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“The Once and Future King” by T.H. White – Honor, King David, and Justice

ofk-whiteT.H White’s classic Arthurian tale, The Once and Future King is an absolute delight to read. I had never read it before, and I was surprised to see the sheer amount of humor found therein. The depth of the work’s story is immense. Here, I will look at some of the worldview level themes found in the book. There will be SPOILERS in this post.

Honor

Young Arthur, known as “The Wart,” shows his character in one discussion with Merlyn-

If I were to be a Knight… I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it. (174)

Arthur is an honorable man–and was even an honorable boy. That doesn’t mean he never makes poor choices, but he is ultimately motivated by faith and a desire to take on evil directly.

King David… Arthur

In many ways, the story of Arthur parallels the biblical story of David. Like David, Arthur desires to follow justice and walk in the way of God. Like David, it is illicit affairs which lead to his undoing. Like David, Arthur’s downfall ultimately comes from within his own family. Each has a kind of guide in the early stages of their rule (Merlyn or Samuel), but neither takes on such guidance later in life. Each is guided by faith, and it each attempts to capture a kind of ideal in their monarchy. Their ideals are never quite reached, and it is evident in the story of each that their own choices limit their capacity to reach that ideal. In the end, each turns to God for the final answers.

Justice

One of the best portrayals of justice in the book can be found in the way White portrayed injustice. The knights are operating under a principle of “Might makes Right.” They expect the lower class soldiers to be slaughtered, while they themselves are so heavily armored they can barely be harmed (as hilariously depicted in an early scene that young Arthur gets to witness). Arthur seeks to go against this principle–to wage war on Might. Yet, even that battle ends in failure as it becomes corrupted. A question the book seems to point us towards is whether violence to overcome violence is a realistic means.

The conclusion to the book catches Arthur at his most reflective. White’s own view begins to peek through the words of Arthur’s thoughts. What is it that failed Arthur? How did his quest for good become so embroiled in deceit and betrayal? Yet Arthur finds that there was a crucial flaw in his plan: “[T]he whole structure depended on the first premise: that man was decent” (637). He had forgotten about the sinfulness of humanity:

For if there was such a thing as original sin, if man was on the whole a villain, if the Bible was right in saying that the heart of men was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, then the purpose of his life had been a vain one. (638)

The purpose was vain, because it was not pursued alongside God’s will but rather as Arthur’s will imposed upon humanity–the very thing that Merlyn had come back through time (or was it forward?) to discover. Yet that which Arthur wished to bring about–the defeat of Might–was not itself an evil end. Indeed, it is the King’s page who reveals the ultimate judgment on Arthur’s plan: “I think it was a good idea, my lord”–thus said the page; and Arthur’s response: “It was, and it was not. God knows” (644).

Ultimately, it seems, justice is defined on God’s terms and humans are incapable of seeing the whole picture. White was an agnostic, but was apparently scornful of the evil he saw in the world. A kind of pessimism about human capacities is found throughout the book. The fact that, in the end, “God knows” is the answer that can be given towards whether humans can accomplish an ideal is telling. Without God, endeavors of that sort are impossible.

Other Topics

There are some pretty interesting parables included within the text, particularly in the “Sword in the Stone” section. One of them is from the Talmud–a story in which Elijah travels with a Rabbi and perplexes the Rabbi with his apparent lack of concern for the poor while he aids the rich. Yet this parable shows that God is indeed working towards justice, and a God’s-eye perspective of justice is impossible. Another parable tells a story about humanity as a kind of capstone of creation, while limiting humanity to being an “embryo” for all time- a creature in development. This capacity-laden view of humanity points to White’s worldview once more. Human choices matter, but we so often choose poorly.

The Dark Ages, White notes, may have been a bit of a misnomer:

Do you think that they [those times sometimes called “The Dark Ages”], with their Battles, Famine, Black Death and Serfdom, were less enlightened than we are, with our Wars, Blockade, Influenza and Conscription? (544)

Here again we see White’s own world creeping back into the novel. The novel was published in 1939, the year World War II officially began, though there was plenty going on before that. It was difficult to see the War coming and think that another age was to be singled out as the “Dark” age. There is a kind of intellectual hubris in dismissing the ideas of the past and seeing one’s own time as somehow enlightened. White did not think that was a route to take.

