Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading at Present

>>I just finished Alice Hoffman's Skylight Confessions (thanks, Sandra!). It's the first work of fiction I've started in a while that I didn't put down halfway through in a fit of disgust. I really enjoyed it, though I think I tend to mix Hoffman up with Alice Walker, which always leaves me bit confused at first when reading either of their books'.

The story is sad but hopeful. It took me a few chapters to really get into it but when I did I remembered that feeling of reading a good novel and hating to put it down because I need to find out what happens!

>>Also reading- Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright. It's a bit weighty and I can't figure out if Wright (who is obviously a person of considerable brilliance) isn't as good a writer as he is a thinker, or if I'm just too dumb to concentrate on his wording for more than five minutes at a time. Probably the latter. Anyway, this book is an argument against the typical Christian view of death and the afterlife. Wright argues that an eventual physical resurrection on a renewed earth, rather than immediate trip to an otherworldly "heaven" is what the early church placed their hopes in. His point is that the way Christians view their place in the world has been deeply affected by the creeping-in of ideas inherent to gnosticism and Platonic thinking. It's quite fascinating, but slow going. I have a feeling I'm going to need to take notes if I'm going to get what I want to out of it. One drawback of library books, of course, is that one is not allowed write in them (though my long career as a reader of library books as shown me that certain people will not let this stop them).

>>Monkey Girl by Edward Humes This will probably be even more controversial than the above book among many of my readers and social circle. It's about the battle over the teaching of evolution and/or "intelligent design" (Oh, yes I did*) in public schools. Several pages in, I'm already cringing at the words uttered by many of the Christians portrayed in the book. I'm not saying that all Christians suck, or that we evolved randomly from single-celled organisms and there's no such thing as a God who creates. It just seems a little silly to me to assume that we know anything at all about how God made the world when all we have is a brief, vague and possibly non-literal** story to support the vast framework of "knowledge" that the church has built into an integral part of the gospel. Look back in history at any time the church has stubbornly opposed scientific evidence because the scientists who put it forth did not believe and tried to use the evidence as proof that God does not exist. Should we still be burning people at the stake for saying the earth is round? God does not need us to protect His reputation.

*I put ID in quotes because don't trust the movement behind ID., As with so many other movements the church has backed and funded, the facts in this viewpoint are based not on seeking actual truth, but on seeking to prove "the other side" wrong. This is not to say that I don't believe that God is intelligent, or that he designed us; I do.

**Saying that the creation myth [Myth is a framework that a society bases its identity and values on, it is not by definition something that is not true. On the contrary, C.S. Lewis postulated that mythology is a way God uses to explain deeper truths that human beings can only grasp through the use of metaphor and story, rather than outright facts.] may not be literal does not mean that I think the Bible is a collection of nice stories that aren't really true in a "this actually happened" sort of way. But why are we so insistent that the days described in Genesis are literal 24 hour units as opposed to ages (the Hebrew translation for the word used is one that can also mean, "day" as in, "In King David's day.."). When you step back from the fear that our "right to teach Christian values" in public schools is being threatened and look critically at the issue, what seems more like God's style: Bang, whiz, zap***, and there's the earth & all of its inhabitants? Or a deliberate and careful crafting over what seems to us like an interminably long time? He's in the still small voice, remember, not the earthquake.

It's also false thinking that accepting any part of evolutionary theory or evidence is to call into question the sovereignty of God. I can maintain that God could create the earth in a week if He wanted to without insisting that He did.

***Okay, just to prove that I'm showing some restraint in my irreverent rantings, I was tempted to write, "Wham, bam, thank you Ma'am." but I thought that might be pushing it a leetle too far for some readers. :0)



Bring it on! Please.


l i s a said...

ooh, la, la. looky there, i have a book list all picked out for me for my between-term fun reading. i'm with you on n.t. wright. i actually bought his "the challenge of Jesus" on my pastor's recommendation, but never got very far. so maybe i'll just leave it to you to summarize "surprised by hope" for me.

i have a good friend here who is working on his phd in geology and finds no trouble in reconciling his beliefs both in a Creator God and evolution. if i was smart, i'd tell you how he explained it. alas, you'll just have to trust me when i say that it made a lot of sense.

on the topic of myth and story, i think a story can be "true" even if it's not "historical" in the "factual" sense of the word. quote, unquote.

looking forward to following this discussion--it's a good one (good in the sense of hard and mind-bending).

p.s. jess, you should be a writer! you articulate tricky subjects well. . . (not just a plug for more posts, 'cause i know you love writing)

flutter said...

have you read sin in the second city? it is AMAZING

Steven said...

I present to the forum the argument of the Babel fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Here's a YouTube link of the TV mini series version of it. :-)

Steve said...

I agree, Jess, you should be a writer. Oh wait, you already are. Well, technically, a typer (if they still call it that).

Interesting stuff Jess. I like the way you challenge the established without tossing it aside.