Captain Marvel Left Me Baffled and Disappointed

When the credits rolled for Captain Marvel, I didn’t leave feeling empowered or inspired. Instead I pitied her.
Marian Jacobs | Apr 9, 2019 | 32 comments |

I was ready to love Captain Marvel.

After all, DC’s Wonder Woman stands out in my mind as epic and chock full of some glorious common grace. Surely Marvel’s own feminst icon would be the same?

But, sadly, I was left disappointed with Carol Danvers.

Ironically, I viewed the film just after writing the article, “When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain” for Lorehaven magazine’s spring edition. In that piece, I argue that the reason villains are often more attractive to children is because the heroes are boring by comparison. They are often stoic and lack sufficient reason to do good. After all, stoicism is an enemy of goodness and, therefore, has no place acting the hero.1

As stated so beautifully by Tyler Daswick in Relevant Magazine:

Brie Larson is a fine choice for Danvers, but Captain Marvel doesn’t give Larson a chance to bring any kind of original flair or panache to the expected hero poses and zingers. Larson has poise for days, but in comparison to Gal Gadot’s singular presentation of Wonder Woman’s idealism, naivete and determination, it’s clear Carol Danvers wasn’t as well-defined on the page. You just can’t describe her. We know Captain Marvel is a hero, but in the MCU, that’s not a personality trait. It’s a job.

As Daswick says, there’s no need to pick on Brie Larson. Anyone who has seen the film Room will know she’s an amazing actress. This is a Marvel problem.

So let’s just say it straight: the writing for this film was a mess. They pitched Danvers’ character arc as first being abused by her so-called commander, Yon-Rogg. He told her repeatedly to suppress her emotions in order to have success in battle. And yet this was not believable. What emotions? She had some simmering-below-the-surface moments here and there, but was she a highly emotional female? Not even close. With a couple small (too small given the situation) emotional spikes when she learned more of her own backstory, Danvers remains, well . . . stoic throughout the entire film.

One could make the argument that it was because of her mental abuse as a Kree soldier that Danvers appeared so devoid of proper feeling. But even in the flashbacks of her life before the Kree, Danvers was not much more expressive.

She seems to overcome this mental block and realizes the full potential of her powers which then leads her to be . . . still stoic.

Shouldn’t she throw off this persona now that she is no longer under Kree influence? Or is this what Marvel-Disney thinks feminine strength looks like? If that is the case, I can’t help but wonder if this is an instance of extreme feminism in which a “strong” woman is depicted as a strong, silent type of man.

(And is this a trend? Didn’t Emma Watson’s Belle in the live action Beauty and the Beast also lack appropriate expression at times? Yet more offensive still due to age was little Milly Farrier in Disney’s new Dumbo.)

Not only was Yon-Rogg’s abuse not believable or backed by Danver’s actual character portrayal, but the idea that one’s head and heart are at odds is a false dichotomy. They demonized the idea of being logical against following your heart. Logic and using your head are good gifts. God is logical because he does not contradict himself. He is not a God of chaos.

What of emotions? Of course there are times when they lead us astray, but that is not because emotions in and of themselves are bad, but because we as sinful people misuse them. We have only to go so far as the Psalms to teach our hearts how to be emotional in a way that glorifies God. When we marry logic and emotions, we better understand who God is. He is both a meticulous planner as well as a passionate father in more ways that we will ever know. And we are his people, made in his image. Unlike animals that were given only emotions ruled by nature alone, humans have the ability to reason and lead our emotions by our intellect.

When the credits rolled for Captain Marvel, I pitied Carol Danvers. She was injured, kidnapped, and abused by an alien race. Yet, instead of learning catalyzing truth, her abuse only directs her into more deception in the end.

  1. Subscribe to Lorehaven for free to read more on the problem of heroic stoicism.
Marian Jacobs writes about Jesus, monsters, and spaceships. Her work is featured at Desiring God as well as Stage and Story. She and her family live in Palm Springs, California.

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Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Interesting. Haven’t seen the film, but I do wonder about culture’s general suppression of emotions. From your description, it seems like Marvel wanted Captain America to be like how the culture encourages men to be. Un-emotional. When boys are told to, “be a man,” what they’re really told is, “Don’t let your emotions out. Bottle them up until you’re pissed, then exercise dominance over others to let out the steam.” Super toxic and dysfunctional. How many people are emotionally messed up because their dads or mothers were never emotionally open with them? Never said, “I love you.” Or admitted fault. As I’m thinking of it, it seems like women are not really allowed to be emotional either, by the culture. “Stop crying. Be strong.” For the women reading this, do you feel like culture tries to tell you to be un-emotional? Or am I just imagining things?

