Friday, July 30, 2010

An Open Letter To Anne Rice

"For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else." –Anne Rice

I read some of your recent remarks regarding your faith and your choice to renounce Christianity and I was compelled to write some of my thoughts in hopes that you or others like you would reconsider your opinion of Christianity as a whole.

Not everyone who takes on the name moniker of Christian is a religiously driven, hateful person. In fact, many of us have become troubled with the label as it lumps us in with a lot of people with whom we do not agree. In fact it has become a term so broad that it has lost a lot of its meaning.

From your statement, it seems as though you have not given up on God or Jesus, but have merely become disillusioned with those who claim His name in order to maintain power or compel other people to live the way they deem fit. You are in good company. Many Christians throughout history have discovered upon closer studying the Bible that God was not interested in bringing people into the “right” religion, but rather He has always been drawing us all into a renewed relationship with Him. Jesus himself spoke out frequently against the religious people of His day.

Everything that Christ did—coming here to live amongst us in the way God intended people to live, dying with no guilt or rebellion to deserve that death, and rising again victorious—was all done so that we could again approach our Creator with no hindrance. There no longer need be any guilt, or certainly religious hurdles, between us and God. All we need is to trust Him and repent of the rebellious independent streak we all have that caused us to turn away from Him in the first place.

It is my sincere hope that your disillusionment with your religion does not cause you to give up your search for God. I hope that you are now able to find your way into a relationship with Him on His terms, and not some man-made religious version of what that has become.

One Who Cares

Marketing Mania

It seems every culture has its own struggles keeping errors out of the Gospel worldview. In Latin America, people who a legitimately saved sometimes have a hard time letting go of the veneration they give to the virgin. In former communist countries, some struggle to grasp the truth that they need to share their faith. American Christianity struggles with the materialistic influence that the American Dream brings to the Gospel.

And not in ways that you would think of, necessarily, although there are plenty of us materialistic Christians. One of the more pervasive ways American Christianity has been influenced by materialism is through salesmanship and marketing. Think about it. How did the entire previous generation interpret the Great Commission? Neatly thought out, simple sales presentations of their interpretation of the Gospel. Condense the greatest truth in the universe down to an easy to memorize and present message with the goal of producing easy to count converts.

The other big way this is seen today in the church is in the addiction that American Churches have to programs that are easy to market with cool slogans and logos. Instead of having the church busy with people and community, everything the church does has to be planned, programmed, and easy to market. We even have the convenient “commercial break” in all of our worship services.

Admittedly, those other two examples at the top are more problematic theologically speaking, while this seems more methodology. However, what you do reflects a lot of what you believe. Practice equals theology.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To Do

Here is another one from years ago that speaks well to this summer:

Pay the grass
Drive the rent
Mow the milk
Buy the kids
Attend the mail
Pick up the class
Fill up with work
Go to gas.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

400 Union Street

Some day soon I will no longer visit
Except in a fading memory
--from Erosion (March 3, 2010)

Many of us do not have physical anchors in this day in age. Even people who have lived their whole lives in one “place” have changed houses several times. For the child of a missionary who is now in cross-cultural ministry as well, it is hard to count up all the various places, cities and even countries I have called home. And yet there is a magical building in a little place you could barely call a town where I can physically anchor many of the memories of my life: 400 Union Street.

Driving up to the corner lot, ringing the same doorbell after all these years and breathing in the same smell I did as a five year old all serve as triggers. Walking around the place is like touring a private museum of family life and history. Each visit reveals a few new entries, with as-of-yet no connection or plot-line, but many more artifacts of adventures and stories known only to the select few people who have shared our life there.

It may be an endangered site now. How many more years can something so magical remain? Every trip back is an attempt to soak in as much as possible, and to discover new aspects of the place that were only ever hinted at before. The nostalgia seeker has herein ample ammunition. For 55 years it has been a treasury but now it is fading. As time goes by some of its magic is disappearing naturally and other things are being taken and scattered as mobile monuments and memorials.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Romans 3:21-31 (God's Plan Against Sin)

Here we finally have a reason to sigh in relief. Up until now we have seen clearly how everybody is in rebellion against the Creator of the Universe and headed for divine wrath (and we are again reminded of that fact clearly here in verse 23) but we also finally see that God has set up a means of rescue for us. Three awkward words explain how it all works:

Justification means that God has declared some people righteous—legally blameless. We do not have the capacity to make right what we have done, so God writes it off. Who gets the write off? Those who have faith. How is this possible?

