What’s What with Social Networking?

So here’s my question. What do you think about social networks? I mean, first MySpace was all the rage, then Facebook, and now Twitter.

Once upon a time, I was involved in a growing online community, Faith in Fiction. We discussed books and writing and faith. It was a happening place where mostly wannabe authors congregated. A good number of those authors are now published and have blossoming writing careers.

But along the way, some of the regulars weren’t so regular any more. As it turned out, they had moved to the suburbs—they’d started their own blogs and were building their own communities. Consequently, they no longer had time to visit the old neighborhood.

Obviously I eventually followed suit. But now come the social (and business, a la LinkedIn) networks. Are these the new ‘burbs? Are people leaving Blogland for Twitterville? And why would they?

Is it time? Perhaps no one wants to take the time to read 400-800 word articles when you can touch bases with a scant 140 characters. But touching bases at what level? Can a person communicate anything meaningful in a Tweet?

As near as I can determine, Twitter was never intended to be a place for meaningful connection. Facebook gives many more options, but still, the format seems to encourage shorter bursts of thought or fun and games.

I had envisioned that my presence on Facebook might bring more visitors here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, but so far I don’t have the numbers to back up that premise (although it’s a little hard to tell since I’ve been involved in two blog tours in the short amount of time I’ve been on Facebook).

So I’m wondering. Is our culture creating a sound-bite mentality? If it can’t be said in an easily repeated catch phrase, it isn’t worth saying … or reading?

Honestly, I feel privileged. I mean, Facebook has put me back in touch with many, many people I thought I’d lost track of.

But I’m wondering if the post-Facebook crowd, who no longer drives or walks or sits without an iPod playing or a cell phone implant hanging from their ear, will have people with whom to reconnect. I mean, what are friendships made of these days? Virtual coffee or St. Patrick Day shamrocks, a one line “sorry you’re having a bad day” bit of encouragement? How real are the connections?

This inquiring mind wants to know.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (11)  
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Children’s Book Blog Tour – Savvy, a Review

Yesterday I promised a full review of Savvy, the current Children’s Book Blog Tour feature by award-winning novelist Ingrid Law. A proper review, I’ve discovered, is best if it starts with presentation, since that’s often the way book buyers come to a product.

Clearly Savvy‘s cover is flamboyant and attracts attention. What this image can’t show you, however, is that this picture is on the jacket of a hardback, a purple-covered hardback. More flamboyance. 😉 The pages are rough cut, the thick paper a cream, the font a little different than usual but not hard to read. In other words, everything about the look of this book works. It is attractive even as it prepares readers for the different kind of story they will find between the covers.

The Story. Savvy is Mibs Beaumont’s coming-of-age story. What makes this book a cut above other stories that fall into the coming-of-age category is Ms. Law’s use of the fantastic. Upon turning thirteen, members of the Beaumont family acquire their own personal “savvy” or power. Mibs’ brothers, for instance, can brew up a storm or create electricity. If these powers aren’t controlled, however, they put everyone nearby at serious risk. Consequently, the Beaumonts live somewhat reclusive lives.

Days before Mibs turns thirteen, her father is in an automobile accident. He’s hospitalized in another town and her mother hurries to his side. Mibs and her siblings are left in the care of the pastor and his wife. When Mibs’ special birthday finally arrives, the well-meaning Miss Rosemary decides to throw her a party.

During the chaotic activity, Mibs hears mysterious voices. As she searches for some quiet, she realizes that what she wants most is to go to her parents. She even believes she knows what her savvy is and that she will be able to help her father. Outside she sees a bus, the name of the town where her father lies in a hospital bed painted on the side. She hops on board with no other thought than to reach her parents. However, she doesn’t go alone. Her brothers join her, as do the pastor’s teenager son and daughter.

And so, the adventure begins.

