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 1407 posts for J.W. Wartick – Reconstructing Faith

Book Review: “A Supreme Love: The Music of Jazz and the Hope of the Gospel” by William Edgar

A Supreme Love by William Edgar explores the history of jazz music and sets it alongside questions about the meaning of and hope found in Christianity.

I was surprised to find as much historical background as Edgar provides here, and I must say the surprise was a pleasant one. Indeed, the entire first part (of three) is dedicated to historical context, and shows not only how jazz music arose from spirituals, but also how Christianity was leveraged by the enslaved to find hope and even find acts of resistance against the enslavers, who themselves claimed Christianity as their faith. The juxtaposition of the two Christian-ities is stark at times. The colonialism and evils found therein is starkly displayed, such as the discussion of hope found in music even on board slave ships (23).

Later in the book, Edgar whisks readers past a who’s-who of jazz musicians, showing the evolution of the sound, the use of language, and the way it is intertwined with Christianity. Edgar demonstrates a total knowledge of the topic, effortlessly skimming lyrics from a variety of artists to demonstrate his points and cultural milieus that he is discussing through the book. That knowledge and intimate detail Edgar displays makes the book constantly readable, and, as odd as it sounds, turns it into something of a page-turner. This reader was happy to go along for the ride one afternoon, looking up the references Edgar provides for sampling the music as he goes (youtube links, largely, with wonderful renditions of jazz tunes from various artists and styles) even as I enjoyed the theological tenor of the book.

A Supreme Love is a fantastic read by someone who clearly loves the subject and knows it inside and out. I recommend it highly for basically anyone interested at all in music, justice, or Christianity. It’s a great all-around read.

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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.

Coins, Icons, and the Shroud of Turin- Apologetics of the Shroud

One category of claims made in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud is that other artwork reflects the image of the Shroud. Often, this is linked to legal status for points of congruence. Thus, for example, it is argued that legally, 14 points of congruence between a suspect’s fingerprint and a fingerprint from a crime scene are necessary to determine a match. But with the Shroud, there are allegedly many icons and coins and other objects with a huge number of points of congruence well beyond the legal standard. Thus, in a video on Shroud3D (linked to me by one apologist interest in the Shroud), it is stated that there are “250 points of congruence between [the] Shroud and icon,” which is left as an argument for the clear link between the icon and the Shroud.

There are a number of problems with this species of argument related to the Shroud of Turin. I don’t have the time nor the expertise to analyze individual alleged points of congruence. Indeed, most of the sources I found making claims like this cited other sources, which in turn cited other sources, which in turn I was either unable to find or unable to determine the specific alleged points of congruence. The video I linked above shows someone waving a mouse icon on a screen at some alleged similarities between the Shroud and an icon, but that, with the claim on screen of “250 points of congruence,” does not do nearly enough to allow for any kind of detailed analysis. And, again, I am not any kind of expert in forensics of icons or the like. Instead, what I’m going to focus on are some broader problems with the argument.

Why It Matters

The reason this argument matters is that apologists of the Shroud claim that because coins, icons, and possibly other artworks reflect attempts to imitate the Shroud, this allows them to place the date of the Shroud much earlier in history than the earliest historical mentions of it (14th century). The logic is simple: if coins from earlier than the 14th century show that they are copied from or based upon the Shroud, it follows that the Shroud existed prior to the 14th century. I’ll have more to say about this argument in the future.

Points of Congruence

I mentioned above that claims are made about these alleged “points of congruence” or similarities between the Shroud of Turin and other objects. What I’ve struggled to track down are both the actual diagrams showing these exact points of congruence, the methodology used to detect these alleged points, and the linkage between those points and actual forensic evidence. After some deep searching online on the website of the Department of Justice, I was able to find a number of articles about fingerprint analysis. One of these, an abstract of a chapter of a book about forensics and fingerprinting, notes that identification of similarities involves: “perception, similarity judgments, memory, and decision making. These abilities vary among individuals and can be improved with training and experience.” This raises far more questions than it answers regarding the alleged proof of the earlier dating of the Shroud of Turin based upon its alleged “congruencies” with icons, coins, and the like.

First, what kind of actual training do those marking these supposed similarities have? From what I can tell, the people making these types of claims do not have any training in forensic analysis of photographs, art, or fingerprints. While expertise is not absolutely necessary in order to make identification of similarities (I’m fairly sure that without a degree in art, I could identify a painting by or in the style of Salvador Dali, for example), it certainly would give more credence to the claims being made. And, it’s possible that I, being fairly new to this discussion, am missing people with relevant degrees or job experience. But I do know how often I’ve seen online apologists making these claims without citation, and those doing that certainly do not have the relevant expertise, nor are they citing sources with that expertise. This alone should be enough to urge skepticism about said claims.

Second, what about making judgment calls? If I have an image with a crown of thorns and another image with a crown of thorns, how do I make a judgment call of how many similarities there are? One has a thorn piercing the forehead directly in the middle of the left eyebrow? That could be evidence of congruence, but it could also be happenstance–the thorns had to hit the head at some points, after all. It seems somewhat obvious to me that those making these judgment calls in favor of the Shroud may have significant bias in favor of finding more congruence than there may actually be. And without degrees or expertise to back them up, this becomes even more likely. It’s easy to multiply points of congruence when one wants them to be there. And, as I will note below, this is even more problematical because of the nature of what is being alleged about, anyway (see the section on Baseline below).

