Inside How to Read Genesis 1-3 Can We Trust the Gospels? J. R. R. Tolkien and Fairy-Story Education in Modern America
Bumper Sticker Religion
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Schuman
A Letter from the Editor
Executive Editor Robert Cousins
I love reading bumper stickers. They have a way of taking complex ideas and compressing them into pithy phrases. The other day, I saw one that was especially thought-provoking: “God is too big for any one religion.” There is a ring of truth here. After all, isn’t it plain that God, if He exists, would be beyond human understanding? Indeed, there is no way that any religion could completely encompass God. But just because religion is not bigger than God does not mean that God is too big for religion. The curious thing about Jesus is that he made perhaps the boldest truth claims in the historical record. Not only did he claim to know all truth, he claimed to be truth. In the Gospel of John, Jesus proclaims: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Truth is therefore not merely a proposition to be discovered by our intellect, but a person capable of love and action. Before his crucifixion Jesus makes his purpose clear: “I have come not to be served, but to serve, and to lay down my life as a ransom for many.”
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Here at Apologia, we believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be. If Jesus’ claims are true, then unlike what the bumper sticker asserts, God is not beyond the capacity of human understanding at all. On the contrary, God entered human history for the express purpose of revealing Himself to us, that we might know Him.
Writers and Artists Wilfred McClay, John Stern, Andy Foust, Amanda Thorton, Cam Tran
When it comes to absolute truth claims, it is natural to be skeptical, and we don’t believe that true faith is blind faith. Just as Jesus invited his disciple Thomas to touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet, and so believe in his resurrection, he welcomes our doubts and our rational investigation.
Faculty Advisory Board Gregg Fairbrothers Richard Denton Marvin Doyle Eric Hansen Eric Johnson James Murphy David Pyke Leo Zacharski Special Thanks to: Council on Student Organizations The Day Foundation Beth Pearson Robert Philp
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Dr. Wilfred McClay
Whatsoever Things Are True
A Few Thoughts On Education In Modern America
Charles Dunn ‘10
Can We Trust the Gospels?
The Historical Reliability of the Narratives of Jesus
14 19 21 24
John Stern ‘05 Looking Beyond the Literal How to Read Genesis 1-3 and Why It Matters
Andy Foust ‘11 The Battlefield of the Human Heart: Love and Forgiveness in The Brothers Karamazov Andrew Schuman ‘10
and the Significance of Fairy-Story
Creative Works with
Amanda Thornton’s Dark Company Cam Tran’s New Eyes, Summer Rain
An Interview with Dinesh D’Souza ‘83
Some Final Thoughts from Haley Bolin ‘08
he Dartmouth Apologia exists to articulate Christian perspectives in the academic community.
A Journal of Christian Thought
Whatsoever A Few Thoughts On Education In Modern America Wilfred McClay
rofessor Wilfred “Bill” McClay has been SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he is also Professor of History, since 1999. He has also taught at Georgetown University, Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Dallas, and is currently a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, and a member of the Society of Scholars at the James Madison Program of Princeton University. He was appointed in 2002 to the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board for the National Endowment for the Humanities. His book The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (North Carolina, 1994) won the 1995 Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians for the best book in American intellectual history published in the years 1993 and 1994. He is coeditor of Rowman and Littlefield’s book series entitled American Intellectual Culture, serves on the editorial boards of First Things, The Wilson Quarterly, The Public Interest, Society, Touchstone, Historically Speaking, and University Bookman, and is a member of the Board of Governors of The Historical Society. He was educated at St. John’s College (Annapolis) and the Johns Hopkins University, where he received a Ph.D. in history in 1987.
Baker Library, West Entrance by Bryan Chong ‘09
Things Are True In an interview with The Dartmouth Apologia in the fall of 2007, former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis addressed what he perceived to be the prevailing problems in higher education. Lewis lamented that higher education institutions have become primarily concerned with research specialization and the pursuit of excellence at the expense of the overall well being of their students. He also emphasized that the primary mission of universities should be to “transform teenagers into adults…with the learning and wisdom to take responsibility for their own lives and for civil society.” Following up on Lewis’ comments and critiques, The Dartmouth Apologia asked Professor McClay to draw on the wealth of his educational experience and weigh in with his opinions on education in modern America.
of our leisure time salivating over the lives and looks of celebrities, and watching gimmicky “reality” television shows whose participants make fools of themselves, and of us for watching. We may soon come to the point where old-fashioned wholesomeness is the most radical posture of all---particularly if it strengthens us to be able to say “no” to the ephemera of our popular culture, and instead resolve to stake our lives on something more solid and more lasting. There is a philosophy of education embedded in those words from Philippians. And it’s very much at odds with the prevailing approach of many parents, educators, writers, producers, media providers, and kids. The prevailing view is that no one can really know for sure what is true, pure, and just--that such judgments are strictly individual in nature, and that it therefore would be an arrogant imposition of one’s values or tastes to assume otherwise. Therefore the only really fair and honest way to educate young people is to “expose” them to many things, as many things as possible, respect their “feelings,” and leave it to them to sort it all out. It is an approach to education that appears on the surface to be generous and liberatory, but is in fact far from being either. For it is an approach whose liberality is really only a veil for its lack of conviction, and for its indifference to the fate of the very ones consigned to its care. Not indifference to their physical Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever fates, of which we are now perhaps excessively solicitous, with things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever our growing mania for physical health and safety. But indifthings are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever ference to their intellectual and spiritual fates, about which an things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there attitude of neutrality is in fact an attitude of abdication. be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8) The Phillipians passage shows us a better way. It assumes When I was still a teenager, nearly four decades ago, this that the fundamental channels of education are mimetic, that sort of statement would have been regarded as sheer platitude, they involve learning by imitation, a process in which the choice the sort of thing that perhaps everyone believed, but regarded of admirable examples to be imitated is all important: deep calls as somewhat too tiresome and obvious and gassy to need to unto deep, refinement begets refinement, high ideals call forth be stated. Today, it sounds almost avant-garde, a rebuke to our high ideals, heroic deeds leave a deposit of noble character. It slack and jaded age, in which we waste an inordinate amount matters what we are “exposed” to, because we take on the shape
here is something hollow about the blanket praise of “change,” as if change were always inevitable and always commendable. We know better, but we are reluctant to acknowledge it. Instead, we are bombarded with political oratory, editorial-page bombast, and psychological advice, stressing that one must have the courage to change, to reinvent oneself, to adapt, to move on. Flexibility is to be regarded as the chief virtue of the truly civilized. Suppleness is next to godliness. Yet this rhetoric is often a mere rationalization for selling out, giving in to the spirit of the age, reneging on one’s commitments, and taking the path of least resistance, rather than standing fast and resisting in the name of those things that one should really care about, the things that are precious and good. There’s a dirty little secret such oratory is designed to mask: that all too often it’s change that’s easy, all too easy---and it’s continuity, or loyalty, or perseverance, or honor, or idealism, or any number of other firm and steady traits that we used to think of as “noble,” that is truly difficult. When we choose to forego the fleeting in the name of the enduring, we affirm what is deepest and most admirable in our humanity. But we also swim against the current. A useful support for this counter-effort can be found in some famous words from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians in the New Testament. Indeed, it’s worth quoting the entire passage:
of the things we contemplate. A steady diet of triviality, mediocrity, baseness, and propaganda in education leaves us far less than what we could have been. You should remember this in your leisure hours. Those things we choose as exemplary become, in the end, a window onto what we believe that it means to be most fully human. That is the belief at the bottom of all other subjects and pursuits in a genuinely liberal, or freeing, education. And to be most fully human is always to aspire to be something more than what we are---to aspire to overcome ourselves, improve ourselves, and ennoble ourselves, by holding before ourselves images of high achievement and admirable character, to which we compare ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. No one thought more deeply about these things than Aristotle, and he offered an unforgettable statement of this very theme in the Tenth Book of his Nicomachean Ethics: We must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more in power and in worth does it surpass everything. This would seem, too, to be each man himself, since it is the authoritative and better part of him. It would be strange, then, if he were to choose not the life of his self but that of something else.2
In other words, education should aspire to two things: First, it should point us toward self-control, a condition in which we come into full possession of ourselves, overcoming the tyranny of our appetites, and the even greater tyranny of the immediate, with all its nagging and imperious demands, and instead giving us the capacity to fix our eyes and desires upon the goals that matter, the things that endure. Second, it should make us eager to realize the fullest possibilities of our human nature, which means, paradoxically, striving always to transcend the “merely” human, those foibles and follies to which we all are prone, and instead to inspire us to hear and heed the call of higher things, and to realize what Aristotle called “the best thing in us.” It is, of course, human to err and stumble, and to be pushed along by forces beyond our control. But it is even more fully human to strive in the teeth of such challenges, to push back against immediacy and necessity, to refuse a life lived entirely moment to moment, as a tumbleweed of unregulated desires, and instead to live a life of unity, integrity, principle, and purpose, a life informed by the directive force of large, generous, and enduring ideals, with a proper sense of life’s proper ends. This is, I repeat, not the dominant philosophy of education on offer in contemporary America. Instead, training in self-esteem, group dynamics, adjustment, social usefulness, civic engagement, vocational skills, money-making, test-taking, or citizenship, are all cited as the most desirable and reasonable goals for education. And many of them are worthy things. But none compares with the goal of bringing us into possession of ourselves, and helping us catch a glimpse of the full range of our humanity. By that standard, all the other goals seem timid and useless---notwithstanding their panting eagerness to be serviceable and profitable. 6
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There are deep paradoxes at the heart of education. It is most useful when it does not consciously strive to be useful; that is the core of what makes a liberal education liberal. It serves the goal of responsible citizenship best by teaching that there are things higher and more important than being a citizen. It prepares us for the future by immersing us in the past. And it is an unending task, because it engages us in seeking to become more fully what we already are---or rather, to become what we are meant to be, fulfilling some potentiality that is already inherent in what we are. Not that we are necessarily “meant to be” some one particular thing---an architect, a doctor, a welder, whatever. That is not what I mean. Instead, I mean that the fullest measure of our humanity is never something merely given to us. It is an achievement, as well as an endowment. We are always already human, and yet to be human, we also must be constantly striving to be ever more fully so. Education cannot guide and spur us such achievement so long as it refuses to take a position about the things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely.
Philippians 4:8, King James Study Bible, ed Edward Hinson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002). 2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1178a32-b4
Carpenter Hall Decorative Railing by Bryan Chong ‘09
Science and Humanities The Humanities could be defined as the study of that which makes us human, often pursued in the disciplines of philosophy, history and the classics. Science might be described as the knowledge of the physical or material world ascertained through observation. Through both of these fields, we seek to grasp an understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live. Therefore, the humanities and sciences offer us a tremendous means through which to know God and understand His purpose for our lives. I invite you to join the discussion prompted in the following pages and to use every faculty of your reason in your pursuit of Truth. Cui bono? Omnibus.
