novels

This tag is associated with 6 posts

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

fog-follet

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

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

Deconversion

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

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

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

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

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

Hope

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

Religious Leaders?

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

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

Conclusion

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

Links

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

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

Source

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

SDG.

——

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

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

childhoods-end

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

Utopia? A transhuman “hope”

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

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

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

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

God and Science

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

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

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

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

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

Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Links

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

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

SDG.

——

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

 

Sunday Quote!- Suspense Author Dean Koontz on Evil and Satan

saint-oddEvery Sunday I offer a quote from something I’ve read recently. It’s usually from a book, but here I’m highlighting a quote from an interview. Be sure to check out the other Sunday Quotes and let me know your thoughts.

Suspense Author Dean Koontz on Evil and Satan

Anthony Weber’s excellent look at Saint Odd, the final book in the Odd Thomas series, got me back into reading Koontz after I hadn’t read anything from him in a while. Weber also shared a quote from an interview with Dean Koontz. I read the rest of the interview and I felt what he had to say about evil and its portrayal is worth taking the time to share and consider:

I don’t shy away from having violent things happen, but I don’t dwell on it. I feel, as a Christian, writing books that have a moral purpose to them, it’s actually incumbent upon me to write about evil, because this kingdom is Satan’s and he is the prince of the world. It’s here and it’s among us.

My villains are pathetic. I never glorify a villain. I couldn’t write something like Hannibal because there’s something there that makes the villain the most glamorous person in the piece. I can’t write that. I don’t find evil glamorous. You’ll never find it that way in my books…

Evil walks among us. We don’t always see it. Each of us, in our daily lives, encounters evil; we are tempted to evil every day of our lives. If we don’t want to read about it or think about it, I don’t think that’s a truly Christian point of view. We have to acknowledge it, face it and defeat it. That’s what each of my books is about. (Cited here; original here)

I think Koontz’s comments are well-worth considering. Evil is something that is foreign to this world. Satan and other spiritual powers are working to perpetuate evil in this world. We must not close our eyes to it, but rather, “acknwoledge it, face it, and defeat it” by the power of Christ.

I recommend Koontz’s works to you.

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)

Chatting with Koontz About Faith– You can read the whole interview here. It is worth the time.

Saint Odd– Read Anthony Weber’s post about the final book in the Odd Thomas series.

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Drizzt Do’Urden on Equality

drizzt-II

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

Drizzt Do’Urden on Equality

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

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

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

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

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

Links

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

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

Source

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

SDG.

Question of the Week: Favorite “Worldview” Fiction

question-week2Each Week on Saturday, I’ll be asking a “Question of the Week.” I’d love your input and discussion! Ask a good question in the comments and it may show up as the next week’s question! I may answer the questions in the comments myself.

Favorite Worldview Fiction

I recently asked about favorite movies regarding worldview. I think that any time we interact with any portrayal of fiction, we still run into major questions of worldview. We should always be watching or reading or listening with a critical mindset, ready to interact on worldview-level questions. We love to read, but we need to do so in a way that acknowledges that “every story has a worldview.”

What is your favorite fictional book in regards to the way it interacts with worldview? Which worldview is presented? How might we learn from this presentation?

I know I’ve had many moments when I’ve finished a piece of fiction and just had to sit and think for a while afterwards. They’re wonderful times, and I think we’ve all had them. Let’s read about them in the comments!

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.

Question of the Week– Check out other questions and give me some answers!

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- The New Atheist Mythology

tnaa-bradley-tateEvery 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!

The New Atheist Mythology

I recently finished reading The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic after 9/11. The book was simply phenomenal as it applied critical theory to four novelists in order to draw out various themes in their works and parallels with the writings of the “New Atheists.”  I’ll write up a review at some point, but for now I want to highlight the central theme of the book:

[I]t is possible to detect an obscure… reason for the massive popular appeal of the New Atheism: it constitutes a new and powerful creation mythology that–like all mythologies–performs an implicit anthropological service… For Dawkins… it has become de rigueur to wax lyrical about, say, the ‘breathtaking poetry of modern cosmology’ (whatever that means) even amidst attacks on the ‘fairy story’ that is monotheism. (7, 9, cited below)

The book analyzes various novels in light of this theme: that the New Atheists are, in a sense, creating a rival mythology to the monotheism they denigrate, and this expands into literature in various and interesting ways. In a sense, this mythologizing about the power of the human mind, the wonders of the cosmos, or the beauty of poetry is a project to create transcendence in a worldview which, by definition, rails against the transcendent. It is a kind of creation myth which allows for meaning to seep into the meaningless.

What do you think? Can humans live without a mythology? Is wonder a necessary part of the human condition? Why do you think that even the “New Atheists” have put forward such lyrical and mythological language in their writings?

As I said, I’ll try to get a review of this book up ASAP.

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

Arthur Bradley and Andrew Tate, The New Atheist Novel: Fiction, Philosophy and Polemic after 9/11  (New York: Continuum, 2010).

SDG.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,557 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason