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Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’


I remember sitting in the movie theater when I was 13, watching the trailer: “In space no one can hear you scream.” What a line! I had to see that movie. A legendary series that saved the movie studio was born. Ripley was the heroine, a strong woman in a world of men fighting the perfect killing machine. But she wasn’t just fighting the Alien, she was fighting “the company” who mysteriously knew about this creature and wanted to use it for military purposes.

Though the first two movies were very different (Ridley Scott’s was a suspenseful horror film that slowly turned up the tension while James Cameron directed a non-stop action movie) but both were successful. The two that followed lacked a strong hand at the helm. The third, suffering from numerous re-writes and directorial changes. Its confusing vision resulted in the worst David Fincher movie every. One thing it did reveal was that the Alien borrowed some DNA from its host during incubation. The series, like the original Jurassic Park, struggled with the tendency to separate science from ethics. The pursuit of how or if blinded humanity to whether it should be done.

There was really no where for the franchise to go after Alien Resurrection, unless you wanted Earth to become extinct. Enter Ridley Scott and the decision to go back instead of forward.

He began with Prometheus whose main characters were Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and a synthetic named David. The rather convoluted story with a proto-Alien involves an alien race first seeding (panspermia) planets and then destroying the life they produced. Scott, who is reputed to be an atheist, avoids many who resist creation with this ridiculous premise. Dan Brown’s novel Deception Point floats the same theory. The problem is, where did the aliens come from? So you may explain life on Earth, but not LIFE. The movie ends with Shaw (another strong female lead) and David flying off in our “creators'” space ship with a payload of the virus intended to destroy life on Earth.

Alien: Covenant begins with Weyland and the newly created David prior to the trip on the Prometheus. David is nearly human, reflecting his creator in a reflection of Adam’s creation by God in His image. We see glimpses of David’s arrogance after he plays Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. He wants to throw off his creator’s shackles.

The location shifts to the future, post-Prometheus, on the ship Covenant. It is headed to a far off planet to colonize it. During a recharging stop, an accident occurs which wakes up the ship’s crew and loss of life including the captain. Most of the 200 colonists are safe in cyro-sleep. and the 1,000+ embryos are safe as well. We are introduced to the new captain (a Christian or person of similar faith) as well as the original captain’s surviving wife. The captain is dogmatic in his orders, fearing they, like the company, won’t respect a man of faith. If there is a mistake to be made, this man will make it over the course of the movie. The grieving widow? She is the strong female lead similar to Ripley and Shaw. There is a new synthetic, named Walter, who looks like David and is also played by Michael Fassbender. Improvements have been made we learn by depriving him of David’s creativity.

While outside the ship performing repairs one of the crew is outside the communications’ buffer and receives a transmission. They soon discover it is a human being singing Country Roads by John Denver. Tracking the transmission they discover a closer planet that seems even more suitable for human life. With a crew afraid of cyro-sleep the captain decides to investigate, and so the fun begins.

There are a number of twists and turns in the film as we discover the ship that once carried Shaw and David, and a new way to “catch” the alien virus. So there is some novelty in the midst of the familiar. Now stranded on the planet, they are rescued by David and slowly discover what David has been doing since being stranded on this planet. Like man, he is a creation turned destructive seeking to destroy his creator. Apparently everyone hates humans in Scott’s universe. We discover that David has turned the virus which produced proto-aliens into the form of alien we see in the original films. We also see the Captain who fails to destroy David after his collusion with one of the proto-aliens, fall for the trap David sets for him so the alien we are all familiar with finally appears.

The movie has a shocking ending after Daniels and and Tennessee kill an alien that inexplicably shows up on the Covenant. The movie ends as it began, with Wagner’s piece playing. The gods have entered Valhalla to continue the quest to destroy humanity.

I thought is was a good movie with enough new material that it was not stale and predictable. It also had enough similarities that it felt like an Alien film rather than a generic science fiction thriller. Ridley Scott had to walk a tightrope similar to that of J.J. Abrams with the new Star Wars triology. It was not as good as the originals, but that is a high bar. It was certainly better than Alien III and Alien Resurrection (not difficult). Rather than being built around Ripley (Signorney Weaver) this series of movies is built about Michael Fassbender even though they have a different strong female lead in each film. It is not as confusing as Prometheus and more enjoyable.