Merlyn (yes, Merlyn, not Merlin) is a character whose interactions with Arthur bring up all kinds of questions. He seems to be guiding a young Arthur towards the attempt to bring about justice in the world, but he also allows himself–seemingly willingly–to be cast aside when Arthur is at his most vulnerable. He only reappears at the very end of the book as a kind of wind. I am left feeling rather ambivalent about Merlyn, who had so much power but who did not ultimately use it very effectively.

Conclusion

The Once and Future King is a simply phenomenal book layered with many levels of meaning. There are so many avenues to explore from a worldview level that I’m sure repeated readings will be rewarding. The central theme, however, is incredibly powerful: humans cannot complete their own ideals. We are imperfect. God knows.

Links

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

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Source

T.H. White The Once and Future King (New York: Ace, 2004 edition).

SDG.

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

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Microview: “Beyond the Control of God? Six Views on the Problem of God and Abstract Objects” edited by Paul Gould

A Picture I took on a snowy, overcast day. Rights reserved.

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects will surely be viewed by many as a kind of idiosyncratic book on a topic of little interest, let alone importance. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The difficulty of abstract objects and how they relate to God is something which touches on matters of divine aseity, the truth of propositions, and even how we conceive of things like properties and universals.

The introductory essay by the editor, Paul Gould, does much to provide background on the topic, why it’s a problem, and what major views there are related to it. The individual views are each interesting and come from sometimes radically different perspectives. Do abstract objects exist independently of God? Might they instead depend on God? Do they even “exist” in the sense of having ontological existence? These questions are each approached in different ways by the various authors.

The range of views is fairly broad, with such views as Platonism, other forms of realism, creationism, and anti-realism are presented. Each essay presents the author’s own set of answers to the questions about abstracta and leads to several solid insights.

One difficulty with the book is the chapter titles do little to provide insight into what the view of each author is, so unless one pays attention to the introduction, one has to guess at the author’s view until it is explicitly stated (which it may or may not be).

Ultimately, the lack of space authors are given both in their essays and responses means that the book does little at points to shed light on the topic. The authors are at times reduced to saying little more than that they disagree with a point of another without having room to expand on that disagreement. Because of the lack of depth, readers are left wondering at times what the authors’ views even are. For example, I read Yandell’s initial essay with little concept of exactly what he was arguing for as opposed to what he argued against. I re-read the essay and realized he stated his view only in a short paragraph. It really is inexcusable in a book which offers different views to have so little space for each view, particularly when the topic is as complex as that of abstract objects.

Despite this lack of space, the book is very interesting and provides much insight into the difficulty of God and abstract objects. It is unfortunate that such a complex topic wasn’t given the space it needs to truly get off the ground.

The Good

+Interesting topic with a great set of contributors
+Very solid introduction
+Offers both responses from other authors and a rejoinder for each essay
+Smart selection of views with insights from each

The Bad

-Extremely technical arguments with little room for expounding on them
-Chapters are too short at times to even understand what each view is
-Chapter titles cause confusion by not putting forth authors’ views

Overall

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects is an interesting book on an important, if oft-neglected, topic. However, the very short length given to each contributor makes it very difficult to even get a grasp of what the authors’ views are. Despite this lack of space, the book is extremely interesting and provides much insight into the difficulty of God and abstract objects. It is unfortunate that the interesting topic wasn’t given the space it needs to truly get off the ground.

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!)

Source

Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects edited Paul Gould (Bloomsbury, 2014).

 

SDG.

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

Origen Answered It: An Incomplete List of Skeptical Arguments Answered 1800 years ago by Origen, Contra Celsum Book I

I have already discussed the fact that Origen* responded to a number of “modern” arguments long before our modern times.

For the skeptical arguments I have tried to include links or at least names. Sometimes they may be common enough that I think anyone could just do a Google search to discover the skeptical argument is made to this day. Also, some of the skeptical arguments are put forth by Celsus as coming from Jews attacking converts to Christianity. Several of these arguments will be covered here as well.

