Stranger than Fiction

Becky Chambers has written three exceedingly excellent science fiction novels. I highly recommend them. This past year I read the latest installment in her series, Record of a Spaceborn Few, I had an insight into something that has been troubling me for a long time.

You see, I’m a member of the clergy. And it is hard. It is very hard. It is hard on me. And on my spouse. And on my children. Those are obvious reasons to wrestle with it. While many jobs are hard, not all jobs are hard on your family the way one such as this is hard on my family. But something else was bothering me.

The story focuses on the life of the humans living in the Exodan Fleet. One of the characters is named Eyas and she is a caretaker. Caretakers are functionally like clergy in our contemporary context.  During a conversation Eyas says this:

“‘ The caretaker I encountered that day, he was a …symbol to me. This symbol of fearlessness, of…harmony. He took a terrifying ting I barely understood and he showed me it was okay. It was normal. And that feeling was reinforced by the way adults treated him. They didn’t pull away. They weren’t repulsed. They embraced him- in both senses of the world. He was life and death walking as one, and they wrapped their arms around him and gave him gifts, and by extension, showed me I did not have to be afraid of our reality.’ She paused again. She’d never talked about this with someone outside of her profession, and certainly not to this degree. ‘I am that, now. I am that symbol to others. It’s exactly what I wanted, what I worked for. But there’s this other side to it I didn’t expect. I’m a symbol, yes, but a symbol wearing my face and my name. Myself, but also not. Mostly not. People know, when I walk through my district who I am, what I do. Doesn’t matter if I’ve got my wagon or am wearing my robes. they know. And so I always have to be Eyas the symbol, the good symbol, because I never know who’s looking at me, who needs to see that thing I saw in a caretaker when I was six. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a bad day, or if I’m tired, or if I’m feeling selfish. They look to me for comfort. I have to be that. And that is me, in a sense. That is a genuine part of me. But that’s just it–it’s a part. It’s not–‘

‘It’s not the whole,’ Sunny said.

Eyas nodded. ‘And that aspect of my work, I wasn’t ready for. I never thought about who my aunt’s caretaker was when he went home.’

Sunny held the bowl of his pipe in his palm. The smoke ascended as if he were conjuring it. ‘Sounds lonely.'”

And there is where my story and Eyas’ diverge. She didn’t feel lonely, just incomplete. I feel lonely and incomplete. I can’t have any real friends. I tried, it got messy and bad. And every person I encounter I’m supposed to be leading to Jesus/the church. And so if I can’t befriend people in the church, then anyone outside the church is a potential member and so I’m alone.

And incomplete. I’m a symbol that wears my face and lives my life and has my marriage and my children but I can’t be myself because you never know who is watching. That isn’t to say I would bathe in total depravity but simply that in my vocation, I am judged harshly by others. Fortunately, I’m not worried about God’s judgment.

But it makes this hard. Very hard. And it has me wondering how long I can last.

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Weekly Round-Up

Hey hey! If I’m back then my weekly round-up should be back too! This one will be shorter because I didn’t think about it until well…today. In the past I’d collect articles of interest throughout the week so this is just a small sample of what I read and felt was of some interest and or importance.

First up! Space, the final frontier. Lots of awesome developments in the exploration of space thanks in large part to Elon Musk (and lesser part Jeff Bezos). But of course, governments are still doing stuff too. And this week China landed a lunar robot on the far side of the moon! Pictures have already started coming back. What’s cool is they also put a satellite into orbit around the moon to accelerate the communication process.

New Horizons, which gave us so much awesome information on Pluto, has passed by Ultima Thule. Ultima Thula is part of the Kuiper Belt and this exploration is the first time the belt has been examined. Very cool!

The Atlantic has a fantastic article on Amazon’s HQ2 spectacle and says it should be illegal. The article is fascinating, and the part on the Kansas/Missouri border war is down right depressing. The ironic thing is that this pointless bribery happens at the city level. I remember almost 15 years ago Hilliard lured a BMW Finance Center from Dublin to their city. It was a big deal locally. Hilliard gave BMW all kinds of financial tax breaks. Didn’t create any jobs–Hilliard and Dublin are adjoining cities. Guess where the finance center is now? Dublin.

 

2018 Reading

So one of my resolutions for 2018 was to read more. A lot more. I don’t remember the total number of books I put in my reading list…something like 55. But that number is misleading because “one” of those was actually the entire Harry Potter series. I didn’t accomplish my goal…as of today I’ve read 44 books in 2018 (not counting the Bible which I read every year). And yes, some of those were graphic novels (more on that).

