Book Plunge: Echoes of a Voice

What do I think of James Sire’s latest book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

echoesofavoice

This is James Sire’s latest book where he looks back over the years and tells why he still believes. James Sire’s main area of focus is the English language and so by studying the literature he has read from all over the world, Sire seeks to draw out a transcendent reality that he sees throughout the literature. It does not matter if it is Christian literature at all. All that matters is that it is literature.

Naturally, there is some truth to this. If the Heavens declare the glory of God, we should not be surprised if some of that comes down to the Earth as well. Augustine has said that God has made us for ourselves and our hearts are restless until they find their peace in Him. If this is the case, then will we not find what James Sire refers to as “echoes” of this here?

I certainly agree with a point made early on in the book that everything here is a pointer to God. Sire is not alone in this. For instance, Peter Kreeft in his book “Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing” reminds us that everything that is here is either a pointer to Heaven or to Hell. If we follow the path even when we see something that we think is evil, we will eventually find God. (In fact, this is one reason I find the problem of evil so unconvincing. It starts off with evil and then you have to ask how you know good from evil and then that gets you to an objective moral standard and then you get to God. That’s a highly abbreviated form of course, but the general bit of it is still there.)

Sire has a great favor for the transcendental argument. His is found mainly in literature. That’s fine for him and I understand it. I can’t say I connected the same way, or it could just be I’m unfamiliar with the literature that he cites. It does not mean that I do not see God in any literature, but at the same time, I am not one who really finds the time to read much fiction.

Still, I think for those of us who do not, we can look and see how transcendence shows up in other places. Something that you learn about analyzing worldviews is that after you do that, you don’t watch a movie the same way again for instance. You’re always looking at that movie and trying to figure out where the author is coming from. That also includes TV shows, video games, songs, and other forms of media.

I also would have liked to have seen more on transcendence on every day experiences. When it comes to transcendence, these are the areas that I find it most. Some times of depression for me have been ended just by seeing the joy of my cat playing with a toy for instance and seeing him as a reality pointing to something beyond himself. 

Of course, we have other transcendent moments in this life. One that I think we need to think on more as Christians for instance is the joy found in the sexual union of husband and wife. Chesterton said years ago that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God. The reason so many people get addicted to sex or even to other things like alcohol, gambling, shopping, food, etc. is that everyone is looking for something transcendent.

Maybe you’re like me and you don’t really go through fiction that much. If not, then Sire’s book could be a reminder to you to try to view what you are interested in through the same lens that Sire views fiction through.

Now if you are a great lover of fiction or poetry or other works like that, this is the book for you. You will probably find a much greater connection and hopefully, and I know Sire will agree with me on this one, find the one that is really being pointed to, the one who transcends all.

This book was also given to me for review purposes by James Sire and I wish to thank him for that here.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: In Search of Moral Knowledge

What do I think of R. Scott Smith’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I wish to thank IVP for providing a copy of this book for a review first off. I find the moral argument to be a highly interesting argument. Now my own variation of it is that I prefer to use the fourth way of Aquinas and have it be the argument from goodness of which morality is a subsection of that. Yet insofar as it goes, the moral argument works fine and Smith has given an impressive tour de force on this.

Smith starts off with the history of how we got to this point in understanding morality today. He starts with the Bible and what is found in both testaments. He then goes on to look at the work of Plato and Aristotle and takes us through the medieval period and then through many of the great philosophers of the Enlightenment period and beyond and even goes up to interacting with postmodern looks at morality. At this point, there can be no doubt that Smith has done his research and done it well.

Smith also seeks to be as fair as he can with those whom he is dialoguing with. He admits that he has made errors in understanding past opponents at times and tries to read their works in light of all that they are saying. Smith indeed shows impressive scholarship in the field. At this point, I do think it’s important to let the reader know that I think he will need more than a layman’s understanding of the field to get the most out of this book.

Smith in the end concludes that naturalistic theories not only do not account for moral knowledge, but that they do not account for any knowledge whatsoever. This is true in whatever case he looks at as each position begs certain questions. There is also the problem that many of them deny essences and for Smith, a physicalist explanation of the nature of man is just incapable of being able to provide knowledge. We have to have essences of some sort.

Smith then roots the knowledge that we have in God. The book ends in the last chapter with a more apologetic approach looking at various issues such as the case for the resurrection of Jesus and the problem of evil. No doubt, each of these is brief and I would have liked to have seen even more in some areas at least in terms of other works that were cited since these would be out of the field that Smith is normally writing in which is fine. There were a few points on each section that I would disagree with, but they do not detract overall as Smith does provide excellent sources still in each case, though as I said I would have liked still more.

One main problem I would have liked to have addressed that rarely is is that I do not often see a definition of good given. It is as if we assume when we get together and debate what is good and what is evil that we all know what these terms really mean. In fact, this is the first question I usually raise when I debate moral issues with someone. I agree with Smith of course that love and justice are good and that murder, rape, and torturing babies for fun is wrong. Yet when I say “X is good” what do I mean?

Still, in the end, I think Smith’s work is an excellent one that will certainly leave much food for thought. For anyone who is wanting to deal with the moral argument, mark this down as essential reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters