Fiction And The Supernatural – Merlin’s Nightmare, CSFF Tour, Day 2


Robert Treskillard at book signing2Merlin’s Nightmare, third in the Merlin Spiral young adult fantasy trilogy by Robert Treskillard, depends upon the supernatural, both the evil and the good. As such the story is labeled as fantasy, but should it be?

Isn’t the supernatural real?

I know many people, even some professing to be Christians, say belief in the supernatural is nothing but superstition. Those whose worldviews lean toward rationalism determine what is real by one or more of their five senses. Consequently, since you can’t smell demons or touch them or see them, they don’t exist.

Still others lean toward mysticism, but this bent seems more inward looking, more centered on the mind and emotions. There seems to be little awareness of a being or beings outside ourselves. Rather, the mystical puts us in touch with other living things—meaning, other natural beings that can be identified through the five senses.

Christians, on the other hand—true Christians who believe in the Bible—know that God is Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is Spirit, that Jesus has a spiritual body. Consequently, it should be a given that Christians believe in the supernatural.

Surprisingly, however, there’s an arm of evangelical Christianity that basically closes the door on supernatural activity within the Church. The Bible, the reasoning goes, is God’s final word and speaks authoritatively. It is sufficient for salvation and there is no other revelation that will be added to it.

Consequently, the office of prophet has ended. In addition, according to 1 Corinthians 13, tongues—the ability to speak unknown and unlearned languages–will cease. Presumably that means the gift of interpreting tongues is no longer necessary. I’m not sure how the gift of healing was included, but these “ecstatic gifts,” according to this line of thinking, ended with the first generation Christians, or there abouts.

In short, according to this view, the Christian no longer has any involvement with the supernatural. Of course unbelievers don’t either and never did have anything to do with the supernatural.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are evangelicals who believe that demons and angels are everywhere, that Christians must exhibit ecstatic gifts, especially tongues, or they aren’t really Christians.

Many of the latter have shown by their lives that their “conversion” isn’t genuine. They embraced a “spiritual high,” but not the God who they claimed to be the source of their joy. On the other hand, those denying supernatural activity have been accused of turning the Bible into the third person of the trinity in place of the Holy Spirit.

So what is the truth about the supernatural?

Those who don’t discount the Bible as myth, who believe that Jesus actually did walk on water and heal the blind and raise Lazarus from the dead and cast out the legion of demons, believe in the supernatural. The question then becomes, is the supernatural still active? Or is it active in the sense that it intersects the natural world?

Enter fiction and stories like the Merlin Spiral that explore the supernatural from both the side of evil and the side of good. Is there power in the hands of evil? Can mortals defeat it? What is the source of power for good? Can mortals access it?

Merlin’s Nightmare begins an exploration of these elements from the beginning. Here’s a sample:

Morgana reached into her bag once more and pulled forth the orb, another gift from the Voice. Like the fang, she had found it beneath the Druid Stone. It had many powers, but tonight she would use it differently.

Out from the trembling, roaring hole appeared a translucent image of Gorlas that only Morgana could see—his soul emerging from his body. Quickly she held the orb out, and Gorlas’s soul glittered, faded, and then began to sink once more into the pit. The apparition’s face twisted in agony. Oh, but she would save him from this pain. She began to chant;

    Soul of earth, soul in death, come now to me.
    Skin of dust, skin in rust, come and serve me!
    Merlin’s end, Merlin’s rend; yes, you must be
    Arthur’s bane, Arthur’s chain; yes, you must be!
    Power of night, Power of fright, come now, my prize.
    Flesh astrewn, Flesh of moon; yes, you shall rise.

. . . Gorlas’s soul shimmered its last, and then the orb sucked it in like a black liquid swirling down through a funnel. A scream whistled upon the air, and then all was still.

It was done! For inside the orb, surrounded by purple flame, glared the weeping visage of Gorlas. (pp. 19-20)

In the world of Merlin, fanciful though it is, the supernatural exists. How does that help readers to process and understand evil and good at the supernatural level? Because it is imagined by the writer—in this case, Robert Treskillard—does that negate its truth?

