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Susan Pevensie, C.S. Lewis, and Enchantment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

SDG.

——

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

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

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

The Dark Along the Ways

Fighting for a Child

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

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

Self-Sacrifice

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

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

“The Flame of Tar Valon”

Prophecies Are Clear

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

Representation Matters

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

Watching

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

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

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

“Blood Calls Blood”

In Pursuit of Righteousness; Evil

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

A House Divided

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

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

The Wheel of Time – Episode 4 “The Dragon Reborn” – A Christian Worldview Review

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

“The Dragon Reborn”

The Way of the Leaf

The Tinkers were one of the (many) highlights of this episode, and their worldview of “The Way of the Leaf” challenged Perrin and Egwene at multiple points. The Way of the Leaf was explained by Ila, a leader among the Tinkers, as a worldview. In response to questions about what they do if they are violently attacked, she described the Way of the Leaf–the leaf must fall to the ground, die, and then it gets absorbed again into the soil to grow again. This is another reference to the way the world works in The Wheel of Time, with reincarnation and “another turn of the Wheel” being part of the basic background of the worldbuilding. But it goes beyond that as well; the Way of the Leaf is a kind of fatalism that is both compelling and off-putting by turns.

On the one hand, the Way of the Leaf is compelling because who doesn’t see the appeal of a truly pacifist world? If, as Ila states, we could each convert two people to that Way, and each of them two, and so on, then the whole world would gradually become more and more peaceful as more sought nonviolence. Indeed, one of the strongest lines of the whole show so far is found when Ila asks Perrin whether he’s been happier or not since he picked up an axe–an especially terrible question since we as viewers are the only others who know what happened when he accidentally killed his wife during the Trolloc attack.

The Way is also off-putting in some ways, though. Intuitively, the objections Perrin and Egwene each raise make sense. What do you do if violence comes for you? It’s small comfort to think that falling over and dying as the leaf does might bring a better world when you’re the one dying. One also wonders if a robust view of sin would go against this thinking. For example, if one sees original sin or depravity in the world, a hopeful Way seems less attainable without the ultimate reconciliation from outside: Christ entering the world and bringing peace through Himself. Another aspect that is off-putting is that the Way of the Leaf doesn’t really offer much hope in the here-and-now. It’s a long-term look at the world that is, yes, hopeful, but also frustratingly vague. Perhaps one day more peace will exist than does now. That seems hollow comfort in a world in which Trollocs are stalking the land. In our own world, I think we all ought to hope for peace, and certainly work for it in every possible instance. However, we also must be realistic in the here and now in that some threats must be confronted.

Christians have offered many different ethical stances, including several which are similar to the Way of the Leaf. I believe that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ethics that acknowledge the reality of both peace and violence is a great way forward (see, for example, my look at a book exploring Bonhoeffer’s ethic).

History and Truth-making

Thom continues to be a hugely entertaining character. He also delivers a fairly wise line here: “Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” We live in a time in which people are making war against knowing the past. People are trying to outlaw things like teaching about Civil Rights in schools. The connection of nationalism and Christianity is pernicious, and looking to the past of the United States and other countries helps highlight the dangers we face.

Only by acknowledging the past and confronting it in a realistic way–only then can we truly begin to heal and make rational, good changes for all. If people continue to try to run from the past or even insist that it doesn’t get taught, that is an effort in re-making the past that will only make those who know the past even more dangerous. Christians must stand against these efforts to silence calls for justice and righteous examination of the origins of many societal ills.

False Dragons

The Dragon Reborn is a prophecy from of old, and it is clear that many false Dragons have come before the time of this show. This makes for some interesting reflection, because Logain is so well-spoken and even preaches a message of good news, wanting to bind the world rather than to break it. We also must be wary of false Messiahs and false teachers–and of anything that would turn us away from Christ.

Conclusion

I have hugely been enjoying this adaptation of one of my all-time favorite series of books for television. I hope you are, too! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

The Wheel of Time – A Worldview Hub

I’ve written a bunch about the series “The Wheel of Time,” to the point where I realized it was becoming unwieldy trying to inter-link all of them. Here, I present a list of all my links for posts related to The Wheel of Time from a Christian worldview perspective, as well as links to my other site that looks at sci-fi and fantasy books, baseball, TV, and more!

