RESPONDblog: Galaxy Quest + My Limited Worldview

The movie Galaxy Quest tells the story of a group of washed up actors, tired and bored of living with the enduring fandom around their old space opera TV show from 20 years ago. It introduces us to Jason Nesmith, the actor who played the captain on the NSEA Protector space ship in the space opera. And he’s signing autographs at a fan convention…when suddenly and finally he explodes in a “Shatner-istic, get a life” way. Who does he explode at? Branden – a geeky fan who is asking for an autograph, while also pressing him on a tricky episode plot hole that Nesmith couldn’t care less about.  
Nesmith roasts him.

“It’s just a TV show. You got it?!”

The movie also tells the story of a group of alien beings – the Thermians – who have been watching Nesmith’s old TV Show from outer space…and have come to believe that the stories told in the show are actually real, rather than just hokey entertainment.

Now, in addition to their viewing habits, we learn the peace loving Thermians are facing an oppressive and controlling space gangster called Sarris who wants to oppress them. They fear Sarris…yet are actually quite technologically advanced. So they decide to emulate their heroes on the TV show and build an advanced space ship to fight Sarris…and they make the ship look and behave just like the NSEA Protector.

They make it work in exactly the same way as the ship on the show. So…the computer will only work if the girl on the bridge repeats all the data the computer provides the bridge team. And the controls for the ship’s pilot are laid out just as the actor playing the pilot pretended to fly the ship.

BUT – the Thermians have a problem – they cannot use their cool spaceship technology to defeat Sarris. They are smart enough to build their ship. They aren’t brave enough to use it.

Their solution? They decide to naively travel to earth…find their heroes from their favourite space TV show…and take them back to their planet to pilot the ship and defeat Sarris for them! After all…these guys are their heroes…and have defeated evil many times on the show. They’ve watched it on their equivalent of TV. They think its all real.

And for some cool and interesting reasons – read pride and boredom here – Nesmith and his crazy, LA based actors from the cast say “yes” to the Thermians’ request…and travel to their alien planet to man the new and very real NSEA Protector space ship. What they don’t bank on, however, is the very real jeopardy this puts them in. And so these actors must work out a way to cope in this conflict…and survive.

I’ve been sitting in a class at BIOLA University taught by PhD professor John Mark Reynolds this week. And he reminded me of the coolest part of Galaxy Quest.

What’s the coolest part?

During their conflict with Sarris – Nesmith and his crew find themselves running through the bowels of the ship to find the engine room…so they they can diffuse the reactor and stop the ship from exploding. While doing this, they realise that – in the course of the original TV show run – they never did an episode of the show where they visited the bowels of the NSEA Protector. So – they have no idea where to go to find the reactor to diffuse it. Worse – they have no idea what do do if and when they get there.

That’s a big problem. So what do they do?

Genius idea. They contact the geeky kid Branden that Nesmith roasted during the fan convention at the start of the movie. The kid who had grown up watching the show, who bought and pored over the deck plans of the NSEA Protector. Who knew this show and the ship inside out.

Nesmith contacts Branden…but before he can ask him for help finding the engine room…Branden stops him. Not realising the very real jeopardy Nesmith is in, Branden blurts out…”Look. About the convention. I know its just a TV show. I understand completely that’s its just a TV show. There is no ship…I’m not a complete brain-case…you know?”

And Nesmith responds with three words that transform Branden’s life.

“It’s all real.”

And without hesitation…and with a whoop of confident delight…Branden explodes. “I knew it. I just knew it!!!”

Here’s what’s cool about this scene. It poses a question to us.

What if my settled view of reality…actually is more about me just settling for a narrow perspective…the little bit that I understand. And dismissing the notion that there is so much more to know! Right now – I simply don’t fully understand everything that could be known about life and reality. But there’s a future awaiting me…

Further – what if that future reality is bigger…and more amazing than I could understand today. What if it truly is bursting with goodness, with truth and beauty in a way that I’ve yet to know on this planet…so its greater than I can fully comprehend right now. So much so…that when I finally DO experience it…I might just go slack jawed…and then burst with something like…

“I knew it!! I just knew it.”

Just like Branden.

And maybe then we will reflect back…and remember. We had a suspicion that there was more to life than just this one…we had this inner sense of it…maybe from our time as a child. But we’ve grown up since then. We’ve allowed other people to convince us otherwise. We’ve cooperated as others have systematically robbed us of our hope for ultimate goodness, truth and beauty.

What a shame that has happened.

One day – we will know. We will know it for ourselves in a fresh and wonderful way. And we’ll just exclaim, “You know what? I knew it!”