Editor of Sciences and Humanities
Can We Trust the Gospels? The Historical Reliability of the Narratives of Jesus Charles Dunn
articularly in the last two centuries, scholars have called into question the credibility of the texts that record the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The discourse has been widespread and controversial, not surprisingly in light of the content within the Gospel accounts. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) garner so much attention because of the claims they make: they claim that Jesus was the Son of God and that he was crucified and resurrected from the dead, thereby paying the penalty for the sins of mankind and demonstrating himself to be the Son of God, offering salvation and eternal life to all who believe in Him. Indeed these are bold claims of monumental significance if true. Christianity is, and always has been, rooted in historical revelation. It is therefore important to view its foundation documents through historical criticism. As Biblical scholar and critic F.F. Bruce writes, “history and theology are inextricably intertwined in the gospel of our salvation, which owes its eternal and universal validity to certain events which happened in Palestine when Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire.”1 In my discussion, I will attempt to examine the reliability of the Gospels. First I will seek to determine whether the authors are reliable sources. What credentials do the authors have? When did they write their accounts? Do they report similar facts about Jesus’ life? Do they hold up to tests of scrutiny? I will also highlight the independent historical and archaeological verification of the people and places mentioned in the Gospels, the accuracy of the
transmission of the Gospel texts, and harmonizations of alleged contradictions. Before beginning such a study, it is important to say something about method. Once one sees that the Gospel writers were attempting to write reliable history, one must adopt an important “presupposition which one exercises in the reading of all history. Without it no historiography, ancient or modern, would win acceptance. Briefly, it is this, that one accepts a statement upon the word of the reporter unless he has reason not to do so.”2 Should ancient historians presume texts unreliable until enough data can be produced to corroborate their accounts, they would find the corroborative data wholly insufficient and would have to disregard most of what is accepted today as reliable history. I mention this because many scholars have approached the Gospels under an intensely critical presupposition, thereby greatly distorting the conclusions and historicity of their results. The Gospels, like any other texts of ancient history, should be treated under the normative canons of historiography. Are the Gospel writers reliable sources? One of the first questions to ask about any supposedly historical account is “Who wrote it?” In the case of the Gospels, which record the life, teaching, death, and alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ, what access to this information did the Gospel writers have? Did they interact with Jesus, listen to his teaching, see his miracles, witness his death and perhaps meet with
Sciences and Humanities
him after his purported resurrection? Did any of the writers scrupulously interview other eyewitnesses, ask difficult questions, and faithfully record what they discovered? The answer is a resounding yes. According to the uniform testimony of the early church, the Gospels were written by the authors we assign to them today. Writing in 180 AD, early Church apologist Irenaeus listed the authors of the Gospels confirming the statements of St. Papias (d. 130 AD), Tertullian (d. 220 AD), and Clement of Alexandria (d. 215 AD): Matthew published his own Gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his Gospel while he was living at Ephesus in Asia.3
Nicodemus Visiting Jesus by Henry Ossawa Tanner
First of all, there are highly persuasive arguments that the Gospels were written earlier than Armstrong’s dating suggests, but even if they were written later, her argument would not stand up. The latest dates for the Gospels put Mark in the 70’s, So essentially what we have are two Gospels written by Matthew and Luke in the 80’s and John in the 90’s. At these two of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew and John, one by Mark the dates there still would have been several eyewitnesses around companion of the disciple Peter, and one by Luke, the histo- to challenge inaccurate accounts.5 Furthermore, a forty-year rian and doctor companion of the apostle Paul. Therefore the gap appears infinitesimal when compared with other ancient Gospels are all based on either direct or indirect eyewitness biographies, which were written centuries after the death of the testimony. person being recorded. In the ancient world, an account written thirty to forty years after the fact is like a newsflash. Consider Were the facts about Jesus exagerrated before they the biographies written about Alexander the Great by Arian and were recorded? Plutarch, which were written more than four hundred years afEven if this is so, one might wonder whether the time ter the death of Alexander. Yet these are generally considered gap between the death of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels reliable. Myths about Alexander the Great didn’t start developwas so great that the accounts were corrupted and distorted so ing until the next five hundred years.6 that Jesus became more than just a wise teacher. Some scholars In addition, the Gospels were likely written even earlier endorse this view, such as Karen Armstrong who in her book than Armstrong suggests. Luke completed his second book The The History of God wrote: Acts of the Apostles, in 62 AD, as a continuation of his Gospel.7 We know very little about Jesus. The first full-length acTherefore, the Gospel of Luke must have been written before count of his life was St. Mark’s gospel, which was not writ62 AD, and since Luke is believed to incorporate parts of Mark, ten until the year 70, some forty years after his death. [Jesus Mark must have been written before that. Perhaps the most conwas crucified and allegedly resurrected in AD 33.] By that vincing evidence that belief in Jesus’ miraculous resurrection extime, historical facts had been overlaid with mythical eleisted in the earliest days of Christianity comes from other books ments, which expressed the meaning Jesus had acquired for in the New Testament. By the time the Gospels were written, his followers. It is this meaning that St. Mark primarily Paul had written nearly all of his epistles. In these epistles we conveys rather than a reliable straightforward portrayal.4 find incorporated what are generally accepted as early church
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hymns or creeds, including 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul speaks of the tradition that he received after his conversion, which was two years after the death of Christ (33 AD). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the relatively fixed oral tradition that he had passed on to them. This creed affirms critical facts about Jesus’ death for man’s sins and a detailed list of the people to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus can be firmly dated to within two to five years of Jesus death, not to forty years later when it allegedly arose through myth and distortion!8 What about the non-canonical “Gospels”? Before moving on, it is necessary to consider the noncanonical “Gospels.” First of all, these alleged “Gospels” were written much later than the canonical Gospels, in the second, third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth centuries AD and are rather banal in content and tone. Secondly, they carry names of prominent companions of Jesus—the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Mary—that are entirely unrelated to their actual authorship and are therefore not based on eyewitness testimony.9 Yet even if these can be disregarded as historically unreliable, how does one evaluate the historicity of the Gospel of Thomas, which some have placed on par with the other four Gospels? Unlike the four canonical Gospel accounts, which primarily record what Jesus did, the Gospel of Thomas exclusively records what Jesus said. It was likely written later than the canonical Gospels in Syria around 140 AD, not by Jesus’ disciple Thomas as the title suggests.10 While some of the recorded sayings of Jesus included in the Gospel of Thomas are similar to those recorded in the canonical Gospels, it also includes some statements by Jesus that are blatantly contrary to the teaching recorded in the four Gospels. According to the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “Let Mary go away from us, because women are not worthy of life” and “Lo, I shall lead her and make her a male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.”11 In another place it cites Jesus as saying, “Split wood; I am there. Lift up a stone, and you will find me there.”12 This anti-feminist and pantheist Jesus is blatantly opposed to the Jesus recorded in the canonical Gospels! While the Gospel of Thomas may be an interesting text, it is of little historical value. Are the Gospel accounts consistent? One of the most important questions to ask when comparing multiple historical accounts of an event or series of events is whether or not the accounts corroborate each other. As applied to the Gospel writers, do they report similar facts about Jesus’ life? A thorough reading of the Gospels will show that they are harmonized and consistent in their presentation of Jesus yet are not identical to each other in wording. Some have alleged that minor differences in presentation and emphasis suggest contradiction. Yet if the Gospel accounts were identical, one could equally charge that the authors conspired among themselves to coordinate their stories in advance, which would clearly cast doubts upon the independent testimony of
their writing. If the accounts were too consistent, it would seem that we only had one account that everyone else was copying. Simon Greenleaf of Harvard Law School, who authored a landmark treatise on evidence, after studying the consistency of the Gospels wrote: There is enough of a discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them; and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction.13
This is not to say that the alleged contradictions are not worthy of consideration, even by the most conservative of Christians. I will briefly touch on these “contradictions” later. But in summary, Greenleaf ’s assessment of the consistency yet independent reliability of the Gospels is easily verified. Did the Gospel writers intend to write historically? A few scholars have sidestepped this entire discussion by questioning the intention of the Gospel writers themselves. They have purported that the Gospel writers never had any intention of recording historically accurate information but were rather writing in some other genre, such as “parable” stories to teach theological truth. While Jesus did sometimes teach in parables, stories that teach theological truth, it would be hard to read the Gospel accounts and believe that all the descriptions of what Jesus did (which are more common than what Jesus said) were not at least intended as historical record. After all, if the Gospels really are offering new possibilities for man’s relationship with God, then something must have happened in history to make these possible. James Williams, in his Gospel against Parable, demonstrates that the parables within the Gospels should not be understood outside of their historical narrative framework, concluding that the Gospels are generically the combination of two literary genres, biography and parable.14 Indeed, the writers of the Gospels make their intention to record historically accurate information quite apparent. Luke writes at the beginning of his Gospel: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.15
Thus, it is apparent that Luke endeavors to write accurately about things he found to be well-supported by witnesses. Furthermore, a quick reading of the Gospels will show that they are written in a sober and responsible fashion, with care and accuracy in incidental details. They are not characterized by the outlandish mythologizing and blatant hyperbole present in much ancient writing. Do the Gospel writers hold up to tests of scrutiny? A few skeptics have questioned whether writers obviously devoted to Jesus could record accurate accounts of his
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merely being the variety that comes from independent testimony. In fact, alleged contradictions in the Gospels (or in the Bible as a whole) are perhaps the most frequently cited challenge to Scripture’s reliability. At the outset, it is important to keep in mind that the number of so called contradictions is very few, especially considering the length of the texts. While the following cannot fully discount the alleged contradictions, it should also be noted that the “contradictions” do not concern any major event or article of faith. For example, a great many of the alleged contradictions arise from not understanding the concept of ancient quotation and paraphrase and attempting to apply our modern concerns for accurate quotation to the texts. Greek and Hebrew had no symbols for quotation marks, and a historian or biographer did not necessarily try to exactly report the words used by the person in question.18 Not surprisingly then, alleged contradictions such as the following arise. According to the Gospels, the Roman praetor (governor), Pontius Pilate, posted a sign on the cross where Jesus hung. Three of the Gospel writers record what was written on that sign: In Matthew: This is Jesus, the king of the Jews. In Mark: The king of the Jews. In John: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. There is different wording but all three writers report that Christ was crucified, that a sign was erected, and all three wordings mean the same thing. When one recognizes that ancient writers were concerned with actual voice (ipsissima vox) not actual words (ipsissima verba), it is easy to see that this type of minor variation in wording that occurs with nearly every pair of Gospel parallels does not challenge their historical reliability.19 Another frequently cited type of contradiction centers around the chronology of events recorded in the Gospels. That is, many of the accounts of incidents in Jesus life don’t occur in the same order in one Gospel as they do in the next. Yet from Jesus Walking On Water by Henry Ossawa Tanner very early in church history, at least as early as Augustine (354430 AD), it has been understood that the Gospel writers did they recorded what they had seen, even in the face of suffering not set out to report a detailed itinerary of Jesus’ ministry with every event in proper chronological order, but often arranged and death.16 The atmosphere of adverse witnesses at the time of the passages in thematic or topical order instead. Accordingly, one writing of the Gospels should also be taken into account. As should only seek to create a chronological sequence between Biblical scholar and critic F.F. Bruce points out, “It can have two Gospel portions when the text explicitly presents one. This been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to becomes especially clear when one recognizes that the Greek invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so connector words kai and de sometimes translated into English many of his disciples were about, who could remember what as “now” or “then” can often have no temporal significance had and had not happened.” There were also plenty of people and only mean “and.” One can see this principle very clearly at the time opposed to Christianity. “The disciples could not af- in Luke’s Gospel where he frequently introduces passages with ford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of no clear temporal connection with the preceding passage, simthe facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would ply using the Greek word kai “and.”20 Modern biographers do exactly the same thing. They follow a line of thought or topic be only too glad to do so.”17 relevant to the life they are describing, only loosely following a Are the Gospels contradictory? chronological sequence. They are not criticized for this method, Some have argued that the alleged contradictions in as writing a biography would be almost impossible in any other the Gospels are too substantial to be dismissed on the basis of way.
