Friday, November 30, 2012

NonModern in November 2012

November is the third highest month in this blog's page view history.  It is always encouraging to see so many entries here getting views even years after they are written.  (And humbling to think that a lot of them are simply search engine result clicks that people mistakenly hit only not to stick around.)  This month (as usual) many of the page tabs above got clicks.  If you haven't looked at them, check them out.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Cross as Primary Referent (Part 1)

A theology desiring to be Christian can not merely be Biblical. Christian Theology must be cruciform.

 The cross of Christ is closely tied to the rest of the theological questions. Its meaning and operation are dependent on such issues as the nature of God, God’s plan for creation, His design and purpose for humanity, and the nature of sin. The cross of Christ is the cornerstone of Christian existence and thought. Any Christian understanding of who God is and how creation is intended to be is only possible by looking closely at the cross and its significance. Once the cross is revealed and understood, then other theological issues are open to be seen in their full meaning. At the cross, for the first time, God is revealed in His fullness. At the cross, sin is given its fullest expression in terms of the terrible consequences humanity has brought on itself. True understanding of God and creation and God’s plan are only possible through the cross.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Some Nights"

fun. has emerged as one of the more popular and influential groups this year. They certainly have one of the more original and exciting (in studio, at least) sounds going. Unfortunately, their first single was too high in the rotation on the radio. (A mixed blessings for bands as they get increased exposure but people get sick of hearing them.) They also have a borderline nihilistic outlook on the world. In that sense they reflect the culture around them.

This year’s second single, “Some Nights” was no less “anthemic” than “We Are Young,” but it is a much richer song. Musically it has a lot of variety and flair, but is a bit impossible for them to reproduce live. Lyrically, it does not embrace the meaninglessness of their previous hit, but rather they question it. They don’t know what to stand for, but recognize that as a problem.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Comming to "Community" Late

Jeff: I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I'm God or truth is relative. In either case, booyah!

Duncan: Interesting, it's just that the average person has a much harder time saying 'booyah' to moral relativism.

I have been wanting to watch “Community” for a long time. It has been getting positive buzz as a funny, yet intelligent comedy for years. Of course I had to wait for it to make its way to Germany and then become cheap. All that having happened; I am wading in.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 3)

Part 2

The voice startled me. There, on the bench next to the park, sat an old woman. "Why not? What's so bad about this park?"

"What park?"

"This park right here! Look around, vieja, you're practically sitting in it!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Missional Roles (1Timothy 2:7) (& 2 Timothy 1:11)

[7] For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

In this verse (and later in 2 Timothy 1:11) we see what Thom Wolf highlights as the way Paul saw his own ministry. This is a good thing for anyone trying to help the church advance into new areas to understand.

Paul says that his mission, his task, is a threefold one. He is a preacher. He is an apostle. He is a teacher. The three areas of any Missional task are summed up in these roles.

A preacher proclaims. We are sent out to spread Jesus, to tell His story and our part in it.

An apostle, in the most basic definition of the role, advances the church. (We sometimes call this the role of church planter these days. This is problematic, but that is the topic of a different post.)

A teacher is one who makes disciples. We are called to make disciples by teaching them everything Jesus taught His initial followers. That would be where the more well known part of Universal Disciple comes into play.

So, if you see yourself as Missional, or want to be more Missional in your walk with Christ, make sure you are telling the story, spreading and establishing Jesus in communities and helping followers of Jesus become better disciples.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Dessert List

This time of year I find myself putting a lot of thought into desserts. I am not nearly picky enough when it comes to sweets to actually make a ranked list, but here is an attempt:

10. Banana Pudding

9. Peach or Berry Cobbler

8. Crème Brûlée

7. Carrot Cake

6. Walnut Ice Cream Sunday

5. Derby Pie

4. Pumpkin Pie

3. Pecan Pie

2. Apple Pie (American or Strudel) with Ice Cream

1. Apple Cake

What did I miss?  Or, help me build a 11-30 expansion...

