Fox Byte 5775 #36: Beha’alotcha (In Your Going Up)

בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by  Danacea on Flickr.com via via Wikimedia Commons)
Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by Danacea on Flickr.com via Wikimedia Commons)

In a response to a reader’s question about his works, author Stephen R. Donaldson provided this enlightening comment about the motivation behind his writing:

I’m a storyteller, not a polemicist.  As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.  (Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website, February 23, 2004)

Donaldson’s best known writings might be categorized as postmodern American science fiction and fantasy literature.  The worlds he creates are not the pristine, archetypical fantasy worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but darker realms that mirror our present ambiguous reality.  Donaldson explores human nature in a secular, relativistic world detached from the moral underpinnings of Christian civilization.  Good and evil manifest in the worlds he creates, but they are often uncomfortably intertwined so as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Such is the case with his most famous protagonist, the anti-hero Thomas Covenant.  In ten novels published over the span of 36 years, Donaldson follows Covenant through three epic quests in The Land, the world of his creation where magic and Earthpower shape the lives of mortals.  Covenant is one of the most unlikely heroes in the history of literature:  a leper living in present-day America who is magically transported to The Land to save it from destruction by Lord Foul the Despiser.  He wears a wedding band of white gold, the source of Wild Magic, which is the greatest power ever known in The Land.  He does not know how to wield this power, nor does he desire to do so, yet the dire circumstances of The Land compel him to find a way.  Each victory comes at a cost.  Ultimately it is Covenant himself who pays the greatest price, and thus he earns not only sympathy, but redemption.

We learn much about power in White Gold Wielder, the last novel of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  The Elohim, supernatural beings who keep watch over the Earth, “silence” Covenant, placing him in a catatonic state so he will not use his ring unwisely and risk destruction of the world.  After Covenant is revived by his companion Linden Avery, Findail of the Elohim explains their actions to her:

The ring-wielder we silenced, not to harm him, but to spare the Earth the ill of power without sight . . . Thus the choice would have fallen to you in the end.  His ring you might have taken unto yourself, thereby healing the breach between sight and power.  Or perhaps you might have ceded the ring to me, empowering the Elohim to save the Earth after their fashion.  Then would we have had no need to fear ourselves, for a power given is altogether different than one wrested away.

Findail’s declaration, “a power given is altogether different than one wrested away,” is a restatement of something taught long ago by One Who understood power:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #22-23: Vayakhel (And He Assembled) / Pekudei (Accounts Of)

וַיַּקְהֵל / פְקוּדֵיּ

The Traveler (Eric Menyuk) and Wesley (Wil Wheaton) discuss the connection of Space and Time and Thought in "Where No One Has Gone Before" (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode 5.  Photo from The Viewscreen.)
The Traveler (Eric Menyuk) and Wesley (Wil Wheaton) discuss the connection of Space and Time and Thought in “Where No One Has Gone Before” (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Episode 5. Photo from The Viewscreen.)

What is the secret of the success of Star Trek?  Since 1966 three generations of science fiction fans have followed the adventures of four separate crews on the starship Enterprise, as well as other heroes of Gene Roddenberry’s creation through six TV series and 12 movies.  There must be something more to the Star Trek universe than adventure stories, special visual effects, and outlandish aliens.  Perhaps it is that Star Trek provides us with an opportunity to imagine, to push the boundaries of what is “real”, at least according to what we encounter in our everyday lives.

Certainly that was a key ingredient in the original series, the popularity of which has long outlived the three short seasons it was on the air.  In 1987, Star Trek:  The Next Generation picked up the mantle and carried on that boundary-pushing tradition.  In “Where No One Has Gone Before”, the fifth episode of its first season, a propulsion expert named Kosinski (Stanley Kamel) comes aboard the USS Enterprise to make modifications to the ship’s engines that will enhance their performance.  What we soon learn is that Mr. Kosinski’s equations are meaningless by themselves; the real power behind the modifications is the presence of Kosinski’s assistant, an alien known only as the Traveler (Eric Menyuk).  In the first test, the Enterprise moves faster than ever thought possible into a region of space far beyond our galaxy, a result which astonishes not only the ship’s officers, but Kosinski as well.  Only young Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) notices the Traveler’s role in the proceedings.  As the officers argue among themselves, he draws near to the Traveler to learn the truth.  Their conversation includes a very interesting bit of dialogue:

Wesley:  Is Mister Kosinski like he sounds?  A joke?

Traveler:  No, that’s too cruel.  He has sensed some small part of it.

Wesley:  That space and time and thought aren’t the separate things they appear to be?  I just thought the formula you were using said something like that.

Later in the episode, the Traveler explains, “You do understand, don’t you that thought is the basis of all reality?  The energy of thought, to put it in your terms, is very powerful.”  And with that we have an articulation from a fantastic science fiction television show of a profound truth first explained by Moses 3,500 years ago.

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Fox Byte 5775 #20: Tetzaveh (You Shall Command)

תְּצַוֶּה

Chuck Connors as Jason McCord, a man unjustly accused of cowardice and drummed out of the Army.  From the 1960s  NBC TV Western, Branded.  (Photo:  riflemanconnors.com)
Chuck Connors as Jason McCord, a man unjustly accused of cowardice and drummed out of the Army. From the 1960s NBC TV Western Branded. (Photo: riflemanconnors.com)

One of the compelling images I recall from childhood is the opening scene of Branded.  This Western TV drama starred Chuck Connors as a United States Army officer unjustly charged with cowardice.  Week after week the series opened with Jason McCord, Connors’ character, being drummed out of the service at a remote post in the American West.  As the garrison assembles, McCord is marched to the front and center of the formation, where his commander removes from him every vestige of his connection with the Army – his hat, rank insignia, and even the buttons on his coat.  Last of all the commander removes McCord’s sword from its sheath, breaks it over his knee, and tosses the broken hilt out of the fort’s gate.  The shamed officer then walks out of the fort as the doors close behind him.  Now on his own, branded for life with the mark of a coward, he must find a way to clear his name.

What if someone had exonerated Jason McCord?  Such things have happened before.  There is provision in the law to excuse an offender, either when the accusation is proven unjust, or when a duly constituted authority bestows clemency in an act of mercy.  The law, however, remains in effect.  Should another man, or even the same man, desert his post in an act of cowardice, he would be guilty of the same offence.  Even if the entire United States Army deserted, requiring the President to recruit an entirely new force, the deserters would still be guilty according to the statutes and regulations governing the military service.  And should the law change somehow, perhaps refining the definition of cowardice and clarifying the penalties, the law would still be in effect, and those subject to it would be wise to learn the changes lest they find themselves inadvertently in error.

How interesting that such a principal gleaned from a 1960s TV Western is actually a principal of the Word of God.  While some may argue that the Law of God has no application at all in an age when Messiah Yeshua has won forgiveness for all who believe on Him, in actuality His work of redemption secured a prophesied change in the Law, not its abolition.

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