Friday, March 30, 2001

That Hideous Strength

by C. S. Lewis

This one surprised me. That Hideous Strength is part of a science fiction trilogy with a Christian worldview, the third volume after Out of the Silent Planet and  Perelandra. I thought it would be like the other two: part planetary travelogue, part philosophical adventure. (A philosophical adventure is one where the plot of the story is a backdrop for the characters to spout a bit of philosophy. It sells better than just having the characters sit in a bar, coffee shop, college dorm, or what have you and engage in the same discussion.) Instead, the story takes place on Earth. The science fiction aspects are relatively minor for most of the book, and instead we're treated to diabolical intrigue and low level suspense. I was also slightly surprised at how the story unwound. The first two novels hinted that they were headed toward the ultimate conflict between good and evil on Earth. If anyone has read the book of Revelation in the Bible, you know that that will involve a great deal of conflict and destruction. Ultimately, That Hideous Strength is simply another battle in the war and the planet is left pretty much untouched, save for the characters in the book. But even if my assumed expectations weren't met, the book is extremely satisfying. Lewis is a great writer and can bring a much needed touch of the divine to those of us raised in materialistic 20th Century Western culture. (Our culture has moved away from that, so in that respect, the book is starting to show it's age.) I especially loved how he illustrates God's power made perfect in weakness. Despite the Arthurian overtones, our heroes are not strong, valiant warriors. They win the day by the grace of God. Isn't that true for any of us? Anyway, this one's on my shelf.

LibraryThing link

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Thursday, March 15, 2001

The Powers That Be

by Walter Wink

Stand back, I'm gonna toss this one in the Elbe river. But before I do, I suppose I should mention the two very good points about this book. The first is the thought that everything has a spiritual dimension to it. Not only do people have a soul but also our organizations -- church bodies, corporations, nations. These are the "powers" referred to Ephesians 6:12 and a few other scripture passages. The second point is that these "powers that be" have a good, God given purpose, even if they've been twisted beyond redemption. (For example, Germany still needed a government after the Nazis were removed from power.) Okay, those are the two very good points. He also makes a good case for pacifism and non-violence. But I'm also sympathetic to that point of view, so I'm not as critical as one might be. So what's wrong with this book? What evil has the author done that makes me want to take his handiwork and dunk it? Well, basically, Walter Wink is, in my opinion, a bad theologian. He has developed a nice theory about a supreme evil power, the Domination System, and seems to interpret the Bible according to that theory. Those passages that fit in well with his theory are held up, those that would raise questions are either not mentioned or explained away. To be fair, the main thrust of the book is not to show how the Bible supports his theory. (Condemning violence, especially in combatting the evil of this world, stands out as the main point.) But for such a lover of scripture as I am, the sin of twisting scripture is nigh unforgivable. I can't really take any of his statements seriously, knowing that they are built, at least in part, on an interpretation of God's Word that I cannot abide. So this one's gone. (Oh, and I should mention that this book is a condensation of a trilogy of books previously written by Wink: Engaging the PowersUnmasking the Powers, and Naming the Powers)

LibraryThing link


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