I’m okay with falling short because my overall goal was to start reading again like I used to. I used to read all the time. Then that slowly went away. And like brewing and writing, I missed it. I missed a quiet morning or rainy afternoon with nothing more than a book. I missed getting lost in worlds of fantasy, or far flung futures, or the unbelievable events of our own history.

So I approached this list with more flexibility than I normally do in the past. I found some new authors which I liked, and read other works by them that weren’t on their list. I also really struggled with history. I love history. But lately I can’t find a good work of history. I made it through 8 chapters of Potter’s biography of Zwingli and that is pretty much the most history I read. In case you are wondering, I didn’t count that book in my list since I didn’t complete it.

All that being said, I did want to give some awards out. The authors will never know. But maybe it’ll help you one rainy day when you’re trying to decide what to read.

Best Book (I read) in 2018: Death Comes for the Deconstructionist by Daniel Taylor.

This was definitely NOT what I expected. I had the sequel, Do We Not Bleed on my list and so I read this when I discovered that well, it was the first book in the “series.” This book was written in the 1st person perspective, which is very challenging to do and remaining engaging. But what makes it even crazier, no pun intended, is the narrator is crazy. So as he describes things, you never actually know if it is real or not. He talks about the voices he hears, and then we hear them too. He occasionally will drop mention of a hallucination. For example, a giant catfish follows him around. He’ll casually mention it is there. Half a sentence. That’s all.

The author is also a thoughtful Christian. And he weaves his faith into the narrative so that crazy and faith become one some times. For example, “I wonder what Pratt would say about that catfish. Was it remembered or manufactured? Transubstantiation or consubstantiation or mere symbol?”

Daniel Taylor is a wordsmith. He writes sentences that make you just pause and wonder at the thoughtful beauty of it. I knew this from the first chapter. Look at how Taylor introduces the two main characters: “We live together now on a rented houseboat in the Mississippi, in the shadow of the Wabasha Bridge in downtown St. Paul. Kind of an oxymoronic place—out on the river, like Huck and Jim, but going nowhere, towered over by government and office buildings on the far bank. Illusory freedom. It’s not a big old tub, as houseboats go. Two tiny bedrooms up top over a fair-sized living room and galley kitchen below. Engineless, like me, neither houseboat nor occupant seaworthy.”

Taylor also did a great way of bringing his faith to bear on the novel. But most definitely not in a preachy way. In fact, much of it was obtuse enough that people who weren’t Christian may miss it. Such as a reference to a hot dog suspended before an open mouth and a reference to the “already but not yet” which every theologian uses to describe the kingdom of God. Or this, “There is a full moon low in the sky and its light splashes across the waters, squandering beauty on a sleeping town. I try to see riverboats paddling up the river, steam whistles screeching. I try to see women in hoop skirts, bales of cotton, and running boys, me and Huck among them. I am not successful. “Why … why are we stopping here, Jon?” “Oh, just to stretch our legs and look at the river.” “Yes, this is like the Jor … the Jordan River. There’s a picture of this in my … my very own Bible.” “I wish this was the Jordan, Jude. God knows I could use a Promised Land.”

His casual weaving of biblical references into the narrative challenged me with how integrated my worldview and knowledge of the Bible really are. I mean I like to say I have a biblical worldview, but do I? When a murder mystery that most definitely isn’t “christian” can make you ask those questions, you know it is a good book. And this was a very good book. In fact, I’d say it was my favorite book that I read in 2018.

Best Devotional of 2018. Letters to My Children by Daniel Taylor. So the first two books that made my awards list weren’t on my initial “to read” list at the start of the year. The joy of being flexible. After enjoying Death Comes for a Deconstructionist so much, I did some research on the author and found this book. Out of a fear of a too sudden death, the author decided to write letters to his children about a variety of things: suffering, vocation, marriage, friendships, etc. The wisdom contained in these letters is rich and worth dwelling upon for many years. As I peruse my highlights, this little gem speaks to me on this evening so I’ll share it with you: “So why when we prayed for Mr. Cuendet did he get well, but when we prayed for Uncle Clinton, God took him to heaven instead? I don’t know. God never promised to tell me why everything happens the way it does. But he did promise me that anytime I wanted to talk, he would be happy to listen. And in a world where so many people feel they are all alone, that’s a pretty great thing to know.” I’ve already quoted this book this year more than everything else I’ve read combined!

