Dining at the feast of movies

At the feast of movies, I’d like to leave gluttony, judgment and fear behind me. I know that I am free to eat almost anything, but I want to be strong and fit, disciplining myself to a diet of excellent, nourishing work.

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Dessert? Alcohol? In moderation, on occasion.

As a critic, I feel more like the nutritionist—doing my best to counsel others on a balanced diet that serves their individual needs and respects their sensitivities. But I also want to be the kind of connoisseur who can speak knowledgeably about the culinary arts. I want to speak with eloquence about Sophia Coppola’s sauces, the exquisite wines of Eric Rohmer and the finer point of Martin Scorsese’s pasta.

But the more I learn, the more I’m in danger of becoming another character at the table—the snob. It would be easy for me to leave behind enjoyment of the simpler sorts of films and demand only the most sophisticated work, sneering at those who don’t understand or appreciate it. I have, at times, ranted against the ignorance of others, forgetting that I was once at their place in the journey.

If my enthusiasm for films as cerebral as Russian Ark or Werckmeister Harmonies makes me pretentious or condescending to those in line for blockbusters, then I have lost my perspective on the purpose of art. The goal is not to see the most obscure movies or even to be the greatest interpreter. If these experiences aren’t strengthening my conscience as well as my intellect, what good are they?

Henry Miller once wrote, “Art is only a means to live, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.”

If dining at the table of movies becomes my primary focus, I am forgetting the purpose of the meal. It is served to give me strength so that I can return to my life stronger, healthier and closer to being whole.

Jeffrey Overstreet
Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies
p. 93-94

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How Movies Teach Manhood

A few days ago I saw this video on TED. I like what the presenter says and his comparrison between Star Wars and the Wizard of Oz. However I do not agree with all of his points. In particular I do not think that Disney Princess’ are good role models for girls when they advocate changing everything you are to get the Prince who will rescue you because you are a helpless girl. That being said, he does offer some good food for thought.

Super True Stories: The Original John Calvin

Recently a bunch of Calvinists have told me, “hey, I like your videos.”  And so I responded by making a video that makes fun of Calvinists and, in particular, a doctrine that is called the limited atonement.  Because I’m sort of a jerk that way.  So here it is:

If you’re never heard the term before, as the video explains, the limited atonement means that, when Jesus died on the cross, He made atonement only for the elect.  In other words, He forgave only the sins of those who go to heaven.  Jesus did not, however, shed his blood for those who are condemned.  And he didn’t do this because His Father hated those people and decided before time that He was going to send them hell.  That’s what committed Calvinists believe.  Very rosy stuff.

So the limited atonement is a vile doctrine.  It’s a terrible heresy that one cannot confess and still hold to the words of 1 John 4:16, that God is love.  And, as such, it certainly deserves to be mocked.  And, in response to my mockery, some Calvinists have offered objections to the content of the video.  So, since I’m trying to write more often on my bloggerino here, let me go ahead and address a couple objections here.

1. It’s unfair to quote Westboro Baptist Church as a representative of Calvinist theology.

If you’re not familiar with the name, Westboro Baptist Church is the little cult of nutjobs who go around picketing military funerals, saying that God is pleased at the sight of dead American soldiers because our nation has become supportive of homosexuality.  So, at first blush, it may seem unfair to quote such a nasty group of folks who make almost all Calvinists in the universe want to barf.  But here’s why it’s perfectly fair.

Phelps and his group are hardcore Calvinists.  And they act the way they do because of their Calvinist theology.  If you have the stomach to look around Westboro’s website, you’ll see their train of thought quite clear.  It works like this:

When it came time for Christ to die, God put His Son on the cross.  But God would not give His blood to certain people because He hates them and wants them to go to hell.  When people engage in open sin (ie homosexuality or endorsement of homosexuality) this reveals that they are among this group of people that God hates and wants to go to hell.  Therefore we don’t have to treat these people with love.  In fact, we won’t even pray for them because that would be an act of defiance against the God who wants the in hell.

So that’s pretty much taking Calvinism to its logical conclusion.  I’m glad that most Calvinists don’t do this.  But just because Phelps does, that doesn’t mean he’s not a genuine Calvinist.  All men reflect the behavior of their gods in their own behavior.  And Fred Phelps refuses to love his neighbor because Fred Phelps’ god first refused to love his neighbor. That’s not a me problem.  That’s a Calvinist god problem.

2. It’s inaccurate to say that Calvinists can’t be sure of their salvation.

I’m aware that Calvinsts say they can be sure of their salvation.  But my point is that, regardless of what they say, Calvinists can’t be certain of their salvation.  According to their own theological documents, such as the Westminster Larger Catechism Question 80, Calvinists say they can know that they are part of the elect by looking within themselves by the aide of the Holy Spirit.

But validating your faith by looking to your faith is not certainty.  It’s circular hopelessness.  Because how do you know that you really do believe?  How do you know that you haven’t just convinced yourself that the Spirit said you are among the elect because you desperately want to be among the elect?  After all, if we’re going to take Matthew 7 seriously, a whole bunch of people that Jesus says He never knew will have been laboring under the delusion that they were among the elect.

If you want to be certain of your salvation, you need to be able to look to things outside of your deceitful heart.  You need to be able to look to the Cross and say that you know that Jesus won your salvation there.  And you need to be able to look at your baptism and say that Jesus delivered salvation to you there.  But Calvinists can’t do either of that.  They can’t look to the cross for assurance because Jesus didn’t die for everyone and therefore might not have died for them.  And they can’t look to their baptism because it can’t deliver salvation to you if Christ never won it for you in the first place.

So…phbbbbbbbbbbbbt.

HT: Pr. Hans Fiene

Today was a great day!

After church Jen and I had two members over for lunch, slow cooker pulled beef tacos, followed by us going out for a date at the movies while our friends stayed and watched the kiddos for us. After the movie we stopped at Walmart and bought an egg dying kit and the boy’s b-day gift… his first tricycle. I can’t wait to teach him to ride it when we move in to the house. Then we got home, grabbed the kids and Jen fed the girl. After a few minutes, Terry a fellow LCMS pastor from Denver, his wife Vonnie and one of their kids, came down and treated us to dinner.

It turns out that on Sundays most (non-chain) restaurants in Pueblo that we know of are closed. Five stops and 45 minutes later we finally stopped at Toni and Joe’s Pizzeria that we know is open. We had some salad, tried a few different pizzas that we haven’t tried yet and had some good conversations.

As the post says, today was a great day. A busy, crazy and hectic day, but a good day nonetheless.