sin

This tag is associated with 8 posts

“Conviction” by Kelly Loy Gilbert- Faith, Baseball, and the messiness of sin

Conviction-Kelly-Loy-Gilbert

Kelly Loy Gilbert’s Conviction is a novel that covers any number of sensitive topics, from faith to familial abuse, from homosexuality to racism. There are few punches pulled in the book, and it centers the narrative around both a baseball season and a murder trial. There will be SPOILERS for this thought-provoking book in what follows.

Baseball and Conviction

The plot centers around Braden as he waits to testify in his father’s murder trial. His father,  Martin Scott Raynor, Jr., is accused of intentionally running over and killing a police officer during a traffic stop. Meanwhile, the dead cop’s nephew plays baseball for the major rival team that Braden has to prepare to defeat. Braden is a pitcher, and many of the anecdotes in the book center around Braden’s experiences in baseball.

Indeed, many of the moments throughout the book where baseball is discussed are linked directly to faith and conviction. For example, years before the events of the book, Braden prayed for a sign from God and was at a San Francisco Giants game when a home run ball landed in his glove. He took it as a sign that his family would not fall apart. It did. Another example is Braden’s own focus on pitching and how it puts him in stark relief against the universe.

Conviction and Messiness

Above I mentioned that Braden had asked for a sign and felt he’d received it. Yet the interpretation he layered over the sign did not stand up to reality. His family–his dad Mart, and his brother Trey–did indeed fall apart spectacularly. But towards the end of the book, Braden realized that his interpretation had been too simplistic. It would be easier to walk away from God in disappointment, but that didn’t reflect the reality that Braden experienced.

What struck me most about Conviction is how uncomfortable it made me. It demonstrates, time and again, the messiness of a world that has been infected with sin. Braden’s father clearly cares about he and Trey, but he’s also both physically and verbally abusive. Mart also makes clearly racist statements at times, and these statements are never clearly condemned. Gilbert has written a subtler book than that. Readers are left to read the story and come to their own conclusions. Hints are left, but what Gilbert has done is present the world in all of its messiness. It would make me more comfortable if she had revealed clearly where her own stances were, but instead we are left with a plot and characters that feel remarkably like the real world. The real world is not so easy to put in individual boxes and definitions.

Perhaps that is what Gilbert does best, then, in Conviction. She portrays a world sin has infected by showing us broken people who don’t deserve grace. Nevertheless, grace is shown to them by a God who is near.

God’s Love

…I think about how with my dad, and with Trey, no matter what either one of them ever does I think I’ll still feel exactly the same way about them that I always have. I know it shouldn’t be like that because it isn’t safe, and because I think most other people get to choose who they care about and when to stop and it’s not fair… I think that’s the worst and the most dangerous thing I know.
But I hope–I hope–that’s something like what God feels about me. (327)

These lines are so poignant because of all that has come before them. Braden realizes that he loves his family unconditionally, and hopes that God feels that way about him.

Indeed, the love of God is one of the most prominent themes throughout the Bible, and Braden’s thoughts on this matter reflect, I think, the kind of existential reality that all Christians must live in. We realize that though we are sinners, God has declared us saints.

Conclusion

Conviction  is one of those rare novels that will keep you thinking about the story and characters long after you have read the book. I think it is one of the most honest, heart-rending books I have read. It comes highly recommended.

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.)

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.

 

Book Review: “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” by John Owen

ost-owenBe killing sin, or it will be killing you. – John Owen

John Owen was a Puritan minister who lived in the 1600s. In Overcoming Sin and Temptation, we are presented with a collection of three of his works–“Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers,” “Of Temptation, the Nature and Power of It,” and “Indwelling Sin”–which are aimed at leading believers to an awareness of their own sin and the overcoming of it.

If I had to sum up this volume with one word, I would say: “Convicting.” John Owen throughout does a fantastic job calling believers to the awareness of their own sin and the various ways in which we deny our sin and try to pretend it isn’t there. There were many times I found myself nodding along, realizing that Owen had laid bare yet another way I had been trying to ignore sin in my own life. It is a powerful work of law.

