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Exploring Doctrine Through Fiction, With Kathy Tyers

Author Kathy Tyers, pioneer in Christian futuristic fiction, discusses how theology informs her storytelling, a writer’s priority relationship with God, what elements doen’t belong in her books, and of course her “Firebird” series: past, present and future.
| Apr 29, 2011 | No comments |

Visionary author Kathy Tyers is best known for her Firebird trilogy of futuristic novels — Firebird, Fusion Fire and Crown of Fire, set in another galaxy where a Savior has not yet come. Recently the series was re-released by Marcher Lord Press as The Annotated Firebird, including not only all three novels but the author’s own notes about the stories’ creation. Now in this interview with E. Stephen Burnett, she shares more about her books and learning, and what’s ahead in the Firebird world.

ESB: Many readers are well aware of your contributions to the limited field of Christian sci-fi, but for those who may not, let’s start with a recap. You got started with the first version of your Firebird novels and other SF books, then went from unpublished Star Wars fanfiction to Star Wars novels, then later, revised versions of the Firebird series with a Christian publisher. How did you get here — not only because publishing is so difficult to break into, especially for speculative stories, but because many women are more into other genres?

Kathy Tyers: Is it OK to thank you first, before I plunge in? You’re running an interesting, entertaining site and I appreciate being included.

Yes, Firebird was my first book, and I was thrilled when it was published by Bantam Books. It was followed by the sequel Fusion Fire, then two stand-alone novels, Crystal Witness and Shivering World. Then my Bantam editor, Janna Silverstein, invited me to write a licensed Star Wars novel. At that time – and maybe still – all Star Wars novels were written by invitation. I wrote One Mind’s Eye for Bantam and then jumped to Bethany House Publishers, with the help of BHP editor Steve Laube, who wanted to give SF a chance in the Christian publishing market. And as for Star Wars fanfiction — well, I did write a novel-length fan manuscript before publishing my first novel. However, as soon as I finished it, I rewrote it completely, without using any of George Lucas’s copyrighted material. In The Annotated Firebird, I’ve pointed out a few lingering similarities between Firebird and Star Wars, besides the fact that they’d both be considered “space opera,” which is an adventure-romance laden sort of SF.

As for being a woman – some my favorite SF authors are women, stretching back to Zenna Henderson and forward to Lois McMaster Bujold. Statistically, though, you’re right. There are fewer of us.

The Firebird Trilogy, as published by Bethany House (2004)

ESB: I first read Firebird in 2006, after hearing about it for years — I’d found the big three-in-one version at a Christian bookstore. Reading all the novels back-to-back, I was stunned at the depth of both characters and God-centered theology. What do you think contributed to that?

Kathy: Thanks! These characters really did come to life for me. Everything a novelist experiences becomes writing-fodder. Every aspect of real life can be reflected in fiction, if the author pays attention. I did try to give the whole cast plenty of depth, including some inner compulsions that didn’t seem obvious at first. One example is Firebird’s sister Phoena. Her role in the first draft was simply to be “the enemy.” As I took the book through dozens of rewrites, I realized that Phoena too had reasons for her behavior—even when it was very bad behavior.

Firebird (1987) as published by Bantham Books

Bringing forward the theological themes in Firebird, when I re-wrote it for Bethany House, was satisfying. Firebird always had been a cultural conversion story, and this was a chance to show that there’s more to human culture than the purely secular. Roughly quoting C.S. Lewis, what an author is will turn up in his writing whether or not he makes a conscious effort to put it there. Bringing forward the theological aspects of Brennen Caldwell’s pre-messianic culture let me apply my understanding of the universe to some of the big questions of science fiction.

ESB: What images and concepts do you think inspired your creation of Firebird’s characters, story and world — especially the later themes of a world in which a Christ-figure is still to come?

Kathy: Science fiction writers often start writing with a “what if” question. “What if” the Messiah hadn’t come before people went to space? That was a good starting point, but it led to more questions. What if the chosen people had dabbled in genetic engineering? Could God use that as part of his plan for them? Here’s another “what if” that underlies Wind and Shadow and Daystar:  What if one young Galilean woman had not had the courage and reverence to say “Be it unto me…”? There are lots of other “what if” questions that I enjoyed playing with, not trying to give definitive answers, but simply creating some entertaining and hopefully thought-provoking possibilities.

ESB: When Firebird was republished by Bethany House, what was the reception from Christians and other readers? How many told you similar reactions to those felt by many of us (Yes! Someone actually made it! God-glorifying sci-fi in actual print form, and it’s fantastic)?

Fusion Fire (1988), as published by Bantham Books

Kathy: Wow, thank you again! Yes, I had some warm responses. There were cold ones, too. One that stuck in my mind (authors really shouldn’t read their own amazon.com reviews) savaged the Bethany House Fusion Fire and said that the previous version was much better. Generally, though, the responses that reached me were very positive. Best of all: occasionally, I hear that someone has connected with Christ after reading the Bethany version.

ESB: Since that re-publication, your life has changed a lot. You became a widow (I’m so sorry; and my mother-in-law was widowed in 1998), went through much hardship, then finally returned to school — Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. — to study theology. I’m curious how God has been working in your life through all that, and how it may have affected your writing since.

Kathy: My late husband’s last years pretty much took the life out of me. I needed a rest and a recharge, and I chose to attend Regent College because it looked like a place where I could grow deeper in my faith in the company of supportive, creative, well-educated fellow believers. It was all that and more! Regent’s emphasis on honoring God as both creator and redeemer means that the arts (as our own sub-creative activity) are highly respected, seen as ways to honor and follow our marvelously creative God. Regent’s “Christianity and the Arts” option was satisfying, grueling (not much of a rest), liberating, and enriching. Imagine studying Systematic Theology under J.I. Packer! And since I knew from the get-go that I would have to produce a full-length piece of art in my chosen genre before I could graduate, I was able to punch out of my creative funk and write the first fiction I had attempted in many years. That project became Wind and Shadow.

After I came back to Montana, I started work on a contemporary rural fantasy, Holy Ground. In that book, several characters wrestle with some of the issues I faced during my late husband’s decline – and they also must learn to work together cross-denominationally, which was another vital issue at Regent College. People come to Regent from all over the world and a broad denominational spectrum. I loved that place!

ESB: I haven’t heard of a whole lot of Christian authors who’ve written a novel as part of studying theology. As a doctri-nerd, that thrills me — I think God-centered theology, always mindful of personal application and delight in Him, can only improve whatever art Christians attempt.

Kathy: Regent was a wonderful experience. The Integrated Project in the Arts and Theology was available in both six-credit and twelve-credit options, depending on the length of the project, and I did the twelve-credit option. I had to produce not just the book but a theological paper exploring how my time at Regent impacted the themes I explored (creeping Gnosticism was a big one). I also had to do a public reading, then get publicly questioned by my thesis advisors – like any master’s degree thesis defense. Some folks might find Wind and Shadow a little doctrine-heavy, since that’s where and why I wrote it, but I do hope there are also people who’ll especially enjoy those parts.

ESB: “Don’t make writing your top priority. … Your relationship with God comes first.” You said that on your website. What made you want to say that, especially while others might think that would be a given for a Christian writer or artist?

Kathy: Over and over, writers are told to make writing their top priority, to write every day, no matter what. I’m not an argumentative person, but I did want to speak out on that topic. I had also made the agonizing decision, back in the 1990s, to give up reading and writing SF entirely because of that priority. In the hope it would help my late husband with his personal struggles, I laid my career at the foot of the cross and said “Lord, if you ever want me to write science fiction again, you are going to have to make that crystal clear to both Mark and me.” God did just that. I wrote about it in The Annotated Firebird – how’s that for a plug?  Sadly, it didn’t help Mark turn the corner—but I am glad I made the effort.

Balance Point, a Star Wars: The New Jedi Order novel (Random House, 2001)

ESB: “If we’re trying to write ‘The Christian Answer To [whatever secular novel we happen to not like],’ we’ll probably end up producing a pale echo instead of something that stands strongly on its own.” You said that here, and I say: amen times ten. Why is it, perhaps, that Christians do tend to issue reaction-based echoes, instead of following the rich heritage of honoring God through in-depth truth and imagination as many Christian artists and writers have in the past?

Kathy: There are marketing factors at work: if the original sold well, folks might believe that an imitation will sell well, too. Also, there’s a tragic polarization in US society, creating a crazy cross-melding of faith, politics, and lifestyle. Maybe some of the “Answering” books—the fact that they’re written, marketed, and purchased—can be attributed to a growing tendency to consider everybody outside one’s own tribe as enemies and fire “answers” back at them. Maybe. I’m still thinking about that.

ESB: Many writers we know, including several on this site, enjoy discussing whether Christian fiction is too limited and whether or how it needs to become more “edgy.” In one interview you said there are some ideas, events and words you refuse to include in anything you write, even if they’re supposedly realistic or marketable. What might you avoid and why? And were there elements you considered for Firebird or other books that you ultimately didn’t use?

Kathy: I leave alternate human sexualities alone. And though I’m a show me, don’t tell me writer, I choose not to show particularly detailed or graphic violence or sexuality when there are other ways of letting the reader know what’s up. For instance, in the rewrite of Fusion Fire, I deleted scenes that showed the evil Shuhr forcing their children to murder each other, as part of their training process. I felt that the story was just as strong, and the Shuhr just as evil, without forcing those details on the readers.

ESB: What are some differences between the first version of Firebird, the second and the third?

Kathy: Here are a few; there are more! In the second version, instead of simply imagining a space-opera scenario, I started with the assumption that Brennen’s people were still waiting for the messiah. As I just said, I also toned down some aspects of the Shuhr. For the annotated version, I pointed out some of my inspirations and bits of the writing process. I also took time with Crown of Fire to add a little more description. When I wrote the original I simply ran out of time, since I was concurrently writing my second Star Wars novel! My Regent College thesis advisor urged me to make all my writing “thingier,” with more cultural and creational details. I especially enjoyed tweaking the choreography in the ballroom scene after taking some dancing lessons.

ESB: It seems like not many series would have that varied a transition: from secular publisher to traditional Christian publisher, then to an indie publisher like Marcher Lord Press. Yours is the first of several book series it plans to republish, after their runs at traditional Christian publishing houses. How did you come to come aboard Marcher Lord?

Kathy: I read some of Marcher Lord’s recent releases, and I knew I would be in good company with these gifted new authors. Also, I wanted to see my books in electronic editions, and this is one of Marcher Lord’s strengths. Several people who left messages in my website’s guest book asked specifically for e-books, and I did pay attention!

ESB: At least two more novels are coming in the Firebird saga: the first called Wind and Shadow, and the second Daystar, you’ve said. Can you share a little more about these, their themes, perhaps their relation to the first three installments, and perhaps when they’ll be releasing?

Kathy: Wind and Shadow is a story of Firebird and Brennen’s twin sons, Kiel and Kinnor, as well as a young woman of Shuhr ancestry. Kiel and Kinnor were so different from birth that I knew they could carry a next-generation story. I’m writing Daystar to keep a promise that I think I’ve been making my readers ever since I wrote that Brennen was an heir to ancient prophecy. It is taking a bit of chutzpah—I never would’ve even tried this before Regent—and it definitely keeps me in prayer. You can hope to see Wind and Shadow in late 2011 and Daystar sometime in 2012.

ESB: Thanks so much, Kathy. I know it’s not just me who anticipates where the story now goes.

Kathy: Thank you!

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Morgan Busse
Member

Great interview!

Galadriel
Guest

I’ve heard about it, and now I might try to pick that up.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Kathy, I’m so excited to learn about your writing plans. I appreciate your level of excellence in storytelling but also your ability to weave in your Christian worldview.

Little known fact. You, along with Donita Paul, helped launch the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. Back before anyone really knew what a blog tour was or what it could become, you and Bethany took a risk and put books into the hands of our bloggers so we could read and talk about your work. Having you in the lineup early on gave CSFF credibility and helped us grow.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for taking the time.

Becky

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Guys, I know this is going to open up a can of worms and I do like some of Kathy’s stuff, but I frankly found Firebird one of the most unconsciously anti-Semitic works I’ve ever read. I know that’s not Miss Tyers’s intent, but I had a hard time not throwing the novel against the wall when I read it (I’m a Christian, by the way, if a lib evangelical). To understand how the novel might be viewed as such, please read the small passage below, in which a Christian tries to explain to a Jew what Firebrid is about.

“This peerless work of science fiction, written by the most prominent Christian sci-fi novelist of the last thirty years, pits telepathic “good” Jews – well, technically, she doesn’t call them Jews, but she makes it clear that that’s who they represent – against pro-eugenics, Hitlerian “bad” Jews, who seek to control people’s minds and rape their souls. The bad Jews won’t believe in anything, but the good Jews are clearly going to accept Messiah Yeshua. In consequence of being very bad Jews, the bad Jews are obliterated by the good Jews, in an act of genocide that they believe is justified by their belief in God. The good Jews then live happily ever after, in a kingdom by the Sea.”

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

John, thanks for commenting, but where does this “passage” come from? And aren’t you perhaps reading into things a bit overmuch? Not even all of an allegorical story or novel contains exact one-to-one correspondences, after all.

