Wednesday, June 26, 2013

book review--Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax

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

I recall a few years ago reading "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren. It was basically a book about a guy who has having a crisis of faith, and meets another man with the nickname Neo, who essentially plays the role of the sage advisor, and there are several conversations between them in the book. One may well say that book wasn't so very far off the range, though later developments in McLaren's views have pretty clearly shown that he's gone a lot further into wackiness, which kind of gives the impression that NKC was rather like him sticking his toe into the water before finally jumping in.

"Clear Winter Nights" has a similar premise. There's a man who is having a crisis of faith, and there is the man who plays the role of the sage to him. There are numerous conversations about various aspects of Christian theology. But the main, and important, difference between the two books is that the sage old man in CWN has very different ideas than McLaren's Neo, and to my mind his ideas are orders of magnitude superior to McLaren.

Many different things are discussed between the two main characters, things like evangelism and religious pluralism and sexual morality, and the main character's grandfather, the sage in this story, does a good job of answering the younger man's doubts and questions, by pointing him back to what the Scriptures say.

I was pretty well pleased with this book, and it earned a pretty strong recommendation from me. It's well worth reading.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

movie review--Man of Steel

There is a certain problem with giving a review of this movie, which has to do with one aspect of how it has been marketed. I'll deal a bit with both sides of it.

First, simply as a movie, the best way to express my take of it is "WOW!!!" Yeah, it's that good.

The story part of it is very good. We get a kind of coming-of-age story, where at various times we see Clark as a newborn on Krypton, a boy in Kansas, a young man yondering about, then finally as the guy working at the newspaper who moonlights as a hero.

In this, the conflict he works through is the question of how he's to use his developing powers while also maintaining a low profile. In that, he does a rather iffy job, not for lack of trying, but because he's put into positions where he must use them to save lives, or in one scene where as a schoolchild he has a minor breakdown when his senses become very sensitive.

I must confess to a bit of disappointment in the Jonathan Kent of the movie. When Clark had to display his strength to save some fellow students, his father hints that he maybe should have let them die in order to keep people from questioning who or what he may be. Then there's the scene with the twister, which I still think is rather iffy. But that's about my only disappointment in the movie.

And when it comes to the action and fighting, they are appropriately epic. Superman's fights with the previously banished Kryptonians are almost gratuitously destructive, as they go through buildings and structures like they were made of cards.

So, I would say, go watch this movie! You're not likely to be disappointed.

One thing the makers of this movie have done is to market it directly to churches. Many churches do sermon serieses based around themes like God in the movies, and it seems that the movie makers intentionally made this Superman a kind of allegory for Jesus. I'm just no convinced that it works very well at that, though.

The Bible gives us very little information about the childhood of Jesus, essentially only His birth, the coming of the wise men, and one incident when He was a young boy. But given that He lived a perfect, sinless life, we may say that there are things that He did not do.

Clark Kent in the movie is far from perfect. He struggles with how to act, and at one point gets more than a little snippy with his human parents. At another point, he pilfers a bit of clothing from the trunk of a car. He simply is not any kind of divine being, for all of his strengths.

There is one scene in a church, where Clark talks briefly with a pastor or priest. The best advice this priest could give him was something about having to make a leap of faith. Is that the best advice a religous leader could give a person?

The movie is very good, but it may be best to not expect it to carry the burden of being a Christian allegory.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

book review--Jesus Killed My Church by Randy Bohlender

Rubbernecking Literature

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

A few times while driving on the interstate, I've come on traffic back-ups. These weren't cases where traffic came to a complete stop, but rather where it slowed almost to a crawl, but still kept inching forwards. Usually, it turned out that, somewhere up ahead, somethind had happened, and as the drivers were passing by they were slowing down and turning their heads to try to get a look at whatever had happened.

That's basically what this book is, a bit of rubbernecking as one looks at the wreck of a church.

It's an interesting enough book, so far as it goes. The writer relates the account in a fairly interesting way, with bit of humor thrown in. It wasn't a dull book to read.

But getting into the substance of it, it isn't too hard to see some pretty troubling things. As the title of the book indicated, the author claims that "Jesus Killed My Church". Frankly, if so, it was an act of kindness. This guy has a bloodhound's nose for finding the worst of the worst in false teachers and false revivals, as his accounts of pilgrimages to Pensacola and IHOP KC very well indicate. Sadly, he seems to think that he should join up with those people, or emulate them, rather than get as far away from them as possible.

Two things stood out for me in this book.

One was the inherent unreliability of these people who spend their lives making their decisions based on vague feelings. This author recounts two times when he was offered ministry positions, presumably by people who had thought their feelings were God's way of saying that they should offer him those positions, and each time he decided against accepting those positions because "it didn't feel right" (p 67).

So, which side was correct? Were the people offering him the position understanding their own feelings correctly, or did he understand the vague feelings correctly when he turned them down? Or, was God sending mixed signals? I seriously doubt the latter, so that just leaves the dilemma of trying to understand which side was hearing God more correctly than the other.

Another, even more disturbing, thing had to do with a woman who came to him, because she was worried that she had ESP because she felt some strange things and had repetitive dreams. At least from the account in the book, found on pages 110-111, instead of trying to determine if she needed some psychological help or even spiritual deliverance, they immediately tell her "You have a prophetic spirit".

Where does the Bible say that this is how a prophetic spirit operates? When God sent a prophetic dream or vision to a prophet, there was no doubt that it was from God. It was people like Pharoah in Genesis, and Nebuchanezzar in Daniel, essentially pagan rulers, who received dreams from God but they didn't know the source of the dreams until Joseph or Daniel explained things to them.

Also, there is simply the fact that this woman's feelings and dreams, concerning a certain building this pastor was wanting to obtain for his church, turned out to be false. They didn't happen. His church never acquired that building before Jesus killed it. In fact, if this was the former College Football Hall of Fame building near King's Island near Cincinnati, since this man's church was in or near Cincinnati, then that building was torn down in 2004, which means that her feelings and dreams cannot ever happen. This confirms that whatever was giving this woman these feelings and dreams, whether only her own mind or some kind of spiritual influence, was not from God.

If Jesus killed this man's church, maybe it was because it simply needed killing. Judging simply from what he writes, his mains concerns were with being different, getting the atmosphere right, and all kinds of frivolous things.

Probably the main profit one can get from this book is learning how NOT to pastor a church. Don't rely on vague feelings that the Bible never says are God's way of speaking to us. Don't get hung up on being different. Don't think you're such a big brave man because you went and got an earring. Don't think someone's dream or vision is from God simply because it agrees with what you want. Don't think you're called to be a pastor simply because some church plays a song by a band that you like. And, please, stay away from anyone associated with the false Pensacola revival, IHOP KC, The Call, or the NAR in general.