Owen points out how we often rely upon grace in the face of temptation–surely we will be forgiven this sin!–rather than putting the temptation to death; he notes how we often try to ignore sin through various means like the weariness of our body (we’re too tired to avoid this sin); he exhaustively draws out the many ways we deceive ourselves through our sin and persist in sin. It’s almost tiring because we realize how often our sins have been covered up in our minds through rationalizing it away.

But Owen does not end with the conviction of our hearts for our sin. Instead, as the title of this book suggests, he puts forward ways in which we may overcome sin and temptation. Primarily, they involve watchfulness and prayer. We are called by Owen to an active assault on sin rather than passive resistance. We must always be looking out for the ways sin penetrates our lives and close those gaps. Some concrete things Owen suggests are focusing upon Christ’s work and how our sin adds to Christ’s suffering; thinking upon the grace and love of God and how we wound the great God who made us when we sin; considering God’s sovereignty and asking, with Joseph in Genesis, “How can I sin against my God?” These are only a few of the ways Owen suggests we put sin to death in our lives.

This edition of the works is made especially helpful by extensive notes explaining hard-to-understand words. Various explanatory words are sometimes added into the text (always bracketed so readers know they have been added) to continue Owen’s train of thought. Each work has a brief but information-packed introduction, and there are lengthy and detailed outlines of the works at the end of the book.

I do wish the editors had also decided to make the language throughout the text gender-inclusive. It is jarring to have to continually process: “Oh yeah, he’s using ‘men’ to reference ‘people.” It may seem like a small thing, but if this is so clearly what Owen means when he says “he” or “man” or “men,” etc., then why not just say it through the editorial process? This is a minor strike against an otherwise excellent work.

I recommend that every Christian obtain a volume of Overcoming Sin and Temptation, read it prayerfully, and integrate it into their lives. We must be killing sin lest it kill us.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book through Crossway. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever.

Source

John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2006).

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.

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.

“Warm Bodies” – A Christian Reflection

warm-bodies-movie-poster-7What is a Zombie? What if a zombie had some kind of thoughts in their head? What if… love could be involved? These are the types of questions raised–often in a very tongue-in-cheek fashion–in “Warm Bodies,” a zombie thriller with a twist. Here, I will analyze the movie from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

What’s the Problem?

There are corpses. Walking ones. It’s kind of a problem, because in order to survive they need to eat humans.

Yet “Warm Bodies” goes beyond standard zombie fare. “R”, the main character–a zombie “corpse”–meets Julie and something is changed in him. His heart has a beat, and he is slowly starting to get better; he starts talking more normally a well. Eventually, this change manifests itself well enough for his personality to come out and for Julie to start to realize there is more to him than meets the eye.

Unfortunately… R also happened to kill Julie’s boyfriend. And, he’s been eating said boyfriend’s brain as well. He’s “not proud of it” but he also wants to find out from the brain what it is that makes Julie tick.

There is also the questions of the other “corpses”–will they too have some kind of heart-moving moment? And what about the skeletal zombies known as “bonies”?

What’s the Solution?

The solution seems to be love. But there is more to it than that. Julie’s love awakens R and their touching relationship begins to wake other “corpses” from their slumber. But R remains a corpse. There is something yet to be done for him. That comes in a climactic scene in which R and Julie are pursued by bonies. R grabs Julie and puts his body under her in order to save her as they jump from great height into a pool of water.

R emerges from the water cleansed and alive. Does this theme echo at all with Christianity? I couldn’t help but immediately think of baptism. The scene is stunning. R falls into the water and as he descends and rises out, his old self–his “corpse”-ness– is washed away. He emerges restored. He is human. I found this not very dissimilar at all to casting off the old Adam. R was a new creation. So are we (2 Corinthians 5:17). I personally found this scene as central to the entire film. It was the emergence of life from death. It was stirring.

As for the bonies? Well, they all get slaughtered because they are beyond hope. The cavalier attitude the film throws in this aside fits well with the rest of the tongue-in-cheek attitude of the movie, but on reflection it seems almost inappropriate. It is easy to celebrate the destruction of dehumanized flesh-eating monsters, but how did they get that way? Ultimately, it was because they were left alone in their “corpse” state long enough to devolve into mindless human-killing machines. It is a truly sobering thought to consider that this isn’t too terribly far from the “real world.”

In the End?