Origen’s answers I provide here are, and I must emphasize this, summaries of what he said, not his answer in its entirety. Interested readers should track down the original reference to see what he said. It should also be noted that Contra Celsum is written in a kind of challenge/response format that does not necessitate or entail lengthy discussions. Other thinkers–either modern or historic–provide longer answers than Origen did to pretty much every argument noted here.

Skeptical Argument: Faith is belief without evidence/pretending to know something you don’t know. [See Peter Boghossian]
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I, Chapter 10- All systems of thought require some element of belief without evidence, including skepticism, Platonism, and the like.

Skeptical Argument: Jesus learned how to do tricks in Egypt/Jesus’ birth accounts made up to glorify him
Origen’s Answer: 
Contra Celsum Book I, Chapter 28ff- Jesus’ birth account highlights the humility to which he is born rather than serving as a way to embellish or glorify his birth.

Skeptical Argument: Mary was not a virgin but had adultery with or was raped by a Roman soldier (named Panthera as argued by Celsus), as opposed to being a virgin[Suggested by a BBC documentary, among other modern and ancient sources]
Origen’s Answer: 
Contra Celsum Book I Chapter XXXII Had Christians wanted to make up something about Jesus’ birth, they could have just as easily said that Joseph was Jesus’ legitimate father rather than inviting speculation about rape or adultery

Skeptical Argument: The prophecy alluded to by Matthew in Isaiah does not refer to a virgin birth/Matthew and Luke themselves may not intend the reference to be to a virgin birth [See Bart Ehrman, for example]
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter XXXIV and XXXV- the Hebrew actually does seem to favor the notion of it referring to a virgin, moreover the prophecy doesn’t make sense were it but a young woman having a child, which would not have been remarkable enough to be a sign

Skeptical Argument: The suffering servant prophesies found in Isaiah 53 refers to the nation of Israel rather than Jesus.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LV- the passage in question is full of things which don’t make sense when applied broadly to a whole nation rather than single person. Moreover, the prophecy does not line up with Israel as well as it does to Jesus.

Skeptical Argument: The star of Bethlehem is an unexplained phenomenon made up to lend credence to the importance of Jesus’ birth in the narratives.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LVIII- The Star of Bethlehem was actually a comet and may have been reported by other ancients. See here for a book that has much more on this topic.
Objection: Comets are bad omens and so the Star wouldn’t have been a sign of the birth of the Messiah.
Origen’s Response: Comets are bad omens for those regimes which may be overthrown, but good signs for those whose regime may be rising.

Skeptical Argument: Certain portions of the Gospels show difficulties with Christian beliefs.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LXIII- Skeptics like Celsus utilize the Gospels as historical where convenient, then reject whatever parts might answer their objections.

Skeptical Argument: Christianity allows for the worst sorts of people to get off free in the grand scheme of things. The worst people are simply forgiven.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LXIII and following- The conversion of wrongdoers is not to be mocked or scorned but rather shows the power of Christianity to convince the wicked to reform.

Skeptical Argument: How could God die?
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LXVI- God took on human flesh in the person of the Son.

Skeptical Argument: Jesus’ miracles in the Gospels can be mimicked or repeated by charlatans.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LXVIII- Such allegations fail due to the context in which the miracles occur as well as the reasons behind the miracles/wonders.

Skeptical Argument: Jesus uses his voice and eats food–things gods need not do.
Origen’s Answer: Contra Celsum Book I Chapter LXX- Jesus was God clothed in human flesh and used his voice to convince others.

*It is worth noting that Origen was heterodox on a number of topics, including having a deficient view of the Trinity, specifically regarding the Father and the Son. However, Origen also pre-dated much of the debates over orthodox Christian theology. It is beneficial to read Origen to see the range of Christian thought in his own time period, as well as to see what kind of responses were being offered to non-Christians related to key issues.

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!

Faith is Belief without Evidence? Origen Contra Boghossian (and others)– I delve deeper into one of the arguments Origen makes, while noting that it answers one of the modern skeptical attacks on Christianity.

