Saturday, June 14, 2008
The movie begins in New York City, Central Park to be specific. The opening consists of people stopping, as if they were suddenly put into a trance similar to the opening of X-Men 2 where Professor Xavier freezes everybody in the mall. The people then start walking backwards and, subsequently, killing themselves, rather grotesquely I might add. The movie then moves forward to include construction workers throwing themselves off of buildings and landing with a gut-wrenching if not bone shattering crunch. Then, the movie cuts to Mark Wahlberg and thus the audience is introduced to the protagonist, if such a term can be used to label Wahlberg.
The first problem with the movie is the acting. I do not believe this to be a fault of the part of the actors. The script and screenplay are weak at best and provide minimal direction for the actors. Mark Wahlberg, in being given his first movie to truly act without one single stunt in the entire movie, does a fairly decent job. His character is shallow, yes, and it seems as if his purpose for existing is to ask questions that reveal the plot , but Wahlberg can actually pull off the type of acting direction he was given. He can be labeled as being over-the-top and perhaps even dry, but Shyamalan does make use of his dry acting talent to create some comedic moments.
Zooey Deschanel plays Wahlberg's seemingly psychotic wife. The audience is informed within 20 seconds of meeting her that she has a secret. Zooey appears as if she has some talent, but she is certainly muted in this movie. The dialogue presents her as being afraid of showing emotion, which in this case presents a problem for the movie. Given Wahlberg's dry performance, the last thing this movie needed was another dry actor, in this case actress, but this is once again a product of faulty direction and bad writing, not a product of horrible acting. Zooey portrays herself to be a capable actress and there are moments where you gain insight into her personality such as when she looks at John Leguizamo's little girl and you see the longing in her eyes to have a child of her own. The Zooey that was Wahlberg's wife just showed herself to be dry and an emotional albino.
The bright star of this film would have to be John Leguizamo. He plays a quirky math professor that is obsessed with statistics. The director wants the audience to believe that he and Wahlberg have been friends for a long time, and it is true that Wahlberg and Leguizamo work well together on screen, probably due in part to Leguizamo working with Wahlberg's brother on Spike's TV show The Kill Point. The only problem with Leguizamo's character is that he dies too early in the film to actually keep the movie alive. Leguizamo provides levity and emotion in the appropriate places and was certainly a good casting choice by Shyamalan.
The special effects are probably the shining star in this film. I have to hand it Industrial Light and Magic. The death scenes were creative and grotesque. While certainly being over the top, especially for the once-thought tasteful Shyamalan, they did provide the necessary boost of fear that kept one's pulse slightly above normal. While being the shining star, it is also this film's black hole. Some of the death scenes were downright unintentionally funny because of how over done they were. In particular, one death scene shows a man feeding himself to four lions in a zoo. While certainly being shocking, the idea in itself was laughable. The problem with the scene is not so much the idea, but the presentation of the idea. If there had been more shock to it instead of set up, then the scene would have had a heavier impact with the audience. One thing that the special effects department did correctly was the scene where the construction workers walked themselves off of the building. The sound and the following position of the bodies were realistic and made one's mouth drop at the horror of it.
Another let down in The Happening was the cinematography. The shots looked rushed and choppy. The only imagery in the film was nature which some could say is imagery enough. The predominant color of this film was green, but Shyamalan did not take the time, as he usually does, to flesh out that imagery and to unpack it like he did with The Village, Signs, and Unbreakable. There was also a notable lack of ending plot twist in this film which certainly hurt the overall effect of the film at its climax.
