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The (Un)Just City- Jo Walton’s “The Just City,” Gender, Gods, and Morality

tjc-waltonJo Walton’s The Just City is unlike anything I’ve read before. She seamlessly combined philosophy, theology, and fantasy into an epic tale that was difficult to put down. The plot is centered around the notion that Apollo and Athene, the Greek gods, decide to go through time and collect people who desired to attempt to build Plato’s Republic. Here, we’ll examine the book from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Christian Morality Opposed to Justice?

One scene features Maia speaking with Ikaros, a man who had embraced various aspects of the Republic with fervor. Maia believes that Ikaros was a Dominican monk in his former life, but she finds that he is quick to exclude Christianity from the bounds of possibility in the City. The reason is because he doesn’t believe Christianity to be true, or at least any aspect of truth capable of matching their new perspective:

[Ikaros reasons:] “I reconciled Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Platonism, and Zoroastrianism… But don’t you see, we were doing it starting from a belief that Christianity was true. If instead it’s the Greek Gods who are true… then what price salvation? They can mix from the other side, we could say that Plato was really talking about God. But from this side [believing the Greek Gods], well, we can’t see that when Jesus said he’d be in his father’s house that he was really talking about Zeus, now can we?” (88)

Ironically and horribly, after having this conversation about how Christian morality is not Truth and also needlessly complex, Ikaros rapes Maia. He reasons that they are allowed to have eros love without obligations required by Christian morality, and he mocks her adherence to Christianity.

Concentric Circles of Gods

In the world of The Just City, the Greek gods are very real and active. What might this suggest about Christianity and other faiths? We’ve already seen how one character argues that introducing Christian morality would have been unnecessary. But what of Christianity itself?

Apollo is incarnate within the City and only a few know who he actually is. He has a discussion with Sokrates (Socrates) and Simmea regarding souls and gods. We’ll pick up his commentary at “the good part”:

Many circles [of divinities] is right; all human cultures have their own appropriate gods. But the only thing on top is Father. It isn’t a set of concentric rings… [the one Apollo is correcting] thought of it as a hierarchy with divinities subordinated to others. It isn’t like that at all. It’s a set of circles of gods pretty much equal to each other but with different responsibilities, and linked by Father.” (285)

When he is specifically asked about Jesus and Mary, etc., Apollo states:

Christianity is one of those circles… Jesus is just as real and just as much Father’s son as I am… (285-286)

Such a view of course is just as fantastical as the book itself is. The attempt to mash all religions together into one amalgam centered around a divine being not only does injustice to those faiths which have no divine being, but also to those that do. The latter would have to effectively shed all pretext of having truth claims about reality, as I’ve argued elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see in the next two books of this trilogy who the “Father” turns out to be and how the attempt to reconcile different faiths plays out, but at this point it is fairly obvious that it will play out in a way that Christians and believers of other faith traditions could not endorse.

Gender

Maia, a woman from the 19th century, finds that the options she has ahead of her in her own time are quite bleak. She loves scholarship, but has no way to pursue it. In the introduction to her character we find that she longs for a God that is not limited by masculine concepts of divinity. We can take this as a challenge to ourselves to not make God into a gendered being (apart from the gender of the man Jesus Christ).

There are several explicit scenes in the book, and these tie into the themes it is exploring with gender. The scenes largely center around the issues of power that come into sex. Thus, the aforementioned rape of Maia by Ikaros. Apollo himself is trying to figure out why Daphne preferred to turn into a tree rather than “mate” with him (aka be raped by him). Apart from the obvious (this book is not for children or even young adults), we find that preconceptions about gender and power are challenged throughout. Women say no, and mean it (shocking, right? [sarcasm]); men begin to discover that the actions they take are often sexist; beliefs that women are incapable of philosophizing are challenged.

Conclusion

The Just City turns out to be as much about injustice as it is about justice. In a way, we may think of this as what would inevitably happen whenever imperfect beings attempt to create true justice on their own: they fail, often miserably. It will be interesting to see what happens with the “circles” of deity that Walton has come up with to try to integrate divergent and differing worldviews into one. Including such discussions of course makes the book stand firmly against Christian orthodoxy; but the context these challenges are set in makes it worthwhile to offer counter-arguments to the sections that are objectionable. It can, in a way, be practice for critically examining one’s own beliefs.

Whatever the case, for now we find that the “Just City” is not.

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!

Read through my other posts on popular books here (scroll down for more).

Source

Jo Walton, The Just City (New York: Tor, 2014).

SDG.

——

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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“We the Underpeople” – Cordwainer Smith and Humanity in the Future

wtu-smith

Cordwainer Smith (actual name: Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) was an expert in psychological warfare, a scholar of Eastern Asia, an Anglican, and a science fiction author, among other things. He wrote a number of short stories and one novel all set in the same universe–our own. These stories go from the past into the far future and put forward a vision of the future that is at once hopeful and bleak. Here, I’d like to discuss a few themes in the works of his I’ve read, collected in a volume called We the Underpeople by Baen. There will be some minor Spoilers in what follows.

Free Will and Determinism

A prominent theme found throughout Smith’s work is the discussion of free will and determinism. The “Rediscovery of Man” is a time period in which members of the Instrumentality decide that they need to change the world such that people aren’t always happy any more. You see, they made it so that accidents wouldn’t happen (or if they did, prompt healing was available), people wouldn’t say bad things, and the like. If someone did get unhappy, they were brain wiped and reconditioned. Everyone’s happy, see?

Yet the members of the Instrumentality argued and finally allowed for some unhappiness to be allowed back into people’s lives: the Rediscovery of Man.

Smith here notes that human freedom is something that is at the core of our being. Without it, “happiness” falls away into determinism. We may be “happy,” but it is a happiness that is not truly experienced or real. The feelings might be there, but the reality is not. The human capacity for wrongdoing and suffering is there, but it must be in order to have the capacity for truly experiencing and enjoying happiness and delight.

