Sunday, November 30, 2008
On Thanksgiving night, I called my Dad and with Tony's funeral planned for the next morning, our conversation naturally turned there. My Dad wanted to know why Tony died at the beginning of a promising life. That just wasn't the way things were supposed to be. How can we make sense of senseless tragedy?
Fair questions - questions that bumper sticker slogans like "everything happens for a purpose" or "God is in control" fail to answer. It's not that God cannot act within the seeming chaos of our world to achieve His purposes, but simple statements fail to answer why the chaos exists and why it is allowed to force itself upon the people we love.
In every instance, when God created He paused and said "it is good," and when it came to man, He said "it is very good." If creation is so good, why do we daily see the effects of natural evil in disasters, disease, and death? Why do we witness constant moral evil inflicted upon innocents? Why did Tony die?
Creation was good – God created man with an intellect, emotions, and a will. In other words, God created us as persons in His own image capable of and craving relationship with each other and God Himself. Man’s will is necessary to his capacity for relationship, for choosing to live in union with others. For a time, man chose to live in face-to-face relationship with God, but then something happened.
By rebelling against God’s simple law, the first man and woman broke their relationship with God and plunged themselves, the whole human race, and all of creation into a state of separation from God. The effects of this rebellion distorted the good God had made. That’s what evil is, a distortion of good. It’s not a thing, but a condition. Not all the good is gone. We still live, love, laugh, and play. But it’s not with the same complete goodness it once had. Our lives are interrupted by disease, accidents, injury, and death, even death of those we deem good, those which had a promising life ahead of them.
Why did Tony die? Because things are not the way they’re supposed to be. Tony was ravaged by the effects of sin, of a world distorted by evil, of a body that retains only a part of the goodness God originally made. If that was the end of the story, our lives would be ground into the dust of despair. But, it’s not the end. God tells us that evil will be destroyed and goodness will be restored. Those who have embraced the Way that He has made for us will rise to an eternal new life when not only they, but all of creation will be put back to the way it is supposed to be.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
- $26 billion is spent world-wide on movies
- 24,000 movie rental stores operate in America
- Less than 46% of Americans read a book last year
- 95% of all Americans saw a movie
- Average American sees 46 movies a year
- Pollster George Barna in his book Revolution says that 20% of all adults use culture, media, and the arts as their primary spiritual resource. Than number is projected to increase to 35% by the year 2025 and will then equal the number who will look to the Church as their primary spiritual resource.
Film has become the storytelling medium of the 21st century. Gone are the days of widespread familiarity with literature. Consider for a moment how many of the following movies you and everyone reading this piece have seen: Schindler's List, Finding Nemo, Titanic, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story. Now, try to imagine five books that each of us would have commonly read. You see my point.
The church has dealt with film primarily through avoidance (the whole thing is corrupt and will corrupt us if we touch it) or caution (only films that directly promote biblical values or the gospel message are worth of our attention). If we limit ourselves to only those two, we miss the opportunity for potent third option: dialogue. Film provides a cultural touch-point with virtually every person we meet and it does Christians well to familiarize themselves with warp and woof of the film in our cultural tapestry. I'm not saying that every film is good or that there are not those we should avoid. There are bad films just as there is bad music, or art, or literature and there are some stories and images that have no redeeming value whatsoever. But, film is so pervasive that if we hope to engage the current culture and participate in forging a new one that can accommodate renewal and revival, we must learn to dialogue with film.
Every story, including film, presents a worldview - or at minimum, a critique of a worldview. Remember that a worldview consists of our view of what is really real and determines our beliefs about life, our values, and ultimately, how we live our lives. It might be explicit in the story, or it might be expressed by one or more characters. There may be multiple or even competing worldviews in a single film.
Francis Schaeffer referred to discussion on the worldview level as pre-evangelism - a true prerequisite to discussions about the gospel. He believed that if my biblical worldview - what I hold to be really real - is different than my neighbor's, until we come to terms on each other's position, the gospel will be unintelligible to to my neighbor. Film provides readily available and fertile ground for worldview dialogue and scattering of the gospel seed.
A cup of coffee or bite to eat after a film with friend provides a great opportunity for worldview dialogue that can start in few other ways. Think about it - over the fence with your neighbor are you more likely to strike up a profitable conversation about why he needs Jesus, or why the main character in the movie The Shawshank Redemption would display such hope (if all that exists is the material world)? Film presents us with door to the 21st century mind and heart. We ought to open it.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The other I slowed down and marveled at the non-stop activity of my thoughts. One must actually work hard to stop the flow of thoughts - sometimes several at time - from rushing through the mind (don't worry, this will connect up and make sense when I'm done). We dream, analyze, plan, and talk to ourselves every waking moment. If I have ten different thoughts in the course of a minute, I have around 10,000 thoughts a day - makes me kind of tired thinking about it.
Now, remember the last really crowded place you were in - crowded like my day at Disneyland. Imagine for a moment how many thoughts went through your head while a part of that crowd. At the same time you had one thought, everyone else in the crowd had one thought. In fact, any one time, the two-thirds of the awake people in the world are simultaneously having thoughts at every moment.
Have you ever wondered what that sounds like to God? Happy thoughts, sad thoughts, hopeful thoughts, despair, evil, ingenuity and genius all at the same time. Despite our inability to imagine that experience, God hears them all, knows what prompted each, and for those who love Him can intervene in those thoughts to accomplish His desires in our lives - simultaneously.
How would your life change if your belief about what is real included a God of this magnitude? I don't mean relegating this fact about God to the category of spiritual or religious beliefs. I mean holding onto it as the truth about the way things really are - in the same way you believe 2 + 2 = 4. Can I include a God this big in my concept of reality and continue really feel bored, or helpless, or alone in the presence of that God?
Monday, November 3, 2008
Coming at the end of a historical period referred to as the Enlightenment - where human reason was considered the source of truth - Darwin published his book Origin of the Species in 1859. Primed by the current reliance on reason, many thinkers of the day latched onto Darwin's theory of evolution as the final step away from God as the transcendent source of truth. No longer did they need to rely on God to explain the existence of mankind. The doors were now open to the primacy of man - not as the pinnacle of creation - but as the species fortunate enough to evolve beyond the others.
This break did not stop with biology, but bled over into other disciplines, including law. Prior to this time, William Blackstone's commentaries on the law served as one of the primaries sources for educating lawyers. In his introduction to the nature of law, Blackstone writes "[u]pon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these." This was the common view of the time, that human laws must submit themselves the laws of nature and nature's God.
However the introduction of an explanation for our existence apart from God spawed an explanation for the nature of law apart from God. The newly devised case study method for training lawyers that came in the wake of Darwin's theory - where the study of law focused on the decisions of judges - promoted the idea that the law must also evolve over time. The purpose of the courts was not to determine what was in the Constitution and other laws, but what those laws should mean. And, that meaning was determined by what these judges detemined fit the needs current society. The law had lost it moorings and was now afloat in the haphazard currents of personal preference.
Fast forward to today and we find ourselves experiencing the results of 150 years of this new way of looking at the law. What we find should not surprise us. This process has led to judges acting as the final arbitors of our law. They alone decied what laws are good for us and what laws are not. They alone decide right and wrong.
While we can turn the tide and begin to retake lost ground, it will take time. That makes this coming presidential election critical. When the next president takes office, six of the current United States Supreme Court Justices will be over 70 years of age. The next prsident will likely appoint two Justices, maybe more. As important, the President nominates appellate court justices. Most appeals stop at the appellate courts and most of our law is "made" there. The next president has the power to affect the condition of our country for decades and maybe longer, appointing justices that will continue to take the law into their own hands, or appointing justices who will respect the power of the legislature and executive and who will look to what our Constitution and laws say, not what they'd like them to say.