But first, for my own education, I’d love to know what a “lib evangelical” is. 🙂

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Great interview. The Firebird books have been some of the most enjoyable Christian fiction I’ve read in a while! I especially appreciate the use of theology in such an integrated way. It’s seamless, so much so that I was shocked when I found out there was a “secular version”. My first reaction was, “How did that work, exactly?” 🙂

John Weaver, I’m afraid your comment just made me go “Uh.. Erm?” If you’ve read the books, it’s clear that all of the cultures represented, and in fact even the main character had evil in them. Great, nasty, desperate evil. So to read anti-Semitism into the stories is a little… uh… hard to do.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Dear Lacy,
But only the Shuhr – the bad Jews – are intent on using cloning, abortion, and variations on stem cell research to achieve their evil objectives. Plus, the evil Jew as telepath is a common trope of science fiction – so much so that Norman Spinrad satirized the idea in his anti-fascist classic Iron Dream.

Tyers on the Jews of the Old Testament transplanted to space. They “could’ve terraformed other worlds and experimented with genetic engineering, playing out Israel’s cycles of sin and repentance under the Judges on a galactic scale. A few children might have escaped God’s wrath in an arklike generation ship, and even in exile, a faithful remnant might await His birth. The Jews of Christ’s time expected a military deliverer; these exiles might hold a similar hope.” (Authors Note)

This is where Tyers’s work becomes disturbing, for her Ehretans play out a peculiarly evangelical version of Jewish history. The Sentinels, the “good” modern Ehretans, are forbidden from proclaiming their beliefs to others, a punishment placed on them because “the powers our ancestors gave us came from their immoral experiments on their own children. We live with the consequences, good and bad. Until we redeem ourselves by serving others, we’ve forfeited the spiritual rights we were promised, especially the right to prosletyize. We are under divine discipline” (Firebird, 177). Firebird interprets this statement as a sign that the Ehretans have a hereditary racial guilt, a point that Caldwell  and Tyers  do not dispute. You can immediately see the potential problems here once one realizes that the Ehretans are an analogy for Jews. Like the Jews in Christian mythology, Tyers’s Ehretans suffer from a “hereditary” racial guilt; the only difference is that the Jews were not freed from this hereditary “guilt” by Christ’s death, but were instead enslaved to it

Brennan attributes a Luciferian fault to the Shuhr: “Their greatest pride is in rebellion. They want to make themselves into a higher species, something immortal in the flesh. That would be a terrible fate . . . to exist forever in a life that’s tainted . . . growing more tainted ourselves” (234). This is also a historic stereotype of Jews, that they rebelled against God and Christ and are therefore punished for their transgressions. Of course, nothing so threatens evangelical society as a secular and immortal (dare I say, eternal?) Jew.

Jews have been stereotyped in much anti-abortion literature, particularly by the racist right, as being pro-choice “baby killers” (I say this as a pro-lifer). The Shuhr, just like modern Jews, don’t believe in an afterlife, at least as we understand it, and are therefore punished for that lack of unbelief, with genocide.

I’m not saying Tyers is conscious of this, but it’s an obvious reading that any first year undergraduate or amateur novelist could make. That evangelicals don’t see it is just a consequence of their own cultural blindnesses.

Misti
Guest

Also, for the record, the Netaians also practiced abortion.

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Sounds to me that if those themes do exist, which I’m still not convinced of, they could not possibly be just an unintended analogy. You’d have to know your history and such and work at putting it in there.

Again, I point you to the other cultures involved. It’s made pretty clear that, had they been given the ability, they would any of them fallen to the level of the Shuhr in evil. Many did, in fact, substituting the Shuhr for their own lack of talent.

Of course they are not freed from the “hereditary guilt” yet. Because this is a “what if” novel, answering the question “what if Christ hadn’t come to redeem them yet”. Christianity doesn’t exist yet in this world.

And again, while the Ehretians have a specific mandate for how to deal with this guilt, they are the only ones. No one else is granted that mercy, although all the cultures still have serious guilt and no way to deal with it except by conversion to the Ehretian way of believing.

Seems to me it’s just the opposite of anti-Semite, since guilt or no guilt, it’s still the Ehretians who hold the key of salvation for everyone, their relatives the Shuhr included.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Actually, not true Lacy, because the good Ehretans claim that they are inflicted with a curse for fooling around with genetic engineering technology, a curse the Federacy does not possess. So Tyers does point to a kind of Jewish distinctiveness, connected to a historical guilt.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

If it’s “unconscious,” then it’s not anti-Semitic — only seems that way based on subjective reading. Similarly, one could have a relative who wove swastika-style designs into a quilt, but was never a Nazi sympathizer (I’m personally aware of such a situation).

Real sin is conscious and comes from inside, not a Thing from outside one’s self.

I also know I have met, and read from, some over-literary types who seem to think they can dig out of a book or novel a theme that its author never intended. But then, to consider that might be to dig out of your post something you didn’t intend to convey. 🙂 Be aware, though, that’s what you sound like by importing to Tyers or other novelists supposed “sins” even while saying they are “unconscious.” Though I’m enjoying this discussion, perhaps more grace and humility on your part would go a long way.

About “hereditary guilt”: this is another way of presenting the orthodox Christian belief in an inherited sin nature, to which we’re all enslaved apart from Christ. So I’d question whether it’s Biblically wrong to say that anyone who doesn’t repent and believe in Christ and the Gospel is indeed condemned. That would include Jew and Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, “liberal” or “conservative,” educated or otherwise.

Why single out even someone’s clearer references to unbelieving Jews and claim that someone is an anti-Semite, for not believing Christ’s death applies to Jews, if they don’t care a wit (any more than a similarly unbelieving Gentile) about the point of the Law and the actual Messiah?

Perhaps we ought to clear up what we mean by some of these terms. As a Christian, I point to Scripture’s reminders that salvation is only available to those who see God as loving and perfect, themselves as disgusting by comparison, but thanks be to God Who in Christ died to take the just penalty for sin — and rose to prove it — their relationship with Him is restored. Thus anyone — Jew or Greek, as Paul said (Galatians 3:28) — is now all the same kind of son if they are among the repented and saved. Conversely, those who don’t repent and still love sins more than God are all the same kind of condemned: Jew and Gentile alike.

Are we agreed on that as part of Christian belief and practice? If not, our differences would lie beyond Firebird. Yet I certainly hope that we do see the Gospel in this way!

And now I’m off for breakfast and our small yard sale.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Dear Stephen,
Something can be unconsciously anti-Semitic and still be a problem. Practically all of contemporary evangelical theology considering Jews is littered with this problem. For instance, ask most evangelicals if “unsaved Auschwitz victims” (most of whom would have been people who followed a different religion, and therefore either Communists or Jews) go to hell, they will reluctantly tell you yes. Furthermore, I know from growing up in the evangelical church that Christian schools openly taught the Holocaust was God’s punishment of the Jewish people for abandoning the scriptures and “killing Jesus” – my own school taught as such. Knowing evangelicals’ philosemitism, I doubt that was meant to be intentionally anti-Semitic, but that does not change the fact that it was intensely anti-Semitic.
I’ll ignore the “grace and humilty” charge, which is merely evangelical for “I don’t agree with what you’re saying and I’m going to put you on a guilt trip about it.” It’s also a first class logical fallacy, because you’re not attacking the argument, but the person making the argument. Again, this is another reason why my Jewish friends often avoid talking with evangelicals, because evangelicals argue for respect for their religion that is based on never challenging those beliefs.
I have scientific problems with original sin, but I agree that it may be a doctrine worth preserving. However, the hereditary guilt of Jews, for rejecting God’s commands (in the novel) and killing Christ (which we assume will be in the novel sequels in some form, and which Tyers does not seem to dispute) is a doctrine that has killed millions, yet is still taught and Tyers shows no signs of deviating from that doctrine. I fully realize that the “Christkiller” mythos that so inflames Catholic anti-Semites is more muted in evangelicalism, but one only has to look back to the release of two films: The Passion of the Christ and Last Temptation of Christ, to see intense evangelical anti-Semitic activism, most notably by Jerry Falwell in reference to the latter movie, which he said would harm “Jewish-Christian” relations (solely because the film studio heads happened to be Jewish. The filmmakers are Christian).
Finally, I find it appalling that genocide on the scale committed against the Shuhr could be committed so easily and effortlessly in a post-Holocaust world, with justifications coming straight out of the Penteteuch (sorry for the misspelling). This is not solely a characteristic of Tyers’s science fiction – other sci-fi authors, particularly Orson Scott Card, seem to see genocide as the first resort of the redeemed (Christian or secular) – but to depict genocides in cultures that clearly are at least based on, if not identical, to Jewish cultures, is grossly irresponsible. I’m sorry, but I’ll take my theology, conscious or unconscious, from someone other than an author preoccupied with abortionist, stem-cell researching, mutant, Super-Jews with delusions of taking over the universe.

Misti
Guest

Okay, I’m using my penname here because my usual online handle is “Carradee”. ^_^

*squeals* Ms.TyersIsWritingMoreBooksI’mSoExcited!!!!!!!

*clears throat*

I still have to get the annotated Firebird volume, but I have every other original novel of Kathy Tyers. Some of the out-of-print ones I even bought from you and have them signed. Reading your original and revised versions of the duology/trilogy helped me immensely as a teenager struggling with how to reconcile my love for Christ with my urge to write speculative fiction.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read the original Fusion Fire. I’ll have to read it again to look for what you’re referring to. I just reread the revised trilogy this week. ^_^

As for John, you’re reminding me of my college courses that claimed to analyze the authors’ intent in literature. They always worried me, due to their ignorant presumptions, like the assumption that a writer only has 1 writing style. I could produce short stories different enough that nobody could tell they both had the same author after I’d only been writing for a few years, as a naive teenager.

Firebird can only be considered anti-Semitic if you assume there’s a 1:1 ratio between each culture in the trilogy and each culture on Earth. But that isn’t the case. Netaia obviously isn’t a particular Earth culture, the Federacy isn’t (though it seems influenced by the ideals behind the United Nations)—and even the Ehretans aren’t specifically Semitic in culture. I don’t see any food laws, or even rules against marrying unbelievers.

Otherwise, the Ehretans are actually good examples of how such telepathy would probably affect a people. They’re more comparable to the X-Men than the Jews. One one side, those who see their gifts as a responsibility and burden (Professor Xavier), and on the other, those who consider themselves gods and act accordingly (Magneto).

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Dear Misti,
The reason I assume that the Ehretans are meant to be Jews is because TYERS SAYS THEY ARE RIGHT IN THE PASSAGE I QUOTED. And it’s been a while since I read Firebird, but if I recall correctly, the Ehretans, at least the good Ehretans, are concerned about intermarriage (and the bad ones, the Shuhr, see themselves as superior to every other race, which again is a stereotype of Jews).

John

I’m not saying I know Tyers’s intent, and as I’ve said before, I doubt her intent is consciously anti-Semitic. I think the anti-Semitism comes through in her writing because she is following, without thinking through clearly, theology that is anti-Semitic.

Misti
Guest

Again, you’re assuming it’s a 1:1 cultural comparison. Writing isn’t so simple, but when asked, writers have to oversimplify. When you’re comparing this world’s pre-Messianic era to the pre-Messianic era, the Ehretans are the Jews, but comparison ≠ equivalence.

I have a novel myself that I sometimes call Tolkien-esque fantasy, but that’s only a surface comparison. Same with calling it “medieval-esque”. It isn’t true, strictly speaking, but it conveys a starting point of the tone and social structure, to get the attention of readers who are interested in that sort of thing.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

I’m assuming so because Tyers makes the same parallels herself. Is there exact one to one correspondence – perhaps not. But the parallels are so disturbingly close as to be almost 1 to 1 correspondence.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

And the Tolkien parallel is particularly unapt, because unthinking borrowing from Tolkien leads to just the same problems as Tyers’s does. The Lord of the Rings can be quite easily read – and indeed its the dominant reading in certain parts of the world today – as a first hand account of a “justified” genocide by cute little hobbits and Aryan Numoreans and Elves (who often decline due to miscegenation) of brown skinned Orcs, who Tolkien himself admitted looked like “slant eyed (and to Europeans, least lovely” Asians. If that’s what you want to write, that’s of course your right, and I don’t want to be some sort of PC patrol, but I think unthinklingly borrowing the tropes of a genre, particularly more violent genres like science fiction and fantasy, can be problematic.

Misti
Guest

See, I—and the other readers who are disagreeing with you—don’t see those “disturbingly close” parallels, even when you point out examples. Our different interpretative methods may be the root of the disagreement, here.

I also suspect you don’t write speculative fiction. As a speculative fiction writer, I’ve played the “what if?” game, myself, so I’m intimately familiar with how it plays out. You can start with, say, the Hopi Indian culture, delete and change some things, uproot the remainder and stick it in a rainforest—work out how that changes it—then add some supernatural ability to talk to plants—work out how that changes it—and a few other things, and end up with something that’s completely contrary to the original Hopi culture. But as writer, you’d still be inclined to call that culture the “Hopi” one, because it’s what you started with. That’s just how the “what if?” game works.

Regarding my own work, notice that I called the Tolkien-esque a surface comparison. I also defined “surface comparison” as a starting point for people to guess if something will appeal to them.

I never said I pulled from Tolkein’s works. You’re presuming that I borrowed “unthinkingly.” If you have dwarves and/or elves, you get compared to Tolkien. I therefore make the comparison myself, because I decided against playing the “smeerp” reader roulette.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Before I read any more of these comments, I have to ask what I think is an obvious and logical question: How can you call this work anti-Semitic (and I’m giving you the idea that Ms. Tyers intended these different people groups to represent believing or unbelieving Jews) if there are “good” ones?

