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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Free will and fiction

Mike Duran lists the top five cliches of the Christian writer:
Having frequented Christian writing circles for some time now, I’ve heard all the spiritualized slogans we believers like to regurgitate. Here’s my Top 5 clichés that Christian writers use.

5.) “God’s called me to write.”Funny how God never “calls” Christians to be sales assistants, lay reviewers, work in circulation, be an advertising manager, or write obituaries for the local newspaper. You’d think that writing novels was the top of the Christian publishing holiness hierarchy.
4.) “It just wasn’t God’s will that I… (fill in the blank).” “God’s will” is a favorite “out” for Christian writers. Most often, the saying is followed by things like “find an agent,” “sell a lot of books,” “finish the manuscript,” or “advertize aggressively.” Poor God. I wish He’d get His act together so your career can finally flourish.
I find the public profession of "God's call" to be about as credible, in most circumstances, as the way in which people who recall their past lives always seem to have been some Egyptian princess or European queen; no one ever used to be a peasant girl who died of malnutrition and smallpox at the age of twelve.  It's remarkable how often God is said to call people to do what they quite clearly want to do of their own accord.

As for God's will, in this, as in so many things, we see the idea of divine omniderigence tends to remove both agency and accountability from the individual. 

Writing fiction is, in its own small way, an act of creation.  The author is the god of his own little world, which may be why the idea of writing fiction is so much more appealing to many would-be novelists than the actual act of writing it.  And yet, even the human author, who has complete and total control over his characters, often finds his control constricted by the desire to make them behave in a self-consistent manner.

In like manner, perhaps an all-powerful God might find Himself constrained, not by any external limits on His power, but rather by His desire for artistic consistency and aesthetic integrity.

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58 Comments:

Anonymous JT December 29, 2012 6:54 AM  

I think I'd prefer, "God set my path, helped shape my character into what it is, and this is what I've done with it."

Doesn't need to get any more mystical or muddle-headed than that.

Anonymous OCS December 29, 2012 7:06 AM  

“I want to glorify God in my writing.” — Usually this is code for “clean,” alternative, G-rated fare containing redemptive resolutions, biblical references, salvation events, spiritual themes, or subliminal Bible messages imbedded in the story. The question I have is whether God is also “glorified” in a good, well-crafted story. If we can only “glorify God” by specifically writing about God, we reduce God-honoring lit to religious tracts.

This 144,000 times over. I am so tired of Christian novels and films always going on the safe "family-friendly" side, which is tantamount to dumbing things down to:

1) Protagonist is Jesus or poor lost soul

2) Poor lost soul finds wacky Christian with a heart of gold (usually a woman because men are the spawn of Satan don't you know)

3)Poor lost soul finds redemption during his hockey match. He miraculously saves the town as God moves the puck and violates the laws of physics for this guy.

4) Guy becomes saved (and also even more beta) and winks at character. Caucasian-Jesus stand-in walks away in jeans and flannel.

Ugh, seriously, since when did it become a commonly held belief that Christianity was a safe religion to begin with? Christian writers and filmmakers need to stop this and start going bold; dare to challenge, to question, and to reveal. If the best we can come up with is shit like The Shack, Fireproof, Joshua, and Courageous, then it seems we as the Church have a double duty in legitimately winning back the Arts as well as the Sciences.

Anonymous Krul December 29, 2012 7:15 AM  

Ugh, seriously, since when did it become a commonly held belief that Christianity was a safe religion to begin with?

I think it's a remnant of the old Social Gospel/Christian progressivism movements of the late 19th to mid-20th century. Christianity became strongly associated with fanatical campaigns against drinking, gambling, drugs, extra-marital sex, poverty, etc. "For the children," if you will.

The image of the church as a squeaky-clean, mealey-mouthed, pure-as-the-driven-snow, stupid-as-a-bag-of-hammers flock of busybodies endures.