life without changing details to improve Jesus’ image. While this is a possibility, it certainly does not have to be the case. The disciples love and devotion for Jesus, in addition to Jesus’ many teachings on honesty and integrity, could just have well encouraged the Gospel writers to record Jesus’ life with great integrity. Besides, the disciples had nothing to gain except ostracism, criticism, and martyrdom. There was great pressure on the disciples to keep quiet, to deny or downplay Jesus, even to forget that they had known him. Yet because of their integrity,
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Sometimes critics of the Gospels will question their historical reliability based on the omission of certain passages or sections by one Gospel that are included in another. Did a Gospel writer omit what another writer included for structural or thematic reasons or for a more practical reason, such as a desire to add other material to his Gospel account and limited room on a standard sized scroll? It would be hard to accuse a Gospel writer of being contradictory to another source simply because he omits some of the other’s information. As noted at the end of John’s Gospel, clearly anyone’s reconstruction of the life of Christ can only represent a fraction of his teaching and marvelous activity,21 so the omission of certain material should come as no surprise. Indeed the unity of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life is far more impressive than its diversity.22 Do archaeology and non-Christian historians corroborate the Gospels? In addition to the internal evidence for historical reliability in the Gospels, one must also consider whether they can be corroborated by archaeology and other ancient history sources. Archaeology, of course, is limited. It cannot prove the truth of Jesus’ claims, but it can confirm that the geography and history of the Gospels is accurate. Archaeology has demonstrated, as noted by prominent Australian archaeologist Clifford Wilson, that “those who know the facts now recognize that the New Testament must be accepted as a remarkably accurate source book.”23 Indeed, archaeologists have verified the accounts of Luke in both his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, showing that in his references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine-islands he did not make a single mistake.24 For some time the Gospel of John was challenged as being historically suspect in its references to locations that couldn’t be verified. One such allegation dealt with John 5:1-15, which tells of how Jesus healed a paralyzed man by the Pool of Bethesda. John also details that this pool had five porticoes. Since no such place had been found, John was accused of being inaccurate.
affirming Pilate’s own identity.25 Summarily, archaeology has not produced anything demonstrably in contradiction with the Gospels, and many opinions of skeptical scholars have been shown to be inaccurate through archaeological discovery. The historical reliability of the Gospels’ description of Jesus has also been verified by ancient non-Christian sources. These include the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, the Jewish Talmud, the Roman historian Tacitus, and the Roman historian Pliny the Younger. If one did not have the Gospels, any of the New Testament, or any other Christian writings one would still know the following about the life of Jesus: • He was a Jewish teacher. • Many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms. • Some people believed that he was the Jewish Messiah (the prophesied Savior). • He was rejected by the Jewish leaders. • He was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. • Despite this extremely shameful death of crucifixion, Jesus’ followers believed that he had been resurrected, and they spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by 64 AD • All kinds of people from the cities and countryside, men and women, slave and free, worshipped him as God.26 In conclusion, it is fair to say that the Gospels are further vindicated when they mention people, places, and events that can be independently verified. Have the Gospel texts been corrupted or altered over time? Even if one is willing to accept that the Gospels in their original manuscripts were historically reliable—even remarkably so—one might still question whether the manuscripts were faithfully passed along. Since we don’t have the first or original copies of the Gospels how do we know that they were not greatly altered, so that what we have today is significantly different than what was originally written? Since the original manuscripts were written on papyrus, which is susceptible to moisture and cracking, they had a short life-span and accordingly had to be copied. And of course when texts are copied, they are subject to human error or intentional manipulation. The question regarding the manuscript accuracy of the Gospels is not unique to them but rather applies to all ancient texts. But the Gospels are unique when compared with other ancient writings due to the unprecedented sum of copies that have survived and the age of the copies available. The number of copies is important in textual criticism because they can be cross-checked against one another to ascertain what the original document was like. Presently more than 5,664 Greek manuscripts from the New Testament have been discovered in addition to 8,000 to 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts, plus
Textual criticism has demonstrated that the New Testatment has been passed down in a form that is 99.5% pure Yet when archaeologists excavated the Pool, which was forty feet below ground level, they found the five porticoes (colonnaded walkways) just as John had described it. Further discoveries have added to the case for John’s accuracy such as the Pool of Siloam from John 9:7, Jacob’s Well from John 4:12, the probable site of the Stone Pavement near the Jaffa Gate where Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate in John 19:13 and even inscriptions
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8,000 Ethiopic, Slavic, and Armenian copies. In all there are about 24,000 manuscripts in existence. Unlike other ancient texts, there are New Testament manuscripts copied within a couple of generations of the originals, whereas in the case of other ancient texts, maybe five, eight, or ten centuries elapsed between the original and the earliest surviving copy. This wealth of remarkably early manuscript evidence led former director of the British Museum Sir Frederic Kenyon to state, “In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament.”27 Next to the New Testament, the greatest amount of manuscript material is Homer’s Iliad of which there are fewer than 650 manuscripts. They come from the second and third centuries AD and later, a considerably long time from when the work was first written around 750 BC. Textual criticism has demonstrated that the New Testament has been passed down in a form that is 99.5% pure, and in the small percentage of cases where there is significant uncertainty about what the original texts said, the general sense of the sentence is quite clear from the context, and textual variants are listed in marginal notes.28 This evidence for the accurate transmission of the New Testament Manuscripts led Kenyon along with many other scholars to conclude, “the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”29 Benjamin Warfield, who held four doctorates and taught at Princeton Theological Seminary until his death wrote: If we compare the present state of the New Testament with that of any other ancient writing, we must…declare it to be marvelously correct. Such has been the care with which the New Testament has been copied—a care which has doubtless grown out of true reverence for its holy words…The New Testament is unrivaled among ancient writings in the purity of its text as actually transmitted and kept in use.30
As the Gospels are repeatedly subjected to historical evaluation, they continue to bear the test of scrutiny. Their authors check out as reliable sources, and they corroborate one another as non-contradictory independent accounts. Despite two thousand years of elapsed time, the texts have remained true to the original manuscripts without distortion or manipulation, and archaeology and extra-biblical history continue to affirm the people and places mentioned in the Gospels. On multiple critical fronts, the Gospels appear historically reliable. Of course, Christians cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Gospel accounts are historically accurate, but they must attempt to show that there is a strong likelihood of their historicity, as is the case with all other historical hypotheses. After all, though people may act inconsistently and believe in God or Jesus despite the historical evidence, such belief would nonetheless be irrational and even un-Christian, as Christianity is rooted in the concept of God acting in history.31
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The Savior by Henry Ossawa Tanner
Faith and History It is important to talk about history with the topic of faith because in a way the two are inextricably intertwined. That is to say that Christians and non-Christians alike readily employ faith when it comes to history. Of course we can never be entirely certain that events that we accept as historically true actually took place. For that matter, we cannot really be sure that our reason or senses can be trusted. But we believe that they can be, and I think it would be unwise and quite impossible not to do so. People are finite beings. We can’t be in more than one place at the same time, nor can we travel into the past and see it with our own eyes. There are innumerable events and happenings that we will never witness for ourselves, yet we will accept them as true on the basis of the testimony of others. Why is it that we accept their testimony? Why should we believe their witness to be true? Essentially, we ask ourselves whether or not our sources are reliable. This among many other things, is what historians do. They look at sources or witnesses of events in the past, and they ask themselves whether or not they can be trusted as recording historical fact. The history of the early Church goes beyond the Gospel texts themselves, of course. The first Christians did not have these written documents, yet the Church was already alive and well. The early Church was nurturing the Gospel writers, as it was the first believers. And in what were they believers? Not in the Gospel texts themselves
but in Jesus the Messiah, and they were strengthened in their beliefs by the teaching of Jesus’ apostles. The very existence of Charles Dunn ‘10 is from Dallas, Texas. He is a Classical Languages this community of people who believed such amazing and dan- and Literatures major and a History minor. gerous stuff at the risk of persecution or death gives historical credibility to the Gospels. These people were not risking perse1. F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They cution and death for some fable or for a Jesus who was no more Reliable? (Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, 1981), xiv. than a wise teacher or moral examplar. Neil J. McEleney. “Authenticating Material and Mark 7:1-23.” 2.
Why does it matter? What is the significance of historical reliability, specifically as it relates to the Gospels? Ultimately, why should it matter to us what happened in Palestine in the early first century AD when Tiberius was the Roman Emperor? Even if the Gospels are historically reliable, what bearing does that have on people two thousand years later? Perhaps the best answer to this question can be found by actually reading the Gospels and seeing what they have to say. When asked by Jesus if he would continue to follow him, Jesus’ disciple Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”32 The Gospels make claims of eternal and monumental significance. They claim that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, and that no one comes to God the Father except through him.33 They claim that we the human race are sick and in need of a doctor. They claim that there is mammoth distance between man and God and that this distance is the result of sin. They claim that the unavoidable result of this distance is death and eternal separation from God. Yet in the midst of this dire situation, a situation that first-century man both Jew and Gentile understood very well, God did the unthinkable. He sent his Son into the world to be born fully man yet fully God, to live a perfect life, and when his time had come, to die a humiliating death on a cross, thereby paying the price for all the sins of mankind. The Gospels claim that this God-man, Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion and that he appeared to many of his followers for several days afterwards. What’s more the Gospels claim that those who trust in Jesus will also share in his resurrection. They will be bornagain into new life—death will no longer have the last word— they will have eternal life with God. If the Gospels are to be trusted as historically reliable, then one is left with C.S. Lewis’ famous ‘trilemma’ argument: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing that we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.34
CBQ 34 (1972) p.446. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.3.4 3. 4. Karen Armstrong, A History of God (New York: Ballantine/ Epiphany, 1993), 82. 5. Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 41. Lee Strobel, 41. 6. 7. Ibid, 42. 8. Ibid, 34-5. 9. Ibid, 88. 10. Ibid, 89. 11. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, trans. Marvin Meyer (New York: HarperCollins, 1992) v.114, 65. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, v.77, 25. 12. 13. Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), vii. 14. James G. Williams, Gospel against Parable (Sheffield: Almond, 1985), 213. 15. Luke 1:1-4, The NIV Study Bible, ed. Kenneth Barker et al. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995). Lee Strobel, 48. 16. 17. F.F. Bruce, 43. 18. Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, (Downers Grove, Il.: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 118. 19. Paul D. Feinberg, “The Meaning of Inerrancy”, in Inerrancy, ed. Normal L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 301. 20. Craig L. Blomberg, 127-8 21. John 20:31, The NIV Study Bible. 22. Craig L. Blomberg, 130-1. 23. Clifford Wilson, Rocks, Relics and Biblical Reliability (Grand Rapids: Zondervan; Richardson, Tex.: Probe, 1977), 120. 24. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Wheaton, Il.: Victor, 1992), 385. 25. Lee Strobel, 99. 26. Ibid, 87. 27. Frederic Kenyon, Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1912), 5. 28. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 96. 29. Frederic Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology (New York: Harper, 1940), 288. 30. Benjamin B. Warfield, Introduction to Textual Criticism of the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907), 1213. 31. Craig L. Blomberg, 10. 32. John 6:68, The NIV Study Bible. 33. John 14:6, The NIV Study Bible. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: Collins; New York: Macmillan, 1955), 52.
