Tag Archives: Christianity

Christmas Matters

42a57c77-a432-4773-8e2f-9292ffcad870Advent is an interesting time of the year as a Christian. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the tinsel trinkets and festive facade of the season, lights, trees, presents and parties all vie for our attention but the original Christmas was quite different. I wrote this a few years ago and it’s been coming to mind all over again…

With these thoughts in mind, I’ve been traveling back to the first Christmas in the Gospels. What I have been struck by is how unfettered they are by the false facade we have built around this holiday. Think about it. A wearly couple arrives in a backwater Judean town on it’s busiest night in years. The census has created a metropolis out of this one-stop-light village. The sound of full inns and family homes bursting at the seams with noisy relatives spills out into the dusty streets as the couple look for any place to stay.

The unwed mother’s delivery is imminent as her frantic betrothed looks for any place he can find for her to rest and bring his adopted son into the world. They are alone; this might be their ancestral village, but there is no family left here to call on. The betrothed finally finds a place, its a stable. There is nothing cute or clean about this place. This is no Disney-ized version of a barnyard; it is smelly and dirty as animals wander in and out of the stable. The teenage mother is about to give birth and her betrothed must help. There is not midwife tonight and he will see things that most Jewish men of his time would not, the birth of his child. There is no glamor or calm, only the screams of a mother, ready to have her child out of her. She’s in pain and there are no drugs to help her and straw is only so comfortable to lay on.

It’s over, the baby is here and yes he’s screaming. The sound of his cries mingles with that of the animals as well as the city. The world is unaware of what just happened. The Word became flesh. To anyone that night, it was unremarkable, no one cared. The mother wraps her child in cloth against the night and the betrothed leans back in the straw, exhausted.

There are no carols or lights, no trees or parties, the Savior comes into the world and no one knows. That is at least until angels appear to social outcasts on the fringes of town and declare that the Savior, which is Christ the Lord has been born. The mother and her betrothed, so alone this night must have been shocked as these men came into the stable to worship their child. From the beginning, the Savior was healing the marginalized and reaching out to the broken. These miscreants were the first evangelists; heralding through the streets that night, to anyone that would listen, that the world was forever changed because of a baby born that night.

This year, the church that I’ve been attending with my wife has been going through the 5th chapter of Romans for advent and it’s been a blessing to be reminded how much Christmas truly matters. It’s easy to get lost in the fairy tale nature of the Christmas story but when you pair that with the culmination of the cross and resurrection as Paul lays it out in Romans, the majesty of Christmas comes to life all over again.

jesus-resurrection-walking-out-of-tomb-900Death in Adam, Life in Christ Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

Christmas is not about the fantasy that it’s been made, it’s about the reality of God, reaching down to man and creating the way that we could be made whole again. Talk about Joy to the World!

Life Matters

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Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

What we are seeing is about the systematic disrespect of life. The moment you can dehumanize a baby in the womb or a creed or race or a profession you loose the respect for life. Respect for life can only come from the belief that all lives are crafted and created by God, made in his image and therefore have supreme value. Without this as the foundation, life is cheap, meaningless and utterly devoid of meaning. All lives matter to God and therefore all lives matter to me.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

Let us come together, anger, hate, fear only lead to more of the same, so let us live by the words of Christ, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 ESV).

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I highly encourage the reading of Tim Keller’s book, Generous Justice. The best book I have ever read on social justice.

Help for the Helpless

unborn-baby-imageThe single greatest travesty of our time is that people think there is something more important than protecting the most helpless among us, the unborn. If you do not star there, you cannot say you respect life. All life has to be respected from beginning to end. If someone is willing to sacrifice the most helpless among us on the alter of convenience, what else will they be able to sacrifice. David in Psalms reminds us why we protect the unborn, because it is not some parasite or collection of cells it is God own creation,

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

And we reflect His image.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:26 ESV)

How you deal with the most helpless among us shows where your character lies and what your moral standard is built on. Ours is build on the author of all creation. Jesus calls us to take care of the needy,

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)

There is none that is more in need than the unborn. Now this means we, the family of God, have a responsibility to care for the mothers who find themselves in this position. We need to be the ones they know they can run to for help because our arms are open to all that are in need. Love has to be our heart and what guides our actions. We should not be judging them but loving them, they need someone to walk beside them and help them make the most difficult decisions of their life knowing that they will be supported throughout the entire pregnancy as well as in raising their child if they decide to not give it up for adoption.

