Friday, July 23, 2021

Over the Garden Wall

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the miniseries Over the Garden Wall (2014). It's one of the most unique and quirky series in recent memory.

There are a hodgepodge of influences. The setting is predominantly but not exclusively 18th-19th century New England or the Midwest. The specific season is Autumn; I suppose Halloween best suits. Aesthetically it elicits an old timey wimey Americana feel. Other influences I noticed: the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, gothic horror, Peter Rabbit, the Wind in the Willows, Betty Boop, Shirley Temple, Little Nemo, Studio Ghibli, even Disney (e.g. a songbird albeit a sarcastic one). Likewise I detected shades of Dante. For example, the opening chapter begins with the characters lost in a deep dark wood. Our protagonist is "midway" between childhood and adulthood. Also, Beatrice serves as a guide. And the ten shorts seem to roughly correspond to Dante's ten divisions in Inferno.

Story-wise, it's about a pair of brothers on a journey or pilgrimage to return home. One wonders if the story is allegory or reality. Is the pilgrimage in the similitude of a dream (cf. Bunyan) or is it meant to be real - a world between worlds, perhaps a limbo between life and death (cf. Dante)?

The characters are universal archetypes. Wirt is a Byronic hero. Greg is a knight of faith. It's interesting the two brothers are juxtaposed with one another like this - one the prototypical heathen, the other a kind of Christian. The Woodsman is a wild-eyed prophet in the wilderness. The Beast, in my view, is the personification of hopelessness: cue Dante's "abandon hope, all ye who enter here". Same with places and events. For instance, the Unknown seems to represent the afterlife or something like it. At the same time, there's a subversion of expectations in Over the Garden's archetypes (e.g. the big bad wolf is a tame pup).

Pilgrimage stories typically consummate in reaching a destination where the end is the narratival summum bonum. The Pilgrim's Progress' end is the celestial city where God and his people dwell. The Paradiso's end is the beatific vision: "l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle". Over the Garden Wall's end seems to be romantic love in the guise of a girl named Sara. If so, I'm afraid that's a bit of a letdown, for it would suggest (among other things) that even the best secular pilgrimage or journey stories like Over the Garden Wall haven't evolved much since Homer's Odyssey in which Odysseus longs to return home to reunite with his beloved Penelope. Perhaps this is what adolescent or youthful love finds most grand, but then it'd better suit springtime rather than the autumnal themes which are what pervade the entire series. Perhaps this reflects the sad fact that our secular culture has no higher aim or ideal in life to live for than romantic love.

Some recent apologetics resources

Sorry I've been away! I've just been so busy with "normal" life. I'm still busy and "away", but I do like to pop in for a couple of quick posts when I can.

This is just a brief post about several apologetics resources I've recently benefited from that I thought others might benefit from as well:

Bible Trek. A picture is worth a thousand words. And Andrew Ollerton treks across Israel and other biblical lands and shows us these places in person. He offers brief informative talks as he does so too. Ollerton has a PhD in historical theology from the University of Leceister in the UK.

Esther O'Reilly. Esther O'Reilly is a pseudonymn for an incisively intelligent and witty woman with an illustrious pedigree. She discusses all sorts of things, but I believe first made her name with essays on public intellectuals like Jordan Peterson and Doug Murray. O'Reilly has a PhD in mathematics from a school that shall remain nameless.

James Bejon. Not entirely sure how to describe what Bejon does. He offers fascinating insights into the Bible in the vein of guys like James B. Jordan, Peter Leithart, and Alastair Roberts. Bejon is a researcher at Tyndale House in Cambridge, UK. He has a background in math and music, but he's working on his PhD in OT.

Mark Ward. Ward primarily discusses Bible translation and Bible design. Ward has a PhD in NT from Bob Jones University. He works for Faithlife, which produces the Logos Bible.

Parker's Pensées. Long form interviews and deep dives into the philosophical and theological with Parker Settecase. Parker asks perceptive questions to various intellectuals. He is working on a masters degree in theological studies at TEDS, though maybe he has finished now.

Sean McDowell. Lots of great interviews with notable Christian scholars. Sean is the son of Josh McDowell. Sean has a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He's an associate professor at Biola/Talbot.