A challenge might arise here: what of heaven? I think this is a tough question, and one that I admit I have no answer I feel firmly about. It’s possible that the choices we make are, over time, enough to solidify us into a sinless existence (a position of Greg Boyd). Perhaps instead, the renewal of our minds that takes place in the New Creation helps us to avoid doing those things that we would not like to do but find ourselves doing in our fallen state.

Humanity and Inhumanity

Humans in Smith’s world have created “underpeople”–animals that have been bred to serve humans in various capacities. Yet these animals are self-aware and brutally oppressed. They experience free will and life, but are trampled by human wants and desires. They are not “people.”

The poignancy of this theme hits close to home when we consider those people who are often set aside in our own world. Things like the Rwandan Genocide are allowed to happen by those we have put in power because there aren’t resources there deemed worth protecting; people are allowed to starve to death because we don’t want to give “handouts,” and the like. How might we as Christians work to correct the wrongs in our own world done to those we have deemed “underpeople”?

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a major theme in Smith’s novel, Norstrilia. The main character, Rod McBan, is attacked by a bitter man, the Honorable Secretary, who is upset that he cannot also have his life extended for a very long time. At a pivotal scene in the book, McBan forgives the Honorable Secretary for the attacks. However, he also forgives himself, for he had–even in thought–mocked the man and his inability to get the same treatment as everybody else to extend his life. McBan realized that his own behavior towards the Honorable Secretary had, in part, lead to the man’s wrongs.

It is a stunning change in the tenor of the plot thread, for the reader had been prone to sympathizing with the main character and forgiving his own “innocent” jabs at the man who tried to kill him. Yet here, Smith elegantly points towards the need for mutual reconciliation and the need to confess one’s own sins. It is masterfully done and speaks very highly of the power of forgiveness.

Conclusion

Cordwainer Smith masterfully wove his Anglican worldview into his science fiction, but he did so very subtly. I haven’t even touched on some of the other messages conveyed in his body of work, such as the allegorical story of Joan of Arc. There is much to contemplate in the works, including human freedom and the need to forgive. I highly recommend his science fiction to my readers.

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!

Popular Books– Check out my other posts on popular books, including several other science fiction works. (Scroll down for more.)

Cordwainer Smith– Another blogger writes on the themes found throughout Cordwainer Smith’s science fiction.

 

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.

Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” – Deconversion, Hope, and Strife

fog-follet

Ken Follett’s “The Century Trilogy” is a sweeping series . I just finished the first book, Fall of Giants, and realized there were several themes found therein that begged comment here. Here, I will analyze the book from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I will not go over the plot of the book. A brief summary may be found here.

Deconversion

Billy Williams is a Welsh boy who goes to work in a coal mine. The first day on the job he is left alone in the pitch black–his lamp went out. Rather than wandering lost in the tunnels he keeps working until someone comes to get him. To keep himself from being too frightened, he sings Christian hymns and draws comfort from them. At the end, when the light is restored, he sees a fleeting vision of Christ just at the corner of the light and says “Thank you.”

If that sounds like the start of a storyline that will be an example of a life of faith to you, you would be disappointed. After an explosion in the coal mine, he is distressed by the problem of evil–why does God let bad things happen? As he grows older, Billy is exposed to textural criticism. He is disturbed that we don’t have copies of the original texts from which we get the words of the Bible. His father, who often preaches at their worship services, has insufficient answers. Later in life, Billy’s sister gets pregnant and is judged sharply by his father and their town because she is not married. He is strongly put off by the apparent hypocrisy of the people. He never returns to church.

I admit that “deconversion” may be a bit of a misnomer because it is never specifically said that Billy doesn’t believe in God anymore, but the implications are there. He has a deep distrust of and distaste for Christianity, it seems, after this.

The story illustrates the need for a firm foundation. Textual criticism is not something Christians should fear, as it allows us to recover the text of the Bible more accurately. The problem of evil is not unsolvable. And, unfortunately, Christian hypocrisy is actually something to be expected. Indeed, the Christian worldview would expect hypocrisy at times because we are still sinners in this world and will continue to commit wrongs, despite being people of faith. None of this was hinted at in the novel, but I suspect that this is due in part to the fact that Follett is himself an avowed secular humanist. There seems to be an agenda here (and see below).

Unfortunately, Billy’s story is similar to one we can see repeating in churches and families all over. We have not studied our faith. We have not worked out the hard problems related to Christianity, so when we are confronted by them, we are often found with pat answers rather than the truth. We need to actively seek out answers and be aware of our own limitations. Unable to answer every question, we should commit ourselves to a life of faith seeking understanding.

Hope

There is hope found in the darkness throughout the coming World War and the plights of the individual people. Hope is found largely in the actions of other people–the small kindnesses that are done even in the face of evil. As the world seems to be crashing down all around, it is relationships which keep people going. Some of these are vaguely religious in nature, though the persisting theme seems to be that people need to do for themselves whatever they’d like to accomplish.

Religious Leaders?

One persistent theme throughout the book is that those involved in the church are mean, nasty, and most likely sexual deviants. Any time a priest-whether Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodoxy or Anglican–is mentioned or encountered, it is almost always in context of some offhand remark about how they sexually harassed a child or how someone who is now an adult remembers when they were asked to have sex with the priest, etc. It’s actually quite tiresome. While on the one hand it is important to note that there are those within Christianity who have abused power throughout time, on the other hand, to suggest that everyone in some sort of position in power was a power-hungry sexual predator is uneven, to put it mildly.

Those who are not in established religion–like Billy’s dad–are portrayed as aloof, distant, and largely uncaring. Billy’s dad does get a chance to redeem himself as he accepts Ethel back into the family, but only after he had to consider the possibility of having his whole family fall apart.

Conclusion

Follett has woven an intriguing story with a very strong premise. It is unfortunate that throughout there also seem to be straight polemics against Christianity. A better balance was needed to make it seem realistic and not so much a diatribe against Christianity. Some good takeaways can be had from reading the book, but the worldview it presents is largely bleak and hopeless.

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!

