/ Features E. Stephen Burnett

Do the Mad Scientists Quoted in ‘Love Thy Body’ Watch Any Sci-Fi Films?

“Personhood theory” is the great lie behind many of today’s real-world, would-be mad scientists.
| Mar 27, 2019 | 4 comments |

My wife and I are reading Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body.

In this nonfiction work, Pearcey explores the notion of “personhood theory.” This oft-hidden belief divides mind/”person” from material/body. It’s a blatantly Gnostic religious view. And as Love Thy Body explores, it’s the theory is behind many of today’s social ills, such as abortion, transgenderism, euthanasia, and the entire sexual revolution with its worship of self-identity.

Also, as Pearcey shares in chapter 3, the theory is behind much real-world mad science.

Note that the term “mad science” is mine, not Pearcey’s. But I use it because so many of Pearcey’s quotes bring many dystopian and supervillain stories directly to mind. If these activists had advanced tech and a secret lab, they would—if they acted on what they claim—literally become mad scientists.

For example:

One of the most prominent advocates of transhumanism is geneticist Lee Silver of Princeton University. In Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World, Silver spins out a scenario in which humanity will bifurcate into two separate races—genetic übermenschen (super-persons) who rule over untermenschen (sub-persons). The first group will become the controllers of society. The second group will become the low-paid laborers and service-providers.1

As Pearcey herself can’t help remarking, “This prediction calls to mind the plotline of countless dystopian novels and movies.”

Another:

. . . There are transhumanists who hope to transcend the body altogether. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, hopes that advances in artificial intelligence will enable us to download our brain to a computer, making possible a kind of digital immortality.

This last quote is the most overtly chill-arious:

Futurist James Hughes advocates what he calls “uplifting” chimpanzees genetically to give them human intellectual capacities . . .

What are they thinking?

Are these folks at least somewhat self-aware? Have these advocates watched any sci-fi movies at all?

What would happen if someone came to these transhumanist activists to say, “Um, you do realize you are literally proposing the very same mad science that led to the terrible events in these speculative stories?”

I imagine the transhumanist activist would reply with something like, “Oh, come now. Those are only fairy tales. I’m about the real world.”

Which is, of course, exactly would a mad scientist would say.

  1. All quotes from Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body (2018), pages 98–99.

Zack Snyder v Justice League and My Conflicted Reactions

DC director Zack Snyder says he would have made two “Justice League” films darker and more epic.
| Mar 26, 2019 | No comments |

Embattled DC film director Zack Snyder is strongly and publicly defending his vision for Justice League.

First, some background for casual readers. It’s been three years after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice polarized fans. And it’s been two Christmases since Justice League left fans heaving a collective, “Meh.”

Snyder directed BvS (2016). He only sort-of directed Justice League (2017). Producers re-edited the latter film after Snyder left the project. Instead, substitute director Joss Whedon oversaw extra scenes to add “lighter” moments. As I remarked in my Justice League review:

Few aspects of Snyder’s hallmark style actually feature in the final product, however. In his previous films, Snyder favored a “tear-down-and-rebuild” approach in which minimalist, struggling protagonists bulk up, confront critics, scream loud, and punch hard in the dark to become heroic in a world that doesn’t always respond favorably to them.

The film would have originally been full “Snyder.” Justice League would have shared troubled heroics, awesome visuals, darker palette, and revels in the “nobledark” genre.

Or so we thought.

Per Snyder himself, it turns out that producers had already revised his original vision for a two– or even three-part Justice League epic.

“The original Justice League that Chris [Terrio] and I wrote, we didn’t even shoot,” he confirmed.”The actual idea, the hard, hard idea, the scary idea, we never filmed because the studio was like ‘That’s crazy.'”

“When this movie came out, understand that Chris Terrio and I had finished the script to Justice League before Batman v Superman came out. Some people didn’t like the movie. A vocal minority. So they said ‘There’s a lot of stuff we don’t want you to do,’ so we did a rewrite from that script.”1

I kind of knew some of this, especially when the announced two-part Justice League suddenly turned into one movie.

But the original plan details sound bonkers epic. Still—a lot darker than audiences would have been prepared for.

Well, Darkseid had taken over the Earth and Superman had succumbed to the Anti-Life Equation, thereby explaining why he had turned evil in the flashforward sequence from Batman v Superman.

The Man of Steel’s fall from grace would have led to Batman, the Flash, and a “broken” Cyborg attempting to send the Fastest Man Alive back in time to warn Bruce about what was to come, and that explains what the Caped Crusader saw in the Batcave when Barry Allen told him that “Lois is the key.”

Snyder didn’t elaborate on how all this would have worked beyond confirming that he and Terrio figured out a complicated time-travel formula, and while Warner Bros. was initially on board, “the details of how and why” the Justice League broke up made them nervous and had to be changed.2

Anti-fans protest Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, just before real-world anti-fans protested the film with claims of “they wouldn’t do that.”

My early reactions

I might explore this a bit more in the future. But for now I have only a few fragmented thoughts.

I defended and will still defend Batman v Superman as pretty amazing. Not perfect. But it’s not a “failure” from storytellers who “hate” characters. That’s amateurish and trope-y criticism that ignores years of comic-book history, and often the film itself. I reviewed/defended the film here. Austin Gunderson, Kerry Nietz, and I have explored this at length here and here.

As part of my defenses, I always pointed to behind-the-scenes quotes and promises. I said (short version): the nobledarkness in Batman v Superman, and its predecessor Man of Steel (2013), could be for greater purpose. These darker moments and themes are likely intended to help construct these heroes and make them into who they were always meant to be. For example, Superman is forced to kill his enemy in Man of Steel, but fights to stay heroic in Batman v Superman and ultimately gives his life to save others. That’s a progression from struggle to heroism. And I argued that the final film could show Superman finally become the hero we always wanted to see.

However.

It looks like the original two-part Justice League would not have fulfilled my hopes in that regard.

Or, at least, the films would have delayed (by two or three installments) the inevitable reconstruction after the deconstruction.

Which leaves me feeling conflicted.

Pros:

On one hand, I love the audaciousness of Snyder’s original vision.

I would have loved the sudden escalation to intergalactic peril.

And I would have very much enjoyed such a huge threat that would bring these heroes together into this grand epic.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Do not want.

Cons:

And yet …

I feel “it’s Superman! but he’s EVIL” has been done to death in other media. It seems a cheat to avoid actually doing something new and inspiring with the Man of Steel, to honor his past but also update him for new generations.

Even if the two– or three-part Justice League series would have finally “rebuilt” Superman, that would have been too great a delay.

Meanwhile, other heroes’ character would have suffered in the meantime. Worse, audiences would not have responded well. That includes casual fans and DC fans. Both groups would have felt denied the chance to get great versions of previous hero versions (Superman and Batman) interacting with heroes new to the screen (Wonder Woman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Aquaman).

What we got instead: classic origin-story heroes

Ultimately, I’m content with the new direction of the DC film universe.

Nowadays, Marvel films seem to be winding down, or at least coming to a natural break. That’s the inevitable result of following a years-long serial story across multiple splinter franchises.

Zachary Levi as the teen-boy-turns-hero Shazam. This is already triple-A perfect casting.

However, DC films are trending upward. Audiences loved Aquaman (which just arrived on home release today). They’re primed to make Shazam! (releasing April 5 in the U.S.) another smash success. Folks are now more curious about these heroes, who now aren’t following yet another serialized story, but occupying their own universes that might—someday—come together.

At such a moment (Justice League 2?), people would be more ready for the surprise. It would be the characters, not promised plot, that would have won fans. We’d all go in wanting to see Mera react to Wonder Woman, or Shazam meet The Flash.

Well. Perhaps that will happen someday. I certainly hope so.

And I still hope for a release of the original Justice League Snyder Cut.

But, unlike before, I don’t mean I want to see the original Justice League two-parter, which was never filmed. I mean I want to see the Snyder Cut of the original, revised, single-film version. The one we would have seen before Snyder left the project (because of his daughter’s suicide), and before Joss Whedon (backed by committee?) edited the film.

I think that final Snyder film, before the franchise’s “soft reboot,” could have made everyone happy.

But. All of these events are exclusive to a now-aborted timeline. And (to spoil the ending) we know that neither villains nor speedsters are actually able to change history. We serve the true Time Lord, who lovingly and perfectly controls everything—even mild disappointments in our favorite fandoms.