Best Science Fiction book I read in 2018: Roadside Picnic by Strugatsky Brothers. So…this one wasn’t on my original list either. Oops. Anyways, I love science fiction. It is, without a doubt, my favorite genre. And I’ve got oodles of “best science fiction books of the century” lists and somehow, this one was never on them. But then when I learned of it, it seemed like every Grand Master and Grand Madame of Science Fiction couldn’t stop talking about it. Funny how legends can hide in plain sight.

The premise is brilliant. And there seem to be no other books that have come up with anything like it or attempted to copy it sense.  Aliens visited earth. Several spots around the world. They were there briefly and then left. The places where they touched down have been profoundly changed.  And that doesn’t even begin to describe what I mean by profoundly changed. The dead are reanimated. Children of people who venture into the zones become inhuman as they age. Physics go bonkers in the zone. And people called Stalkers sneak into the Zones to steal technology and sell it on the black market while the governments of the world try to protect the zones and figure them out on their own. The story follows one Stalker in one zone who is a master at going in and finding new technology.

The title comes from the idea of a roadside picnic. Imagine a large family decides to have a picnic in an undisturbed area. Their bodies flatten the grass. The picnic blanket they lay down changes the ecology of the region. The build a fire ring and roast hotdogs. The heat of the fire, the left over stones, the ash from the fire change the landscape and are left behind. Then there’s the trash. Maybe a child’s toy was left behind. A watch fell off. An earring came lose and fell to the grass, lost forever. And we are….the ants who lived in that spot. That’s where the title came from and why the Zones are so profound. The aliens had a roadside picnic on planet earth and it changed everything forever.

Finally, the best graphic novel I read this year was Vision Vol I & II by Tom King. Ever since Alan Moore’s The Watchmen, the graphic novel has become a legitimate medium for not only some great stories, but for some great philosophical explorations. Tom King nailed it with his take on The Vision in Vol I: Little Worse than a Man and Vol II: Little Better than a Beast. The underlying question of Vision is this, “How far would you go to try to live a normal, American, life?” You just want to fit in. You want the two kids. The house in the suburbs. Even the dog. But you aren’t a white, middle class, American. You’re Vision, an android (or synthezoid) created by Ultron and capable of destroying the Avengers. But you just want to fit in. How far would you go, what would you compromise, to live the Suburban American dream? Dark, depressing, and eye opening on our quest for normalcy.

So there ya have it. My 2019 list is just about finished. I anticipate it being as fluid as this one. And hopefully I’ll read even more book in 2019 than I did in 2018.

 

Exciting Development

While we are in the period of transition and preparing to move I thought I’d share an exciting development with you. Mrs. Wine and I have become members of a CSA. A CSA means community supported agriculture and basically, what it means is we have become shareholders in a local farm. The farm is Bird’s Havens Farms and it had some neat add ons. We’ll get 1/3lb of raw cheese/week as well as eggs. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I found a farmer that sells whole, 1/2 and 1/4 beef as well as 1/2 or whole pork. Even better, he has trained under Joel Salatin. So we’ll be buying our yearly supply of beef from him as well as pork (something we’ve wanted to do for a while).  I’m looking forward to eating in 2015!

 

American gods

I’m currently working my way through Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Though I have long been a fan of the cinematic adaptations of his books, this is the first time I have actually read Neil Gaiman. I wasn’t sure what I should expect but I didn’t expect this. The book is weird; not China Mieville weird, but weird nonetheless. The basic premise is that the gods people have believed in over the millenia do exist. But they somehow are brought into existence through our faith and when we no longer believe, they are left in this weird, immortal, limbo. America is filled with the old gods, like Odin, who immigrants brought with them. These old gods are now being squeezed out by the new gods of American culture.

But while the premise is interesting, it lends itself well to some introspective thought on what is America and what defines Americans. Gaiman explores this somewhat through his main character’s extensive traveling with Mr. Wednesday (Odin):

“It’s almost hard to believe that this is in the same country as Lakeside,” he said.

Wednesday glared at him. Then he said, “It’s not. San Francisco isn’t in the same country as Lakeside any more than New Orleans is in the same country as New York or Miami is in the same country as Minneapolis.”

“Is that so?” said Shadow, mildly.

“Indeed it is. They may share certain cultural signifiers—money, a federal government, entertainment; it’s the same land, obviously—but the only things that give it the illusion of being one country are the green-back, The Tonight Show, and McDonald’s.” 

