August 13, 2011

FridaySaturday in the wild: August 13, 2011

Haven't done this in a while. (Hey, any excuse to keep blogging.)

R. C. Sproul Jr. had an interesting take on the question of Norwegian mass-murder Anders Breivik's religion:

Do Christians commit murder? Of course they do Is there some magic number, somewhere between one and a hundred where we can draw a line? I think not. Christians do not, however, murder freely, continuously, without repentance. They do not give themselves over to their sins. If they do, they no longer commit such sins, but practice them, showing their profession to be less than credible. Remember that, quite apart from the reality that we are all guilty of unjustified anger against our brothers, it is likely that your church has a number of saints who have murdered - some aborting their babies, others encouraging their wives, daughters, girlfireds [sic] to abort their babies.

[Read Says Who?]

I might quibble with this or that in Sproul's details, but in the main I agree with him, and cringe a bit every time some murderer or radical is automatically disavowed by Christians. We are all, as Sproul says, sinners. If a regenerate person could commit, say, software piracy, assault, even adultery in a moment of weakness, then why couldn't he commit murder?

So, do I believe Breivik is actually a Christian? Nope. From what religious statements I've seen excerpted from the 1,500-page rant he called a "manifesto," he has cultural ties to the church and a vaguely deistic view of God. This isn't the "no true Scotsman" fallacy, where I pronounce Breivik an apostate based on my opinion of his performance evaluation. (And yes, I do agree with Sproul on the distinction between committing and practicing sins.) Breivik is not a Christian, because the religion he claims to hold is not Christianity.

Meanwhile, the elder Sproul posted on Moby Dick:

Its greatness may be seen not in its sometimes cumbersome literary structure or its excursions into technicalia about the nature and function of whales (cetology). No, its greatness is found in its unparalleled theological symbolism. This symbolism is sprinkled abundantly throughout the novel, particularly in the identities of certain individuals who are assigned biblical names. Among the characters are Ahab, Ishmael, and Elijah, and the names Jeroboam and Rachel ("who was seeking her lost children") are given to two of the ships in the story.

In a personal letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne upon completing this novel, Melville said, "I have written an evil book." What is it about the book that Melville considered evil? I think the answer to that question lies in the meaning of the central symbolic character of the novel, Moby Dick, the great white whale.

[Read The Unholy Pursuit of God in Moby Dick; H/T Ligonier Ministries Blog]

Moby Dick is the most classic novel I've ever railed to read. I first tried in grade 8, and got several chapters in, but found the antebellum English prose a little too daunting for a novel of its length. Tried again in university - my girlfriend had a copy in her library - but managed only to reread the first chapter. (After I had transferred to the English program, had I taken 19th-century American lit instead of 20th, I'd probably have read it by now.)

That's all for now. See you next time.