Monday, September 20, 2010

Things to Consider in Two Recent Movies.

I recently watched the movies "Devil" and the "Last Exorcism" and thought I would share some things that a Christian might want to look for if he or she watches these movies.

My intent is not to give a full review of the move -- for full reviews I suggest -- but rather to point out some things that I think are worth considering in these movies. Therefore I will speak generally and try my best not to use any spoilers, but I cannot guarantee there will be none. I also do not claim that the makers/writers of the movies agree with my interpretations.

"Last Exorcism"

In this movie I was struck by two different worldviews represented by two of the main characters. The first main character represents a naturalistic worldview. This character has a worldview that cannot accept the supernatural so he has to force everything that he is experiencing into a framework of pure natural causes. When things happen that defy the natural, this character looks a little silly staunchly clinging to naturalistic explanations.

The second character represents a hyper-supernatural worldview. This character is unwilling to consider any possibilities of a naturalistic explanation e.g. the kind of worldview that leads to only praying for a sick child and not also taking them to the doctor or seeing a demon around every corner.

Both of these worldviews interact in the movie, and ultimately through a series of crises, both characters have a shift in their worldview where they come closer to the middle of the two extremes.

I thought the "Last Exorcism" was a good movie which could have been great with a different ending. The movie uses standard scare tactics at times but overall is based more on psychological play (the end of the movie veered from that which is one of the reasons I did not like the end). Last Exorcism is rated PG-13, which seems about right if you have the right 13 year old, but I would recommend more of a PG-15.


With "Devil" I would suggest considering how victory, or (dare I say) salvation comes in the end. I am not suggesting that the movie has a full Christian worldview of salvation, but it has aspects that really come close. I want to be more specific and what comes next could be construed as a spoiler. The only way of winning at the end of the movie is for a character to confront his true nature as a "sinner" without any claim to righteousness whatsoever. The character even receives forgiveness from the person whom he offended. Actually the only thing I thought it lacked was a substitutionary basis of forgiveness, but it is Hollywood. END OF POSSIBLE SPOILER.

I really enjoyed this movie and recommend it to any moviegoers out there. It is rated PG-13, but my personal recommendation would again be PG-15.

Enjoy the movies, and remember, please watch responsibly.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Future of Our Media-Saturated Culture

Here is the bad news: We live in the most media-saturated culture in history.

And now the good news:

We live in the most media-saturated culture in history.

This is good news because there is a movement afoot among young Christians – especially those who are (or were homeschooled). It's a movement that is taking advantage of today's less-expensive digital technology, video cameras, computers, and audio equipment.

ALL the prices are coming down, down, down.

And there are training programs, boot camps, and workshops for young people. They are being prepared to become the next generation of great filmmakers.

They are wrestling with the issues of art and media, aesthetics, trying to answer for themselves the questions like

  • What is a Christian film?
  • What makes a great film?
  • How can believers influence society for the cause of Christ using media?
And I'm glad to report that they don't all agree. That means they're thinking critically about quality, about beauty, and about being obedient to God's call on each of their individual lives. . . not trying to be a cookie-cutter of every Christian film that has gone before.

I've met a few of them. I've chatted with more of them online.

I've seen some of their work.

And I'm hopeful for the future of our media-saturated culture.

Here are just a few reasons why (in no particular order):

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Reforms of Josiah in the 21st Century

II Kings 23 tells us about the reforms of Josiah:

4And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second
order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD
all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven He
burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their
ashes to Bethel.5And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained
to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around
Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and
the constellations and all the host of the heavens. 6And he brought out the
Asherah from the house of the LORD, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and
burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon
the graves of the common people. 7And he broke down the houses of the male
cult prostitutes who were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove
hangings for the Asherah. 8And he brought all the priests out of the cities of
Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from
Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at
the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s
left at the gate of the city. . .10And he defiled Topheth, which is in the
Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as
an offering to Molech. 11And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had
dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber
of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the
chariots of the sun with fire. 12And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber
of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had
made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, he pulled down and broke in
pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. . .14And he broke in
pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the
bones of men. 15Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by
Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high
place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the
Asherah. . .19And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that
were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the
LORD to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20And
he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars,
and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.
So. . . what are the idols of our day? Where are the "high places"? And more importantly, what is the appropriate response by the man--or woman--of God in the 21st century?

Do we "go Josiah" on our society and begin to tear down buildings and other structures?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Thing That Most Perplexes Me about Naturalism

I once had a conversation with my wife where I was trying to explain to her one of the main reasons I find the naturalistic worldview to be untenable. She was not understanding what I was trying to communicate so I drew a box and had an arrow pointing toward the box and an arrow pointing away from the box. I labled the box "human brain" and the arrows I labled input and out put. Clearly my point has been made right?

However, my wife was still not understanding, so being the genius that I am I drew the exact same picture, only larger, and began to pound the eraser of the pencil on the picture. Thankfully despite my inept communication attempts, my wife's actual brilliance kicked in and she understood my point. My wife looked at me and said something along the lines of "so your saying conscience thought always comes after the brain has done its thing not before."

This is one of the most perplexing things I find about the naturalistic worldview. Our brains are only physical, and without a soul, our thinking can only be the operation of chemical and electrical reactions. It would follow, then, that no one believes what they believe based on rational thought. Rather people have to believe what they believe because their brain just happened to fire a certain way.

Rational reflection would be impossible because by the time we have thought "I wonder if this is true" our brains have already undergone the chemical electrical process that produced that thought. Maybe I am missing something, but for now, I will file this under things that make me go ummm.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Thoughts on Zombies.