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Sometimes, in certain contexts. Early on in college, one of my textbooks even mentioned this thing called ‘cowboy syndrome’, which I guess was where people feel like they have to be cold and calm all the time. They said that, more and more, women are kind of encouraged to do the same, at least in a business environment.

To an extent I’ve put stoicism on myself, but not in a bad way. There are definitely times when we do need to suppress our emotions. I’ve always been of the mind that emotions are good, but that we need to keep them under control and know when/how to express them. Crying in the middle of a business meeting is inappropriate, crying at home alone is perfectly fine. That is often the case with rage, too.

Stoicism is a whole philosophy, so I definitely wouldn’t subscribe to it all, but there are some good aspects of it. From what I understand, one aspect of it is that our reaction to a situation is what is actually emotionally painful, so being able to control that reaction is an advantage. Understanding that has helped me a lot, but at the same time I don’t go so far as to suppress my emotions entirely.

Marian Jacobs
Guest
Marian Jacobs

Autumn, I wouldn’t say what you’re describing is stoicism. I would call it prudence or wisdom. That’s why pitting logic and emotions against each other doesn’t work. We need both to be functional human beings just like you said. It’s also why our rational minds lead our emotions and not the other way around. Stoicism is when you suppress your emotions at all times. Even when you need them.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Well, I specifically said that I wouldn’t subscribe to the whole philosophy, but it’s possible to take aspects or concepts of a philosophy and integrate them in a way that’s healthy. Borrowing ideas from the philosophy, instead of fervently copying all of them, that kind of thing.

That said, I wasn’t trying to say that everything I mentioned in my post was part of stoicism. The parts that you were probably labeling as prudence was more of me explaining why I’d be willing to try and control my emotions in the first place(if we can’t control our emotions, then it’s hard to make sure we express them at the right times). Though I see how I didn’t word it in a way that expressed that well.

I was searching all over for this one video that analyzed Cowboy Bebop through the lens of stoicism, but I think the youtuber deleted it 🙁

Since I can’t find that other video, I’ll link the wikipedia page on stoicism. The first paragraph of the Ethics And Virtues section is especially relevant:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

I guess what I’m wondering is if this hyper-macho feminine archetype that some feminists seem fond of is actually just glorifying the same things that proliferate the existence of toxic masculinity. Seems likely (and also ironic). Again, it’s interesting that Ursula K. Le Guin (a feminist) was against this hyper-macho feminist archetype. For the record, I think a hyper-macho male archetype is ridiculous, as well. So much running and gunning. It’s all just a bunch of idealized stuff that doesn’t really illuminate life. Not that a comic book needs to, of course. Just would be refreshing to see emotional transparency and openness be put out there on display a bit more (it is at times, just not for the most part, and if it is, it’s openness to admitting some horrific crime or evil behavior). Like in our pop songs. Where are the pop songs about loving being a father? Or loving being a mother? Or loving being a brother or sister? The normal stuff of life that most of us spend 90% of our time living. Idk, I just would enjoy seeing things I can connect with more. Rather than, “PARTY PARTY DOO DA DAY, DRUGS AND GUNS AND OTHER STUFF I SHOULDN’T SAY.” Reminds me of that John Mayer song, “Well they’re celebrating broken things
I don’t wanna world of broken things
You can tell that something isn’t right
When all your heroes are in black and white

Would you have liked to say
At least I still have yesterday
Show me something I can be
Play a song that I can sing
Make me feel as I am free
Someone come speak for me”

And that’s saying a lot because John Mayer’s a douche.

I guess, long rambling way of saying, doesn’t seem like a very relatable character.

Marian Jacobs
Guest
Marian Jacobs

Brennan, as far as Ursula K. Le Guin being a feminist and against this hyper-macho feminist archetype, I don’t see that as contradictory. There are many brands of feminism and I myself subscribe to some of them–at least the ones I find to be biblical. So it’s possible that Le Guin felt (as some secular feminists do) that turning a women into a man in order to make her appear “strong” is actually anti-feminist. And amen to that.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Right. That’s what I took away from what she wrote about gender roles. I think she’s right. I find her writings on gender to be very compelling and interesting. Actually, a lot of what Le Guin wrote was compelling and interesting. Love her work, and I think she was under-appreciated. Seems like “feminism” means a lot of different things to different people, so it’s pretty hard to get into discussions about it from the get-go, and therefore have no desire to.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Sometimes that 2d ‘strong woman’ archetype probably does follow some of the toxic masculinity patterns, but it probably also adds to and stems from a lot of issues that are more characteristic of the ‘strong woman’ archetype itself. Growing up, the ‘warrior woman’ seemed to be pretty common, and a common plot point for those women was to learn how to fight, showing the importance of ‘girl power’ and that women are just as good as men.