I submit that fiction dealing with the natural is still made up, or pretend, if you will. And yet such stories can show a young man coming of age or a brave widow overcoming tragedy or an estranged couple finding reconciliation. Those stories resonate because readers see the truth in them, though the characters are figments of the author’s imagination.

In the same way, an author, though using the medium of fantasy, can pull the curtain back a little on the supernatural. Not in a precise, this-is-exactly-how-it-is way, but in a It-Is way. It is, and it is real—the evil, but also the good.

The next question is, how does the natural man deal with the supernatural? For that one, I suggest you read the Bible. But you also might find Merlin’s Nightmare an intriguing, thought-provoking story that shows one person’s struggles to overcome.

Be sure to check out what other CSFF members participating in the tour have to say. You can find a list and links to their articles at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

To read a sample chapter, click here. To find out about the current series contest stop by the author’s website.

The Difference The Christian Worldview Makes


The-Amazing-Spider-Man-2-PosterThree particular works of fiction, two on TV and one on the big screen, have me thinking about the difference the Christian worldview makes. SPOILER ALERT FROM THIS POINT ON

The movie I saw was The Amazing Spider-man 2, the surprisingly well-done remake of the recent Spiderman series with Toby McGuire. This new, and very different, version stars Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

As you might expect from a superhero movie, Spiderman must confront Evil intent on wiping out all of New York City and/or dominating the world. The thing is, Spiderman himself is under scrutiny and criticism, but in the guise of Peter Parker, reveals the movie’s theme: Spiderman gives people a reason to hope.

In the end, though, I’m left wondering—are most people leaving the theater and thinking, Yes, Spiderman gives me hope? I doubt it for one simple reason: Spiderman is imaginary.

In reality, if very many people think about it, their plight is similar to the little boy facing the mechanized and weaponized criminal in the movie’s denouement. He’s alone and small and void of any means of defeating the adversary.

Nevertheless, standing in his little Spiderman costume, he faces the criminal down, his only hope being that the real Spiderman will return. And since we know Spiderman is imaginary, where does that leave us in the real world?

As a Christian, though, I have a different view. I can look at that movie and think, Spiderman may be imaginary, but Jesus is real. He gives real hope, eternal hope. Consequently, I’m uplifted, reminded that I’m not alone, that one greater than the evil I see in the world has taken it on and triumphed.

Yes, the defeated enemy is trying to do as much damage as possible in his final throes, but victory over him is sure. Therefore, I can stand against him confident that I am not alone, that at the right time, the soon and coming King will return.

The second bit of fiction that has me thinking about the difference a Christian worldview makes, is the new version of the Fox hit TV show, 24. Monday the season finale aired and as promised it held some shocking twists. As I’m watching these characters mourn unspeakable loss, all I can think is, this hurts them so much because they have no hope. Their whole life and purpose for existence were wrapped up in this relationship that has been taken from them, and now they have nothing to live for. On top of that, they have no hope of ever seeing that person again. For them, the person they love is forever gone.

In contrast, the Christian grieves death, but for two reasons our grief is different. First, even when a loved one is gone, the Christian still has, through Jesus Christ, the sure relationship with God, who will not fail us or forsake us, and we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who gives us comfort.

Second, we have the hope of being united with believers who have gone on before us:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Those with a different worldview have no such comfort.

Which brings me to the third piece of fiction, the old TV show called Numbers. I’m convinced that’s one of the best shows ever made, and one reason has to do with the fact that the writers were consciously exploring spiritual themes. No, they certainly weren’t doing so from a Christian point of view, but neither did they take a position that ruled out God, such as the writers understood Him to be.

Their main characters were of Jewish heritage. One took a hard line against the existence of God, another accepted some of the Jewish tradition void of belief, the third came to a point where he thought there had to be something more in life, so he began attending temple.

A station that specializes on “previously viewed” shows, is airing Numbers a few times a week. In the episode I recently saw, the character who’d started going to temple, an FBI agent who had survived a near-death attack, was contemplating his life. He said the attack made him realize how fragile humans are—that we are little more than a bag of bones and blood.