In truly anti-Semitic Germany, there was no such thing as a “good Jew.”

Clearly, in Ms. Tyers’s work, whatever treatment the “bad Jews” received, was a consequence of their badness, not their “Jew-ness.”

Sorry if this is a repeat of what others have said.

Becky

Kirsty
Guest

Sorry if this comment appears in the wrong place – it’s a reply to John’s comment about the racism in Lord of the Rings:
cute little hobbits and Aryan Numoreans and Elves
Hobbits as described by Tolkien have brown skin (not, unfortunately, in the films)
Tolkien’s High Elves cannot be called ‘Aryan’, as they have black hair (again, not in the films). Leaving Galadriel and Glorfindel aside, the only elves who as standard have blond hair are the wood elves, who are in some way inferior.
The Numoreans – who are the ‘superior’ kind of humans in Middle Earth – have black or dark hair. The ‘inferior’ humans such as the Rohan are typical Aryans.
It’s a real shame the film-makers did not accurately portray this.
Btw, I agree about the orcs.

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Of course no one else had their particular curse, they all had their own sins and serious issues. Still, the Ehretians still had the only means of salvation for any of them. The Netaians had a horribly oppressive culture based on pride and economics, the Federacy had issues with politics over right, the Shuhr were unbounded in their immorality, but they all needed saving and the Ehretians were granted the only way to save any of them.
Still doesn’t sound anti-Semitic, sorry.

And you haven’t answered Stephen’s questions. I’d be very interested in those answers if you don’t mind.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Lacy,
Again, the novel says that the Ehretans have a particular curse set upon them, not a universalistic one, so you’re argueing against the book, not me.

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Yep, they still also have the particular mercy of getting out of it and helping others get out of it. Still doesn’t work.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Which doesn’t affect the fact that that they are particularly cursed, as Jews have always historically been in Christian literature, including CBA fiction (a la Left Behind).

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Yes, cursed because of a particular sin. Just like the Netaians or any other culture would have been if they had done that. And then given the only remedy for all of the curses in the universe. Still seems to balance out to me.

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

And you still haven’t answered Stephen, are you working on it?

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Actually, I did, but I wrote a longer explanation below. Just because I didn’t give the answer you wanted does not mean I did not give an answer.

Lacy Rhiannon Burnett
Guest

Sorry, my screen hadn’t refreshed to that point. Thanks!

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“As a Christian, I point to Scripture’s reminders that salvation is only available to those who see God as loving and perfect, themselves as disgusting by comparison, but thanks be to God Who in Christ died to take the just penalty for sin — and rose to prove it — their relationship with Him is restored. Thus anyone — Jew or Greek, as Paul said (Galatians 3:28) — is now all the same kind of son if they are among the repented and saved. Conversely, those who don’t repent and still love sins more than God are all the same kind of condemned: Jew and Gentile alike.”

I hate to point this out, but this is not the historical understanding of the church, but the understanding of evangelical theology after several centuries of Protestant development. I am a Protestant and an evangelical, though more akin to Tolkien’s mythopoeic view of Christian belief. Also, though I am not a literalist (and before you jump on me for that evangelicals have not historically had to be literalists until the early 20th century), I tend to see the Scriptures, even if read literally, as open to the dual covenant theology proposed by some Christian and Jewish liberalsmoderates. That may not be traditional belief in Christianity, but in the wake of 20 centuries of Christian slaughter of Jews (along with some Social Darwinist help towards the end), perhaps it should be.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

John, thanks for the confirmation: we do indeed have different conceptions of what Christianity is, which are the deeper issues that underlie this debate.

What certain sets of Bad Guys have done in the past, doesn’t change the clear meaning of Scripture. I could just as easily point to my preferred Bad Guys of the Day (liberals, or conservatives, or Mormons, or Atheists) as reason to understand Scripture differently, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m finding reasons to say that God is an idiot, not capable of preserving His Word out of love for His people. Perhaps we ought not base our theologies on mere Reactions to Bad Guys — which gets old and isn’t the thrust of Scripture anyway — but love and delight for the God Who saves wretched sinners?

Otherwise, we’re falling into quite the culturally fundamentalist framework of thinking: the Bible is Life’s Little Instruction Manual, to fight my favorite enemies. (Yes, they may be real enemies and disgusting and dangerous, but it’s not the Bible’s point. We are enemies of God. Scripture tells us how God has fixed that.)

Professing Christians have gotten into all kinds of crap for failing to believe the “literal” truths of Scripture: that yes, while Jews and Romans physically killed Christ, He gave up His life as part of God’s ultimate plan. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him” (Isaiah 53). So how exactly does practicing more “nonliteral” reading of Scripture — that is, salvaging the Word for material useful to use against real or imagined Villains — help?

Sure, calls for grace and humility may indeed be evangel-ese for “I disagree, so I’ll guilt you,” etc. That’s not what I meant, but I’ve heard that used against me as that code! But the line “I don’t read Scripture literally” is just as subject to misunderstanding.

I pick on evangelical feminists and chauvinists alike for their “nonliteral” readings, that is, reading clear metaphors “literally” (which isn’t literal at all) or reading narratives “metaphorically” (again, not literal). Betters term include hermeneutics or exegesis — the grammatical/historical method. I use it to read your comments. I hope you’ve used that to read mine. But the Bible isn’t nearly so magical that we can hijack it against our preferred cause-of-the-era, whether it’s a good one like fighting real anti-Semitism or a questionable one like “liberals are taking over America, so I’ll use the Bible to fight ’em.”

Anti-Semitism, past, present and I’m sure future, is a real and present danger. So is overdone anti-anti-Semitism. So is anti-anything-else. Sorry, Scripture isn’t so lame as to be a multipurpose manual to fight a cause du jour of Some Other Enemy. Rather its metanarrative answers the question: “How can a holy God dwell again with evil rebel sinners?” Villains and evils outside our own hearts are secondary to our own evils. That’s why Christ came: to suffer God’s wrath on behalf of all who repent and believe. And yes, that is indeed the understanding of historical Christianity, but moreover one can argue this is the clear word of Scripture. (If one replies “that’s your interpretation,” we can pull up actual specific texts and hash them out. Hebrews would be a great book about all this, for its clear message is: Jesus and His atoning sacrifice is greater than all the Jewish Law, prophets and culture that preceded and predicted Him.)

Again: all this undergirds how we see others’ fiction. Many discussions on Speculative Faith have been about Christians who whine and boycott, say, the Harry Potter books because of passing similarities to their cause du jour, i.e., We Must Avoid Satan and Witchcraft and the Occult (as if Evil Things are that easy for us to spot and shun, and are worse dangers than their own hearts’ sin remnants).

You’ve put me onto another possibility, though: that some Christians, with the best of intentions, see similar “sins” in fiction. It’s no less legalistic to condemn an author for these supposed sins than it is to “discern” demons behind every bush and recoil from fictitious “magic” — even if fighting another perceived sin is more politically correct.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“What certain sets of Bad Guys have done in the past, doesn’t change the clear meaning of Scripture.” Please define what you mean by the “clear meaning of scripture”. That’s just empty words, and what’s more anyone who thinks the Scripture’s meanings are “clear” needs to explain how we then get so many differing interpretations from that Scripture . . . and I’m sorry, man’s fallen nature isn’t going to answer that.

‘Professing Christians have gotten into all kinds of crap for failing to believe the “literal” truths of Scripture: that yes, while Jews and Romans physically killed Christ, He gave up His life as part of God’s ultimate plan. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him” (Isaiah 53). So how exactly does practicing more “nonliteral” reading of Scripture — that is, salvaging the Word for material useful to use against real or imagined Villains — help?’ Is that supposed to be an argument. If so, it doesn’t make much sense, since I’ve heard literalist interpretations used to support the Holocaust, slavery, rape, and child abuse. They were frequently so used in the South during the antebellum era and in Nazi Germany (though admittedly the majority of Hitler’s disciples were lukewarm, but believing Lutherans for which literalism was a somewhat strange American idea.)

Wow, you can say hermeneutics. Now that you’ve proven your Christian college education I’ll admit I know the word too. But there’s other ways of reading the Bible than as either metaphor or grammaticallyhistorically, which I’m not sure you’re clearly distinguishing from literalism. The way I read it is as story – My concern is that the narrative is true as “story”, regardless of whether it has some historicalfactual basis. If God wants me to believe in the Story as Story, then I believe in it and place my allegiance in the story. That doesn’t mean however, that I can’t use my mind to interpret the story and figure out alternate readings God may want me to get from it. This is not the same thing as metaphorical liberal reading, because liberal readers don’t even see the Bible as being true as a story, but simply a collection of useless sexist, classist, racist, yada, yada, yada fairy tales. I don’t agree with the liberal reading style. i also apparently don’t agree with yours.

“Again: all this undergirds how we see others’ fiction. Many discussions on Speculative Faith have been about Christians who whine and boycott, say, the Harry Potter books because of passing similarities to their cause du jour, i.e., We Must Avoid Satan and Witchcraft and the Occult (as if Evil Things are that easy for us to spot and shun, and are worse dangers than their own hearts’ sin remnants).”

Irrelevant and also wrongly guesses my position. Though I don’t personally have a problem with Potter, I certainly don’t have any problem with those who oppose Harry Potter. In fact, I have written two rather long essays supporting both their right to free speech and the ethics of what they are doing.

“You’ve put me onto another possibility, though: that some Christians, with the best of intentions, see similar “sins” in fiction. It’s no less legalistic to condemn an author for these supposed sins than it is to “discern” demons behind every bush and recoil from fictitious “magic” — even if fighting another perceived sin is more politically correct.”

Thank you for FINALLY making a logical and sensical argument here, and I agree my criticism can be overly-moralistic at times. That, unfortunately, however, does not change the fact that even a surface level historicalgrammatical reading of Firebird would come to the same conclusion I did. Never mind that surface level historicalgrammatical readings were not the sole method of biblical interpretation used by the Church Fathers.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Please define what you mean by the “clear meaning of scripture”.

Better shown than told, perhaps. Can you think of a Biblical text to parse out here?

Is that supposed to be an argument. If so, it doesn’t make much sense, since I’ve heard literalist interpretations used to support the Holocaust, slavery, rape, and child abuse.

Let’s hear one of those “literal” interpretations, then. Specifics would aid clarity.

(And there’s no need to try setting the rules of the discussion by ruling out the fact that sinful man can corrupt God’s Word. It’s a perfectly fitting explanation.)

Could it be that they only claimed it was “literal” reading — similar to “patriarchalists” who claim they take Scripture literally, then transparently pervert texts to justify their chauvinism?

I’ve seen that done all the time. And it’s just cause for me to argue: nope, you fail, “literalist” reader; you’re inconsistent. It’s not just me who does that a lot, against anti-Semitic sorts and overcorrectors alike, or feminists and chauvinists. This can even be done without a Christian college education (which I haven’t had, thus the snark is not only unwarranted but irrelevant 😉 ).

But perhaps that can wait until “anti-Semitism” definitions are defined (see below). I may drop out of the discussion for a bit, though, having some other tasks (on that same Saturday!).

And I don’t mind postponing if you don’t, John (at least for my part). After all, Doctor Who is on tonight. …

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Justly rebuked about the snark, though I must remind you you snarked first! I just get tired of being judged by people who don’t even know who I am, which seems to be a common tendency on many Christian sites, not just this one. And you were definitely doing that, whether you want to admit it or not.

I’ll use an extreme example “Raped (or domestically abused) women are not supossed to fight back, they are supossed to turn the other cheek.” (oh and they can’t get divorced). My Bible teacher hit me with that in 10th grade.

The curse of Ham, Philemon, and the levitical commands about slavery, by the common sense reading of their day, were seen as “obviously” supporting slavery.

I’ll sign off for a while too.

Kaci Hill
Member

Funny thing about Ham is, they completely get the cursed brother wrong. It was the father of Canaan, and that judgement was dealt with long before Christ turned up.

Philemon was an exception. Levitical law required Jews to not return a runaway slave. Paul sending Onesimus back (and not without a letter to ensure the man’s protection) was more along the lines of circumcising Timothy, who was both Jewish and Greek.

And I won’t even get into what has to be ignored to justify abusing women or genocide.

Okay, I’m off for a bit now too.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

With the discussion thickening (and no doubt, John, you’re feeling among the minority — and on a Saturday!), it might help to define “anti-Semitism.”

My definition: blaming Jews as if they, more than any other individual in some way, killed Christ and must therefore themselves suffer or be sacrificed, as if Christ’s death wasn’t enough to atone for sin.

This is blasphemy and an abomination, and rejects the clear truth of Scripture about Who Christ is and why He had to die — and that He gave Himself up, and that every person is in some way guilty of rejecting and killing the very One Who came to save those who would repent and believe in His Gospel to regain relationship with God.

But it sounds like you define “anti-Semitism” as: believing that Jews who’ve rejected Christ have no means of salvation apart from the Messiah.

If indeed you hold to the second definition as I’ve supposed, that’s a flawed definition.

To believe that all non-Christians are outside salvation is not some radical new concept, and it is certainly not anti-Semitic. It is in fact what Scripture plainly teaches, and those who make the case don’t (or shouldn’t) do so arrogantly, but with weeping: then why would God save me, a sinner, the worst of the worst, who had hated Him?

