Friday, December 14, 2007

Indulgences Again

A study reported by the International Journal of Climatology says that today’s models for measuring warming are flawed, and that the atmosphere may not be warming as much as was thought. This study was done by scientists who are not global warming skeptics, and who are in fact the world's premier authorities on collection and analysis of satellite-derived temperature data.

The response from the scientific community to this report was, “it does not agree with current Scientific Consensus.”

Scientific Consensus? Since when does science depend on consensus to determine truth and not the facts? Apparently for some time now. A Google search of the term reveals page after page of results, most dealing with global warming. Some go so far as to say that science uses “scientific consensus” to reach a determination of truth!

Basically, this is the way it works: if a majority of scientists believe something, say, that the Earth is flat, then the Earth is scientifically shown to be flat. Any facts contrary to consensus by definition are wrong.

Where is Galileo when you need him? Our perhaps what the scientific community needs today is a modern Martin Luther, considering how dogmatic it has become.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Golden Compass: a Review

(Caveat: German is definitely the “tri” of Non-Modern’s “trilingualism.” This film was seen in German and some nuances may have therefore been missed.)
This movie was entertaining. Being the first of multiple books it had an incomplete feeling, much like Fellowship of the Ring. That being said, the storyline was not quite as engaging. The climax was decidedly anti-climactic.

There was a gem to be found, however, and that was the Daemon concept. The idea of showing a person’s spirit externally was used effectively for some very interesting and enlightening scenes. An interaction between Nichole Kidman’s character and her spirit was one of the best moments in the film.

The visual technique of showing the Compass in action, on the other hand, was less than satisfactory. If the viewer is not supposed to get a clear idea of what the compass is revealing, why show it visually at all? Or if it is shown, why make it visually non-stimulating?

The reported anti-religious message is thus far inoffensive and in actuality a good take on the danger of governing religious power.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boycott the Golden Compass?

Okay, not a full post, but a reaction to something annoying.

What serves God better? When faced with a movie based on books that are critical of institutional religion, should you:

A- Call on the "faithful" to boycott it?

or

B- Use the thematic material to strike up conversations with lost people about how religion is in fact bad and what people need is a relationship with God?

One of the biggest critiques of Christianity is that Christians don't think. Calling on Christians to not see a movie or read a book just because somebody says it will introduce them to harmful lies seems to imply that the people who believe that most are the Christians themselves.

True Christianity is a flock following Christ, not a herd blindly chasing each other around.

Whether you see the movie or not, is up to you, just don't waste this opportunity to engage people in talks about spirituality and your relationship with God. Be informed. Know what the movie (and the books) are actually saying so that you can intelligently hold up your side of the conversation.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part Five

Okay, the fifth film on this list is not really a movie that was shown in theaters. It isn’t really a film, but rather a mini-series, and while we’re at it, it is really two miniseries.

In most cases it is a no-brainer that a book will be better than the movie interpretation of that book—just look at the Harry Potter franchise. They are some good films but nowhere near as good as the books. Well, there are exceptions to every rule, and the two Anne of Green Gables miniseries by Kevin Sullivan fit into that exception. These movies take three or four of the books from the series and turn the small, funny episodic chapters into a sweeping story of Anne's life in a way that the viewer really gets to know her. Watching her grow and mature, fall in love, and embrace reality without losing her romantic imagination is a great experience.

It is perhaps a little ironic that a story that is essentially a classic, period, romance carries the message that reality can be more romantic than silly, imaginary, romantic ideals. Anne is a wonderful character, with a rich imagination, and as a result, she has a hard time living in the real world. Nothing can measure up to the ideals that she invents for herself. While the viewer wants her to finally recognize the good she has available in her life, she is such an endearing character that she never really becomes annoying.

As with most romantic stories, this one never explores the “happily ever after.” Sullivan did come up with his own “Anne” story not based on the books exploring events later in her life, but why bother?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part Four

What can be written about Raiders of the Lost Ark that has not already been said? Probably nothing. Among its many other accomplishments, however, it must be mentioned that it made fantasy and adventure stories of this sort respectable. Fantastic adventures had always been found on film, but seldom had they been pulled off so effectively. In the thirties and forties, adventure films were very popular, drawing viewers back again and again with cliffhangers each week. But these films were never viewed as anything better than B Film product.

Spielberg and Lucas had already created the “Summer Blockbuster” with Jaws and Star Wars in the seventies. But with Raiders, they reinvented the old adventure yarn as truly first class filmmaking. It was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar! The adventure movie was here to stay. Raiders was followed by two (soon to be three) great sequels as well as: Goonies, Romancing the Stone, The Princess Bride, the Robin Hood remakes, the Zorro films, The National Treasure films, and more.

