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What about those who haven’t heard? – Part 1 of a Case Study on Religious Pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”

ben-hur

A beautiful cover for an edition of Ben Hur- I was unable to locate the exact copyright information.


Ben Hur 
is one of my all-time favorite novels. There are many issues related to worldview raised throughout the novel. I have started a series which outlines some of the ways it interacts with

Selection from the Book

Each post in this series will begin with a segment from the book itself. Here, we jump into a scene in which one of the wise men is telling the story of how he came to be in a desert, meeting up with the others. He is Greek. I have abridged the segment to focus on the areas in which this series is most interested, namely, the ways God interacts with humanity.

“I am Gaspar, son of Cleanthes the Athenian…

…”It happens that two of our [Greece’s] philosophers, the very greatest of the many [reference to Plato and Aristotle, presumably], teach, one the doctrine of a Soul in every man, and its Immortality; the other the doctrine of One God, infinitely just. From the multitude of subjects about which the schools were disputing, I separated them, as alone worth the labor of solution; for I thought there was a relation between God and the soul as yet unknown…

“In the northern part of my country–in Thessaly… there is a mountain famous as the home of the gods… Olympus is its name. Thither I betook myself. I found a cave [nearby]… there I dwelt, giving myself up to meditation–no, I gave myself up to waiting for what every breath was a prayer–for revelation. Believing in God, invisible yet supreme, I also believed it possible so to yearn for him with all my soul that he would take compassion and give me answer.

“…One day I saw a man flung overboard from a ship sailing by. He swam ashore. I received and took care of him. He was a Jew, learned in the history and laws of his people; and from him I came to know that the God of my prayers did indeed exist; and had been for ages their lawmaker, ruler, and king. What was that but the Revelation I dreamed of? My faith had not been fruitless; God answered me!”

“As he does all who cry to him with such faith,” said the [Hindu].

“But, alas!” the Egyptian added, “how few are there wise enough to know when he answers them!”

“That was not all,” the Greek continued. “The man so sent to me told me more. He said the prophets who, in the ages which followed the first revelation, walked and talked with God, declared he would come again…

“It is true… the man told me that as God and the revelation of which he spoke had been for the Jews alone, so it would be again… ‘Had he nothing for the rest of the world?’ I asked. ‘No,’ was the answer, given in a proud voice–‘No, we are his chosen people.’ The answer did not crush my hope. Why should such a God limit his love and benefaction to one land, and, as it were, to one family? …When the Jew was gone, and I was alone again, I chastened my soul with a new prayer–that I might be permitted to see the King when he was come, and worship him. One night I sat by the door of my cave trying to get nearer the mysteries of my existence, knowing which is to know God; suddenly, on the sea below me, or rather in the darkness that covered its face, I saw a star begin to burn; slowly it arose and drew nigh, and stood over the hill and above my door, so that its light shone full upon me. I fell down, and slept, and in my dream I heard a voice say:

“‘O Gaspar! Thy faith hath conquered! Blessed art thou! With two others, come from the uttermost parts of the earth, thou shalt see Him that is promised, and be a witness for him, and the occasion of testimony in his behalf. In the morning arise, and go meet them, and keep trust in the Spirit that shall guide thee.’

“And in the morning I awoke with the Spirit as a light within me surpassing that of the sun…”

This passage can be found in Ben Hur, Book I, Chapter III. It may be read in its entirety online here (it is public domain due to expired copyright).

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

Notes on Religion from the Selection

Christians have proposed many different answers to one of the most pressing questions, itself having been pondered for centuries: “What about those who have never heard?” The question is regarding salvation–can those who have never heard be saved? But it isn’t only that. It might be nuanced in many ways. For example, are there any who have not heard what is required to be saved who would respond if they did hear it? Though the answer initially may seem obvious, it must be thought over carefully before one simply says yes or no.

In this passage from Lew Wallace, we find not one, but two separate answers to this question combined into one account. The answers are: direct divine revelation, and sending a witness. (I have dubbed them this, but the titles summarize common proposals–see below.)

Sending a Witness

One of the answers Christians have given to the question of those who have not heard and their salvific status is pretty straightforward: there simply are none who have not heard. The claim seems rather extraordinary, for, after all, entire swathes of humanity never had contact with any Christian missionary for vast periods of time. Yet, this answer to the question suggests that God sends a witness to anyone who would respond. Thus, if there is someone in a place where Christianity had not yet reached who would have responded to a missionary, God somehow sets it up such that that person hears from someone about Christ.