Lorehaven’s Next Issue Reviews Fifteen Good Christian Fantastical Novels

Tomorrow, Lorehaven Magazine’s new issue reviews Tosca Lee’s “The Line Between” and other novels by fantastical Christian authors.
| Mar 25, 2019 | 1 comment |

Last month I said that Tosca Lee’s latest novel, The Line Between, was already great and you should definitely read it.

Since then I finished the book. I also wrote and edited the featured review for the next Lorehaven magazine issue. (Both these links go live on Tuesday, March 26.)

The Line Between was still great, and you should definitely read it. Here’s why:

Lee mixes chilling, cracking suspense with thoughtful character growth, as readers follow Wynter’s frightening present while also recalling her perma-frosted past. Each character leaps from the page, pressed by experienced storytelling hands. . . .

Truth glimpses give The Line Between surprising heart-warmth amongst the chill, while its road-trip quest drives fast through mad territory and never once feels bogged down in snowbanks. Even by the finale, we get hints that our heroes have learned that yes, sometimes you must stay preserved from a world gone mad, but for the greater mission of helping others in that world.

You should also read the next Lorehaven issue. It releases tomorrow to free subscribers, and includes the full The Line Between review. Plus you’ll get the cover story with Lee, and reviews of fourteen other good or great fantastical-genre novels by Christian authors.

By the way, Tosca Lee will award two copies of The Line Between to two Lorehaven Magazine readers. Soon we’ll announce this contest.

Preview more Lorehaven reviews

The Edge of Over There, Shawn SmuckerMeanwhile, these other reviews stood out to me:

With The Edge of Over There—sequel to The Day the Angels Fell—Shawn Smucker unveils a masterwork of lyrical grandeur. . . . In the tradition of Perelandra and A Wrinkle in Time, this story cracks the spacetime doorway to reveal a reality far richer than the world we know.

[Bailey] Davenport has assembled a cast of characters who genuinely care for each other despite disagreements and hardships. Overall, Eilinland: Through the Wall serves a light, entertaining read, with good thematic substance to accompany the fun.

Heir to the Raven, J. Wesley BushJ. Wesley Bush’s Heir to the Raven deftly creates classic high fantasy. Its large array of characters tread disparate paths, nations and armies tangle together, and abundant detail builds up the world’s complexity without cluttering the story.

[Lindsay A. Franklin’s The Story Peddler] spins a perfect array of delightful characters living with complex magical abilities in a truly unique world. Its adventure, political mayhem, and just a touch of romance reach into the hearts of creatives whom God has gifted to use their talents to serve others.

Download Lorehaven‘s spring 2019 issues, and get access to all four 2018 issues, exclusively at the website’s free subscriber side.

Lorehaven’s Spring 2019 Issue Arrives Tuesday, March 26!

Subscribers can get Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue this Tuesday at Lorehaven.com.
| Mar 22, 2019 | No comments |

Subscribers can download Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue this Tuesday, exclusively at Lorehaven.com.

I publish the magazine and serve as its editor in chief.

For each issue, we keep finding even better novels by Christian authors.

Each novel shares a fantastical genre tale in fantasy, science fiction, and beyond.

Our review team loves finding great stories. We emphasize fair yet positive reviews, which match the best stories with the readers who will most enjoy them.

Lorehaven serves Christian fans by finding biblical truth in fantastic stories. Book clubs, free webzines, and a web-based community offer flash reviews, articles, and news about Christian fantasy, science fiction, and other fantastical genres. Magazine print copies are available by request and at special events.

Here’s a preview of Lorehaven’s spring 2019 issue:

Captain’s Log

E. Stephen Burnett

Young fans are slowly guiding Christian fiction toward fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

Book Reviews

Lorehaven review team

Explore twelve new fantastical novels from Christian authors.

Sponsored Review: Outbreak

Lorehaven review team

Outbreak will doubtless thrill readers who enjoy a good zombie yarn.

Sponsored Review: The Reluctant Disciple

Lorehaven review team

The Reluctant Disciple tours popular thematic attractions via disquieting paths.

Featured Review: The Line Between

Lorehaven review team

Tosca Lee’s thriller quests toward truth among apocalyptic madness.

‘Come With Me! I Have A Story To Tell You’

Interview with novelist Tosca Lee

In Tosca Lee’s fictional worlds, heroines find new identities of grace.