Third, it’s clear that nearly every aspect of these points of congruence regarding the Shroud and various artworks are matters of opinion. But when the subject being depicted has many features that are generally well-known (crucified figure, scourged, with crown of thorns, etc.), how does one determine whether a point of congruence is evidence of actual copying or whether it is just happenstance based upon the known circumstances of the subject being depicted? It seems like sorting that question out would be nearly impossible. It would rely so much upon judgment calls it would start to become absurd. Indeed, one would have to constantly assume intent into the depictions on the coins or icons–that they were intended to look like the Shroud, rather than happening to follow the same general outline of an image. But that brings us to the argument below.

There is a Baseline

Perhaps the most severe problem with claims about the supposed congruence between the Shroud and various artworks, coins, etc. is that these arguments fail to note the works are not independent. What I mean by this will take a little explaining. Going back to the example that is being cited–fingerprint analysis–the example has no independent goal towards which to aim. If I have a fingerprint from a crime scene, and I have the fingerprints of the suspect, I can compare them and conclude that if there are enough similarities–whatever that standard is legally–then that means they’re a match.

With the Shroud, however, we have two objects, the Shroud, and some other item, say a coin, which are not independent of each other. This isn’t like plucking a fingerprint from somewhere and hoping to find a match. Instead, it is taking two objects, each of which has a goal oriented towards depiction of a specific subject, and then declaring that because they have similarities to each other, they are necessarily connected. Icons, coins, and the like are all intended to depict Jesus, at least in some sense. Obviously, they didn’t have a photograph, and details about what Jesus looked like in the Bible are totally scarce, but there are very early artistic depictions of Jesus, some with significant variation. There are also obvious features of a crucified human being with a crown of thorns that would lead to points of similarity in depiction of a human in that state. Two people trying to show a crucified Jewish man from the first century would likely align on many “points of congruence” without having any other knowledge of each others’ works.

The history of iconography of Jesus is its own separate subject, but by the time the artworks like the coins and icons being discussed by Shroud apologists were created, there was already an established baseline for what Jesus was supposed to look like in such iconography. So if you have an established representative style for what a subject, Jesus, is supposed to look like, and you have an icon and a coin that match that style, having another object–the Shroud–have many dozens or even hundreds of “points of congruence” with those other objects does not prove that those objects are based upon the Shroud. At best, it just proves the Shroud is consistent with the established baseline representation of Jesus in that era, but that would hardly be surprising whether it is a copy or genuine. But if I have three independent things, Bob, a coin that is supposed to depict Bob, and something that allegedly is the cloth Bob was buried in, it would hardly be surprising that both the burial cloth and coin are similar, given that they are both trying to aim at Bob as an image. That would be true whether the cloth is genuine or not.

One example of this was found in a podcast I was listening to about the Shroud of Turin [and, of course, my apologies as I have been unable to find the exact time stamp, but it was the Backstory on the Shroud of Turin Podcast, “The Stories Coins Can Tell with Justin Robinson,” August 11, 2022]. In that podcast, the person being interviewed noted that the way a strand of hair came across Jesus’s face matches the Shroud of Turin. In fact, it gets better, said Robinson, because the coin had to be printed in reverse, and so the artist was intentionally matching how that strand of hair came across the face to the Shroud of Turin! But this argument is specious. If you have two depictions intentionally aimed at a long haired Jewish man crucified, it would hardly be surprising for there to be a strand of hair dangling across the face, no matter which side the strand of hair falls upon. And the argument about the image having to be flipped for a coin does nothing to strengthen the attempt to link it to the Shroud, apart from making a supposed link to intention that cannot be proven. But these types of arguments are put forth as if they give definitive proof of (or at least, strong evidence for) the notion that these artists were copying the Shroud. Even as one who would love to have such evidence, this rings hollow and reads as attempted justification for something tenuous at best.

Fingerprints and Coins?

Similarly, those making claims about coins, icons, and the like fail to recognize the goal-directed nature of artwork. These aren’t just someone’s happenstance fingerprints or something; these are intentional depictions of a figure purported to be a representation of Jesus. The people making the argument about forensic evidence in court of law and applying that same style of evidence-gathering to questions about the Shroud of Turin seem to be engaging in a category error.

Fingerprints, as one might note, are not coins. Fingerprints are subjects of nature, possibly subject to scarring, and have numerous other aspects that are quite different from coins or icons. Icons and the faces on coins are intentional depictions of something. They are meant to appear as whatever vision the artist intended. Not only does this make it problematic as an argument because there is a baseline, as noted above, but it also means that trying to establish a 1:1 correspondence between what is required to demonstrate in court of law that a suspect and a piece of fingerprint evidence are the same and what is required to establish that a coin was specifically based upon the Shroud at least requires some kind of argument to establish. But that argument is never made. It’s just noted that in court of law there is some number of similarities required for fingerprints, and then because there are allegedly even more similarities between the Shroud and some piece of artwork, that establishes the artwork was copying the Shroud.

The leaps in logic here are over vast chasms. Criminal forensic evidence just is not the same as analysis of art and vice versa. Expert analysis simply does not exist for comparison of the coins with the Shroud imagery, so far as I can tell. Forensic analysis would not be the correct category to make this comparison with anyway. What possible correspondence could there be between an artwork and a supposedly genuine image of a body and between a naturally occurring phenomenon–a fingerprint–and the discovery of a fingerprint at the scene of a crime? They’re entirely different fields of study with entirely different backgrounds, contexts, and levels of intent. While it sounds like a good argument to cite one to defend the other, when one examines the actual arguments, they fall apart.

