Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence is a modern day retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. In this version, Scrooge is a militant atheist who does his best to write works to convince people to become atheists themselves. Not only that, but he is working to pass legislation that makes certain forms of speech illegal. There will be some minor SPOILERS for the plot in this review.
There are other twists to the basic plotline of A Christmas Carol, as well. In this one, Cratchit is a pastor who has been imprisoned because of legislation Scrooge helped pass. Also, one of Cratchit’s children has been influenced by Scrooge’s writings and himself turned to atheism, much to the chagrin of his parents. When the ghosts come to visit Scrooge, they don’t merely show him the fruits of his life, they also bring up significant arguments for the existence of God, most forcefully the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument.
One aspect of the work that is perhaps a little overdone is its commitment to the idea that non-Christians automatically try to silence Christians. Though this does happen occasionally, those cases are often highlighted at the expense of the many non-Christians who do not do anything of the sort. It would have been interesting, perhaps, to see a more reasonable atheist perspective presented here, though I understand the limits of the format.
The book is well-written and in places even manages to capture the feel of the original work by Dickens. It has clever turns of phrase and an attention to detail that give it a similar feel to the original. Though I tend to be hyper-aware of grammatical and spelling errors, I didn’t notice anything particularly egregious as I went through. Overall, the story is interesting and actually feels like a fresh take rather than something that’s just aping the source material.
I enjoyed my read-through of Scrooge and the Question of God’s Existence. It’s a clever, well-written little play on the classic work, though it does feel somewhat heavy-handed at times in its presentation of a particular brand of Christianity. Recommended.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Defenders podcast (Doctrine of God: Part 13) and he brought up an interesting analogy about omniscience. He discussed Scrooge in Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.” The last spirit to appear to Scrooge is the ghost of Christmas to come. He takes Scrooge around and shows him all sorts of disturbing imagery that will happen. Scrooge asks the ghost whether these are things that must happen, or whether he can stop them. The spirit remains silent.
Craig pointed out the spirit would have to remain silent to have any sort of effect. For suppose the spirit knows what will happen: that Scrooge will repent and so these awful things won’t happen. But then if he tells Scrooge what he knows, Scrooge will feel little remorse about not acting to prevent them. Yet if the spirit told Scrooge these things would happen, then Scrooge has no reason to modify his behavior, for he cannot prevent the events from happening.
Craig suggests, then, that we should look at omniscience and instances of God “changing his mind” in the same fashion. This has some interesting applications in the case of Open Theism, because it undermines one of the core exegetical arguments for the position: cases of God “repenting” or “changing his mind.”
God, on classical theism, knows what will happen in every circumstance. He comprehensively knows the future (contra Open Theism). If this is so, then God would have to withhold some of his knowledge in order to bring things about, despite his knowledge that it would occur. Like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, God would know the answer to Scrooge’s question, but would not answer him, so that he could bring it about that Scrooge would repent.
Consider Jonah. Open Theists often point to the story of Nineveh as an example of God not comprehensively knowing the future. Because God sends Jonah with the message that Nineveh will be destroyed, but then, when Nineveh repents, he shows mercy, many people say that God did not know the Ninevites would have such a reaction. Yet why should this be the case? Isn’t it plausible that God did know they would repent and that God sent the message that they would be destroyed because that is the only way Nineveh would be led to repentance? This is, in fact, hinted at later in the book, when Jonah says to God, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (4:2).
But if God had told the Ninevites “I will not destroy you” because he knew that he would not, would not the impetus of Jonah’s message lose its strength. With the threat of destruction, the Ninevites repented. Without, would they have done so? Imagine Jonah’s message going through the streets “Forty more days and Nineveh will not be destroyed!” I think it obvious that this would probably not have the same effect that the initial message was.
So it seems quite plausible that God, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (in our analogous case), may refrain from telling all he knows at many points throughout Scripture. For if he told people everything he knew, he would know that they would not repent, turn aside from their evil ways, or bring about the actions he desired. The instances wherein God ‘changes his mind’ or ‘repents’ are instances of this: rather than revealing his knowledge, God withholds it, in order to bring about the ends that he desires to (and knows will) happen. We, like Scrooge, would not respond to calls for repentance if we felt it didn’t make a difference in the end.
Final note: the above account implicitly assumes molinism to be the case. So much the better for it, I say!
This is part of a series I’ve written against the doctrine of Open Theism. If you’d like to read more, check out the original post for discussion and links.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) 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. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.