Jacob Was No Abraham

Abraham wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty amazing. Leave your home, God said. Where to? Abraham asked. Just go until I tell you to stop. So off he went “as the Lord had spoken to him.”

When it was clear that his and his nephew Lot’s animals couldn’t pasture together any longer, he unselfishly gave Lot the pick of the land.

Later he pleaded with God to be merciful to Sodom on behalf of Lot and his family. Six times he interceded for them.

When God told him to circumcise every male in his household, he took care of it the very same day.

When Sarah wanted to send Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham objected, but God told him to listen to Sarah. So “Abraham rose early in the morning,” packed them up, gave them provisions, and sent them on their way.

One boy gone, but then God tells him to sacrifice the son of promise. “So Abraham rose early in the morning,” took wood, fire, and his son and set off. Three days later they came to the place where God told him to go. (Good thing Abraham listened since that’s where the ram was that would become the substitute sacrifice).

Compare this to Jacob. He swindled his brother out of his birthright, lied to his dad and fooled him into thinking he was his twin in order to obtain his brother’s blessing, manipulated his uncle’s animals to procure the best for himself, and sneaked away without saying goodbye.

On top of that, as he’s returning home, he gets word that his brother–who, rumors said, planned to kill him–is on his way to meet him, with four hundred men. So Jacob, brave man that he is, sends a gift, divides his people and property in two, with the hopes that at least half of them could get away, and puts it all in front of him.

Interesting, though. He had an encounter with God and the next morning he changed things up–putting himself ahead of his family and falling on his face before Esau.

He’s learning.

But he made more mistakes, most notably favoring Joseph, Rachel’s firstborn. To be fair, he learned about favoritism from his parents. His mother Rebekah favored him–which is why she came up with the idea for him to steal his brother’s blessing–and his father Isaac favored Esau. So Jacob is carrying on the family tradition. It’s just that it didn’t sit well with the ten older brothers. They eventually kidnap Joseph, sell him, and report to Jacob that they found his bloody coat.

Believing Joseph to be dead, Jacob shifts his protection and possibly his favor to his youngest, Benjamin. Fast forward years later, and famine forces Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy food–all except Benjamin. Unbeknown to the brothers, Joseph is the man they buy from, and he tells them not to return unless their youngest brother is with them.

Time passes, food dwindles, the famine continues, and Jacob won’t sent Benjamin. Ruben tries to give his father assurances, to no avail. Judah tries and is turned down, but finally things grow desperate, and Jacob relents. Here’s the big turning point of his life, I believe. He went from saying

“My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow” (Gen 42:38)

to saying

“may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (Gen 43:14)

It took him a long time to get there. In the meantime, God gave him the same promise He had given Abraham and Isaac–one not connected with the blessing he stole. He also protected him from his uncle and from his brother, appeared to him more than once in visions and dreams and perhaps even as the pre-incarnate Christ. And at last, he stopped grabbing and grasping and holding on. He opened his hand and relinquished his son. Only then did he receive Joseph back, alive and well.

Two patriarchs–one quick to obey, the other oh, so slow. One willing to give up his sons, the other holding on as if he could care for them better than God. In the end, God used them both, but I can’t help but think Abraham took the better road.

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments Off on Jacob Was No Abraham  
Tags: , , , , ,

Writers I Read

Some writers have a knack for making me read their work. There’s one science fiction writer, for example, who’s blog I follow. Understand, I’m not a fan of science fiction, but I read this author’s blog, word for word. I don’t skim.

Others I want to read. I’ll follow someone’s blog because I read a post once that I thought was interesting, or because I like their novel, or we had a meaningful exchange of ideas on Facebook or in the comments section of another blog. I respect them. I just don’t always find myself reading what they write.

Others, I skim. I know the experts tell us to do it, and they do–adding bold font or bullet points. But that allows me to skim, encourages me to skim, so I skim. And nothing in what I’m skimming compels me to go back and read more carefully.

So what is it that those writers have whose posts grab me and hold me even when they’re writing about a movie I don’t want to see, will never see, or about microbes in the human gut, or about growing up in Kansas, or whatever it might be?