Sometimes those characters were fun and compelling, but other times they were very annoying, because they almost seemed to be the only type of female protagonist in fantasy sometimes. Also…some books made them very two dimensional, like their only purpose was to criticize the patriarchy. Sometimes it felt like their only reason to learn to fight was ‘I hate that men tell us we can’t do this, so I must rebel, and not even ask myself whether or not I like swordfighting/whatever I’m pursuing to make my point to the patriarchy!!!’

Initially, the point of all those characters probably wasn’t to say that women needed to be like men to achieve validity, but rather to say that women could be just as good as men, and shouldn’t be squished into boxes that don’t even make sense. BUT, those stories had negative side effects sometimes, such as putting down women that actually do value more stereotypically ‘feminine’ things.

That said, I kind of wonder if people just miss the point when parents/society says ‘be strong’ and whatnot. Some people might mean it in the sense of suppressing all emotions, but many people in our modern era don’t truly feel that way, deep down. Just about everyone probably has times when they would feel justified in expressing emotion, even if they might tell others not to express it. Remember that scene in the first Incredibles movie, after the plane crashes and Mrs. Incredible is like ‘We are NOT going to die! Now both of you get a grip or so help me I will ground you for a month. Understand?!’

She wasn’t trying to invalidate emotions or teach her children to suppress their feelings, she was just trying to get them to calm down and handle the situation in a way that would help them survive, along with maybe expressing emotion at the right times. Parents do that a lot for their children growing up, but sometimes it looks like people take stuff like that as them being forced to suppress their emotions altogether for some reason.

As for our media and songs, it’s often harder to write about things that are already perfect and happy. There are plenty of awesome songs that aren’t about violence, sex, etc, but if they have any impact, they probably still contain something tragic in them. Like…I dunno, missing someone or whatnot.

Take We Are One from the second Lion King movie:

It’s beautiful, and is Simba’s way of trying to help Kiara understand life better. But one reason it works is because it blatantly discusses the fact that life is difficult and confusing, but that Simba and the rest of their pride will always do their best to be there for Kiara, and that she will understand life better as she grows up.

Consider the line ‘But you’ll see every day that we’ll never turn away. Even when it seems all your dreams come undone…’

That’s saying that he will be there for her, but Simba isn’t flinching from the fact that there WILL be unhappy times and that there WILL be times when her life seems to fall apart. The song is useful and compelling, comforting and beautiful partly because of its willingness to discuss the negative in relation to the positive. Songs that don’t do that at all have a much harder time sticking with me, personally.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

Some of my favorite characters have been ones that people would call ‘cold’ or ‘stoic’, but that’s because they actually have lots of turmoil on the inside, and relateable(at least to me) character struggles. But, this only works if the character is well written and presented well. Kiritsugu from Fate Zero is one example. From the very first scene that he is in, there are many hints that he is broken and carrying a lot of sins and tragedies. The show gives him amazing character development, taking two whole episodes to detail his childhood. There, we see him as a normal, happy, compassionate kid that goes through extreme trauma and loss…only to find out that the entire world is constantly going through that kind of trauma. So, underneath Kiritsugu’s calm, cold demeanor, we see a very jaded yet idealistic person.

‘Stoic’ characters don’t need such a graphic backstory to succeed. Uchiha Itachi is another cold calm character that is written very well, but that is also because Naruto/Naruto Shippuden takes time to show aspects of his life and humanity. There are many characters that branded him as arrogant, distant, etc. because on the outside he seems very emotionless and antisocial. In reality…he is very kind and understanding, and willing to sacrifice his life, happiness and well being for the sake of peace, his village and his little brother. He appears stoic to many characters because he tends not to share his burdens with them, but the show takes the time to show the audience who he really is, and what his thoughts and reactions are to growing up and watching the brokenness of the world unfolding before him. His backstory is pretty dark, considering the fact that he committed the Uchiha Massacre, but the issue is presented in a much less graphic way than Kiritsugu’s backstory.

