Tim Challies

Owl Post 8-19-14

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The Problem with Christian Films

gods_not_deadThis past year has been the year of the Christian film. We have seen an explosion of Christian-themed and Christian-produced films, each seemingly more financially successful than the last. In the words of Scott Mendelson, box office analyst for Forbes.com, “I think we can safely say that 2014 is the year that Christian-themed religious pictures officially outnumbered comic book superhero films. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it definitely is a thing.”

Confronting Reality By Reading Fantasy

TheLionWitchWardrobe(1stEd)“If you were in a room full of books,” Lev Grossman writes in his latest novel, The Magician’s Land, “you were at least halfway home.” For Grossman, no books feel more like home than C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, which provide the template for what he likes to read—and how he wants to write. In our conversation for this series, Grossman explained what The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe taught him about fiction, what makes Lewis’s work so radically inventive, and why his own stories must step through the looking glass into fantasy.

Five Principles of the New Sexual Morality

boy_girl_symbolsThe sociologist Mark Regnerus recently published a piece for the Witherington Institute’s Public Discourse, suggesting that support for same-sex marriage in some Christian circles correlates to broader shifts in morality surrounding sexuality and relations. Survey respondents were asked to declare their level of agreement with seven statements relating to the issues of pornography, cohabitation, no-strings-attached sex, the duty of staying in a marriage, extramarital sex, polyamorous relationships, and abortion. The results illustrated pronounced fault lines between those committed to historic Christian stances on sexual morality and supporters of same-sex marriage.

I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity

Facebook-Like2On August 1st, I announced that I was going to quit liking things on Facebook. At the time, I simply stated that I no longer wanted to be as active a participant in teaching Facebook how to advertise to me as I had been in the past, but another and much larger issue was my real curiosity: how was my Facebook experience going to change once I stopped feeding its engine with likes?

How To Keep the Spark Alive

sparksWhy do married couples have sex? And how can they ensure that they keep enjoying the sexual relationship throughout their marriage? This weekend I read through a pair of recent studies from the University of Toronto that offer some intriguing, though not shocking answers.

Why We Love to Read

reading-a-bookI have watched the avid outdoorsman, the fisherman, come slowly drifting by. He goes by morning after morning, day after day, always at the same time, always casting into the same locations. He is patiently waiting for the big one, waiting for that hard strike, that long battle that will land him his prize.

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My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth, and the Gospel

ring-tattoos-13Today is the day of my wedding.  And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoos, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts, I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike.  My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

When Gifts Lose Their Luster

giftThere are times I grow weary of good things. Things I love. Things I would not want to live without. Things that have the ability to make my heart beat a little bit faster and keep my mind racing when I ought to be asleep. They are good things, but somehow, through time or familiarity or neglect or something else, they begin to feel not so good. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it seems to be yet another cost of being a sinful person in a sinful world. Even the best things feel like bad things at times.

Advice to High School Graduates: ‘You Are Not Special’

graduation-hats1On a spring day in 2012, Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough, Jr., stepped onto the school’s football field, then covered in a sea of seniors dressed in identical caps and gowns. Clad in a blazer and striped tie, McCullough made his way to the podium, donned his reading glasses, and began his commencement speech. Nothing about the event seemed out of the ordinary. McCullough, after all, was participating in a ritual that happens hundreds of thousands of times across the United States each year. He had given graduation speeches before.

But compared to the countless other remarks given by comedians, journalists, and politicians that year, McCullough’s speech stood out for its blunt, four-word message: “You are not special.”

Kirsten Powers: Liberals’ Dark Ages

darkagesWelcome to the Dark Ages, Part II. We have slipped into an age of un-enlightenment where you fall in line behind the mob or face the consequences.

How ironic that the persecutors this time around are the so-called intellectuals. They claim to be liberal while behaving as anything but. The touchstone of liberalism is tolerance of differing ideas. Yet this mob exists to enforce conformity of thought and to delegitimize any dissent from its sanctioned worldview. Intolerance is its calling card.

Waving His Wand at ‘Beowulf’

packshotThere’s more to J. R. R. Tolkien than wizards and hobbits. The author of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” was also an Oxford University professor specializing in languages like Old Norse and Old English.

“Beowulf” was an early love, and a kind of Rosetta Stone to his creative work. His study of the poem, which he called “this greatest of the surviving works of ancient English poetic art,” informed his thinking about myth and language.

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Veronica Roth: About the End of Allegiant (SPOILERS)

allegiant-book-cover-high-resSo, I am back from tour….