Popular Books– Check out my other posts on popular books, including several other science fiction works. (Scroll down for more.)

Source

Ken Follet, Fall of Giants (Signet, 2012).

SDG.

——

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.

2015: The Year’s Best Books, My Reading, Blogs, and More!

Another year has passed more quickly than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to share with you my reading for the year, as well as my awards for books, movies, and blogs. Please let me know about your own reading, movie-watching, and the like this year. I’d love to read about what you were up to last year and what books moved you or taught you much.

Books

The books of the year are based off my reading this year; not on whether they were actually released this year. The categories for InterVarsity Press (IVP) and Crossway, however, are from this year.

Theology book of the year

Flame of Yahweh by Richard Davidson- This book is a massive wealth of information about sexuality in the Old Testament. Davidson analyzes an enormous number of texts to draw out the teaching on sexuality found therein. Davidson approaches the texts from what I would call a moderate egalitarian viewpoint, but he justifies this view directly from the text, with a particular emphasis on the creation account. Moreover, Davidson’s exposition of Song of Songs in particular is just phenomenal. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Philosophy book of the year

The Shape of the Past by John Warwick Montgomery- this book is a historiography book–it is a study of how we write and study history, and it is phenomenal. John Warwick Montgomery is one of those rare people who can touch on seemingly endless topics from a clearly informed perspective, and draw them together with breathless beauty. The first half of the book offers a major look at various historiographic perspectives of the past. The second half is a collection of essays, each of which as informative and wonderful as the next. The book was published originally in 1975, but it remains as brilliant as it ever was. John Warwick Montgomery is just phenomenal, and this book was heavy, but breathtaking. Here’s a quote from the book.

IVP Book of the Year

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss- A convicting read, Richard Twiss argues that we have failed Native Americans when it comes to spreading the Gospel. The book is full of moving stories and deep insights. It is beautiful and haunting. If you want to know more, read my review.

Crossway Book of the Year

Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke- John Newton is probably best known as the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” but Reinke highlights so much more about this amazing pastor in this interesting work. Read my review for more.

Fiction book of the Year

The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I’m embarassed to say this, but I actually owned this book once and got rid of it because I figured I wouldn’t actually enjoy it. Was I ever wrong. I picked it up at the library and was absolutely blown away. This classic novel about King Arthur was everything I expected it to be and so much more. I was particularly impressed by the amount of genuinely hilarious humor found throughout. I did not expect the depth it had, either. It was fantastic. Okay, I did read Ben Hur by means of audiobook this year, but I read that book annually because it is probably my favorite work of fiction ever, so it’s not really fair to put it in competition.

Best non-fiction, non-theology/philosophy

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander- think racism is no longer a problem in America? Think again. This book has an enormous amount of research showing how our allegedly colorblind criminal justice system has perpetuated a system of injustice.

Young Adult Novel of the Year

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper- A haunting novel about the colonial period in the United States. It is rare that I am as emotionally moved by a novel as I was in this one.

Most Anticipated Book of Next Year

Brandon Sanderson seems to me a well that I will not stop returning to. Ever. I’ve not worked through his whole body of work yet, but everything I’ve read from him is amazing. He consistently nails stunning plot twists in believable ways. Thus, Calamity, the third book of “The Reckoners” is my most anticipated book for next year. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens next.

Movie

Best worldview movie of the year

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- No, I’m not just saying this because it is Star Wars (though part of me is saying precisely that). I selected this one because it has so much in it to discuss. I’m not going to spoil anything here, so be sure to head on over to my post on the movie to read more.

Blog

Blog of the Year

Christians for Biblical Equality– CBE continues to put out excellent articles week in and week out. Every new post is worth the time to read, and they have covered an enormous amount of ground with articles on neuroscience to articles on exegesis. This is a fantastic blog and well worth your time to read and subscribe to.

Reading List for 2015

The list starts at where I left off in 2014, when I first started keeping track.

