JRR Tolkien

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Really Recommended Posts 2/8/13

postI could do these every day and still not catch up to the amount of fantastic posts out there. This week’s Really Recommended Posts feature “Love Wins,” natural evil, apologetics methodology, Tolkien, and more! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts (and recommendations!).

Love Wins Critique– Rob Bell’s book on hell (or lack thereof?) caused quite a stir when it came out, and it continues to be discussed widely. Check out this excellent multi-part critique of the book. You can access all 5 parts here.

Why Would God Allow Natural Disasters? – One of the hardest parts of the problem of evil is the difficulty of “natural evils.” Check out this insightful response to the problem.

Is the Cold Case Still Valid? – One of the debates within Christianity is about apologetics methodology. Should we be evidentialists or presuppositionalists or something else (spoiler: I don’t think we need to be either/or)?  This post discusses a critique of Cold-Case Christianity from an apologetic methodology standpoint. The book is phenomenal and I recommend it highly (see my review). See also J. Warner Wallace’s own response to the objection.

John Lennox vs. Richard Dawkins– A great video in which Lennox discusses science and Christianity, set against beautiful backdrops and quotes from the Bible. It also features some other excellent Christian thinkers. It’s worth the watch.

Loyal dog continues to attend mass at church where owner’s funeral was held– Just a heart-wrenching story about a loyal dog. Not apologetics related, really, but I enjoyed it.

Tolkien’s essay, “On Fairy Stories” continues to have massive influence today. Read it here online (or obtain the PDF file to read later). I found this post through another excellent list of links which is well worth checking out.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- A Christian perspective

the-hobbit-2012-84384Unless you’ve been living in a Hobbit-hole somewhere (forgive me!), you know that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was just released in theaters. Short, spoiler free review: It was amazing, go see it. Hereafter, I offer my thoughts on the themes present in the film from a Christian worldview perspective, followed by some links to great posts on the movie and related items. Yes, there are SPOILERS ahead.

An Unexpected Journey

Yes, there is an unexpected journey which begins in this film, believe it or not. Yet the journey was not just unexpected but also vehemently resisted. Bilbo Baggins did not want to go. He was too comfortable with his armchair, his full cabinet, and his total lack of adventure. He was comfortable in his home. He liked it there, and as long as nothing was bothering him, he’d like to stay put, thank you very  much.

I can’t help but think of how so many people today are in that same position. We are too comfortable in our pleasant (or at least largely undisturbed) lives, living as though we haven’t a care in the world. We avoid those things which make us uncomfortable. We don’t want to think about them, and we’d rather not even say the words that have anything to do with these hard topics which have become our “adventures.”

For the Christian, this is especially poignant. The scene where Bilbo finally decides to go on the journey has him waking up the next morning after his refusal. He sees his hobbit-hole cleaned up and looking as though the previous night had never happened. But then he sees the contract from Thorin Oakenshield on a table. He picks it up and realizes what he has been called to do. He has to step out and live that life in the great beyond. It is as Gandalf tells him: the world is not contained in books and maps, it is “out there.” Similarly, we cannot become too comfortable in our lives. We are to be in the world, changing it through our actions and through the call to repent and believe. Yes, we can have all the books, we can pray the prayers, but what are we doing? Are we running, leaping, yelling like Bilbo to join the adventure, to spread the Gospel?

Big Evil

Defeating Evil

When the party comes to Rivendell, they encounter Saruman,  who had summoned Galadriel. After a brief conference on whether the dwarves should continue their quest and a debate over the existence of a Necromancer, Galadriel privately confronts Gandalf. She asks him why he chose a Hobbit, Bilbo, to embark on such a dangerous quest as a burglar. Gandalf’s insight is telling. He says that “Sarumon thinks evil must be defeated with great power.” But Gandalf is not so convinced. He argues that it is the little things, the everyday choices, which can lead to the defeat of evil. When enough choices are made for good, evil cannot overcome the turning tide against it. Bilbo is weak, but he will become strong in his actions. He will be used for good, despite not having great power.