All week, people who had read Allegiant were asking me the same question, and people on the Internet were asking, too. I answered it very briefly in a spoilery MTV interview that went up today, but I wanted to post a longer answer that goes a little deeper for those of you who are interested. I’m trying to be very careful about marking spoilers, so hopefully all this works

Is It Harder to Write About Happiness Than Its Opposite?

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Leslie Jamison and Adam Kirsch discuss the difficulties in writing about happiness.

Outrage Porn and the Christian Reader

FileItem-210937-outrageOutrage sells. It’s plain as day. If eyeballs on articles are the currency of new media, there are few things that attract those eyeballs more effectively than outrage. In the wider cultural context of new media there is always lots to work with: Alec Baldwin’s homophobia, Steve Martin’s racism, Patton Oswalt’s insensitivity. It goes on and on. There is always someone saying something dumb or unwise, and new media’s response is immediate, fiery indignation.

Has failure become a virtue?

tumblr_n081pkNxNB1r0ue2zo1_400“Christian, you cannot obey the Law. Your certain failure is a means to show forth the grace of God when you repent.”
 “We don’t need more lists of how to be a better spouse/parent/Christian. We need more grace.”
 “My life strategy for today: fail, repent, repeat.”
The End of The Clone Wars
Here are a Couple of great articles talking about different aspects of The Clone Wars series.

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Infographic: How Many Calories Are In A Drink From Starbucks

To encourage people to make healthier drink choices, Seattle-based Japanese coffee lover Ryoko Itawa of I Love Coffee created a revealing infographic.

Titled ‘How many calories are in a drink from Starbucks’, the infographic points out the calories in popular Starbucks drinks and equates it to various junk food.

According to infographic, a Grande Green Tea Latte has 350 calories, which is equivalent to a medium packet of fries from McDonalds, while a Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino has 500 calories, which amounts to 120 Skittles.

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Why C.S. Lewis Never Goes Out of Style:

IMG_0145Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.

On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.

16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year:

91o13sPo7VLEvery year there are more and more movies based on books being released. Here are 16 books that have been turned into films that you should read, the books are always better than the movie.

Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck:

game-of-thrones-posterI grew up in a fundamentalist environment. The church I was baptized in believed it was inappropriate for Christians to go to a movie theater. To this day, my grandparents maintain this standard as a bulwark against worldliness.

The library at my Christian school had a variety of books for children, sanitized for Christian consumption. Encyclopedia Brown made the cut, but all the “goshes” and “gee whizzes” were marked out with a heavy black pen. No second-hand cursing allowed.

Strength = Good, Weakness = Bad:

1122777918_the_dramatic_decline_of_the_modern_man_460x307_xlargeI like to be strong. At least I like to appear strong. You do too, I think. Most of us value strength and look down on weakness. We honor those who have their lives together and regard with suspicion those who do not.

Strength = good, weakness = bad. That is our functional formula. But it is not the Lord’s. 2 Corinthians 12 says it very differently: “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you,” said the Lord, “ ‘for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

6 Deadly Enemies of Marriage:

religion-300x336Marriage is under attack. Marriage has always been under attack. The world, the flesh and the devil are all adamantly opposed to marriage, and especially to marriages that are distinctly Christian. Marriage, after all, is given by God to strengthen his people and to glorify himself; little wonder, then, that it is constantly a great battleground.

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In Defense of Katniss Everdeen:

risa-rodils-catching-fireCatching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, has set theater records, and like its predecessor, it’s an impressive, gritty film. Suzanne Collins wrote a gripping series of young-adult novels, and the film adaptations have been well cast and well directed, especially the choice of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film’s star and protagonist. Lawrence manages to easily embody both Katniss’s tenacity and also her youthful ignorance at the high-stakes politics of her situation.

Why Harry Potter is Great Literature:

harry-potter-series-books-7I enjoy spending time with people who appreciate great literature. The number of my friends who are intimate with Dante or Tolkien or Austen is, as Oscar Wilde would say with a wink, “considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.” My book-loving church regularly ships in world-class English professors to give lectures and field the usual round of questions about Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Aragorn and Faramir.

And I’ve noticed that in these circles, it’s often a faux pas to admit that I, like nearly every other Millennial in America, own extremely well-loved copies of all seven Harry Potter books. And I would lose all credibility with many of these people if I suggested offhand that I think the Potter books are in the tradition of the great English novels, deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence, and are easily the most morally and socially insightful works of fantasy published in this generation.