Christ’s words also call us to care for those in need, whoever they are. We are called to generosity and open arms. We must care for people from birth to death, physically, mentally, spiritually, in a word, holistically.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 ESV)

Here is our call believers, here is our mission, to support those in need from the unborn to the elderly and everyone in between. Forgive me Lord for failing at this for so long and give me the strength to take up the work you’ve left for us to do. Fight the good fight, run the race remembering,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)

Lions, Babies and Death; Oh My

Michelangelo-Creation-of-Adam-hand

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

From the beginning of time, we have been charged with caring for the earth, its plants and creatures and filling it with descendants that can carry on that mandate. Our goal is to be God’s representation on earth and govern well the gift we have been given. We are to treat with respect, this planet and it’s inhabitants in our care. To do that we are called to raise families, have children that will take up that mantle and carry forth the mission.

cecil_the_lionMuch has been made in the last few days about a man who hunted a lion in Africa. I have no problems with hunting if the end result is someone is going to eat the meat that animal provided with it’s death, but I would argue that killing for sport goes against our second mandate from God, to have dominion over the earth and care for it as God would. So it is tragic when an animal dies but for no other reason than to prove a man with a firearm can kill a defenseless animal.

One does not have to look hard to see that before the command to take care of the earth and it’s myriad of creatures and plants, there is something else, something paramount to allowing the completion of the second: humans are to be fruitful and multiply (that’s Biblical poetic language for have sex and babies).

plannedparenthood3Longer than the story of the lion, there has been something else lurking in the news shadows, videos of Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the sale of aborted baby parts. The very idea seems like something out of a Nazi-infused nightmare. It should come as no surprise. To make palatable the wholesale murder of innocent human life we have conveniently devalued it by calling it a fetus and “questioning” whether it is really human or proto-human or just some kind of parasite that may become a human. The argument has been leveled that science has not determined when life truly begins, therefore it is acceptable to take the life of a fetus within a certain time frame. But is this how we define life or humanhood?

There is no scientific reason for defining life by existential means such as an organisms ability to survive. Speaking scientifically, biological history is riddled with organisms that weren’t able to survive. It did not define whether they were alive in the first place, only whether they’d continue living. As for a scientific argument we might look at verifiable evidence rather than a philosophical conjecture that is not falsifiable. A fetus contains DNA. A full grown adult also contains DNA. The DNA code that determines exactly what species, deficiencies, or anomalies an organism will be and have never changes. So, speaking scientifically, there is no demonstrable difference between an organism as a fetus and the same organism full grown other than replication of the genetic code stimulating the growth and development of the organism. So I’m afraid your definition of life is not a scientific one, but a philosophical one that rests squarely on existentialism. Neither verifiable nor falsifiable. – Steven Nelms

The road here is full of danger. If the argument of humanity is based on anything other than the DNA of science, it becomes too easy to begin rationalizing, as Peter Singer has, the death of a child up to two years old or euthanasia. The slope here is more that slippery, it is a black hole and moral abyss the likes that have been seen before. It is no different than the treatment of anyone the Nazis found lacking, they changed their name, devalued them and made it acceptable to treat them as nothing more than animals or worse. And let’s be honest here, this same attitude that use to be applied to African-American slaves so as to morally legitimize their treatment as mere cattle or in many cases worse.

Can we not see that our lack of historical understanding has lead us to the greatest crime perpetrated by humanity on itself? How often we become our own worst enemy.

Houston-1Is it not our duty then as human beings then to err on the side of life? If the DNA is the same and science has proved that, does not science cry out that it is always a human, from conception, nothing more, nothing less? On top of that science is medical science that is allowing babies as young as 20 weeks to survive outside the womb and fetal surgeons to repair defects in babies in as young as 18 weeks. The contradiction is astounding, Why would it matter if this is not a human? Science is proving the point for us, from conception it is a human and therefore deserves out respect and care.

We should be outraged when life is lost because of deliberate death, all deliberate death of innocent beings. The lion was as helpless as the baby, each one is at the mercy of someone else to protect it. What is unimaginable is that the violent reaction from the world has not been for the death, dismemberment and sale of human babies, but instead a lion. I mourn the death of one of God’s creatures because of “sport” but my heart bleeds for the 125,000 abortions per day around the world. And unfortunately you will see no pictures on celebrities Instagrams of babies or aborted babies, but you will see a lion. The most helpless among us and we do nothing to protect them, what does that say about us?

Our call, from the very beginning of time has been to have children and raise them up in the way they should go so that when it is their turn they can care for the incredible planet God has given us. We’re failing at both.

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Inside Out – Review

inside-out-5492d0c4e3912There are times when a movie comes along and grabs you right away, and in less than five minutes you find moisture welling up at the side of your eyes. Pixar seems to understand this effect well. They did it with the movie Up and have found a way to improve upon it with their latest masterpiece, Inside Out. The film follows Riley Anderson and her emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust as the Anderson family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco. As Riley tries to acclimate to her new surroundings, her emotions try to keep up with the new experiences as well as the general task of growing up. What follows is one of the best and most poignant films ever made about growing up.

