Friday, November 2, 2012

Hollywood, Worldview and Deicide

Every day we are constantly putting things into predefined categories. For example, when we get home from the grocery store, we automatically unpack our groceries into several categories such as, frozen, refrigerated, pantry, etc. When we see automobiles we think, car, truck, SUV and so forth.

In addition to these fairly mundane product categories, we have moral categories as well. And those moral categories are a product of our worldview. But what separates one worldview from another and what makes for a biblical worldview? In one sense, our worldview is a product of how we categorize things in the world. In other words, worldview is (in part) a product of categorical thinking.

A biblical worldview starts in Genesis with, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…" As we read through Genesis we discover several broad categories such as:
  • God: God is our Creator and sustainer. He alone is God and He transcends creation.
  • Matter: The physical universe created by God.
  • Plant life: Non-conscious life that grows in the soil.
  • Animal life: Flesh and blood creatures on a lower plane than man.
  • Mankind: Uniquely created in the image of God (mankind divides into two subcategories).
    • Male
    • Female
These are the broad categories given to us in Genesis, and they comprise the basic structure for a biblical worldview and moral categories. Along with these categories, God has also given us corresponding roles and behaviors for each category. A rejection of a biblical worldview is essentially a rejection of these categories and the God who made them.

What happens when we reject biblical categories? Here are a few examples.
  • PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals): PETA rejects the idea that there is a fundamental difference between man and animals. In other words, they believe that man and beast belong in the same moral and ontological category. They regard the deaths of 6,000,000 chickens killed by KFC as morally equivalent to the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews killed during the Holocaust. I'm not making that up. They have rejected the moral categories of Scripture, and they have rejected the notion that man is uniquely made in the image of God.
  • The LGBT movement: The homosexual community has rejected the gender categories and roles given in Scripture. They believe that it is evil to categorize the human race into the two genders of male and female. They argue that these are not real categories, but merely artificial social constructs.
  • Pantheism: Pantheism teaches that god and creation are one and the same (a single category). If creation dies, the god of pantheism dies with it. In stark contrast, the Bible teaches that God is omnipotent, self existent and above creation.

This brings me to Hollywood and the movie Cloud Atlas (trailer) which opened last Friday. Cloud Atlas is based on a novel by the same name. It stars Hollywood heavy weights such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Susan Sarandon among others. It was produced, written and directed by the Wachowski's. The Wachowski's are best known for filming the Matrix Trilogy.

As you can see from the above video, Cloud Atlas appears to be a beautifully made film of epic proportions, and it has been generally praised by critics. But the worldview depicted in this film is flawed to the core. Why? Because, at a fundamental level, it is a complete rejection of biblical categories.

Clout Atlas tells six different stories that span roughly 500 years. Each story is about the same set of people who have been reincarnated six times. And here's the kicker, sometimes they are reincarnated as men, and sometimes as women. The sexuality of the characters ranges from straight, to gay, to bisexual. The film basically depicts the transmigration of genderless souls. Do you see what they've done here? They've used their art to destroy biblical categories. Lastly, for good measure, Christians are portrayed negatively in this film as well. The negative portrayal of Christians is nothing new for the Wachowski's. Their film V for Vendetta (2005) depicts a totalitarian Christian state that is guilty of several crimes against humanity, including the persecution of Muslims and homosexuals. I think Ted Baehr said it best in his review of Vendetta:
"Are we so far removed from 911 that Americans can be asked to stomach a movie in which the hero is a violent terrorist and the victims are Muslims oppressed by a hyper-fundamentalist Christian government? Do they expect Americans to support a movie in which the Koran is described as “beautiful,” homosexuality is glorified and Christian leaders are depicted as lunatics and pedophiles? Perhaps director James McTeigue and the brothers Wachowski suffer from some sort of mental dyslexia, because they seem to have their villains, heroes and victims miserably reversed."
Right about now you might be thinking, Yeah, Hollywood is liberal and hostile to Christianity, blah, blah, blah. What else is new? Next thing you're going to tell me the sky is blue and water is wet.