Truth Unites. Gavin Ortlund's YouTube channel. He's brother to Dane Ortlund (who recently published a fine Puritan-esque devotional Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers) and Eric Ortlund (an OT prof at Oak Hill College in the UK). Interesting that Gavin is a Baptist, Dane is a Presbyterian, and Eric is an Anglican (I think). Gavin did his PhD in historical theology at Fuller. He has great admiration for Anselm. His channel most reflects his interests in historical theology. Gavin serves as a pastor in California.

What Would You Say. I believe WWYS is affiliated with the late Chuck Colson's ministry. As such, it is about Christian apologetics, but it has a noticeable political bent as well. The videos are relatively concise (~5 minutes or so).

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Roman Catholic Respectability Bought At The Price Of Liberalism

I recently had an email exchange that was partly about the idea that Catholicism is more appealing than Evangelicalism to people who are more educated. It's often suggested that converts to Catholicism are more educated than converts to Evangelicalism, that learning more about church history or some other subject leads people to Catholicism, that Catholicism is more intellectually respectable because it's more correct on philosophical, historical, and other matters, and so on. And Catholicism's alleged intellectual advantages in such contexts are often portrayed as evidence that the claims of traditional Catholicism are true, that conservative Catholicism has been vindicated. Really, though, something else is going on instead. During the course of my recent email discussion, I was reminded that many people are unaware of how liberal much of Roman Catholicism has become.

I'm not just referring to political liberalism, though that's part of it, but primarily liberalism in contexts like theology and the historicity of scripture. See here regarding how Catholicism has changed in various ways on a lot of issues, sometimes in a liberal direction. For some examples of recent Popes taking liberal positions on issues, see here. Raymond Brown was one of the most prominent Catholic Biblical scholars in recent decades. He wrote a book on the infancy narratives that's still widely regarded as the standard in the field. The view he argued for there was largely liberal. Here's a collection of posts I wrote in response to Brown. You can find discussions of other examples of liberalism in Catholicism in other posts in our archives (e.g., here).

Religious, moral, and political conservatives are often attracted to Catholicism because it's such a large and respected institution, with so much social standing, educational institutions that are highly regarded, associations with the arts, and other attributes they find appealing. But much of that has been purchased at the price of liberalism or purchased through some other problematic means. Would Catholicism retain its popularity, its associations with so many institutions, the amount of media coverage it gets, and so on if it were more consistently conservative and did substantially more to discipline its people for departing from those conservative standards? Surely not, as individuals like Raymond Brown and Joe Biden and their supporters illustrate. Catholicism often becomes more appealing by becoming overly involved in a culture and too much like the culture. That isn't all that's going on. There are some traits of Catholicism that distinguish it from the surrounding culture and move it in other directions than what I'm focused on here. But there's a large strand of cultural adaptation in Catholicism.

Steve Hays wrote a post more than a decade ago about the difference between seeing the church as a tabernacle and seeing it as a temple. That distinction has some relevance here.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Evidence For Daniel's Prophecies

Jonathan McLatchie recently wrote an article about the dating of the book of Daniel. The article makes a lot of good points and is well worth reading. He's written a lot of other good material as well, which you can find here. He also has a YouTube channel.

Steve Hays wrote a lot about Daniel and the dating of the book. There's a section in the post here that links several examples. You can find more by searching our archives. The page just linked also cites posts we've written on other issues related to prophecy more broadly, and those have some relevance to Daniel. See here, including the comments section of the thread, for other online resources on when Daniel was written. For example, Glenn Miller has written a lot about the manuscript evidence and pre-Maccabean use of Daniel.

I've done some work on the evidence for prophecies of Daniel fulfilled after the Maccabean era, meaning that the fulfillments offer evidence for Christianity even if we accept a Maccabean date for Daniel or a portion of it. You can find some examples here. The post here discusses problems with arguing that Jesus fulfilled Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy by natural rather than supernatural means. When a fourth kingdom arises after Greece, in the form of the Roman empire, Jesus announces the coming of a kingdom of God during the days of that empire, that kingdom becomes popular to the point of being accepted by billions of Gentiles, Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man of Daniel 7, he dies during the sixty-ninth sabbatical cycle after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in Nehemiah 2, that death is perceived early on as making a final atonement for sin, and the Romans go on to destroy both the city of Jerusalem and the temple, you can't explain that series of events that line up so well with Daniel's prophecies by dating the book or a portion of it to the second century B.C.