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Christianity

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Book Review: “Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages” edited by Kyle R. Greenwood

Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages is an invaluable resource to understanding the book of Genesis and creation. The book’s scope is impressive, encompassing not only Christian interpretations but also early Rabbinic interpretations, Second Temple Judaism, and the rediscovery of the Ancient Near East with its implications for understanding Genesis. The book is a wealth of information for anyone interested in learning about Genesis.

Each chapter in the book is full of valuable insights. Greenwood himself starts it off by tracing the impact of these creation accounts across the Old Testament. Michael Matlock’s chapter on Second Temple Jewish literature and Genesis 1 and 2 is fascinating, both for its providing a brief introduction to that body of literature and for insights into how later traditions would shape one’s reading of the text. Some Jewish interpreters (eg. Josephus) seemed comfortable expanding on the story themselves, adding whatever details they believed might add interest or even theological emphasis to the text. Of course that doesn’t undermine much careful attention to details of the texts that modern interpreters sometimes miss. Ira Brent Driggers’ chapter uses the intriguing word “appropriations” to describe the New Testament’s use of the Genesis account. Among other things of interest, this chapter leads readers to wonder exactly how NT authors used the Old Testament and what that may mean for our own interpretations. Early Rabbinic interpretation is the subject of Joel S. Allen’s chapter, in which he shows some of the ways post-destruction of the temple Judaism saw figures like Adam and Eve.

Stephen O. Presley’s chapter on the Ante-Nicene Fathers touches on a number of major early Christian thinkers and shows how the interpretation of Genesis continued to develop in sometimes divergent ways. C. Rebecca Rine’s entry on the Nicene and Post-Nicene interpretations shows how Scripture was seen as a pathway to transformation (121) and so a focus on application of the text led to some unique readings (such as creating a baseline for spiritual writings based on the 6-day pattern). Questions raised by these Nicene/Post-Nicene thinkers included wondering why days were in the narrative at all–something that some modern interpreters would be baffled by for all their own emphasis on the importance of the days. Medieval Jewish theology is the center of Jason Kalman’s chapter, which demonstrates the sometimes radical divergence Christian vs. Jewish readings of the same verses could have. Some of these readings included seeing that Genesis didn’t actually entail an order of creation whatsoever (157). Timothy Bellamah’s chapter provides the Christian Medieval contrast to the previous chapter, showing how much fruitful theology continued in this period, often dismissed. Aquinas, of course, is the giant of this era, and he gets some due attention here. The Protestant Reformers were interested in Genesis 1 and 2 in part for their own polemical purposes and in part as their project to go back to the source continued. Jennifer Powell McNutt draws from this rich Christian tradition to highlight various points of emphases by the Reformers.

Another important aspect of the book is the chapter on the Ancient Near East by David T. Tsumura. Because much of this knowledge was lost for a lengthy period of time, many interpretations of Genesis through the ages did not take into account the actual cultural milieu from which it sprang. The Protestant Reformers, for example, had no access to these materials, so their call to go ad fontes–to the source–could not actually complete the task. The interpretation of Genesis ought not to be considered a settled matter from the Reformation to today, and even allegedly literal readings of Genesis owe as much to modern discoveries as to the texts themselves. Aaron T. Smith’s chapter on Post-Darwinian interpretations shows both how yes, in some ways evolution impacted readings of Genesis, but in others it caused a true pursuit of going back to the beginning. Cosmology is central to debates over how Genesis is to be read.

If it hasn’t already become clear, it should be stated plainly that this book is an absolute treasure trove of information, with many, many strands of further research to be pursued upon its completion. Each chapter is worthy of inclusion, and each is well-written and as intriguing as the next. That in itself is an achievement because the book is consistently engrossing.

I very highly recommend Since the Beginning to you, readers. It’s a book that will have you thinking about your own reading of the text, and may even give you insight into where that reading may have its origins.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

SDG.

——

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

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Book Review: “Last Call for Liberty” by Os Guiness

Os Guinness issues a call to question ourselves and what we mean by “freedom” and “liberty” in the United States in his book Last Call for Liberty. He argues that the United States must work to restore its faith in the “covenant” of the Constitution and help preserve liberty through its republican system.

Perhaps the most prominent theme throughout the book is that of 1776 vs. 1789. The dates refer to the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Guinness never really delves into defining this alleged conflict, though he does stick with the definition of “classical liberal” vs. “left/liberal.” The pervasiveness of this theme would lead readers to think that there would be some elucidation of the specifics of this distinction, but those readers are left wanting. Guinness simply refers to those dates throughout the book as though readers will just know and agree how horrible the French Revolution was for “liberty” (however defined) and how wonderful and perfect the American Revolution was for liberty. That is supposed to be obvious to anyone reading the book, apparently, because there is no point at which Guinness argues the point. In the introduction, for example, when he first introduces the theme, he writes:

Either the classical liberalism of the republic will prevail and 1776 will defeat 1789, or the Left/liberalism of 1789 will defeat 1776, and the republic will fail and become a republic in name only. (4)

Those are some dire words. Probably they should have some basis in argument, definition, and reality. But readers will never know if this distinction has a reality from the arguments presented in the book, because Guinness blithely assumes readers will go with his argument, despite never actually having made it.