Fanservants: How to Geek Out with Godly Purpose

Paeter Frandsen

Does our investment in stories build the kingdom or waste our gifts?

Fanservants: ‘When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Be the Villain’

Marian Jacobs

Should parents make their kids only play as heroes and good guys?

Get more details, including a complete list of the books we’ve reviewed, at Speculative Faith.

Subscribe for free only at Lorehaven.com and download the issue Tuesday, March 26!

Yes, Christian Publishers Already Tried Selling Fantasy, and It Didn’t Work

Christian publishers selling fantasy is a great idea, but for one little hitch: It didn’t work. For several reasons.
| Mar 21, 2019 | No comments |

Radio hosts gotta repeat their call-in number for new fans, and similarly, I need to repeat my answer whenever people re-re-re-re-restate:

Traditional Christian publishers haven’t really tried fantasy! They really should try that sometime. It would Change Everything!

Great idea. It’s just—there’s one problem: It doesn’t work.

But for more of this answer, I really must e-cycle. (And not just because we’re wrapping design tomorrow on Lorehaven magazine’s spring 2019 issue.) This comes from my SpecFaith article “Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy?1

I know a little about The Industry. At least, I have seen some things mainly from the “just short of being actually published in The Industry” side; I’ve been in orbit for a few years.

I’ve done much advocacy for Christian fantastical stories at SpeculativeFaith.com, where a team of fans/writers and I explore fantastical stories for God’s glory. We’ve also put together the Lorehaven Library of every fantastical Christian-written novel we know about, from any publisher. I think that’s helped give me a perspective on what’s available.

Here are a few points I’ve gathered and tend to harp on.

Q. Why isn’t there more Christian fantasy?

Answer 1: There has been, but it failed.

I know many Christian editors and authors who did or do publish fantastical titles, e.g. supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi. And that effort went over like a dead drone. Not because the publishers were not willing. But because the readership did not respond.

Oxygen, John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson

Without exception, the Christian fantastical titles I enjoyed in the 90s and 2000s are now out of print at their original publishers. Some, such as Oxygen and the Firebird series, ended up being republished by Marcher Lord Press, now known as Enclave, which is now an imprint of Gilead Publishing.2

Answer 2: There is, but you haven’t heard of it.

Some Christian authors who tried fantasy/sci-fi at larger publishers ended up jumping genres. Or they moved into indie or self-publishing. In some Christian circles, this means even less opportunity for the Ministry platforms a traditional publisher might afford.

Even apart from that, you likely haven’t heard of an author’s self- or indie-published works.

From here it appears that a new author must be able to  be a full-time author/marketer to work at making a living from being a full-time author/marketer. Catch-22?

3. There is, but readers aren’t there.

This question is not about the writers/publishers not giving the supply.

It’s about readers and what they demand.

That’s why I overtly push against the “why don’t Christian publishers and writers do X” line. Fact is: Christian publishers and writers have done X, and readers did not respond.

I’ve begun to wonder, among some of the “Christian fantasy” circles I know, whether some writers simply do not know of the many, many writers and publishers who have tried this, and are therefore led to conclude “Well, someone should try it,” e.g. reinventing the wheel.

After I wrote this material, an editor with a Christian publishing house commented:

It’s not that publishers haven’t tried to publish speculative fiction before, but the Christian readers didn’t respond to it. I actually have on my desk a fantasy trilogy that [my publisher] did in 2007; no one bought it and it’s out of print now.

And while Christian publishers definitely should be more willing to take risks, Christian readers (and Christian stores, even in the age of Amazon it’s actually amazing how much they influence what gets published) have often punished those who took risks. That’s why we’re stuck in a never-ending vortex of Amish Romance (and now coloring books).

So here’s the real question we ought to ask:

Q. Why don’t more Christians want more Christian fantastical stories?

Follow the exciting conclusion at the original SpecFaith article, “Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy?

  1. I’ve edited this article only slightly. This article kicked off an incidental series, Why Christian Fantasy? The series included “Why Do We Need Christian Fantasy?” and “Why We Don’t Need Christian Fantasy.”
  2. This statement was true at the time I originally wrote it (May 2016).

Lifeway Christian Stores: Another Retail Phoenix Explodes into Ashes

Don’t mourn or gloat over Christian fiction’s supposed “death.” Jesus loves resurrecting good things.
| Mar 20, 2019 | 1 comment |

For about a year, I worked at a Lifeway Christian Stores location (the one in Lexington, Kentucky).

