Van Til Tool

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

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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