Sunday, March 31, 2013

movie review--G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Fun fun fun fun fun!!

I have my doubts that this was the sequel that was intended when the first G.I Joe movie was made.

If you remember that first movie, you may remember things like the Joes having a giant underground headquarters, guys in some kind of mechanical enhancement suits crashing through busses in Paris, and Cobra having an extensive complex under an ice cap. The star power in that movie was pretty high, and the effects and CG was extensive.

A lot of that is lacking in the new movie, and, honestly, while it's not all a good thing, overall I think it helped make this movie better than the first.

True, the lack of continuity from the old one to the new is a bit off-putting. The romance that played a bit part in the first movie is not even mentioned in the second. The Joes' big underground complex is completely missing. Thankfully, so were the mech suits.

Few of the actors from the first movie are in this second one, which may also account for the continuity problems. Tatum returns as Duke, for a bit of the movie. Ray Park is Snake-Eyes again, and we all rejoice. The same actors played Storm Shadow and the President/Zartan in disguise. I suppose it also accounts for the strange leaving behind of Destro from the prison break.

This movie is definitely more small-scale. The Joes here are more like an elite special force's team, not an independent army all of their own. Cobra has gone underground, though because one of their guys is the President in disguise, they have some means of getting their big bad satellites into orbit. Then, the Joe's get pretty much wiped out, so the surviviors have to go underground and think small-scale.

While that's going on, Snake-Eyes and his new sidekick are having the movie's big CG fight--ninjas sword-fighting along a mountainside. Literally, along a mountainside. Two thumbs up for that!

Dwayne Johnson has to pretty much carry the movie, and to his credit, he does it well. His Roadblock is probably rather typical for such a character, but he comes off as a leader for the team once Duke is gone. Lady Jaye holds up her end, but Flint is pretty much a non-entity.

Among the villains, Zartan/President and Firefly seem to both be enjoying themselves. I'll give the movie special props for Cobra Commander. He's in the movie far too little, but when he is, he definitely comes off as the most threatening bad guy of all of them.

And Bruce Willis provides some good support for the good guys.

The bad guys do seem to have a good working knowledge of oldies rock music, as they use lines like "Everybody wants to rule the world" and "I want it all". Roadblock references a more modern rap artist at one point.

Overall, it's an enjoyable movie, very fun, I liked it a lot. It's not perfect, it does feel odd as a follow-up to the first movie, and one wonders where it may go from here, if it does at all. But I can recommend it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

book review--The Voice by Don Nori

faulty premise leads to other faulty teachings

I received a free copy of this book through the Destiny Image Book Review program.

The main problem with this book is that it's based on a faulty premise. "Yes, the Voice of God speaks to true intercessors", p. 38. "The Voice has much to say; as we hear, feel, and respond to the Voice, Heaven and Earth are forever changed." p. 41. We must let the River of His Voice literally gush forth from deep within our spirits, and then flow out to the spiritual wasteland that is all around us." p. 12

The problem with this striving to hear some kind of voice inside of us is this--the Bible never tells us to do that. When God spoke to the prophets and apostles, He did not do so through some ultra-quiet, difficult to hear inner voice. He came in instances like the burning bush, He gave them dreams and visions, He spoke directly to them. Even when he spoke to the prophet Elijah in a still, quiet voice, he did not speak to him with quiet inner voice, but with a voice that the prophet heard with his ears. God's messages to them were clear, they did not have some vague inner feelings that they had to try to create some interpretations for.

Seeing this faulty premise, it's easy to see how much of the rest of the book goes astray. For example, he tries to create a type of elite "true intercessors" that the Bible says nothing about, and the things he teaches about these "true intercessors" are rather odd. "True intercessors don't take prayer requests." p. 40. Really? Ok, I'll be sure to not tell any "true intercessor" my concerns. "There is only one allegiance, to God alone. Personal desires have no place counseling God." p. 40. Considering that it is God Himself who has invited us to "let your request be made known to God", then I can only think that there is certainly a place for letting God know our personal desires. It may be said that our prayers should be about more than just our wants, but there seems to be no biblical call for us to try to be so spiritual that we ignore our own needs and wants.

Another thing he contends has to do with the Most Holy Place. "For instance, if Christ dwells within, why do we sing, "Come into the Holy of Holies" when we are the Holy of Holies?" p. 134. "Our hearts are the Most Holy Place within which the Presence dwells." p. 180. However, he gives no scriptural support for this contention that we are the Holy of Holies, or that our hearts are the Most Holy Place; in fact, the Bible is rather uncomplimentary about the state of our hearts, calling the heart "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, more than we can understand".

In his chapter titled "Quiet Anarchy", he writes this about the word "anarchy", "This is the word that many folk fear. If you are one of those people who fear this word, close this book and go home. I am sorry. You are not a world-changer." p. 113. Since I see no place in Scripture where we are called to be world-changers, I see no reason to embrace any form of anarchy; in fact, anarchy is a very ungodly concept. It is the Apostle Paul who told the church that they needed to "do all things decently and in order". The New Testament tells us to obey and submit to rulers. We are not to be leftists who think that chaos is a good thing.

The author makes some strange, unsupported contentions. "At one time, such anarchy was seen as pure heresy, rebellion, and immaturity. At one time, though, anarchy was a way of life for all those who truly loved God and sought diligently for a greater truth; to be a believer in Jesus was to openly oppose the government in power." p. 114. Really? Tell us, please, when and where this time was. No, please, do tell, my curiosity is piqued. I'm actually studying early church history right now, and I really haven't seen any time like this, where the church was fomenting anti-government sentiments.

Or this one, "History shows us that the greatest steps in spiritual renewals and advancements were made by those who were regarded by many as heretics, madmen, or worse." p. 123. Since the author does not show us his claim to be true, then why should we believe that history shows it? Who are these "heretics, madmen and worse" that he wants us to admire? Why does he not name them, so that we may determine for ourselves if they are people to be respected and admired?

Probably the most questionable part of the book is the chapter called "Brink of Heresy", as he pretty much says that experience trumps doctrine. "Whether or not they accept the experience is not the issue, for the experience is my reality, and I will not deny it." p. 137. Welcome to Postmodernism, where the only truth is what you experience to be true. Peter Rollins or Tony Jones could write that statement, and I'm not complimenting this author when I compare him to those two.

"It's actually too bad that Bible scholars don't subject their mountains of theology to the same tests as they use on the rest of us!" p. 139. What a nonsense statement! True Bible scholars do subject their doctrine to the same test, "What do the Scriptures say?". That's the test, that's the only test, and that's why this author's teachings fail. "The decision to put their studies above what they witness with their own eyes is both frightening and arrogant." p. 139 The decison to put experiences above sound biblical doctrine is unwise, and arrogant.

While every now and again he does come up with a bit of something that's interesting, it's simply not worth wading through all the unbiblical ideas and mystical mush that he tries to feed us. His unsupported claims make his book come off more as propoganda than any kind of serious biblical teaching. His claim that experience trumps doctrine is a sure road to failure.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

a serious reason for concern about "The Bible" miniseries

While I haven't been able to watch the miniseries myself, some people that I trust have, and they don't speak very highly of it. But my concern isn't directly about anything in the series itself, though I can't help but think that it may well have effected the contents. It's about one of the main people behind it.

A gift from Heaven! Roma Downey returns to TV after five-year absence
For now, when she’s not shuttling the kids to their school–a 40-minute commute in each direction that’s earned her the carpooling crown–Roma continues broadening her horizons. She’s returned to painting, and is partway through a Masters program in “spiritual psychology“ from the University of Santa Monica. And yes, the fact that the university’s name contains “Monica” makes her smile.

Taking classes has been an eye-opening experience. “It’s like the peeling of an onion, layer upon layer of behavior, and learning why we do what we do and how we can potentially change our negative patterning,” she says.
So, a master's degree in "spiritual psychology"? Not sure how anyone has learned about how the minds of spirits work, but...

Ok, bad attempt at humor now over.

In reality, this "spiritual psychology" thing is hardly a laughing matter, especially when one is talking about someone who's behind something like this miniseries. Here are some excerpts from the school's site about this degree program.

M.A. in Spiritual Psychology
Experiencing enhanced spiritual awareness through knowing yourself as a Divine Being having a human experience.

Individual Evolution - Learning to relate to yourself with greater Compassion and Awareness of yourself as a Divine Being having a human experience.

