Monthly Archives: August 2012
“I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”
That particular bit of universal wisdom has come true for me time after time. When I open the hood of a car, I see large, dark, greasy shapes. My wife, on the other hand, looking over my shoulder as I interpret an MRI sees the same thing — large, dark, greasy shapes. One man’s Rorschach is another man’s blueprint for disease detection.
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy was the originator of that quote. Throughout his appearances on the original “Star Trek” and subsequent animated series and movies, Bones was well known for his curmudgeonly manner. But, what Bones never lost was his “humanity”. Time after time, Bones would butt heads with Mr. Spock in the classic emotion versus logic debate.
For a young boy fascinated with the prospect of a shining, interstellar future, I was attracted more to Bones than any of the three men comprising the triad of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. More than anything, I was impressed with Bones’ unflinching devotion to his patients regardless of political or personal restraint. His patients, even when they were aliens, were human and Bones preserved their humanity.
When I felt God’s call to become a doctor, I pictured myself with the bold idealism of Dr. McCoy. I found myself throwing myself in front of the bureaucratic buses for the sake of my patients. It was his devotion to do whatever it takes to heal his patient that still inspires me today, 33 years after I graduated from medical school. Star Trek did that for me.
I guess that is why it so saddens me to read Mike Duran’s latest blog regarding Gene Roddenberry’s atheism. This was no mystery to me. The atheistic and naturalistic worldview was the dominant force behind Star Trek: The Next Generation and the sequels, DS9 and Star Trek: Voyager. For a few years, the head writer of Voyager was an outspoken atheist and her worldview saturated many of the stories of Voyager.
Interestingly enough, Roddenberry’s “Bible” on how to write for the show demanded that the future of mankind was so rosy, so Edenistic, so perfect that the writers of the show had to remove any conflict that could arise among the crew of the Enterprise. Is it any wonder the show did not do well until the Borg arrived? Is it any wonder that the greatest villain Roddenberry created was the omniscient, omnipotent, immortal Q? Here is Roddenberry’s concept of God. Capricious. Mercurial. Peevish. Delighting in tormenting mankind. Judgmental and harsh. And totally without mercy or love.
On another note, Bill Nye, the Science guy recently released a video in which he pleads with parents NOT to teach their children any form of creationism. He, along with Dawkins and Harris and the late Hitchens maintain that belief in the supernatural is dangerous to mankind. It is destroying us. And, they maintain that to teach children about the supernatural is tantamount to child abuse. Christians are religious pedophiles!
What is fascinating about this entire discussion is the totally disregard for sound, rational evidence for design in the universe. They dismiss this wholeheartedly as merely “the appearance of design”. What are we squabbling about? Semantics. Marilyn Robinson in her excellent book, “Absence of Mind”, has taken exception to this conclusion. She maintains that our appreciation of “supernature” or possible forces, worlds, beings that cannot be confined to our “natural” realm are absolutely essential to humanity. Without a concept of the supernatural, there would be no imagination. We would only consider what our senses can detect. Such imagination spurs art, literature, music, sculpture, innovation, and even scientific discoveries.
I was watching an episode of Doctor Who just the other night in preparation for the new season. In this episode, love literally conquered all, defeating the nefarious plans of the metal “Cybermen” to remove emotions from a father’s brain. The father’s love for his son triumphed over the purely mechanistic, scientific machinations of the Cybermen. Afterwards, the Doctor was trying to deconstruct the man’s conclusion that love had won the day. He was trying to explain away the “love” phenomenon as merely brain chemistry and our “genes” trying to preserve themselves and then he stopped. He realized he was getting nowhere with us puny, immature humans. So, he agreed. Love had won the day.
And, here is the conundrum. The evidence is there. Rational discourse can be had. There is abundant scientific, historical, and philosophical evidence in favor of the existence of a transcendent intelligence behind the universe. But, to believe in such requires us to recognize the presence of a purpose; a plan for this universe. Such purpose implies that as humans we are a part of that plan; that we play a role. If we play a role in the “story” then this implies there isn’t true freedom to be and do what we want. We are subservient to the “story”. Mankind resists such a scenario. In our madlong rush to be totally free of authority, we throw the evidence in the wastebasket. We play the “God of the gaps” card and say that any “supernatural” explanation cannot be accepted.
