I'm moving my blog over to a self-hosted WordPress over at www.calebwoodbridge.com/blog. I'm going to leave this site up as an archive - I hope that some of my articles might still be of occasional interest!
It's a debate that's been going on for a long time: can we really trust the Bible - every word? And if it contains any mistakes, can we believe any of it at all?
What we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.When I say that the Bible is true and certain, I am not making a claim about myself or my ability to know, but about God's ability to reveal truth to us. I am claiming fallible knowledge of an infallible God.
The Bible is full of declarations that we can have knowledge of God, his character, actions and will for the world. Luke wrote his Gospel so that "you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed". Either the Bible is being ridiculously over-optimistic about our ability to know, or certainty isn't the infallible God's-eye-view that we sometimes assume.
Epistemological certainty as Sipech describes it is a mirage. We are finite creatures, so we can never have 100% certainty about anything, even that you're using a red laptop, or that you live on planet Earth, if you really stop to consider all possibilities. (I blame Descartes. If you start your epistemology by doubting everything, then in the end even "I think, therefore I am" becomes uncertain).
All knowledge begins with faith in something, whether that's individual reason, sense perception, majority opinion, divine revelation, or whatever. What makes that faith epistemologically justified is that it continues to make sense of the world better than other available starting points.
For the Christian, our epistemological starting point is that God has revealed himself to us. We might by comparison find another starting point that better explains the available data to us, but that will equally be from a position of faith. All human knowledge rests on both reason and faith, no matter how hard people try to suppress their faith - such as the New Atheists, with their naive view that they use rational thinking alone, unlike those faith-heads with their blind belief.
We must always be revising our understanding and reforming our interpretation as we read and reread the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must never confuse our interpretation with the reality.
But we shouldn't be taken in by the black-belt interpretive ninjas who creatively reinterpret parts of the Bible that don't fit with their systems. When someone tries to convince you the interpretive equivalent of black is white and up is down, the best thing to do is often to reread what the Bible actually says, and laugh. We often mistake our difficulty with accepting or obeying the Bible for uncertainty or lack of clarity in the Bible.
Some details in the Bible are unclear and uncertain, but the big picture is clear: God made the world, Jesus died on the Cross and rose again, God sent his Holy Spirit, and so on. We can know these things. The question is, what's your starting point for knowledge - where are you placing your faith?
Aided and abetted by the use of my Cineworld Unlimited Card, I saw a lot of films at the cinema in 2013. Here's the first part of my round-up of what I thought of them.
Life of Pi
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedomBut its themes of redemption are tear-jerking despite, not because of, the direction. the incredibly choppy, hand held camera work gives it no sense of scale, and the extreme close ups alienate as often as they draw in. For a better explanation, see Film Crit Hulk's fascinating essay on Les Mis.
In the garden of the Lord
We will walk behind the plough-share
We will put away the sword
Tense, gripping thriller about a CIA scheme to get Americans out of the Iranian Revolution, by faking a science fiction movie. Neatly balancing comedy with suspense and danger, it deservedly bagged a heap of awards. Take its version of events with a pinch of salt, of course: it enlarges the Americans' role and airbrushes out the part played by the Canadian ambassador.
Lincolnmy full Lincoln review here.
Surprisingly fun and touching Romeo and Juliet story between a zombie and human survivor - for more about this, read my article on "why do we love a good apocalypse?"
Wreck it Ralph
It's fun playing I Spy with cameos from various video game characters. I only wish that that hard-bitten space marine Commander Calhoun had been voiced by Jennifer Hale (who plays Commander Shepard in Bioware's fantastic Mass Effect series!)
It's also got some big things to say, even if it doesn't always say them subtly. "There is a natural order to this world, and those who try to upend it do not fare well", intones Hugo Weaving's character ominously, justifying the supposed superiority of the white man over black slaves. Across different time periods, we see various characters struggling to overcome oppressive systems, with their actions rippling through history.
So some great themes, and it juggles the multiple narratives skilfully. But its device of having the same actors playing different roles in various times, in some cases crossing race and gender, is in rather dubious taste, and results in some rather silly wigs and prosthetics. The film also simplifies much of the novel's complexity and nuance, especially the altered, more upbeat ending.
Does it hang together? Not quite. But I love the film for trying. Personally I'd rather a story that's over-ambitious that falls short, than just another generic blockbuster. Speaking of which...
I was rather disappointed, with even the talented Saoirse Ronan unable to overcome the hokeyness of arguing with her own voice-over. That kind of inner conflict perhaps works better in the book, which I haven't read, but its translation to screen seems ham-fisted. Playing to the post-Twilight audience, there's a rather weird love square (rather than triangle), with Melanie and Wanda falling in love with different young men. There are some intriguing ideas here, and the way that the aliens seem to have made the world genuinely more peaceful and harmonious adds a nice note of moral ambiguity, but for me it fell quite flat.
So that's the first few! Check back soon as I move on to more 2013 films, including many of the summer blockbusters...
Nadolig Llawen pawb, as we say in Wales! Not that I'm in Wales right now... this is my first London Christmas, but the sentiment still stands. It's been quite a year for me and my wife moving from Cardiff to London, but God has really looked after us, and I'm thankful. London is a very exciting place to be, and I'm really enjoying my new job in publishing.
It's been sad to say goodbye to old friends in Cardiff (though it's not really goodbye, not with social media and semi-regular trips back, happily), and also fun making new friends, especially at Dundonald Church, which has become our new spiritual home.
I've written an odd little article/reflection on Christmas for Threads about First Contact vs First Christmas. How does Christmas compare to making first contact with aliens? Believe it or not, Christmas is weirder, more wonderful, more life- and history-changing than the discovery of intelligent life from other worlds could ever be.
While I'm at it with the links, 2013 also marked 50 years of Doctor Who, and 50 years since C S Lewis died. You can read my reflections on what Doctor Who and Narnia mean to me over on science fiction, fantasy and horror website Hodderscape.
I've enjoyed my new experiences in 2013, and look forward to further adventures in London life, publishing and more in 2014. God bless, and Merry Christmas!
...plus one book recommendation on how to write.
It's that time of year again, and I've embarked on the 50,000 words in a month novel writing challenge, Nanowrimo. I'm returning to The Sword in the Spaceship, an idea I've had for a while of doing a King Arthur and time travel story (props to Mark Twain's fascinating A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court as partial inspiration, plus T H White's The Sword in the Stone, of course).
I've done Nanowrimo before twice - no three times - once where I completed it, back in 2007, another when I used it to work on an existing novel in 2008, and another where I made a start and didn't finish, in 2011. Some people find the whole exercise rather pointless - why bother to churn out a badly written novel, rather than taking the time to do it properly?
If Nanowrimo helps you write and you enjoy it, then great. If not, that's fine. There's no one-size-fits-all writing approach. But here are my reasons why I personally find it helpful:
1. An excuse to be antisocial
2. The sketch before the painting
3. Become a writing shark
4. Harnessing social pressure
5. It's fun
Are you Nanowrimoing? What do you find helpful for writing? Let me know how you're getting on...