The God of Logic

This study all began with perusing the “lambda” section in a Greek dictionary. I came across the word logikos (G3050), which means “pertaining to reason and therefore reasonable.” You’ve probably already guessed that it’s where we got our English word “logic.” This is the word used in Romans 12:1 for “reasonable service.”

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)

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image credit: nasa.gov “Stellar Nursery in the Rosette Nebula”

I tend to connect my faith with a feeling more than an intellectual idea. I know “intellectually” that God exists and that the Bible makes sense, but for me personally the feeling of Him being real and present and in a relationship with me seems more important. This has frustrated some of the more rational, logical people I’ve talked to. One atheist who had been raised Christian couldn’t understand why things that seem contradictory in scripture didn’t bother me even though I couldn’t explain all of them. Another person still in the church said that my “spirituality” is almost intimidating because I talk about my feelings for God so much, and that kind of faith seems alien to her. Other people attracted by reason and logic have walked away from their faith when confronted with scientific arguments for evolution or a “big bang” explanation of how the universe came into being.

One of the things I’ve run across in my studies of type psychology is that “feeling” types are more attracted to spirituality and religion than “thinking” types (this refers to a preference for dealing with people or data, not a measure of intelligence). In fact, I read of one study that indicated the more highly educated the person is, the more likely they are to be involved with a religion (sorry — I don’t have the citation yet. I’ll try to find it and update this post later). It makes sense that “feelers” are attracted to a place that encourages group interaction and harmony, but I worry that we may have scared off some of the “thinkers” with our talk of a touchy-feeling God who just wants to love people. It is true that God wants a relationship with everyone, but it’s not true that everyone needs to relate to Him the exact same way. He means to be accessible to all the people He created.

Order and Logic

There aren’t just one or two verses that simply state “God is ordered and logical.” Rather, the entire Bible and the whole of creation is a testament to the way His mind works. We can read Genesis 1 and see the orderly step-by-step way He created the world, then look at creation and see His master-craftsman hand at work in every aspect of the universe’s design. Scientists have been doing this for years, and many come to the conclusion that God is the only explanation for how the universe is so perfectly put together.

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” –Albert Einstein

“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.” –Max Planck

“When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” –Tony Rothman

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image credit: nasa.gov “The Carina Nebula”

These quotes were taken from two articles: Quotes from Scientists Regarding Design of the Universe  and Quotes about God to consider…if you think science leads to atheism (please see these sites for full citations and more quotes).

There are a couple verses in 1 Corinthians that speak to the orderly, logical attributes of God. Paul was discussing who should speak and how meetings should be conducted in the church, and makes these statements:

God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. … Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:33, 40)

God does not author confusion — He wants things to progress in a decent, orderly fashion. Even mildly logical, perfectionistic, or OCD people can identify with this attribute of God.

The Word of Intelligence

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14)

In these very familiar verses, the Greek word translated “Word” is logos (G3056). It is the root word for logikos, which we’re already talked about. It means “to speak,” but it is distinct from other words that specifically refer to sound or noise (lalia, G2981) or to speaking without necessarily making sense (laleo, G2980). Logos means to express intelligence.

Logos, when it refers to discourse, is regarded as the orderly linking and knitting together in connected arrangement of words of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind. … In the first chapter of John, Jesus Christ in His preincarnate state is called ho Logos, the Word, meaning first immaterial intelligence and then the expression of that intelligence in speech that humans could understand. (Zodhiates)

One of the most well-known names of Jesus carries with it a testament to God’s reason, intellect, and logic. It is a key role of Jesus Christ to express intelligence — to communicate the thoughts of God in a way that people can understand.

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image credit: nasa.gov “Dust and the Helix Nebula”

Sometimes when people come across something in relation to God that “doesn’t make sense,” they assume that there’s something wrong with the Bible. But that’s just another way of saying that we think our minds work better than the Mind of the One who designed us. It’s really rather absurd to think there’s something wrong with God because we don’t understand Him perfectly. But it’s far more unsettling for some of us to admit that the problem might be on our side.

