“…for miracles are ceased;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.”
Henry V I.ii.67–69
If miracles have indeed ceased, then our means matter. If miracles are ceased, then discovering the means of success and the means to society’s moral standards must occupy our thoughts and time, for we must reproduce them (or force them)—if miracles have ceased.
For if miracles have ceased, can our goal still be heaven? If miracles have ceased and if we still long for a better place, we must admit two courses: 1) Either we deny our depravity is beyond cure and seek the means to improve the inner and outer man to attain to our understanding of heaven’s rules, and thus to heaven, or 2) we deny heaven is attainable at all and seek to improve what is plain before us to build heaven here on earth for ourselves or those that will follow. That is, we are tasked with ushering in the kingdom of God (or culture’s perfect man) on this earth only.
If miracles have ceased.
And they have for all practical purposes. Society does not believe in intervention beyond our technology and science and liberated thought. So technology and science and liberated thought need to save the day. They are the means. But what are the ends to which they lead?
Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water quotes Aristotle: “That which is probable and impossible is better than that which is possible and improbable.” Fiction works this way. We buy the boy riding the dragon (an impossibility) because the author has made it a probable occurrence in his novel. However, when a normal character does something that the author has not set up his character to do, even if it is something he could do, the reader doubts.
So what’s the point? My troubles with The Shack belong in this category. Mack keeps doing things that just seem improbable. I wish I were reading instead of listening as I can’t give you a direct quote, but Mack, racked with sorrow and depression, will hear something from God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit and all of a sudden all is well. And I don’t think God’s explanation answers Mack’s questions. In fact, God has promised a better explanation later about a couple of issues (hell and judgment), but as of yet, He (or should I say, she) hasn’t delivered. For me, Mack’s character is possible but improbable. And that makes The Shack less fun than this interesting theological treatise should be. I don’t want to be thinking, “Mack wouldn’t do that!” when I’m trying to wrestle with the theology of the book. For me, the writing distracts from the message.
I have finished The Sun Also Rises. Good book? Yes and no. From a literary point of view, I loved it. Hemingway’s style and craft and command of the language humble me as I seek to become a better writer. He can do things with words and dialogue that most can’t. He can speed and slow the pace at will, and he tells a great story of a man alone among the crowd. He brings out Jake’s character well. I feel like I knew what he would do on more than one occasion. I don’t think this was because the writing was predictable, but it was because the reader knew Jake well after a time.
Now, the book was depressing. I have heard it said that it glorifies drinking and sex. I am not sure “glorify” is the word I would use. I think it clearly shows the ugly side of heavy drinking and the loneliness that comes from a promiscuous lifestyle. In that sense, it might be a corrective to how drink and sex are often portrayed in today’s media. But it is a depressing read. Will I read it again? Probably, but maybe just bits and pieces to see how Hemingway does what he does. Would I recommend it? Depends upon what you are looking for. If you love good literature, and by that I mean good craft, then yes, by all means. If you are looking to be uplifted or encouraged, skip it and hug your kid instead.