Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

REVIEW OF CROSSWAY BOOK REFUTING BAUER -- EHRMAN THESIS

Christianity Reaffirmed:

A Refutation Of The Bauer – Ehrman Thesis


A review of

Andreas J. Kostenberg & Michael Kruger The Heresy Of Orthodoxy (Wheaton, IL:
Crossway Books, 2010)
$17.99 250 pp ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-0143 ISBN-10: 1-4335-0143-0


Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz



Although the facts concerning the birth and growth of the Early Church have been known for a very long time, there are still many Christians and many educated people who do not have (or accept) this knowledge. For this reason sundry fallacious notions on the subject continue to be concocted and accepted. This reminds me of the line in that old folk song: “When will they ever learn??!!”.

The book under reviews here amply refutes one of the latest of these fallacious notions – the Bauer-Ehrman Thesis – which has gained a lot of notoriety by its outrageous proclamation of “the heresy of orthodoxy”: thus the title of the book

The “Bauer” of this thesis is the 20th century Walter Bauer, who is not to be confused with the 19th century Ferdinand Christian Baur, although it is very interesting (something this book surprisingly fails to point out!) that there is a parallel between the two. Just as F. C. Baur’s notion of the church resulting from a Hegelian synthesis of a supposed clash between “Petrine” and “Pauline” factions was popular in the Hegelian Zeitgeist of his day, so Walter Bauer’s notion of orthodoxy as the winner of a power struggle among competing “Christianities” is popular in the postmodernist ethos of our day.

[By the way, this is not the only example of this sort of thing happening. There is another parallel I can cite, this one between two Episcopalian bishops, both named Robinson. Fifty years ago in ENGLAND Bishop JOHN Robinson scandalized that nation with his notions, just as today in NEW ENGLAND Bishop GENE Robinson is scandalizing our nation with his!]

Although most of the book under review here is a restatement of the aforementioned long known facts about the New Testament and the Early Church, there is some new material presented. For example, the authors note a fact I was hitherto unaware of, namely that Rudolph Bultmann accepted Bauer’s idea. But this, of course, is to be expected due to the similarity of the existentialism of that time with the postmodernism of ours – something which the authors surprisingly fail to mention!
Another addition is the book’s discussion of the diversity matter. A careful distinction is drawn between “legitimate” diversity and “illegitimate” diversity. For example, the attempt to make heresy acceptable is an example of illegitimate diversity. Although what is said in the book is true and helpful, it does not go far enough. It fails to mention, let alone discuss, the all important foundational principle of the equal ultimacy of the unity and the diversity in the nature of God, which was discussed at great extent in the 20th century by Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til. This right kind of unity/diversity relationship in God stands in sharp contrast to the false notions of unity/diversity relationship in the Bauer-Ehrman thesis and in postmodernism. It is extremely important to set this truth of God into antithetic contrast with the falsehood of postmodernism. It is also needed to refute the idea in many people’s minds that orthodoxy and God are somehow associated with a stifling narrowness. The precise opposite is the case when we consider the enormous abundance of variety found in God’s creatures – f or example the millions of biological species. This foundational material needs to be included for a thorough refutation of the false notions noted and for a right understanding of what orthodoxy means.

There seems to be a pattern here in this book. The book keeps omitting important stuff that should be included for a thorough treatment of the subject. Here is another example of this kind of omission in the book: the way they handle refuting the notion that the Roman church stamped out all the diversity and imposed its version, which was then called orthodoxy. The book does rightly point out that this did not happen in the Early Church. BUT it totally ignores the all important fact that LATER in church history the Roman Church DID impose its notion of orthodoxy (which was partly orthodox and partly heterodox) on everyone else. We need to be very concerned about this LATER tyranny, which can then be contrasted and seen as evil by contrasting it to what happened in the Early Church. It is also directly relevant to the matter at hand because one of the reasons a lot of modern people are being attracted to postmodernism is due to their concern about the horrifying tyranny of the Roman Church in later church history. Therefore, a discussion of this is needed for completeness here if we want to get to the bottom of what draws people into postmodernism.

The third section of the book, dealing with the text of the New Testament, is very well done and is one of the best treatments I have seen of the subject. It is both an excellent introduction to the topic and also contains good critiques of Bauer and Ehrman in light of the actual facts brought to light by textual studies. It also contains a good discussion of the Christian book publishing industry in the first and second centuries, which apparently was much greater than normally supposed, if it is thought of at all!







The discussion of what is commonly called the canon is quite good also, but it should be pointed out, which the book fails to do, that the term canon, as defined by Irenaeus, which is the correct definition, refers to the truth-system proclaimed by the apostles in their preaching and their writings. The canon is NOT the list of books in the Bible. It is the truth system taught in these books. This point needs special stress in drawing the contrast between the objective truth of orthodoxy (which means “straight” thinking) and the subjectivistic notions of “truth” found in postmodernism and the Bauer-Ehrman Thesis.

This book should be read by anyone concerned with this subject. However, due to the omissions noted, it should not be regarded as a complete treatment until those lacunae are filled.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

REVIEWS OF "BELL MOUNTAIN" & "HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT"

CHALCEDON'S STOREHOUSE PRESS BEGINS PUBLISHING FICTION
The Chalcedon Foundation, which has established Storehouse Press as its book publishing arm, has begun to publish works of fiction. Below are my reviews of their first two:
1. Lee Duigon's children's fantasy, Bell Mountain and
2. Martin Selbrede's adult science fiction Hidden In Plain Sight



1. Bell Mountain

Will The Bell Toll ??