Redemption means quite simply to buy back. God has arranged to pay the penalty that we have incurred through our sin. Since God is just, He cannot simply pretend that we have not sinned, but He has arranged for the punishment to be taken care of in a way that spares people who would otherwise be headed for some very bad reckoning. What does this payment consist of?

Propitiation means satisfaction, in a sacrificial sense. Jesus has accomplished the payment for sins by living a blameless life—therefore deserving no punishment—and standing in for us by facing the punishment we should have received.

The Law, therefore, does not help us by saving us. It instead makes us aware of our problem and our need for salvation. However, the Law and the Prophets also made God’s plan known, to anyone who was reading what it was saying. God’s plan was set in motion before time began so all those people who died before Jesus’ sacrifice could still benefit from it through trust in God.

That is the Gospel in a nutshell, but Paul is not finished explaining all the facets of this marvelous message…

Saturday, July 24, 2010

1992 in Film

This was a good year for film, and the first year that I was personally on my own, so most of these were films I saw in the first year where I didn’t have to ask for permission to see or report back what I had seen. Not that that made much of a difference since I had developed somewhat good movie going standards at home. That being said, there was the obligatory, pointless road trip to Liberal, Kansas where we watched “Dr. Giggles.” Definitely not a recommendation.

Top Personal Films of 1992
1. A River Runs Through It
2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
3. Far and Away
4. The Last of the Mohicans
5. A Few Good Men
6. Batman Returns
7. Chaplin
8. Aladdin
9. Candyman
10. Strictly Ballroom

Bottom Personal Films of 1992
1. Rock-a-Doodle
2. Toys
3. The Lawnmower Man
4. Dr. Giggles
5. The Cutting Edge

Films I Still Need To See
Reservoir Dogs
Howard’s End
Glen Gary Glen Ross

Friday, July 23, 2010

Legion: When a Movie is a Mess

Frustration is when good potential is wasted. This year we had a chance for an explicitly religious, philosophical story in the movie Legion, but it was wasted. It was wasted because the movie squandered any intelligent thought about truly religious themes. It was wasted because they got good actors and did nothing with them. It was wasted because it was simply boring and a bad movie.

The idea (if one could really call the plot something someone really thought about) is that God has given up on humanity and sent the angels to destroy everybody. The problem is that God’s chief angel has rebelled and decided to save humanity by preventing the death of a new messiah. The whole problem with this superficially Judeo-Christian story is that anyone with even a slight knowledge of Judeo-Christian tradition recognizes the fact that they got all the names wrong. The chief angelic being who rebelled against God was Lucifer, not Michael. The idea of a “new messiah” is not new, but that Christ is not the real Christ but rather an anti-christ. So what this movie presents us with is a story of Satan rebelling against God and saving the antichrist, and the audience is asked to side against God.

Of course, the biggest problem is that the god of this story is no god at all. He is a capricious being who is unable to influence creation and who has “lost faith” in mankind. Basically, this is a mess that you get when you have a less than talented writer trying to deconstruct something as dense as Christian tradition/theology with no idea what he wants to say and no idea how to say it.

That does not bode well for the potential of his next genre product: next year’s Priest.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Face of God

This is an old one, written nearly 20 years ago. Wow.

I've been wandering,
Through the days of my youth,
Simply taking things in.
And it amazes me,
How this old world,
Is so troubled with sin.

Doctors killing babies,
Husbands beating their wives,
The innocence of children is lost.
People chasing happiness,
Their lives are falling apart.
Where could true love have gone?

And I see the face of God,
The tears in His eyes because,
The world is lost and alone.
Oh how He loves us so,
The sacrifice He gave to show,
The only true source of hope.

I must live each day,
Shining light on the way,
To Heavens narrow gates,
A pure example,
Of Him living in me.
I will walk my life in faith.

And I pray to God,
That people I come across,
Will see in me His face.
Let my life be used,
Let me go and share the news,
Of His redeeming grace.