Overall, The Happening is a great example of a beautiful train wreck. The idea behind the horror was great; it linked one back to the methods of the great Master of Horror, but the horror was lost in the mess that was the writing and screenplay. Shyamalan did not conclude his story properly nor did he provide a notable climax, as he usually does. One can see how this film is completely experimental. Shyamalan tried new techniques that worked such as the shocking brutality (including a man running himself over with a lawn mower and a kid getting shot through the chest with a 12 gauge, all shown on-screen). This movie fails on all other fronts, though. Shyamalan, hire a writer. Please do not turn into George Lucas and ruin the best thing you have going for you: your imagination.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
From The Great Commission to The Great Invitation
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the last command of Jesus Christ before His ascension into heaven. His last words to mankind, and more specifically His followers, were to “Go.” Something odd has been happening in mainstream Christianity, something that has been stirring and building and growing since the dawn of revivalism. Something is amiss, a foul stench that plagues even the most holy of churches and Christ-like of pastors, teachers, preachers, and members. It is the stench of dead weight, of a slothful congregation moved to sit in seats lined with pads. It is the smell of laziness; it is the smell of intellectual and spiritual death.
The last, and certainly one of the most fundamental and important, command of Jesus Christ was not merely parting words from a Shepherd to His sheep. It was more than that; it was the culmination of His passion, of His teaching, and of His discipleship. Jesus proved himself to be a student of the law. He was familiar with the Mosaic law, as he confirmed time and again during many confrontations with the instructors of the law, i.e. the Pharisees and Sadducees. How could Jesus, being God, choose such a phrase to part humanity with? Why, with all of the unspoken secrets of the divine kingdom and with all the un-imparted knowledge of God, did Jesus speak carefully and purposefully about going into the world and sharing? In stating the obvious, OBVIOUSLY IT WAS IMPORTANT.
The Great Commission has been used over the years as ammunition for the approval of missions. But there has also been a very large recoil effect with the firing of that gun. In the modern day set up of churches, there is typically a lead pastor/elder that instructs the congregation below him (or her in some cases). And, as has definitely been seen since the spawn of revivalism, there has been the need to add what is now known as the “alter call,” i.e. the invitation. Now, the invitation is not inherently a bad thing to include in an order of service inside of a traditional church service. However, it is when the church uses the alter call as an excuse for evangelism that defines when the invitation is probably not being put to its best use. What is meant is simply this: Jesus commanded His followers to go into the world and to evangelize. Evangelize does not mean “save.” Evangelize (or evangelism) means to share the Good News with those who would have an ear. What is often seen nowadays is the fact that although 1 out of every 9 church members is reaching into the community to share the Gospel, the other 9 church members are sitting happily on the wayside, watching as their church grows both in numbers of members and financial status.
The Invitation call to follow Christ was not created with the intent of what is happening now to happen. Instead, its original purpose AT REVIVAL MEETINGS was to invite those who were spurred by the Spirit of God moving through the words of the Gospel to receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In the beginning, it was never meant to become a part of mainstream meetings and gatherings within a church. So, the crux of the problem of why the church is an increasingly diminishing part of the community is this: the Great Commission (Go!) has been replaced with the Great Invitation (Come!). Think about it: a church, while being seen as a gathering place for those who would worship God, is now also seen as a place to go to be saved. This is not a scripturally sound statement and it is perpetuated by the increased pressure to bring in lost souls instead of going out and seeking the lost souls.
Jesus spoke to the Disciples and to the 100+ other followers present at the ascension to go and make disciples, not to invite them to church or to the three ring circus most youth groups have become today. However, on the other side of the fence, the invitation call serves its purpose because when those lost souls come into the Church and are perhaps moved by the Word of God. What is being pointed out here is the increasing shift from “Go!” to “Come!” There are certainly exceptions to every rule and this is certainly far from being a blanket statement made by ignorance. It merely is an observation of the shifting times within the church.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The Nature of the Trinity
What is the Trinity? Is it a doctrine that can be fully understood by mortal man? The mere idea of one God possessing three distinct and fully developed personalities while still possessing a distinct Oneness can be challenging to either the new believer or the well educated theologian. For the purposes of this paper, the personalities of three personalities of the Trinity will be explored and, through that explanation, there should be a measure of comfort in that the knowledge of God pertaining to the Trinity can be logically understood, but not entirely grasped.