Of course there are those post with content in which I’m interested. It might be writing or fantasy or a significant spiritual truth. It might be a topic I like discussing, like creation or politics or sports. Content driven articles, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that intangible. I’ve stopped reading articles about speculative fiction or the publishing industry or God–topics I love to read about and discuss–all because … well, I lost interest. I’ve subscribed to blogs by famous writers because I thought it would help me stay current with my genre–only to find that I have no idea with that person is saying on a day-to-day basis.

On the other hand, I’ve received newsletters by novelists whose books I’ve never read, and yet I devour the articles down to the last word. Why?

I’d love to know because I’d love to replicate those writers’ ability … although, as I write that, I wonder, can ability be replicated? Probably not, but technique might be learned.

One thing some of those writers have is humor. Notice, I didn’t say, a sense of humor. I have a sense of humor. In fact I love to laugh. Love, love, love to laugh. I just don’t use humor much in my writing. I admire authors who do. Andrew Peterson, Matt Mikalatos, Jonathan Robers–I love their books and appreciate their use of humor. I just haven’t got a clue how to use it in my own writing.

A time or two I tried to use humor here on my blog–a little exaggeration, perhaps, a bit of irony or sarcasm. As I recall, those posts have inevitably garnered criticism because someone didn’t recognize the humor. I don’t blame them. Unless you can see the twinkle in my eye or the upturned eyebrow or the suppressed smile, how do you know I meant those lines to be funny?

Writers that write humor can do it. I, on the other hand, am at a loss.

Humor isn’t the only thing that makes writing interesting. When Brandilyn Collins used to blog, I often said she could write the phone book, and I’d find it interesting. I never did quite figure how why, though. She often told stories, and told them well, so perhaps that was her secret ingredient.

Maybe there isn’t one way, either. Some writers are engaging because their content is controversial (Mike Duran), some because they bring a quality of professionalism and expertise, some because they are entertaining.

And the borin ones in which I lose interest? I’m still trying to figure that out. 😉

You can help. Tell me what makes you read a blog post from start to finish or what makes you start to skim or to stop altogether. After all, with all your input, these posts here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are bound to get a whole lot better!!

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Seeking To Deceive

Paradise Lost

A couple years ago, I wrote a post about Satan’s activity entitled “What’s Satan Doing These Days?” I want to explore that topic further, slotting in some specifics.

Satan hasn’t changed. He’s the same fallen angel in revolt he was that first day when he decided he wanted God’s place. He’s not inherently creative as God is, so all he can do is mimic and lie. Of course he had pretty good success the first time he donned the skin of another creature and called into question God’s integrity, so he may have little motivation to experiment with different tactics.

The point is, Satan’s purpose is the same today as it was thousands of years ago when he confronted Eve: he seeks those he can devour and he uses deception as his chief weapon.

“Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8b).

“he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b)

In seeking to devour Eve, Satan told her first that surely she would not die, even though God had said the opposite.

Today, Satan continues to whisper that lie into the ears of all who will listen. Reincarnation, for example, promises endless numbers of lifetimes, but is nothing more than a form of Satan’s old lie.

Satan also told Eve that if she ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree she would be like God, knowing good and evil. Today he lies to Mankind by saying we already are like God. We are innately good, we have power within us, we can achieve enlightenment.

Another one of Satan’s favorite lies, a corollary to his “you won’t die” fabrication, is that you won’t face judgment. It’s a way of saying there’s no “second death,” no spiritual death. False teachers who claim that God has “repented” of his wrath displayed in the Old Testament, and now is loving and kind and would never be so heinous as to torment people in hell for eternity, are playing right into Satan’s bag of tricks. Satan himself undoubtedly wishes this one were true, but the worst part about this tactic is that he is impugning the character of God.

His unspoken indictment of God when he was talking with Eve, was that He cannot be trusted. God, according to the inferences Satan made, wanted to keep all knowledge of good and evil to Himself for some selfish purpose so that He could lord His power over men and women. Hence He was not beneath giving warnings that weren’t true just to keep Adam and Eve away from what He wanted exclusively for Himself. If any of that were true, then God would not be good, His word could not be trusted, and He would not love His creation.

Today, of course, nothing is more under attack than whether or not God spoke the truth when He revealed Himself in the pages of Scripture. His word, His authority is at question to the point that people naming His name still decide whether or not they will believe and/or obey what He has said.

