Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
It seems that both the Atheists and the Theist want to claim Albert Einstein for their respective camps. While he did claim to believe in a “superior spirit,” and therefore he cannot correctly be described as an Atheist, he absolutely did not believe in the God of the Bible and is not really a good example of a person arguing for a God that is involved in people’s lives.
Einstein saw structure and order in the universe that led him to believe that there was design in nature. Things did not arise from chance. “God doesn’t play dice.” At the same time, his experience and understanding of the universe did not allow for a personal God who intervened in creation. He saw no possibility of miracles and did not believe the accounts of the Bible to be accurate.
Today, science has drifted far away from the structured and “designed” understanding of the universe that Einstein held. Science has gone from demanding concrete evidence—things that can be seen or touched—to believing in things for which there is no proof, merely “scientific consensus.”
Rather than revolutionaries paving the way for belief and understanding based on observation and facts, they have become cardinals and priests defending elaborate systems and dogmas based on tradition and established teaching. When Einstein wrote the words in the quote above, he probably never envisioned a time when science would become its own religion.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
“Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.”
An argument could be made that the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol is the best TV movie ever made. Part of what makes it so great, however, is that while it was made for television in the states, it was released theatrically in
What makes the film great by any standards is the source material: one of the best stories ever written. What makes it the greatest adaptation of that source is the great attention to detail and authentic feel it creates. From the lighting to the costumes to the sets, it does a phenomenal job (and better than the other adaptations) of recreating the time and place Dickens described.
A Christmas Carol has it all: Victorian England, the Christmas setting, and an important lesson in human kindness. Oh, and it is all a truly chilling ghost story. Marley is traditional: translucent and dragging chains around with deathly wide-open eyes. The Phantom at the end representing the future that may be is shrouded in a cloak like death and speaks not a word. Perhaps the scariest instance comes at the end of the Spirit of Christmas present’s time, when he opens his cloak to reveal Ignorance and Want; two emaciated children representing so many in the world.
If that is too intense for you, you might celebrate Christmas in June by instead enjoying an equally special if slightly less important AChristmas Story. No real deep message, just nostalgia for a time most of us are too young to have really remembered but have experienced just the same through the idealized version given to us in countless movies and television shows.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
One of the major arguments put forward by Atheists goes something like this: “If there really was a god, why do bad things happen in the world?” This is not one of the better logical triumphs from the Atheist camp, just one of the most beloved jabs that they all like to use. The fact is, it does not go anywhere towards demonstrating the fact that there is no god as much as betray the disappointment that they have towards reality. And, who can blame them?
The world is a messed up place. In
No one argues that the world is not at times a terrible place. However, to impose a single idea of what a perfect world would be would result in an even worse reality. It can be argued that a truly loving God might have to temporarily allow the evil that results when freedom is granted rather than impose a mechanical perfection on the universe where no freedom is allowed.
The question really should be: since we live in a hard and often evil world isn’t it better to trust that there is a God and a future of hope?
Then again, maybe Atheists feel that they score higher intellectual points by claiming that the world is evil and pointless. There is an inherent contradiction, though, in imposing metaphysical ideas like “good” and “evil” into an argument while, at the same time, demanding concrete evidence or proof of divine existence. All that, and how do you determine the world even is wrong, with no standard of good to measure it against?
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
That is the story Smallville attempts to tell. What happened to Kal-El, otherwise known as Superman, between the time his ship crashed to earth and he appeared in the offices of The Daily Planet? Superman has always been a rather boring superhero. There seems to be little he can’t do. He always has just enough power to overcome whatever evil he must face. Clark Kent on the other, hand is fascinating, and that is where this series gets it right.
Everyone has had the fantasy of being able to lead a double life. It would be great to be a secret agent or a crime fighter. What we don’t often consider is the curse that a secret life would be. Clark’s ends up being just that. To protect himself and those he loves, he can never tell people about his amazing powers. Over time he grows in understanding of who he is and what he can do.
