Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Links, movies, I'm a lazy bum, etc.

A happy Memorial Day weekend to you all. (That is, you Americans.) I have today off from work, which, since it is Saturday, is unusual for me. And so far I’m finding it hard to get up and do anything.

I just got done adding a few new links in the side bar to your left, as well as removing some dead links. In new links, I have added Pastor John Barach’s blog. I’ve learned a lot from reading his blog over the past few years, and have often thought of linking him, though I’ve always forgotten when I got around to updating my links. As it turns out, he linked me before I got a chance to link him. Hits have increased on this page a fair bit over the past few weeks, and I can only figure that it must be because he linked me. So many thanks to Pastor Barach for that. His blog also has a great links section. I try to keep a handful of links on this page, but he has a number I would add if I was willing to take the time. But I’m not. Yes, folks, that’s internet laziness. Sad, isn’t it?

I also added The Rabbit Room to the blog links. It is a page featuring the ruminations of a number of Christian artists, and is headed by Andrew Peterson, one of the few Contemporary Christian musicians I’ll listen to anymore. But I’ll save that rabbit trail for another time (snicker).

In the general links section, I’ve added a link to Kemper Crabb’s website. Kemper is a musician and an ordained Episcopal priest. He plays for a Prog-rock band called Atomic Opera (who, I must confess, I’ve never heard. I’m working on it.), played with King’s X in years past, and has even sat in with Caedmon’s Call a few times. He has a number of solo recordings, including his classic The Vigil. He is very influenced by Early Music (pre-Baroque), hence my being drawn to it. Check him out.

I’ve added a link to the page dedicated to the teaching of N. T. Wright, theologian, Bible scholar, and Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. There are other pages featuring his work, but this page both links to those other sites and has things not otherwise available on the web. His work is indispensable for those seeking to understand the Bible better.

Lastly, I’ve added a link to Athanasius Press, a publishing house affiliated with Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church. They’re a small publisher, but offer a number of fantastic books, as well as audio and video teaching series.

I just received James Jordan’s teaching series on Numbers through Judges from Athanasius Press, and began listening to it as I was writing this. One doesn’t retain a whole lot when trying to write and listening to a lecture at the same time (at least, I don’t), but I did pick up on one interesting thing in Scripture I hadn’t noticed before in the story of Joseph. In Genesis 40, the King James Version tells us that Joseph is put in prison with the “butler” and the baker of the king of Egypt. In fact, as later translations such as the English Standard Version tell us, the “butler” was in fact the king’s cupbearer (Genesis 40:1). So we have the baker and the cupbearer, corresponding to bread and wine, that is, the Eucharist. It was a passing comment, and Jordan doesn’t expound on the passage any further. Knowing his thought, I would expect he would explain how there is a movement from bread to wine in the passage, as well as in Joseph’s life more broadly, and that this is noted partly in the fact that the king puts the baker to death whereas the cupbearer is allowed to live. The movement from bread to wine symbolizes the movement from immaturity to maturity, and so the order of partaking that Christ established isn’t merely accidental, but intentional. I would expect Jordan would say something like that. But I’m not Jordan, so that’s mere speculation. And I should probably leave this kind of deep thought to the theologians and exegetes anyway.

This evening, I am planning to meet some friends to see Prince Caspian. I have resisted reading any reviews of it, though some friends tipped me off about the many changes made to the story from the book. After the Tolkien films and the last Narnia film, I tend to go in with low expectations from the moviemakers anyway. I just finished reading the Narnia series a couple of months ago, and the book I enjoyed the most was, in fact, Prince Caspian. But it’s been a couple of years since I read it, and I haven’t had a chance to reread it in preparation to see the film, so maybe I won’t get too bent out of shape. I’m sure I’ll be offering my thoughts here later on. I had hoped to go see Indiana Jones today too, but though my body is awake, my motivation appears to still be in bed. I’m a sad case.

As a side note, I just learned that Robert Downey Jr., in the role of Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), will be making an appearance in the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie as a tie-in to the Iron Man movie. Could this be all leading to the Avengers movie I predicted? Only time will tell.

That’s all for now. Y’all have a blessed Sabbath, and a good Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The limits of comprehension

A flash of light, a cloud of dust, and what was the question?

-- Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book

Sunday, May 18, 2008

U. S. general worships Allah

An American soldier uses a copy of the Quran for target practice and is caught (or supposedly - I’m leaving open the possibility of a scapegoat). He is forced to write a letter of apology to Sunni leaders. Now I think the whole act of using the Quran for target practice was fairly childish, and that one shouldn‘t do anything to tick someone else off without good reason, though I don‘t personally think he should be disciplined for it. But what followed was that the general who read the apology to the Sunni leaders kissed a copy of the Quran which he then presented to them. He was spreading the word, I suppose. In case there is any doubt, let me make this abundantly clear. Though the general might not have thought of it this way, his act of kissing the Quran was an act of worship, of idolatry. That’s what your tax dollars are going towards, folks.

The worst part about it is the motivation behind it, which is apparent in the article. We can’t tick off the Sunnis, because they’re our allies in our war. That’s right, our war - not theirs. Read the article here.

Even the Finnish hate Neil Young

I'm speechless.

Hat tip: The Avenue

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Iron Man

I know that this is opening weekend for Prince Caspian, and so I probably should have gone to see it. But I’ve been hankering to go see Iron Man, and since I was off work yesterday, that’s what I did.

Comic book movies have been the rage the past few years, and reasonably so. I’m less likely to go see a movie featuring some new action story that I have no familiarity with. Movie production companies are somewhat unpredictable in the quality they put out, and unless I have some assurance that I won’t be wasting my money on some film, I’m unwilling to pay. Sadly, movie reviewers are no help. Either they are blinded by their own political agendas which align with the majority of the populace within the intellectually isolated province known as Hollywood, or they don’t know morality from a hole in the ground, thus making it difficult to know whether or not to trust them. Christian reviewers are no help either, as they are usually too busy counting profanities to know whether or not they are watching a well-crafted storyline in action.

But comic book movies have proven a relatively safe bet as of late. There have been exceptions, of course. The first of the Fantastic Four movies was abhorrent, and as those who saw the second one warned me of its equally poor quality, I didn’t bother to see it. The X-Men movies were terrific so long as Bryan Singer was at the helm. But when he jumped ship to go to the new Superman film (not that great itself), he left the third X-Men film to fall apart in the hands of others. Much criticism was also thrown at the Incredible Hulk movie from about four years ago, and I’ll admit I disliked it at first. Repeated watchings have given me a sense of appreciation for it. Apparently I’m the only one though, as the whole cast from the last film was chucked and has been replaced for the sequel, due out this summer.

Despite some missteps, the movies based off of comics have been good. They aren’t always as morally sound as I being a Christian would like them to be, but they do pretty good over all, and I overlook their wickedness in the same way I overlook the wickedness of the worldly-minded people I deal with everyday.

Iron Man was one of the better comic book movies. (Warning: spoilers ahead.) I think I only had a couple of Iron Man comic books when I was a kid, and so I wasn’t really familiar with the basic storyline. That ignorance didn’t prevent me from enjoying the film, though.

Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark, who became Iron Man in the film. I don’t keep up with the gossip in Hollywood, but I knew enough to know that Downey has had his share of substance abuse problems. It has interfered with jobs he’s worked on, resulting in his being removed from the cast of Ally McBeal a few years back after a short stint on the show. I had heard nothing about him since then, and so I was both surprised and glad when I first saw trailers for the movie and saw he was playing the lead. I wouldn’t have pinned him for a superhero role, but he pulled it off and, I thought, was perfect for the part.

But the first commercials I saw for the film only featured him. As it turns out, the film features Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who played Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts. Downey’s humor was a highlight of the film, and his chemistry with Paltrow was fantastic.

The script was great, the acting was great, the cinematography was great, and the music was great. Yes, it was all great. I especially thought the inclusion of a portion of Black Sabbath’s song “Iron Man” during the closing credits was a nice touch. What would an Iron Man movie be without it?

There were the expected political agendas. The film begins in the Middle East (Pakistan, I believe… I don’t remember for sure), and a fair portion of it is set there. Tony Stark goes from being a weapons manufacturer, to being captured by radical Muslims (though you can rest assured that neither the word “radical” nor the word “Muslim” was used in the movie), to deciding that, since his weapons are falling into the wrong hands, his company will no longer produce weapons. The typical simplistic Hollywood leftist pacifist position is at play here, and while I side neither with the left nor the neoconservative right, it would be nice if Hollywood could make a movie without trying to preach at me. Make a violent action film, and preach against war in the movie. What’s wrong with this picture? (Pardon the pun.)

But Stark’s personal transformation carries Christic overtones to it too, as do many superhero myths. He goes through a sort of death and resurrection, as he descends into a cave (into the earth), only to arise as a new man. This also pairs with the historic American Evangelical narrative of the New Birth. Stark goes from being a rich playboy, to being born again as a man repentant of his former life and interested in the world around him for the first time. The only down side to this is that while he finds the woman who should be his true bride (Pepper Potts), the relationship remains frustrated to the end of the film. Oh well. There’s always the sequel.