A story needs to communicate emotion and details through microexpressions and scene setting things like lighting, camera angles, and timing when characters deliver certain information to have maximum impact.

Also, viewers have different personalities and life experiences, so even when a character is well portrayed, not everyone is going to understand their emotions. The first couple episodes of Violet Evergarden were probably my favorites, but I’ve heard that many people didn’t get invested in the show until much later. They had a hard time relating to the ‘stoic’ Violet, but that seems to be more about them not understanding that type of character than anything else. Violet Evergarden didn’t incite a whole lot of emotion in me compared to other shows, but I’d still say that even the first couple episodes were well made. But that’s partly because I picked up on a lot of details that helped me understand Violet’s emotional state. Even in those first couple episodes, Violet WAS showing a lot of emotion. She clearly went through a lot, and had something she cared about(pleasing her commanding officer and returning to the battlefield at his side). And that influences everything she does throughout the show.

I haven’t seen Captain Marvel, so I can’t comment on it in particular, but (the recent) Marvel movies tend to fall a bit flat for me in general, so I don’t have high expectations.

Travis Perry
Editor

I regret a bit stepping into this conversation late. Though maybe “better late than never” applies.

In short I agree I like stoic characters at times. As I explain:

First, some people are more naturally emotionally expressive than others. Second, some people have been taught to suppress expression of emotion–but to say suppression of emotion is always in all cases emotional abuse is way over the top of what’s true in my opinion. Third, some people learn to suppress emotions due to certain types of abuse.

Suppression of emotion is mostly a personality style or a cultural preference. It’s neither inherently good nor evil. Only on occasion is it a sign of serious trauma.

Good versus evil, by the way, comes down to specific actions in most cases. Killing another human being for any other reason than that the person has committed a capital offense and has been duly processed by law (or in self-defense or other limited contexts) is murder. In a way it doesn’t matter if you kill in a surge of emotion or you kill with calculated reasoning–the victim is equally as dead. Though the law does see premeditation differently–because of the idea a premeditated killing could have been stopped before any death occurred.

A person who spontaneously performs a good act (such as giving food to someone starving) because of an emotional response should not be seen as inherently better than a person who chooses to do good from a rather unemotional perspective. What matters most is the act performed.

Why should stoicism or suppression of emotion be seen as inherently villainous? How is it in any way worse than over-expression of emotions in a way that burdens other people?

By the way, it’s also possible for someone to become extremely expressive of emotion because of abuse. (Suppression of emotion is not the only possible reaction to abuse.)

So, all that said, I find stoic characters quite likable at times. Mr. Spock is a favorite. And I don’t see Vulcan philosophy (though fictional) as inherently abusive.

As for the story in question, I haven’t seen Captain Marvel and I don’t know if Brie Larson was a good choice or not. Though I’d say based on interviews I’ve seen with Larson that she seems to be a very uninteresting person. Maybe she has the power to bring out another side while acting, but I’m not surprised she came across as dull and emotionless. I think Larson IS at least somewhat dull and emotionless. At least as far as I have seen.

So yeah, no surprises from me that her Captain Marvel would be rather wooden.

But a lot of people really seem to like the Captain Marvel movie, so…

Travis Perry
Editor

My own comment on Brie Larson inspired me to look back at an interview with her–no “emotionless” as I said above isn’t right. But her emotions seem shallow, faked. She struck me as an essentially boring person trying to pose as someone with something interesting to say. Hope that doesn’t offend anyone needlessly, but I’m just reporting what I see behind those eyes of hers–which is nothing much. (Yeah, that’s rather harsh of me, but I wouldn’t have picked her to play any part in any movie at all had I been the director and she showed up for the casting call…NEXT!)

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I haven’t listened to extensive interviews of Brie Larson, but from what I’ve seen, she comes off as tense and judgy, but in a bad way. Like maybe she’s bitter and less likely to respond or share her feelings because she’s ‘over it’. That said, what I saw was a snippet of her responding to the recent debacle over something she said surrounding Captain Marvel.

She’s probably interesting as a person, if we could actually understand her life story and get inside her head. But, we probably won’t get the opportunity. I also have a feeling that I wouldn’t get along with her long term as a friend.

That’s the thing, though. Most, if not all people could probably be interesting in some context or another, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at showing it. Not all introverts are withdrawn,(and I have no idea if Larson is an introvert), but introverts usually have a lot of fascinating things dancing around in their head, but lots of people assume they don’t because it isn’t expressed in a visible manner…at least not in a way people notice.

