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Bonhoeffer’s Life in Fiction- Critical Review of “My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love” by Amanda Barratt

Amanda Barratt offers an historical novel based on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with My Dearest Dietrich. As the subtitle states, it is “A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Lost Love.” Specifically, Barratt delves into Bonhoeffer’s letters and writings and builds a narrative around them focused on his relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer.

Barratt does a fine job of weaving that narrative around Bonhoeffer’s letters. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Bonhoeffer, but having read many books about him as well as his collected works, the narrative seems to at least largely follow the course of his life. Bonhoeffer’s close relationship with Ruth von Kleist-Retzow, Maria’s grandmother, is highlighted. Interestingly, Bonhoeffer’s first meeting with Maria is only presented in the briefest type of flashbacks. Historically, Maria’s grandmother had tried to get Bonhoeffer to accept Maria into his confirmation class, but he refused after seeing her as “too immature” to do so. In the novel, she’s upset about having embarrassed herself in front of him some years before.

In a sense, My Dearest Dietrich is a reframing of Bonhoeffer’s life. Essentially, Barratt turns many of his encounters with Maria or others into a kind of building of and reflecting upon growing love in order to make the plot work. However, much of this is done inside Bonhoeffer’s head rather than being drawn from historical documents. This is, of course, the way historical novels must work. Barratt’s goal of showing Bonhoeffer’s growing relationship and love for Maria requires this kind of internal monologue throughout in order to make sense. Thus, it has to be invented for the sake of the story.

Those who have studied Bonhoeffer extensively know that there is some question about his sexuality and more specifically his relationship with Eberhard Bethge. The most thorough look at these questions may be found in The Doubled Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Diane Reynolds. Reynolds argues extensively that Bonhoeffer was in love with Bethge. Moreover, she argues that Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Maria von Wedemeyer was a kind of cover as his imprisonment loomed. His relationship with the much younger Maria would solidify him as a “masculine” German–something emphasized in Nazi propaganda–while also providing a cover for any hints of homosexuality. Gay people were one of the oppressed classes of the Nazis who were rounded up and murdered by them (homosexuality remained outlawed in Germany for sometime after, as well). Thus, Maria would serve as a kind of double cover for any questions about Bonhoeffer’s conforming to cultural expectations.

Reynolds’s book presents a strong, thoughtful argument with which any scholarship related to Bonhoeffer must contend (see my full review of the book here). Barratt’s novel ignores that and essentially offers a counter-narrative in which Bonhoeffer is struck almost immediately by the thoughtfulness of young Maria and eventually comes to fall in love with her and get engaged with the intent to marry. For Barratt, none of these questions about sexuality arise. The absence of Bonhoeffer’s growing love and thoughts of love in some of his other works is explained largely through having no time to reflect upon it and actively resisting reflecting on it because he believed, in Barratt’s account, that other things were more important.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not just a novel about Bonhoeffer’s life. It is a retelling of the events and framing them in a way that cuts away some of the more intriguing questions about his sexuality and love for Maria. Bonhoeffer’s relationship to Maria, and the age difference between them (he was her senior by 18 years) has perplexed some Bonhoeffer scholars. Reynolds’s exploration helps make sense of some of these questions. Indeed, even setting aside his sexuality, simply offering the explanation that he saw Maria as a way to show his German virility to the Nazi interrogators is plausible enough.

What one makes of My Dearest Dietrich, then, is what one may. Barratt’s clear influence from Eric Metaxas’s pseudo-biography of Bonhoeffer is found in her acknowledgements, where she makes it clear that she was most influenced by that work. Metaxas’s biography, however, is largely ignored or rejected by broader Bonhoeffer scholarship due to its transformation of Bonhoeffer into a character of Metaxas’s own choosing. That Barratt was so deeply influenced by this biography and then wrote a novel of Bonhoeffer’s life with virtually no reference to any of the possible controversies it may raise is an interesting detail.

Barratt does make a compelling narrative, though, and one which, if she’s right about Bonhoeffer’s relationship, does a good job explaining those historical anomalies she does acknowledge. For example, Maria’s constant theme of doubting Bonhoeffer’s love is partially balanced by Bonhoeffer actively resisting the same for the sake of what he sees in the novel as his more important work of resistance. If Barratt’s view of Bonhoeffer’s love and sexuality (again, the latter being wholly ignored as a topic here) are correct, then her novel at least offers a way to make more sense of it all.

