"Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."

- Psalm 127:1-2, English Standard Version
George, Others Offer to Take Lashes for Badawi

Robert P. George, a Princeton professor and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has offered to be beaten on behalf of Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi. George is joined by six other professors and religious liberty advocates in offering to take 100 lashes each.

Raif Badawi has been accused of insulting Islam. His sentence is 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes of which he has received fifty.

In a letter to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the group wrote, "If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him. We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured."

George told PRI that it was "hypocritical" for Saudi leaders "to march in solidarity with the victims of terrorism and persecution for speaking their minds in Europe and then to practice that same abuse on people for speaking their minds ... in their own country."

While it's unthinkable the Saudis would accept this offer, George said they didn't make it half-heartedly.

The Paradox of Intellectual Promiscuity

In a spectacular essay titled “The Paradox of Intellectual Promiscuity,” found in his altogether indispensable final essay collection I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History, Gould uses Nabokov’s case to make a beautiful and urgently necessary broader case against our culture’s chronic tendency to pit art and science against one another — “We have been befogged by a set of stereotypes about conflict and difference between these two great domains of human understanding,” he laments — and to assume that if a person has talent and passion for both areas, he or she can achieve greatness in only one and is necessarily a mere hobbyist in the other.
(via Books, Inq.)

Boy Denies He Returned from Heaven

The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven has released a letter denying his claims in the book, something his mother has been doing for a few years.

"I did not die," Alex says. "I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention."

Publisher Tyndale has responded by pulling the book and related materials.

If you read the accounts from Alex's mother, Beth, you may ask how a publisher of Christian books for the body of Christ could railroad her and her son (apparently with the father's permission) to publish a book with such terrible theology. In a post from September 2013 which offers a timeline of details following the accident, Beth tells us some of her interaction with people wanting to turn her family's story into books and a movie.

I neither verbally nor in writing gave approval for any quotes. In fact I instead verbally gave my desire to not have any quotes by me put in any book. There was a time that I was sitting in PICU and told over the phone that some words from a webpage that no longer exists (prayforalex.com) that were written by me were going to be placed in the book. I was sitting in PICU with Alex! I told the person that they could not do that, to which they said they could and that that site was public. GRRR....the best I could do was to tell the person that they had better get every word correct. I have documentation of what is written in the book and that post from the webpage. The two do not match up :( It saddened me more to learn that that interaction that was twisted is part of a Bible study...what? I certainly have witnessed some shocking things!
Money, she says, was the driving factor for these people, and they promised money to her for Alex, but she has not seen any of it.

The Easy Way to Become a Writer

Neil Gaiman explains one of the easy ways to become a writer. You just wake up one day, after having tasted the fruit of a certain tree. You'll see what I mean.

Emerson wrote Chicken Soup, Gobbledegook

Micah Mattix (@prufrocknews) explains the confusing prose of the man who has been called the Bard of Concord. In short, he says we should reduce Emerson's contributions in our anthologies to make room for clearer thinkers of his time.

His central idea, of course, is “Trust thyself.” In his earlier essays, he encourages his readers to disregard the past, institutions, and dogma, and to obey “the eternal law” within. “I will not hide my tastes or aversions,” he writes. “I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints.” But in a later essay on Napoleon, who seems to have embodied the “deep” self-trust Emerson lauds, he states confusingly (after praising Napoleon) that what made Napoleon’s egoism wrong was that it “narrowed, impoverished and absorbed the power and existence of those who served him.” And whose fault is this? "It was not Bonaparte’s fault. He did all that in him lay to live and thrive without moral principle. It was the nature of things, the eternal law of man and of the world which baulked and ruined him."
So the law of man and the world ruined the man who wanted to rule the world. Did he not trust himself enough?

A Glimpse Into the Mind of a Sceptic

Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God and Misquoting Jesus, talks with World's Warren Cole Smith about his new book arguing Jesus did not claim to be God. He says, "It has long been recognized by scholars that if Jesus actually had called himself God, and it was known that he called Himself God, that it’s virtually beyond belief that the early Gospel writers didn’t mention this."

The publisher of Ehrman's book thought it would sell books to publish a companion book arguing that Jesus is God, so they approached five authors to write it. Ehrman says in the interview that he doesn't believe those authors believe Jesus taught the doctrine of the Trinity during his lifetime. "Scholars," he says, believe John's Gospel put words in Jesus' mouth, so he did not actually say, "I and the Father are one," or other claims to divinity. I suppose any evidence to support this belief is in his book.