I’m looking forward to the day when I begin to really experience the full wonder of creation. In the here and now…I’m living in just a fraction of it…I sense that that’s true. But there is SO much more to come in the reality that’s to come.

Why do I think that? Well…because there’s this person in history called Jesus who transformed the world with his goodness, his beauty and the truth he brought to this planet. His beauty…in what he did and said. And it all culminated in his defeat of death and his invitation to join him in the bigger reality that is to come. This points to a future reality, a bigger sense of knowing reality as it truly is in all its goodness, its truth and its beauty…in a sense that I can only imagine today.

What a shame so many of us have been duped into thinking that our narrow view of the world is the right and only one…when we haven’t given ourselves the chance to consider that there is so much more that is awaiting us.

Do you know what? My anticipation is rising…there’s going to be a whoop of delight that’s going to burst out of me that day when I see that which I confidently expect to see in the reality to come with Jesus.

I knew it. I just knew it…!

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RESPONDblog: Is it Rational to Believe in God when there is Evil?

Is it rational and coherent for the Christian to believe that God exists and he is good while staring into the face of so many distressing and disturbing things going on in our lives? The evils we face; the brutal illnesses that cut people down in their prime; the painful situations that leave us speechless with grief. Is it rational and responsible to believe in God while we are sobbing the question, “Why?”

Before his conversion to theism, Anthony Flew didn’t think so and he made a compellingly case against belief. Flew’s argument is summarised by Steve Grant as follows:

“We are told that God loves us, and the sceptic points to a child dying of inoperable throat cancer. The loving father is frantic with worry, but God does not intervene. Does God loves us? And the theist claims, ‘God’s love is not merely a human love.’…If allowing a child to die horribly when one has the power to prevent it does not conflict with the claim that God loves us, then it starts to become unclear as to whether or not the theist is really using the word ‘love’ in a way which is recognisable…’What would have to occur…to constitute for you a disproof of the love of God, or of the existence of God?’”[1]

I would agree that when investigating a hypothesis using the scientific method, that we need to agree on some way to test a theory, to establish a set of criteria such that if they were met they would ultimately falsify our theory. If we don’t allow any criteria to undermine our theory…then it’s not a good scientific theory and we are trying to conceal that.

But to apply this process to Christianity is to misunderstand the Christian’s faith in God; like so much we take for granted in life, relationships are not scientific theories; either is Christianity. Is belief in God a sound choice, even though the Christian struggles to understand the causes of evil and the answer to the question, “Why?” Doesn’t my confusion ultimately falsify my belief in God?

I think the answer is no. For a start, the test is not yet complete; all the results are not yet in.

But in a deeper way, I’ll explain why I think the answer’s no by referring to Basil Mitchell’s “Parable of the Resistance Fighter”.

The parable asks us to imagine we are fighting the Nazis in occupied France during the War. Os Guinness, a pupil of Basil Mitchell, describes the scene:

“Imagine I come to you in a bar and I say to you, ‘I hear you want to join the local resistance. Well, I’m the local resistance leader. So, let’s talk for a while; ask me anything you want to know. But if you decide to join the resistance tonight, then you must agree to obey me BLINDLY. We will never speak openly like this again because it’s just too dangerous to do so.”[2]

In a sense, the Christian has become convinced of two essential truths. First, that God is there and second that he is good.

For myself, it is the person of Jesus Christ who has led me to both of those conclusions.

  • If God is the Father of Jesus…
  • if Jesus promises God’s love to each one who believes…
  • and if God raises Jesus from the dead specifically to show that God has validated Jesus’ work…

…then I’m in. Sign me up. And having signed up – I then choose to take a crucial step. I choose to trust God in the dark; when I don’t understand what’s going on in life and why it is happening.

Think back to the resistance leader for a moment.

Let’s say that following our conversation with him in the bar, we agree to join the resistance. Well – we’ve agreed to trust the leader – even though we don’t understand everything that he will be doing during the fight. There will be times we get confused, when it looks like he is helping the Nazis…not opposing them. But we are part of the resistance…we’ve got to hold on and keep trusting both the leader and his motives blindly.

Eventually, the end of the war will come, everything that is hidden is made public. All the codes are released, the motives behind the resistance leader’s confusing actions are finally laid bare for all to see. Then…ah…of course…that’s what he was doing…it’s obvious! He was resisting all along. But while we are in the heart of enemy territory…it’s a different story[3].

In a sense – the Christian is in enemy territory right now. Awful things are happening in this world today, sceptics point Christians to unsettling passages in the Old Testament. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his own son? No honest follower of Jesus will claim to have all the answers to the question “Why?” She is in the dark on much of it.

Yet – the Christian is still rational to maintain trust that God is there and he is good.

Os Guinness explains why.

“We can say God – I trust you. Even though I don’t understand what is happening right now. Yet one day, perhaps we will know why. This is a faith that simply knows what it NEEDS to know right now; that God is there and he is good. So, we can trust him even though right now…in enemy territory…we are in the dark.”[4]

Is it rational and coherent for the Christian to say that they believe God exists and is good in the face of so much distress? Yes. The rationality of one’s trust in God is founded on the person of Christ, and is not undermined by everything we do not understand. We’ve got to hold on, to watch this world – and the evil within it – to play out and conclude. To do what we can to resist it.

But the war is not over.

Yet.

[1] Steve Grant, Talking about God, Richmond Journal of Philosophy 9, Spring 2005, accessed 15th March 2017, http://www.richmond-philosophy.net/rjp/back_issues/rjp9_grant.pdf.

[2] Os Guinness, The Journey: A Thinking Person’s Quest for Meaning, The Veritas Forum, accessed 15th March 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOXzgs7Tyys.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

RESPONDblog: Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?

gervais

I found this discussion on prime time US TV to be pretty fascinating! I’m always pleased to see when discussion about God comes out of the private places and into the public square where it belongs.

Ricky’s a sharp and witty comedian…and I do enjoy his irreverent humor. But I honestly find his atheism troubling. Not because I find his arguments compelling…its just the way he immediately seems closed to the idea of God.

I thought Colbert asked a great question out of the gate on his show…and he let Ricky off very lightly by allowing him to sidestep his good question.

 

Why is there something instead of nothing?

Why does the universe exist at all? Why are we here?

 

Ricky’s response was,

“That makes no sense at all…surely the bigger question is not why, but how?”

 

Interesting.

 

First – Ricky’s saying first that the question makes no sense. Sure it does. The sentence conforms to the laws of English grammar and syntax. But that’s not what he means. What he means is that naturalism and his materialistic worldview has no good answer to the question “why”. And so rather than admit that, he moves the discussion to “how”. Interesting sleight of hand. But it seems to me that it would have been more honest to admit that he has no answer to the question “why”.

 

Second – he says that the bigger question is not why, but how. Of course…Ricky thinks he’s on solid ground now about the “how” because…well…science. He can engage on that topic because of the great work in cosmology, biology, etc. But is he right? Is “how” a bigger question? I personally don’t think so.

  • Human beings have been asking “why” for millennia. It’s the oldest philosophical question. And I’ve experienced the “why” question many times in my discussions with atheists to this day. “Why” always matters to people – whether you have an answer or not.
  • Why do we exist? That is MASSIVE. I think its short sighted to skip that one because it feeds directly into our own purpose in life. Are you saying you don’t care about that?

 

Personally – I’m of the opinion that BOTH the “why” AND the “how” are important questions. And rather than dodge them…we need to work on them. Maybe we don’t have all the answers yet – which is why we are working on them. David Robertson makes an interesting point,

“Don’t be so dismissive of the very questions that make us human.   Humans are the only animal who ask the why question.  Please don’t dehumanise us.”[1]

Too right – you are worth more than that, Ricky.

 

I also love the part in the interview when Ricky says,

“Can you prove there is a God? You say no. So I don’t believe you.”

I’ve hit this so many times myself. And it’s like…we are stuck together in this odd discussion on proof for God…with the definition of the word “prove” getting tougher and tougher by the second. Yet there are so many things in life that we naturally accept, even though there is no empirical, cast iron proof of them.

  • I have a mind as I am writing this. You are reading this and you are using your mind. You have no empirical proof of my mind. You just choose to accept it. The same for me with yours.
  • What’s more…can we prove we are not plugged into the Matrix as we read and write? No. And neither can I.
  • Can you prove there is a God? No – because someone always pushes the definition of “prove” that bit higher each time.

BUT – is there EVIDENCE for God. Now – that’s a whole different question. Of course there is evidence that points towards the existence of God. For example…

https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/does-human-reason-point-toward-gods-existence-or-gods-absence/

https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/respondblog-doesnt-order-in-nature-provide-circumstantial-evidence-for-god/

 

And yet…again as Robertson points out about Ricky,

“you have already pre-determined that there can be no such evidence and therefore you automatically dismiss or explain away any such evidence.”[2]

Isn’t that the truth. We come back to what is permitted or allowed by the atheist belief system. Robertson engages with many more of Ricky’s points during this brief exchange…it worth taking a read of his blog.