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, 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: “Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology” by Shao Kai Tseng

kbitShao Kai Tseng’s Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology is a thorough examination of Barth’s lapsarian position. There are two major positions in Reformed circles regarding how God ordered the divine decrees. Supralapsarianism teaches that God decreed election (who would be saved) and reprobation (who would be condemned) prior to the Fall, while infralapsarianism teaches that God first decrees the Fall, then election and reprobation (among other things). Not all Reformed thinkers hold to one of these two positions. For a fuller explanation, see here, or look more deeply at the book. Barth, historically, has been understood as a supralapsarian, and even at times explicitly claimed that position for himself. Tseng argues, however, that Barth’s position is truly infralapsarian.

Tseng argues for his thesis through an examination of Barth’s developing thought. He begins with Barth’s earliest works and then traces his thought on problems of atonement, decree, and redemption throughout his life. Tseng interacts with numerous interpreters of Barth, utilizing them to support his theory or showing where they are mistaken.

The two greatest difficulties with the book are linked. Tseng’s tone is relentlessly even, such that there are few breaks for readers to pause and consider the contents, and few examples of application of the texts are given. This means that there is little reason given to investigate the central topic of the book: Barth’s lapsarian position. Why, exactly, does Barth’s lapsarian position actually matter to us now? Other than scratching a curious itch, what application does it have? Surely, for historical reasons, it is good to know where Barth ought to line up, but beyond that Tseng doesn’t give much of a reason for seeing why this impacts broader theological studies.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the book is without merit. Those deeply interested in Barth will want to engage with it and debate its contents. Moreover, because Tseng looks deeply at Barth’s developing thought, it provides some analysis of Barth’s overall theology.

Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology is dry and fairly esoteric. For those who are deeply interested in Barthian thought, however, this will be necessary reading, particularly if one wants to engage in Barth’s doctrine of election. If one wishes to delve deeply into Barthian thought and Reformed disputes over lapsarian positions, this is a good read, but its audience is limited to that group.

The Good

+Exposes readers to large amounts of Barth’s thought
+Utilizes interpreters of Barth well
+Detailed look at the central topic

The Bad

-Little reason offered to pursue central topic
-Tone doesn’t put much “life” in the text itself

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book by the publisher. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Shao Kai Tseng, Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2016).

Links

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

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

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

SDG.

——

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

Sunday Quote!- Is God Male?

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

Is God Male?

I have continued working my way through the massive work, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament by Richard Davidson. One topic he addresses is whether God is, in fact, male. A common belief among Christians is that God is male, and various arguments are summoned to support this. After examining and refuting several of these arguments, Davidson presents evidence to show that God is not male. His conclusion is pretty clear:

[T]he biblical material makes clear that the masculine does not exhaust the divine reality. In fact, Yahweh is above the polarity of sexuality and is neither male nor female, and displays within his nature both masculine and feminine dimensions. (130, cited below)

His argument is worth reading in detail, and summing it all up would be difficult. He summons the analogous use of feminine imagery for God as one line of evidence. Another argument he puts forward is to show that the avoidance of feminine pronouns and the like was to avoid the error of other Ancient Near Eastern cultures which identified the creator with creation in some ways through a womb metaphor.

Flame of Yahweh is shaping up to be a very important work in my collection. I’ve enjoyed it immensely so far, and been challenged by it on a number of topics. I recommend it to you, dear readers.

What do you think? Is God male? Why or why not?

Links

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

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

Source

Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007).

SDG.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- a Christian perspective 

sw-faI have read over 100 Star Wars books and watched all the movies dozens of times (probably well over 100 for each of the original trilogy). In other words, I’m a Star Wars fan. I absolutely loved The Force Awakens. It was fantastic. It was wonderful. It was Star Wars. I’m also a devout Christian. Here, I will evaluate the movie from a Christian perspective.

SPOILER WARNING: There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I want to make that as clear as possible. Read no further if you don’t want to read SPOILERS. I’m serious. Big ones. Are we clear? Read on if you have seen the movie, or don’t care about spoilers. I’m sure the comments will also have spoilers.

The Force

One of the most pervasive images of the Star Wars universe is that of the Force. Wait, imagery? Of the Force? Well, you can’t see the Force!

Yep, that’s right. We can see Jedi or Sith using the Force. We can see the effects it has on people, and its power. But we cannot see the Force. One might say it’s just a bunch of hokey religions (thanks, Han). But in The Force Awakens, Han Solo admits what he has known for a while: the Force is real.