Self-Counseling - Learning, through the process of Self-Counseling, to connect with your Inner Counselor, a source of Wisdom, Unconditional Loving, and Compassion that resides at the level of the Authentic Self.
  There's some other kinda mushy mystical language used on that page that may cause some alarms in one's mind, but these are the biggest, so I thought. How unbiblical can it be to think of oneself as "a Divine Being", basically that one is God? And how New-Agey can it be to try to "connect with your "Inner Counselor"?  

I suppose it could be said that it's unfair to bring this up; after all, I've heard nothing about the miniseries that says that these kinds of ideas are in it. So far as I know, no Old Testament person portrayed in the miniseries has told the people of Israel that they needed to know themselves as Divine Beings.  

Maybe, but can we say that a person who has been taught these things is someone whose views of theology are going to basically sound?  

Maybe Downey doesn't believe these things. Maybe she doesn't think that she is a Divne Being having a human experience. One could wonder how she hopes to finish her degree is she doesn't buy into those ideas, and why she would continue to pursue a degree that taught those things.  

But maybe someone should be asking her about what she's being taught.  

I know that many Christians in the media are all gung-ho over this miniseries, supporting it and telling others to watch it. Maybe they should be the ones asking the questions of Downey, to find out what she really believes, and make sure that what they are promoting isn't really theological poison.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

movie review--The Dark Knight Returns, part 2

I have a bit of a memory of when The Dark Knight Returns comics came out, way back when. I didn't read them until later, though. And now, a bit later still, I've been watching the second part of the recent animated movies based on the comics.

Despite some points of interest in the comics, I remember being put off by some things in it, too. Having learned a bit more since them, I can say that things I found off-putting are even more numerous.
To put it more plainly, this isn't so much an animated movie as a piece of clumsy propoganda, and if people actually knew and remembered history, they would find it ridiculous.

When this comic was first put out, there was this thing called the Cold War going on. The place we know call Russia was at that time a major part of what was called The Soviet Union, along with a lot of other countries around present-day Russia that at that time were a part of the USSR, and not exactly by choice.

That figured into the comics, and is in this animated movie, too. What's happening with Batman and Gotham is set against a grow internationsl conflict between the USA and USSR over a fictional country. While Batman fights the Joker, again, Superman is winning this international conflict. Whether the guy writing the comic is happy about the US winning this conflict is an interesting question, and simply judging by how he handles it, I'd have to say he wasn't.

Somewhat odd. He has a psychiatrist try to say that Batman is the one at fault for the Joker's crimes, right before the Joker kills him and a TV studio full of people. But because of this victory by the US, the Soviet Union launches nuclear missles, which detonate and cause an EMP event, wiping out electronic across the US. One wonders if he thinks the US, or the president in the movie, isn't to blame for this strike by the Soviets.

The writer of the comic included a character that is basically the former US President, Ronald Reagan, though I don't know if he ever names him or now. He basically makes this character a klutz, incompetent, and has newscasters go one about how shameful his handling of the crisis after the EMP event was.

Now, for a touch of reality. One of the big reasons the USSR collapsed was because of Reagan's refusal to back down from them. Far from being as this comic depicts him, Reagan was one of the better US presidents.

This writer, and of course the movie, portrays this Reagan president as someone who would send Superman to take Batman down, because of how Batman is embarrassing him. Can't help but think that that's not how Reagan was.

The writer's politics show through in other ways, too. At one point, Batman is trying to rally a gang of young men who were part of some kind of Batman-cult like group, so he could use them to help restore order to Gotham because of the lack of electrical power. He grabs a rifle or shotgun one of them had, holds it up, tells them that these gusn are the weapons of cowards, and proceeds to destroy it.

It's always interesting whenever these comic book heroes, who often have access to some kind of powers of their own or, like Batman, to really advanced technological weapons, get all worked up because a normal person dares to have a gun. Batman can have Batmoblies, Batcopters, Batplanes, Batarangs, Batcycles, and many of those with some kind of weapon that can blow stuff up, not to mention a bullet-proof suit with all the neat trimmings, and all that stuff in his utility belt, but let some poor normal person dare have a pistol, and that's just unacceptable and cowardly.

Then, when Batman is restoring order and making himself the law in Gotham, he becomes the thought police, deciding who stays "tied up" based on their willingness to display a proper cooperative attitude.

