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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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I have been evangelizing on College Campuses for the past fourteen years.  It’s an environment that provides a wonderful opportunity to employ Christian apologetic.  I must admit though that the older I get the less frequent apologetics comes up compared to my younger days of being a rabid cage stage Presuppositionalist.  When apologetics conversations do occur I notice that most of the time I’m not necessarily dealing with the nitty gritty detail of some obscure historical point of Christianity or area of science.  What I have found instead is that practically most of my discussion often occur at the level of worldviews.  Apologetics’ discussion concerning worldviews seems to pay greater dividends at the end of the day because: (1) everyone has a worldview, (2) most people’s rejection of Christianity is driven more by their ultimate commitments rather than serious, rigorous research in a specialized field of study (3) and of course, lest we forget, one’s presuppositions shapes how one determine and dismiss what are evidences.

While discussion of worldviews can easily become abstract sometimes illustrations are helpful to get the point across.  Movies are often invoked by those whom I am witnessing towards.  For some reason when I talk about metaethical issues the person of Joker gets brought up more than anyone else from Popular Culture.  I have taught apologetics in Christian setting where believers have also brought up Joker.  Somehow he pop up during worldview apologetics’ discussion!  Perhaps the allusion to Joker has something to do with young Millennials with their Graphic Novels and Netflix and how the Joker appears to be an ungodly incarnation of certain non-Christian ethical systems.

Given the fact that nonbelievers sometime allude to certain films and entertainment characters does that necessarily mean we must watch every movie and read every comic book to fulfill some kind of prerequisite in order to effectively evangelize the unbeliever?  My answer to that would be no.  In an earlier post, “Is it ever appropriate for Christians to view sexual sins in film?” I argued that Christians shouldn’t compromise their sanctification in the area of entertainment.  With the instance of Joker, I haven’t read enough comic books to know first hand but I think I can say not all of those movies and comic books are sanctifying; even if theoretically they are not all bad, it might not be the best use of time to become an expert on Joker in order to evangelize and speak to our age.  The same concern applies to other Pop Cultural figures.

Nor do I believe we should be ignorant about Pop cultural references such as Joker.  I think there is a way where we can be biblicalengaging, and informed in our cultural apologetics while achieving that without sacrificing our sanctification on the altar.  How can we hold on to these four highlighted aspects without compromise?

  • First, to be biblical means one must know the Scripture well–and know it well in its application as one’s worldview.  The Bible should shape one’s outlook of life–for instance, the Word of God should shape one’s view of ethics, sin, man, God and Salvation, etc.  The Word of God should dictate our norms.  It should also dictate what we should and shoudn’t do in terms of entertainment.
  • Secondly, to be engaging means practically loving the person you are witnessing to.  You must love them enough to be concerned for their salvation.  This is the existential aspect we can’t neglect; after all, no Christian wants to be labeled as the guy who only wants to argue but not care about people’s soul.  To love them also mean you want to know where they are coming from; it means listening to them.  As you listen to them you will hear what “their own prophets” and poets might say.
  • Thirdly, our engagement with the lost and our desire to see them get saved compels us to be informed.  We want to handle our unbelieving friend’s perspective accurately and not misrepresent them.  This might require further understanding of the situational context of their cultural allusion.
  • Fourthly, one way to not compromise our norms while also being informed is to see what other informed social critics have to say about a particular pop figure or cultural phenomenon.  I think one doesn’t have to experience every form of media and entertainment to critically reflect upon it as a Christian.  An example of how a Christian can be informed and reflect critically without “seeing” something is with the current crisis with ISIS.  You do not have to watch the beheading of 21 Egyptians or the burning of a Jordanian pilot to be informed about it; one can find detailed written analysis of the videos, scholarly evaluation of it’s meaning, purpose, etc.  If one put the effort one might find in-depth evaluation of ISIS militarily, geo-politically, economically and theologically.  I can’t imagine many people looking down on someone who is informed about ISIS while making the deliberate choice of not watching ISIS’ sick videos.  To demand that one can only intelligently talk about something through the experience of watching it it is really a form of audio-visual Gnosticism.

