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Archive for October, 2016


The season premier of The Walking Dead was both anticipated and dreaded. Fans want to know, and not know, who was beaten by new arch-villain Negan. It was a more difficult episode than any fans would have imagined. Not one, but two, familiar characters were killed by Negan. I was okay with Abraham leaving the show since I really didn’t like him. But Glen was a fan favorite as a former pizza delivery guy who grew up into an adult as the show progressed. He was the last main character to kill a person. He had character and compassion. And we weren’t sure if he’d died in a previous cliff hanger.

It was an utterly brutal episode that really pushed the boundaries even for fans. Some people thought they’d gone too far. Some Christians denounced the show as glorifying violence and depravity.

The second episode focused on Morgan and Carol who were separated from the main group and ran into a different community. This episode was full of light (mostly daytime scenes). Where the first was full of despair, it was full of hope. As we realized that King Ezekiel wasn’t as really odd we we thought, we learned that perhaps he could help heal Carol’s wounded soul, just as he protected the people under his care. Like Alexandria, “the Kingdom” is a vassal community to Negan’s ironically named Saviors.

What is going on here?

Great story-telling is going on here.

The first episode was designed to provoke in you the same response experienced by Rick. They wanted you to experience disgust, fear, despair. They wanted you to feel beaten by evil, personified in Negan. It is not the glorification of violence, but the revelation of evil. Negan enslaves people. They are fodder to him, a mere means to an end which his his prosperity and survival. He is the Great Enemy that must be overcome. There can be no peace with Negan and the Saviors. They need deliverance from them! Rick’s approach didn’t work. It looked like it did, but they ended meeting the immovable object and paid a heavy price. Two friends are dead, another enslaved and the rest now “working” for the Man.

In King Ezekiel there is hope. His approach to the Saviors looks like compliance, but you suspect there is more going on than meets the eye. He is a caretaker, not a predator like Negan. He wants the Morgan to defended Carol against the Saviors to be influential. He wants Carol to “go but not go” because like him, she can understand people. Eventually these three will be pivotal in setting Alexandria, and everyone else, free from the demonic Negan.

Story-telling.

They must reveal the deadly that Negan presents. It was graphic, but that is nothing new. But his motive is what is so shocking. It is a series of gut punches, like Rick “felt” while being brought into submission. Seeing the face of evil is meant to frighten us. It is the darkness that reveals the splendor of goodness and grace.

Christianity and faith have played a role in The Walking Dead in the past with characters like Hershel. The show has always been about trying to hang on to one’s humanity when everyone around you is going all Lord of the Flies. I suppose you can condemn me, but this is why I watch. I also understand why many choose not to.

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Last night I spent the two and a half hours watching The Revenant. It was a bit plodding, and at times it was clearly brutal, and confusing. It was also oddly theological.

It begins with an attack on a trapping party in a northern wilderness in the 1820’s. You aren’t sure why they are being attacked, but as the story unfolds, it seems to be connected with a missing young Souix woman. Or that could be a different tribe of Native Americans that comes along. Hence my on-going confusion. Little did I realize that this search for Powaqa was so central to the story line as Glass keeps coming close to being killed by this driven group of men.

Glass was a tracker and woodsman with a Native American son. He was the guide for the (illegal?) trapping party which seeks to make its way back to their fort after the attack.  It is along the way that Glass encounters an angry momma bear who mauls him horribly.

This is the other key event of the movie. Captain Henry, who values Glass, returns to the fort while leaving the nearly dead Glass in the care of 3 other party members, including Glass’s teenage son. Fitzgerald is a man who fears death, and the Native Americans who he believes are on their trail. Unable to move under his own power, Glass is slowing them down. He wants to abandon Glass and digs a grave. Glass’s son refuses to leave his father. Glass is able to watch but unable to stop as Fitzgerald kills his son, buries Glass alive and leaves. He deceives the other young man who didn’t witness all of this.

Glass pulls himself out of the grave, driven by his thirst for vengeance. Ans so he crawls toward the fort using only his arms through the frozen wilderness. Eventually he is able to walk and continues his trek despite only having a canteen and the bear skin. He faces the threats of cold, animals and the party searching for Pawaqa.

Amazingly he avoids death and comes across a young Pawnee man eating raw buffalo meat. He receives mercy from this man whose tribe was killed by the Souix. He is moving south to find more Pawnee. The subject of revenge comes up, as you imagine it might from a man who is only alive to gain revenge. “Revenge is the Creator’s.” I’m not sure from whence his notion came, but it is an echo of Romans 12.

19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

The two men travel together as the Pawnee cares for the still healing Glass. That is until he stumbles upon a French group who kill him while Glass sleeps during a storm. Glass discovers these Frenchmen have a young Native American woman. He decides to assist her while she is being raped (yet again). While they are distracted by Glass who takes the Pawnee’s horse to escape, Pawaqa is able to escape. In the distance Glass hears the battle as the Souix gain their vengeance on the Frenchmen who abducted Pawaqa. Glass, however, had left his distinctive canteen behind.

The lone remaining Frenchman has this canteen when he stumbles into the fort. This prompts Captain Henry to gather a search party to find his friend. While he is gone, Fitzgerald steals the Captain’s money and literally heads to the hills. After discovering this, Henry and Glass pursue Fitzgerald into the mountains.