The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men:

10298738-silhouette-of-a-man-on-a-mountainSo not every guy proposes with lip syncingrolling cameras, and a choreographed entourage.

Yeah —  so what if  your Dad didn’t?

He just pulled that beat-up Volkswagon Rabbit of his over in front of Murray Reesor’s hundred acre farm right there where Grey Township meets Elma Township, pulled out a little red velvet box, and whispered it in the snowy dark: “Marry me?”

How Doctor Who Survived 50 Years:

Untitled-1When it started in 1963, Doctor Who should not have succeeded. A committee created it, to fill a time slot. It had a small budget. The BBC intended for it to be a children’s educational show focusing on science and history. Oh, and it debuted the night after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

And yet it worked, as seen in the incredible hype preceding Saturday’s 50th anniversary special—an extra-long, star-filled special called “The Day of the Doctor.”

Gospel-Centered Sex?

I recently read an article from a prominent blogger on the subject of the new “gospel-centered” emphasis in books. He commented on various books that applied the gospel to every area of life from the ivory towers of theology, to the mom caught up in the chaos of home and family. One quote at the end of his blog got me thinking: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.”

How to Raise a Pagan Kid in a Christian Home:

Every Imperfect and Normal Family wants their kids to turn out right. So, we establish goals for character development and try to create an environment where our kids can mature. Church, school, sports teams, family relationships… each of these provides a context where our kids can learn to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too many times, (Christian) parents have it as their goal to make their kids good and moral. It is as if the entire purpose of their family’s spiritual life is to shape their children into law-abiding citizens who stay out of trouble. The only problem with this goal is that it runs in stark contrast to what the Bible teaches. The gospel is not about making bad people moral, but about making dead people alive. If we teach morality without the transforming power of the gospel and the necessity of a life fully surrendered to God’s will, then we are raising moral pagans.

Stopping An Affair Before It Begins:

At one time or another, most of us witnessed the devastation that comes through infidelity in marriage. We have seen marriages stretched almost to the breaking point and we have seen marriages destroyed by an unfaithful husband or unfaithful wife.

Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is simply one step in a long chain of events, one decision in a long series of poor decisions.

J.J. Abrams at TED in 2007: The Mystery Box

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The Gospel Brings Freedom to Truly Love:

What is love? In short, love is joyfully and willfully sacrificing yourself in the service of others for the purpose of seeing them blessed. This is what we see in the gospel and this is what Christians endeavor to do as we respond to the gospel. The Gospel is the most heart-melting and liberating truth. It models and motivates true love.

What TV Teaches Us About Abortion:

264a3cda-1e13-492f-9540-609c51efa45aEarlier this month, NBC did something rare. In fact, it’s happened on average only once every two and a half years years since 1972. The network (spoiler alert) included an abortion plotline in a recent episode of its Tuesday night drama Parenthood. When high school sweethearts Amy and Drew discover she is pregnant, Drew wants to keep the baby, but Amy insists on having an abortion. Without counsel from their parents, they navigate the complicated and clearly heartbreaking process. Hailed as “brave” and “refreshing” by abortion advocates, the plot struck right-to-life groups as yet one more attempt by Hollywood to push a pro-choice agenda.

Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy on ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Lincoln’ and Secret J.J. Abrams Meetings (Exclusive)

kathleen_kennedy_cover_a_pIn November, a journalist asked J.J. Abrams what seemed like an obvious question: Was he interested in directing the next Star Wars movie? Disney had just paid a whopping $4.05 billion to acquireGeorge Lucas‘ iconic Lucasfilm and had stated its intention to turn out new Star Wars films every two to three years beginning in 2015. The prolific Abrams, who had sparked the flagging Star Trek series in 2009, seemed a natural fit. But he quickly shot the idea down. While Star Wars was “the first movie that blew my mind in that way,” he said then, he wanted to focus on original material.

Awakening to Every Pleasure:

It may be the most common feature of the bestselling Christian books. “We all want to be great for God and do things that would be impossible without his presence and help. So live a life that’sGreater.” “You are living a life of comfort, ease and complacency, so step out and do somethingRadical.” “Your life is just passing you by as you sit on the sidelines, so God is calling you to be a follower, Not a Fan.” “You want more Jesus and are bored with what Christianity offers you. You need to rediscover God’s Crazy Love.” It goes on nearly ad infinitum. Some are awful, some are brilliant, but the theme is largely the same: There must be more to life than this! Please tell me there is more to life than this!