My Dearest Dietrich, then, is not merely an historical fiction. Rather, it is a kind of apologetic for one vision of Bonhoeffer. One that stretches the man in ways that go beyond the historical record, his own writings, and perhaps even the deepest parts of his character. As Stephen R. Haynes put it, the “battle for Bonhoeffer” continues. This novelization of his life is another battle front offering an alternate narrative of the man’s life and legacy.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

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: “Winsome Conviction” by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer

Winsome Conviction: Disagreeing Without Dividing the Church by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer provides readers with a way to analyze conviction and acknowledge differences of opinion even on deeply held beliefs without causing undue division.

The book is divided into three sections. The first provides biblical foundations for analyzing conviction, along with several historical examples. The second section discusses how to communicate convictions, including questions about division and divisiveness, fellowship, echo chambers, and more. The third section provides five chapters on how to discuss convictions–even differing ones–in a more winsome way.

I especially enjoyed the authors using historical examples to highlight some of the problems we still face today regarding convictions. The first chapter, a “historical prelude,” used the example of Roger Williams and the formation of New England with its history of religious freedom. It’s fascinating to see how, historically, some of the people most concerned with separating church and state were those who had the most deeply held religious convictions. More recent examples, such as religious symbolism in the crest of a city, help to bring these discussions into modern light. This chapter alone makes the book well-worth reading, because it sets up a way to look at some neutral examples in history and other places and to use them in discussing convictions in one’s own setting.

The final five chapters on applying what the authors have case studies, such as differing opinions on how to read the book of Genesis, intermixed with advice on how to hold to sincere convictions while still maintaining unity in church. The book is therefore a valuable resource for those seeking to unite while allowing for significant disagreements. Not only that, it also provides a way forward in understanding how people with similar background ideologies may differ significantly on what seem like basic issues.

Winsome Conviction would make an excellent group read for churches, especially those looking to welcome people from many different backgrounds and beliefs.

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.

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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.

Susan Pevensie, C.S. Lewis, and Enchantment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “A Short History of Christian Zionism” by Donald M. Lewis

Christian Zionism is a major force in today’s political landscape. It’s especially powerful in the United States, but it’s also a global force. Donald M. Lewis’s A Short History of Christian Zionism gives readers a background for understanding what Christian Zionism is, where and when it came from, and how it impacts us to this day.

The book specifically deals with the time period from the Reformation to the modern day. Chapters cover a huge range of topics, largely in chronological order. First, Lewis’s helpful introduction deals with the competing definitions of Zionism and related terms. Ultimately, he settles upon this as a definition for Christian Zionism: it is “a Christian movement which holds to the belief that the Jewish people have a biblically mandated claim to their ancient homeland in the Middle East” (3, emphasis removed). Lewis notes how Christian Zionism has played a part in identity formation, especially for those in the dispensationalist movement. From there, Lewis moves into tracing the history of the movement itself. The first chapter does give a brief history from the Early Church to the Reformation, after which several chapters deal with different strands of Zionism emerging from various links to the Reformation. From there, links are forged showing Christian Zionism in American Puritanism, 19th Century British Evangelicalism, and how prominent a role the British Empire played in establishing some of the groundwork for later Zionist movements. The vision of World War I and II as vindications for Premillennialism and the correlating rise of Premillennial Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism presents a fascinating case study in the tenth chapter, and multiple developments in Palestine and global revivalist and Zionist activities form out the rest of the book.

Each chapter is filled with enlightening information. I was especially surprised to learn about the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 document in which the British Government publicly declared its support for a “national home of the Jewish people.” This, despite it being opposed by or ignored by many Jews of the time. The chapters outlining the rise of Christian Zionism in the British Empire laying the groundwork for this Declaration and how that declaration impacted later Zionism were absolutely fascinating.

Insights like those are present in virtually every chapter. The early is often cited by modern Zionists to support their reading of Scripture, but Lewis shows how many in the early church were largely ambivalent to ideas that would later form the basis for Christian Zionism. Lewis also is consistently even-keeled in his evaluation of Christian Zionism, rarely offering direct critique or support for any specific aspects of Christian Zionism. It makes the book invaluable as a reference work with little to bother readers about how it reports the historical information.