Awhile back Coffee Snob had a blog about zombies and the Christian worldview. After watching the zombie movie "Quarantine" I would like to pose a question about why zombies frighten us. Is it possible that part of the fear struck by zombies flows from confronting something that so closely resembles human beings, but clearly does not bear the image of God?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Irreducible Complexity

In this blog I will be discussing an episode of "The Atheist Experience" which is a public access television show that airs in Austin, Texas. You can listen to the relevant show by clicking the blog title, and then choose which format you want to see/hear show #660. On a portion of this episode the hosts had a discussion with a fellow on irreducible complexity. I believe irreducible complexity was made popular by Michael Behe in his book Darwin's Black Box. I will begin by explaining what irreducible complexity is, move to why it is used as an argument against evolution, and then give the argument against irreducible complexity. I will conclude with weaknesses regarding both the arguments for and against irreducible complexity.

What is Irreducible Complexity:

Irreducible complexity describes a system, where if any component of that system was missing, the system would no longer function. The popular example of irreducible complexity is the bacterial flagellum. The bacterial flagellum is what propels the bacteria and is made up of at least a paddle, rotor and motor (this is not mentioning whatever is necessary to compose the motor etc). If any of those three were missing, the bacterial flagellum would no longer be functional.

Why Do People Use Irreducible Complexity as an Argument for Intelligent Design:

It is easy to understand why people think Irreducible Complexity points to intelligent design. Evolution relies upon natural selection to preserve advantageous mutations in an organism; thus allowing the organism to change over a long period of time and eventually becoming a different organism all together. The process of naturalistic evolution is not guided, purposeful or forward looking. I do not think it is necessary to get into the distinction between macro-evolution and micro-evolution at this time except to point out that creationist do not typically argue against micro-evolution.

The argument is that since the bacterial flagellum needs a paddle, rotor and motor at the same time to be functional, then it could not have come about as a result of small mutations over time, because it would not be functional in the state prior to all of the necessary mutations. If something is not functional it is not advantageous and natural selection only preserves that which is advantageous to survival. Therefore, some sort of intelligence which can anticipated work toward the end result of a flagellum is needed.

The Argument Against Irreducible Complexity (at least in this particular episode of Atheist Experience):

The hosts of the show argued that scientist know of systems that have the same parts that the bacterial flagellum has (e.g. the motor) but that is still fully functional (for other uses than what the flagellum does). The argument is that all the parts for the bacterial flagellum could have come from other systems hence the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex. The caller kept saying that the bacterial flagellum as a functioning flagellum is still irreducibly complex as a functioning flagellum, but the hosts argued (I think rightly) that if irreducible complexity is defined so narrowly it is essentially meaningless to discuss.

The Host's argument is like someone arguing that a mouse trap is not irreducibly complex because there are all of these other things that have a purpose and function which have different parts of a mouse trap which could eventually become a fully operational mouse trap which could be combined into a mouse trap.

Weaknesses in the argument against irreducible complexity:

I think there is still one major weakness in the argument against irreducible complexity. those parts that exist in other functioning systems would somehow need to come together to form the flagellum. The atheist would argue that the coming together of the different pieces would be a result of random mutation and then natural selection preserving the mutation which resulted in the pieces coming together to form the flagellum.

However, it must be remembered that random mutation and natural selection cannot work toward an outcome or with a purpose, it can only maintain a random mutation if it happens to give the organism a competitive edge over the other competing organisms. So, the parts of the flagellum which exist in other systems would have to happen to come together in working order due to a chance mutation.

To use the mouse trap example it would be like someone who is blindfolded and who does not know what a mouse trap is having several functional systems in front of him. The systems have the right parts for the mouse trap, but the blindfolded person would need to put together the pieces into a mouse trap without knowing what a mouse trap is and without having the desire that he wants something to catch mice. For more accuracy we will even assume that the person hears a bell go off every time he puts together something other than a mouse trap that is functional. Of course even in my scenario we are dealing with a person and hence an intellect which is not a part of random mutation and natural selection. I think it is easy to see why the atheistic argument against irreducible complexity seems to be a weak one.

The atheist would say that given enough time even really unlikely mutations will occur, and according to them, the time frame is billions of years. I would argue that the amount of time is practically irrelevant given that it is not just mutation that is required but rather mutation (maybe even several mutations) which results in a combining of previously existing separate parts into a new functional system (again without any foresight, or desire). Also it is important to remember that mutations result from a break down rather than a bolstering or addition of the original DNA in the duplicated strand . I intentionally avoided using the words code or information because the hosts on the show argued that DNA is not a code or information. They would almost have to argue that because codes and information originate with intelligence.

Weaknesses in the argument for Irreducible Complexity:

I do not think there is a weakness in the irreducible complexity argument against evolution, but I think there is a weakness when this argument is used to try to prove something beyond some sort of intelligence operative in the universe. In other words, this argument cannot be used as a positive argument for the God revealed to us in Scripture.

The best argument can do is to show not x where x is the unguided force of random mutation and natural selection leading to intelligent life on earth. However, the argument cannot then say not X but A where A is the Triune God. So imagine that an atheist is convinced by irreducible complexity that there is some kind of intelligence operative in the universe - he basically becomes a theist. That "theist" is still a rebel sinner against God who will not bow the knee before Christ without a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

I sometimes get the impression that some Christians think if someone can be brought to the point of bare theism that something has been accomplished. However there are plenty of theistic religions (Muslims are even monotheistic) out there, but people in those religions have just as much need of the Gospel as atheists.

I want to be clear, I think there is benefit to showing that evolution is not as solid as secular society would make it appear. However, let us not forget that the real problem is not that people hold to evolution, but that they are unrepentant sinners.

Good resources:

I personally want to recommend the book Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA which is edited by William A Dembski and Michael Ruse.