It did more than just reinvent the adventure genre, however. It also began a new sub-genre perhaps best described as a supernatural or magical adventure. Young Sherlock Holmes, Big Trouble in Little China, the new Mummy movies, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies all owe their existence to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As enjoyable as all these listed films are, the original is still the best. From the opening mini adventure in the Amazon to the shot of the government storing the Ark in the giant warehouse at the end, it is all cinema magic. For that matter the two sequels (yes both of them) are too.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Propaganda (or Redeemed Art part 2)

A lot (but not all) of Christian art must unfortunately be termed propaganda. Propaganda is a legitimate art form so this Christian art is art; however, propaganda is usually of a lesser quality than most art, so…

Nonmodern has addressed art before, and the crucial missing element here is the aesthetic. Propaganda is concerned more with message than beauty, and often the truth of the message is lost in the substandard delivery. (It must also be said here that a lot of so-called Christian art is devoid of truth as well.) When a Christian does art it should be done well—as art. All too often the artist creates a very poor work knowing that they have a built in audience simply because it is labeled as Christian. Painting (or hiring people to paint) cookie cutter mass-produced images with gimmicky light on them is neither Christian nor Art no matter how many scripture verses are attached.

At the same time, Christians dismiss some artists because the art isn’t Christian enough. Heaven forbid a Christian waste time writing songs about life that fail to present the Four Spiritual Laws, or the Roman Road! Even worse, how dare some Christians practice their art outside the community approved Christian industry? Christian and secular are poor labels to be used on any art. Whether a piece is redeemed or not should not depend on the label, or a limited acceptable message, or the genre, or even the artist. Compare the “secular” U2 with the “Christian” Amy Grant for example. Judge art on the truth it contains and the beauty it has.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Arrogance

Christians are accused by Secular Humanists of being arrogant, ignorant people who force their view on everyone else. That this happens is really strange for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the majority of Christians believe that there are truths that apply to everyone, whether they believe them or not. Namely that God exists, that humanity is dependant on Him for life and Salvation, and that people need Salvation from God because they have strayed away from the way God created them to be. However, Humanists also believe that there are truths that apply to everyone whether they believe them or not. They say that there is no God and nothing happens after death. Belief in one system or the other does not entail a higher level of arrogance.

Secondly, Christianity teaches that people have a God given right to choose whether they will accept God’s teaching or not. While some Christians try to “spread the news” most do not. Any attempt to tell others what they believe is usually an attempt to warn others out of a concern for their good. Most Christians offer their views out of what they would call love. Humanists, on the other hand, (at least those that complain about Christians) tend to attack Christians and their message. They don’t spread their “we are just matter and will cease to exist in the end” message. Certainly not out of a concern for others or a desire to help them.

In the end the question must be raised. Which is arrogant? Is it arrogance to share a message that you have believed that could change lives? Or, is it arrogance to deny that message and attack its believers because it does not measure up to your (apparently complete) understanding of the universe?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beware! Here There Be Trolls.

There is something about the Internet that brings out the worst in people. A quick scan of this “Brave New World” shows some of the monstrous sides of human nature.

Web-rage is similar in some ways to road-rage. It is easy to take anger out on a machine and forget that there is a real person inside. The same thing happens on the Internet. Forums and blogs seemed to be plagued with hostile types that live to pick a fight. They are so common, they have a name: “troll.”

Trolls have plagued the forum world since before the World Wide Web existed, and first appeared back in the 1980s on Usenet groups. Another type of troll has shown up in the Blogosphere, and it is a problem. Perhaps it is the anonymity; maybe it is the stilted nature of one-sided communication. But it seems people read things into a piece that are not there and then attack those very ideas. They belittle and condemn writers and thoughts never asking for clarification, never entering into a true dialogue, never truly communicating.

Some blogs may have set themselves up for this. By bloging in front of the whole world things that might better be discussed in house or airing questions that come across as complaints from an anonymous position; a couple of Baptist missions blogs have brought a lot of heated “trolling” lately. It is a pity that on the web interactions are very heated and hateful; when in person they would possibly be normal constructive conversations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part Two

Is there really a cynic out there that is too hardened to appreciate It’s a Wonderful Life? This is a movie that has been engraved into popular culture. Even people who have never seen the film have seen something else inspired by it. It probably ranks second only to A Christmas Carol in terms of recognized Christmas stories. (Not counting the actual Christmas Story of course.)