Living in a Tri-State region, I’d have to agree. While there is much that unifies us, there is a tremendous difference in culture between the populace of the three states. In addition, being a transplant, I have an outsider’s perspective on where I live and it is very different from where I’m from.

So what does unite us? Gaiman makes the case that Americans are a very religious people: we worship lots of different gods. I’m always happy when I find something in pop culture echoing the Reformed faith. As John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols”  We worship our government:

“As they passed their first signpost for Mount Rushmore, still several hundred miles away, Wednesday grunted. “Now that,” he said, “is a holy place.” Shadow had thought Wednesday was asleep. He said, “I know it used to be sacred to the Indians.” “It’s a holy place,” said Wednesday. “That’s the American Way—they need to give people an excuse to come and worship.”

We worship technology and television. Even Media is a goddess in Gaiman’s book. Shadow is confronted with the god of tv in a hotel room when Lucille Ball starts to talk to him out of the tv:

“It’s not Lucille Ball. It’s Lucy Ricardo. And you know something—I’m not even her. It’s just an easy way to look, given the context. That’s all.” She shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.

“Who are you?” asked Shadow.

“Okay,” she said. “Good question. I’m the idiot box. I’m the TV. I’m the all-seeing eye and the world of the cathode ray. I’m the boob tube. I’m the little shrine the family gathers to adore.”

“You’re the television? Or someone in the television?”

“The TV’s the altar. I’m what people are sacrificing to.”

“What do they sacrifice?” asked Shadow.

“Their time, mostly,” said Lucy. “Sometimes each other.” She raised two fingers, blew imaginary gun smoke from the tips. Then she winked, a big old I Love Lucy wink.

“You’re a god?” said Shadow.

Lucy smirked, and took a lady-like puff of her cigarette. “You could say that,” she said.

So imagine my surprise when yesterday, while watching Anthony Bourdain’s show Part’s Unknown he made a keen observation. This observation came while visiting Las Vegas and it had to do with another god we have come to worship. His commentary starts at around the 1.05 minute mark. Truly, if anything shows it, this scene shows us what “the kingdom and the glory” we have come to worship as Americans.

All of this leads to a pertinent question: when we worship something that doesn’t give life, are we truly living? In American Gods, the main character Shadow is confronted with this conundrum by his dead wife. I’ll end with their exchange:

“I’m alive,” said Shadow. “I’m not dead. Remember?”

“You’re not dead,” she said. “But I’m not sure that you’re alive, either. Not really.”

This isn’t the way this conversation goes, thought Shadow. This isn’t the way anything goes.

“I love you,” she said, dispassionately. “You’re my puppy. But when you’re really dead you get to see things clearer. It’s like there isn’t anyone there. You know? You’re like this big, solid, man-shaped hole in the world.” She frowned. “Even when we were together. I loved being with you because you adored me, and you would do anything for me. But sometimes I’d go into a room and I wouldn’t think there was anybody in there. And I’d turn the light on, or I’d turn the light off, and I’d realize that you were in there, sitting on your own, not reading, not watching TV, not doing anything.” She hugged him then, as if to take the sting from her words, and she said, “The best thing about Robbie was that he was somebody. He was a jerk sometimes, and he could be a joke, and he loved to have mirrors around when we made love so he could watch himself fucking me, but he was alive, puppy. He wanted things. He filled the space.” She stopped, looked up at him, tipped her head a little to one side. “I’m sorry. Did I hurt your feelings?”

He did not trust his voice not to betray him, so he simply shook his head. “Good,” she said. “That’s good.” They were approaching the rest area where he had parked his car. Shadow felt that he needed to say something: I love you, or please don’t go, or I’m sorry. The kind of words you use to patch a conversation that had lurched, without warning, into the dark places. Instead he said, “I’m not dead.”

“Maybe not,” she said. “But are you sure you’re alive?”

The State of the Union

If you aren’t seated you probably should go ahead and sit down.

Okay, are you sitting down?

Tonight, the President is going to obey the constitution(!). He will give his state of the union speech to Congress, and through the FCC, all of America. Or at least those Americans who care or are too lazy to change the channel. Alex Pareene, writing on Gawker, has a great editorial on presidential speeches. I’ve copied and pasted it here in its entirety but please feel free to click this sentence to return to the original source.