[1] Ricky Gervais v Stephen Colbert – The Real Answers – An Open Letter, https://theweeflea.com/2017/02/03/ricky-gervais-v-stephen-colbert-the-real-answers-an-open-letter/, accessed 13th Feb 2017.

[2] Ibid.

RESPONDblogs: The “Buddhist Jesus” Claim…and BATMAN!

buddhist

A friend sent me a Youtube link to a documentary that the BBC put together a few years ago asking the question – “Was Jesus a Buddhist Monk?”

 

Here’s the link I used to watch it (apologies if the link no longer works for you)

Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk (BBC Documentary)

 

The documentary makers claim that, because the Bible contains no description of Jesus of Nazareth between the ages of 14 and 29, that he must have gone to live in India to learn Buddhist ways. (of course!) Further, after surviving his crucifixion by the Roman Government, instigated by the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus fled to India and lived out the remainder of his natural life there.

 

This is a fascinating and fun story as it plays out. It reminded me very much of the story told about the comic book character Bruce Wayne, who spent his formative years learning from Ra’s al Guhl, his spiritual mentor, before returning home and donning his cape and cowl…”I’m Batman!” The documentary also feels very “Da Vinci Code”…which may give a clue to the dating of the piece itself.

 

From comic books + novels + movies …and back to history. This documentary attempts to dismiss the New Testament claim of Jesus supernatural resurrection from the dead and his ascension. And it portrays the people of Jesus’ time as gullible dupes who were setup to perpetuate the Christianity myth, while Jesus himself legged it back to Kashmir to live out his days there.

 

One wonders WHY the first Christians would be willing to be duped like that. Given that history and tradition indicates that all but one of Jesus’ inner circle were martyred for their faith in Jesus as God, killed for their persistence in sharing the world changing message that everyone who believes in Jesus can be sure of a resurrection body something like his in the future. Why would anyone die for a lie…when they personally knew the truth that their Jesus was really just an ordinary bloke…living an ordinary life…somewhere due East of ancient Israel? Certainly…the documentary makes no attempt at touching this rather relevant question.

 

Instead – it chooses SOME of the historical evidence we have for the life of Christ…and extrapolates wildly from that. I’m sorry…but honest scholarship would acknowledge all of the available evidence first….and build from there.

 

1 – Some Great Quotes from the Documentary

I heard some really head scratching statements being made while watching this documentary. I have no intention of pointing the finger here…so I’m only sharing the quotes, not the people who said them. Watch the documentary if you are interested.

 

 

“It is possible that Jesus was sedated on the cross and was removed early, before he died. This is very possible.”

Clearly this person has not studied the well documented ancient Roman practice of flogging and crucifixion. I’ve shared some details below in this blog.

Many people have tried to support the “swoon” theory, of a Jesus who survived his execution. Yet none of these attempts are historically convincing. More explanation below.

 

“The earliest Gospel is Mark…and it has no resurrection appearances at all. The last verses of Mark were added 200 years later.”

This misrepresents Mark’s surviving original text in chapter 16. Jesus’ resurrection is clearly announced by this text, although the women who discover the empty tomb leave it bewildered and frightened.

“When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,[b] who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” Mark 16:5-7, NLT

It also conveniently, or mistakenly, misses the fact that the earliest record of Jesus’ resurrection isn’t Mark’s Gospel at all…but 1 Corinthians chapter 15. This creed is dated to within weeks of the crucifixion itself…

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter[c] and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers[d] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, NLT

 

“The Gospels are not primarily interested in what actually happened historically…just what Jesus taught.”

Again – I’m wondering if this person cared to check their Bible? Luke the physician used great care to communicate the eyewitness reports of Jesus life.

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples.[a] Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. Luke 1:1-4, NLT

 

“Jesus resurrection was just a picture and an image of hope. It was not literally true.”

What nonsense. If Jesus resurrection did not literally happen, then the message of Christianity is a dangerous delusion that leads people astray. It doesn’t comfort them at all – it misleads them in a cynical and dangerous way.

No – to be a carrier of hope, Jesus Resurrection has to have happened the way the Gospels clearly report that it did…based on eye witness testimony.

 

 

Overall – I’d say the scholarship that this documentary appeals to in making its case…is suspect. As a non-scholar myself…even I can see that! This hurts the documentary’s claims, I think.

 

 

2 – Why the Foundation of the Documentary’s Claims are Suspect

Going back to the claim that Jesus was a Buddhist, this is a great work of fiction…and this claim rests on two assumptions that seem to me to be absurd. If the assumptions aren’t solid…then you can be sure that their resulting conclusions will be unsupportable.

