baptism

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Book Review: “Eight Women of Faith” by Michael A.G. Haykin

8wf-haykinHaykin’s Eight Women of Faith sets out with an admirable goal: highlight the contributions of women at key points in church history. The women chosen each have biographical information reported alongside brief discussion of their primary contributions to theology. In this sense, the book achieves its goal.

One difficulty with the book is the lack of critical historical perspective. For example, Jane Austen is gently chastised for her aversion to evangelicalism(Kindle location 1994ff), while then being recruited for the same evangelical cause (Location 2005, 2064). But to see evangelicalism of today as the same as evangelicalism in Austen’s own time (the late 18th and early 19th centuries) does little justice to the development of what has been called “evangelical” over that time into today. This is perhaps the most glaring example in the book, but time and again similar oversight of historical perspective is demonstrated.

Another negative is that Haykin’s work is clearly written with a very specific doctrinal agenda in mind that undercuts the book’s value outside of the circle of those with whom he agrees. For example, he spends no small amount of time promoting the Calvinist view of the Lord’s Supper, attempting to cling both to a literal and figurative meaning of Christ’s words (see especially the excursus in the chapter on Anne Dutton starting around Kindle Location 903). Later, a lengthy section of the chapter on Ann Judson is dedicated to highlighting Judson’s autobiographical account of her change from pedobaptism (infant baptism) to a more Baptist position. Very few arguments are offered in favor of the latter position, other than highlighting that Judson herself believed the arguments for the it were stronger than for infant baptism. This is not a deep theological work, but this section again shows no interaction with opposing views and so provides those who come from a different background little reason to read or enjoy the book.

Perhaps the greatest problem with the book is the irony of continually attempting to silence women’s voices in a book that is, on the surface, about calling attention to them. This begins on the very first page of the Forword, as Karen Swallow Prior writes, “Both within the church and outside it, we too have treated in a similar fashion the biblical admonition against women preaching: we focus on the single thing that is off-limits and thereby fail to see the abundant opportunities and roles God has clearly offered…” (Kindle location 59-64). Of course, this biblical admonition is not cited–and could not be, for there is no Bible verse that says women cannot preach (it is instead an inference from a number of verses that are often misread)–but beyond that, the point is that the book highlights the silence of women throughout.

In the chapter on Anne Dutton, for example, we see that Dutton argued for the validity of her theological writings, so long as they were not read in churches or used in public worship but rather read privately (Kindle loc 825-834). But of course the line drawn in the sand here between private and public use is not drawn in the Bible but in human tradition. Moreover, the prior alleged admonition against women preaching comes from verses that, if read literally as must be the case for restring women in the ministry, also would prevent women from speaking at all in church, yet one of the women highlighted is Anne Steele, a prolific hymn writer.

All of this is to say that the book has a very limited appeal. Only those from the very specific perspective of Reformed Baptists will be able to see their perspective put forward without critique. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for the publisher, Crossway, continues to publish Reformed Baptist books. It’s not a bad thing to have books that appeal to your own readers. The problem is that anyone outside of that perspective has no reason to read the book. Their views are not presented well if they are presented at all, and there is an almost self-congratulatory feel to the way specific doctrines are presented. Moreover, the lack of historical perspective gives the book a simplistic feel that grants readers only the most surface-level understanding of the issues at hand.

The best that can be said for Eight Women of Faith is that it at least acknowledges that women have made significant contributions to the Christian faith. It just doesn’t acknowledge all of women’s contributions, and continues to limit women.

The Good

+Highlights importance of women in church history

The Bad

-Unbalanced perspective
-Uncritical look at historical development of theology
-Undermines women’s voices while ostensibly uplifting them
-Limited appeal beyond denominational lines

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever. 