Strengths. Ms. Law has crafted a timeless story, and she’s done it using the vehicle of the tall tale, reminiscent of the American era of storytelling (with the likes of Pecos Bill and Johnny Appleseed) that relied upon exaggeration as the main device. Here’s one of the best samples:

The top of the picnic table was covered in Grandma’s clear glass jars, each one with its own white label and metal lid. She’d given us kids the job of labeling the jars as she filled them. But it wasn’t peaches, tomatoes, or pickles that our grandma canned, it was radio waves. Grandma only ever picked the best ones—her favorite songs or stories or speeches, all broadcast by the local stations—but still, our basement was crowded with high shelves of dusty jars filled with years and years of radio programs. How Grandma Dollop put radio waves into those jars and got them to stay there was a mystery to me; she just had a way of reaching out and plucking them from the air like she was catching fireflies.

On Monday I mentioned some of the serious subjects Savvy touches on. That this book filled with whimsy and humor could also deal with topics of import makes it special.

Ms. Law also has given her first person narrator, Mibs, a strong voice. She is easy to identify with because her emotions are real, though not always likable.

Weaknesses. That brings me to the debit side of the ledger. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I found Mibs, a work in progress, not easy to like at the beginning of the book. I wanted to like her. After all, her father was in the hospital. But she seemed to overreact when snooty girls called her a seemingly harmless name. She seemed haughty in her glee about leaving school behind. She seemed unnecessarily resistant to Miss Rosemary and to Will when they treated her with kindness. It all makes sense as the picture of the reclusive family comes together, but my initial reaction was that Mibs was a tough little girl to like.

A second problem that also rectified itself was the middle of the book. When Mibs makes the decision to go to her father, there is a long stretch of bus riding. Important things happen, but there was a point where I started worrying that the rest of the story would take place aboard that bus. It doesn’t, and I was thankful for the way the action picked up. I would liked to have seen … not sure what, conflict? forward action? I think I would like to have seen Mibs do something rather than be taken somewhere. The story gains momentum as soon as she becomes the initiator again.

Recommendation. Savvy deserves the attention it has received. It’s the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award winner and a Newbery Honor winner. As others on the blog tour have noted, Savvy is a wonderful read-aloud. I highly recommend this book for middle grade readers, parents, and teachers of middle grade students.

Speaking of other on the blog tour, Maw’s Book Blog is giving away a copy of Savvy and so is Dolce Bellezza. Through a Child’s Eyes gives you a list of other books you might like if you also like Savvy. Here’s the complete list of participants:

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm  Comments (12)  
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Children’s Book Blog Tour – Savvy, Day 2

    Don’t forget to participate in the poll to determine the winner of the April CSFF Top Blogger Award. Round one ends Wednesday.

– – –

Since I posted yesterday about Savvy, Ingrid Law‘s award winning middle grade fantasy featured this week by Children’s Book Blog Tour, I thought considerably more about the book. (I think that’s one reason I like blog tours—they force me to me more thoughtful about what I’m reading).

In this case, my thoughts centered on the main character, Mibs Beaumont. Here’s the thing—in the first fifty or so pages, I didn’t like her so much. She seemed quick to judge, even those who were sympathetic to her and were trying to be a help. She also seemed like a social misfit, and happy to be so.

As it turns out, she is a social misfit. Members of her family each receive a “savvy,” a superpower, when they turn thirteen. Because her older brothers are still in the process of learning to control their newly obtained powers, the family stays to themselves for the most part.

As the story opens, Mibs is days away from her first teen birthday. But things don’t go as she’d dreamed. Her father is in a serious automobile accident, and the doctors don’t know if he will survive.

Mibs’ reaction?

For half of a half of a half of a second I hated Poppa. I hated him for working so far away from home and for having to take the highway every day. I hated him for getting in that accident and for ruining our pot roast. Mostly, I realized that my perfect cake with its pink and yellow frosting was probably not going to get made, and I hated Poppa for wrecking my most important birthday before it had even arrived.

Though Mibs immediately feels shame, for me, the damage was done. This honest reflection made me see Mibs as a selfish, immature girl, not as a struggling almost-teen.

But that changed. Ironically, my sentiments toward her changed because of her relationship with her father. Before his accident, he bought her a special party dress. As she describes the gift, it’s clear her father thought it was beautiful and she thought it was beautiful, but in reality, it was … less than fashionable.