A review of Lee Duigon Bell Mountain (Vallecito, CA: Storehouse Press, 2010)
288 pp $14.00



Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz



Lee Duigon's Bell Mountain is set in a fantasy world in which the survivors of the collapse of a technologically advanced society have fallen back to a civilizational level comparable to that of our Middle Ages. And this world has a religion similar to the one in power in our medieval period, i.e. it had degenerated from the pristine original and its clergy tyrranize the people. Its top official, the First Prester, similar to a Pope, believes that religion's purpose is to prop up the state! That is just one example of its decadence that could be cited!

The only thing the reader is told about what God intends to do to remedy the situation is to send a boy and a girl -- Jack and Ellayne -- to the top of Bell Mountain where they are to ring the Bell placed there in days of yore by the renowned King Ozias. Jack and Ellayne prepare their supplies and then sneak out of town to set forth on their journey where they encounter all kinds of strange beasts and strange people along the way, including the assassin sent forth by the First Prester to terminate them.

Like any good adventure story written for children, this is one which adults will appreciate even more. Lee Duigon has thus far been known for his thoughtful magazine articles. If he continues to write literature such as the book under review here, he will soon become known as a storyteller as well.
2. Hidden In Plain Sight
Selbrede's Debut Science Fiction Story


A review of

M. G. Selbrede Hidden In Plain Sight (Vallecito, CA: Storehouse Press, 2010)
$15.00 334 pp ISBN: 978-1891375514

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz



Martin Selbrede's debut novel is one of the most interesting science fiction stories I have read for some time. And it is the only one I know of which includes dialogues in which the gist of the Van Til Perspective is found. This is not surprising when we consider the fact that Selbrede is one of the leaders of the Chalcedon Foundation established by the late R. J. Rushdoony, a distinguished follower of Van Til, who did more in his writings than anyone else to apply the Van Til Perspective to all areas of life.

Although the scientific discovery made by the central character -- the young physicist Dr. Jenna Wilkes -- is the focus of the book, the story itself is about the conflicts it precipitates, which involve some of the nation's leading figures in business, science, academia, and the military. It is these conflicts and what they reveal about the consciences of the participants that constitute the actual story, which consequently overshadows the science of the discovery. And even the science itself is seen as important mainly for the purpose of showing that God is running the Universe. So while the science is interesting and important, the story's purpose is to show us things about God and about ourselves.

In fact, relatively little attention is given to explaining just what was discovered, so that sometimes the reader is not sure precisely what it was. It is clear that the basis of Jenna's experiment was the stopping of time in the core of a device called an isolator which she invented. It is also stated that this means that this isolator core has become a "neutrino shield" because it will stop neutrinos from passing through it, because for any neutrinos which enter it, time will stop for them also. But then at another place it is said that this time stopping actually meant that the matter in this isolator core was cut off and sent into the past, which makes us wonder how it could then serve as a neutrino shield. But it is clear that if that isolator core matter had been cut out of the present and sent into the past that then the present universe would have that much less mass and energy in it. Therefore it is understandable why there is reference to God making up the lost energy, but what does not make sense is why this did not just happen once but is happening continuously, as the book claims!


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However, since Hidden In Plain Sight is only the first volume of a trilogy, we cannot claim that it contains contradictions, as appears to be the case, because future volumes may provide explanatory data. In short, some of what is hidden here is NOT in plain sight! At least not for now. There are clear indications that more will be shown in the future volumes. In fact, this first volume ends with Jenna claiming she will proceed to yet more sophisticated scientific work, which will disprove Einstein's General Relativity Theory!

Now we need to elaborate on what the story says about the relationship between Jenna's experiment and the christian philosophy of science. After pointing out the misleading ideas associated with the usage of the term "supernatural" to refer to God, the point is made that we really should say that God is "infranatural", i.e. that He is the foundation needed for the universe to exist and function, and that we should search for an ultimate scientific law which would prove that God is running the Universe. However, the book takes no note of the fact that there have been claims in the past that such a law already exists. For instance, it has been argued that the Principle of Least Action (discovered in 1764) is such an ultimate scientific law for physics, and that Godel's Theorem (discovered in 1931) is such an ultimate scientific law for mathematics. Therefore what Selbrede needs to do is to set forth the criteria for this ultimate scientific law such that it will exclude these two but include Jenna's law, or else the story's raison d' etre falls to the ground. Another point which needs clarification is the usage of the word "infranatural" because it appears to be making the universe rather than God the ultimate reference point, which violates vantillian principles.

For readers who like symbolism it is should be interesting to speculate whether the cane given to Jenna may symbolize for her what Moses's staff was to him. Especially in light of the dramatic public spectacle near the conclusion of the book.

I have stated that in this work of science fiction that the science is presented in the context of the story, which is paramount. The story is not contrived for the sake of presenting the science, as, for example, in B. F. Skinner's Walden Two. Likewise, I also now state that in this work of Christian fiction, that the theology and ethics are presented in the context of the story, i.e. as an integral part of the story, rather than the story being contrived as a propaganda vehicle for Christianity.

Well, this volume is a good start and we shall look forward to reading Volumes 2 and 3 in the near future. It will be interesting to seeing how Jenna will refute General Relativity and I am hoping for more information which will put into plain sight exactly what happened in Jenna’s first experiment.


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Friday, July 02, 2010

TEXTBOOKS ON CIVIL WAR EMPHASIZING PRIMARY SOURCE MATERIALS

The review I recently wrote below indicates why I favor using these textbooks.

