Tuesday, June 19, 2007
If you blog tour it, they will come.
Post is early today because I’ll be in the field all day tomorrow. By the time I have a chance to post again, the blog tour will be pretty much over.
This month’s Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour features Sharon Hinck’s novel, The Restorer. See Sharon Hinck’s blog here.
Yesterday, I discussed Hinck’s use of the female warrior motif. Today, I indulge myself by hanging a brief essay from a few sentences in the novel. I promise it will be very brief.
At the end of The Restorer, on page 447, the protagonist, Susan, looks back on an earlier worship experience in Lyric’s temple (called a “tower”) and wonders, “Would I ever again feel the presence of the One in such a tangible way as I had on the Feast day?” (p. 447).
The society of Lyric is meant to be similar to that of Israel before Christ. Hinck is writing this as an Evangelical. Here she seems to be indicating that the tangible presence of God, “God with us,” is something belonging primarily to the past: Israel had it in the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and the Temple, but the modern church has no such place where the presence of God can be found continually in a “tangible way.”
In The Restorer, the focus of religion is entirely on scripture, with the exception of the worship service in the tower, which includes a vague mystical experience (the one Susan refers to in the quote above). Through it all, the book conveys, perhaps unintentionally, a strong dissatisfaction with Evangelicalism and a sense that something important is missing, but the book never offers a solution to this problem.
The presence of God belongs to the past, Hinck is telling us. Such is the nature of the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. God revealed himself in the past, but no longer, for the revelations are all written down. In its most extreme Calvinistic forms, the Holy Spirit is in Protestantism effectively muzzled; his role in the believer’s life is reduced almost entirely to that of a memory aid, calling to the believer’s mind scripture passages the believer has read. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit is unable to speak.
And so in this kind of Protestant thought, the New Covenant with the Church, at least after the apostolic age, is in some ways a lesser covenant than the Old, during which canon was a fuzzy concept if it even existed, and during which scripture was being actively written.
Similarly, I’ve had a few Catholic friends who have attended Protestant worship services. While they agreed the worship was nice, they also added that something was missing. That something was the “tangible” presence of God, which can be found in a Catholic Church in the Eucharist. A former Evangelical myself, I can identify with this sentiment.
Susan is leaving the Old Testament Temple from before the Messiah and going to a Protestant church after the Messiah and, ironically, feels she is losing something. And it’s no surprise, for something is indeed missing in a Protestant church. Israel was not meant to survive without the presence of God in the tabernacle or temple, and the Church is not meant to survive with the presence of God in the “tabernacle,” which is what we call the box where the Eucharist is reserved.
To my mind, this is one of the greatest problem affecting Christian sf and fantasy. The Christianity of many of these novels is a Christianity missing something, a Christianity that has been artificially truncated by repetitious schism and self-emptying. A Church moving forward with God as a body, aided by Scripture, Tradition, liturgy, the Magisterium, the Holy Spirit, and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist has been replaced with a loose collection of individuals figuring it out for themselves with their Bibles. The weakness of this kind of religion becomes obvious when it is translated into story form. And that is why the religion of The Restorer and The Restorer itself are missing something. Until they recover the rich history of their religion, Evangelicals will have a difficult time writing good religious fiction.
Real men love blog tours:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Heather R. Hunt
Lost Genre Guild
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver