Sunday, March 30, 2014

movie review—Noah

What were they thinking!!!

Considering that a major theme for this year's movies seems to be loosely-Christian ideas, it's of some interest to see how those ideas are shown.

Listening to some of the radio ads for the movie “Noah”, it's admitted that “artistic license” was used. I really have to say that it was a pretty serious license, almost to the point of making the story unrecognizable.

True, many of the basics are there. There's Noah, his wife, and three sons. There's an ark, and the animals. There's a flood, with water coming from both the sky and from the ground. Outside of that, though, it gets over into the realm of fantasy, and even worse thing.

For example, there were the Watchers, some kind of angelic beings who had rebelled against God and had been sent to Earth, to live in some kind of rock shells. They resemble the ents from The Lord of the Ring movies, or maybe some of the Transformers from those movies. The Bible makes no mention at all of them, and the notion that they are “fallen angels” who somehow still end up helping Noah becomes problematic, too.

Then, there's Noah himself. For about 2/3 of the movie, he's not a bad sort. It isn't until about the time that the flood begins that we see the emergence of Noah the nihilist, who thinks God wants the human race to end with him and his children, even to the point of keeping his sons from finding wives to take with them, except for Shem who marries a woman who is thought to be unable to have children, and wanting to kill his newborn twin granddaughters, who were born on the ark.

This nihilistic Noah is completely contrary to anything the Bible says about Noah. Genesis 6:18 “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you.” Genesis 7:7 tells us that Noah's son already had wives, and they went with them into the ark. And Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah built the ark for the purpose of saving his household.

Even outside of that, there is much in the movie that is questionable. In Genesis 6, God plainly tells Noah what's going to happen. In this movie, Noah gets some strange dreams that he must figure the meaning for himself, and one reason for his fall into nihilism is because he thinks these unclear messages mean that God wants his children to be the end of the human race.

Although little is shown of the cities the supposed children of Cain had built, there is the hint that industrialism was one reason for God's displeasure in man, along with the eating of meat. The message from the creation, that man is to have dominion over the earth and subdue it, is put into the mouth of the movie's main bad guy, almost as if saying that this message was not a part of God's original order, but rather something inserted later by man.

Overall, this movie is disappointing, and even distasteful. This movie makes the biblical account of Noah seem like fantasy, and it makes a man of faith look like a psychotic maniac. Sadly, I cannot recommend this movie.

Friday, March 21, 2014

book review—How to Believe: Restoring the Passion of Worship by Tommy Tenney


I got a free e-copy of this book when Destiny Image offered it for free.

At one point in this book, the author makes this comment concerning the things some preachers say in their sermons, “He (God) probably listens to our preaching and says , “Did I say that? I don’t remember saying it quite that way….”” (Kindle Locations 1007-1008). He may be right, but it is not merely ironic, but hypocritical, for him to say that, because throughout this book he is continually putting words and ideas in God's mouth.

For example, he says in this book that we need to build a Mercy Seat. Good luck finding where Paul or any other epistle writer tells the churches to do that, because they don't. They don't say a word about the churches needing to build any such thing. Oh, but this author must be oh-so-much-more spiritual and enlightened then those old fuddy-duddy apostles from 2,000 years ago, 'cause he can tell the church that it needs to do something that they didn't even consider.

He says that we shouldn't trust anyone who doesn't have a limp, like Jacob. That makes about as much sense as looking at the life of Moses and saying we shouldn't trust anyone who doesn't stutter, or the life of Samson and saying we shouldn't trust anyone who hasn't been blinded. He says that if we are in prison, we should sing and praise like Paul and Silas did, and God will open up the prison doors for us. Funny, though, 'cause in Acts 12, Peter was asleep when the angel came to free him from prison. And Paul wound up in prison again later on, related in the last few chapters of Acts. I guess he just didn't sing and worship enough, 'cause he stayed in prison for quite a while.

When it comes to the Bible, the author is much more interested in reading his own make-believe stories and ideas into the accounts than in looking at what the accounts actually say. “Read the second chapter of Acts and explain to me why the disciples stumbled and staggered out of an upper room so inebriated in the Spirit that people accused them of being falling -down drunks.” (Kindle Locations 816-817). He should read Acts 2, and show us where it tells us that the disciples “stumbled and staggered out of an upper room” in anything like inebriation. It doesn't. “Esther refused to trade the winking approval of men in the king’s court for the favor of the king himself.” (Kindle Locations 943-944). There is no hint in the account of Esther that she experienced “the winking approval of men”, that's something the author found only in his own mind. He inserts this in the account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman, “They (the disciples) said something like, “Jesus, we saw a Burger King right down the road there. We’re going to get something to eat. We’ll bring you something back, is that okay?”” There is no hint in that passage that the disciples were in the wrong to have left to get food.

“He will even put “His strength into captivity ” to come sit with us because He is so desperate for us to be with Him (see Ps. 78: 61).” (Kindle Locations 660-661).That verse in context teaches no such thing. Psalm 78:56-66 tells of times when God's people Israel rebelled against God, and the consequences of that rebellion. Verse 61 is referring to God's judgment against His people, one form of which was them being sent into captivity. “When lucifer fell from glory, I believe a crucial aspect of heavenly worship fell with him.” (Kindle Location 1071). You won't find that taught anywhere in the Bible, nor his notion that God needs us to provide music in Heaven.

“In Exodus 19, He invited everyone in the group to come up and hear Him speak for themselves. This was an opportunity to go beyond the anointing and taste of His glory for themselves. The children of Israel basically said, “Moses, you go talk to God and find out what He says. You can have the intimacy— just take some juicy pictures and bring the anointing back to us” (see Exod. 20: 19).” (Kindle Locations 760-763). Has this author even read Exodus 19 and 20? If he had, he'd see that what he's writing about those chapters is not what is said in them. Exodus 19:24 “24 And the LORD said to him (Moses), “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them.””