Time and again, when I have asked such individuals why they will not consider this profound evidence for the existence of an intelligence, the reasons always boil down to personal preference. “I do not want to have to submit myself to such authority. I want to be free.” What is troubling is how such personal preference can end up producing an intolerant position among materialists. Their strongest accusation against Christians, for instance, is our intolerance. And yet, they take the high position of science and only science and are themselves intolerant of all other viewpoints.
Roddenberry eventually had to compromise his vision in order for the sequels to Star Trek to be successful. The bottom line: money! Rather than throw Star Trek under the bus for the purpose of sticking to a higher set of materialistic values, Star Trek changed its “Bible” to allow conflict to exist. The future, it turns out, is not so rosy after all. Q is fallible. Man always falls to his lowest instincts. Evil rears its ugly head time and time again. Hmmm! Is this an indictment of religion or is it the brute reality that mankind has yet to rise above his fallen self? No matter how advanced our knowledge, our civilization, our technology we still kill and maim and have anger and jealousy and suffer from unbridled pride. We still have our way. We still live by “survival of the fittest” although this really means “survival of the richest or the most powerful or the most intelligent”. And, we fall time and time again as mankind.
Here is one of my favorite quotes:
“When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities: Creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: That life arose spontaneously by chance!” — George Waldt
Notice the reluctance to accept the evidence is based on very subjective, personal “philosophical” grounds. History teaches us that when a civilization loses it moral and ethical base; when a civilization abandons transcendent values; when a civilization glorifies unbridled “freedom to do whatever we want” that civilization fails miserably. Without transcendent values, we are mere animals.
And, it is troubling that instead of acknowledging the incredible contribution of such institutions as Christianity, the detractors focus on the failings. And, those failings have NOTHING to do with the tenets of such a worldview. These failings, instead, point to the universal inability of man to rise above his destructive selfish impulses. And, here is the reluctant realization. Those impulses are a direct outgrowth of naturalistic philosophy. Where this is no love, there is hate. Where there is no compassion, there is oppression. Where there is no sense of the divine, there is a sense of ultimate depravity and hopelessness. We need God. We need the divine. No matter how technologically advanced we may become, we will cease to be humans if we cease to love.
In 1991 L. D. Rue spoke of the need to replace the outdated and delusional concept of God with a “Noble Lie”. The Noble Lie “is one that deceives us, tricks us, and compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, [and] race.” “Without such lies, we cannot live.” He acknowledged that at least the idea of a transcendent origin of values and worth was absolutely essential for us to continue to function as humanity.
My suggestion to individuals such as Roddenberry (who has passed away), Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, etc. is to focus on man’s tendency to abuse ANY system of belief (and there are many beyond religion) and stop making God the focus of their attacks. The problem is NOT with God. The problem is with MAN!!!!
Can we not agree to disagree with civility? Can we not acknowledge the contributions of adherence to a worldview that has resulted in much altruism, good works, and, yes, scientific advance? Can those who adhere to a purely materialistic view not treat others with common decency and respect? This is my plea. Rail against God all you want. But, realize, that no amount of scientific argument, no amount of philosophical argument, no amount of rage against the abuse of systems will kill God. Accept that we will always believe in our spiritual side and this belief is absolutely essential to the future of mankind.
Instead, let us all speak out against the abuse of any type of system where human value is reduced to that of brute animals. Let us acknowledge the important of such immaterial virtues such as love, mercy, compassion, and self sacrifice. Let us agree that theology and science can co-exist as important disciplines with the potential to improve our human condition.
In most Communist countries in the 20th Century the underlying worldview was based on atheism and Darwinism. These societies devalued human life in favor of the state. Only the fittest were allowed to survive. If we stop and consider the quality of life of these individuals who lived under Stalin and Chairman Mao it would be insane to think such a life was of value or advanced humanity. In fact, over 100,000,000 people died in the 20th century alone at the hands of these systems.