Moreover, claiming “all these other people in history or in Christianity have been wrong about Jews” says nothing about those people you’re talking with now. No one here is guilty of All the Other People’s Sins or must atone for them — any more than modern Jews are guilty for the sins of their ancestors, or modern Italians for the sins of the Romans, in physically perverting their own justice system and crucifying Christ.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

From Webster’s on anti-Semitism “1: hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group often accompanied by social, political or economic discrimination”

I think evangelicalism as a belief system is prone to be both philosemitic and antisemitic at the same time, and this is implicit in its theology. On one hand, growing up I was taught that Jews were the kick-butt ninja warrriors of the Western world, destined despite their small numbers to be the Godly elites of all time. That certainly seems philosemitic. But at the same time I was taught that Jews were especially cursed by God for rejecting the Scripture, and I’m sorry that has always played a historical role in evangelical belief, including Messianic JudaismChristianity. You may say that’s not the literal reading of scripture, but most Christians interpreted it as such for the last 2000 years – hence the various Protestant persecutions of Jews – Luther being foremost, but also Rousas Rushdoony’s charming Holocaust denialism, and Switzerland’s Calvinist inspired Nazi collaborationism. In so far as evangelicals are much more pro-Jewish than most other Catholic or Protestant groups, it is pretty much solely because of premillenial dispensationalism’s obsession with the state of Israel. And saying that the Jews are being divinely preserved so 144,000 of them can be saved in the End Times, while the rest are brutally slaughtered, does not strike most Jews as an act of love – believe me, I’ve asked them.

Modern day Christians, INCLUDING MYSELF, are as guilty of the Holocaust as their progenitors, so long as they accept the dictum that an unsaved Jew is an “incomplete” Jew. That doctrine, started by the RCC and later spread by Luther, led to the implementation of the Holocaust. Until Christians understand that anti-Semitism is implicit in their religion (we come to replace the old law, yada, yada, yada), they’re never going to come to terms with what they did to the Jews.

Sorry, this isn’t my clearest statement, but I’m kind of tired.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

That doctrine, started by the RCC and later spread by Luther, led to the implementation of the Holocaust.

I’m sorry, John, but that’s an ignorant statement. There were SO many more influences on Hitler and the German people that led to their antisemitism. If you want to claim the prevailing attitudes of the Catholic church and Luther’s doctrines contributed, fine. But to make such a blanket statement of blame is … well, rather anti-Christian of you. (Might you not be planting the seed for a Christian holocaust?)

Becky

Katherine Coble
Guest

John,

I’m exhausted and having a bad arthritis day. So I apologise for not giving you a better reply.

I have LONG had the same problems with Kathy Tyers’ Firebird series as you. It has always seemed to me that by moving basic anti-Semetism to a “spec-fic” world, Tyers is granting herself a way to take the usual pot-shots at Jewish beliefs and people while leaving open her ability to run for cover under the “but it’s FICTION” shelter.

I just dont want you to have to be the lone voice of dissent in this conversation.

Esther
Guest

I think it would be helpful if John defined for us “anti-Semitism” as he understands it. I have not read the books, so I’m stepping out of line in that, but just in reading the comments, it seems to me that John is defining “anti-Semitism” thus:

Any comment or concept that says any or all Jews aren’t nice and don’t go to Heaven=anti-Semitism.

Which would be illogical.

Katherine Coble
Guest

I’m not John, but I’ve levelled the same charge so I’ll supply my answer.

Anti-Semitism

The denouncement or portrayal of any group or subgroup of Judaic peoples as bad, naive, cruel, igmorant, arrogant, violent or any other sweeping negative generalisation.

This has long been a trend in the church and MUST STOP.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

In principle I agree with Katherine here (and thank her for her support). I also did provide a definition earlier from Webster’s. I certainly don’t think every Jewish, or gay, or black character has to be portrayed as nice. My own art doesn’t do that either. It just tries to be sensitive to these issues.

Katherine Coble
Guest

The key difference is Individual vs. Group.

When a character is portrayed in a negative light you can examine multiple traits and experiences which result in those negative actions.

But when you portray negative actions as being an attributeof a group ofpeople you cross from defining character to tyoifying prejudice. You also live in the land of the false sylogism.

Misti
Guest

Hm. The Shuhr had evil leaders, who culled/euthanized any who didn’t agree with them. In Crown of Fire, Terza even remembers a young friend of hers who had been a victim of the culling, and only those who agreed with those wicked leaders where permitted in the Golden City.

Only the Golden City was wiped out.

Kaci Hill
Member

Hum. I’ve been trying to follow this whole thing. I think I’m going to quote a character from a Bryan Davis novel: “Too much information will make your brain choke.” 0=)

I don’t feel comfortable jumping into this mess, especially as I haven’t read the Firebird books. To adequately go through each comment on all sides would require…hours. I do feel I’m reading a lot of miscommunication.

For myself, I’d be more interested in hearing expansion on this:

Until Christians understand that anti-Semitism is implicit in their religion (we come to replace the old law, yada, yada, yada), they’re never going to come to terms with what they did to the Jews.

I’ll be the first to admit that people have committed gross deception and abomination in the name of Christ, and I’ll be the first to call the Christianity of said individuals into question. That may well be a whole ‘nuther can of worms, and I admittedly don’t want to get into a debate on which religion has had the most atrocity committed in the name of its god. Know?

So all that aside, I too grew up in very Christian circles and attended private Christian schools. No such anti-Semitic doctrine was taught to me, and I’m forced to think you’ve had some severely mistaken teachers. Now that I consider as much a wrong against you as any half-baked attempt to use Scripture to justify injustice.

I will say: As a writer, I’ve taken more than one Scripture and let some quite horrible bad guy twist it into something completely grotesque. But just because I can write some bad guy using John 3:16 to justify…I dunno, let’s say human sacrifice, or manipulate someone into bed…doesn’t negate John 3:16. It’s an invalid and hideous perversion of a passage that should be read in hope. (If you ever read The Dresden Files, Harry’s repulsed, visceral description of how perverse black magic is really describes the nature of such a perversion of truth well.)

At any rate, I’m rambling.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Dear Kaci,
Thanks for your comments. I don’t know that I can really expand, except to say that in order to form a New Covenant, the church has basically denied the full validity of the Old Covenant, including the possibility that the Jews were already covered by Christ’s blood, solely by virtue of being Jews, WHICH EVEN A CONSERVATIVE reading of scripture might support. There’s a reason John Hagee (who i’m not a fan of) toyed with dual covenant theology, and that’s because there’s some backing for it in scripture, even in a literalist reading. Just as there is some backing, though more muted, for Christian universalism, even in a literalist reading – hence Origen.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

I agree, Kaci. I don’t know how “Christians” can get to antisemitism in light of Jesus’s statement from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Couple that with Christ’s teaching about those who have been forgiven needing to forgive, and antisemitism (or any hate position) for a Christian isn’t tenable.

I do think it’s ironic that the Jews of the day told Pilate that Jesus’s blood would be on their heads. And so it seems it has been. Not because Christians “should” punish them (we shouldn’t — even if we erroneously thought they deserved it) but because actions bear consequences.

Becky

Kaci Hill
Member

The immediate passage I can think of is Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost. However, it’s a gross misinterpretation, because Peter was talking to people who would have been in the crowd screaming “Crucify” only a few weeks before. Moreover, he said that, but he certainly didn’t see it as some additional curse. He was stating a fact: They were there. And the whole thing was a call to repentance.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Sorry, Kaci, I was replying to Becky not you.

John

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

You make an anti-Semitic statement simply in proving your point. Why is Christ’s blood on the Jews’s heads. Who said every Jew supported Christ’s crucifixion – considering the political situation in Palestine at the time, most probably did not.

John

Kaci Hill
Member

Stephen’s turn. 0=)

If it’s “unconscious,” then it’s not anti-Semitic — only seems that way based on subjective reading. Similarly, one could have a relative who wove swastika-style designs into a quilt, but was never a Nazi sympathizer (I’m personally aware of such a situation).

Real sin is conscious and comes from inside, not a Thing from outside one’s self.

The “real sin” statement somewhat countermands the previous. It’s possible to be prejudiced, but have “come by it honestly” in that you were raised that way or your culture is that way. If you don’t know any better, you’re ignorant, but ignorance doesn’t negate the truth.

About “hereditary guilt”: this is another way of presenting the orthodox Christian belief in an inherited sin nature, to which we’re all enslaved apart from Christ. So I’d question whether it’s Biblically wrong to say that anyone who doesn’t repent and believe in Christ and the Gospel is indeed condemned. That would include Jew and Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, “liberal” or “conservative,” educated or otherwise.

Why single out even someone’s clearer references to unbelieving Jews and claim that someone is an anti-Semite, for not believing Christ’s death applies to Jews, if they don’t care a wit (any more than a similarly unbelieving Gentile) about the point of the Law and the actual Messiah?

The bigger point, though, is that traditional teaching says that everyone, Jew or Gentile, is in need of Christ. Whether you think we’re born condemned or become so, I don’t know any sane (key word) Christian who wouldn’t say it doesn’t matter: Jew and Gentile alike are both in need of Christ’s redemption, and it’s available to all who will take it.

Perhaps we ought not base our theologies on mere Reactions to Bad Guys — which gets old and isn’t the thrust of Scripture anyway — but love and delight for the God Who saves wretched sinners?

I dunno. I’m more than happy to offer an opinion on anyone who commits atrocity or uses Scripture to abuse and deceive others. Jesus himself said such people would rather drown themselves in the ocean than face his thoughts on the subject.

Yes, it’s quite true, we’re all fallible. But for malicious behavior such as that, I’ve no quarter.

(If one replies “that’s your interpretation,” we can pull up actual specific texts and hash them out. Hebrews would be a great book about all this, for its clear message is: Jesus and His atoning sacrifice is greater than all the Jewish Law, prophets and culture that preceded and predicted Him.)

Don’t tempt me, sweetheart. Interpretation games are far too much fun.

Rather its metanarrative answers the question: “How can a holy God dwell again with evil rebel sinners?” Villains and evils outside our own hearts are secondary to our own evils. That’s why Christ came: to suffer God’s wrath on behalf of all who repent and believe. And yes, that is indeed the understanding of historical Christianity, but moreover one can argue this is the clear word of Scripture.

The older I get the more I think that more happened in those three days than we’ll ever fathom.

John – Wow, you can say hermeneutics. Now that you’ve proven your Christian college education I’ll admit I know the word too.

Stephen likes the discussion. 0=)

Back to Stephen

Again: all this undergirds how we see others’ fiction. Many discussions on Speculative Faith have been about Christians who whine and boycott, say, the Harry Potter books because of passing similarities to their cause du jour, i.e., We Must Avoid Satan and Witchcraft and the Occult (as if Evil Things are that easy for us to spot and shun, and are worse dangers than their own hearts’ sin remnants).

That’s….another discussion.

You’ve put me onto another possibility, though: that some Christians, with the best of intentions, see similar “sins” in fiction. It’s no less legalistic to condemn an author for these supposed sins than it is to “discern” demons behind every bush and recoil from fictitious “magic” — even if fighting another perceived sin is more politically correct.

Hmm…

Let’s hear one of those “literal” interpretations, then. Specifics would aid clarity.

Oh, I bet I can guess a few…

Could it be that they only claimed it was “literal” reading — similar to “patriarchalists” who claim they take Scripture literally, then transparently pervert texts to justify their chauvinism?

Did you ever hear the story about this group that only had one section of the Bible, and it was something like the story about Jeremiah getting thrown in a well? They thought everyone had to do that.

Okay, I think I’ve successfully interviewed both sides. Or tried. I’m an equal opportunist. 0=)

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

See, I—and the other readers who are disagreeing with you—don’t see those “disturbingly close” parallels, even when you point out examples. Our different interpretative methods may be the root of the disagreement, here.

Reply: That might not be because of me, though, but because you all come from a more conservative form of evangelicalism than I do. That a majority believes something is the case, does not mean the majority is right. We need look no further than the pro-choice majorities of the eighties and nineties to see the error of that line of thinking.

I also suspect you don’t write speculative fiction. As a speculative fiction writer, I’ve played the “what if?” game, myself, so I’m intimately familiar with how it plays out. You can start with, say, the Hopi Indian culture, delete and change some things, uproot the remainder and stick it in a rainforest—work out how that changes it—then add some supernatural ability to talk to plants—work out how that changes it—and a few other things, and end up with something that’s completely contrary to the original Hopi culture. But as writer, you’d still be inclined to call that culture the “Hopi” one, because it’s what you started with. That’s just how the “what if?” game works.

Reply: Actually, I do write speculative fiction, most of which is better than the Firebird series – not that that is exactly hard, being as Firebird, though interesting, represents Tyers’s hack work in my opinion. Her best novel, which is quite good, is not Firebird, but One Mind’s Eye. Writing fiction, even unpublished fiction (which mine is), better than Firebird does not take talent. Which is my problem with a lot of CBA fiction right now. It’s extremely safe. But that’s tangential to what you’re saying – when people make “Hopi” equivalent cultures, critics sometimes have ethical problems with that as well. Look how many blacks and Native Americans objected to the innocent native characterization of the “Na’vi” in Avatar. Still more the teddy bear Indians of Return of the Jedi and Little Fuzzy.