In the example from Ben Hur above, we see that the Greek was looking for the divine–hoping for a response. Thus, through providential act, a Jew washed up on shore to instruct him about the truth.

It seems this solution to the problem of religious pluralism and those who have not heard is unsatisfactory. There are many reasons for this. First, it supports a rather dim view of other cultures through a system that is ultimately culturally imperialist. Second, it seems to stretch credulity, for it would follow from this position that either there have only been very few outside of the parts of the world where Christianity is dominant who would have responded to the Gospel anyway (see previous point) or that there are innumerable instances of shipwrecks washing missionaries on shore in far off places all over the world to wherever someone might respond to the Gospel. Either of these seems unsatisfactory.

However, it is possible that the “Sending a Witness” answer could be part of an answer to the questions posed here. It just does not seem capable of carrying all the weight on its own.

Direct Divine Revelation

Like the previous answer, the “direct divine revelation” solution to the problem of religious pluralism and specifically those who have not heard is one which ultimately results in the answer: None have not heard. For, if someone would respond to the Gospel, God simply reveals Christ through direct revelation. In the selection above, we see that a dream reveals the Holy Spirit to Gaspar.

This answer to the questions raised above is perhaps more satisfactory than the previous one, but difficulties remain. The primary one is that although several firsthand instances of this type of thing happening are found, they do not seem to be as ubiquitous as they might need to be in order to adequately account for all those who have not heard. Again, this may be part of a larger multi-level response, but I don’t think it can stand on its own.

Conclusion

Wallace provides here an overview of two of the traditional answers to the question of those who have not heard about Jesus Christ. Neither solution seems entirely satisfactory, though either or both might be integrated into a holistic view of witnessing and missions. We will explore other aspects of Wallace’s exploration of religious pluralism

Although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, I think that John Sanders’ book, No Other Name is perhaps the best work I have read for providing background into the different proposed solutions for the question of those who have not heard about Christ. It would be a good read for those wishing to explore the topic further.

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!

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace– The post introducing this entire series on “Ben Hur.” It has links to all the posts in the series.

Ben Hur- The Great Christian Epic– I look at the 1959 epic film from a worldview perspective. How does the movie reflect the deeply Christian worldview of the book?

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.

Downton Abbey: The Final Season Episodes 8 and 9 – a Christian Perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. I will be doing them two at a time to make space for my series on “The Expanse.” There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

Episode 8

Self-giving love is something that has been evidenced throughout this season of Downton Abbey, largely in the person of Phyllis Baxter. Here, she manages to save the life of Thomas Barrow because she senses something in him that suggests he will attempt suicide–something that has been somewhat anticipated all season.

Jealousy is one of the most dangerous emotions, as we see throughout the Bible in narratives, wisdom, and letters. Lady Mary’s jealousy of Lady Edith’s happiness led, once again, to her visiting ruination upon that happiness. The rebuke that Tom  Branson brought to Mary was well-deserved and it also shows something that we are not always comfortable with in our own lives–the need to confront sin. As the next episode shows, such a rebuke brought about change in behavior. This is a kind of demonstration of a Christian theme that is very Lutheran as well–the use of the Law to bring about change of behavior. By rebuking Mary’s self-serving attitude and calling her to better living, Branson was acting rightly.

Episode 9

Loyalty is something that often grows with us, and Barrow’s loyalty to Downton at last comes to the forefront in this final episode. His own bitterness and cruelty got him to a point in which he felt no return, but ultimately the kindness of some saved his life. It is a wonderful story of redemption to see Barrow taking on the duties of Butler to close out the series. There were times in the series I felt nothing good could come of Barrow, but that is just what we are as sinners: grace is something that breaks through and without deserving it, God lifts us from our sin. Barrow’s story of redemption is a powerful reminder of the concept of grace.

Forgiveness is another theme that has played throughout the series, and the first steps towards broader understanding and forgiveness were taken by Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Edith (at last!) has happiness, and that is at least partly due to Mary’s intervention. Mary took Branson’s rebuke to heart and made efforts to change the outcomes of her pettiness. There is little that can be said kindly about Mary, but her own story shows one in which the proud are humbled.

Downton Abbey is finished. It has brought us tales of sorrow, of joy, and of grace. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as much as I have.

More!