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 7:59 AM  

Interesting. Am about 10 pages away from completing my first "act of fiction" and have wondered who will be my audience. My story features a few addicts, as well as other real people, so haven't managed to constrain myself from including descriptions of sexual acts, reference to drug use, and a fair sprinkling of the f-word, nor could I seem to constrain myself from overt reference to God, Jesus, and His redemptive power (including a conversion story from my main male character who - believe it or not - came to find the Lord not through a woman. It's a woman who finds her life changing because of him). Anyway, bottom line, as one who came to know the Lord because of the consequences of my own choices without Him, I want to speak to the unbeliever, but suspect my unabashed references to the Lord will turn away that audience, and my liberal use of real-life less than holy words and acts will turn away a Christian audience. I tend to think Christians will receive it better than unbelievers. How to market? Hmm.

Back to the post, I'm struggling to grasp this comment: " . . . even the human author, who has complete and total control over his characters, often finds his control constricted by the desire to make them behave in a self-consistent manner."

So . . . my control of my characters is limited by my desire to have them behave in a way consistent with his/her own character? Sorry to not be getting this, so let me just add my recent experience . . . occasionally, in a rare and glorious moment, I find my characters taking over and revealing themselves to me and acting in ways I might not have anticipated (or, the "I didn't see that coming moment.") Now, I'm I just being inconsistent with my character or allowing the organic development of a character? What I'm grasping for in the dark here is a question to even pose . . . are you saying that a writer might get in the way of creating an organic character by trying to control his/her acts/behaviors too rigidly? Duh. Sorry for being dense.

One last stupid comment . . . has anyone else noticed that people often misuse (writing and speaking) a singular contraction, as in "Here's my Top 5 . . ." which translates to - "Here is my Top 5 . . ." but should be "Here are my Top 5 . . ." - no? (okay, I actually get paid to copyedit now and then, so I'm a nit-picker as well as dense).

Ioweenie

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 8:02 AM  

Dammit. Hit publish too soon, meant to fix typos

Now, am I just being inconsistent with my characters or allowing the organic development of characters? What I'm grasping for in the dark here is a question to even pose - are you saying that a writer might get in the way of creating an organic character by trying to control his/her acts/behaviors too rigidly?

Ioweenie

Anonymous OCS December 29, 2012 8:09 AM  

Speaking of "for the children", don't get me started on those awful CG-animation films starring farm animals or vegetables! Even as a kid I thought those were utter crap. It seems that the limp-wristed and blue-balled milieu that churns this stuff out is strongly correlated to the emasculation of Christian men and the feminization of the Church. Hmm...

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 8:25 AM  

Sorry to keep rambling here; this is it, promise. Re: the nit - if he had written "Here is my Top 5 Cliche List," that would be correct, but "Here is my top 5 cliches" is not.

Okay - omnidigerence is the point of the analogy, God creates but does not micromanage; some of my confusion stems from "desire" and "self-consistent."

As I read your statement, I read - it is my desire to make my characters behave self-consistently that constrains my control over my character. By "self-consistent" do you mean the character I've created is consistent with the character I've created or consistent with me/author?

Sheesh. More coffee . . .

Ioweenie

Blogger Kyle In Japan December 29, 2012 8:32 AM  

Personally, I would say that I believe that God has gifted me with the talent and ability to write well, so I should use the gifts he's given me. It never occurred to me to say that I've been "called" to write or anything like that.

That list sounds like people who are trying to justify quitting their day jobs to write meandering post-modernist Blue Like Jazz ripoffs with no structure and no point.

Blogger Drew December 29, 2012 8:38 AM  

I understand your arguments against omniderigence. But, CS Lewis describes how my own conversion went down: "I was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God, eyes darting left and right for some means of escape."

Though, it really wasn't my conversion rather it was God breaking me of my own will to follow his. I don't believe my will would have gone the way it has if it were not for God's hand on my life.

