This is a classic work on the gospel work of Jesus Christ--why, how, and the significance of it. It is short, concise, a bit dense, and satisfactorily...moreThis is a classic work on the gospel work of Jesus Christ--why, how, and the significance of it. It is short, concise, a bit dense, and satisfactorily thorough on the meaning of Christ's incarnation.
This is a great work for the new Christian or a high school age reader to introduce them to big ideas and fortify their faith. Highly recommended.(less)
I picked this up after a great recommendation and review by a Goodreads friend. Having read the review I had an idea of what to expect, but I must say...moreI picked this up after a great recommendation and review by a Goodreads friend. Having read the review I had an idea of what to expect, but I must say I was quite surprised by this book. It is difficult to characterize the book as it was unlike any I'd ever read before.
This is actually a collection of four books previously published independently. The first is "The Sword in the Stone" which many are already somewhat familiar with because it is the source for the Disney movie of the same name. This first book is part Arthurian legend, part Monty Python, and part Disney-movie--as odd as that may seem. It is sheer fantasy and quite strange. If I'd not been previously warned to persevere through this book, I likely would have put the volume down after the first book.
White is a very self-aware narrator and brings the happenings of his times into the book in a way I've not seen done before. He's constantly talking about Bolsheviks and communists--even having the Arthurian characters using these words. This creates an odd mix of dialog that is both realistically medieval (old English and all) and 20th century (Cold War references and all). Like C.S. Lewis does in his Narnia books, he also uses modern allusions to help his readers understand something from the story. He writes as a synthesizer of Arthurian tales and comments frequently on the source material.
The fantasy elements--such as Wart being turned into various animals is extraordinarily strange, even within this volume, as nothing like this happens in any of the other books.
White anticipates Monty Python as well in the first book with the characters of King Pellinore and his Questing Beast are remarkably Pythonesque. The slapstick continues into the second book, but is largely gone by the time Pellinore's character is gone from the scene. There is humor throughout, but not in the same fashion.
I suppose the material forced White to get more serious, but the transition from comedy to gravity was strange. The story gets very serious and better as Arthur consolidates his power and enacts his vision for England.
This is what makes the book worth reading. White makes the Arthurian legends very accessible and engaging. He advances the story without bogging the reader down with rabbit trails and adventures that don't really advances the story as so many old tales do. He paces the book well and keeps the reader turning the pages to discover what happens next.
The themes of the story are fascinating and compelling. The central story line of the book deals with power or "Fort Mayne" as White calls it. The ancient and medieval world are predicated upon "might makes right" and despotism. Merlyn's desire (and prophecy) is to see Arthur create the modern world by delivering justice and mercy and defeating the old, despotic order.
Arthur creates the round table to harness the power of the old order to advance his vision, rather than their own might. He hopes the round table will suppress ambition and create equality among the knights. But instead, he finds that by using power to defeat power, he has created his own power caste intent on violence and gamesmanship. This leads to the Grail Quest and the destruction of Camelot, among other, older sins.
The primary problem I found in the book is with the theology. God and the church are hardly primary influence and authority in the book. Arthur, under Merlyn's influence, rejects original sin. He puts law and order above all--sacrificing all to it, at least until he actually HAS to, and he fails to remain true to his principles with Guenevere and Lancelot. God is not the final authority, and so much of what happens in the book seems arbitrary--including Arthur's judgments. Arthur's grand experiment fails of its own weight because it is a humanistic project.
I was also reminded of the moral perversity surrounding the grail quest. The tale is so bound up with medieval Catholicism and chivalry that it is morally perverse and superstitious. White couldn't do much here, without altering the tales, so we can't blame him here, but simply critique the theology.
Still, this is a great book. Get through the oddities of "The Sword and the Stone" and you'll find a gem.(less)
This is an interesting tale for the modern reader. Gilgamesh is the demi-god king of Uruk, challenged by Enkidu, the hairy wild-man created to be the...moreThis is an interesting tale for the modern reader. Gilgamesh is the demi-god king of Uruk, challenged by Enkidu, the hairy wild-man created to be the challenger and equal of Gilgamesh. They go on adventures, and are posed as threats to the gods themselves--in true pagan fashion.
It is a quick read--I read it in a little more than an hour. It is in the mold of Beowulf and I dare say Tolkien was influenced by the style.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story, of course, is Gilgamesh's encounter with Utnapishtim, the flood-survivor. He's clearly the Babylonian's representative for Noah. It is widely known that cultures around the world have their own version of Noah and of the world wide flood.