He also wondered about God in light of his attack. If He existed, why had He allowed this attack? The character thought perhaps the message of it all was that perhaps God didn’t exist after all.

While I appreciate the show bringing up the question, I was a little surprised with the juxtaposition of these two thoughts, coming from the same character. Stripped to their bare essentials, he was saying, Humans are weak and therefore, there is no God.

It’s a pretty honest assessment, apart from a Christian worldview. Man is weak. Humans are just like that little boy in Spider-man, in futility facing down insurmountable evil.

The stunning part is the conclusion that there is no God. As a Christian, I would praise God for staying the hand of the attacker so that the blow he dealt didn’t kill me. But to the character who thought there had to be more to life, God allowing the blow at all was proof, or at least a strong bit of evidence, that God didn’t exist after all.

I don’t know if there’s a more depressing conclusion: humans are weak and we are alone.

Those of us with a Christian worldview, of course, agree that we are weak, but we revel in the fact that we are NOT alone. Consequently, we have hope. And that makes all the difference.

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off  
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Words Have Meaning, Or Do They?


Deconstruction _ LEGO PhilosophyWords have meaning. Of course they do, or people would never be able to understand each other. If I say, Thanks for visiting my blog, no one is going to mistakenly think I’m saying you’ve stopped by my home. My blog address is one of my online locations, but it’s not where I reside physically. It doesn’t take any special level of language acumen to understand this.

And yet we are living in a time in which the meaning of language is up for grabs. Postmodern philosophy has played a role in the deconstruction of language.

Here’s a brief summary of what was and what is replacing it:

Western philosophy is in this sense logocentrist, committed to the idea that words are capable of communicating unambiguously meanings that are present in the individuals mind.

Words are capable of communicating unambiguously. Sounds similar to words have meanings.

For the postmodern thinker, however, there’s deconstruction:

deconstruction, a method of textual analysis . . . which by means of a series of highly controversial strategies seeks to reveal the inherent instability and indeterminacy of meaning. . . . Deconstruction is best approached as a form of radical scepticism and antifoundationalism. (quotes from “Postmodernism”)

And why deconstruction?

Postmodernists believe that people are trapped behind something in the attempt to get to the external world. However, for them the wall between people and reality is not composed of sensations as it was for Descartes; rather, it is constituted by one’s community and its linguistic categories and practices. One’s language serves as a sort of distorting and, indeed, creative filter. (from “Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn”)

If language is distorting reality, then it needs to be deconstructed.

And so, we have a culture–Christians and non-Christians alike–that systematically goes about redefining words. I’ll mention some of the hot-button issues by way of illustration, not to make a point about them necessarily, other than to say, deconstruction is effective.

First, the Mormon church has for years effectively deconstructed a number of terms from the Bible: Son of God, Father, atonement, redemption, salvation, and Christian to name a few. The apparent intent is to shake the identification of cult. Rather than trying to deconstruct the meaning of that word, Mormons instead have couched their doctrines in terminology that means something very different to Evangelical Christians than it does to Mormons.

So in the Mormon community “Jesus Christ” refers to a god, not a member of the Trinity.

Words have meanings, until someone deconstructs them.

For centuries now here in the US, marriage has meant “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.” For the last fifteen, twenty years, however, this definition is being deconstructed. Consequently, same-sex relationships now claim marriage, though clearly the traditional definition contradicts the concept.

Other words have undergone a similar deconstruction: the concept of glorifying God, for example, and even the meaning of worship.

Most recently “natural” took a hit in order to explain away Romans 1:26-27. The thinking of the author of a recently published book roughly states that God said in Genesis, it is not good for Man to be alone. God then saw there was not a fitting partner for Man, so He gave him one.

For the gay man, the only fitting partner is another man, so this means what is natural for him is a male partner, not a female partner. Therefore when he is joined in “marriage” to his partner, that is good in the same way that Adam and Eve’s union was good.