What is interesting about this admission is how much people of all varieties have been attracted to the notion of the Force and the Star Wars universe in general. In reality, the Force is a metaphysical concept. It goes beyond the mundane, physical universe and reaches for something more. The drive for that “something more” is pervasive in humanity, I think. Inwardly, we know that the world is not limited to those things we can see through direct observation. Thus, we are drawn to even fictional portrayals of a deeper reality such as the Force. Like Han, we may talk the talk, but when push comes to shove, there is more to our world than meets the eye.

Family, Darkness, and Natural Consequences

Exodus 34:7 reads, in part, “[God] does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (NIV).

Many see this as a kind of vindictive verse. In fact, it is an example of human choices bringing about consequences. One of the things I have learned since becoming a parent (and I’m still learning) is that natural consequences are the most effective way to teach my son. If he stands on a chair, he gets removed from the chair until he is willing to sit instead of stand. The verse above shows how our actions and choices have natural consequences.

Anakin Skywalker’s choices have impacted his family in profound, terrible ways. Sure, he saved Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, and he was reunited with the Force. But think about what his choices visited upon his children: they had to be separated at birth and whisked into hiding. Vader even cut off his son’s hand!

In The Force Awakens, we see those consequences being visited upon the next generation as well. Kylo Ren, Han and Leia’s son, appears to be trying to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. But instead of trying to follow them back towards the Light side of the Force, he is attempting to complete the Dark work of his grandfather’s alter ego, Darth Vader. Can a more poignant reminder of the punishment that can be carried on from generation to generation be given?

In the world we live in, we can see these same systems of injustice bringing punishment on one generation after another. World War II was, in part, brought about by crippling economic hardships imposed after World War I. Systemic racism continues in the United States, demeaning not just those against whom racism is directed, but also bringing darkness onto those who engage in it.

The passage from Exodus above can be read simplistically, but when taken in perspective like this, it is immensely profound. The poignancy of that statement: that the actions we take now can bring about punishment on our children, and their children… should lead us to consider what it is we are doing. Kylo Ren wasn’t created in a vacuum.

Redemption

The Force Awakens also points ahead to a hopeful reality, one which resonates with the Christian worldview. Han and Leia each believe that there remains good in Kylo Ren–Ben–still. Han risks his life on that evaluation and even sacrifices himself for it. Though we don’t see this coming to fruition, the seeds of hope are there. Will Ren follow his grandfather’s Dark choices to a logical end, or will he be brought back to the Light?

The movie ends with Luke Skywalker and Rey on a remote planet. This guru-like setting is also reminiscent of the Desert Fathers of the ancient Christian church (though ironically in a very watery setting!). Will redemption and hope be brought forth once more through Rey? That remains to be seen, but the seeds have been planted. Han’s willingness to believe in goodness in his son is the same kind of willingness we need to have when we confront evil. Yes, we need to be prepared to stand up against evil, but we also need to realize that we were yet sinners when Christ saved us. The “other” is like we were, lost to sin and in need of redemption.

Conclusion

Go see The Force Awakens. Be prepared to celebrate the joys of Star Wars again, but also to think. It’s a fun, delightful movie that is overlaid with much darkness. Yet, in the midst of all that darkness there is hope.

Let me know your own thoughts on the movie in the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of the film.

Links

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

Read more movie reflections (scroll down for more).

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much 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: “The Love of God” by John C. Peckham

lg-peckhamThere are many different views about what it means to say “God is love” or “God is loving.” Is God’s love like ours? Does God’s love mean God changes? Does God’s love mean God has potential rather than being pure act? How can God be loving? How is the love of God reconciled with justice and election? John C. Peckham’s work, The Love of God, is an attempt to answer many of these questions.

The book is organized topically, with each chapter focusing on a different aspect of divine-world relationship. These include the semantics of divine love, volitional and evaluative aspects of love, whether divine love can be emotional or foreconditioned, and whether that love is reciprocal. Other topics are addressed in addition to these, including the debate over various ways divine-world relationship may be portrayed.