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Looking Beyond the Literal How to Read Genesis 1-3 and Why It Matters John Stern
Introduction to the Problem: Augustine’s Difficulties with the Genesis Text Many Christians today think the Bible’s literal meaning is the easiest meaning to discern. Common biblical words such as temple, law and king seem simple to understand. There is a oneto-one correspondence to a concrete and obvious referent, and we can relate to similar concepts today (temples, laws and kings pervade the contemporary world, just as they did the ancient). The exegetical difficulty often lies in the theological symbolism undergirding these terms. For Augustine, however, the literal meaning is often the hardest to ascertain, as he describes in his hermeneutical masterpiece The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Less concrete terms, ones packed with philosophical implications, like glory, light or beginning are difficult to understand literally, where their symbolic and allegorical levels were comparatively easy; many exegetes could suggest metaphorical Christological connections. For example, Augustine begins his work examining the first words of Genesis 1. Does it mean in the beginning of time, because it was the first of all things, or in the beginning, which is the Word of God, the only begotten Son? And how could it be shown that God produced changeable and timebound works without any change in himself? And what may be meant by the name heaven and earth? Was it the total spiritual and bodily creation that was termed heaven and earth, or only the bodily sort? And in what way did God say Let light be made? Was it in time or in the eternity of the Word? And what is this light that was made? Something spiritual or something bodily?1
Augustine continues with reams of pages of similar questions, the majority of which remain unanswered. The exact nature of the light, how it differs from the sun’s light, whether it was physical or spiritual, why God did not pronounce it “good” as He did the rest of creation and more are mysterious for Augustine. How God spoke the world into existence, to whom He spoke, whether He spoke audibly or not, in which language He spoke, the puzzling creative efficacy of the words, why He did not create “the heavens and the earth” by words and deem them “good,” how an infinite God can interact with a finite creation in the first place and countless other questions posed enormous exegetical problems for Augustine. While he could have given clarity to such language with allegorical or figurative interpretations, Augustine concerned himself not with symbols but with literal events. In other words, he is trying to answer the question, as directly as possible, “what actually happened in Genesis 1-3; to what specific events does the text refer?” Today’s readers casually glide past philosophically dense vocabulary and imagine its meaning clear. But where
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modern readers prefer the most obvious but problematic literal interpretations, Augustine provides a more nuanced, insightful and convincing biblical hermeneutic with countless applications for today’s world.
Augustine’s General Method
Humility The virtue and skill above all others for Augustine is humility. Many of the scriptures, Augustine explains, concern “obscure matters that are far removed from our eyes and our experience, which are patient of various explanations that do not contradict the faith we are imbued with.”2 The wise student of scripture must first recognize that it speaks of concepts and events distant from common experience, and therefore many different explanations can adequately explain the same complex text. Second, Augustine realizes that an interpreter holding an unyielding stance on a secondary issue will end up all the more embarrassed and mistaken for his obstinacy. Stubbornness only enhances error, where openness minimizes it. He writes, Let us never throw ourselves head over heels into the headstrong assertion of any one [opinion]. Perhaps the truth, emerging from a more thorough discussion of the point, may definitively overturn that opinion, and then we will find ourselves overthrown, championing what is not the cause of the divine scriptures but our own, in such a way that we want it to be that of the scriptures, when we should rather be wanting the cause of the scriptures to be our own.3
No one has a monopoly on biblical interpretation, and Augustine acutely perceived the tendency of Christians to bicker over controversial issues as causing unnecessary, self-inflicted damage. Augustine has no sympathy for stubborn and dogmatic interpreters. The Bible’s primary purpose is spiritual edification, the communication of divine fellowship, not the dissemination of information per se. Its job is to effect communion between God and man and is only secondarily to instruct and teach facts. The scriptures are “all expressed in a way designed to nourish devout hearts,” Augustine explains.4 God, in inspiring the sacred texts, deliberately excluded a thorough knowledge of the created order, for that was not His purpose: “Not everything is written in scripture about how the ages ran their course after that first establishment of things, and how various stages followed one another in the management of creatures made at the beginning and finished on that sixth day, but only as much as the Spirit who was inspiring the author judged would be enough.”5 The Bible intentionally excludes a thorough, scientific account of creation, providing instead only what is spiritually necessary for believers. He explains elsewhere, “The Spirit of God
to their proper natures, and not what he might wish to … did not wish to teach people about such things which would work in them or out of them as a miracle of his power.10 contribute nothing to their salvation.”6 The creation of the world and God’s initial interaction with it are unrepeatable and comThe organization of nature arose by God’s sovereign powplex occurrences, and Augustine is willing to admit ignorance er, testifies to his magnificence and the teachings of scripture and simply promote a meaning that edifies the church, rather cannot contradict it. Augustine never dichotomized knowledge than a literalistic but implausible one.7 Augustine explains, into the physical and spiritual. He understood that all truth is of God, whether found in the Bible, reason or nature, and points I have avoided affirming anything hastily in a way that would rule out any alternative explanation that may be a back to Him explicitly, for His glory.11 better one, so leaving everyone free to choose whichever they can grasp most readily in their turn, and when they cannot Time understand, let them give honor to God’s scripture, keeping One of the most hotly contested issues in the Genesis fear for themselves… since the words of scripture that we have account is the notion of time. Christians are divided over been dealing with can be explained along so many lines.8 whether the days of Genesis are “literal, twenty-four hour” days, Recognizing the many possible interpretations, Augustine or symbolic epochs of pre-human time. From his reading of humbly allows his readers to adopt the one most suited to them. the Scriptures, Augustine firmly believed, as today’s science Modern biblical experts are rarely so humble and forthcoming has tended to confirm, that the earth is tremendously old. For Augustine, long before carbon dating or archaeological sciences, regarding complex and irresolvable texts. the passing of the ages in the creation account reflects a conception of time beyond the scope of our current experience. Hermeneutics and Science The foundation of Augustine’s discussion of time at creThe implications of Augustine’s hermeneutics for mination is a recognition of the supremacy of God over time. He istry and contemporary application are numerous. One of the most notable examples is the interaction between religion and writes,
science. A battle rages today over the Genesis teaching of creation. From evolution to the age of the earth, science and faith have pitted themselves against each other, deeply distrust each other and no longer listen to each other. While Augustine knew nothing of contemporary culture wars, his hermeneutic is eminently relevant to our debates today and offers, if we would listen, the beginnings of a solution to one of the most significant barriers to Christian belief today.
The Book of Nature, General Revelation and Natural Knowledge Augustine affirms the value of every aspect of creation, recognizing that all nature glorifies the Creator. He writes, “All things, after all, have in them a certain worth or grace of nature, each of its own kind, so that in these minute creatures there is even more for us to wonder at as we observe them, and so to praise the almighty craftsman for them more rapturously than ever.”9 The Bible is not the only means of revelation for Augustine. The natural world is as much a product of divine authorship as the scriptures and also testifies to God’s magnificence, though in a different way. Consequently, Augustine has no sympathy for hermeneutics that violate the natural order of Creation or the discoveries of science. He writes, regarding the waters of creation above the heavens, Nor should anybody … appeal to the omnipotence of God, for whom all things are possible, and say we just have to believe that he can cause even water, as heavy as what we know by our own experience, to spread over the substance of the heaven or sky in which the stars have their place. Our business now, after all, is to inquire how God’s scriptures say he established things according
Above all we have to remember … that God does not work by time-measured movements … but by the eternal and unchanging, stable formulae of his Word, coeternal with himself. And so, let us never think in a literal-minded, fleshly way of utterances in time throughout these days of divine works. [God does not desire that] we remain little children, but that while being babies in malice we should cease to be childish in mind.12
God is outside of time, and does not operate according to human notions of temporality. Furthermore, He expresses His trans-temporal actions, which are necessarily beyond our comprehension, in temporal language. He does this so that we may understand that He is transcendent, not so that we can bind Him to our finite notions of time of space. God is the free Lord over time, the inventor of time, and is able to interact with it however He wishes. Peter’s second epistle recognizes that “with the Lord a thousand years are like a day.” Why then should pious believers, in the name of faithfulness to the scriptures, insist that a day must be just a day, as they themselves understand it (2 Peter 3:8)? The Bible itself explains that God’s time does not follow human conventions or understandings, and so we must not read the creative act of God, albeit expressed in temporal language in order to accommodate our creaturely limitations, as a literal account that corresponds directly to our finite notions of time. Augustine then explores the meaning of “day.” He suggests that “day” could figuratively refer to the passing of all the epochs of prehuman time. He explains, “Day here [could be] the name for the whole of time, [with] the roll of all the ages included in this word.”13 The biblical writer, and the Holy Spirit who inspired him, was not interested in teaching scientific truths and could have referred to the ancient passing of the prehistoric eras in the simple word “day.”
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Augustine offers this interpretation because the literal word “day” corresponds to the earth’s rotation relative to the sun, but the sun had not yet been created when the first three Genesis days transpired. For Augustine the days of Genesis are but one “day,” that is one period of time. The notion of a literal day as we understand it has no meaning before the sun existed. Therefore, “throughout all those days there is just the one day, which is not to be understood after the manner of these days that we see measured and counted by the circuit of the sun,
Whether Augustine is right or wrong in his interpretation of the Genesis “days,” Christians should, for the sake of love, unity and humility, concede that there is a possibility that the Genesis text can be read metaphorically and refuse to alienate non-Christians over the insignificant issue of the age of the earth. Whether God desired to make the earth in a literal instant, week, millennium, or five billion year period—whatever these temporal terms would mean before the sun existed and time as we know it began—is of trifling importance to the church’s mission. The Bible’s cherished truths remain intact even if parts of it are read metaphorically.
