Saturday, November 22, 2014
My whole family went to see Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas on the night the movie was released. It was the first time we had all gone together to the movies since our son Josh, who had just turned four, was born.
As a whole, I liked the movie. I found it to be a good positive argument for why Christians should embrace the celebration of Christmas. However, that very thing may be the movie's downfall. In this review I'll share two of the weaknesses to the film, and I will end with stating what I appreciate about it.
1. There wasn't a story. Good movies are driven by a good story. Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous were all movies that were driven by stories. They connected with audiences on an emotional level in so far as they told a believable story. Saving Christmas was not driven by a story. Rather, it was driven by a theological argument--with a story as window dressing.
2. It is an insider's Movie. As noted above, the movie was explicitly aimed at Christians. It seems that there was no attempt to hide this within the movie itself. One of the examples of this is the fact that the character of Kirk's brother-in-law is named Christian. I think this must have been very intentional. At one point, Kirk was making a statement to Christian about why all the modern trappings of Christmas are really about Jesus. His argument was addressed to "Christian," his brother-in-law; it's not too much to say that Cameron was really addressing his audience with the argument. The insider's feeling to the movie is understandable and to be expected with Christians as the target audience; however, I can imagine that this tone could be perceived as quite offensive to anyone who watches it from the outside of the faith. This is probably the reason why critics have been so merciless to the film. If you don't share the assumed worldview of the target audience, you probably won't like the movie at all.
1. The film maintains an authentic Christian worldview. While this is very close to what I stated as a weakness. As one who shares the worldview, I appreciate what Cameron was doing.
2. The film was informative. The story of Saint Nicolas is one that is probably unfamiliar to most Christians; however, it was one I had been familiar with for some time now. I really appreciate his attempt to redeem the image of Santa Claus, and to show that the real Nicolas was a Christian pastor who was passionate about orthodox Christology and who was known for his generosity--not to mention his concern for the purity of marriage.
3. The film was positive. It can be the temptation of many Christians making a film like this to get very negative and point to all the things wrong with how we celebrate Christmas. Cameron's film was anything but that. This movie about saving Christmas took a very different approach.
4. The film was prophetic. I don't mean this in the sense that it tells of future events (like another of Cameron's earlier movies). The finger of correction was not pointed to those on the outside of the faith, it was pointed at Christians themselves. It was an in-house corrective argument. Cameron was clearly communicating a message to Christians that we should embrace and enjoy the Christmas season, and to focus on how each aspect of Christmas can help us to worship Jesus. In this sense, I think the film is right on the money.
While the film seems to be taking a beating by many critics, I don't think that this is because they are somehow persecuting Kirk Cameron or Christians in general. Rather, I really don't think the film has what it takes to merit good reviews based on the standard that we normally use when we choose what movies we like. The fact that the movie was strictly driven by a theological argument and it has such an insider's feel to it will probably alienate many who go to see it who do not share the Christian world view.
One other thing: I also wouldn't recommend bringing an active 4 year old boy. It was good for our family to be together and enjoy a night out at the movies, but Josh really didn't have the attention span to sit through it.
All in all, I recommend the movie for Christians, but I think that any attempt to convince our unbelieving neighbors to go see the film might be frustrated by the weaknesses I've mentioned above.
Thank you to Kirk Cameron for making this movie!
Thursday, October 02, 2014
Here are two more recordings. One is a thematic message from biblical theology on the concept of "sheep without a shepherd." I trace the development of the phrase from it's first occurrence in the book of Numbers into the New Testament. The other recording is a later recording of the same message that I posted above. This one I preached at Colbern Road Baptist Church in Lee's Summit in August, 2012. The sound quality is much better. It includes the music portion of the service, so the sermon starts around 18:50 minutes in.
Friday, January 11, 2013
On the other end of the spectrum, John Shore has written over at the Huffington Post an article claiming that Christians have no support for their position on homosexuality outside the Bible, and that Christians have looked at Jesus as a mirror and seen their own views in the reflection. As a conservative Christian who holds to the view of marriage held by Christians of all traditions from the time of Christ until very recently, I felt an inclination to respond to his argument.
1. His first line of argument is a claim that apart from the Bible, Christians have nothing to say about why homosexuality is wrong. He states:
"Challenge a Christian to make one single argument for homosexuality being wrong that doesn't quote or reference the Bible, and suddenly they're in a house of mirrors; suddenly the only thing they can only point to is themselves."Basically he's arguing (according to his view) that apart from the Bible, Christians are just harboring bigotry and they really just don't like gay people.
I object to this claim on two counts. First, Mr. Shore demands a test that is impossible for a Christian to submit to. A Christian's entire view of the world is (or ought to be) shaped by Scripture. The authority of the Bible is fundamental Christian belief. To require Christians to exclude our sacred text in order to speak intelligently about any issue, is to require us to stop thinking like Christians. Second, there are arguments being made by Christians that are not entirely dependent on Biblical texts. Justin Taylor draws attention to such a discussion here.