I can't help but think that this animation is pretty much the left's ideas of how things should be run, how the 80s should have happened. For them, Reagan should be seen as incompetent old man, all evidence to the contrary. Having guns in the hands of the average person is a serious problem, one they need to fix. And if you don't want to cooperate with them, well, there are places you can be "tied up" so you don't interfere with their utopia.

Basically, don't bother with it. There's very little in this movie worth seeing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

book review--Burn by Eric Gilmour

New Agey gobblety-good with a thin covering of Christianese

There was a small village that suffered greatly during a time of severe drought, and the people of the village were starving. One day, a man, well-fed and well-off, came to the village, and standing in the center of the village, he spoke long and eloquently about steak, giving the succulent details about the many steaks he had eaten, and telling the people that if they could find steak, they would not be hungry. But he had no steak with him, and he did not know of any stores near them that had steak. The only advice he gave them was that they had to look within themselves, struggling to hear a faint voice within themselves, and if they do that absolutely and completely correctly, they would get the steak they wanted.

That little story pretty much sums up my impression of "Burn" by Eric Gilmour.

First, he is all law. "He is only made manifest in us as much as we can host Him in our lives through such a real, absolute surrender, utter dependency, and total reliance." (Kindle Locations 339-340). Ok, so, we have here Gilmour's law, that we have to have "a real, absolute surrender, utter dependency, and total reliance". But like the starving people in the story, at no point does he tell us how to attain those things. How, for example, do we reach a place of "real, absolute surrender"? Dunno. All he says is that that is what we need, but nothing is said about how to get there.

The language he uses in regards to this state he says we must attain is rather disturbing. "It is burning inside of His heart to possess His people. God possession is the formula to create the Jesus people. There is only one route to God possession: God obsession." (Kindle Locations 47-49). Possession? I'd be very surprised if Gilmour wasn't aware of how such language would bring to mind demonic possession. Is he saying that God is suppose to "possess" us in a similar way? Does the Bible say that that is how God does things? I would say, not in the least. "Have you an inward burning attraction to be absorbed up into your God?" (Kindle Locations 247-248). Absorbed into God? Wow, that sounds like something from Eastern religious mysticism.

And, at times, his language is as silly as the notion of getting steak by looking inside yourself. "As the rain rests upon the ground after the storm, it yearns to return back to the high place from which it has fallen." (Kindle Location 256). How does he know that? Has he gone outside and asked rain droplets what they want? "God can forgive you, but time will never forgive you." (Kindle Location 204). So, time is an even stricter judge than God? "Throughout this book we will look into the ascent of the soul into the state of unbroken awareness of His abiding presence and its effects." (Kindle Locations 207-208). The ascent of the soul? Please, slowly put down the Deepak Chopra books, and no one will get hurt. "The tree doesn't focus on bearing fruit, but on receiving the sap." (Kindle Location 549). I suppose he's asked a bunch of trees about that? "What called down an angel to release Peter out of jail? It was not power, but prayer." (Kindle Locations 877-878). That passage doesn't say that prayer called down an angel. "We possess divine interaction and exchange from each individual's specific unique color in which Christ proceeds." (Kindle Locations 1215-1216). We each have a "specific unique color"? Nothing about that in the Bible, but that sure sounds like the New-Agey idea of auras.

On top of all of that, there is his constant belittling of sound doctrine and correct beliefs, and even of the Bible itself. "The wisdom of God is an octave too high for the minds of men. Such heavenly wisdom is not wisdom that can be explained; it must be demonstrated." (Kindle Locations 94-95). Outside of having no idea where he gets the idea that God's wisdom is so high that only dogs can hear it, there is simply the idea that it cannot be explained. God wrote a whole big book called The Bible for nothing, I guess. "There lies in the midst of Christendom a great danger, a danger that is deeply woven into the fabric of modern American Christianity. It is not as much a danger of doctrinal error as it is an absence of the most vital underlying element of spirituality." (Kindle Locations 395-397). If someone tries to dismiss the danger of doctrinal error, you should check his own doctrinal luggage. "Without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is unable to give life. As Jesus noted in John 6, "The Spirit gives life." Paul had the same understanding, stating, "... The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3: 6)." (Kindle Locations 424-425). I've seen Bill Johnson use that argument, and it's a bad one, no matter who uses it. Paul is not denigrating the Word of God, and it at least borders on blasphemy for Gilmour to even imply that. "The Gospel is not a verbal argument for the existence of God." (Kindle Locations 960-961). Makes one wonder why Jesus bothered telling the disciples to preaching and proclaim the Gospel, then. "They couldn't possibly be born from above by a nominal belief system or by adherence to correct thinking patterns. Doctrine has never saved a person." (Kindle Locations 996-997). So, correct doctrine and beliefs are unimportant? "Freedom is in a Man named Jesus-- not a belief system, religion, or an attempt to make a life change." (Kindle Locations 1005-1006). Again with the attacks on beliefs. At no point does the Bible treat beliefs and doctrine with such distain.