Peckham surveys an enormous number of biblical passages as he analyzes these questions. Unfortunately, only rarely is much time spent on drawing out how these various citations are directly relevant to the points being made. Thus, readers are left to look up the many passages themselves to see whether they concur with the evaluation provided. Peckham largely sides with a perspective that favors human freedom. He also stands against the notion that God is completely immutable or changeless.

The latter point, however, is well-nuanced. Drawing on the work of Rob Lister, who affirms God’s impassibility alongside God’s capability of being impassioned, Peckham qualifies his concept of divine love and its relationship with the doctrine of impassibility. Effectively, he argues that God’s love is reciprocal but does not necessarily rule out the possibility of immutability. He does, however, seem to favor a perspective in which God at least partially changes in response to prayer and love.

Peckham’s perspective in the introduction appears to be quite broad-minded, allowing for concessions to those on either side of (and in between) debates like Calvinism-Arminianism, Thomism-other views, Augustinianism-other perspectives. However, as the book goes on, it becomes apparent that apart from a few places wherein there is some nuance (as noted above with immutability), Peckham draws conclusions with some certainty, while effectively setting aside the opposing view.

The value one gets out of The Love of God, then, largely depends on the amount of work one is willing to put into it. If one takes the time to look up the many, many biblical references, compare them back to the text, and examine the counter-arguments that Peckham offers, this is a book that is well worth the time spent. By contrast, those not willing to put in that time will at least get an idea of what the various major questions are regarding God-world relations and love, but will only be given one perspective on those questions in most cases. The questions are not left as open as many of them seem to require.

The Good

+Provides much insight into biblical teaching on various aspects of love
+Many citations to allow for further study

The Bad

-Not as broad-minded as it initially appears
-Occasionally dismissive of counter-arguments and rival positions

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

Source

John C. Peckham, The Love of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

Links

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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.

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

Bible Note: Psalm 50:9-13- God doesn’t need you

question-week2I’ve been reading through the Bible and making a kind of commentary on the whole thing as I go. Needless to say this has been a lengthy project! Here’s an expanded note I made in Psalm 50.

I know the saying I’ve heard many places, “Never quote/read a Bible verse.” The meaning is of course to emphasize the word “a” and point out that all verses have context. Although that is true, I don’t think that means we can never read just one verse and get a clear meaning or teaching out of it. Here’s a pretty neat verse, though:

50:12- “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

In context (50:9-13), you can see that it is surrounded by God noting that God has no needs, that God does not need to eat or drink, and the like.

In the Ancient Near East, sacrifices were often thought to be providing the needs for the gods. Here, in context (50:8, 13), it is clear that YHWH is distinguishing Himself from those alleged deities. There are no needs God has. Indeed, if God had needs, there would be no need to tell us because all belongs to God already. This is a powerful reminder of God’s sovereignty over all the universe.

There is also no small amount of irony/humor involved in the passage. The irony is centered on the fact of God’s power as well. Supposing that a God who created the entire universe does exist, is it not frankly hilarious to imagine that same deity depending on us to provide food? Against the backdrop of the Ancient Near East (see Walton’s work for an extended look), this makes more sense, though. It was thought that by providing for food and drink for the gods, the one offering the food could free the deity up to take care of more cosmic needs. In stark contrast, the God of the Bible claims not only to be fully capable of taking care of the cosmos, but also asserts there are no needs God has that we can fulfill. It’s an astonishing declaration of God’s might.

It also can provide some degree of comfort: God doesn’t need you. Grace is a gift.

What are your thoughts? How might we take this verse in its ancient context and draw out the humor for today?

Really Recommended Posts 6/19/15- Creationism, memes, masculinity, and more!

postAnother week, another round of excellent reading from around the web for you, dear readers. We have analysis of creationist scholarship, a look at an exciting new book, historical apologetics, pro-life method, and analysis of a meme that attacks Christianity. As always let me know what you think, and let the authors know you enjoyed their posts as well!

The Dangers of Poor Scholarship: A Creationist’s Take on Feathered Dinosaurs– How do Young Earth Creationists often interact with science stories? Is there method consistent? Here, there is an analysis of creationist methodology when it comes not only to feathered dinosaurs but also to how the evaluate faulty arguments and lack consistency.