So not much has changed. Satan is still seeking to devour and his number one tactic is to deceive.

Interestingly, the spiritual weapon the Christian is equipped with, according to Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, is the sword of the spirit, the word of God.

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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God,. . . and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:12, 13a, 17b)

How can we use our Sword if we’ve listened to the enemy whispering that it isn’t reliable, that it has parts and places where it’s corroded?

We must not give him quarter. We must not allow him to ding our weapon. We must not let him pull the same scam he did with Eve. God is not a liar, His warnings are true, His judgment is sure, and His word can be trusted. It is Satan who has proven himself false.

Published in: on August 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm  Comments Off on Seeking To Deceive  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Using The Bible To Make Sense Of The Bible

A few weeks ago I wrote a post (The Misconception About Weaker Brothers”) about the way many writers–well, Christians in general, I suppose–inaccurately use Paul’s writing to the Roman believers and to the Corinthian church on the subject of eating meat offered to idols. My intention was to give an illustration–perhaps the first of several–to show that Scripture is its own best interpreter.

I’m not a Bible scholar, so I’m pretty sure I learned that principle from Chuck Swindoll who pastored my church for fifteen or more years. It’s not a new idea, of course, and many, many Christians believe in reading Scripture in this way. In fact a good many of the sermons I hear start with putting Scripture in context–another way of saying, the meaning of Scripture can best be understood by relating it to Scripture.

I’d also mention, though, that there is an immediate context and a greater context. So in the discussion about eating meat offered to idols, the immediate context is all of Romans 13, 14, and 15 which together make Paul’s point that Christians are not to judge one another but to support each other and to “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7).

The greater context is the New Testament–including the book of Acts with its record of the early church wrestling with whether or not Gentile Christians should be required to keep the Jewish law, and including the book of Revelation with the words of admonition Christ gave to the churches, twice referencing eating meat offered to idols.

The overarching context, of course, is the entire Bible, with God’s commands to have no other gods before Him and to make no idols; with the numerous times and ways the people of Israel broke that command; and with the pagan practice of child sacrifice as a part of their worship ceremonies.

Eating meat, in light of the whole Bible, is suddenly not this optional gray area that contemporary Western Christians have so often understood it to be.

Sometimes letting Scripture interpret Scripture flies in the face of long held beliefs–our own or those of the Evangelical community at large or Catholic teaching, Calvinism, Covenant theology, Methodism, holiness, or what have you.

I’ve mentioned some of those from time to time–one being the verse that says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” In context the verse refers to God enabling Paul to live in poverty or in wealth. The greater context of the Bible, however, identifying God as omnipotent, loving, good, and desirous of answering prayer, means that to extrapolate and apply the verse to a different circumstance isn’t off base. To understand it, however, as a promise or a guarantee that God will make sure I succeed in all I set my hand to, is quite erroneous–again, clearly understood in the greater context of Scripture.

I’ve also used this idea of interpreting Scripture with Scripture to examine the six-day creation theory. Not only does God refer to the evening and the morning, the first day, before He created the sun so that time could be measured by days, but the English translators also translated the word for “day” few chapters later as “time,” calling into question what “day” actually referred to.

Other Scripture tells us that to God a day is like a thousand years: “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Peter was making his statement to rebuff the idea put forth by some that Christ wasn’t coming back since decades had passed without his appearance. In other words, in this context he was saying, “days” are a meaningless measure when you’re dealing with God’s work.

In addition, Peter’s time declaration is a reiteration of what Moses said thousands of years earlier: “For a thousand years in Your sight/Are like yesterday when it passes by,/Or as a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4).

Then, too, we know from Isaiah that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. He is not constrained to act as we think He should act. His manner, methods, timetable, are His and not ours.

All these various passages should suggest that a hard and fast literal interpretation of creation doesn’t require a belief in God accomplishing His work within six of our 24-hour days.

That He used six time periods is, in fact, reinforced in Scripture. The Jewish requirement for keeping the Sabbath was tied to God having rested on the seventh day. However long that period of time was, God equated it to a day by commanding His people to rest on the seventh day of the week. Of course He also required them to rest for a whole year every forty-nine years, and Scripture called that a Sabbath rest too.