Evolution Of course, Augustine knew nothing of Charles Darwin or of the modern notion of the evolution of species. Nevertheless, his discourse on Genesis offers fascinating foundational principles for contemporary Christians wrestling with evolutionary thought. The relevant discussion in Augustine’s work is over the question of the first phase of the moon, which was apparently a subject of great debate in Augustine’s day. Many contended that the moon had to have been created full because God could not have made anything imperfect. But Augustine contends that God is the author of all things in their actual natures, whether He chooses to perfect them at the beginning or to cause them to develop into their completed state. However God chooses to make a part of creation, even through incremental steps of improvement, is His own right. Is a tree, Augustine asks, imperfect when it is a mere seed in the ground, unable to bear fruit? Does God not have the right to bring about the tree’s development however He chooses? Additionally, Augustine continues, God formed the earth itself by a process, first making an unformed earth with His spirit hovering over the Six Days of Creation by Hildegard of Bingen chaos and later making it ordered and habitable. but in a different kind of mode which has to allow for those “These people,” he asserts, “do not complain about the earth, three days that were mentioned before the fashioning of these which God made when ‘in the beginning he made heaven and lamps in the sky.”14 Consequently, the Genesis writer must be earth,’ that it was invisible and shapeless, and is only later on referring to some other passage of time or some other kind of the third day rendered visible and [formed] into shape. So why event.15 do they wrap themselves in the darkness of the questions about He ends his discussion of time with a further plea for the moon?”17 humility, recognizing the impossibility of precise knowledge of Genesis affirms that the earth itself was initially “formless those primordial events. He writes, and void,” and that God, seemingly, had to improve upon it through the ordering of the waters and the piecemeal addition In this earth-bound condition of ours we mortals can of living creatures. This is akin to the miracle of Jesus in which have no experiential perception of that day, or those he heals the blind man by two successive steps, the first of which days which were named and numbered by the repappears ineffectual (cf. Mark 8:24). Furthermore, Augustine etition of it; and if we are able to struggle toward some adds, “If God were to make anything imperfect, which he understanding of them, we certainly ought not to rush would then himself bring to perfection, what would be repreinto the assertion of any ill-considered theory about hensible about such an idea?”18 them, as if none more apt or likely could [arise].16
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Who are we, His creatures, to proclaim that God cannot create by a process, if He so chooses? I do not wish to affirm that Augustine, if he were alive today, would believe in evolution; I merely use his teaching on creation as a foundation for a discussion of the subject, recognizing that the popular notion that everything must have been made initially perfect is a fallacy for Augustine. The essential teaching of the doctrine of creation is that God is the creator and the author of all things as they presently are. But how He chooses to carry out the perfection of nature, whether all at once at the beginning or through a natural process of change and improvement, is His own prerogative. To deny this is to limit the freedom of God, as if He were bound to create according to human preferences. Augustine did not argue that the moon was not made in its full phase, and nor do I argue that God made man by means of evolution. I only argue that if God made humanity by such a process, who are we to object? Does Genesis definitively teach that God could not have done so? The church should carefully consider whether it is worth alienating non-Christians over this issue, and how many unbelievers would be open to Christ if the church accepted merely the possibility of a divinely-ordered evolutionary creation.
Conclusion: Freedom from Fear
Augustine shows that faithful readers have at their disposal numerous possible interpretations of a given text. It is only out of fear and insecurity that believers stubbornly safeguard the literal text, afraid that a long chain of cherished beliefs will tumble down a “slippery slope” of metaphor, following directly on the heels of an allegorized Genesis account. This fear is unwarranted and only cripples the church’s ministry and mission. Sometimes allegory is truer to the Bible than literalism. Humble, sanctified creativity, following the proper guidelines of hermeneutics such as authorial intent, contextual fidelity and the rule of faith, is not only acceptable but necessary. To dogmatically cling to the most obvious, superficial referent of the text is not pious or holy. It is lazy and assumes a staleness of the Bible, as if God’s word only posited truth in the most simplistic language possible. It strips the scriptures of their majesty. God has given us Genesis partially to teach facts about the creation but just as much to inspire awe and wonder at the divine creative act and to make us realize, as Augustine did, that we will never know with certainty the mystery of human origins. Furthermore, believers need not fear when scientific discoveries emerge. All truth is of God. God is the author of all knowledge, and to fear that the discoveries of nature will overturn our faith is to doubt the sovereignty of the Creator God in making all things as a testimony to Himself. We should study the natural world since it brings us to a fuller knowledge of God. Most importantly, Christians should demonstrate the humility of Christ in all things, especially the reading of their sacred books. How could Christians ever presume to interpret
the oracles of God perfectly? The church today desperately needs to hear Augustine’s insightful exhortation to humble submission to the Bible and to God: For the present we ought always to observe the moderation required of serious devotion to the truth and not commit ourselves rashly to any one opinion on such an obscure subject, in case perchance the truth may later on lay bare some other answer which can in no way be contrary to the sacred books either of the Old Testament or the New, but which we all the same detest out of love for our own error.19
John Stern ‘05 is from Brunswick, Maine. He was a Religion major and is now studying at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.
1.1.2-1.3.7, pp. 168-171. 1.18.37 pp.185-186. 3. ibid. 4. 1.20.40, p. 187. 5. 5.8.23, p. 287. 6. 2.9.20, pp. 201-202. 7. Consequently, Augustine explains in his City of God, that confusion over the Bible is actually helpful. The Bible’s truths are not naturally but “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14), and their purpose spiritual edification, even through ambiguous texts. “Obscurity is beneficial, whether the sense of the author is at last reached after the discussion of many other interpretations, or whether, though that sense remain concealed, other truths are brought out by the discussion of the obscurity.” City of God, 11.19. He loves the Genesis text because it is “darkly expressed in order to put us through our paces.” Literal Meaning of Genesis, 1.19.39-1.20.40, p. 186-187. 8. 1.20.40, p. 187. 9. 3.14.22, p. 229. 10. 2.1.1, p. 190. Later, explaining Psalm 136:6, he writes, “Nobody may understand the literal sense of the words ‘who founded the earth on the water’ in such a way as to conclude that the weight of the waters was placed under the weight of the earth to support it as if that were the natural order of things” (2.2.4, p. 192). 11. Augustine notes that faith and biblical exegesis should be informed by science, but also, were he around today, would likely affirm that science rests on its own foundation of faith; but that is a discussion for another setting. 1.18.36, p. 185. 12. 13. 4.26.43-4.27.44, p. 267. 14. ibid. 15. Augustine, not surprisingly, interprets the consecutive days and evenings of Genesis 1 spiritually; he understands the literal referent of the days of creation as a reflecting, pulsating, cyclical adoration beaming back and forth from Creator to creature and back again. 16. 4.26.43-4.27.44, p. 267. 17. 2.15.30, pp. 209-210. 18. ibid. 19. 2.18.38, p. 215.
Sciences and Humanities
Arts and Literature
How can we find elements of God’s all-encompassing Truth in literature? In art or music? How do Christians seek to glorify God through these forms of expression? These are some of the questions we hope to explore in the Arts and Literature section. We seek to discover the presence of God in every act of creation and to learn why this presence is so important. I invite you to join us in this study of creators and their works, to question where God can be found and why He matters and to discover how truly universal is His love. Bethany Mills Editor of Arts and Literature
The Battlefield of the Human Heart Love and Forgiveness in The Brothers Karamazov Andy Foust
n 1999 Japanese pharmaceutical corporations hit upon a unique way to market depression medication to a population unacquainted with psychology: the advertising slogan “your kokoro can catch cold,” kokoro translating to ‘soul.’1 Søren Kierkegaard, the theological philosopher of nineteenth-century Denmark, could have served as their spokesman, having defined depression as a sickness of the soul, a persistent condition of despair which only Christianity could heal. ‘Søren Kierkegaard’ is not a household name today. Of far wider repute is Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a literary visionary who, though in no way influenced by Kierkegaard, created perfect literary illustrations of this ‘religious existentialist’ concept of despair. In fact, Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov deserves acclaim not only as a hallmark of modern literature but as a medical textbook, for it is both a diagnostic explanation and a philosophical cure for the spiritual sickness with which this world seems stricken. Dmitri Karamazov, one of the three Karamazov siblings, confesses: I can’t bear it that some man, even with a lofty heart and the highest mind, should start from the ideal of the Madonna and end with the ideal of Sodom. It’s even more fearful when someone who already has the idea of Sodom in his soul does not deny the idea of the Madonna either. Here the devil is struggling with God, and the battlefield is the human heart.2
Kierkegaard would agree: the human self is forever struggling to define itself by balancing its reality with its potential. In Dostoyevsky’s novel, this takes the shape of conflict between the earthly and the heavenly. To be sure, the novel is ostensibly a murder mystery. Dmitri and his selfish father quarrel over money
until the father is killed by his illegitimate son Smerdyakov and Dmitri is unjustly arrested. But peppered throughout the novel are nuggets of theology, especially as Dmitri and his brothers Ivan and Alyosha must grapple with the stain of their family’s worldly and licentious history. Dmitri himself follows the path of least resistance, attempting to forget his despair in the joys of the world only to periodically bare his conflicted soul in tearfilled confessions to God. Plato taught that the soul could only be purified by an absolute separation of lofty, pure ideas from worldly, concrete action.3 This is the goal toward which Ivan aspires. Ivan lives in a place where ideals exist apart from the corporeal world. In distancing himself from the banal, physical world Ivan attempts to embody those ideals, unaware that abstract virtues such as benevolence must be actualized in real life by benevolent action. Ivan says, “For anyone to love a man, he must be hidden, for as soon as he shows his face, love is gone.”4 Once a person’s face is viewed, Ivan must acknowledge that he is performing some action within a world that is corrupt and transient and not in his abstract and eternal world of ideals. This creates a bridge he is unable to cross for fear of contaminating the ideal world. The murder of Ivan’s father poses a direct challenge to this philosophy of virtue-in-abstinence. Ivan feels that all actions are acceptable in the absence of God. This inspires his half-brother Smerdyakov to kill the old man, frame Dmitri and believe himself justified by both the will and the ethics of Ivan, who is to him a kind of god. Ivan regards his self-constructed virtues as the highest arbiters of his conduct. This pride—surely the deadliest of all sins—removes any possibility of external forgiveness should Ivan ever consider himself to have sinned