Lamoureux’s argues that Genesis 1-11 is essentially a myth and not to be taken as anything more than an ancient explanation of origins. It is a manife...moreLamoureux’s argues that Genesis 1-11 is essentially a myth and not to be taken as anything more than an ancient explanation of origins. It is a manifestation of God stooping down to the scientific level of his audience in a way that means little to us today, as we have advanced scientifically and these first eleven chapters of Genesis will mislead more than they will inform.
It is not that God lies, for Lamoureux repeatedly affirms that God does not, nor cannot lie. His explanation, instead, is that God’s stooping to his audience has left an artifact that has little significance for the modern reader of the Bible. Yet he argues that the rest of the Bible is true—except the other parts of the Bible that refer to an historical Adam. Jesus stooped to his audience too, but poor Paul was just naively assuming Genesis 1-11 is to be taken literally.
So how does Lamoureux come to this unusual interpretation? He believes that we can see evidence of ancient man’s limited and mistaken view of the world in several places in Scripture. One of the first place we see this scientific limitation manifested itself, according to Lamoureux is with the creation of the “firmament” or “expanse” or “vault” as other translations put it. He writes that it is natural and understanding that the ancients would view the heavens as water because they are blue.
So he assumes the text is holding up their unsophisticated science as the way in which the text ought to be interpreted, rather than believe there are other interpretive possibilities and that God is unable to communicate truth in a timeless fashion. Is this not eisegesis that he’s already cautioned against?
Lamoureux also reaches into the New Testament to show how the Bible has an unsophisticated, and thus mistaken view of the world. He argues that Paul, in Philippians 2, has an ancient tri-partite cosmology of heaven, earth, and underworld. Rather than assume the text means exactly what it says, he pursues eisegesis—using the interpretive grid of the “ignorant ancients” to tell us what they really meant and how it is an artifact of ignorance, and shouldn’t be understood for what it says.
He argues that it would be eisegesis for us moderns to cast our figurative interpretation upon the ancients. Well. Perhaps there is another explanation? Perhaps Paul is referring to something entirely different than what Lamoureux would have us think. Perhaps Paul isn’t referring to the material cosmology at all—but the metaphysical cosmology that he wants to ignore. Are there not three worlds in the Bible? Aren’t Heaven, Sheol/Hades, and earth the three metaphysical domains of Scripture? Isn’t this Paul’s point—that Jesus is Lord of All and all will bend the knee to Christ?
John Walton’s essay on origins and Adam is both incredibly insightful and frustrating in his commitment to archetypal interpretation and his tendency to understand Genesis through the lens of ancient near east literature. This dual commitment lends some insight, but it mostly seems to confuse matters and lead Walton’s exegesis away from the text’s authority.
There are many things that are very helpful, but every time he makes an insightful point he overshoots the mark and ends up in what seems a very fanciful and unlikely interpretation of the text. While he believes in the historical Adam his entire view seems to not require his historicity and opens the door wide to all sorts of fantastical interpretations.
Collins’ essay has its strengths, but his exegesis seems driven by a commitment to an old earth, rather than being led there by the text. It is mostly solid, but I view the old earth theory to be a capitulation to scientism, rather than the biblical text.
Barrick’s essay is strong, but requires a thorough-going commitment to the supremacy of Scripture—even against the discoveries of modern science. Without a strong presuppositional approach to the Bible, readers of Barrick’s essay will be unconvinced. This is what the book is really about—presuppositional commitments. If the Bible is supreme, the young earth model and an historical Adam are there and assumed, as the Bible is very clear on this. Even Lamoureux lambasts Collins for his arbitrary reading of “day” as an “age.”
The origins debate, and the historicity of Adam are the material for the larger battle over the authority of Scripture. Much ink has been spilled over this topic as we all know, and I don’t presume to think I will add anything original, or persuasive. But my perspective on these matters was cemented as I read Greg Boyd’s pastoral response. Boyd very articulately, passionately, personally, and persuasively argues that though he is “inclined” to believe Adam was an historical figure, his historicity is not required to be orthodox.
Here one may anticipate I’ve accepted Boyd’s position, but on the contrary, I reject it. His argument is essentially the same as the liberals of J. Gresham Machen’s day—which are the same as today. The message is one of inclusion, rather than exclusion. The message is for understanding and a “broad tent.” The message is for compassion and understanding—for liberty of conscience and so on. The rhetoric is not gospel rhetoric—for doctrinal clarity, but for doctrinal confusion and confessional anarchy.
I won’t go so far as to call those who reject the historical Adam as apostate, or unbelievers, but I do believe they are heterodox, and they teach outside of accepted and established Christian doctrine. Sure, the liberals can argue that the historic Adam has never been a requirement in orthodoxy, but orthodoxy is a definition that has developed progressively in the face of heretical conniving’s. The faithful must defend orthodoxy and those who would test its bounds in each new generation. May this generation draw yet another line in the confessional sand and stand for the historicity of Adam.