I think to deny the work of God in our lives in moving us into the direction he wants is to deny the very work he has done on the cross. The New Covenant specifically says he would wright the law, or in other words, his will on our hearts. And I believe this is different then the general law written on men's hearts as described by Paul in Romans. For this is a "new".

As for authors saying they are called you may be right. But, if I look at Paul almost every writing of his states he has been called of God. And his own conversion was quite forceful. Christ even said, "It is hard to kick against the goad." Christ was the Shepherd that was leading his sheep with force. In my own opinion Paul's only choice was to stay blind or do what Christ has said. This is the nature of Paul calling. It is the nature of Lewis's calling. It is the nature of my calling.

Could you problem with "calls" be that there are those who take it lightly? Claim to be called and yet still do what they want?


Anonymous Rosalys December 29, 2012 8:46 AM  

I'm not a writer, but I am a reader. What makes a book a "Christian" book? I'd say it is one written from a Christian world view, regardless of subject matter.

Anonymous David of One December 29, 2012 8:53 AM  

I don't recall ever hearing Mike's #1. Supposedly Mike has ... I suppose it may have been a single occurrance or occurrances from a single individual.

“I write for an audience of One.” seems to me it would be a very rare public justification for writing ... to say nothing of being incrediably bombastic.

Anonymous Mr. B.A.D. December 29, 2012 8:58 AM  

I still get a chuckle when I think about how many Pastors and church leaders said it was God's will for us to vote for Mitt Romney. Some even had dreams and visions.

Anonymous David of One December 29, 2012 8:59 AM  

I'm with you on the coffee loweenie.

Blogger A December 29, 2012 8:59 AM  

"God called me" and "God's will" always got under my skin. Especially when I was at a Christian college and heard all the stories of guys being dumped or avoided by girls because they God was calling them to missions, or it was God's will that they be single now (then those same girls were sometimes seen hanging off the arms of a bad boy not much later). Then there's that stupid "I'm dating Jesus" blow off, but that's a tangent. I was once dumped by a girl, who was a freshman, because she felt it was God's will for her to be a medical missionary with her friends (it was of course bullshit, I was a super white knight back then and probably creeped her out or she just lost attraction to me).

I've never heard God's voice calling me to anything, nor do I pretend to know His will, as I never would have come to any of those two conclusions without having heard them from the pulpit or from other young Christians in the first place. It seems to be an epidemic among squishy, feely, evangelical Christians, particularly Pentacostals. I had remarked to one of my professors before that God calling someone was something akin to God "zapping" (my prof's analogy for how Calvinists thought God just suddenly saved them) them into salvation, does He also "zap" a calling into someone? No, it's plain cognitive dissonance and self-justification.

Blogger Doom December 29, 2012 9:12 AM  

As for God's will, in this, as in so many things, we see the idea of divine omniderigence tends to remove both agency and accountability from the individual.
Alright, you have me, sometimes. Sometimes the term "God's will" is simply a phrase meaning... WTF? That's not how I planned things, or what I meant... Or, yeah, I'm... working on that, but... not really. Only rarely do I literally mean something was God's will, but it happens. God willed me to live, or I wouldn't be. And He meant for me to come to the Church. For surely He all but dragged me to it. Seriously did... not... want... to... go. Aye, but it took Him a good 15 years. *sniggers*

In like manner, perhaps an all-powerful God might find Himself constrained, not by any external limits on His power, but rather by His desire for artistic consistency and aesthetic integrity.
I don't think God does anything for artistic or other sorts of reasons, if those are native to His work. Being Truth is His limit. A limit He Himself set by becoming God, choosing what to and not to be, forming what God Is. That's pretty 'vanilla' for sf writers and all, because it means it Just Is. :p

Although, the Guy has talent with art, no doubt there. And aesthetics in His works are breathtaking, whether it is detail, certainty, depth, beauty, or any of a thousand other qualities being examined. He certainly has piqued my interest. Half of finding Him was just looking... closer, closer, closer, and finding no end. Though those stupid Greek philoso-scientists sort of threw me with the atom theory. Bah!

