January 2005

29 Jan 2005

There’s no pretentious artifice in Hotel Rwanda, no jerky cameras or self-conscious “artistry” a la Spielberg. The camera simply thrusts you into the middle of a horrifying storm on a far away continent. Its players and direction are so good that you are lost in it. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, infuriating, and rewarding. It is the best film I’ve seen in years. More on this tragedy here.

29 Jan 2005

Somewhat lost amid the whole recent flap about Rolling Stone magazine’s decision against running an ad for a Zondervan “Today’s NIV” bible is the fact that this translation is the infamous “gender-neutral” version. It changes masculine pronouns to “inclusive” renderings. Instead of “Let us make man in our image”, we get “Let us make human beings in our image.” Well, at least they haven’t resorted to calling God “she.” Yet.

It’s condescending to anyone with a grain of sense. It’s inaccurate. It’s an offense against the English language, although it could get worse if they someday decide that they prefer the icky “he and she” (“Let us make he and she in our image”). But most of all, it is an offense against Scripture.

23 Jan 2005

In Good Company is thoroughly entertaining. Its perceptive screenplay avoids the usual broadbrush statements about corporations. Instead it is a more realistic story about the triumph of professionalism and excellence over style and ambition. As Lewis says in the Inner Ring:

If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will be no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape the professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole… But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

19 Jan 2005

Malcolm Muggeridge was one of the greats of the 20th century. His memoir, Chronicles of Wasted Time, is a sharp, hilarious journey through key events of the past century. Two vignettes follow from this beautifully-written book, both from his time in the Soviet Union during the deadly era of Stalinist famine, both illustrating the heavenly, eternal joy that pierces worldly darkness:

It just suddenly seemed to me that Russia was a beautiful place– these pine trees, dark against the snow which had now begun to fall, the sparkling stars so far, far away, the faces of the Russians I met and greeted, these also so beautiful, so clumsy and kind… In the woods there was a little church, of course disused now. The fronts of such churches, like the Greek ones, are painted with bright colours; blues bluer than the bluest sky, whites whiter than the whitest snow. Someone — heaven knows who — had painted up the one in the Kliasma woods. Standing in front of this unknown painter’s handiwork, I blessed his name, feeling that I belonged to the little disused church he had embellished, and that the Kremlin with its scarlet flag and dark towers and golden spires was an alien kingdom. A kingdom of power such as the Devil had in his gift, and offered to Christ, to be declined by him in favour of the kingdom of love. I, too, must decline it, and live in the kingdom of love. This was another moment of perfect clarification, when everything fitted together in sublime symmetry; when I saw clearly the light and the darkness, freedom and servitude, the bright vistas of eternity and the prison bars of time. I went racing back over the snow to K[itty, his wife], breathing in the dry icy air in great gulps of thankfulness.

In Kiev, where I found myself on a Sunday morning, on an impulse I turned into a church where a service was in progress. It was packed tight, but I managed to squeeze myself against a pillar where I could survey the congregation and look up at the altar. Young and old, peasants and townsmen, parents and children, even a few in uniform– it was a variegated assembly. The bearded priests, swinging their incense, intoning their prayers, seemed very remote and far away. Never before or since have I participated in such worship; the sense conveyed of turning to God in great affliction was overpowering. Though I could not, of course, follow the service, I knew… little bits of it; for instance, where the congregation says there is no help for them save from God. What intense feeling they put into those words! In their minds, I knew, as in mine, was a picture of those desolate abandoned villages, of the hunger and the hopelessness, of the cattle trucks being loaded with humans in the dawn light. Where were they to turn for help? Not to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, certainly; nor to the forces of democracy and enlightenment in the West… Every possible human agency found wanting. So, only God remained, and to God they turned with a passion, a dedication, a humility, impossible to convey. They took me with them; I felt closer to God then than I ever had before, or am likely to again.