Regarding my own work, notice that I called the Tolkien-esque a surface comparison. I also defined “surface comparison” as a starting point for people to guess if something will appeal to them.

I never said I pulled from Tolkein’s works. You’re presuming that I borrowed “unthinkingly.” If you have dwarves and/or elves, you get compared to Tolkien. I therefore make the comparison myself, because I decided against playing the “smeerp” reader roulette.

Reply: Actually, I didn’t assume this at all, but whatever. I was merely pointing out that Tolkiensque fantasy, when parallels are followed too closely, results in exactly the kind of aesthetic and ethical problems that Firebird presents.

Misti
Guest

“That might not be because of me, though, but because you all come from a more conservative form of evangelicalism than I do.”

I may be a “conservative” (*winces* these tags can get misleading), but I’m actually quite familiar with the different interpretive methods. I went to a “liberal” university. I only left because they didn’t offer the major I was shifting into. I had several (“liberal”) professors wanting me to stay and switch my major to religion or psychology.

I see the huge Good/Evil dichotomy in the Ehretians as a reasonable side effect of their abilities. In my mind, the Ehretians’ abilities and their “jewishness” are 2 separate aspects of their culture (separate “what if?” components) unless the author indicates otherwise.

Could there have been an anti-Semitic intent? Certainly. But I’m skeptical. I’ve encountered far too many “This is what the author REALLY meant!” interpretations that directly contradict the author’s stated intent, beliefs, and personality, according to the author and his/her friends.

“But that’s tangential to what you’re saying – when people make “Hopi” equivalent cultures, critics sometimes have ethical problems with that as well.”

Precisely. My walkthrough was pointing out how a writer can produce something some critics take issue with, without actually being an anti-[culture]ist.

“I was merely pointing out that Tolkiensque fantasy, when parallels are followed too closely, results in exactly the kind of aesthetic and ethical problems that Firebird presents.”

Ah. A transition would’ve helped you get that across, because in context, it sounded like you were referring back to my reference to Tolkien-esque fantasy—and I was referring to my specific one, not Tolkien-esque in general.

“Her best novel, which is quite good, is not Firebird, but One Mind’s Eye.”

That’s a matter of opinion. I’ve always thought One Mind’s Eye has too many POV characters, but that doesn’t keep me from having a signed copy. I prefer Shivering World. Graysha would be a good member for the “But You Don’t Look Sick!” community, and her mother gives me the chills, especially in the Bethany House edition. (Yes, I did notice that the villainess was over-the-top. It’s called megalomania.)

“Writing fiction, even unpublished fiction (which mine is), better than Firebird does not take talent.”

Considering the genre of the Firebird trilogy, I wonder if we have an “apples and oranges” comparison, here. Space opera and “soft” sf (among other genres) often get derided as far easier to write than they actually are. I used to be one such derisive writer.

Then I decided that if I were going to have an opinion that something was easy to write, I’d better try writing it, myself. I did. Even got a short story published. But when I find myself missing my “Writing is easy!” days, I pull out that space opera novel I wrote and shudder at how melodramatic it is. (I somehow lost the short story somewhere in computer upgrades. So “sad”.)

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

I may be a “conservative” (*winces* these tags can get misleading), but I’m actually quite familiar with the different interpretive methods. I went to a “liberal” university. I only left because they didn’t offer the major I was shifting into. I had several (“liberal”) professors wanting me to stay and switch my major to religion or psychology.

Reply: A liberal evangelical university? I didn’t know such a place existed, except perhaps for Messiah. What are you defining as liberalism. I am talking about liberal evangelicalism, which has various forms, and which most conservative evangelicals I meet don’t understand. Perhaps you’re different.

I see the huge Good/Evil dichotomy in the Ehretians as a reasonable side effect of their abilities. In my mind, the Ehretians’ abilities and their “jewishness” are 2 separate aspects of their culture (separate “what if?” components) unless the author indicates otherwise.

Could there have been an anti-Semitic intent? Certainly. But I’m skeptical. I’ve encountered far too many “This is what the author REALLY meant!” interpretations that directly contradict the author’s stated intent, beliefs, and personality, according to the author and his/her friends.

Reply: It doesn’t matter what the author’s conscious intent was. The anti-Semitism is implicit in her work, regardless of whether she intended it or not. Harriet Beecher Stowe was not consciously trying to be racist in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Quite the contrary. That doesn’t alter the fact that the work is racist.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

I’m not saying it takes no talent because its space opera. I’m saying it takes no talent cause it’s CBA marketed (though admittedly Firebird did have an initial secular run, which was totally unremarkable). I’m sorry, but I can’t understand why Christian fans go gaga over this trilogy, as if it’s the best think since Foundation. It has routine characters, routine plotline, and a routine love story. It’s better than Ted Dekker, but then who isn’t? No, I’m sorry, I am better than this and I know other writers with less publications than Tyers who are also better writers than her. She’s purely pedestrian. Please note, I wouldn’t dream of saying I could write as well as Stephen Lawhead or C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien or Sixpence None the Richer. But Tyers’s works are not going to revive Christian sci-fi, I’m sorry. And they hardly measure up to contemporary Catholic (Gene Wolfe) or Mormon (Orson Scott Card) efforts.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“I’m sorry, John, but that’s an ignorant statement. There were SO many more influences on Hitler and the German people that led to their antisemitism. If you want to claim the prevailing attitudes of the Catholic church and Luther’s doctrines contributed, fine. But to make such a blanket statement of blame is … well, rather anti-Christian of you. (Might you not be planting the seed for a Christian holocaust?)

Becky”

Reply: Becky, I didn’t say that Christianity was the ONLY influence on anti-semitism, just the main one. Social Darwinist ideals also played a part, most of which many conservative German Catholics and even a few Protestants, rejected. And even many Christian historians, including William Shirer and James Carroll, concede that the Holocaust was motivated primarily by Christian doctrine. It’s not anti-Christian to state the truth, and your comparison of a Christian Holocaust is ludicrous. Christians are not in danger of being eradicated from the Earth, and never have been (except in the early Roman Empire). Jews have been threatened with eradication for three millenia, first out of simple competition, then later because of anti-Semitism promoted by Christian churches.

Let me give one example. Christian groups, primarily Pentecostals, promoted anti-Satanist campaigns in the eighties that said Satanists drank the blood of Christian children. What they didn’t realize was that this was merely a residual leftover of ancient Christian blood libels against Jews, which said exactly the same thing about Jews. As a consequence of this morphed anti-Semitism, hundreds of people who were neither Satanists nor child abusers, were accussed of sexually molesting children. And the blood libel is just one of many examples of anti-Jewish Christian activism. See the video below, for a heartbreaking example of a Jewish woman buying into Satanic ritual abuse doctrine in order to (almost certainly) falsely accuse her family of being in concert with the Devil.

See this documentary on the release of Last Temptation for examples of radical anti-Semitic evangelical activism against that picture, blaming the Jewish heads of the studios that made the film.

Rebecca LuElla Miller
Admin

Sorry, John, but you DID put the Holocaust at the feet of Luther and the Roman Catholic Church:

That doctrine, started by the RCC and later spread by Luther, led to the implementation of the Holocaust.

Granted, you didn’t use the word “only” but you didn’t indicate in that comment or in this one half the most glaring influences and causes of German antisemitism. Nietzsche, Wagner, Aryianism, Prussian militarism, nationalism, the after effects of World War I (including the declaration of Kurt Eisner, a Jewish Bavarian minister, that Germany was solely to blame), the economic situation, organizations such as the Thule society, Pan Germanism — these are the most obvious and most immediate.

Oddly, I was planning to turn to Shirer to disprove your assertion. When I find my copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I’ll do so, but for now I recommend Putsch! by Richard Hanser for starters.

It’s not anti-Christian to state the truth, and your comparison of a Christian Holocaust is ludicrous.

You’re replying to this part of one of my earlier comments, I presume: “But to make such a blanket statement of blame is … well, rather anti-Christian of you. (Might you not be planting the seed for a Christian holocaust?)”

I’m sorry my irony was lost in the transmission. I thought to put a smilie, but thought the intent was too obvious to necessitate it. Apparently I was wrong.

Becky

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“Sorry, John, but you DID put the Holocaust at the feet of Luther and the Roman Catholic Church:

Granted, you didn’t use the word “only” but you didn’t indicate in that comment or in this one half the most glaring influences and causes of German antisemitism. Nietzsche, Wagner, Aryianism, Prussian militarism, nationalism, the after effects of World War I (including the declaration of Kurt Eisner, a Jewish Bavarian minister, that Germany was solely to blame), the economic situation, organizations such as the Thule society, Pan Germanism — these are the most obvious and most immediate.”

Reply: Wagner was anti-Semitic, but he was only a minor factor in the development of German anti-Semitism. While Nietzsche’s philosophy might have been adopted by the Nazis, most scholars (including Shirer) agree that Nietzsche himself was not anti-Semitic. This is an old Christian canard to get the blame off the church and onto atheism. Prussian militarism, I agree, is partly to blame, but not nearly as much as the first cause 1) Christian anti-Semitism or the second main cause 2) Social Darwinism applied through a combination of Christian, pagan, and secular outlets (but primarily Christian).

Oddly, I was planning to turn to Shirer to disprove your assertion. When I find my copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, I’ll do so, but for now I recommend Putsch! by Richard Hanser for starters.

Reply: Shirer does blame Luther, and while he lets the German churches off somewhat lighter than I do, he does point out that their record was fairly collaborationist. And Shirer’s a biased Christian historian. More unbiased historians have come up with even more damning indictments. Saul Friedlander for instance, or Carroll.

I’m sorry my irony was lost in the transmission. I thought to put a smilie, but thought the intent was too obvious to necessitate it. Apparently I was wrong.

Reply: Whatever.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Back from the grocery, and I have a quick thought on this (Kaci has already addressed the others):

I’ll use an extreme example “Raped (or domestically abused) women are not supossed to fight back, they are supossed to turn the other cheek.” (oh and they can’t get divorced). My Bible teacher hit me with that in 10th grade.

I’ve heard that too (from Matthew 5:29), and like Kaci said earlier, it sounds like you’ve been hit with some really crappy teaching in the past. This is one that rubs me wrong also, having some familiarity with (as I mentioned before) “patriarchy” notions. Yet “turn the other cheek,” in context, was about insults to one’s pride. It had nothing to do with self-defense or upholding justice. Those get their air time, especially, in Romans 13 — when Paul says that even a flawed government (like Rome) is God’s servant, to punish evil and reward good. So to corrupt “turn the other cheek” to be about threats to violence is not only to twist Scripture, but break the law and violate Romans 13.

There’s also the whole context of the Sermon on the Mount: which isn’t merely “do this, do that,” but a revelation of what Kingdom living must be like, which should drive people to see they can’t do this on their own.

My guess is you may have already figured this one out. I can think of some other less-extreme examples, such as assuming that a Christian can “bind” Satan or a demon based on Matthew 18:18. But the portion of that passage containing the “whatever you bind …” verse is about church discipline and Biblical peacemaking handled by church elders, and has nothing to do with fightin’ demons. Context and right reading is key.

Another example: “avoid the appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). This is about avoiding actual evil, not only what “appears” to be evil (which leads to all kinds of abuses).

And this:

Christian groups, primarily Pentecostals, promoted anti-Satanist campaigns in the eighties that said Satanists drank the blood of Christian children. What they didn’t realize was that this was merely a residual leftover of ancient Christian blood libels against Jews, which said exactly the same thing about Jews. As a consequence of this morphed anti-Semitism, hundreds of people who were neither Satanists nor child abusers, were accussed of sexually molesting children.

(See also: that whole idiotic Mike Warnke scandal — which was exposed by wiser, more discerning Christians.)

And all this superstitious bullshenanigans: not a shred of it is supported by Scripture. Foreign imports and mysticism. The Bible says nothing about this. People made up this crap — it’s no cause to act as though Scripture is to blame.

Even for supposed “this verse supports this” rationale: all of these are results of failing to read Scripture “literally” — defined as how its Author (and authors) meant it to be read. Knowing the genre is especially key: if a text is a poem, then read it as a poem; if a parable, read it as a parable; if a narrative, read it as a narrative (and not necessarily as commands to imitate this behavior now, such as arranged marriage or killing Canaanites); if theology, read it as such.

Not to claim I’ve figured all these out, of course! But I’m continually surprised when I go back to Scripture, read a familiar verse or phrase, then find it has absolutely nothing to do with how I’d previously heard it used.

Finally, I do want to avoid judging you in a wrong way (such as hypocritically, as Jesus warns against in Matthew 7 before commanding His people to judge with right judgment). I do think we have some differences, but my intent is not simply “border patrol” (though I know many Christians wrongly do that — but this is a Christian-influenced website, not a church!). Rather I love discussions like these (and so do many others here!) and we want to keep going, in grace and with eyes toward Biblical truth.

And I do know Christian authors must be sensitive about such things. That’s why every Christian needs other Christians in the context of a Biblically guided local church — because we have different gifts. I know some Christians who would have done a much better job than I just this afternoon, in talking to two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came by the house. Similarly, I might do a better job outlining why it’s perfectly permissible for a Christian to enjoy the Harry Potter series (which, by the way, I think you missed my point about, John — not that these critics should be censored but because they often twist verses to “prove” their points).

Similarly, you might be more aware of anti-Semitic attitudes in Church history; I’m free of those, having never grown up with them, and thus can’t see what the problem is.