The State of the Union Is Dumb Hacks Writing Garbage Speeches

“Six years into the Obama presidency, I thought we’d finally run out of hotshot administration bros the political press could glowingly profile in exchange for future access to meaningless scooplets. I was wrong.

Yesterday, The New York Times introduced us to Cody “Hemingway” Keenan. The president has given him the nickname “Hemingway,” not because he is an overrated drunk— though he may indeed be that—but because he writes and has a beard. Unlike Hemingway, who wrote novels and stories that people still revere decades after his death, Keenan writes speeches that the president delivers and that everyone promptly forgets, because modern political speeches are disposable garbage. Judging by this profile, though, no one seems to have explained that distinction to Keenan, his friends, or Times reporter Michael Schmidt.

Keenan is presented as a classic hardboiled writers’ writer type. He drinks Scotch, like a man might do! He stares at a blank page, because writing is a difficult, solitary business. The words just won’t come! But also sometimes he stays up until 5 a.m. hashing out speeches with his other writer friend, because the only thing more writerly than writing is writing with another writer. They drink Scotch. They write, writingly. They are The Single-malt Scotch Bastards of the White House.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will deliver his next-to-last State of the Union address from a text written, rewritten, revised and sweated over by Mr. Keenan. In all the policy pronouncements about tax increases on the rich and tax cuts for the middle class, Mr. Obama’s remarks are certain to address the struggles of ordinary Americans in some of the gritty, Everyman prose that has become Mr. Keenan’s trademark.

Ah, who can forget all those examples of President Obama delivering the “gritty, Everyman prose that has become Mr. Keenan’s trademark.” The president sounds like a regular Hank Chinaski these days, haven’t you noticed?

“He reminds me of some of the folks I grew up with in the old days in Chicago journalism — those hard-bitten, big-hearted, passionate writers who brought the stories of people to life,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to Mr. Obama and a former newspaper reporter.

Axelrod, in the spirit of political communication, is using words to advance not a set of facts but an impression. I have no reason to doubt the size of Keenan’s heart, or the force of his passion, but the Times helpfully provides a capsule biography on how “hard bitten” he is:

In fact, Mr. Keenan, born in Chicago, went to high school in the wealthy town of Ridgefield, Conn., in Fairfield County, where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, voraciously read spy novels and was president of the student body. He graduated from Northwestern University, and rolled into Washington at the age of 21 with just a fraternity brother’s couch to crash on and a cocky attitude.

Right, yes, he is exactly what he appears to be: Another of the legion of frat boys who go to DC after college to begin careers in politics. If he in any way reminds you of an old-timey hardscrabble Chicago newspaperman, you have been in politics far too long, or you are blind and illiterate.

Modern political speechwriting is not a high-minded pursuit for brilliant talents. Aaron Sorkin should be shot into space for perpetuating this bullshit fantasy that still enamors hacks like Cody Keenan. Writing a 6,000-word presidential speech is a process that bears only a mechanical resemblance to writing 6,000 words meant to be read and appreciated by normal humans. Some political speechwriters may also happen to be good writers, but they would have to achieve success in a field other than political speechwriting to prove it. (Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, for example, is funny on Twitter and a good political columnist.Neither of those things were evident in his work as a speechwriter.)

I am not arguing that any untrained schmo off the street could write a State of the Union address. Modern political speechwriting is certainly a skill, and one that requires experience and practice to master. It is not, however, a literary endeavor. It is marketing, and not even particularly imaginative marketing. Advertising people who call themselves “creatives” do more actual creative work than political speechwriters. Do the people who write statements of risk for pharmaceutical ads walk around swishing single malt in tumblers and comparing themselves to The Lost Generation? (Well, they probably do, but they are wrong.)

Political speechwriting is an exercise in the proper arrangement of cliches and platitudes, with a bit of “messaging” of policy ideas to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Speeches like the one the president will deliver tonight are designed to deliver pleasant inanities (The State of the Union is Strong) and sell certain carefully audience-tested proposals as vaguely (or misleadingly) as possible. The State of the Union is less written than it is designed, structured and organized around applause prompts and camera cues.

Here, for example, is some of Keenan’s hard-bitten, muscular prose, from a previous State of the Union address:

“Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades,” Mr. Obama said in the opening lines of last year’s State of the Union address, written by Mr. Keenan.

The president went on: “A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son.”