Conclusion

There are more problems that could be raised with the supposed similarities between the Shroud and various icons or coins or other artworks, but many of them would need to focus on specific artwork. I have left aside analysis of specific, individual claims to focus more upon methodology. Because of this, my argument may be dismissed by some as being to vague or broad. That may be, but I think that the points I’ve raised here should cause some to pause and urge caution about claims related to the Shroud of Turin. So often, it’s not experts doing this analysis, the arguments are vague, or categories are confused. Apologists should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and I don’t think this is happening with the Shroud.

Links

The Shroud of Turin- An Apologetics Sinkhole? – My first post in the series on the Shroud of Turin in which I comment broadly about my interest in it and why I think it demonstrates so many problems.

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: “Ministers of a New Medium” by Kirk D. Farney

Ministers of a New Medium: Broadcasting Theology in the Radio Ministries of Fulton J. Sheen nd Walter A Maier by Kirk D. Farney reads in part as a biography, in part as a love letter to radio broadcasting, and finally as a deep look at the impact of broadcasted theology in the rising popularity and height of radio.

Before Farney dives into the radio ministers themselves, he briefly draws out the history and surging popularity of radio. He notes the penetration of radio into American homes and the way it was essentially set up to be a purveyor of truths to the masses. Broadcasters were seeking religious programing and as radio continued to soar in popularity, they became more specific about that which they were seeking. Enter Sheen and Maier.

Fulton J. Sheen was a Catholic priest and Walter A. Maier was a pastor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Though they came from different theological backgrounds, their focus on bringing Christianity to the masses through radio was shared. Farney first gives deep background for each of the radio ministers. Then, he draws out extensively the content and tone of their messages. For Maier, for example, there’s some discussion of continuity and shifting tone during World War II as he integrated more patriotic themes into his prayers and messaging (237ff). But Maier also did not shield the United States from criticism, drawing parallels between the Nazi treatment of the Jews and the United States’ towards Native and African Americans (239). Sheen bemoaned the state of universities and the alleged elitism of the intelligentsia (158). One could see easily how messages like these could resonate broadly.

I would have liked to have more critical interaction with the material presented. The strength of Farney’s work is in the lengthy, detailed presentation of the beliefs of the radio ministers. There is no shortage of anecdotes, quotes, and specificity related to the messages Sheen and Maier conveyed to the masses. But there is very little by way of analysis. It’s a kind of “just the facts” approach that left me longing for some analysis. That said, it’s clear that analysis is not the focus of the work. Instead, Farney is focused upon cluing readers into the broad messages and background of these two radio giants.

Ministers of a New Medium is a fascinating read, cluing readers into a somewhat forgotten era of broadly popular evangelism. Recommended.

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.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” – A Christian worldview perspective

The immensely popular Avatar begged for a sequel nearly from release, and after 13 years, it’s finally arrived. “Avatar: The Way of Water” landed in theaters, and I won’t make a secret of being a huge fan of the franchise. But what might the movie have to say about worldview? Quite a bit, actually. Here, I’ll take a look at the movie from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS throughout this post.

Family

It would be impossible to write about the film without reflecting on the way it discusses and represents family.

Jake seems obsessed with the notion of a father protecting his family. One of the later lines in the movie reflects this, and is a repeated comment: “A father protects his family.” The line, repeated near the end of the film, is somewhat ambiguous. Is James Cameron trying to put forward this line as a truism, or is he offering a subtle critique of Jake’s patriarchal tendencies, as with the critique of his militarism? I lean towards the latter. After all, Jake himself acknowledges his failure to protect his family, but still hangs together as a family and acknowledges the strength of that. Additionally, Neytiri did a huge amount of the protecting of family, especially in the final few scenes.

The importance of familial attachment is a major theme in the film. “Sullys stick together” is a recurring theme. But what does it mean? There are so many scenes that reflect on this. Neytiri tells Jake at one point that the family is not a squad–it’s not a military unit. It’s a unit based upon love, relationship, and bonds that go beyond those even of a squad. Jake’s attempted military style leadership isn’t working, and it is what causes some of the rifts in the family.

The loss of Neteyam was one of the most impactful scenes in the movie. When Jake and Neytiri bond with Eywa towards the end of the film, they see a younger Neteyam frolicking and playing with Jake years before. It’s both healing and unbelievably sad all at once. We know that we will see our loved ones again, but the time in between is one for healing and sorrow.

Colonialism and Peacemaking

The question of pacifism looms throughout the film. The people of the water aren’t involved in the conflict with the sky people (humans). They keep to themselves, living lives that remain tranquil despite conflict on the other parts of the planet. But can they ignore the plight of other peoples? Such a question must rank among the deepest in philosophy, and even the whale stand-ins, the tulkun. The tulkun shun even their own if they participate in a conflict, weighing the damage done by any conflict against those who decided to participate in it.

Colonialism from the sky people–the humans–is what drives the conflict. It’s impossible to miss the major themes here contrasting the peaceful nature of the people of Pandora with the militant, capital-driven humans. And as Christians, I wonder about lines like no one can serve God and money or what good is it to gain the world but lose one’s soul?

Seizures and Religious Experience

Kiri, the daughter of Dr. Grace Augustine’s Avatar, is imbued with unknown power and skills. She seems to commune with many aspects of Pandor’as natural world in ways no one else does–or even notices at times. Late in the film, she is able to bond with anemone-like things in the coral reefs and cause them to fight against a human incursion. Fish gather around her. Glowing sea creatures do her bidding even without a direct bond.