I met customers, stocked shelves, worked the register, and discovered great books. Including lots of fine fiction and nonfiction.

Now Lifeway Christian Stores are closing. All 170 of them.

Christianity Today has the story:

The Southern Baptist affiliate announced in January initial plans to reduce its locations this year due to declining sales and financial pressures, but ended up deciding it wasn’t viable to keep any stores open past 2019. [Longtime LifeWay president Thom] Rainer said they did all they could to save the stores.

“Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [acting president and CEO Brad] Waggoner said. The chain will continue online sales through LifeWay.com.

Further essential reading

Romantic Fiction Rules Because Of ‘Family Christian’ Faith

Christians ignore fantastical fiction because they assume that marriage and family values matter more.

Why Isn’t There More Christian Fantasy?

Christian publishers avoid fantasy for surprising reasons.

Why Do We Need Christian Fantasy?

Should Christians enjoy stories outside or inside “Christian” subcultures? The answer is yes.

How To Fix Christian Fiction: More Christianity

Christian fiction really can be terrible, and there’s only one cure: more Christianity.

Eight Actions To Resurrect Christian Fiction

Christian fiction is dead. Long live Christian fiction. Yet it must be born again.

Family Christian Stores Close, But What Happens To Authors?

As the Christian retailer shutters 240 stores, author Patrick W. Carr asks what makes a business “Christian.”

Why Does Christian Romance Outsell Christian Fantasy?

Mainstream readers like both fantasy and romance. So why do Christians favor only romance?

Stop Hating on Christian Popular Culture

What’s worse than Christian popular culture? Hatred of it.

Is Secular Fiction Better Than Christian Fiction?

“Bad Christian fiction made me switch to secular fiction.” But both markets can be restrictive.

  • Part 1: 500 years ago, God’s church needed reformation. Now Christian fiction needs reforming.
  • Part 2: Christian-made fiction’s worst errors come from shallow or false beliefs about our faith.
  • Part 3: If we hope to reform Christian fiction, we need to affirm what’s right about these novels.
  • Part 4: Readers can apply the five Reformation “solas” to a biblical reformation of Christian fiction.

Who Wants to Kill Christian Fiction?

Right or wrong, people keep claiming Christian fiction will die. Who’s guilty of wanting to kill it?

Newbie Christian Media Critics: Your Complaints Are Cliched

Really? Christian books, movies, and music are all terrible and preachy and stupid? Never heard that one before.

When I first saw the news, I blinked. The headline so strongly resembled the 2017 news announcing that Family Christian Stores closed all 240 of its locations. And, now as then, I have varying responses: gratitude, lack of surprise, and frank annoyance at those who see this as occasion to gloat or to mourn as those who have no hope.

First, my brief thoughts about working for Lifeway.

  • I loved my experience working at Lifeway Christian Stores.
  • Sure, we had some interesting customers. Like the KJV-only person I heard about afterward. Or like the older women who somehow thought Beth Moore Bible studies were the golden ticket to get their husbands interested in church again.
  • One time, Dr. Phil McGraw’s wife, Robin McGraw, wrote a book that Lifeway sold. We got a company apologetic about what to say if people challenged the book and claimed it had non-Christian ideas. Basically the reply was: “No worries, folks, she’s a Christian.” Which kind of failed to deal with the objection to her book’s content. (Though to be fair, I’d never heard of this objection until I heard about the corporate response to it.)
  • Eventually, store staff, including myself, were asked to stop talking about Star Trek and other fandoms in the store. But that makes a lot of sense.
  • My manager was a great chap and a true believer.
  • I read a lot of Ted Dekker novels over lunches at Lifeway.
  • I also discovered John Piper’s Desiring God and Randy Alcorn’s Heaven. I didn’t just read them over lunch, but bought copies of both. And both of these books changed my life—and, eventually, helped me see the Godward, joyful purpose of faith, fiction, and everything.

Even after I left employment, I always liked thinking that Lifeway Christian Stores were still out there. Selling books. Serving people.

But of course, that’s just the problem—even Lifeway’s fans were simply glad the stores were out there. They weren’t actually shopping there.

Second, will everyone gloat about the closures?

