Did OT Writers Misunderstand God’s Kindness?

In his two-volume book, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross, [Greg] Boyd argues that such “violent” injunctions come from the “textual” God of the misguided ancient Near Eastern biblical author with his fallen, violence-prone worldview (“thus says Moses/Joshua”). These aren’t instances of “thus says the Lord”—the “actual” God whom Jesus represents. Boyd’s “cruciform” hermeneutic emphasizes how the character of God is displayed in the power-surrendering, non-violent, self-giving Christ on the cross. If this is what God is really like, then we must rethink how we view violent OT texts—and even certain New Testament (NT) passages.

This is our author Paul Copan summarizes the book he reviews, telling us what its author intends. He presents Boyd’s points in brief and then criticizes each one.  I’d like to add my own thoughts to Copan’s, but I know nothing compared to what he has written, so go read it yourself.

If anything, Boyd should chastise the redeemed martyrs, who are actually petitioning God to “judge [krineis] and avenge [’ekdikeis] our blood” (Rev. 6:10). Indeed, he should oppose the satisfaction of “heaven . . . and you saints and apostles and prophets” at God’s just judgment: “Rejoice over her . . . because God has pronounced judgment [’ekrinen . . . to krima] for you against her” (Rev. 18:20). That believers shouldn’t take personal vengeance, but to call on God to bring judgment, is anchored in both Testaments and in Jesus himself.

Blogging through LOTR: The Return of the King

The Return of the King

I’ve finished the narrative of The Return of the King (I’m going on to the appendices now, because, hey, they’re there). Here are a few things that struck me.

‘There is no real going back,’ [said Frodo]. ‘Though I may come to the Shire it will not seem the same, for I shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?’

There’s one of the clearest examples of the effect of the “Great War” on Tolkien’s narrative. Surely something like that was the experience of every combat soldier going home – the strangeness of returning to a familiar place, but finding you somehow don’t fit anymore. The average veteran accustoms himself to it after a while, but (as I am told) the wounds never entirely heal. One always feels something of an outsider, the carrier of a dark secret. Continue reading Blogging through LOTR: The Return of the King

Blogging through LOTR: Eucatastrophe

The Fellowship of the Ring

I’m nearing the end of The Return of the King, and I’m kind of overwhelmed. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the trilogy – no less than six, I’m sure. But I’d forgotten how good it is, especially as the threads come together toward the climax.

I’d remembered Frodo’s and Sam’s trek from Cirith Ungol to the Crack of Doom as taking up more pages than it does. In memory it’s a long narrative, but in the book it actually constitutes a fairly short section. I mean that as praise to Tolkien’s skill – he leaves a strong impression of weary and hopeless trudging that looms large in memory.

As I read the climactic passages describing the defeat of Sauron, sobs shook my diaphragm and tears welled up in my eyes (which was a little embarrassing because I was on a reclining table giving blood at the time). Lewis called LOTR “Good beyond hope,” and I wonder if anything as good of its kind has ever been written before – or ever will be again. Can I myself ever hope to come close?

I thought of the many children of this world who love these books. How can they bear it? How can they experience that joy – Tolkien’s eucatastrophe – and then return to the mundane world, believing that the promise of Middle Earth is just a cheat? That there will never be a true happy ending like that for them? That real life is only a descent through pain and disappointment to death, with a few bright moments which are in themselves just false promises of a happiness that can never be?

Ah well. I suppose they deal with it as best they can. The Lord of the Rings is really about not cutting down trees, after all, they believe.

“How Being a Librarian Makes Me a Better Writer”

Nautilus Library

Via Dave Lull, an article from Literary Hub. Xhenet Aliu explains how writing makes her a better writer:

A natural-language user might type into a search engine “hospital rubber tube blood infection,” and the information pros who index articles would have had to predict that “rubber tube” might, in this context, equal catheter and return articles like “Infection prevention with natural protein-based coating on the surface of Foley catheters: a randomised controlled clinical trial.” There’s not a whole lot of zing in a title like that, but there is a lesson in how it was retrieved; aren’t writers also responsible for intuiting miscommunicated needs, and articulating that which has been insufficiently expressed? Bad writing ignores natural language in favor to chase the artificial zing, which is what makes purple prose so offensive—instead of using language to facilitate access to meaning, it obscures it with yet more imprecision. Good writing understands and respects natural language, and it considers it in its responses. It’s for the best that writers aren’t paid by the syllable.