We can fight evil in that same way. The choices we make everyday have larger consequences. How will I spend my time? Will I make that nasty remark? Will I forgive? There is big evil in this world, but it can be fought, by God’s grace.

Its Reality and Our Resistance

Evil is real. There is evil everywhere in the world, and we need only to look at the headlines to see it. Gandalf is aware of the rising evil in Middle Earth as well. The evils which confront the adventurers are “big.” There are trolls, stone giants, a goblin with a grudge, and more. They are resisted at every turn.

Who can help but see how this theme ties into the last one? Christians are called into a world of big evil. We are called to go into a world which is resisting them–often violently–at every turn.

Evil’s Foothold

Evil seeks places to dwell. The things which are evil must be actively resisted, for any foothold evil gains, it will utilize. Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, and Radagast the Brown must all fight against evil as it seeks its foothold in their lives. Radagast is a particularly poignant example. He runs through the forest, fighting evil as much as can be done. He is eccentric and seems crazy, yet he does what he can to fight the evil which seeks to penetrate at every level into the forest. Our hearts are too often willing dwelling places for evil. We must fight it.

the-hobbit-poster04Small Mercies

Courage is the strength to show mercy. Gandalf urges Bilbo to remember this as he considers the adventure. A mercy shown can have important ramifications in the future, as those who know not only the Hobbit but also the Lord of the Rings trilogy should note. By sparing Gollum, Bilbo opened the door for the defeat of a much greater evil far into the future. What mercies can we show? Certainly, we don’t often have a life-or-death situation placed at our feet, but we have the capacity to show mercy on a day-to-day basis.

Evidence and Will

Saruman was confronted by Gandalf with evidence for the existence of a great evil, a Necromancer, who had been discovered by Radagast. Saruman–perhaps already in the thrall of Sauron–seeks any avenue to redefine the evidence. He says that Radagast cannot be trusted, for he is too eccentric and perhaps crazy. Saruman says Radagast spends too much time in the forest, eating mushrooms. Even when confronted with physical evidence, a blade full of evil, he seeks to offer an alternative explanation.

This dialogue between Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf is a powerful example of how our will can change the evidence. If we do not wish something to be true, we will seek every avenue to escape its truth. Perhaps Saruman was not yet in the thrall of Sauron, perhaps he merely did not want to think evil could gain such a foothold in his world, but he nevertheless made a decision to doubt his brother wizards. If he had trusted them, he perhaps would not have trodden down the path he takes in Lord of the Rings.

Back Again- Conclusion

JRR Tolkien wrote one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time. He was also a deeply thoughtful Christian. The themes which appear throughout his novels are portrayed vividly on screen. I urge readers to see this movie. When you put on those 3-D glasses, don’t forget to put on your worldview glasses as well. What themes are occurring in this film? How do they relate to my worldview? What worldview can account for these things? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a fantastic exploration of these themes. We are called to live in the world, we are called to adventure, no matter how much we want to resist. We are called to Christ. 

Links

The Call to Adventure– What does the call to adventure mean? Garret Johnson offers a thought-provoking look at the call to adventure in literature and how it can inform our worldview.

Tolkien Experts Talk About His Christian Themes– A video with a number of experts on Tolkien offering their thoughts on the Christian themes in his body of work. Definitely worth watching.

Big Truths from the Hobbit– An excellent post calling Christians to step out of their hobbit-holes.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

My Trip to the Evangelical Philosophical/Theological Society Conference 2012

Last weekend I had the supreme pleasure of attending the 64th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society (there’s a mouthful!). I took over 80 pages of notes (43 front/back) and enjoyed the entire time immensely. I’ll be posting in the upcoming weeks and months on a number of these topics, so for now I’m just going to very briefly outline the talks I went to and give one or two comments each. I encourage readers to browse through these and let me know which ones they’d be interested on me writing on in a bit more depth. Feel free to ask questions as well.

