Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is The Dark Knight a better Trilogy than The Lord of the Rings?

Who would win in a fight: The Dark Knight or the Lord of the Rings?

Check out Craig Detweiler's article, here, where he hashes out his reasons for suggesting why DK is a better trilogy than LotR. (The underlying assumption being that these are the two best trilogies of the last ten years).

The basis for his thinking is centered on the question of violence, particularly the kind of violent world we live in now (The DK era) versus then (The LotR era). He is banking his argument on that fact that the world changed in such a way in 2001 that the LotR no longer speaks to the kind of violent world we live in, but the DK does. The former, he suggest, speaks to a post WWII world while the latter speaks to a terrorist/vigilante kind of world.

What do you think? Is this enough to warrant the DK as a better trilogy than the LotR?

Don't feel like you have to uses his categories, though. Make your own argument.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Evolution and the Bible: At Least They're Hearing Each Other Out

I came across this piece recently in the Huffington Post by Travis Loller called Evangelical Scientists Debate Evolution and Bible. I'm still not sure if "Evangelical Scientist" is an oxymoron, but it caught my attention that a professor (Darrel Falk) from my alma mater, Point Loma Nazarene University, was a part of the conversation.

The article is praising a healthy debate taking place between Southern Baptists seminary professors and Evangelical scientists. The debate is happening over at BioLogos. Here's their tagline: "BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith, guided by the truth that 'all things hold together in Christ'" (Colossians 1:17).

The debate is about halfway over and so far Falk is hopeful, saying, "I don't think our differences are anywhere near as great as people might have thought." Of course, there's always Al Mohler: "Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler, a young-earth creationist, has called the attempt to reconcile evangelicals to evolution a 'direct attack upon biblical authority.'"

I'm glad they're talking.

Monday, July 23, 2012

David Bentley Hart on Faith and Reason

"One can believe that faith is mere credulous assent to unfounded premises, while reason consists in a pure obedience to empirical fact, only if one is largely ignorant of both. It should be enough, perhaps, to point to the long Christian philosophical tradition, with all its variety, creativity, and sophistication, and to the long and honorable tradition of Christianity's critical examination and reexamination of its own historical, spiritual, and metaphysical claims. But more important in some ways, it seems to me, is to stress how great an element of faith is present in the operations of even the most disinterested rationality. All reasoning presumes premises or intuitions or ultimate convictions that cannot be proved by any foundations or facts more basic than themselves, and hence there are irreducible convictions present wherever one attempts to apply logic to experience. One always operates within boundaries established by one's first principles, and asks only the questions that those principles permit."

- David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and It's Fashionable Enemies, 101

Friday, July 20, 2012

Do you believe in extraterrestials? If so, are they saved?

I've asked this question before. If Jesus is the way, truth, and life (as many confess) what happens if there is life on other planets in our galaxy or other galaxies, for that matter? What does it mean to claim that the Word became flesh, human flesh, presumably? Is God's election of a people and a person - and thus the world, galaxy, or universe - a singularly significant reality/event or just something significant for our particular galaxy? Are there other versions of the salvation story to be experience in other galaxies? These questions are hitting closer and closer to home. There may just be a mad dash to the science fiction section at the bookstore for ways of processing these questions! Looks like people are going to need a crash course in imagination. Thomas O'Meara, OP is one of the first I've seen really ponder this question, although I'm sure there are others. Who else is writing about these things from a theological perspective? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 Signs You Should Not Be Getting Married In A Church

Not sure I agree with everything, but I thought this was interesting:

10 Signs You Should Not Be Getting Married in a Church
By Lillian Daniel (Huffington Post)
Posted: 07/10/2012 12:37 pm

10 Signs You Should Not be Getting Married in a Church
  1. You find yourself asking the clergy to take all the references to Jesus out of the service.
  2. You find yourself dreading your next meeting with the minister.
  3. You find yourself dreading the service, worried that the minister will say something too religious.
  4. You disagree with the core values of the church.
  5. You find the core values of the church so uninteresting that you can just tune them out, no problem.
  6. You are not a member of any faith community and neither one of you intends to be.
  7. This location feels like a choice you both are making for somebody else, rather than for yourselves.
  8. You and your partner have never talked about religion, and you have serious doubts that you will ever be able to.
  9. This experience feels like just another wedding transaction, one more service provider to check off the list.
  10. You can't wait for the reception.