That nature of God, himself, in His Oneness is in itself a mystery that can not be fathomed. However, Cornelius van Til in The Defense of the Faith attempts to define or summarize the general personality of God. In the first chapter, he (van Til) states, “What we have discussed [the revealed nature of God] under the attributes of God may also be summed up by saying that God is absolute personality. The attributes themselves speak of self-conscious and moral activity on the part of God” (10). Van Til previously wrote on the doctrine of God under the pretense of understanding the type of God Christianity believes in. He quickly names four attributes of God that can be clearly seen through the Bible. The first attribute that he names is God’s independence. “By this is meant that God is in no sense correlative to or dependent upon anything besides his own being. God is the source of his own being, or rather the term source cannot be applied to God. God is absolute. He is sufficient unto himself” (9). Van Til is speaking to the fact that God is completely unto Himself sufficient, alive, and not requiring anything outside of Himself to sustain Him. He is self-dependent on Himself alone outside any other influence.
Van Til moves forward to explain the other three attributes of God. “Secondly, we speak of the immutability of God. Naturally God does not and cannot change since there is nothing besides his own eternal Being on which he depends (Mal. 3:6; James 1:7).” (9). God is not affected by time or the effects of gravity. The Creator of time cannot age along with His creation because He is outside of the time used within His creation. The same can be said for the affects of gravity on God which moves into the third attribute of God. Van Til states that God is infinite and eternal. He defines the eternity of God with relation to the question of time (10) as well as the omnipresence of God in terms of space (10). “By the term eternity we mean that there is no beginning or end or succession of moments in God’s being or consciousness (Ps. 90:2; 2 Pet. 3:8).” (10). In short, God is not confined by the limits of time which is mind-boggling in thought and action because, as human beings created to serve time, it is inconceivable to think of God who exists outside of time and, consequently, that influences our lives outside of time. “By the term omnipotence we mean that God is neither included in space nor absent from it. God is above all space and yet present in every part of it (I Kings 8:27; Acts 17:27).” (10). God has the ability to exist inside of space without existing within it. What is meant to be said is that God does not exist within a space as human beings or corporeal, inanimate objects exist within a space. God also does not need to be corporeal to interact within space. Because God is transcendent above all space and yet still in space, He can influence space without existing within the restricted confines of space.
The fourth attribute of God is that of His unity. God exists both in the forms of unified singularity and unified simplicity. “The unity of singularity has reference to numerical oneness. There is and can be only one God. The unity of simplicity signifies that God is in no sense composed of parts or aspects that existed prior to himself (Jer. 10:10; I John 1:5).” (10). The personality of God is one and yet He is existing in all. The attributes named by Van Til are not to be seen as the only attributes of God. They are to be seen as fundamental characteristics that existed within God. They did not gradually come to be within God. They have always and will always exist within God because they are fundamental to understanding His overall nature. God’s place within the Trinity can be seen, through knowing these attributes, to be the place of the head. He is the Father. He is the Creator of everything and, most importantly, He is the master of the other two personalities inhabited within the Trinity. The term “master” is to be clearly defined in this context to mean, “the leader, the one who sets in motion.” The other two personalities within the Trinity are both subservient and equal to God, but God the Father as He exists within the Trinity is to be recognized and understood to be the one who sets in motion His will.
The theology of Christ, God’s son, while not as difficult in terms of understanding as the paradoxal nature of God, is difficult in its own right to understand based on the fact that God is present within His Son but His Son is also a separate entity to Himself. C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, begins a discussion on the nature of the only begotten Son of God. “Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man creates is not man” (122). Lewis is attempting to clear up the misconception that God was fully human with attributes of God existing within Him. Because God the Father fathered Jesus through Mary, that means that God laid into Mary His seed. Jesus is the only begotten of God, hence logically it can be said that if each reproduce after their own kind, then God reproduced after His own kind which was another God. However, this is not be confused with the concept that God the Father Himself was the seed within Mary therefore making Him the one who became the Son who was a God in human form.