How is it that humanity got to be this way, with the split between humans and undead? It’s a question the film does not explore. But it is easy to see some potent imagery happening: people are vulnerable; other people are predatory. The theme is only barely developed in the film, and even then it is often played off as comedy. But the truth is that, unfortunately, this is how humanity often plays out. Many people are dead in sin (Romans 8:7) and continue to live out their lives apart from the saving work of Christ. We are to go out into the world and spread God’s love to them. We are to get to them before they harden their hearts; before there are any “bonies” out there.

As for us? We too were dead in sin. But the old has gone, the new has come. In Christ, we are a new creation. We are washed clean from our sins.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Warm Bodies: Exhuming Humanity– Anthony Weber compares the book and the movie to draw out even more themes and provide an extremely thorough evaluation of them both. If you don’t follow his blog, you really should do so.

Be sure to check out my other looks at movies here (scroll down for more).

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.

A Christian look at “John Carter”


Disney’s “John Carter” is based off a series of science fiction novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs which originated in 1912 and helped shape the genre. I admit I have not read the books–though I now plan to–so I can’t comment on how closely the movie adheres to the storyline of the novels. As always, there will be spoilers for the movie. I have left the outline of the plot out of this post, but as usual a succinct summary can be found on wikipedia.

Heroism and Just War

John Carter is a hero with a haunted past. The movie, unfortunately, never really explores his history much. From what I could tell, he went to war and came back to find his family had all been killed and his house burned as part of the conflict. He thus swore off fighting for a cause and instead decided to seek his fortune.

Once Carter reaches Mars (Barsoom), however, he is thrown into a conflict in which he realizes that the fate of an entire planet rests upon the victory of the city of Helium. Once he realizes the implications of this battle (and conveniently, finds the princess of Helium particularly attractive) Carter aligns himself with the Tharks, a race of aliens largely viewed as savages by the humanoid aliens on the planet. He is able to seal victory for Helium by making the Tharks realize that they, too, have a place on Barsoom which is influenced heavily by the conflict between Helium and Zodanga.

The movie touches, then, on the notion of a just war. Helium is trying to save the planet, while Zodanga does little but consume and subjugate. The Tharks view both sides as neutral and prefer them to continue fighting, as long as the war stays away from them. Yet it becomes clear that due to the influence of the Thern–an extremely advanced (technologically speaking) race which seeks to orchestrate the destruction of planets–that the conflict has implications for everyone on Barsoom, and indeed, on Earth.

Sin

The Tharks have a tradition in which they brand their people as punishment for their sins. The brands are placed so that they continue to cover one’s skin throughout their lives. If one has committed enough offenses that there is no longer any place for a branding, then one is either killed or thrown into the arena to fight against impossible odds. One’s sins literally cover their flesh. One cannot escape from one’s offenses. There is no redemption.

Christianity affirms that sin is something for which one can make no redemption for themselves. One’s sins are, in a sense, branded onto one’s past. Only by repentance and grace through faith can one be saved. There is no escape from one’s offenses except through the full and free forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. There imagery in the movie of one’s sins being displayed on one’s flesh is powerful, and it resonates with the Christian view that our sins condemn us forever. Only by grace can we be saved. There is no removing the sins–branded onto us–by our own power.

Religion

The Therns are supposedly oracles of the goddess. However, it turns out that they are actually dedicated to manipulating civilizations across the galaxy. It is never discussed whether the goddess and the Therns were ever actually genuine, but it seems fairly clear that those calling themselves Therns are just using the title in order to gain power.

Religion is therefore seen as a kind of way to manipulate and enthrall the masses. All of the sides of the conflict are shown to be dedicated to the goddess, but none seems to have the full truth. However, it does seem that the dedication of the Tharks, in particular, shows a resonance with truth and a genuineness that reaches beyond the mere use of religion as subjugation. The movie, I would say, gives an overall neutral view of religion. In some ways it can be used for ill, but it nonetheless is not inherently evil.

Yet another aspect of religion in the movie, however, is that one can observe the difference between genuine faith and exploitative faith. It is clear that many of the Therns genuinely believed in the goddess and there are scenes which convey a sense of awe over the faith on Barsoom. Religious practice is seen as taking place on a genuine level and being an important part of the lives of the practitioners. These religious persons are seen as genuine and largely trustworthy. On the other hand, those who seek to exploit the faith are seen as inherently evil. Such a view should resonate with Christians, who are instructed to be aware of those within the church who would seek to lead us astray (antichrists).