Apparently the demonstrations of divine authority in Matthew 8-9 do not argue for Jesus' deity, but merely his agency of divine power. He was a prophet, nothing more:

  • "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.'"
  • "And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'"
  • "'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—he then said to the paralytic—'Rise, pick up your bed and go home.'"
  • "And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, 'Never was anything like this seen in Israel.'"
Apparenly Jesus claiming the title "Son of Man" for himself is no clue that he is the one in Daniel 7 who "all peoples, nations, and languages" would serve forever:
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Ehrman gets hung up on the doctrine of the Trinity in the interview, pressing Smith on whether the five evangelical authors actually believe Jesus taught the Trinity.Read the rest of this entry . . .

Thornbury's Period of Doubt and New Faith

Greg Thornbury writes about his upbringing and how his Christian liberal arts education almost took his faith away.

For me, this dose of higher criticism was nearly lethal. Any sense that the Bible was divinely inspired and trustworthy, or that the creeds had metaphysical gravitas, started to seem implausible. The best I could muster was that, somehow mystically, perhaps Jesus was the Christ, existentially speaking. I was approaching something close to New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s own story of losing faith.
By God's profound grace, the writings of one man turned him around.

Failure, Joss Whedon Style

"Joss Whedon’s career is a testament to failure," said his biographer.

"Pascale shares some of the life lessons gleaned from her research that help explain how Whedon built his fanbase and got all these projects done without killing himself."

Elsewhere, Whedon says stories of advanced technology and artificial intelligence are our new Frankenstein myth.

Looking for Inspiration on the Orient Express

Two mystery writers board an iconic train, looking for classic inspiration.

The Orient Express only goes as far as Istanbul and makes the trip only once a year. The next journey from Paris to Istanbul is slated for August 28, 2015. "Today, from London, travelers take a train and a bus before boarding the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in Calais. Once one of the fastest ways to cross Europe, the Orient Express now requires two days to do the work of a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Leisure has replaced speed as the train’s ultimate luxury."

They collected details about the train and the people who rode it, but would they find the inspiration they sought?

"Over cocktails, the train manager told us that there were too many repeat customers for him to even guess at their number. One woman, he informed us, took the train every month from London to Venice. “And she loathes Venice!” he added."

Orient Express / Battersea Power

Walter Wangerin, Jr. To Publish Memoir

This coming Spring, Rabbit Room Press will release a new memoir from the great author Walter Wangerin, Jr. It will be called Everlasting Is the Past.

"In this new memoir, he invites the reader into the past to experience his loss of faith as a young seminarian, his struggle to find a place for his chosen vocation amid a storm of doubts, and his eventual renewal in the arms of an inner-city church called Grace."

Pre-orders are being taken.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in my pod

I understand how you feel. Through all the hectic activity, the parking and the shopping, the glitter and the tinsel, one thought has nagged at you. "This would be a perfect Christmas season," you think, "if only I could hear Lars Walker's voice."

Well, your Christmas wish has come true. Derek Gilbert of View From the Bunker recorded an interview with me, and you can listen to it here.

God bless us, every one.

He Can't Make a Christian

In her regular Thursday column, Bethany Jenkins gives us Martin Luther on the nonexistence of a sacred/secular divide . Here's part of it.

The pope or bishop anoints, shaves heads, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different from that of the laity, but he can never make a man into a Christian or into a spiritual man by so doing. He might well make a man into a hypocrite or a humbug and blockhead, but never a Christian or a spiritual man. As far as that goes, we are all consecrated priests through baptism, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm.” The Apocalypse says, “Thou hast made us to be priests and kings by thy blood” (Rev. 5:9-10).

Today: Through the Eyes of Spurgeon

Watch a new documentary on C. H. Spurgeon today for free. It's called Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Get the details here.

Ayn Rand Didn't Understand Capitalism

Joe Carter breaks down the egoism of Ayn Rand.

"Reason, applied consistently, doesn’t lead us down a straight path to egoism, much less to capitalism. Examined closely, we would find that her entire Objectivist philosophy is founded on this simple question begging premise. . . .

"Ultimately, Rand’s egoism is irreconcilable with both Christianity and capitalism. In fact, since the system fails to have any true explanatory value, it’s difficult to find any reason to adopt Objectivism at all. Fortunately, we don’t have to buy into Rand’s philosophical errors in order to appreciate her fiction. We just have to keep in mind that instead of reading a “novel of ideas”, we are reading a work of fantasy."