Finally, I want to return to what he wrote about the disciples acting like drunkards (they didn't, btw). This tells me that, when he talks about experiencing God's presence or the like, he's referring, at least in part, to the kinds of ungodly, blasphemous things that happened in Toronto and Pensacola, things like the blasphemous “drunk in the spirit” phenomena.

About the only thing this book proves is that this author has no right to consider himself a Christian teacher. This book is garbage, the author's sole interests are in bragging about himself and teaching his own made-up ideas. You'd be wise to find the nearest trash can, and chuck this book into it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

book review—The Quilted Heart Omnibus by Mona Hodgson

an outsider's review

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

First, I should say that I am an outsider to this kind of book. My normal tastes in fiction are usually more towards the sci-fi/fantasy section. There was a time a few years ago when I pretty much devoured the westerns of Zane Grey and Louis L'amour, but they are a good bit different than books like this. Since this is a collection of three fairly short stories, I'll do a bit for each of the stories.

Dandelions on the Wind: Probably the best of the lot. It stays pretty well focused on the four main characters, while also making mention of others who would play parts in the later stories. The story may have seemed a bit rushed at times, but it didn't seem forced or contrived.

Bending Toward the Sun: Sadly, this one was hurried, and the ending did seem contrived. The girl's change from sensible and serious to love-struck was rather too sudden. While mention was made of the man's doubts about God, they are basically brushed over, as if his love for the girl were answer enough for his doubts.

Ripples Along the Shore: Probably the main problem with this one was that there was simply too much going on for this kind of short story. The preparations for the ride west upstaged the requisite romance, and several new characters come in who simply don't get developed all that much. This one would probably benefit from being made into a longer work.

Overall, I think a 3 or 3.5 is fair. My negativity towards the second story aside, they aren't bad story, but nor are they all that great, either. I like a good romantic element to stories, I'll admit, but when the romances become the main focus of the overall story, and a happy ending is basically guaranteed going in, it does get a bit dull after a while, at least for me. Other readers may disagree, and that's fine. I can't say that I found anything in the book that would make me tell anyone to stay away from it, so take my muted enthusiasm as a matter of taste, if you want.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

book review—I Like Giving by Brad Formosa

focused on the wrong things

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

There is some good that could be taken from this book. Wise acts of generosity could well be considered among the good works we are to encourage each other to do, and there are some accounts in this book that could well be good ones to read and think about.

But I have a hard time really saying that this book is a good one. Here's my reasons why.

C.S. Lewis began his essay “The Weight of Glory” by noting how the old virtue of love has been replaced by the more modern virtue of unselfishness. “A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of love”.

Understand, please, that many of the accounts given in this book do express a large degree of concern for the recipient of the act of generosity. But when, for example, the author says things like “When I choose to give with no strings attached and no sense of obligation, I have the sense that I am valuable, that I am needed, that I make the world a better place”, or “Remember, giving is for you—it gives you life”, then this seems to be doing much the same thing that Lewis describes. If my act of generosity is more about making myself feel good, or about giving life to myself, rather than a real and genuine concern for the one whom I wish to help, then am I really being generous? Am I not really being selfish?

Of course, none of us have completely loving or selfless motives. As the Bible says, even all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags, and as Jesus said, even if we should do all that God says for us to do, we would still consider ourselves unprofitable servants. We all must ask God's forgiveness for the times we fail to do things for the right reasons.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this book is that, while there is a modicum of God talk, there is little to no mention of God's love for us as shown in the sacrifice of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. This lack is truly sad and even without excuse, given both that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”, and “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

In spite of some good accounts of generous acts, I simply cannot recommend this book as being a very biblically informed look at how individuals and churches should better be generous.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

book review—Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

almost good, but not quite

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

This has proven to be a surprisingly difficult book to evaluate fairly.

On the one hand, there are some parts of it that are rather good. For example, in Chapter 8, when he says this about God's love, “Because it's not a love based on what I do. It's based on what Jesus has done”, that at least I have no problems with. As well, the author isn't one of those “follow my formula, and everything in your life will be alright” types. As he relates in the book, he simply knows too many faithful people who have gone through some pretty bad situations, and that reality keeps him from going too far into the “You can have your best life now” type of thinking.

But while there are some good spots, far too much of the book is simply not so good.

Because what is the book about? It's about us and what we can do. “Brennan Manning wrote a line that perfectly describes what happens when the chatter gets the best of us: “Great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.”” (p. 9). The premise is that the voice of this chatterbox can somehow keep us from doing these great deed or having this greatness of soul if we listen to it's negativity. It's simply the kind of book meant to boost your ego in what you can do, if of course you do what the author suggests, which will result in crashing your chatterbox.

But if anything, the concept of the chatterbox becomes cumbersome, even for the author. He simply cannot in all honesty say that this chatterbox's negative statements are always wrong or harmful. He can only try, such as in Chapter 9, to set up some ideas that show the difference between condemnation from the chatterbox and God's conviction. But these principles tend to be cumbersome, too. “First person is the default voice of condemnation.” (p. 133), but it was the Apostle Paul himself, in Romans 7, who writes “Oh wretched man that I am!”, definitely using the first person, and referring to himself in a very strong way.

Honestly, I found the idea of a chatterbox unhelpful after a while. If I may suggest something, what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 7 about the differences between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow seems more helpful, and not as cumbersome.

It is possible to read this book, and find some good stuff in it. But one has to wade through a lot of motivational-speak, personal stories, and silly pop-culture references to find those small bits of good. I'm simply not sure it's worth the effort.