I know there is a ton more to discuss, and in this post we can feel free to talk about the whole series. I’d love to read your thoughts. Be sure to let me know what you thought of the episodes, and what worldview-level issues you saw them raise, in the comments below.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Brandon Sanderson’s “Calamity” – The Reckoning of Humanity

calamity-sandersonBrandon Sanderson is one of the most gifted authors I know currently writing. Each book he writes, it seems, consistently has stunning twists, great action, and an interesting world. Here, we’ll take a look at the conclusion to his “The Reckoners” series, Calamity. We will be exploring it from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS below for the whole series.

Face Your Fears

A theme that continues throughout the entire series is the notion of facing your fears. In Calamity, this is shown to be the way for Epics to gain control of their powers without going dark. Yet what does it mean to face our fears? For some epics, it is a literal sense, such as Firefight simply plunging an arm into fire–her weakness. For others, facing fear is facing failure, or a different kind of weakness.

As Calamity continues, however, we discover that these weaknesses are from Calamity himself–the things that Calamity is afraid of. Part of me wonders whether this cheapens the impact of this theme, for it makes the weaknesses of the Epics something that is imported to them rather than something intrinsic in themselves. Another part of me sees this as somewhat consistent–for as humans we are social, and we can all too easily take on the fears  of others and turn them into something far greater than they are in fact.

The Nature of Humanity

In the climactic encounter between David and Calamity, Calamity is brought to a different, alternate reality in which he left the humans he’d gifted to their own devices. There, those with the powers are effectively superheroes, having had no darkness to face down, nothing from the outside to impinge upon their own reality. David challenges Calamity:

“Do you fear that?” I asked him softly. “That we aren’t what you’ve thought? Does it terrify you to know that deep down, men are not monsters? That we are, instead, inherently good?” (411)

Such a viewpoint is quite popular in our world. Humans are inherently good, right? Well, it seems that such a viewpoint is not the biblical one, which argues that humans are sinful from birth–even from conception (Psalm 51:5); that no one is good, not even one (Romans 3:10) and the like. There is some debate over this in Christian circles, but it seems quite difficult to square these (and other statements) with the notion that humans are inherently good.

Indeed, although this climactic challenge from David ultimately defeats Calamity, once Calamity is gone, not everyone suddenly turns good. Obliteration, for example, continues to seek the extermination of humanity (possibly?). The open-endedness of this makes it difficult to pin down where Sanderson was going with it, but it seems that even alleged “inherent goodness” does not guarantee goodness.

Conclusion

Calamity is one of those rare books that combines intense plot with serious discussion of worldview. Sanderson continues to weave these tales which force us to look at humanity and contemplate what it is that we are.

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!

The “Mistborn Trilogy” by Brandon Sanderson- Religion(s), Intrigue, and a Messiah– I look at another trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, the wildly creative “Mistborn Trilogy.”

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Source

Brandon Sanderson, Calamity (New York: Delacorte Press, 2016).

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.

 

Downton Abbey: The Final Season Episode 7 – A Christian Perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. I will be doing them two at a time to make space for my series on “The Expanse.” There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

Episode 7

It is easy to get caught in the trap of demanding perfection from other human beings–despite knowing we can never meet the same standard ourselves. Lady Mary seems to have this kind of demand in her relationships: she wants perfection, and she is rarely able to forgive or see past people’s faults. The question is: will she be able to do this both in regards to herself (by allowing herself to come to terms with some of her own past) and others (particularly Edith). I am concerned with how Lady Mary has been reacting to her suspicions about Lady Edith and Marigold. Will she ever demonstrate anything towards Edith other than a kind of sniping attitude that they have each perpetuated throughout the series?

There was an intriguing point made about Mr. Mason. Daisy has been concerned about sharing him and the love he has for her. But it was stated here that love is not something finite, rather it is something infinite. It is not a zero-sum game in which as love for one person increases, it must decrease for another. Instead, love can keep increasing in an ever-flowing stream. This is a beautiful way to state it, and one that points to the reality of God, who is love. The love of God is abundant, and we need not fear that it will fade away from us.

Finally, not so related to worldview, but can someone explain to me why a man is spying on Mrs. Patmore? He looked like a private detective or something, but there seems to be no possible reason why anyone would ever be spying on Mrs. Patmore. She has no connection to anything I can think of that would make her a person of interest. Any ideas? Don’t spoil if you’ve already seen the next one!

More!