Assumption 1 – Jesus grew up in India between ages 14 and 29. But there is no evidence that Jesus spent any time outside of ancient Israel beyond his brief forays into regions like Samaria, as described in the Gospels.

Assumption 2 – Jesus survived his crucifixion and escaped back to India. But there is no reasonable way that Jesus could have survived his crucifixion.

 

Here are some of my reasons for making both of these statements.

 

First assumption – Jesus wasn’t living in Israel between the ages of 14 and 29.

The only ancient historical basis for this (the earlier the evidence the more credible it is to historians) is that Jesus’ biographies (the Gospels) do not mention anything about his life between those two ages. Someone once observed that – absence of evidence is never evidence of absence. This is sometimes called an appeal to ignorance…and formal logic says it’s a fallacious way of constructing an argument. It asserts a proposition’s true because it hasn’t yet been proven false (or vice versa). But there is another option – that there is insufficient data to prove whether its true or false. That’s what we’ve got in this case and – given Jesus documented peasant status – a more reasonable assumption to make – given the style and agenda of ancient biography – is just that the writers didn’t focus on any event in his life growing up in Israel between 14 and 29. Sure – they claim Jesus went to India – but they are simply inventing the story. So their assumption doesn’t logically follow from the evidence.

 

 

 

Second assumption – Jesus survived the crucifixion.

There was some conspiracy, or agenda to get him off the cross quickly so that he would survive his ordeal and recover. The primitive 1st century people didn’t know the difference between resuscitation and resurrection…and they leapt to a fantastical explanation…rather than go for a naturalistic one.

 

Again – great plot for a novel. I’m always up for a good conspiracy theory…and an episode of the X-Files too. But I don’t think the claim stands up to historical scrutiny and personally I don’t think this is a reasonable conclusion when ALL the available evidence is taken into account. Doctor Alexander Metherell is a Professor of Engineering and Medicine and he has written on the events surrounding Jesus crucifixion from a medical perspective. He is quoted by Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for Christ”[1].

 

What does he suggest? He says that there is no way that Jesus could have survived his well-documented crucifixion. Look at what Metherell says about the proposition that Jesus survived his crucifixion:

 

“After suffering that horrible abuse, with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health. So its preposterous to think that, if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his. There’s just no way.” – Metherell

 

Metherell goes on to assert that it is just unreasonable to say that Jesus survived his crucifixion. It’s a fanciful claim. He died on the cross. The evidence that Metherell points to in the Gospel accounts for this:

 

  • Jesus sweat was tinged with blood in the garden beforehand. Hematidrosis, the result of psychological stress. Would make his skin very sensitive.
  • Jesus was flogged before he was crucified. The roman whips were leather thongs with metal balls and sharp pieces of bone woven into them. Ancient historians talk of the victims back…down to the backs of their legs…being shredded by this process of flogging. Often exposing the victim’s spine and his internal organs. Many victims would die there and then from hypovolemic shock. It seems reasonable to assume Jesus was in this state as he staggered thru Jerusalem holding the upright beam of his cross.
  • Romans used 7 inch spikes that were driven thru the wrist (considered back then as part of the hand). It would go in where the median nerve runs. This is so painful that a new word was invented to describe it – excruciating…literally “out of the cross”.
  • His posture would have meant that his shoulders would have been dislocated.
  • As they say in the video…this is death by asphyxiation. To exhale the victim must push himself upwards…tearing the flesh of his feet every time. Until the victim eventually became exhausted…leading to respiratory acidosis.
  • Yes – the Romans would break the legs to speed up death. It talks of them doing this in the gospels because the Sabbath was approaching. Yet Jesus legs weren’t broken. Is that because he got special treatment so he might survive? Not at all. What the documentary conveniently fails to mention is that the Romans stuck a spear in his side to make sure he was dead!!
  • Hypovolemic shock apparently would lead to a fluid build up in the pericardium – so when the spear was thrust in – blood and “water” came out, as the gospels report.
  • Maybe Jesus wasn’t nailed? Well archaeology confirms the first century gospel claims. Nails have been found in the remains of victims buried in Jerusalem with nails in feet bones.
  • Maybe the Romans were just mistaken and Jesus wasn’t dead? Hang on – it was a Roman soldiers job to kill their victim. This was not hard to do – it was a well-documented process – and they risked their heads if they let a prisoner escape. Yes – the documentary points to the part of Josephus where he asks for 3 friends to be removed from their crosses…two die and one survives. But the difference here is – Josephus is a Roman Official – he has the power to make a request of Governor Titus to remove these people from their crosses. In Jesus situation – he had no one in power on his side. The one that could have saved him – Pilate – washed his hands of him. Just because people have been taken off crosses in the past…does not mean Jesus was.
  • Many people have claimed Jesus survived crucifixion over the centuries. The swoon theory is “impossible. It’s a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact” according to Metherell.