The 1776/89 theme is pervasive throughout the book, and is continually used either as the point of an argument or as a way to hammer opposing views. For example, at one point Guinness states that “There can be no truce between 1776 and 1780. The clash of freedoms has to be settled in favor of one way or another, for they lead in entirely different directions” (179). Readers won’t really have a firm idea of what those directions are beyond 1776 is good and 1789 bad; but beyond that point is the absurdity of the actual statement made. “No truce” between the two can exist? How about the fact that, historically, the United States did, in fact have a truce with the Revolutionaries of 1789 and ultimately even an alliance? Sure, the relationship between the two countries soured to the point of a pseudo war, but it healed again shortly thereafter. Why? Because the United States was more favorably inclined towards a French country that had thrown off its monarchy than other countries that were dedicated to preserving theirs (eg. Britain). I admit I have simplified things historically, but even this analysis provides more historical background to the two years than Guinness does in close to 300 pages of text! Not only that, but Guinness had, at an earlier point, argued that history is the test for different systems to work, citing, of course, the worst possible examples of political systems that are different from a republic in his argument. But if history is the test for truth claims, his absurd claim that there can be no truce between 1776/1789 has been tested and is false.

Much of the rest of the book is filled with vague or explicit notions of American exceptionalism. The United States has the best system because it does, right? For example, only pages after Guinness condemns Athenian democracy for its limits on freedom because it only gave certain men the right to vote and Athens didn’t give in to reasoned arguments against slavery (77-78), he goes on to praise the United States for its own wonderful adherence to liberty. I don’t know whether to be amused by the irony or saddened by the apparent intentional ironing out of history’s wrinkles. After all, the 1776 liberty and freedom-loving republic Guinness wants us to all to hearken back to as the best example itself only allowed certain men the right to vote and endorsed and made laws for slavery. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply conflicted Guinness’s words are with his own thesis throughout the book. Whose liberty and freedom is Guinness really concerned with here? I can’t help but ask the question, because his ignoring of the wrongs of slavery and limited votes in the earliest days of the republic are set alongside nearly worshipful praise of the wisdom of the Founders demands that we ask whose power Guinness is concerned with.

Another major problem with the book is the style of writing Guinness has. At very few points was I able to draw out a thread of an argument. Rather, throughout the work, waxing eloquently is taken in the place of argument. It’s the kind of writing style that will pump up an audience already firmly in agreement with the thesis, but it doesn’t advance the argument or really even state it in any way. Alongside these vague statements that nevertheless provide good quote-mining is the notion that the United States somehow, in 1776, did something akin to making a proper covenant with God by being “under God” in the formation of the nation. I am still not sure I understand Guinness’s point here, but neither do accept fault for not understanding it. Like most other points in the book, this covenant/constitution/under God unity is never explained but merely assumed and orated upon.

Guinness apparently also felt the need to jump on the bandwagon of at least referencing the concept of calling younger people “snowflakes” and restating some of the mockery directed towards those who were upset by results of an election. For a man who literally wrote a book about how we must work to preserve freedom and liberty, it is deeply ironic to read condemnations of people feeling passionately about the results of efforts to do so. Sure, Guinness probably disagrees with how these others are voting, but for him to complain about the passion people felt about elections is asinine. How can Guinness seriously place this complaint having just written a book trying to put forward a passionate cry for liberty? Oh, and don’t forget to blame 1789 for people not conforming to Guiness’s standards of how people should react to elections, as well. Not content to stop with that self-condemning thought, Guinness also equivocates between the notion of political correctness and “newspeak” from the book 1984. It’s not a sick take down of the “Left” (or the Right, really) unless we bring up some of our favorite dystopic novels, right? This equivalency is stunning, because it seems to imply that Guinness actually believes that calls to, say, use accurate language for people groups is the same as literally changing truth to falsehood. Maybe he does believe that, in which case his own position seems much more dangerous to liberty than those he condemns.

Really, the entire book reads like someone who is having to face the fact that his position–that of an elder white male–is no longer valued simply by virtue of being an elder white male. Liberty is easily defined into power for his own position, and this definition is made almost explicit when he, as noted above, praises the United States’ republican system that excluded all non-white people, females, and non-land owners from voting in the glorious year of 1776. It’s hard to take seriously a man who can make such a heartless statement in praise of that system who then turns around and complains about others not liking his viewpoint.