Blogger LP 999/Eliza December 29, 2012 9:56 AM  

Great post. I couldn't help but wonder how much or if the Lord loves beauty, order and honor in his creations.

Anonymous Susan December 29, 2012 10:11 AM  

LP- I believe the Lord loves His heavenly choir so much that he wanted us to enjoy music also. Therefore He inspired Beethoven, Mozart, etc. to write some most awesome music. Ode To Joy has to be some of the most wonderful music ever written by God's creation. Handel's Water Music is also wonderful.

Blogger jamsco December 29, 2012 10:42 AM  

"In like manner, perhaps an all-powerful God might find Himself constrained, not by any external limits on His power, but rather by His desire for artistic consistency and aesthetic integrity."

For an infinite mind, this is hardly a constraint.

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 10:46 AM  

God created an open ended storyline, put some creatures in it and commanded that we "go forth and entertain Me".

Blogger jamsco December 29, 2012 10:46 AM  

"As for God's will, in this, as in so many things, we see the idea of divine omniderigence tends to remove both agency and accountability from the individual. "

I assume it is not beyond your knowledge that professed anti-Calvinists talk about God's will and it's consequences in their lives. And as a Calvinist, I am hesitant to do so.

Anonymous Tad December 29, 2012 10:50 AM  

Joan Didion famously said about her motivations to write:

"I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear."

This strikes me as an honest rendering of what seems to me to be at the heart of the dedicated writer: introspection and intellectual searching. It is a description of motivation that also has the added benefit of taking personal responsibility for her actions, rather than relinquishing responsibility to another person or god.

Blogger jamsco December 29, 2012 10:51 AM  

"I find the public profession of "God's call" to be about as credible, in most circumstances, as the way in which people who recall their past lives . . . "

My thought is that every Christian in any work should see their work as God's calling, unless there is no way that they can glorify God in that work, in which times they should step out of it.

Anonymous Heh December 29, 2012 10:53 AM  

In like manner, perhaps an all-powerful God might find Himself constrained, not by any external limits on His power, but rather by His desire for artistic consistency and aesthetic integrity.

Matthew Hughes is writing a series (The Damned Busters, Costume Not Included) in which God is writing a book and we are all characters in it. They're pretty funny, I recommend them.

Anonymous CLK December 29, 2012 10:56 AM  

I tend to follow the old Irish proverb:

"Pray in one hand, shit in the other .. see which one gets filled first"

While I firmly believe in the existence of God it would appear that he has met another creation somewhere else and is spending his time with his new kids.

I don't know .. it this too much negativity ? ... it is the happiest time of the year. Ho fuckin Ho...



Anonymous Shutup, Tad December 29, 2012 11:17 AM  

This strikes me as an honest rendering of what seems to me to be at the heart of the dedicated writer: introspection and intellectual searching. @ Tad

Joan Didion also wrote:

The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 11:17 AM  

CLK December 29, 2012 10:56 AM
I tend to follow the old Irish proverb:

"Pray in one hand, shit in the other .. see which one gets filled first"

While I firmly believe in the existence of God it would appear that he has met another creation somewhere else and is spending his time with his new kids.

I don't know .. it this too much negativity ? ... it is the happiest time of the year. Ho fuckin Ho...

CLK, let's drink a Guinness, ey?

Ioweenie

Anonymous Azimus December 29, 2012 11:18 AM  

While I don't follow the prevalent line of thinking here regarding the "omni's" of God, I find the God's will talk and prayer requests for unbelievably stupid ans mundane things to be more frustrating. I am not on Facebook or any other social media because I am tired of seeing prayer requests for "what house His will is to buy" or "which college to go to to get my physixal trainer degree" or "if its His will that I take this better paying job." similarly the "waiting for a sign" to do X-Y-Z crowd. Look, man, He diesn't give a crap where you work, or what car you drive, or who you live next to. The stuff He cares about is in the Bible. The stuff He wants you to do is in the Bible. If you're doing that stuff, you're doing his will. The rest of it is up to you, that's why you're called a 'steward.'