In John 8:43, Christ was debating with some of the Jews who were following Him. They were offended and confused by some of His words, and this is what He said to them:

Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (John 8:43)

The word “speech” is translated from lalia — to make sounds — and “word” is from logos. Because they couldn’t grasp Christ’s intelligence speech, it was as if He was speaking nonsense (I’m indebted to Zodhiates’ Key-Word study Bible for analyzing this verse).

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)

Rather than assume there’s something lacking in God when we can’t understand Him and then reacting with hostility or disgust (by the end of John 8 the Jews were trying to stone Jesus), let’s follow James’ advice.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

The Issue of Feelings

C.S. Lewis is the perfect person to bring in on this discussion. He was a very logical, rational Christian (probably an INTJ, for those of you who like Myers-Briggs). I like this description of him from The New York Times Book Reviw: “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader of the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”

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image credit: nasa.gov “The Great Carina Nebula”

Now, the thing about Lewis is that for him, getting your intellect out of the way certainly doesn’t mean abandoning reason and just “trust your feelings” or “have faith.” On the contrary, Lewis says that our faith absolutely must have a rational basis.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. (Mere Christianity; III, 11)

That’s why it’s dangerous to try and base your faith on emotions alone. Feelings for God are all well and good, but feelings can change — we might “fall out of love” or fall into a season of doubt. But we can’t afford to give up on God when we don’t feel close to Him anymore. We have to keep choosing to seek Him because we have decided He is the only way to go.

Lewis went on to say in this chapter of Mere Christianity that we need to “train the habit of faith” daily by reminding ourselves of what we believe. He says, “Neither this belief no any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.” And if it’s not, we’ll be one of those people who just drift away from Christianity without even coming up with a reasonable argument for God not existing.

A Logical Sacrifice

The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:17, 20). It’s a succinct instruction from God to do precisely what Lewis was talking about. God wants us to constantly be seeking, questioning, learning, and asking Him to help us understand His words.

This is another reason to stay close to the Source of the Living Water that we talked about in last week’s post. We need Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, involved in our lives. He is the Logos, and He is well able to shore-up our faith with reason and wisdom and good-sense.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)

And then, having this foundation of knowing God exists, that He is more intelligent than we are , and that He sacrificed Himself for us, we can go back to Romans 12:1 and understand why it is logical for us to present ourselves in service to God. He created us, and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He died to buy us back from sin, and we belong to Him not only as His creation, but as His to redeem (1 Cor. 6:20).

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image credit: nasa.gov “The Rosette Nebula”

Since I just quoted Acts 17, let’s take a quick look at the apostle Paul. He was probably the most highly educated of the apostles, since he was trained as a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). It took direct divine intervention to show Paul that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:1-19), but once he was convinced of this fact he turned all the energy and emotion he’d been using to persecute the church into preaching the gospel. And he did so in a manner both firmly grounded in reason and full of zeal. He preached to groups of people from every walk of life, including presenting a reasonable argument to the Athenians and quoting their own poets and thinkers (Acts 17:16-34). He wrote most of the New Testament, epistles full of deep inspired reasoning that even Peter described as “things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul wrote the letter which tells us it is our “reasonable service” to devote every part of ourselves to following God, which is exactly what he did.

We are all made in God’s image, but no one person or type of person is “enough” to fully reflect all of who and what God is. I’ve seen this talked about in discussions of gender — man and women embody different attributes of God. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 12 describes different spiritual gifts, and different types of people that are all necessary parts of the church. If everyone was the same, the church would be lacking essential attributes.

 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:18-19)

The same, I think, can be said of personality types. Aspects of God are reflected in introverts and in extroverts, in people-oriented feeling types and in fact-oriented thinking types. And God Himself is accessible to everyone — He wants a relationship with the logical, questioning mind just as much as He wants a relationship with the more stereotypically “spiritual,” emotional people.