Last Call for Liberty is the kind of alarmist and elitist work that Guinness purports to condemn in the book itself. By aligning himself so closely with the notion that the United States is under (or should be under) some kind of divine mandate and “covenant,” Guinness preaches to the choir of American exceptionalism. By sweeping the faults of our form of “liberty” under the rug, he engages in the very immunization against facts that he criticizes the “left/liberal” of doing. It is at times baffling to see such contradictory sentiments contained in the same book. Unfortunately, I believe that its primary audience will find it as faultless as they find our country.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context” by Daniel White Hodge

Daniel White Hodge’s Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context is much more than a book about missions, though it has plenty there. It challenges readers to broaden perspectives, think critically about their own assumptions, and engage with cultures they may not have otherwise done.

The book starts off with an exploration of Christianity and “the theological turn of the twentieth century.” This theological turn was, in part, a moving away from seeing Christianity as a kind of turning everyone into white people with ways of thinking and culture. After World War II, there was a questioning of authority and the structures that were set in place to maintain authority that began to be challenged. But missiology hasn’t kept up with all the trends. As communities of black people began to be formed outside the church in the Post Soul context, these communities relied less upon the church, which then attempted outreach, turning it again, unfortunately, into a viewpoint where the dominant white culture and hierarchy became enshrined as part of the church and, therefore, of the mission preached to the community.

Throughout this first section, we see how racism in the church and the accompanying silencing of the voices of people of color led to multiple challenges in the American church. As people began to associate the church with oppression, they began to see Christ and orthodox Christianity as inherently wound up in the same systems. Opposition to doctrines that were taught by missionaries who seemed to care much more for the numbers they could draw than for the people or empowerment of the oppressed became part of the experience of many people of color. Hodge, here, shows through both anecdotes and broader analysis that this opposition to orthodoxy in some sections of the church arose from opposition to those associated with the orthodoxy. And here’s where the book begins to truly challenge its readers. After all, I personally cannot say how often I’ve heard about how much it is ideas that matter rather than the people who put the ideas forward. Objective truth, that is, is true no matter who shares it. I believe that. But when the people who share objective truth are actively oppressing you and preventing, sometimes by force, family members from doing things like voting, it becomes difficult to see where the lines should be drawn between the objective truths and the objective lies and distortions being put forward by the same individuals or groups of people.

There is a kind of blithe assumption that we–all people, that is–can just separate whatever someone believes or teaches from the person. Truth is supposed to be impersonal, and so it doesn’t matter if the one who is teaching the Gospel is a Klansman, because it still is the true Gospel. Objectively, that is true, but the message it sends is that the Gospel is associated with the Klan, whether we want it to be or no. That means the challenges faced by missiology must include not just teaching objective truths, but demonstrating that these objective truths are capable of objectively changing reality for both the one sharing the truths and for those who hear them. And that is exactly what the Gospel of Christ is about, for it ushers in salvation through the Kingdom of God. Hodge’s book continues to challenge readers throughout. Nowhere does he say that heresy is good or that it should be accepted, but he does call readers to see how heresy might become appealing when orthodoxy is associated with structures that oppress.

Hodge weaves data and anecdotes throughout the book. The segments from interviews are particularly poignant, as readers learn about young people of color who faced challenges of racism even in their small Christian groups. One example I remember is of a large black man who did his best to be cheerful, funny, and self-deprecating in order to come off as non-threatening to his church community only to have that community doubt his reports of aggression from police and white people outside that community purely based on his status as a large black man.

Then, Hodge turns to Hip Hop and an analysis of some major works in that genre to see how they’ve helped shape the thought and even theology of communities. Though often dismissed offhand as sinful due to content including cuss words, sex, violence, and drugs, hip hop is one way that people are trying to make sense of the world. But the analysis of Hip Hop isn’t an attempt to excuse its content; rather, it is a demonstration of the power of that content for communities experiencing that content and a call to develop missiology that acknowledges this context. It shows how Hip Hop has its own missiology and theology, deeply spiritual and often developed out of a Christian context and background.

Homeland Insecurity: A Hip Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context is a challenging, fulfilling read. It’s a call to readers to go beyond the straightforward and look, truly look at the way we impact our communities. Moreover, it is a call to action. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

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.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are in your community. What do you do?

The headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society- credit: By Sergio Herrera – Sergio Herrera’s (Q.Entropy) Flickr page, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15112279

Over the weekend, there were Jehovah’s Witnesses that had flown in to go door-to-door in our community. I typed up a brief list of things to think about or discuss if they are in your own neighborhood. I do not claim this is comprehensive; this is just a starting point for discussions.

Above all else, please be courteous and kind in all of your interactions with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

If you are interested in having a discussion, be aware of a few things:
1) They have certain passages they have been trained to expect (eg. John 1:1) and will not deviate from their own “translation” which, though wrong, will not be fruitful in trying to dissuade them from.
2) They are seeking the truth, just as we are.
3) They do not believe Jesus is God, but rather Michael the Archangel (though I have had some deny this)–see below for a few verses to discuss this.
4) They believe they must work to get to heaven. Emphasize God’s grace in your own interactions with them.