Scripture, Geology, and the Age of the Earth

Readers know that I am very interested in the controversy among Christians over the age of the earth. I’ve written quite a bit on the topic. This session featured Gregg Davidson (University of Mississippi), a geologist, facing off against Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis. I have to admit that I was surprised by how much this debate focused on the science. Specifically, Davidson presented two very thorough evidences for an old earth, while Snelling rebutted these and argued that a catastrophic interpretation was perfectly consistent with the record. It was a fascinating back-and-forth. You can read an extended outline/review of this talk in my post: Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth.

Bioethics – Genetic Enhancement 

Gary Alkin(? his name wasn’t in my program) presented a paper on genetic enhancement and whether it is morally permissible. Essentially, his argument was that while as Christians we are obligated to heal diseases and help others, we are not obligated to try to become superhuman, and indeed are perhaps prohibited from doing so. He countered numerous arguments for the notion that we should continue to try to ‘enhance’ humanity. It was an interesting paper. I have since written an extended examination of his paper here: Genetics and Bioethics: Enhancement or Therapy?

Whose Moral, Which Axiom- The Transforming  Virtue of Sub-Creation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mythology

Thomas Provenzola presented a mind-stretching paper on how Tolkien’s use of myth helps us to think about care for creation. It was a fascinating look into philosophy and literature.

The Metaphor of Divine Repentence

Rob Lister of Talbot School of Theology presented a paper in which he argued that we must understand language about God both literally and analogically. He argued that open theists often err too far towards creating an anthropocentric concept of God, rather than understanding passages about God’s repentance in light of clear statements about His being. I was so fascinated by this talk that I went and got his book on the topic afterwards. I look forward to reading it.

Other Voices in Interpretation Panel Discussion: An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity, Part 2: Application to the Ongoing Discussion on the Trinity

Kevin Giles (Victoria, Australia), Steve Tracy (University of New Brunswick), Mimi Haddad (Christians for Biblical Equality), and David Malick (CBE) participated in a panel discussion on the evangelical statement on the Trinity. I was surprised to see how contentious this talk was, but unfortunately there are people who are undermining the Trinity by eternally subordinating GOD the Son. This discussion went beyond an egalitarian/complementarian debate and essentially touched on how we must not distort the Trinity for our own purposes.

The Stars Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the Synoptic Gospels

N.T. Wright, who needs no introduction, presented a paper arguing that the cosmic language used for the destruction of the temple is not so much due to an end of the space-time universe as it is because the Temple was the center of the universe for Judaism.

The Orthodox Doctrine of the Trinity

Kevin Giles presented a paper arguing that orthodoxy on the Trinity does not subordinate the persons. Rather, the distinctions made between persons according to the orthodox faith are made according to generation (the Son is begotten by the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son). He stressed the importance of drawing implications of the Trinity from the Godhead and not from humanity.

An Examination of Jesus’ View of Women through Three Intercalations in the Gospel of Mark

David cogently argued that we can look at the narratives in the Gospels to see what Jesus’ view of women was. Because we can see with clarity how Jesus elevated women’s roles to that of equal to men, he argued that we should interpret hard passages in light of the clearer passages. This paper was very clearly argued and extremely compelling. I hope more work is done in this area, because the argument was very tight, and there is much development to come from it.

Complementarians, Egalitarians, and Unicorns: What are they, and do they exist?

Walker argued that the categories we are using to identify people in the gender debate reflect a genus/species fallacy which essentially drains them of all meaning. It may be helpful to develop new terms to make the distinctions more clear.

Biblical Theology and Creation Care

I must confess that I only went to this one because there weren’t any others going on. I’m very pleased I did, because this plenary talk proved to be one of the most interesting discussions that I attended. Moo argued decisively that we must not cause Christianity to lose credence due to clinging to faulty science. Furthermore, he argued that it is our duty to take care of creation. He traced an interpretive strategy through Scripture and argued very convincingly for the use of the hermeneutic he was pressing for looking at Christianity and the environment. I wrote an extended post on this paper and the following panel discussion: Caring for Creation: A dialogue among evangelicals.