Anonymous The other skeptic December 29, 2012 11:25 AM  

Seems Facebook wants to censor one of the gods of libtards, Ghandi, who, of his own free will, made an interesting statement about depriving a nation of guns

The British seem to have been seriously into that business of disarming peoples and countries so they could suck their economies dry.

Blogger IM2L844 December 29, 2012 11:37 AM  

When I try to consider the necessary ripple effects from God rearranging the world in order to implement His will to simultaneously suit multiple individuals, it quickly becomes obvious that "incomprehensibly complex" doesn't even begin to approach a suitable description of what would need to take place. Consequently, for me, any attempt to explain how or why God did this or allowed that in any way other than a sweepingly generalized fashion together with the intrinsic possibilities of that explanation being flat wrong seems exceedingly absurd on the face.

On the other hand, I've experienced a surfeit of things in my own life that can only be described in terms of the miraculous. From my personal perspective, prayers have undoubtedly been answered (the world has been rearranged to suit my personal needs) time and time again. I know it just sounds silly and I find it intellectually difficult to reconcile these observations myself.

I think most Christian cliches are generally a little off-putting (not just as they relate to authors/artists), but they might be the only concise way to convey certain experiential perspectives without a lengthy exegesis.

For me, as a Christian, it's not a simple matter and I expect I will probably remain somewhat conflicted about it until I die and possibly beyond.

[/mytwocents]

Anonymous Tad December 29, 2012 12:01 PM  

@IM2L844


On the other hand, I've experienced a surfeit of things in my own life that can only be described in terms of the miraculous. From my personal perspective, prayers have undoubtedly been answered (the world has been rearranged to suit my personal needs) time and time again. I know it just sounds silly and I find it intellectually difficult to reconcile these observations myself.


Well, come on...don't hold back. I need the exactly wording of your prayer, the time of day you offered it and in what general direction you were facing at the time of the prayer. Not only do I want a piece of land I own to fall and drain in a slightly different direction than it currently does, but I'm sure those millions of folks that have asked God not to take a loved one, to save them from harm and to let them have just one more chance would like to know the exact formula for prayer that will rearrange the world to their liking.

Blogger IM2L844 December 29, 2012 12:09 PM  

I want a piece of land I own to fall and drain in a slightly different direction than it currently does

Maybe you should pray that God make a bulldozing service available to you.

Anonymous Yukonyon December 29, 2012 12:16 PM  

Vox, I don't always get a chance to visit the website, as much as I would like, so if you've already addressed this, then I apologize. But since I'm in town for a day or two, I just thought I would mention that I don't remember any discussion on Ex Nihilo. Does Christianity set it as a theological precedent? There are some references in the Bible to the idea that we may have existed before God formed man.

Anonymous Yukonyon December 29, 2012 12:41 PM  

Correction: I remember discussion on Ex Nihilo, but not whether or not Christianity obligates it as a belief. The reason I ask this, is because I often get in discussions with Agnostic and Atheist friends about the ties of human rights with Christianity. And when the question of evil comes up, I find myself in a corner, because I havent gleaned an adequate defense from anywhere about it. Mentioning my Mormon beliefs about the existence of intelligences before God created man winds up being an exercise in futility, mostly because the A & As I talk to still glean their morality from Christianity, I suppose. But I am up against a wall with the question of evil.

Anonymous Kickass December 29, 2012 12:57 PM  

I think those calling themselves Christians have cheapened this phrase because they use it to go against what the Bible instructs them to do. They use it because they claim they are so special.