Be on the lookout for reviews, critical essays, editorials and documentaries as aides.  Even when a film or comic is appropriate for a Christian to enjoy I still find interacting with such resources from a Christian worldview can at times be insightful.

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Hitchcock's Villains Murderers, Maniacs, and Mother Issues

Eric San Juan and Jim McDevitt.  Hitchcock’s Villains.
New York, New York: Scarecrow Press, 2013. 196 pp.

My wife and I have recently become fans of Hitchcock’s films so it was a delight to stumble upon this book in the library.  I didn’t read this book because I am somehow morbid but because I think Hitchcock understands the depth and quirks of depravity more than most film makers in his life time and even film makers today.  One thing that I appreciate about his film is how his villains are believable (not a cookie cut-out that is standard in many cheesy films); and if they are unbelievably horrendous, there is still something about them that reminds us of their humanity.  For me being reminded of the humanity of Hitchcock’s villains doesn’t necessarily mean we should always sympathize with the villains (although sometimes Hitchcock does want us to go down that road) but the fact that they are more like us than we realize brings us to the uncomfortable realization that everyone’s sinful nature can make us depraved monsters, a truth that we might not like to admit.  Ultimately I enjoyed Hitchcock’s film and this book for its observation that leads me to think more deeply of the Christian doctrine of total depravity.

This particular book is a collection of short chapters that explores Hitchcock’s themes in the way he portray his villains and also analysis of specific antagonists in his films.  I’ve enjoyed the book’s analysis especially with how the writers point out things I missed when I watched them.  I was blown away by the book’s take on the film Veritgo and the thesis that the protagonist Jimmy Steward is really the villain in the film.  Vertigo is one of the more stranger films that I didn’t know what to make of it when I first saw it but after reading the book I do see the authors’ point that Jimmy Steward is really not the ex-detective police hero that the beginning of the movie made him out to be, especially with how controlling and selfish he is later in the movie.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciate is the exploration of Hitchcock’s fear of authority throughout his life that comes out in his film.  In several films the police are not necessarily the villains but they are not necessarily friendly either.  At times they can go after the hero in the film, mistaking them for villains such as in the movie Stranger on the Train.  Having friends in law enforcement I think it is unfortunate that at times Hitchcock can present a far more sympathetic villain than he does of authority and those who enforce laws.  At the same time I can appreciate Hitchcock’s observation that those who uphold the law are not perfect either, with their bumbling around and at times being down right wrong.

I wished the book could have explored more on the villainy of ideas.  This constructive criticism is not meant to fault the book but also a compliment for the author’s approach of Hitchcock’s work from the angle of how ideology produces villain.  Their discussion left me hungry for more exploration of this theme since I believe worldviews, philosophies, and various “isms” can produce moral monsters from what seem to be every day people.  I appreciated the chapter that looked at this theme in the movie Rope.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the book.  I have seen most of the films the authors discussed with the exception of two; it made me want to watch other films that was briefly mentioned but it also made me realize there are certain films that I’m glad I haven’t watch yet nor plan on watching because of how twisted it is.  In some instance I believe it’s better not to watch it being act out before one’s eyes.  I do recommend the book.

Purchase: Amazon

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Note: This is part of my review of books for my lists of 2012 recommended Christian worldview and apologetics gift books recommendation.

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Excellent book on a Christian worldview when it comes to viewing movies, and probably the best book of its kind. It stresses that Christians must bring the Word of God to bear concerning what they are seeing. The best question that a Christian can ask in evaluating any film is what does it say about the nature of man. Does the movie promote an anthropology that is contrary to that of Scripture or does it confirm it? The author makes the point that even if what it teaches about man is contrary to what our systematic theology tells us about man, yet it still speaks truth–that man would try to supress the truth of God in righteousness. I love how he brings Romans 1 to bear in the topic of evaluating culture, in which film is an artifact of culture. The point he makes about Romans 1 goes beyond just movie watching but an analysis of other aspects and creative outflow of society in general. After an opening chapter on discernment and how to interrogate a movie which lays the ground work for the rest of the book, the author Grant Horner launches into analysis of several kinds of genre of films. If you have ever had an English literature class in which the professor is able to open your eyes and see a book you are reading at a deeper level of things you never noticed previously, you would enjoy experiencing the same epiphanies with this part of the book (it does help that Horner is an English professor at The Master’s College). His chapter on comedy discusses about the Christian view of irony–and how irony is the result of a fallen world in which the world is not the way it ought to be. Prior to this book I never thought about irony in these terms before. Horner does the same kind of analysis with scary movies as well, with a great discussion of how scary movies in light of Romans 1 is our way of managing fear that we can control–and how that helps us cope with our suppression that God is frightening for sinners. Scary movies then is our way out in order to release the valve so to speak. The author also devote a chapter on romance and most interestingly film noir. The author does not take you down a path of smut but was able to point out illustrations of Christian principles as well, and movies with bad ideology that viewers might not readily pick up. His last chapter on man and meaning of life and memory is a fitting end, in which he argues that man is trying to suppress the knowledge of God by also suppressing the memory of that suppression. As I said earlier I believe this is the best book of it’s kind. It’s filled with many observations of movies and also biblical discernment. I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone.