"Leonard Ravenhill said, "No one can change God's opinion of you but you."" (Kindle Location 580). We should be very glad that this statement is very wrong! Christ has changed God's opinion of those who repent and have faith in Him, taking us from being enemies of God and children of wrath to become children of God.

Geting back to his idea about having to have a "a real, absolute surrender, utter dependency, and total reliance", one might wonder if Gilmour is holding himself up as one who has attained to those things. I think we can question that about him, because if he is, I'll admit that I don't buy it. Why? Because of those with whom he fellowships and supports. For example, he proudly tells us of his connection with the Pensacola revival, and his admiration for Steve Hill. Now, Hill is someone who has fabricated many things concerning this revival, things that have been shown to be lies. Several times during the book, he uses quotes from Benny Hinn. Hinn is the worst of the worst among the Faith Healers, a known charlatan and fake, whose 'ministry' has been a blight and shame on the church. You may learn more about these men in these books, Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century and Counterfeit Revival.

If these are the people Gilmour looks up to, then there are ramifications. At the end of Chapter 6 of this book, he gives some "Testimonies" which he claims are of healings he was involved in. But because of his association with a known liar like Hill, and his admiration of a known fake like Hinn, I must say that I see no reason to believe his "Testimonies". Has he had these healings documented? Has anyone independent of his ministry verified them? Can he provide proof that what he claims happened is what really happened? Short of irrefutable proof, I'll consider him a fake like so many of such 'ministers' like himself.

In the end, this book is rubbish. His teachings have more in common with New Age gobblety-gook than biblical Christianity. His attacks on the Bible, correct beliefs, and sound doctrine should be instant and insistent warning signs that we should steer clear of him. There are so many more biblically sound teachers and ministers out there, why bother with the nonsense this guy is peddling?

Monday, March 11, 2013

book review--The Blessed Church by Robert Morris

some good, some not so good

I received a free copy of this book from the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books review program.

Three stars pretty much sums up my take on Morris' book. There're things in it that seemed good, and others that I thought were kinda sketchy.

First, to look at some of the good things. The fact that Morris puts so much emphasis on feeding the sheep puts him far ahead of some other megachurch pastors I've listened to who hop up in their I-chairs, rant about "the jackass in the church" who wants to go deeper, tells them that Jesus tells them to shut up, and overall takes on the attitude that if you're already a believer in Christ than "We need your seat!!" for the ones who aren't. Morris' attitude in this regards is much to be appreciated.

Along that same line, his ideas about training the people out there in the congregation to be more than mere spectators seems to be good, as well as his ideas about delegating church responsbilities to other people who may be able to focus on it better, as well as allowing the pastor to focus on his calling of teaching and preaching.

One of the things that was iffy to me has to do with him being in the charismatic camp, and maybe even in the NAR. This comes through in his emphasis on "hearing the voice of the Spirit", apparently usually the inner voice that charismatic types like to talk about a lot, as well as more blatant statement about his church having Apostolic Elders. He doesn't go into these things much, I think he mentions doing so in another of his books, so I'll not make much of it here either, just mention it and my reactions to it.

Morris finds many of his principles for church leadership and growth from the business world. I'm kinda iffy about this. It may not be wrong in itself, but the goals of a church and a business are very different. To put it rather simply, a business has products or services it's trying to sell, while a church has a message to proclaim that must be believed. There are things a business may do to attract customers that would be wrong for a chruch to do to make converts

Morris emphasises the idea that "God's blessing brings spiritual health, and spiritual health brings God's blessings", or to use what he says was the original title for this book, "healthy things grow". But we may well ask, is this so? We can easily think of unhealthy things that grow (cancer, debt), and we can think of things that grow in an unhealthy way or extent (a person who becomes obese). Morris points to the parable of the seeds and soils to illustrate this, showing how the seed that fell in the good soil grew. But it did not grow and grow and grow until it reached the heavens like Jack's beanstalk, but rather it grew until it yielded seeds, then those seeds could be gathered, and some used for food and others used to grow more grain.