Malestrom: Swept up in the Currents of a Changing World (Review)– Color me delighted to see a book like this coming out. Our perceptions of what it means to be masculine are deeply embedded in our cultural norms. I have often engaged with complementarians who inform me of exactly what they think men ought to do or what men are “at their core.” But this they do without even acknowledging that even today there are cultures with differing understandings of what is masculine. How might we separate the good from the bad when it comes to talking about masculinity? This book seems to offer a way forward.

William Warburton’s 18th Century Defense of Christianity– It’s amazing how many historical defenses of Christianity are effectively lost in our time. The study of historical apologists is a continually fruitful one that yields great rewards for those who pursue it. Here, Doug Geivett highlights how even arguments that seem tied to their own time periods may provide us with new insights into controversies of our day.

John Reasnor Fails to Show that Incrementalism is Unbiblical– Clinton Wilcox engages in a debate over method when it comes to pro-life reasoning. Some have been arguing that we must do pro-life activism in such a way that only those laws or methods that ban all abortion may be supported. Is this reasonable? Wilcox analyzes the argument. I have provided a lengthy overview of and review of a debate on the same topic.

Will Your Murderer Be In Heaven?– Nick Peters offers an analysis of a meme floating around recently that attacks the goodness of Christianity because one’s own murderer might be in heaven. How does this attack hold up under scrutiny?

Is Natural Theology Excluded for Apologetics? – Sunday Quote!+

ffs-molnarHere’s a special edition Sunday Quote which features a more extended discussion. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Is Natural Theology Excluded for Apologetics?

Paul Molnar’s Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is a massive study on the Trinity–specifically the economic Trinity–with much insight from contemporary theology. Early on, Molnar makes a statement which, as a trained Christian apologist, seemed a bit like “fightin’ words”:

If contemporary theologians were to make explicit the role of the Holy Spirit in enabling our knowledge of the triune God, then there could be wide agreement that natural theology of whatever stripe is not only unhelpful but is directly excluded from any serious understanding of theological epistemology. (82)

Now, “natural theology” is, according to Justo Gonzalez’s Essential Theological Terms, “A theology that claims to be based on the natural gifts of the human mind, and on the ‘general revelation’ granted to all… rather than on a ‘special revelation’ in Scripture or Jesus Christ” (118). Natural theology, that is, is the attempt to show that God exists and certain other truths through looking at the world. From this quote, it seems that Molnar is arguing that if we had a better notion of the role of the Holy Spirit, we would basically think that natural theology is worthless related to knowledge of God.

Molnar develops this notion further throughout the next 50 pages or so. His argument basically is that if we acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who enables faith and knowledge of God, then any “knowledge” of God which is not directly through faith (i.e. through something like a cosmological argument) is not objective knowledge of God.

Although some of what Molnar argues resonates with me–particularly the notion that the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts faith rather than it being some kind of choice we make–I think that his dismissal of natural theology is unnecessary and mistaken. First, the most obvious question to be asked is whether the Spirit can use natural theology to create faith. If it is the case that the Holy Spirit can work through natural theology–something which seems to be clearly correct to me–then the objection that natural theology ignores the role of the Spirit is mistaken.

Second, Molnar’s argument seems to rely on a concept of natural theology which is entirely about trying to impart knowledge of God to those who do not have faith. This, however, ignores the use of apologetics in strengthening the faith of believers. Natural theology can be a valuable tool for those who have faith to pursue the call of 1 Peter 3:15 and have a reason for the hope within them. Whatever one’s view of whether natural theology can bring people to the true God, it seems that it can and should be used for believers to explore the natural world and bolster their faith.

Third and finally, it seems to me that Romans 1 in particular demonstrates that natural theology is not a worthless project. If God’s invisible attributes are capable of being discovered in the things God has made, then surely natural theology has some value in tracing God’s handiwork.

Should we think that natural theology is a failed project? Can it have other uses like those I listed? Is it possible to go from God to Christ? What of the role of the Spirit in apologetics?

Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is a thoroughly thought-provoking read which I recommend to those interested in the doctrine of the Trinity. It has certainly gotten my wheels turning!

Links

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

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

Source

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). 

SDG.

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

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