Too often in pop culture, disabilities are treated as props for the plot, but here Berden is a human with the real struggles and worries of parents. As the children’s song goes, “Every color, shape, and size, they are precious in [God’s] eyes; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Watching

The theme of watching and waiting is prominent in this episode, whether as a reference to ancient prophecy or Moiraine’s eyes and ears looking out for the Ta’veren. In this season of Advent, Christians celebrate waiting the coming Messiah. Watching and waiting are powerful themes that remind us of the need to slow down, to listen, and to know God.

Links

The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on the series, both the books and the TV show.

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.

A Dilemma for Bonhoeffer’s Martyrdom? – Conflicting views of Bonhoeffer as Martyr

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is widely viewed as a martyr, a view that has only become more prevalent as popular-level interpretations of his life circulate broadly. Though it may seem fairly straightforward to claim Bonhoeffer as martyr, there are a number of potential stumbling blocks when it comes to the specifics of this claim. Broadly, Bonhoeffer as martyr makes a kind of intuitive sense if one views him as being killed by the Nazis for religious reasons. However, once one begins to examines his life and the reasoning behind viewing his death as a martyrdom, it becomes more complicated.

Petra Brown has argued against Bonhoeffer’s status from a number of directions in her work, Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception. The first way she argued against this status is that she believes viewing his activity as worthy of martyrdom leads to a number of dangerous outcomes (I examine this and related claims at length in my review of the book). The second claim is a more direct challenge: that naming Bonhoeffer as martyr is problematic because it is difficult to locate him within a realm of standard martyrdom accounts. More clearly, she argues that seeing Bonhoeffer as a martyr is a challenge because of the very reasons he may be considered as such.

Again, the first thrust of Brown’s argument fails, I believe, because taking Bonhoeffer in his own context and with his own theology undercuts her point. Though her point could be modified to an argument that Bonhoeffer’s theology may be dangerous when wrongly interpreted, this same point could be true of nearly any ethical or theological system. My arguments to this effect can be found elsewhere. Here, her second argument is worth drawing out. Brown pushes that Bonhoeffer as martyr leads to a somewhat unique dilemma, quoting at length (some formats of this site don’t show block quotes, so my quote from her will be in quotation marks instead of a standard block quote format):

“On the one hand, if Bonhoeffer is admirable because he exhibits qualities praiseworthy of a religious martyr in his decision to conspire [against Hitler in a plot to assassinate him], then… [this] provides an example of martyrs who are willing to kill in the name of religion for political causes. On the other hand, if the theological and religious justifications for Bonhoeffer’s political actions are avoided, and he is judged admirable because he embodied the cultural values that shaped Western civilisation, where civilised sensibilities, education, and reason led him to make a rational choice in the face of an irrational regime that usurped power, then he is a political martyr… There spans a seemingly unbridgeable gulf between Bonhoeffer as martyr, who died as the result of faithful witness to Christ, and Bonhoeffer as political conspirator, who participated in an assassination attempt.” (Petra Brown, Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception, Kindle location 302-313.)

My first set of ellipses there cuts out her reference to Craig J. Slane’s work, Bonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment. Brown is attempting to show that, on Slane’s own attempt to portray Bonhoeffer as martyr, there are a number of problems. I believe, however, that Slane’s work does a better job answering some of Brown’s charges than it may appear. Additionally, there are other avenues the defender of the thesis of “Bonhoeffer as martyr” could utilize to avoid the horns of her dilemma. None of this is to say, however, that it is possible that viewing Bonhoeffer as martyr may be problematic. Again, this goes back to my critique of Brown’s primary point. It does seem clear that a misreading of Bonhoeffer or an intentional distortion of his reasoning could lead to disastrous and even violent outcomes. That alone is enough to urge caution to the Bonhoeffer scholar or fan.

Brown’s charges are a significant challenge. There are a few ways that immediately come up in avoiding them, however. One is to embrace a horn of the dilemma. For example, one may say that yes, Bonhoeffer may be viewed as a political martyr, and what is the issue with that? Indeed, Brown’s only apparent problem with that is that there are others just as (or more) deserving of being labeled a “martyr” for political resistance to the Nazi state as Bonhoeffer was. But that doesn’t constitute a problem for the Bonhoeffer proponent. The Bonhoeffer proponent could then move on to say that they still highly value and appreciate his theology and ethical system without falling into the apparent challenge of the first horn of Brown’s dilemma. However, it seems likely that most who wish to label Bonhoeffer as martyr would do so at least on some level for religio-theological reasons. Clearly, those reasons are what Slane has in mind in his monograph-length defense of that very idea.

Another way around Brown’s dilemma is to point out the first horn of her dilemma appears problematic itself. Bonhoeffer’s death as martyr is not, one may argue, an example of someone willing to “kill in the name of religion for political causes,” but rather is any number of alternatives. Those who use Bonhoeffer’s example to kill religiously for politics would then be distorting Bonhoeffer rather than following his example. Rather than elucidating this alternatives, readers could turn to Slane’s work for some of these examples, and certainly to broader Bonhoeffer scholarship for additional reasons.