10 Signs You Might be in the Right Place After All
  1. You have drifted from the church, but as you prepare for your wedding you find yourself seeking a community of faith.
  2. You enjoy meeting the minister and appreciate the chance to focus on matters of the spirit in the midst of wedding planning stress.
  3. You have worshipped here and found yourself moved.
  4. You want your marriage to be associated with this place and its core values.
  5. You can imagine the members of this church holding you in prayer.
  6. You sense that your marriage is about more than the two of you.
  7. You find yourself praying.
  8. This experience is causing you and your partner to talk about your faith and your aspirations for a faith community as a couple.
  9. You don't have it all figured out yet, but this church feels like a blessing to start you on your way.
  10. You can't wait for the wedding.

"... a community associated with Jesus' name."

"A range of people---those attracted to the Christian proposition, those who clearly affirm it, and those with even more robust affirmations of the unique revelation of God through Jesus Christ---join together in a community associated with Jesus' name. They seek to live in ways consistent with his life and teaching, even while doubts may remain unresolved and the exact implications of his teachings only gradually become clear. Out of the evolving practices of worship, study, and discipleship, some degree of shared belief may well emerge, even if complete convergence of belief is unlikely."

- Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp, The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, Faith, 147


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Speaking "Christian" during an election year

My friend Tim wrote an article for Sojourners based on his new book (with DVD) called Public Jesus.

It's worth a read, especially if you're either Christian or an American (maybe even both at the same time) and if you're tired of the same old Liberal vs. Conservative, Republican vs. Democrat split.

A faith subject to revision

"These questions are a reminder that our epistemic 'levels' are really just convenient points along a continuum and that, for any individual believer, the location of any particular claim along that continuum is subject to revision in light of new arguments, new experiences, and new discoveries. One can say with some confidence, at any particular moment, which claims appear to be better justified than others, but one must also acknowledge the ongoing religious and theoretical attraction of claims that one cannot, at the moment, find fully convincing. The upshot is a necessary humility and an openness to the claims of the tradition - and the criticisms of those outside it - that, in our view, belong to the essence of what is traditionally known as a life of faith."

Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp, The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, Faith, 134-135


Monday, July 16, 2012

Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp on the Case for Christian Belief

"We do agree with many commentators today that it is difficult to make the case for Christian belief - difficult, that is, to make a case that is, or even should be, convincing to those who do not already participate in the experience of Christian faith and practice. What separates us from Christian agnostics is, first, our unwillingness to decide in advance that no progress in assessing Christian claims can be made and, second, our conviction that pursuing the question of what is really the case, what is really true, is not just an intellectual game but an urgent religious responsibility. In fact, it is a responsibility precisely for those who find themselves, as we do, continually drawn to what it is least misleading, perhaps, to call simply 'the gospel.' Again, that conviction separates us just as much from the Christian fideist - the person who thinks we should just take everything 'on faith' - as it does from the Christian agnostic. As different as they may be in other respects, the fideists and the agnostic are equally 'dogmatic' to the extent that they are both closed to the possibility of ever making progress in finding out whether Christian claims may actually be true, and both unwilling to let the content of their beliefs be affected by new ideas or discoveries." 

Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp, The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith 19-20

Monday, July 09, 2012

Myths about U.S. Immigration, (and more)

This quarters NCM Magazine is dedicated to immigration, taking its ques from that oft (and rightly so) quoted passage, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Among many challenging articles was one by Rev. Gabriel Salguero. He and his wife are co-pastors of Lamb's Manhattan Church of the Nazarene. Here are several highlights:

- "Too many pastors and laity alike go to their favorite politician or media pundit instead of scripture to form opinions on justice in immigration."

- "We have to ask then, how do we balance respect for the government's rule of law with welcoming the stranger? In other words, how do we live out Romans 13:1 - 'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities' - with Matthew 25:35 - 'I was a stranger and you welcomed me'? As a congregation, we are learning to let both of these Scripture passages disciple us."

- "At our church, we have undocumented immigrants among us. We believe membership in the body of Christ is not a matter of where you are born, what language you speak, or what your citizenship is. It is about faith in Christ."