 

 

 

But – assume that by some turn of events – Jesus DID survive his crucifixion? He could not have walked around having had nails ripping thru his feet. And he couldn’t have used his arms because his shoulders were dislocated. Not to mention the gaping spear wound in his chest. Metherell’s interesting quote again…

 

“After suffering that horrible abuse, with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health. So its preposterous to think that, if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his. There’s just no way.” – Metherell

 

 

Jesus didn’t survive his crucifixion – to claim so is unreasonable when all the evidence is taken into account – the documentary misses out lots of important pieces of evidence when making its case (I’ve only mentioned one or two of them).

 

Here’s another quote from a Doctor.

 

“Clearly the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted… Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.” – Doctor William D Edwards, Journal of the American Medical Association

 

No – personally I think it’s reasonable to go with medical opinion…and assume Jesus was dead when he was lifted from his cross.

 

And if he was dead, then there was no escape to India. And there is no simple naturalistic explanation to the historical evidence of the empty tomb and millions of changed lives down thru the centuries following the birth of the Christian church.

[1] Strobel, Lee, The Case for Christ, Zondervan

RESPONDblogs: Avengers Age of Ultron Movie Review

avengers

Short and sweet – I think Joss Whedon did a fine job given the conditions he was labouring under. You have got to hand it to him…this guy has VISION. His movie is vast in its scope.

It sounds like Marvel was brutal in forcing him to cut out (and therefore rend as confusing) the Thor subplot. Which is a shame…as it plays into the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a BIG way (infinity stones, people). But hey…some of the best scenes in this movie still riffed on Thor and Mjolnir. Fantastic.

Having seen the movie twice, the thing that stuck out strangely to me…is Joss’s constant quoting of the New Testament thru the film. Is each instance dripping with irony? Well…sometimes…especially when it is Ultron who is speaking. But the childlike Vision echoes both Jesus and Yahweh in a much more innocent way.

I’ve not heard Joss talking about spiritual things. But he is a student of human nature. And I do hope he has time in his busy schedule to consider eternal things. They are coming to us all…

 

This blog is not a great AAOU movie review. But here IS a great AAOU movie review. Kevin Ott has (imho) knocked it out of the park. Enjoy…

 Avengers Age of Ultron Christian Movie Review

RESPONDblogs: Neill Blomkamp’s “Chappie” – review

Light Spoilers below

 

Neill Blomkamp is a visionary director; his films look stunning…His worlds feature a gritty, current day aesthetic …with a futuristic twist. The brilliant designs look like they should work. Neill has learned his film making craft from the best and Chappie is “business as usual” for him…and that’s a good thing.

 

It’s a story about a multi-national corporation (Tetravaal) backing two contradictory approaches to robotic law enforcement. Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel, is developing an independent autonomous drone while Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) favours the non-intelligent, human controlled vehicle approach; Moore’s MOOSE is like a heavily armed, remotely controlled U.S. Drone. Conflict between these approaches escalates when Deon’s autonomous robotic police drone goes beyond its basic programming and becomes truly self aware…it becomes “intelligently designed” into a thinking, feeling artificial intelligence in its own right.

 

This is interesting timing for Chappie, given the increased buzz around driverless cars (even the Topgear guys are chatting about that one) and the cautionary note that Professor Stephen Hawking rang recently about the dangers that AI will pose to humankind in the future.

 

 

 

Three themes stuck out to me as i enjoyed this movie.

 

FIRST – Neill presents Jackman’s character Moore in an interesting way. Moore designed his MOOSE as an attack vehicle bristling with weapons – but his reasons seem to be philosophical ones…even religious ones. It seems that this guy is against all forms of artificial intelligence…presumably because…as he says to Deon’s Chappie…he is just a godless monster. In other words – God didn’t create this being…mankind did. And to Moore, that’s a bad thing.

 

Jackman portrays Moore as not only a religious extremist, but also as a violent war monger. He is not only frustrated at being sidelined with his out of date technology, but he is also a very dangerous individual. He is quite clearly comfortable with building machines to cause death and destruction on an industrial scale! Neill Blomkamp’s religious guy is the dangerous, violent hate filled brooding presence in his movie.