Here come, however, some reactions that can only be described as something like gloating:

  • Well, of course. No one shops there anymore anyway.
  • Thank God; it’s about time all that “Jesus junk” was put away.
  • [Some other complaint, which really reveals more about the complainant’s personal grudge against the Church or family members than about Lifeway or the general concept of evangelical subculture.]

We saw these kinds of complaints after Family Christian Stores closed. And often we see these responses scattered about the interwebs, when newbies reveal the startling revelation that (breaking news!) “hey, some Christian culture isn’t good, you guys.”

I think if you don’t feel a little sadness about this retail extinction, you might need to examine your motives.

At least feel sympathy for the vanishing of a little subculture. And the struggles of local employees and managers.

Oh, and the fact that, as with Family Christian, this news throws a wrench into Lifeway’s related businesses, such as store employees and delivery drivers. Now they likely need to determine other ways to make a living.1

That goes double if (as I mentioned above) you are tempted to use this news story as a “language” to express other grievances. For example: (1) all evangelical culture is TERRIBLE; (2) my church made me only read or watch “Christian” kitsch and I HATED IT; (3) something something Trump.

Some of these critiques may be valid. Some only apply to the complainant or other people. Some are just silly.

Regardless, it makes little sense, and shows little concern for others, to take someone else’s story and slather your own story on top of it. Let’s be like Jesus, and empathize with other people first.

Third, enough crying ‘This is the doom of Christian fiction’!

Here I must be frank: I roll my eyes at this kind of doomsaying, much of it from Christians who are fantasy fans, about as much as I disregard the folks who strut about wrapped in their virtual sandwich signs about the ocean levels, or cow farts, or barcode scanners secretly being the Mark of the Beast.

This is not the doom of Christian fiction. If anything, it’s just another stage of Christian fiction’s inevitable rebirth.

How can I say that? Because of these reasons:

  • If there were no great, tectonic economic and technological shifts in book retail, not to mention all retail . . .
  • And if all Christian books, not just fiction, were still failing . . .
  • And if most Christian readers were finding everything they sought in “general market” fantastical fiction, as opposed to subsisting on some of it . . .
  • Oh, and if Lifeway was closing down entirely, as opposed to shifting entirely to an online bookstore model  . . .

Then perhaps it would be time for angels to fly about crying, “Woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the Christian bookstore aisles.”

But. There is such a great tectonic economic and technological shift. Christian books still sell (with that label). General market fiction still can’t touch many themes that Christian fiction, in theory, could. And Lifeway is continuing online, where most people are shopping for books anyway.

So all the doomsaying feels premature—and, sometimes, just opportunities for folks to throw some hotter sparks off their axe-grinding.

Fourth, this isn’t doom for ‘Christian fantasy’ either.

I thought a similar response, after a Facebook friend shared this “trending downward” graphic about Christian sci-fi and fantasy:

Or wait. This image (at least not by itself) doesn’t specify Christian sci-fi and fantasy. It says religious and inspirational fiction-science fiction & fantasy. And is limited to the last couple of years. And is limited to Amazon Kindle sales.

That’s a very limited statistical sample.

At Realm Makers Bookstore, on one weekend, we sold many books to enthusiastic readers.

They weren’t merely “religious and inspirational.” They were biblical Christians.

They weren’t dullards cynical about Christian labels, or disillusioned authors cynical about publishing industries. These fans couldn’t get enough of these stories! And they were often subsisting on other books until such time as someone could approach and say, “Hey, guess what: here’s an amazing, fantastical story that happens to be from a spiritual family member.”

Oh, and they wanted physical books. Kindle? They didn’t even touch the thing.

And guess what—this very weekend, Realm Makers Bookstore will do it all over again, at Great Homeschool Convention in South Carolina.

So, something died? Big deal. Grieve but hope. Jesus loves miraculously resurrecting things.

Now see here. I’m not one of those “passion project” persons. I don’t say, “Who cares what the market supports! Just chase your calling! Love what you love! God will bless that!” Nonsense. The very reason you’re reading this is because I determined, pragmatically, that I couldn’t sit around and write The Great Christian Novel and suddenly find an audience. Christians like nonfiction. So I switched. While still working on fiction. And I’m having a great time, while meeting people closer to where they actually are.

And yet.

I also know that much of what is called “Christian fiction” was often sub-Christian and weak anyway.

