Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Fringe" Season 3

Watching “Fringe” is more challenging than an average science fiction show because, where most fantastic fiction asks the audience to suspend disbelief, here one simply has to try to ignore it. If time travel stories induce headaches, alternate universe ones produce knock-you-off-your-feet migraines when you try to understand the plot mechanics. With season three, “Fringe” commits to being a show entirely about AU.

Problems abound trying to accept that anything in this show is happening. If you allow the conceit that every single decision everyone makes creates a new and slightly different reality: (1) how could anyone ever travel between these realities, let alone always between two specific ones amongst an ever exponentially increasing number of them? (2) How could things occurring in one reality affect another reality once they had diverged?

If you ignore those problems, there are interesting ideas being explored. Here are a couple worth highlighting:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Horror as Philosophy of Religion?

A trailer has been released for the latest brainless horror flick, “Apparition.” It is presenting itself as a thought provoking, intelligent story, but the trailer puts that angle in question. It is trying to capitalize on an idea that has been around in speculative fiction for some time: the idea that faith and supernatural phenomenon might be connected. The problem is that this film misunderstands that relationship as it has traditionally been developed. The tag line is: “Once you believe, you die.” The idea is that belief itself actually produces supernatural realities. That is stupid.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

As Far as Slippery Slopes...

People have always been afraid of the Gospel. And by people I mean religious types. The Gospel speaks of a forgiveness freely given and not earned, of surrender to the Lordship of Christ instead of a list of changes. Religious people want to simply stick to a thought free set of rules. They are afraid that if the Bible is taught as it really reads that people will slide down a slippery slope into heathenism. They simply do not believe that the Gospel has any power to change a person, in spite of what the Bible teaches.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Scientists as Soothsayers

The actual facts and statements are probably not as bizarre as the journalists writing the stories make them out to be, but Richard Leakey has gone from being a scientist to a soothsayer. Leakey, a dogmatic evolutionist predicts that sometime in the next 30 years there will finally be evidence to support his beliefs. And somehow this story about the Theory of Evolution is tied into the other scientific consensus that persists in spite of all lacking or contrary evidence: human induced global warming.

Like many faith based scientists, Leakey seems to think the rejection of speculative theories (like all diversity of life being a product of chance mutations) will somehow be detrimental to real scientific advances based on hypothetical claims being supported or rejected through experimentation and observation. And his basis for claiming that Evolution will be concretely proven in the next 30 years is similar to his reasoning in accepting evolution as fact. That is to say, he simply thinks it will occur.

 A better hope would be that science cease its attempts to answer philosophical and religious questions for which it is ill suited and stick to doing what science is intended to do: observe the world with an aim to better understand how it works. Any attempts to describe the way things were in spite of contrary observable evidence, or to predict a future that continually fails to occur should be rejected as wrong, not accepted through blind consensus.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Pattern of Heaven (Philippians 3:17-21)

Paul, though one of the strongest voices in Scripture against legalism, is no antinomian. He repeatedly calls for a life lived according to a pattern; for people to follow the example of Christ or those who do well to live by that standard. The differences between Paul and those he argued against are two:

First, he insisted that the answer to humanity’s sin problem was entirely dependent on God’s efforts and our trust response to him, not any merit or legal standing of our own.

Second, while some try to come up with a list of acceptable and forbidden behaviors to characterize God’s standard; Paul taught that Christian behavior is a product of a new nature, a character that is best understood as love.

So there is a pattern that we strive to follow, a law that we adhere to, but it is not simple or black and white or developed by someone else and delivered to us. It is case specific and somewhat determined by circumstance or more precisely by the people we meet and with whom we interact. It is not as simple as “do not lie” but more akin to do no harm with your words. Rather than an extreme like “do not murder” we must not hate.

As we grow in our understanding and improve in our ability to conform to our true nature, we begin to experience the pattern of heaven. The Kingdom of God that is already here but not yet in full. We get a taste of our true home, where there is no law because there is no need for one.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Top Episodes of STNG

An exercise in subjectivity though it is, it seemed worthwhile to list out my personal favorite episodes of “Star Trek the Next Generation.” Maybe someone has been encouraged to check some of it out without wanting to watch all 178 hours. The season with the most representation on this list is season 6, but the one with the highest average rating is season 5.