I see the face of God,
The joy in His eyes,
I have chosen to obey.
I'll let my life be used,
I'll go and share the news,
Of His redeeming Grace.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Of Vegetables and Bible Stories

How detrimental is it that we have tried to make the Bible interesting to children? Is it a problem that we have stopped teaching kids the Bible, and have started to turn these stories into simplified, flashy morality lessons? See what Missions Misunderstood has to say. He has a pretty good point.

Back in the day, we taught the stories as just that… stories. Maybe that was all a child needed at that point in their spiritual and cognizant development. Let the implications and the theology come later when the kid can really get that stuff. After all, the Bible is primarily about God reconciling the world to Himself, not about a list of concise rule by which to live a good life. It was easy to tell the difference between Noah and Santa Claus, Paul was nothing like Grover.

It is a bit of a stretch to claim that a child can’t tell the difference between make-believe and reality. However, when we have begun to tell the histories of the Bible (with quite a few liberties in the facts) using cucumbers and tomatoes, for example—maybe kids these days are having a harder time remembering that the Bible is a real record of historical events.

While we are at it, is it really helpful to reduce the Gospel message of books like the Epistle to the Romans down to a simple concept like “A, B, C?” Don’t misunderstand. Children are capable of understanding enough to be saved since salvation does not require special knowledge. However, perhaps we should trust that a child can trust in a childlike fashion and that their faith will grow with understanding instead of completely dumbing down the message of the cross to an acrostic.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Authority Issues

I have authority issues. For much of my adult life I have had a tendency to experience conflict with the authority placed over me. Not in every case, but often enough that I was beginning to become concerned. What was wrong with the relationship I had with my father that caused me to butt heads with some of the pastors with whom I have worked, for example?

A few weeks ago, however, I was talking with my father’s secretary and I had an epiphany. She was telling me about how he was the best pastor she had ever worked for as a church secretary. “He has never once raised his voice to me,” she said, “He is such a patient man.” That is when it hit me. It is not me or my relationship with my dad that was the problem. If anything, perhaps I hold the authority in my life to too high a standard.

Don’t get me wrong, I fought with my dad plenty as a teen. Who didn’t at that age, right? Growing up with the father I had though, I learned a few things about authority in general and in particular about spiritual leadership. Authority should be humble but competent, it should work to get the people it leads to excel, but be patient, and it should have unquestionable integrity.

When I have had problems with the authority in my life it has been because the men in that position have been hungry for power, they failed to trust and empower their teams, or in at least one case they were a complete fraud. It makes me feel so grateful to have had that example, and I try to live up to it as a father, and minister, and a leader. It also makes me fearful for the church in general to have run into so many lousy leaders in my day.

And just so you know, where I am at in my life now, I am fortunate to have a lot of good Godly leaders to look up to. I just hope that I am able to live up to that example as well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Romans 3:1-20 (Conviction of Sin)

“For by the works of the Law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the Law comes knowledge of sin.”

If the Law does not save us why have it? Because it provides us with an important thing needed for a relationship with God—an awareness that our relationship has been broken through our rebellion. We cannot seek or obtain something if we do not know we need it. A person must feel a conviction of sin in order to ask God for forgiveness.

It is not enough to know there is a God, that He has created us for a relationship with Him, and that He has provided a means for that relationship to exist. We must recognize that we have personally separated ourselves from God and need to have our relationship repaired.

Without the Law we do not readily see that we have sinned, and without an awareness of sin we cannot repent, and without repentance we cannot be saved. So the Law is a good and helpful thing, it just does not get people back into a relationship with God.

So now we have seen two important concepts in Paul’s treatment of the Gospel: Sin and the Law. Sin separates us from the Creator. It is our rebellion and it is something in which every single human being in space and time has been engaged. The Law shows us that we are in rebellion. Even the people who instinctively know right from wrong do wrong. Even people who know what God wants by means of the Law do wrong. Every person who has ever lived has rebelled against God and has severed their relationship with Him.

This is the extent of our problem, but God has a solution…

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I saw my siblings for the first time in four years this week. We spent three days at an encampment that would accommodate all of us and our families. It was a blast. On the first night out in the country, I did what I always do and went for a walk to see what critters I could see. The unspoken understanding was that my brothers would come along. We always do.

