Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2007 - Our house


December 24, 2007 - Mt. Seymour

Julie and I wish you all a very merry Christmas! May the peace of Jesus Christ be real to you this holiday season and in the year ahead!

As a part of my holiday greeting I thought I would share the words to a Christmas song I wrote a while back:

“God With Us”
(based on Isaiah 7:14; 9:6)

Prince of peace, transforming one
You call us now to love
Wonderful, counselor
Born to make us whole

Mighty God, revealed so small
Raised up to be our truth
Everlasting, one with the Father
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

We bow down before you the little one
Knowing your great power
The mystery of your amazing life
Draws us before you
It’s who you are…

Jesus Christ, Immanuel
God with us, God with us
Born to live, to live in love

Immanuel, Immanuel

Intuition and Theology

Recently, in a class discussion, Dr. John Stackhouse made the passing remark that intuition, thankfully, will at times trump our theological inconsistencies when it comes to behavior. For example, a theological view that life on earth is merely a matter of ‘passing on through’ would warrant a pretty dull outlook towards everyday living, as the ‘true’ nature of reality is some disembodied, non-worldly existence (something I believe the Bible does not teach). However, human intuition towards at least attempting to make the best of life often results in actions displaying an inherent worth for life on earth, despite the contrary theological ideology (i.e. Taking care of the daily needs of one’s family honors human life here on earth whether someone knows it or not).

I am not sure why, but I had never considered the issue quite like this before. I have always been intrigued with how/if our theology affects our behavior; however, the question of faulty theology and intuitive behavior adds an intriguing twist. Now, I am not sure how far we could take this, as the common-sense nature of the issue relegates it primarily to the realm of personal ethics (It’s hard to imagine some sort of ‘corporate intuition’ that influences communities, although I guess it’s not out of the realm of possibility). Also, this idea should not be confused with the notion that intuition replaces belief. This could easily lead to a personalized approach to theology that bemoans any outside influence at all, with ‘intuition’ being the sole motivator for ethics. I believe that a discerning community, therefore, is necessary in order to evaluate where our intuitive motivations improve the consistency between our theology and behavior and where they perhaps hinder it.

As a theological student who recognizes my own limits to formulating correct theology, I take solace in this tidbit of wisdom, recognizing the value that my intuitive nature as a human has in my overall outlook and actions.

The Golden Compass – My rant on engaging movies

(Warning: long post – sorry to all who consider brief blog entries a cyber-virtue)

Considering that I have not seen the film, I won’t pretend to offer any sort of review or recommendation for The Golden Compass. If you ask me, anyone offering a review on a piece of art, whatever the medium, should probably take a look before offering a decisive opinion. I would like to comment, however, on the issue of watching movies, particularly in how we engage them.

With the arrival of The Golden Compass, the issue of watching movies, particularly for Christians, is often approached as a polarized issue of worldly-denying versus worldly-embracing. I am using the term ‘worldly’ in the most basic sense of the reality of a culture (‘the world’) separate from organized Christianity, a line likely not as clear as some may perceive, but that’s for another time.

Regarding The Golden Compass, the worldly-deniers can be heard sounding the warning bells. For example, one commentator (I hasten to refer to this as a review) states, “There's so much fantasy stuff out there. Don't be deceived. Don't be swept into the marketing hype. There are serious worldview and theological problems with Pullman's story.” It’s the last phrase that really gets me, as the assumption is that somehow we can close our eyes to everything that’s wrong with our world. Come on people, life’s little more complicated then that. Last time I checked, the world, including Christianity, is prone to possess messed-up views of reality. From a Christian perspective, that’s part of living in a broken, fallen world. Therefore, instead of ignoring faulty worldviews around us, perhaps we can recognize them (and repent if necessary!) and represent a valid alternative…

The problem is that the worldly-embracers are no better off. These are the folks who unabashedly herald anything coming out of Hollywood as acceptable, even more so if those narrow-minded worldly-deniers known as ‘Christians’ are calling foul (a movie must be really good if Christians are opposed to it!). A religion professor, for instance, makes the comment that The Golden Compass is a “theological masterpiece… a treatise on Christian belief,” and goes on to claim the movie makes explicit connections to the Holy Spirit. Hmm, not sure the atheist author of the books would agree with this assessment (To the professor’s credit, she at least gets the point about abuse of power being a major theme).

In a sense, then, both extremes fail to really engage with the movie, with one side ignoring through complete avoidance, and the other ignoring with blind acceptance. Considering all this, I think the hysteria surrounding The Golden Compass is an excellent opportunity for people to engage a movie for once.

What does this engagement look like? Well, for starters, read a few reviews from folks trained in the art of reviewing (preferably not Christian websites). Second, watch and engage the movie (sure it’s entertaining, but what is it saying?). Third, talk about the movie with other people, discussing how it challenges the way you see the world (not just what you didn’t like or thought was heretical). While these three steps are far from exhausting the art of movie-engagement, they are a step in the right direction.

I think the challenge for parents regarding The Golden Compass is that it is hard to imagine children engaging movies this way on their own. My pet-peeve, recognizing that I don’t have kids and it is often far more complicated than this, is this very fact of leaving kids alone to wade through the complex messages that culture, especially through movies, is sending. Very rarely, it seems, do parents intentionally train their children to engage culture. I mean, how many parents enter into dialogue with their children after watching a movie? Now, obviously creativity will be required, as sitting your 8-year-old down for discussion on atheism is no easy task. However, even if it is hard, I think it’s a necessity, as this complex world requires thoughtful engagement more than ever, no matter what the age.

Well, enough said; go engage a movie!

Whew...

The last month has been a whirlwind of busyness; hence my notable absence from bloggersville. Well, on Thursday I handed in my last two course assignments, meaning that all I have left is one little paper known as my thesis. Ok, perhaps “little” is the antonym of what the assignment actually entails, but I am trying to enjoy the finishing of my course work for at least a few days.

Over the holidays I hope to update you all (if there’s anyone left!) on some of the things I have been wondering. Here’s what I am planning (no guarantees):

-Why I am a “accepting inclusivist” regarding salvation and the Christian faith.
-Why I think “realist pacifism” is possible.
-What do people really mean when they say “tolerance.”
-The inconsistencies of intuition and theology.
-Why watching movies, the Golden Compass in particular, can be a fruitful exercise.

Well, I hope everyone’s Christmas preparations are not too overwhelming. My holiday anecdote for everyone is to try and make eye contact with people when you are out and about. Yes, those really are other people, not just mindless drones of holiday consumption. Blessings!