American Gods: Secular Man Still Worships & the Gods are Crazy

The Starz network series, American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s horror novel is a supernatural story of the “old gods” who immigrated to America with various people groups rising up in war against the new gods of technology and culture that now rule our society.

It’s a great creative idea that in some ways reflects what I have been doing in my own universe of fictional writing. So I was naturally fascinated by the premise.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be a great idea gone bad. A mixed bag of profound spiritual wisdom and depraved humanist blasphemy.

Disenchantment

American Gods focuses on a convict, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), just released from prison only to discover his wife, Laura (Emily Browning), and his best friend died in a car accident while in an adulterous affair. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets a peculiar old man, named Wednesday (Ian McShane), who hires him as a bodyguard of sorts. Shadow soon discovers that Wednesday claims to be a chief of the old gods who once laid claim to America through those who found their way here in the past, willingly or not. And we see vignettes in each episode of these gods arriving on America’s virgin shores—or really, raped shores. Odin with the Vikings, Bilquis and Anubis with some of the slaves, a Leprechaun with the Irish, Jinn with Muslims and others. In the story, these are real beings with real, though limited supernatural powers.

It’s a common fantasy theme about the “disenchantment” of the natural world that science and technology creates in modernity. The “old gods” represent the sense of wonder that the ancients had of the life in a world interpreted as containing a goddess of spring, a god of storm, a goddess of sex, and so on. In modernity, and in this story, these gods have become like neglected elderly homeless who scrounge around in lives of squalor as the new gods of technology, like “Media,” “Technical Boy,” and others occupy us with obsessive entertainment and electronic diversion that amounts to sacred devotion to the profane. We’ve lost the “magic” and “wonder” of life. We think we’ve become enlightened and put behind us the ignorance of religion, but we remain decidedly religious creatures who worship new gods under the guise of secularism. The goddess Media sometimes appears as Lucille Ball, sometimes as Marilyn Monroe, icons of worship no less religious than Bilquis the old god of sexuality who calls upon her sexual partners to verbalize worship to her as they engage in sex with her.

Spiritual Profundity

And that is the brilliance of the story, as in the original book by the same title (Although in this case, the show is better than the book). It brings alive a profound truth that modern secular man seeks to deny, namely that secular modernity is just as much a culture of religious worship as the old world. We humans are homo religicus, worshipping beings. And the world of media that traffics in narrative imagination is just as much an artificial creation of the human craving for the transcendent as are the religions of old. We have replaced one mythology with another mythology and mistaken the latter as progress.

Ah, but therein lies the rub… Continue reading

Dragon King: 1st Place Winner Multicultural Fiction 2016 Best Book Awards

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I know, I know, it’s almost an insult to be in a “multicultural” category, since that is usually about identity politics.

But not in this case. Trust me.

The story is an East meets West historical fantasy about a Greek warrior meeting the first emperor of China.

The Greek’s secret reason is because he’s heard there are dragons in the mysterious East. But what he finds is even more dangerous.

It is a clash of kingdoms. But there is a higher kingdom that both East and West are inferior to.

Check out the novel here on Amazon.

And here for iBooks, Kobo, Nook and others.

 

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Last Days in the Desert: Boring Arthouse Existentialist Satan Jesus

Ewan McGregor as Jesus

A eatureictional drama of Jesus during his 40-day fast in the desert. He meets a family with one male son and a sick dying wife, and makes a wager with the devil to try to help them through their family problems. Starring Ewan McGregor as Jesus and Ewan McGregor as Satan.

In my book Hollywood Worldviews I write about how the depictions of Jesus in movies throughout the decades often reflect the zeitgeist of the era. I wrote: “A survey of the portrayal of Jesus in the movies yields an interesting mixture of both historical and mythical, human and divine, sinner and saint. In fact, one might say that the history of Jesus in the movies is precisely a history of the theological struggle between Christ’s identity as God and his identity as man.”