1. “The Best of Both Worlds” Parts 1 & 2 (Seasons 3 &4)
2. “Tapestry” (Season 6)
3. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (Season 3)
4. “The Inner Light” (Season 5)
5. “The Drumhead” (Season 4)
6. “The Perfect Mate” (Season 5)
7. “Lower Decks” (Season 7)
8. “The Measure of a Man” (Season 2)
9. “All Good Things” (Series Finale)
10. “Devil’s Due” (Season 4)
11. “Elementary, Dear Data” (Season 2)
12. “Q Who?” (Season 2)
13. “Chain of Command” Parts 1 & 2 (Season 6)
14. “Rightful Heir” (Season 6)
15. “Data’s Day” (Season 4)
16. “Time’s Arrow” Parts 1 & 2 (Seasons 5 & 6)
17. “Starship Mine” (Season 6)
18. “Conspiracy” (Season 1)
19. “Who Watches the Watchers?” (Season 3)
20. “”Encounter at Farpoint” (Pilot)

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Chronicle" (2012)

This is story that feels like it has been told dozens of times. What would you do if you suddenly had superhuman powers? Even worse, what would a bunch of teenage boys do with such powers?

“Chronicle” attempts to give us a realistic, found-footage account of three boys who become superhuman. The popular, football-captain type; the smart, too cool for school philosopher; and his loser cousin find a MacGuffin in a hole and gain the ability to move things—including themselves—with their minds.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“The Reichenbach Fall”

“Sherlock” has been most intriguing as a study or exercise in story-telling. (For sure it has been entertaining—even some of the best TV has to offer—for other reasons as well: acting, style and creative, original ideas among them.) In the case of this season (2) all three episodes have had distinct approaches to adapting a well known plot.

The first episode got the basic plot points from the original out of the way in the first act and then let loose with new ideas and adventures. The second took what is probably the most detailed and exhaustive plots of any Holmes adventure, but instead of working on that story’s strengths: atmosphere and mood, it tried too hard to distinguish itself and offer a wholly different take. It suffered as a result.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Propogayda Problem

DC has announced that they are going to change the sexual orientation of one of their characters in the ongoing re-launch of their story-lines. It is not so much a “cultural stand” or a civil rights statement so much as a blatant publicity stunt. They already have several gay characters in their books, even some of their more prominent second-tier characters. So, this announcement doesn’t signal any sort of change of direction at DC. Rather it is an effort to remind people that they are as politically correct as anybody.

The whole effort to significantly increase the amount of “gay” characters in pop-culture—a gay propaganda of sorts—has gotten rather silly. The worst cases are those where story-tellers go out of their way to “out” characters in stories where sex or even sexual orientation have no bearing on anything. This has even made its way into children’s stories where sex is never addressed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 7b)

<--Season 7a

Episode 14: “Sub Rosa”

This is a pure “guilty pleasure” of an episode. Either that or people hate it. It shows the silly side of gothic fiction that always emerges when things are played for romance rather than chills. Of course these days we get so much of this in “Twilight” and the like that it is hard to have patience for it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Death Died Dead

(This is decidedly one of my lesser efforts. I don't feel the tone and the message match very well.  Oh well...)

Death is dead!
Hear what I said?
Death has died,
And now is dead!
Tell your brother,
Tell your friends.
That death has died,
So man might live!
So to the one,
Who's slain the foe,
Let His praises overflow!
Jesus Christ has,
Come and bled.
So death has died,
And Jesus lives!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Press On! (Philippians 3:12-16)

When Paul (and those who agree with him) argues against legalism he is not fighting for some sort of antinomianism. To be given the righteousness of Christ on account is not exactly the same thing as being righteous in practice. We still need to press on toward the goal of becoming like Christ, the people of God living the way He wants us to live. The difference is that Paul does not teach that there is some sort of list of laws that you can simply follow to become who you are in Christ.