Sincerely,

Forrest


Southside Book Reviews
Reviews Of Books Recently Written By Southside Authors
Compiled by: Forrest W. Schultz 770-583-3258 schultz_forrest@yahoo.com
June 16, 2010



Civil War History Books Which Emphasize Primary Source Materials


A Review of

Carole Marsh The Student's Civil War -- 6 books (Peachtree City, GA: Gallopade, 2010)
Each book has 36 pp and costs $9.99 PaperBack and $24.99 Library Bound

1st Book: Who Were the Key Players in the Civil War?
ISBN: 978-0-636-07639-7 (PB) 978-0-635-07645-8 (LB)

2nd Book: What Was The Civil War All About, Anyway?
ISBN: 978-0-635-07640-3 (PB) 978-0-635-07646-5 (LB)

3rd Book: When Did It Happen in the Civil War?
ISBN: 978-0-635-07641-0 (PB) 978-0-635-07647-2 (LB)

4th Book: Where Did the Civil War Happen?
ISBN: 978-0-635-07642-7 (PB) 978-0-635-07648-9 (LB)

5th Book: Civil War Trivia
ISBN: 978-0-635-07643-4 (PB) 978-0-635-07649-6 (LB)

6th Book: Civil War Resource Book
ISBN: 978-0-635-07644-1 (PB) 978-0-635-07650-2 (LB)


Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz


Perhaps the greatest challenge in teaching history is to show the student that history is interesting. Although there have been history teachers and history textbooks which have been boring, this is not because history itself is boring.

If there are any history teachers out there looking for a way to show that the Civil War is interesting, I highly recommend the six books written by Carole Marsh noted above which are collectively called The Students Civil War. Their release in September is timely because April of 2011 marks the 150th Anniversay of the beginning of the Civil War. There are already several states which have established Civil War Sesquicentennial Commissions, so that schools will doubtless be encouraged to place special emphasis on teaching about the Civil War during the coming academic year. The books are designed for use in history classrooms for an age range of students from 9 through 14.

The author and illustrator, Carole Marsh, has not only had a lifelong interest in the Civil War and in American history in general, but she has also been informally teaching a good bit of history through her series of kids mystery stories set in various locations throughout the United States, which work a lot of historical knowledge into the stories. Those who have been delighted by these stories will find the same pizzazz in the Civil War books under review here.

A great deal of the space in her Civil War books is given over to direct quotations from the various particpants in the Civil War and from letters and newspaper articles and proclamations of the time. This puts the student directly in touch with primary source material, which is usually much more interesting to read than the attempted summaries of these which are found in most textbooks. There are also interesting exercises for the student. One of them, for example, shows a list of all the different names people have given to the Civil War and then asks the student to see if any of these are biased toward one side or the other.

There are also thought-provoking facts presented, such as the one about Robert E. Lee being opposed both the slavery and secession but returning to the South because he did not wish to fight against his fellow Virginians. There also interesting facts about the various weapons and about new inventions such as a submarine which was sunk and was not recovered under 1995 by Clive Cussler!!

Carole Marsh is doing in print what Frank Wildhorn's The Civil War does on stage -- showing us what the Civil War was like through direct contact with the participants. In Wildhorn's case the primary source material is acted out on stage and presented in song. In Marsh's case the primary source material is presented through quotations in her books In neither case is there any agenda, such as trying to prove some point or argue some thesis. The idea in both cases is to show the observer what happened and allow him to draw his own conclusions.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

THE MEANING OF ELDERSHIP

The Meaning Of Eldership


By Forrest Wayne Schultz


One of the greatest obstacles hindering Christian reconstruction is the prevalence of false meanings of words. Before we can even begin to know what should be done we first need to have in hand the correct definitions of the relevant terms. In this short paper I shall deal with a very crucial word which has been widely misunderstood for a very long time, the term "elder". The reconstruction of the church cannot be accomplished until the reigning spurious conception of eldership is replaced by the true meaning, which is taught in the Bible and which was embodied in the life and ministry of the early church. And, by the way, speaking of the correct definitions, the term "Christian reconstruction" is all inclusive in scope: it pertains to the church as well as to the various societal spheres.

The real meaning of eldership is so easy to state and is so easy to understand and is so obviously true that it is surprising that there should be any misconceptions or confusion about it. In fact, I am almost afraid to set forth the real meaning of eldership here lest anyone think I am being simplistic. Eldership simply means maturity. The elders in a congregation are those members of that congregation who are mature, i.e. those who have walked with the Lord long enough and have grown in Grace in that walk to the point where they are wise and righteous and loving enough to help others and serve as an example to others and to be able to participate in providing the godly counsel needed for the church to make wise decisions about the important matters it faces.

In short, the term "elder" does not refer to an office in the church. It refers to a reality in the man's life. If a man is spiritually mature he is an elder whether or not he bears the title of elder or presbyter (the Greek word meaning elder). Now a church which is wise (or even one which has just a little bit of common sense) will do two things about this: (1). it will discern those in the congregation who are elders and (2). it will publicly recognize their eldership by calling them elders and by placing them onto the board of elders, who oversee the life and functioning of the congregation. This, by the way, is the true definition of the verb "ordain". To "ordain" someone as an elder does not mean making him an elder. It means discerning that he is in fact an elder and then publicly stating this fact. It is analogous to placing the name of a great baseball player into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This act does not make him a great baseball player; it acknowledges that he is such.