I would also recommend the website:

Entertaining Strangers

It is Saturday night and my wife calls me from her work. I was expecting the usual after work question, "do you want me to bring home anything to eat?". Instead I was asked a very different question. "There is someone here who needs a place to stay for a couple of days, is it okay with you if he comes home with me? I am pretty sure he is not on any drugs."

what I said was "yes he can stay with us." What I thought was "I do not want another person sharing our 900 some odd square feet." I will be honest having someone in the house with us was hard on us. Still God worked on my heart through the experience.

For the sake of the blog I am going to call our previous house guest Johny. I am generally a quiet introspective kind of person, Johny is not. While I was home with Johny I found that I was having to tell myself several times "Jesus wants you to care for this man." Thinking about what John Piper teaches I began to remind my heart that I would have more joy in God by helping Johny D.

It was still really hard for me to have someone other than my wife in the house with me, but I found that my attitude toward him was changing. I started to feel less annoyed by Johny's propensity to never be quiet and more exited about the opportunities it provided my wife and I to share the Gospel. We were never able to share the gospel start to finish in one sitting, but we were able to lay ground work about sin, all men sinning against God, and Christ was either going to be judged on our behalf or we would be judged. Johny even sat with Carrie and I every night while we did our corporate devotion through Psalms and one night he asked questions about the return of Christ.

Johny's stay at our house was never easy for me and I will be honest when I say I am glad he found a place to rent. Yet, throughout his tenure at our house, I received a contented joy in the Lord that superseded the discomfort. I am thankful that God in his Grace allowed my mouth to say "yes he can stay with us" even though my heart was not where it should have been.

I was further rewarded today when I was reminded of Hebrews 13:2 "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is God Fair?

On more than one occasion I've commented that "Fairness isn't a Biblical concept."

I was recently asked about a passage of Scripture that seems to contradict this rather bold statement of mine. A friend was preparing to lead a Bible study on Luke 12:35-48. One commentator wrote

The Lord then assures the people of a day of accounting: "From everyone who has
been given much, much will be demanded" (v.48). Knowledge and wealth bear with
them a tremendous responsibility. However, we have a fair and faithful God, and as His children we should allow our character to be thoroughly influenced by His attributes through the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit.
My friend asked me, "So, is God fair? Do these verses support that or am I not understanding something?"

My reply was as follows:

As with so many things, it all depends on our definitions.

What this author is calling "fairness" I would call justice. The different managers "get what they deserve." This is clearly a Biblical concept; the God of the Bible is a just God; all will be made right in the end.

In my mind, "fairness" is that which young children are so often concerned about - making sure that everyone gets treated exactly the same no matter what. ["But mom, that's not fair!!"] Over & over in Scripture we see God treating people "unfairly":
  • "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Romans 9:13) is probably the most blatant example. Can you, as a parent, imagine Esau screaming to his mother or father "But that's not fair! God should love us both equally!"
  • Why did God choose the nation of Israel? Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not
    set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
    Why did He choose Israel? Because He loved them. "But that's not fair! He should love the Assyrians and the Chaldeans and choose them too!"
  • Jesus chose 12 to be His apostles; why didn't He choose 24 or 36 or 48? "Just 12? - That's not fair! I wanted to be an apostle! MOM-MEEEEE!!"
  • Why did He give one the gift of teaching and another the gift of administration? "But that's not fair! We should all have the exact same spiritual gifts."
  • Why did God call me and not my brother (as of yet)? Because He's sovereign and His will is perfect - but not "fair" according to the ways of the world.

"Fair" in this definition isn't a Biblical concept; it's a worldly, self-centered, and selfish concept.

Have you ever noticed that when your kids are screaming about fairness, it's always to their own advantage? They never complain that "I got the bigger scoop of ice cream - that's not fair - you should give more ice cream to my brother!" If that day should ever come (!) then fairness just might turn into a Biblical concept.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

“Family” Films vs. “Christian” Films - What’s the difference?

I've been reading lately about the Christian film industry. I think it’s important to distinguish between “family films” and specifically “Christian films” as genres. . . As for definitions, I’d say “family films” are films that

  1. I could take the kids, my parents, AND my grandparents to
  2. All of us would enjoy and
  3. I wouldn’t be embarrassed or have to walk out.
    (Thus, the FAMILY could watch and enjoy)

“Christian films” - by my own definition - are OFTEN a subset of “family films” (but not always). They’re films that present a Biblical worldview, meaning (among other things):

  • absolute truth exists
  • Biblical morality is shown as the norm; immorality is shown as out-of-the-norm (Right is right and wrong is wrong. Where “gray areas” exist, they’re shown to be less than the best)
  • ultimately, evil is punished and good is rewarded - or at the very least, evil doesn’t win out at the end
  • sin has consequences (People are hurt, lives are sometimes shattered, people may die - as a result of sinful decisions & actions. Sometimes people are hurt through no fault of their own).
  • the traditional family structure is seen as important (Although sometimes divorce is a reality, it’s not shown as the easiest, quickest, best solution to marital problems)
  • authority figures are respected & obeyed by the “good guys” (For example, laws aren’t broken by the good guys in an “end justifies the means” mentality)
  • the story is one of redemption (defined very broadly)

There’s probably more that could be said on this; I'll need to think through it more.

I’d say that all family films could be watched & enjoyed by Christians but not all Christian films could be watched & enjoyed by all families. In fact, some families would be thoroughly offended by anything that was distinctly Christian. After all, there are devout Muslim and Hindu and secular families who watch films; they’d probably be offended by “Fireproof” or “Facing the Giants” - but they could watch “Leave Me” (a GREAT 4.5 minute film with a theme of love and commitment) or “The Butterfly Circus” (a GREAT 20-minute film with a theme of hope) and enjoy them - or at least not be offended.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Calculus and the Kingdom of God

If you're not familiar with the Andrew Tallman radio show on the Phoenix airwaves (weekdays from 5:00-7:00 PM on KPXQ, 1360 AM), you should be! A few years ago, my friend Andrew sent this out in his newsletter:

Is the kingdom of God advanced only when souls are saved? Here's what I mean. If a Christian teaches his high school students calculus, is he advancing the kingdom of God? At first it seems like the answer is no, because no one is born again because of what he does. But maybe it's a mistake to think that the only currency in God's bank is souls. Because if it is, then the Christian has no business teaching calculus when he could be out evangelizing.