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Purchase: Amazon

The author Brian Godawa is a prolific Christian movie maker, reviewer, screen writer and author. If one would expect someone to have the situational background to write on a Christian worldview analysis of films, then Godawa would be it. Making this even better is the fact that Godawa has good theology driving his worldview. He’s also influenced by Van Til’s Presuppositional apologetics (another major plus!). I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and was glad that I was finally able to order it and sit down and read it. The book defends the idea that film in of itself is not sinful–and that is just the preface. Conscious of the fact that film consists of visual imagery, the dramatic and a story, the author demonstrates that Scripture uses or record people using imagery, the dramatic and stories properly. The rest of the book is divided into three parts, or more appropriately as Godawa calls it, “act.” In Act 1, Godawa focuses on story telling, which consists of three chapters. The first chapter is about the issue of sex, violence and profanity. This chapter is one that a Christian might want to read carefully and perhaps revisit even after a first reading of the book. It is something to chew on even if not every Christian will find themselves in agreement with the author. Chapter three focuses on movies with redemption which obviously is a big theological Christian motif since God has established the greatest act of redemption. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Act 2 of the book, which focuses on three worldviews that’s the undercurrent of many contemporary movies: existentialism, postmodernism and other worldviews, including Eastern mysticism. Act 3 focuses on movies protrayal of the spiritual with a chapter each on Jesus, Christianity, faith and spiritual warfare. What I like alot about this book is that many movies are brought up as examples of the worldviews subtle message in films. There are many insights, analysis and observations from various movies throughout the book. You will find yourself seeing movies you seen before in new light and also be curious about the story lines of other movies you have not seen before (and of course, some movies which I will not see as a result of this book’s analysis). All in all, these example should stir a Christian to be careful with discerning and watching movies with Godly wisdom–and while watching out for swearing, needless violence and sexual sins are important, we as believers must also watch out for the IDEAS that film impart to us. I highly recommend this book as a great introduction.

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The Story Of The Birth Of Jesus

http://teamtruth.com/poetry/po_jlxmas.htm

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Food for thought from http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive2007/06-14-07.asp

We’re fooling ourselves if we think that passively watching a colorful box of lights for hours every night doesn’t have an effect. Advertisers are just one group that bets big money that it does. When over half of the nation is mindlessly staring at a lighted piece of glass for hours on end each night, how can we be surprised when they start believing what they are watching and hearing? 

Thought that was interesting…

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I was trying to make an avatar for my account, but unfortunately it scaled my photo down so small you can’t read the text on it anymore. I made it after watching parts of the Lord of the Ring marathon on the television network TNT.

Gandalf’s resolve was unshakeable, whom the actor portrayed extremely well- showing fear and dread, yet a unshakable determination, proclaiming, “You shall not pass!” I thought about how God could give unshakable boldness and courage, even against something so frightening, and so evil and powerful. So then I made my avatar:

Enlarged Avatar

I had memorized this verse from the ESV Fighter Verses I purchased earlier in the year from DesiringGod.org. The entire passage I had memorized months ago was Psalm 62:5-8:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my slavation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

Although I didn’t remember the verse completely, I still knew it was there and where to look for it. Even though my memory is shot, I’m glad the Holy Spirit still helps me remember.

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