TV Show

“The Wheel of Time” – Episodes 1-3 “Leavetaking,” “Shadow’s Waiting,” and “A Place of Safety” – A Christian review– reincarnation and prophecy highlight the worldview issues in the first three episodes of The Wheel of Time.

Looks at Individual Books

“The Eye of the World” by Robert Jordan– the first book has us asking questions about the cost of evil, men and women, and more as we dive into this fantasy epic.

“The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan– reincarnation, the destructive attraction of evil, and more questions arise in book 2.

“The Dragon Reborn” by Robert Jordan– we finally get some more background on the Creator, the Dark One, and prophecy in this 3rd book of the Wheel of Time.

“The Shadow Rising” by Robert Jordan– our trust in the security of the state and the allure of evil are found in the 4th book.

“The Fires of Heaven” by Robert Jordan– the notion that power corrupts, questions of sacrifice, and other issues arise in book 5.

“Lord of Chaos” by Robert Jordan– destruction of life, allowing the advance of the shadow, and more are found in this exciting (and massive) 6th book.

“A Crown of Swords” by Robert Jordan– it’s easy to just dismiss evil as easily recognized, but it comes in many forms, as we discover in this 7th book.

“Path of Daggers” by Robert Jordan– systems of power and Ezekiel arise in my look at the 8th book.

“Winter’s Heart” by Robert Jordan– is peace the same as having security? Is security necessary for peace? I highlight Dietrich Bonhoeffer in this look at the 9th book in the series.

“Crossroads of Twilight” by Robert Jordan– some theology of the world, fatalism, and more come up in the 10th book in the series.

“Knife of Dreams” by Robert Jordan– how we act can become our reality, and the question of toxic masculinity arises in this 11th book.

“The Gathering Storm” by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan- A Christian (re)-reads The Wheel of Time– peace, warfare, and action highlight the series as Brandon Sanderson takes over.

Links for First Series

My original series of posts on The Wheel of Time books. I have changed my views from some of these, as can be seen in the more recent posts I linked above.

“The Wheel of Time”: A Christian reflection on Books 1-5 of Robert Jordan’s epic saga

“Lord of Chaos” – Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time,” Book 6 and Christianity

“A Crown of Swords” and “The Path of Daggers”

The Wheel of Time “Winter’s Heart” and “Crossroads of Twilight” – A Christian Reflection

The Wheel of Time: “Knife of Dreams” and “The Gathering Storm” – A Christian Perspective

The Wheel of Time “Towers of Midnight” and “A Memory of Light” – Reflection from a Christian

“The Gathering Storm” by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan- A Christian (re)-reads The Wheel of Time

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

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The twelfth book in the Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm is the first that was written by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. The series is fully in gear here, as Sanderson pushes towards the Last Battle. Almost every scene reads like it adds hugely to the overall plot, and while there is still some filler, it feels more like breathing room in between nearly relentless action scenes rather than all fluff.

Plowshares into Swords?

In The Gathering Storm, we find a dramatic reversal of the biblical theme of coming peace (found in passages like Isaiah 2:4) which speaks of a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares. Instead, the people of the Wheel of Time must prepare for a day of chaos and war:

“take your best scythes and turn them into polearms…” [advises one farmer to another]
“What do I know about making a sword? Or about using a sword, for that matter?” [the other replied]
“You can learn… Everyone will be needed.” [The first responded] (page 8)

The Last Battle is a day in which the nations will unite, but they will unite for war. Contrast that with the biblical theme of coming judgment and peace. Christ will come to bring peace for eternity, and the need for weapons and warfare will be no more.

Fighting Evil from Within

[Huge spoilers here for the series]

I think this book might have my all-time favorite scene in any fantasy novel when we discover that Verin Sedai is, in fact, of the Black Ajah. It has such intensity to it, shows how Verin manipulated even the Dark One, and asks some big moral questions. Verin Sedai’s clever operation within the vows she made as a Black Ajah sister are impressive–in the hour of her death, she could betray the Dark One. Verin delved perhaps a bit too deeply in her explorations of the Black Ajah, getting captured and forced to pledge or die. She took a pragmatic approach from within her beliefs as a Brown sister–one dedicated to learning:

[Verin said:] “You see, one rarely has a chance as this, to study a beast from inside… They [darkfriends] have many agents among us… Well, I thought it time that we had at least one of us among them. This is worth one woman’s life.” (836, 839)

Verin had sworn herself to evil, but did so in order to bring about great good. Her life was forfeit in order to expose wickedness within the ranks of the Aes Sedai. Her sacrifice forestalled a major weapon of the Dark One. The moral quandary of this is largely passed over through this book and the rest of the series. Though Verin acknowledges doing great evil, Egwene and others make her fully into a martyr. Verin’s repentance for the evils she committed isn’t drawn out; instead, it seems to be found in her actions. Her repentance is found in working to expose evil and bring it to justice.