 

 

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It is that time of year to consider all the “best of lists.”

While it has been a great year for Boston sports (the Patriots nearly made the Super Bowl again to gain revenge on the 49ers, and the Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Red Sox won their 3rd World Series championship of this young century) I’m thinking of the best books I’ve read this year. This is not necessarily books that came out in 2013, but what I read this year.

I’ll take them in the order in which I read them. What you will notice is that I’ve probably read less this year, and clearly blogged less. Having 4 kids will do that. As will being pastor of a church that has grown enough to have to expand it facilities to expand ministry capacity. I also read some enormous books, and that takes time.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp. I couldn’t identify with all the problems he talks about, and that is a good thing. Some issues are connected to how we “do” seminary and preparation for pastoral ministry. Others have to do with the manifestations of pride and sloth.

Resurrection and Redemption: A Study of Paul’s Soteriology by Richard Gaffin. This is not an easy book to read, but it is a significant book to read. As I noted in the review, for Gaffin soteriology is eschatology. This book explores the significance of the resurrection for our redemption which is a neglected area of thought.

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and Christian by John Piper. John Piper looks at his own history with questions of race and brings the gospel to bear on the question. I wish he would have co-authored it with a person of color to balance the perspective. But much of what he says is excellent

The Book of Revelation by G.K. Beale. This is a humongous commentary on Revelation but is well worth the time needed to read it. This is the one to read to understand its connection with the Old Testament. While I don’t agree with all he says (like I prefer an early date) this is excellent.

Freedom & Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church by Kevin DeYoung. He is correct, it is a primer. He concisely addresses the most important texts and questions that arise. He presents a complementarian position but not an extreme one. I highly recommend it.

Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft. This little book was an excellent treatment of common mistakes church leaders make. Some I’ve made and I don’t want to make the others.

Sex & Money by Paul Tripp. He talks about the 2 things that occupy most of our time, energy and thoughts. He focuses on the tendency toward idolatry and the healing power of the gospel. Great stuff.

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul. Typical Sproul. He explains sound theology so the average person can understand. Here he’s explaining the atonement, which every Christian should understand.

Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester. Books on the Trinity are pretty rare these days. Helpful, interesting and accessible books on the subject are even more rare. This is a book that is all three. It isn’t very big, but it is worth reading.

Gospel Centered Leadership by Steve Timmis. This is a very helpful little book that helps us understand how the gospel should shape our leadership in the church. I gave this one to my elders and we’ll study it soon.

Modest: Men & Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies & R.W. Glenn. I haven’t read any books on the subject before. What was good about this one is that it is about both men & women, and it is about how the gospel changes the equation. It is not about rules and a moralistic spirit.

Love into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard. This was an excellent and challenging book. He tries to balance truth and love (I think Paul said something like that) when we speak to homosexuals. We should not back off biblical teaching, which he explains by looking at key texts. We should not treat people as lepers either and he talks about how we can love them as we communicate the gospel to them as sinners, not just homosexuals.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame. This is another enormous book. I have not quite finished the appendices since I’ve been focusing on other projects. This book examines ethical systems and then moves into understanding and applying the ten commandments before briefly discussing sanctification. This is an excellent book even if you agree with his particular end points.

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson. This is another very good book on ministry. His focus is the importance of the doctrine of justification on who we are and how we go about ministry. Theology applied!

Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. It is very short. I read this during a crazy busy time that mercifully should be coming to an end. I gave this to my elders and those who have gotten to it have appreciated its message. It is not just about techniques but the heart.

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. I’m not quite done with this book yet so it might end up on next year’s list too! As I preach thru the prologue of John’s Gospel this has been a great help. He really pushes the point of “God is love” as we think about the Trinity and Christianity. This is definitely a must read in that rare category of books on the Trinity. Like Chester’s of the same name this is relatively short.

Interesting-

  • 2 books by Paul Tripp and Kevin DeYoung
  • 2 books on the Trinity
  • 5 books on ministry
  • 2 books on salvation
  • 2 books of over 1,000 pages

Not one book by Tim Keller (I left off the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness). Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be at least 1 next year.