A Jesus by any other name

In HW, I called the Jesuses of the movies by their social constructs as depicted in the films:

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): Leonardo-DaVinci’s-humanistic-Renaissance Jesus.
King of Kings (1961): Youthful-blue-eyed-Aryan-WASP-moviestar Jesus.
Jesus of Nazareth (1977): Hypnotic-eyed-possibly-drug-addict-Jesus-who-never-blinks.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1972): 70s-nonviolent-peace-demonstrator scapegoat-for-the-military-industrial-complex Rock n Roll Messiah.
The Last Temptation of Christ (1982): Confused-epileptic-temper-tantrum-sinner Jesus.
The Gospel of Matthew (1995): Smiley-faced-California-surfer-dude Jesus.
Jesus: The Epic Miniseries (2000): Politically-correct-lovey-dovey-pacifist-television Jesus.
Judas (TV 2004): Dr.-Phil-Scooby-Doo-Shaggy-Malibu Jesus.

Look, I realize how impossible it is to portray the God-man in any way that everyone will approve of. That ain’t gonna happen. (It would take a – a miracle! And then most people wouldn’t believe it anyway)

My definition of the Jesus of The Last Days in the Desert as being a “Boring-Arthouse-Existentialist Jesus” is certainly no disappointment with the very weighty performance of McGregor (The Satan part is addressed later). His acting was profound and very human. He really brought it with this portrayal of Jesus being tempted by the lust, the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life without being a sinner. Fair enough. A Jesus who, like many holy men, fasts in order to draw close to the God he feels out of touch with. A Jesus who wrestles with existentialist issues of presence and purpose, most akin to the Gethsemane scene of the dual natures in conflict.

Or is it?

The director, Rodrigo Garcia, who claims to not be a Christian, said that he could only understand Jesus’ human side. He questioned how could one portray the divine side anyway? Again, fair enough. At least he didn’t try to subvert Jesus into his opposite like the most recent abominable Noah and Exodus movies do with God and their human heroes.

Or did he? Continue reading

The Unseen Realm: This Book is a Game-Changer for Evangelical Christianity

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Psalm 82
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.

That was the Bible chapter that started the journey for author and scholar, Michael Heiser. He describes in his book that he had come from a traditional Evangelical background, so the notion of there being other “gods” beside Yahweh was anathema. Monotheism means there is only one God, right?

But as he sought to understand what it all meant, it opened up a whole new world of theological messaging that reveals the supernatural worldview of the Bible.

And that is what this book did for me. I dedicated my bestselling Biblical Fantasy series first novel, Noah Primeval to Michael Heiser because this theological messaging helped open my eyes to my own modern Christian ignorance of the ancient Near Eastern background of the Bible. Like Elisha’s servant opening his eyes to see the myriad of heavenly host surrounding the valley, so I now saw God’s heavenly host as part of a storyline of redemption that traditional Evangelicalism has missed or misunderstood because of its obsession with modern categories and hermeneutics when interpreting the Bible. (Full disclosure: I now know Michael Heiser personally after reading an early draft of the book)

Heiser lays out a Biblically strong argument that can be read and understood by laity. What is so cool is that it is not just an argument, it is a story. He is clear, concise, and very readable without falling into that trap of abstraction and dry prose that many scholars fall into.

But make no mistake, Heiser is a scholar. His emphasis is in the fields of Biblical Studies and the Ancient Near East. He is published widely in scholarly journals and even has online courses in Hebrew, Greek, Ugaritic (the language of ancient Canaan) Akkadian, Egyptian and Aramaic. This scholarly dude has academic bona fides and he cannot be dismissed. Which is why I think this book will be a game-changer in Evangelical theology. Read it, and you’ll be on the crest of an exciting wave of fresh understanding of the Scriptures.

Heiser avoids both extremes of conservative hyper-literalism and liberal critical demythologizing. He seeks to interpret the text within its ancient Near Eastern context rather than the modern one, which is where both conservative and liberal scholars fail.

Here are just a few of the amazing discoveries you will encounter when reading the book…

The Divine Council

Psalm 89:6–7
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the gods is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?