Extrapolate that then to the Romans passage and you see that in reality for the gay person, same sex activity actually is what is natural.

I undoubtedly have mangled the explanation, but it serves as a good illustration. According to postmodernism, language takes on meaning from within a culture or community. So within the gay community, “natural” has come to mean the opposite of what it means to the rest of society. Or should I say, what it had meant to the rest of society.

The thing is, words actually do have meaning, so society at large either accepts the deconstruction of marriage and natural and Christian or it rejects those re-definitions.

If it accepts them, then the words will have come to mean a new thing.

Living languages, in fact, do change the meanings of words, so there’s no shock there. But the fact is, this manner of deconstructing language seems to carry with it intention. It would seem there are those who wish to a) destabilize culture and/or b) reverse meanings.

What I find so fascinating in all this is that the Bible told us we’d be right where we are:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Do Good And Evil Exist?


ThroughthescopeI think people with a theistic worldview understand that good and evil exist–evil being the absence of good. However, in this present day and age, more and more people have bought into the idea that the concept of evil is the only real evil.

Everything else in human behavior which is undesirable simply needs to be bathed in education. Those who do horrific things, like shoot kindergartners in their classroom or plan to gun down their fellow students in college, simply haven’t benefited from a proper upbringing in which they’ve been given what they need.

Basic psychology, we’re told, or “common” sense says that children simply need to receive proper care and instruction at the proper time, and they will be happy and productive citizens.

Mind you, I’m not knocking proper care and instruction. Every parent should give his child love and security along with provision for their basic human needs. Every child should be instructed about the things that will make them safe and will, in turn, help them keep others safe.

As good as education is, however, kids still do things they know could seriously harm them. And the older they are, the more apt they are to do these harmful things.

That seems counter intuitive. With all the education, these older kids should know better than to do drugs, smoke, have unprotected sex. But guess what? A lot of well-parented kids who never lacked love or any of the good things in life still go against their education.

The “evil is a myth” folks answer this fact by saying children are naturally curious, so of course, if a parent says no to a toddler who wants to stick her finger in the electric outlet, we can expect her not to listen because she is curious.

Given that rationale, I don’t understand what the point of “education” is. I mean, if a person knows the child won’t listen and must discover on her own, why don’t we forgo the wearisome instruction and let kids find out the hard way that drunk driving kills, gangs aren’t beneficial groups, and drugs are addictive.

I suspect with people like Lindsey Lohan we should simply be understanding: she needs to discover what’s healthy for her and what’s not.

The thing is, those who hold to the view that those like Ms. Lohan who do anti-social things, such as steal or drive drunk, simply needed to be properly nurtured and cared for as children, have no explanation how this “bad parenting” process began.

If humans are good and only in need of proper parenting, what caused the first bad parents to improperly provide for their children? Because clearly the teetering domino effect had to start somewhere. In this way of thinking, perfect parents, parenting perfectly, can’t produce imperfect kids.

And yet, somewhere along the line, children started doing unwholesome, even harmful, things. Which suggests there’s something inside the child herself that responds imperfectly.

Of course the Bible gives the clear explanation:

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. (Romans 7:9-13, New Living Translation – emphasis mine)

It’s not a lack of empathy or proper nurturing or instruction or maturity that causes people to do hateful things. It’s sin, that thing in the human heart that makes us want to do the very thing we’re told not to do.

Of course, without recognizing our sin, we have no realization of our need for a Savior, so getting this good and evil issue right is pivotal.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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Calling A Spade A Rose


roseIn the famous balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare popularized the idea that calling something by a different name doesn’t change the nature of that thing:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet (Act II, Scene ii)

But is that true? Don’t words have meanings?

There’s a philosophical principle called the law of identity, one of the three classic laws of thought, which says an object is the same as itself, or A=A. But what if we started calling A by some other name? Would it still be A?

So if Romeo Montague started calling himself Romeo Smith, would he cease to be the son of a Montague? Juliet was arguing from the other side: Romeo is Romeo whether you call him a Montague or a Smith. But words have meanings and his designation as a Montague was part of his identity. He wouldn’t cease being who he was, including who his parents were, simply by taking up a new name.