The other complexity of understanding God the Son is realizing that when Jesus was born through Mary, He had the same limitations as a human being had. He aged. He grew. He could get angry. He could lust. He could be tempted. One of the differences between Jesus and any other man would be that Jesus, being God incarnate, was perfect. He was tempted as human but He refuted the sin as God. He was an example of perfection and, perhaps, a portrait of humanity before the Fall. Jesus possessed the freedom of mind to sin and He was tempted on more than one occasion to fall, but serving His Father and obeying His Father kept Him from impurity and thus lived a perfect life while on earth. Lewis states, “But what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is Spiritual life-the higher and different sort of life that exists in God” (123). Lewis is getting to the point that Jesus was a mortal being who not only possessed a biological life but that also possessed a Spiritual life. In modern times, Christians are trying to live a Spiritual life, but this Spiritual part of the life can never be achieved. If man were able to have a Spiritual life, then man would have been as Jesus. However, because man was flawed and did not possess the Spiritual life which led to direct fellowship with God (as the Spiritual life that Jesus had enabled him to do) then man is forever separated from God. Jesus’ place within the Trinity is that He is the Son of God, embodied by God the Father but a separate personality as Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty God. Jesus is below God as the Son of God and the Son within the Trinity, but He is also equal with God in terms of having the power of God and having the revealed nature of God because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God.
The last understanding is that of the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most confusing and complex part of God. Sheila C. Guthrie, Jr., in her book Christian Doctrine, discusses the Holy Spirit and who exactly He is. “He is ‘God coming to man in an inward way to enlighten and strengthen him’” (292). The Holy Spirit is, as far as human terms and reasoning can tell, is the most direct influence of God in man outside of the time of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. The Holy Spirit is God guiding the soul of man through divine inspiration in some level that is yet to be explained. Guthrie goes on further to state that there are three basic truths in understanding the Holy Spirit. The first aspect in understanding the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is a person. “If the Spirit is God himself, he is Someone, not something. A common error is to speak of the Spirit as neuter: ‘When it is at work in our heart’ or ‘When it controls us’” (292). Guthrie affirms that God is indeed the Spirit, yet He is yet again represented as separate personality existing both within and outside of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God’s direct messenger to man. It speaks to the heart, mind, and soul of man and directly addresses the state of the man’s soul through his actions. The Spirit judges man by working through the teachings of the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has been explained by secularists to be the conscience of a person: the thing that addresses right and wrong both inside of a person and as outwardly expressed through actions.
Guthrie moves forward to express the other two aspects of the Spirit. She states the He (the Spirit) is the God that is known to Christians. “What He wills and does is what God the Father Almighty will and does. He is the Spirit of Christ…and what he wills and does is what God the Son , our Lord, wills and does” (293). Her statement supports the claim that God the Spirit possesses the same motivations and knowledge that God the Father and God the Son possess and is yet something new and different in comparison to God the Father and God the Son. God the Spirit is alive within Christians. “The Holy Spirit is God at work in a new and different way-in us instead of only over us, now and not only in the past…He is the Spirit at work in our lives to enable us to be human creatures in the image of God, sinners reconciled to God, to our fellowmen and to ourselves” (293). Thirdly, Guthrie defines God the Spirit as Lord. He is the direct lord over the lives of Christians. “He is Lord. He works wherever, whenever, and however he chooses. He is especially promised first to the church and then to individual Christians within the church. But he is not limited to work only in the Christian community and the hearts of believers” (294). God the Spirit is not just limited to the will of God. That is to say, He is not subjected to the will of God whenever God the Father wills. If He is God the Father represented to Christians in a new way, then that means that God the Father is directly influencing Christians through Himself in the form of the Spirit. As with God the Son, God the Spirit is Himself a separate personality of God the Father and yet He is God the Father. The Spirit is God the Father working through His Spirit to influence Christians and the church (regardless of denomination), though it is interesting to note that the Spirit comes first to the church and then to the individual Christian.