“I thought my little girl deserved something pretty and new to wear for her special birthday,” he had said the night he handed me a big white box held closed by a thin, round strand of stretchy gold elastic. The dress inside the box was pale yellow with a high sashed waist and a full skirt that was sewn with deep pockets. Double rows of white rickrack zigzagged its way around the hem and around the seams in the short cap sleeves. But the very best part of the whole dress was the big purple flower made from soft silk ribbons that was pinned up high on the shoulder like a corsage.

Because of the dress, Mibs finally sees herself a bit like her peers see her.

Bobbi looked at the big purple flower on the shoulder of my dress and rolled her eyes. “Happy birthday,” she said in a tone that sounded more like “Drop dead.” Then the other girls began to whisper and laugh as they mixed ginger ale and rainbow sherbet into pale yellow pineapple juice that was the same color as my dress …. Suddenly, as I looked at those teenaged girls in their teenaged clothes, I felt younger than twelve-turning-thirteen and my special-occasion dress felt not-so-special. I realized that I had just turned into a teenager myself, and there were changes coming in my life that didn’t have anything to do with my savvy.

By the time Mibs rips from her special-occasion dress that purple flower she had liked so much, I’m feeling for her and wishing she’d never had to see herself differently.

Is the early portrayal of Mibs a serious flaw? Not a serious one because I was wholeheartedly rooting for her in the end. But to capture a reader’s heart in the beginning, to make a character lovable from the first page, even in the face of realistic revelations of the ugly thoughts … that’s what I think makes a book special.

I’ll give a full review of this good book tomorrow. In the meantime, I recommend you enjoy an excellent interview with Ms. Law over at All About Children’s Books or read the review at The 160 Acre Woods.

In fact there are several other interviews and reviews, so visit as many of these participating blogs as you can squeeze in:

Children’s Book Blog Tour – Savvy, Day 1

    Don’t forget to participate in the poll to determine the winner of the April CSFF Top Blogger Award. Round one ends Wednesday.

– – –

I suspect some of you are curious why I am participating in the Children’s Book Blog Tour hosted by Kidz Book Buzz. No, I’m not a children’s author, but I taught middle school kids for so long, I’m pretty invested in that age. And I have teacher friends still in the business (that’s a phrase I picked up from writing—I never thought of education as “the business” before 😉 ). Not to mention that my writing partner writes for kids—middle grade and YA.

In fact, when I first decided I wanted to write fantasy, I planned to write a story for the just-turning-into-a-teen crowd. For years it was a neglected age group, and the books that were available seemed to pander to the foibles of the target audience, not to their strengths, hopes, or aspirations.

Happily, there are many more books for those kids now. Some still play to the greed and fears and brashness often associated with teens, but some, like this month’s Children’s Book Blog Tour feature, Savvy by Ingrid Law (Dial Books for Young Readers in conjunction with Walden Media), take a serious look at what’s behind those off-putting qualities.

Here are some of the topics Savvy tackles obliquely:

    how a parent’s illness and/or absence affects kids
    how being on the outside of a clique feels
    how family secrets can separate kids from their peers
    how children have noble desires and aspirations
    how negative input can tear down a person’s belief in his ability to do the noble things he dreams of
    how a person can appear to be a lot more cocky and confident on the outside than she is on the inside
    how insisting on personal boundaries can be scary but necessary
    how people express caring in different ways

The point is, Savvy is the kind of book that makes the reader think. Yes, it is also a fun story, a fantasy of sorts, along the lines of Paul Bunyan with Babe, the Blue Ox. But in the midst of entertaining young and old, Ms. Law gives the reader some meat to go with the dessert.

Take some time this week to read what other bloggers participating on the tour have to say about this delightful middle grade book:

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 11:47 am  Comments (3)  
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Fantasy Friday — Blaggards and Heros

Please take a moment to help determine the April CSFF Top Blogger Award winner. Round one ends next Wednesday.

And speaking of the April tour, one more participant has posted about Blaggard’s Moon. Stop by Reviews Plus and see what Caleb has to say.