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against his own abstract ideals. Once the self is disillusioned, there can be no salvation. Such becomes the case with Ivan. Dimly aware of Smerdyakov’s plans, he leaves town, a ‘sign’ later cited by Smerdyakov as the catalyst to murder. Once Ivan realizes his culpability his veneer is cracked, for despite his intentions he has committed murder. Failing to live up to the impossible standard he has set for himself, Ivan can look to no one—least of all to himself—for forgiveness. At best he can turn himself over to the law, confess his crime, be sent to Siberia and hope for surrogate forgiveness through legal punishment. Smerdyakov, however, hating Ivan for ‘ordering’ the murder and then repudiating the instrument of his will, has killed himself to ensure that Ivan’s confession will never be believed. In the existentialist-Christian framework this should not matter. If Ivan had Christian faith he could believe that his soul might again be cleansed, that God would remake his soul if he would but acknowledge his sin and beg forgiveness. But Ivan does not believe this, having closed himself to the possibility of a loving God. The ultimate despair of guilt without hope of forgiveness means he must punish himself to uphold his rigorous ethic. This despair of self-loathing leaves him perpetually “at death’s door.”5 The word ‘despair’ is French for ‘lack of hope,’ and were Dmitri and Ivan the only brothers despair might well be man’s fate in The Brothers Karamazov. Fortunately, there is a third philosophy at work. While certain Greek philosophy agrees with Ivan that the soul and body must be separate and isolated, the Judeo-Christian tradition maintains that soul and body are one,6 just as Christ was wholly spirit and wholly matter. Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky, a Lutheran and Russian Orthodox respectively, base their philosophies within this tradition, concluding that love, unconditional and divine, is the bridge between the temporal and the divine. Dostoyevsky illustrates this with an anecdote from Father Zossima, one of the most spiritual figures in the text. Once, a prominent visitor came to him and confessed a great crime, the undetected murder of a lover.7 Years had passed; the Visitor had married, sired children and undertaken arduous community service, “Hoping that by entering on a new life and scrupulously doing his duty to his wife and children he would escape from the old memories altogether.”8 This attempt to become a new self fails in light of his inability to disassociate himself from the crime. Since he was at that moment a murderer, he cannot help but see every action of his life as the action of a murderer. This is Dostoyevsky’s Hell, the state of being incapable of loving and being genuinely loved: “My wife loves me—but what if she knew. How dare I love [my children], teach and educate them, how can I talk to them of virtue?”9
He has but one recourse: confess everything, admit that he is only a murderer at heart, and resign himself to the judgment of his community. His confession brings with it great disgrace. “My wife, my children! My wife may die of grief, my children…they’ll be a convict’s children—forever! And what a memory, what a memory of me I shall leave in their hearts!”11 Yet Zossima encourages him to confess all, that in so doing he must have trust in the love of God as reciprocated through his brethren, that “all will understand your sacrifice if not at once, they will understand later; for you have served truth, the higher truth, not of the Earth…Your children will understand the nobility of your resolution.”12 This is Dostoyevsky’s existentialist vision of true faith: seeing one’s despair, acknowledging it, submitting to it and admitting that one has absolutely no hope at all, save the unfathomable intervening possibility of God’s love. Ivan had no faith in a similar situation and suffered for it, but faith this Visitor has. His confession is delivered yet not believed, his relations to his wife and children are unharmed and in fact improved. The Visitor was prepared to sacrifice their love for him so that he might prove his love for them, but now God has given him back both the love he risked and a genuine love he can impute to his family. After all these years, he can say, “I dare to love my children and kiss them.”13 Almost immediately after this revelation, the monk Zossima succumbs to illness and dies, leaving behind an odor of decay which, to Russian Orthodox monks, is a sign of an unholy life.14 Alyosha, who has struggled to align the spiritual and the worldly Karamazov sides of his self, is crushed. 15 The spiritual aspect of Zossima’s holiness failed to correspond to its
By giving ourselves wholly to God we re-interpret all that is earthly through the dictates of His love and so grant earthly things eternity in our minds physical nature. Disillusioned and cynical, Alyosha is granted a vision of Father Zossima presiding at the Wedding of Cana.16 This miracle is more than a mere family favor; it is an illustration of Christ’s pouring of new holy wine into corrupt earthen vessels, the Divine mixing with the lowly through the simple faith of Christ’s mother. The earthly and the heavenly are to be combined, not as they pertain to miracles as signs of piety but as they pertain to the ideal of living a holy life on earth, of taking the
Arts and Literature
impermanence of this earthly life and associating it with the love of God. This love gives all things a measure of the eternal and Zossima exhorts the monks to love everyone and everything unconditionally. By giving ourselves wholly to God we reinterpret all that is earthly through the dictates of His love and so grant earthly things eternity in our minds. Alyosha leaves, having achieved within himself the formula for synthesis: The silence of earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of the Earth was one with the mystery of the stars, [he] vowed passionately to love [the earth], to love it forever and ever. ‘Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears’ echoed in his mind.17
When Christ washed the feet of harlots, cleansed the lepers and brought wine to a relative’s wedding, He did so out of His supreme love. Actions as temporal occurrences were made eternal by God’s love. The name Karamazov as a designator of worldliness has been embraced by Dmitri and ineffectively spurned by Ivan. Only Alyosha has succeeded in cleansing the name by taking this worldliness and transforming it into a desire to serve God. This is the only successful synthesis. In the Epilogue Alyosha presides over a troop of boys attending the funeral of a classmate, an initially spiteful boy they once ridiculed but came to love once they understood him. That love and forgiveness enabled the boy to die at peace with himself and the world.18 Alyosha gives a speech exhorting the boys to remember, to create an unchanging recollection in their minds of “how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a good and kind feeling which made us, for the time we were loving that poor boy, better perhaps than we are.”19 Dostoyevsky has taken the love of the individual-God relationship and used it to bind a congregation of twelve disciples through agape (unconditional) love, a modern vision of the apostolic Church based upon a sacred memory of shared unity in love.20 Later on the boys might be tempted to lose themselves, to fall into despair, to act wickedly and think such wickedness is their fate. But if this occurs, they can look back to this funeral where they embodied the love of God and were uplifted by it. Verily this is Dostoyevsky’s meaning of ‘sacred:’ a moment of self-actualization which, though steeped in mortality, will give meaning to the rest of one’s life and thus become eternal:21 You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home…Since if a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one’s heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us….Who, if not [Aloysha], the good boy, the dear boy, precious to us forever! Let us never forget him. May his memory live forever in our hearts from this time forth!22
A story in the novel is told in which a wicked woman dies, but not before giving an onion to a beggar in charity. She is sent to Hell, but the onion is lowered down to her by an
angel. She grabs hold and begins to be lifted up but, feeling the weight of other sinners trying to grab onto her salvation, she yells that the onion is hers. Instantly it breaks, and she is eternally damned. More than any other passage, this parable reveals the vision of salvation in The Brothers Karamazov. An onion is held up to God for blessing before it is given to a beggar, or in the case of Alyosha, a terminally-ill boy is comforted in his final days. Seeing this effort, others join in with the original onionbearer; in this, case little boys assist Alyosha in his efforts. This fellowship is not to be spurned but welcomed, for it forms a memory of a spiritual event which can later be considered sacred, an event which gives purpose to one’s whole life. Modern Christianity seems fascinated with drawing doctrinal dialectics: ‘faith versus works’ has today given way to ‘service vs. contemplation,’ ‘missions vs. morality,’ ‘community vs. communion,’ ‘orthodox vs. liberal’ et cetera. Yet with all the discord it seems the true dialectic has been ignored. Mankind’s kokoro is indeed sick, and perhaps the answer lies in something as simple as an onion. Andy Foust ‘11 is from Schenectady, New York. He is an English major, and History and Russian Studies double minor.
Kathryn Schulz, “Did Antidepressants Depress Japan?” The New York Times, August 22, 2004. 2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York: Random House, 1950), 108. 3. Richard Dreyfus, “Existentialism in Literature and Film: Brothers Karamazov, Part I” (lecture from Philosophy 7 class, University of California, Berkeley, February 27, 2006). 4. Brothers Karamazov, 281. 5. Ibid., 937. 6. “Existentialism, Part I.” 7. Brothers Karamazov, 365. Ibid., 367. 8. 9. Ibid., 367. 10. “And I’ve been punished by my sufferings for the blood I shed. Need I confess, need I? I am ready to go on suffering all my life for the blood I have shed, if only my wife and children may be spared.” Brothers Karamazov, 370. 11. Brothers Karamazov, 373. 12. Ibid., 369. 13. Ibid. 14. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gospel in Dostoyevsky, ed. Malcolm Muggeridge (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 1988), 207. “Existentialism, Part I.” 15. 16. Brothers Karamazov, Part Three Book VII chapter 4. The vision concerned is founded in John 2:1-11. 17. Brothers Karamazov, 436. 18. Ibid., 938 19. Ibid., 938. 20. “Existentialism, Conclusion.” 21. Ibid. 22. Brothers Karamazov, 938-9. 1.
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The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present evil; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. — J. R. R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories
Arts and Literature
has read J.R.R Tolkien’s fairy-stories. The Lord of the Rings has become a staple of young adult literature, and aided by the recent blockbuster movies based on his stories, the Oxford don has become a household name. Yet as entertaining as his stories may be, Tolkien believes that fairy-stories serve a purpose far nobler than mere entertainment. Indeed, in an age where fairy-stories are often relegated to the nurseries of children, Tolkien prizes the genre above all others. For him, fairy-stories are of great value because they enable us to experience certain moral and religious truths that no other medium permits.
not, however, possess the ability to fundamentally change that which is beautiful, desirable and true. In short, human art is never an act of purely original creation but rather a sub-creative act that has its roots in the created order. Thus Tolkien writes: “The Primary World, Reality, of elves and men is the same, if differently valued and perceived.”3 Tolkien considers the ability of fantasy to reveal elements of reality in an unfamiliar world—sifting out the transient in favor of the enduring—to be one of the greatest functions of fairy-stories: “They open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe.”4 This form of escape—that is, escape from the subjectivism of everyday perception—is particularly important because it allows us to apprehend those things that are of real value, not only in the land of Faerie, but in our world as well. At times these can be the simplest things. Tolkien confides that in fairy-stories he “First divined the wonder of the things, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.”5 Tolkien hoped that we would look at the creatures in our world with a new wonder and “suddenly behold, like ancient shepherds, sheep, and dogs, and horses—and wolves.”6 This process of glimpsing the intrinsic value of everyday elements in our world, a process akin to “cleaning our windows” so that we might be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity, Tolkien calls recovery, the “regaining of a clear view.”7 Even more significant than the glimpses of truth and beauty which lead to recovery is the ability of fairy-stories to break the “evil enchantment of worldliness”—the belief that the immediate world is all that exists—and arouse deep-seated longing for Other-worlds and the truth behind them. “If they awakened desire,” Tolkien writes, “satisfying it while often whetting it unbearably, they succeeded.”8 This longing to “go through the looking glass, to reach fairy land,” explains Tolkien’s longtime friend and fellow Oxford professor, C.S. Lewis, is not a desire to retreat into imagined worlds of wish-fulfillment. Instead it is a “longing for he knows not what,” an innate desire which points beyond itself to something other and outer, transcendent and beautiful.9 This yearning for something which no worldly experience can fully satisfy offers something invaluable to the reader: it “stirs and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach.”10 Tolkien’s emphasis on this longing for the transcendent is clearly manifested in his fairy-stories. The unquenchable desire for something unreachable is one of the driving forces in The Lord of the Rings: it motivates Aragorn and Boromir to fight for the fading glory of Westernesse, Gimli to sing of the bygone splendor of the Mines of Moria and Legolas to long for the Undying Lands over the Sea. For Tolkien, the deep-seated longing found within humans, as with the Elves, is a longing for an eternal land which is also home.