In conclusion, it is clearly seen that the Trinity is the three-part embodiment of God into three distinct and separate personalities as presented by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. These three distinct, fully developed personalities are all alive, possessing the knowledge and power of God and yet able to be separated by the influence and holy will of God. That is to say the three distinct personalities are subject, in their distinct forms, to not be privy to all the information of God the Father. Jesus Himself in all of His God-ness did not know the time and place of second return to earth. That is clearly something that the distinct God the Father can know. The Trinity can be seen as the embodiment of God in three persons through which these three persons and impact and effectively influence Christians and the church in order to further the holy will of God. Because of these three personalities, God can impact the world in ways that only an all-powerful God can and, because of the impact, can spread the message of Good News to all the nations to hopefully one day be baptized in the flowing river of grace, justice, and mercy of His love.
Guthrie, Jr., Sheila C. Christian Doctrine. John Knox Press.
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. The Macmillan Company.
Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. The Presbyterian and Reformed Company.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Okay, basic in principle, right? Right. What about the long term ramifications? Lying always starts small. It always begins with one small cave in under pressure. Lying is also a part of human nature. It is our instinct to not tell the truth. For the first understanding of lying, one must first understand that as a Christian, redeemed only by the grace of God, we are as Paul says, "dead to sin." Being dead to sin...complicated and yet simplistic. Dead to sin does not mean that temptation does not arise. Dead to sin does not mean that our flesh still does not yearn. Dead to sin means we merely have a choice: obey God or obey the calling of Satan and the world.
Now a lying tongue starts small and grows to be an out of control problem. It starts out by affecting one person, and then it begins to affect more people, which in turn begins to affect relations are work, followed by the work ethic, and finally it explodes...not with other people, but in the face of person who originally told the lie. Remember that God hates lying...it is an abomination to him.
I have to tell you that as I sat listening to it all from Dr. Brassell, I was immediately convicted. Disclaimer: This does not mean that my life is lies. This conviction was one of dwelling on past mistakes. Some of the things I've gone through, that I've been confronted with, has been a purging of things of my past. I can't remember a specific example, but the longer I've lived for Christ, the more my past come to bite me in the butt, but I've made it through each time. God has brought me through the fire and I'm made pure by the fire of hardship and conviction, because Lord knows I do not deserve it.
Always remember that the truth and honesty will always set free that which is hidden.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
What must be understood is that I am not fearful of death. As far as what is in store for me after death, I know exactly where I will be and there is no taint of fear in that knowledge. Instead, as my thoughts sorted through what I was thinking, I began to realize that, yes, on a surface level, I am fearful of death, but not of death itself. I am fearful of what I would leave behind. I'd leave behind my family, my friends, and one of the best things to ever happen to me: Rachel. I am fearful that because of the actions of another individual that is out of his/her mind (or they're stupid) that those around me would suffer in a way that I couldn't bear to live with.
And yes, as I was driving, the "hero complex" entered my mind: the situation where I would rush in and stop the gunmen, taking as many bullets as he fired and still not stopping. I thought that perhaps yes, I would be wounded, but that nothing would stop me from reaching him so that he wouldn't hurt anybody else. This thought finally led me realize "What if I couldn't stop him? What if he did bring me down? What if he put a gun to my head and asked, 'Do you believe in God?'" Since Cassie Bernall at Columbine, people have wrestled with the thought of what they would do if they were faced with the same decision Cassie was. Deny Christ and live; Accept Christ and die. I know that many Christians have been humble and copped out of answering what they would do by stating, "Well, I don't know what I'd do in that situation." I tell you now that there is nothing on this earth that scares me more than denying my God and my Savior, Jesus. As I came to this understanding, I knew what I would do. I have always told my friends and my family that if I had to choose the way I could die, it would be a martyr's death. It is the only way in which I think I could be truly grateful for Jesus in Him dying a martyr's death for me. I would never deny my Savior and God. It would be hard to leave those I love and those I care about, but this loss is nothing in comparison to the loss in denying my Savior.