  1. Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn – Finished 1/2/15
  2. 4 Views on Divine Providence edited by Dennis Jowers and Gundry – Finished 1/4/15
  3. Wind and Shadow by Kathy Tyers – Finished 1/6/15
  4. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative – Finished 1/8/15
  5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – Finished 1/10/15
  6. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll – Finished 1/12/15
  7. Salvation Applied by the Spirit by Robert Peterson – Finished 1/13/15
  8. Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn – Finished 1/13/15
  9. God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark – Finished 1/13/15
  10. Gender, Religion, and Diversity edited by Ursula King and Tina Beattie – Finished 1/15/15
  11. Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber – Finished 1/19/15
  12. Beyond the Control of God? Edited by Paul Gould – Finished 1/22/15
  13. By Schism Rent Asunder by David Weber – Finished 1/24/15
  14. Religions of Mesoamerica by David Carrasco – Finished 1/25/15
  15. By Heresies Distressed by David Weber – Finished 1/28/15
  16. Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge – Finished 2/1/15
  17. Evolutionary Creation by Denis Lamoureux – Finished 2/1/15
  18. A Mighty Fortress by David Weber – Finished 2/6/15
  19. The New Evangelical Subordinationism edited Jowers and House – Finished 2/7/15
  20. Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Finished 2/9/15
  21. Creative Church Handbook by J. Scott McElroy – Finished 2/10/15
  22. Never to Live by Just B. Johnson – Finished 2/14/15
  23. Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic- Finished 2/16/15
  24. Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn – Finished 2/17/15
  25. The Dominant Culture by Martin Murphy – Finished 2/17/15
  26. Daystar by Kathy Tyers – Finished 2/23/15
  27. Give Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick – Finished 2/23/15
  28. Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace – Finished 2/25/15
  29. How Firm a Foundation by David Weber – Finished 3/2/15
  30. Tamar’s Tears edited by Andrew Sloane – Finished 3/2/15
  31. Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 3/4/15
  32. For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger – Finished 3/6/15
  33. Star Trek: New Frontier- The Quiet Place by Peter David – Finished 3/6/15
  34. The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – Finished 3/7/15
  35. Three Views on the NT Use of the OT edited Berding and Lunde – Finished 3/10/15
  36. Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 3/11/15
  37. A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross – Finished 3/12/15
  38. Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber – Finished 3/16/15
  39. The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John Walton – Finished 3/17/15
  40. Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 3/19/15
  41. Martin Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman – Finished 3/21/15
  42. Golden Sun by Pierce Brown – Finished 3/22/15
  43. 4 Views on Church Government edited Cowan and Engle – Finished 3/23/15
  44. Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 3/25/15
  45. Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit by Paul D. Molnar – Finished 3/29/15
  46. Weaveworld by Clive Barker – Finished 4/1/5
  47. Presence and Thought by Hans Urs von Balthasar – Finished 4/1/5
  48. The Soul Hypothesis edited Mark Baker and Stewart Goetz – Finished 4/1/15
  49. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander – Finished 4/3/15
  50. Science and Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Carlson – Finished 4/7/15
  51. Like a Mighty Army by David Weber – Finished 4/9/15
  52. No Other Name by John Sanders – Finished 4/10/15
  53. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien – Finished 4/11/15
  54. Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 4/14/15
  55. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander – Finished 4/14/15
  56. Two Views of Hell by Edward Fudge and Robert Peterson – Finished 4/15/15
  57. Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis – Finished 4/17/15
  58. Oxygen by John Olson and Randy Ingermanson – Finished 4/18/15
  59. Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves by John Stapleford – Finished 4/19/15
  60. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – Finished 4/20/15
  61. Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom by William Lane Craig – Finished 4/21/15
  62. Dune: House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 4/23/15
  63. Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 4/26/15
  64. Mapping Apologetics by Brian Morley – Finished 4/28/15
  65. The Legend of Drizzt: Homeland by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 4/28/15
  66. The Legend of Drizzt: Exile by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 4/30/15
  67. The Legend of Drizzt: Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 5/2/15
  68. Interpreting the Prophets by Aaron Chalmers – Finished 5/2/15
  69. Titan by Ben Bova – Finished 5/5/15
  70. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 5/6/15
  71. God and Design edited by Neil Manson – Finished 5/11/15
  72. Dune: House Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 5/12/15
  73. Bound for the Promised Land by Oren Martin – Finished 5/13/15
  74. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Finished 5/15/15
  75. Humans by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 5/19/15
  76. Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 5/21/15
  77. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 5/28/15
  78. Venus by Ben Bova – Finished 5/30/15
  79. The Bible Story Handbook by John Walton and Kim Walton – Finished 5/31/15
  80. Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber and Eric Flint – Finished 6/2/15
  81. Bismarck by Michael Tamelander and Niklas Zetterling – Finished 6/3/15
  82. Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 6/5/15
  83. Star Wars: The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin – Finished 6/6/15
  84. The Legend of Drizzt: The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/11/15
  85. Renewing Moral Theology by Daniel Westberg – Finished 6/12/15
  86. The Legend of Drizzt: Streams of Silver by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/14/15
  87. The Legend of Drizzt: The Halfling’s Gem by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/17/15
  88. The Legend of Drizzt: The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/21/15
  89. Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness – Finished 6/21/15
  90. The Legend of Drizzt: Starless Night by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/25/15
  91. The Legend of Drizzt: Siege of Darkness by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/25/15
  92. The Legend of Drizzt: Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/28/15
  93. Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse – Finished 7/9/15
  94. War God’s Oath by David Weber – Finished 7/9/15
  95. No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman – Finished 7/11/15
  96. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither edited Halton and Gundry – Finished 7/13/15
  97. Double Eagle by Dan Abnett – Finished 7/14/15
  98. [John] Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke – Finished 7/18/15
  99. 4 Views on the Nature of the Atonement edited Beilby and Eddy – Finished 7/21/15
  100. We the Underpeople by Cordwainer Smith – Finished 7/22/15
  101. Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith – Finished 7/22/15
  102. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz – Finished 7/24/15
  103. Theology as Retrieval by W. David Buschart and Kent D. Eilers – Finished 7/25/15
  104. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – Finished 7/25/15
  105. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket – Finished 7/27/15
  106. The Just City by Jo Walton – Finished 8/4/15
  107. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/5/15
  108. Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss – Finished 8/6/15
  109. Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms – Finished 8/9/15
  110. The War God’s Own by David Weber – Finished 8/10/15
  111. Talking Doctrine: [LDS] & Evngls in Conversation ed. Mouw & Millet- Finished 8/10/15
  112. Star Trek: New Frontier- Dark Allies by Peter David – Finished 8/11/15
  113. God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace – Finished 8/11/15
  114. Joy in the Journey by Steve & Sharol Hayner – Finished 8/14/15
  115. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett – Finished 8/17/15
  116. The Hostile Hotel by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/18/15
  117. Hell Under Fire edited Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson – Finished 8/19/15
  118. How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test by David Marshall – Finished 8/20/15
  119. Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz – Finished 8/21/15
  120. Kris Longknife: Mutineer by Mike Shepherd – Finished 8/27/15
  121. Kris Longknife: Deserter by Mike Shepherd – Finished 8/25/15
  122. The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/27/15
  123. Star Wars: The Hutt Gambit by A.C. Crispin – Finished 8/28/15
  124. Winter of the World by Ken Follett- Finshed 9/4/15
  125. The Malestrom by Carolyn Custis Davis – Finished 9/4/15
  126. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket – Finished 9/5/15
  127. Rediscovering Jesus by Capes, Reeves, and Richards – Finished 9/7/15
  128. Wind Rider’s Oath by David Weber – Finished 9/9/15
  129. The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton – Finished 9/11/15
  130. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 9/13/15
  131. Bavinck on the Christian Life by John Bolt – Finished 9/14/15
  132. The Martian by Andy Weir – Finished 9/15/15
  133. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket – Finished 9/16/15
  134. Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb – Finished 9/20/15
  135. The Love of God by John C. Peckham – Finished 9/22/15
  136. Saint Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 9/26/15
  137. Owen on the Christian Life by Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin – finished 10/2/15
  138. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett – Finished 10/6/15
  139. Debating Darwin’s Doubt edited by David Klinghoffer – Finished 10/8/15
  140. Star Wars: Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin – Finished 10/9/15
  141. Aborting Aristotle by Dave Sterrett – Finished 10/9/15
  142. Who Was Adam? By Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross – Finished 10/12/15
  143. The Godfather by Mario Puzo – Finished 10/13/15
  144. Reformation Christianity edited by Peter Matheson – Finished 10/15/15
  145. War Maid’s Choice by David Weber – Finished 10/19/15
  146. Scripture and Cosmology by Kyle Greenwood – Finished 10/20/15
  147. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Finished 10/21/15
  148. Innocence by Dean Koontz – Finished 10/24/15
  149. Onward by Russell Moore – Finished 10/25/15
  150. Reformation Readings of Paul edited Allen and Linebaugh – Finished 10/26/15
  151. The God Abduction by Ron Londen – Finished 10/26/15
  152. Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber – Finished 11/1/15
  153. The Paradoxical Rationality of Soren Kierkegaard by McComb – Finished 11/1/15
  154. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – Finished 11/2/15
  155. Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper – Finished 11/4/15
  156. Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (audiobook) – Finished 11/4/15
  157. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – Finished 11/5/15
  158. Augustine on the Christian Life by Gerald Bray – Finished 11/6/15
  159. The End by Lemony Snicket – Finished 11/7/15
  160. The Analogy of Faith by Archie J. Spencer – Finished 11/8/15
  161. Eve by William Paul Young – Finished 11/9/15
  162. The Spirit of Hinduism by David Burnett – Finished 11/9/15
  163. Flame of Yahweh by Richard M. Davidson – Finished 11/11/15
  164. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Finished 11/12/15
  165. The Once and Future King by T.H. White – Finished 11/13/15
  166. WH40K: Nightbringer by Graham McNeil – Finished 11/14/15
  167. American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion by John Wilsey – Finished 11/16/15
  168. A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber – Finished 11/17/15
  169. History, Law, and Christianity by John Warwick Montgomery – Finished 11/18/15
  170. The Battle of the Tanks by Lloyd Clark – Finished 11/18/15
  171. The Husband by Dean Koontz – Finished 11/19/15
  172. The Myth of Religious Neutrality by Roy Clouser – Finished 11/22/15
  173. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld- Finished 11/22/14
  174. The Olmecs: America’s First Civilization by Richard Diehl – Finished 11/23/15
  175. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Finished 11/23/15
  176. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld – Finished 11/26/15
  177. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – Finished 11/28/15
  178. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld – Finished 11/30/15
  179. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 12/3/15
  180. The Incas by Terence D’Altroy – Finished 12/4/15
  181. Partners in Christ by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. – Finished 12/4/15
  182. The Aztecs by Richard F. Townsend – Finished 12/6/15
  183. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 12/7/15
  184. The Great Christ Comet by Colin Nicholl – Finished 12/8/15
  185. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein – Finished 12/9/15
  186. Foxcraft: The Taken by Inbali Iserles – Finished 12/9/15
  187. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Finished 12/12/15
  188. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear – Finished 12/14/15
  189. Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham, Jr. – Finished 12/14/15
  190. Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide by Edward Feser – Finished 12/15/15
  191. Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans – Finished 12/17/15
  192. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke – Finished 12/19/15
  193. The Shape of the Past by John Warwick Montgomery – Finished 12/22/15
  194. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – Finished 12/22/15
  195. 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution by Keathley and Rooker – Finished 12/22/15
  196. How Much Does God Foreknow? by Steven C. Roy – Finished 12/23/15
  197. The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Finished 12/25/15
  198. The First World War by Martin Gilbert – Finished 12/27/15
  199. Knowledge and Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga – Finished 12/28/15
  200. Death Wave by Ben Bova – Finished 12/28/15