If you do want to go into some depth, here are some good passages:
1. Compare Isaiah 44:24 (YHWH/The LORD [they’d say Jehovah] is speaking and says that God made the heavens “by myself.” to Colossians 1:16 in which the son creates all things–if the Son creates all and God creates all “by myself,” who is the Son? [Note: their translation will say that the Son creates all “other” things in Colossians 1, inserting the word “other” many times in the opening chapter where it doesn’t exist in the Greek manuscripts, but this doesn’t undermine the point, because even if it says “other” things, those other things are things Jehovah creates “by myself” in Isaiah]
2. Compare Revelation 22:8-9 [John bows down to an angel, thinking, apparently, the angel is God or worthy of worship] to Hebrews 1:5-6 (and following) [the Son is listed as being worshiped and even angels must worship the Son].
3. Walk through Jeremiah 23:5-6 in their own translation. Ask who the first verse is about–who is the one from the branch of David? Jesus, clearly, and they’ll agree. Then in verse 6, what is the name that Jesus will be called–JEHOVAH our righteousness. It says this in their own translation. So if the prophecy is about Jesus, and Jehovah says the name of this coming king will be Jehovah…. who is Jesus?

Finally, pray for those with whom you disagree.

SDG.

“The Rocks Don’t Lie” by David Montgomery: Chapters 11-13

After a 5 year hiatus, I decided to continue my look at David Montgomery’s work, The Rocks Don’t Lie. For a refresher, the book is from the perspective of a geologist as he looks at Noah’s flood in light of geology, but he also includes material on contemporary accounts and some reflections on faith.

Chapters 11-13

The stark impact of catastrophic events on our planet’s past is clear in the geologic record. Montgomery uses his own experience as a geologist and the history of geology to show how catastrophism is part of modern geology, despite young earth creationists often claiming modern geology only appeals to uniformitarianism. Geologists began integrating catastrophe and uniformity almost from the beginning, as challenges to Lyell’s strictest uniformitarianism emerged from geologic evidence. Thus, far from what is too often portrayed as an either/or situation, geology truly is both/and when it comes to the two streams of evidence.

It is even possible that one such catastrophic event led to the stories of the flood as found in the Ancient Near East, including in the Bible. Glacial events led to massive buildups of water, and as the ice would melt in front of that water, it would release huge torrents that could carve canyons and flood enter massive regions quickly. Clear evidence of this having happened through ice dam failures is seen in both North America and Eurasia (210ff). One such massive event helped fill Hudson bay and the Great Lakes. It is possible that a similar event occurred with the Black Sea that could have led to so many stories in the region about massive floods. Yet creationists are unwilling to accept this evidence. Montgomery writes:

There was a time when both geologists and conservative Christians would have interpreted the evidence of a catastrophic Black Sea flood as proof of Noah’s Flood and confirmation of the historical veracity of Genesis. But times have changed. Now geologists present evidence in support of Noah’s Flood, and creationists hold out for belief in a global flood for which no evidence can be found (223).

In Chapter 12, Montgomery explores reasons why some Christians reject so much compelling evidence for a truly ancient earth and the lack of a global flood. One of the primary reasons, he thinks, is due to a belief that such evidence undercuts the truth of the Bible. He notes the impact of Whitcomb and Morris and their book The Genesis Flood upon this movement. It continues to have immense impact despite being rejected by geologists–including Christians–as clearly mistaken. The attacks upon conventional geology fall short of the truth and often show basic misunderstandings of geology. Christian geologists have continued to push back against this “flood geology,” yet it persists in some corners.

In the final chapter, entitled “The Nature of Faith,” Montgomery reflects upon his own journey. He came in with a clear goal of refuting creationist claims wholesale, but as he explored evidence for major local floods as well as reading Christians on the topic, his view of the nature of faith changed. He notes that he sees science and faith not as enemies but “as an awkward egalitarian waltz” (247). Montgomery, though not (to my knowledge) a Christian, suggests that Christianity has much to offer and has done some work for science as well as against it. He argues that one thing needed is “a historically informed understanding of how people read and interpreted sacred texts in the past” (249) so that we can form a better picture of the past. Similarly, “Genesis 1 remains powerful and relevant today if read as a symbolic polemic intended for early monotheists rather than as a Bronze Age scientific treatise” (251). Too often, “We will only look for evidence that confirms our beliefs” rather than challenging ourselves and keeping our minds open (253). Though religion cannot answer every scientific question, neither can science make religion an illusion (255).

I found Montgomery’s final chapter, in particular, extremely helpful. It’s the kind of outsider perspective that is truly constructive and helpful. It makes me wonder how his own outlook may have changed in the 6 years since the publication of this book. He is articulate and fair. Indeed, his suggestions for people of faith ought to be well-taken, alongside his critiques of skeptical perspectives. The idea that faith is a sickness or illusion is too prominent today, but people of faith also need to acknowledge that some of that stems from a denial of clear evidence. If we set our faith on things that are clearly wrong (for example, young earth creationism), it discredits our faith.