But in the midst of all this, she makes a bond with Eywa which leads to seizure-like symptoms no one else experiences. The human scientists are brought in to assess and help, but they are ultimately powerless to awaken the comatose Kiri. However, they do discern it was a seizure that caused her state and warn Jake that Kiri must not bond with Eywa in that fashion again, because she could have another seizure underwater and die. They also directly link seizures to the part of the brain that is active in religious experiences. I have an interest in religious experience and neuroscience, but certainly no expertise in it. With that caveat, I found this an extremely interesting and specific point for Cameron to raise in the film. As viewers, we have privileged access to Kiri that the scientists did not, and we also know there’s more going on than what seems a physicalist explanation. While it is true that activating certain parts of the brain can yield religious-like ecstasy and experience, that in itself does not demonstrate that no genuine religious experiences happen. Indeed, the later parts of the film with Kiri genuinely interacting with the world in seemingly unexplainable ways seems to show Cameron agrees here, and that something more will loom larger later. For now, though, we’re left not knowing where it’s going.

One last note on this, though. In the first film, we had the groundwork laid to see a kind of unity of science and religion. The “direct line to Eywa” of the tree, detected by scientific means in the roots and throughout Pandora and the clear way there is some kind of unifying intelligence on Pandora shows more is going on here. Is Eywa going to be depicted as deity? Or will there be some kind of unifying theory presented in the future? In our world, some try to unify science and religion quite a bit. There are many views about how to and even whether to do this (see my post on differing positions here). We know that God works in the world, but whether science can or even should detect that work is an open question.

The Way of Water and Eywa

The Way of Water itself is a central theme of the film, and certainly one of the driving aspects of its worldview.

“The way of water has no beginning, and no end.
“The sea is your home before your birth and after your death.
“The sea gives and the sea takes.
“Water connects all things. Life to death. Darkness to light.”

The way of water certainly seems connected to the previous film’s depictions of Eywa, the balance of all life, and the harmony and disharmony. It’s easy to contrast this with traditional Christianity, but parallels may also be found. Interestingly, the contrast can mostly be found with platonic views of the human soul, which hold that human souls are imbued with objective eternality after creation. In some Christian beliefs, all humans are eternal by virtue of creation, not by virtue of God granting immortality. The debate over this would go beyond what I’m trying to discuss here, but it’s interesting to see the parallels with eternality of the soul here. However, as depicted in both this film and the previous one, there’s not a sense of reincarnation or eternality of necessity here. The Way of Water, instead, is a kind of way of being, living in harmony with nature rather than attempting to dominate it. It’s acknowledgement that we all share commonalities. And that, I believe, is something Christians can embrace–the knowledge that we all, as God’s creation, share in the broader creation God has made. Thus, when we harm creation, we harm God’s good order and work against what God brought forth.

Interestingly, the humans who are hunting the tulkun are seeking immortality. A substance from the brain of the tulkun stops aging for humans, thus granting a kind of immortality that is seen as valued above all else. The disordered seeking of self-immortality is one aspect of humanity the film highlights very well.

Eywa is in the background throughout the movie, and I still wonder where James Cameron is going to go with this plotline. Above, I mentioned some more specific aspects of the religious and scientific aspects of the film. But we don’t learn much regarding where Cameron is taking this specific aspect of the plot beyond that. It will be interesting to see in the next several films what happens.

Conclusion

There is much more that could be discussed about “Avatar: The Way of Water.” I found it a deeply provocative film, reflecting the best science fiction which both enthralls with mesmerizing visuals and asks big questions about humanity. It feels to me like a kind of “Empire Strikes Back” middle movie, in which the “bad guys” have much more power than the “good guys,” and we’re left with a somewhat ambiguous ending. I cannot wait for the next one.

I’d love to read your own thoughts on the movie. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Links

“Avatar” – A Christian reflection on the film– 7 years ago I wrote about worldview level issues in the original movie. Note that some of my views may have changed.

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

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

Also see my other looks into movies (scroll down for 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: “Ending Human Trafficking: A Handbook of Strategies for the Church Today” by Moore, Morgan, and Yim

Human trafficking is a global issue, but one that is difficult to understand without researching the topic. Ending Human Trafficking by Shayne Moore, Sandra Morgan, and Kimberly McOwen Yim seeks to provide individuals and especially churches with resources to understand this awful practice and to help thwart it.

After an introductory chapter, the authors dive into a history of human trafficking as well as groundwork-laying for understanding it today. One of the most important takeaways from these early chapters is that human trafficking probably doesn’t look like you might expect it. People can be living what seems like entirely normal lives on the outside while being trafficked–sometimes even without really knowing it themselves. This makes the topic incredibly complex and also makes it that much more important to dedicate time towards understanding it.

Much of the rest of the book is dedicated toward the goal of integrating understanding and advocacy related to human trafficking. Prevention, protection, prosecution, partnership, policy, and prayer are all aspects that individuals and churches can work towards related to the topic. Identifying risk factors for trafficking is an important task, but the authors also work towards prevention as a goal. The authors also identify and discuss several myths related to trafficking (such as the belief that people who are trafficked are necessarily immigrants). The book as a whole then provides a broad perspective on human trafficking and how to not just understand but also work against it.

Ending Human Trafficking is a necessary and important book that will help people work against this global plague. Recommended for church and individual libraries, but, more importantly, for actually taking action on.

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.

Book Review: “The Religion of American Greatness” by Paul D. Miller

Paul D. Miller’s The Religion of American Greatness is a conservative pushback against Christian Nationalism. Miller is a professor at Georgetown, was on staff for the National Security Council, served in the Army, and has background in a number of related topics. He’s written for The Gospel Coalition, The Washington Post, and others.