Now let us look at the meaning of the terms "bishop" and "pastor". The terms "bishop" and "pastor" are synonymous and they mean one who oversees, rules, leads, cares for. A bishop, in the New Testament usage, meant the same thing as a pastor: it did not mean a pastor who rules over other pastors.

Now let us look at the relationship between the terms "elder" and "bishop". Contrary to popular opinion and traditional ecclesiastical practice, elders and bishops are the same persons! The distinction is this: the term "elder" refers to what they are; the term "bishop" refers to what they do. In short, in the New Testament, which sets forth God's way the church should be run, the leaders (bishops) of the church are those who are mature (elders).

CHRISTOLOGICAL ANALOGIES IN TOLKIEN'S LORD OF THE RINGS

CHRISTOLOGICAL ANALOGIES IN THE LORD OF THE RINGS

By Forrest W. Schultz


I. INTRODUCTORY BACKGROUND


The Vocation and Criterion of Christian Fiction

The vocation of the Christian fictional author is similar to, yet distinct from, that of the Christian theologian. The Christian theologian has a calling from God to teach us the Christian world-view, i.e. to tell us what life means and how it ought to be lived. The Christian fictional author has a calling from God to write stories which embody the Christian world-view, i.e. stories which show us what life means and how it ought to be lived. To fulfill his calling the Christian storywriter must have a clear understanding of the truth about life and he must become a skilled literary craftsman in order to compose well written stories to show us that truth. That is the vocation and criterion of Christian fiction.

It is a high calling. Stories can have a profound influence upon us. Stories are also ubiquitous: everyone reads stories; few read the writings of theologians. Finally, stories are important for their own sake, not only as a vehicle for showing us truth, because, after all, life itself is a story and God is its author. The ability to write stories is just one of the many ways in which man is “a finite analogue of God”, to use the Van Tillian phraseology.

Christian Fantasy

Now, let us look specifically at fantasy, the genre in which The Lord of the Rings is written. In addition to creating an imaginary world having verisimilitude (truthlikeness) and creating imaginary beings with whom the reader can empathize, the Christian fantasy author faces the additional challenge of appropriately expressing certain features of the Christian world-view in an indirect way by means of imaginary beings and objects which are analogies of their real-world counterparts. Let us use the Devil as an illustrative example of what I mean. Unless the writer wants to have Satan himself as a character in the story, he will need to create a being who is an analogy of Satan. For instance, in C. S. Lewis” Narnia world The White Witch is the analogy of Satan, and in Tolkien’s Middle Earth world Sauron is the analogy of Satan.

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The Basis For Inter-World Analogies

The only valid basis for drawing an analogy between the real world and a fantasy world is if both worlds function in accord with the same world-view. Since the real world – God’s creation – functions in accord with the Christian world-view, this means that analogies between the real world and a fantasy world can only be validly drawn if the fantasy world also functions in accord with the Christian world-view.

Since C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were authors who expressed the Christian world-view in their fantasies, this means that analogies can be drawn between the real world and their fantasy worlds (Narnia, Middle Earth). That The Lord of the Rings expresses the Christian world-view is clear not only from the many studies that have been done on Tolkien’s life and thought, but also from Tolkien’s own explicit statements in his essay “On Fairy Stories” (found in The Tolkien Reader), which is a seminal article on the topic of Christian fantasy.

In contrast, inter-world analogies may not be validly drawn if the fantasy world is an expression of a false world-view. Consider, for instance, the character “Lord Foul” in Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant books, which express an existentialistic world-view. Donaldson’s Lord Foul is similar, in some superficial respects, to Tolkien’s Sauron, but is radically different because he is not a person but a mere personification of the evil part of Thomas Covenant. When, near the conclusion of Donaldson’s story (at the end of Volume III of the second trilogy), Covenant’s good side gains ever more victory over his evil side, Lord Foul shrinks in size. This is clearly not analogous to what happens in the real world. When a Christian gains victory over his depravity, Satan does not shrink; and when the Christian’s depravity is annihilated during his glorification, Satan does not disappear.

Analogy, Not Allegory

Now that we have established the basis for the drawing of analogies between the world of Middle Earth and the real world, namely that they both express the Christian world-view, it needs to be clearly understood that these inter-world analogies are indeed analogous, not allegorical. Tolkien explicitly stated in the preface that his story was not to be considered as an allegory, and the internal evidence of the work itself bears this out. This can be readily demonstrated by contrasting The Lord of the Rings with an allegory such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

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Exegesis, Not Eisegesis

The terms “exegesis” and “eisegesis” apply not only to the Bible, but to any written work. Applying them to the object under discussion, we state that analogies between the real world and Tolkien’s world can only be correctly drawn by means of exegesis (i.e. drawing them “out of” Tolkien’s world), never by means of eisegesis (i.e. reading them “into” Tolkien’s world). [The Greek preposition “ex” means “out of”; the Greek preposition “eis” means “into”.]

In short, we must use our minds to discern the analogies that are intrinsically there in Middle Earth and then draw them out. We must not put there what we might like to find there to support some idea or some cause, as, for instance, some opponents of nuclear warfare have done by interpreting The Ring as the atomic bomb. On the other hand, we must not suppose that the fact that Tolkien did not spell out for us what these analogies are means that there are none. Tolkien is too sophisticated a person for us to expect any such “spoonfeeding” from him. He expects us to figure out these analogies for ourselves and to do so respecting the integrity of his world.