Back when it was just me and my first brother, Jeff, it was the same way. Some of my earliest memories are of the time we tried to catch snakes in Fort Worth setting a trap involving a cardboard box, a porch, gravity and a hope that snakes would go up a set of stairs; or the time we actually did catch some frogs at that same house.

Years later in Colorado, we were so involved playing on the swings down the street from our house that we failed to notice a tornado had gone past our town less than a mile away. In high school we went on a week-long hiking trip in the wilderness of Patagonia together, and had to spend one night in a shelter with a Kiwi couple who left all their food out so rats invaded.

In fact, I have almost no childhood memories that don’t involve Jeff. And even though our paths have diverged somewhat in adulthood, we followed the same career track and worked together regularly. Until four years ago that is. Seeing all my siblings now felt almost as though no time had passed since our last visit. But it has and it will and it is a huge sacrifice. Saying goodbye is so hard that we often fail to do so properly.

The worst part of it all is that I am not particularly good about telling people what or how I feel. And since I am the oldest and was absent from the family pretty early, I imagine they don’t know how much I love and miss them when I am gone. Maybe now they will have an inkling.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two in One?

I know her best,
Foresee her moves,
Predict reactions,
Remove the masks.

But still,
I’m locked outside her head.
Can’t enter in,
And see the world through her eyes,
Think her thoughts,
Or read her mind.

I can’t figure her out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cooperation Gap

A lot of people (like yours truly) are Southern Baptist for one reason. Sure there are things like a total belief in the Bible, a purely evangelical doctrine, and an understanding that every Christian is responsible for hearing individually from and obeying God. Those things can all be found in churches outside the Southern Baptist tradition though. The one thing that tips the scale in favor of the SBC is a concerted, collective, commitment to the Great Commission—a cooperative effort to do missions. Unfortunately, that cooperation is eroding and in danger of dying.

Last year, 12 Billion… TWELVE BILLION dollars came into the offering plates of Southern Baptist churches. Unfortunately, only 2.1% of those dollars went to fund the efforts of Southern Baptist missions through the imb. You might say that it was due to the economic climate, but that would be wrong. 12 Billion dollars is a lot of money for people going through tough times to be giving. The last time this country was “hurting” this bad (actually far worse) was the Great Depression and in those days 6%, nearly three times as much as now, was given to missions effort.

Where is the problem? Well, the way the cooperative program works is as follows: Every church that is a member of the various Baptist conventions across the states gives a certain part of their budget to the state conventions that in turn send a percentage on to the national convention and entities. The problem recently is that state conventions are giving less and less to missions and instead keeping more and more for themselves. Unfortunately, not many churches are concerned with the way the state conventions operate anymore and few send delegates to the meetings, where change could be effected. Some have begun to favor sending money straight to the mission boards rather than give to the CP, but that is sad as it means the death of the one thing that drew so many people to this denomination.

It is very troubling that even IF your church gives as much as 10% to the CP, and few do, still less than a penny of every dollar you give goes to cross-cultural missions. Something needs to change.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

11th Doctor

The Eleventh Doctor has managed to exceed all expectations. Coming off one of the most popular Doctors in the tenth version and the writer/ show runner who literally brought the show back from the dead—the new Doctor is perhaps better.

This is perhaps not much of a surprise. Stephen Moffat was consistently the best story teller in the past four seasons. It only stands to reason that he would construct a great season. His understanding of plot and structure are only improved by the fact that he understands what makes the Doctor great. Russel T. Davies had a problem in that he would sacrifice the essence of the show for the sake of an emotional impact. That, and for him the most important of all emotions seemed to be romantic love. Therefore, he made the Doctor a romantic character, which goes against who the Doctor is. Moffat has not made that mistake. He understands that friendship can be as deep as or deeper than romance, and he knows that above all the Doctor is alien. So, this season our emotions have followed the tightly plotted story arch that blew “Bad Wolf” or “Torchwood” completely away. This season was powerful.