Perhaps Morris has a point when he says that healthy things grow, but maybe we could also say that something growing may be seen in a few different ways, as in the thing itself growing and also reproducing itself so that it may cause growth in that way, too. A human being reaches maturity and stops growing, but this when he or she may marry, start a family, and in that way the family grows, if that illustration helps.

But he takes this idea to extremes, I think. "The number-one way to spot a false shepherd is a pattern of scattering sheep Their churches get smaller, or a least stay the same size year after year". (chapter 13). "According to the Barna Group, roughly 60 percent of the Protestant churches in the United States have fewer than 100 members and a full 98 percent have fewer than 1000. In other words, small churches are the rule, not the exception. At the same time, we have become an increasingly urban nation...I mention these numbers because they reveal something about the failure of our churches to effectively reach out in our communities...Nevertheless, I believe there is a reason the average church size in this increasingly urbanized nation is well below two hundred: the vast majority of pastors and congregations are still operating under that old, flawed paradigm of the pastor's role." (chapter 18).

I ask you, if you can, to read those excerpts in context, because to me it really does seem that he saying that unless you have a very large church in the context of your community, than your church has been a failure. I've no wish to misunderstand him, but if my understanding is true, how can such an attitude be accepted?

Plus, what about churches in other places, other countries where they are subject to persecution, even of a severe sort? What can all these words about growth mean to a pastor who's members are losing jobs and being disowned by their families because of their faith, or to he himself when he is being throw into prison for preaching the Gospel of Christ?

In the end, while this book may have some good things to say to a pastor, there are other things that simply seem off to me. I wouldn't necessarily tell someone to avoid it like the plague, but I wouldn't encourage it as a must-have resource, either.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

movie review--Oz, The Great and Powerful

I had kind of mixed expectations for this one, from watching the previews. It looked promising, but in recent year Franco's been in some pretty iffy films.

I'm glad to say that I found Oz to be pretty satisfying.

First, the scenery in the movie is outstanding. They did a good job of creating an essentially fantasy place, where the colors are so bright and full as to be almost too bright and full. In that sense, it was somewhat like the landscape in Avatar, though not as alien but maybe more dream-like.

And the plot had some clever twists and turns, which despite the overall basically normal plot line, gave it some good points of interest.

One review I read in a newspaper said that the actresses who played the witches didn't do that good of a job. Granted, this movie may not win them any awards, but I think a better way of looking at it was that they were more understated than mailing it in. And if you saw Hansel and Gretel, you may appreciate how not doing them the way that movie did may be considered a good thing.

And Franco was convincing as a small-time carnie trickster.

There are some things in it that could be questioned, though.

If you saw the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, you may well remember the auto commercial which featured Paul Harvey reading a bit of something about God making farmers, and the things they endure to do what they do. It's interesting, then, how Oz G&P kind of reverses that. Kansas, the land of good people who go to church and things like that, is depicted in a black and white, while Oz itself is a hyper-colorful fairy land. In other words, the world of farmers and good people is rather dull and dreary.

Maybe that wasn't the intended message, but that was how it seemed. I could be just reading more into it then what was meant to be there.

But outside of a bit of something like that, there wasn't really anything objectionable in it, and I enjoyed it pretty well. It may be one I'll see again in the next week or two, and one I can recommend to others.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

book review--Broken, by Jonathan Fisk

a welcomed change from the usual kinds of such books
The usual kinds of books put out by young, hip, cool, relevant, whatever types of up-and-coming church leaders seem to fit in a couple of broad and overlapping categories. One is the seeker-purpose-get your best life now types who have found some big new secret way to pray and live that will guarantee you more and more and bigger and bigger. The other is the charismatic pray all day and all night and sing the songs on our new P&W recording 50 times each and God will (finally) be persuaded to do something. All are theologically asinine and scripturally vacuous.