Conclusion

The Gathering Storm is a remarkable entry in the Wheel of Time series. It features one of my all-time favorite scenes in any fantasy novel ever with the revelations regarding Verin Sedai. It has action all the way through, and it sets up even more exciting events to come. I can’t wait to dive in to the next book!

(All Amazon Links are Amazon Affiliates Links.)

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

“Knife of Dreams” by Robert Jordan- a Christian (re)Reads “A Wheel of Time”

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

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

Action Becomes Reality

In Knife of Dreams, Faile and her companions are being held captive by the Shaido Aiel. In the process, they are forced into servitude and beaten at the whims of their overlords. Faile soon realized the best strategy would be to fain timidity, but also realized the dangers of this:

“[Faile] hoped that Sevanna [one of the Aiel] thought her tamed… She hoped that she was not being tamed. Pretend something too long, and it could become truth… She had to escape before [her husband] got himself killed in the attempt [to rescue her]. Before she stopped pretending.” (167)

Blaise Pascal, after outlining his famous wager (which I defend here), noted that one may align oneself towards belief. That is, when someone begins to act as though one believes a certain way, it can turn into a reality that one believes a certain way. From a worldview perspective, then, we should always be wary of how we live our lives and what we surround ourselves with. However, it is possible to become over-zealous in this regard. After all, Faile herself knew that she wasn’t “tamed” in any way, merely acting the part. In a way, the reluctance or even opposition to role-playing games (eg. Dungeons & Dragons) or other forms of imaginative play in some Christian circles is ignorance of the human capacity for objectivity. We are capable of discerning reality from pretend, and to claim it is inherently dangerous to do the latter is to lose some of what it means to be human–to be image bearers of God by creating anew.

Toxic Masculinity

It finally clicked for me as I was listening to the early parts of this novel that the Children of the Light are, in many ways, an analogue for toxic masculinity. I don’t know if this was intentional on Jordan’s part, so don’t read intent into what I’m saying here. But what is clear is the many parallels. The Children’s extreme dislike of the Aes Sedai bleeds over into distrust of women generally. But more than that, the reasons for their distrust of Aes Sedai ultimately can be peeled away as little more than a thin veneer of misogyny. After all, they have to admit the Aes Sedai will be on the “right side” when it comes to the Last Battle, and even admitting that is nearly impossible. Why? Because it seems as though women are rising above their “place” or the limits of power that the male-dominated Children of the Light seem to think they should have. I’m honestly kind of embarrassed I didn’t notice this thematically before.

The name of the group can easily be read as a not-so-subtle riff on New Testament language referring to followers of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Unfortunately, too many Christians have bought into cultural disdain for women, whether in the earliest days of the church as Gnosticism and Greek philosophy bled into the early church’s writings about women or into today as Christian leaders continue to be at the forefront of saying women ought not to preach, despite the Bible itself saying both sons and daughters will prophesy (Joel 2:28/Acts 2:17). Too often, overzealousness like that of the Children of the Light leads to oppression.

Conclusion

Knife of Dreams is one of my favorite books in the series. In many ways, it is a major turning point not just as the series gets turned over to Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death, but also because the plot is turned at last towards the Last Battle and the events that will bring all of the series into completion.

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Links

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SDG.

——

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

“Crossroads of Twilight” by Robert Jordan- A Christian (re)reads The Wheel of Time

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

Crossroads of Twilight

I got this book a long time ago on a bargain shelf at a bookstore in hardcover. I’d only read the first two books or so but figured I liked them enough to go through the whole series. Little did I know that it would take me many years to circle back and actually read Crossroads of Twilight, as I got sidetracked by school and many other things before finally going back and reading the whole series when A Memory of Light was at last released. This time through the series, I found I enjoyed the tenth book far more than I remembered. The first couple times I read it, I thought it tedious. This time, I found I enjoyed the story of Perrin desperately trying to find Faile, the latter’s Machiavellian plots, and the many, many thoughtful asides throughout. My estimation of this book has raised significantly on a third reading. Anyway, let’s dive in to some of the worldview-level issues it raises.