 

Links 

“The Rocks Don’t Lie” by David Montgomery: Preface and Chapter 1– Montgomery surveys the intent of the book and how his own investigation of the flood led him to some surprising results. He expected a straightforward refutation of creationism, but found the interplay with science and faith to be more complex than he thought.

“The Rocks Don’t Lie” by David Montgomery: Chapters 2-3– First, Montgomery gives a survey of the basics of geology. Then he notes some serious problems with young earth paradigms related to the Grand Canyon and fossils in the Americas as well as on mountains.

“The Rocks Don’t Lie” by David Montgomery: Chapter 4– Montgomery surveys a number of early flood geological theories and shows how theological interpretations continued to change as evidence was discovered through time.

“The Rocks Don’t Lie” by David Montgomery: Chapters 5-7– A brief early history of the study of geology and paleontology is provided, and early theories about the flood begin to form alongside them.

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

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

SDG.

——

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

Apologetics Guided Reading: George Park Fisher “Manual of Christian Evidences” Chapter 9

I am leading a guided reading of the Manual of Christian Evidences by George Park Fisher. It is freely available online and will serve as a base for discussing Christian apologetics throughout this series. The chapters are short and readable. I encourage you to join in by reading the chapters and commenting with your thoughts. When I discuss the book, I will be citing page numbers from the edition linked above.

Chapter 9

Fisher’s argument in chapter 9 centers on the credibility of the apostles. In Chapter 8, he argued for the credibility of the Gospels, so he builds on the notion that the Gospels may be trusted to report the words of the Apostles to the question of why we ought to trust them.

First, he notes that we ought to generally trust people unless we have reason to distrust them, whether through intent to deceive or some independent reason to doubt their testimony (71). Other reasons to distrust them may be that they were “enthusiasts” or “simpletons.” A primary reason Fisher cites to trust the apostles is that they give testimony that shows them in a poor light. One example is Paul’s own writings in which he states that he persecuted the church (72-73). They also admit their own contentions about who should be first–the inner fights they had, and the rebukes against some of them by Jesus. Their willingness to show themselves as foolish or mistaken in various forms lends credence to their reports as truth.

Regarding the miracles they report, Fisher touches on the mythic theory put forward by David Friedrich Strauss–that the miracles found in the Gospels were imagined by followers of Jesus who were so caught up in him that they (intentionally or not) invented tales about his power. Fisher counters this by noting that this gets the story backwards, for the reason so many were interested in Jesus was because of the very miracles those selfsame people are alleged to have invented. How could they have become followers of Christ on account of miracles if they themselves invented them (74-75)?

One objection to the authenticity of the Gospels is found in alleged discrepancies between their accounts. Fisher approaches this argument from a few different ways. First, he notes that many of these alleged contradictions are not actually contradictions at all. He does not exhaustively look at such contradictions (for such a look, it is interesting to look at J.J. Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences). Second, Fisher argues that minor discrepancies are to be expected in any human testimony. Should we demand 100% agreement in all testimony everywhere, courts would have to be “shut up, for the most veracious witnesses seldom agree in all the minutiae which enter into their testimony” (76).  One example I use personally is that of someone’s height. I’m short for an adult man, so on the witness stand I may call someone “tall” who someone of average of height might call “average.” Such a discrepancy in testimony doesn’t suggest we’d both be wrong, but that human perspective changes based on who the witness is. Fisher’s comments here would likely make some uncomfortable regarding specific doctrines of inspiration, particularly a stringent view of inerrancy. It seems Fisher is willing to allow for their to be even some factual discrepancies between the Gospels due to their human authorship. Third, Fisher notes that the Gospels are not intended to be exhaustive historical accounts but rather the remembrances of eyewitnesses, and so frequently the apparent contradictions or discrepancies could be resolved by simply having more detail. These details are often provided by other Gospel accounts, so it is important to compare them.

Regarding the miracles in the apostles’ accounts, Fisher notes a few lines of evidence. First, they verify revelations. Second, the miracles go against prevailing belief, such that they went against expectations. Third, several of the miracles were in circumstances people felt they were highly unlikely to occur. Fourth, the apostles were subject to persecution regarding their belief in many of these miracles. Thus, if they were inventing them, it was likely they would have given up the invention rather than try to maintain their false pretense. Fifth, the manner of reporting of miracles the apostles had was such that it lends credence to “sobriety of mind” rather than invented myths. Regarding the appearances of Christ, one of the points Fisher makes is that they were limited in time and scope. If they were invented, why would the appearances have stopped?

I think regarding Fisher’s last point, we could note that some do still allege appearances of Christ here and there. There are the infamous “Jesus toast” type of instances, which are dismissed by virtually all, including believers. So again, this seems to go against the idea that Christ-followers were or continue to be particularly prone to the invention and perpetuation of the miraculous. This doesn’t go into issues of charismata and the like, but questions and responses could be asked here as we continue to look at the nature of the miraculous.