Smallville is more than an adventure of the week. It takes its cue from shows like The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and develops storylines over multiple episodes and seasons. The relationships between the characters are well thought out and the characters develop over time. Over time it begins to have a bit of a soap opera feel to it but many of the episodes deal with the issues Clark faces as the future savior of the world.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
It is said that people will believe anything. Actually, people need to believe something. We are wired that way. We have reason, and our reason drives us to find the underlying truth behind perception. So—take anyone you want. If you ask them enough questions, you will discover that they hold certain beliefs to be true…in spite of the fact that they have not one shred of proof for their belief.
Religion is the basis of what most people in the world throughout time have believed. Christianity currently claims about one third of the people in the world. While there is no proof for God, the flipside of that attempt to discredit this belief is that He cannot be disproved either.
Other religions offer a bit more of a baffling set of things people will believe. Scientology offers a religion admittedly invented by a science fiction author with decidedly science fiction elements. The fact that anyone believes that shows just how strong the urge to believe is.
Even the Scientific or Secular worldview has its tenets that are accepted only by faith:
Spontaneous Generation, or the idea that simple living organisms can spontaneously emerge from non-living matter, has long been discredited in its medieval versions. However, a form of it is still believed to happen or at least to have happened on occasion.
The idea that complex organic systems and processes have emerged by natural selection over long periods of time through random mutations contradicting the second law of thermodynamics is today’s scientific consensus. What would the step-by-step process of eye development or flight look like?When we reject the natural belief in the God who created us, we will literally grasp at anything to fill the vacant spot, and evidence has nothing to do with it.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Actually, however, it all boils down to the talents of Peter Sellers. The man was a bit of a genius in being silly. We put up with Inspector Clouseau because we get such a kick out of watching him pull off this incredibly stupid character with such charm.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
As stated, it is thoroughly entertaining!
Monday, June 16, 2008
Three of these things belong together,Three of these things are kind of the same,But one of these things just doesn’t belong here,And now it’s time to play our game,It’s time to play our game…
Friday, June 13, 2008
In the middle ages there was a different, unscientific and somewhat symbolic understanding of outer space. Perhaps that is even the wrong choice of words to describe it. Heavens is better. In this view, the heavens were divided into seven spheres, each with their own reigning planet. From the Earth out they were: Lunis (the moon), Mercury, Venus, Solis (the sun), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. One still sees evidences of this old system in Europe. In downtown Dresden on the “Balcony of Europe” there is a statue devoted to the celestial spheres.
It was symbolic because the planets were also associated with other things like metals and moods: Jupiter with tin and joy, Mars with iron and war, Saturn with death, Venus with beauty and love, etc.
The reason this is making its way into the NonModern blog, (aside from it being a non-modern idea!) is found in the new book by Dr. Michael Ward entitled “Planet Narnia.” In it he proposes the theory that C.S. Lewis built and structured each of his Chronicles of Narnia after one of the seven planets. In fact, he explores Lewis’ use of the planetary concept in much of his writing. The way this idea explains the seeming lack of structure or continuity and some of the stranger inclusions like Father Christmas and mythological gods is compelling.
Here is the way the Chronicles line up according to Dr. Ward: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe—Jupiter, Prince Caspian—Mars, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader—Sun, The Silver Chair—Moon, The Horse and His Boy—Mercury, The Magician’s Nephew—Venus, The Last Battle—Saturn.
The verdict is still out, but it is a good read. Plus, Dr. Ward favors publication order and not chronological, so he at least has one thing right!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The world is a place where death rules, and contrary to what the older generations try to tell you, it was never any less evil in their day. They just notice it more now.
No Country for Old Men is a decidedly non-traditional film. By all accounts it is a very faithful adaptation of the book on which it is based. It begins without a beginning, and ends abruptly without a noticeable conclusion. The rest of the time it focuses on three characters who never really meet each other:
Llewelyn Moss is a man who, against his better judgment, gets involved with death, but that is not what condemns him. The fact is, “you never see what’s coming,” and the viewer doesn’t either.
Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, a killer who many claimed is the creepiest villain since Hannibal Lecter. In fact, he is never creepy—he is too inhuman to really be scary. He is evil in the same sense that death is evil, and he is as impersonal.