So why all this philosophical rumination?

It seems the Bible takes a dim view of a relativistic approach to life. From Isaiah 5:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Notice, in the first instance simply naming as good that which is evil draws the warning. For this identity switch to be an issue, there really does have to be that which is good and that which is evil. In other words, stated in terms of the law of identity, good is good and evil is evil.

Anyone who contradicts this law, then would fall into the warning of woe. As it happens, we are living in a day when society does in fact call good what the Bible calls evil and the other way around.

Homosexual activity comes to mind. Society calls committed same-sex unions, “marriage,” but changing the name doesn’t mean there’s a family unit capable of reproduction, nor does it alter the fact that the Bible identifies homosexuality activity as a part of the consequences of the Fall (Romans 1:24-27).

Saying that there is no hell also comes to mind. False teachers can proclaim universal salvation all they want, but saying all people will go to heaven doesn’t make it so, not when Jesus clearly lays out the narrow road to life and the broad way to destruction.

A third evil/good exchange is the idea that Mankind is good, not sinful. Saying that Mankind has an education problem, not a sin problem demonstrates the greatest sin of all–that of ignoring God and His Word, or worse, calling Him a liar.

Which leads to the worst evil/good exchange of all–identifying God as wicked, wrong, evil, bad, a tyrant for exercising His justice. This lie defames the most righteous, pure, honorable, and just Being Who exists. He is perfection. He is the definition of good. So what could it mean to say that God is wicked?

Clearly, a change of name doesn’t change who He is. But words do have meaning, though they don’t alter reality. So the people who state those reversals, and those who listen and follow along, put themselves in dire circumstances.

Woe, “great sorrow or distress,” Scripture says, to those who switch out wrong for right, who call darkness, light and bitter, sweet. They’re only hurting themselves. God is still good, no matter what they say. Mankind is still sinful, no matter what they say. In other words, the law of identity holds true, though some may be deluded into believing that a spade is actually a rose.

Published in: on March 4, 2013 at 6:59 pm  Comments Off  
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If I Like It, Then It’s Good


In thinking about Moral Judgments yesterday, I ended with this:

The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do — that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? And that will take a bit more thought.

When I taught seventh and eighth graders, I soon learned that a good number of the boys students found it amusing to look for double entendres, particularly ones with a possible sexual slant. I decided early on that I could either learn all the latest slang and work to avoid any words that might carry sexual innuendo, or I could teach my students to employ a little self discipline. I opted for the latter.

The problem I came up against was that some bright kids astutely said, in essence, But why shouldn’t we laugh? It’s funny. They were right, of course. Suggestive interpretation can be funny. Dirty jokes can be funny too.

So, I asked, is that the standard we use to determine what we listen to — if it makes us laugh?

It’s the question we should all be asking today. Is the standard we use to determine what we read, watch on TV, listen to on our iPods, where we go, who we hang with, how we spend our time, what Internet sites we visit nothing more than that it entertains us? Is the highest good, our feelings of pleasure — happiness, mirth, satisfaction, gratification, amusement?

You’d think so, judging by what we talk about and how we spend our time. But most of us realize there are more important things than what pleases us — the good of our family, for instance, or for Christians, doing what God wants us to do. In public schools here in California, the overriding principle students are to use as a guide for their behavior is, Do no one harm.

But all those and the countless other standards used in the business world, in government, in the legal system, in the marketplace, offer no definition for “good” or for “what God wants” or “harm.”

Is it harm to make fun of someone? If so, then why do we allow Saturday Night Live to stay on TV? Is it “good” for someone to be mocked for his lack of singing ability on national TV? Is it “what God wants” when we write a book that says there is no hell?

How are we to make such judgments?

We could go with what pleases us. Saturday Night Live is a funny show, so whatever they joke about is just fine.

We could say, A person gets what he’s asking for, so the clowns who try out for talent shows when they have no talent, deserve to get hammered. But does that mean someone cheering for the Giants in Dodger Stadium is asking to get hammered?