The reason I wanted to bring your attention to Cloud Atlas is because I think the production of this movie gives us an especially keen insight into the soul of Hollywood. After all, what institutions do you think have the greatest influence over our culture? The Church, our schools, government or Hollywood? It has been said that politics is downstream of culture, and I agree. But I think the problem runs deeper than that. Culture is also having a profound influence in our homes and our churches. In response, we must be sober-minded about the world of art and media. We cannot afford to be unthinking and indiscriminate consumers of culture. But I digress, more on that later.

Getting back to the Wachowski's (and others like them), it is clear that they have more than just a mild disagreement with Christianity, they have a seething hatred towards it. Why? What motivates them? Please turn your attention to this brief video as the Wachowski's discuss their latest project.

What I failed to mention earlier is that the Wachowski's were once known as the "Wachowski Brothers". That lady in the video with pink hair, that's Lana Wachowski. Lana used to be Larry, but he is currently in the process of "gender reassignment". I think that explains a great deal. Larry is confused about his gender, so they made a movie to help us understand that the idea of male and female genders are false categories forced on us by outdated and bigoted religions (i.e., Christianity).

Why does the Hollywood assembly line constantly produce things like Glee, The New Normal, Modern Family, etc.? Because it is an attempt at self-justification. Just about every film and television script with a gay character is first vetted by GLAAD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) before it is approved by a major studio. The LGBT community does not just want acceptance, they want to be celebrated. They don't want to be seen as merely equal, they want to be seen as superior. Once again, I am not making that up or using hyperbole. There are gay academicians who actually believe that the homosexual lifestyle is superior to that of heterosexuals. They have constructed their own worldview with their own moral categories and Hollywood has signed on to their agenda whole-heartedly.

The media loves to sight polls, especially when they confirm their presuppositions. But there is one poll they were not very eager to report. In fact, I would be surprised if you've even heard about it. A recent Gallup Poll (10/18/12) surveyed a massive sample of over 120,000 Americans, and it was the largest survey of its kind. (By way of comparison, most election polls sample in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,200 people, give or take). Gallup found that only 3.4% of the population self-identifies as lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual.

What's interesting is that another recent Gallup Poll (5/8/11) indicated most Americans believe that about 25% of the country is gay. If that were true, the gay population would be about double that of African Americans. Think about what that means; it means that most Americans are walking around with a grossly distorted perception of reality. How did that happen? How is it that the gay community has amassed so much political and corporate influence? Might I suggest that the media has created this false perception with its music, television, and movies. They have created an imaginary world that most Americans believe to be true. A closer look at the numbers also indicates that younger people have the most distorted view of reality. Furthermore, it appears that a higher percentage of young people now identify as homosexual (6.4% among the college age) when compared to the general population. Is it a coincidence that the key demographic for most media also skews toward the young?

Whenever we attempt to construct our own worldview with our own moral categories, we are basically playing God; and that takes us right back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden, where we first tried to play God. When we try to take God's place, we are essentially wishing for the death of God because we do not want Him to reign over us. The end result is this: either we kill God in our hearts by pretending that He doesn't exist, or we create a god in our own image, thus creating an idol. As fallen creatures, we do not just have a mild disagreement with God, we have a seething hatred towards Him that is usually masked beneath a thin veneer of civility.

How do I know this? Just ask yourself, what would mankind do if he could get his hands on God? We need look no further than the Incarnation. When God became a man, we did not bow before Him as Lord and King; we screamed for His death and killed Him in the most violent and bloody fashion imaginable. We crucified Him. At the cross we see man's hatred of God and love of sin on full display. But thankfully, at the cross, we also see God's love for man and His hatred of sin on full display as well. It all intersects and collides at the cross of Christ.

How could it be that man, in all of his pride and grasping, tries to become a god; but God, in perfect love and humility, condescended to become a man.

I've spoken here a great deal about the LGBT activists agenda, but of course, the influence of culture goes far beyond that particular sin. Ultimately it is an issue of what the culture holds up as valuable and worthy of praise. And what the world values is summed up in Scripture; the lust of flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). We will go to any length to reject Biblical truth and devise our own moral categories. But my purpose here is not to just rant about the culture; my hope is that, as Christians, we would think more soberly about the media we consume, how it impacts us, and how it impacts those we love. After all, can a man hold fire to his chest without getting burned (Proverbs 6:27)?