Are We Witnessing a Writing Resurgence in Evangelicalism?

Owen Strachan thinks so. "Be of good cheer, evangelical-arts-aficionados. Good things are afoot."

N.D. Wilson on Adapting 'The Hound of Heaven' for Film

Author N.D. Wilson has directed a short film of the Francis Thompson poem, "The Hound of Heaven." Shadowlocked.com has part of an interview with Wilson on how everything came together.

So what's it like adapting somebody else's work as opposed to your own?

Well, honestly I'm far more comfortable adapting other people's stuff than my own. And actually, in some ways, because I can be a stickler. I can be a stickler to try to stay true as I possibly can to their vision, when I'm adapting their stuff. But when I'm adapting my stuff, I don't feel any loyalty at all to it. I feel complete and total authority to change whatever I want, whenever I want.

And so when I'm adapting C.S. Lewis or even trying to serve Francis Thompson, I felt like I could write an intro, like I could write an opening monologue for Propaganda, but I couldn't bring myself to edit the poem. No matter how many people told me, “Well, surely you're not going to do the whole poem”, it was like, “No, I'm gonna do the whole poem. I'm doing all of it.” Because I really wanted it to come through.

If I'm doing my own things, like I'm doing 100 Cupboards, I'm thinking, like, “Oh, wow, I can throw this part away, and do this other thing that I was going to have in the novel, and I needed to cut it for space, but now I can put it in. I can take things that ended up on the cutting room floor of my novel, and put them into the film.” And I feel completely at liberty to do that. And that's dangerous.
Read more about the movie here.

"I fled him . . . in the mist of tears . . .
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’"

Recommending 'The New World'

Observant film critic Jeffrey Overstreet recommends Terrence Malick's The New World for our Thanksgiving viewing. He shares his insights into the extended cut version and a personal encounter with Malick's father.

The New World is an extravagant achievement in historical recreation. It’s also the most refined example of Malick’s visual poetry, which he developed through Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. He has a meditative style all his own that will aggravate many viewers who prefer straightforward narrative and conventional Hollywood flourishes. He’s not an entertainer so much as he is a poet who uses pictures instead of words. Creation itself pours forth speech, as the psalmist says, and Malick invites those with eyes to see to look closer and listen carefully.

P. D. James Dies, 94

Crime novelist Phyllis Dorothy James, also Baroness James of Holland Park, died today in her home. She was 94.

Her publisher states, "This is a very sad day for us at Faber. It is difficult to express our profound sadness at losing P. D. James, one of the world’s great writers and a Faber author since her first publication in 1962. She was so very remarkable in every aspect of her life, an inspiration and great friend to us all. It is a privilege to publish her extraordinary books. Working with her was always the best of times, full of joy. We will miss her hugely."

In this interview last year, Lady James talked about growing old with this, "All things rather close down eventually. I was waiting for the old brain to shut down, but I do hope that is the last thing to go."

Glimmerglass

"Some years ago," writes John Wilson, "I described the novelist and poet Marly Youmans as "the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers." That's still true today (so I think), and if you haven't tried Youmans yet, her new novel, Glimmerglass, is a very good place to start." (via Prufrock)

Faber's Book of Loss and Strange New Things

Michel Faber has a fascinating story behind his novel, The Book of Strange New Things, as well as a curious story in the novel itself. The novel tells the story of an intergalactic missionary to works to translate the Bible to aliens who are not just a little different. They aren't beautiful Martian queens. They are completely foreign to human beings, and they want to know about Jesus and "the book of strange new things."

Steve Paulson of TTBOOK interviews Faber here as part of a show on science fiction.

The Reason Lecrae Changed His Tune

Musician Lacrae has taken some heat for switching from writing explicitly Christian songs to writing songs on themes with broader appeal. He has appeared with artists and on shows that have drawn criticism from those who think the right thing to do is stick with people who claim to follow Christ.

But Lacrae says another believer, Andy Crouch, changed his mind a few years ago. Jemar Tisby explains, "Crouch says in his book, Culture Making, 'If culture is to change, it will be because of some new tangible (or audible or visible or olfactory) thing is presented to a wide enough public that it begins to reshape their world.' He proposes that instead of condemning, critiquing, copying, or uncritically consuming culture, something new has to displace the old. It appears Lecrae has been making new music in an attempt to do just that."

The tension point for this idea will be at the place where those who want to change people apply their cultural creations. I'm sure many will continue to create things that won't get anywhere near the people they want to influence, and they will say they are making new culture, but it isn't changing anyone. They're making Halloween candy in hopes of changing Christmas.