The true key to the film is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, a man who has grown up fighting evil in the world. As he gets older, he has begun to realize that it cannot be overcome. A key conversation towards the end has him revealing, “I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come inta my life somehow. And he didn't. I don't blame him. If I was him I would have the same opinion of me that he does.”That is the message in a nutshell. The Coens present a world where death rules, and God chooses to do nothing about it. Perhaps we are all too evil for God to care. The scant hope offered at the end leaves most viewers empty, and it should. Their view of the world is more or less accurate, but their idea of God is one sided. They see the judgment but not the love.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The difficulty in defending the inclusion of The Wizard of Oz among the best films of all time is that it needs no defending. Everyone has seen it. Most everyone likes it. It is a part of every American child’s experience. There is the cool switch from black and white to color. There are all those wonderful songs. The special effects are amazing. But the most memorable thing about this movie has got to be the witch.
This is probably most people’s first experience with horror. It may not be classified as such, but it is a movie with horror elements. The Wicked Witch of the West is genuinely scary, and it is rumored that many of her scenes were trimmed, as they were deemed too scary for young viewers. And yet it is this element of fear that makes the movie so wonderful. There are real stakes to the quest that the four heroes embark on, and when they succeed and kill the witch, there is a real pay-off.
Some people think that Wizard has a great message… not so much. If anything it seems to imply that education and recognition for doing good or defending the country is meaningless. Perhaps a not so harsh take would be to say that it encourages viewers to recognize the gifting they already have. The other big message is just nonsense—“There’s no place like home.” Yeah, if by that you mean there is no place quite so depressing! Who would want to leave Oz to return back to an all-sepia Kansas where they want to take your dog away?
Regardless, you have one of the best family films of all time, one of the best musicals of all time, one of the best fantasy, quest, scary, and on and on. It is hard to believe this film was made nearly seventy years ago. Forget about all the “all time” stuff, for its day and in its context it definitely belongs among the best movies ever.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Western culture has for some time now blurred the distinction between freedom and tolerance. The problem is that when open and free societies begin to think freedom means tolerating all opinions, they are threatened with losing the very freedoms they are defending.
This is the way it works: say you found a city that holds as its highest value the toleration of all beliefs and customs. Then imagine that you allow (as a part of the doctrine of tolerance) some white supremacists to move into your town. Sure, they do not tolerate non-whites, but you are bigger than that. You tolerate their intolerance. Before too long, they invite all of their white-supremacist friends to live in your town and suddenly the majority of the town is made up of white supremacists. It is no longer a town that values tolerance; it is a town that does not tolerate!
This is what is happening to western culture, especially in Europe. Postmodern culture, in its attempt to honor its highest ideal of tolerance, is allowing more and more people from a culture that by definition is intolerant, to move into their society. The problem is that they do not demand that the new culture adapt to their ideals and values. As a result, the new, fundamental, and intolerant culture is slowly becoming the dominant majority. At the same time the postmodern culture, in an effort to increase its own tolerance, is cracking down on its own traditions and “narrow-minded” beliefs. This was the subject of a recent report from the Church of England.
This is the great flaw of post-modernity’s desire to hold tolerance as the highest ideal. It is a self-defeating proposition. You either stand for something or else you will fall for anything.
Monday, June 9, 2008
However it was done, Paul grounded new believers quickly and effectively in the Gospel and the behavior of the Kingdom. Effectively enough, anyway, for him to be able to appoint lay leadership for the churches he founded within weeks of founding them. How effectively are today’s missionary strategies in establishing bodies of believers that will survive and thrive within their own cultural context?
Friday, June 6, 2008
There are a few topics that are commonly addressed when talking about Lewis’ The Last Battle. First and foremost is usually the controversial issue of a pagan finding his way into heaven by practicing true spirituality through the vehicle of his false religion. Lewis was not trying to say that any religion would work if merely practiced sincerely. He was trying to make the point that people are responsible for the truth they are given and he failed to really do a good job of it. There. He was not perfect and the Chronicles are flawed.
Secondly, the whole issue of the end of the world and the entrance into the true Narnia/Earth and presumably all other worlds reflected in Heaven is a focus of a lot of people, but he really did a much better job of this with The Great Divorce.