- "Why do we do this? It is because these men, women, and children are our brothers and sisters. In fact, many of them have U.S.-born children. Those children are our children, and we are working to keep families together. It is one of the reasons we want humane and comprehensive immigration reform."

Attached to the article are four myths about U.S. immigration that I also think are worth highlighting as well:

- Myth #1: Immigrants don't pay taxes.
Reality: Most immigrants - including many who are undocumented - pay income, property, sales, and payroll taxes.

- Myth #2: Immigrants come to the United States to take welfare.
Reality: Most often, immigrants come to the United States to work, reunite with family members, or escape violence. the amount of taxes immigrants pay overall actually far outweights their use of public benefits.

- Myth #3: Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries.
Reality: Though some immigrants send remittances to family members in their home countries, the amount immigrants overall contribute to local economies through consumer spending and paying business and personal taxes dramatically exceeds the amount sent elsewhere.

- Myth #4: Most immigrants cross the border illegally.
Reality: About two-thirds of immigrants are in the U.S legally with visas or as naturalized citizens. Of the third who are undocumented, 40 percent originally came legally but overstayed their temporary visas.

The magazine also offers a link to a website where people can go to learn how to advocate for immigrants in their community - ncm.org/immigration. Actually, it's must more than that. It's not just for those who are in favor of advocacy. It's a great resource for opening up a broader conversation with those who might not agree with some of things that I have highlighted above.

As an Associate Pastor on staff at a church in a neighborhood where immigration is a central issue, this magazine has been extremely insightful, provoking me to prayer and action.

Thanks, NCM!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Too Many Trilogies?

I just found out that The Amazing Spider Man is going to be made into a trilogy. This doesn't surprise me. The self-contained, one time only movie is a relic. If a trilogy isn't a part of the original conversation then you should be worried as a filmmaker. True, the stand-alones are still made, but they mostly fall into either one of two categories: suck or success. If there was a third category it be called forgotten. Especially with comic movies, it's trilogy of bust.

I'm not a hater of this idea. I like a good trilogy as much as the next person, I just want to see them done well. What I really like, though, is a good story, which is why Star Wars (the original three), The Lord of the Rings, The Bourne films, Harry Potter, and The Millenium Trilogy are good trilogies to me. They are good stories. Each film builds into the next as a large overarching story unfolds. The Lord of the Rings, I think, did it best. It's like watching a fourteen hour long movie and yet you can do it in three parts. You get enough resolution along the way so that you don't feel like you have to watch them all in a row every time, but you get really to know the characters, watch them develop, and live long enough in another world that you feel at home there. That's pretty powerful. There's a whole thing out there about how "we" as a culture have lost our ability to stay focused on one thing for a long time, thus, we don't write long novels or sit down to long films, generally speaking. Two hundred pages or ninety minutes is about all we got. Of course, Twilight and Harry Potter are the exceptions, or romance novels, but then there's a whole other thing going on there.

A trilogy, to me, is a long story. Most so-called trilogies are really just collections of films revolving around the same character without an overarching storyline. That's fine. I like those too: Sherlock Holmes, Mission Impossible, Die Hard, Indiana Jones, Toy Story (yes, I don't think it's a trilogy), and Back to the Future. I suppose I want the distinction because I really like a good story and I don't want people to be confused or unaware that there is a difference. Stand-alone's are fine but putting three of them together and calling it a trilogy doesn't mean that it's one story. I think there is and I think film has the ability to help us see just what exactly is the power of a good story, one that sucks you in as it gives shape and form to a whole other reality. I'd actually like to see people sitting down to write more trilogies, an eight to nine hour imaginative saga. How awesome is it going to be when The Dark Tower series comes to film!

I'm sort of ranting, mostly at the how flippantly studios throw around the world trilogy simply because we think that makes it better. We have to be smarter as film-goers. If the first movie was decent but not great and there's a second one on the way, wait until it comes out at Redbox, or borrow it from a friend. All they want is our money and we get tricked into thinking that a trilogy means it's better, with question.

Someone could probably argue the other way about trilogy and that's fine. I mostly want to see people go all the way with trilogy. Leave us hanging a bit after the first and second films for the grand conclusion. It's better that way.