Friday, November 23, 2012

"The Raven" (2012)

It is a fascinating mystery: the death of Edgar Allen Poe. As with all unsolved deaths involving celebrities, especially suspicious deaths involving someone like Poe who made a living from the macabre, we love to speculate. Many a work of fiction has been inspired by such events. Of course, a big part of the allure with such stories is the unknown. Once you answer that question, you remove a great part of what makes these stories interesting to people. After all, we already know how the story ends. So, your proposed explanation had better be interesting in its own right.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give Thanks

Embrace gratitude
Not just one day in November
No platitudes
All dinner, football, and big spenders
Mindful that we have nothing earned
We’ve been blessed rather than spurned
Embrace gratitude

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thoughts on "Justified" Season 1

“Justified” is not really my kind of show. It is more of a mixture of crime drama with soap opera for guys. There is a lot of “serious” action and “grown up” words and themes, but not a lot of mystery or subtlety of story. It is a character piece with a bunch of highly flawed characters. Pretty standard for television these days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Children and Monsters

Before I relate the following story, I need to make something clear. My children have never seen a zombie movie. I have no idea where they even became familiar with the concept of a zombie. Maybe it was “Scooby Doo.” Maybe it was pop culture in general and conversations at school. I know for sure that the younger boys heard about them from their older brother, but don’t really know his source. In any case, they know about them. They even love to play a gruesome 21st Century version of what my friends simply called “Tag” where, instead of being “it” you carry the zombie contagion.

Anyway, this past Sunday, my two younger boys (ages 7 and 10) made a life-changing discovery.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 2)

Part 1

No, people didn't just go out and dig graves next to the park benches. It hadn't always been a park. It had been laid over the cemetery. Officials, in an effort to make the big cemetery a popular tourist attraction, had re-zoned the area and done away with the small one. Promises were made that the dead would be relocated, but everyone knew it was a lie. Life went on in the neighborhood surrounding that small square block, and people forgot it was there.

I discovered the park one day shortly after high school graduation. I was getting private lessons for my college entrance exams. I was on my way to the tutor's house that first evening. It was six o'clock, and the sun was just about to set. In Punta Arenas the sun was so chaotic. In the dead of winter, the sun was down way before classes ended at four, and in summer month's darkness lasted from eleven to three.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Everyone's Invited (1 Timothy 2:1-7)

The first step in dealing with the false teaching that plagues the church is to understand the nature of the Gospel. Whatever doctrines were around in Paul’s day, they seemed to be leading people to speculate about who would benefit from the story of Jesus and who wouldn’t. They appeared to only be praying for, and likely only concerning themselves with people that “fit the bill.” Paul tells Timothy to teach the church to minister to everyone.

Sure, we know that not all people will accept the gift offered in the Gospel. However, it is open to anyone. It is not our job to decide who gets the story and who doesn’t. It is simply our job to share. Our current crop of faulty teaching tends to have the same effect as in Paul’s day. We get away from the simple yet profound truth of the Gospel and start trying to be too clever in our understanding and we always get away from our main task.

There is only one God. He is the God of all people, whether they acknowledge Him or not. There is only one way to a restored relationship with God, whether people accept that truth or not. Our task is to spread these truths as far and wide as we can. We are told that God desires all people to be saved. Where did we get the impression that we are supposed to filter how the message is shared?

To avoid faulty teaching, make sure you and yours are sharing the story with everyone.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Araneae

Spiders can be revolting and scary, but if you let yourself get close, they can also be beautiful. They are really very beneficial, and some of my favorite animals. I even spent a whole semester in college studying them. Here are some of my favorites:

8.Widow Spiders Latrodectus 

You have to like this genus. It is one of the more visually striking, as well as being one of the few deadly spiders.

7. Triangulate Cobweb Spider Steatoda triangulosa 

Similar to the widows, only miniature and harmless.

6. Crab Spiders Thomosidae 

These are the evil looking spiders that hang out on flowers a lot, and they can change their color.

5. European Garden Spider Araneus diadematus 

Large orb weaving spiders are always impressive. These are common around Europe. It is especially fun when one lays her egg sack in your window box. Thousands of baby spiders are an experience!

4. Argiope Spider Argiope 

Another very large orb weaver, the Argiope genus is also always amazing visually.

3. Golden Orb Weaver Nephi clavipes 

Of all the large web weaving spiders, these are perhaps the largest and prettiest, and they are not as commonly encountered.

2. Jumping Spiders Salticidae 

This whole (huge) family of spiders is my favorite. There are thousands of varieties and they are all, well, cute.

1. Daring Jumping Spider Phidippus audax 

Of my favorite family of spiders, this is my favorite species. They are very common, but fun. For a spider they are almost cuddly. They make for fun pets. Give one a home in a jar and feed her the flies you find around the house and you are in for some entertaining hunting. They are the cats of the spider world.

[Pictures from Wikipedia]

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lincoln, Evil, and a Wasted Effort

"Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter" will ultimately go down as one of the more disappointing films of 2012, and not just because it is a terrible movie. Oh, and it is terrible. This film can never decide what it wants to be. A horror film? It is not scary or unsettling. A cartoon? The imagery and even the physics of this world are definitely of the “Looney Toon” variety. (Perhaps that is why it is not scary.) A story with something important to say?

The book that this film is based on is arguably trying to be just that. It is arguable whether or not that is accomplished, but the mash-up between historical events and the vampire story is designed to highlight and comment on an important issue. Slavery and the years surrounding its abolition, the civil war and all it involved, was indeed the most important period in the history of the US. (Despite what people try to convince us of every election year.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Melancholia" (2011)

Lars von Trier has a reputation as one of those types of film directors; the kind that make pretentious art films that create all the aversion for independent and art film. This movie is the very definition of such pretention.

The story was developed out of a personal experience von Trier went through with depression. He discovered, in his assessment of the situation, that depressed people are better suited to handle crisis. They expect the worst, so when it comes they don’t panic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Safety Not Guaranteed" (2012)

In one of the more interesting, thought provoking stories of the year, the Duplass Brothers turn to science fiction. Well, not science fiction the way it has come to be understood exactly. This is more like the quirky drama preceding a science fiction tale.

The premise is simple. An ad is placed in the classifieds asking for someone to accompany a time traveler on his journey. Some magazine reporters decide to investigate, and issues of trust, faith and relationships ensue.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's All About Stories

Back in the age of modernity, everything was about competing systems. One worldview was held up next to another, and they were analyzed, weighed and measured against reality—or at least the reality that the scientific method could measure or rationality could accept.

If you encountered another belief system, you tried to logically show how the Christian view made more sense, or matched up with our understanding of reality. If you encountered a faithless person, you tried to use a scientific, rational form of theology to show them that they had to believe in something more than their perception allowed.

Today, these apologetics no longer work in the West; at least, not on their own. Oh, you may still find an old modern holdover, but most people have given up on systematic thinking. They inherently mistrust logic, because they know it is fallible. People mistrust rational attempts to explain the world because (a) they have experienced things in life that defy logic, or know of people who have and (b) they don’t like having to accept something that they would rather ignore. They want to pick and chose the things they believe and do independent of any standard or reality.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 1)

I saw a devil once. I didn't know it at the time, but in the nights that have followed I have relived it enough to know for sure. I write in the hope that if I get it out of my head and onto the paper maybe I will have peace.

It was three and a half years ago. I was in Punta Arenas. The sky was always gray. The city hugged the coast. Downtown was a mere six blocks from the dock. It was a beautiful town.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mercy (1 Timothy 1:8-17)

In clarifying false teaching, Paul addresses something he constantly has to combat: legalism. In doing so, he makes a wonderful contrast between legalism and mercy.