To the point, interpreting Scripture with Scripture suggests that specifics surrounding creation aren’t revealed. Did God create in six 24-hour days? An omnipotent God–who Scripture reveals–certainly could have, and might have. Do we know for a fact that He did? Not if we also believe what He said through Peter and through Moses–that time is irrelevant to His working–and what Isaiah said about His ways and our ways being different.

I may offer other examples in future posts, but let me make one finally point today. One sure way we can know we have misunderstood Scripture is to ignore verses that seem to contradict the verses upon which we’re basing a theological belief.

Your turn. Let me know what you think about interpreting Scripture.

Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm  Comments Off on Using The Bible To Make Sense Of The Bible  
Tags: , ,

Tour Wrap – Eye Of The Sword

It’s been a long time since the CSFF Blog Tour has had a controversial tour such as we had last week for Karyn Henley’s Eye of the Sword, book two of the Angeleon Circle. While the majority of bloggers participating in the tour agreed that the book was well-written, the story engaging, the characters well-drawn, a good number had trouble with the way angels appeared in the book. It’s certainly a question I felt needed to be addressed, and the side of the issue a person falls probably determines how they reacted to Eye of the Sword.

In all we had 32 bloggers post a total of 48 articles featuring author Karyn Henley and/or the book.

Most enthusiastic award goes to Theresa Dunlap for her fine review. We have a good group of participants who posted all three days of the tour, making them eligible for the Top Tour Blogger Award:

All that’s left, then, is the voting. The check marks beside each post link to a tour article. Take some time this week to pursue the articles that interest you–reviews, an author interview, discussions on the use of angels, personal growth, and more. Then vote in the poll below for the blogger you think deserves the recognition of Top Tour Blogger for August. The poll will remain open until midnight, Sunday, September 2.

Thanks in advance for taking part.

Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm  Comments Off on Tour Wrap – Eye Of The Sword  
Tags: , ,

Good Turned On Its Head

Normally I’d write the CSFF Blog Tour wrap today, but I’m distracted. I’ve read too much about abortion and media bias and taking offense at any provocation. Our politics is starting to mirror our street gangs: I think he looked at me funny, so I’m calling him out! Of course, if the guy looking at you funny is on your side, then it’s nothing to get worked up about and you can be offended at those who are offended for how he looked.

That’s the way I read the hullabaloo over Senator Todd Akin, who apologized for his insensitive remarks, without justifying them or excusing them, but stating categorically that he said things that don’t reflect what he knows to be true: rape is rape and women can get pregnant from a rape.

No one’s accepting his apology, though. The liberals are gleeful, thinking they’ve exposed the conservative “hateful” attitude toward women. The conservatives are running for fear that any sign of support for Senator Akin will paint them as insensitive too.

Meanwhile Vice President Biden says “insensitive” comments to the NAACP about conservative policies putting them back in chains. Democrates are ducking and covering, but rather than an apology, Vice President Biden claims he had no intention of referencing slavery. Nevertheless he was called out for his “blatant appeal to racism.”

It’s disturbing to me that a Presidential election can be affected by such things–that so much attention goes to tax statements and birth certificates and college transcripts. Meanwhile, unborn children die, some for no reason other than their parents prefer a different gender. Except, how do they know by a picture of their fetus what gender their child is like inside. The gay and lesbian community would have us believe that the physical differences between men and women are immaterial. So how do those parents who abort a little girl know they are actually aborting a girl and not a guy in a female body?

I mean really. We have turned our world upside down by going against God’s law, and we can’t even make logical decisions any more.

The idea that a baby outside the womb who is, say 30 weeks old, is viable and one 22 weeks old is not, is silly. Let’s leave the 30 week old alone or the 36 week old or the 52 week old, and see how long they live. None of those is “viable” unless an adult does for him what he cannot do for himself–such as, feed him and keep him away from big dogs or high porches or electric outlets. In fact, adults will be found negligent if they don’t provide a safe environment for an infant–because he can not provide it for himself, viable though the law claims he is.

What a concept. Kill the babies who couldn’t possibly “make it on their own.” And we determine this, how?