I especially hope that we would take the time to help young people see through this cultural mirage and think more biblically as they navigate the bright and shiny objects of this world. But at the end of day, a list of rules won't work. Unless the heart has been truly captivated by the person and work of Christ, the culture will always eclipse the Son. But remember, a solar eclipse is caused by the shadow of the moon -- an object that is infinitely smaller than the sun. And so it is with us when we allow the world to eclipse Christ. We become fascinated by the tiny dark speck of culture, and fail to see the radiant glory of Christ.

I will end on this note: When I see the corrupting influences in our world, it makes me angry; and there is a proper place for righteous indignation (Ephesians 4:26). But I must never forget that those who are in the world are not my enemies, they are the mission field. I must never forget that the Larry Wachowskis of the world desperately need Christ. Because I too was once an enemy of Christ, and were it not for His unmerited grace, I would still be lost and loving my sin. As one man said, "I'm just a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread." If I fail to remember that, I've become just another self-righteous Pharisee.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

J.C. Ryle: Repent to the Gate of Heaven

Luke 13:1-5 ESV
(1)  There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
(2)  And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
(3)  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
(4)  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
(5)  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

THE murder of the Galileans, mentioned in the first verse of this passage, is an event of which we know nothing certain. The motives of those who told our Lord of the event, we are left to conjecture. At any rate, they gave Him an opportunity of speaking to them about their own souls, which He did not fail to employ. He seized the event, as His manner was, and made a practical use of it. He bade His informants look within, and think of their own state before God. He seems to say, "What though these Galileans did die a sudden death? What is that to you? Consider your own ways. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."

The state of our own souls should always be our first concern. It is eminently true that real Christianity will always begin at home. The converted man will always think first of his own heart, his own life, his own deserts, and his own sins. Does he hear of a sudden death? He will say to himself, "Should I have been found ready, if this had happened to me?"—Does he hear of some awful crime, or deed of wickedness? He will say to himself, "Are my sins forgiven? and have I really repented of my own transgressions?"—Does he hear of worldly men running into every excess of sin? He will say to himself, "Who has made me to differ? What has kept me from walking in the same road, except the free grace of God?" May we ever seek to be men of this frame of mind! Let us take a kind interest in all around us. Let us feel tender pity and compassion for all who suffer violence, or are removed by sudden death. But let us never forget to look at home, and to learn wisdom for ourselves from all that happens to others...

If we have already repented in time past, let us go on repenting to the end of our lives. There will always be sins to confess and infirmities to deplore, so long as we are in the body. Let us repent more deeply, and humble ourselves more thoroughly, every year. Let every returning birthday find us hating sin more, and loving Christ more. He was a wise old saint who said, "I hope to carry my repentance to the very gate of heaven."
- J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Love Thy Neighbor

Proverbs 14:29 ESV
(29)  Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

 The other day I went grocery shopping, and I doubt five-minutes passed before I became irritated (which, for me, is par for the course). Why did I become annoyed so quickly? Well, for starters, it irritates me when someone blocks the aisle with their shopping cart. It also irritates me when parents fail to control their children. As far as I'm concerned, they are either being rude or thoughtless -- and there seemed to be an over-abundance of rude and thoughtless people in the store that day.

Not only am I easily irritated by other shoppers, I'm often irritated by the store employees as well. I find that most employees lack the courtesy and speed that I would like. I do not particularly enjoy waiting in long  lines, so I always try to find a fast AND courteous cashier. If I don't get both, it irritates me. Case in point, the checker at one store was actually very courteous, but he was also slow… and that annoyed me.

Do you see where I'm going here? Far too often, I am easily angered and annoyed. Whether I am shopping at a store or driving on the freeway, I find myself getting angry at people. After all, what I need to do is far more important than whatever it is they are doing. This is my world and other people are just in my way.

But what does that attitude say about the condition of my heart? If I'm being honest, it says that I tend to belittle people -- and how can I belittle people without looking down on them? And how can I look down on people without being proud and arrogant? And how can I be proud and arrogant without thinking that I am, in some way, better or more important than others?

When I see someone blocking an aisle, I think to myself, "I would never be that rude and thoughtless". When I see a parent fail to control their children I think, "I would never let my kids behave that way". When a driver does something thoughtless on the road, I think about how I am a much better driver, even though I have been just as thoughtless at times. In other words, I am constantly thinking about how I am, in some way, better than other people.

My heart is full of judgment and condemnation for people I don't know. Even worse, I feel self-righteous and justified in doing so. But it gets even worse. Because I can't think about someone in those demeaning terms without stripping them of their humanity, and that is the first step toward doing someone real harm. That is why Jesus warned against attitudes of the heart.

Matthew 5:21-22 ESV
(21) "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'
(22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.

John MacArthur comments:
"Jesus suggested here that the verbal abuse stems from the same sinful motives (anger and hatred) that ultimately lead to murder. The internal attitude is what the law actually prohibits, and therefore an abusive insult carries the same kind of moral guilt as an act of murder." [i]

Why am I to love my neighbor? Because he is created in the image of God. Ultimately, when we belittle people, we strip them of the Imago Dei or the Image of God, and that is no small thing. However, because we are fallen creatures and so accustomed to thinking low thoughts about our neighbor, we've come to believe that it’s not important. But it is. It is a serious sin that betrays a corrupt, unloving, and ungodly heart.

Jas 3:7-10 ESV
(7) For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,
(8) but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
(9) With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
(10) From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

Ultimately, I am confronted with the fact that my lack of patience is actually a lack of love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV
(4)  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
(5)  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

As I thought about my lack of patience that day, I felt convicted. I realized that this kind of behavior is unbecoming to Christ and I dishonor Him by acting and thinking like a self-righteous Pharisee, especially over such trivial matters. Furthermore, it is a horrible witness. I carry the high honor of being an ambassador for Christ. As a result, I should carry the fragrant aroma of His grace and love with me, not rude condescension.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 ESV
(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
(18) All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
(19) that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
(20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

As I drove away from the store that day, I prayed and asked God to do a work in my heart. I can't just will a change of heart and I don't want to be phony, pretending to be something that I'm not. The Gospel runs far deeper than that, it changes the heart and transforms the affections.

As I continued to pray, God graciously opened the eyes of my understanding, and I realized something.
Over the years, by the grace of God, I have always understood my obligations to my employer. As a result, I put forth my best effort and treated customers and clients with respect. Why? Because I was thankful for a job. I recognized that, as long as I received a paycheck, courtesy was my reasonable service. I was on my employer’s time and I was the company’s representative. Understanding my position and being thankful made me want to provide good service.

So then it follows, if I understood my responsibility to my employer, how much more should I understand my responsibility before Christ? After all, I am on His time, not my own. I have been bought with a price. Christ has purchased me from sin and death with His very own blood. He has forgiven me, adopted me, and made me a joint heir in His kingdom (talk about being well paid!). In light of all that, can't I joyfully offer my service to Christ by loving my neighbor? Can't I forgive as Christ has forgiven me? Can't I give grace because I am swimming in an ocean of grace? Can't I joyfully do whatever honors and glorifies Christ?

At this point I am reminded of a Chick-fil-A training video that circulated around the web. Chick-fil-A is a Christian owned chain of restaurants that has managed to create a culture of hospitality in an industry that is not exactly known for that virtue. In this video, employees are reminded about the humanity of their customers; that they are real people who are also facing their own struggles in life. That is a simple truth that I would do well to keep in view. 

People are not merely obstacles in my path, they are men and women created in the image of God, dealing with struggles and heartaches that we all have in common.

Furthermore, have I forgotten that I am commanded to love even my enemies. I am actually told to love people who are actively trying to do serious harm to me. In light of that, can't I demonstrate grace when someone is merely thoughtless or rude?