I’ve been thinking about something since I read Chawna’s post, Heroic Heroes in which she expresses a desire for heroic heroes in fiction, ones that will be models for us, that will challenge us to live better, truer, more generously, more nobly.

While I agree that in each of us is the desire for a heroic hero to show up and save us (even as some, like the drowning man with a would-be rescuer, fight Him off when He comes), I wonder about putting heroic heroes into our fiction.

As I see it, the world is propagating the belief that Mankind is good. A common theme in fiction, from TV to children’s books, is that all we have to do is reach down inside us and become who we are capable of becoming.

So I wonder, if a Christian writes a story with a heroic hero, won’t it look so much like that message of the world that readers may miss the point?

Personally, I thought Blaggard’s Moon author, George Bryan Polivka, did a wonderful job creating a type of Christ (“a person or thing symbolizing or exemplifying the ideal or defining characteristics of something”).


Damrick Fellows rescued Jenta. He loved her and was willing to give his life to her even though he thought she deserved death.

Then she raised the pistol, and aimed it at him.

Damrick shook his head. His mind turned. She was a pirate, then. She had a gun. So did he. The oaths he’d made others take, his calling, his mission, justice, the law, even his instincts…all led him to one single conclusion. She should die.

Jenta clicked back the pistol’s hammer. Her eyes were empty and dark.

…He made his choice. Without taking his eyes off her, he set his pistol on the bar.

“I’m not leaving you to him,” he told her.

To me, that’s a type of Christ. Loving us, making the church His bride.

Of course, in the story, Damrick later tells Jenta that she saved him. So the character found personal redemption that was not associated with his representative act of salvation.

Personally, I find this to be heroic and true, without giving the world’s message that heroism is within each one of us, if we just follow an example or dig down deep and become like the one we emulate.

Maybe the story isn’t quite as satisfying, but that’s as it should be too, I think. Because we won’t find true satisfaction in this life or apart from Christ. We will continue to long. And hope.

A story that shows that part of life seems to me to be the truest kind.

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 10:33 am  Comments (6)  
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Blaggard’s Moon Wrap and Poll

Sixty-two posts, thirty-five blog sites, one great book. Add to that a number three ranking on Technorati’s Popular Books list today, and you have an acorn-cap summary of the CSFF tour for George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon (Harvest House).

A full report on the tour, however, still can’t do justice to the thoughtful, creative, insightful articles the tour participants generated this month. Which, of course, will make choosing an April CSFF Top Blogger Award winner extremely difficult.

There are twelve bloggers eligible. Twelve! As much as I hate to do so, I’m going to narrow the field, then turn the voting over to you. But there will be two votes so we can reach a genuine consensus. Round one will start today and end Wednesday, April 29. Round two will run from Thursday, April 30 through Sunday, May 3.

Remember to consider originality and creativity, such as Jason Joyner’s humorous inclusion of an uninvited pirate “friend” or Rachel Starr Thomson’s reviews that “rose to the level of poetry, with heartfelt musings on the deeper themes.” (Quoted from George Bryan Polivka’s News from Nearing Vast newsletter). The posts should also show interaction with the book and generate thought.

So the runner up bloggers and posts are:

And those in the finals are:

Published in: on April 23, 2009 at 11:44 am  Comments (5)  

CSFF Blog Tour — Blaggard’s Moon, a Review

trophy-chase-logoWhen a talented writer creates an entertaining story, the result is a worthwhile book, one that will linger long in the minds and imaginations of its readers. The components are all here when we look at this month’s CSFF feature, Blaggard’s Moon. George Bryan Polivka is unquestionably a talented author. And the prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy is an entertaining story. I can only hope, for their sakes, that readers will discover this gem.

By the way, lest I forget, I encourage you to read Brandon Barr’s two-part interview with Mr. Polivka, here and here. Brandon asked some outstanding questions, and as a result, you’ll learn a lot about who Bryan Polivka is, not just who his favorite authors are (though that comes out, too).