 

I often hear Christians being described in these terms. And I’ve always thought…where does Jesus ever teach anyone to embrace hate and violence? He doesn’t. Of course the well worn response to this is – stop selectively flicking thru the New Testament and look at the Old. God commands the Israelites to wipe out the Amalekites. Therefore God wants Christians to be hate filled and violent. So Christianity is dangerous for society. Yet this is SO far away from a balanced reading of the Bible, that it leaves the average Christian scratching their head in puzzlement.

 

Yes God used Israel to bring punishment to people at a single time in history, as described in the Old Testament. God encouraged Israel to enter the land promised to them, yet stolen by the occupying Caananite people. God had given the Caananites many opportunities to leave the land but they chose not to. So it was finally time to evict them. Despite the claims of Christianity’s critics…the people who were killed as Israel returned to Caanan were soldiers. Claims of Old Testament genocide misinterpret the meaning of the Old Testament text.

 

Further – to claim that this narrative should guide Christian behaviour today…is quite simply wrong. This argument would be like reading Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings all the way to the end when Sam and Frodo are ascending Mount Doom…about to finally throw the ring into the fire…and for Sam to suddenly stop them and saying…hang on! We need to go back to the Prancing Pony Pub right now cos we never managed to meet up with Gandalf there. What? No – that would be crazy. The story has moved on…we are past that now. in the same way…applying the Old Testament Amalekite passages to Christians today is just plain wrong.

 

Radicalised Christians aren’t like Blomkamp’s Vincent Moore; and they aren’t like Israelite soldiers who once fought Amalekite soldiers in Caanan. Radicalised Christians work towards increasing acts of love and kindness to all people. Thats how its supposed to work, anyway!

 

 

 

The SECOND theme I notice is around a complicated relationship between Chappie and his creator Deon. Unfortunately for Deon, his relationship with Chappie is disrupted by a group of gangsters, who become the family that Chappie attaches to. The sidelined Deon has got to work hard to visit with and teach Chappie the values he thinks are important. He manages to open Chappie up to the artistic and creative side of life (much to the gangster’s annoyance). He also sets moral guidelines for Chappie. And this escalates the tension in their relationship. Chappie’s gangster family want him to “do crimes”…but Chappie has promised his maker that he wont cross this line. Chappie has a moral center which is very highly tuned. His creator has so many hopes and dreams for him and Chappie finds the burden of this too much to bear sometimes…leading him to tell his creator that he hates him.

 

Chappie and Deon clearly misunderstand each other during much of the movie. Deon sees the danger that the gangsters are exposing Chappie to. He can see the risk of disaster and the loss of Chappie’s precious life. Yet the childlike robot does not have this perspective at all. He does not understand the risks…although he starts to learn fast.

 

It strikes me that perhaps this theme touches upon many people’s personal spiritual journey.  When it comes to God…things get complicated. It’s the stuff that fills our lives, the choices we have made, that get in the way. And if there is a God…then surely he wants to stop us having fun. Surely he wants to impose his dull will on us? We see Chappie kick against the attempts his creator makes to connect with him…and there is alot of truth in this portrayal. It resonates.

 

And I’m left wondering…what if we mistakenly project our own misunderstanding of God’s motives onto God himself? What if…like Chappie…we think the creator is trying to cramp our style…when in reality his goal is to rescue us from the danger we don’t understand. The risk we are blind to is very evident to our creator. What if instead of wasting our lives, he wants us to fulfil our potential? I think there’s an aspect to Deon’s character that reflects part of God’s nurturing character towards people.

 

 

 

The THIRD theme is a deep one, so I’ll keep it brief. Mind/soul and body duality. Groan! Philosophy! This movie is full of the sense that, our bodies…the material stuff and my physical parts…do not fully define who I am. There is an intangible-ness to me;  a consciousness. Actually this idea points to a Biblical understanding of personhood. We are composed of 3 parts; spirit, soul and body. And while one day our body will wear out…the essential center of us…our spirit and our soul…will live on in another place. Hopefully not in Blomkamp’s way (it does not look good!)

 

 

So if you enjoy science fiction, don’t mind a touch of violence (one scene is really quite bloody)…and like thinking about these themes…then I recommend Chappie.

RESPONDblogs: Logic and Leadership

team

Since Leonard Nimoy’s death last week, I’ve been thinking about one of my favourite episodes from old school, 1960s Star Trek. It’s titled The Galileo 7.