For instance, when you bring up to women that they are not to speak in church nor preach to men, etc...you always get "No, its ok, I was called." When others are off doing businesses or Bible studies and you ask why they do not run their homes they say the same. When a man's family is living off of the frustrated charity of others because he is doing something that is not working or providing for his family, it is ok...because it is his calling from God.

I think it is clear that everyone has gifts, most people just like some gift more then others.
Writing is a calling from God in my life in that it is a gift He gave me to use to accomplish His purposes for me here. I do not use those gifts in a way that will not do that. It is just like a boss giving someone their credit card to go and buy office supplies and the employee using it to treat a date to dinner.

That being said, I have yet to read a decent "Christian" fiction book in..well..can't remember when I did.

That doesn't glorify God. And neither does copying the works of those who worship this world. Hopefully this will change.

Anonymous bw December 29, 2012 12:58 PM  

it seems to be an epidemic among squishy, feely, evangelical Christians, particularly Pentacostals .... does He also "zap" a calling into someone? No, it's plain cognitive dissonance and self-justification. A

+1
Indeed. And ironically, it's willful dissonance and justification. "This is all I can see (read: am willing to see) therefore it must be God seeing it for me".
Don't underestimate the Security element.
They KNOW, my friend. There's not even room for Faith to the extent of how much they KNOW and are SURE. Cultish psych.
Their reactions when confronted with contradictions is quite telling. They are the least free souls I know.
And don't forget there's God's "general will" and even more fabulous "perfect will". Good times.

Anonymous Kickass December 29, 2012 1:02 PM  

@ Yukonyon, the Christian/Jewish Bible is clear that there are intelligences besides humans. Read Genesis again.

If you are arguing from a Morman perspective it won't help you because it is a lie. Read and know the truth. I don't have any problems defending my faith with anyone. I took the years it took to read the Bible and understand it. I am hardheaded so it took that long, it might take you one time. Try it.

Anonymous PC Geek December 29, 2012 1:26 PM  

@OCS and Krul:

From OCS:

Ugh, seriously, since when did it become a commonly held belief that Christianity was a safereligion to begin with? Christian writers and filmmakers need to stop this and start going bold; dare to challenge, to question, and to reveal. If the best we can come up with is shit like The Shack, Fireproof, Joshua, and Courageous, then it seems we as the Church have a double duty in legitimately winning back the Arts as well as the Sciences.

and from Krul:

The image of the church as a squeaky-clean, mealey-mouthed, pure-as-the-driven-snow, stupid-as-a-bag-of-hammers flock of busybodies endures.

So true…I think that the Church’s ceding of nearly all intellectual and cultural fronts is one of the single biggest mistakes that it ever made. Nothing reaches people and sets cultural values more effectively than culture and mythmaking (Tolkien spoke about this at length in his work “On Fairy Stories” *much better* than I could). LOTR, Narnia, etc did more to put both Christian beliefs and Christian values into the hearts of people than a million sermons or apologetics tracts. Myth reaches deeper into our hearts than a bunch of syllogisms or intellectual exegesis from the Bible. (Note that as Tolkien mentioned Christianity/the Bible Itself can be seen as a ‘True Myth’ in this context.)

IMHO there are 2 types of nonbelievers – genuine seekers and (to paraphrase Aurini) Atheistkult – examples of the latter are the Dawkins, PZ Meyers, internet atheist trolls, etc – they won’t believe no matter the evidence and no matter how hard truth is shoved in their faces – vessels doomed to destruction, Biblically speaking. However, there are genuine seekers out there, and the modern image of the church not only fails to show them the truth they are seeking, but actually goes against whatever truth they do understand.