14 Jan 2005

Will Disney get it right? This site indicates that someone gets it. Perhaps Jack’s famous allegory for children won’t be watered down into Disney’s mind-numbingly shallow formula of the past few decades (It’s noteworthy that even when they were creating their best material in the 1930s, Tolkien expressed his “heartfelt loathing” for “anything from or influenced by the Disney studios.” He thought Disney a vulgar disservice to children.) Perhaps they will even forgo the Aslan action figure.

With Lord of the Rings, a non-allegorical work of “sub-creation,” the challenge was to understand massive historical and linguistical knowledge poured into by its author (not to mention the complex plot). With Narnia, the contextual challenge is something Hollywood really doesn’t understand: Christian theology. Let’s pray that they figure it out. Perhaps it’s most heartening that Walden Media is ultimately responsible for the film.

12 Jan 2005

When stories like Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings end up in the spotlight, fundamentalists point disapprovingly to their use of occultic symbols and other connections with magic (here’s one example) . Now, with the Potter films this seems wrong-headed. It’s sort of like seeing the Song of Songs as being primarily a treatise on horticulture (“Let my beloved come into his garden…”). In the case of LOTR, though, it’s really wrong-headed.

As its fans know, LOTR is an unbelievably complex and layered work. While it isn’t allegory, that “something” that Christians see is the fire and beauty behind it all. Valor, honor, and nobility celebrated (Philippians 4:8). History. Heroes prone to weaknesses and temptation. And above all, a hidden hand that guides the fate of all. Great joy lurking around the corner. It is intensely Christian. Get stuck on the plot devices of palantirs and pointy hats… and you miss the point.

There are people who’ve wrong-headedly emptied the Bible into a social Gospel. Cults warp the entire message of Scripture. Truth becomes a bulwark for falsehood. Does that make the Bible wrong or misleading? Of course not. That some people see LOTR as the triumph of paganism or wizardry says less about it than them.

10 Jan 2005

It’s easy to lament today’s throwaway culture. In 100 years, people will still be singing “Amazing Grace” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” In 100 years, who will be singing anything written recently? Well, there’s one recent hymn that belongs in the pantheon of great hymns. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” was published in 1995 by a Brit named Stuart Townend. Don’t let the awful contemporary covers dissuade you any more than the awful covers of Christmas hymns we are subjected to every year. Hear it played with a cello, piano, etc. It’s a potent, lyrical mix of words and music.

How deep the Father’s love for us
how vast beyond all measure,
that He should give His only Son
to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss
the Father turns his face away
as wounds which mar the Chosen One
bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross
my sin upon His shoulders;
ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
no gifts, no pow’r, no wisdom;
but I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer,
but this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.

08 Jan 2005

It is tiresome to see the Trinity derided as a sinister invention because it is not in the Bible. Do you think the early Christians didn’t know that? Terms are often invented as a form of shorthand to describe doctrines– Virgin Birth, Justification, Amillenialism, Dispensationalism, etc. For that matter, this is the whole point of inventing terms for anything. It’s easier to say “grand slam” than “home run with three runners on base.”

The Trinity is a concept taught in multiple places in the Bible.

03 Jan 2005

Here’s a site where you can quickly donate to disaster relief.

02 Jan 2005

Piper has this to say.

01 Jan 2005

Disasters like the recent tsunami always raise these questions about where God is and why He let it happen. They highlight people’s inflated view of their own righteousness. One victim of the tsunami voiced a common lament: “What did I do to deserve this?”

A lot, actually. All of us deserve a lot worse than the tsunami. We deserve eternal Hell. God has given us everything we’ve ever had, starting with the air we breathe, and yet we repay him with disobedience.

God is wise and good, and we can speculate endlessly on how good will be brought from this evil for God’s own glory: Gospel inroads, better preparation for an even worse future tsuami, changed lives among the survivors, etc. However, it would be wise to remember God’s retort to Job (ch. 38): “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” Who are we to question Him? God owns it and can do as he pleases. He owes us nothing and yet calls on Christians to trust in His ultimate plan for us, a plan to do us good and not harm. This world is not the beginning and end of things, not by a long shot.