The Story. Blaggard’s Moon is a unique book because it is actually three stories. In the opening, pirate Smith Delaney, who readers of the Trophy Chase Trilogy will know, is sitting on a post with piranha swimming below. Through his musings, the reader learns that he’s been abandoned there as punishment for some unknown deed. Throughout most of the book, Delaney is remembering his life, particularly his decision to become a pirate. But in the remembering, he recalls a period of time when the storyteller on board, Ham Drumbone, related to his pirate shipmates the tale of Jenta Stillmithers and the Hell’s Gatemen. The majority of the book is Jenta’s story—one of hope and sacrifice and redemption and love and fear and grief and conviction.

Yes, there are battles, though not related in the blow-by-blow style most common today. Still, there are sword fights and gun battles and ship-to-ship assaults. There is blood on the deck and in the water. There are bodies on the pier and skeletons on the ocean floor. This is definitely a pirates’ story. But at the center is Jenta.

Strengths. If you’ve read my previous posts, you already can tell that this is a book I’m excited about. The packaging is terrific—Harvest House did a wonderful job with the cover, the paper, the interior art.

The writing is terrific. Perhaps because of the non-linear structure of the story, it has a somewhat literary feel. Certainly there is a wonderful rhythm to the writing, and the descriptions are vivid and evocative.

The characters win the day, though. In my opinion, Mr. Polivka is masterful in developing believable, authentic characters. It is their authenticity that make them memorable and engaging, in my opinion. I’ll have more to say about that in my post at Speculative Faith.

While the characters make the reader care, the story keeps the reader turning pages. It is amazing that Delaney didn’t leave his post for 330 pages, but the tension and suspense of his story line consistently grew.

Ultimately, Blaggard’s Moon is important because it carries a timeless message. Rachel Starr Thomson perhaps said it best in her review:

Yet beneath all of that [the entertaining qualities] is a lament for a world gone wrong, for a world where good people can suffer while evil men prosper. It’s the lament of Ecclesiastes and Job and some of the Psalms, and like them it asks us to find hope in the goodness of God while never asking us to pretend that hope negates the sadness.

I’d add one more thing. It asks us to be willing to make the choice for good, for God, knowing that we may suffer for it.

Weaknesses. For someone wanting faster action, this book may seem slow. Clearly, this is intended to be a book that readers remember, not one they will forget amid multiple ho-hum battles. While a movie version might capitalize on the fight scenes—and certainly there are places aplenty for special effects—the book is a deeper story. Readers who want one chase scene after another, separated by a bit of steamy romance, will be disappointed.

For me, the main hurtle was the decision to read another pirate story, but I touched on that subject Monday. The other issue was that about the time I became interested in Delaney’s situation, the story switched to the flashback of Ham telling Jenta’s story. And about the time I really started caring what was going on with Jenta, the story switched back to Delaney. Eventually I came to care about both equally and felt satisfied in either place of the story. So these aren’t weaknesses, really. More how I reacted to the story.

Recommendation. I feel confident that Blaggard’s Moon is destined to win Mr. Polivka another Christy Award nomination. (For those who may not remember, the third book in the Trophy Chase Trilogy, The Battle for Vast Dominion, has been nominated this year.) Readers should not think of this book as “just a pirate story.” It is more, and readers of fantasy, of historical, romance, suspense, or literary fiction will find a satisfying novel. I recommend Blaggard’s Moon as a must read. Those who enjoy a faster-paced story will find enough here to keep them entertained, and they may be surprised by how a deeper tale affects them.

Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 9:44 am  Comments (10)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Blaggard’s Moon, Day 2

I was miffed, to say the least, when I discovered yesterday that the post I’d set to publish in the morning, didn’t. For those of you who stopped by hoping to find a list of participating blogger links, I apologize.

But I’m not about to let a rough start spoil this tour for Blaggard’s Moon. With good reason, this is one of those books that gets high acclaim from a wide variety of readers. For an excellent story summary, I suggest Fred Warren‘s. Rachel Starr Thomson has an especially thoughtful post. Brandon Barr, Jill Williamson, and Epic Rat posted reviews you might be interested in (and if you’d like to win a free copy Epic Rat is holding a contest)—you’ll get an interesting balance if you look at all three.