Bonhoeffer as Martyr from Slane is at least part of Brown’s focus for her arguments and is quoted and responded to throughout her work. Slane’s own argument, however, is worth examining as I believe that it provides a strong reason to continue to see Bonhoeffer as martyr and shows that it is a misreading of Bonhoeffer to make him problematic in the ways Brown argues. Briefly, Slane surveys a number of Christian conceptualizations of martyrdom, looks at specific examples of Christians widely regarded as martyrs, and then utilizes a filter of a number of categories martyrs often fulfill to show that Bonhoeffer meets the common criteria. Some of these avenues are especially interesting, such as Slane’s deeper examination of Bonhoeffer and specific action related to Jews (see esp. chapter 6). Slane also notes the several streams of thought that see Bonhoeffer as primarily a political martyr (eg. 32).

However, when Bonhoeffer’s life is examined against a kind of standardized list of traits of martyrdom, it stacks up surprisingly well for theological-ethical martyrdom as opposed to merely political martyrdom. And this is, in part, because Slane highlights the reasons for Bonhoeffer’s death as less related to the plot to kill Hitler as it was to his work in the Abwehr with espionage, communication, and at least one instance of getting Jews out of Germany. This point also undercuts some of the thrust of Brown’s argument about politicized religious violence because if Bonhoeffer was martyred for non-violent action, it hardly justifies violent action. A deeper look at the specific reasons for Bonhoeffer’s murder by the Nazis is beyond what I’m doing here, but to my knowledge Slane is closer to accurate here.

Slane links Bonhoeffer’s theological-ethical-political acts with what he calls a “‘Formal Pattern’ of Jewish-Christian Martyrdom” (76ff). While the list of this formal pattern includes 24 points, Slane notes very few, if any, martyrs fulfill them all. What’s meant instead is a broad linking of this pattern to the martyr, and Bonhoeffer meets many of these criteria. Slane notes Bonhoeffer has a kind of foreknowledge of death (78ff), refuses to flee (80ff), refuses to retract (82), increases offense by repetition (here regarding Bonhoeffer’s continued illegal teaching as well as aiding and abetting Jews, see 82-83), comforts his disciples (83ff), pronounces his fate just (84-85), has strength, even gladness of soul (85-86), has last words, proclamation of immortality, and a death of a tyrant (86). Alongside all of this, Slane notes Bonhoeffer’s own theology is itself constructed in such a way as to leave open the possibility of martyrdom (87ff, but see especially 153-156 as well for a deeper look at this unity of thought).

The case for Bonhoeffer as martyr, specifically of the religious-theological-ethical variety, seems especially strong. Slane’s argument is sound, I believe, and it also pre-emptively answers some of Brown’s points despite the latter explicitly working after and even against Slane’s work. The dilemma Brown presents has several answers, but perhaps the most forceful is that Bonhoeffer’s resistance and martyrdom itself obviates against the utilization of his ethics in the very way she charges–individual violent acts apart from any kind of responsibility. Indeed, though Slane only briefly hints at this, broader Bonhoeffer scholarship (such as Christine Schliesser’s excellent Everyone Who Acts Responsibly Becomes Guilty) provides means to see Bonhoeffer’s radical “state of exception” as being grounded very solidly in a Lutheran view of guilt, corporate responsibility, and certainly within his own project of seeing the church-community as central to any ethical act.

Brown’s Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception continues to prod at the edges of my thoughts about Bonhoeffer. It’s a powerful critique of wholesale acceptance of Bonhoeffer’s legacy. I believe it deserves wide reading and interaction from Bonhoeffer scholars. Slane’s Bonhoeffer as Martyr was written before it, and is critiqued by Brown, but I still believe it provides a solid foundation for viewing Bonhoeffer as martyr, especially when answering some of Brown’s charges as above.

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Links

Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

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 Wheel of Time – Episode 5 “Blood Calls Blood” – A Christian Worldview Review

The Wheel of Time is one of the biggest fantasy blockbusters of all time, and I have read and loved the fantasy novels for decades. I was beyond thrilled to see that an adaptation was coming to Prime TV, and now that it’s here, I thought it was worth looking at the show from a Christian worldview perspective. I will have reviews of the series on my other site, Eclectic Theist.

“Blood Calls Blood”

In Pursuit of Righteousness; Evil

One of the most obvious themes so far in the series is how easily the pursuit of righteousness can turn to evil. Child Valda exemplifies this quite clearly, with both his viciously cruel ways of harming women he deems “witches” and, somehow worse, his willingness to torture innocents to death to see if he’s found someone he thinks deserves death. Unfortunately, Christian history has many examples of people doing this type of thing in the name of Christ. When we allow zeal to overcome our obedience to Christ’s commands to love our neighbor, we err. It is easy for Christians to look at egregious evil and point it out, but what of lesser evils, such as rejecting care for others in ways that lead to their suffering and death? It is easy to hide behind a seemingly righteous shield like civic righteousness or forcing others to take responsibility, but to do so is sinful.

A House Divided

The Aes Sedai weave plots within plots, and it is becoming clear that some of these might even work against each other. The Red Ajah operate exclusively to capture, still, or destroy men who can channel. But of course this goes against the prophecies that there must be a Dragon Reborn if (in the world of the TV show) that person ends up being a man. Of course, there’s some confusion over whether the Dragon ought to be resisted or assisted if found, anyway. The Green Ajah are the battle Ajah, but the Blue seem to be devoted to plots, communication, and trying to discover prophecy. All of these add up to the question of how to accomplish the major goals of any one of these groups. Jesus spoke about how a house divided against itself cannot succeed and will fail (see, for example, Mark 3). It will be interesting to see how these divisions among the Aes Sedai play out. Will they unite and persevere or will they fail?

Links

The Wheel of Time– Read all my posts on the series, both the books and the TV show.

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.

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