We could say, What we think is right, is what God wants us to do. So when people like President Obama support fetal stem cell research because they believe as a result, many, many people will be cured of diseases, are they doing what God wants because they believe in their cause?

Clearly, every issue has two sides. Who’s to say what’s right? Person A says pornography hurts a person and tears apart marriages. Person B says it’s an innocent way of releasing sexual tension.

Person A says abortion kills babies. Person B says abortion saves children from lives of abuse and neglect.

Person A says bullying is part of growing up and every kid gets teased. Person B says bullying destroys self-esteem and pushes victims toward retaliation of one kind or the other.

On and on, round and round. Is it true that we should just go with what the majority of people believe to be right? Do we take a vote? Today it’s wrong to throw Jews into concentration camps, but tomorrow, if we have enough votes, we can decide that good means Jews will be arrested and jailed?

Is there no fixed standard? No way to know what is right and what is wrong for all time? Or are we left to our whims or to the trends of society fashioned by the best propaganda money can buy?

One of the telling facts that came out of President Obama’s statements last month about the Supreme Court’s deliberations about the Constitutionality of the health care law was that he considered many people in favor of the law to be a reason it should stand and not be struck down. As if popularity outweighed the law he has sworn to uphold.

But President Obama is a man of the times. How does he define good? It would seem he does so by what he believes to be good.

Essentially, our society has come down to this: every person does what is right in his own eyes, and if he’s doing something the law says is illegal, he moves with greater caution so he doesn’t get caught.

There ought to be a better way to determine what is right and wrong. And there is.

Published in: on April 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm  Comments (7)  
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The Goodness Of Man And Animals


I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an animal referred to as evil. Sure, there have been rogue animals that break from normal behavior for one reason or another. They may act in unpredictable ways, but no one ascribes evil motives to them. They are being nothing more than what their environment and their DNA made them to be.

Of course many in our culture want to believe the same about Man. Except there’s this odd, inexplicable problem: Mankind believes in evil.

Not within animals, mind you. No matter how many gazelle a lion slaughters, no one calls him a murderer. No one is out trying to convince the cat family to become vegetarians — not even those which we’ve domesticated and which live under our care. We understand they are carnivorous, we accept that as fact, and we don’t try to train the “evil” out of them. We don’t believe it is evil for them to eat meat.

In contrast, Man believes Man to be evil. Even those who think Man is good. Generally “society” is blamed for causing good Man to swing to the dark side. It’s those churches, one side says. If it weren’t for religion, we wouldn’t have had all the wars we’ve enduring for centuries.

It’s demon drink, the other side says, or bad government or political corruption or Big Business or drugs.

Whichever way you look at it, the answer is, Man causes the problems because “society” is nothing more than Man acting in a group.

And yet, our culture increasingly says openly, Man is good. Hence, we should simply give in to our instincts — as long as we do no harm to others.

How interesting that the animals have no such exception clause. They can do harm to others with impunity. No one calls the bull elephant who chases off the young males threatening his leadership in the herd, a bully. No one wants to hold him accountable or tell him he needs to make room for others to express their individuality. Or that, in fact, the female elephants should have equal authority, and if they want to take charge of the herd, then the males should be only too happy to care for the pint-sized elephants for a while.

There is no equity in the animal kingdom, no sense of fair play, of justice. Alligators aren’t held accountable for the baby wildebeest they devour. Cheetah aren’t considered immoral because they attack the weak or the young instead of taking on the most fit zebra in the herd.

Animals act as animals will. And Man?

We’re such a mixed bag. We volunteer hours on end to search for a missing child, we collect money and clothes to give to victims of natural disasters, we risk our lives to pull others out of burning buildings or sinking ships.

But we also cheat on our income tax and lie to our husbands or wives. We hold grudges and argue and complain and push to get our own way. What a selfish, proud, unkind, discontented lot we are.