The Eleventh Hour

We first meet the new Doctor with a clever reference to the Winnie the Pooh stories. This Doctor really is a Tigger. We also get the best introduction to a companion ever, as it takes some 14 years. Then there is the crack—and this all ties in beautifully to the rest of the season…

The Beast Below

The beast in question turns out to not be whatever is deep in the bowels of the futuristic mobile version of London, but the human system of government in which people choose to forget the truth rather than face a harsh potentiality. Such a good commentary on the way the masses choose to deal with issues—and why the current crop of world leaders are anything but.

The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone

This is a scary and entertaining story—seeing the return of two of Moffat’s best creations: the Weeping Angels, and River Song. It also helps further the story of the cracks in the universe and foreshadows events to come in the finale.

Amy’s Choice

Here we see a huge amount of character development in a good way. We see into the psyche of the Doctor as the alien that he is, and we have romance—but it is the human couple traveling with the Doctor who are in love.

The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood

The Silurian’s return to Doctor Who with much of the same political message they brought in the seventies: can’t we all just get along? Here, thankfully, it is not just some of the humans who are weak and/or bad… it turns out that the Silurians have bad apples too. This helps strengthen the diplomatic appeal of the story. It is the best way out of these confrontations, but it is not always possible and that is not always our fault.

Vincent and the Doctor

This is an emotional and beautiful story. It is unusual to see this amount of character in a secondary person in sci-fi. When the Doctor gives Vincent a glimpse into the fact that his life does make a difference and have meaning it is so moving. The fact that it doesn’t change anything and the painter still takes his own life is just as moving for other reasons. Everyone who tries to help other people is devastated when that help is rejected or fails to get through for some reason.

The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang

The finale is what all finales have become: big, epic, and theatrical. However, the build up for this delivery—the plotline for the whole season as it were—is much stronger than it has been in the previous four seasons, and therefore for the entire history of Doctor Who as well. Check it out!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Romans 2:17-29 (Religious Sin)

Paul has shown us that all of humanity in general are sinners. He has shown us that even the moral people who see sin as wrong are still sinners. Now he zeros in on his people, the Jews. (Today we could include cultural Christians and a lot of “religious” people from a lot of backgrounds in this category.) Turns out, they are sinners too, and they are the worst of the lot it seems.

Humanity stands condemned for knowing in their heart of hearts that there is a creator to whom we all owe allegiance and praise, but for whom we only have contempt. The people who know there is a God because He has revealed Himself to them specially and directly—they are in huge trouble. The problem is that the Jews (and some “Christians” today) felt that they were special because God had chosen to speak to them. They missed the entire point of the message He had delivered. They were not special, they simply had a special opportunity to see the problem and turn back to God for forgiveness.

The biggest problem Christianity faces today in accomplishing its task of telling the world about God, are these supposed Christians who have missed the point. Every hypocrite who makes God and His followers look bad by thinking they are special or better than the rest of the sinful world are engaging in the most basic of sins: pride.

So now we see three classes of people who have a problem and need God to provide a solution: heathen hedonistic types, moral judgmental types, and hypocritical religious types. They’re all in the same boat.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More Top Films: Toy Story 3

Pixar has done it again. Despite the fact that it is a “sequel” Toy Story 3 may end up being the best film of the year. With Pixar, story reigns supreme and this time around we are treated to a fresh, emotional plot with the characters we have come to love. They don’t produce children’s movies… this is universal fare. There are moments of incredible scares, exhilarating action, and heart wrenching feeling here. If you plan on seeing this film, take some tissues with you. You will need them.

If you have seen the trailer you know the plot. The years have gone by and Andy has grown up. He is headed off to college and his toys end up at a daycare. The fact that they are there is a huge misunderstanding, and the adventure will be getting the toys back to Andy. This plot is entertaining, but it is never the reason we are invested in this movie. There are deeper issues at play.

The toys, as usual, stand in for many of the issues we face in life. What is our purpose? How will we cope with the changes life throws our way? Do we stick to our commitments even when it is hard or unfulfilling? One of the very real questions the toys face in this story is: how will we handle the fact that our time has run its course and it is time for us to face the end? When that moment comes, it is handled incredibly well, and is one of the most moving moments ever seen in cinema—all without a line of dialogue.

If that isn’t hard enough—and you still have tissues left—then we have to deal with the emotion that Andy’s mom and Andy face when the time comes for him to move on. For the parents in the theater especially, this is a moment that sticks with us long after the credits roll.