Mr Spock takes a small team in a shuttlecraft to explore a region of space. Bad stuff happens and – long story short – they crash land on a planet. What’s worse is that the crash causes a leak in the shuttlecraft fuel pipes…so they cannot take off again to re-join their friends aboard the Enterprise. Worse still – there are big scary cavemen type monsters on this planet who have a rather good aim when throwing their long, sharp flint tipped spears! Two of the crew get speared pretty quickly (they aren’t wearing red shirts, either). What’s more…the polystyrene rocks on this planet are given a real hammering by the monsters as spears are thrown from every direction at Spock and his team!  This is the first team Spock has ever led – and it is a real baptism of fire for him.

 

We see life from a different perspective when we are leading rather than following. Don’t we? It’s easy to blame the leader when things are hard. But what do we do when things are hard…and we are the leader? When everyone in the team is looking to us for the next step?

 

I think what I love about this episode is the way it shows the logical Mr Spock deal with the stresses of leadership. Yes, his situation on the planet is grim. They don’t have many options open to them. Spock’s signature logic allows them to quickly identify all the choices available. But there is a much bigger issue under the surface of all this. And it’s about how Spock relates to the people he is leading – his team. Unfortunately, his head is so locked into a logical analysis of their problems, he isn’t able to give his small team any emotional support and encouragement. And this frustrates them.

 

Why? Leaders aren’t just problem solvers. We aren’t just sources of solutions. We are also a source of emotional presence, of personal warmth, of belonging. Because the people that follow us need more than just confidence that all the problems will go away. They also need to be able to feel that they are known and valued and belong in this team. That we are moving forward together – and actually our relationship is the foundation for all the solutions ahead of us. Spock had it upside down – the solutions were more important than his people – and it drove that team nuts! Leaders – be with your team as you work together to achieve great things together.

 

Back to the plot –

Captain Kirk spends time searching for his friends…but an urgent task takes priority and – even though his search is not complete – he has to turn the Enterprise around and start to move away…leaving his lost friends trapped on the planet…doomed.

 

team 2

But Spock finally cuts a break; Scotty is on his team and works out how to turn their phaser weapons into a fuel source for their spacecraft. It will leave them unarmed amongst the monsters, yet it will allow the shuttlecraft to take-off and orbit the planet once. The plan works – they take off and they make orbit. But they only have enough fuel to make one circle of the planet. Space is big. They cannot see the Enterprise which must be long gone…they have overcome so many obstacles to survive the monsters and take off…but to what? A pointless orbit followed by certain death.  Everything seems hopeless for the crew. Logic has gotten them this far…but it has left them in a place of ultimate despair.

 

And it’s in this place, the unexpected happens.

In a momentary flash of desperation – Spock ignites all their remaining fuel. This causes the engines to ignite and burn hot…shooting out of the rear of their tiny craft for a short while. What is Spock doing? As Scotty points out, he is desperately sending up a flare even though he believes there probably isn’t anyone there to see it. Yet incredibly the Enterprise DOES see their flare go up. And as their tiny shuttlecraft starts to burn up in the atmosphere, Spock and his crew are rescued by Captain Kirk in the nick of time.

 

shuttle

I think this episode makes a great point. Logic and systematic thinking can only get us so far. As you listen to some people talk, it sounds like they believe Science holds all the answers for mankind. That life is only about the measurable and the controllable. But what Star Trek shows us is that this is a poor, one dimensional approach to life. Science is important – yes – but if we view it as mankind’s sole end…and the only tool in our toolbox…then we are selling the multi-dimensional, emotionally and relationally designed people around us short. Further – if Spock had not leapt beyond logical laws – and ignited the fuel in his craft – he would not have saved his team. If he had not let out the biggest, and the most emotion filled “HELP!”…then the episode would have ended very differently indeed. Logic only gets you so far – relationship and emotion fills the gap.

 

Personally, I’ve worked in a field of science for 25 years and I’ve solved lots of problems as a result. But frankly…as I sit here writing…I cannot remember any of them! What I can remember tho are the faces of the people that I’ve worked with, and the time we spent getting to know each other. The lasting effect they have had on me.

 

I am also a Christian, I believe in a personal, relational God who loves us and who really entered human history to show us that. And I’m a Christian because one day I personally sent up an emotional, metaphysical flare myself and said – I don’t know if anyone is out there…outside the material confines of our Universe…but if you are there God, please hear me. Please listen…and please help. He did…and he continues to do so.

 

Perhaps we are happy to restrict our perspective on life to the stuff we can measure and control; you reject the metaphysical. But like Spock…I wonder if our life choices and our private longings actually point away from our narrow words…and towards the bigger reality that is there for us!

 

Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits. Don’t let the rich brag of their riches. If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I’m God, and I act in loyal love. I do what’s right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things.

Jeremiah 7:23-24, The Message