Instead, I believe that the proper thing to say is that God's plan is to share His Glory with us and thereby allow us to fully enjoy this life He gave us. That means bringing
more people into the family, but it also means living an abundant life once we're in. The kingdom of God is advanced by making people laugh, providing people with clean water, painting the ceiling of a chapel, discovering the truths of the physical universe through science, and by saving souls--who then fulfill at least part of their purpose by teaching calculus.

This is at the heart and soul of what we are attempting through the Arizona Christian Worldview Institute. If we truly believe that Christ is sovereign, then He must be sovereign over every square inch of life - including that part of life known as the teaching of calculus - or any other profession, for that matter. The Christian life is fully Christian, or else it is something else - specifically, Gnostic. The Gnostics were first-century heretics who believed in a "spirit-is-good; matter-is-evil" dichotomy.

Many of today's believers live like Gnostics, with a similar unbiblical division in their lives. Sundays and Wednesday nights are holy, and the rest of the week is just "regular life."

Christian music (whatever that is) is good, and other types of music are somehow less - if not downright wicked. Art and other forms of entertainment are basically worldly (and thus, evil), unless they contain pictures of Jesus. And just to be sure we "get it," let's tack a Scripture verse on the end to make our point.

Entertainment (books, movies, etc.) are good if they don't contain any bad words or any sex scenes. But in fact, lots of "clean" stories are just lousy literature: poorly written, with no interesting characters or realistic dialogue.

This last thought reminds me of an old saying among campers: "Everything tastes better when eaten outdoors." But in truth, some things don't taste good at all - whether consumed indoors or out - castor oil, for instance. The moral of this story: A "G" rating on a movie doesn't stand for "good"; it stands for General audiences. Placing a "G" rating on a film doesn't automatically make it good, any more than consuming castor oil outdoors magically makes it taste better.

Of course, there are those who hold to the beliefs Andrew spells out in his first paragraph above, and as I explained to a friend when discussing Andrew's comments, it all depends on how you define the "kingdom of God." We've got to start with the same definitions of our terms if we are ever going to come to agreement on anything. As the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer said, too many of today's heresies are rooted in traditional Christian terms, but with new definitions. We hear people using the words that we know - like Trinity, or salvation, or spirituality - and assume that they mean the same things we mean, but in fact, they mean something completely different.

We at the Arizona Christian Worldview Institute are attempting, in our small way, to edify the believers and to strengthen them so they hold to the traditional definitions of such words. And then, they can go forth, teaching calculus, or writing books, or managing a business, or making films, in a way that glorifies God and seeing that Christ is indeed sovereign - not just sovereign over a small corner of their lives, but over every square inch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Filmmaking is Not Preaching

This is a follow-up to a previous post, which you can read here.

Over the years, Christian films have gotten a bad rap. The accusations are many: they're poorly written, they have lousy production values, the acting is cheesy; it's clear that the personnel behind the camera are inexperienced. . . and the list could go on.

But the biggest problem is that many Christian filmmakers think they're supposed to be preachers. And what they haven't realized is that filmmaking is not preaching – it's an art form centered on telling great stories.

Some will say, "Wait just a minute. Preaching can be artistic. It can be eloquent, sermons can be well-crafted, and some preachers know how to turn a phrase just so. Great preaching can lead a person to change a life, to repent of sin, to adopt a new worldview." I agree.

But at their heart, these two means of communication are 180 degrees apart.

What is Preaching?
In his small booklet, What is Biblical Preaching? Rev. Eric J. Alexander identifies several key aspects, or "essentials" of the Word preached.

In his list of eight priorities, Alexander lists as number three, "Biblical Preaching is Didactic in its Nature." He goes on to say:

By that I mean that we are called primarily to be teachers of the truth of God's Word. Our ultimate concern, of course, is to reach the heart and the will, but the scriptural route to the heart and to the will is through the mind. . .

If you look at the language of Paul's preaching, it is the language of reasoning, persuading, and arguing. . .

So our preaching must have a teaching content.
(What is Biblical Preaching, Eric J. Alexander, pp.13-14)

Alexander also quotes William M. Taylor:

To call upon men to come to Christ. . . without at the same time telling them who Jesus Christ is and what it is to come to Him, is the merest mockery. It is using the name of Christ as though it were cabalistic charm and reducing the Gospel message to an empty formula.
In short, preaching is didactic; it must be filled with content. To call a person to "believe in Jesus" without explaining who Jesus is can have disastrous results. A person could "believe in Jesus" without ever knowing who Jesus is or what they actually believe. Preaching that is not teaching can send a person straight to hell.

What is Filmmaking?
I posted the following in an earlier blog entry, but it bears repeating here (especially since Cooke says it more eloquently than I could):
Phil Cooke, CEO of Cooke Pictures and a respected consultant for faith-based, non-profit media . . . mentioned the poor quality associated with Christian films. "But in spite of that great need, most films, television programs, radio specials, and websites produced by Christians are still poor quality, and have a limited audience. That's because for most Christians, the message is everything, and we've forgotten the power of a great story."

Cooke goes on to say that films "aren't about sending messages, they're about telling great stories." Just like the stories or parables that Jesus told.

I’ve spoken with many filmmakers who will get on a bandwagon to preach how films are ideal to express an emotion, demonstrate a way of life and inspire a change in behavior. Unfortunately, most Christian filmmakers just want to preach an overt message using poor quality production values. They miss the entire artistic beauty of the medium.

At its heart, filmmaking is about storytelling, not preaching. As soon as Christian filmmakers understand the difference, we'll begin to see better Christian films.

And maybe, just maybe, if preachers understand that preaching isn't storytelling, we'll hear more biblical preaching.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Breaking Man" - Gifts, Talents, and Purpose

Once upon a time (just after the earth began to cool, it seems), I was trained as an actor. In my last "day job," I acted on a regular basis - 10 years of short on-camera performances, plus some voice-over work. It was a nice break from sitting at the computer. I haven't been to an audition in - oh, say, 18 years.

That is, until tonight. I just returned from auditioning for a small independent film, "Breaking Man."

It's a "Christian film."

Whatever your thoughts are about "Christian films" and the "Christian film industry," consider this:

Phil Cooke, CEO of Cooke Pictures and a respected consultant for faith-based, non-profit media, recently spoke of the great need in our society for stories that demonstrate morals and codes of behavior. He further mentioned the poor quality associated with Christian films. "But in spite of that great need, most films, television programs, radio specials, and websites produced by Christians are still poor quality, and have a limited audience. That's because for most Christians, the message is everything, and we've forgotten the power of a great story."

Cooke goes on to say that films "aren't about sending messages, they're about telling great stories." Just like the stories or parables that Jesus told.

I’ve spoken with many filmmakers who will get on a bandwagon to preach how films are ideal to express an emotion, demonstrate a way of life and inspire a change in behavior. Unfortunately, most Christian filmmakers just want to preach an overt message using poor quality production values. They miss the entire artistic beauty of the medium.

If we as Christians have any real hope of impacting culture for the cause of Christ - be it through business, art, preaching, or even film - our efforts must be excellent! We must use the gifts we have been given to the best of our ability.

Cooke has written elsewhere about the fact that some Christian films will continue to tell Bible stories and preach (sometimes with a very heavy leather-bound hammer) - but as Christians become better filmmakers, more and more of their films will present truth without ever quoting a verse of scripture.

May it be so!

Soli Deo Gloria

UPDATE 04/20/10: I heard from the producer of the film last night. I didn't get the lead, but a small speaking role. We begin rehearsals this weekend.

I've also written a follow-up post. You can read it here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Death is no stranger to me, I watched old inkwell die. I sit now and watch a youngster die. Is it of age, 8 or 9? Is death harder for the young? It languishes. The blog is dying. Soon never to be considered. So short a stay! Remember, inkwell had at least a hole left as a marker. What will the marker be for the blog?


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Where were you?

Where were you when the iPad was first sold to the public? This may be one of the greatest occurrences in history. What is the iPad for?


Monday, March 22, 2010

A Mighty Sentence

What are some great sentences of history?

On December 22, 1944, the 101st Airborne was encircled by the German Army at Bastogne Belgium. The German commander sent an ultimatum to the American General Anthony McAuliffe. The ultimatum was to surrender. General McAuliffe replied, “Nuts”. With that answer the 101st Airborne went on to be victorious.

“Nuts” what a might sentence.

Anthony McAuliffe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This past Sunday I heard what I consider a great sentence.
“Truth is true whether we live it or not, but truth will not be believed unless we live it.” Ron Shaw, Living In Grace.

A might sentence!

I believe that this sentence is a challenge to enact our Christian Worldview and to be victorious in presenting the truth so that it is believed. Truth believed because we live it.

Romans 12:1-2 Williams Translation
I beg you, therefore, brothers, through these mercies God has shown you, to make a decisive, dedication of your bodies as a living sacrifice, devoted and well-pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service.
Stop living in accordance with the customs of this world, but by the new ideals that mold your minds continue to transform yourselves, so as to find and follow God’s will; that is, what is good, well-pleasing to Him, and perfect.


Friday, March 19, 2010

The Biblical Worldview of Basketball

I'll be the first to admit that I don't care about the current basketball tournament and all the "madness" that surrounds it. I don't even LIKE basketball. But a friend pointed out a fascinating article about the origins of basketball and its founder, Dr. James Naismith. I knew the basics of the story: James Naismith; Springfield, Massachusetts; the YMCA (back when the "C" actually stood for something!).

But in this article, the author points out Naismith's understanding of the Biblical worldview: "Christ's kingdom should include the athletic world" and "he could better exemplify the Christian life through sports than in the pulpit." (Thanks, Tom!)

As a young Christian, Naismith received a master's degree from Montreal's Presbyterian Theological College. Convinced that he could better exemplify the Christian life through sports than in the pulpit, he moved to Springfield, Mass., to serve as a physical-education instructor at the Young Men's Christian Association's International Training School for Christian Workers (now Springfield College). Naismith's vision? "To win men for the Master through the gym.". . .

Men like Naismith and Gulick sought to develop the whole person—mind, body and spirit—and the YMCA emblem, an inverted red triangle, symbolized their threefold purpose. As Gulick stated, "Christ's kingdom should include the athletic world.". . .

This was the generation of the Student Volunteer Movement which sought to reach the world for Christ "in this generation." Basketball served as an important evangelical tool for many during its first 50 years. In his 1941 book "Basketball: Its Origin and Development," Naismith wrote, "Whenever I witness games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true value of athletics, has become a reality."

That's what we at ACWI strive to communicate: Christ's kingdom isn't limited to Sundays and Wednesday nights - it includes art, education, business, and yes, even basketball.

You can read the entire article at

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Code Words

As a teenager I well remember the McCarthyism and the hunt for those who espoused the social influence of the “union movement” and the attack on those who allegedly held the “party card” The code words in quotes told the story of fear in the 1950’s.

Again, the “code words” and the separation or maybe the “selection”, to the right or to the left

Albert Mohler writes a notable read.
“There is more to that story, however. The church is not to adopt a social reform platform as its message, but the faithful church, wherever it is found, is itself a social reform movement precisely because it is populated by redeemed sinners who are called to faithfulness in following Christ. The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications.”