The Problem of Evil 

One of the most surprising themes of the movie is how sadness, disappointment and bad things actually have their place in our lives. Riley’s emotions are lead by their fearless leader Joy, who is the true operator in this young girl’s life. Oh Fear, Anger and Disgust have their place, but it is Joy that they all look to. Joy is so much at the forefront that Sadness often feels left out, unimportant and seen as a nuisance to the other emotions. It is here that the themes blossom. So much of our lives are driven by the desire to avoid sadness and experience nothing but happiness and joy. We don’t see the use of sadness, disappointment or heartbreak, doing all we can to minimize them. This is played to perfection in the movie as Joy constantly tries to do exactly that, basically putting Sadness in the corner to keep her from messing everything up.

The situation escalates as Sadness and Joy find themselves lost in long-term memory with Riley’s core memories, the ones that make up who she is. As they journey back to the control center they learn the importance of Sadness to Riley’s existence. The revelation is truly the best explanation for the problem of pain that I’ve ever seen. Joy learns how it is Sadness that leads to the fullest extent of joy in a persons life. It is only when we have known deep despair or troubles that joy can be felt to the maximum. As Charles Kingsley said, “Pain is no evil, unless it conquers us.” Pain often brings us closer to others, as it does for Riley and her parents, and is often God’s way of drawing us closer to his side. So much of the time happiness allows us to think that we do not really need God, but it’s through suffering that we realize how helpless we truly are. Psalms reminds us, The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Inside Out powerfully and emotionally helps illuminate for everyone the ways in which the worst things in our lives can actually become the best, sadness and joy going hand in hand. It’s here that complex emotions are born; things are never simple but a jumble of joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust.

Conclusion

Pixar continues to create brilliant original movies. Inside Out may be their best work because it’s not only good for children but adults and everyone in between. It’s a movie that will have you tearing up the whole time as you remember those moments that defined your life and changed the way you viewed the world. With themes that resonate like this, let’s hope that Pixar continues to pursue original works. Go see this film, it’s a five out of five emotions.

The Passion of Doctrine

I have been slowly reading though Dorothy Sayers work, Letters to a Diminished Church. Her very first chapter is about the drama of the incarnation of Christ and what sets it apart in human history. It felt like the right time to share it, just a few days before Easter, to meditate on what it is that we celebrate and just how incredible it is. I love the way she brings to life the doctrine to life.

nativity“The Church’s answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: that Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”— he was God.

“Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and though it well worthwhile.”

“Christianity is, of course, not the only religion that has found the best explanation of human life in the idea of an incarnate and suffering god. The Egyptian Osiris died and rose again; Aeschylus in his play, The Eumenides, reconciled man to God by the theory of a suffering Zeus. But in most theologies, the god is supposed to have suffered and died in some remote and mythical period of prehistory. The Christian story, on the other hand, starts off briskly in St. Matthew’s account with a place and date: “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King.” St. Luke, still more practically and prosaically, pins the thing down by a reference to a piece of government finance. God, he says, was made man in the year when Caesar Augustus was taking a census in connection with a scheme of taxation. Similarly, we might date an event by saying that it took place in the year that Great Britain went off the gold standard. About thirty-three years later (we are informed), God was executed, for being a political nuisance, “under Pontius Pilate”—much as we might say, “when Mr. Johnson-Hicks was Home Secretary.” It is as definite and concrete as all that.”

“Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously— there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of divine character walking and talking among us—and what did we find to do with him? The common people, indeed, “heard him gladly”; but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of his friends to hand him over quietly to the police, and we tried him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, “thanking God we were rid of a knave.” All this was not very creditable to us, even if he was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless, crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about him, it was more discreditable still, for the man we hanged was God Almighty.”

“So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull— this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.”scandal-of-the-cross

“If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore—on the contrary, they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggests a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach- and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had “a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.”

“And the third day he rose again.” What are we to make of this? One thing is certain: if he were God and nothing else, his immortality means nothing to us; if he was man and no more, his death is no more important than yours or mine. But if he really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too; and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person. The Church binds us to no theory about the exact composition of Christ’s Resurrection Body. A body of some kind there had to be since man cannot perceive the Infinite otherwise than in terms of space and time. It may have been made from the same elements as the body that disappeared so strangely from the guarded tomb, but it was not that old, limited mortal body, though it was recognizably like it. In any case, those who saw the risen Christ remained persuaded that life was worth living and death a triviality—and attitude curiously unlike that of the modern defeatist, who is firmly persuaded that life is a disaster and death (rather inconsistently) a major catastrophe.”