Fisher’s succinct chapter here is filled with lines of thought. Again, he merely touches on most issues, but his arguments seem powerful. What takeaways did you have from this chapter?

Study Questions

  1. Fisher’s response to Strauss is quite brief. How might you expand it? What other interactions with Strauss have you run into?
  2. What do you think of Fisher’s comments regarding discrepancies in the apostles’ accounts? How might his answer impact one’s view of the Bible?
  3. What apparent contradictions have you seen in the Bible that you have been able to resolve?

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!

Apologetics Read-Through: Historical Apologetics Read-Along– Here are links for the collected posts in this series and other read-throughs of apologetics books (forthcoming).

Dead Apologists Society– A page for Christians interested in the works of historical apologetics. There is also a Facebook group for it.

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle” by Sarah Arthur

A Light So Lovely is a remarkable look at an intriguing woman’s life and contributions to spirituality. At times challenging while at others biographical, Sarah Arthur weaves together tale with theology, fact with fiction in a compelling way.

Madeleine L’Engle is almost certainly best remembered for her book A Wrinkle in Time, but Sarah Arthur exposes readers to the broad range of L’Engle’s work, which seems to rival C.S. Lewis’s output in both range and output. Arthur draws on this comparison herself a number of times, though she never comes to rely upon it. L’Engle is her own person, and one with complexities that demand careful reading.

The book is organized around a number of themes within L’Engle’s thought and work. Arthur notes that one of L’Engle’s driving spiritual themes is that of the “both/and” rather than the “either/or.” As a Lutheran, this resonates with me quite a bit because Lutherans tend to see themes in life as both/and as well (e.g. that Christians are sinner/saints). The chapters reflect this “both/and” narrative with titles like “Icon and Iconoclast” and “Faith and Science.” In each chapter, the both/and that L’Engle affirms becomes clear.

L’Engle’s spirituality is tied up in both fiction and nonfictional works. At times, it challenges the bounds of what some would demand for orthodoxy. Her apparent affirmations of things like ultimate universalism and the like caused some controversy in her own time and continue to do so to this day. L’Engle explored spirituality through myth and mythmaking (using the terms in the technical sense). Arthur draws upon fiction, nonfiction, anecdotes, interviews, the Bible, and more for sources in outlining L’Engle’s thought and spirituality.

So what is L’Engle’s spirituality? It would be hard to sum it up even in paragraph form, but Arthur’s focus in the chapters already points towards a way to do so. Specifically, L’Engle’s spirituality was one which was inclusive almost to a fault, focused on uniting truths together that some would see as at odds with each other. Her spirituality was also deeply practical, with her honest looks at the struggles of working as a mother, dealing with doubt, and more. Another theme Arthur explores is the way L’Engle tied her spirituality into her fiction. It is remarkable, looking back, to see that a book like A Wrinkle in Time, with its explicitly Christian themes, managed to win a Newbery Award, for such awards typically avoid anything explicitly religious. But L’Engle’s work is so magical, so captivating, and her Christianity so matter-of-fact that it becomes its own kind of light, the “light so lovely” that it can inspire others to learn more and seek it out. This central theme of the book is also central to L’Engle’s spirituality.

A Light So Lovely is a delightful work. The highest laud I can give it is that it has led me to seek out more writings of L’Engle to seek a deeper understanding and try to help make my own light shine. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

SDG.

——

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

 

Book Review: “Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age” by Stephen D. Lowe and Mary E. Lowe

Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age is a narrowly focused book that will be essential reading for its target audience. That target audience? People who are teaching or participating in online learning.

I’m almost tempted to leave the review at that, because genuinely, this book has a razor sharp focus that will make it invaluable for that audience but not as interesting for those who aren’t in the target group. As one who has done my share of online learning, I wish that I’d had this book ahead of time to help me foster some of the advice the authors share.

So what kind of advice is given herein? It ranges from helping make connections with others on social media to how best to design a learning environment for an online-only experience. The authors go beyond merely giving advice to helping readers strategize how to teach, learn, and foster spiritual growth in online environments. All throughout the book, many of the points are tied to scriptural examples in ways that–this is important–don’t feel like pulling texts out of context. The authors are careful to make points that will be directly relevant to their readers, and in doing so they’ve created a kind of guidebook for spiritual learning and growth online. Indeed, a whole section is dedicated to “A Biblical Theology of Ecology” before turning to how the internet has created its own share of “digital ecologies.”

Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age will give readers exactly what they want out of it, so long as they’re part of its audience. For those involved in online learning or online groups geared towards formation, this will be an invaluable read.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

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.

 

Serena Williams, Tennis, Race, and Sexism

Serena Williams is in the news for a reason other than winning at tennis. Wait, she often makes headlines for other reasons, and we’ll talk about some of these. But the recent discussion of her disputing with the umpire at the U.S. Open Final (2018) has me incensed. I am angry. I am angry for several reasons, and I want to get into that as well. I will be referring to Serena Williams throughout as “Serena” to distinguish her from her sister, Venus, another tennis great.