Instead we have an example, a standard and help. Our example is Christ. Our standard is love. Our help is supernatural, the Holy Spirit. It also helps that we have a new nature and, although it competes with our old self, the love of God comes “naturally” for us.

So we strive to live as God wants; not to follow an arbitrary list of rules that break down in practice. And instead of focusing on that which we are to avoid, and on the times when we fail, we keep our eyes on our example and standard. We live every day trying to be who God has made us to be. Legalism would have us either wallow in our mistakes, or ignore them by comparing ourselves to those whom we consider to be worse. Maturity recognizes that we are none of us perfect, but we can become better. The goal is growth.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Top Ten Villages

Here’s a list of those small, small towns that are worth a visit. Towns of this nature usually require a great location and scenic view, because there is not much in a village of a mere few thousands. The other stand-out thing about villages like these is that they have remained so small in spite of such great appeal.

10. Hierapolis-Pamukkale, Turkey

Thanks to some really unusual hot springs, this resort town looks a bit like a frozen waterfall in the middle of a dry steppe region.

9. Virginia City, Nevada, USA

This is about as close as you can get to a real, functional old west town. This may be the best place on Earth to drink a sarsaparilla in a honky-tonk saloon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Rebel without a Cause" (1955) & "We Are Young" (2011)

(Curiously, the German title for "Rebel" translates: "For They Know Not What They Do.")

“Rebel” is surprisingly thoughtful and reasoned, considering its title. Some may argue that it was the point where pop-culture and art began taking us all down the road of generational rebellion and youth culture distinguishing itself simply to be different. However, that is not really fair.

The film is largely a reaction to a reality that was already present in the culture. In the 50s, people were surprised to discover that “juvenile delinquents” were just as likely to be found in well to do families and neighborhoods. Poverty and lack of opportunity were not the cause. As is seen in the film, it largely was a result of the culture at large, and families in particular, losing a sense of purpose and meaning. In trying to avoid the cultural mistakes that led to the wars of the early Twentieth Century, the entire society became directionless.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I REALLY Didn't Want to Say Anything About This...

but it is astounding how quickly and easily the church can become distracted from its mission. Instead of reaching a dying world with a message of hope and love, the answer that every single person—suffering sinners that we all are—need to find true purpose and fulfillment in life, we get caught up in a debate over what is and what is not sin. We fall into the trap of appearing to be hateful and judgmental when we are called to be love.

If your worldview dictates that every single person in the history of the world save one is a sinner. If you also believe that, as sinners, we are incapable of recognizing our problem without the help of God. If you agree with the Bible that there is nothing a person can do on their own to overcome their sinful nature… How does it make sense to single out one particular sin, requiring people to change that behavior before they are allowed to hear the message of hope?

That may not be the approach people in the church would even consciously embrace, but it is in effect what we are shouting out at full volume into the cultural stream of communication. Instead of declaring the wonderful truth that God loves everyone so much that He has provided the ultimate sacrifice to save those who will trust Him, we are making a pet issue out of the most extreme examples of those Christ came to save.

You don’t see many suggesting secular laws to prevent something like gossip, even though that is something the Bible condemns. Too many “Christians” struggle with that sin to harp on it. Somewhere along the way, the American church quit trying to change the hearts of people in the culture and began to try to secularly impose their standards of behavior on the world through legislation.

You would be just as effective trying to pass a law imposing Christian faith upon the population. There are countries that legislate religion but trust me; you don’t really want to live there. Even the Bible teaches that faith is a matter of individual responsibility.

The Church was never called to force change upon the world through compulsion, it is called to bear witness to the only story that can change people from the inside out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"The Hounds of Baskerville"

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” may be the best thing Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote. In a collection of great, imaginative stories, it stands alone. “The Hounds of Baskerville” on the other hand is the least successful adaptation thus far put forth by the creators of “Sherlock.” Maybe it is due to the sheer greatness of the source material, but it fails to thrill the way the other episodes of the series have.

