The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CSFF Blog Tour: The Shadow Lamp Day 2

By: Thomas F. Booher

I do hope the final book in The Bright Empires Series takes a step back to what the Bible actually says.

(As a side note, I went through this book and highlighted new words or words I hardly ever use, and nearly every page had something highlighted on account of this alone. That shows you how strong Mr. Lawhead's vocabulary is.) But now back to the main point of this post. 

I've found it very interesting that in The Shadow Lamp we have an apparent contradiction over God's sovereignty. Consider:

1. On p. 351 we see a character praising God for His "All-Wise Providence" in sparing his life when he could have easily drowned in the rapids of a flash flood.

2. On p. 358 Gianni expresses a belief in "the supreme sovereignty of God and His ongoing work to bring His creation to its ultimate fruition in unity with Him."

However, before this, note also that Gianni said:

1. Human beings are literally stardust that were born and lived and died billions of years ago (324).

2. We are thus the reason for the creation's existence (324).

3. The end of creation and man is united and culminates in the "Omega Point," which is "the perfected, harmonious and joyful unity of all Creation in Him for the purpose of engaging in the ongoing creative activity of a redeemed and transformed universe -- forever." (325).

4. For the Creator the past is never lost because it can be reclaimed by weaving it into ultimate goodness so that even disasters of the greatest kind actually are used to achieve the purpose of creation. (325).

5. However, the Creator does not control the future, nor does He direct the interactions that produce the fabric of actuality that we know as reality. (326)

6. He does not because this would negate the purpose that humans were created for. (326).

7. Evidence of the past being able to be changed is found in ley-leaping and manipulating the past within the multiverse (327).

8. The future is not controlled in any way. Why? In the words of Gianni, "to control the future would impose a deterministic outcome on the created order, thereby destroying both the freedom and independence of the freely interacting creatures it is meant to produce and, likewise, negating the very purpose for which the future and even time itself was created!" 327

9. The future therefore exists "to allow the created order to achieve the highest expression of goodness, beauty, and truth, in harmonious and joyful unity with the Creator. And while the Creator intends our free and willing participation in the ongoing realisation of His desires, and aids us in bringing about His purposes, He does not control the results of our participation. We know this because the result the Creator desires -- that is, the active creation of new and higher forms and expressions of goodness, beauty, and truth -- is one of the primary reasons for our existence in the first place."

Point nine is supposed to be that grand moment of realization where all the characters in the story realize they can ruin the multiverse and indeed the Creator's very purpose for existence.

This is silly nonsense, really. You want to know what's impossible? God getting what He wants, in Gianni's world. Why? Because his God isn't actually supreme, isn't actually sovereign at all. Who is? Man. But that of course is what the cosmos is all about. This is a man-centered understanding of all things. God desired to have men create goodness, truth, beauty, but Gianni cannot envision a God that can actually get what He wants. So evil exists because man must have a free will. That's a weak justification for evil.

Well, the God of the Bible gets what He wants, and it is done by a deterministic worldview, yet it does no violence to the will of the creature. Let's consider Lawhead's book. Is Gianni really free? According to Gianni, no, because whether Gianni knows it or not, what he is saying and thinking has been predestined by Lawhead. But imagine if Lawhead could bring his book -- and world -- to life. Would Gianni be free? Yes, in the sense that Gianni would do exactly what he wanted to do. No, in the sense that Gianni could not do other than what he desired, or what was predestined by the creator, Mr. Lawhead.

So it is with the God of the Bible, except He spoke the world into actual existence (something no man can do). He planned the Fall, predestined it, along with everything else, including the damnation of the wicked. Consider Proverbs 16:4, "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."

Or consider Romans 9:10-24, which really makes clear Gianni's faulty belief system:
And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”[d] 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”[e]
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”[f] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Of course, history was made for Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Creation is the expression of the love between God the Father and God the Son, and God subjected the creation to futility so that His Son might be the hero of history and redeem it. The Father has given the Son preeminence over all things, and in fact all creation was made for Christ, not for man, as Colossians 1:15-20 plainly says:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Gianni's god is impotent, weak, inferior, and cannot get what he wants. Our God, the God of the Bible, is all powerful, strong, and gets what He wants, which is glory for Himself. And He gives all the glory of man to His Son, and through union with the Son, we gain glory too. Our God is marvelous, He knows the end from the beginning because He has predestined the first from the last. Yet He does it all through the means of our willing. The truth is, predestination and human choosing are not contradictory. God is able to make His grand glory story, His epic novel, come to life, and we are characters in His story that do both exactly what we want and what He predestined, because they are one in the same.

