Monday, 12 March 2012

Bookworming Through the Night

Though a bookworm as a child, once I hit college, my reading-for-pleasure habits naturally stagnated a bit, as I was swamped with reading, and not necessarily reading that I really enjoyed. Since convocation, though, books have wormed their way back into my life and I've successfully polished off a few good stories.

Currently, Monday is the only day of the week that I can sleep in, so last night I made good use of my time by staying up until 3:30 in the morning reading John Calvin Goes to Berkeley. Basically, it's a theological discussion in novel format.

The writing itself was rather choppy. Details were recounted that had no bearing on either the story or the theological discussion, which sometimes left me wondering if I should be reading greater significance into the asides or whether they were just there to decorate what otherwise sometimes turned into a lesson on Calvinism. Given that the book's primary purpose is to discuss predestination, however, it's a forgivable offense.

Less forgivable, in my opinion, is the somewhat anti-Catholic vibe. The definite anti-Calvinist vibe is much stronger, but the book is at least discussing Calvinism. The primary Calvinist character starts off as a rather generous and generally nice character, and turns into more and more of an arrogant blowhard as the story progresses. It would have been nice to see a happier ending, but at least his character is believable. I've certainly met people like him. But the anti-Catholic thing came out of nowhere. The claims weren't explored at all, merely thrown out there as undeniable, and I have to wonder what role they served except as a statement that Catholics are doomed to hell.

Still, choosing to overlook that, the rest of it was a good read. Quite a bit of intrigue with just a smattering of romance and all-around very believable characters. Having read it straight through without checking its claims against an actual Bible, I can't say as yet that I agree with its conclusions, but on the face of things, it makes a lot of sense. For those of you who are curious, the basic conclusion that the book draws is this:

Nobody is predestined to heaven or hell, but neither are people able to choose faith on their own. People have enough free will to choose to repent of their sin - not enough to actually change, but enough to genuinely want to change, as the Holy Spirit calls all people. Upon repenting, God in His sovereignty grants "light" to people, not faith. Light to understand the things of God, which, once people have understood, results in their ability to choose faith.

It's somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism, but certainly closer to the latter.

And kudos to the author for almost breaking the fourth wall on the second-to-last page (page 300). Made me giggle.

* * * * *

"Maybe we could tell the story of how we solved [the mystery of predestination]," Angela said, "adapt it, and turn it into a three-hundred-page novel."

"Nah," the three guys said at the same time.

"It needs to be scholarly," Elliot said.

Alex sat back and joined his hands behind his head. "We can decide later."

* * * * *

Now I want to know if this story is anything like the author's own experience...

1 comment:

art said...

I am not sure I like religious fiction books. This book makes a theological statement, but I think it could make the same statement without wrapping it into a novel. Give the facts, the pros and cons and then discuss it. I am happy it was not written at a PHd level where the the author intentionally make it hard to follow and understand, but it can't be used as a text book the way it was written.

I think the book made a strong case that we all have free will.