The Law was given for sinners. And in this case, Paul is highlighting the punitive function of the Law. It was not intended to save or change anyone. Its function is to highlight our shortcomings; to prescribe the punishment for sin. To take a person who has been saved by God’s grace—a new creature in Christ—and guide them back into the life under the condemning law is wrong. (Paul says over and over again that the love of God is what guides the saved in matters of behavior.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Holding onto History

As a TCK, I am predisposed to certain tendencies. I could never be a hoarder. I can’t be weighed down by too many things. I feel the need every so often to go through my stuff and toss. Often indiscriminately. My wife has to go behind me and rescue things she knows I will want later. At the same time, I am a bit of a pack rat. I hold onto things that have sentimental associations or that connect me to people or places I have known. I don’t have a huge collection of all the newspapers or magazines I have ever bought, but I do have all four papers from the days my children were born. It will be up to them to decide if that slice of history is something they will want to keep or not, but for now I hold on to such things.

I am like the curator of the museum of my life and memories.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Compromise in "The Godfather"

“I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a ‘boy friend,’ not an Italian. She went to the movies with him. She stayed out late. I didn't protest.

"Two months ago he took her for a drive, with another boy friend. They made her drink whiskey and then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her. Like an animal. When I went to the hospital her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn't even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life. A beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again…

"I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison, and suspended the sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool, and those two bastards, they smiled at me.

"Then I said to my wife, ‘For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.’” 

“The Godfather” is consistently among the most regarded films, both with critics as well as film fans. It is very good, but I have always been a bit mystified with its immense popularity. There was a time when the B gangster movie was one of the more beloved entertainments. I suppose “Godfather” did for that genre what “Raiders of the Lost Ark” did for the adventure serial. However, “The Godfather” also has a lot to say, it delivers a lot of insight into American Culture.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jesus Has No Political Affiliation, His Bride Shouldn't Either

We have been charged with delivering a message of hope in a broken world. With being a living reflection of life the way God intends it to be lived, representatives of Christ. Unfortunately, we have bought into a lie that has believers in America undermining their own cause.

Growing up in a country that was not our own, I was taught to not get involved with the local politics. It wasn’t because I was a foreigner, and shouldn’t have an opinion. I already had a far more important message to share, and shouldn’t dilute that message with trivialities. Even worse, wearing my views on such controversial and divisive a topic could alienate people who needed to hear the more important story I had to tell.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

24 Hours Hence

As this post is published, we are about 24 hours away from knowing the results of the latest United States Presidential Election. And it can be confidently said that at that time, no matter the results, nothing will be different.

I do not say that simply because both of the candidates are essentially part of the same big government machine; not because America will carry on as it has for decades in spite of all the doom and gloom predicted by both sides; not because the cultural decay has progressed so far and the generations looking for a hand out are so firmly in control that any realistic hope of positive change is foolish; not because neither side has any plans to address the biggest moral embarrassment the United States has faced since people thought it was alright to own other people as property; and not because I place my hope in one candidate or the other.

24 hours hence, God will still be in control and that is why nothing will have changed. I will have no greater reason to hope as a result of what happens today; neither will I have any reason to fear. Unlike so many, I know that the future of my homeland does not lie in the hands of any electorate. Tomorrow I will pray for my President, whatever his name may be.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tribes, Herds, and Families

The Church at large, and particularly the American branch of Christianity, has long been about the business of following. And in this case following Jesus is not the following we are talking about.

Jesus set up the church to follow His lead and be the key factor in the world, changing cultures through God’s incarnating presence. It is questionable if the large, institutional version of church ever did this effectively, but since the days of the reformation, Christians have largely opted out of cultural conversations. In the past century of increased attempts to “be relevant” believers have not set trends, they have held their finger up into the wind and followed whatever was considered “effective.”

Usually, this has meant following the trends of sales and marketing. American Christianity could largely be seen as being disciples of sales gurus.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Pastoral Focus (1 Timothy 1: 1-20)

It is a bit strange that readers of I Timothy tend to focus on the simple, easy parts (leadership qualifications) or the culturally difficult (women’s roles) but almost never have much to say about the overriding emphasis of the letter. Paul writes to Timothy with a very clear, simply stated, and often repeated charge. He is to deal with and stand against false teachers.