That is boilerplate State of the Union rhetoric. Do you know what it doesn’t sound like? Good prose by a good author. Peggy Noonan could down two bottles of white wine and crank this kind of shit out in ten minutes before passing out. Paul Harvey would’ve been embarrassed to read this on the radio. It’s a storyboarding session for a TV commercial. If you actually imagine those images, the first thing that comes to mind is a soothing voice rapidly reading pharmaceutical contraindications.

Because Barack Obama is himself actually a decent writer, and because he is a good orator who has delivered some memorable speeches, his speechwriters have been showered with attention since before he was even elected president. Jon Favreau got a similar Times profile during the 2008 campaign, one of the first of a flood that would be written about him until he left the White House for the more lucrative fields of consulting, speaking, and screenwriting.

It’s not even limited to the Obama bros. John McCain had his own ersatz Hemingway in longtime aide Mark Salter—who at least ghostwrote McCain’s books, something that more closely resembles literary writing than preparing campaign speeches or Senate addresses. Salter was the recipient of numerous profiles during the 2008 campaign. (“Salter, 53, comes by his love of grit and combat honestly.”)

It probably all dates back to the cult of Kennedy, and JFK’s partnership with Ted Sorensen. But political rhetoric has inarguably declined in literary quality since the 1960s about as much as it had already declined, by then, since the 18th and 19th centuries. No one currently involved in speechwriting is ever going to craft a Lincoln’s Second Inaugural or a Washington’s Farewell Address, because speeches of that nature are not considered effective political communication in the 21st century. Modern speechwriters are certainly not doing anything comparable to writing deathless fiction about the realities of the American experience, because it would be weird if a politician delivered stark observations on the human condition instead of trying to make himself appear more acceptable than his political opponents to people who pay attention to presidential speeches once a year.

Tonight’s State of the Union might be an effective speech, but it definitely won’t be a good one.”  ~ Alex Pareene

Will the real Iron Man please stand up?

Elon Musk, the closest thing we have to a real Iron Man, has decided to pursue another ambitious project. He would like to use his space company, SpaceX, to deploy satelites around the earth. These satelites would in turn, make it so that every single part of the earth had access to the internet. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, he wants to do the same for Mars. Because, you know, he plans to colonize Mars.

You can read more about his internet/satelite plan here.

Malarkey

Earlier this week news broke that Alex, a boy who was in a terrible car crash and subsequent coma, did not end up spending time in heaven as he claimed. The boy, who has the unfortunate last name of Malarkey, made the whole thing up. However, this should not be surprising. In the few places in Scriptures where we gain glimpses of heaven, it is not a comforting place. It is a place where awe and terror are so seamlessly one that it is hard to distinguish between the two.

In a story I saw later on in the week on this story, it appears the poor boy was taken advantage of. The above linked article has his mom claiming he has never been paid for the book. But while the substance of the book was malarkey, the boy did say something true when he recanted:

“When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”

Wow. Now that is a remarkable statement. A few observations that I’d like to point out.  First and foremost, the nature of revelation.

Protestant Christians happen to believe that revelation came from God through the Holy Spirit and was made clear through the Holy Scriptures. That is to say, the Scriptures are the first, middle and last word of God. Any further revelation is not to be trusted, especially if it contradicts what is found in heaven. Even if a boy should die and go to heaven and have amazing visions or an angel should appear with a fantastic message–if it is different than what Scripture has already made clear we should not believe a word of it.  The apostle Paul made this clear when he wrote to the church in Galatia (1.8): “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

I don’t know if what Alex wrote contradicted Scripture or not: I haven’t read his book. I haven’t read any of those books. I don’t need to, I have this book called the Bible.

Now, not all Christians feel this way. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believe in non-biblical revelation. This non-biblical revelation can be summed up with the word “Tradition.” That is, the teaching of the church. But their teaching is more in line with the historic faith because they still trust what the Bible says as being true.

However, there are major religions which “trust” the Bible while believing in non-biblical revelation. Specifically, heavenly or angelic revelation. These religions are Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints. Actually, if you study Mormonism and Islam, you’ll discover that they have quite a bit in common starting with how they were formed: Joseph Smith and Mohammed had an angel from heaven appear and let them know there was more to their faith than what the Bible had revealed.

This is why Galatians 1.8 is so important–a Protestant would not fall for Mormonism, Islam or any other teaching that adds to Scripture because we know that even if that teaching comes from an angel–it isn’t to be trusted.  So kudos to Alex for coming clean. Remember–if it doesn’t add up to Scripture don’t believe a word of it.