Oh mystery of mysteries, praise be to our God!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CSFF Blog Tour: The Shadow Lamp

You can purchase The Shadow Lamp here.

By: Thomas F. Booher

I've discussed the exceptional writing of Mr. Lawhead in my review of The Spirit Well, and the general plot for the complicated tale can be found there as well. Though what I have to say below is aggressive, I do want to say up front that this book is well worth reading based on the writing, and if you take the story as a non-Christian piece of fiction, the plot and what I expect the conclusion to be should still be enjoyable. But this book is part of a Christian blog tour and written by one who professes to be a believer. Therefore I must say the following.

I have found the previous book and this one much the same. The culmination of the whole story is becoming clear, however, and I am quite alarmed with the way God is represented. In fact, I am wondering whether this series can rightly be called Christian at all.

I hope that is not the case. In fact I hope Lawhead can stop by and reassure me that he is not proclaiming an impotent God who knows not the future and thus cannot determine it. Worse, I hope he is not putting forth a gospel that is contrary to Scripture and devaluing the cross of Christ.

Now before I get some snarky comments about not knowing the difference between preaching and telling stories, let it be known that I am quite aware that an author can portray something in a story contrary to how he actually believes. Yet if that is what one does, then why would we still call the book Christian? Again, I recognize and agree that taking another's position and playing it out in a story can be an effective tool to show the bankruptcy of such a position. But if I write a book about an atheist professor and in the story he wins converts and the story ends with an approval of atheism (or non-Christianity, or an apostate sect of Christianity), why should I get to say, "Oh, but I don't actually believe that, I am a Christian" as if by virtue of the fact I am a Christian I have written a "Christian" piece of fiction? There would be nothing in the story that would make it Christian at all, and simply because the author is Christian means nothing.

I would also like to know how the CSFF blog tour defines itself and what it's policy is on the books that it reviews. What is the criteria? I say this because in The Shadow Lamp we have what appears to be an aberrant teaching on the sovereignty of God, his knowledge (or lack thereof), and most importantly, the purpose of Creation and what salvation actually is (I will explain why I think this in The Shadow Lamp in the next post, but it should be clear).

I say all this recognizing that there is another book to come in the series. I did some research, however, and it seems that what Lawhead is writing is what he actually believes, and so I do not anticipate any major theological revisions in the story. Consider that Lawhead regards Pelagius as sound and not a heretic despite most church historians regarding Pelagius as one who taught that man had no need of God's grace in order to be saved and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. Pelagius also denied original sin, the teaching that all mankind is born dead in their sins and has inherited the guilt of Adam and Eve from the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Obviously, if man isn't dead in sin, then salvation means something other than salvation from sin, from spiritual death. And if man is capable of saving himself through means of the will, apart from God's grace, then what is the message of the cross? An example par excellence?

I do hope Mr. Lawhead stops by and clears this up for us. I hope that the reason he doesn't see Pelagius as a heretic is because he believes Pelagius did not deny original sin or the need for the grace of God and the atonement in order to be saved from sin. Per the link above, I have some hope that this is the case, for Lawhead has said:

. . . as a result of my researches into various aspects of the Celtic church, I’ve come to the conclusion that Pelagius was not only a member of the Célé Dé, he was certainly far from  the heretic he was made out to be by his enemies.  Moreover, while he was one of the more noteworthy expressions of   the Celtic Christianity of Britain and Ireland, he was not the only one; there were many more. As a product of his homeland and culture, the views of Pelagius were by and large the views of the Celtic church — views which Rome increasingly found irritating for one reason or another. For example, the Celts were all for taking the Good News of salvation to the Barbarians, while Rome considered this anathema.

Even if this is the case, and I certainly hope that it is, it seems that Lawhead is at best advancing some sort of open theism theology with a multiverse twist in The Shadow Lamp (open theism being the doctrine that God Himself does not even know the future, since for God to know the future it would have to already be predestined by Him).

In my next post, I will attempt to show where I see Lawhead doing these things and then offer what I believe Scripture clearly teaches to be God's ultimate purpose in creation as opposed to what Lawhead offers is his story in a final post. After all, as believers, and as those who want to see good Christian fiction writing, getting the basic purpose for history right is of paramount importance. If we don't understand God's grand design, we can't tell a Christian story.

CSFF Blog Tour Participants: