Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Impotence of Myth

I’m a Tolkien fanatic. I have mounted on my wall a replica of Sting, Bilbo’s sword (inherited by Frodo), given to me by my son on Christmas Past. I love Tolkien’s fantasy world and the many layers of history he gave it to make it seem real. I read the trilogy (quadrilogy??) while backpacking through the Rockies in my youth—and I have read it many times since. It is inspiring, and the wonderful productions of Peter King and his merry band of movie-makers have done a wonderful job of bringing the Tolkien myth to the big screen in a canonically faithful fashion. It’s almost, . . . lifelike.

But there is a clear delineation between that which was, and that which was not, and Tolkien’s work belongs to the latter. It’s myth—not history—and only those with nothing else to cling to will confuse the two.

There’s not much power in myth. There’s some, to be sure, but not much, and it is but a faint imitation of the power of reality—the power of God.

Myth wears thin in the Emergency room, or the hospital bed, or the funeral home. Myth loses its pizzazz when the family is self-destructing around you. The power of myth is powerless to mute the angry, self-condemning voices of conscience in the early hours when you desperately need sleep. It is too impotent to control the raging desires of addiction. Myth distracts, but does not deliver confidence when you’ve lost your job and the rent is due. Myth fascinates, but it cannot change the heart.

In short, the inspiration of a myth is like the fog; impressive until it meets with the heat of the day. Only truth transforms. The power of the Gospel is anchored in twin realities: the inexplicable power of the Holy Spirit, and the facts of history. It-actually-happened.

Think about it. Liberal theology has turned the Gospel to myth, because the purveyors of this deficient theology deny that the supernatural God actually invades history and performs miracles contrary to natural law. It is an assumption of rationalism. It is frankly a contradictory notion to the idea of the existence of a personal God. When your God stops invading history, He no longer exists in any real terms.

But what you really need, in that hospital room, that funeral home, in that broken family, is for God to invade history, real life, on your behalf and perform real miracles contrary to natural law. May it be unto you according to your faith.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm changing gears for my next writing project. . .

Ever since finishing Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix I've begin gathering material for a new novel entitled The Candidate. It is about a plain-spoken, conservative blogger who finds himself as a viable candidate in the presidential election. I had hoped to finish the rewrite of OCP in time to get The Candidate done prior to the 2012 election. Didn't happen. So I'm putting it on the back burner.

I am excited about writing book 2 of the OC series, but there's a tale I've got to tell first.

My first novel was actually Makatozi's Revenge, a military-espionage thriller set in the Cold War, in 1986. The book is complete, and sitting on my shelf. It's a great tale. If you're curious about it, ask Carol Williams, she graciously read it.

But I can't publish it, because it is an unauthorized sequel to Louis L'Amour's Last of the Breed. The estate of L'Amour is not presently granting rights for that sort of thing, and many in the industry predict they never will.

So, I am going to write and publish my own prequel to MR. It will be a very different story (different from L'Amour's tale), but it will have the same general idea: an Air Force officer is kidnapped by the Soviet Union and manages to escape and make his way back to the U.S.A. Then I'll retool and retitle MR to fit the details of its new backstory.

Book 2 of OC (which is likely going to be titled, Outlander Chronicles: Icarus) will probably be completed between the above mentioned prequel, and the retooling of MR. I might attempt to write them concurrently, because it is another tale I just can't wait to tell!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When does the spirit of inquiry become the spirit of rebellion?

Christianity has a checkered history with respect to how it treats thinkers that challenge the status quo. I cringe when I read parts of that history: for example, that of the medieval-era Catholic church in the few centuries prior to the Reformation. The church did not tolerate dissent or inquiry, or any departure from the established teachings of the magisterium. Most such challenges were met by cruel torture or simply incinerating the 'heretic.'

While we may understand the fountain from which Calvin and other reformers had been drinking (hanging on to the Roman Catholic confusion of the power of the church and the state, something in which the Protestant tradition is still en-mired in places—think of the state churches in England, Scotland, Germany, for example), yet Calvin’s treatment of the heretic Servetus in Geneva is simply inexcusable from the standpoint of the Gospel. Other examples of insupportable early Protestant violence could be cited.