Keanan Brand has a study of the word “blaggard” that is interesting as well as a post highlighting his favorite passage. How different from the one I want to share!

polivka-at-booksigningPhyllis Wheeler takes an excellent look at The Nearing Vast Web site. Her post prompted me to visit there again myself—which is where I found this picture of our quiet, hard-working author, George Bryan (he goes by Bryan) Polivka, here participating in a book signing.

Jason Joyner does a nice overview (with links to several reviews) of the Trophy Chase Trilogy—and has some pirate fun along the way. Certainly for anyone who just discovered Nearing Vast, I hope you put the trilogy on your to-buy list, along with Blaggard’s Moon.

So here’s the writing sample I chose, in part because it shows the depth of character development, in part because it shows the writer’s and the character’s voice so well. In part because it shows how Polivka weaves his themes into the story seamlessly.

It seemed to Delaney like it was usually women that made up those things a man couldn’t ever get over. Like Yer Poor Ma, who he could never forget. She’d been his whole world once, though she was in fact just a small, no-account woman who got herself married to a drunk, and had a kid. She wasn’t any kind of special person in any way. But she was still his Poor Ma. She still had magic in her songs, and a heart that blazed like a cookstove in his memory, and she was all inside him and would never leave him. She would always be singing him lullabies as the dark waves rose.

And Maybelle Cuddy. Just a barmaid, a plain barmaid, not like Jenta, but a regular girl serving up ale and getting pinched and slapping away rude hands and counting her tips at the end of a day. But oh, those eyes. That voice. Those things she said to him. He thought he could leave her behind, but he couldn’t. She’d always be in his heart now, always promising she’d love him forever [….]

It was as though men just couldn’t help themselves. Look at Conch Imbry, as fierce a man as ever was, and yet Jenta Stillmithers had softened him all up. She was stroking his hand, and he was a puppy dog. It was like … it was like women were made to do that to men. Like men were made with a big soft spot, and no matter how tough they got they couldn’t protect themselves there. Like maybe, when God took that rib from the man to make the woman, the way the priests told it from their Scripture books, he left a hole in the man. One that she could always slide into. And the man couldn’t stop her doing it, either.

Hmmm. Pretty good writing, don’t you think?

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 10:20 am  Comments (9)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Blaggard’s Moon

blaggards-moon-coverChristian publisher Harvest House must be pleased with George Bryan Polivka’s latest pirate fantasy—this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, Blaggard’s Moon. Starting with this great cover, the book promises an adventure story set in a mythical world that will captivate readers.

Billed as a prequel to Polivka’s excellent Trophy Chase Trilogy, Blaggard’s Moon does what few books even attempt. It portrays pirates like pirates, without softening or “graying” their sinful ways, and it portrays God like God, without softening or glossing His righteous character. In that regard alone, this book is masterful.

I’ll be frank. I’m not a great fan of pirate stories. I’m not sure why. Perhaps they feel predictable. After all, I’ve been to Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride time and again. I’ve read Treasure Island with Long John Silver. I’ve seen comics and cartoons and stories aplenty with pirate characters. Peter Pan comes to mind, with Captain Hook. Characters like Blackbeard and Black Bart come to mind. Plays like Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance and theme restaurants like the Jolly Roger have popularized the pirate stereotype. Most recently, Jack Sparrow has added to pirate lore.

It adds up to make the pirate scenario feel predictable, but Polivka takes the familiar and makes it distinct. Blaggard’s Moon is anything but a warmed over version of an old story.

For one thing, the fantasy elements, existent in the form of fantasy creatures, add an unexpected twist. For another, Polivka paints all the characters with unique voices. He makes them believable—some terrifyingly cold-hearted, some poignantly naive, some understandably compliant.

In addition, Polivka tells this story in a most unique way. In structure, it reminds me a little of To Kill a Mockingbird. The fundamental story is told as a memory. However, it is also a story with a frame, and part of what I as a reader want to know the further I got, was how the main character got into the pickle we find him in the beginning.

I’ll give a full review later in the tour, but here’s the point I want to make today. Blaggard’s Moon is the kind of story that readers of all kinds of genres will like. There’s romance, adventure, spiritual depth, wonderful characters, artistic structure and prose. It’s a masterful work, one I hope you don’t miss.