Miller’s perspective is valuable because he’s a sympathetic reader. He clearly understands and has read the material related to Christian nationalism, but as a conservative he doesn’t just remain unconvinced, but rather clearly believes that Christian nationalism is fatally flawed on a number of levels.

Chapters in the book explore cases for and against Christian nationalism, look into the Bible and nationalism, and even explore more current events like the Trump phenomenon. Miller’s views on things like identity politics reflect his more conservative starting point, which may make him more sympathetic to readers already starting on the right end of the political spectrum. Yet even for readers of a more liberal bent, this book serves up a number of excellent analyses and insights into Christian nationalism that will provide them with discussion points that may resonate with those with whom they disagree.

There are numerous excellent insights found throughout the book. For example, Miller notes repeatedly that one issue with nationalism is that it tends to define nation states by shared cultural heritage, but this does not reflect the actual composition of nations that exist. That means that Christian nationalism must either advocate for a kind of voluntary or force dividing of people along preconceived cultural lineages or modify its proposals related to nationalism (see, for example, page 33ff). Some readers may wish Miller would drill down into that argument further–after all, the Christian nationalist definition of nations seems to almost demand a kind of ethnocentric division of humanity and, combining that with its belief that Christian culture would be some kind of inherent feature of some nations, would inevitably yield ethnic hierarchy–but Miller’s argument is more focused than that, and, as noted above, is directed in such a way as to convince some who might not listen to those arguments from implication. Miller does, however, note many of the difficulties inherent in such definitions, such as the existence of people who cannot be placed neatly within any of the broad cultural categories nationalists use. Of course, on this latter point, one again may wish for some kind of note that nationalists then almost have to be forced to a kind of kin-ism, in which only people from certain ethno-cultural groups should interact or, at the least, have children together. But what Miller does is place the arguments of nationalists on the table, where the implications can be drawn out. He nails them down with words from their own writings, and notes the problems even from within their own perspectives. Miller’s analysis thus avoids the head on [and, in my opinion, accurate] accusations of racism and related problems that may drive off some readers while still showing the implications are there.

Another excellent section is Miller’s chapter on the Bible and nationalism. Here, for example, he analyzes the claims of nationalists related to the nation of Israel, often seen as a kind of model for what Christian nationalism ought to be. The Bible itself vitiates against Christian nationalism, for it undercuts the very definitions nationalists attempt to use in order to construct their perspectives. Israel, the Bible teaches us, was a mixed multitude from the time it emerged from Egypt (121). This directly contradicts nationalist tendencies to demand shared cultural background for the formation of nation states and identity. Going on, Israel intermingled languages (Hebrew and Aramaic, among others), mixed familial bonds, and more. The thing that set it apart was merely its relationship to its God; not any kind of shared cultural background (121-122). Insights like this can be found throughout the chapter, and, indeed, the book.

The Religion of American Greatness is a needed response to Nationalism from a background that at least some people within that movement will listen to. It’s the kind of book well-worth reading for people of any background, and certainly could be recommended or bought and given to people who are interested in the topic. I recommend those interested in the topic have a copy on their shelf for reference or lending whenever possible.

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

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

SDG.

——

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

The Shroud of Turin: A Secret History? – Apologetics of the Shroud

I am writing a series of posts about the problems I see in apologetics related to the Shroud of Turin. Check out my introductory post here.

Tracing the Shroud in History

A number of claims are made about the Shroud historically and the alleged trail that can be pieced together in order to get it from Turin back to Palestine. Most apologists I’ve read or watched in videos are careful to say that we know with a fairly high degree of certainty where the Shroud was in the 14th century, but before that it becomes murkier. That doesn’t stop many apologists from then turning to making extremely specific claims about the Shroud in history. Here, I’ll be starting an examination of “The Shroud of Turin: Photograph of the Resurrection,” a video from Duran Smith, an apologist with Ratio Christi, an apologetics organization.

Even referring to a “murky history of the Shroud” prior to the 14th century begs the question in a way, by assuming the Shroud did exist and so would have had a history at all prior to the 14th century. I wrote in my introductory post that I’m not convinced by the evidence for the Shroud. In fact, I think the apologetics related to the Shroud of Turin generally show many of the issues I have identified with apologetics more broadly.

Duran Smith, in this video, goes over a wide swathe of arguments about the Shroud of Turin. Here, I’ll be focusing only on how he traces the Shroud in the earliest periods of its supposed existence.

The Discipline of the Secret?

Smith alleges that the Discipline of the Secret is something that can be applied to discussions of the Shroud. In the video at 8:24, you can see a slide in which he writes about the Discipline of the Secret: “It was used until the 5th century.” Intentionally or not, this slide and the discussion surrounding it make it seem as though the Discipline of the Secret is both an established fact of history with a specific lineage and that it persisted in Christianity from the beginning “until the 5th century.” Neither of these are true as stated that way. The Discipline of the Secret is, like many assignations from historians, a categorization of something they observed in the past, rather than a specific Discipline. Hopping again over to Wikipedia, one can trace the historical origins of the phrase and that it was a categorization invented in the 17th century to describe something happening in the 4th and 5th centuries, but not before. So it is technically true that the practice was “used until the 5th century,” but not true that it was persistent throughout Christianity until then, and certainly doesn’t appear to be some kind of strict practice as Smith makes it out to be.

I belabored the above point because it is important to see that it is easy to throw out terms, phrases, and dates and start piecing a case together based upon them. The untrained eye may find it very easy to go along with this. However, on examination, it makes the case pretty thin to have it based on a 17th century categorization of something that was 4th-5th century, especially when it’s applied in this way. Smith specifically says that the Christians after Jesus’s resurrection “had to keep a lot of things hidden,” which strongly implies he is saying that this was a 1st century discipline. “There were things that they couldn’t… write down,” Smith says (about 8:35).