The hounding of the Mormons (much of which was self-inflicted, by the way) in our own country is another unfortunate example of virtually criminal religious intolerance. While we can (and should!) dispute their theology (it is not Christian in any historic understanding of the word), nonetheless, they should be tolerated and, yes, protected, free to pursue their religion. [This paragraph has been editted - my original was just too offensive even to me after a good night's sleep.]

For a shining, pristine example of how NOT to defend the Gospel, just examine the folks from Westboro Baptist Church. I cringe to even use the word, ‘church,’ in that sentence. These folks bear about as much relationship to Christ as does your local telephone pole. I feel like saying, “if you really are Christians, would you just please not tell anybody!” If these folks ever gained civil power, God forbid, we'd be right back to burning dissenters at the stake.

"Chris, you sound mighty intolerant of these various people!" Well, sort of. It's their theology concerning which I am intolerant, not them as people. But let's make a distinction. I firmly believe they have every right to make their pitch in the marketplace of ideas. I want them to have that right! I want them to be able to proselyte, persuade, convince, to their heart's content. And if you or I don't like what they have to say, just walk away and realize that in a free country you're going to be subjected to ideas and speech you don't appreciate. Although let's be clear, the Westboro Wackos should not be free to intrude on funerals; if the courts have defined funerals as public meetings, they need to redefine them, quickly, as private!

Just like these foks with whom I disagree can vociferously attack my beliefs (and I support their right to do so), I can likewise hold theirs up for examination.

Now that we’re done with the Christian mea culpas (and that’s not to dismiss them as illegitimate, but simply to begin advancing my argument), the question remains: for the Christian, when does the spirit of inquiry become the spirit of rebellion? Are there legitimate boundaries to intellectual inquiry, for the self-confessed believer in Christ?

For one who does not confess biblical faith in Christ, it’s a silly, irrelevant question harkening back to the fine Christian tradition of crushing dissent. And, for not a few confessing Christians, it is a dumb question: they would say that it is anti-intellectual and poor stewardship of the Creation Mandate to place any limits on inquiry.

So why am I asking this question in the first place? Because of the folks at Biologos, and because of my former instructor, Pete Enns (see here and here), and because of the revival of “higher” biblical criticism under new names and faces and approaches that is gaining such massive momentum and posing such a threat to the church! Especially to the average believer and seeker!

These scientists and theologians, these men and women, are public figures, culture-formers and trend-setters, not simply private individuals. They purport to be teachers of the ignorant and guides to the blind. Their public statements and positions, therefore, are fair game for critical examination.

So for the next several weeks, that’s what we’ll be doing on the Thoughtspot. Interspersed with silly stupid posts masquerading as humor dealing with what-have-you, self-serving promotions of my book, and general train-of-consciousness rambling, there will be the occasional coherent thought on the question of the spirit of inquiry. I hope you’ll join in the conversation with observations, challenges, or questions, in the comment section.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Coldwater Jingle Bell 5K

On a frosty morning this past Saturday, Doris and I bundled up in multiple layers (I am surprised I could bend a single joint--I don't like to be cold--so I was wearing lots of layers!), and headed North. It felt like we were going to the North Pole, but we stopped just short--at Coldwater. Appropriately named, as far as I was concerned. And I was concerned, it was like, twenty degrees! Lions and tigers and bears (frozen ones), oh, my!

I like my snow, yes, but I prefer it when I'm inside and it's outside. In any case, I struggled out of the car (remember, I'm wearing layers and can hardly bend), and waddled into the registration area. Getting that far was the first success.

If it wasn't for the fact that there were folks there who know me (starting with my wife), I think I'd have declared victory, waddled back to the car, and driven home. But I do have my pride, so with a smile frozen on my face (literally), I pinned on my number and began dreading going outside again in earnest.

Amidst all those other loons, however, I did feel strangely at home. We're all nuts, together.

Then we bumped in to Katie and Joelle. Now I really can't quit. I'd never hear the end of it. Both ladies were very positive, taking the weather in stride, ready to go. So, I manned up (no choice), and waddled outside to the starting line.

A horn goes off, and the whole mass starts forward. Must have been a false alarm, for ten seconds later the whole mass puts it in reverse. I didn't even have to move my feet; you know how it is being in the middle of a tightly packed crazy bunch of runners on race day. You just kind of get swept along like so much flotsam and jetsam, until the mob loses critical mass and you actually have to start ambulating under your own steam.