Also, check out what other CSFF bloggers on the tour have to say:

Published in: on April 20, 2009 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  
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How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Part 4

In each of these posts in this series, I’ve danced around the evidence of history. History is a part of the discussion of fulfilled prophecy and of the discussion of archaeological evidence and in the discussion of the unity of Scripture. It’s time, I guess, to deal with history head on.

First, I want to thank Nathaniel for his helpful comment to the Part 3 post. In part he said:

It is certainly true that the verification of one point does not amount to the verification of every point. But when the veracity of a putatively historical document is in doubt, archaeological confirmation is one of the ways that evidence can accumulate on the side of the document’s general reliability. This is done in secular historical research all the time.

I especially like the phrase “evidence can accumulate” because that’s the only way we can know that which we can not dissect. First to morsecOde, then to Andrew, I’ve asked the question, How do you know Abraham Lincoln lived?

The fact is, we accept the historical record. We have no particular need to check into the details first hand, but if we did we would find paintings of him and a few photographs. We’d find correspondence and copies of his speeches. Would we then study the photographs to see if they were authentic? Or consult a handwriting expert to discover if there was any way to determine if Lincoln actually wrote the letters? Would we look into the method the speeches were copied and preserved in order to see if they were, in fact, reliable copies?

My point is, we accept the fact that Lincoln existed because we feel there is a preponderance of evidence, and we have no predisposition to question what we have come to believe is true.

Some years ago, a group of people came up with the idea that the Nazis never killed 6 million Jews in extermination camps. Another group has suggested that astronauts never landed on the moon. Both of these groups argue away the evidence at their disposal.

Clearly, historical proof depends on a measure of trust. Ultimately, a person has to say, In light of this evidence, I believe _ to be true.

Books have been written to give historical proof of the Bible, and certainly it would take books to do so. I don’t have the time or space to examine all the data. But I would like to look at Jesus, since He is the central figure of the Bible. Is there historical evidence that He existed, and especially that He performed miracles, was crucified, and rose again?

In my research, I discovered that most scholars in the fields of biblical studies and history agree that Jesus was a “Jewish teacher from Galilee,” accused of sedition against the Roman Empire, and on the orders of Pontius Pilate, sentenced to crucifixion. One reason for this acceptance of Jesus as a historical person is extra-Biblical evidence, especially writings of Josephus, but also of Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger.

Of course the greatest amount of information about Jesus comes from the gospels. When scholars consider the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as with all historical sources, they examine such things as the authors’ motivations and the source of their information. They also take into consideration the amount of time between the events and the writing, and if they don’t have the original of a document, how many copies and how closely they compare with one another.

Biblical scholars seem to agree that the book of Mark is the oldest, or first written, so here are some facts about Mark in comparison to other ancient histories:

    Tucydides’ History – written c. 415 BC, earliest copy dated 900 AD, 8 copies in existence.
    Tacitus’ Annals – written c. 100 AD, earliest copy dated 1100 AD, 20 copies in existence.
    Mark’s Gospel – written c. 60 AD, earliest copy dated 200 AD, thousands in existence.

Here’s a timeline comparison from event to author:

    12 Tables (c. 450 BC) – Livy (d. 17 AD) = 450 years
    Alexander (d. 323 BC – Plutarch (c 120 AD) = 400+ years
    Jesus (30/33 AD – Mark (c 60 AD) = 25-30 years

In other words, there is adequate historical evidence to believe that Jesus lived.

Some scholars use a criteria-based approach to authenticating Jesus’s existence. This approach looks at things like how likely a reported event is to contradict an author’s agenda, how many independent sources give consistent accounts, how congruent the record is with the cultural context, and so on.

It’s quite clear why the vast majority of scholars, Christian and non-Christian, believe Jesus lived. The conclusion then is this: by examining the facts about Jesus, we verify that Mark’s account is reliable. Expand on this process, and it becomes clear that The Bible is reliable.

Published in: on April 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm  Comments (3)  
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