Smith actually goes on to make a number of claims about the Discipline of the Secret. Starting around 8:50 into the video, he claims: “the Apostles and the disciples spoke in a secret code… it was called The Discipline of the Secret. That’s [a/the] name given to it by some of the early church fathers. It was a code language that the early Christians used to protect themselves [from] being found out by the oppressive government. And it was used until the 5th century.” He goes on to imply this may be why we don’t have exacting evidence of the Shroud’s existence in this early period. The problem is that each of these claims, so far as any research I can do, appears to be false. There is no church father that talks about the “Discipline of the Secret,” falsifying the claim that that name was “given to it by some of the early church fathers.” Web searches turn up many, many sites talking about the discipline, but even in the corners of Catholic Encyclopedias, one finds time and again that they say that term did not originate until the 17th century or so, and the practice itself may have had earliest origins with Tertullian (3rd century) but didn’t solidify until the time of Basil (early 4th century) or Gregory of Nazianzus (mid-late 4th century). Not one of these church fathers used the phrase “Discipline of the Secret.” Where Smith found a source for his claim is unclear, and I understand YouTube is not an easy place for citations, nor are lectures like this, but I am curious as to exactly what source Smith is basing this claim upon. There doesn’t appear to be a foundation for it anywhere.

The claims about this Discipline continue, as Smith says a lot of research goes into decoding this secretive language and says that “this is where the fish comes from” referring to the symbol of a fish as a symbol early Christians used. Once again, there is no source cited or concrete evidence to suggest that this is in any way connected to an actual discipline that any church father referenced or named anywhere.

Note that I have not used the word “lying” here in regards to what Smith is saying about the Discipline of the Secret. I don’t know Smith’s intentions or mindset and believe one should always assume others are sincere unless you have direct counter-evidence. Instead, what I’m observing is that Smith is making a number of explicit claims about the origins of the Shroud and this “Discipline,” none of which appear to be backed by reliable historical data. So where did it come from? It is possible Smith made it up, but in my own experience in academic apologetics as well as apologetics circles online, it seems more likely that Smith has fallen victim to what I’ve seen as a kind of group re-affirmation process in which a claim is made and then others pile on more supposed evidences to back up that claim, whether through anecdotes or other experiences, which are then taken to be true and real evidences, which then back up the claim, until an kind of circle of evidence is made such that the original claim seems unassailable. I could see someone reading about the Discipline of the Secret, and then having a kind of enthusiastic discussion about that related to the Shroud and how it could explain why there aren’t explicit writings about the Shroud or evidence referring explicitly to it prior to the 14th century. How you get from that to making an explicit claim that the church fathers explicitly gave the practice the name is conjecture on my end, but I could see it being inferred and then taken as true at some step along the way.

However it happened, Smith’s discussion of the Discipline of the Secret shows some gaps in understanding, along with several claims that, upon examination, cannot hold weight.

The Lost Gospel of the Hebrews?

Smith then turns to an allegedly lost Gospel of the Hebrews. Again, digging around online turns up that this lost Gospel may in fact be three separate Gospels, that it may have had its origin in the Gospels in the Bible today, and a number of other tidbits. There’s not a lot there, just some fragmentary quotes, including one from Origen (a favorite of mine) that hedges bets a bit when he writes “And if any accept the Gospel according to the Hebrews” before citing a fragment in his On John. Anyway, all of this is to say we don’t have much by way of established fact here, either.

After noting that the Gospel is lost and we don’t have it at all, Smith claims that “We use it to kind of get insight into what those early Christians were thinking… It’s used for some theological purposes, but it also has some historical details…” [around 10:20 and following]. Then he quotes it, “and when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, He went to James and appeared to him.” I was able to confirm this is a quote from Jerome attributed to the Gospel of the Hebrews. Smith then states that the “servant of the priest probably refers to Peter, who was traditionally known as the Priest.” Going on, he says “it’s very likely that, according to the Discipline of the Secret, that the Gospel of the Hebrews is indicating that Jesus gave the linen cloth to Peter.” Going on, Smith notes that Peter is the head of the church, and the rock upon which the church is founded, and that it would then make sense that Peter would have this “very important relic” (the Shroud). Peter then spent quite a bit of time in Antioch.

There are problems with many of the claims made in this section. First, Peter wasn’t traditionally known as “the Priest.” He was known as the Rock. I don’t have comprehensive knowledge of or access to early church writings, but I struggle to find any reference to any tradition in which Peter is known as “the Priest.” Some believe he was known to the High Priest. Several Roman Catholic claims about Peter being the first Pope would then make him a priest, but having him referred to as “the Priest” is different from that claim. Again, I found no referent anywhere in searches online or through books on church history. I’m willing to be corrected here, of course, but it seems to me that if a claim can offhandedly be made that Peter “was traditionally known as the Priest” then that tradition should be fairly easily associated with Peter, and it is not. But suppose Smith is right, suppose Peter was known as “the Priest.” The passage he cites says that the “linen cloth” was given to “the servant of the priest.” So the passage would in fact be saying that the linen cloth was given to Peter’s servant, not to Peter himself. Of course, one might surmise that that would then mean that the linen made its way to Peter, but that is another step of transmission that Smith needs to establish. He also needs to establish that the linen cloth is, in fact, the Shroud.