“Now, nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. God (says the Church) has created us perfectly free to disbelieve in him as much as we choose. If we do disbelieve, then he and we must take the consequences in a world ruled by cause and effect. The Church says further that man did, in fact, disbelieve, and that God did, in fact, take the consequences. All the same, if we are going to disbelieve a thing, it seems on the whole to be desirable that we should first find out what, exactly, we are disbelieving. Very well, then: “The right Faith is, that we believe that Jesus Christ is God and man, Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Who although he be God and man yet is he not two, but one Christ.” There is the essential doctrine, of which the whole elaborate structure of Christian faith and morals is only the logical consequence.”

“Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that at least once in the world’s history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the Resurrection.”*empty_tomb11

*From pages 2-7 of Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers.

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Owl Post 2-17-12

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The Parenthood Finale

enhanced-30806-1399677093-5It’s a show that has touched my heart and proved that Americans still have an affinity for family values, morality and doing the right thing even when it’s hard.

You won’t see many shows or movies these days that tackle the realities of family life in the gritty, authentic way that “Parenthood” does. For the past six seasons, the Braverman family of “Parenthood” has faced a variety of hardships that require compromise, forgiveness and unconditional love.

Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods

Creation-hands-LR. C. Sproul, who drafted the original Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, once said, “When people ask me how old the earth is, I tell them I don’t know—because I don’t.”

Contrary to what is often implied or claimed by young-earth creationists, the Bible nowhere directly teaches the age of the earth.

Rather, it is a deduction from a combination of beliefs, such as (1) Genesis 1:1 is not the actual act of creation but rather a summary of or title over Genesis 1:2-2:3; (2) the creation week of Genesis 1:2-2:3 is referring to the act of creation itself; (3) each “day” (Heb. yom) of the creation week is referring to an 24-hour period of time (reinforced by the statement in Exodus 20:11); (4) an old-earth geology would necessarily entail macroevolution, hominids, and animal death before the Fall—each of which contradicts what Scripture tells us; and (5) the approximate age of the earth can be reconstructed backward from the genealogical time-markers in Genesis.

George Lucas Rips Hollywood, ‘Stupid’ Cat Videos at Sundance

LUCASFILM-01George Lucas offered a bleak assessment of the current state of the film business during a panel discussion with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, saying that the movies are “more and more circus without any substance behind it.”

However, the “Star Wars” director hit back at critics who said his role in kicking off the blockbuster film business has watered down cinematic storytelling.

‘American Sniper’ exemplifies a new kind of war film: The professional procedural

american-sniper-poster‘American Sniper’ exemplifies a new kind of war film: The professional proceduralThere’s no doubt that “American Sniper” is a big hit with the red-state constituencies from which Kyle and many of his fellow service members hail. But the movie — a well-acted, absorbing portrait of Kyle in action during the Iraq war and coping with trauma and dislocation when he returns home — has been a hit with viewers of all philosophical stripes. It may be the first — and last — movie to earn Twitter love from Sarah Palin and Jane Fonda.

The Complete Works: Ranking All 121 Billy Joel Songs

Billy Joel and Elton John in ConcertBilly Joel is the closest thing Madison Square Garden has to a sure thing — certainly more than the Knicks or the Rangers or the Liberty. It’s been 21 years since Joel released a new pop album, yet he sold out the arena 12 times in 2014 alone, and he’ll play his second (also sold-out) show of 2015 tonight. He has established a standing residency there, like a guy who plays a monthly nightclub gig, except that the club happens to seat 18,000.

Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart

PadmegreenscrshotThere’s something you missed.

I find it odd that one of the most pivotal and mysterious moments in the Star Wars saga is discussed infrequently, and when it is the case is closed. Some time between 2005 and now the greater part of people who’ve watched this movie have all come to the same conclusion, and all that is debated is if they like this course of events or not.

Of course, I’m talking about the end of Revenge of the Sith, one of my all-time favorite films. I haven’t been counting, but I’ve seen this movie 500 times, and I’m still finding new things to consider. The final hour of this movie is densely packed with information, but it doesn’t hold your hand. Where a lesser film would have wrapped thing up with an expositive voiceover, Revenge of the Sith demands that the viewer watches how things unfold, and then asks the viewer to put the pieces together themselves. Unfortunately, not everyone has put them together the proper way, and that leads to a lot of differing conclusions regarding the anticlimax of the movie.

The Catholic Writer Today

old-booksFor years I’ve pondered a cultural and social paradox that diminishes the vitality and diversity of the American arts. This cultural conundrum also reveals the intellectual retreat and creative inertia of American religious life. Stated simply, the paradox is that, although Roman Catholicism constitutes the largest religious and cultural group in the United States, Catholicism currently enjoys almost no positive presence in the American fine arts—not in literature, music, sculpture, or painting. This situation not only represents a demographic paradox. It also marks a major historical change—an impoverishment, indeed even a disfigurement—for Catholicism, which has for two millennia played a hugely formative and inspirational role in the arts.