I feel bound to note that I am the son of one of the editors of this volume and received the book as a gift from him. My views and conclusions are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my father. (less)
Girard brings his understanding of anthropology to the Bible in a way that is insightful and faithful to the text. Girard sees the world in terms of m...moreGirard brings his understanding of anthropology to the Bible in a way that is insightful and faithful to the text. Girard sees the world in terms of mimesis--the imitation of others, driven by envy and lust for what they possess.
Mimesis is a drive to possess what others possess. He argues that the tenth commandment is meant to countain this desire. But it is not easily contained, for it is the fundamental driver of civilization. The pressure of mimetic desire builds and bursts out in violence--which Girard terms mimetic contagion.
This mimetic contagion is captured, harnessed, and "redeemed" by myth. Girard exposes the supposed miracle of Appolonius in Ephesus. The city was in the throes of a plague--which we often think of as physical disease, but Girard argues is more appropriately understood as more of a social disease than physical one. Appolonius' miracle was to heal the city of its plague by urging them to stone a poor, blind beggar. At first the crowd was reluctant, but after the first stone was thrown, they came in a torrent. Soon the man was dead, having been beaten to a pulp. After they took the rocks off of him he had turned into a dog--showing he was no man to begin with, but instead a demon.
Girard's argument is that this was an act of mimetic desire that exploded into violence--the beggar became the unifying scapegoat that restored the city to peace. Thus, "Satan expelled Satan." What Girard means by this, is that Satan drove himself out and restored order, only so that he could creep back in with the city unaware that it had just committed an appalling act of murder in the name of peace and unity. The crowd had all been pacified, believing they had killed a demon and thus done right.
Naturally, this kind of violent murder is covered up--by myth and religious piety. The victim is typically later deified. Girard mentions in passing many such myths, though he does not explain them, as would have been helpful.
The power of myth and the sacrificial victim is the founding moment of human civilizations. He argues that it is no coincidence that Cain was the founder of culture and civilization after having killed his brother, Abel. All human civilizations are built on the scapegoat murder and the victim's subsequent deification.
But the course of history was radically changed by the death and resurrection of Christ--for Christ was the victim of this same explosion of mimetic passion. Like all victims of mimetic violence, he was innocent. But the difference was his divinity and his resurrection from the dead. Instead of his murderers being able to justify their murder, his resurrection caused a minority to expose the injustice of the mimetic violence and created a new world order where the power of Satan was exposed and mocked.
For it was not only Christ that was crucified--but death and Satan himself. Satan was exposed for the wicked deceiver and mocker he is. This destroyed Satan's cover and his power--for wherever the gospel has gone forth, myth and the order of mimetic desire has been exposed and defeated.
This has consequently, and somewhat ironically, created a social milieu where Christ's atoning death actually reeks to many--for in it, they see (wrongly) a continuation of the old order where an innocent victim is killed for the health of the community. What they fail to see, is the truth of the old order masked by myth. They do not see that paganism is replete with the horrors of mimetic violence. Their distance from the myth and their perception of myth as story--not as an explanation of actual history, blinds them to the majesty of Christ's atoning death and its defeat of the old order and creation of a new.
There are two ways in life--the imitation of Christ and his order, or loyalty to Satan's mimetic system--constantly hungering for its next victim. One cannot fight Satan merely by being aware of his tactics, for by doing so, one will fall headlong for it--for no man can oppose the power of the crowd. We see in the Bible itself how the apostles, Peter, worst of all, fell for this very same power in his three denials of Christ after his arrest.
This is a powerful work that will help you understand the importance of desire in the heart of man and the importance of desiring Christ and his kingdom through obedience and conformity to the Word of God.
"...be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2(less)
Ralph Smith doesn't understand how so many theologians have ignored Van Til's work on the Trinity. He examines Van Til's understanding of the Trinity,...moreRalph Smith doesn't understand how so many theologians have ignored Van Til's work on the Trinity. He examines Van Til's understanding of the Trinity, compares and contrasts it to Cornelius Plantiga's 'social Trinity' and then adds Kuyper's covenantal understanding of the Trinity to demonstrate how by combining the best of the three thinkers that the theology of the Trinity is fully Reformed and answers the philosophical problem of 'the one and the many.'
This is a great, short, yet challenging work on Trinitarian theology. Smith understands the significance of Van Til's work and seeks to advance it and force others to deal with Van Til when they would seemingly prefer to ignore him.