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John Frame has, I think, done the Church a great service in writing The Doctrine of the Christian Life. It is the material from his course on Christian Ethics. The 3rd section of the book is Christian Ethical Methodology. As expected, he breaks this into 3 parts: normative, situational and existential.

“In general, a Christian ethical decision is the application of God’s revelation (normative) to a problem (situational) by a person (existential).”

The normative aspect of Christian Ethics is revelation. God exercises His lordship by communicating His character and will to us. Unlike non-Christian views of deontological ethics, we have a recognizable standard. Frame affirms both general and special revelation as part of that standard. Both can be misinterpreted by sinners such as us.

We don’t just have a Law given to us. God expects us to imitate Him. He is the ultimate norm for us. There is an aspect of “What Would Jesus Do” that is accurate.

But the overall focus is the authority of Scripture. He spends time on inspiration and the attributes of Scripture. He has an important chapter on the sufficiency of Scripture. This is often misunderstood. The Westminster Confession formulates the sufficiency of Scripture “concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.” It does not limit this to explicit statements (a problem I often run into in theological discussion), but also includes “any good and necessary consequence.” In other words, doing theology is not merely quoting Scripture but THINKING through the consequences of what Scripture says. As a result, the divine words we have are sufficient for our needs.

“The sufficiency of Scripture does not rule out the use of natural revelation (“the light of nature”) and human reasoning (“Christian prudence”) in our decisions, even when those decisions concern the worship and government of the church.”

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I am approximately 50% of the way through John Frame’s mammoth The Doctrine of the Christian Life as part of his Theology of Lordship series. I thought I ought to handle this book in light the larger sections John Frame creates in the book.

Thus far this is an excellent, challenging book. It is challenging intellectually, and it is challenging spiritually. It is a book I would heartily recommend because there is so much to wrestle with here beyond just “do this” and “don’t do that.”

“The Christian life is not only a matter of following rules of morality, but a dynamic experience: living in the fallen world, in fellowship with the living God.”

The first part, Introductory Considerations, is a mere 3 chapters and 40 pages. This section is mostly orienting people to how he does theology just in case they have arrived to the series mid-stream.

He begins with the question of why we should study ethics. He admits that he has been put off by many non-Christian approaches to ethics. But since the Bible deals with ethics from beginning to end, as a Christian we should think about ethics. But we have to think about them biblically.  We have to walk between the (anti-gospel) extremes of legalism and license.

“The liberal tendency to find loopholes in the moral law, to justify apparent sin, has given casuistry a bad name. The conservative tendency toward harshness and austerity has given moralism a bad name.”

(more…)

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Tim Keller is coming out with another book, this one with the provocative title of The Prodigal God: Christianity Redefined Through the Parable of the Prodigal Sons.  I’m not sure how that makes God the prodigal, but I’d love to find out.  Keller’s work on the parable of the prodigal sons has been very helpful for me.  This will be a more exhaustive work on the subject.  From the WTS Books website.

This short book is meant to do no less than lay out the essentials of the Christian message, the gospel. It can therefore serve as an introduction to the Christian faith for those whoa re unfamiliar with it or who may have been away from it for some time.

This volume is not just for seekers, however. Many lifelong Christian believers feel they understand the basics of the Christian faith quite well and certainly don’t think they need a primer. Nevertheless, one of the signs that you don’t grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you think you do. Sometimes long-time church members find themselves so struck and turned around by a fresh apprehension of the Christian message of grace that they feel themselves to have been essentially “reconverted.” This book, then, is written to both curious outsiders and established insiders of the faith, to both the people jesus calls “younger” and “elder” brothers in his famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.

This is due out in October, so save your change!  (Update: the subtitle was changed to the Heart of the Christian Faith.) 

Due out much sooner, June, is John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life, part of his Theology of Lordship series.  I really like this series, and this would appear to be his course on ethics.  From the WTS Books website:

The third volume of Frame’s Theology of Lordship series, this book focuses on biblical ethics, presenting a method for ethical decision-making, an analysis of biblical ethical teaching focusing on the Ten Commandments, and a discussion of the relation of Christ to human culture.

“John Frame’s magnificent work on the Christian life fully endorses the authority of Scripture and practically addresses the need to consider the situations and people involved in ethical decisions.”
-Richard L. Pratt Jr., President of Third Millenium Ministries

Can’t get better than that!

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