Here’s how Michelangelo painted it, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Successful fantasy author “Abner Doubleday” (not his real name) has, in the series of his novels that I’m reading–novels which he says are dedicated to the glory of God–committed almost every literary offense under the sun. And I’m only halfway through the second book.
But Abner is full of surprises, and yesterday he provoked me to cry out.
If any of you folks out there contemplates writing a fantasy novel, please be guided by these essays.
In addition to packing his novels chock-full of fantasy cliches, Abner has discovered, and indulged in, the vice of allowing the world of here and now to break in on the fantasy and control it.
See, he’s writing novels about the ancient world before the Flood, retelling the early chapters of the Book of Genesis as a comic book without pictures. The villainous evil bad guys (that’s how he’d say it) are supposed to be divine beings who rebelled against God and came to earth as false gods. They are devoid of redeeming features.
Abner has also made them modern, 21st century liberals, only stopping short of giving them names like Barbara Boxer or Barack Obama. But at every opportunity, these beings, these devils, yap about “hope and change” and “fundamental transformation” of the ancient world, do everything in their power to turn all human beings into welfare dependents, invent modern feminism and inflict it on the antediluvian world–I know it’s only a matter of time before he drags in the minimum wage.
As much as I detest liberalism, and loathe all its works, may I be fricaseed if I ever cram it into one of my novels. Our world’s political and social issues have no business cropping up in a fantasy world.
Well, obviously, if you suddenly start writing about Climate Change or Income Inequality, the reader is going to remember that he’s not actually in a fantasy world but only reading a stupid book whose author is trying to lecture to him. Any reader with a modicum of self-respect will walk away from it.
But more importantly, the issues specific to our time, no matter how important they are right now, are only fleeting symptoms of the great disease–sin. The great problem is the Fall of Man, which has been with us from the beginning and has taken many forms. In my lifetime, for instance, it was communism in my younger days and Obamaism today.
It doesn’t matter what we call them. They are all aspects of the same thing.
By importing the Democrat Party agenda into the ancient world, Abner has trivialized the far greater issues raised by the Bible–issues which remain the same from Genesis through Revelation. Contemporary liberalism will pass away and be replaced by something else just as bad, and bad for the same reasons.
It all boils down to the same thing.
The Serpent told Eve, “Ye shall be as gods,” if only you’re smart enough to disobey God’s command not to eat of the forbidden fruit. And Eve believed him. And Adam believed Eve, and tried to blame the whole business on God Himself: “The woman that you gave me, Lord, she made me do it…” No wonder the pair of ’em got kicked out of Paradise.
In the hall of Charn’s dead kings and queens, Queen Jadis returns to life. But she hasn’t learned her lesson.
For me, one of the most memorable scenes in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia occurs in The Magician’s Nephew when Digory and Polly travel to a world called Charn and find it completely dead. No blade of grass, no drop of water–all dead, all dust.
In the dead city of Charn they find a hall of perfectly preserved dead kings and queens of Charn. How did this happen?
Two queens, sisters, both of them incredibly powerful witches, battled each other to become the supreme ruler of all of Charn. There’s always someone who wants to become the Supreme Ruler of Bloody Everything. On the point of losing the war, Queen Jadis utters a spell, The Deplorable Word, which wipes out all life on Charn. Another spell, inadvertently activated by Digory, brings her back to life so she can go on to become the White Witch, supreme tyrant over Narnia, where she made it “always winter, but never Christmas.”
This was written in the 1950s, when fear of a world-destroying nuclear war was a new thing, and very real to many people. World War II was also fresh in memory. Can there be any doubt that Hitler, cornered in his bunker, would have spoken The Deplorable Word, if he’d had it?
When the Serpent seduced Eve with his “ye shall be as gods” snake-oil, he tapped into a fatal aspect of human nature that remains with us today–the desire to be, like God, supreme ruler over everything. But God has promised that honor to His Son, Jesus Christ; and instead of a Deplorable Word, God says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5)–thus highlighting the difference between a righteous, loving God and sinful, fallen man.
The lust to rule the world is still with us, in spades–in the U.N., in Washington, D.C., in Brussels, in ISIS, among the Global Warming mob, and liberally strewn throughout the minds of intellectuals.
But God is with us, too, and His word shall prevail.
(I’m still sick, but nowhere near as bad as I was Friday night and most of yesterday.Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes!)
When I was a boy, I was fascinated by the story of Joseph. His brothers pretended he was dead and sold him into slavery, he got thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t do–and yet he rises to the top. God gives him the power to read the future from dreams, and the wisdom to make the most of it.
But really the thing that got me was Joseph’s brothers. All right, Jacob was wrong to make Joseph his favorite; that didn’t sit well with the other lads. I got that. But I was too young to appreciate how much trouble Joseph made for himself by telling his brothers that they were all going to bow down to him, because he’d dreamed it. How to make yourself obnoxious!