For one thing the quirky updates of Holmesian lore seem especially tacked on. Add to that the fact that the very heart of a Holmes story—the deduction of truth through all of the carefully presented facts—is almost completely absent from the primary mystery.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

“Vinni Pukh” (Story and Adaptation 2)

I haven’t ever thought of it as being so, but “Winnie the Pooh” might be one of my favorite books. It is one of the few that I own and have read in multiple languages. It is a classic story that speaks to all ages and on so many different levels. I have read it as a child and an adult, and I some of my earliest memories involve the Disney version of the stories on View-Master.

So, imagine my surprise last week when I discovered that there is a trilogy on animated films out of Russia that adapt some of the same stories that Disney did, and that they are apparently as popular in the old Eastern Bloc countries as Disney’s are in the west! They are all to be found with subtitles on Youtube, and they really are worth checking out.

More than anything else, they are a tremendously entertaining exercise in adaptation and the impact that the WAY a story is told has on the story itself. Swiss animator, Oswald Iten, wrote a lengthy piece comparing the Russian films with the Disney ones. (That is where I was first made aware of them.) In it, he points out that while both adaptations are VERY faithful to the source material, the Russian version brings more immediacy to the telling by eliminating much of the story-telling device present in both the Milne book and the Disney films. He argues that this is one of the best aspects of the Russian films.

I think it is where they precisely miss the point.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Language and Legalism

This is not a hugely important issue—nothing to make waves over—but it does illustrate the way believers make a triviality out of holiness. Oh, and if you stop reading this short post half the way through, you might get a wrong impression of what is being said…

The language we use and the things that we say are important. They say a lot about who we are and they impact our communication which affects the most important aspect of life: relationships. The Bible has quite a bit to say about how we use our tongues and the things that we teach. We are to build people up and if we are not careful we can do just the opposite with an ill chosen word.

Now: based on that one truth, the simplistic legalist creates a list of words that should not be uttered. A list. And it is merely a list of words, not concepts or ideas or intentions. A few specific examples:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reject Religious Rubbish (Philippians 3:7-11)

Religion. A set of rules. Steps to being right, developing your own righteousness. These things have great appeal. It is far more attractive to do something on our terms, in our strength and at our pace than to trust someone else. It is akin to being trapped in a burning building, at a window high above the ground in an upper floor. We would all want to find a safe way out of the building. We would wish for a fire escape or a means to climb down in safety. The last thing we would want to do is simply jump, counting on someone else to catch us. We detest helplessness, dependence.

 Paul had everything that one would want for security and good standing in the religious society of his day. In culture, he was seen as a good—a righteous—man. Yet he considered all of that garbage. It was merely glamour. He gladly gave it all up in order to obtain real security, a real good standing. It turns out that all of that religious rubbish, that glamorous garbage, is an obstacle. It keeps one from living a real life.

We all work so hard to meet some fabricated standard of goodness when we actually need to simply surrender to another. Rather than work to approximate a life the way we were intended to live, we need to surrender to the One who can truly give us that life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

1940s in Film

It is not surprising that the further we get from our own time, the less we have experienced. My own “self-education” in film has suffered this way, and I find I am embarrassingly under-experienced in the films of the first half century of cinema. Most of what I have enjoyed of the decade of the forties seems to be centered on a handful of directors and producers:

12. “Rope” (1948) Alfred Hitchcock

11. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948) John Huston

10. “Pinocchio” (1940) Walt Disney

9. “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) John Huston

8. “Rebecca” (1940) Alfred Hitchcock

7. “Fantasia” (1940) Walt Disney

6. “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944) Frank Capra

5. “Casablanca” (1942) Michael Curtis

4. “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) Alfred Hitchcock

3. “Notorious” (1946) Alfred Hitchcock

2. “The Great Dictator” (1940) Charlie Chaplin

1. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) Frank Capra

Friday, May 11, 2012

"War Horse" (2011)

Steven Spielberg’s latest tale conjures up memories of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” That story followed the journey of an animal protagonist through various episodes on a larger adventure where several aspects of civilization and nature were explored and studied. In that tale, the reader has the benefit of seeing the thoughts and development of the dag, though. Here we simply use the device of the horse to view several vignettes of humanity. And that is what the horse ultimately is—not a character—a device. That is where a book does this sort of story better. (This film is based on a book, but I haven’t read it.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

“A Scandal in Belgravia” (Story and Adaptation 1)

An adaptation is a special delight. There is something about taking a great plot and beloved characters and tweaking everything to suit another setting, time or culture. A skilled adaptor must stay true to the spirit of the story they are telling, but also find ways to communicate that story more effectively to their new audience.