One only needs to use common sense to see there has to be a balance between the natural and the supernatural. Man is a spiritual creature. No amount of scientific dogma can eliminate the basic human need for love, even if it is just biochemical in origin. Our place in the universe will depend on our imagination; our inspiration; our quest for something bigger and grander than ourselves. Belief in God accomplishes this. Where we fail is in taking that belief and abusing it for personal gain. This is what must stop. The abuse.
Whether you believe in a Noble Lie or the Way, the Truth, and the Life we must learn to work together and stop vilifying each other. We must join together to fight against the insanity of the abuse of any belief system. Can we not do this? After all, Spock and McCoy often had heated, angry arguments and yet, the men were like brothers. In fact, in one of the most successful of the Star Trek movies it was Spock’s “katra” or soul that was saved by placing it in McCoy’s mind. The two truly became one. I don’t see why rational, reasonable discourse can’t replace the strident, hateful condemnation that typifies Roddenberry’s “Bible” and the best selling books by the “new atheists”.
As Ravi Zacharias said, “Religion begins with man. Theology begins with God.” And, unfortunately, man will always screw things up!
I may be wrong, of course, because I’m a doctor, not a philosopher!
Heading into the weekend I can say this past week was a lot of work. I just finished up one of my final drafts for the fourth book in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles. “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” will not be out until October, 2014. And, I have until the end of the year to finish the book. But, my schedule between now and the end of the year is getting busier than ever.
I have the launch of my second book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” in October. I have a potential new book series proposal to finish by the end of October. And, there is the ever present social media I MUST work on every week to promote my second book.
This past week, I posted a blog on Just the Write Charisma about agents and created a tiny firestorm that whirled around me for a couple of days. I was amazed at who actually reads these blogs. Something I said about one of my former colleagues in a very generic, nonspecific fashion was read by that colleague and even though we have not communicated in 7 years, that colleague was quick to email me with reminders that my memory is NOT what it used to be.
Wow! I had no idea this person was even reading my blogs. Which points out some interesting thing about social media.
You Never Know Who’s Reading
In my every present paranoia and basic insecurity, I assume that maybe 1 1/2 people read my blog and then only because they just happen upon it. After all, we waste a lot of our life reading things we wish we would have never read moments after we read it. As one of my good friend said the other night: “That’s 5 minutes of my life I’ll never get back!”
I try to make my blog entries marginally interesting. I am a storyteller and I have lots of stories to tell. However, it is difficult to tell a story with a moral or an illustrative point without mentioning the people involved. And, no matter how you veil that person with “dramatic license” somewhere, somehow that person will find out. So, lesson learned. Be careful what you write. Be careful what you say and how you say it. In fact, don’t say it unless it is vitally important that it be said! You might want to contact that person and make sure it is okay to share said story.
Who Are We Answerable To?
Life self-publishing, the blogger is answerable to no one but himself. Unless, of course, said person is part of a larger multi-person blog. In some ways this can be liberating. You can say whatever you want! But, the flip side of that is the danger of very little, if any, self-editing. We have discovered one of the downsides to the Internet is the instantaneous availability of information — whether or not that information is accurate! Lives can be destroyed in literally a heartbeat — the time it takes to hit “Enter”. Commenters form some degree of restraint. Their comments are often a measure of the many ways in which the contents of the blog are taken and understood. Years ago, my wife gave me some valuable advice. Whenever I would get mad and write a letter or an angry email, she would advise I wait 48 hours to send it. Give me some time to cool off and see if the substance of my communication is too emotional without enough substance. Good advice. I wish I had listened to it the other day!
What is Truth?
In today’s relativistic culture, truth is seen as temporary and circumstantial. There is no one truth. And that is a true statement! (Sorry, the apologist in me came out!) I have gone to snopes.com many times to stop a rumor or an urban legend in its tracks. As Christians we must realize we serve one Truth. And, the Truth cannot be found. The Truth finds us. Christianity is the one religion where God comes to us; came to us; and continues to come to us. We cannot claim any credit for our “conversion”. God became flesh and dwelled among us. True, God draws us to Himself in ways that are many and varied. But, He is one God. We must always then be purveyors of the Truth. Check our facts. Exhaust our sources. Never pass on groundless rumors and falsehoods. For the Father of Lies is Satan, not God. And there is one certainty: we cannot find Truth — Truth finds us!