“Childhood’s End” – Utopia, God, and Science

childhoods-end

SyFy, the channel once known as SciFi (it should still be!) recently aired a TV miniseries adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s book, Childhood’s End. Here, I will examine the miniseries from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Utopia? A transhuman “hope”

In the first part, dimensions of religion are found in the wings. Why didn’t God fix everything if these aliens can come along and fix everything for us? Where was God during all those wars and atrocities? Yet as the story progresses, it is clear that not is all as it seems. Where is Karellen, the alien who seems so godlike in his powers, when people are scared, sad, and afraid? Why do the children start to change, and what does it all mean? Why is Karellen so unwilling to let humans know about him?

Karellen and the Overlords are working for the Overmind to “change the world…” They follow its bidding and do what it says in order to reshape reality in the image that the Overmind desires. The Overmind claims to be “the collective consciousness of this universe” and, more simply, “all.” The Overmind takes the children of humanity to transform them into part of the collective consciousness of itself. So where is God? In the world of “Childhood’s End,” the Overmind plays the part of God, but a pantheistic type of being which is itself clearly not all powerful. Indeed, to call the Overmind pantheistic is itself a bit of an overstatement, as it can only bring certain people to itself and do so in certain ways.

The message of Childhood’s End is one of transhumanism- it is the end of humanity and humankind’s evolution towards some higher state of existence. It seems at points that this is supposed to be presented as something that is a great good, though perhaps with some sorrow. Yet What does this mean for humans? Ultimately, this transhuman hope–really the only hope that a pervasively atheistic worldview could offer–is the death of humanity. Earth is destroyed, in the end. Humanity is gone. All that is left of us is a beautiful piece of music, that whoever passes by will be able to hear.

The utopia that seems to be described as the Overlords come is a fiction. Thankfully, it is not the real world. The hope that we have can be found in Christ and the resurrection.