Second, given the problems with Smith’s interpretation of the Discipline of the Secret noted above, it is highly problematical for him to deduce anything from that analysis. But he explicitly states that it is “according to the Discipline of the Secret” that the citation from the Gospel of the Hebrews is telling readers that the linen cloth is given to Peter. Note the shift here. It’s subtle, but it happens. In just a few minutes in the video, Smith has moved from saying that there is such a thing as a Discipline of the Secret in which Christians secretly communicated with each other to making that very Discipline the actor in interpreting passages from a fragmentary text available only through quotations from others. It isn’t that it is possible that there is a secretive explanation of a passage; no, Smith states that it is “according to” that secretive discipline that we may then infer that the passage is referring to the Shroud. In no small amount of time, and without argument, the Discipline of the Secret has moved to a broad way to explain that Christians spoke secretively to a means by which we may infer truths. I really can’t belabor this point enough because it’s a major shift. It is according to the Discipline, which is by no means established by a discipline and which did not exist even according to sources writing about it in this time period, that we may then conclude that a fragmentary passage from a book that is not extant to this day is explicitly referring to none other than the Shroud of Turin. This is such a massive leap, but is made without even an argument.

The shift from “there’s a secretive discipline in the early church” to “we may infer from that secretive discipline conclusions about what they were saying in specific texts” is huge. Again, careful examination of Smith’s arguments make it clear they come up quite short when it comes to whether they can actually support the conclusions he’s drawing.

Conclusion

Duran Smith has demonstrated here a number of problems I find in apologetics more generally. He makes claims that are unsupported by evidence, other claims are, upon closer examination, false. He shifts from argument to evidence without enough evidential support to make the conclusions he does. It also seems that he’s not as fully versed in the claims he’s making as someone giving a lecture on a topic ought to be. Whether it’s the claims about what Peter is traditionally called or about the actual dates and extent of the Discipline of the Secret, there are a number of errors that a bit more research could have prevented. But these errors are integral to the case Smith has made so far. If they are indeed errors, most of his case to this point falls apart. We’ll be examining more of the historical evidence Smith claims exists for the Shroud in the next post in this series.

Links

What’s Wrong with Apologetics? – I raise a number of pitfalls apologists ought to avoid.

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: “Ancient Christian Texts- Cyril of Alexandria Commentaries on Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Hebrews”

Learning from the earliest theologians in the church is something I think every Christian ought to do. InterVarsity Press’s excellent “Ancient Christian Texts” series is one I’ve explored occasionally, and I was excited to see Commentaries on Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Hebrews from Cyril of Alexandria pop up for review. Here, fragments of Cyril’s commentaries have been put together sequentially for readers to browse and learn from.

A general introduction and an introduction to this specific work help set the stage. Readers won’t find a simple verse-by-verse commentary here, but rather a pieced together group of comments from various fragments of Cyril of Alexandria. Though this may make it sound like there’s little of value here, the opposite is in fact the case. Reading ancient Christian commentary on scripture is often enlightening for a number of reasons, and Cyril’s comments are no different.

One of the best reasons to read commentaries like this is to find the twofold truth that ancient Christians often were discussing the same questions we have today and also often had their own questions that aren’t as wrapped up in today’s discourse. The latter is especially interesting to me, and examples of this abound throughout this work. One example is found in the discussion of angels and Hebrews 1:4. Here, Cyril only briefly addresses the question of angels before diving in to an argument that the Arians are mistaken about God the Son being “originate” due to their reading of this verse. The latter still has relevance to this day, but Cyril’s brief comment about angels being like servants was striking to me as well. Little insights like this come up throughout the book, even in the scattered fragments of comments that one finds strewn across the books in view.

Longer comments are found as well, with some lengthy discourse occurring–including in Hebrews. Reading what an ancient Christian commentator had to say about this book can also help readers highlight aspects of the text they may not have noticed before. Again, an example may help–in Romans 14:20-22 Cyril is quick to note that we should refrain from some things that are permissible for the sake of others but even more for ourselves, because permissible things could make us fleshly in luxurious passions. A kind of ascetic background looms here, but the broader point of being wary of luxurious excess is a good point to be made. Small comments like this can be found all over the book.

Commentaries on Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Hebrews is another excellent entry in the Ancient Christian Texts series. Recommended highly for readers interested in learning about ancient Christian commentary on Scripture.

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

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

SDG.

——

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

The Shroud of Turin: An Apologetics Sinkhole?

I have noticed an increasing amount of interest in some apologetics circles about the Shroud of Turin. When I was in graduate school, there was a group of people studying apologetics I deemed “The Shroud Crowd” due to their especial interest in the topic. Increasingly, I have seen articles getting shared about the supposed authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. For those unfamiliar, the Shroud of Turin [wiki link] is alleged to be the burial shroud in which Jesus was wrapped or covered after the crucifixion. Yes, the actual thing. One could see why this would be of great apologetic interest if it could be shown to be genuine.

I’ve found is that apologetic arguments in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud often fall victim to some of the issues I’ve found in apologetics more broadly. One of these is the tendency to make major claims instead of modest ones. Apologists tend toward maximal conclusions when minimal ones might be easier to establish based upon argument. But because maximal conclusions are more exciting and easily seen as relevant, apologists tend to focus on those rather than more minimalistic arguments. For the specific scenario of the Shroud, I have seen multiple videos of apologists arguing for its authenticity explicitly stating that “It is the true burial Shroud of Christ” without any kind of hedging or contextualizing of that claim. Such a bold claim needs a massive amount of evidential support to carry the day. A more modest claim regarding the Shroud might be more defensible[1]. By claiming not only that this is a burial shroud of someone in the first century, or someone who was crucified, or some other more modest claim, the apologist is taking on the burden of proof a number of degrees of certainty higher. After all, supposing the Shroud is from the first century and is from Palestine and is an actual burial shroud of someone who was crucified. None of that yet makes it the burial shroud or cloth of Jesus Christ!