Reminds me of the meat-sacrificed-to-idols issue in Romans 14 and 1 Cor. 8-10.

But something that reminds us of sin, or could cause some Invisible Villains out there to sin, is not my fault. It’s not Tyers’ fault. And no, the Holocaust is not your fault any more than it’s mine — any more than the Crucifixion is somehow modern-day Jews’ and Italians’ fault. Our sins are far worse: vertically directed, against God. Thanks to God, He Himself in Christ volunteered to take that hit and reconcile all who would repent and call on His Name to Himself — the only way for any to be saved.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“My guess is you may have already figured this one out. I can think of some other less-extreme examples, such as assuming that a Christian can “bind” Satan or a demon based on Matthew 18:18. But the portion of that passage containing the “whatever you bind …” verse is about church discipline and Biblical peacemaking handled by church elders, and has nothing to do with fightin’ demons. Context and right reading is key.”

Please, do we really have to talk about the Peacemaker? I don’t know your personal theological position – and my guess would probably be wrong – but Pentecostals and other demon-hunters can back their position up with just as many verses as mainstream evangelicals. Indeed in a post-modern context, Pentecostalism is argueably a more realistic and rational theology than, say, the Reformed movement’s wholely illogical presuppositionalism. And historically, these demon verses have been used to persecute mentally ill people, including myself, based on literal interpretations. Also take verses that say scripture is sufficient for all things. Because of that verse, I was locked in a room for 6 hours and screamed at to repent of my OCD. WHAT CHRIST AND PAUL TAUGHT HAD CONSEQUENCES.

“Even for supposed “this verse supports this” rationale: all of these are results of failing to read Scripture “literally” — defined as how its Author (and authors) meant it to be read. Knowing the genre is especially key: if a text is a poem, then read it as a poem; if a parable, read it as a parable; if a narrative, read it as a narrative (and not necessarily as commands to imitate this behavior now, such as arranged marriage or killing Canaanites); if theology, read it as such.”

We have no way of knowing how God intended a text to be read. To claim we do is the grossest human hubris, as if the finite could comprehend what the infinite would want. To make those claim universal and kill people of other religions, or torture little children with the fear of hellfire, is merely morally bankrupt religious posturing for power. You also assume genres can be clearly distinguished, which they can’t always.

Rather I love discussions like these (and so do many others here!) and we want to keep going, in grace and with eyes toward Biblical truth.

Reply: And this statement is actually proof of border patrol. I could care less about biblical truth. What I care about is Christ’s truth. Where the Bible fits that, I agree. Where it doesn’t, I don’t. I am not a bibliotrater, and modern bibliolatry is largely an evangelical phenomena that even other Christians have trouble understanding.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Every day we target Jews for specific conversion, or pray for the return of the 144,000 and the destruction of the Temple Mount, we are committing the Holocaust again. I AM RESPONSIBLE . . . I believed all this crap as a child, and endangered the Jewish people by doing so. The taint of the Holocaust can never be taken away from Christianity. We have no right to tell Jews that they should convert. We lost that right at Auschwitz.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

I must admit that I’m disappointed people here aren’t willing to seriously examine the ethics and aesthetics of Firebird. I take Christian fiction seriously. I want there to be great evangelical writers again. But that means that people also need to be willing to compete in the marketplace of ideas. If these criticisms, get you so frightened, what are you going to do when actual Jewish people read these novels?

CBA fiction is bad because it has no aesthetic standards. Indeed, it aims only to be safe. The best CBA fiction wouldn’t pass muster with Dean Koontz fans, let alone literary readers (much less novelists). That’s why the very best evangelical artists – Sixpence, Paul Patton, Leif Enger – are not even opening their works with evangelical audiences, but gear their works to a general market. If Christians wrote good fiction, it would be published. Catholics have been doing it for a hundred years, and they’ve given us Flannery O’connor, Tolkien, Gene Wolfe, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene, all first quality writers. If you write for the ghetto, your writing’s only going to be as good as the ghetto, and that’s pretty absymal.

Not that there are not some interesting ideas in CBA fiction: the spiritual warfare genre for instance, or Jack Chick tracts (which have gained some positive,if ironic, secular buzz), or some of the better rapture films (like Thief in the Night, which I at least consider art, if poor art). Firebird doesn’t rise to the level of art (assuming we even want such a thing as art, which i’m personally very skeptical of). It’s a potboiler for people who aren’t engaged in serious theological thought. Where is the depth of Lewis, or Macdonald, or Tolkien, or even dare I say, Lawhead? It’s not there, and all you’re claiming otherwise isn’t going to make it so. The work would be redeemed if the prose was beautiful, but Nabokov it is not.

I fully respect people who want to burn Harry Potter, torch the Mona Lisa, or ban Fahrenheit 451. They are living their evangelical beliefs consistently. I also respect those evangelicals who are hypocritical enough to embrace an aesthetic life. What I don’t respect is those people who aim for the moral complexity of a Randy Alcorn novel. Sorry, ain’t buying it.

In a final note, two other evangelical works (among many possible), that could be considered anti-Semitic or insensitive to the Jewish community.

The Fourth Reich: Hitler resurrected as the Anti-Christ. Starts a new Holocaust to fulfill Biblical prophecy.

Obsessed: Vampiric Nazis drink blood out of the arms of Holocaust victims. The most repulsive exploitative piece of @*$*# that the Christian industry has come up with in recent years. Complete with a Messianic rabbi, who all the Jewish characters bizarrely respect.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

John, there are other issues Christians must be aware of than anti-Semitism. You seem not to be considering that. Nor have you addressed the assertion that Scripture is about God and how we must delight in Him, not just a Manual for our cause du jour. Would you consider that, please?

And historically, these demon verses have been used to persecute mentally ill people, including myself, based on literal interpretations.

No, John, those are not “literal interpretations,” because as shown above, Matthew 18:18 has nothing to do with fighting demons. Round and round we go. It’s already been shown how such people corrupt what that text was actually meant. I’m not responsible for their sin. Neither are you. Neither is Scripture itself. Why blame Jesus and Paul? If you can’t engage with an actual rebuttal, considering a valid counterpoint, the discussion becomes fruitless and useless.

To claim we do is the grossest human hubris, as if the finite could comprehend what the infinite would want.

Yet you seem to have no trouble expecting others to understand you clearly and to claim absolute truth. This isn’t a debate between arrogant absolute truth claims versus humble admission that we don’t know everything, but between different sets of absolute-truth claims (humbly expressed or otherwise). Moreover, how “humble” is it to say we know better than Scripture does?

Again: you haven’t proved that actual Biblical texts back up people’s perversions of them. More anecdotes along your same line don’t make that case — though I am certainly sorry for those who twisted Scripture outside of its context and abused you (or those you know) with it.

Believe me, many people here could say the same. But they place blame where it belongs: people who acted in sick, sucky ways and twisted Scripture to justify it.

I’m familiar with the “Biblioatry” charge; I could easily say that a person is a “feelingolator” for trying to figure out Who Jesus is or what He’s about based not on His own thoughts on the matter, but his own feelings. However, “Biblioatry” is a pejorative slander, and a wrong judgment of those who love Scripture because it tells us Who Christ is. And it is far less common than those who want to “know Jesus” apart from the Word that told us about Him in the first place will accuse.

But this is the foundational issue: whether the Jesus we claim to believe is the real One, or whether we’re going with our feelings and in the end doing the exact same thing that those who twisted Scripture and wrongly punished you did — living based on their feelings, not God’s truth. Doing more of the same will not fix the issue.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Stephen you haven’t given me a single factual argument in this whole exchange. I am responding to you in kind.

I am not going to bother going through the literally twenty or thirty verses in which Jesus exorcises demons out of epileptics, the mad, etc. Historically, those verses have been interpreted as literal exorcisms. It is up to you, not me, to refute that charge, since that is the historical literal interpretation.

I am not claiming absolute truth. I am merely saying that your claim to know absolute truth is hubristic. Those claims aren’t even remotely related.

I have made a convincing case for my position, you have not for yours. I have quoted specific examples. You just say those “weren’t true Christians” or that didn’t represent “true literalism”. This is known as the No True Scotsman fallacy. I could just as easily say that Mein Kampf did not represent the “truly loving character” of Nazism. When you object to that claim by pointing out errors in Nazism, I could just claim that doesn’t represent the true literal interpretation of Mein Kampf. Debating with you is therefore pointless, because, while I am capable of being convinced of your position, you are incapable of being convinced of mine.

The people who punished me did so based on a literal reading of scripture. Your self-serving claims to the contrary do not mitigate that. Deal with your culture’s guilt. Don’t pass it on to me. I have enough of my own.

Kaci Hill
Member

Actually, that’s kind of the point. Tossing out the whole literal/non-literal thing (which I don’t think I ever addressed and we really could just go back and forth on forever): Like I said, that was an abuse. Jesus, being God, wouldn’t have tried to kick a demon out of someone who was epileptic, for starts. He’d know the difference. Being human, we don’t always. Moreover, Jesus didn’t lock people in a room and scream at them and beat them over the head. He told the demon to get out. Huge difference. Same thing when Paul did it. No shenanigans. No show, just a simple command to a demon holding a person hostage. I don’t ever think someone should be accused of being demon possessed unless there is absolutely no medical explanation (such as epilepsy – and yes, I know several epileptics and mentally handicapped people, all whom I love dearly and don’t think they’re demon possessed).

And even then, even then, that person is a victim, not a criminal. And they don’t need manhandling, either.

And just to get it out there: There’s only a couple options for people who claim Christianity and commit the atrocities. They’re ignorant at best and malicious at worst. The end bodes well for neither.

Kaci Hill
Member

I must admit that I’m disappointed people here aren’t willing to seriously examine the ethics and aesthetics of Firebird. I take Christian fiction seriously. I want there to be great evangelical writers again. But that means that people also need to be willing to compete in the marketplace of ideas. If these criticisms, get you so frightened, what are you going to do when actual Jewish people read these novels?

I can’t discuss a book I haven’t read. That’s one reason I steered away. The other is I’m more interested in the bigger picture.

Fear? Not fear. What’s funny is, at least three of the “regulars” in here don’t believe the same thing. Many would agree CBA is…well, in an odd place right now. Many would agree there’s some problems that need to be worked out in the church.

I fully respect people who want to burn Harry Potter, torch the Mona Lisa, or ban Fahrenheit 451. They are living their evangelical beliefs consistently. I also respect those evangelicals who are hypocritical enough to embrace an aesthetic life.

I don’t respect hypocrisy or people hyperventilating over HP, Disney, or whatever else. Every Jack Chick tract I’ve seen leaves me either blinking at the screen or thinking “I don’t even know where start, this is so messed up.”

Per Obsessed: The blood drinking was supposed to repulse you. It worked. 0=) I don’t know how it was anti-Semitic in that regard because it’s the Nazis, not the Jews, doing the blood sucking. Where did the Jews come off the bad guys in that book? They were the victims. Or was it the use of a Holocaust setting in general? That kind of setting is hardly unique to CBA. There are how many movies that take place in WWII settings?

But before we continue the whole anti-Semitism in Obsessed, I’d request you read Tea with Hezbollah by the same author (non-fiction) and Blink/Blink of an Eye. “Anti-Semitism” isn’t a word I’d put to the man.

Reply: And this statement is actually proof of border patrol. I could care less about biblical truth. What I care about is Christ’s truth. Where the Bible fits that, I agree. Where it doesn’t, I don’t. I am not a bibliotrater, and modern bibliolatry is largely an evangelical phenomena that even other Christians have trouble understanding.

Huh? How is “Biblical Truth” at odds with “Christ’s Truth”? Jesus quoted Deuteronomy. Among other texts. Jesus wasn’t born in a vacuum. He was born to a Jewish family in a region under Roman rule. He had a bar mitzvah. He taught in the synagogue. They called him Rabbi. (You know these things, but that’s my point.) Don’t take this the wrong way, but you can’t sever Christianity from history. Heck, the first Christians were Jewish, and the Way was considered a sect of Judaism. That’s the point of a good portion of the NT – explaining why and how Gentiles could be saved (because “salvation comes from the Jews”).

What happened was, as Christianity spread, the Gentile believers started to outnumber the Jewish ones, and over time came a period where we forgot our own roots. That’s the point of the part of Romans (is that right, or was that Corinthians?) that compares Sarah and Hagar. That’s the point of going to the trouble to say Abraham’s oath with God came before the Law – so we are all–we are all— children of Abraham. All of us who put our faith in Christ – just like Abraham our faith is credited righteousness.

Now, we did forget our roots for a time, and that bloody rift between the two is, as you say, our reward for it. But what I’ve seen in recent years is a growing attempt to restore what was lost, not an attempt to maintain or compound it.

Our faith is not in a vacuum. And I thought you were going there, which is why I’m a bit baffled now.

I’m being pretty frank, I know. If you’ll indulge me a little longer, I’ll add this: I’m very sorry those things were done to you, taught to you. I sort of guessed from the beginning. It honestly ticks me off that it happened. I’m glad you’re not in that anymore. But, could it maybe be that that’s not everybody? (I know I’m getting personal; you don’t have to answer that. I just felt I should say it. No obligation to reply.)

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Kaci,
That same justification of exorcism once medicine “rules things out” was used to justify dozens of Australian anorexics getting exorcised by Mercy Ministries, all in the name of Christian love and biblical literalism.