God and Science

The second part of the miniseries starts with the song “Imagine” in the background as the utopic state of Earth is described. One of the lines that comes through in the song is the line “and no religion too!” Yet the voiceover is by the young scientist, who is bemoaning the death of the sciences–they are no longer needed. Initially, it seems the implication is that if we just get rid of all the silliness of religion and stop trying to pursue useless knowledge in science, we would find ourselves in a utopia.

Another scene juxtaposes a character effectively praying to Karellan, the alien, while another goes into a church. Churches have largely been abandoned, for what use is religion in a world in which there is no injustice? It is intriguing to see the connections made between religion and science made throughout here. It seems that both science and religion are cast aside as people find suffering no longer exists. There are a number of ways this suggestion could be taken.

First, it could be taken as an assertion that science and faith are seeking answers to the same questions, though with different approaches. Faith is asking “why is there suffering?” and looking to God for answers; science is attempting to fix various problems such as disease through a direct approach. Yet this brief sketch oversimplifies things. After all, people expect prayers to be effective, and often think of scientific discoveries as being answers to those prayers.

Second, it could be taken as a broader commentary on the futility of either religion or science. If we could just solve all our problems, why try to figure out how they work? Again, this answer is too simplistic.

Instead, it seems a third option is more likely: the value of faith and the value of scientific exploration in and of themselves as ways to provide answers for what we observe in the universe. These answers may often overlap–and they do–but that doesn’t make them useless or invalid.

Faith

“Faith is on its last legs, only we don’t see it, because they give us ice cream,” says a man who is keeping a church clean.

“There is no such thing as evil,” a character snaps to a religious individual.

“I’m not sure God every helped anyone… only the Overlords answered.” Sandwiched between these two statements is an accusation that God gave us diseases and then sent more once we discovered how to cure some.

“All the world’s religions cannot be right… you know that… Your faith, beautiful and poetic… has no place now.”

What is particularly interesting about “Childhood’s End” is that all the people who are taken to be quacks–they are ridiculous, silly, superstitious, paranoid–turn out to be right, at least in part. The Overlords did come to change everything, but not in the positive, benign way they presented themselves. Instead, they came to reshape humanity in the image they desired. It led to the destruction of all humanity. One character may assert there is no such thing as evil, but that flies in the face of the injustice that the Overlords allegedly came to destroy.

The miniseries, whether intentionally or not, offers a view of the world which is both bleak and profound. It is bleak because it takes away all our hope. Even that which seems to offer hope ultimately destroys us. But it is profound in that it presents that world as fiction. It is not the world in which we live, which has hope, and in which we do not need to destroy ourselves. The price that humanity was asked to pay in “Childhood’s End” was paid in reality by God.

Conclusion

Ultimately, “Childhood’s End” is a story of humanity. It is a story of humanity giving in to deceiving itself. Humans sought an easy way to peace, freedom, and justice, and what they received instead was the death of humanity. The story itself does not have any final hope, apart from the hope that some transcendent humanity would live on. In reality, humanity does have the hope provided in Jesus Christ, our savior. It is interesting that the hope humans trusted in in Childhood’s End was something outside of themselves, and indeed the true hope for humanity is not found in ourselves, but in the Incarnate God, Christ.

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– My other interests site is full of science fiction, fantasy, food, sports, and more random thoughts. Come on by and take a look!

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.

 

Sunday Quote!- Drizzt Do’Urden on Equality

drizzt-II

Every 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!

Drizzt Do’Urden on Equality

For those who don’t know, Drizzt Do’Urden is a chracter from a fantasy series by R.A. Salvatore set in the “Forgotten Realms.” Drizzt is a Dark Elf who rejected the evil ways of his race and went to the surface in order to avoid their constant attempts to kill him. The books are mostly made up of standard swords and sorcery types of action, but there are occasional thoughtful interludes. In one, Salvatore, writing as Drizzt, discusses the concept of “equality” and how it might best be done:

Beware the engineers of society, I say, who would make everyone in all the world equal. Opportunity should be equal… but achievements must remain individual. – Drizzt Do’Urden (572, cited below)

I found this a fairly poignant statement in the midst of what is generally “light” reading for me. In our world, we have all kinds of inequality: there is income inequality, racial inequality, and all kinds of other ills. But a world in which all inequality is eliminated would be horrifying. In such a world, how could we appreciate things like sports, for all people would be forced to perform at the same level? How could we appreciate heroism? Moral fortitude? Any number of “inequalities” are actually good things. I couldn’t code a program to save my life; thank goodness people who are unequal to me at coding are in charge of maintaining this website!

The quote, then, has several subtle messages in it. I think it is worth Christians contemplating on. We should be working to reduce the inequalities of opportunity. People should not be unable to pursue their God-given gifts simply because of their circumstances. But we must beware the danger of trying to crush all inequality and make the world into a sea of sameness.

What are your thoughts? What inequalities should me most actively be working to combat? Is it true that opportunity should be equal?

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!

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

Source

R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver in The Legend of Drizzt, Book II (Wizards of the Coast, 2013).

SDG.

RRP 6/5/15

postAnother week, another round of Really Recommended Posts! Here we have posts on “celebrity books,” a pro-life debate, young earth creationism, what it means to be a man, and Zen Buddhism. Check ’em out, let me know what you think, and let the authors know as well!

When We Evaluate Zen Buddhism by Its Own Standards– What happens when you evaluate a religion like Zen Buddhism by its own standards of truth and the like? Check out this post to find out.

A Response to John Piper: What does it mean to be a man?– Frequently, Christians who have specific views of what gender “roles” are supposed to be package their cultural notions of what these roles ought to be in as well. Thus, it is claimed that men like cars, but women like shoes. Often, these claims are made straight-faced as if they apply to all women and men in all times and places. I have seen this time and again. Here is a response to John Piper on this very topic.

Celebrity Books– People don’t always read books unless they are “celebrity” authors. Do you often just buy books because of the author on the front? I know I do. To be fair–this often works out well. Here’s a post looking at some of the downside of this.