Welcome to my blog. If you came here as an attendee of the conference here are two links you might want to check out. One tells a little bit about me and my ministries and the is the blog containing links I mention in my presentation:
http://brucehennigan.com/2012/04/19/you-just-aint-right/ will tell you more than you want to know about Bruce Hennigan.
http://brucehennigan.com/2012/04/21/christian-speculative-fiction-links/ contains the links I mention in my Apologetic Presentation.
And, Finally, here are some additional comments I thought about adding to my presentation AFTER I recorded it.
Today at approximately 130 PM CDT I will be interviewed on “Gate Beautiful” blog talk radio at this link:
Check in online and hear me talk about my upcoming book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” and my current books, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and “Conquering Depression.”
This Friday at 915 A.M. join me for the “Christian Writing Conference” by Athanatos Christian Ministries “No Compromise for the King: In Pursuit of Excellence”. This conference is FREE but requires registration. I will be speaking on “Apologetics as a Foundation for Speculative Christian Fiction”. This is an adaptation of a presentation I gave back in April. In addition to the discussion of several Christian Speculative Fiction books that utilize apologetics, I will discuss the necessity of a firm foundation in the Christian faith for fiction that conveys the Christian worldview.
In addition to my discussion I would like to share a few thoughts as you prepare for the free conference on Friday.
Every story conveys a worldview.
Best selling books such as “The Shack” succeed because the author takes a slightly different angle on historical, traditional Christianity. I do not want to offend the author or readers who have enjoyed that book. However, the “doctrine” presented in “The Shack” smacks more of New Age religion than classical Christianity. I couldn’t help but wonder if the story could have used a shot of doctrinal truth. As an apologist, I cannot express how many times I have fielded questions that come directly from “The Shack”. Again, the book succeeds in bringing readers into a fascinating story and does expose the readers to some ideas from the Christian faith.
American Christians aren’t really Christian.
I would like to consider George Barna’s book, “Seven Faith Tribes of America”. In that book, Barna relates that 67% of Americans claim to be Christians. But, when Barna asked these same Americans specifically what they believe, it turns out their belief system consisted of picking and choosing bits and pieces of Christianity that fit their lifestyle. They created a “boutique” religion that does not resemble traditional Christianity. Only 16% or 1 out of 6 Americans practice what Barna describes as “committed” Christianity.
Imagination can alter our perception of Christ.
Bearing this in mind, it would seem there is a need for writers to make certain that the basic tenets of Christianity are represented in any work that labels itself “Christian” fiction. To do otherwise is to swerve dangerously close to the heresies of the “gnostic” Gospels which also strove to re-create Christianity and re-define Jesus in terms that would match their “version” of Christ. Matt Mikalatos touched on this tendency for us to create Jesus in our own imaginary image in his book, “My Imaginary Jesus”.
May the Force be with you.
Let’s face it. Today’s fiction landscape is littered with dozens of “mash up” philosophies. Spirituality is the “religion” of our time. Anything that smacks of the spiritual is fair game for inclusion in one’s own personal worldview. With relativism running rampant, one man’s religion is just as valid as another’s. What we as Christian authors must do is to avoid falling into a blurring of the lines that separate Christianity from these philosophies. I see Christian speculative fiction works embracing concepts such as dualism, that is, that good and evil are opposite and EQUAL forces in the universe. The Force took care of that one. And yet, as Christians we know that Satan is nowhere nearly equal to the power of God. Yes, he perpetrates evil. But, Satan is far from an equal but opposite force. There are numerous other examples of this blurred theology. The masters such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis managed to practice “world building” and still preserve sound foundational ideas that are uniquely Christian. We can only hope to come close to their successes!
Authors should think critically.