Kaci Hill
Member

I think I qualified what I meant, to be honest. As I said, I don’t agree with exorcisms that involve violence toward the person. Prayer and a simple word. I see no Scriptural foundation for anything else. Never heard of MM. And I never made a biblical literalism argument. I just said such people are in the wrong….which you agree with.

Which actually brings me to my next question: Do you believe angels and demons actually exist? I’m nowhere near one of the ‘demons under every rock and behind everything’ types, but I think we’re at a standstill if you don’t believe they exist and I do.

MS Quixote
Guest
MS Quixote

The great irony here that’s gone unmentioned is that John is quite clearly marginalizing, unintentionally and unwittingly, I’m sure, an entire race, or at least a sizeable part of it. That condition is one prerequisite of the genocide he deplores and argues against.

Nonetheless, John, I ask in curiosity, how could you know Christ’s truth apart from the Bible?

Zoe
Guest

No offense to the people going nuts above me, but I wanted to reply to the actual article and say that I really loved the Firebird trilogy. I had never read Sci-fi before and didn’t think I would like it, honestly. The characters were beautifully written (I cried over Corey), I thought the environment and culture were well developed, and the whole genetic mind powers thing was really intriguing. Also I really liked the motif of music that was carried through the series.

Personally, I never detected any traces of anti-Semitism (and having grown up with best friends who were Jewish, I’m kind of sensitive to that), but I also don’t have a horrific past that changes how I read fiction, so I understood that Kathy Tyers was no more making a statement about the goodness or guilt of the Jews than she was attempting to persuade people that Jews have psychic powers. Just a final thought on that subject: there are truly evil people in the world, and if anybody understands the Bible/Christianity, or any other book/religion, correctly, it’s probably not them. But that’s just a hunch.

Anyway, I would have liked to see the mythical theology of the Firebird universe more fully developed, so obviously I’m excited to hear about these new books that will carry on the story. Maybe I’ll even reread the trilogy.

Ms. Tyers (if you read these comments and survived to this point), reading your description of Regent College was a treat to me. I went to an evangelical liberal arts college in Missisippi, Belhaven University, which had the same mentality about art that you described about Regent. Christ was the center of everything at the school, and we believe that our job as Christians is to redeem the arts, to produce art that is genuine and creative and meaningful and driven by a Christian worldview. I majored in dance so I was definitely affected by this emphasis. It is so refreshing to find that there are other colleges out there like this. Too many Christians respond to art by condemning it, ignoring it, or producing cheap imitations of it, and I’m not sure which of the three is the worst. To see institutions of higher education leading the way toward a more biblical understanding of what art ought to be – a part of being made in the image of God – gives me hope for the future. Thank you so much for sharing and God bless you.

Michelle R. Wood
Member

I’m sorry, but I can’t understand why Christian fans go gaga over this trilogy, as if it’s the best think since Foundation.

John, at this moment I feel unqualified to answer any of the other points you’ve raised. You ask why people find this series so appealing even with (or inspite of) its apparent weaknesses. I believe Firebird has developed a following for the same reason people still love early Broadway shows: they are considered “firsts” of their respective genres, breakthroughs. Perhaps this comparison is unequitable (to paraphrase Misti’s usage of the term); let me explain my reasoning.

Productions like Show Boat and Oklahoma are considered the first modern musicals, where the music and dialogue combinded to tell a coherent story. Not only that, these and others of their era are credited with first marrying the musical format to socially conscious themes (like racism). With the advent of these more complete, better plotted works, Broadway matured from light song and dance vaudeville to a deeper form of dramatic literature; even so, it’s been a gradual evolution of not only quality but also style.

As an example: Gershwin’s farsical Of Thee I Sing won a Pulitzer and is a vanguard of modern politcal parody. Still, it bares the marks of its times (1930s) and the jokes don’t play as well for a modern auidence unfamilar with the history. By modern standards of style and production quality, it’s not that brilliant. But it paved the way for Sondheim’s existentialist Sunday in the Park with George, a moving and nonlinear exploration of what it means to be an artist, which also won a Pulitzer 53 years later. The one had an indelible effect on the other; one could argue that without the popular early musicals, there would be no later Broadway greatness.

In like vein, I think many consider the Firebird series a revelation in terms of combining the science fiction genre with themes of divine love and repentence. We can argue over how “well” Tyers writes, but let us at least agree that it is coherent and technically proficient. Perhaps it has not and/or will not age well, and perhaps it is not up to the latest standards of style and artistry. Still, I believe many read these books and thought “Yes, someone who isn’t afraid to combine a Christian message with starships.” Not only that, there were those encrouaged to write their own versions or ideas. Perhaps there are also those angered enought to write better versions (a fanfiction writer I admire once admited she thought nearly all good fiction started with an argument).

You are, of course, free to disagree with these assertions. I think, though, that all artforms go through a lifecycle, from early crude birth to gradual maturation (just look at the development of the Internet); a cycle, I might add, that is often full of growing pains and controversies. I see no reason why the CBD should be any different.

Please understand that I respect your position (regardless of my personal feelings on the subject). I also belive Stephen respects your position, even if he has expressed disagreement with it. I certainly won’t claim I agree with Stephen on every point (we butted heads recently over the concept of “unconditional love“), but I have always found him to respectful, thoughtful, prayerful, and heartfelt in his discussions both here at Speculative Faith and at his own blog.

I pray that this comment will be taken as it is intended, a sincere answer to a sincere question.

Zoe
Guest

Michelle: “We can argue over how “well” Tyers writes, but let us at least agree that it is coherent and technically proficient. Perhaps it has not and/or will not age well, and perhaps it is not up to the latest standards of style and artistry.”

The thing is, Firebird is commercial fiction, not literary fiction. Of course it is not comparable to the works of Flannery O’Connor or even Tolkien; it’s not supposed to be. It may not stand the test of time; very little commercial fiction does, and that’s okay. It’s still an enjoyable and worthwhile read. I don’t know much about the genre, but from what you say it sounds like Kathy Tyers did for science fiction what Frank Peretti did for Christian fiction, and I think that is very respectable. And yes, some of my writing was inspired by Tyers, although for me writing is still just a once-in-a-while hobby. It is also because of reading Firebird that I discovered Karen Hancock, whose debut novel Arena I absolutely loved. So yeah, I don’t think Firebird is anywhere near LOTR, but that doesn’t mean her work can’t be thoroughly enjoyed for what it is. 😀

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Michelle, God used your comment so powerfully to encourage me last night. I’d been having a hard time personally, related to other very discouraging situations. (I don’t think it helped that two Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped by my place on Saturday afternoon — now there’s a group that claims to “read the Bible literally” but then ignores Greek grammar to try to turn Jesus Christ into a created being. …)

Whenever we meet, whether that’s on this Earth or in the New Earth, I owe you a hug!

And if I forget for now, and that occurs until the New Earth after all — well, I’ll certainly have a very present Christ to remind me, along with a redeemed physical mind! 😀

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

The problem is Zoe, that there’s plenty of commercial fiction that is not only a great read, but also not ephemeral crap. Dan Simmons’s Hyperion series for instance, or Speaker for the Dead, or even the occassionally insufferable but always interesting writing of Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers). Most classic sci-fi and fantasy (and even much classic literary fiction) started out as commercial work.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Though I sense this discussion may be winding down, let me offer some more comments: at first a summary of the debate, then some more-detailed thoughts expanding on the twofold nature of this debate, then a few thoughts on various points.

First: there are indeed two parts to this discussion:

1) Is Firebird mostly a well-written Christian novel or not?

2) How do we define “Christian” or even “the Gospel” — a question that undergirds whether a novel is “preachy,” or “anti-Semitic,” or even well-written.

John, that’s why I haven’t dealt at length with your criticisms of Tyers’ style or the novel being (in your view) wrongly appreciated. As much as I like to talk about novels and Christian fiction, the second discussion there is more foundational and more important. Are you understanding “Christianity” correctly? Is your definition of “anti-Semitism” accurate? Is there only one “set” of errors into which Christians may fall, and which must inform how we see everything else? Or are there sets of opposite errors that would be equally bad to fall into, while we try to avoid the first set?

So while it may seem frustrating that I’m (or other are) avoiding the first debate in favor of the second, that may help explain why. Speaking for myself, I’m seeing that you seem to have flawed definitions of both “anti-Semitism” and Christianity. Thus, I wonder if you will really view Tyers’ work fairly. As I said in Thursday’s column about critiquing Christian fiction critics who say a Christian novel is “preachy”: some of these critics are simply objecting to a Christian novel being Christian at all. With the best of intentions, I’m sure, you seem to be within that group.

No, Christianity does not and cannot include acknowledgements that modern Jews are somehow exempt from Jesus’ “I am the way …” claims (John 14:6). No, it’s presuming to be wiser than God, Who inspired Scripture, to say that contrary to the whole book of Hebrews, it’s perfectly fine to revert to Moses, the Law, etc., as if they weren’t pointing forward to Jesus all along, and now that He has come we must embrace His fulfillment.

And no, it’s not “anti-Semitic” to say that anyone who doesn’t consciously repent and place faith in Christ for salvation will suffer God’s wrath. It might be called (though wrongly) “unloving” or “fundamentalist intolerance” or something, but to call this “anti-Semitic,” as if such Christians were singling out Jews, is both wrong and slanderous.

Now for a few remaining specific responses, which I hope you’ll take to heart not as simply trying to “one-up” you, but to serve as encouragement and grace-informed rebuttals. I really wish we could discuss this live and in person. And as long as I’m being wistful, I would also have invited you to my church where you can find actual Christians who — surprise! — do enjoy reading the Bible for what its Author (and authors) actually meant. They have somehow also managed to avoid anti-Semitism or all the other sins you’ve encountered, often despite having also tangled bullshenanigan from those who’ve lyingly claimed “this is the literal reading.” I myself have in the past put up with some crappy teaching about “spiritual warfare,” using proof-texting along with a really bad PDF about a supposed “Jezebel spirit.” So you are not alone.)

Stephen you haven’t given me a single factual argument in this whole exchange. I am responding to you in kind.

This is not correct. I’ve pointed out that Matthew 18:18 is factually not about spiritual warfare. This is just plain English. What other people do with that verse, ripping it from context, is not my fault, your fault or Scripture’s fault. That’s the verse we were talking about — which I brought up to show you, direct from Scripture, that “binding” people as a spiritual-warfare thing is man’s made-up law, not the Bible’s.

Furthermore, Kaci asked a question I’ll repeat here:

I’m nowhere near one of the ‘demons under every rock and behind everything’ types, but I think we’re at a standstill if you don’t believe they exist and I do.

The answer is essential for making any headway here. And it’s related to the incorrect assertion that anyone who says Jews don’t get a special salvation process apart from Christ is “anti-Semitic” — if you don’t believe in unique salvation exclusively through Christ at all, that’s the foundational issue, and everything else is secondary.

I am not going to bother going through the literally twenty or thirty verses in which Jesus exorcises demons out of epileptics, the mad, etc. Historically, those verses have been interpreted as literal exorcisms. It is up to you, not me, to refute that charge, since that is the historical literal interpretation.

John, as others have already asked you, I now ask directly: when you can show me any part of the Bible, in plain English (much less Original Greek), that not only shows Jesus casting out demons, but gives step-by-step instructions for how He did it and how to discern what’s a demon and what’s a mental problem, then I think you might have a strong case.

However, the fact remains that when professing Christians have come up with their notions about how to do all this, they’re basing it on conjecture and anecdotes — in other words, they ignore the Bible and guess based on its narratives.

You’ll not find step-by-step instructions in the Bible about how to discern demons or “exorcise” them. Not a one. I’ve checked into this; I’ve seen the literature on “spiritual warfare,” which I know from Scripture is real but which is handled through personal sin confession and responding to what Christ has done for His people — the Gospel. Ever heard of Neil Anderson? He and folks like him may mean well, but their ideas of blaming demons for sins, more than our own sin and mental illness, have hurt and wounded many people — especially Christians. That’s wrong, so wrong, and I’m very sorry you once suffered that garbage. Does it help that I’m somewhat familiar with it also? I can be a bit OCD myself, though I know others who have far more intense cases of that. But again, mis-“diagnosing” this can’t be blamed on any clear Scripture. If you can find me any Biblical portion that seems to say otherwise, let’s talk about it.

I am not claiming absolute truth. I am merely saying that your claim to know absolute truth is hubristic.

This itself is an absolute truth claim: all claims to absolute truth are hubristic. Self-refuting statement, meaning that at the very least, we’re all by nature arrogant — but according to you, apparently, Christ has no power to prevent this thanks to His Spirit’s clean-up work in our hearts; and is also Himself guilty of arrogance, for He spoke what He claimed was the “absolute truth” throughout His work.

I have made a convincing case for my position, you have not for yours. I have quoted specific examples.

Actually I’ve only read leaps into more Anecdotal Evidence, without attempts to connect those with specific clear words of Scripture, with repetitions of the fallacious argument: “they did this, claiming they knew the literal reading.” In response I’ve shown how the very Word they claim as backup does nothing of the sort. Let’s talk about those specific examples, John, starting with this:

Matthew 18:18 — does it talk about “binding” and “loosing” Satan or demons, or give any credence to that belief about exorcism, or not?

You just say those “weren’t true Christians” or that didn’t represent “true literalism”. This is known as the No True Scotsman fallacy.