Thanks again, Pixar.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Obama’s Problem with NASA Speaks to the Church

NASA used to be the sort of thing that kids dreamed about made real. We didn’t have to just imagine traveling through space, our nation had done it. We used to be able to put a man on the moon, and plans to colonize Mars were not just pipe dreams. The current administration has reduced our capacity to dream considerably.

Obama’s threefold charge to NASA is as follows: (1) Reinspire children to get into science and math. (2) Expand our international relationships. And last but not least (actually the foremost goal emphasized by Obama) “reach out to the Muslim world… to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.”

No more is the goal of NASA to put a human on Mars, or even the moon. Even sending manned vehicles into orbit seems to be off of Obama’s agenda. That is a classic example of an organization losing its vision and purpose for being.

Any Christian aggravated by this development would do well to look at the state of American churches. They are in a similar situation. The primary purpose for which Christ instituted the church was to reach the world with the message of the cross. It is the primary message found in the Bible: God enacting His plan to redeem the world and repeatedly charging people to spread the news of that plan “to every nation, tribe, language and people.”

Today, American churches increasingly use their people, money and time to do things like build entertainment facilities for “members only,” broadcast television programs on stations that only Christians watch, and produce flashier and snazzier “worship” services that are hard to distinguish from entertainment. They are concerned with changing the culture not through the Gospel but rather legislation that tries to force “Christian” behavior on people who are not changed at a heart level.

NASA should be focused on space exploration and the Church should be focused on its missional message.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Little Farm in Virginia

There is a little farm out east that has never truly been home, but where I have long felt a connection. I have only ever lived there for four months and none of that at one shot. The first time I was there, some 26 years ago, the place had just been built. The trees were newly planted and small. The buildings formed a little grouping and there were only a few families gathered there to learn about living in other cultures a world away. Snakes were occasionally found near or in the buildings, they still thought it was their home. There was a plaque on a wall where my brother’s name was written, money had been given in his name so that this place could exist. After eight weeks we left for the ends of the earth.

Since then I have been back three times. The trees have grown and the buildings have multiplied. Thousands have called it a temporary home on their way to all corners and all tongues. There is a science and a method to what they do there but in essence it is still a place where people leave all that they know and become family with people they will only briefly meet. A lot is the same: the plaque, the colors, the hot gym and the quiet lake. After three decades a whole lot more has changed.

It used to feel like a small family place. Now it seems as though there are too many who have gone through its halls. From without it probably looks like a strange place, a compound, a radical undertaking. After all, not many feel the urge to leave a home in search of the foreign; not just to change the place where we make a new home, but to be changed just as much by another way of viewing things. From provincial to international, from clear to confusing, from easy to complex. And it all started on a little farm in Virginia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Seventy Seven Clocks by Christopher Fowler

What we have here is the first case (but not the first book) involving the Peculiar Crimes Unit detectives Bryant and May. Their reputation is one of two very different personalities that complement each other in such a way as to solve some very hard puzzles while entertaining the reader with the interaction. At least in this case that is not what we have delivered. However, it is still an appealing read due to the exotic and shocking nature of the crimes, and the adventure that we are taken on—even when the case is a little far-fetched and the sleuths seem to stumble on rather than solve the solution.

The Seventy-Seven Clocks is a conspiracy that takes place in the early seventies, but feels like it should be happening in the height of the Victorian Era. In fact, the mystery involves events that were set in motion during that time, so we have Indian assassins, poisonous snakes, exploding gentlemen, raving madwomen, and other grizzly ways of killing people.

Along the way an interesting undercurrent is the commentary on religion, and especially the racist, imperial religion that was in power during the Victorian times. It is a valid criticism but unfortunately the author falls into the faulty argument that one bad religious expression makes all faith wrong and even bad. In typical European fashion, there is a distinction here between religion and the supernatural. Our characters are perfectly happy to accept the existence of spiritual aspects to life; it is just Christianity that receives the brunt of the negative opinion. Why is it that European Postmodernism is open to reality beyond that which is known but quick to dismiss all Christianity based on a troubled past?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Romans 2:1-16 (Moral Sin)

Paul continues to address mankind’s problem of sin here. He has not yet come to the solution. The fact that some people recognize sin and have an idea of the perfection required to be good is not enough to make those people good. The problem and evil described at the end of chapter one is apparent to many people. They see the bad direction people are headed in and want to correct it. They want morality and good living. The problem is that they think it can be achieved without acknowledging why things are so bad to begin with.