Analogy, Not Confusion

The next and final point in this Introductory Background section is that since things in the fantasy world belong in the fantasy world and not in the real world, it is improper to expect to see them in the real world or to try to bring them into the real world. For example, we should not expect to see hobbits and orcs in the real world. What we see is analogies of hobbits and orcs in the real world, i.e. we see humble people following the Lord and wicked people following Satan. And we should not try to bring the fantasy world into the real world by means of fantasy role playing games. [These games not only involve the “playing with fire” danger noted by Gary North and others, but they also trivialize the fantasy world. Serious matters are involved here: it’s not a game. What we are supposed to do is apply here on this real Earth the lessons embodied in the characters and story of Middle Earth.] This principle of the separation of worlds also means that we are not supposed to try and escape from this world into the fantasy world. We are to sojourn for a while in the fantasy world and then come back to live in the real world empowered for service to God here in the real world by the edification we have received from reading about the fantasy world. There are analogies between the two worlds but these worlds are also separate and must not be confused.


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II. THE CHRISTOLOGICAL ANALOGIES IN MIDDLE EARTH


The Concept of a “Christ-Figure”

One of the greatest challenges of Christian fantasy concerns how Jesus Christ will be involved in the story. Unless the writer wants to restrict his story to the surface level (with Christ present only as an implicit presupposition), he will face a choice of either having Christ Himself as a character or else having an analogy of Christ as a character. Such an analogy of Christ in Christian fantasy is sometimes called a “Christ-figure”. For instance, in Lewis’ Narnia the Christ-figure is Aslan. This raises the question which is our subject here: is there a Christ-figure in Middle Earth, and, if so, who is it?

Three Partial Christ-Figures

Those who have sought for a Christ-figure in The Lord of the Rings have done so unsuccessfully, either failing to find one or disagreeing as to the identity of the one. This is because there is no one Christ-figure there. Rather there are three partial Christ-figures, each, embodying some of the attributes of Christ, who work together and jointly accomplish in Middle Earth the analogy of Christ’s ministry. These three are (1). Gandalf as prophet and teacher, (2). Frodo as suffering servant and sin bearer, and (3). Strider-Aragorn as returning King and Messiah. These three correspond to Christ’s three offices of prophet, priest, and king, respectively. Let us now look at each of these in turn.

Gandalf As Prophet

The Old Testament prophets were distinguished by two salient characteristics: (1). they spoke on behalf of God, bringing guidance at crucial times in history; and (2). they often possessed miraculous powers to authenticate their prophetic office and to help carry forward God’s will. Christ was The Prophet because He embodied both of these traits par excellence. Gandalf functioned as the prophet in Middle Earth because he invariably appeared at the critical times in the unfolding of the story to guide and direct the actions of the various characters who have critical roles to play. Like the Old Testament prophets and like Christ, Gandalf could and did employ miracles to authenticate his office and to help accomplish his mission.

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Frodo As Priest

Frodo was the analogy of the “suffering servant” and the “bearer-destroyer of sin” aspects of the ministry of Christ. Like Christ, he was meek and lowly in outward appearance and came from an obscure rustic location, the Shire (Cf. Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee). The Ring was a real burden to Frodo which weighed him down and his task, as did Christ’s, involved an intense amount of anguish, pain, suffering, and personal sacrifice. He alone could bear the Ring, just as Christ alone could bear our sins. To destroy the Ring Frodo had to enter Sauron’s (Cf. Satan’s) territory and be abused by his minions. By the time he neared his destination Frodo was so weak that Sam had to carry him up Mt. Doom, just as Christ became so weak prior to the crucifixion that someone else had to carry the Cross up Mt. Calvary. The destruction of the Ring in the fires of Mt. Doom (Cf. sin consumed by the fire of God’s wrath on Mt. Calvary) defeated Sauron, just as Christ on the Cross defeated Satan. Like Christ’s, Frodo’s mission was a vicarious sacrifice, i.e. he did it on behalf of others, and his body bore the wounds incurred in his work (the shoulder wound from the Nazgul’s dart, the sting in the neck from Shelob, and the finger severed by Gollum) just as Christ’s body bore the stigmata. In all these ways Frodo’s role was analogous to Christ’s priestly office.

Aragorn As King

Strider-Aragorn was the Returning King and Messiah in Middle Earth in a manner strikingly similar to the royal office of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, Strider was the direct descendant in a regal lineage which had ceased to occupy the throne ever since a time of decadence in the nation’s past. Like Israel, Gondor possessed a literature which prophesied a national deliverer who would appear at a critical time to reunite the nation, occupy the vacant throne, defeat the nation’s enemies, and restore the nation’s grandeur. Like Jesus, Aragorn’s identity was known at first only to a few, but became more clearly discernable to more and more people as the day approached. It is very significant that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Gondor’s King-Messiah, like Israel’s, was the ability to heal illnesses. As soon as Aragorn began his healings in Minas Tirith, the word spread rapidly that the King had returned, just as many people in Israel believed in Jesus’ Messiahship when they witnessed the healings He performed in Galilee and Judea.