How does something made sixty years ago stand the test of time and endure in spite of its obvious hyper-sentimentality? Because it tells a story that deep down every human wants to believe. Everyone wants to know that they count, that their life makes a difference. Ultimately, people have this desire because they were made to fulfill a purpose.

Life exists for a reason. Every life has a purpose. Every person has a role to play. The Story of It’s a Wonderful Life is a reminder that everyone impacts the lives around them. It is the idea at the core of every great epic story. Incidentally, it is a common theme at the heart of nearly all the films found in the top ten Nonmodern films.

One of the best moments of this film, often overlooked, is when George Bailey hits bottom and lashes out at everyone around him. It is easy to forget by the end of the movie, that George is no selfless hero. He has always been forced into the role of saving the town, against his own wishes. His dreams and visions of greatness never worked out, and he eventually caves into despair as normal people often do. He is a very flawed character. This makes the revelations of the differences he has made all the more rewarding in the end.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part Three

Chariots of Fire can be a difficult film to watch. The story telling techniques used can be hard to follow. Flashbacks and cuts between parallel storylines occur throughout. Hugh Hudson used some highly stylized techniques to shoot the races. There are long delays at the start of every race with multiple cuts of motionless runners waiting for the gunshot, and the races are followed by multiple replays of the race at varying speeds. However, all of that effectively reproduces the runner’s experience of the race: from the unending anticipation of the start to the reliving of the race after it is over.

This is also not a story of action, but conviction. The conflicts played out in the film do not arise from outside forces coming against the protagonists, but from within themselves. Abrahams, the Jew, spends the whole movie trying to overcome society’s view of him when it is his own view of himself that needs changing. Liddell, the Christian missionary, has to decide if he is really trying to glorify God with his running as he keeps telling everyone, or if he is in the race for his own Olympic glory.

In the end, perhaps that is why this film fails to find an audience even among Christians. They wrongly see it as a film demanding legalism. This is not the case at all. The issue for Liddell is not really about running on Sunday. It is about selling out. People are always doing what they want and telling themselves they are doing it for God. They have “committed” themselves to God. Instead, God asks that people surrender to Him and do with their lives what He wants. For Liddell that meant ultimately leaving a high profile racing career for a life (and death) doing missions in China.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Redeemed Art: Part One

Art is the result of humanity’s God-given creativity and the need to communicate. It has the potential to be beautiful, pleasing and truthful. Its ultimate purpose is to communicate truth in an aesthetic way. The highly speculative (and perhaps dangerous) parlor game here proposed is: what if art could be redeemed?

Human art will most likely perish in the end. Only the souls of humanity will survive into eternity but what if art was included in that list of “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw” found in 1 Corinthians? Which bits would make it? Which works would be redeemed and become a part of eternity?

Yes, that is probably bizarre speculation. However, much of art reveals some truth for those who have the eyes to see it, and there are a lot of people who have been exposed to some of that truth in culture. They simply need Scripture to have their eyes opened to the whole of truth as it has been divinely revealed.

This measure of truth is only one of two key elements by which great art must be judged. The other is the aesthetic aspect. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, there is a limit to perspectives when it comes to true beauty. Quality, technique, originality, and composition all represent aspects of art that can be judged and evaluated.

Drawing, painting, architecture, literature, music, dance and theater should all be measured by both their aesthetics and their message. Then, to a certain degree, they may be “redeemed” as they accomplish their purpose of communicating truth effectively. By this standard, a lot of what is deemed “secular” art would make it on the list while much of “Christian” art would be left out. More about that in a later post…

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A pastor walks into a bar...

Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld: two comedians that pioneered great developments in the field of comedy. Cosby perfected the casual storytelling delivery. Seinfeld pointed out the hilarious nature of everyday life. They are funny and they are also some of the best communicators around. If a speaker wanted to keep an audience listening and entertained, theirs would be a great example to follow. However, if substance needs to be communicated, other things must come into play. Stories can be memorable, and often didactic. However, they can also be simple entertainment.

Pastoral communication has fallen prey to ratings in the past ten years or so. Somewhere along the way, some pastors have forgoten that their job is to communicate Biblical truth, and instead they have started trying to do “Christian Stand-Up.”

It seems one can’t make it through these sermons without hearing lengthy anecdotes from the preacher’s life, all humorous, all tied amazingly into some nugget of “truth” —occasionally accompanied by a verse or two. People come. People laugh. People enjoy the service. Numbers grow so the church is dubbed a success. The pastor is such a good speaker. He relates “the message” so well to everyday life. The problem is “the message” has very little about the Bible or how they should live. Instead, they learn story after story about their pastor’s life, and what a funny life it must be!