This is the goal of beliefs like Secular Humanism. Many atheists want morality in society in fact. The problem is that they are just as off the mark as people who practice evil. They do not recognize the Creator or their need for Him. The very act of judging the way they do—imposing a human ideal as good enough—is in itself a sin just like in chapter one. It is a way of placing creation in the role of creator.

Recognizing evil and a need to correct our ways is not enough. Not only that, but knowing about God and His requirements is also not enough. Paul says that people need to be doers and not just hearers. This would have been a strange statement for the Jews of Paul’s day. They assumed that simply being people of the law—those that had access to it, and knew it, and could hear it—made them God’s people. In a way, that is similar to the teaching of a lot of evangelicals today. We are so concerned that salvation be by faith and not works that we forget that people are saved to do good works. The teaching has devolved to the point that some people think you just need to believe that we are sinful and there is a God who has provided salvation and you are set. Not so. Knowing that there is sin and that there is a God is not enough.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thoughts on Harry Potter Film Seven Parts A & B

"I think it's the only way you can do it, without cutting out a huge portion of the book. There have been compartmentalized subplots in the other books that have made them easier to cut -- although those cuts were still to the horror of some fans -- but the seventh book doesn't really have any subplots. It's one driving, pounding story from the word go." –Daniel Radcliffe

Spoiler Warning: Do not read this if you have somehow not read the Harry Potter books yet, but plan on doing so!

With the final film in the series, the producers have decided to do what they should have done for the last four films in the series: pull a two-parter. It will be one film, but shown in two parts so that the film can be twice as long and they can make twice-as-much money. One producer has been quoted as saying that it will give them an additional 90 minutes to do the book justice.

90 minutes? With each of the films so far being well over two hours long, anything less than an additional two and a half hours will simply be a ploy to make more money. The combined length of the two films better be in the five-hour range.

Really the only way this series could have been done justly would have been to pour blockbuster budgets into seven seasons of television series: one for each book. One wonders if this series will remain the definitive cinematic expression of these books forever, or if Hollywood will do another version in decades to come. They remake everything else…

Where will the dividing point come? A natural spot would be after the rescue from the Malfoy mansion. In doing so, they sure are running a huge risk with the non-reading fans. The way they adapted the sixth film, it already has an Empire-Strikes-Back/ the-bad-guys-are-winning feel to it, so part 7a is just going to prolong that. Let’s see… Sirius dies at the end of 5, Dumbledore at the end of 6, and now Dobby at the end of 7a. Yikes! That is assuming they keep Dobby and Kreacher in the movies. They have cut them every chance they have had so far.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anticipated Films: July through September

Of the 21 Films I have already anticipated this year, the buzz for most ended up being a disappointment. The two that I have actually managed to see weren’t bad, but I also wouldn’t expect them to make it on my top ten list for the year. That all just goes to show how hard it is for a “genre” film to actually be great. However, when they are great they can be really great. So now that we have come to the quarter of the year where—traditionally—junk is released, there is little to be excited about on the horizon. Here are six films that look like they may have potential.

Predators: This movie will probably not work, the series has long since played itself out. However, Rodriguez and the cast give some degree of hope that it could be good.

Inception: I have no idea what this is supposed to be about, but we have come to trust Nolan’s story-telling skills. Here’s hoping he doesn’t disappoint.

Salt: This will probably be a typically terrible summer block-buster, but one always hopes for another great spy film.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Edgar Wright’s last two films were really great stuff, and this story looks like more crazy fun.

Nanny McFee and the Big Bang: I wasn’t able to catch this one earlier in the year when it was released in Europe, and I will miss it later when it comes out (dumbed down to “Nanny McFee Returns”) in the States. The first one was good enough that my family will be watching this one as soon as we can.

The American: This looks like a loose remake of “To Catch a Thief.” There is no way it will be anywhere near as good as Hitchcock’s original, but Clooney is the obvious choice if you are going to retell a Cary Grant story.
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