A lot of people probably saw my ex as boring, but that was because they knew him in a different context than I did. My ex felt like he could be himself around me enough that we could have great conversations, and he felt free to passionately ramble on about his interests or whatever. He didn’t feel that free around a lot of my family and friends, though, which probably made him seem about as interesting as a pebble in their eyes.

Autumn Grayson
Guest

I usually keep checking for new replies on articles so long as the article’s still on the first page. Or at least the first half of the first page, so thankfully I still ended up seeing your post even if it’s late 😛

I identify with stoic chars quite a bit, so that’s probably one reason I like them so much. Although I show a pretty decent amount of emotion, there’s still a lot of times when I’m very quiet and withdrawn, or say things in such a blunt and direct way that people hate it. Some people think my quietness means I’m a shy pushover, have a problem with them, or that I’m just overly serious and mature. Sometimes they’re right, often times they’re not. I do get misunderstood often enough, which means it’s hard to even control whether or not people like me long term. I see many well written stoic chars getting misinterpreted as well. Sometimes they deserve criticism, but that doesn’t mean people actually understand them.

And yeah, Itachi and Kiritsugu weren’t abused, but they certainly went through their own little patches of hell. Violet WAS abused by the people that trained her, though. On a surface level, a lot of people encountering these chars day to day or in a professional setting would probably see them as cold or emotionless, but in reality they’re not.

In fact, if someone saw them under certain conditions, they actually would get labeled as emotional by some. I’ve seen that happen with Swiftkill from Kay Fedewa’s Blackblood Alliance. Swiftkill comes off as kind of cold distant and dutiful in a lot of contexts. But, in the original comic, she was betrayed and it makes her feel very adamant about not going to help those that betrayed her in the past. I’ve actually seen someone look at that and find Swift dislikeable because she’s ‘too emotional’.

One reason intent, emotion and reasons matter is because they have implications for future behavior. A person could do nice things to gain others’ trust and manipulate them, for instance. Though, yes, an action can have the same (immediate) result regardless of the reasons behind it. People often assume that a lack of emotion/caring leads to harmful behavior. Often enough that’s true, but sometimes emotion can lead to harmful and controlling behavior.

Interestingly enough, intent mattered very greatly to a plot twist in Naruto Shippuden. Sasuke really hated his brother(Itachi) and wanted to kill him because of the initial assumptions about Itachi’s reasons for committing the Uchiha Massacre. Sasuke learned that Itachi actually had a completely different set of reasons, which changed everything.

I hadn’t thought about it to this extent before, but evaluating the actions vs. intent of other people kind of played a big role in the most recent chapter of my Naruto fanfic. That chapter goes through my version of Haku’s backstory to give the reader context for some things later on. I’m going to go ahead and link it since I’m trying to get in the habit of referencing things:

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12948191/4/What-The-Winds-Bring

But…yeah, there’s several big chunks of the chapter where he’s evaluating people’s behavior vs their reasons, and figuring out how he feels and wants to react to that.

And yeah, everyone definitely has their own reactions to stress, especially depending on exactly what happens to them. Comparing the character of my current WIP to the main char of the prequel…they end up handling their stress differently. In my current WIP, the main char wasn’t abused, but his mother was very harsh with him and didn’t really know how to show she cared. Expressing his emotions around her never helped and even made things worse in many cases, so he ended up withdrawing and separating from her. And that’s kind of how he handles stress from then on.

The main char of the prequel, on the other hand, ended up with an abusive husband, which she wasn’t prepared for at all. In some ways it made her a bit emotionally unhinged and even kind of merciless in some ways. It took her years to work through that, even after her husband’s death.

Something your mention of Spock brings up, though, is that a stoic character’s success depends greatly on how entertaining they are. Showing their humanity through bits of backstory and intense vulnerable moments helps, but making them entertaining can work with or even replace the need for a sympathy inducing backstory.

L from the Death Note anime series(the Death Note movies are blech) is a great example. He tends not to show much emotion, but he’s very entertaining. He’s very odd, and the way he interacts with the other chars is priceless. Even if he doesn’t show much emotion, he manages to be a catalyst for a lot of the humor in the story, all without ruining the overall seriousness of the show. We do still see bits of emotion and have moments where we can sympathize with him though, even if he’s very mysterious in terms of his thoughts and backstory.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Quite a bit of Stoic philosophy was cross-pollinated into early Christianity. Long-suffering was certainly a favorite topic for a lot of preachers of various flavors, especially the Enlightenment-era ones who read Marcus Aurelius after he was cool again.