Alien Life and social (in)justice

Social justice is an underlying theme in the movie. By portraying the alien Tharks as the outsiders, the movie is able to focus on the notion that the downtrodden and overlooked can rise above the limitations of their position. Although viewed as unequals, they are equals.

One poignant scene early in the film showed a hatchery for the Tharks. They came to collect the hatchlings and it turned out that some eggs hadn’t yet hatched. The Tharks then fired on all the eggs with their gun and destroyed the “weak” young. I couldn’t help but think that this is largely what is happening in the real world with abortion [a topic I have written on extensively].

Here again, worldviews rear their ugly heads. The faith of Barsoom is a bit enigmatic. The goddess seems largely uninterested in the goings-on of everyday life. Furthermore, those who follow her are fully willing to kill their own young in order to ensure the survival of the strongest. One can’t help but think of the prioritization of desires over objective morality in our own world.

Conclusions

The film was a lot of fun. One can easily see how the source material influenced science fiction in a number of ways. As a huge fan of science fiction, I can’t help but love the movie. It is so awesome to see the origins of sci-fi play out on screen. Christians watching the film will find areas to discuss social justice, just war, and heroism. Furthermore, there are some poignant scenes which can bring up issues related to abortion and racism. A final talking point would be to discuss religion as a transcultural entity and see how it has been used in both good and bad ways. I go into this issue in my own post on the “Myth of ‘Religion.'”

John Carter” is another film with a number of worldview discussions happening in the background and it’s worth a watch both in order to start discussions about religion, justice, and the like but also to explore the origins of science fiction, a genre steeped in religious dialogue.

Links

Check out another review of the movie over at Sci-Fi Christian, which looks into the background of the movie more, as well as exploring some Bible texts in relation to the movie: Barsoom or Bust!

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies– I discuss how Christians can view movies with an eye towards worldview.

Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber– I look at how science fiction is frequently used to discuss worldviews and analyze two major authors in the field along with their view of religious dialogue.

Alien  Life: Theological reflections on life on other planets– What would it mean for Christianity if we discovered life on other planets?

Check out my other looks at movies, including the Hunger Games and the Dark Knight Rises here (scroll down for more).

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.

The Avengers: Sin, Salvation, and Jonah

I have already reflected on Marvel’s “The Avengers” from a Christian perspective, but upon watching the recently released blu-ray and DVD I noticed two other major themes in the movie that I had missed in the previous post. So, time to look back at this huge blockbuster and offer some more thoughts!

There will be SPOILERS here.

Slavery of all mankind

A thoughtful friend of mine on Facebook pointed to the dialogue between Loki and a crowd of people near the beginning of the film wherein he forces them all to kneel. Loki stands before them and shouts:

Kneel before me. I said… Kneel! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

Think of how this resonates with the Christian notion of slavery in sin. We align ourselves with things that we love. Greed. Envy. Pride. Lust. Gossip. These things, while initially pleasurable, ultimately enslave us. Loki’s speech was very discerning, however. For even though these things come to enslave us and take time away from the goods in life, we come to love them, to glorify them, and to become attached to them. We want to be enslaved in sin. We desire it. Sin calls to us, enslaves us, and we love it.

Yet, as in the movie, we are called to rise up against this sin. But we can’t do it on our own. As I discussed in my other post on “The Avengers,” we “need a hero.” We cannot rise out of slavery. Paul discusses this very notion in his letter to Rome:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18, NIV)

Who is it that set us free? We did not do it on our own. After all, we became slaves to sin and offered ourselves freely to it. No, it is Christ Jesus who set us free. He was the “hero” who broke the chains and gave us our freedom in Him.

Debts that Cannot Be Paid

Later on, Loki converses with Black Widow. They discuss the notion that Black Widow has “debts” to others. She owes them for the things they’ve done for her. She says that her ledger is in the “red”–she is on the wrong side of debt. During this conversation, Loki tries to break Black Widow down verbally, “Can you wipe out that much red? …Your ledger is… gushing red.”

Loki’s comments are telling, for they are actually true of not just Black Widow but of everyone. We all have our debts. We have our sins that we commit in private, away from others. We have the anger we have expressed through thought and deed. Our ledgers are overflowing, they gush red. Our sins are too great for us to repay; we cannot wipe away the red.