Tolkien’s fairy-Story is a microcosm of the larger narrative that God is authoring By opening our eyes to particular moments of joy, beauty and truth that can only be glimpsed within the fabric of story, fairy-stories enable us to live in greater accordance with reality. These valuable glimpses of truth and beauty, however, are ultimately significant because they point beyond themselves to a greater story that encompasses all Creation. For Tolkien, the fairy-story is a microcosm of the larger narrative that God is authoring in our world. That is, the story of a loving Creator who suffered and died to save His long-estranged children, a story which is also fact. Tolkien regards the term fairy-story quite differently than is generally seen today. He sees no connection to winged mythical creatures of diminutive size. Fairy-story, an ancient literary form, does not depend upon any particular narrative structure or display of characters. It is rather a story which draws upon the elements of another world, the land of Faerie; it is a story empowered by the very “nature of Faerie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country.”1 In this land one may encounter many things besides elves, fays and dwarves. Indeed, it contains “ourselves, mortal men, when we are enchanted.” Creating good fantasy, far from mere daydreaming, is in fact a high form of art to Tolkien. It is “the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent.”2 This potency is derived from the ability of well-crafted fantasy to afford the reader with a fresh and unique view into the interrelationships which comprise reality. Even though the particulars of a fantasy world differ from so-called real life, those fundamental relationships which determine what is true and good, and what is worth living for, remain the same in all created worlds. For Tolkien, this connection exists between worlds of the imagination and the real world of everyday experience precisely because the human art of making fantasy necessarily draws upon the reality of the primary world. Tolkien believes that humans, created in the image of the original Maker, have the ability to create new worlds by redistributing pre-existent nouns and adjectives to introduce new particulars such as a terrible blue moon, silver leaves and rams with fleeces of gold. Humans do 22
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“Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth,” Tolkien explains. “We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’”11 In this way, by arousing a longing for the transcendent, fairy-stories encourage us in our pursuit of enduring truth and beauty, a search which led Tolkien to a relationship with the Creator. The culmination of the fairy-story comes to the reader in an experience Tolkien calls “the Consolation of the Happy Ending.” It is a sudden and joyous ‘turn’ that occurs just as all hope is lost. Tolkien calls it eucatastrophe, a “sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.”12 In The Hobbit, the eucatastrophe occurs when Bilbo cries above the din of battle “The Eagles! The Eagles are coming!”13 In this moment of deliverance the reader is given a “fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”14 Eucatastrophe is the highest function of the fairy-story because it allows us to glimpse joy, our heart’s deepest desire, which like an epiphany “passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.”15 Eucatastrophic joy possesses great metaphysical as well as personal significance. Tolkien is quick to distinguish this kind of joy from happiness. In fact, it is a kind of acute longing qualitatively closer to sorrow or grief than any sort of pleasure. As C.S. Lewis explains, joy is an “unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable that any other satisfaction.”16 Distinct from many emotions which seem to be generated inside of oneself, eucatastrophic joy comes distinctly from the outside. Indeed, it is a response to the revelation of grace. Joy is mankind’s most fundamental desire, a remembrance of the grace in elemental Eden. More importantly, it is the product of a “sudden glimpse of ... underlying reality.”17 Indeed, the eucatastrophic joy experienced in a sub-created fantasy world provides a “brief vision that the answer may be greater— it may be a far off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.”18 According to Tolkien, the true significance of the subcreated eucatastrophe, and thus the fairy-story, is that it points to and originates from the greatest eucatastrophic tale in human history: the Gospel of Jesus. In this true fairy-story, the moment of eucatastrophe, the sudden turn and miraculous grace, is the redemption of man through the incarnation and resurrection of Christ. Tolkien himself says it best: The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy.19
For Tolkien, joy is significant because no matter where it is experienced, it points to the Great Joy, the Christian Gloria, which is produced by glimpsing the transcendent truth of Christ’s incarnation, resurrection and eucatastrophic redemption of mankind. This greater reality that exiled human nature craves and toward which fairy-stories ultimately point is the reality of God in the person of Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior. Fairy-story derives its value from inspiring eucatastrophic joy of the same quality as the Gospel-inspired joy experienced in the real world, even if not to the same degree. Indeed, Tolkien writes that “such joy has the very taste of primary truth” and would be of the same degree as that of the Gospel story if the capacity of the sub-creator were not finite. Tolkien states, “The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous.”20 The Gospel story, the story that God is telling us and of which we are a part, is the greatest of all fairy-stories. In order to help us better understand this, Tolkien asks us to imagine the “particular excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it possessed ... Legend and History have met and fused.”21 Andrew Schuman ‘10, the Editor-in-Chief of The Apologia, is from Lee, New Hampshire. He is an Engineering Sciences and Philosophy double major. J.R.R Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories,” chapter in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984), 109. 2. Ibid, 16. 3. Ibid, 17. 4. Ibid, 11. 5. Ibid, 20. 6. Ibid, 19. 7. Ibid, 19. 8. Ibid, 13. 9. C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, ed. Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root (Wheeton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1989), 205. 10. Ibid, 205. 11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), 110. 12. “On Fairy-Stories,” 23. 13. Letters, 101. 14. “On Fairy-Stories,” 23. 15. Ibid, 24. 16. C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: Harcourt, 1955), 17-18. 17. On Fairy-Stories, 24. 18. Ibid, 24. 19. Ibid, 24. 20. Ibid, 24. 21. Ibid, 24. 1.
Arts and Literature
Creative Works We believe that the image of God in us is partly expressed through a desire to create, and that our creative acts bring us nearer to Him. In this section we present the Christian experience, with all its moments of deep pain, joy, doubt and quiet assurance, through the varied mediums of our creativity. In every issue the members of this section choose a prompt. Each person then interprets the prompt through his personal medium of creativity. This issue’s prompt comes from Seneca: How many are quite unworthy to see the light, and yet the day dawns.
Cassandra Sieg Editor of Creative Works
Reality shifts, and daylight fades In the dark I know I am one real thing and You too because I believe You exist if I do. So we two meet, And I imagine You speaking if I listen. I cannot help ignoring sometimes; sometimes I can help and won’t ungrateful skeptic I am, suspicious of what I work to understand. When the day comes I am ready for Your face, sunlit instead I discover mortal companions surround me, their voices heard in the dark when I thought I was alone. While I can’t convince myself it wasn’t You, I can’t imagine everyone your messengers And dim soul I am only belatedly grateful for the company.
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Featured Artist Cam Tran
The featured artist for this issue of the Apologia is student Cam Tran. She is originally from Rochester, New York. She will graduate this spring with a major in Sociology modified with philosophy. She will spend five weeks this upcoming summer in New York city attending the Tribeca Art Program. Next year she will work as an adminstrative assistant for campus ministers here at Dartmouth, continue to take art classes, and apply for photography graduate schools. Camâ€™s favorite photographer is Josef Sudek, a twentieth century Czech photographer. She admires how his work incorporates light and shadow to make orginary objects appear extraordinary. She is currently working on a new series of portrait photographs. This series is titled New Eyes.
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Throughout this last year, I started to notice that I often did not view my surroundings in a very positive light. I asked God to let me see the world through His eyes. When I started taking photography this winter, God literally gave me a new lens through which to view His creation. After a few days of looking through that lens, I began noticing little details that I had never given much thought to before I had a camera in my hands.
Space took on a new dimension and I began to see fascinating shapes coming from mundane objects.The ways in which those objects interacted with light utterly amazed me. I had to capture those moments to share with those around me. Now, I derive so much joy from being able to see and to share with others another facet of Godâ€™s creation. I will always be grateful to Him for giving me a glimpse of what He sees every day.
Summer Rain Cam Tran Sweet summer breeze After an hour of rain Blowing in my face Easing the pain. Minutes keep flying And more hours pass. The rain hits the windows Like tears upon glass. They beckon me out As they crash on the trees. I stare at the floor And then fall to my knees. Has the rain stopped? Oh no, it keeps going. Washing, cleansing, It always is flowing. I sit here in silence Looking out through the door. The clock keeps ticking As I wait out for more. More of what? I wonder. Iâ€™m not really sure. Perhaps of the rain To make me pure.
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An Interview with Dinesh
D’Souz a Interview Conducted by Christopher Blankenship and Charles Dunn
DA: Recently, several influential writers and thinkers— Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens— have claimed that religion is not only fictitious and naïve, but actually dangerous, toxic to the health of modern society. Do you think religion is inherently harmful?
It is impossible to deny that harmful crimes have been committed in the name of religion. Yet I think that these crimes are often assigned undue significance and disproportionate attention. The historical record shows that the crimes of religion and specifically Christianity are minute compared to the crimes of atheist regimes. Very often when people mention the crimes of Christianity they refer for example to the Inquisition. There is now a reliable body of scholarship on the Inquisition and one of its leading scholars is Henry Kamen. If you read Kamen’s work, you discover that in the Spanish inquisition, which lasted some 350 years, the number of people killed was approximately 2000. Now 2000 people over 350 years works out to approximately six people killed per year. On a micro-scale, every destruction of innocent human life is egregious. But on the macro-scale, the Inquisition hardly amounts to a world historical crime. By contrast, if you look at the crimes of atheist regimes, they are monstrous. I am not even talking about Mao in China or Stalin in Russia or the Nazi regime in Germany. It is true that those regimes alone in the space of five decades killed an excess of one hundred million people. But even if you take a junior league atheist like Pol Pot in Indochina you find that his regime killed approximately two million people in the space of a few years. So I think atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins are making a poor analogy between Islamic radicalism today and Christianity. They are pretending that because the Islamic radicals do what they do in the name of religion, Christianity bears the same burden. And all the while these same atheists are ignoring or downplaying and in some cases even rationalizing the crimes of the atheist regimes. 30
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Atheist regimes have killed more people in the span of a few decades than all the religions of the world since the beginning of the historical record. It is also important to realize that the crimes that are alleged against Christianity are ancient. They occurred 200 or 500 years ago—or 1000 years ago in the case of the Crusades—and while the fundamentalist atheists draw a disproportionate amount of attention to these offenses which are essentially unrepeatable today they are ignoring crimes that are quite recent, many of which occurred in my lifetime and in come cases are still going on. Richard Dawkins argues in The God Delusion that Christians killed in the name of Christianity, but many tyrants who happened to be atheists did not kill in the name of atheism. From a historical point of view this is unsupported. All you have to do is read The Communist Manifesto and look at the actual behavior of Communist countries to see that the atheism wasn’t incidental at all. The whole idea was to create a new man and a new utopia liberated from the shackles of traditional religion and traditional morality. DA: Is government-sponsored atheism inherently dangerous?