Steven Moffat has already revealed himself to be superb at this task. Adapting such well beloved characters and stories as Doctor Who, Jekyll, Hyde and Sherlock Holmes in some of the best teleplays written. In the second series of “Sherlock,” now finally airing in the United States, he rises to new heights. He and co-creator Gatiss have chosen to tackle what may be considered the three most famous Holmes stories.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Mystery Men" (1999)

In contemplating the super hero movie buzz this summer one is perhaps reminded of 1999’s “Mystery Men.” (Then again, maybe not!) It is an ambitious mess of a satire, not only of comic books and heroes, but of the whole subculture that revolves around them. More recently films like “Kick Ass” (2010), “Defendor” (2009), and “Super” (2010) have played with the ideas of superheroes realistically. Mystery Men is a different sort of movie. Rather than speculate on the sanity of people trying to be heroes in the real world, “Mystery Men” plays with the nature of heroism in a world where true super heroes and villains could exist.

In Champion City, there are real super heroes, or at least one super hero: Captain Amazing. But the Captain’s problem is that he is too good. He has taken care of all the really big problems of the city and his corporate sponsorships are in danger. In an effort to once again increase his appeal, he conspires to have one of his arch villains released. The only problem is that this time around the bad guy wins.

Meanwhile, there are a handful of wannabe heroes in town. They get wind of Captain Amazing’s predicament and decide to save him.

Along the way we explore some of the finer points of the superhero genre. Like, the way that these characters are so thematically driven. These are not real world problem solvers, they are story elements. The main reason super heroes do not exist in the real world is because they are symbols. Heroes do exist it’s just that in the real world they make a difference not a statement.

This story is a bit rough around the edges. There is some really dark humor here, but there is also some truly funny and insightful comedy. It is not quite a guilty pleasure, but it might be worth a look for those who are fans of the comic book genre.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Star Trek The Next Generation (Season 7a)

<--Season 6b Season 7b-->

Somewhat surprisingly, season seven struggles in the beginning quite a bit to tell compelling stories. In some cases they have good ideas or kernels of good ideas, but they fail to turn those ideas into stories of the quality of previous seasons. Either the ideas supersede character, or the plot is only half baked. That being said, there are some great attempts in the bunch:

Episodes 26/1: “Descent (Parts 1&2)”

This may be one of the worst TNG stories, certainly among all the two-parter, cliff-hanger variety. Data becomes some sort of “drug addict” for feelings in the span of a few minutes. Never are we more aware of the fact that he is simply a machine running on some very elaborate software. Stories like this make us question the way that the rest of the crew trust him so thoroughly.

Episode 2: “Liaisons”

At first, the idea of an intercultural exchange is interesting. However, the idea that a culture could adapt enough to learn a language all the while failing to understand food, aggression or love is surprising. (Come to think of it, how likely is it that all of these alien species from all of these planets across the galaxy in this show would have so many of these commonalities?)  

Episode 3: “Interface”

By now we know Geordie has a way of obsessing over artificial versions of female characters. This story just reinforces that fact. The missed opportunity here is the theme of losing someone in uncertain circumstances. This is a real and hard to handle situation. Unfortunately, this episode loses the impact of that storyline in the sci-fi elements. One usually hopes that the fantastic will illuminate and help us explore realities that are hard to address, not distract from them.

Episodes 4/5: “Gambit (Parts 1&2)”

This is an entertaining space-opera romp. That is to say that it is not really Star Trek. It is also one of the best episodes of the season so far.