Yet God has loved us so much that He paid the debt. Jesus, God in human form, came to earth and paid that debt for each and every one of us. Our ledgers were full, but now we’re in the black. We have become co-heirs with Christ and have received salvation by grace through faith. We are justified through Jesus’ death and resurrection. God forgives us our sins and wipes our ledgers clean on His behalf.  Loki’s comments are not unlike those of the Devil, trying to convince us that we are still in debt. Can anyone–even God–wipe away all the wrongs we’ve done? Fortunately, that answer is yes. Although we ourselves cannot repay it, God has done so for us.

Jonah

Another great line in the film is when New York City is under attack (seriously, why can’t that city catch a break?). Iron Man comes face to face with a gigantic enemy ship/creature/thing (my wife named it “Leviathan” and I think that’s a great title) and has to take it down. He asks his onboard computer: “You ever heard the tale of Jonah?” He then bursts into the mouth of the Leviathan and flies through it, exploding from the end and destroying it.

No, the reference was never explained. Hey, if you don’t know the story, look it up! It’s one of my favorites in the Bible. Just get out  a Bible (or search online) and flip to “Jonah.” It’s short, and I guarantee you it’s worth the read!

Conclusion

It seems to me that there are a number of themes in “The Avengers” that Christians can relate to. The notion of the incredible debt we owe and cannot pay due to our past resonates directly with the Christian worldview. It points towards the salvation we have in Christ. Similarly, our slavery to sin cannot be overlooked. We want to sin, we crave it, but thankfully those bonds are broken in Christ.

Links

A Christian Look at “The Avengers”– I examine a number of other themes in “The Avengers” which Christians and non-Christians can discuss.

Engaging Culture: A Brief Guide for movies– I reflect on how Christians can engage with popular movies in order to have meaningful conversations with those around them.

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.

Animal Death?- A Response to AiG Critique of My Argument

I recently wrote a post called “A theological argument against young earth creationism.” In it, my stated claim was “YEC is morally impermissible…” Why? Because “on YEC, animals died because of Adam’s sin…” not because of anything they themselves did. This argument is intended to use the YEC assumption that animal death is an inherently bad thing against them. Let’s outline the argument:

1. If animals did not die before the fall, then their death must be the result of sin.

2. Animals are incapable of sinning (they are not morally responsible agents)

3. Therefore, animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin.

The argument as it stands contains a few assumptions which I’ve found in YEC literature. 1) Animals did not die before the fall; 2) Death is inherently a bad thing; 3) all physical death is the result of sin. Now a denial of these assumptions can undermine my argument; I grant that. My point is that if one holds to these three assumptions, my argument shows that YEC is morally impermissible.

Now, Answers in Genesis has provided a critique of my argument, and I must say that I’m very appreciative of their interaction on this important topic. Elizabeth Mitchell wrote the entry, check out her critique, in its entirety, here (under the “And don’t miss…” section). Let me examine the criticism below. (I recommend reading my entire post prior to this one in order to have proper interaction with it.)

First, Mitchell wrote, that my post “…attempts to show young earth creationism is wrong by demonstrating death documented in the fossil record preceded human sin and was unrelated to it.”

I admit I was a bit befuddled when I read this, because nowhere in my post did I try to “demonstrate death document in the fossil record preceded human sin…” I’m not sure where this claim was made in my original post. I don’t mention the fossil record anywhere in the original post and so I’m a bit concerned by this apparent misreading of my article.

Then, she wrote, “He cites no Scripture…” Indeed, I did not cite a single Scripture passage. However, the argument is directly based upon the assertions that some YECs make. But what kind of rebuttal is it to say “He cites no Scripture…” anyway? An argument must be dealt with whether it has Bible passages in it or not.

The argument itself is based upon the logic of the YEC argument against old earth positions. The picture to the right here demonstrates pictorially the view most YECs present of old earth positions–that animal death before the fall makes God morally questionable (image credit to AiG, accessed here). For example, premise 1 is backed up by this quote from the AiG critique: “the connection between Adam’s sin and animal death…” Premise 2 is indeed mostly an assumption, but I think it is one that most Christians would grant. Animals are not on the same level as humans; they are not moral agents made in God’s image. Three is again backed up by the quote I put above; the AiG (and more generally, YEC) argument assumes that all death is the result of Adam’s sin.