It is as Glass is on the brink of gaining his revenge that two things happen. First, he sees the Souix hunting party. Second, he remembered that “Revenge is God’s.” He pushes Fitzgerald into the water and the current takes him to the Souix who kill him.  As the Souix ride by Glass, you see Pawaqa which explains why Glass is the only white man they don’t kill.

What it was over I thought “God must be a group of angry Souix”.

As I thought more, I was reminded that God often used “the nations” to bring judgment on His people. He used the Assyrians to judge the northern kingdom. It was equally ungodly Babylon who was used to judge Judah.

In Romans 13 (don’t forget, the chapter divisions are note original) we see that the State bears the power of the sword to bring His vengeance upon the wicked.

In The Revenant we see this Souix hunting or war party as the instrument of vengeance upon a variety of wrong-doers. While uncertain about the original battle, clearly the Frenchmen (murders, woman-stealers and rapists) and Fitzgerald (murder, betrayal and deceit).

24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 1 Timothy 5

Sometimes what seems like chance or coincidence is God working to bring the truth to light, to bring people to judgment. C.S. Lewis notes that “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Perhaps The Revenant is more than vaguely theological, but theologically driven. For eyes that see it is, as God works through this series of coincidences to bring a number of wicked men to judgment. This judgment was not “traditional”, but in disputed territory it can come in unexpected ways. And when the legal authority is part of the problem it may come in unexpected ways.

In the words of Steve Brown, “you think about that.”

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In light of our denomination’s study committee on women in the church, our Session decided to study the question as well so that we are better able to understand and express our convictions, and evaluate the work of the denominational committee when it is revealed.

We noted the wisdom of Zach Eswine, from his lectures to presbytery, in bringing the along as we go instead of dumping our conclusions on them all at once. So, the fruit of our labor will be released periodically for our members to consider so they can wrestle along with us.

 

Study Committee on Women Approved by Richard Doster (ByFaith Magazine, 53, p. 14-15.)

We noted that this overture (request) came from the Administrative Committee, not from a presbytery via overture. In the past there have been attempts by presbyteries to have a study committee. It is likely, due to the disparity and diversity of practices within the PCA, the peace of the church becomes an issue due to disagreement. This is evident when one looks at the blogs of some PCA pastors.

The motion focuses on the issues of ordination and deacons. If warranted, they may recommend changes to the BCO. They may close some of the loop holes utilized by some congregations in the PCA, for example the commissioning of deacons. The discussion on the floor of GA, however, focused on other issues. Perhaps boundaries need to be established on these secondary issues with freedom granted for differing practices within those boundaries.

We then turned our attention to the lengthy report from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the 1980’s.

Report of the Committee on Women in Church Office (OPC)

1984- Hermeneutical Issues

1985- Exegetical Issues

1986- Women and the Office of Deacons

1987- Re-writing the whole report

 

Foundational Considerations

“In considering the question of women in office we need to be especially careful not to yield to the Zeitgeist of either feminism or male chauvinism which dominate our humanistic age.” (OPC, pp. 3)

If you are a chauvinist, it is hard to recognize your chauvinism (bias). They are like the log in our eyes that we cannot see. A recent episode of Bull addressed the bias against female pilots, that people saw them as less competent than male pilots, even though the particular pilot was a combat veteran. We are ordinarily blind to our biases and prejudices.

The Regulative Principle

This is the application of Sola Scriptura to the issue worship and government.

If your view denies the authority of Scripture it needs to be rejected.

“In the areas of church government and worship, Luther, along with the Anglican Reformers, allowed practices not warranted by Scripture as long as they were not expressly prohibited, placing the onus probani upon those who would oppose such unwarranted practices.” (OPC, pp. 3)

The Lutheran view of worship is contrary to the Regulative Principle, which requires divine sanction for our practices. We must prove an element of worship is permitted, not that it is prohibited. “I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his Word (Calvin).” This is true of moral standards as well, as one elder noted.

It is important that we follow the Regulative Principle, looking for Scriptural commands, prohibitions and “good and necessary consequence.”

Church Standards

The Standards provide a boundary for the interpretations one may reach. We see here the Regulative Principle expressed.

“A divine warrant is necessary for every element of doctrine, government and worship in the church; that is, whatsoever in these spheres is not commanded in the Scriptures, either expressly or by good and necessary consequence from their statements is forbidden.” (Girardeau, quoted in OPC pp. 4).

Here are some relevant passages from our the Westminster Confession of Faith:

  1. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed. WCF, I

 

We see here the Regulative Principle, the place of “good and necessary consequence”, but also the “light of nature.” For instance, we don’t have any instruction about style of music, or the time of the worship service and its duration. There may be some aspects in this discussion of the government of the church that are not clear and are ordered by the light of reason.

  1. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly. WCF, I

 

We see here that Scripture interprets Scripture. We use clear passages to understand the unclear passages. There will be passages that need to be interpreted in light of other passages.

  1. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture. WCF, I

We are not prohibited from looking at councils, ancient (and contemporary) writers as well as the example of church history, but they must be examined or evaluated by Scripture.

  1. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. WCF, XXI

 

This is an application of the principle seen in chapter 1 to religious worship.

Here we have examined some of the boundaries of our study.

We affirm the authority of the Scriptures. We also recognize the proper place of our Confession of Faith as our summary of the teaching of Scripture.

We recognize that we may have biases, and need to rely on the Spirit to make them clear to us as He illumines the Scriptures in our study.

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