As a final disclaimer for this post, I hope that I have made you think. That was the intended purpose. It is not to cause fear for me. My life is in God's hands and He alone will judge when it is my time to die. I can in no way influence the decision He has already made about the time and place of my death. Instead, I will further live my life for Him in the knowledge that I am not guaranteed my next breath, but as long as I breathe, my life is nothing but a compass pointing back to God.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
To start, I have to give first props to Michael Crosse for successfully engaging the students before entering chapel. To have the "goody bags" was a great tool and an excellent way to entice the students to come to chapel. I also have to say the New Testament in the bag was a nice touch.
In coming into chapel, the introductory music on the speakers was tasteful, modern, and not cranked up, thus encouraging conversation between students. This sort of conversation helps to lift the atmosphere and to lead the students into engaging both the speaker and the worship music leader.
In not having worship music today, A.T. led straight into the message. In being honest, I have to personally say that I was apprehensive about what A.T. would say in the message. Now, in being objective, I have to say that overall, A.T. did a great job for the first chapel. The opening illustration was great because I could see where he was going to with it. The second illustration immediately following, though humorous, was not quite as easy to follow and to piece together in the larger picture of the message. But, this is just a small, minute detail. A.T.'s main focus in chapel today was in demonstrating the "irrational" love of Christ. To an extent, I see exactly where he was going and I understand 100% of what he was saying. To term God's love as irrational was fine because he said that, "in the world's eyes, the love that Christ (and Christians) demonstrated/ are called to demonstrate is irrational." (paraphrased.) I understand what he was saying, but I would like to take it a step further. The paradox of the love that the Triune God calls Christians to is that it is perfectly rational. It is literally "not a problem" for Christians to give and to love like Christ loved His church. All that being said, I know, or at least hope, A.T. knows this but I understand that A.T. was speaking directly to the school as a whole and therefore I have no problem either understanding or accepting that terminology in the message today.
As I said, today's chapel was fantastic because I believe that it laid a great foundation on which A.T., and in bringing in more mature guest speakers/theologians, that the school could actually begin to grow spiritually as a school albeit it may be at a slower pace than is desirable. I am optimistic of the future chapels and look forward to next week.
My challenge to the chapel staff: keep building on what you started this week. Keep digging deeper into Christian truths like love and discipleship. From there, dig into other denominations and even other world views. If the same foundation that was laid today is used as the foundation for a "chapel house," then this actually opens very large doors into other possibilities for instruction within chapel such as Christian bio-ethics and hermeneutics. Keep going, keep building, and do not treat the assembly as "dumb." Challenge them to grow and learn by continuing to raise the bar of what is taught inside of chapel. Move beyond emotion and into thinking critically so we can all grow spiritually to change the world around us. Great job, chapel staff. Godspeed.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
In a brief synopsis, this site, along with its sister site Vowell Movements, will be hosting constructive commentary and critique for the 2007-2008 Chapel time on Wednesday mornings. It will also be hosting updates on movements within the Administration and Faculty of Crichton College as to whether our constructive criticisms of Chapel will help bring out better speakers (that use the name Jesus) in the hopes of creating a solid base in the student population to launch the school, or rather lead the school, back to its roots as a CHRISTIAN college for higher education that has a standard of EXCELLENCE, not ATHLETICS as its main avenue of recruitment.
Please be in prayer for all involved in this Movement (they-who-shall-not-be-named) as we endeavor to present TRUTH in a loving manner that helps hold the Faculty and Administration accountable for the way Chapel is presented to the students and by whom Chapel is presented by (i.e. speakers and worship leaders.) Thank you all.