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

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

Sunday Quote: Dietrich Bonhoeffer as Lutheran

dietrich_bonhoefferEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer as Lutheran

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the most engaging characters of the 20th century as well as an immensely important and popular theologian. As time goes on, more and more people know who he is and acknowledge his influence on their work and lives. I have noticed, however, a strange lack of awareness or acknowledgement of Bonhoeffer’s Lutheranism. That is, many take what he says about discipleship, ecclesiology, prayer, and the like to heart, but divorce those ideas from their Lutheran context in his thought. Yet, for Bonhoeffer, his Lutheran theology was central to his understanding of Christianity. He wrote in The Cost of Discipleship:

How then do we come to participate in the Body of Christ, who did all this for us? It is certain that there can be no fellowship or communion with him except through his Body, baptism and the Lord’s Supper… The sacraments begin and end in the Body of Christ, and it is only the presence of that Body which makes them what they are. The word of preaching is insufficient to make us members of Christ’s body; the sacraments also have to be added. Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord’s Supper fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion… in that Body. (239, cited below)

These words can be found echoed in Bonhoeffer’s writings. His understanding of the universe was a Lutheran understanding, one which teaches Word and Sacrament. To do justice to his legacy, we need to acknowledge the fact that he isn’t just some theologian we can pull individual ideas from; instead, we must see him as Lutheran.

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!

Bonhoeffer’s Troubling Theology?- A response to an article on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theological perspectives– I have argued elsewhere that the broad evangelical understanding of Bonhoeffer may, indeed, be a misunderstanding of the fact that he is Lutheran.

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

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

Source

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995).

SDG.

Sunday Quote! – Infant Baptism and the Imagination?

ia-adEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Infant Baptism and the Imagination?

I was reading through Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition (edited by Andrew Davison) and came upon a quote which I thought exemplified some of the beauty of infant baptism:

A child baptism… is a wonderful argument in itself for the religious dimension. Even apart from the putting on of Christ, dying to sin[,] and regeneration at its heart, the simple fact that a family brings a baby to church is a religious act. They are seeing their child apart from themselves… she is truly real to them. To offer a baby for baptism is to affirm that she is more than a bundle of rosy flesh and a needy mouth. She means more than she seems. In a young infant we encounter reality and it leads us upwards. (42, cited below)

The “imagination” involved in this is not so much a imagination in the sense of “making up” but rather in the sense of experiencing and accessing a different reality. The parents bring their child in to be baptized, thus affirming that this is one who needs God as much as any other; one whom God has called. Infant baptism is an “encounter” with reality which “leads us upwards.” It goes beyond the water and the words and becomes Word and Sacrament. I thought this was a beautiful quote to illustrate the nature of an infant baptism.

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!

Source

Alison Milbank, “Apologetics and the Imagination: Making Strange” in Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition edited by Andrew Davison (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011).

“Warm Bodies” – A Christian Reflection

warm-bodies-movie-poster-7What is a Zombie? What if a zombie had some kind of thoughts in their head? What if… love could be involved? These are the types of questions raised–often in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion–in “Warm Bodies,” a zombie thriller with a twist. Here, I will analyze the movie from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

What’s the Problem?

There are corpses. Walking ones. It’s kind of a problem, because in order to survive they need to eat humans.

Yet “Warm Bodies” goes beyond standard zombie fare. “R”, the main character–a zombie “corpse”–meets Julie and something is changed in him. His heart has a beat, and he is slowly starting to get better; he starts talking more normally a well. Eventually, this change manifests itself well enough for his personality to come out and for Julie to start to realize there is more to him than meets the eye.

Unfortunately… R also happened to kill Julie’s boyfriend. And, he’s been eating said boyfriend’s brain as well. He’s “not proud of it” but he also wants to find out from the brain what it is that makes Julie tick.

There is also the questions of the other “corpses”–will they too have some kind of heart-moving moment? And what about the skeletal zombies known as “bonies”?

What’s the Solution?

The solution seems to be love. But there is more to it than that. Julie’s love awakens R and their touching relationship begins to wake other “corpses” from their slumber. But R remains a corpse. There is something yet to be done for him. That comes in a climactic scene in which R and Julie are pursued by bonies. R grabs Julie and puts his body under her in order to save her as they jump from great height into a pool of water.

R emerges from the water cleansed and alive. Does this theme echo at all with Christianity? I couldn’t help but immediately think of baptism. The scene is stunning. R falls into the water and as he descends and rises out, his old self–his “corpse”-ness– is washed away. He emerges restored. He is human. I found this not very dissimilar at all to casting off the old Adam. R was a new creation. So are we (2 Corinthians 5:17). I personally found this scene as central to the entire film. It was the emergence of life from death. It was stirring.