Choosing For His Glory

Last week, we talked about living our whole lives in the context of praising God. This study is directly related to that, and I want to begin by quoting a scripture that I almost referenced in that post but decided to save until today.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

I don’t know about you, but I know that right now my life isn’t at the point where I can say that every single thing I do is done with the intention of bringing God glory. But that is part of our goal while we are here on this earth. Every aspect of our lives should be contextualized by our relationships with God and Jesus.blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Every Single Thing

The idea of every part of our lives being lived for God’s glory can be a daunting prospect, as this level of self-control seems almost impossible to attain. That overwhelmed feeling is usually how I react to reading this verse:

Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)

“Every thought”? That’s a tall order. It’s a bit less daunting, though, when we remember Jesus Christ’s words to the disciples in Matthew 19:26 — “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Self-control is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so we know that it is attainable with God’s help (Gal. 5:22).

I also suspect that, while there may be some days when we literally have to battle every thought, that it gets easier. The closer we grow to God, the more automatic it will be to think and act like Him. Christ Himself is being formed in us (Gal. 4:19), along with His mind and thought processes (Phil. 2:5). Letting, inviting, asking Him to dwell in us is a step toward living all our lives for God’s glory (John 15:4, 8).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col. 3:16-17)

You Are Dead

If we go back to the beginning of Colossians 3 to get context for the verse we just quoted, we find an interesting introduction to a passage that talks about putting to death our sins (verse 5) and putting on the new man who looks like Christ (verse 10).

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)

If we really are living as if we are dead to the world and our only life is wrapped up in Christ, of course we’ll be living for His glory.

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:2-4)

Earlier, I suggested that we should be growing to the point where reacting in the same way that Christ would respond is automatic. If we struggle with anger, for example, it might still be our first impulse but we should be becoming more practiced at replacing it with love. C.S. Lewis had this to say about what first impulses can tell us about ourselves.

Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

As we mature as Christians we should be quicker to recognize our tendencies to sin, and with Christ in us we now have the power to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is imperative that we be aware of and active in this process. We cannot passively overcome sin.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom. 6:12-13)

As human beings, we can’t be without a “master” — we’re either serving sin, or we’re serving God (Rom. 6:16-23). If we’re serving God in “obedience leading to righteousness,” then we’re also making conscious choices to not obey, or yield to, sin.

Bought and Redeemed

When Jesus Christ died for us, He ransomed us free from servitude to sin. We belong to Him, not to ourselves. Acts 20:28 describes the Church as “purchased with His own blood.” Peter says that false teachers who spread “destructive heresies” are “even denying the Lord who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). It is important that we recognize, rather than deny, this fact. blog post "Choosing God's Glory" by marissabaker.wordpress.com

Jesus’ incredible sacrifice cleansed us so that we could “serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). He made a relationship possible between us and our creator. He established a new covenant “on better promises” that offers us eternal life as part of God’s family (Heb. 8:6). We don’t belong to this world or to Satan or to ourselves any more — we have been ransomed away from slavery to sin and to our own individual weaknesses. We now belong to the One who ransomed us, as His servants, His friends, His bride, His family, His body, His church, and His temple.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? … Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:15, 19-20)

Our physical bodies and our spirits — the intangible part of that makes me “me” and can communicate with God’s Spirit — belong to God. This fact does not, however, mean that we don’t have free will. Even within the choice to follow God (and it is a choice), there are many other choices we’ll have to make. I’ve been talking about this in relation to careers with a new friend I met through this blog. Our latest e-mails brought up the idea that God doesn’t care so much what you do to earn a living (with, you know, the obvious exceptions of earning money in a way contrary to the laws of God and man) as He cares how you conduct yourself in your work and whether or not you’re growing close to Him.