Episode 6: “Phantasms”

Once again, we have an episode with very little Star Trek feel. This time there are more horrific elements. It is quite entertaining. It does a good job of showing that our dreams often do communicate things we may have missed consciously, but it also highlights how hard it is to make sense of what the subconscious is trying to tell us. The way they show Freud being so off the mark is quite humorous.

Episode 7: “Dark Page”

Trying to flip the table on a more common Sci-fi thought (how would non-telepathic beings adjust to telepathy?) here, Trek stops short of giving us a convincing take. The telepaths who are trying to learn to speak our way sure do seem to have to concentrate really hard to communicate in their own fashion. In the end this is a story more concerned with a very touchy subject, but the way it is handled belittles the severity of it all.

Episode 8: “Attached”

This has always been one of my personal favorites. When Picard and Crusher are “joined at the thought” it advances their friendship exponentially, and exposes feelings that they have managed to hide for decades (even if those feelings were obvious to all of us observers.)

Episode 9: “Force of Nature”

This may be the biggest embarrassment of a show that the series ever produced. It is the ultimate example of the series wanting to force a commentary on an issue that seemed important to them at the time; but failing to create a story that works. Today, the world is much more open to the issue here presented (human caused global warming) in spite of the fact that two decades of data and failed predictions have undermined it more than this story did. They go so far as to paint themselves into a corner by imposing a “speed limit” on the Federation that is never corrected later on. Instead of finding a way to explain this problem away, the creators of the show seemed to pretend that this episode never occurred.

Episode 10: “Inheritance”

If Soong was able to perfect his technology so much that he produced an android so perfect it fooled the world and itself we have several problems: Data is not unique. Couldn’t there be a lot more androids out there? Why were his research and developments never made more public?

Episode 11: “Parallels”

This is an example of taking the “Parallel Quantum Universe” to its extreme potential. It is all a bit of a letdown, as these stories by definition never really happened. However, this episode single handedly makes the new movie possible without erasing all of the shows and movies that came before.

Episode 12: “The Pegasus”

A compelling if rather straight forward moral decision story. I hear tell that this one comes in to play at the end of the series “Enterprise.” If I ever get around to watching that I will have to revisit this episode.

Episode 13: “Homeward” This is a fascinating episode about the nature of dogmas. First of all, there is the “dogma” of the Prime Directive. Worf’s brother exposes the way that a law designed to not destroy cultures is often to blame for doing just that. Star Trek’s lofty ideals of tolerance and non-interference are at times self defeating, as when the sit by while injustices or evils are being committed. Then there is the “deep spiritual” faith of the Boraalans. When one of them accidently discovers the existence of other intelligent life in the universe, he cannot return back to his people. His fear is that he will be seen as crazy, or worse, people will believe his story. That would be worse in his view, because it would destroy “everything they believe in.” What good is a belief if it is not truth? That is the nature of dogma: teachings that are maintained in the face of their demonstrable deficiencies, simply to maintain power and control.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Semi-Coherent Missional Lessons Learned on a Binge

A couple of weekends ago, I went on a binge… of 80s music. I discovered a website that allows one to stream music based on any of several parameters, so I subjected the kids to a constant stream of some of the best guilty pleasure music out there. This stuff is not hard to come by in our part of the world anyway, so they already have a pretty good handle on the music of the decade, but in a three day stretch even Cheryl and I heard stuff we hadn’t remembered.

It is an incredible world we have slid into over the past few years. Stop and think just how small your world has become… both as distances around the world have seemed to erase, but also how our circles of influence have become more focused and therefore smaller. Social networking is an ever present aspect of life in the 21st century. (How dated does a reference to “MySpace” seem now?)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beware of false, religious teaching! (Philippians 3:2-6)

Paul warns the Philippian believers—and us as well—to be on our guard against enemies of the faith. The ironic thing is that the enemies he focuses on are not unbelievers but rather religious people: the Judaizers. These Jews, like others prideful of their perceived religious and ethnic superiority, referred to gentiles as dogs. Paul called THEM dogs instead. And in spite all their religious zeal, he called them evil doers. Their mistake—their evil—was that they believed that righteousness was earned and attainable through ritual.

