Monday, August 3, 2015

The Role of Scripture (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Scripture is the light of truth that guides people in this world of darkness. By darkness Peter (and the rest of Scripture) means the way we struggle constantly with uncertainty, limited perspective, limited understanding, and reality that is beyond our capacity to grasp. In addition to all of that, that would have us reliant on God for guidance anyway, we have the compounding problem of sin. We have turned our backs on God and decided that we can manage better on our own. The blind, groping around, proud of our helplessness.

We do well to read and follow Scripture. The trick there is to really follow what Scripture is teaching, and not what any self-professed teacher claims it is saying. More on that to come.

For now, Peter reminds his readers that Scriptural interpretation (as with Scriptural inspiration) is possible only with God’s help. No real prophesy is ever discovered or figured out by a person. All real revelation comes from God. All real Scripture was inspired by God. Its correct reading throughout church history has also been assisted by the Holy Spirit. When we read it and hear from God today that is true also.

We can trust the messages and the stories in Scripture because what we read in Scripture is not fiction, nor elaborate fabrication. It is first-hand accounts of things that really happened. God used events and the men that observed them, and God spoke directly to the hearts of men, to compose His message of Grace for all of mankind to read and hear. The Bible is the complete written story of the Gospel, God’s plan to redeem creation.

The story caries on in the lives of those that it changes.

What about new messages, or extra prophecies being added to Scripture today? That is where Peter turns next in his letter…

Friday, July 31, 2015

Random Thoughts on "Ant-Man" and Marvel through Phase Two

I was worried about “Ant-Man” with all of the turn-over in production. The loss of Edgar Wright was a big blow and concern. However, I heard a lot of positive buzz once the film came out, and, seeing it, I was happy with the end result. I have thought for some time now that Marvel would do well to branch out and tackle multiple genres within its universe. Not everything has to be a paint-by-numbers superhero story. Especially if you want to release two films a year for the foreseeable future. Audiences will tire of that quickly. So, a comedic heist film is a breath of fresh air. And, Edgar Wright still has his fingerprints all over this thing.

I did wonder about a few things during the film. For instance:

I get the internal logic that says a shrunken man will still have the mass and strength of his full size self. He is still all there, the distance between his molecules has merely been reduced. However does that logic not work in reverse? When the Thomas the Train Engine gets “blown up” does it not still have the mass of its tiny self? How could it crush a car? And for that matter, how is Michael Douglas carrying a tank around in his pocket?

Also, Falcon did not fare well in this story. I venture to predict that any other of the new Avengers could have stopped Ant-Man in this film. Falcon was exposed as the normal man in a rather limited suit that he is.

I love the introduction of the Quantum Space concept going into phase three. If they are going to introduce the magic side of Marvel, they need something so advanced that it appears magical yet grounded.

So, having seen all 12 movies in the first two phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, here are my rankings and ratings:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 9.4

The only or mostly non-superhero film.

2. The Avengers (2012) 9.1

The fact that the pulled this one off will earn it bonus points and historical significance.

3. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) 9.05

This is the most adult, serious, and message-y movie of the bunch.

4. Ant-Man (2015) 8.9

Fun and fresh.

5. Iron Man (2008) 8.9

This film was great enough to kick this whole mess off. I must say it diminishes in my estimation with each rewatch, and the end is poo. (But that is a common Marvel weakness.)

6. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) 8.75

A whole lot of fun, but it is so overloaded with characters I am truly concerned I will hate “Civil War.”

7. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) 8.15

The Adventure film.

8. Iron Man 3 (2013) 7.8

Quirky and 1980s action.

9. Thor: The Dark World (2013) 7.35

Almost works as a fantasy film.

10. Iron Man 2 (2010) 7.15

This one is a mess. Marvel was just learning how to do the whole series of interconnected films thing.

11. Thor (2011) 7

This one borders on boring.