The truly fascinating part of The Last Battle is the beginning. The whole idea of a society that is nominally faithful to a belief, being led astray by a “real” manifestation of that faith. It could really be played out that way very easily. The Bible says that the last secular ruler will ironically be a religious figure, and it is the religious of the world that will sweep him into power.
The scary part of that idea is that western evangelicalism is ripe for just such a leader. We have a dangerous combination of religious zeal married with religious ignorance. For most people in Christian circles today it does not matter what the Bible or God says, but what the latest religious writer or leader says that matters.There are plenty of downright sinful and “asinine” ideas today cloaked in “Jesus.”
Thursday, June 5, 2008
60 years ago, Hitchcock made a movie that was so technically experimental, that the story and theme were overshadowed and somewhat forgotten. Rope was an attempt to tell a story in long takes, even an attempt to make it seem almost like one long take. Unfortunately, the experiment failed as it robbed the movie of a lot of the dramatic effect that editing allows.
The story told in Rope, however, was important and is relevant today. It was based on the true story of two young men who decided to put Nietzsche’s philosophy into effect and kill someone—simply to do it. This very real result of an idea has grown until today you have teens planning to kill as many fellow students as they can simply to set a record. Films have also grown and expanded on the idea. A short list of movies that owe something to Rope could include: The Frighteners, Funny Games (both versions), Scream, Murder by Numbers, and The Strangers.
In Hitchcock’s day, the actual murder was not the story. The idea was to follow the pair as they reveled in their “superiority” until things unraveled and they were discovered, to the shock and horror of their former teacher. It turns out that he had always played with dangerous ideas, and now they had come back to scare him when they were put into action.Our society has been playing with dangerous ideas ever since and today these sorts of stories focus on the murders, because it is no longer shocking but all too possible and the scary thing is to think, “this could really happen to me.” We have come to a point in society where, for far too many people, life has no value.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
A lot has been made of the doubling images and themes in the film as well: two characters named Charlie, two pairs of detectives, etc. The theme of the story however, lies in the loss of faith of the main character. Charlie Newton begins the film depressed and annoyed with the funk her family’s life has become stuck in. She begins to attach her hope for “salvation” on her Uncle Charlie, whose life she has idolized. Her belief is built up completely on reading into circumstances and coincidences, and seeing things that are not really there. She believes because she wants too. This aspect of the movie is highlighted in its many references to superstition.
As the movie progresses, Charlie begins to suspect the reality that her Uncle is not a savior, but a devil, and she is forced to act upon her new belief. Making matters worse, she is the only one to see the truth, and Uncle Charlie discovers that she knows his secret and attempts to kill her on more than one occasion. Fighting for her life, her family, and even her small town dreary existence, she bravely forces her Uncle to leave town. In the end, he tries to kill her one last time…
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
In 1934, Hitchcock made his first movie involving international espionage. The Man Who Knew Too Much is the story of and ordinary couple caught up in circumstances beyond their control when a spy confides in them, as he lies dying. To keep them silent, the spies kidnap their child. This forces the couple to do what they can without the help of the authorities. Hitchcock returned to this “spy” setting several more times in his career, but actually decided to remake this film 22 years later. Why? Perhaps it was the most relevant story from his British days, and Hollywood wanted him to update one of these. Maybe it was a case of Hitchcock wanting to readdress his first effort in the “favorite” genre, now that he had more experience and resources. He once said that the first film was the work of a talented amateur, whereas the remake was that of a professional.
Whatever the reason, there are two versions of this story. They share several thematic elements and even some scenes. Both couples have a relationship with certain problematic aspects. Both have confusion arising from a place name being confused for that of a person. Both have a scene with the protagonists holding a “conversation” singing in church. Of Course, the main shared element is the climactic assassination attempt during a concert.
Which is the better film? That is hard to say. The remake is technically superior and has better character development. However, the original has the wife kill the assassin, as she is a skeet shooter who actually competed against the sniper earlier in the film. Doris Day’s big contribution is to simply sing really loudly and badly an annoying rendition of “Que Sera, Sera.”