And there will be a sequel, as those patient enough to wait until the end of the credits found out. Samuel L. Jackson makes an unexpected appearance there, suggesting the possibility that the next film will in fact be an Avengers film. I can’t help but wonder if this is Marvel’s attempt at making up for it’s screw-up on the X-Men franchise. Two X-Men that I know of (Wolverine and Beast) were also Avengers in the comic books, and so this might present a chance for a cross-over from those movies. Spiderman was also an Avenger, as was the Incredible Hulk, so maybe there will be some connections there as well. Marvel will have to do it up right for me to like an Avengers film as well as I liked the first two X-Men films, but here’s hoping they will pull it off.

For now, though, if you haven’t seen Iron Man, you should. It’s worth the price.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I Voted

Today was the North Carolina primary election, and, being the good citizen I am, I went and voted. Of course, I am a good citizen who wants the government to stay out of areas that are none of its business (something our officials seem to have a hard time doing), but nonetheless.

We had a number of bond referendums up for vote, and seeing that our current stewards have been doing a poor job with what we have already entrusted them, I voted against all of them. Now if there had only been a referendum against spending tax payer dollars on those stupid “I Voted” stickers, I would have given my hearty “Aye”. Alas, such was not up for the vote. Understandably. Even discussing such a thing would be a waste of time and money, and our officials wouldn’t dare waste time and money, would they?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Expelled

Last night I went with some friends, both old and new, to see Ben Stein’s movie Expelled. I’m a little skeptical whenever Evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of some movie or another, as they have with this one. Too often it is an indicator that the movie in question is morally sound but talent deprived. It also is indicative of the fact that Evangelicals have allowed themselves to be so shaped by Hollywood that they really think that revival will come if we go to these films in mass numbers. A good movie can be a help, but it’s more important that we worship God well and love our families and neighbors. That’s how revival happens – or, maybe better, reformation.

The safeguard here, I guess, is that the movie wasn’t made by Evangelicals, but by a Jewish man. Thankfully, Expelled is not only morally sound but also full of talent – at least, insofar as a documentary can be. Ben Stein, of course, is a class act himself. The movie didn’t go heavy into the details of science with regard to the debates over Darwin’s theories. I consider it more of a popularizing film – designed to bring awareness to the issue at hand so that those who have been ignorant of it can pursue the subject in more depth on their own as they desire. Nonetheless, the subject matter was handled well considering, and it was very entertaining. The cinematography and music were both excellent. And the final interview with Richard Dawkins was alone worth the ticket price.

Highly recommended.

There's nothing above the belt

How many impoverished actors does it take to make an Enzyte commercial?

Party Hard

One of the refreshing things in coming to Reformed theology was the more Biblical and therefore freer view that the Reformed take with regard to alcohol. I have over the years had occasion to drink with both Christians and pagans, and the experiences have proven that it isn’t the thing itself that is sinful, but how it is used. Drinking with believers is a joyous thing. But being the only believer drinking in the midst of pagans is depressing beyond words. Drunkenness becomes an issue, of course. But if you think the unbelievers you know are wicked, just wait till they get liquored up. And I’m not even considering the dancing on tables and bars part. Just let the wine loosen the tongue and listen as people begin to tell you what they really think. It’s the weak moments that show what a person is really made of, and that’s true of both believers and unbelievers.

I understand why Fundamentalists would want to eliminate the use of alcohol altogether. Just listening to unbelievers I know who act as if they have no other reason to live than to go to the bar and get wasted talk about their love affair with alcohol makes me never want to touch the stuff again. But then again, when you’ve set your heart against God, you can convince yourself that you’re having fun in you sin when the whole time you’re really just miserable deep down inside.

Part of the issue isn’t even the alcohol per se, but the atmosphere that drinking pagans cultivate. It’s the places they drink (not bars in general, but the types of bars), the way they dress, and the way they talk. Those who think that the Christian faith is separate from aesthetics (the shape of architecture, the shape of language and conversation, the shape of fashion) are mistaken. If all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Christ, then there is no area of life that can be disconnected from Him. But when we try to disconnect part of our lives from Him, we just make fools of ourselves, and harm ourselves and others.

I don’t intend to stop drinking, though I drink seldom. The Fundamentalists are wrong in their approach to alcohol. But I’ll continue to grieve when I hear unbelievers (especially those I know personally and care about) talk as if partying till they’re unconscious was the highlight of their lives.