‘Death Comes for the Deconstructionist,’ by Daniel Taylor

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist

Dr. Pratt helped me see that I had simply left one fundamentalism for another. I had moved from relying on Holy Writ to relying on Holy Reason, and the difference between the two was far less radical than I had thought. Both assumed a stable, knowable world. Neither, therefore, understood that the god of this world is Proteus, the shape-changer, giver of multiplicity.

Years ago, I read a book called The Myth of Certainty, by Daniel Taylor, who taught at Bethel University (it may have still been Bethel College in those days) in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a controversial book, attracting critics and defenders. After finishing it I was definitely in the camp of the critics. The message of the book (so far as I understood it) was, “We can’t say that anything is absolutely true. We can only say that it’s true for us, personally.” It seemed to me a direct attack on the philosophy of Francis Schaeffer (in fact a fictionalized Schaeffer surrogate appears in the book). I believed then, and still believe, that if we can’t make a claim to absolute truth, we might as well drop all our church work except for acts of charity.

I didn’t realize until I had downloaded Daniel Taylor’s Death Comes for the Deconstructionist that it was by the same guy. But I figured I’d give it a chance. I’ve enjoyed many novels written by authors with whom I have philosophical disagreements.

I’m glad I did. This is a splendid Christian novel.

Jon Mote’s life is falling apart. Once he was a promising English scholar, but he dropped his doctoral studies when he clashed with his mentor, the distinguished Deconstructionist professor Richard Pratt. Now he lives in squalor aboard a small houseboat on the river in St. Paul. He makes a tenuous living doing research for law firms. His divorce from his wife is nearly final. And, oh yes, he hears voices in his head, goading him to self-harm.

His only anchor is his sister Judy, who lives with him. She is mentally retarded, and serenely clings to all the verities Jon abandoned long ago. She loves Jesus and she loves her brother.

Recently Dr. Pratt was killed, found dead with a stab wound on the sidewalk below his hotel window. Dr. Pratt’s widow calls Jon and asks him to investigate the crime. The police, she believes, are making no progress, and Jon’s familiarity with her husband’s world and professional circle might give him insight. Continue reading ‘Death Comes for the Deconstructionist,’ by Daniel Taylor

‘The Wanted,’ by Robert Crais

The Wanted

A new book in a beloved series is like a reunion with old friends. If there are no big surprises, who cares? It’s the little surprises that make it delightful.

In his latest Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novel, The Wanted, Elvis’s new client is Devon Cole, an ordinary single mother who’s deeply worried about her teenaged son Tyson. Tyson was always shy and awkward, so she was happy when he made friends in his new school. But now he’s started to wear clothing he can’t afford, and he’s sporting a Rolex wristwatch she’s pretty sure is the real McCoy. She also found a large amount of cash in his room.

Making the usual inquiries, Elvis is surprised to get pulled up short by the police. They’re seeking a gang of burglars who are hitting upscale homes, and they want to know what Elvis knows. But neither Elvis nor the police realize that young Tyson is already the most wanted person in LA – wanted by a couple of ruthless, psychopathic hit men who will not hesitate to torture and kill anyone they think possesses information that will lead them to the thieves. The whole thing could be sensibly handled through cooperating with the police, but Elvis soon learns that Tyson – and his loopy, thrill-seeking new girlfriend – have no interest in being sensible. Elvis will need all his own skills, plus the deadly skills of his taciturn, dangerous partner Joe Pike – to get the kids out of this mess alive.

The plot of The Wanted is pretty much what you’d expect, but that’s beside the point. As with every Robert Crais novel, the pleasure here is the small surprises, hidden within the living, many-faceted characters. Nobody here is made of cardboard – even the two stone killers have intriguing interior lives.

I highly recommend The Wanted. Cautions for language, violence, and adult situations.

Aye, Robot by Robert Kroese

I too have read a novel by Robert Kroese recently. It seems to be closer to the vein of Kroese’s other novels than perhaps The Dream of the Iron Dragon is, judging by titles and Lars’s review alone.

Aye, Robot is the latest in a short series of Starship Grifters book. It’s the second of three, the prequel, Out of the Soylent Planet, being published after its release. A few dialogue lines refer to previous events and none of the main characters need reintroduction, but it stands on its own.

  “Don’t be ridiculous,” snapped Rex. “What’s my name?”
“Rex Nihilio,” I said.
“And what’s my occupation?”
“You’re the self-described ‘greatest wheeler-dealer in the galaxy.'”
“Correct,” said Rex. “It sounds better if you leave off the ‘self-described,’ though. What’s your name?”
“Sasha.”
“Which stands for what?”
“Self-Arresting near Sentient Heuristic Android.”