This is the kind of thing that happens when Man starts fiddling with God’s authority. We decide because, well, we decide. Never mind if it makes sense or is morally right. We deceive ourselves, cloaking our actions in compassion. Legal abortion saves lives because so many women died having back alley abortions. Well, how many lives would be saved if we taught young people that they don’t have to sleep around like dogs in heat? We don’t have to kill babies, and women don’t have to die in the attempt if we would live under God’s authority. But no, we’re smarter. We’ve figured out a way we can have our cake and … well, those babies aren’t viable enough for cake, so they don’t count.

Ugh. It all makes me sick.

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm  Comments (4)  

The Influence Of The Media On Culture

Today Justin Taylor over at The Gospel Coalition posted key excerpts of a New York Magazine article by Jonathan Chait addressing the influence of TV on culture.

In the past any number of people denied the (mostly conservative) accusation that the media was exerting influence on viewers. It was a silly denial since of course those creating commercials clearly believed they were able to influence those who watched their short spots. Certainly a regular length show, airing week after week for years would have an even greater impact.

Apparently the denials have come to an end. Research and data have surfaced, but also admission about the intentions of some in the media to move society in a different direction:

A trio of communications professors found that watching Will & Grace made audiences more receptive to gay rights, and especially viewers who had little contact in real life with gays and lesbians. And that one show was merely a component of a concerted effort by Hollywood—dating back to Soap in the late seventies, which featured Billy Crystal’s groundbreaking portrayal of a sympathetic gay character, through Modern Family—to prod audiences to accept homosexuality. (excerpt from Jonathan Chait’s article as quoted by Taylor)

I guess this article was written before NBC unveiled its newest program in that line: The New Normal.

But rather than focusing on one particular social issue, I want to think about the influence of story. This came to mind as I was reading the posts for the recent CSFF Blog Tour. About a particular aspect of the book we featured, one blogger questioned if a Christian novel should contain such a thing. Secular novels, sure, but not Christian.

That comment reminded me of Mike Duran’s suggestion that Christians hold Christian writers to a higher standard when it comes to theology.

And shouldn’t we?

Which is more apt to influence those in the church, an atheist like Richard Dawkins saying no one goes to hell or a professing Christian like Rob Bell saying it? Who’s going to introduce the idea of universal salvation to Christians more effectively, a New Age guru like Eckhart Tolle or Paul Young in The Shack?

But what if an author is writing a story about the realities of the human experience without delving into the greater truth of a person’s interaction with his Creator? Must the fictional world align with Scripture in that case?

In other words, can angels who aren’t really Biblical angels inhabit our fictional world? Or wizards who aren’t anything like the wizards God condemned. Or dragons who aren’t like the Dragon of Revelation. What about priests and prophets? Sacrifices? Demons? Ghosts? Heaven? hell?

Here’s the greater question: Will a fictional portrayal of real supernatural beings begin to undermine the Biblical truth about those? Is Gandolf the Wizard in danger of dulling the senses of Christians to the existence of real wizards who seek to acquire illegitimate power?

I suppose some people think these questions have already been asked and answered, but I wonder if they shouldn’t be asked again in light of this awareness that the media influences culture.

How, then, should a Christian writer influence those who read his work? And I’ll say in advance–shame on any who say our job isn’t to influence, but to tell a good story. Whether we think it’s our job to influence or not, clearly, stories have that affect on people. We can either do it well and intentionally or we can watch from the sidelines as others convince our culture that a sinful lifestyle is a viable option.

CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3

Without a doubt, the CSFF tour for Book two of the Angeleon Circle, Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, is one of the more controversial ones in some time. How are we to understand angels? Is the book Christian? These are big questions for fantasy readers and Christians. In so many ways the discussion touches at the heart of the Harry Potter debates–but with angels instead of wizards.

My Review

The Story. Trevin, an orphan who used to steal for a living and served an evil lord who tried to assassin the legitimate ruler, is a young man newly trusted by his king to shoulder the role of comain, or protector of the crown and country. The story of his transformation to one so favored apparently is told in the first book of the Angeleon Circle, Breath of Angel.

There are only a handful of comains, and in fact those are missing. The king wishes Trevin to find them, starting first by traveling to the Oracle to receive a sign or prophecy. He also wants Trevin to act as an ambassador to the country in the north, seeking to strengthen or renew their alliance.