Now, the apologists arguing in favor of that latter claim would likely counter by saying the miraculous nature of the image itself and how it was formed point to it being the shroud of Christ, but my point is that that claim itself needs a much more significant defense than a mere claim that it is a burial shroud of a crucified person. But of course that more modest claim doesn’t have the theological and apologetic import that making it the shroud of Christ would provide. It would be much less interesting if it were just an anonymous burial covering of a crucified man from the first century[2]. And for the apologist, the apologetic value of the shroud would be greatly undermined if it weren’t directly pointing at Christ.[3]

Another common mistake apologists make is to throw every possible argument at a question instead of focusing on the best arguments. Videos, lectures, and presentations I’ve watched about the Shroud of Turin are generally excellent examples of this very problem. Rather than focusing upon a select few extremely powerful evidences–or at least developing one or two arguments more fully–the apologist throws every possibly related argument in favor of their position out there. The seeming conclusion is then sometimes that this constitutes a great deal of evidence for the apologist’s claim. But simply making arguments is not the same as finding evidence. Conflating argument and evidence is a major problem in apologetics generally. Additionally, a bunch of speculative phrases or hypothetical scenarios thrown out alongside a few pieces of actually compelling arguments doesn’t bolster the strength of the latter, but can rather distract or even undermine them. Examples of this very situation regarding arguments related to the Shroud of Turin will be a primary focus of my future post(s) on this topic.

Apologists arguing for the authenticity of the Shroud also tend to make a number of seemingly outlandish claims related to it. For example, more than once I’ve seen arguments made that the Shroud’s image could only have been made by radiation coming from a body being miraculously resuscitated. While it is perfectly acceptable to hold such a belief, it is to me apparent that we can’t do much to evaluate such a claim. After all, how are we even supposed to begin testing it? We have no way to resuscitate a dead body, and no way to induce a miracle, so a claim that that is exactly the one and only possible explanation is either unable to be grounded in reality or may only be held as a pillar of faith. That’s fine, but claims like this are being presented at times as if they are themselves evidence!

So, where are we going from here? My plan is to look at a few apologetics videos related to the Shroud of Turin and analyze the arguments therein. I’ll be using the video(s) to show how apologists are arguing in favor of its authenticity and then offering my own counters to and problems found with several of these arguments.

I am by no means an expert in several of the related topics. I take some comfort in the fact that, so far as I have been able to determine, those apologists making arguments in favor of the Shroud are also people without expertise in any related field (eg. radiometric dating). That said, I want to make it clear that I’m not claiming any special authority in this area. I’m just an interested observer who believes there are severe problems in many of the most popular arguments in favor of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. I also want to be clear that I am a faithful Christian. It would certainly be wonderful if we could have such a wonderful piece of evidence for the resurrection, but I do not want to have people staking their belief in Christianity on what I believe are poorly constructed arguments.

[1] I say “might be more defensible” because while it would be easier to defend a more modest claim, I’m not convinced the endeavor would be worthwhile, nor am I convinced that a more modest claim could be carried on the evidence.

[2] Though, to be fair, any extant burial shroud from the first century of anyone, let alone someone who was crucified, would be of major archaeological interest, I would assume.

[3] And again, in this case, a more modest claim would still have apologetic value. After all, such an extant shroud could tell us a lot about how crucifixion occurred, the way it impacted the body, etc., etc., all of which would have apologetic import to some degree.

Links

What’s Wrong with Apologetics? – I raise a number of pitfalls apologists ought to avoid.

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: “Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit” by Clark H. Hinnock (Second Edition)

Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit is a deep look at pneumatology- the theology of the Spirit.

Pinnock starts off noting the importance of the Spirit as a Person of the Trinity as well as the oft-neglected study of the same. Then, over the course of seven chapters, he outlines theological questions and answers related to the spirit: the Trinity, Spirit in Creation, Spirit and Christology, Spirit and Church, Spirit and Union, Spirit and Universality, and Spirit and Truth.

These chapters provide broad outlines of the titular topics, while also challenging Christians to think more deeply about them. For example, in the chapter about the Spirit and Universality, Pinnock presses the point that the Spirit is truly work in all things. He draws from C.S. Lewis’s depiction of Aslan in The Last Battle to note that Christian thinkers have not inconsistently pointed out that God can even work through and in other religions. And how else to consider this than to think of the activity of the Spirit in drawing all towards God? Elsewhere, Pinnock considers the question of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed, arguing that it seems to him to subordinate the Spirit to the Son. He also touches on a number of other potentially controversial topics. At more than one point, Pinnock notes that he considered using feminine pronouns for the Spirit due to the use of feminine imagery as well as feminine words for the Spirit in Scripture, but opted out. His reasoning here seems somewhat confusing, and largely amounts to that he wasn’t sure evangelicals would be ready for that yet (see esp. page 277).

The second edition features a foreword and commentary by Daniel Castelo. I found these additional notes to be helpful, and enjoyed his summaries at the end of each chapter. I was actually a bit disappointed that the frequency of notes went down a bit towards the end of the book. Whenever they appeared, Castelo’s comments were insightful and helped elucidate the text in some way.

Flame of Love is a fascinating read that explores issues in which Christians, unfortunately, are not often well-versed. Pinnock not only brings the focus to the Holy Spirit, but also challenges some potential preconceived notions about the same. Readers, whether they agree or disagree, will be challenged by his work.

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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.

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