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Analogies of Israel

Tolkien’s three partial Christ-figures typology is meshed with an imaginative analogous portrayal of what might have happened if after the Resurrection the leaders and people of Israel had received Jesus Christ as King instead of spurning Him. The contrast between what actually happened in Israel and what could have happened is seen in the contrast between Gondor’s stewards Denethor and Faramir. Gondor’s old steward Denethor had an attitude toward Aragorn similar to that which the first century Jewish leaders had toward Christ. Denethor loved his own power and detested the thought of turning it over to another. He also resisted Gandalf (Cf. OT prophets and Christ), stumbled at the “foolishness” of Frodogoing to Mordor to destroy the Ring (Cf. the “foolishness” of the Cross), and rejected the kingship of Aragorn. His thoughts were influenced by Sauron; they proved to be suicidal. In striking contrast was the attitude of the new steward, Faramir. He had a high regard for Gandalf and later developed a high regard for Frodo when he met him, as a result of which he assisted him in his plan to enter Mordor. Later, he was healed by the king and his nation was saved by the king. In gratitude he welcomed the king. And at the Coronation, he followed Aragorn’s instructions as to how the ceremony was to be performed. This will be analogous to the attitude of the repentant Jews in the future who will fulfill Zech 12:10ff.

Christlike Traits

Four traits of Jesus Christ were common to all three partial Christ-figures: (1). their ministry was absolutely essential for the triumph of good over evil; (2). each was “elected” for his role, i.e. they did not decide on their own initiative to save Middle Earth, but accepted the lot that was chosen for them; (3). they were motivated by a sacrificial love and duty rather than personal pleasure and expediency; and (4). they all had to pass through “death” and “Hell” emerging victorious and raised to new heights of power. Gandalf the Grey arose and became Gandalf the White after descending into the depths of Moria to defeat the Balrog. Frodo entered Mordor to defeat Sauron and was “resurrected”, as it were, by the eagle. Strider passed through The Paths of the Dead victorious over death.

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The Symbolic Actions of Gandalf and Frodo at Aragorn’s Coronation

All of the parallels noted above between the Gandalf-Frodo-Strider team and the threefold office of Christ should amply serve to demonstrate the point that each of the three is a partial Christ-figure. But there is one incident which dramatically depicts this point and with it I close my case. This incident is the climactic moment of the crowning of Aragorn as king. Aragorn returns the crown to Faramir and explains that the Ring-bearer Frodo must bring the crown to him and that Gandalf must place it upon his head; and thus it was done. This beautifully and poignantly drives home the all important truths that the path to the Crown lies through the Cross, and that both the Cross and the Crown are only attainable in accord with the wisdom and plan of God. Neither Frodo nor Strider could have accomplished their offices without the guidance of Gandalf. This is why Strider insisted that it be Gandalf who place the crown upon his head because Gandalf “…has been the mover of all that has been accomplished and this is his victory.”

Sauron

Except for a few hints to the contrary, the text of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings appears to depict Sauron as the analogy of Satan, and, for simplicity’s sake, that is the way I treated the subject above. But the matter is not that simple because of Tolkien’s other stories about Middle-Earth, chiefly The Silmarillion (which Tolkien did not complete and thus remain unpublished until after his death), which portray a character named Morgoth as the analogy of Satan , and Sauron as one of his lieutenants. Strictly speaking, therefore, Sauron is not the analogy of Satan but of one of Satan’s chief demons.


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Typology

Unlike most fantasy worlds, Middle Earth is portrayed as our Earth in an imaginary remote past. [Here and there in the story we are provided with reasons why we do not see these fantasy beings anymore, e.g. the elves sailed away to their true home or forsook their immortality and became like men.] From this perspective it is clear that the three partial Christ-figures – Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn – are not only analogies of Christ, but are also types of Christ. To be more specific and accurate, each of these three is a type of one of the offices of Christ: prophet, priest, and king.

In this way Tolkien’s Christological analogy framework differs from that of C. S. Lewis. Narnia is not the past of Earth, but is an entirely distinct world which coexists in time with Earth. Aslan in Narnia is the analogy of Christ en toto, i.e. Aslan is an incarnation of God in a creature, and, consequently is sinless, doesn’t make mistakes, provides atonement for sin and complete salvation, and wins a complete and final victory over evil. But in Middle Earth the partial Christ-figures (Gandalf, Frodo, Aragorn) are conjointly only types of Christ, i.e. they prefigure what Christ Himself will do in the future when He comes. They, like the Old Testament types of Christ, are not divine, are not sinless, can & do make mistakes, and do not provide a full and complete salvation and victory over evil, but only provide a very limited salvation and victory, which foreshadows the complete salvation and victory which Christ will provide in the future.

Everything I have said here in this section must be seen from this typological perspective. Gandalf and Frodo and Strider are respectively, adumbrations of the offices of Christ: prophet, priest, and king. They do not and cannot do the work of Christ Himself because, unlike Aslan in a different world, they are in this world in a remote imaginary past and therefore can only prefigure, typologically, what Christ will do in the future. Middle Earth is a fantasy world. But it is portrayed as the remote past of our world, not as a totally different world, like Narnia.

Concluding Remarks

In concluding this, the main section, let me say that the thesis I have presented here is not to be regarded as the last word on the subject, but rather the first word. Additional study is clearly needed. The whole subject of typology is enormously complex and controversial. And the subject of Christian fiction, esp. Christian fantasy, needs a lot more study also.

The road goes ever on. Maybe some of you can help provide further light on this matter somewhere along the road the Lord is leading you. Amen.



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Forrest W. Schultz has a B. S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He served as President of the C.S.Lewis/J.R.R.Tolkien Society of Philadelphia in the late 1960s, and as President of the Southside Science Fiction & Fantasy Society in Riverdale, GA during the late 1980s. He is an active member of the Coweta Writers Group, serving as its Delegate to the Newnan-Coweta Arts Council. He has had for many years a strong interest in the aesthetic aspect of God and man (beauty, artistry, creativity, “interestingness”) and its relationship with science and technology. He can be reached at 703 West Grantville Road, Grantville, GA 30220, Telephone: 770-583-3258; E-Mail: schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.