Panel Discussion on Creation Care

Following Moo’s plenary talk, there was a panel discussion with Moo, E. Calvin Beisner, Russell Moore, and Richard Bauckham. This panel discussion was highly contentious and the audience clapped for their favored party numerous times. Beisner seemed to be the odd man out, as he did not deny climate change, but rather argued that we don’t yet know conclusively that it is anthropogenic (caused by humans). The other panelists argued that the science is convincing and that we do cause people to look with wariness upon Christianity. It was a very invigorating debate.

Body-Soul Interaction and the Theism-Naturalism Divide

Ryan West presented a paper arguing that many of the arguments raised against substance dualism are essentially faulty once one grants theism. He further argued that naturalistic dualists (of which there are few!) would be better off embracing theism, for their view is in extreme tension given the arguments he presented. It was a brief paper that was very well argued. The Q+A was great.

How Much Evidence to Justify Religious Conversion? Some Thoughts on Burden and Standard of Proof vis-a-vis Christian Commitment

The great apologist John Warwick Montgomery presented his paper on religious conversion. Essentially, the argument was that given certain benefits and a low price of commitment, people should commit to Christianity assuming the standard of proof has been carried. It was a fascinating paper, and Montgomery’s presentation style was both engaging and endearing. It was a huge pleasure to get a chance to talk to him briefly after the talk.

Taking a Stand Against Rand: A Biblical Evaluation of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism

I’m not very interested in Rand, but this paper by David Kotter was interesting enough to get me interested in the topic. He noted both good and bad portions of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and argued that ultimately, her perfect man has come to fulfillment in Christ. He presented a critique of a number of her views, while arguing that some things are worth looking at for Christians and the government. A truly engaging paper.

Miscellaneous Extras

Throughout the conference I had numerous pleasures of running into fellow bloggers, friends, and huge names in philosophy and theology. I enjoyed lunch with Matt over at Well Spent Journey and stayed with Kurt over at Real Clear Apologetics.  I was so delighted to meet Holly Ordway from Hieropraxis and engage with her in some great discussion. Other examples include running into Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe, socializing with William Lane Craig, however briefly, and bumping into numerous others (Jerry Walls, David Baggett, Nabeel Qureshi, and more). I also enjoyed interacting more with David Malick of CBE. What a blast!

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts: 11/09/2012

I have featured literary apologetics, apologetics to Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses, geocreationism, and more. Check out the posts. Let me know what you liked. Come back for more.

Elves, Orcs, and Freaks: The Shared Authorial Vision of JRR Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor– Garret Johnson has written a very interesting look into the works of Tolkien and O’Connor. He notes that they viewed fiction as reality from a different outlook. It’s a fascinating post, and there is a second part, which can be viewed here.

An Encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness– It is easy for Christians to slam their doors on those who come door-to-door. What if, instead, we engaged them? This post is a model for engagement and provides some ways forward to engage with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Day After: My Thoughts on the Presidential Election– Michael Licona, author of The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, one of the best books I’ve read on the resurrection of Jesus, offers his thoughts after the election.

Human Footprints in Dinosaur Footprints– Over at GeoCreationism (a highly recommended site), Mike addresses the notion that human and dinosaur footprints have been found together or side by side. Some argue that this supports young earth creationism. Mike explores the paleontological evidence.

Meet the Multiverse– Edgar Andrews, author of what I think is the best introduction to Christian apologetics with a scientific emphasis, Who Made God?, explores the notion of the multiverse and whether it offers a challenge to the Fine Tuning argument for the existence of God. Regarding said argument, I’ve written on it in my post on the teleological argument.

Did Jesus Claim to be Divine? (Answering Islam)– I found this look at answering Muslim objections to the deity of Christ refreshing. It offers an essentially presuppositional approach, which I have found to be very useful when engaging with Muslims. Check it out.

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