Is It Wrong to Pass Incremental Pro-Life Laws?– Here is a snippet of a debate on pro-life method with the question of whether we should pass incremental legislation. I summarized this debate here and analyzed the debate here.

My Response to a Young-Earth Critique of “Navigating Genesis”– Hugh Ross responds to a critique of his recent book on Genesis. The specific challenge raised is the location of Eden.

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

memlight-sandersonjordanThe conclusion to the Wheel of Time series has arrived at long last. It is a worth finish (well, there are no endings, nor beginnings in the Wheel of Time… but it was an ending) to the sprawling epic fantasy. There are not enough  superlatives for me to describe how much I enjoyed the series. Here, we’ll discuss Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light, the concluding volumes in the Wheel of Time. There are, of course major SPOILERS for the entire series in this post.

The Plight of the Outsiders

The last several books of the Wheel of Time series highlight at points the plight of those who are not main characters. Refugees, those who have had their homes destroyed, the people who are not often even referenced in other works of fiction. In Towers of Midnight, there is a poignant vision of the future, one in which the Aiel have been downtrodden and their power broken. A family of Aiel are starving and they beg for food from some people passing through what used to be their land. They show no mercy:

[The mother’s] tears did come then, quiet, weak. They rolled down her cheeks as she undid her shirt to nurse Garlvan, though she had no suck for him.
He didn’t move. He didn’t latch on. She lifted his small form and realized that he was no longer breathing… (1038-1039)

One wonders how often this kind of story plays out in our world. How easily we dehumanize those who are in need, and how easily we ignore them or disregard their need. Embedded in this sorrowful tale, we learn that there are always “outsiders”; always those in need, for whom we should be caring.

Disability?

Rand lost a hand earlier in the series, and it leads him to wonder about his own sufficiency as a person. A Memory of Light eloquently deals with this issue in a scene which depicts Tam, Rand’s adoptive father, sparring with Rand and forcing him to “let go.” As they spar, Rand admires his father’s swordsmanship and his ability to fight with one hand. He continues to realize that one hand may not be such a disadvantage in life and even uses his hand-less arm to block a bow. As the fight ends, the scene drives home the point:

Sweating, Rand raised his practice sword to Tam… Tam stepped back, raising his own sword. The older man wore a grin.
Nearby, standing near the lanterns, a handful of Warders [elite bodyguards of Aes Sedai–female magic users] began clapping. Not a large audience–only six men–but Rand had not noticed them. The Maidens [warrior women] lifted their spears in salute.
“It has been quite a weight, hasn’t it?” Tam asked.
“What weight?” Rand replied.
“That lost hand you’ve been carrying.”
Rand looked down at his stump. “Yes. I believe it has been that.” (312-313)

The fight has opened Rand to an awareness of his sense of loss, but also to a new sense of completeness. He has one hand, but that doesn’t make him less a man.

Fate or Free Will?

Throughout the series, the question of whether people are free in their choices or whether they are fated to have certain destinies is found front-and-center. The notion that all destinies are woven into a Pattern is used by some characters to argue for fatalism, while others believe the Pattern can be manipulated. In A Memory of Light, Egwene’s dream–a way of seeing into the future–provides a way for exploring this issue. Rand, Moiraine, and Egwene debate the meaning of a dream in which Rand is stepping into the Dark One’s prison, but there is not enough information to tell them the course of action they should take.

The debate suggests more about the world than may appear at first glance. It seems in the world of A Wheel of Time there is a tension between determinism and freedom, one which appears quite a bit in Christian thinking as well. How are we to forge our way in the world? Has everything been set before us in a Pattern, or are we able to choose our own destinies? Most importantly, A Memory of Light leaves the ambiguity there. The tension remains. Though Rand ultimately seems freed from the Pattern in some ways, it is a freedom which is never fully fleshed out. I think there is much to be said for this approach. One wonders whether the dichotomy of free/determined should be maintained, or whether more complexity exists in this world than that.

Evil and Good

When Rand confronts the Dark One in A Memory of Light, he comes to a point in which he is shown a depiction of the world without evil (679ff). It is a hideous place; the people are without the stories of their lives which shaped them in ways beyond reckoning. Bravery is impossible; as is conviction. The scene makes one wonder about the problem of evil–the notion that the existence of evil shows an omnipotent good deity does not exist–and various answers given to it. One prominent response to the problem of evil argues that evil may be used to make greater goods. Without the possibility of harm, there is no possibility of true bravery. Richard Swinburne is a well-known proponent of this response.

We live in a world which has been deeply harmed by evil. We also live in a world in which God has provided the answer to evil in the person of God’s Son. One day, God will wipe away every tear. We won’t live in the hellish nightmare of a world in which our characters have been sucked away from the elimination of all possible ills; but rather in a world that God has planned for us, a world of overpowering good.

Conclusion

The Wheel of Time series is easily my favorite fantasy series of all time. I read it through in the span of about a year. The books raise an enormous number of worldview issues, and they are also epic fantasy stories with gripping tales that will, I think, never let me go. It’s a saga of epic proportions, and one which I think any fan of literature should experience.

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!

Popular Books– Take a look at the other posts I’ve written on major works of fiction.

Sources

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Towers of Midnight (New York: Tor, 2010).

Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, A Memory of Light (New York: Tor, 2012).

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.

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah – “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersKathy Tyers’ Firebird series is renowned by many for its explorations of worldview questions in a stirring science fiction setting. I have written on the Firebird Trilogy before. Here, we’ll take a look at the two concluding books in the series- Daystar and Wind and Shadow. Specifically, I’ll be analyzing them from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the whole series below.

Human Nature

Both books have much to say about human nature. In particular, questions about the extent and nature of our free will abound as we as readers are confronted with different concepts of determinism and free choice. Although this theme is never, perhaps, fully developed in philosophical terms, the very activity of the characters makes a kind of argument towards the notion that we have free choice that is genuine, though the question of whether this might be compatibilist–set alongside determinism–or not is left open.