NOTES:

The above appeared as an article in the December 2002 issue of The Chalcedon Report, which featured articles on Tolkien and which came off the press on the same day as the second Tolkien film arrived in the theatres.
Since then, although the arts are booming in Coweta, the arts council has gone defunct, and I now write I now write the arts news releases independently under the name of Coweta Arts Tidbits. Also, I now am the head of the Coweta Writers Group.
My email address now is Schultz_forrest@yahoo.com

These notes added today July 1, 2010.

THE COSMIC CONTEXT OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

THE COSMIC CONTEXT

OF THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST


by Forrest W. Schultz




The Conventional Teaching of the Resurrection: True But Incomplete



The first kind of discussion of the Resurrection I heard as a new Christian placed a great deal of stress upon the fact that Christ was (truly, physically) raised from the dead and that the evidence supported this fact and refuted the various theories proposed in its stead (e.g. the swoon theory, the body-theft theory, etc.). There was also a strong emphasis placed upon the fact that (because of His Resurrection) that we Christians do not worship a dead martyr but a living Savior, Who is now seated at the Right Hand of God where He serves as our Mediator with God and as the Head of His Church, which is in vital union with Him. I am grateful for having received this teaching because it is true and very important. However there was something very important omitted from this teaching, namely the cosmic context of the Resurrection of Christ.



The Resurrection of the Cosmos



The first factor in this cosmic context we shall discuss is the resurrection of the entire creation system into its glorified, final state: The New Heavens & The New Earth. A good discussion of this factor and why it is so often omitted from the subject of the Resurrection is found in an excellent book on the doctrine of salvation authored by Dr. John Murray, one of the best New Testament theologians of the twentieth century. I shall now quote Murray’s discussion of this in its entirety. His writing on the subject is remarkable not only for its thought content, but also for its lucidity, succinctness, pathos, and literary beauty – qualities which are not always found in theological writings!



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“One of the heresies which has afflicted the Christian church and has been successful in polluting the stream of Christian thought from the first century of our era to the present day is the heresy of regarding matter, that is material substance, as the source of evil. It has appeared in various forms. …John, for example, had to combat it in the peculiarly aggravated form of denying the reality of Christ’s body as one of flesh. (I Jn 4: 1-3) …In reference to that heresy the test of orthodoxy was to confess the flesh of Jesus, that is to say that he came with a material, fleshly body.
Another form in which this heresy appeared is to regard salvation as consisting of the emancipation of the soul or spirit of man from the impediments and entanglements of the body. Salvation and sanctification progress to the extent to which the immaterial soul overcomes the degrading influence emanating from the material and the fleshly. …
This heresy has appeared in a very subtle form in connection with the subject of glorification. The direction it has taken in this case is to play on the chord of the immortality of the soul. …The Biblical doctrine of ‘immortality’, if we may use that term, is the doctrine of glorification. And glorification is resurrection. Without resurrection of the body from the grave and the restoration of human nature to its completeness after the pattern of Christ’s resurrection…there is no glorification… .
In like manner, the Christian’s hope is not indifferent to the material universe around us, the cosmos of God’s creation. It was subjected to vanity, not willingly; it was cursed for man’s sin; it was marred by human apostasy. But it is going to be delivered from the bondage of corruption; and its deliverance will be coincident with the consummation of God’s people’s redemption. The two are not only coincident events but they are correlative in hope. Glorification has cosmic proportions… .* (emphasis his)


So we see that, just as (during His First Advent) Christ’s destiny was to die and be resurrected by God, so the destiny of the cosmos is to die and be resurrected by God. This state of affairs casts the entire subject of Christ’s resurrection into a new light. In light of the fact that the history of the cosmos is headed for (death and) resurrection, this means that Christ’s resurrection should not be regarded as an oddity -- as something that does not fit into the scheme of things. If the entire cosmos is going to experience a resurrection, then it is not appropriate to regard the Resurrection of Christ as something paranormal. To summarize, since the Christian world-view expects the resurrection of the cosmos, it therefore regards resurrection as something normal, not something abnormal. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection must be discussed in this light, i.e. in light of this cosmic resurrectional context. The humanist considers the idea of the Resurrection of Christ as a “Claim of the Paranormal” because it does not fit into the humanist’s world-view: the humanist does not expect God to resurrect the cosmos. Therefore he regards the notion of resurrection as an oddity, as something that doesn’t fit into his framework because it is a concept which is alien to it.



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Present Day Resurrections



Thus far we have dealt with the universal eschatological resurrection that will occur at the end of the history of this cosmos. But this is not the only factor in the cosmic resurrectional context. There are also present-day resurrections occurring in the plant kingdom, as I shall now show from quotations from two of the finest works in the library of Christian prose.

The first of these comes from John Calvin’s classic opus The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is arguably the greatest book of general theology ever written: “…Paul by setting forth a proof from nature confutes the folly of those who deny the resurrection. ‘You foolish man’, he says, ‘what you sow does not come to life unless it dies’, etc. (I Cor 15:36) In sowing, he tells us, we discern an image of the resurrection, for out of corruption springs up grain. And this fact would not be so hard to believe if we paid proper attention to the miracles thrust before our eyes throughout all the regions of the world.** Unfortunately we have become so accustomed to these phenomena that we forget that the creation of new life is indeed a miracle. Just because it is not rare does not mean it isn’t a miracle. The resurrection of the dead will clearly be a miracle in spite of the fact that it will happen to all men, and thus will not be a rarity.