Sasha, the narrator of the story, tells us the space grifter Rex Nihilio is reckless enough to need someone to hold him back (or get in his way) so he doesn’t get killed while off on a wild hair. That’s where she comes in. She begins by wondering about loss of memory, because she realizes nether she nor Rex can recall details of their actions from minutes before the conversation above. Plus Rex is acting generously, completely out of character for him.

They quickly fall into trouble through Rex’s new behavior patterns and just as quickly go from fryer to fire as something very big watches them from the shadows. As their adventure continues, they run afowl common criminals, Space Apostles, and the Malarchian government’s worst law-enforcer, Heinous Vlaak.

The story leans more light-hearted crime novel than full-throated comic. Most of the comedy comes in funny names and misused words. Nothing dark. Gullible stooges get their just desserts. It’s all good. I enjoyed it. One of my children did too, but a younger one didn’t get it.

Also included in this book is the novella, “The Yanthus Prime Job,” another light-hearted crime story with one of the characters we meet in the main story. It raises questions about how we treat those we deem unimportant.

Pronouncing Old Norse names

I haven’t yet posted any links to Prof. Jackson Crawford’s videos. I have not viewed as much of his stuff as I probably should have, but what I’ve seen impresses me very much. In this short one he tells us how the Vikings pronounced a number of names of gods and mythological characters. If you’re wondering whether I pronounce them that way, no, I confess I don’t. But it’s good to learn.

Have a good weekend.

‘The Dream of the Iron Dragon,’ by Robert Kroese

The Dream of the Iron Dragon

I was offered a free copy of Robert Kroese’s The Dream of the Iron Dragon, and I figured it’s a space opera with Vikings, I’ll give it a shot. I found it an entertaining read.

It’s the 23rd Century, and earth is no longer habitable. An alien enemy called the Cho-ta’an destroyed the planet, and now humanity survives on a handful of scattered earth-like worlds, grimly awaiting the day when the technologically superior Cho-ta’an will finish the job.

The Andrea Luhman is a small scouting ship, sent out to hunt for new habitable planets. They are not prepared for a mysterious message, sent from an unlikely ally who offers them a doomsday weapon that could turn the whole war around.

Soon they are racing home, pursued by a Cho-ta’an ship. A desperate maneuver sends them back in time, to earth in the 9th Century, and they crash-land in Norway.

King Harald Fairhair is at that point consolidating his unification of the country. The space people soon find themselves caught up in the resistance, using their rapidly diminishing weapons and ammunition, plus their technological knowledge, to help a chieftain in his campaign to avenge himself on Harald.

The Dream of the Iron Dragon is pretty good. I’m not personally a big fan of space opera, but I judge this pretty much the kind of optimistic military sci fi story Baen Books fans would welcome. As for the Viking elements, they could be worse. There were some errors – especially toward the end – but author Kroese has clearly done some serious research, and he manages to craft a plausible Viking world.

First of a trilogy. Recommended, with cautions for language and violence.

Intelligence — the low kind and the artificial kind

It reached 27 degrees today where I live, and that feels pretty good after the cold stretch. Yesterday I was able to wear my Mad Bomber hat with the ear flaps up, and today I was able to switch to a flat cap with ear flaps. The sun doesn’t go down till about a minute after 5:00, which means I can at least begin my homeward commute with the car lights off, sparing my battery a little work. (I’m thoughtful like that.)

I’ve been listening to a bit of Glenn Beck in the mornings recently. I’m not a big fan of his, but I had to stop listening to his competitor on the other talk network, Mike Gallagher. Mike is a very nice guy, I’m sure, but I’ve grown more and more to suspect that he isn’t terribly bright. He thinks with his heart, which annoys me. It’s like a conservative operating with a liberal’s equipment. What made him dead to me, though, was a day some time before Christmas, when a listener called in to his show to repeat the canard that goes, “Well, you know, Abraham Lincoln owned slaves.”

[For the record, in case it comes up, Abraham Lincoln never owned a slave. Not one. Nor did his father, who was an abolitionist. Lincoln’s wife’s family owned slaves, it’s true, but the Lincolns never did. I’ll reconsider the argument if the person making it is willing to take responsibility for all his own in-laws’ actions.]

But Mike Gallagher, with his national microphone and a staff of assistants, didn’t bother to refute the assertion. He just said, “Well, Lincoln had a lot of problems in relation to black people.” Then when angry listeners (like me) called in to complain, he just said, “I didn’t say he owned slaves.”