Reminds me of the Space Stoics themselves. I can’t remember Star Trek canon ever actually delving into Vulcan culture like they did Klingon culture (granted, I’ve never seen much of T’Pol in Enterprise because I REFUSE to admit that show into my headcanon). I’ve seen fanart from Tumblr do a better job of playing with the ideas behind Vulcan culture (despite being mostly for laughs).

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

There’s always been people who claim the title Christian because of the perceived status they’ll receive, or for political and social reasons. A lot of western Christianity was politicized and thereby blended with popular culture and detached from its context and original meaning.

There was definitely influence from Stoicism, but long-suffering is embedded in OT literature all over the place. Job, anyone? It didn’t originate with stoicism. Stoicism in the 3rd century also wasn’t about the erasure of emotions, but rather about living according to reason. Christianity claims freedom from sinful passions on the basis of love and hope and treasure in Christ. Which is completely different from a purely reason-based existence (a mathematical morality). Longsuffering to early Christians meant something completely different from the type of longsuffering the stoics taught, and it’s a big mistake to confuse the two. The concept of the divine “logos,” and its impact on our lives (giving us freedom from sin) was all throughout the OT. Psalm 119. Deuteronomy 8:3. On and on, it’s everywhere. Only written in Hebrew, instead of Greek. Early Christianity was internally consistent with the OT Jewish writings, and based on them, and those writings far predated Stoic philosophy.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Well, the classic Marxist direction would be to say that of course the upper classes liked the preaching of longsuffering because they liked to pretend that suffering caused by class oppression was exactly the same as suffering caused by natural forces like bad weather that can’t be helped, except class oppression can totally be helped. Gotta soothe dem peasants before they start resorting to guillotines.

But Jewish thought had absorbed foreign influences before the NT. OT Jewish thought barely had anything of the afterlife in it. Satan “the Accuser” used to be more of a lawyerly, prosecutor figure who worked in tandem with God. Otherwise, why would they just be chilling around in Job before making the bet? The dynamic is off.

The more strict good vs evil duality was probably imported later from Zoroastrianism, and Satan was shifted to fill the role of Ahriman the daddy of evil. Remember, the fall of Satan isn’t in Genesis. That was Milton’s fanfic.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

Of course, your basic points are true, but the inferences you’re making are laughable. Tons of jerks have used the Bible throughout generations to suppress people who’ve been abused and shunted to the sidelines. But class oppression isn’t inherit in the OT or NT text. In fact, it’s prohibited. The early church was fighting it in the NT letters. Plenty poor people preached longsuffering, just the same as rich people. Of course, the abuse of the Bible shows that you’re right, politics and culture influenced the early church and the Jews along with every other religious generation throughout history (that’s why the Jews killed Jesus, after all–politics and status and power). But it’s a laughable argument to claim that foreign influences were the origin of Jewish religious texts or NT religious texts. Agreement doesn’t prove causality. It’s a serious fallacy, and could be used to conclude the exact opposite, that Jewish thought and NT texts influenced foreign philosophies instead. It’s just like people who claim the foreign flood epics (non-Jewish) were the origin of the Jewish flood epic, rather than the other way around. You could easily conclude either position, based on what we know. It comes down to your worldview and personal faith, not logic. Of course, I’m not going to convince you of anything because I get the feeling you don’t believe the Bible is inspired, or infallible, or even reliable. I can simply agree to disagree on that.

On the OT and NT role of Satan. The Bible’s internal claims go back to God’s sovereignty. The old and new testaments are consistent in their portrayal of God’s sovereignty (Satan not being able to do anything without God’s permission). None of that changed from old to new. Check out how the demonic spirits asked permission from Jesus to go into the pigs, etc. It’s the same dynamic as in Job. Then read Romans and you’ll see it lines up perfectly with the OT texts. And yes, you’re also right that Milton’s fanfic (if that’s what you want to call it) has impacted our western view of the fall of Satan more than the Bible itself. Even the NT is very scant on details about Satan’s “fall.” That’s why all the “angelic warfare” fiction is ridiculous. I can’t read it seriously as anything but straight up fantasy (This Present Darkness, etc.), which is perfectly fine, so long as people don’t take it so dang seriously. But when Jesus argued that Satan had always been a liar and was the king of lies, he used the OT to back it up.

notleia
Guest
notleia

My postmodernism is showing, because I believe there can be multiple valid interpretations that come from different and multifaceted contexts. Stoicism in the classic sense, stoicism in the connotative sense, the manipulation of the latter to sustain power imbalances. Or I’m just tangenting.