Be sure to let me know what you thought of the episodes, and what worldview-level issues you saw them raise, in the comments below.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Women in Combat? “Sending” women, women pastors, and feminism- a response to Issues Etc. on Women in Combat and Selective Service

As a Lutheran, a podcast I frequently enjoy is “Issues, Etc.” It continually offers a Lutheran perspective on current events, theological issues, and more. However, there are times where its approach to theology or current events reflects less a Lutheran understanding than a specific brand of theological conservatism. The recent podcast (2/11/16) featured Pastor Hans Fiene discussing “Women in Combat and Selective Service.” I found it to be deeply mistaken on a number of issues, and would like to address just a few of those here.

“Sending” your daughter or wife?

One comment made in the episode labeled any man who would “send” his wife or daughter to investigate a noise downstairs to see if it might be a burglar as a “coward.” There are a number of problems with this statement. First, anyone who “sends” anyone else into a potentially dangerous situation because they don’t want to go themselves might be labeled as cowardly. The way the phrase was said already begs the question. If the situation were reversed, would Fiene say that the wife is “sending” her husband to investigate, or is the husband simply investigating?

Second, suppose that a man is married to a woman who has extensive martial arts training, is a weapons specialist, sleeps with a pistol under her pillow, and immediately leaps into action to investigate such a noise, while the man works a desk job, is of average build and has never used a weapon before. Is it really reasonable to think that the man is cowardly if he allows his wife to investigate the noise? Well, absurdly, others who share Fiene’s view argue that yes, that man has shirked his duty, is cowardly, and probably a wimp. In other words, men are to be shamed and emasculated if a woman is stronger or better at fighting than they are.

The absurdity of such a position knows no bounds. Men are stripped of their manhood if women are perceived as better at things we arbitrarily label “manly.” It gets curiouser and curiouser, as assertions are made that a man ought to intentionally die even if a woman could save him. A reductio ad absurdum is not even required for this kind of position: it demonstrates for itself that it flies in the face of reason.

Women Pastors?

Fiene could not resist the urge to take a jab at those who are for women in the ministry in this discussion, either. He drew a comparison between woeful ignorance of the horrors of war and ignorance of the spiritual warfare that pastors must engage in. In a stunning non sequitor, he stated that “If we lived in a world where pastors were routinely murdered by Pagans who were storming into churches and putting them to death or… where pastors were having to stay behind while everyone was getting the Plague and dying while everyone who was healthy fled… I don’t really think we’d be having an argument over whether or not women should be pastors.”

It is hard to take this kind of statement seriously, and the statement itself is clearly condescension. Fiene assumes that he knows more about his opponents’ sincerity of believe than they do. After all, if only those silly egalitarians really knew what war was like or really believed in spiritual warfare, then they’d clearly change their minds. This leaves no room for sincerity of belief on the part of the egalitarian, and that is extremely problematic. Frankly, I don’t know of anyone who calls themselves an egalitarian who would recant their stance if women pastors were being killed by Pagans or had to deal with Plague. No one wants women to have those things happen to them; indeed, I hope no one wants men to have them happen to them either! The same applies to combat–no one wants soldiers to have to go kill people, I hope. But if difficult spiritual warfare, even death, is what pastors are to endure, and someone genuinely believes women ought to be allowed to be in the ministry, then those are the types of risks that must be taken. And to assume that egalitarians didn’t even think about that possibility or are too timid to even consider it is offensive, to say the least. The only way Fiene can make such a statement is by assuming without any argument that his opponents are insincere.

As an aside, does Fiene completely discount the work of women like Mother Theresa, or Mother Maria Skobtsova (who was murdered by the Nazis), or the countless other women who have done exactly what he thinks egalitarians are silly to think women can do? A lack of integrating church history into an overall worldview might be shown here.

Feminism?

Complementarian (and other conservative) commentators continue to equivocate on the term “feminism.” Instead of acknowledging that there can be any diversity within the group who self identify as feminists, the label is assumed to mean any number of things that many feminists do not put forward. For example, it was not just implied but implicitly stated that “feminism” demanded equality for women by arguing for abortion rights in order to free women from having to deal with childcare. This, of course, ignores the fact that the feminist movement started as strongly pro-life, not to mention the continued existence of groups like Feminists for Life who are out there making a real difference for the pro-life movement.