From what I can discern, only Christianity explains the existence of evil. If life is, as many apart form Christianity believe, nothing more than matter plus time plus chance, then where did intolerance come from? Where did hatred come from?

Christianity understands the uniqueness of Man, both of his created and his fallen states, explaining the mixed bag completely. What other worldview can make such clear sense of the things we see in this world?

Published in: on March 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm  Comments (8)  
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Whose World Is It, Part 4 – Writing In Enemy Territory


Clearly, someone writing from the position that this world is Christian will have an entirely different emphasis than someone who thinks this world is in the hands of the enemy.

Let me reiterate, I understand this world is God’s by virtue of the fact that He made it and He holds it all together. Also, “He is the beginning, the first born from the dead so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Col. 1:18b) — meaning that Satan will not successfully pull off his attempt at dethroning Jesus.

Meanwhile, however, we are living in enemy territory. Our citizenship is in heaven, unlike those who set their minds on earthly things. How you perceive enemy territory is very different than how you perceive your home.

If you’re in the hands of the enemy, for instance, you stay alert to deception, you steal yourself against depravity and suffering. You take nothing for granted. The things that appear harmless, you examine closely to see how they might be insidious traps. The outward appearance of a thing, therefore, is utterly untrustworthy. In fact, a disgusting bit of pulp might be medicinal, but a thick cut of meat might bring on death. Everything must be tried and measured and examined to see if it furthers the cause of the king or plays into the hands of the enemy.

So with stories. Some may be bold, assertive, overt declarations for the true king or about his enemy and his coming judgment. Some may be illustrative rather than declarative, but no less concerned with the truth.

Obviously these are broad strokes. Stories might be about individual skirmishes rather than about the entire scope of the war. Some might not show the end, but the successes during the battle.

I can’t help but think of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy thrown into a German concentration camp towards the end of World War II. The world in which they lived was in the grip of the enemy — physically and spiritually. But in them resided the Spirit of the living God, and they had a clear choice whether to live by the evil principles of their environment or the life-giving principles of the Spirit.

Betsy never came out of the concentration camp. And yet she triumphed every day through her generosity and by her refusal to hate. She did not look at the concentration camp as Christian. She saw it for what it was — Satan’s playground. But greater was He who was in her than he who was in the world of that camp.

Christians writing stories have the privilege of showing the way things are, both spiritually and physically. The small aren’t necessarily weak, and the strong aren’t necessarily victorious.

Someone may be a slave but able to bring healing to her master because of her willingness to testify about the Living God. The man who dies young might have more impact on the world than the one who lives into his nineties.

And the Christian writer gets to show this upside down way of seeing the world. We get to make sense of the senseless, to agree with Scripture in the telling of our tales, to serve as the memorial stones that remind readers of the King and His victory — won and to be won.

Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy and Emergent Thought


For those of you looking for a CSFF Blog Tour post about Andrew Peterson‘s book North! Or Be Eaten, second in the Wingfeather Saga, you are actually in the right place. However, you’ll find much more information about the book from my fellow participants listed below or from my earlier review and thoughts about the book posted in conjunction with the Children’s Book Blog Tour.

What I want to do today (and the rest of this week) is to tie in the current discussion here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction about emergent thought with our CSFF selection.

You might be wondering what one has to do with the other. Quite a bit, actually—an entire worldview.

This series of posts began last Friday with an article discussing a provocative piece entitled “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” In the ensuing discussion there and spilling over to Monday, some of those associated with emerging thought made it clear that they do not believe in one or more of the following: original sin, Satan as an actual enemy, hell, God as a righteous judge meting out deserved punishment.

In fact, a number of these visitors ascribe to a panentheistic worldview, or non-duality. In other words, they don’t believe in the basic fantasy motif: good versus evil.

It’s a little hard to imagine speculative fiction without duality. Avatar tried to pull it off, but good fiction is built upon conflict, so evil capitalists and military-ists were cast in the role of antagonist. As author and blogger Mike Duran has pointed out, the panentheistic people in the movie were at one with nature, even revering the animals they had to kill by way of preserving human life, yet they were not at one with the evil humans. No thanking them for giving up their lives. No reverential ceremony acknowledging their contribution to the cycle of life.