A Short History of Christian Zionism is a commendably fair evaluation of the Christian Zionist movement. Any readers remotely interested in the topic would be well-served to pick up and read a copy of this fine historical overview.

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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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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.

A Dilemma for Bonhoeffer’s Martyrdom? – Conflicting views of Bonhoeffer as Martyr

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is widely viewed as a martyr, a view that has only become more prevalent as popular-level interpretations of his life circulate broadly. Though it may seem fairly straightforward to claim Bonhoeffer as martyr, there are a number of potential stumbling blocks when it comes to the specifics of this claim. Broadly, Bonhoeffer as martyr makes a kind of intuitive sense if one views him as being killed by the Nazis for religious reasons. However, once one begins to examines his life and the reasoning behind viewing his death as a martyrdom, it becomes more complicated.

Petra Brown has argued against Bonhoeffer’s status from a number of directions in her work, Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception. The first way she argued against this status is that she believes viewing his activity as worthy of martyrdom leads to a number of dangerous outcomes (I examine this and related claims at length in my review of the book). The second claim is a more direct challenge: that naming Bonhoeffer as martyr is problematic because it is difficult to locate him within a realm of standard martyrdom accounts. More clearly, she argues that seeing Bonhoeffer as a martyr is a challenge because of the very reasons he may be considered as such.

Again, the first thrust of Brown’s argument fails, I believe, because taking Bonhoeffer in his own context and with his own theology undercuts her point. Though her point could be modified to an argument that Bonhoeffer’s theology may be dangerous when wrongly interpreted, this same point could be true of nearly any ethical or theological system. My arguments to this effect can be found elsewhere. Here, her second argument is worth drawing out. Brown pushes that Bonhoeffer as martyr leads to a somewhat unique dilemma, quoting at length (some formats of this site don’t show block quotes, so my quote from her will be in quotation marks instead of a standard block quote format):

“On the one hand, if Bonhoeffer is admirable because he exhibits qualities praiseworthy of a religious martyr in his decision to conspire [against Hitler in a plot to assassinate him], then… [this] provides an example of martyrs who are willing to kill in the name of religion for political causes. On the other hand, if the theological and religious justifications for Bonhoeffer’s political actions are avoided, and he is judged admirable because he embodied the cultural values that shaped Western civilisation, where civilised sensibilities, education, and reason led him to make a rational choice in the face of an irrational regime that usurped power, then he is a political martyr… There spans a seemingly unbridgeable gulf between Bonhoeffer as martyr, who died as the result of faithful witness to Christ, and Bonhoeffer as political conspirator, who participated in an assassination attempt.” (Petra Brown, Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception, Kindle location 302-313.)

My first set of ellipses there cuts out her reference to Craig J. Slane’s work, Bonhoeffer as Martyr: Social Responsibility and Modern Christian Commitment. Brown is attempting to show that, on Slane’s own attempt to portray Bonhoeffer as martyr, there are a number of problems. I believe, however, that Slane’s work does a better job answering some of Brown’s charges than it may appear. Additionally, there are other avenues the defender of the thesis of “Bonhoeffer as martyr” could utilize to avoid the horns of her dilemma. None of this is to say, however, that it is possible that viewing Bonhoeffer as martyr may be problematic. Again, this goes back to my critique of Brown’s primary point. It does seem clear that a misreading of Bonhoeffer or an intentional distortion of his reasoning could lead to disastrous and even violent outcomes. That alone is enough to urge caution to the Bonhoeffer scholar or fan.

Brown’s charges are a significant challenge. There are a few ways that immediately come up in avoiding them, however. One is to embrace a horn of the dilemma. For example, one may say that yes, Bonhoeffer may be viewed as a political martyr, and what is the issue with that? Indeed, Brown’s only apparent problem with that is that there are others just as (or more) deserving of being labeled a “martyr” for political resistance to the Nazi state as Bonhoeffer was. But that doesn’t constitute a problem for the Bonhoeffer proponent. The Bonhoeffer proponent could then move on to say that they still highly value and appreciate his theology and ethical system without falling into the apparent challenge of the first horn of Brown’s dilemma. However, it seems likely that most who wish to label Bonhoeffer as martyr would do so at least on some level for religio-theological reasons. Clearly, those reasons are what Slane has in mind in his monograph-length defense of that very idea.