The use of the term “feminist” as a clobber-word to induce fear is a straw man of the worst kind. It demonstrates either ignorance–a complete lack of knowledge about the breadth of views held by those who call themselves “feminist”–or intentional deceit. Moreover, to lump egalitarianism–the Christian movement for equality of women in the church and home–with this blanket statement of “feminist” as pro-choice, etc. is to obfuscate the issue even further.

Natural Law

I wanted to add a brief note about natural law as well. Fiene and others continue to just throw out “natural law” in an undefined way as though it unequivocally supports their position. Yet one could just as easily appeal to “natural law” to support women in combat roles, for a natural law might just be a threshold of strength and mental endurance that could be seen as suitable for combat roles, and then anyone who meets that threshold is permitted to do so. I don’t want to delve into the deep waters surrounding natural law theory, but the point is that a bald appeal to “natural law” doesn’t do much to support Fiene’s position.

Conclusion

I believe the discussion here has broader application to the discussion over so-called gender roles as well as the debate between egalitarians and complementarians. Fiene’s arguments are the same kind of arguments that are continually trumpeted by opponents of egalitarianism. But, as we have seen here, those arguments are fallacious, they fail to take the opposition seriously, and they rely on ill-defined terms and obfuscation. There is are no reasons provided by Fiene to support his position. Bare assertions, jabs at opponents, and absurdly irrational statements are put in the place of argument.

Source

Hans Fiene, “Women in Combat and Selective Service,” 2/11/16 available at http://issuesetc.org/2016/02/11/1-women-in-combat-and-selective-service-pr-hans-fiene-21116/ accessed 2/13/16.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, 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.

Downton Abbey: The Final Season Episodes 5 and 6 – A Christian Perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. I will be doing them two at a time to make space for my series on “The Expanse.” There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

Episode 5

Mr. Mason moved into his new place, and the whole drama surrounding this shows a kind of balance of justice and pragmatism by those involved. He was effectively stripped of his place because a new owner came in and gave him the boot–despite his being tied to the land for so long. This raises many questions about justice, a sense of place, and the balance of all of these concerns. It was good to see it ending well for him, so far.

Episode 6

Trust is something that can be lost, and it is hard to gain. A Christian perspective, I would argue, entails a kind of believing the best of others until proven otherwise. After all, isn’t that how we would like to be treated ourselves? Thomas Barrow has given others many reasons to lose their trust in him. Now that he is reaping the rewards of his own incessant sowing of discontent, he has fully come to realize just how hard it is to regain that trust. In his character, so far, we see in a way the state that all of us have been in or will be in–a state in which we must confront the fact that we have sinned, fallen short of expectations, and cannot earn our way back. Baxter has continued to be an example of grace shown to Barrow in his situation, but his own recalcitrance on accepting her grace shows, perhaps, how far he has fallen. The question is: Will he be able to come back?

Finally, we are left wondering about the relationship of Lady Edith and Lady Mary. When will they ever come to terms? Is it possible that they will? Again we see the impact of broken trust on a relationship. I’m hopeful that grace can make its appearance here as well.

More!

Be sure to let me know what you thought of the episodes, and what worldview-level issues you saw them raise, in the comments below.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Practical Lutheranism: Luther on the 5th Commandment and Refugees

I have been reading through the Book of Concord, which is a collection of the Lutheran Confessions. I think it is vitally important for one who, like me, claiming to be Lutheran to be familiar with these documents. They are, after all, what we believe and confess. I decided to start a series of posts as I’m reading through the Book of Concord to highlight various areas I think are important.

The Fifth Commandment and Refugees

There is much fear in the world today over the question of Syrian Refugees. I’ve been reading through the Book of Concord and I ran into the section on the Fifth Commandment. I was taken back by how lucid Luther’s interpretation is there, and it has some serious application for today:

Therefore it is God’s ultimate purpose that we suffer harm to befall no [hu]man, but show [them] all good and love; and, as we have said, it is specially directed toward those who are our enemies. For to do good to our friends is but an ordinary heathen virtue, as Christ says Matt. 5:46.

One can see these same thoughts echoed in the discussion of the seventh commandment:

…we are commanded to promote and further our neighbors’ interests, and when they suffer any want, we are to help, share, and lend to both friends and foes (251-252)

What is particularly uncomfortable about these words is the word of law that is contained within them: “both friends and foes” are included in these commands. We ought to further their interests, “help, share, and lend to” them “when they suffer any want,” and show them “all good and love.” Luther is abundantly clear on this point: “it is specially directed toward those who are our enemies.”