I know that God loves his specific Church and God loves his people creating stories to exalt him. So it makes no sense (and often betrays some evangelical-style oversheltering) to suggest we ignore the Church and share stories only in or with the general-market world.

Finally, I know that God is a God of resurrection. When his people and dreams and institutions go awry, he’ll kill them. Dead. Frighteningly so. And then he will bring them back to life. Why? I’m convinced it’s for the drama. The Lord loves a great story. Especially the true story starring Himself as the hero. So when he kills something, don’t mourn as those who have no hope. And definitely don’t dance on the corpse because that’s just tacky. Mourn a little, then get to work. Down-trends are temporal. But Godward creativity is eternal.

  1. This paragraph has been revised after a reader comment. The original version seemed to overstate the problem. But because Lifeway is continuing online, we can hope editors, authors, and publishers will not be as affected as the physical store-related employees.

‘Why Doesn’t God Just Stop All the Evil in the World?’

“If God is so good, then why doesn’t he just stop all the evil in the world?” Answered. Sort of.
| Mar 19, 2019 | No comments |

Here’s an unexpected side effect of internet “meme culture”: You can kinda use these to start apologetics arguments.1

More words would ruin the point. So I’ll just share the image. I first saw it from my brother, posted by this page.

I once saw a similar meme that justified the problem of evil with a slogan like, “If there were no evil, there would be no Batman.” If someday I manage to re-locate this pixel wisdom, I’ll share it as well.

  1. Side note: Internet memes have basically replaced what we used to call the “Sunday comics.” These were included, at least every Sunday, in objects we called “newspapers.”

If You Didn’t Like That Christian Ministry’s Anti-‘Captain Marvel’ Article, Read This

Christians who don’t get the point of superhero stories must first find the biblical purpose of popular culture.
| Mar 18, 2019 | 3 comments |

Some of you may have read a Christian ministry’s web article that took the movie Captain Marvel to task for (supposed) feminism.1

My friend Cap Stewart kindly yet firmly took the article to task here. Among other issues, he challenged the original article’s lack of simple genre comprehension. The author seems to have lacked some basic familiarity with superhero story “rules” and intentions:

Inexplicably, Morse [the original article author] is conflating the fairy tale fantasy and superhero genres. Captain Marvel is not a Disney princess, nor is she trying to be. Her physical abilities are way above and beyond anything a princess—or any woman—could ever do, just as the physical abilities of Captain America are far beyond anything a prince—or a man—could ever do.

When talking about the abandonment of the “traditional princess vibe” (as if that were the standard by which superhero movies should be judged), it’s interesting that Morse uses Cinderella and Belle as examples. Disney has recently produced live action versions of both those stories, actually, and in neither of these modern retellings does the princess swap her traditional accoutrements for combat paraphernalia. Morse’s argument here makes no logical sense.

The goal of a superhero movie is not to get people to try flying off balconies or become autonomous vigilantes. No, the goal of the superhero genre is not audience imitation but rather audience inspiration. The virtues and character arcs of superheroes can—and do—motivate us to pursue virtue and character growth ourselves.2

I might suggest the article’s writer also stumbled into a larger pitfall.

Mind you, I want to be fair, and I have not read the author’s entire body of work on subjects relating to popular culture.

At the same time, I generally find this true:

  1. Christian tries to engage a story or song from human popular culture.
  2. Christian gets criticism (harsh or rational), because he hasn’t shown basic familiarity with the story’s genre or intent.
  3. Very likely, the Christian has not biblically worked out the purpose of human popular culture in the first place.

I try to go over this in the article Christians, Please Stop Warning Against Human Popular Culture Until You Know What It’s For:

Entertainment is never “just entertainment.” The apostle Paul says to take every thought captive, and this must include thoughts relating to the stories and human creations we enjoy.

But the Christian leader who challenges popular culture “consumption” needs to say more than, “Popular culture is harmless, but you should love Jesus more than entertainment.”

He needs to show how loving Jesus transforms our view of entertainment—or rather, stories, songs, games, and beyond.

He needs to allow for the fact that some Christians are not passive about these popular works; in fact, we can be very proactive and thoughtful about human stories and songs (in biblical ways or otherwise!).