Theology

Occasionally, Jordan put some discussion of theology in the books, and Crossroads of Twilight has one of the longest reflections on the core theology of the world coming from the mind of Rand, the Dragon.

“Did he think the Creator had decided to stretch out a merciful hand after three thousand years of suffering? The Creator had made the world and then left humankind to make of it what they would, a heaven or the Pit of Doom by their choosing. The Creator had made many worlds, watched each flower or die, and gone on to make endless worlds beyond. A gardener did not weep for each blossom that fell.” (558)

Rand’s theological reflection is almost self-refuting given his own circumstances. He knows that the Pattern exists, and that the Pattern itself can be broken, undone, or rewound in certain ways. So where does this almost deistic view of deity come from? I think it’s a moment of bleak hopelessness Rand experiences, and it says more about his own character than about the actual theology of the world of Wheel of Time. I could be mistaken, I admit, because even at later points in the series it does appear that nearly everything is just left up to the activities of the people or creatures of the world rather than any kind of divine intervention. But does not the existence of the Pattern itself suggest a broader plan for the world? The repetitive nature of the Pattern could suggest a clockwork world, but the Creator also seems to have set it up to heal from the attempts of the Dark One to interfere with it.

There’s certainly much to be discussed of the theology of The Wheel of Time. I think it would make a fascinating book, to be honest. Someone should write it.

Fatalism and Weaving

Perrin has a discussion with an Aes Sedai about how the Pattern weaves in Crossroads of Twilight:

“You are ta’veren, yes, but you still are only a thread in the Pattern, as am I. In the end, even the Dragon Reborn is just at thread to be woven into the Pattern. Not even a ta’veren thread chooses how it will be woven.” [Annoura–the Aes Sedai–said]
“Those threads are people,” Perrin said wearily. “Sometimes maybe people don’t want to be woven into the Pattern without any say.”
“And you think that makes a difference?” Not waiting on an answer she lifted her reins and [galloped off]. (588)

Again, though, this kind of fatalism goes against some of the evidence we have in-universe. The ta’veren themselves seem to occasionally work against fate–think Mat’s many, many discussions of the rattling dice. Though what makes this concept of fatalism especially interesting throughout the series is that it is always hard to tell exactly what the conclusion is. It is certainly possible that the Pattern encompasses efforts to thwart it into its own weaving, such that even when one appears to go against it, they cannot. It’s a fascinating thought, and one that can be applied to our own world. Many different Christian notions of providence exist, but the more comprehensive they get, the closer they become to a kind of “Pattern” in our own world. Is our every action predetermined? It’s certainly something over which much ink has been spilled, though in the end, the most important thing to realize is that Jesus is Lord.

Divided Loyalties

Striking from the beginning of the book is the way people have such divided loyalties. It honestly makes the world feel much more realistic. I was reading the section in which there are all these followers of the Dragon from all over the world, but they still have their internal allegiances, enemies, and plots. It definitely makes me think of global Christianity and how often we unfortunately find ourselves working against each other in favor of the nation state or some other cause. I think of Jesus’s words “No one can serve to masters.” He said it in relation to wealth, but it applies just as readily to any number of other things that demand our loyalty over and against God.

Conclusion

Crossroads of Twilight is full of deeper discussions even as it develops several characters much more fully than they’d gotten before. It’s certainly packed with fluff, but enough happens here to keep the plot moving while still pausing for lengthy reflections on the nature of the world the characters inhabit. I enjoyed it immensely.

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Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

Much Ado About Nothing: Alisa Childers’ “Another Gospel?”

I believe one of the most important thing anyone can do for their edification is to read books with which one disagrees. There are a number of reasons for this, such as the possibility that such books may enlighten or even change one’s position about at topic or to ensure that one does not misrepresent the “other side” when discussing topics with which you disagree. Alisa Childers’ Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity* presents her opinions on what she calls Progressive Christianity, and, being sometimes labeled progressive myself, I figured it was worth taking a look.