I was afraid of Joseph’s brothers. In my book of Bible stories there was a picture of them, kind of in a huddle, debating whether to kill Joseph or what. If these weren’t bad guys, I didn’t know who were. And they had the power. They had Joseph at their mercy, and could do anything to him that they liked.
Now I’m older, and there’s another part of the story that impresses me the most. The time came when Joseph had his brothers at his mercy. He could have ordered all their throats cut, or had them all sent as slaves to the mines in the desert, and no one would have stopped him. Think of the temptation! “All right, you creeps–welcome to payback time…” You can easily imagine what Joseph would do if he were the (ahem) action hero of a modern movie.
But what he does do is awesome. He forgives them. “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20)
[For those who do not know the Bible, Joseph’s being sold into slavery in Egypt, and rising there to the highest office in the land, was the means by which the whole family of Israel was saved in time of famine.]
Joseph is great enough not to be seduced by his own greatness. He humbles himself before God. A great man in this world today would be far too foolish ever to do that. “Hey! I am in the place of God, and I can do anything I want!”
When they finally did bow down and honor him, Joseph raised them up again. And that is awesome.
Our own civilization is in deep, deep trouble. While our ruling class does everything it can think of to poison the culture, President *Batteries Not Included and his secretary of state, John “Scarecrow” Kerry, urged on by the notion of “a deal at any price,” are putting all the world at risk by arranging for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and touch off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East–the most unstable powder-keg on earth. They’re all like toddlers playing with loaded guns.
Against this background, scientists, only since the late 1990s, are discovering a mind-bogglingly ancient civilization in coastal Peru, the Norte Chico (or Caral-Supe) civilization. Fully formed and in business by around 3200 B.C., and fading out around 1800 B.C., the Norte Chico people built cities characterized by monumental architecture.
They seem to have had plenty of music (various instruments have been found in the ruins), but no visual arts–although painting may simply not have been preserved over such a long period of time. They invented quipu, a system of record-keeping with knotted cords, which was still in use by the Incas thousands of years later.
We don’t know the name of a single person who lived in any of those cities. We don’t know what gods they worshiped, what jokes they told, what language they spoke, or anything much else.
What we do know is something hauntingly strange.
At roughly the same time in history, in parts of the world widely separated geographically, true civilizations (with cities and record-keeping) seem to have arisen independently–in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, Northern China… and Peru. Norte Chico is so far away from any of the others, it doesn’t seem at all possible that any other civilization might have influenced its development. And unlike the others, Norte Chico was not centered around a major river system.
Five civilizations arise in five different places, at about the same time–how could that have happened?
In the Book of Genesis, civilization suffers two destructions–by the Flood, and by God’s action at the Tower of Babel. I think this suggests the possibility that survivors of those calamities would have tried to rebuild, wherever they happened to be. Reputable Bible scholars who don’t believe the Bible will scoff at this; but they can’t laugh the cradles of civilization out of existence.
Why did they come at around the same time, in different places far apart?
And what will scholars be saying about our modern Western civilization, centuries from now, when they pick over our ruins and try to decide which of our famous names were real and which belonged to legend?
Or will we, like the Norte Chico and the Indus Valley people, leave behind no famous names at all?
St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “[L]et God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In other words, folks, who are you going to believe—God, or a human being infected with Original Sin, possessing incomplete and only partly accurate information filtered through his personal prejudices, and subject to every temptation in the world?
Thanks to a heads-up from General T.C. Pinckney’s Baptist Banner, we have heard of a number of “Christian intellectuals”—why is it that every time you hear the word “intellectual,” you know the next thing you’re going to hear will be something really stupid?—who have decided that “science”—another badly abused word—is right, and Evolution is the truth, and that the Bible is hopelessly, totally wrong about the origin of the human race.
As Calvin College theology professor John Schneider put it, before the college sacked him, there never was an Adam, no Eve, no Garden of Eden, no serpent, and no Fall of man. “Evolution,” he told National Public Radio, invoking the magic word, “makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost.”
Don’t let the door hit you in the can on your way out, professor.
There are, of course, just a few little bitty things that Evolution does not make clear at all.
*How does non-living material suddenly start living in the first place? This has never been observed in nature, and although scientists have tried innumerable times to make it happen in the laboratory, all of those attempts have failed.
*If evolution is a force or a pattern permeating all of nature, why do so many forms of life—most of them, if you count bacteria—never seem to evolve at all? Horseshoe crabs, ferns, cockroaches, etc., have all had, supposedly, jillions of years to evolve into intellectuals, and yet stubbornly persist in being horseshoe crabs, ferns, and cockroaches. (And please, no nasty cracks about intellectuals evolving into cockroaches…)
*As, say, an animal’s forelimb gradually “evolves” into a flipper, at what point does it become useless as either a foreleg or a flipper? Wouldn’t such “halfway-there” animals be gravely handicapped? And if the change happens all at once, how does the mother animal with legs raise a bunch of baby animals with flippers? And where do they find mates so they can reproduce? Really, the whole thing is just too silly for words.