12. The Incredible Hulk (2008) 6.7

I have no memory of this film and no real desire to revisit it. But I probably will do a marathon of the whole lot with my boys someday.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 4b)

Season 4a—Season 5a

Voyager has a reputation for being a bad series. While this half does give us a lot of “lesser” stories, it does manage to be entertaining across the board.

Episode 14 “Message in a Bottle”

In a comedic story with stunt casting, we get the Doctor playing hero once again. More than anything else, this episode sets up the MacGuffin for the rest of this season: contact with Starfleet and a garbled message that needs to be decoded. All in all, it is very entertaining.

Episodes 15, 16, 18, 19 “Hunters” “Prey” and “The Killing Game”

The antennae array from the last episode has some connection to a species of alien hunters. One wonders how the species managed to achieve space travel (and presumably the array) with such an anti-civilization culture. In the first of these four episodes, we are clued in to the idea that these Hirogens are Trek’s Predator. The second episode would have us believe that a Species 8472 has been left behind in our universe, and has somehow traveled the 10 year journey to where Voyager is, and has been hunted for some time.

Finally, the two-parter—even with all the set-up of the previous three episodes—presents an in medias res story of Hirogen using the Holodeck to torture the crew… all in an effort to create a Hirogen civilization culture. Hmmmm. It feels more like an elaborate excuse to have alien Nazis.

Episode 17 “Retrospect”

Seven of Nine is manipulated by the Doctor, who is deluding himself as being counselor material, to have false memories accusing an alien of abuse. It is heavy-handed, but a fairly good take on the “recovered memories” scandal from the 1980s and 90s.

Episode 20 “Vis a Vis”

A body-swapping story that feels perfunctory. The problem with episodic stories on TV is we know from the get go that everything will return to Status-quo by the end of things.

Episode 21 “Omega Directive”

This episode promises a secret, spy-like mission in the cold-open. It does not deliver. When ordered to destroy a “dangerous” molecule that could destroy warp travel, Janeway ignores Seven of Nine’s suggestion that Borg research might render it safe. More than that, it turns out that the “perfection” of the molecule makes it a sort of “Holy Grail” for Borg culture. Seven gets a glimpse of the molecule and has a Damascus Road experience, but that is swept away quickly in the cap scene.

Episode 22 “Unforgettable”

What we learn in this story is that Chakotay is easier to manipulate than your average guy. An alien whose biology causes other to forget interaction with them (see The Silence in Doctor Who for a much better take) shows up claiming that she knows the crew and wants asylum. Chakotay rightly suspects her claims that they were in love, but choses to believe her. When the tables are turned and the alien is made to forget the crew, Chakotay tries to convince her as she did him. She leaves without a moment’s hesitation.

Episode 23 “Living Witness”

In one of the more interesting uses of the sci-fi potential, the show tackles the limitations of history. The Doctor’s back-up file is activated 700 years in the future, in a museum, on a world that thinks it was the victim of an attack from Voyager. In this future, history has recorded Voyager as a harsh, totalitarian run ship that is willing to commit genocide to get what it needs to return home. The Doctor’s first hand testimony tells a very different story; that might cause renewed race wars.

Episode 24 “Demon”

An inhospitable planet has an intelligent, but non-conscious substance that attains consciousness when it comes in contact with Kim and Paris. It reproduces bodies based on their DNA (but not really, since it can exist on the planet where life as we know it can’t.) In this story, though, our crew has enough respect for life to allow the substance to replicate everyone, as a gift of life. TNG, in a similar situation (“Up the Long Ladder”), acted completely out of character and killed such “clones” in a pro-abortion message. Outside of that episode, Trek has always (unintentionally, but consistent with logic and ethics) been pro-life.

Episode 25 “One”

Seven of Nine must navigate through a nebula on a month-long journey while the rest of the crew is in suspended animation. Understandably, she begins to lose it psychologically.