Now, AiG does claim that the Bible backs up this position. They wrote, that I “[seem] oblivious toRomans 8:20–22, which explains the connection between Adam’s sin and animal death” (Mitchell, cited below). Well no, I’m not oblivious to Romans 8:20-22, which makes no mention of animal death. In fact, the word “death” is not even used in the passage. Thus, it looks like this an inference from Scripture, not an obvious connection. And an inference is subject to presuppositions. The YEC presupposition is that animals did not die before the fall, so of course their inference will lead to a reading of Romans 8 in light of that presupposition.

Mitchell argues in regard to my statement, “The post on Answers in Genesis hints that it is because animals are cursed due to the serpent’s deception of Adam and Eve,” that “…we [AiG] teach no such thing” (Mitchell, cited below). That’s fair, and I appreciate the clarification. The reason was that I read the following quote on the original post I was working from: “The first recorded death and passages referring to death as a reality came with sin in Genesis 3 when the serpent, Eve, and Adam all were disobedient to God” (Hodge, cited below).  The wording here does seem to at least “hint” at a connection between the serpent and the rest of animal death, but I could be mistaken here and I’m fine with that.

To sum up, my argument was based upon rather firmly established YEC assumptions. That animals did not die before the fall is argued throughout YEC literature, and both posts I cite have this idea in them. That animal death is due to the sin of Adam is demonstrated in the AiG response to my post. That animal death is somehow inherently bad is shown in the picture above as well as throughout YEC literature. For just one example, Bodie Hodge wrote, in the article I was originally linking (cited below), “God gave the command in Genesis 2:16–17 that sin would be punishable by death. This is significant when we look at the big picture of death. If death in any form was around prior to God’s declaration in Genesis 1:31 that everything was ‘very good,’ then death would be very good too—hence not a punishment at all.” But just from these three theses I can construct my argument (as above) which leads to the conclusion:

“Animal death must be the result of a morally culpable agent’s sin…” (on the YEC position).

And, as I argued in my original post, this seems to undermine the goodness of God on YEC, for “the animals didn’t do anything. One day, they were happily living potentially infinitely long lives, eating plants, and doing their animal things. The next day, Adam sinned, and so God decides to start killing them all… not because they themselves sinned” (here).

So, given the assumptions that YECs make, I have constructed an argument that shows their own position is morally impermissible. What does this entail? I suggest it entails that the reading of the texts that YECs present is incorrect and must be modified. I suggested a few ways to do this in the original post, so I won’t repeat them here. Ultimately, it seems my original post has not been refuted.

Sources

Bodie Hodge, “Biblically, Could Death Have Existed before Sin?” Answers in Genesis. 2010. Accessible here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/02/satan-the-fall-good-evil-could-death-exist-before-sin

Elizabeth Mitchell, “News to Note, March 17, 2012.” Answers in Genesis. Accessible here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/03/17/news-to-note-03172012.

J.W. Wartick, “Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism.” 2012. Accessible here: https://jwwartick.com/2012/03/12/against-yec-theology/.

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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 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: “Salvation and Sovereignty: The Molinist Approach” by Kenneth Keathley

Molinism is a topic hotly debated in theological circles. There have been several books on the topic published just in the past few years, which, for a topic of analytic theology, is extraordinary. Kenneth Keathley’s work, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach focuses on the theological usefulness of molinism.

Keathley’s central position is that the Calvinistic “TULIP” (Total depravity; Uncondtiional election; Limited atonement; Irresistible grace; Perseverance of the saints) is the incorrect approach to salvation. Instead, he endorses the “ROSES” approach (Radical depravity; Overcoming grace; Sovereign election; Eternal life; Singular redemption).

The contrast is laid out in detail through the book, but to sum up, Keathley provides a comparison in the introduction. Radical depravity allows for free will while still emphasizing the fallen nature of people. Overcoming grace emphasizes “God’s beckoning that overcomes our wicked obstinacy” (3-4); sovereign election is the affirmation that God desires salvation of all; eternal life is to note that believers “enjoy a transformed life that is preserved and we are given a faith which will remain” (4); finally, singular redemption emphasizes that Christ’s atonement is not limited to the elect (4).