Another way around Brown’s dilemma is to point out the first horn of her dilemma appears problematic itself. Bonhoeffer’s death as martyr is not, one may argue, an example of someone willing to “kill in the name of religion for political causes,” but rather is any number of alternatives. Those who use Bonhoeffer’s example to kill religiously for politics would then be distorting Bonhoeffer rather than following his example. Rather than elucidating this alternatives, readers could turn to Slane’s work for some of these examples, and certainly to broader Bonhoeffer scholarship for additional reasons.

Bonhoeffer as Martyr from Slane is at least part of Brown’s focus for her arguments and is quoted and responded to throughout her work. Slane’s own argument, however, is worth examining as I believe that it provides a strong reason to continue to see Bonhoeffer as martyr and shows that it is a misreading of Bonhoeffer to make him problematic in the ways Brown argues. Briefly, Slane surveys a number of Christian conceptualizations of martyrdom, looks at specific examples of Christians widely regarded as martyrs, and then utilizes a filter of a number of categories martyrs often fulfill to show that Bonhoeffer meets the common criteria. Some of these avenues are especially interesting, such as Slane’s deeper examination of Bonhoeffer and specific action related to Jews (see esp. chapter 6). Slane also notes the several streams of thought that see Bonhoeffer as primarily a political martyr (eg. 32).

However, when Bonhoeffer’s life is examined against a kind of standardized list of traits of martyrdom, it stacks up surprisingly well for theological-ethical martyrdom as opposed to merely political martyrdom. And this is, in part, because Slane highlights the reasons for Bonhoeffer’s death as less related to the plot to kill Hitler as it was to his work in the Abwehr with espionage, communication, and at least one instance of getting Jews out of Germany. This point also undercuts some of the thrust of Brown’s argument about politicized religious violence because if Bonhoeffer was martyred for non-violent action, it hardly justifies violent action. A deeper look at the specific reasons for Bonhoeffer’s murder by the Nazis is beyond what I’m doing here, but to my knowledge Slane is closer to accurate here.

Slane links Bonhoeffer’s theological-ethical-political acts with what he calls a “‘Formal Pattern’ of Jewish-Christian Martyrdom” (76ff). While the list of this formal pattern includes 24 points, Slane notes very few, if any, martyrs fulfill them all. What’s meant instead is a broad linking of this pattern to the martyr, and Bonhoeffer meets many of these criteria. Slane notes Bonhoeffer has a kind of foreknowledge of death (78ff), refuses to flee (80ff), refuses to retract (82), increases offense by repetition (here regarding Bonhoeffer’s continued illegal teaching as well as aiding and abetting Jews, see 82-83), comforts his disciples (83ff), pronounces his fate just (84-85), has strength, even gladness of soul (85-86), has last words, proclamation of immortality, and a death of a tyrant (86). Alongside all of this, Slane notes Bonhoeffer’s own theology is itself constructed in such a way as to leave open the possibility of martyrdom (87ff, but see especially 153-156 as well for a deeper look at this unity of thought).

The case for Bonhoeffer as martyr, specifically of the religious-theological-ethical variety, seems especially strong. Slane’s argument is sound, I believe, and it also pre-emptively answers some of Brown’s points despite the latter explicitly working after and even against Slane’s work. The dilemma Brown presents has several answers, but perhaps the most forceful is that Bonhoeffer’s resistance and martyrdom itself obviates against the utilization of his ethics in the very way she charges–individual violent acts apart from any kind of responsibility. Indeed, though Slane only briefly hints at this, broader Bonhoeffer scholarship (such as Christine Schliesser’s excellent Everyone Who Acts Responsibly Becomes Guilty) provides means to see Bonhoeffer’s radical “state of exception” as being grounded very solidly in a Lutheran view of guilt, corporate responsibility, and certainly within his own project of seeing the church-community as central to any ethical act.

Brown’s Bonhoeffer: God’s Conspirator in a State of Exception continues to prod at the edges of my thoughts about Bonhoeffer. It’s a powerful critique of wholesale acceptance of Bonhoeffer’s legacy. I believe it deserves wide reading and interaction from Bonhoeffer scholars. Slane’s Bonhoeffer as Martyr was written before it, and is critiqued by Brown, but I still believe it provides a solid foundation for viewing Bonhoeffer as martyr, especially when answering some of Brown’s charges as above.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

Links

Dietrich Bonhoeffer– read all my posts related to Bonhoeffer and his theology.