Context Matters

First, the discussion about Serena Williams shouldn’t occur in a vacuum. Too many of those who are weighing in calling her unsporting or deserving of the penalties she got frankly have not done anything more than watch the reel of her complaining to the judge about the penalties. They haven’t taken into account any of the context surrounding these comments, or the more than a decade of fighting against a system stacked against her that Serena has overcome.

Alize Cornet

Early in the U.S. Open, Alize Cornet, a French player, got penalized because she had realized her shirt was inside out and changed it on the court. She simply took her shirt off, flipped it right side in, and put it back on. Penalty. Meanwhile, male athletes like Djokovic (with his own history of sexism) run around with their shirt completely off in celebration without penalty. This was an early and glaring example of the sexism in the powers that be of tennis. Later, it was admitted Cornet should not have been penalized. Ya think?

As one headline opined, Cornet didn’t violate anything but the notion that women’s bodies are inherently “scandalous.” Cornet would later note that the catsuit ban (see below) was even more absurd than the penalty against her.

The Catsuit

At the French Open, Serena was planning to play in a catsuit, which was intended to help her health, but was banned from doing so. She took it in stride and with grace, finding other ways to deal with her health that fit the tennis hierarchy’s notion of what a woman ought to look like.

Double Standard

Several male tennis players came out on Twitter and elsewhere noting that not just others but that they themselves have gotten away with saying much worse to umpires and not been even warned about it. Cursing, shouting, screaming, slamming rackets: these behaviors are frequently overlooked when men do them, but when it is Serena? An umpire decides to tilt the match with a full game penalty. Why? There’s a clear double standard that continues in tennis that exists in the society at large. Another clear example is the discussion of “grunting” or “groaning” in tennis. Women continually have the sounds of exertion they make during a match cited as unseemly or worth mocking, while men who make just as much or more noise do so without comment.

One Christian apologist cited Billie Jean King’s own actions dealing with sexism as a counter-argument to me speaking about the unequal treatment of Williams. Billie Jean King, however, wrote a post later that day in which she affirms much of what I was saying:

Did Ramos treat Williams differently than male players have been treated? I think he did. Women are treated differently in most arenas of life. This is especially true for women of color. And what played out on the court yesterday happens far too often. It happens in sports, in the office and in public service. Ultimately, a woman was penalized for standing up for herself. A woman faced down sexism, and the match went on…

Women have a right, though, to speak out against injustice — as much right as a man. I found myself in similar situations in my career; once, I even walked off the court in protest. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it may have been one of my more powerful ones. I understand what motivated Williams to do what she did. And I hope every single girl and woman watching yesterday’s match realizes they should always stand up for themselves and for what they believe is right. Nothing will ever change if they don’t…

Women are taught to be perfect. We aren’t perfect, of course, and so we shouldn’t be held to that standard. We have a voice. We have emotions. When we react adversely to a heated professional situation, far too often, we’re labeled hysterical. That must stop.

Constant Racism and Sexism Against Serena

There is a long, long history of racism and sexism against Serena Williams and her sister, Venus. From repeated uses of the n-word by so-called “fans” of tennis to being called a gorilla to having another player stuff her skirt and top with towels to mock Serena’s curves (yes, this really happened), Serena has long been a target of all kinds of nonsense, jealousy, and hatred. The many negative comments following this controversy at the U.S. Open just add to that. This post outlines more of the long history and horrible things Serena has had to deal with in her career.

Despite this continued, horrible treatment, Serena has long acted with grace and dignity in the face of these comments and actions. She has set an example that ought to be followed. Yet when she allows her emotion to show, finally allowing some anger to show and some tears to flow in reaction to the unfair application of rules by a power hungry umpire, she is vilified. This is not just unfair, but yet another example of the unequal treatment of Serena.

But She Violated the Rules

There are those who will claim this context doesn’t matter. Rules are rules no matter who you are, and she violated the rules. There may be a case for that, if the rules were applied with any consistency whatsoever. As Serena noted, it seemed clear the umpire was practically accusing her of cheating when she hadn’t even been looking at her coach and male tennis players consistently get that same level of coaching or much, much more without penalty. If rules are really rules for a reason, then there should be enforcement of those rules. But like having Djokovic running around shirtless with impunity vs. Cornet fixing an issue with her shirt and being penalized, there is no consistency enforcing the rules on Serena. An umpire with an ego decided to make a power play out of one of the biggest matches of the year.

Officials and Privilege

I have long been of the opinion that if a sporting event ends up having the story be about the officials, something is deeply wrong with the officiating. Here, the story of the U.S. Open ended up not being about the first Japanese player ever to win a Majors Final, nor about how Serena fought hard through adversity to make a match out of it after a decisive first match by Naomi Osaka; rather, it became about the umpire. There’s something seriously wrong there. As one op ed noted, “Ramos [the umpire] took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him.” Yep. It’s the fragile male ego striking again, and I say this as a white male.