How will I and you implement social reform? We are of the Church, what must we do? What is social reform?

Luke 11:39 Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.

Is fear being spread again? Should we adopt Beckism?


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A God of Transformation

We serve a God Who's a specialist in transformation.

This came home to me a few months ago during a communion service with several pastors and elders in our denomination. I've been in dozens - probably hundreds - of communion services over the years and heard pastors talk about the body and the blood of Christ plenty of times. But for some reason it just "clicked" this time.

I realize that there are many differing views of what - if anything - happens during communion. Is it a sacrament or just an ordinance? Is it purely symbolic or does God "do" anything special in or through the elements of bread and wine?

In the Reformed tradition, we believe that Christ is spiritually present (tho' not physically, contra the Roman Catholic view) and that there is a genuine spiritual benefit to partaking. Ordinary bread and wine are set aside for extra-ordinary purposes. They are transformed into the (spiritual) body & blood - not just symbols representing the body & blood.

Then I began to think about it more:

God set aside ordinary paper and ink and transformed them into the written word of God.

In the Jewish calendar, the sabbath was Saturday. Sunday was just another day. God set aside an ordinary day - the first day of the week (Sunday) - and transformed it into the new sabbath.

Even today God takes ordinary words spoken by humans and transforms them into the sermons that change our lives and lead people into a grace-filled relationship with Christ.

The new heaven and new earth that we read about in Revelation are a transformed heaven and earth.

But even more importantly, He takes ordinary sinners like you and me and transforms us into forgiven sinners: the old has passed away; the new has come.

It's all about transformation!

That's what we at ACWI desire - to see our city, our state, and our nation transformed. Not by political influence or simple moral behavior. . . but through the transformative power of Christ working in and through people. . .Transformed people. . .People whose very lives have been transformed through that same power of Christ.

May that be our focus and purpose of ALL we do!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weather or Not

Safe haven, yes at one time weather and the earth’s episodes were a safe haven for conversation. But they are no longer a safe haven for me.

Just think about conversing about the weather, earthquakes and tsunamis. My neighbor believes that “mother nature is out of control”. The “weather is out of control”. Earthquakes just “will not cooperate” and should only happen occasionally at our convenience. Imagine, two earthquakes in a short period of time, one a 7.0 quake and the other 8.8 quake. Come on Mother Nature, get with it.

Turn on the TV and watch for the tsunami. Did you miss it? Rerun, rerun!!!

Then my TV station’s “Giver of all weather” the weather man. What weather will he give me tomorrow? What do you have there for the world? What shall you give, snow, rain, a severe clear, a rain dance? Can I put my order in for February 30th? I want a warm temperature with clouds. Good fishing weather.

Has God abdicated His omnipotence? What is that stuff “God’s omnipotence”?
“God approves and determines to bring about every action necessary for the existence and activity of Himself and all creation.”

(1 Kings 19:11-12 NIV) The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

God has not abdicated. The problem still is we do not know Him!


Monday, February 22, 2010


I stood ready to make another appointment. The date the receptionist selected was in conflict with my grandsons wedding times. The receptionist enquired as to the age of my grandson. I said twenty two. She paused and said, “Marriage sucks.” I assumed that the lady was in her twenties and I replied, “I have been married for fifty five years.” My response was as matter of fact as hers. The lady said, “You are one of those, they do not make your kind anymore.”

About a twenty word exchange. “Marriage sucks”, disappointment, anger, disgust and what?

“I have been married for fifty five years”. Rather a neutral statement

“You are one of those; they do not make your kind anymore.” “Those” and “your kind” signified that I was an alien, different species, the old guy or. Was it a compliment or a dig? No matter!

I felt sadness. It seems the editorial remark meant that the lady had a less than fruitful experience; her marriage relationship was a failure, “suck”. I wish marriage for the lady could have been honorable, pleasant, moments of joy, moments of sorrow, times of making up and fruitful.

What keeps a marriage going for two, twenty or fifty five years? I cannot presume to tell you in one word or one year. Elizabeth Browning may have said it.

Later in the week I came across Albert Mohler’s blog:

I do know my wife and I started out with our view of what marriage was to be, a worldview of marriage. Please no snide smile, I believe you have to have a worldview.

I hope my grandchildren have a worldview of marriage!!


Monday, February 15, 2010

To Him Be the Glory

"To him be glory both now and forever."
- 2Pe_3:18
Heaven will be full of the ceaseless praises of Jesus. Eternity! thine unnumbered years shall speed their everlasting course, but forever and for ever, "to him be glory." Is he not a "Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek"? "To him be glory." Is he not king for ever?-King of kings and Lord of lords, the everlasting Father? "To him be glory for ever." Never shall his praises cease. That which was bought with blood deserves to last while immortality endures. The glory of the cross must never be eclipsed; the lustre of the grave and of the resurrection must never be dimmed. O Jesus! thou shalt be praised for ever. Long as immortal spirits live-long as the Father’s throne endures-for ever, for ever, unto thee shall be glory. Believer, you are anticipating the time when you shall join the saints above in ascribing all glory to Jesus; but are you glorifying him now? The apostle’s words are, "To him be glory both now and for ever." Will you not this day make it your prayer? "Lord, help me to glorify thee; I am poor, help me to glorify thee by contentment; I am sick, help me to give thee honour by patience; I have talents, help me to extol thee by spending them for thee; I have time, Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve thee; I have a heart to feel, Lord, let that heart feel no love but thine, and glow with no flame but affection for thee; I have a head to think, Lord, help me to think of thee and for thee; thou hast put me in this world for something, Lord, show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose: I cannot do much, but as the widow put in her two mites, which were all her living, so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into thy treasury; I am all thine; take me, and enable me to glorify thee now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have."