The nature of these specific false teachings is never fully spelled out. I for one believe that to be intentional on the Holy Spirit’s part. What is important to generations throughout the history of belief is not what the false teachers in Paul’s day were teaching, but the fact that false teaching in all its forms is highly poisonous to the body of Christ, and it should be guarded against.

We still struggle with this issue today. And even though we don’t know exactly of what the false teaching Paul was addressing consisted, we can be sure our examples today are similar.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NonModern in October 2012

October 2012 was the second page-hit-y-est month here at NonModern. Or, if you don’t count some strange activity from Bulgaria back in May, it might have been the busiest month of activity here ever. Here are some posts that got a lot of views for one reason or another:

Acts: Simon (8:9-24) 

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) 

Love Stories Beyond the Chase? 

“28 Days Later” (2002) & “28 Weeks Later” (2007) 

An Extended Look at “Braveheart” (1995) 

“The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970)

and, for fun, and old post:

The Straight Poop

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reflections on Intolerance vs. Freedom

The attitudes that fueled fascism in the early Twentieth Century never really died out. They just receded. Even in places like Germany, where the awareness of and fight against prejudice is hypersensitive, there are still pockets of incredible intolerance. When you happen upon their public demonstrations, the speeches reverberating out of their bullhorns and PA systems are a surreal experience. The cadence, the content and the hatred seem like something that should be accompanied by grainy, black and white news footage.

Now as a person from an American, Baptist background, what is most disturbing is the content. Because, even though everything I am seeing and hearing triggers alarms and screams “Nazi!” what I am hearing is just a variation from what I occasionally hear from my Evangelical compatriots. It is your basic fear mongering. Lump all people into groups and then projecting evil on some, due not to their individual beliefs or actions, but simply because they are in the group.

The greatest disappointment for me in all of this is that it goes against a very foundational distinctive that defines(d) my variety of Christianity. Baptists were born out of convictions that led to persecution. We know what it is to belong to a group that is singled out and targeted. We held from our very beginnings the conviction that people should be free to believe as they saw fit; even when it meant believing something wrong or false.

It is one thing to hold a conviction. It is quite another to think you can force that upon others, even out of a sense of compassion or decency. For a Baptist, at least in our early days, the government should not concern itself with faith. Even worse would be a government that tried to dictate what faiths were acceptable and which were forbidden. Unfortunately, this understanding has changed. The “Moral Majority” was founded by people determined to institute a new theocracy in America, if one believes the accounts of many who were a part of its beginnings.

In Europe, Baptists still hold to this conviction with an extremity that most American believers would find intolerable. Baptists in Italy back the position of homosexuals, not because they support their lifestyle or think it is right, but because they understand the principle of government not regulating people’s lives or beliefs. And Baptists in Germany stand in solidarity with Muslims against the neo-Nazi parties that would have them deported for their beliefs and race.

Will it come back to haunt them that they are essentially demonstrating tolerance for a group that may stand for intolerance of another stripe? Time will tell. However, if you are going to stand on conviction you can’t suspend your principles on a case by case basis. Integrity dictates consistency.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Brief, Initial, Non-Spoiler-y Look At “Skyfall” (2012)

There is a scene early on in “Skyfall” that is static and long—both strange qualities for a shot in such a high action film. In it we see Bond lying next to a partially clothed woman, staring off into space, and drinking a Heineken. It is like a commercial break. “This film is brought to you by Heineken. What? You find it difficult to believe Bond is having a beer and not a martini? Beer pays better.”

Well, it may be possible to forgive Bond for selling out (and he’s been doing it for years anyway) if it means we get good action. We do. This film’s opening set piece is at least as good as that foot chase in “Casino Royale” and far better than any of the incomprehensible stuff from “Quantum.” And there is a scene involving an elevator that left my palms sweaty and my heart racing.
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