As per Romans 1 the truth is there for all to see, and whatever truth these people do see is in stark contrast to the hypereffeminate, prissy, anti-intellectual, acultural, Neo-Victorian, Leave-it-to-Beaver 1950’s ‘nice’ Church of Ethel the church lady. I don’t blame people for running screaming from the Church and acting as if they were allergic to religion – if I didn’t get to see (thanks to sites like Vox’s and works from Lewis and Chesterton) what Christianity *actually* is (i.e. good, not nice) than I would have probably have joined them…

If the Church wants to evangelize and spread the Gospel, the first order of business is the biggest house cleaning in the history of the world – out with Kirk Cameron and Tim LeHaye and in with Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, George MacDonald, Augustine, Acquinis, and so on. If I hear one more “Jesus is my magic boyfriend” or “Which breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s is the Lord’s Will that I have this morning” I think I am going to scream.

Dorothy Sayers commented already in 1938 that Christianity was becoming incredibly nice and effeminiate:

The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him "meek and mild," and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.
http://www.gutenberg.ca/ebooks/sayers-greatest/sayers-greatest-00-h.html

If this was true then - what do you think is the case after 60 more years of extreme, all-encompassing feminization and social decline? The modern church is a total disaster and needs to be reconstituted from the ground up.l It will take decades for Christianity to lose it’s aura of being, as per Krul “The image of the church as a squeaky-clean, mealey-mouthed, pure-as-the-driven-snow, stupid-as-a-bag-of-hammers flock of busybodies”

Anonymous clk December 29, 2012 2:07 PM  

"CLK, let's drink a Guinness, ey?"

I like my beer to be dark and bitter... like my soul.. :)

Anonymous Yukonyon December 29, 2012 2:09 PM  

Kickass, I am not sure what it is you are trying to say, other than to voice your antipathy for Mormons. If you wish to direct your "stubbornness" at Mormons, it's totally cool with me. You're the one who's gonna live with yourself. But that discussion is terribly OT. The point is, I defend mainstream Christianity just as ardently against unbelievers as I would defend my Mormonism. So, one thing that always renders itself indefensible is the question of evil. To make the statement that I must believe in Ex Nihilo as a Christian totally nullifies any rejoinder to the question of evil, that I know of. There are many statements in the Bible (yes, I have read it, kickass) that refer to an existence that is pre-human, I.e. Jeremiahs statement from the Lord that before He formed us in the womb, he knew us. My question is, does being a Christian obligate me to believe in Ex Nihilo? Are there any denominations which specify an alternative? Or, more to the point, can anyone address the question of evil from the perspective of Ex Nihilo? Its very important, because from EN perspective, the question of evil obliterates the very foundation upon which Christianity rests; creation becomes a conundrum if you state that God created all that is in the world, only to hold it accountable for the evil He created in it.

Blogger mmaier2112 December 29, 2012 3:09 PM  

Vox: "In like manner, perhaps an all-powerful God might find Himself constrained, not by any external limits on His power, but rather by His desire for artistic consistency and aesthetic integrity."

That is awesome.

Anonymous Just us December 29, 2012 3:55 PM  

"the first order of business is the biggest house cleaning in the history of the world – out with Kirk Cameron and Tim LeHaye and in with Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, George MacDonald, Augustine, Acquinis, and so on. If I hear one more “Jesus is my magic boyfriend” or “Which breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s is the Lord’s Will that I have this morning” I think I am going to scream."

Excellent post bro.

Blogger Beefy Levinson December 29, 2012 4:00 PM  

God gives us all talents, whether it's for writing, music, drawing, logical thinking, interpersonal relations, etc. How and whether to use them is up to us. If I remember the parable correctly, the master was angry with the lazy servant who buried his one talent in the ground.

St. Paul was called by Jesus Christ to be a missionary. That doesn't mean his life was then free of difficulty and failure.

Anonymous PC Geek December 29, 2012 4:24 PM  

Excellent post bro.

Thanks! This issue is IMHO the single biggest problem facing the Church today.

A fun drinking game is to take a shot every time you read something in the Bible that would scandalize 99% of the church... make sure that you don't do this with anything too strong...