Could more prophetic words have been written by Luther? Surely, the times in which we fear our enemies and wish to do nothing but avoid them are legion. Today is but one example of human injustice to fellow humans. But the words of the Commandments brook no argument, and Luther’s interpretation makes this abundantly clear: “to do good to our friends is but an ordinary heathen virtue…” and we are given a higher calling.

Those objections that would point to individual instances of violence, those who would alleged terrorists sneaking into our borders, and the like: the word of the law is spoken, and it is a powerful one: Christ’s calling is higher. When they suffer–even when our enemies suffer–we ought help them. If that means letting in the Syrian refugee fleeing from the violence in their homeland, if that means the “illegal immigrant” running from poverty and destitution, then so be it. There is no question here. There is no exception for fear that they will “steal our jobs” or that they speak a different language or have a different skin color or a different religion or anything of the sort. The words Luther writes here are clear: “it is God’s ultimate purpose that we suffer harm to befall no” one.

Source

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000).

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!

Adhering to the Book of Concord “In So Far As” or “Because” it Agrees with Scripture?– I argue that Lutherans must hold the position that we adhere to the Book of Concord In So Far As it Agrees with Scripture.

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, 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.

Downton Abbey: The Final Seasion Episodes 3 and 4 – A Christian Perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. I will be doing them two at a time to make space for my series on “The Expanse.” There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

Episode 3

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes got married! The celebration and excitement that surrounds this event is a reflection of reality. Marriage is a good, one God has given to us from the beginning. There is something beautiful about seeing two people come together before God, blessing their marriage in the name of the Triune Lord. It was particularly interesting to see how the Trinitarian blessing was included in this episode, rather than being left out.

Episode 4

Lady Painswick’s offhand remark about being able to call Mrs. Carson Mrs. Hughes still is worth reflecting on: “There is a God!” We so often jokingly say things like this, but I wonder whether a more serious perspective is right. Is God not found in the little things in life as well as the big things? Is not every joy from God? This is not to say that God will never allow suffering, but it does mean we ought to thank God for even the tiniest blessings.

I’m starting to get quite worried about Thomas, the underbutler. He continues to reject any attempts to be friendly to him, but then turns around and notes to Baxter how he does feel the sometimes cruel remarks and jabs made in his direction. Part of this, of course, is reaping what he has sown. When has he ever done anything to help someone else? I struggle to think of a single instance in which he did so without an ulterior motive. But again, part of what he needs is grace. Baxter, as I noted in the last recap, has been offering that grace to him, but he continues to reject it.

The theme of rejected grace continues in how he has been treating the interview process. He has high hopes for the other positions he is applying to: but each time he is disappointed. He wants to have a position of highest import, like one in bygone years, but these positions are disappearing rapidly. Again, these opportunities are examples of grace towards him, but his own choice is to continue to reject them. I hope this story doesn’t continue to spiral down, because I could see Thomas doing something drastic.

More!

Be sure to let me know what you thought of the episodes, and what worldview-level issues you saw them raise, in the comments below.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

The Expanse: Episodes 6-7 – A Christian perspective

the-expanseI’ve been enjoying watching SyFy’s TV series, “The Expanse,” quite a bit. Part of that is because I’m a huge science fiction fan, but another part of it is because there is plenty of worldview discussion to go around. I’ll be posting a series on worldview in episodes from the expanse biweekly as they come out. There will be SPOILERS for the episodes discussed here, as well as possibly any earlier episodes. Please don’t post spoilers for later episodes on this post.

Home, Family, and Self

Once more we have the OPA entangled in a struggle for a sense of home. I emphasized this last time for episodes 1-5, but here we have the need for home countered by the revelation that the OPA killed Chrisjen Avasarala’s son, and it has become personal for her. Family was emphasized on her side of the plot, as she tries to play that card to get more information about the OPA. It will be interesting to see whether dynamics of family, self-service, and home continue to drive some of the main characters in the series. One question I still have: how important is it to have a place we can call “home”? So far, “The Expanse” seems to emphasize that this is a great need, and this resonates with a Christian worldview when, throughout the Bible, we have continued pointers to a promised land and sense of place.

Truth and Lies

One of the most common expressions regarding lies is that we “weave a web” of them. The more we engage in deception, the more we must tell more lies to keep up the facade. Detective Miller goes deeper and deeper into a web of lies. The question is: what does he have to ground himself? His job was terminated instantly once it was found out he was delving too close into territory that others wanted to keep quiet. What does it mean to continue to seek truth even in the face of such opposition–even threat to one’s own life?