What is dangerous about government-sponsored atheism is that it has no notion of cosmic accountability. Life is unfair sometimes: the bad guy comes out on top and the good guy comes to grief. It is the premise of religion that we live in a legal universe, and that in a sort of final accounting, what goes around does come around. In Christianity, this is called last judgment. In Hinduism it is called reincarnation. If you are a really bad guy in this life, you might be a cockroach in the next life. You get what you deserve. The point is that if you are a believer you have to take into account the very real possibility that you will have to pay for your sins. Even the inquisitors who might have been rapacious and cruel had to consider the possibility that
they would one day meet their maker and have to give an account for what they did. This is why I don’t believe that even in his worst day a Torquemada could approximate the crimes of a Pol Pot. The atheist regimes are motivated by the idea that since God does not exist, everything is permitted. There is no moral accountability. There is nothing to keep you from doing what you want except for the possibility that you might be caught or the possibility there might be some force political, judicial or military that can stop you. But of course if you are Stalin and there is no force, there is absolutely no limit to the amount of blood you can spill if you feel inclined to do it. DA: A central tenet of Christianity is the claim that human nature is corrupt and that we are incapable of virtue without God. Some popular morality denies this, claiming that our nature is fundamentally good and that our actions can indeed be innately virtuous. Which claim have you found to be most consistent with human experience?
I believe it was the Catholic writer Cardinal John Henry Neuman who said that the doctrine of the fall or the corruption of human nature is one of those propositions of Christianity that requires no revelation but merely an observation of human experience to see that it is correct. I would argue that if human nature were wonderful, if human nature always expressed itself at its best, then you wouldn’t need the economic and political and social structures that we have in Western civilization today. For example, one of the core ideas of liberalism is separation of powers, which includes the idea of checks and balances and the broader notion of rule of law. All of these are based on the notion that if you let people have too much power they will use it badly. But why? Why does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Shouldn’t absolute power in the hands of a really great guy lead to marvelous results? The liberal assumption is that it doesn’t matter who has the power. Chances are it is going to be used poorly and the reason it is going to be used poorly is that Immanuel Kant was right when he said, “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” This idea, which is common to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, is indeed born out by experience. Even Eastern religions agree with that the self is the source of evil. There is no major religion that upholds the goodness of human nature. That has been reserved for secular liberalism. And even secular liberalism excuses its mistakes by saying, “We are only human.” The great champion of secular liberalism was the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. But even Rousseau had to acknowledge that there were a lot of bad things done in the world. He became the great excuse maker for the bad things in the world and he developed the idea that essentially “society made me do it.” According to Rousseau, man is originally good but has been corrupted by societal artifice and convention but hidden within man is a sort of pure human nature that is incorrupt and that is genuinely good. So the blame is shifted away from the individual onto society. And so the assumption
becomes that if I could only shake off this skin of convention and return to the sort of pure nature that lies buried within me I can achieve self-fulfillment. You can see how these philosophical ideas have broken into mass culture in the 1960’s. And now they have become part of our popular imagination. DA: In your most recent book, What’s So Great About Christianity, you claim that Christianity is “believable in the face of the discoveries of modern science and modern scholarship.” What convinced you to put your faith in Christ?
I learned my Christianity from my parents in India, but it was a very simplified Christianity. I have before referred to it as “Crayon Christianity,” as it was unable to give an account of itself. When I came to the U.S. at the age of sixteen and arrived at Dartmouth a year later, I found that my Christian beliefs were subject to skeptical questioning and in some cases outright attack. How could you defend the concept of miracles in the age of science? Or isn’t it true that religion is simply a product of upbringing? How do you know that your religion is true? So when I was seventeen and nineteen I didn’t have answers to these kinds of questions. My mind began to become an obstacle to my Christian faith. And I found myself pulling away from my Christian beliefs and swung myself into political conservatism. For the last fifteen or twenty years my career has really focused on making the intellectual and moral arguments in the political arena and it is only now, with my book on Christianity, that I have moved into the arena of apologetics. I think that what happened is that over time my Christian faith deepened and my intellectual interest slowly began to converge. All of this happened at a time when a spate of atheist books were coming out one by one, and I felt inspired or called to jump into the ring and take on the new fundamentalist atheism. DA: Do you have any thoughts you would like to share with the Dartmouth community? When I arrived at Dartmouth in 1979, I was a foreign student looking to major in economics and go to business school. My horizons were narrow, but at Dartmouth I was exposed to a much wider world. It shifted the whole focus of my career and the way I spend my time. It exposed me to a much wider range of interests than I previously had. It is something that dramatically changed my life. I always look upon Dartmouth with a tremendous sense of gratitude. Dartmouth has the opportunity to be a real intellectual leader. It is amazing that we live in a time when Ivy League presidents are virtually unknown. This was not always true. Now I think it is fair to say that Jim Friedman or Jim Wright are not major figures in society. Looking for a new president, Dartmouth must look for a real intellectual leader who can be a voice for education and the values of education in our culture at large.
Final Thoughts from
y faith was given to me when I was very young. It manifested itself as conservative evangelicalism as a result of my family, my culture and myself. It was presented as a package: accept a few fundamental truths, and everything else flows logically from these premises. The journey of faith is the process of discovering more logical conclusions, supplemented by religious experience to confirm the truth of what you have rationally deduced. There was room for questions, but all of the questions already had answers. They all had right answers and they all had wrong answers, and there was never any question about that. And I bought in completely. Not that I didnâ€™t ask questions, but I allowed myself to be too easily satisfied by the answers. I like being right and I like having the answers. Itâ€™s safe and stable. This was not entirely a bad thing. My drive for consistency and security helped me avoid the hypocrisy of saying I believed one thing and acting like I believed another. It forced me to take seriously the words of Jesus and integrate my faith into my whole life. It challenged me to follow my beliefs to completion, through good works. That is, trying to serve, love and sacrifice for others. If I really believe God loves me unconditionally, the only possible response is to love back, and to love God is to love others. I knew God loved me and I knew loving others was the right response, so out of fear of having a hollow faith, I did my best to obey. When I came to Dartmouth, I became a philosophy major because I wanted to confront the hard questions and find the truth, looking for a challenge. I wanted to know things and discover things. I had complete confidence that my faith was real and true and that I had nothing to fear by testing it against the most brilliant minds of the past several millennia. Unfortunately, when oneâ€™s faith is a package deal, all neatly tied together, it does not take much to unravel the entire thing. In
The Dartmouth Apologia
Than Culture my junior year both my classes and my experiences began to pull apart my faith. Inconsistency, skepticism, falsified religious experience, lemming-like mindlessness, observed hypocrisy in religious community and a realization of how poorly justified most beliefs are in general forced me to step back and reconsider my faith. This was incredibly terrifying and isolating. My entire life was (and is) built around my faith but it was crumbling from beneath me. In my cynicism, the God I loved was becoming a ghost we had conjured up to create purpose and order in an otherwise meaningless life. My religious friends didn’t seem bothered by any of the same doubts, and my non-religious friends didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. When I went home to Texas over Christmas break last year, I hoped that a more religious environment would make things easier, but it actually became more difficult as the ‘faith’ around me seemed like mere culture, superficial and insincere. I do not want my faith to simply be a part of culture, a system of morality or something to make me feel better. To have faith, it must be connected to something (or Someone) real. My background in philosophy became useful, however, as I surveyed the bleakness of what I thought was my situation. I realized I had made a bad inference: a lot of people relate to their faith insincerely. It’s true that we cannot prove beyond doubt the existence of God, and many traditional positions are wrong or just don’t make sense, but none of this has anything to do with what really is, with what is true. I am not putting my faith in others’ experiences (sincere or insincere), in logic or in religious convention—my faith is in God—that is, the one who loves me, justifies me, redeems me, sanctifies me, frees me to genuinely love others and enables me to follow the way of Jesus here and now. These are real things that have happened and are happening to me, and I cannot doubt that and must worship
their Source even when I don’t fully understand it. This is far from saying that I am free from doubt, but I am free from fear when my faith can’t be tied up into a neat package for easy consumption. My faith is different now. It’s more flexible, more gracious. As much as grace is a point of doctrine in which we believe, it is also a state in which we live. That is the hope that I have now, not in fact or doctrine but in the Truth of a Person, real and alive. We will always debate doctrine and rightly so. Doctrine is important and can be very complicated. When we turn God’s personhood, grace and love into mere points of doctrine, however, we undermine the actual person, grace and love of God. The power of the Gospel is not in its rigorous consistency or emotional sensationalism but in its ability to genuinely transform lives, including our own.
Haley Bolin ‘08 is from Tyler, Texas. This June she will graduate with a double major in Philosophy and Geography. During her four years at Dartmouth she has been actively involved with the Navigators Christian Fellowship, the Edgerton House, and she plays the cello in the Dartmouth Chamber Orcestra. She is also passionate about thrift shopping, farmer’s markets, and outdoor concerts, especially when they are free. Next year she will be moving to the Phillipines to work for the International Justice Mission.With the lawyers at this Christian human rights organization, she will promote justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. She then plans to attend law school.
A Prayer for Dartmouth O Lord God Almighty, well-spring of wisdom, master of power, guide of all growth, giver of all gain. We make our prayer to thee, this day, for Dartmouth College. Earnestly entreating thy favour for its people. For its work, and for all its life. Let thy hand be upon its officers of administration to make them strong and wise, and let thy word make known to them the hiding-place of power. Give to its teachers the gift of teaching, and make them to be men right-minded and high-hearted. Give to its students the spirit of vision, and fill them with a just ambition to be strong and well-furnished, and to have understanding of the times in which they live. Save the men of Dartmouth from the allurements of self-indulgence, from the assaults of evil foes, from pride of success, from false ambitions, from hardness, from shallowness, from laziness, from heedlessness, from carelessness of opportunity, and from ingratitude for sacrifices out of which their opportunity has grown. Make, we beseech thee, this society of scholars to be a fountain of true knowledge, a temple of sacred service, a fortress for the defense of things just and right, and fill the Dartmouth spirit with thy spirit, to make it a name and a praise that shall not fail, but stand before thee forever. We ask in the name in which alone is salvation, even through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen. The Reverend Lucius Waterman, D.D.
We, the members of The Dartmouth Apologia, affirm that the Bible is inspired by God, that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, and that God has called us to live by the moral principles of the New Testament. We also affirm the Nicene Creed, with the understanding that views may differ on baptism and the meaning of the word â€œcatholic.â€?
The Nicene Creed
We [I] believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We [I] believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We [I] believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Apologia A Journal of Christian Thought
Baker Library, West Entrance by Bryan Chong â€˜09
Apologia A Journal of Christian Thought
Published on Apr 1, 2008