Sunday, January 31, 2010

Work: Can't Live With it, Can't Live Without it.

I fear I must be vague in this post since I can technically be fired for posting negative things about my company on the Internet. Let me be clear, I am not being "negative," but some may construe it that way. Let me be even more clear, I think my company is a good company which provides a good, common Grace service to this state. With that caveat, let me explain my dilemma. I may, though it is fortunately unlikely, be placed in a position where I am required to work toward having one of my clients put into what is called a HCTC placement (which is kind of like foster care but it is not a CPS placement) with a homosexual couple.

I genuinely believe that my client will be better off in this placement then where he is currently placed. However, due to the nature of my work, it may be hard for me to continue working with the client without paying some kind of lip service toward the legitimacy of the two men's relationship. I could remain silent about my conviction regarding what marriage really is, but it is possible that my silence will be taken for dissent regarding homosexual relationships and marriage.

I am honestly unsure how I should proceed if my work requires that I pursue this placement. I am just thankful that, for now, it seems like a remote possibility. I am interested to know what anyone reading this would do in my place.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Avatar: Dances With Wolves in Another World - Part 1

I saw the movie Avatar last weekend.
Where to begin?

  • Avatar – the most expensive film ever made, with a budget in the neighborhood of $300 million.
  • Avatar – the film with (perhaps) the most pre-release hype ever.
  • Avatar – the film that reached $500 million in U.S. box office receipts faster than any other film.
  • Avatar – with a world-wide box-office over $1.6 billion

There are LOTS of worldview issues to discuss – probably too many for a single blog post. But first, I want to start with some reviews and general comments about the film – especially for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

In the last couple of weeks, before I ever saw Avatar, I asked two people about it whose opinions about film I respect.

One conversation went something like this:
Friend 1: AMAZING effects. . . [long awkward pause]
Me: And that's about all?
Friend 1: Yea. Weak plot and characters. Too predictable.

The second conversation went something like this:
Friend 2: AMAZING technology. . . [long awkward pause]
Me: And that's about all?
Friend 2: Yea. Weak plot and characters. WAY too formulaic.

It seems that even some professional film reviewers agree. Of course, some were so awed by the special effects – to the point where their rational faculties were impaired – that they couldn't say anything bad about the film. A few others were able to see beyond the hype and the computer-generated world to actually write a balanced review:

  • The narrative would be ho-hum without the spectacle. But what spectacle! Avatar is dizzying, enveloping. . .
    David Edelstein (New York Magazine)
  • For all the grandeur and technical virtuosity of the mythical 3-D universe director Cameron labored for years to perfect, his characters are one-dimensional, rarely saying anything unexpected.
    Claudia Puig (USA Today)
  • Along with the eye-popping visuals in writer-director James Cameron's sci-fi epic, there's also a lot of eye-rollingly silly stuff.
    Joe Neumaier (NY Daily News)
  • If only Cameron, who also wrote the script, had spent as much time on the story as he did the effects he uses to tell it.
    Bill Goodykoontz (AZ Republic)
  • The muscular, coming-atcha visuals trump the movie's camp dialogue and corny conception, but only up to a point.
    J. Hoberman (Village Voice)
  • As visual spectacle, Avatar is indelible, but as a movie it all but evaporates as you watch it.
    Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)
    [Above reviews excerpted from ]
  • The film has "powerful" visual accomplishments but "flat dialogue" and "obvious characterization."
    Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times)

(If you've seen the film, feel free to skip past this next part. I want to provide a little context for anyone who hasn't yet seen the film.)

So what's it all about? Without giving too much away, here's a fairly short synopsis of a very long movie (162 minutes – that's 2 hours, 42 minutes!).

Warning! This synopsis may contain plot spoilers.

Synopsis: In the 22nd century, Earth is a dying planet due to the damages caused by (guess who?) humans. Six light-years away is a small moon of the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system. The moon's name is Pandora.

People have traveled to Pandora and set up mining facilities and "to get their hands on a substance called (no kidding) Unobtanium" (Keneth Turan, LA Times). Unobtanium is believed to be the cure-all for Earth's ecological problems.

Seriously? Unobtainium? With a budget of $300 million, they couldn't hire writers with any more creativity than that?

The world of Pandora is populated with a race of primitive indigenous human-like creatures called Na'vi, and the natural world is a beautiful rainforest-like environment filled with exotic flora and fauna.

A paralyzed war veteran (Jake) volunteers to take part in the Avatar program on Pandora. At the heart of the Avatar program are two elements:

  • genetically-engineered Avatars, which are hybrids of human and Na'vi DNA.
  • a pod system (similar to the 1999 film The Matrix) where humans are hooked to machines and their minds/personalities/souls are united to the Avatars. The humans remotely control the Avatar hybrids; they are basically human minds in Na'vi bodies. Their human bodies are never in danger, but they are able to safely navigate the planet and interact with the Na'vi.

Jake is (grudgingly) received by the Na'vi leaders. The clan's chief assigns his daughter, Neytiri, the task of training Jake to become one of them. Before very long (Jake's time on Pandora only lasts a little over three months) the two have fallen for each other, even though Neytiri is already spoken for.

"As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds, in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people" © 20th Century Fox.

(Now maybe the title of this post makes sense - assuming you saw Dances With Wolves).

"In their race to mine for Pandora's resources, the humans clash with the Na'vi, leading to casualties on both sides"

Long story short: The humans choose to attack in order to obtain the Unobtainium. Jake, Neytiri, and the rest of the Na'vi fight to save their homeland, their culture, and their traditional way of life. And in the end, the good guys win.