Luke 6:35-37 ESV
(35) But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
(36) Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
(37) "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

As I already stated, how I treat my neighbor is a big deal. It is clear from Scripture that poor treatment and ill will toward my neighbor is displeasing in God's sight. And from a Scriptural standpoint, my neighbor is not just someone who lives next door to me; it is anyone who crosses my path. Here are just a few Scriptures to chew on:

Proverbs 11:12 ESV
(12) Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

Proverbs 14:21 ESV
(21) Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Romans 13:8 ESV
(8) Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 15:1 ESV
(2) Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV
(24) Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Philippians 4:4-5 ESV
(4) Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
(5) Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

James 2:8 ESV
(8) If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV
(15) See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

James 4:12 ESV
(12) There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

People are not stupid. They intuitively understand body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, and they know condescension when they see it. I do a disservice to Christ when I walk around in a state of perpetual irritation toward others.

Individuals fall into one of two categories: Either they are my brother or sister in Christ, or they are lost and in need of God's saving grace. Either way, I owe them a debt of love; and by showing love and hospitality, I honor Christ. In light of what Christ has done for me, it is my reasonable service to joyfully honor Him from a heart of gratitude by loving my neighbor.

And lest we forget, this debt of love extends far beyond the random stranger that crosses our path. It is to include our family and friends as well. It would be far too easy to get caught-up in some lofty notion of loving our "neighbor" even as we neglect those in our own home. This cuts to the heart of how we treat our spouses, our children and our parents. How are we doing with that? Aren't we often guilty of rude indifference toward our families? Isn't it often easier to be more kind to strangers than we are to members of our own household? The Bible is clear on how we are to treat our families: Husbands are to love their wives, wives are to respect their husbands, and children are to honor their parents. When we treat anyone poorly, including our family, it dishonors Christ, and that should cut us to the heart.

Lastly, I need to know that there is grace and mercy when I fail. Even when I sin and fail to love my neighbor and my family as I should, the grace and mercy of Christ abounds to me still. Nevertheless, I will not seek to minimize my sin and lack of love. I will seek to recognize it for the evil that it is, and I will go to Christ for the mercy and forgiveness that He freely offers. How much more should that cause me to overflow with grace toward others? When I truly understand the depth of my own sin, and the amazing grace of Christ to forgive my sin, only then will I be able extend grace to others. After all, “my cup runneth over", so I should have more than enough grace to give to others. If I cannot find it in my heart to give grace, it is doubtful that I have received grace. How can we claim to truly understand the grace of Christ if we have no grace for others?

I will end with a quote from C.S. Lewis. It is a powerful reminder of what and who our neighbor is.

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

[i] MacArthur, John: The MacArthur Study Bible. Electronic ed. Nashville, TN : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Mt 5:22

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gianna Jessen: Late-term abortion survivor

October Baby opens today in theaters across the country. It is inspired by the true story of Gianna Jessen, a late-term abortion survivor. Today (as you can see in the brief clip below), Gianna is a bright, young, attractive and well-spoken young lady in her thirties. But as a result of the botched saline abortion, Gianna suffers from Cerebral Palsy. 

While Gianna's story is a compelling one, it is not exactly the kind of story that gets you invited on the morning news shows, or on the couch sitting next to Jay Leno. That being the case, it should be no surprise that October Baby has been eviscerated by the critics. 

I could cite many examples, but I think one will do. Here are a few key lines from The New York Times film critic Jeannette Catsoulis:
"But not even a dewy heroine and a youth-friendly vibe can disguise the essential ugliness at its core: like the bloodied placards brandished by demonstrators outside women’s health clinics, the film communicates in the language of guilt and fear... 
"But this G-rated road trip is only an appetizer: the film’s pièce de résistance arrives in the haunted form of Jasmine Guy, playing the clinic nurse who assisted at Hannah’s birth. Her pivotal speech, a gory portrait of fetal mutilation and maternal distress, conjures a vision of medical hackery that is clearly intended to terrify young women — and fits right in with proposed state laws that increasingly turn the screws on a woman’s dominion over her reproductive system."
Apparently the true story of an abortion survivor is so distasteful to this film critic, she is no longer concerned about actually reviewing the film, nor is she concerned about the horror that Gianna Jessen (and others like her) have lived through. She is only concerned about the politics of abortion and the fact that October Baby might give abortion a bad name.

But I really want to get beyond the politics of abortion here. I just want to know how we have become so stone-hearted as a society that we cannot simply listen to the story of an abortion survivor without being outraged by what it implies.

Here is Gianna's story in her own words. This is a must see video.