That would only be a valid objection if I had left it at that. But if you read my response carefully, you’ll find much more than those simple statements — my responses were detailed, and so have others’ responses been. Don’t set up straw men, please.

The people who punished me did so based on a literal reading of scripture.

If this is the case, then “literal reading” has no meaning. Refer to my challenge above about Matthew 18:18, and my challenge to find any actual instruction in Scripture about how to discern demons or cast them out of people.

Your self-serving claims to the contrary do not mitigate that. Deal with your culture’s guilt. Don’t pass it on to me. I have enough of my own.

Here is where I ask: why do you have this guilt? And could it be that you hear confidence and joy in some of the comments here — written by Christians of varying beliefs but who’ve been forgiven of their sins! — and interpret it as arrogance?

If so, that is a more foundational issue, and I fear that in your haste to throw the Bible out for crimes its abusers committed, you’ve thrown out grace also.

Here is where I repeat the gentle question from MS Quixote:

How could you know Christ’s truth apart from the Bible?

For if you’re seeking to know “Him” apart from the Bible — you might come to any kind of wrong belief about Him. You might think that He’s a white American. Or that He was actually the son of Joseph, not of God. Or that what He really wants you to do is work and work and earn your way to God, while fighting to rid yourself of the guilt.

That’s not Who He is, though. But how would you know that for sure without God’s Word to assure you — while you’re stuck in a supposed battle against “Bibliolaters”?

Do you see God as amazing, loving and holy, and yourself as nothing without Him, who wants to delight in Him and experience His joy, knowing that you can do nothing to rid the guilt except fall before Christ, repent and believe in His death as payment for your sins and in His life as credited to your account, for God’s glory and your good?

Or is Jesus (whoever “He” is) merely a jumping-off point for our preferred causes?

So I end with this encouragement, John, and again wishing I could be saying this face-to-face over coffee somewhere: if you feel that burden of guilt, the Bible is clear that it’s resulting from a far worse problem that simply Things Done to You by Other People (though that is certainly evil). Instead it’s from your own heart’s desire to reject God and use His good gifts — truth, things, your brilliant mind He gave you! — for alternate purposes. “(Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin,” Paul says in Romans 14:29.) All who haven’t repented and believed in Christ are under God’s curse.

That’s the worse news, but it makes the good news even better than many evangelicals will acknowledge: Christ was punished in our place, crushed by the Father (Isaiah 53) on behalf of all who would believe, Jews and Gentiles alike. Only after embracing that truth, that Savior, can we then get aboard God’s mission to forge His Kingdom and bust up the crap other people (even Christians) like to spew. But all that is a means for a far better end: God’s glory, and a New Earth under Christ’s rule.

And in that fantastic world, all our guilt will be gone, all God’s people will be one, and all will worship Christ in everything they do. That’s something worth anticipating. And that’s the reason I’m writing this now: not just to point you toward more battles and Things to Do, which don’t and never can assuage our guilt, but to point you to Christ! 🙂

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[…] (lengthy) discussion broke out this weekend prompted by Friday’s interview with Spec Faith’s special guest, Kathy Tyers, author of Firebird. Much of the conversation […]

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

“John, that’s why I haven’t dealt at length with your criticisms of Tyers’ style or the novel being (in your view) wrongly appreciated. As much as I like to talk about novels and Christian fiction, the second discussion there is more foundational and more important. Are you understanding “Christianity” correctly? Is your definition of “anti-Semitism” accurate? Is there only one “set” of errors into which Christians may fall, and which must inform how we see everything else? Or are there sets of opposite errors that would be equally bad to fall into, while we try to avoid the first set?

So while it may seem frustrating that I’m (or other are) avoiding the first debate in favor of the second, that may help explain why. Speaking for myself, I’m seeing that you seem to have flawed definitions of both “anti-Semitism” and Christianity. Thus, I wonder if you will really view Tyers’ work fairly. As I said in Thursday’s column about critiquing Christian fiction critics who say a Christian novel is “preachy”: some of these critics are simply objecting to a Christian novel being Christian at all. With the best of intentions, I’m sure, you seem to be within that group”

It is solely your opinion that I have a flawed definition of Christianity. I think your definition is also flawed, so I believe we are at an impasse. There are Christian works I like, including evangelical ones. I’ve listed them:

Paul Patton’s “Kurt Gerstein” (about the Holocaust, actually)
Leif Enger’s Peace Like A River
Jack Chick tracts
Plumb
Sixpence
and I think Gideon’s Torch, Stephen Lawhead’s Empyirion series, One Mind’s Eye are at least average or above average. I have mentioned these works repeatedly in these posts as examples of better Christian art. Why do you therefore say I am biased against Christian art?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

The question isn’t whether we disagree — duh! 🙂 — but whose view is the right one, and how we define Right. Is it by appealing to our own feelings or that recurring “Bad Guys believe like how I think you sound” motif? Or to the Word?

Without the Word, we’re all doing nothing but appealing to our separate feelings.

Without that higher authority, we’re all just spinning wheels. No truth outside ourselves, nothing to keep us both humble under It.

Without the Word, Jesus is only an imaginary friend, with no basis in actual history, who can’t really be known — and God is either nonexistent, cruel or an idiot for not giving us more than feelings to know that Jesus was ever around, or still is, and has done certain things.

And without the Word, rightly read, we’re all vulnerable to swinging wild, getting stuff wrong, and doing the exact same things that wounded you. However, we also have no real reason to object except “I feel differently.”

John, I know these debates can be a bit exhilarating and (if I’m guessing right) the temptation is strong to respond right now right now right now and be quick about it! (Or perhaps that’s my own OCD-like conditions that I’m projecting on others.) However, might I ask you to take a break for a moment, consider more of what I wrote than the “Christian art” parts (which don’t relate to what I wrote) and then come back and continue the discussion?

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Steve, I don’t have time to deal with all the other inaccuracies in your post, nor I’m sure do you have any more time to condemn my “unscriptural” reading of the NT. I’ll try to reply if I can later, but I guess that we’ve reached an impasse.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

John, if I run out of time, you’ll be the first to know. 🙂

Moreover, I wonder if other participants in this discussion feel it’s an “impasse,” with all arguments truly exhausted and shown to be just an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

I would suggest I’ve shown that at best, either “literalism” or your solution lead to excesses and wrongs, contrary to your perception that only literalism leads to wrongs (“wrongs” defined by what, exactly?). Beyond that, I think many people have shown here that flawedness of claiming one can claim to “follow Jesus” but reject the Bible. At the very least, that very foundational question hasn’t gone answered — so far, anyway.

Sure, we all have lives. Yet it’s a vital issue to sort through, don’t you think?

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Sorry, Steve, but your theology is hardly St. Augustine, or even A.W. Tozer. If you want to get into a serious theological discussion, which you seem clearly not to want to do, let me know.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Steve,
You haven’t even come close to showing that literalism is a neccessary Christian belief. And the reason that most people agree with you here, is BECAUSE THIS IS A CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN SITE. Of course they’re not going to agree with me. I could be a hundred times more logical than I am now . . . it would not make any difference at all.

I don’t want to be rude. I’m just tired of conservative evangelicals trying to define me out of the movement or out of Christianity, when they have precious little understanding of evangelical history itself (even less than I admittedly do).

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

John, I’m not trying to do any of those things. I’ve only asked questions for further discussion. If you want to answer and continue, that’s great, and I look forward to it. But personal insults about my intelligence (or lack thereof!) or grasp of history, or references to biased readers don’t contribute to the discussion, do they?

I’ve already heard arguments that “Biblical inerrancy” is just a novelty belief, and rejected them. Generalizations about history can come up later, backed with specifics.

Moreover, everything you’ve said continues to be based in Anti-this or -that, as if this were as simple as dismissing my beliefs academically, then allowing a Default View to slip naturally into place.

I’ve simply wondered, before: what is your Christianity founded upon, if not Scripture? Is it not ultimately one’s feelings and personal perceptions about Life, the Universe, and Everything?

I’ve also asked what you believe the Gospel to be, based on your admission that you already have “enough guilt” and want to avoid the perceptions of others placing even more guilt on you. That to me says: I have a different Gospel, one that isn’t sufficient to alleviate my sense of guilt. Please, prove me wrong so I can be sure I’m debating you as a brother in Christ and then move forward in grace, despite our disagreements!

But I do grow weary of asking the same questions again and getting the same dodges.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

And I get weary of your dodges, so let’s just call this quits, o.k.?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

It does seem like we have completely different presuppositions. But I can’t prove what you say you want to be proved to you, while also accepting a completely different set of presuppositions — i.e., “the Bible isn’t true and if you claim to know anything for sure, that’s evil” — a wildly variant and subjective “rule of the game.” So yes, it does seem like the discussion is closed. However, I urge you to consider my pleas that go beyond mere academic topics and to the roots of the guilt you mentioned, and the Gospel itself.

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Steve, I’ll try to answer as completely as I can later, but I think that the so-called dodges you see reflect from both of us looking at scriptures differently. I don’t know how helpful, therefore, discussion will be. I keep repeating points I made tens of times, and people simply say “That’s not true.” without interrogating the issue, and I’ve probably been guilty of that once or twice myself in this discussion, simply because I don’t have enough time to point out every verse in the Bible that mentions exorcism (for instance).

John

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Sounds like a more-firm footing. I hope we can keep regaining that!

Maybe that would be a good place to start, then: the exorcism verses. I know I tossed a lot of stuff out at once. Yet in this instance, it would be necessary not only to find parts in Scripture about exorcism, but specifically matching the kinds of “exorcism” people practice, and which we all here have found abhorrent. I’ve said that a literal reading doesn’t match that, and you’ve said it does. Pretty easy to see the disagreement there, it seems — which should help prevent anyone here from “dodging,” whether intentional or not!

So if we can start with, for example, Matthew 18:18 — does it clearly support, “literally,” “binding and loosing”-style handling of demons? Let’s pull it up, in context, and see. 🙂

John Weaver
Guest
John Weaver

Stephen,
I think a better example, among many is Mark 5. I honestly don’t understand how Jesus’s demon expulsion in that chapter can be viewed as anything other than exorcism (remember I’m not primarily interested in the exorcism issue, as I feel that there’s really no debate on that. Meaning no disrespect, I see your point as somewhat disingenous on that point.)

While you’re at it, for the purpose of this discussion can you define (use scripture if you want to, though remember I don’t neccessarily see that as binding, nor did all the church fathers):

God
Jesus
salvation
believebelief
I

“Without the Word, Jesus is only an imaginary friend, with no basis in actual history, who can’t really be known — and God is either nonexistent, cruel or an idiot for not giving us more than feelings to know that Jesus was ever around, or still is, and has done certain things.”

I don’t see it this way at all. First of all, i am not saying that one can’t have the Word, I’m just saying there is more than one way of interpreting the Word. I have explained my interpretative mechanism, which is mythopoeic, though a more liberal form of mythopoeic reading than that practiced by Lewis and Tolkien (neither of whom, by the way, read scripture literally. See Lewis;s letters). Secondly, to me, it’s the story that’s important. It’s the narrative truth of the story, not individual so-called factual elements, that are what matters. In this we do have some similarities, in that I admit that scripture can be read profitably based on trying to understand what God’s intent might be. The difference is I don’t equate intentionalism with literalism – indeed, intentionalism would not be considered literalism by most Biblical readers, and historically has been the reading method of mainliners and Catholics, not evangelicals. Common sense reading to me is not the same thing as intentionalism.

“No, Christianity does not and cannot include acknowledgements that modern Jews are somehow exempt from Jesus’ “I am the way …” claims (John 14:6). No, it’s presuming to be wiser than God, Who inspired Scripture, to say that contrary to the whole book of Hebrews, it’s perfectly fine to revert to Moses, the Law, etc., as if they weren’t pointing forward to Jesus all along, and now that He has come we must embrace His fulfillment.”

Let’s leave aside the dual covenant issue for a while and concentrate on the verse you give.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Please define I, truth, and Father. I have a specific point here to get to, so bear with me.

I guess that’s a good place to start at.

Lelia Rose Foreman
Guest

This discussion is fascinating.
I am so appalled by the “exorcism” that John Weaver had to endure. And I am thankful that he understands that Christ is not what those people did to him. He also sounds so much like my oldest son and his explorations of understanding scripture that I love him like my son also. (My son did not convert me to Universalism, but got me as far as Annihilationism, like John Stott, which my husband finds baffling) Josh Foreman, Confessions of a Quirky Artist, contributor to several atheist and christian websites.
But as to Kathy Tyers Firebird, is is space opera, and needs to be read to that standard.
It can be hard to know how other people will interpret your work. One critiquer of my work got so offended by some wording in one of my novels that I received a long lecture about how I should respect people with handicaps and I was evil in not doing so. She did not know that I have children with severe autism, asperger’s, fetal alcohol effect. I have a number of friends in wheelchairs. And I called up one of my friends with cerebral palsy and read her the offending paragraph so she could tell me what exactly was offensive about it. She could not see any offense.
John Weaver has given me an idea. Unfortunately I have no Jewish friends (well, one son, but that doesn’t count) but if I did, I think now I would also have one read through all my manuscripts before submission to make sure I did not accidentally make evil references I was unaware of.

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[…] the discussion that ensued here after my first interview [April 29, 2011] at first I just sat back and shook my head. It’s a […]

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[…] most of all, I realized I had so much in common with her reasons for writing when I read an interview she did back in 2011 at Speculative […]