OK - enough for now. . . Next post, I'll try to cover the plethora of competing worldview issues.
(I hope I haven't opened a Pandora's box!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Biblical Illiteracy

(Hebrews 4:12 NIV) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Michael J Vlach, identifies nine issues facing the evangelical church. 9 Most Important Issues Facing the Evangelical Church

Each one of these issues certainly has its importance, but on a teaching practitioner level and identifying specifically with Biblical worldview issues, I gravitate to the issue of “Biblical Illiteracy”.

M. J. Vlach points out,

“Other disturbing findings that document an overall lack of knowledge among churchgoing Christians include the following:
-- The most widely known Bible verse among adult and teen believers is "God helps those who help themselves"-which is not actually in the Bible and actually conflicts with the basic message of Scripture.
-- Less than one out of every ten believers possesses a biblical worldview as the basis for his or her decision-making or behavior.
-- When given thirteen basic teachings from the Bible, only 1% of adult believers firmly embraced all thirteen as being biblical perspectives.
The evangelical movement has traditionally been based on a strong commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, but how can it remain strong when biblical illiteracy is becoming the norm?”

Some contributing factors to Biblical illiteracy are:

Replacement literature.

Neglect of sound teacher study.

Lack of teacher orientation.

An overall neglect of a consistent curriculum building concerning: a connection to what has been taught Biblically and what should be taught Biblically and a yearly assessment of progress.
Churches neglecting Bible study.

Biblical literacy should be fostered in our churches from “the cradle to the grave”. We must have a certain systematic order of teaching and training in the Scriptures. No one should be exempt. Each believer should hold their leaders responsible and hold ourselves responsible in making sure we and our posterity is never illiterate.

“In the Bible more than any other book are reviews needful and valuable, Not only does the Bible most require and most repay repeated study, but most of all ought Bible knowledge to be familiar to us. Its words and precepts should rest clear and precise in the thought as the dictates of duty.” John Milton Gregory, The Seven Laws of Teaching


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Liberal Arts

I read the Newsweek article by Jon Meacham, In Defense of the Liberal Arts, which caused me to remember and to be thankful and reflect on my education.
Meachem made several points that I believe important.
1. “Belief in liberal-arts colleges like Sewanee (or other small liberal arts colleges, what ever economic level), however, is about more than sentiment.” Italics mine.
2. “It is just possible, though, that the traditional understanding of the liberal arts may help us in our search for new innovation and new competitiveness. The next chapter of the nation's economic life could well be written not only by engineers but by entrepreneurs who, as products of an apparently disparate education, have formed a habit of mind that enables them to connect ideas that might otherwise have gone unconnected. As Alan Brinkley, the historian and former provost of Columbia, has argued in our pages, liberal education is a crucial element in the creation of wealth, jobs, and, one hopes, a fairer and more just nation.”
3. “We need to make sure that the liberal arts prepare people for a good life, not just the good life.”
The ideas presented by Jon Meacham are good, but remain incomplete to me. I believe in a Christian Liberal Arts education and in my belief I observe, hear and feel the incompleteness of Meachem view. (I am not discounting Jon Meachem points, I believe they are important, but I do believe that they need to be amplified in light of Christian values.) Italics mine. The first and foremost task is to establish and build a Christian Worldview: A systematic philosophy of or insight into the movement and plan of the entire universe. “It's an understanding that Christianity and its values provide a springboard to explore truth in all its dimensions.” This is “the crucial element”. The following are also important: elements.
The historic, evangelical, biblical faith;
Education, not theological indoctrination;
Scholarship which is integrally Christian;
Institutional and individual lifestyles guided by the teaching of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit
Offering a wide range of study and service opportunities;
Reflecting, both in programs and people, the rich mosaic of the body of Christ;
Maturing its students in all dimensions of human development: physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual
Applying biblical principles to society and culture.
There is enough to think about in the above.

“Those of you who share an affinity for small institutions know the power of sentiment at such moments—how the old rooftops remind us of when we were young, and all of that. Arguing the interests of Dartmouth before the Supreme Court, Daniel Webster captured this feeling well: "It is, sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it."”

Eutychus, Gordon College, Class of ‘61

Friday, January 8, 2010

Is Scripture REALLY their authority?

In a telephone survey of 1,002 senior church leaders conducted in October 2008, LifeWay Research discovered some surprising - and conflicting - results. Here's one sample:

"Among pastors who strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 98 percent strongly agree with the statement "Our church considers Scripture to be the authority for our church and our lives." In contrast, among pastors who do not strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 71 percent strongly agree that Scripture is their authority.

Similar differences occur between pro-life and pro-choice pastors. Ninety-seven percent of pro-life pastors, compared to 65 percent of pro-choice pastors, strongly agree with the above statement regarding Scriptural authority. Also, 97 percent of pastors who speak to their church on the unborn several times a year or more strongly agree Scripture is their authority."
So if I understand correctly, some who claim "Scripture is their authority" are diametrically opposed to others who also claim "Scripture is their authority."

Of course, there is always an element of interpretation in the reading of Scripture. We have to consider the human author, the original audience, the historical setting, etc. This is all a part of doing proper exegesis.

But there is a limit. The historical context, for example, can't be used as an excuse for "these verses just don't apply to us today." Some verses have been superseded and don't apply (such as the ceremonial laws) - not because the historical context of the Old Testament is irrelevent to today's "enlightened" readers, but because of the death of Christ on the cross.

Perhaps these differing interpretations are due more to faulty worldviews and differing definitions about just what they mean by "Scripture is their authority." Far too many people (including pastors, it appears) define that phrase to mean "Scripture is my authority in all things related to 'spiritual' matters: prayer, devotions, church matters, etc." Instead of this very myopic understanding of the word "authority," we need to understand Colossians 1:15-20 where Paul teaches about the preeminence of Christ over all things:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Call me crazy, but I take the phrase "all things" to mean "all things." I realize that's a radical - even dangerous - interpretation!