We Give You Glory

Returning to 1 Corinthians 10:31, which opened this post, the context is whether or not Christians could eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. That’s not really an issue for us today, but there’s still a lesson we can learn. Paul says it’s okay to eat or not eat this kind of meat, so long as the way you conduct yourself glorifies God.

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor. 10:25-33)

Either choice was morally and legally acceptable before God on its own. But because we belong to God, Paul says that our choices need to be examined in the light of “will it bring God glory?” and “will it profit my brethren?” In the same way, once we answer the question, “can I, or can I not” do something legally in God’s eyes, we should then ask, “should I , or shouldn’t I?” It’s a matter of where our hearts are, and what is our motivation. This same topic is also discussed a few chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians, and that passage adds an even stronger warning.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. (1 Cor. 8:8-12)

That is serious. When our choices, even if they are perfectly acceptable based on our own knowledge, hurt our brethren, it is a sin against Christ. It’s the seam idea expressed in Matthew 25 — “inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (Matt. 25:41-46). It’s not enough to act based on knowledge of God’s laws, though that is certainly important. We must also be acting based on love, which builds up our brethren, and for the glory of god (1 Cor. 8:1-7).

In conclusion, the song “Glory” by Casting Crowns has been running through my head for two weeks, so I’m going to share it here:

When I Am Weak

"When I Am Weak" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comI hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My family gathered at my Uncle’s house for turkey, lots of mashed potatoes, euchre playing, and several enthusiastic Apples to Apples games that could probably have been heard by people driving by in their cars.

Today, I have another C.S. Lewis quote to share with you. As I think I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been reading The Problem of Pain. In chapter 6, he makes this statement: “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”

Comfortable Dirtiness

To put this statement in context, Lewis was talking about human tendency to only turn our attention to God when things are going badly in our lives. When we are scared or in pain, we rush to God and ask him to take it away and bring us through the trial. But all to often, we try our best to forget the thing that brought us back to God as soon as that prayer is answered.

God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over — I shake myself dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.

We need our weaknesses and our sufferings to help bring us into God’s family. I did a search for the word “suffer” in the KJV, and found it used more than 50 times to refer to Christ’s suffering and/or the necessity of us following in His footsteps.

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29)

Importance of Fire

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

The analogy of a refining fire is one that is frequently used in scripture. Gold and silver are purified by fire (Zech. 13:9), pottery needs fired to give it strength (Is. 64:8). We tend often think of fire as a bad thing, perhaps because of the association with fiery punishment. But fire in the context of trials has a positive connotation. Even if the affects are unpleasant, the result should be us moving ever closer to glory.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)

God Hasn’t Given Up

There are two ways we can take the idea Lewis expresses when he says, “tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” We can either get depressed and worn down by the realization that trials will not end until we are perfected, or we can look at trials as proof that God hasn’t given up on making us like Christ.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Asking For Less Love

I’ve always thought that a land flowing with milk and honey sounded a little underwhelming. I like both, but surely there were better things (like chocolate or unicorns) that a perfect land could be filled with. But then a few weeks ago, the thought popped into my head that it wasn’t just milk and honey God was giving them, it was all the things which could be made using milk (dairy) and honey (sweetener). Ice cream, pasta sauce, pretty much every recipe on this blog. In itself, the milk and honey promise was deeper than I thought, and it was also symbolic of all the physical blessings God promised physical Israel for obedience (Deut. 28:1-14).

"Asking For Less Love" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comI’m sure there were Israelites who said something like, Milk and honey? That’s it? “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic,” those were much better (Num. 11:4). They did not understand that what God offered was infinitely better than what they used to have.

How many times do we devalue God’s promises, choosing instead to cling to things in this world because we do not realize just how much better the things God wants to give us are? In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he says that if we think we want less than God offers — wishing “God had designed us for a less glorious and less arduous destiny” — we are “asking not for more love, but for less.”