As for the bonies? Well, they all get slaughtered because they are beyond hope. The cavalier attitude the film throws in this aside fits well with the rest of the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the movie, but on reflection it seems almost inappropriate. It is easy to celebrate the destruction of dehumanized flesh-eating monsters, but how did they get that way? Ultimately, it was because they were left alone in their “corpse” state long enough to devolve into mindless human-killing machines. It is a truly sobering thought to consider that this isn’t too terribly far from the “real world.”

In the End?

How is it that humanity got to be this way, with the split between humans and undead? It’s a question the film does not explore. But it is easy to see some potent imagery happening: people are vulnerable; other people are predatory. The theme is only barely developed in the film, and even then it is often played off as comedy. But the truth is that, unfortunately, this is how humanity often plays out. Many people are dead in sin (Romans 8:7) and continue to live out their lives apart from the saving work of Christ. We are to go out into the world and spread God’s love to them. We are to get to them before they harden their hearts; before there are any “bonies” out there.

As for us? We too were dead in sin. But the old has gone, the new has come. In Christ, we are a new creation. We are washed clean from our sins.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Warm Bodies: Exhuming Humanity– Anthony Weber compares the book and the movie to draw out even more themes and provide an extremely thorough evaluation of them both. If you don’t follow his blog, you really should do so.

Be sure to check out my other looks at movies here (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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.

“Les Miserables”: A Christian reflection

les-miserables-2

Les Misérables” has finally been adapted to the big-screen, and, to put it simply, it is stunning. The impression that it leaves will be lasting. Yet what issues does it explore? What is the impression that it gives? What is the worldview in “Les Miserables”? There are SPOILERS below.

Natural Law and Human Dignity

One of the most clear themes throughout the movie is the challenge raised in balancing natural rights, natural law, and human dignity. Jean Valjean starts off the movie as a prisoner. He has been imprisoned for 19 years–5 for stealing a loaf of bread, and 14 for trying to escape. These prisoners are essentially slaves. Their personhood is denigrated, and Javert, the Inspector, insists on calling them merely by their numbers. During this scene, the prisoners sing of calling for Jesus to save them, but complain that Jesus has not heard them. Yet God is not dead in this story, as we shall see below.

Several questions are raised here. It seems clear that the human dignity and therefore the natural rights of these people is being violated by the way they are treated, as well as the cruelty of the punishment for petty crimes. Not only that, but it seems that natural law is being violated in that the poor continue to cry out for help to no avail. They need food, shelter, and the like. They are willing to work but can’t find any. The movie provides a poignant commentary on the violations of natural law, rights, and human dignity that continue to be found in our own society.

Javert is the story’s foil for natural law. He brings in a kind of Kantian certainty about moral questions. For him, the law is morally right, and one cannot violate the law. Yet it becomes clear through the film that Javert’s view is actually that which is mistaken. He is operating under a skewed vision of natural law which cannot stand up to scrutiny. His view equates natural law with the law of the land. Valjean grants Javert mercy and Javert later does the same for Valjean, but unlike Valjean, Javert cannot understand mercy. For him, the law of the land is always absolute. Finally, he cannot reconcile his view of the law with the realities of the world which include not just natural law but also the redemptive mercy that God has embedded in it and he kills himself.

Jean Valjean is not the only person whose very worth is questioned. Fantine suffers immensely in the story. She is reduced to selling her hair, then her teeth, and finally her body when she loses her job. Again, her very humanity is threatened by her treatment. She is dehumanized and forced to give up hope. However, Jean Valjean, as she is dying, comes to her aid and promises to take care of Cosette, her daughter. This gives her hope, and restores some of her human dignity.

Redemption

Despite the apparent hopelessness in many scenes, it becomes clear that evil has not won the day. Indeed, Jean Valjean is given another lease on life by Bishop Myriel, who is an extremely positive example of Christian concern for other persons. The Bishop saves Valjean from imprisonment and torture and tells him that he has saved him. He tells Valjean God has a plan for him and in an extremely poignant scene, Valjean struggles with his feelings of hatred and anger in a church. He cannot seem to reconcile the mercy shown to him by the Bishop with his view of the world. It is Valjean’s initial view which loses out. His anger and hatred are given over to providing hope and taking care of the needy. He becomes a moral hero, despite the necessity of his continuing to flee from the authorities.