In my opinion, all conservative talk show hosts are morally obligated to let no one ever get away with saying Lincoln owned slaves. That obligation is right up there with shooting down the “Bush blew up the Twin Towers” theory.

Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, I listened to a piece of Glenn Beck’s program. He was talking to a science fiction writer about the concept of Artificial Intelligence. They were agreed that humanity is in grave danger, in the fairly near future, of being surpassed and perhaps enslaved by something like androids. The Singularity, it’s called – the day when machines become smarter than humans.

Let me go out on a limb and say it – I am not worried about the Singularity. Continue reading Intelligence — the low kind and the artificial kind

Richard Scarry’s ‘What Do People Do All Day’

What Do People Do All Day turns 50 this year. Author Richard Scarry (1919-1994) has sold well over 100 million books by sticking to what The Independent calls “his limitation. Having hit on a formula that worked so well he did little more than tinker with it throughout a long and highly profitable creative career.” When your readers and their parents beat your books up with love, why would you shift gears to draw maps for the army or some such?

Half his books are storybooks,” his son, Richard Scarry, Jr., who writes under the name Huck Scarry, told the NY Times in 1994, “and half are educational books, but the educational books always try to get across whatever educational information they have to tell in an amusing and lighthearted way.”

Books behind bars

In the two years Hart spent at the facility, the library’s inventory grew from 600 books to more than 15,000. When prisoners weren’t after books on deboning animals, they sought out titles on crocheting, affordable living in tiny homes, and what Hart calls “street lit,” a genre of memoirs from reformed criminals. The Japanese graphic novel Naruto was popular; so was the Christian-driven Left Behind series, about the people who remain following the Rapture.

The prison library is a set commonly seen in movies. It offers a lot of opportunities for secret conversations, the transfer of contraband items, and sending messages in code. If you’re curious what it’s like to serve the information needs of real-world incarcerated offenders, here’s an article on the subject from Atlas Obscura.

It’s interesting that they bring up the subject of “banned books.” I expect the American Library Association is working hard to get prisoners access to bomb-making manuals. You can’t deny people their constitutional rights, just because they’ve forfeited their constitutional rights, after all. Stop discriminating against the morally creative!

Blogging through LOTR: War stories

The Two Towers

‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’

Much has been written in Tolkien scholarship about the influence World War I had on the composition of The Lord of the Rings. That influence is certainly discernable in The Two Towers, which I recently completed re-reading. It’s been a few days since I finished it, so I’ve probably forgotten some of what I thought while reading, but I’ll try to offer a few crumbs from the feast for your perusal.

When I first read of the World War I connection, I had some trouble understanding it. The corpses in the Dead Marshes, people said, were reminiscent of the corpses in No Man’s Land, between the trenches. The journey was like trench warfare… somehow.

I understood it a little better, I think, in this reading. Frodo’s and Sam’s journey is in some psychological ways like the experience of a long war. Sam is a perfect epitome of the “common” soldier whom so many men of Tolkien’s class learned to appreciate, as never before, in the shared experience of combat. C. S. Lewis writes affectingly of his experience with his own sergeant, technically his subordinate, who taught him enough war-craft to stay alive in the early stages, and finally gave his own life (inadvertently) for Lewis through standing between him and the exploding shell that would have killed him. Continue reading Blogging through LOTR: War stories

The Draw of Historical Re-enacting

We have many historical re-enactors or living historians where I live. Our neighboring battlefields and monuments need context to understand what happened on this land 150 years ago and more. Just to the north of where I live is a park dedicated to the Cherokee nation and the beginning of the Trail of Tears. A few miles down the road is a national battlefield where the Confederate army won a major battle just before losing a bigger one.

What is the draw and the danger of re-enacting portions of history?

It isn’t only recreational. Craftspeople specialize in creating historical replicas, like the armour that was used in the Marathon re-enactment. Experimental archaeologists test specific hypotheses about aspects of history as a form of academic inquiry. Inevitably, some guesswork is involved; recreating the past means you have to fill in a lot of little gaps in the historical record. . . .

Even within specific groups of re-enactors, people hold a range of views about how closely clothing, items, and activities should mimic the originals. “Some people are button and stitch counters, and they’re not much fun,” says one re-enactor, dressed in wool clothes and standing in a field outside Hamilton, Ontario. (He was taking part in an annual living-history recreation of late medieval Italy, in the spring of 2016.) “They’re so historically correct it becomes ridiculous.”

(via Prufrock News)

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