As for the flood stories, it’s harder to trace oral traditions than text. The Mesopotamians had written about Utnapushtim long before the Jewish people wrote about Noah. It’s a reasonable conclusion that the Mesopotamians originated it, but it could also be that both written versions stemmed from a regional oral tradition.

Or take the Synoptic Gospels. Mark came first, but there are shared passages between Luke and Matthew that Mark doesn’t share that led to the theory of another but forgotten gospel labeled Q. I have links if someone wants them.

But honestly I’m more interested if we start a flame war based on our disregard for angelic warfare.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

You’re tangenting, but that’s fine.

It may be reasonable, but it’s not an argument. People act like, “Doy, that’s the only conclusion.” When it’s not even close. My personal view on the flood stories is that the biblical account follows the oral tradition passed down through Adam to Shem to Methuselah to Noah to Shem to Abraham (seeing as their lifespans overlapped), and that the confusion of languages at Babel (which Noah was alive for) resulted in distortions of the story while Abram carried the original on, and there were likely written accounts along the way, though none remain now but what seems to have been written by Moses. It’s reasonable to assume he referenced written documents that were in fragments, as well as oral tradition. Anyways, all this shows is that everything comes down to faith and worldview. 🙂 Which is why it doesn’t pay to act as though dogmatic beliefs are based on logic alone. I’m a simple person. I try to base my beliefs on the Bible because I trust it. That’s it.

I’m up for the flame war. Hoorah!

Autumn Grayson
Guest

There’s a lot of scientific documentaries that discuss intense flooding, especially along coastal regions, so many cultures would have developed their own flood accounts, whether or not they were connected to Noah’s flood.

I like exploring different dynamics of the angelic warfare thing, whether or not it actually happens. In some ways, I imagine there being conflict between angels and demons, not always even over fighting for or against God’s mission, but sometimes their own interests in the physical realm. Like, I dunno, territorial battles, or maybe an angel doesn’t like how a demon is treating humans in a certain area or something.

notleia
Guest
notleia

It’s a perfectly reasonable theory within a certain framework, but that framework involves a lot of special pleading and motivated reasoning. Why would we treat the evolution of Jewish stories and motifs as different from the evolution of Etruscan stories and motifs after the Romans started cribbing from the Greeks? Is it true because literalists need it to be true to support their worldview? (rhetorical question is rhetorical)

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

All the frameworks do. Hence the point that it’s about belief, not reason.

notleia
Guest
notleia

I’ve been there. It’s easy to handwave it away, but it’s something you have to keep handwaving away, until maybe it stops being easy.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

You’re still hand-waving it away. You just think you’re not.

notleia
Guest
notleia

How so?

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

This is highly presumptuous, but from what little I can tell, it seems your belief system is a hodgepodge of whatever you find credible. Your belief isn’t primarily defined by some external source, but rather internally. By yourself. Would that be accurate or inaccurate?

notleia
Guest
notleia

A comment ago, it was about belief, not reason, but I’ll try to answer the question anyway — by means of tangent.

We all have the same wall to slap our ideas against and see what sticks, that wall being the sandbox that is reality (because I’m also mixing metaphors). But it’s a really ambiguous feedback process because maybe that end sticks but not the other, or we don’t always understand why something works or doesn’t.

Christianity as presented by biblical literalists and Calvinists and other assorted characters does not stick against the wall for me. (I don’t think it really works for anybody, but right now I’ll leave it at “for me”) Maybe when I was a little kid it was tacky enough to have some hold, but over time it peeled off the wall and fell. And I no longer have the energy or the want to hold it up or glue it back up. It wasn’t sustainable.

But some people are REALLY uncomfortable with ambiguity like that, and they spend a lot of time and effort to ignore the peeling or hold it up or staple it back up. It doesn’t help that people in general are REALLY good at ignoring reality or rationalizing it away when it doesn’t suit them. (Anti-vaxxers, for example)

So I see myself as being in a process rather than being in a slot. But most of what I see sticking to the wall is not unique to Christianity. I don’t know where that leaves me, but I’m pretty okay with the ambiguity, being all postmodernist and junk.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

This is still about belief. I didn’t change course.