The book has a Foreword by Lee Strobel, a journalist who writes bestselling apologetic works centered around interviews of experts and whose fame was only increased by the “A Case for Christ” movie about his life. I was honestly stunned when I saw his example of sailing a boat and needing an anchor to ensure one’s safety. He goes on to say that the anchor for Christianity is… what? Reading the analogy, I most definitely expected the answer to the question: “What is the anchor of Christianity?” to be, well, Christ! After all, Christ is the chief cornerstone of our faith (Ephesians 2:19-20). It seems reasonable to expect that the anchor would be similar enough to a cornerstone in an analogy to have Christ be the answer. Well, you’d be wrong. Strobel’s answer is: “In Christianity, the anchor is sound biblical doctrine” (xiii). Strobel’s answer is not only surprising but also wrong. Christ just is the foundation and anchor of our faith. Having the right beliefs is all well and good, but those right beliefs are nothing but foolishness without Christ. I belabor this point because Strobel’s answer in this foreword is indicative of Childers’ approach. For Childers, progressive Christianity is a threat not because it fails to honor Christ or because Christ is not at work in the progressive Church. No, progressive Christianity is a danger because they don’t agree with her own definition and beliefs of what is entailed by “sound biblical doctrine.”

Childers provides autobiographical details throughout the book, many of which resonated with me because I had some similar experiences growing up in the church. Childers was apparently a member of a CCM group known as ZOEgirl, which had songs I’m sure I’ve listened to at some point. What’s interesting is that these autobiographical details are often used as the foundation for her chapters dealing with her analysis of progressive Christianity. For example, a surprising example of a pastor who was an agnostic with whom she took a class serves, apparently, as her definition of what a progressive Christian is. I don’t say this to be disingenuous. It just appears that, as far as Childers is operating, her experience with this agnostic pastor became so formative for her with her visceral reaction away from him that she then associates anything even remotely related to that pastor’s views as progressive and therefore not really Christian, in her mind. I admit I’m taking some psychoanalysis too far here, but if one reads the book just trying to find what she means by “progressive Christianity,” this seems to be the ultimate answer. Indeed, Childers herself writes that this single class “would permanently embed the voice of a skeptic into my mind–that has to this day affected my ability to read the Bible without inner conflict” (20-21). That Childers reveals this is good, because it tells us about her biases. But then it clouds not just her personal reading of the Bible, but also her interaction with any Christian who strays from an unconflicted idea of “sound biblical doctrine.”

Childers words quoted above reveal what seems a painful experience to her based on her wording about conflict. It also shows a recurring theme in Another Gospel?, namely, that doubt is inherently to be distrusted or “fixed.” A later example occurs in Childers discussion of church, “Fixing What Isn’t Broken.” Over the course of a few pages, Childers delivers a terribly confusing message about doubt, first noting the problem with defining faith as 100% certainty all the time (49-50), then helpfully suggests that faith is “trust based on evidence” (51), and finally suggests that churches must become “safe places for those who experience doubt” (51-52). That sounds great, until Childers adds the addendum, “If people don’t feel understood, they are likely to find sympathy from those in the progressive camp who thrive on reveling in doubt. In progressive Christianity, doubt has become a badge of honor to bask in, rather than an obstacle to face and overcome” (52). Citation. Needed. Childers has absolutely nothing to back this up. Again, contextually, the aforementioned agnostic pastor is mentioned (50), apparently setting up Childers’ entire view of what progressive Christianity is, such that she can make these broad stroke claims about “progressive Christianity” without even a single citation of evidence. Indeed, one may wonder based on her own encouragement of churches to become “safe places” (note that she dare not use safe “spaces,” for that term is too progressive) for doubters is itself evidence that the non-progressive church itself dares not “face and overcome” the “obstacle” of doubt. Her words are insulting at best, and uninformed in the text itself.

Critical theory serves as a bogeyman in Another Gospel? just as it does in much conservative Christianity. Rather than providing any primary sources to discuss what critical theorists actually believe or think, Childers is content to set up false dichotomies regarding critical theory and Christianity (59-61). She ends this brief section with this whopper: “[W]hen someone accepts the ideas of critical theory, it can begin to erode their Christian worldview… It can lead someone into progressive Christianity, which already devalues the historic Christian answers to these ‘worldview questions’ and focuses on actions over belief. That becomes just another works-based gospel that ebbs and flows with cultural norms” (61). This passage is riddled with unwarranted assumptions, and Childers hasn’t even come close to establishing that progressive Christianity does anything of the sort regarding what she claims.