Ultimately, the grounding for human dignity and rights is found not in the tribulations of the world but in God’s justice in the hereafter. The epic closing scene depicts all the dead lined up in heaven praising God and glorying in redemption. Without this, the movie would be nearly hopeless. Instead, Jean Valjean is guided into the afterlife by Fantine and Bishop Myriel. The explicit Christian elements in this final redemption are clearly portrayed, crucifixes are prominent and it is the Bishop into whose hands Valjean is accepted.

valjeancrossSalvation and God

It seems clear from the story of “Les Miserables” that God is operating even in the darkness and bitterness of the poor, the downtrodden, and the weary. Jean Valjean comes to realize that God’s plan can be carried out even by him in the mercies that he is able to show by taking care of Cosette and giving to the poor. His struggle over the fact that Bishop Myriel did not condemn him leads him to a view of reality that is a stark contrast with that of Javert’s view, noted above.

Jean Valjean sees the world through the eyes of one to whom mercy has been shown. He realizes that he did not deserve the mercy he was given, but he instead lets it change him forever. He fights against the evils of the world and ultimately, at the end of his life, he realizes that is what he was called to do.

One cannot help but see how stories of all the characters interweave in such a way as to show foreknowledge and planning. Valjean is shown mercy, but to what end? Ultimately, the end is to provide hope into a world with little hope (Fantine) and to save the life of a girl (Cosette). The way these people are brought together provides an abundance of grace and mercy, but not without suffering.

The characters cry out to God throughout the film, asking where He is or why He has allowed some evil. But it becomes clear that their eyes have been focused upon the suffering here-and-now instead of God’s plan for salvation. Without the foreknowledge of God, it is easy to see the ills of this world as reason to hate God. Indeed, that is exactly what some people do. But in “Les Miserables,” God’s plan wins in the end: he brings his people to salvation and they sing in heaven at the end of the film.

Other Themes

Water is a recurring theme in “Les Miserables.” As a Christian I could not help but think of baptism. Valjean is baptized in the rain, but Javert uses water to bring about his own destruction.

There are crosses featured prominently throughout the movie. The barricade behind which the revolutionaries fight has coffins on the front during the battle. However, at the end of the movie, when all the dead are lined up and singing in the glory of heaven and God’s presence, there is a cross prominently featured. When Jean Valjean struggles with the mercy Bishop Myriel showed to him, crosses are featured all over the screen. All of this seems to tie into the themes of redemption, God’s will, and salvation noted above.

Christians, or people who claim to be Christians, are not always good people. Javert’s skewed view of justice prevented him from taking into account God’s mercy. The innkeeper and his wife claim to be Christians but spend their lives trying to swindle and steal from others. This is a reflection of the truth. Jesus himself noted that there will be weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). That is, there will be those who claim to be among the saved who are not and may even seek to destroy the saved.

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was not necessarily a friend of organized religion. His religious beliefs changed throughout his life. It seems he became frustrated with the suffering of the people and the inactivity of organized churches in response to this suffering. Some have pegged him as a deist, though a bit of exploration turns up hints that he may have maintained theism through his life. Regardless of Hugo’s own spiritual state, it is clear from the film “Les Miserables” that Christianity is largely beneficial. Not only that, but the story is such an epic tale of redemption with Christian themes interwoven throughout that I can’t help but think (having, admittedly, not read the book) of the extremely positive overall impression I had of the power of Christianity to change people.

Conclusion

Les Misérables” is a stunning film. Its impact will last for years. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the movie, however, is the way it tackles worldview questions head-on. Humanity is found even in the darkest pits, and God’s work continues to be done even in the most desperate of hours. The movie is not for children, but it will serve as an inspiring foil from which to start discussions about Christianity. The beneficence that comes from the Christian worldview is very much on display, along with Christian themes of God’s sovereignty and plan of redemption. I encourage readers to see the film and realize the way it can be used to discuss issues central to Christianity.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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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