The king’s daughter, newly discovered to be the princess (also part of the first book), wants Trevin to help her in a task she believes to be more important than anything the king has asked–a task her mother died trying to accomplish. She wants to find the three kyparis harps and reunite them. This alone will restore the Wisdom Tree and the ladder to heaven, making it possible for the angels trapped on earth to return and renew their work of leading souls of the dead to their destination.

Trevin sets out reluctantly. A prince of their rival kingdom is offering peace if he can but marry the princess–the girl who has vowed to marry no one else but Trevin. But with the good of her land at stake, and the possibility of finding one of the harps in the rival kingdom, how can she refuse?

Trevin determines to find the harps for her, acquire the alliance with the northern kingdom, and a sign from the Oracle, so his king won’t have need of a peace treaty with the rivals. But even if he’s successful, he may be too late. The royal house is preparing for a wedding.

Strengths. The thing that impressed me the most about Eye of the Sword was how interdependent it is upon book one and book three and yet how complete it felt as a story in its own right. Ms. Henley did a masterful job weaving in the details of the previous story–the cause of much of the internal conflict and some of the external conflict of this story.

The main character has clear goals from the beginning, and although he feels overwhelmed, pursues them in a logical, believable way. Unexpected events happen that keep him from achieving what he hoped, but each setback also leads him into further adventure. In other words, I had every reason to cheer him on.

In addition, he has secrets. His past haunts him and even though the girl he loves has forgiven him, he hasn’t told her everything. His struggles with guilt and self-recrimination are believable. They make this character someone I cared about.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think, this guy needs a Redeemer. He needs his past washed clean. I have no way of knowing if the story will take this kind of direction, but some events mirror elements of a Christian’s new life, so I would certainly not be surprised if this came to the forefront in book three.

The story was fast paced and exciting; the writing was crisp and concise; the characters, flawed but noble.

Weakness. Unlike some of those participating on the tour, I wasn’t looking for overt Christianity in this story because I quickly identified the angels of the Angeleon Circle as not Biblical angels. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a depiction of God. I wish there hadn’t been one. While there isn’t much, there is one reference to “the Most High” as the “father-mother of the universe.” That one cut too close to false teaching. It’s hard to think of “the Most High” as anyone but God making the description non-Biblical at best–which is pretty bad, to be honest. However, this was an “in passing” reference, and certainly the Most High is not a main player in the story. Consequently, while I cringed when I read that line, it did not become a constant thorn in my reading side.

Recommendations. I loved Eye of the Sword. It’s my kind of fantasy–I think. I do want Christian parallels in Christian fantasy, even though they may not be obvious. I see potential, so I want to give this one the benefit of the doubt because it was well written and exciting. It is, after all, the second third of the entire story, so I have reason to believe there may be more depth to the final installment. Highly recommend to readers who love high fantasy, angels not withstanding. 😉

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3  
Tags: , , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 2

Christian or not Christian, that is the question. Yesterday I made a pitch for reading the angels in Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley as “elves with wings.” In other words, they are not Biblical angels, but beings Ms. Henley has sub-created for her fantasy world. Certainly they are good, though they act very much like humans, even intermarrying and having children. They are separated from heaven because the stairway has been destroyed, and they can even die.

The “is it Christian” question is a logical one to ask, then. Both Shannon McDermott and Chawna Schroeder make a compelling argument against understanding it as Christian. Shane Werlinger, on the other hand, found in a key story event, a parallel to the Christian life. Could it be that “Christian” is in the eye of the beholder?

By that, of course, I don’t mean there is a flexible definition of Christian. But stories that are not overt in their Christianity may be seen by one reader as nothing more than good stories and by another as filled with truth about God.

For Christians looking for overt Christianity in Eye of the Sword, they won’t find it. There aren’t even the clear parallels with Christianity that one can find in the Narnia books. C. S. Lewis specifically set out to answer the question, If the incarnate God came to Narnia, how would He show up?

In this second volume of the Angeleon Circle, God as we know Him–the One True God who revealed Himself in the Bible–is not a player. In many respects, then, Ms. Henley’s series is more reminiscent of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings than of Narnia. Tolkien’s works have also been scrutinized for their Christian content and some find them wanting. God does not show up, though various characters serve as types: “a person or thing symbolizing or exemplifying the ideal or defining characteristics of something” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Could that be true of Eye of the Sword? I’m hoping so. Because this is book two of the Angeleon Circle, and there will be at least one more in the series, I’m withholding judgment regarding what might or might not be representative of God and the way He works in the real world.