2. Shore then makes the claim that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Now, I'm not exactly sure what he's reading, but the Bible I read says things like:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10)(One of Giglio's controversial quotations was almost a direct quote from this one.)
Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1Ti 1:8-11)(Notice that right next to the word "homosexuality" is the word "enslavers. Giglio is praised by the president for his condemnation of the one, and pushed out for his condemnation of the other)
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Lev 18:22)Yes, I know that one's in the Old Testament. Why should that matter? Both Old and New Testaments are together accepted by Christians as the word of God. Marcion was condemned as a heretic for his rejection of the Old Testament. The New Testament is organically connected to the Old Testament. It assumes everything in the Old Testament. If you come to the New Testament without the Hebrew Scriptures, you are bound to misunderstand it because you have cut yourself off from the context within which it was written.
3. Shore then turns to Jesus. He makes the claim that what Jesus was concerned about was compassion. He claims that Jesus didn't care about the 10 commandments; all he cared about was love and compassion. Shore then turns to a biblical story (something he tries to exclude Christians from being able to do). He tells of how in John 5 Jesus heals a man who was lame from birth and is then criticized by the legalists because it was done on the Sabbath. Shore states:
Also on the scene are some Jewish leaders. They object to what Jesus has done. And why? Have they so little compassion that they actually prefer the poor man remain a cripple?Now, to someone who's cherry picking which teachings of Jesus to listen to, this is a reasonable argument to make. However, Jesus explains in Matthew 12 that his detractors actually misunderstood the Bible's teaching on the Sabbath.
Of course not. They're outraged because Jesus disobeyed the Bible. And not in any small way, either. In healing the man Jesus brazenly violated number eight of the Ten Commandments: He worked on the Sabbath. ("Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy ... on it you shall not do any work.")
He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." (Mat 12:3-8)Jesus didn't break the Sabbath. Those who objected misunderstood the Bible's teaching, and Jesus' own explanation makes this clear.
Those who argue that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality may be "technically" right, only in the sense that he didn't use the word. However, Jesus accepted the authority of the Old Testament. He had Leviticus 18:22 in his Bible too. He was fully aware of that when he said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Mat 5:17)Jesus accepted the sexual morality that was given in the Old Testament. If he wanted to change something he could have said so. Rather than loosen the biblical teaching of sexual morality, if anything Jesus made sexual ethics even more strict.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:27-28)4. Shore then makes the argument:
The response of the dedicatedly legalistic Christian to this clear and simple reasoning is as predictable as it is inevitable. He or she will say that just like the lame man was physically sick so the gay person is spiritually sick.
"See?" they will say, "Both need Jesus to heal them!"
Which sounds reasonable. Except it ignores the fact that there is something objectively wrong with the lame man, whereas there's nothing whatsoever objectively wrong with the gay person beyond what the Christian uses his Bible to claim there is.Objective is not the right word here. Physical would fit better. Shore seems to think that in order for something to be "objective" it has to be scientifically verifiable. Moral categories are not scientifically verifiable. In fact, without a claim to revelation, moral categories are impossible to justify in the first place.
Homosexuality is a moral sickness. It is a deadly sin, along with all other sins like lying, stealing, and not loving God with your whole heart mind soul and strength. It is a sin that along with the others will one day be lain bare before a holy God who is coming in judgement, whom we all must answer to--both homosexual and heterosexual alike.
5. By stating that that Jesus only cared about compassion and not about keeping commandments, Shore falls into the same trap that he is accusing Christians of. He concludes his argument:
But when we turn to our legalistic Christian in hopes of a response to that we will find that he or she, having made their point, has disappeared back inside their hall of mirrors, there to spend their hours rapturously gazing at distorted images of themselves, and always mistaking them for God.Shore is doing what Albert Schweitzer famously pointed out about 19th century liberals. In their quest for the historical Jesus they looked down into the well of history and saw the reflection 19th century liberal values. Shore is doing what we are all sometimes tempted to do. David Platt, in his book Radical, admits that conservative evangelical Christians have a tendency to reinvent Jesus into our own image as a nice middle class God who is cool with us having our stuff and our sin and wouldn't say a word about whatever sin that we deem acceptable.
I don't think that Shore is right about evangelical's simply reading into the Bible the teaching that they want to find about homosexuality. In fact, I think there are probably some who would likely abandon this issue if it didn't mean giving up the clear teaching of Scripture. However, it is without question that remaking Jesus is always the temptation for us all. It is much easier to deal with a Jesus of our own making than the Jesus of the Bible. If we shape and mold our Jesus into own image we can justify pretty much anything we want to, but then again, if we do that, what we are left with isn't really Jesus at all is it?
Friday, December 21, 2012
Now I'm at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, working on a PhD in Old Testament. I've got one semester down of a 5-8 year program. It's been really hard to manage school and work and family, but I believe I've survived my first semester. Though I'll find out for sure when I get my grades.
Well, that will be all for now. Hopefully it won't be another 2 1/2 years till my next post.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Well Behaved Children
“Some succumb to the pressure to raise well-behaved kids. We help them develop
poise. We teach them to converse. We want children who possess social graces. We
want them to be able to make guests comfortable. We want them to be able to
respond with grace under pressure. We know that these skills are necessary to be
successful in our world. It pleases us to see these social graces in our
I’m A Pastor who has raised three children. I’m certainly not down on
well-behaved children. Yet, having well-behaved children is not a worthy goal.
It is a great secondary benefit of biblical child rearing, but an unworthy goal
You cannot respond to your children to please someone else. The temptations to
do so are numerous. Every parent has faced the pressure to correct a son or
daughter because others deemed it appropriate. Perhaps you were with a group
when Junior did or said something that you understood and were comfortable with,
but that was unquestionably misread by others in the room. Stabbed by their
daggers of disapproval, you felt the need to correct him for the sake of others.
If you acquiesce, your parenting focus becomes behavior. This obscures dealing
biblically with Junior’s heart. The burning issue becomes what others think
rather than what God thinks. Patient, godly correction is precluded by the
urgent pressure to change behavior. If your goal is well behaved kids, you are
open to hundreds of temptations to expediency.
What happens to the child who is trained to do all the appropriate things? When being well-mannered is severed from biblical roots in servant hood, manners becomes (sic) a classy tool of manipulation. Your children learn how to work others in a subtle but profoundly self-serving way. Some children become crass manipulatorsAnother unbiblical goal that I think is worth mentioning is “control.”
of others and disdainful of people with less polish. Others, seeing through the
sham and hypocrisy, become brash and crass rejecters of the conventions of
culture. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, scores of young adults rejected
etiquette in an attempt to be real and unpretending. Either reaction is a
casualty of manners detached from the biblical moorings of being a servant”
“Some parents have no noble goal at all; they simply want to control their
children. These parents want their children to mind, to behave, to be good,
to be nice. They remind their children of how things were when they were
youngsters. Frequently they employ the “tried and true” methods of
discipline—whatever their parents did that seemed to work. They want
children who are manageable. They want them to do the right thing whatever that is at the moment). The bottom line is to control their kids. But, the control is not directed toward specific character development objectives. The concern is personal convenience and public appearance” (Tripp, 46-47).
In any position of leadership, especially in the ministry, I think these unbiblical goals become easy temptations. People look at us and think that our kids ought to be perfect, since after all “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Ministers don’t want people to get the idea that they cannot “control” their own household, so it’s easy to feel tempted to bow to the pressure of other people’s expectations. At times it might even feel that the ability to "control" your kids is a condition of employment! This kind of unbiblical pressure can be excruciating, and it can be very difficult to keep one's parenting focus where it should be.
I have felt this pressure numerous times since the first day that I became a father. Even though I recognize that temptation is unbiblical, it rears its ugly head quite often so that I must cry out, “Lord, deliver me from the fear of man, and help me to patiently shepherd my child according to your expectations and not the expectations of others.”
Saturday, July 10, 2010
First, you might say that God is too big to fit in any "religion," if you use technical distinction. By this I mean, "religion" is man's attempt to get to God on his own. Taking this definition, I would say that all human attempts at reaching God fail. No "religion" can do it because God is too big, mysterious, an holy that we cannot reach Him in our own efforts. This leaves human beings with a real problem. If all man's attempts at reaching God ultimately fail, how are we to know anything about him at all? The good news here is that God has made himself known; he has revealed himself, and he has spoken to man in the Bible.
Of course the likely response to this is that my argument doesn't hold any weight because you may not believe the Bible. However, it still doesn't keep the sign in the picture above from being absurd. This sign is on the marquee of a Congregational Methodist church. I don't know much about this particular denomination, but the name at least sounds like it belongs to a Christian congregation. Christianity has 66 book of sacred scripture collected in what we call the Bible. Christian congregations ought to be defined by the Bible, and the Bible is an exclusive book. In Genesis you see a God who created the universe and created all human beings from a single originating pair. In Exodus you see a God who reveals himself to Moses as a jealous God who condemns 1)the worship of any other gods, or 2) the creating of images to worship which implies that God regulates how he is to be worshiped, or 3) taking the Lord's name in vain which implies an empty claim to follow him. Later on in the Old Testament the people are told that they worship God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. In the Gospels, Jesus claims to be the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to God but through him. Jesus also claims that a rejection of him, that is Jesus, is essentially a rejection of the Father. If we take Jesus words seriously, we cannot reject Jesus and still claim to be following Christian God.
The absurd thing about the statement, on that marquee is that it claims to come from a Christian church. If they would just take the sign off and call themselves universalists at least it would be honest, but how can anyone who claims to be a Christian so easily abandon the words of Christ?
Monday, June 21, 2010
When I'm finally finished, I wonder what I'm going to do with myself? Ha. Ha.
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