I know it’s supposed to be some kind of stigma now, especially after the absurdity of some recent evangelical statements about “social justice” (for context and analysis from a source I don’t always agree with, check out this post on that recent statement), but I do realize that as a white male I have significant privilege in this society. I realize that when my privilege is challenge, I have sometimes reacted negatively and defensively, trying to preserve my position. But I repent of that and hope that Christians can all work together to bring about that world that is called for in Galatians 3:28, a world in which there is true equality. I am angry that Serena is not allowed to show anger, that when she is merely excited about a match she is called an animal, that unseemly actions are taken to mock her. This is not something that should be tolerated, and I am angry that various tennis associations and our society at large has generally allowed this kind of treatment to stand. I am angry that when she does, finally, react, Serena is attacked and scorned. Let us work towards a society where all are treated equally, and let’s work towards that as much as we can, wherever we are.

What To Do

The Women’s Tennis Association and other major tennis organizations must work to end the sexism in the sport and do some serious investigation of how penalties are handed out as well as how the rules are applied. Moreover, there needs to be more severe policing of sexist and/or racist comments or actions taken by tennis players and officials. Without these actions, it is clear that the powers that be in tennis simply do not care about these inequities in their sport.

Individuals can play a part as well, and affirmation goes a long way. Serena has faced skepticism her whole career, and as she continued to get better and beat all comers, the sexist comments increased. Though it is tempting to fight fire with fire, a more effective path may be to simply affirm Serena Williams and other female tennis players as much as possible. Serena Williams is among the best athletes of our generation and certainly the greatest tennis player of all time. She has 23 Majors Titles, more than 800 career wins with an 85% winning record, 14 Doubles Finals wins with a 14-0 record, 2 mixed doubles titles, and 4 olympic gold medals (3 doubles, 1 singles). There is frankly no disputing these achievements, along with the fact that she genuinely changed how women’s tennis is played with her powerful style and strong service game. Her advocacy for equal pay for women, women’s equality generally, and racial reconciliation is a strong legacy that will outlast her tennis game. We are living in the age of Serena. Let’s enjoy it.

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!

Serena Williams is Constantly the Target of disgusting racist and sexist attacks-  a brief summary of many, many instances of racism and sexism that Serena Williams has faced in her career.

At U.S. Open, power of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka overshadowed by an umpire’s power play– Yep.

Serena Williams’ US Open Loss may be the grossest example of sports sexism yet– Double standard? Double standard.

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective” by Fred Van Geest

How are we to live as Christians in the political arena? It’s a question that feels tired at times, but it remains as pressing as ever. Fred van Geest’s Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective is remarkable for its even, fair look at a number of political questions from a broadly Christian viewpoint.

There is no possible way to approach a book like this without bias. Van Geest acknowledges this and notes that Christians ought not to be excluded from using their faith to help determine their answers to political questions; after all, no one can be an unbiased commentator on political questions. The book is organized around four parts: Foundational Values and Ideas for Government; Institutions; Policy; and Foreign Policy and International Relations.

Included among the foundational values and ideas are questions about what a government is to begin with, what it means to be a “Christian” government, and whether such a thing ought to even exist. What makes van Geest’s analysis interesting is that he largely manages to navigate that space between liberal and conservative, showing how ideas and ideals from both groups can be held in unity and even lead to policy change that may be mutually agreed upon. Though it is impossible to truly navigate entirely in that tiny “in between” space, van Geest’s book helps readers to at least understand both sides more than they might have before.

One aspect that makes van Geest’s analysis particularly interesting is his breaking out of the unfortunate tendency to simply analyze U.S. politics from a Christian perspective. Instead, he frequently looks at international perspectives and uses examples of countries outside of North America. Many charts are included showing things like voting turnout (and setting that alongside how different systems of voting may encourage or discourage said turnout), opinions on gun control in the U.S., corporate tax rates in different countries (and why some aspects of taxing corporations may be beneficial or not), and many, many more.

Where van Geest brings in a specifically Christian perspective to politics, it becomes even more interesting. He compares Jimmy Carter’s and George W. Bush’s statements on politics and faith, shows the real challenges of poverty and health care in various countries (including the U.S.), argues that income inequality can lead to very real wrongs, questions some aspects of Just War thought, and challenges readers to look at human rights in a global perspective. Though I didn’t always agree with van Geest, I found him bringing so much information to bear in some of these chapters that I was able to sit back and reflect and even change my view on some things.

The book is an introduction, so it doesn’t delve too deeply into any one topic, but it does give readers all kinds of information for further reading and exploration. Moreover, van Geest does a remarkable job of presenting so many different topics in such a short space. Having read the book, I found I felt more informed, even as someone who was a social studies major in college.

Introduction to Political Science: A Christian Perspective is most notable for the fact that van Geest manages to navigate the difficult terrain of the political minefield without becoming overly polemical. I found it highly enjoyable and challenging in the best ways. I recommend it highly.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give 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!)

SDG.

——

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

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