"Asking For Less Love" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comSometimes we wish for things that are not good for us because we do not fully understand or value what we are being offered. God loves us too much to let us settle for a curse when He wants to give us a blessing. That’s why He keeps trying to bring us back to Him when we stray. Just look at how many times, in the midst of just punishments for sin, He begs Israel to come back to Him for their good (Hosea 11).

My Favorite Fantasy Books

"My Favorite Fantasy Books" marissabaker.wordpress.comI’m writing a fantasy novel for NaNoWriMo this year, and since I have that genre on my mind, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite fantasy books. Maybe someday the novel I’m writing will be on another blogger’s favorite books list.

Books In No Particular Order

Concerning Hobbits

Though it is often considered childish compared to The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve heard that Tolkein wished he’d had time to re-write it, The Hobbit is my favorite book by J.R.R. Tolkein. I love all the books of Middle Earth for what Tolkein can teach me about writing fantasy, but just to sit down and enjoy reading a book I pick up The Hobbit.

“It’s all in the wardrobe just like I told you!”

childrens_storyThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are a few more “children’s books” that I didn’t read until I was in my late teens, and not all at once. I think I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was 16, then The Magician’s Nephew, and finished the series a few years after that. I suppose it is fitting that I didn’t appreciate Narnia until I was older, since it was C.S. Lewis who said, “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

I’m Okay With Corlath Kidnapping Me

I mentioned The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley on my previous book list, but it belongs on here as well. I like the way McKinley handles magic in this world, the lore she weaves through the story, and the strong characters she creates. Some of the most interesting characters are not even human — the heroine’s incredible war horse and a hunting cat named Narknon.

How To Melt Wizards

I don’t hesitate to laugh-out-loud when I’m reading books, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede kept me giggling most of the time I was reading. I received some pretty puzzled looks from my family, until my sister read the four books and laughed almost as much as I did. The first book, Dealing With Dragons, is the best, and features a princess who asks a dragon to take her captive so she can avoid marriage, then proceeds to chase off all the princes who try to rescue her.

Dancing Bears

The Shadow of the Bear by Regina Doman is the first in a series of modern fairy tale retelling. It’s based on “Snow White and Rose Red.” Bear (aka Arthur Denniston) is one of those fictional men I fell in love with as a teenager the moment I read the scene where he dances with Blanche. I also really like the cover art for the first edition.

“True love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.”

If you like the film The Princess Bride, you’ll love the book by William Goldman. I recommend the 30th Anniversary Edition, so you can read Goldman’s introductions. He talks about being on-set for filming (which was, of course, done on location in Florin). It can be fun trying to figure out what actually happened and what didn’t (and whether or not it really matters).

McKinley Fairy Tales

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is my favorite “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, and is also the only novel of hers that I’ve thought had a thoroughly satisfying ending. Her retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” Spindle’s End, also deserves an honorable mention just for the fact that magic in that world is so thick and tangible they have to dust if off the kitchenware before cooking.

Visionary Fiction

A Sword For The Immerland King, by F.W. Faller, is the book that introduced me to “visionary fiction.” His website defines it this way:

a fiction, stated as fact to allow the reader to explore the greater life issues in the safety of a good armchair, to wonder at their own shortcomings and marvel at the confidence of others who inspire them to vision and purpose in their own lives. It is allegory and truth rolled together in a plausibility that transcends time and space and gives us pause to ponder who we are and where we are going.

What Faller does with his world of Tessalindria reminds me of Tolkein’s work with Middle Earth, and what I’m hoping to do with Ves’endlera.

An Oracular Pig

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, follow the adventures of an assistant pig-keeper named Taran. It spans five books and is, I suppose, technically another series of children’s books. One of the most interesting things about these novels is that they are based in part on Welsh legends. The author uses some names from the original legends and hints of Welsh geography (which he warns is “not to be used as a guide for tourists”), then inserts main characters born out of his own imaginings.