God is surrounded by a myriad of heavenly host who are called by many names, like, “gods, “Sons of God,” “Holy Ones,” and “divine council.” They are not merely “angels” floating around his throne, they are divine beings. Yes, divinity in the Bible is not the exclusive prerogative of Yahweh, and it isn’t the same thing as Mormons think either. And these heavenly host have more to do than merely singing “glory” and shining up the place with their bronze-like brightness. They counsel with God (Job 1, 2) and perform tasks appointed by God (1Kings 22), they mediate the Law of God to man (Galatians 3:19 ), perform as witnesses to God’s covenants and curses (Deut 33:1-4; Zech 2-3), and engage in heavenly wars (Daniel 10). There is so much more to these divine beings than meets the casual Bible reader’s eye.

Sons of God and the Nephilim

Genesis 6:4
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

Okay, this is where a lot of popular Bible teaching gets goofy. But not Heiser. He deftly proves that the Sons of God were not human, but supernatural divine beings from God’s heavenly host, who fell to earth in rebellion and produced diabolical progeny of giants called Nephilim. Yes, giants, NOT merely human “fallen ones.”

This is not some Ancient Aliens mythology, nor is it the sensationalist version that many Christian Nephilim Nuts are teaching. There is a reason for it all, and it has to do with the war between the Seed of the Serpent and the messianic Seed of Eve (Gen. 3:15). And it comes into play many other times in the Old Testament. Many western readers miss it because of our modernist cultural prejudice.

The Divine Allotment

Deuteronomy 32:8–9
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.

At the Tower of Babel, God “gave over” the godless to their idols (Romans 1). he placed them under the authority of fallen Sons of God. They are allotted as an inheritance. Each pagan nation is ruled over by these territorial “principalities and powers” who own the deeds to their lands (Daniel 10; Col 2:15; Eph. 6:12). It’s like these fallen gods of the nations are linked to their earthly counterparts of authority, so that whatever happens on earth happens in heaven (Matt 6:10; Dan 10).

When Messiah came, he disinherited the gods and took all the “land deeds” to the nations back, drawing people into the Kingdom of God from every tribe and nation.

Return of the Giants

Joshua 11:21–22
And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim [giants] from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. There was none of the Anakim [giants] left in the land of the people of Israel.

So, those giants of Genesis 6 were not a myth or a strange anomaly. They were part of the war of the Seed of the Serpent with the Seed of Eve. And Joshua’s Holy Wars now make more sense because the Anakim giants in the land of Israel (as well as other giant clans) came from the original Nephilim giants of Genesis 6 (Numbers 13:32-33). There is more going on here than merely strange beings showing up arbitrarily in the Bible. And by the way, it says Joshua actually left some in the land of Philistia, you know, that place from whence came the most famous giant of all, Goliath, whom the Messiah King David would slay, along with the last of the Rephaim giant warriors in the land. But there is so much more to it than that. More giants, more Nephilim. We’ve just missed them because we didn’t read the text closely enough, or in it’s original context.

The New Sons of God

Galatians 4:4–7
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Christians are “in Christ,” and as such, we have been legally adopted as sons of God, to be one day historically glorified or transformed to be like Christ, the Unique Son of God (1John 3:2). And we will inherit the earth, that which the fallen Sons of God had lost through their failure to rule (Psalm 82). Christ now inherits all the earth, and we inherit with Him and in Him — in place of those original Sons of God.

So Much More

Wow, and believe me, that is only the tip of the ziggurat of all the amazing spiritual truths and theological storyline that Heiser uncovers in Scripture. This Divine Council worldview finally makes sense of so many of the bizarre passages in the Bible that used to seem like strange oddities we would never understand, relics of an ancient world. The Unseen Realm makes the storyline of God’s family inheritance and victory over evil come alive like nothing I’ve read before.

The Unseen Realm is not your mamby pamby “Christian Living” book with six steps to success and how to live a happy talk Christian walk. It’s not a Pietistic book of formulas to manufacture subjective spiritual experiences. It’s not an alternative Christian conspiracy theory to pull you away from the Gospel. This is gritty in-depth Biblical study that opens up the work of God to your mind, heart and soul with fresh excitement and wonder of His glorious mysterious ways.

But it here at Amazon. Buy it now. You won’t regret it. You’ll thank me.