Prince Caspian

20 05 2008

Baccus, Greek god of wine

In light of the Narnia fever surrounding the release of Prince Caspian last weekend, I decided to pick up the book last night and read it again.  Before yesterday, if anyone would have asked me what Prince Caspian was about, I don’t think I could have told them anything about it beyond: “its has something to do with a Lion…and a prince.”  I believe the last time I read the book was more than 20 years ago–though I’m sure I only skimmed it then so I could get on to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (easily my favorite of the series). 

We have many friends who are avid fans of the Narnia series (the books) who have often spoken very fondly of the times spent as a family reading the books aloud, or listening to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production.  When asked how our kids like Narnia, there is usually a suprised response when we confess that we don’t read the books to our kids.  We are not often asked for our reasons why. 

After reading Prince Caspian last night I have to admit that I am even less enthusiastic about Narnia than I was before.  I know that C.S. Lewis is highly revered and loved in most evangelical circles and is the poster child for many who want to see more serious Christian thinkers in positions of influence in our culture.  However, in the case of Narnia, I have to take exception.

My problem with the Narnia stories is Lewis’ seeming facination with Greek and Roman gods and the magical creatures of the Norseman, Celtic and Britons.  For example, in Prince Caspian, Baccus (the Greek god of wine, agriculture and pleasure) is seen dancing with and serving Aslan.  River gods, tree gods, nymphs, dryads and many other mythical creatures have a part to play in the Narnia stories–mostly positive parts.  I don’t have a problem with talking animals, trees that come to life and even a God-like lion, but the attempt at redeeming the pantheon, magic and pagan mythology troubles me. 

So I find myself conflicted as I read these stories.  There are so many times that Lewis frames spritual truths in such meaningful ways as to move me deeply–he makes me see some important truths in fresh ways.  On the other hand, he includes elements and characters that come right out of pagan worship systems (like the licentious Baccus) as well as Islamic and Jewish mythology (the White Witch is supposedly the offspring of Adam and “his first wife” Lilith–who was cast out of the garden and turned into a demon-like creature). 

I think that we need to much more seriously consider the value of these stories.  Like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Narnia is full of beautiful symbolism and deep theological truths, but there is a danger of accepting everything in these stories as worthwhile, merely because a Christian man wrote it.  Taken on their own, the merits of these characters and elements would be almost universally rejected by most Christians, and I think that this should be pointed out more often when speaking about Lewis–instead of blindly praising him and the Chronicles of Narnia.  

From Deuteronomy 18

9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.


Transistors and Transitions

18 05 2008

Listening to the Radio
Listening to the Radio, courtesy of the Library of Congress

Saturday was graduation–my last graduation as a full-time faculty member of the Moody Bible Institute.  Earlier this month I handed in my resignation to the Dean of the Faculty in order to return to Moody Radio.  Beginning July 1st, I will be a full-time piece producer for Prime Time America. 

Over the last 18 months I have produced 1 or 2 pieces a month (many of these pieces have been featured here) and have come to realize how much I enjoy this type of work.  However, the main difference between what I have been doing and this new position is that I am supposed to be doing a piece everyday instead of a few “when I have time.”  That is a tall order.  However, I am looking forward to the challenge.

One of the frustrations for me as a professor of radio studies has been that many of the things that God has been doing in our life as a family were not easily brought into the classroom–importance of family worship, the benefits of following God’s plan for the family, etc.  One of the benefits of this new position is the opportunity to bring these ideas to my work–I’m going to be paid to tell others about these issues (and a whole lot more). 

While we are nervous about some of the realities of making this transition (no more “summer vacation”), we are also very excited about the possibilities that it will afford in reaching a broader audience with topics that are significant for families in the Moody Radio audience.

Please pray with us as we begin this new adventure as a family.

From Psalm 78

 1 Give ear, O my people, to my law;
         Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
 2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
         I will utter dark sayings of old,
 3 Which we have heard and known,
         And our fathers have told us.
 4 We will not hide them from their children,
         Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
         And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
 5 For He established a testimony in Jacob,
         And appointed a law in Israel,
         Which He commanded our fathers,
         That they should make them known to their children;
 6 That the generation to come might know them,
         The children who would be born,
         That they may arise and declare them to their children,
 7 That they may set their hope in God,
         And not forget the works of God,
         But keep His commandments;
 8 And may not be like their fathers,
         A stubborn and rebellious generation,
         A generation that did not set its heart aright,
         And whose spirit was not faithful to God.  