Is it the dumbing down of society that has brought this about? Can people no longer be expected to sit through a serious discussion about Theology? Or is it the all-pervasive Pragmatism of American culture that is satisfied merely with what fills the pews in the church and doesn’t care what fills the hearts and minds of the church?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Top Ten Films: Part One



The Lord of the Rings is not a Christian book. The author is careful to make clear that it is "just a story." However, Tolkien couldn't keep his Christian worldview out of the story.

Being an epic fantasy, everything is bigger, more beautiful, greater, and more dazzling. The sky is bluer, the grass greener, and the danger is worse. An evil that has haunted the land for thousands of years has resurfaced, and the key to its power is a ring that just so happens to be in the possession of a little Hobbit.

Hobbits are quiet little sheltered people who know nothing of the world outside their borders. They go through life thinking that only their world matters and that nothing could ever change it. When Frodo discovers that he must leave the shelter of his home to help save the world, it is a huge wake-up call and sacrifice.

This is a story about doing the right thing, not the easy thing. It is about everyone has an important role to play in the world. A conversation in the first movie communicates this theme.

Frodo confesses to Gandalf, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalfs response is the heart of the story. “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Its Not an Incantation

A revival meeting in a small Texas town was the source of an interesting revelation a few years ago.

It seems that the youth minister was assigned to go door to door with the evangelist inviting people and sharing. The speaker was a seminary-trained pastor with several years experience in the ministry.

After about a half-hour of visiting, they came upon a somewhat confused and erratic older man who lived alone in a small house. When he found out that they were with a church group about to have revival services, he told them he wasn’t interested in attending. His reasons, it seems, had something to do with a complicated conspiracy involving the Catholic Church and the Pope. They spent a few minutes trying to direct the conversation back to the message of the Bible and away from debates about religion and politics.

Finally, the evangelist gave up. “”Excuse me one minute,” he said “could I ask you to pray one prayer with us, and then we’ll be on our way?”

The old man tried to carry on telling them about his theory, but finally agreed to repeat “the Sinner’s Prayer.” As soon as they concluded, he attempted to take up the conspiracy debate again. They excused themselves, however, and left.

“Well, that was strange…and a little out there.” said the youth minister. “I don’t think he understood a word we were telling him.”

“Yes,” responded the evangelist, “but at least he prayed the prayer, so one day we will see him in heaven.”

Now, clearly the Bible does not teach the use of magic, and it certainly does not teach that people are saved by means of magic words uttered in some formula or prayer. Apparently, however, some Christians wrongly believe this.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Ignorance Lost

People today have a peculiar understanding of childhood. They see children as innocent and good without any need to be taught spiritually. They believe a child is an example of what innocent humanity should be. To reprimand or teach the child to behave in one way or another is to impose a view on them. Instead children should be allowed to grow and mature and choose for themselves what their view of truth is.

In realty, children are not innocent. They must learn how to behave and get along with others. What Postmodern thinking terms “innocence” is really just “ignorance.” If left to their own devices and decisions, they will ultimately choose to please self and seek their own good. “Good” here not being objective good, but good for self at the exclusion of others if necessary.

As a result, Christian outreach and evangelism directed at children is seen as a negative thing. The argument says that Christians should consider how they would feel if Muslims or other groups began an attractive and exciting children’s outreach in their neighborhood. Presumably, Christians would not like it, and therefore the “Golden Rule” dictates that they should also not engage in this sort of outreach.

While there are other arguments against children’s outreach programs, and some may in fact be valid, this one is not. It presumes that all ideas and teachings are equal. In fact it says that they are all equally wrong, while no right idea exists. If there is in fact no truth then every child must simply find a way of life that “works for them” and adults should not interfere. However, ideas are not equal and truth does exist. Children deserve to hear truth just as much everyone else.

Ignorance does not imply inability to learn.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Cult of Tolerance

It is a misconception to say that today tolerance is the highest held virtue. It is not. Instead intolerance, or perceived intolerance, is vilified more than any other evil. So people today do not truly strive to be tolerant. They simply avoid being perceived as intolerant. These two things are not the same.

The dictionary defines tolerance is the ability to endure or put up with something that is disagreeable. For example, a person who has a high tolerance for alcohol is someone who can put up with a large amount of a substance that has a negative affect on the body. So, tolerance does not mean: a—agreement, or even b—understanding. In today’s vernacular it really means simply to not disagree with any view. Intolerance by default becomes synonymous with saying or believing something is wrong.