Christian leaders need to stop using words like “consume.” This makes us imagine some unthinking, careless gorging of one’s self, all alone in a dark living room, complete with fake-cheese snacks and a flickering TV screen. Why not instead try words like “engage,” “take captive,” “redeem,” or even “avoid based on personal scruples” about any particular story/song/game?

He may also try the word recreation—a far more biblical framing than “entertainment.”

Why not frame this topic in a biblical worldview, rather than use the world’s language?

Why not discuss popular culture—human stories and songs—in terms of human creativity being a gift from God? The way some pastors talk, popular culture is some alien (even if “harmless”) thing unrelated to God. But if God gives this gift (of popular culture-creation), then He, not us, defines the terms of how the gift is best used—to glorify Him, to guard against idolatry, and to make sure we get the most joy out of using the gift in the ways He has prescribed.

Why not explore how Jesus has built the work-rest rhythm into the universe, starting right in Genesis 1? Why not consider how stories and songs are part of being human, whether they’re shared around a campfire or enacted on your tablet screen? Why not allow the possibility that Scripture seems to allow—that we will create cultural works in eternity?

I would even go so far as to suggest that if the Christian leader cannot allude to the biblical view of recreation, or articulate this view in his body of work somewhere, he probably ought not talk about culture or popular culture at all.

No, I don’t mean that every Christian ought to become as I am, reviewing novels, movies, and anime, and often hanging out with Christian folks who like doing the same.

But Christian leader, pastor, or teacher: if you can’t show that you know what popular culture is for in the first place, using biblical anthropology, I honestly struggle to listen seriously when you only warn against popular culture.3

  1. Rumors of Captain Marvel‘s supposed radical feminism have been grossly exaggerated. If anything, adding even some preachy feminism could have given the story more substance and direction.
  2. Cap Stewart, “Captain Marvel, Disney Princesses, and the ‘Feminist Agenda,’CapStewart.com, March 15, 2019.
  3. E. Stephen Burnett, “Christians, Please Stop Warning Against Popular Culture Until You Know What It’s For,” Speculative Faith, Nov. 6, 2017. See also “When Pastors Criticize Popular Culture,” Speculative Faith, Aug. 24, 2017.

April 2019: Lorehaven Magazine Comes to Teach Them Diligently!

Lorehaven Magazine is an official exhibitor at Teach Them Diligently, April 11–13.
| Mar 15, 2019 | 1 comment |

Lorehaven Magazine is an official exhibitor at Teach Them Diligently next month in Wacoo, Texas.

The weekend homeschool conference starts Thursday, April 11. It ends Saturday, April 13, all at Waco Convention Center.

Lorehaven finds truth in fantastic stories. Our free magazine reviews the best Christian-made fantasy, sci-fi, and other speculative novels. New issues release every quarter.

Print magazines are only available at special events, such as the Teach Them Diligently conference. We also plan to have free information and resources for homeschool parents and students.

Lorehaven lists every Christian-made fantastical published novel in our online library. We work with Speculative Faith to explore truth and fantasy for God’s glory. We organize book clubs. Our mission: to serve fans in the Church—anyone who loves and worships Jesus as we explore his gift of fantastical imagination.

Four Doctors React to That ‘Scientists Reversed Time’ Story

What would the Doctor think about news media comparing puny human simulations to his mighty TARDIS?
| Mar 14, 2019 | 1 comment |

Scientists reversed time! Scientists built a time machine! Scientists assembled a real-life Infinity Gauntlet!

All right, I made up that last one. But news writers made up the first two phrases, for at least two news sites.

Here are the actual headlines, in relative order of absolute silliness in proportion to the publication’s seriousness:

This is the kind of stuff that keeps me (1) skeptical of clickbait media, (2) skeptical of scientists. Though to be fair, in this case, the scientists may not have ever thought to claim their experiment “rivals Doctor Who’s TARDIS.”

All this is plain clickbait. I’m not some great genius to have determined these were clickbait, before I guffawed and clicked the first headline.

The Sun, third paragraph: “artificially created a state.” Next ‘graph: “rudimentary quantum computer.” Later: “evolution program.”

It’s a computer simulation. That’s all.

Sure, it’s complex. And it’s surely to the tribute of God’s image reflected in these brilliant researchers.

But journalists jumping to “IT’S LIKE THE TARDIS IN DOCTOR WHO” is just plain silly. So I think we can react to it in like fashion. Such as: