The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1


shadow lamp coverThis month the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Shadow Lamp, fourth of Stephen Lawhead‘s Bright Empires series. I’ve been a fan of these novels, moving from tepid to hot over the first three, and I’m no less a fan after having read this fourth installment. Lawhead has me hooked. But I have to admit, this one took a step back from the awesomeness I’d predicted for the series.

Today I’ll address what I consider the hard part. Better to get it over with, I think.

Science And Pseudo-science

Of the four Bright Empires books I’ve read, this is the only one that has what I consider didactic sections. Interestingly the “preachiness” has less to do with God than it does science. Coming in book four as it does, this caught me off guard. (Orson Scott Card has a rule for science fiction that pretty much says, establish the rules and move on). I had accepted the premise that the multiverse exists (in these stories), that travel along ley lines took the characters from one place and time to another, similar to but not the same as time travel.

How this supposedly works was not one of the burning questions on my mind, but apparently it was one on Mr. Lawhead’s mind. How much he believes of what he had his characters explain is impossible to know. I expected some illumination because he included an essay at the end. He did not expound further on multiverse theory, however, but considered the role of Christianity as it has related to science.

Towards the end he included this paragraph:

When a loudly outspoken evolutionary biologist declares absolutely that religion is a mental delusion . . . or a prize-winning physicist claims to have proven there is no God . . . we might take a step back and reflect that these men are simply repeating Galileo’s mistake: pontificating on matters outside their field and beyond their understanding. And when religious fundamentalists refuse to consider evidence that challenges the likelihood of a preposterously young universe . . . or ignore perfectly credible fossil evidence . . . we might pause to consider that creating pseudo-science to support dogmatic beliefs does give violence not only to realities that are ultimately beyond time and space, but also to any reasonable ability we might ever have to comprehend them (pp 377-378).

While Mr. Lawhead seems fairly charitable toward scientists speaking against God, stating simply that they are out of their realm, he seems peculiarly strident in his remarks about “religious fundamentalists” who scientifically support a young earth theory. They refuse to consider some evidence and ignore a body of archeological findings. Their theory is preposterous and they use pseudo-science to support their dogmatic position.

Certainly I’m aware that there are Christians who have a dogmatic position about creation. Whether that makes them “religious fundamentalists,” I can’t say since I don’t know what Mr. Lawhead meant by that term. There is an evangelical denomination which includes the term “fundamentalist” in their name. Is that who he’s talking about? If that were the case, then he’s speaking about something I don’t have knowledge about–I am not schooled regarding that denomination’s views on creation.

The people I know who hold to a young earth position are hardly dogmatic. They are also not scientists, but I dare say they have heard what various scientists have said, as I have, and believe that there is a body of evidence pointing to a different conclusion from the currently favored evolutionary theory.

Is this “pseudo-science”? What makes science “real” and what makes it “pseudo”? Is it real if it agrees with an old earth view and pseudo if it supports a young earth theory?

There’s an astrophysicist, for example, named Dr. Hugh Ross who was part of a panel that looked at recent scientific discoveries which “buttress the case for a biblical creator while continuing to erode the foundation for the evolutionary paradigm.” Am I to assume that this astrophysicist is pushing pseudo-science simply because of the conclusions he’s drawing?

Unfortunately Mr. Lawhead doesn’t elaborate on his comments any further except to say that the Roman Catholic Church has “continually pursued a policy of active involvement in scientific inquiry and advancement, quite notably through the Vatican Observatory” (p 38).

I’ll likely have more to say on this subject since the science of this science fantasy pushed its way to the forefront in The Shadow Lamp.

Take time to see what the other tourists have to say about this thought-provoking book. As usual, check marks link to tour articles.

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