Daystar also raises major questions about the nature of humanity itself–are we purely material beings; or perhaps purely spiritual and trapped within a material body; or are we a unified center of body and soul? The organization known as the Collegium puts forward a kind of mystic view that we are eternal souls which, when we die, go back to the infinite, impersonal divine. There are strong elements of both Gnosticism and Platonism to be found in this teaching, and it is one which resonates with New Age type beliefs and other worldviews today. We need to think on this for ourselves: when it comes to the very concept of what it is to be a human, are we essentially matter, or is there something more? Christians need to think on such issues deeply and consider our own standing in the universe.

The Powers

There is a fantastic meld of science fiction technology and the reality of the spiritual realm found throughout the Firebird series. Wind and Shadow, in particular, moves the concept of spiritual warfare front-and-center. A Shadow being possessed Kiel, a kind of priest, and attempted to convince him that he ought to proclaim himself as the coming Messiah. In this way, the spiritual being sought to gain control over the course of events. The interplay of the spiritual and physical was something that was interwoven throughout the Firebird series, and it is important to reflect as Christians on how that might play out in our own lives.

Not long ago I read an excellent book on spiritual warfare which presented several views on the topic. I think we need to be prepared to dive into such challenging topics and see what the Bible has to say about them.

Messiah

Daystar reads much like a lengthy biblical Gospel. The story therein is that of the coming Messiah. But it is far more complex than that. It is also a story of the attempt to exterminate an entire people group; the story of religious conflict; of materialism; and more. However, the core of the book, and much of the series, is the hope for the coming Boh-Dabar, the Messiah. That Boh-Dabar ends up being Tavkel, a herdsman from a secluded place.

Tyers brings forth themes about the Messiah in surprisingly insightful ways. First, she integrates several parables into the text as Tavkel instructs people in the faith. (See a recent Sunday Quote! post for one of the parables from the book.)Some of these parables find parallels in those Jesus taught; others are clearly inventions of Tyers’ mind to try to put forth spiritual truths. All of them are unique and engaging. Second, Tavkel is very explicit about his own nature as divine. I think this was a good move on Tyers’ part because sometimes it can be easy to miss how clear Jesus’ own claims of divinity were. When Christ claimed the authority to arbitrate and expand the Mosaic Law, that would have been astonishing. In Daystar, Tavkel points to himself as a divine figure.

One conversation with Meris, a character who is a foreigner and who holds to rival beliefs, depicts Tavkel explaining the notion of being fully divine and fully human. Tavkel explains it by pointing out that “My father created the human form. He has mastery over it…” Meris objects by arguing that it doesn’t make sense that Tavkel can be “one hundred percent” human and one hundred percent God. She asks “Which [are you]?” Tavkel responds, “Both.” When Meris says “That’s not possible,” Tavkel responds: “Is light a wave or a particle Meris?” (426). Though the analogy is not perfect, it does help us to envision how we might assume to much in our own ability to comprehend reality.

Third, there is also much discussion over how the Boh-Dabar may fulfill some prophecies in unexpected ways and that even some preconceptions of what the Messiah figure should be or what verses are even about him might be mistaken. This finds its parallel in some ways in Jesus, who, being the Messiah, yet did not come as a military leader as many expected. To see the people in Daystar figuring out the implications their Messiah has for their understanding is a unique insight into how the Christian story itself might have played out during its earliest days. Confronted by the reality of a risen Lord, notions of what the Messiah should be had to fit this risen Savior.

Daystar is filled to the brim with interesting conversations and speculations like this, and the best part is that they point beyond themselves to the truth of God’s word.

Conclusion

Daystar and Wind and Shadow are excellent works in a fantastic science fiction series. I highly commend the whole series to you, dear readers, not just as a great way to think about worldview, but also simply as excellent science fiction by a bestselling author of the genre.

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!

Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues in the Trilogy in this post.

Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.

Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).

Sunday Quote!- A Science Fiction Parable– What might a parable look like in the future? Well, not too much different from one now. Check out this post on Tyers’ speculative parable in Daystar.

Sources

Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).

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.

Really Recommended Posts 2/13/15- Sci-fi, Genesis 1, Professor Snape, and more!

firebird-tyersWhew, burning the midnight oil to get this one written by Friday! I ask for your prayers for uninterrupted sleep, dear readers. Still sleep training little man and boy is he stubborn! Anyway, I have here an assortment of great reads for you. We have a biblical look at the length of the days of creation, an interview with the great sci-fi author (and woman of faith!) Kathy Tyers, a response to 50 Shades of Grey, a look at companies who profit off porn, and Harry Potter. Oh yeah, that’s all right here for your perusal! As always, let me know what you think–I love to read your thoughts. Be sure to let the authors know your appreciation as well.

Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-hour Periods– One of the most frequently repeated canards of the Young Earth Creationist side is that anyone who isn’t YEC is somehow undermining the Bible. Here’s a post from the conservative site The Gospel Coalition on some reasons to doubt the notion that strict literalism must be held regarding the length of creation days.

Interview with Kathy Tyers– Kathy Tyers is the author of the exceedingly awesome Firebird Trilogy (link to my post on the books) along with its sequels. She is also the New York Times Bestselling author of two Star Wars novels. Here’s an interesting interview about her body of work, her faith, and more!

50 Shades of Broken– Okay, I know there are a ton of posts out there on 50 Shades of Grey and Christian responses, etc. I still think this one is the one to read. I have a mind to respond to a specific post about the book, but this post itself presents the notion that our sexuality is broken, and the popularity of the book points to that.

Companies Who Profit Off Porn– Time to give these companies some feedback about their profiting off porn.

Someone Put Snape’s Scenes in Chronological Order and it will Make You Feel Things– Harry Potter is a series with some major moral and philosophical points to think about throughout the series. Here is a spoiler-laden set of the scenes of Professor Snape from the movies in chronological order, which reveals (SPOILERS HERE:) how his self-sacrifice ultimately preserved Harry’s life and by extension saved the wizarding world. Yes, there are major themes of redemption and sacrifice in Harry Potter. Check out my posts on the movies and books here.

 

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