Anonymous Just us December 29, 2012 4:30 PM  

"Something in the Bible that would scandalize 99% of the church.."

Lol, Proverbs 31:6

Anonymous OCS December 29, 2012 4:42 PM  

A fun drinking game is to take a shot every time you read something in the Bible that would scandalize 99% of the church... make sure that you don't do this with anything too strong...

Start with Song of Songs and Ephesians 5. Then watch feminist theologians contort themselves as they flap their yaps about "mutual submission".

Blogger Beefy Levinson December 29, 2012 5:07 PM  

A fun drinking game is to take a shot every time you read something in the Bible that would scandalize 99% of the church...

1 Peter 3:6, lol

Blogger The Aardvark December 29, 2012 5:38 PM  

The image of the church as a squeaky-clean, mealey-mouthed, pure-as-the-driven-snow, stupid-as-a-bag-of-hammers flock of busybodies endures. -- Krul

Triple this for "Christian" movies and TV.

Did commentary upon viewing
Suing the Devil

This one is a mildly notable exception.

Anonymous The Stranger December 29, 2012 5:47 PM  

Actually, I used to be a peasant girl who died of the bubonic plague at the age of twelve.

Yeesh.

Anonymous Koanic December 29, 2012 6:27 PM  

Let's not forget the hero who implausibly out-alphas and defeats the invincible villain at the end of the book, one you avoided with Maomoondagh. I prefer the Silmarillion's black sword or LOTR's crack of doom type ending confrontation.

Anonymous Shutup, Tad. December 29, 2012 7:58 PM  

I'm sure those millions of folks that have asked God not to take a loved one, to save them from harm and to let them have just one more chance would like to know the exact formula for prayer that will rearrange the world to their liking. @ Tad

Well,well, well. All the fanatics have a secret doubt. (George Smiley, in Tinker,Tailor, Sodier, Spy) Tad has a doubt about the possibility of contacting the Lord of the Universes.

Try this, Tad: Not my will, but thine be done.

Now, I know Tad won't, but Tad is just a foil. An object lesson for others to learn from, as Nate indicated much earlier in this cycle.

Blogger mmaier2112 December 29, 2012 8:30 PM  

Tad's annoying and he won't believe any pearls of testimony thrown before him anyway.

Anonymous Anonymous December 29, 2012 8:30 PM  

CLK: "I like my beer to be dark and bitter... like my soul.. :)"

Amen, brother or sista.

IA Weenie (Sweet. Just found my pen name!)

Anonymous Shutup, Tad December 29, 2012 8:56 PM  

mmaier2112 December 29, 2012 8:30 PM

Tad's annoying and he won't believe any pearls of testimony thrown before him anyway.


Which is why "Shutup, Tad" is a universally appropriate response.

Anonymous Kickass December 29, 2012 11:45 PM  

@ PC Geek, awesome!

@ Yukonyon, don't worry about defending Christians. You aren't one. Why would you bother?

And I am not attacking your cult, just pointing out to you that you are in one.

If you can read and understand the actual Bible and then still be a Mormon, then you have my prayers for your wisdom and understanding and freedom from your shackles.

You cannot defend Christianity because you are not one.

Make that the start of your search.

Anonymous PC Geek December 30, 2012 1:36 AM  

@PC Geek, awesome!

Thanks Kickass!

OT but I just found out that my uncle has prostate cancer - please pray for him and his wife and kids!

Anonymous Kickass December 30, 2012 4:06 PM  

Will do. Sorry to hear that. Let us know what happens.

Anonymous PC Geek December 30, 2012 7:13 PM  

Will do. Sorry to hear that. Let us know what happens.

Thanks! I really appreciate the prayers of you and the rest of the Ilk!

Blogger wordwarrior January 03, 2013 2:18 AM  

The book isn't Christian until its baptized. Micky Spillane's "Mike Hammer" makes for interesting reading once he is under til he bubbles.

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