Once again, the fact must be stated that tolerance is not what people strive for. Notice. People still believe some things are wrong. The way they avoid the intolerance label is by qualifying they’re beliefs. “That truth is not for me.” “If it works for you, then that’s great!”What the world needs today is not less intolerance, but more respect. Respect is better than tolerance. With respect people can talk. They can try to understand each other. They can agree to disagree, but they can have real discussions and debate the nature of reality.

It is time for intelligent people to denounce the Cult of Tolerance and return to a Pursuit of the Truth.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Advice to Explorers

When comparing three of the major mountain chains in the world: the Rockies, the Andes, and the Alps, there is a decided atmospheric difference.

The Rocky Mountains are a Frontier. They are rugged, and open. They call out to be explored, to be tamed, and to be lived in. The explorer, the prospector and the cowboy’s spirit live in the mountains and the land surrounding it. They stand large and sharply angular against the sky, and the sun paints the sky in bold colors when it rises and sets through them.

The Andes are Primeval: young in the sense of when the Earth itself was young. Volcanic giants on the edge of the world, it is as if no human has ever inhabited them. Past and extinct civilizations feel completely alien to the modern world. Hidden behind curtains of clouds, fire burns along the range, occasionally bursting forth in a violent display.

The Alps are Magic, and are older than the ancient habitation of mankind. Haphazardly cut out of rock and sky, mist bathed and moss covered. Dwarves and fairies and other mysteries still hide there, yet humanity is deeply rooted in the history here, flowering out all over the meadows and the tired slopes, along ancient streams and hidden lakes.

Pity should be felt for those who have never experienced real mountains, for the beauty of creation finds its pinnacle there. There are no sights, smells, nor feelings to be compared with those found among these heights anywhere else on the planet.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Indulgences

Someone named Alexander Cockburn recently wrote an opinion piece that drew parallels between the practice of paying for carbon offsets and the indulgences sold by the Catholic Church in the middle ages. The creators of BBC’s “Doctor Who” made a similar observation when they equated the Global Warming alarmists to the old man on the corner with the placard announcing the end of the world.

Modernism has always attempted to do away with religion in all its forms. In a sense Evangelical Christians would agree with Modernism on this point. The problem is that religion is a human institution, created by people to replace the need for God in their lives. What is needed is not religion, but a relationship with God. The difference is that Modernism is anti-spiritual, so they simply replaced spiritual religion with secular ideas that became new religions.

It seems the latest form this has taken has been the religiously held ideas of environmentalism and global warming. Neither of these things is in and of themselves bad. Being a good steward of creation is a good and noble idea, and the world is indeed getting warmer. The problem arises when these ideologies lead to a list of requirements that impart “holiness.” People that conform to the rules handed down from the “priests” are deemed good. People who do not are “sinners.”

The Carbon offsets really are like the indulgences of old. The Queen of England on her recent trip to the U.S., concerned with the amount of Carbon her jet would produce, was able to appease her guilty conscience by simply paying to reduce other people’s carbon emissions. Sin all you want, and just pay to have your guilt reduced.

Maybe it is time for someone to nail up a list of theses against Secular Humanism.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Non-modern

In a world transitioning from a Modern to a Postmodern outlook, Christianity needs to remember that it is Non-Modern.

Postmodernism is more than a trend, more than a passing fad. It is a philosophical Worldview. It is a paradigm through which several fads and trends have been developed. For the past 100 years it has slowly been growing and becoming the dominate Worldview in the western world. Like it or not, it is here until the next Paradigm is developed and gains the dominate hold on culture. How long will that take? It is anyone’s guess, but Modernism, the previous manner of looking at the world, had its roots in the Enlightenment and has not completely given way to Postmodernism yet, so it will be quite some time.

How does the Christian approach Postmodernism? It has been said that a person cannot be both Postmodern and Christian at the same time. However, Christianity transcends philosophical frameworks. Modernism and its teachings are very anti-Christian, and yet some of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century (Lewis, Schaeffer and others) were very Modern in their writings. Perhaps it should be said that they found effective ways to communicate transcendent truth to the Modern world. The same thing must be done for the Postmodern Worldview. While many of its aspects are anti-Christian and false understandings of the world, there are other aspects that can be used to show the world truth.

This is not a call to make Christianity Postmodern. It is a recognition that Christianity is Non-Modern… Pre-modern. More importantly, Christianity is reality. As such, any honest seeker of the truth should be able to find it. The key is to adapt the Worldview to reality, not change reality to fit a particular view of the world.

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