In the marshmallow fluff world of that kind of stuff, "Broken" is like a ray of light, perhaps because it is not only contrary to them, but calls them out for what they really are.

For example, perhaps no teaching has caused more confusion and been the source of more bad decisions and loony teachings than the idea that we should try to hear "God's whispers" somewhere inside of us. In the chapter on Mysticism, Fisk calls that kind of thing out for what it really is, the worship of our feelings.

Every two-bit apostle and prophet tries to get people to attend their churches and conferences and gatherings by holding out the carrot that if the people attending will do X then now or soon God will finally see fit to send the revival they've been waiting 100 or so years for Him to send--if they will worship with more abandon to the latest choruses, or pray 25 or more hours a day, or whatever. In the chapters on Moralism and Spirituality, Fisk calls that kind of thing out for what it really is, the worship of the works of our hands and the worship of our own made-up spiritual rules.

And there are the ones who think that God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible is about as relevant as Oldsmobile, that what we need today is not your father's God, but a new generation of god, one that looks surprisingly like the person telling us that God is like a now-defunct automobile brand. This new generation of god will, of course, come complete with a new set of rules and directions, though if those don't seem to be working, well, the one real rule is that there are no real rules, so we can make this god however we want, so this god will say and do, approve and celebrate, whatever we want it to. In his chapter on God's Absence, Fisk calls out this kind of thing out for what it really is, the worship of Lawlessness.

But while diagnosing the problems is certain worth a lot, Fisk does more than that. He points us to Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, the things He did for us to rescue us from sin and death and judgment. Fisk does not point us to our own efforts to make ourselves good enough, either to earn salvation or to earn any blessing or favor from God, but shows us what God has done for us, so that while we cannot make ourselves righteous through vain attempts to keep the law, God has made righteous those who belief in Jesus.

In a church land which seems to be addicted to having more and having to do more and trading and bartering with God to get more, this "STOP!" message of Fisk's is a welcomed relief. We can stop doing all these things in an attempt to bribe and cajole God into finally doing something, but we can do all of them, from the simply tasks of everyday life to preaching to Gospel to thousands, out of a love of the One who has already done everything.

I recommend this book about as highly as I can.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ignorance does not make one qualified

He is not dead, He is alive, and He still visits folks today to minister to them one on one. Jesus still leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one lost sheep. He still loves each of us with a supernatural love that is impossible for us to comprehend with our human intellect. In other words, the experiences documented in this book are the innocent renderings of events as written down by a “babe in Christ.” At the time many of these heavenly experiences were recorded, I was not well-read, nor had I studied the Bible to any great degree. In my opinion, this fact lends validity to these simple, supernatural and ethereal observations of a new believer.

Kevin Basconi Angels in the Realms of Heaven: Real Life Heavenly and Angelic Encounters, Prologue
It was somewhat funny to read this statement of Basconi's, because I'd actually had a character use a similar argument in something I'd written, in En Passant. Here's what it was...

...Anyway, you are sharing the stage with a person who has earned the title of Grandmaster in chess, so we may assume he's a pretty good player. Do you play chess, Jo?” “

Oh, dear, no. Such a crude, violent game, with all those winners and losers. My sensitive postmodern postcompetitive postmasculine postspiritualized nature will simply not tolerate such Modernistic barbaric violence. I could never find any enjoyment is such an activity.”

The Grandmaster gave her a puzzled look. “But, you are here to talk of chess, yes?”

“Of course, Grandmaster (and I'll deal later with how bad such a prepostmodern prepostmasculine title is), and I think that my not having any familiarity with Chess puts me in a unique and qualified position to offer enlightened comment on the game, and especially our current topic of what will come after the death of chess. The fact that I don't know the rules of the games means that I am not bound by the rules of the game, so that I may see the game in new and creative and even postsecular and postspiritualized ways, so that I may see not only the death of chess, but also what is coming after the death of chess, the chess after chess, the chess beyond chess, the Event of chess that through the current game of chess only vaguely and weakly calls to us, the chess of weakness which calls to us from afar.”
I would have thought that ignorance and inexperience would be qualifications only in Postmodernism. But, apparently, it also works as a qualification for have religious experiences, too.

Sorry, not buying it. Basconi's ignorance of the Bible only made him more prone to being deceived by these experiences.