Claims about historical Christian belief abound in Another Gospel?, but it is clear that Childers has, at best, a passing knowledge of selections from church history. Her claims about the apparent unanimity of church history in agreement with her own current moral compass should set off alarm bells already (again, see quote above). Once she actually turns to discussing church history, those alarms turn into blaring claxons. For example, her discussion of “digging into their [church fathers’] writings” is especially revealing in that she she portrays them as seemingly united in doctrine (78-80), emphasizing that there are “hundreds” of quotes (81) about Scripture showing similar views to her own, but failing to demonstrate that what they were saying actually aligns in any way to her own views beyond superificial similarities in appealing to Scriptural authority. Yes, the church fathers had a high view of Scripture, but the way Childers writes, one comes away thinking they aligned on virtually everything else regarding morals, doctrine, &c.

A simple demonstration of Childers’ strange mixture of attempted awareness of church history and ignorance thereof is her treatment of universalism. I’m not a universalist myself, but it is clear there is a strand of universalist thought throughout church history. Childers’ discussion rejects universalism with little more than a trite “I learned that it is not biblical” and a quote from Richard Bauckham (187). The standard proof texts for eternal conscious torment are cited, but Childers seems to think that universalists have never even attempted to deal with these, and shows no actual awareness of a position like conditional immortality. No, for Childers, unsurprisingly at this point, it’s her way or the highway. After all, we know the anchor of Christianity is what? For Childers, it’s sound biblical [read: her view] doctrine.

Childers’ chapter about atonement is abysmal. I don’t use that word lightly, but Childers shows that she’s totally uninformed about historical positions on the atonement. Yes, there are voices in progressive Christianity that talk about the atonement theory in ways that don’t make sense historically as well. Yes, the “cosmic child abuse” narrative is nonsense. But also, yes, there have historically been several atonement theories. And Childers has the audacity to conclude this chapter by writing “Progressive Christians assume they are painting God in a more tolerant light by denying the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. But in reality, they are simply constructing a codependent and impotent god who is powerless to stop evil. That god is not really good. That god is not the God of the Bible. That god cannot save you” (224). Throughout this chapter, Childers cherry-picks quotes from various people and then trashes them based on proof texts that she presumably believes prove substitutionary atonement as the One True Atonement Theory. But if Childers really, truly believes that one must hold to substitutionary atonement or else have a “god” who “cannot save you,” then she’s writing off many, many Christians even back to church fathers throughout history. And the thing is, I genuinely do not believe Childers has any idea she’s doing this. Childers could not actually believe what she writes about competing atonement theories while also quoting C.S. Lewis in a positive light (Lewis did not believe that a single theory of atonement was necessary, as anyone who has read his views in Mere Christianity would know, and he seems to have held to a ransom theory or some variation thereof, though Lewis scholars continue to debate this). The chapter on atonement is, once again, Childers widely missing the mark. And that’s unfortunate, because a genuine critique of those within progressive circles who say things like “cosmic child abuse” needs to be written, but maybe it just can’t be done by someone who’s going to throw people’s salvation into question. Again, for Childers, the “achor” of Christianity seems to be “sound biblical doctrine” (read: doctrine she agrees with) rather than Christ.

Another Gospel? is an unfortunate mess. I say unfortunate because I, as a sometimes-labeled progressive Christian, believe that progressive Christians could use a gut check at times. It is true that the “cosmic child abuse” view some Christians put forward is astonishingly ignorant of church history and probably very poor Trinitarian theology, at that. It is true that progressive Christianity could stand to think more strongly about church history. It is true that progressive Christianity could use some subtle corrections. But Childers’ work is not that work. It is a series of misrepresentations, mistakes, and fear-mongering. Childers, like Strobel, appears to think that the anchor of Christianity is doctrine, not Christ. Perhaps they could each learn from so many progressives I’ve known personally who value Jesus so much that they’re willing to be uncomfortable with their own beliefs or those of others for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps they could learn that God is strong and powerful enough to exceed our own expectations and break out of the boxes we set up.

*I did not comment upon the subtitle in the main body of my text because I know authors often don’t get to choose their titles or even subtitles. Nevertheless, the implication of progressive Christianity being so obviously untrue that “lifelong Christians” (such as myself, a lifelong, sometimes labeled progressive Christian) must “seek truth in response” to it is, minimally, a tough pill to swallow.

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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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