Worlds of Ink

Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath are the three books in the Inkworld series by Cornellia Funke. Setting aside the great fantasy content for a moment, these are beautiful books. Each chapter begins with a quotation and ends with a sketch. They are books about books, with main characters being read into the real world and back into books and blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

The Subject of Kneecaps

I’m a little fuzzy on the subject of violence in the Bible, and talking with or reading the opinions of other Christians doesn’t make it any less confusing. We can all agree murder is wrong. After that, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement at all. Should a Christian use violence, sometimes even deadly violence, to save someone’s life or defend themselves?

Zoë: “Preacher, don’t the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killin’?”

Book: “Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.”

— Firefly, episode 9 “War Stories”

In this situation in Firefly, Shepherd Book armed himself and joined his shipmates to rescue Malcolm Reynolds from torture and death. He did not violate the commandment “You shalt not murder,” or even the King James’ rendering “Though shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13). But does this kind of violence violate the spirit, if not the letter, of such commandments? If he had killed in self-defense, would it have been wrong?

Murder vs. Killing

I don’t think there is any question about murder being wrong. Even in societies without the Bible as a guide, laws against murder are usually part of the culture. It’s on the subject of “killing” where things get sticky for Christians. If someone is attacking your family, is it permitted to use violence to stop them? Does unintentionally killing someone who is trying to harm you make guilty of murder in God’s eyes?

The Hebrew word translated “kill” or “murder” in Exodus 20 is râtsach (H7523). Strong’s defines it as, “to dash in pieces, that is, kill (a human being), especially to murder.” Like many Hebrew words, the exact meaning is dependent on the context, and The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: Old Testament points out that the word is used “to indicate premeditated murder” as well as “an accidental killing,” slaying someone as an “act of revenge,” and “death by means of an animal attack.” Other scriptures help narrow down the definition, as C.S. Lewis points out in this quote from Mere Christianity.

It is no good quoting “Thou shalt not kill.” There are two Greek words: the ordinary word to kill and the word to murder. And when Christ quotes the commandment He uses the murder in all three accounts. … All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery.

The Issue of Hate

Should Christians defend themselves? "The Subject of Kneecaps" marissabaker.wordpress.comC.S. Lewis was not a pacifist (he wrote a whole article on the “why” of this viewpoint, but I have yet to find a copy). I admire his writings, but there are other people whose opinions I admire who are adamant that it is wrong for a Christian to serve as a soldier and wrong for a person to kill someone in self-defense.

For some people, I think the distinction between murder and killing comes down to the idea of a death being accidental and/or premeditated. We know from the instructions God gives for cities of refuge (Joshua 20) that accidental killings  do not come under the death-penalty ascribed to murder. The reasons given for not condemning a man who accidentally caused his neighbor’s death are these: “he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand” (Josh. 20:5).

People seem to go two ways on interpreting this verse. One: killing someone in self defense does not constitute murder because you “did not hate him before hand.” It was not a premeditated, vengeful killing, therefore it is considered an accident. C.S. Lewis seems to come down on this side when he says, “We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating.”

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)

Deliberate Self-Defense

The second argument I’ve heard goes something like this: planning to defend yourself makes the death premeditated. You might not be deliberately trying to kill a specific person, but if you intend to kill whoever attacks you and your family, the killing was planned. This also means you don’t fulfill the requirement “he struck his neighbor unintentionally.”

Something doesn’t sit well with me about this last viewpoint. Perhaps it’s partly the implication that most people who intend to defend themselves if attacked also have a desire to kill (which I don’t see in the people I know who are prepared to defend themselves). There are also elements of hypocrisy. The person who thinks self-defense is wrong will probably not hesitate to call 911, and if the person attacking them is killed by police officers I’m not sure they’d feel terribly guilty.

I don’t have much of a conclusion for this post. In theory, I tend to lean more towards C.S. Lewis’s views. In practice, though, one of the reasons I quit Tae Kwon Do is because I hated even practicing how to hurt people. What are your thoughts on this subject?