The horn sounds off again, and this time the tide flows in only one direction. After a block or two I'm no longer being carried along by the surge, so I begin to run, looking for an appropriate pace. After getting nearly run over by a couple of ten-year-olds, I decide maybe that pace was not appropriate, and pick it up a tad. No sign of Doris, Katie, or Joelle.

Within the first mile, my breathing is ragged enough that a couple folks around me begin to wonder if perhaps someone ought to call 911. The smile is still frozen on my face, so I just look over their way and shake my head, 'no, I always breathe this way.'

Numbskulls! Of course they ought to call 911! I'm just too proud to say that.

Anyway, whoever laid out the course was an expert in torture. The first two miles were all straight streets. You could see runners ahead of you, disappearing below the curve of the horizon. Okay, maybe it was just a hill. But at least you could see that the finish line was not in sight. But the last mile, it was 'run a block, turn, run a block, turn, run a block, turn'. Now perhaps that is meaningless to you, but for me, I imagined the finish line was just around each block. I got all my hopes up, only to have them dashed with each hard left or right.

But the worst was yet to come. You see, for the last half of the race, I was slowly overtaking this person in front of me. Slowly, but surely. At about the two-and-a-half mile spot, I finally passed them. Her, I should say. It was a lady. Got out about twenty feet in front of her, but could not lose her. Heard those feet slappin' down, right behind me. Always right behind me. Drove me nuts. So, I turned it up a crank. (By now I sounded like Darth Vader without his cool mask - you know the scene in the final movie: 'Dad, I'll save you.' [awful breathing sound] 'S-son, you already have, you already have. . .')

And I began to run out of steam. Actually, that's not true. I had run out of steam shortly after the mob stopped carrying me at the [second] starting horn.

Not sixty feet from the finish line that lady cruised right past me. Couldn't even hear her breathing. How humiliating. And then I heard her tell the race administrators when they were putting her in the proper age bracket, that she was 61. That's really embarrassing, hope nobody saw that.

All in all, it was a cold day. But I'm glad I did it. All four of us (Doris, Joelle, Katie) finished the race - that's what's important. Nobody needs to know that I was waxed by a sixty-one year old lady.

[Certain details of this post have been, ah, edited for the sake of humor, as what actually happened was far less interesting. . . unfortunately, the details about the 61 year old lady are not among them.]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix is finally available in print!

Just approved the proof copy tonight!

It is also available for Kindle and Nook.

NOTE TO BFCers! If you are planning on getting a copy of the print edition, get it at the church bookstore!! It will be cheaper there, and all proceeds for sales in December and January will go to support the mission clinic, Clinica de Iglesia Bautista Betania in Honduras. There will also be a copy available in the church library for loan. Ann Fields will be able to take orders as soon as this Sunday, but I don't expect the books to arrive until the week before Christmas. There will be one copy (my proof copy) on display this Sunday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back from Girly-man land. . .

I'm back from girly-man land. Did my 3.2 miles today in 27:12.

No offense girls, but a six-foot two skinny galoot ought to move faster than a spry member of an ant colony. Today's time is nothing worth posting on a blog or anything [would have said, 'nothing to write home about' but that's sooo seventies], but at least I won't have to wear a wig and sunglasses when I run the next 5K.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Running Report

Perhaps I should say, walking report. First, an admission. I have fallen off the exercise bandwagon big-time. Second, an empty promise: I am climbing back on the exercise bandwagon.

Today Dor and I got out and ran again. Sort of. For me, it was the first time in at least three weeks. Whoever said, Use it or lose it knew whereof they spake. I lost it.

Did my 3.2 miles in just shy of 33 minutes. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. . .

Somehow since this summer when I gained the lower body of Jesse Owens and the upper body of Ahnold (there might be a slight exaggeration here), I've lost a little ground (there might be some understatement there).

For example, yesterday at church I had to get the decoration ladies to help me lift a Christmas tree. How embarrasing! But it did convince me to get back to work with my exercise regime.

Doris and I are running (or more accurately, participating) in the Coldwater Jingle Bell 5K, so I really do need to get my act together. Hope to see all the BFC runners there!