North! Or Be Eaten gives an entirely other point of view. There is an enemy bent on destruction—not of the body alone but of the soul. The threat is real, imminent, far-reaching, deadly.

My first question is, which of these two views most accurately squares with Scripture?

From first to last, the Bible is about conflict. Jesus’s parable in Matthew about the landowner who went on a journey gives a thumbnail sketch of the entire Bible.

After a time, the landowner sent reps to collect the proceeds from those he left to work the land. Instead of paying up, they beat and killed these reps. At last the landowner sent his son, but he too was killed and thrown out of the vineyard.

The parable ends with the landowner coming back. Jesus asked this question: “What will he do with those vine-growers?” Jesus didn’t toss out that question for thought. He spelled out the answer: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper season.”

So does North! Or Be Eaten present the same struggle, good against evil? Let me answer that by quoting these lines of poetry Oskar recites about the protagonists father:

    All children of the Shining Isle, rejoice!
    A hero strides the field, the hill, the sand
    With raven hair and shining blade in hand.
    The wicked quake when lifts the Warden’s voice

    So fleet his mount and fierce his mighty band!
    So fair his word and fine his happy roar
    That breezes o’er the Isle from peak to shore!
    So tender burns his love for king and land!

Good fantasy like North! Or Be Eaten is full of conflict, mirroring the good/evil struggle in the world—the very struggle the Bible addresses, ending in Revelation with a picture of the answer to Jesus’s question: what will He do when He comes back?

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I promised you links to the other participants. Hope you take some time to peruse their reviews and other thoughts about North! Or Be Eaten.

A check mark provides a link to a specific post.

We’re in a War


I realize I’m probably writing for a small crowd today as a good many visitors living in the US are off having a final summer fling on this long Labor Day weekend.

I, on the other hand, am used to laboring on Labor Day. When I taught, I usually had much to do to get ready for school (here in California, the traditional start of school is after Labor Day). So starting a typical work day today doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

But on to the topic. One reason I love writing fantasy is because of the clear depiction of the struggle between good and evil. In real life, however, I think we Christians get it wrong. Some don’t really think we’re in a war. Some think the war is a cultural entity, and some think Satan is the enemy, from beginning to end.

I don’t think any of these are Biblically accurate.

First the culture war. If God chose to leave us on the earth to change the culture, why wasn’t Jesus more concerned about changing the culture of His day? Where were His activities designed to condemn or bring down Rome? And even His moves against the Pharisees had more to do with what they stood for spiritually than anything.

On top of Jesus’s example, we have His commission. Go and change your culture, or go and make disciples?

Of course, there are professing Christians who don’t think we’re in a war at all. We are supposed to love and accept and tolerate and in the end everyone will be saved, so it’s all good.

Yes, we are to love. “Accept” might be a different story, and so “tolerate.” But in the end, only those on the narrow road will be saved. Those on the broad way are headed for destruction, so all is far from good.

But are we fighting those on the broad way? Is the war between the narrow-road minority and the broad-way majority? You’d think so to listen to a lot of professing Christians, but God never told us to go out and wrestle others into the kingdom of God. There’s still that “make disciples” command that mitigates against a war-like approach to other people.

So if the enemy is not others who believe differently, maybe it is Satan. The old “the devil made me do it” approach. And certainly he is an enemy. Scripture says he is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I can’t see taking a passive approach with an aggressive enemy like that.

Scripture tells us we are to be on the alert against Satan and his schemes, we are to flee him, we are given spiritual armor and told to stand against him.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 5:12)

That being said, I don’t think we should neglect the war that goes on in our hearts for rule over the throne of our lives. Romans 6 spells out our options, but I get the impression that this is not a one-time decision:

Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Paul clarifies the battle waging inside us in Romans 7:

But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (emphasis mine)

The war is real, not to be taken lightly, but we also need to remember, the outcome is certain.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The odd thing is, the fight continues.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 1:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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