Six Fingered Amish CLARIFICATION

8 05 2008

At breakfast this morning, the example of the 6-fingered hand was more clearly explained to me (I’m sorry, but all I can think about right now is Princess Bride, but I’ll try to continue).  Apparently, it was supposed to answer a creationist criticism: “What good is half an ear or only a part of the eye…those systems can not logically form over time, but need to appear all at once in order to be truly helpful to the species.”

So the example of the six-fingered hand is supposed to illustrate that a mutation can appear immediately, without the form needing to slowly develop.  While I appreciate the clarification, it doesn’t seem to help a whole lot.  In the case of a hand, the body is already programmed with the information it needs to grow fingers–in other words, they are not a “new development”–the DNA already exist for fingers to grow.  However, if a species doesn’t already have an eye, this example doesn’t explain how it suddenly appears without any previous information to copy or mutate.

I’m sure that there are many more detailed critiques of this position, but thought I’d do a quick update between sessions.

“This little piggy went to sit through another session…”

The Case of the “Six Fingered Amish Hand”

7 05 2008


Amish Family, courtesy of Library of Congress

For the rest of this week I am attending a gathering in PA (by invitation) as a representative for Moody with a group of 20 other organizations. The purpose of the gathering is to encourage our institutions to meaningfully and purposefully equip those involved in ministry to think critically about issues of faith and science. The event is sponsored by a well-known foundation with an interest in this topic.

This evening I attended a lecture entitled: The Divine Handiwork: Evolution and the Wonder of Life. The speaker was Owen Gingerich, a Harvard astronomer and an evolutionary apologist who desires to “carve out a theistic space” with the intention of creating harmony between “modern scientific discovery” and the religious life and theology.

After the hour-long lecture, I’m not only unconvinced, but wonder why almost everyone else in attendance was so enthusiastic. I marvel at how on the one hand he can accuse young earth creationists (and biblical literalists) of being guilty of “proof texting”–using a verse “out of context” to prove a weak position–yet on the other hand, use “the fact” that the saber-toothed tiger had long teeth to prove that “death must have existed before the fall;” which I suggest is just another form of proof texting, but using “evidence” instead of the text. A claim that is interpretation of evidence (long-teeth = carnivore) not truly “proof.”

One of the other things about his lecture (and the lecture that had preceded it) was the amount of “theological gymnastics” that are needed to make the salvation story make any sense. The creation account now must be purely metaphorical language of an event when humanoids finally “become human,” or according to the speaker, when they are granted the task of bearing God’s image.

However, this isn’t the only instance where what’s stated in Genesis must be amended to leave behind the “pre-scientific” understanding of the Biblical authors. The flood, the commands to multiply and fill the earth, the injunction to not eat meat (before the flood ) and then permission afterwards, the tree of good and evil (to name only a few) all become just spiritual images that somehow teach me of the need of salvation and a relationship with God…who had to use these falsehoods to describe what early man could not understand otherwise. When asked why man needs salvation, and why Christ must be the one to do so, he replied: “That’s for a theologian to answer.”

But the most shocking moment of the lecture came when he used an example of a close-knit Amish community where “generations of inbreeding” has led to a very high occurrence of birth-defects, including a 50% still-born rate, as well as hands with 6-fingers. While I am not a geneticist, I do understand a little about how “natural selection” can occur when new genetic information isn’t introduced into a reproductive system. An illustration we are all familiar with is how often small dogs are so weird and wired–its a side-effect from the selective breeding for size. However, the speaker was trying to use the example of the 6-fingered Amish as an example of how evolution can occur and eventually lead to something beneficial…I’m not sure what that would be…maybe base 12 math, or a longer song about this little piggy?

If you think of it, pray for me and the Moody team that we would be graceful yet bold in our interaction with the other participants.

From Exodus 20:

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.


4 05 2008

James and Mandy

Peas in a pod

We have been walking this week with our dear brother James through the death of his best friend. They were to be engaged this weekend, but God had another plan. The last few days have been filled with amazing times of pain softened with gentle memories and sweet stories. We have never been a part of grief this raw, sadness this deep; nor have we been more amazed at the grace of God in the lives of those who hope in the resurrection.

James prayed tonight thanking the Father for the true bridegroom who had welcomed her into His eternal rest. We forget how thin the veil is between the temporal and the eternal. May we all be ready to step across that divide into the arms of our savior. Until then, may we be ready to comfort those who have been left behind to await that day.

From II Corinthians 5

1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.