The reason passages dealing with that specific group in history are still relevant today is that their false teaching, in one form or another, has plagued the Church ever since. Legalism is a tricky issue, because true faith does change our behavior. The crucial difference between behavior arising from a legalistic understanding of the Gospel and a more Biblical one lies in motivation and manipulation. The motivation of a believer to do good should not come from a sense of obligation but desire. We are not earning God’s favor, but reacting to it. Manipulation of others through rules and rewards—power and control exerted over others—is the true appeal behind legalism. That has never been what the Gospel is about.

Here, religious legalism is seen to be fleshly. That is a clever bit of irony we get from Paul, because legalists and religious types like to claim that they are the only truly spiritual people. The opposite is true. Rather than outward, fleshly signs of goodness, it is the inner being that shows who we really are.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

NonModern in April 2012

The Blog really experienced a lot of traffic this month.  10,000 page views came and was surpassed.  I hope that sort of interest (or at least traffic) continues and even grows.  Here is some of what was viewed the most this month:

More Top Films: “The Shawshank Redemption” 

True Grit (2010) 

Why “The Hobbit” Trailer Makes Me Sad 

The Wild Bunch (1969) 

More Top Films: Big Trouble in Little China 

Alcohol and Legalism 

“Romeo + Juliet” (1996) 

10 of the Scariest Films I have Seen

Friday, May 4, 2012

“You put your mythology in my pop-culture!”

Thor has always been a strange comic book hero. Then again, the American genre of superhero comic books has always been a bit of a modern day mythology. At first, combining superheroes with pagan Norse gods seems incongruous, but they are not all that different. And the way the idea of trans-dimensional aliens has grown in popular thinking, and the fact that they may have influenced human history, religion and culture… it is almost a natural fit. (Tweak that worldview just a little bit and you have a good representation of the Biblical understanding of the world.)

Still, this world and this story are the hardest part of “The Avengers” mixture to accept. The other three ingredients are: a man enhanced by technology and two men enhanced by scientific experimentation, all three ostensibly for military purposes. Add Thor into the mix and it is like playing that old game: (Sing along!) “Three of these things belong together.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fifth Anniversary of NonModernBlog

Five years ago today, NonModernBlog was born. It was an afterthought, an exercise. I started it merely as a discipline, and to be honest it still is. Maybe a habit. It wasn’t until January 1, 2008 that I set out the “rules” that govern this blog and began to write not out of inspiration, but routine. I wondered at the time how I was going to be able to come up with enough coherent thoughts to maintain a daily habit. For the first 4 years I took weekends off. Now I find myself sometimes weeks in advance, with more ideas than days. It is not all important. It is not any of it really to be read. Not that I am not honored that people do read what I write. But I still write for me and I guess the day that that changes will be the day that I quit.

Five years is a big deal, not just for the investment, but because it seems to be a bit of a benchmark on the internet. Michael Hyatt over at his blog claims that the 5 year mark is when things really began to take off readership-wise. We’ll see what happens here. So far he may be right. Here is a chart showing average monthly page-views from 2008 to 2012 so far. April 2012 was the first month to break 10,000 page-views in a month!

(Now I just need to figure out how to inspire people to comment more, and to officially join the “Non-Herd” up there on the right of the page.) -->

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"I Am Iron Man"

“Iron Man” is among the best films in the superhero genre. (Creating that list before this year’s Batman release would be a premature undertaking.) That is a bit of a surprise considering that Iron Man has always been one of the lesser Marvel heroes, and a cheap Batman imitation in some ways. The Iron Man movies continue the Batman imitation, in that they try to create a plausible real world version of the hero the way that Nolan’s films have done. That is part of what makes it a great movie. Fantasy is a good vehicle to get us thinking about important issues, but when the fantasy seems possible the ideas are easier to grasp. In this case the ideas practically hit one over the head.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Called to go a thousand miles
Content to go nine hundred

To leave a culture, a world, behind
Not pack it and take it with you

To live in the place where He sends
Not make a compound, a haven

To transform the world with a message of love
Not conform people to pet interpretations

Why incur such a cost, make such a sacrifice
Then fail to even aim at the target?
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