Our next source will be the earliest known extant Christian writing since the completion of the New Testament, namely the epistle to the church at Corinth written in circa 96 A.D. by the church at Rome, the authorship of which is generally attributed to one of is bishops, Clemens Romanus, commonly known as Clement of Rome: “My friends, look how regularly there are processes of resurrection going on at this very moment. … take the fruits of the earth; how, and in what way, does a crop come into being? When the sower goes out and drops each seed into the ground, it falls to the earth shriveled and bare, and decays; but presently the power of the Lord’s providence raises it from decay, and from that single grain a host of others spring up and yield their fruit. … need we find it such a great wonder that He has a resurrection in store for those of us who have served Him in holiness and in the confidence of a sound faith? For in Scripture we read, You will raise me up, and I will praise you; … Job too, says, You will raise up this flesh of mine which has had all these trials to endure. … So let us rekindle the ardour of our belief in Him, and also remind ourselves that there is nothing in the world with which He is not in close touch. With the word of His greatness has He assembled all that exists, and with a word His is able to overturn it again; for who can say to him, What have you done? or who shall withstand the power of his might? He will act at all times as, and when, He chooses; and not one of His decrees shall fail.”***

It is worthy of note that in the thinking of these two great Christian writers biology and theology are closely related. They are not kept in two separate compartments as they are in modern education and modern practice under the hegemony of secularistic humanism.
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Resurrection In The Drama Of History



In Christian thought, as we have shown, there is a close relationship between man and nature. We shall be mentioning this again, but now we shall do so from the standpoint of history seen as a drama. We now wish to emphasize that nature is not just the stage on which the drama of human salvation is enacted. Rather nature is intimately involved in human history and human salvation. This principle is beautifully expressed in the following words by one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, Rousas John Rushdoony: “The destiny of covenant keeping man is to be God’s vicegerent in Christ, to be God’s priest, prophet, and king over creation, to rule, interpret, and dedicate the world to Christ, unto God the Father. Man is not passive in regard to nature; rather nature is passive in regard to man. Nature was passive in receiving the consequences of man’s Fall and nature is passive today as man’s sin lays nature waste. Nature will be passive again in receiving her Sabbath rest from man’s hands and it will finally share passively in man’s glorification (Rom 8:19-22).”****

This is the historical perspective we need to properly understand the significance of the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection belongs in history because of the crucial role it plays in history. It is a key plot element in the drama of history. God is excellent in all His works. One of His works – one that is sometimes unrecognized – is that He is the Playwright of the drama of history. Therefore the Resurrection belongs in this drama: it is not an extraneous element, and therefore must not be regarded as something paranormal. It seems paranormal to the humanist because he does not understand or is unwilling to accept the plot of the drama because he is in rebellion against the Divine Dramatist, who has authored the drama. The humanist does not want to be in God’s drama. The humanist wants to write his own drama. In this humanistic drama there is no place for resurrection to be done by God just as there is no place for the cosmos to be created by God. Now it must be granted that the humanist often does allow Jesus to play a role, but that role is restricted to being a teacher of ethics (the ethics in which the humanist believes, of course) and perhaps an exemplar (of the kind of life style in which the humanist believes). But the humanist will not allow Christ to be the Word of God through whom the world was created nor the principle of unification in whom all things consist, nor the Resurrector of the dead or the Judge at the Last Judgment. So, you see, the humanist regards the Resurrection of Christ as paranormal because it is not normal according to his criterion of normality: it does not fit his philosophy of history – it has no place in his drama. But the Resurrection is normal by God’s criterion of normality. And God is the One who infallibly knows the true criterion of normality and God is the true Author of the drama. It is God’s drama that becomes reality. As a great poet once said, referring to God, “It is His Dogma that becomes the Drama!”. The humanists’ dramas are pure fiction because their dogmas are false.

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Conclusion: The Resurrection And The Clash Of World-Views



From what we have established here it is clear that we must proclaim the Resurrection of Christ in the context of the total Christian world-and-life view and we must exhort all men to get right with God and to straighten out their thinking. It is not enough to try to get people to accept the historical fact of the Resurrection. They need to change their minds about their philosophy of life. They need to forsake their false world-view and adopt the Christian world-view. After all, repentance (metanoia) means change of mind. The Resurrection is an integral feature of the Christian world-view and only makes sense in terms of that world-view. In the humanists’ world-views it is paranormal. In God’s view it is normal because He designed, planned, and carried it out for his purposes.
Amen!

To any reader who wishes to come to a clearer and deeper understanding of this clash of world-views, I recommend reading the books on The Van Til Perspective in the brief bibliography I appended to my article in last month’s Chalcedon Report.




NOTES



1. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 179 - 181

2. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III: XXV: 4, Ed. by John T. McNeill, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 993. Concerning the word “miracles”, I feel obliged, in all fairness, to point out that Beveridge’s translation uses the term “wonders” instead. Whether this is justified by the Latin or whether Beveridge is recoiling in personal distaste from the word “miracles” I do not know.

3. This letter is found in the standard reference work The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.) under the heading The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, the quoted material being found in sections 24, 26, & 27. However, what I quoted comes not from this translation but the one made by Maxwell Staniforth, which is found in The Penguin Classics paperback, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (N.Y., 1968) on pages 36 & 37.

4. Rousas John Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1969), pp. 3, 14

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Forrest W. Schultz has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Drexel University and a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or schultzf_2002@yahoo.com.













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NOTE: this article was published in The Chalcedon Report.