Le Guin: 'Resistance and Change Often Begin in the Art of Words'

Author Ursula Le Guin received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at this week's National Book Awards and inspired the crowd by holding up freedom as an author's best prize. "We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality."

She said many things needed to change, and that change often begins in art, specifically the art of words. Writing books according to marketing formulas for corporate profit is a rotten idea, she said. We need artists.

Her speech was short, so you can easily watch the whole thing here.

In an interview, Le Guin said, “If you’re going to create a world out of whole cloth, that is to say, out of words, then you better get the words right.” You can read about her and her many books in The Guardian.

The Autobiography of a Pioneer Girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography before her Little House Series and could not find a publisher for it. This month, over eighty years later, an annotated edition will be published. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography has been edited by Pamela Smith Hill, who wrote her own biography of Wilder a few years ago. She blogs about her subject here. In a recent post, a Wilder co-researcher explains a bit of research on a story from a terrible winter.

Wilder places the story of the schoolteacher and his improvised igloo in the winter of 1884–1885, but the setup is strongly reminiscent of the “children’s blizzard,” a storm that struck without warning on a warm day in January 1888 and killed more than a hundred schoolchildren as they struggled to get home. Wilder did not always remember events in their true chronological order, and it seemed likely that she misplaced this one. But she does not give the teacher’s name, and the Kingsbury County newspapers that could complete the story have been lost, so there, it appeared, the matter would rest.

Jerry Jenkins' Christian Writers Guild Shuts Down

Popular Christian novelist Jerry Jenkins has closed the doors on the Christian Writers Guild. The Guild was founded in the 1960s. Jenkins has owned it since 2001. Christianity Today has some details on why it is shutting down, perhaps due to diverging interests for Jenkins and Dave Sheets, the recently resigned guild president. Sheets is now heading up BeliversMedia, which will offer many and more of the things found in the Christian Writers Guild.

Will Bill Watterson Return to Comics?

Is Bill Watterson returning to comics? Gracy Olmstead suggests, "Now, after all this time, Watterson is free to create again—to create something new." (via Prufrock)

Starr endorsement

Author Rachel Starr Thompson takes up valuable space in an interview to say nice things about my work.

I could never do the grit Lars Walker does, but I kind of wish I had written The Year of the Warrior. Wolf Time is amazing too. Actually, I love all of Lars’s books. - See more here

Child on 'Day of the Jackal'

From this interview in England last September, author Lee Child mentions Fredrick Forsyth.

I think that Without Fail [2002] would actually be my homage to Day of the Jackal, because it explicitly references Forsyth’s book. The emphasis there is placed upon the assassins planning for escape, as opposed to the [1993] Clint Eastwood/Wolfgang Peterson film, In the Line of Fire, in which the assassin knows he won’t be able to escape. As I said at the CWA Diamond Daggers ceremony, The Day of the Jackal … was Year Zero for the current generation of thriller writers; it was different, and re-set the clock, and we’ve all had to deal with it ever since. So, I didn’t mean it as a direct homage but acknowledged--for all of us, readers and writers--that Fredrick Forsyth is a giant figure, and his debut novel casts a giant shadow over the genre.

Evelyn Waugh, 101 today

Happy birthday to the late British novelist Evelyn Waugh, who was not the sweetest man to work around.

John Banville describes him as terribly sad at the end of his life. "As a man, he was quintessentially English—stubborn, class-obsessed, honorable, detached and despairing. And he was unfathomably strange." (via Books, Inq.)

Miller's Liebowitz Still Worth Reading

Here's an essay of author Walter M. Miller and his classic apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. "Along with Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” “A Canticle for Leibowitz” was one of the first novels to escape from the science-fiction ghetto and become a staple of high-school reading lists."

Within the cathedral of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, there ought to be a small sanctum reserved for books produced out of the author’s personal experience with cataclysmic events. Other works that fit into this niche include Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” which was inspired by the writer having witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, and “The Forever War,” Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel, which drew directly on his tour of duty in Vietnam.
(via Books, Inq.)

Marilynne Robinson and American Fiction

Casey Cep wrote, "Marilynne Robinson is one of the great religious novelists, not only of our age, but any age. Reading her new novel Lila, one wonders how critics could worry that American fiction has lost its faith, though such worries make one think there might well have been wedding guests at Cana who complained about the shortage of water after witnessing the miracle with wine." (via Alan Jacobs)

« Older Entries