9 WAYS TO FIGHT THE TEMPTATION OF PORNOGRAPHY:

In an earlier post I wrote, “7 Negative Effects of Porn,” I focused on the harmful psychological and sociological effects of pornography. This post will focus on a biblical and grace-centered way to resist the temptation to view porn. This post is primarily aimed at men, but I hope that there is some help here for the growing number of women who are addicted to porn and I hope that more Christian women will write on this hidden issue.

Never Say Yes to a Nightcap:

whiskey_glass_250The vicious cycle of the nightcap begins innocently. Jane has a snifter of cognac, to clear her head, to ease her to sleep. Why not? It’s something civilized people do. So she does, and she slides into sleep a little more smoothly.

But it’s slightly less revitalizing than the sleep of sobriety. She doesn’t hit the same cycles. The next day she is ever-so-slightly anxious, on edge. She yells at a co-worker. Jane never yells.

Abrams brings fandom, secrecy to ‘Star Wars’ universe:

Sorry, Darth Vader. J.J. Abrams is now the face of the Star Wars empire.

The Force gained a new creative leader, Trekkies lost one and Abrams expands his own sci-fi pop-culture résumé as the director of Star Wars: Episode VII, tentatively arriving in theaters like a massive Imperial Star Destroyer in 2015.

Q&A: Why Would Patrick ‘McDreamy’ Dempsey Buy a Seattle-Based Coffee Chain?

5d4a125a-04b4-41ac-bb22-0eb8d4f5daffPatrick Dempsey’s doing just fine without having to pull a West Coast coffee chain from the brink of extinction. Besides being one of Hollywood’s most seasoned lady killers, he’s still making a fine living for himself as McDreamy on the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” now in its ninth season. But Dempsey’s not satisfied merely acting. That’s why Global Baristas, LLC — an investor group led by Dempsey — surprised observers by outbidding Starbucks in early January to purchase Tully’s, a small, bankrupt, Seattle-based coffee chain. As a result, when Dempsey’s not filming, he’s likely meeting baristas, visiting cafes, and drinking way too much coffee. In between, he had a few minutes to chat about his latest venture.

Disney’s Beautiful short film: Paperman

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Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty‘s Torture Controversy:

zero-dark-thirty-posterPersonally, I’ve never had the federal government wage a highly visible veracity-campaign that led to an official Senate Intelligence Committee review into the CIA’s factual sourcing of my movie — but I can imagine it’s pretty uncomfortable! So hats off to Kathryn Bigelow for the smoothness with which she’s handled the debate over Zero Dark Thirty’s torture scenes: Whether it’s been on late-night TV or at critics’ awards, she’s managed to calmly reiterate her quite-convincing message that “depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices.” In other words: Come on, dudes, you all know some torture went down on the hunt for Bin Laden, and that’s why it’s in ZDT. I’m not saying it was awesome. I’m just saying it happened. (Special Bonus Hats Off to Bigelow for cooly dealing with this whole HUAC situation while also shrugging off her Oscar snub). Now — whether because she felt the conversation just wasn’t going away, or whether she just felt now was the right time to do so — Bigelow has weighed in more expansively, with a piece in the L.A. Times.

Pain of the New:

2012TheHobbit01PR200912New media technologies often cause an allergic reaction when they first appear. We may find them painful before we find them indispensable.

I watched the movie The Hobbit. Twice. First I saw it in its “standard” mode. A day later I returned to see The Hobbit in 3D at a high frame rate of 48 frames per second, called HFR. HFR is a cinematic hi-tech that promises greater realism. It was amazingly real. And disturbing at first.

Because 48 frames per second is just above the threshold that a human eye/brain can detect changes, the projected picture seems startling whole and “smooth,” as if it were uninterrupted reality.

3 Ways to Live With Joy:

Last week I was captivated by a sunrise. I am one of those people who is “early to bed, early to rise” and have watched many sunrises. I love the dawning of a new day because every day is so full of promise and possibility. Every sunrise lays a new day before us and asks, “What will you do with this day? What will this day be?”

Men Like to Look At Naked Girls On The Internet. Here’s Why They Should Stop That.

I had a bit of a personal crisis when I saw this link from The Huffington Post titled, “Research Suggests that All Men Watch Pornography.” My first thought was that they could not have possibly talked to all men. I know this, because I do not watch pornography. This made me suspicious that the link was tied to a pornographic Web site designed to trick me, the last man standing, into accidentally seeing pornography in order to validate their research. (Or, more disturbingly, it could be that I am not actually a man because I do not watch pornography.)

 

Peanuts to make you laugh

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