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: “Forming Resilient Children: The Role of Spiritual Formation for Healthy Development” by Holly Catterton Allen

Forming Resilient Children by Holly Catterton Allen is not just a parenting book, though it is that. It also provides research-based insights into children’s spiritual formation and development.

The book has four parts. The first outlines foundational concepts, the second discusses families and children’s spirituality, the third looks at the role churches play, and the fourth takes a deeper look at resilience and trauma. Each chapter has anecdotes from real-life people about children’s resilience. Each chapter also has some data or research-based information about children and spirituality. For example, in a chapter about the way grandparents can help shape their grandchildren’s spirituality, research from Barna is provided showing how grandparents are often more intentional about spiritual interactions with children (71). The stories of real children coming through stressful or traumatic situations are touching, but also provide a basis for how to look at each chapter and things to think about.

Some readers may be surprised by the insights in this book. Research shows that children’s spirituality is revealed essentially from birth, as the connections we make are universal (17-19). I was one surprised by this, though I honestly shouldn’t have been, since it seems clear that God has made humans to be spiritual creatures. At many points, the author shares ways people can build children up not just to be resilient, but also to follow spiritual practices and establish a life of faith.

Forming Resilient Children is an excellent read that opens a number of insights into how to form connections between children and their faith. It also provides a basis for learning about resilience and bringing kids through difficult times. 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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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: “Does God Exist? A History of Answers to the Question” by W. David Beck

W. David Beck’s Does God Exist? A History of Answers to the Question is a remarkable historical survey of some of the best-known arguments for the existence of God. In a crowded field of books about the existence of God, Beck’s work sets itself apart by providing both an historical survey of the ways these arguments developed and working explanations and analyses of the arguments into today.

The first chapter introduces readers to the origins of theistic arguments, providing a broad background for the rest of the book. After that, the chapters act as a kind of typology of theistic arguments, dividing them into chapters on cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, moral arguments, and ontological arguments, respectively. A final chapter closes the book with a look ahead at the prospects and possibilities for theistic arguments and conclusions based upon the same.

Each chapter on a type of argument traces the argument from its earliest clear example into the modern day. It is important to note that these chapters are necessarily broad and plural. What I mean is that the chapters end with the plural “arguments” rather than “argument” for a reason–each type of theistic argument has numerous ways of presenting the argument and several different proponents and detractors through history and into today. Thus, for example, the cosmological argument can be traced back to the earliest known writings on philosophy both East and West and into today with sophisticated arguments based (in some cases) upon modern cosmology or physics.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on ontological arguments, which are surely the more opaque but hotly debated theistic arguments today. As with every other chapter, Beck doesn’t shy away from showing both theistic and atheistic takes on the argument. He gives the atheist philosopher Graham Oppy quite a bit of space and somewhat amusingly quotes Oppy to the effect of saying ontological arguments may work but it’s difficult to know whether they succeed. That is, due to the amazingly confusing nature of the multifarious questions any ontological argument raises (such as “is existence a property?”), it is possible the arguments work but don’t succeed–they don’t convince people due to the many trails and red herrings they raise. As someone deeply interested in the ontological argument, I found this a great way to end a thoroughly thought-provoking chapter.

Each chapter has its own issues raised. It’s already been mentioned, but bears repeating that Beck includes both theists and atheists in his survey of arguments. Many objections are noted, for example, in a lengthy section on the analysis of Aquinas’s version of a cosmological argument from the philosopher Paul Edwards (1923-2004). Over the course of several pages, Edwards’s objections to cosmological arguments are noted, but Beck also shows how several of these objections fail, even by Edwards’s own admission. Such introduction of modern debates, often featuring back-and-forth discussion edited for succinctness by Beck, make the book highly readable despite often heady subject matter. Again, each section must be brief, so the book provides more of an overview than it does anything in depth, but it’s clear how easily readers could pursue additional reading based on extensive, annotated bibliographies Beck provides section-by-section.

Does God Exist? is a fascinating read, even for readers like myself who are veterans of apologetics training or who have read hundreds of books on the subject. It could easily be used as a springboard for more discussion, as a reference with bibliographical data, or a grab bag of discussion. Beck has provided an invaluable resource to help spur additional discussion, and doesn’t shy away from highlighting powerful objections to theistic arguments even as he concludes it is reasonable and justifiable to believe God exists. 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.