Keathley seeks to wed these concepts of salvation and sovereignty with the analytic theological concept of molinism. Molinism, Keathley argues, is a “middle way between Calvinism and Arminianism” (7). Molinists can affirm that God controls all things, that “man does not contribute to his salvation,” that the believer is eternally secure in Christ; further, they can affirm that “God is not the author of sin” that “God desires the salvation of all,” and that “At crucial times, humans have the ability to choose” (7).

Keathley then turns to a defense of molinism. Here, he touches briefly on some of the philosophical aspects of the molinist account. There are three “moments” of God’s knowledge: natural knowledge, middle knowledge, and free knowledge. These are not to be understood as temporal moments but rather moments of logical priority. The first moment, natural konwledge, is God’s knowledge of all possibilities. God’s middle knowledge is the knowledge of everything that “would” happen in given circumstances. Between this “moment” and the next,  God chooses a world to actualize. Finally, God’s free knowledge is that knowledge of everything that will happen, given the created world (17). Keathley distinguishes these moments as “could” (natural knowledge), “would” (middle knowledge), and “will” (free knowledge) (17-18).

Next, the Biblical account is expounded. Before going into depth with individual verses, Keathley argues that the Bible teaches that God exhaustively knows all things (including the future), that God is holy and righteous and does not cause sin, and that humans do have freedom–contingent choices are placed before people (20). Keathley then turns to exegetical studies of various aspects of God’s knowledge and human freedom. First, he argues that God has exhaustive knowledge of all things (including the future),  meticulous providential control, freedom, and righteousness (20ff). He then turns to a defense of the notion of human freedom in the Bible through a study of “contingent choices” put before people. He draws on both Old and New Testament examples to make his case. [In the interest of length I’ll not go through these arguments, but I would like to note that he utilizes over 30 separate verses in the first two pages of the Biblical evidence sections alone.]

The second chapter covers a side topic: Does God desire salvation for all people? Here, Keathley outlines 4 major positions regarding this. First, there is universalism–all are saved; second, there is double predestination–God chooses who will be saved and who will be reprobate; third, God has two wills–a revealed will in which God desires salvation and a decretive will in which, for unknown reasons, He passes over some; fourth, God has a consequent and antecedent will–“God antecedently desires that all be saved, but He consequently wills that faith is a condition to salvation” (42-43).  Keathley argues that the fourth option is the most defensible (43ff).

Next, Keathley turns his work towards a specific defense of the “ROSES” position discussed above. This defense encompasses the rest of the book.

Radical depravity is a rejection of determinism along with an affirmation that humans are in bondage to sin and fallen (63). Keathley endoreses “soft libertarianism,” which affirms that people’s characters can determine the range of choices, but also that they are the “origin and source of their choices” and that they are genuinely free to reject or choose specific actions (70ff).

Overcoming grace holds that while grace is monergistic–God is the only worker in salvation, it is resistible. “God’s grace is truly offered and available. The difference between the saved and the lost is the continued rebellion of the unbeliever” (105). This is an “ambulatory” model, which basically means that God is drawing all people to Him at all times, such that the only way to not be saved is to resist belief in Him.

Keathley holds “sovereign election” in which “God ordains the salvation of the elect but only permits the damnation of the reprobate” (142). Keathley follows this chapter with “Eternal Life” in which he argues that believers can feel certainty about their salvation. Finally, “Singular Redemption” is the notion that “redemption is provided for all, but applied only to those who believe” (194). This reflects the “penal substitutionary atonement” view (ibid). Thus, God provides salvation to all who believe, and applies it to those who do.

Salvation and Sovereignty is not unique simply because of its emphasis on the theological utility of molinism. The book is also written at a level that general readership will find accessible. Considering the extreme nuances and significant philosophical groundwork which must go into an explication of molinism, Keathley does a simply phenomenal job making the concept accessible to readers who are not philosophically trained.

However, it should be noted that because of this simplification, several of the philosophical issues related to molinism drop off. Not only that, but it seems that Keathley is operating under very slightly different views of what molinism entails. For example he states that molinism is a kind of “compatibilism” (5). This is false for most molinists, because most molinists defend libertarian freedom in conjunction with God’s foreknowledge. Thus, it is not compatibilism but libertarianism. Finally, many philosophical objections to molinism are left untouched. Due to the focus of the book, however, these seem minor flaws for the overall work.