Christianity was based upon the testimony of those who were willing to die for truth. This isn’t merely an appeal to sincerity of belief, but rather an argument that shows that some truths are worth dying for–something difficult to do if you know what you’re dying for is false. Miller–technically no longer Detective Miller–seems like he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to discover the truth. I wonder where it will lead him.

Survival and the Secular Ethic

The conversation Burton has with the stowaway spy, Kenzo, in episode 7 is interesting, because it focuses on the notion that survival is the highest good for humanity. This reflects an understanding of reality that puts mere continued existence as “the good” as opposed to anything else. Frankly, this is the kind of grounding that secular ethics almost always end up appealing to, whether it is mere survival or some abstraction like “human flourishing.” Yet in this episode we see how hollow such an ethic is. It leads to Burton’s willingness to kill anyone–whether it is someone he just met (and has completely at his mercy) or to keep from getting captured.

Later in the same episode, Kenzo has a deep conversation, asking whether he is going to be dropped out an airlock because he is found to be “inconvenient.” Perhaps with the most moving line in the series so far, he asks to be told if they’re just going to kill him so he can make his peace, because “I am not an animal.” Yet, so far, many of the people have been acting just like animals, again, with Burton’s argument for mere survival as his motto for life.

The absurdity of this way of life was revealed by Kenzo, because his words resonate with us. Mere survival is not enough–we are not animals. Indeed, even the more popular appeals to ground ethics upon “human flourishing” is little more than putting forward prettier words for the same concept. Is mere survival, or even the move towards whatever hedonistic view of “flourishing” we’d like to put forward, the best we can do? I don’t believe so, and I have argued at length that the secular grounding for morality fails even on its own criteria. We are not merely animals, and we can do better than grounding a philosophy of life on an animalistic drive to survive.

Such an ethic makes the most sense on a theistic view of the world, and Christianity is the worldview that stands up under scrutiny. Those who wish to deny this and continue to affirm a secular ethic must embrace the very opposite of that which Kenzo states in this episode. That is, they must affirm “I am [merely] an animal” and then ground their moral action on that.

Conclusion

The Expanse continues to bring intriguing questions about worldview to the forefront, while couching it all in a pseudo-noir science fiction epic. I’m loving the series so far, and would like to know what you think as well. Let me know in the comments!

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Downton Abbey’s Final Season: Episodes 1-2 – A Christian Perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the final season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. I will be doing them two at a time to make space for my series on “The Expanse.” There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

Episode 1

Lady Mary seemed to take some accountability in this episode. She was confronted by a woman who wanted to blackmail her for her affair, but she didn’t back down or agree to give her any money. She admitted her guilt, but did not want to tap into the family funds in order to pay off the woman. Ultimately, Lord Grantham interceded and got rid of the woman–for now. (As an aside, I’m not convinced we’ve seen the last of her. She seemed so angry! I could see her showing up again.)

However, taking accountability is not the full picture. Mary has shown little remorse for any of the acts she has done, whether it is sniping at her sister or something more serious. Moreover, her attitude of not giving into blackmail also reflected a rather nonchalant attitude towards how the news of her trist would impact others, whether the family of Tony Gillingham or her own. She seems to continue to think that her attitudes will only impact herself, completely unaware of how she impacts many others around her.

Episode 2

Thomas. Barrow. The name will almost certainly conjure up feelings in longtime watchers of Downton. This episode in particular showed how Barrow’s own attitude of bitterness and aggression towards most other people has led to his being ostracized by almost everyone else. Phyllis Baxter remains the only one who shows him any compassion and yet he continues to rebuff her attempts to be friendly towards him. There are many angles to be explored here, whether it is how our actions can bring upon ourselves the consequences thereof (without any need for things like Karma), but the angle I want to take is how Baxter’s action shows a kind of Christlike love towards Thomas.

Although this is never made explicit (or even implicit, really), the parallel is intriguing. It is one thing to love someone who is friendly to you. It is another to take compassion on someone who is hateful towards you. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Baxter’s kindness towards Thomas is a kind of sacrificial love that doesn’t require anything in return. It will be interesting to see how this plays out going forward.

More!

Be sure to let me know what you thought of the episodes, and what worldview-level issues you saw them raise, in the comments below.

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!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

——

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

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