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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: ” Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon” by Darian R. Lockett

Darian R. Lockett provides an introduction to numerous books of the Bible in Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon. These books of the Bible are often entirely overlooked or skimmed through simply for the sake of proof texts or quotes, but Lockett makes a case for reading them canonically–that is, set within the whole of Scriptures. To that end, he provides summaries of each book along with discussion of major themes, specific points of instruction and other interest, and more.

Lockett tackles several of the more difficult issues related to these books of the Bible throughout. Authorship is a major question, and he largely presents the evidence for who is thought to have authored the book, what evidence we may have for that, and his own conclusions. Another example of Lockett dealing with a more difficult issue is with Jude’s use of non-canonical works to make points in its own text. Jude clearly uses 1 Enoch in Jude 9, and this raises the question of whether Jude saw 1 Enoch as an authoritative or inspired work. Lockett notes that it has been a thorny issue through much of church history before outlining a few major points. Ultimately, this reader wonders whether the specific interest in whether Jude lends to making 1 Enoch inspired or canonical is a kind of anachronistic concern with reading over our ideas onto the text. Lockett’s own analysis could yield that, as he notes that what we can ultimately say is that 1 Enoch was “an important part of [the author of Jude’s] argument and [that author] does not distinguish it from other prophetic texts from the Old Testament–beyond this we can only speculate” (205).

Lockett also doesn’t shy from some of the more hotly debated texts within the books he’s writing about. For example, the question of wives submitting to husbands in 1 Peter 3 is discussed at some length (77-80). Lockett notes the context regarding doing so for the sake of Christ, and ultimately aims at the notion that such submission could potentially win non-Christian spouses over, which makes more sense of other parts of the book as well. Reading 1 Peter 3 as an intentional way to tell all wives to submit to all husbands in all circumstances, as is often done, is therefore a mistaken reading of the text.

Letters for the Church is a strong introduction to numerous books of the Bible that are often skimmed over. No matter where readers come from theologically, it is an enlightening, challenging read. 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.

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

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

SDG.

——

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

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

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

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

Action Becomes Reality

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

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

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

Toxic Masculinity

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

Book Review: “Spiritual Practices of Jesus: Learning Simplicity, Humility, and Prayer with Luke’s Earliest Readers” by Catherine J. Wright

It is rare to read a book that is not just insightful, but also formative and challenging. Catherine J. Wright’s Spiritual Practices of Jesus: Learning Simplicity, Humility, and Prayer with Luke’s Earliest Readers is one such book. Each part of the subtitle is deeply important to the contents of the book. Wright introduces readers to a number of early readers of the Gospel of Luke and provides their insights into how to read the texts. These insights often challenge modern readings and spiritualization of the text.

Each section–on Simplicity, Humility, and Prayer–features a chapter that highlights how the early church read the Gospel of Luke on these issues. That means readers will see how Augustine, Chrysostom, and many others read Luke on questions related to those topics. It’s deeply important to read about that, because those early readers have a different cultural context than we do. Their readings can therefore offer correctives that highlight the importance of the texts in ways that we may not think of otherwise.

The sections start with a chapter in which Wright goes through Luke highlighting where verses or stories reflect the theme at hand. For example, in the section on simplicity, Wright shows how frequently Jesus speaks about giving to the poor and highlights the plight of the poor and the difficulties and sinfulness in wealth. Pairing this with the second chapter in the section on how the early church read these verses shows how many modern readings that try to spiritualize these texts do not align with both the earliest readings and probably the intended meaning of the text. A second chapter in each section highlights the first-century context of the passages and how understanding the challenges of that time can lead to correcting our readings of the text as well.

Some of the content with simplicity has been highlighted, but each section has numerous parts worth interacting with. Whether it’s the challenge to live humble lives or how to read Jesus’s prayers and pray ourselves, Wright constantly brings applicable insights to the table throughout the book.

Wright’s Spiritual Practices of Jesus is a phenomenal read that could even change how readers live their lives. By reading the early church on Jesus, readers are exposed to challenges to our own culture that can cause use to rethink our reading of the text and the ways we live. Highly 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.

All Links to Amazon are Affiliates links

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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