You may think it’s about reason, but it’s not. Christianity as the Bible plainly presents it continuously sticks against the wall for me. Therefore, I continue to trust the Bible, and read it with the intent of figuring out how it fits together. We have competing experiences of reality here, because we believe different things.

One of us is confused. And I’m probably not going to convince you of this (and that’s fine), but it doesn’t come down to reason because we’re both being reasonable given certain assumptions and special pleading and motivated reasoning. You hand-wave away the possibility that the Bible is plain and true and cohesive for probably a lot of reasons I can’t imagine because I don’t know you, but in the end you’d rather trust your own instinct (which we already know is highly fallible and very incomplete). You hand-wave away that you probably don’t know 98% of everything in the universe and yet you trust your instinct and experience of reality more than you trust any outside forces, or the possibility that the answers to your doubts are hidden in the 98% you don’t know. That could be reasonable. It could also be presumptuous and stupid. It could also be right. So how do you choose? Belief. Faith. Your ultimate guide is internal. Mine is external because that external proved itself out in my internal person.

The Bible’s claims about Christ and his promises to change our lives and free us from evil desires and be present with us in a palpable, practical, real way has borne itself out in my actual reality. I can’t deny that Christ is right here, living in me, changing my life, any more than I can deny that I’m breathing. He has become my absolute treasure and my relationship with him has given me more joy than any other relationship I’ve ever experienced. I’m not blowing smoke. You can conclude I’m delusional, but I’m not blowing the impact of my personal intimacy with Christ out of proportion. Anyways, if the Bible was correct about that (earth-shatteringly correct, in my experience of reality), then I have to take it seriously when it makes other claims, and go into reading it seeking to find out how it works together and could be cohesive. I don’t look to Christian sub-culture for my beliefs. I just read the Bible. And yes, I’ve studied the history of how the books were chosen and compiled into the Bible we know, and all the arguments against it. Like I said, I’m a simple person. But I’m not an idiot. And I haven’t failed to critically examine the text and claims of many atheists, agnostics, other Christians, etc. In my experience, the Bible is cohesive, trustworthy, but more than that, it has 100% changed my life. I investigate claims people make against the Bible all the time. But good Lord is it sometimes tiresome and annoying.

So, again, tell me how two people can be reasonable and believe two totally different “realities”? The difference is belief. We have different inputs, of course, because we’ve thought different thoughts and been fed different information, sure. But in the end, it’s belief, not reason.

I’m comfortable with ambiguity. I’m in a process too. But my process is firmly over in the, “I love Christ more than I love breathing,” slot.

notleia
Guest
notleia

Welp, that doesn’t really deal with the issue that your conceptus of the Bible wasn’t formed in a vacuum. You were influenced by evangelical interpretations thereof and all its historical baggage.

But I guess I would be happy that it works for you, except for that nagging feeling that it doesn’t work for anyone.

Brennan S. McPherson
Member

True, and it was a decision I had to come to internally (to believe it), so none of this happens in a vacuum. Not purely external, or objective, etc. But that’s exactly the point.

And yes, it certainly does, “work for me.” If it didn’t, I wouldn’t sit around wasting my time blabbing about a bunch of junk that never squared with my experience of life. I read the Bible because I love it. I pray because I love God and spending time with him is more enjoyable than anything else (yes, really). I wish I could peel back my chest and let you experience it. Because there’s no doubt left in me that I was made for intimacy with Christ. That everyone was. And that it really does change your life (meaning there’s practical results, that it purifies your actions and desires–no more pride and positioning or grabbing for control–, changes your entire lifestyle, etc.). There’s been a lot of people who fly the flag of Christianity without ever having experienced it in their life. It makes the whole thing feel like a gimmick. But it’s not.

Blessings on your journey.

Kessie Carroll
Member

Interesting analysis! I was just remarking to my husband last night that I see men as being very passionate and expressive and women being more pragmatic. Women also don’t have the massive ego and need to compete that men do. (I mean, we have those things, and it varies by individual, but most women are too pragmatic to let that get in the way of life.) Women also have the emotional, nurturing, protective instinct. Imagine if the climax of Captain Marvel had been allowing her to cry? That would have made a pretty good character arc, learning to let her emotions out in a constructive way. (I haven’t seen the movie, just commenting.)

Marian Jacobs
Guest
Marian Jacobs

I would have loved to see her cry in the end! But she never should have had to choose between head and heart. I wish she’d learned that lesson instead.