Keathley’s work is exciting in many ways. It brings the molinist discussion to a more general readership. It provides a significant challenge to theological determinism. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, it provides an account which shows the theological fruitfulness of the concept of middle knowledge. Readers interested in any of these topics should immediately get the book and read it. For those who have engaged with molinism on a philosophically developed level, it provides an interesting account of how to apply those studies to a theological framework. For those who know little or nothing about molinism, it provides an excellent introduction. While readers may not agree with all of Keathley’s theological positions, his work will challenge and inform anyone who reads it. It comes highly recommended.

Source:

Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010).

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 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.

Original Sin and the Metaphysics of the Soul

Original Sin Defined

The writers of the Augsburg Confession (found in the Book of Concord) defined Original Sin as the belief that “…since the fall of Adam all human beings who are propagated according to nature are born with sin, that is, without fear of God… [we] teach that this disease or original fault is truly sin, which even now damns and brings eternal death to those who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (BOC, 39).

One Objection

Ezekiel 18:20a states, “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

The word used for “soul” in this passage is the Hebrew word, nephesh. This passage leads to the objection that original sin cannot be true as I have outlined it, because it involves the son inheriting the guilt of the father.

The Question of the Soul: A Metaphysic of Original Sin

Three views of the soul are prevalent in Christianity. All of them presuppose metaphysical dualism. They are:

1) Our soul is constructed just as our physical body: Our soul is a half-and-half combination of the souls of our mother and father.

2)  God specially creates each soul for each person when he/she is conceived/born/etc. Alternatively, God has already created every soul for everyone who will ever live, and puts them in a body when one is needed. The main problem with this view is that it would seem that if original sin is true (in the sense I have outlined it above), then God creates sinful souls for us.

3) Our soul is from Adam. There are no new souls for mankind, rather, we all share, in some sense, Adam’s soul.

I tend to favor 1) (now, anyway). But I favor a version of 1) which is not so much a half-and-half combination of souls, but a union of the totality of the souls we inherit. I originally wrote this post for my new site, but an insightful commentator lead me to heavily edit my views here. Just as we become one in the union of sex, so do our souls become one when we conceive a child.

What this means, then, is that the soul we inherit from our ancestors includes the inheritance of the guilt of sin. I must note the distinction here between sins which require action and those that do not. I have been pondering this idea for some time–is it possible to have sins for which we are guilty that we don’t commit? The answer I lean toward is “No”, but that doesn’t preclude original sin. The reason is that through the soul, we have literally participated in the original sin of Adam. When we are told that we have the “Old Adam” in us, this should be taken in a more literal sense than it often is.

We are told by Paul that there is a natural and spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44). These are both the inheritance of our ancestors. In a literal sense, then, there is the “old self” (Romans 6:6) and the Old Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) which, from birth, enslave us to sin (Romans 6:6). Metaphysically I think this means that our soul has literally participated in, and is therefore held accountable for, the original sin. Original sin is a substantive entity–it corrupts our very nature. This is no mere inclination to sin, but a bondage to sin and a separation from God. It only makes sense to me on a metaphysical level to argue that this sin is inherited through our soul, which, like our body, maintains the union with Adam himself.

So how does this answer the objection from Ezekiel 18:20? Initially, one may argue it seems to purge the passage of all meaning. This is not the case, however. What Ezekiel is referring to is the sin of commission. That is, it refers to a sin which requires an action. Ezekiel is telling us that the actions of the father do not condemn the actions of the son. This does not, however, preclude the original sin in the metaphysical sense in which I have outlined it, because we have each participated in the action which causes original sin.

One final note is required, however. This is again a modification of my original thoughts due to enlightening discussion with my good friend’s comments. We must remember that this stain of sin, this original sin, has passed away for those who have faith in Christ. For, though the passages I quoted above discuss the nature of our original guilt, they immediately turn to salvation which is through Christ. Our New Adam replaces the Old (1 Corinthians 14:42-57), and our enslavement to sin is no more (Romans 6:6-14). Our original guilt, received through our sharing in the action of Adam, and our shared spirit with him, is no more.

Source:

The Book of Concord. Augsburg Fortress. 2000.

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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 should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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