Episode 26 “Hope and Fear”

That message from Star Fleet finally gets read and simply says, “Sorry, you’re on your own out there.” Actually, though, an alien tricks the crew into thinking that it reveals a quicker way home in an effort to turn them over to the Borg. They of course uncover the ruse and also manage to get a lot closer to home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 More Favorites

Yesterday’s post was so fun I couldn’t stop:

“No man was ever taken to hell by a woman unless he already had a ticket in his pocket or at least had been fooling around with timetables.” –Rex Stout, Some Buried Caesar

As a former youth minister, I can tell you: there are a lot of people out there teaching girls that all sexual sin out there is their fault. Must be nice to be a boy growing up in that fault-free environment!

“We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.” –Rex Stout, The Rubber Band

Some judge the poor of the world as though their lot in life is entirely a result of lack of effort. That is the easiest way to live with excess in a world of suffering.

“Afraid? I can dodge folly without backing into fear.” –Rex Stout, The Doorbell Rang

This would be a great phrase to know as a teen facing peer pressure.

“Why was this bloody world created?"
"As a sewer for the stars," a voice in front of him said. "Alternatively to know God and to glorify Him forever."
" [...] The two answers are not, of course, necessarily alternative.” –Charles Williams, War in Heaven

I love systems of belief that embrace paradox, or at least multiple answers to a question.

“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.” –C. S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

It seems this is the mission of mankind. Just look at the intellectual elite.

“They would say,” he answered, “that you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.” ― C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

The context in the story is marriage, but this also applies to the walk of discipleship.

“It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the Disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going round to atheists' houses and smashing their windows.” –Terry Pratchett, The Color of Magic

I love the idea of this absurdist author laughing at the idea of atheists in his creation.

“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

As a dog owner—and of a nice dog I hope—I like to think this observation is true.

“Watson. Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Adventure of the Creeping Man

Now that is leadership!

“I daren't come and drink," said Jill. "Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

“So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

These last two are small portions of much larger texts in my second favorite tome of The Chronicles of Narnia. You really ought to search them out and read them in full.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some 10 of My Favorite Quotes from Lit.

My son is taking a course in Creative Writing, and had to write some of his favorite sentences from literature. That sounded like a fun thing to do, so here are a few of my own; just the first few that came to mind:

“You are to act in the light of experience as guided by intelligence.” –Rex Stout “In the Best Families”

This is Nero Wolfe’s advice to his employee, Archie Goodwin, when Goodwin is unable to consult Wolfe for instructions. It is also a good bit of advice for everyday life.

“Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be vulgarity - like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.” –C. S. Lewis “Perelandra

C. S. Lewis dominates this list. I could do a top 100 list of his quotes. This one is a wonderful illumination on the nature of sin. More than just doing wrong, it can be doing good with wrong motivation, or seeking pleasures instead of receiving them.

“Isn't it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That's how we get things done.” ― C.S. Lewis, “That Hideous Strength”

My favorite novel is full of great quotes. The above one is from the evil powers trying to control the world.  It fits especially today, don't you think, fearful Christian?  Here is another one:

“There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one.” –C.S. Lewis “That Hideous Strength”

There is also a great conversation regarding weather that I would have included here, but it is way more than a sentence.

“There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity they never gave a thought to Christ.” –C.S. Lewis “The Great Divorce”

I have met so many missionaries with exactly this problem.

“Who are you?” he said, scarcely above a whisper. “One who has waited long for you to speak.” –C. S. Lewis “The Horse and His Boy”

This opens my favorite conversation in my favorite book of the Chronicles of Narnia. Read the whole chapter, if not the whole book.

“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” –J. R. R. Tolkien “The Return of the King”

Tolkien too has a dozen or more gems. This one is especially important for today’s generation.

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes ... as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” –Norton Juster “The Phantom Tollbooth”

This book influenced me more than many in my childhood. It is full of many great, insightful treasures. I think everyone I supervise should learn this quote by heart.

“You can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and not get wet.” –Norton Juster “The Phantom Tollbooth”


“I'll continue to see things as a child. It's not so far to fall.” –Norton Juster “The Phantom Tollbooth”

This would make a wonderful life motto.

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