One aspect of apologetics that has benefitted me personally in my writing is the development of “critical thinking”. Tough questions asked by my atheist partners are the force that spurred me into seeking answers that went beyond “the Bible says it and that settles it” or “God worked miraculously in my life and He can work in yours”. By entering into the field of apologetics, I was confronted with the necessity to use sound thinking, rational discourse, and reason in answering these questions. One need look no further than Jesus’ sessions with the Pharisees or the rich young ruler. He was the Master of answering a question with a question; of divining the true intention behind the question; of turning the tables on his opponents and leaving them open mouthed and confused instead of the other way around. This ability to utilize “critical thinking skills” has become indispensable in writing a novel. By looking at plot lines from all the different angles, a novelist can creatively lead his reader down one garden path and still have the outcome, though unexpected, be totally satisfying and ultimately logical.
We should be interesting and draw people to us.
I have also noticed that as authors, we tend to be poor speakers. We would rather spend time on the written word; honing it; polishing it; editing it until it is perfect. But, place us in a live interview situation and you would think we suffered from expressive aphasia! Becoming an apologist has also allowed me to hone those speaking skills. The ability to formulate a convincing “argument” on the spot is a powerful way to gain attention from those around us. William Lane Craig in his excellent apologetic primer “On Guard” talks about this principle. He says that apologetics will ultimately make us “more interesting”. Why would we want to be more interesting? To sell more books! To gain attention for our works! To have opportunities to tell our stories! And, this leads to furthering the Kingdom, our ultimate goal.
Are YOU being asked the tough questions?
A few years back, one of the employees at the hospital at which I work committed a murder suicide of his three year old son and his wife. Everyone was devastated as the news reached our department on that horrific Tuesday morning. I knew exactly what would be happening to me. I knew that within hours, employees in my department would be knocking on my office door to ask me “the question”. They seem to have the sense that I had answers to some of life’s hard questions. I never announced that I did. But, in our casual conversations, they sensed the way I think; the way I analyze; the way that I try and point everyone back to Jesus Christ. So, when bad things happen that puzzle and confound us, they turn to the nearest person that seems to have real and truthful answers. Sure enough, the next few days saw me trying my best to answer these tough questions.
This is exactly what we do as authors. We pose questions people never thought of asking and then answer those questions in creative and compelling manners. Jesus did the same thing with His parables. We should do no less.
I challenge those of you who want to write Christian fiction to consider rounding our your foundation by studying apologetics. Look at the tab at the top of this page labeled “Apologetics”. If you go to this section, you can download a document of resources that will lead you to numerous websites and books that will become a firm foundation for sound apologetics.
Fiction is something that we make up. But, our fiction must always point to the Truth of the Gospel. How can we lead someone to Truth unless we know that Truth intimately and fully?
Recently at a book signing, I was asked the question that all writers get. “What is the writing life like?” or “How do you find time to write?”
Let me give you a snapshot of my life, right now. I never anticipated the writing life would be like this. I feel overwhelmed much of the time. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Let me say at the outset what I tell anyone who asks about time management. You don’t FIND time to write, you MAKE time to write. If you are serious about writing, you MUST sit down and carve out very specific times in your week to write. Some authors choose to write for a specific period of time, say, six hours a week. Other writers choose to write a certain number of words per day, say 1000 words per day. It doesn’t matter which pattern you choose. The point is to set aside a time for writing and then WRITE. Don’t check email. Don’t read blogs. Don’t read a book. WRITE. From the moment you sit down before your computer or your legal pad, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!
Eventually, you will find yourself surrounded by DEADLINES. Some may be self imposed. Others are imposed by your publisher or a deadline for a blog for which you write. Deadlines are GOOD. True, they are a necessary evil, but they force you to MAKE that time to write.
Now, I find myself dividing my time between FOUR processes. First, there is the process of IDEAS. Second, there is the process of ROUGH DRAFT. Third, there is the process of EDITING. And, finally, there is the process of MARKETING.
Let me give you a sneak peak of my past two weeks.
In the IDEA area, I have already shared my experience at the International Christian Retail Show. In the aftermath of a divine appointment at the ICRS, I am in the process of developing ideas for not just one book, but an entire book series. This means research into the subject matter; examining competing works; looking for that unique “hook” that will make this book different from others; and collaborating with my co-author and mentor on the final content of a book proposal.
Also, in the IDEA area, I am working on two other fiction books and two other non-fiction book series ideas. Two publishers have expressed an interest in these books. And, if I don’t get something to them soon, they will move on.
In the ROUGH DRAFT area, I am finishing up my fourth book in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel for Realms. I turned in my third book in December and I have until the end of this year to complete my final draft of “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone”. I am setting aside an entire week in August to write everyday for six days.
In the EDITING area, I can count on spending January through April of each year heavily editing the book that will be released in October of that year. This editing process consists of an initial edit for story substance. I work with my editor and his suggestions are legion, but always right on the money. For two months, I will rewrite and edit the final draft to fit my editor’s suggestions. This takes hours and hours of my time. After this initial edit is done, my editor returns the line edit.
The line edit is a tedious line by line edit for such things as grammar and spelling. My editor(s) will make suggestions and I have to go through the document line by line and either accept or reject the suggested changes. Line by line. The entire manuscript. Literally, thousands of changes. Yes, it is tedious and it takes days! Now, once this line edit is done it is now April and I’ve been working on this final manuscript for at least three months. But, it doesn’t end there. Along about July, the galley proofs arrive.
The galley proofs are the final printed version of the book with the layout, fonts, pagination, title page, etc. Once again, I have to go through the entire book, word by word. On my first book, the software program used to lay out the book omitted an entire three pages. If I had not gone over the manuscript word for word, I would have missed it. Once I approve the galley proofs, the book is on the way to the printer and it is out of my hands.
In the MARKETING phase of the book, which covers the months from April through the release in October there is a LOT to do. First, I have to pick key scenes from the book that might be useful for the cover. Since I am an artist as well as an author, I visualize the cover and I make suggestions of exactly how a prospective cover will look. I am very fortunate to have the graphic team working on my books at Charisma. They produce some awesome covers and it is as if they have read my mind.
Second, once the cover is on its way to completion, I have to think about the back of the book and come up with “copy”. This is the blurb, or “sound bite” that will hopefully motivate a prospective reader to open the book and read the first paragraph. It is the “elevator pitch” so to speak. Once the back copy is completed then it is on to the endorsements.
Third, beginning in June, I must come up with a list of prospective authors who are asked to read my book and give me an endorsement. This is the trickiest part of the deal. Without good endorsements, my book will languish in limbo. Advice time. If you are an author, become a member of a blog tour in your genre. For instance, I am a member of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. This means that I have to read a book once a month and post a three day review on my blog. So, in addition to the other tasks in the MARKETING section, I must maintain and update this blog often. The blog tour drives readers, and authors, to my website. I contacted some of these authors and some of them agreed to read my manuscript and provide an endorsement. I have discovered this process is VERY important. If you just give your publisher a list of possible authors to endorse your book, the author is very likely to delete the request and never give it another thought. Also, I’ve learned to remind the author there is a deadline for the endorsement!
By late July, the upcoming book is done and in the hands of the printers. Now, the promotion phase begins. I am now looking at how to promote the release of my next book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” for its October release. Note that my first book was released in October, 2011; the second book is being released in October, 2012 and I have worked on it most of this year; the third book final draft is waiting for editorial evaluation in late 2012 and will be given back to me for editing in January, 2013; and I am currently writing the fourth book for completion by December. Literally, I juggle four books in a year’s time.
You see why I feel overwhelmed. My main concern is to make the time for each one of these important phases. And, it is amazing how many “things” I spend my time on that can be eliminated from my schedule. I do miss reading books. It is very difficult to work into this kind of schedule the simple pleasure of spending time with a good book. Now, when I read, I feel the pressure to hurry up and finish the book so I can post a review. I very seldom have the time to just sit down and savor a good book. I do miss that.
So, there you have it. I am currently in the IDEA phase; the ROUGH DRAFT phase; and the MARKETING phase. I can forget about heavy EDITING until January. But, it is coming and I’m loving every overwhelming minute of this journey. It can be done if you are willing to make the commitment and to pay the price of long, hard hours of work. If you have the passion to be a writer and the discipline to be a published author then go for it. When I get an email from a reader of “Conquering Depression” telling me the book “saved my life” it makes it all worthwhile.