I will say, I do not expect to see Him appear in the Three Kingdoms in the same way He appears in the true world He fashioned, and in this, I think Ms. Henley has chosen wisely. Her world, her angels, are as different from our world as Narnia is, with it’s talking animals, or as Middle Earth is, with its dwarfs and dragons.

Aslan we recognized because of his redemptive sacrifice. And yet the Narnia books, when they first came out, were not without detractors. After all, pagan gods appeared in the triumphal scene of Aslan’s arrival. C. S. Lewis, of course, was a prolific writer, and anyone familiar with his non-fiction quickly recognized that he was playing out in his fiction his belief that the story of redemption also redeems mythology. It is the True Myth and therefore gives meaning to those lesser stories that point to the One Greater Story.

And yet, a good number of detractors found their points of disagreement with Lewis, insurmountable. Their number is much smaller today, however. Most Christians accept the Narnia books as part of Christian fiction.

How will Eye of the Sword be viewed twenty years from now? We can speculate, but I will hold off formulating my answer until after I’ve read the entire series.

You might be interested in reading Ms. Henley’s blog if you’d like to know more about her, and she also gave a first rate interview to Meagan @ Blooming with Books. Who knows? Maybe becoming familiar with her entire body of work will help to understand her fantasies.

CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 1

Take a look at the cover of Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley. To me it shouts FANTASY! I mean, eye of the sword? Swords don’t have eyes. And look at that character. Long hair, decked out in armor, leather gauntlets–all quite old world or other world.

On the inside, just behind the title page is a MAP! At once, I decided I was in love. I mean, what’s a fantasy without a good map. And this is a good one. But there’s more. Behind the map is a cast of characters. That says “EPIC” to me. I mean, any story that has enough characters to necessitate a list of them to remind you who’s who, in case you might accidentally lose track, has to have a fairly broad scope.

At this point I’ll admit I checked my enthusiasm. The book isn’t thick, so I did a quick check of the page length. Two hundred thirty-three. I’ve read fantasies that are more than twice that size. Was this book being pretentious? I mean, would such a slender volume really necessitate a glossary?

I glanced at the cover again. At the top: “Angeleon Circle, Book Two.” So the cast of characters encompasses an earlier book. Pretentious concern alleviated. But … larger concern, confirmed by another glance at the cast of characters. This book is about angels.

Generally speaking, I don’t like stories that feature angels. They so rarely live up to the Biblical record or else they are flat and unrealistic. Except, I read a terrific angel story earlier this year.

Besides, if I tell concerned readers that wizards such as those in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are imaginative creatures, not the historical and very real beings the Bible warns against, shouldn’t I be willing to consider angels in the same vein? Must they be real in stories? Reluctantly, I set that concern aside and forged ahead.

How happy I am that I did so! A few pages in, and I was engrossed in this story. I’ll give my full review later in the tour, but for now, I wanted to elaborate a little on fantasy angels.

Granted, I haven’t talked to Ms. Henley about this. I should have taken up her offer to do an interview, but since I didn’t I’m left to surmise what she intended. (At her web site she has a page on Angelology which confirms my conclusions, however.) There is so much inventive material in this story, I have to believe the angels of the Angeleon Circle are equally inventive.

First, the map I mentioned shows readers a wholly other world made up of three kingdoms: Eldarra, The Dregmoors, and Camrithia. In this imaginative world, readers learn that a once-existent stairway to heaven has been closed, cutting off a group of angels from returning. Yes, there is a hint of Jacob’s dream of angels in that element, but in the Angeleon Circle, the stairway to heaven emanated from the Wisdom Tree which has been destroyed. This is not Biblical fiction! These angels–not fallen ones–live like men and intermarry with humans. They are trapped, after all, in the Three Kingdoms world.

At any rate, I treated the various types of angels in Eye of the Sword as purely pretend beings, not intended to show readers what real angels are like. As such, I enjoyed the story immensely and could focus on what was happening and what the theme was saying.

Mine is but one view. See what other participating members of the CSFF Blog Tour are saying. Note, the check marks below link to
articles that have been posted featuring Eye of the Sword.

%d bloggers like this: