Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Did Adam and Eve Keep the Sabbath? Part 2


This post should be read in conjunction with the following:

  1. Adam and Eve and Sabbath Keeping - an explanation

Individuals who argue that Sabbath keeping is not required of Christians often argue that Genesis 1-3 doesn’t include any reference to Adam and Eve keeping the Sabbath. In addition, there is no command to keep a weekly Sabbath. It is concluded that God, therefore, did not institute the Sabbath in Eden.

This brief essay presents some observations that respond to this position and argues that God did, in fact, institute Sabbath keeping at the time of creation and that Adam and Eve would have kept it.

The argument that Adam and Eve did not keep the Sabbath is an argument from silence. In that case, it is incorrect to conclude that they didn’t. Just because Genesis doesn’t mention Adam and Eve keeping the Sabbath doesn’t mean they didn’t. After all, the creation account is primarily about God, not what Adam and Eve did. This focus on God may mean that, in this narrative, what Adam and Eve did is not as important and, therefore, their Sabbath keeping or a command from God to keep a sabbath is not mentioned.

It is incorrect to conclude from an absence of a command that a command didn’t exist. Surely Adam and Eve didn’t require a command about everything that was right/wrong. And even if they did, all of these commands didn’t need to be recorded in the Genesis accounts. The Genesis narratives are not intended to be a list of all the commands God gave to Adam and Eve. The stories are written with a very specific purpose in mind and that purpose constrains what is included and what is left out.

It is true that there is no command in Genesis 1-2 about Sabbath keeping. What we do have is an example. This example provides evidence that the Sabbath should be kept. There is no command in Genesis 1 - 3 proscribing murder. But we don’t conclude from this that murder is ok. When we get to the story of Cain killing Abel, we know it is wrong because it doesn’t fit with God’s example. We have God’s example as the life-giver in Genesis 1 - 2, therefore we should follow that norm and promote life. In the same way, we have God’s example as the Sabbath-creator and observer. God was never physically tired so he had no actual need to rest. Therefore, he must have rested as an example. In the same way we follow God’s example in not murdering, Christians should follow God’s example in Sabbath-keeping.

In addition to all this, sin had not entered the world as a result of human choice at the close of the creation week. A God of love is hardly going to lay down a ’law’ for how His new creatures should follow Him. Rather, he’d teach Adam and Eve about the Sabbath in person - rather than in law - by spending quality time with them.

The creation narrative states that God sanctified something. In that case, we must ask what God sanctified. We have a number of things to choose from. Firstly, it could have been just that one day at the end of creation. Secondly, it could have been an open-ended long period of time. Or thirdly, it may have been a weekly repitition of the original day that was sanctified. The question is which of these makes the most Biblical and logically consistent sense?

A good deal of the argument revolves around the meaning of the omission of the phrase ‘there was evening and morning, the x day’. There is no doubt this was a deliberate literary omission for theological purposes. But what does this omission mean?

It is clear from the text that a period of time was blessed, made holy, and sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set apart. It doesn’t make much sense to say that an unending period of time was set apart. Something with no boundaries can’t be set apart! The most obvious thing set apart is a discrete period of time. If, subsequent to creation, the seventh day was ‘unending’, then every actual day would be considered the same as every other day, in a spiritual sense. Surely, if something is made holy and ’set it apart’ it must be different to all other days. Otherwise there is actually nothing special about it.

If God had wanted the whole week of all time to be special, surely he could have ’set apart’ (sanctified) the whole creation week, but he didn’t. This all points to each discrete seventh day being holy and sanctified from that time on.

So we return to the question: Why might the author of Genesis intentionally leave outthe final ‘evening and morning’ statement? God wanted us not to falsely limit the Sabbath day that was blessed to one day in history at the end of the creation account and thereby conclude that there is no Sabbath blessing today or special time set aside today. The Sabbath was for all time and the absence of an end of the day in the creation narrative points to that fact. The Sabbath continues - not as a general period of ongoing time or a spiritual experience - but as a 24 hour period, which makes most sense of it being ’set aside’.

Another important question to ask is why God created the Sabbath in the first place. It is for humanity to remember their Creator and keep us from becoming self-centred and self-serving and pursuing our own interests (work, pursuits) all the time. It is a celebration of God - a being outside of ourselves - the being Who created us. Therefore to rest signifies our acceptance of God’s creatorship and his Lordship of our lives, including how we spend out time.

It is true that Scripture - and Jesus - speak of our spiritual rest in terms that have links with the creation Sabbath. This stems from the Sabbath being grounded in creation. The metaphors of peace and rest are foretastes of Sabbath when we approach the now-and-not-yet of our salvation and the re-creation of all things. In this sense, although Israel stopped labour on the seventh day, they - for the most part - missed the essence of the Sabbath and what a relationship with God is all about. We too can continue to miss that rest.

Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4 remind us that there remains a promise of blessing and there continues to be a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Therefore, in a sense, the Sabbath points forward to our future salvation and rest in Christ from sin. But this level of typology is secondary to the primary meaning of the Sabbath as a celebration of the Creator, and the conclusions we draw from the secondary level of typology shouldn’t contradict the primary meaning, but rather add to it.

All of this leads to the conclusion that Adam and Eve did keep the Sabbath to begin with. Surely they wouldn’t have missed out on this good thing that God specifically took a further day to create. He could have insituted a six day week, and how much fun would that be today!

Finally, beyond Adam and Eve, we have the example of how Jesus observed the Sabbath as a day of restoration and celebration of such restoration (and celebration of the Restorer). The Sabbath is a gift - for us to delight in - ‘made for man(kind)’ (Mark 2). It goes without saying that God created ongoing time. We don’t need Genesis to tell us that. But within the abstract construct of ongoing time, God has also planted - set apart, blessed and called ’holy’ (special) - regular intervals of time as reminders of and celebrations of Him.

God did something in time as a gift to us - that may enhance our experience of finding peace and rest in Him. How good is that! We only get to call this day a delight and experience this blessing if we actually turn our foot (effort) away from pursuing our regular daily work (KJV pursuing our own ’pleasure’), eg Isaiah 58. God won’t - of course - force this blessing upon us.

Did Adam and Eve keep the Sabbath? We can speculate about what the silence of the creation narratives on Adam and Eve’s Sabbath keeping means. But Adam and Eve are not our example anyway - God is, and so is the example of Christ. So the bigger question really is not, did Adam and Eve keep the Sabbath? The real question is Did God keep the Sabbath? Clearly, he did, even though He didn’t have to. That’s the example that is worth following!


I would like to acknowledge the major help of a friend who provided the essential argument for this post - saving me an enormous amount of time!

Coming up... Adam, Eve, and Sabbath keeping: Part 2

Anyone who truly thinks about their faith needs to deliberately consider alternative points of view about contentious issues within their belief system. To avoid doing so is to have an inauthentic faith based on a narrow view that is the product of biased exposure to what we believe. One of the traits of a critical thinker is intellectual empathy - the ability to enter into the world view of another person and see things from that perspective. It is only then that we can make a fair assessment of alternative points of view and come to our own. In my classes on critical thinking, I often suggest to students that, unless we can argue for an opposing view as well as a person who holds to that view, we have not earned the right to critique it. I thought an exercise such as this would be good to encourage readers of this blog to think "into" two different views. In order to do this, I have chosen a contentious topic from the religious tradition that I grew up in. The aim is not so much to push a particular point of view in this exercise, but to enter into two points of view as if I actually believe them and articulate them both to the best of my ability. The issue I have chosen is whether or not Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath. The first of the positions has been posted at the Thinking Christian blog which argues that they did not. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. I am currently working on the second essay where it will be argued that Adam and Eve did keep the Sabbath. Both of these arguments will be written as if I fully believe them both. This is to illustrate what it means to practice intellectual empathy with alternate points of view. The purpose of the Thinking Christian blog is not to tell people what to believe. Instead, it is to encourage people to think for themselves. To that end, I will not be informing readers, on this occasion, what I actually think. A person, whom I admire greatly, once stated at one of his presentations, that half of what he says is right and half of what he says is wrong. His audience had to work out for themselves which is which. I often say the same thing to my students in my critical thinking classes. To decide any issue by merely following the thinking of someone else rather than our own is to expose oneself to all sorts of dangers. Religious organisations are very keen for people to conform to the party line. Throughout history, great evil has been done by those in power as they manipulate others to conform to their creeds. Many have been slaughtered - physically and emotionally - in the name of God. Psychological terrorism is as evil as physical terrorism. So, in order to encourage Thinking Christian readers to think for themselves, Part 2 of Did Adam and Eve keep the Sabbath? will be coming soon. You will be able to consider both points of view for yourself. There will then be a mini anonymous survey on the blog where you can vote for the view you think is best. So... look out for Part 2 and the vote. Remember:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Did Adam and Eve keep the Sabbath? Part 1

PLEASE NOTE This post should be read in conjunction with the following:

It is often argued, by those who wish to make Sabbath-keeping a requirement for New Testament Christians, that Sabbath-keeping was instituted at creation when God rested on the seventh day, blessed it, and hallowed it (Genesis 2:1-3). If God’s resting, blessing, and hallowing the seventh day was intended as an institution of the Sabbath command, then one would expect that Adam and Eve would have kept the Sabbath in Eden and beyond.

However, I will argue that, even though God rested on the seventh day, blessed it, and hallowed it, there is no reason to believe that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath because there is no command that they should keep the Sabbath and there is no mention of them ever doing so.

Before looking at the specific issue of Adam and Eve’s keeping of the Sabbath, let’s look at the one text in the creation narratives used to support the belief that the Sabbath was instituted at creation - Genesis 2:1-3. It reads:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. (Ge 2:1-3, NRSV)

The question is whether these verses constitute the institution of Sabbath-keeping as a repetitive, weekly practice. If all we had were the creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2, we would have to conclude that they do not. Genesis 1 describes a series of six individual creation days that declare one-time acts of God. When we get to Day 7, we are told that God had finished the work of creation and rested on that day. The most that can be deduced from these two verses is that God rested on this specific seventh day, blessed this specific seventh day, and hallowed this specific seventh day. There is no indication in the text of any repetitive keeping of seventh days. There is no command and, unlike the other days, there is no ’evening and morning’ boundary - it is as if the day is open and unending - God rests from God’s work of creating and goes on resting because it is, indeed, finished. As Knowles (2001) comments, ‘By blessing the day, God invites the whole of creation to share his satisfaction and enjoy his peace.’ Elwell (1989) also makes the point that

The absence of the phrase and there was evening, and there was morning—the___________day after the seventh day indicates that God is not resting because he is exhausted but is desisting from his work of creation. It is not so much a date as it is an atmosphere.

The author of this narrative is not concerned about a repetitive practice of weekly Sabbath-keeping. Instead, on this day following the completion of creation, God invites all that exists to celebrate a finished work.

In addition to the absence of any command or practice related to Sabbath-keeping in these verses, there is no command anywhere else in the creation narratives or after the Fall that required Adam and Eve should keep the Sabbath. God does require a number of things from Adam and Eve, but Sabbath-keeping is not one of them.

The first of God’s requirements is that Adam and Eve should ’“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”’ (1:28b)

The second expectation is that they till and keep the garden of Eden (2:15). Both of these expectations are positive requirements that God had of Adam and Eve. These were the responsibilities they had to fulfil. In addition, there was a negative command - something they were to not do. It is found in 2:16:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Ge 2:16-17, NRSV)

In the entire creation narratives, only three things are mentioned that are required of Adam and Eve. Sabbath-keeping is never mentioned. Even after the Fall described in Chapter 3, Sabbath-keeping is never stated as a requirement for Adam and Eve.

Surely, if Sabbath-keeping was to be universally significant for all time for all people, Adam and Eve would have been asked to keep it. They never are. There is no command - no hint of a command - to keep a Sabbath anywhere in the creation and fall narratives. Further evidence that God did not command Sabbath-keeping in Eden is in the book of Nehemiah:

You [God] came down at Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and instructions that were just, and decrees and commands that were good. You instructed them concerning your holy Sabbath. And you commanded them, through Moses your servant, to obey all your commands, decrees, and instructions. (Neh 9:12, NLT)

It is clear, from all this evidence, that no command was given to Adam and Eve, by God, to keep a regular Sabbath day.

In addition to the absence of a command requiring Adam and Eve to keep the Sabbath, there is no mention of them actually doing so. The only character in the narratives who "does" anything related to the seventh day is God. Throughout the seven days of creation, God is the only actor. Adam and Eve "awaken" to a world where all the work is done and they live in the already-begun rest of God.

So although God rested on the seventh day and hallowed it, Adam and Eve are not described as keeping the Sabbath. First, there is no command that they should keep the Sabbath. And secondly, there is no mention of them keeping the Sabbath.

Why is this an important issue? The reason is that universalising a Sabbath command on the basis that it was instituted at creation and required of Adam and Eve is to diminish and obscure the true Sabbath rest now available in Christ.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers of the special rest that still awaited God’s people (4:8). It is explicitly linked to the rest of God on the seventh day of creation (4:4). It is a rest that we need when, like Adam and Eve, we stand naked before God in our weakness. This rest occurs when we ‘come boldly to the throne of our gracious God ... [to] receive his mercy, and ... find grace to help us when we need it most (4:16, NLT).

Notice that the writer of Hebrews doesn’t refer his readers back to the ten commandments. Instead, he takes them back to the very beginning. It is because Jesus is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3) and greater than the old covenant (Hebrews 8-9) so only the perfection of God’s rest at creation will do.

According to the author of Hebrews, even though Israel kept the Sabbath every week they still did not enter the rest that God really wanted them to have. Even though they kept the Sabbath every week, their unbelief kept them from God’s rest.

But we can enter into that rest. That rest is Jesus. Jesus is the reality that all the symbols and rituals of the old covenant pointed to. When Jesus came he made God’s rest available to every person. A rest, not of ritual, but of freedom from the labour of working for salvation; a rest of freedom from sin and guilt.

Imagine that you have just met someone and fallen in love. You spend every moment with them because you love to be in their presence. But your employer requires you to travel to another country to work for a year. You are separated from your lover. But while you are away, you agree that, every week, on Thursday, you will have a video conference call to catch up with each other. You look forward to it every week. You plan everything around it. When the time comes for your video conference you drop everything to spend that time communicating with your lover. Nothing is allowed to encroach on that time.

When the year is finished, you return home. What do you do? Do you continue to have the video conference call on Thursdays? No! You are back home. You communicate and relate every moment of every day. The video conference calls are no longer needed. You abandon them in favour of the reality of direct, ongoing relationship with the one you love.

When Adam and Eve woke on their first day, all the work of creation had been done. All they needed to do was live in the already completed work of God and celebrate their lives in God. But because of their disobedience, they were separated from God. Years later, God gave Israel a symbol -- the weekly Sabbath -- to remind them of that rest they had with God; a deep and intimate relationship that was direct and immediate. It was also to foreshadow the rest to come when Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ would come and make available again that true rest in God and God would once again have a direct and intimate relationship with God’s people.

When the sin that had entered the world through Adam and Eve had been removed in Christ, then humanity could rest once again in the true seventh day -- Jesus himself. God gifts those God loves with the Holy Spirit which enables intimate and ongoing relationship every day, every hour, every minute. The re-creation has been completed. And now the new humanity - you, me, and every other person on the planet, can be reborn into a new “seventh day” that, like the original seventh day of creation, is unending rest in the work of God. Every day is a rest in Jesus. As Jesus himself said:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Mt 11:28-30, NLT)

We are the new Adam and Eve. Rest forever in Jesus - your true Sabbath.


Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide. Includes index. (1st Augsburg books ed.) (23). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.

Philosophy: Germans vs Greeks

Here’s a wonderfully humorous little clip of a philosophical football (soccer) match:

The Argument Clinic

Check out this classic piece of Monty Python - The Argument Clinic:

A recent exchange with a reader

I recently had a brief exchange with a reader of my blog which I thought might be worth sharing. The reader wrote:
Steve I’ve often wondered if the stuff that you watch has in fact a lasting and future effect on your personality. I mean some of the stuff that you review, I would personally avoid like the plague. If a person chooses to watch certain things, do they, ’by beholding become changed’? Or are some people stronger than others? Some say that Rev. Fred Nile had a special ministry that others could not handle. What are your thoughts? P.
And my reply:
Hi P.
It’s a good question. I don’t know that I would want to claim a special ministry [nor would I want to be compared to Fred Nile!]. I know I think about what I see more than some people I know. Maybe that is the difference. I feel as though I can be critical of what I see. And, despite what you may think, there is some stuff I refuse to see and some I definitely avoid :-) I guess that is not always clear because I usually don’t mention them! And I often tell people that I don’t recommend some things because I think they are not good. Maybe it is a ministry of a sort. There’s a guy who teaches at [a Christian college] who has told me that what I do is extremely helpful, particularly for students or young people. People, including youth, will inevitably go to the cinema and watch movies at home. I hope that my reviews can, perhaps, help people make good choices and, at the least, think about some of the issues going on in a movie. In my opinion, everything we watch has an effect on our personality. And that includes Christian stuff - good and bad. I don’t think it is possible to divide the media up into categories on the basis of whether it is Christian or not. There is some very good Christian stuff and some very dangerous. The same is true of so-called non-Christian stuff. I think we have to be discriminating on a case-by-case basis. I have met some Christians who only watch so-called Christian movies and read so-called Christian books which I would say have the potential to cause irreparable harm. Anyway... that’s a few thoughts that just come to mind. Maybe I’m wrong... but I learn a lot from what I view and read - often in some very unexpected places in and surprising ways! Steve

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Movie Review: Fracture

Fracture (Widescreen Edition)I always enjoy a really intelligent crime/thriller/mystery. Gregory Hoblit’s latest movie, Fracture, fits the bill very nicely.

Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) discovers that his wife is having an affair. He tries to kill her when she arrives home one evening but she survives (although she is brain dead). When the police arrive along with the hostage negotiator (which turns out to be Ted’s wife’s lover), Ted is standing near the body with the gun in his hand and provides a complete confession and put on trial for attempted murder. It is an open and shut case.

Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is an up-and-coming hotshot lawyer (or thinks he is) who works for the DA in the public prosecutor’s office. He is on the up escalator heading for success and has been invited to a big-name private law firm. Before he leaves for his new job, though, he decides to take on the prosecution of Ted Crawford - it will be easy to win and will be a nice way of ending his current employment.

But things turn out to be more difficult than they first appeared to be. Ted, who has decided to represent himself, begins to manipulate the legal system and Willy in ways that threaten to bring Willy’s career to an abrupt end. Instead of being an easy win, Ted Crawford’s case becomes a battle of wits with some very big consequences.

Anthony Hopkins is great in this role. The danger for Hopkins, of course, is that he will inevitably be compared to his Hannibal Lecter roles. He could easily have overplayed Ted Crawford but is appropriately restrained. Ryan Gosling is also excellent as we follow him on a journey that challenges who he is and why he is doing what he is.

Fracture is very intriguing and the mystery that unfolds as the narrative progresses teases our minds until the answer is revealed right at the end. Some stories require contrived plot devices to make them work. Not so with Fracture. The plot is complicated but all pretty believable making it a very satisfying murder mystery. The direction is flawless as we are led along with Willy as he tries to work out what is going on. Fracture works on an entertainment level but also has some important things to say about success and whether it is always worth what needs to be sacrificed to attain it.

My Rating: **** (out of 5)

Positive Review

’The plot’s many complications pretty much all add up, which is a rarity these days for a murder mystery. It’s possible that audiences don’t even care anymore if a film makes sense as long it’s entertaining.’ - Peter Rainer/Christian Science Monitor

Negative Review
’Fracture may be smarter than the majority of movies out there, but it’s not half as clever as it thinks it is.’ - Pete Vonder Haar/Film Threat

Content Advice
Language and some violent content


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

DVD Review: Gods of Entertainment

I recently received a copy of a documentary DVD to review entitled Gods of Entertainment: the power of mass media to influence and corrupt. The purpose of the documentary is to ’pull... back the curtain of the entertainment industry revealing fascinating information about the influence of media, good and bad, and equip... the viewer to stand firm against persuasive powers that can corrupt.’ (back cover) It is undoubtedly true that the mass media has an influence on viewers. It is also true that media can be used for good or evil. However, Gods of Entertainment is completely biased in its presentation of the power and influence of the media. This bias is demonstrated by the following features of the documentary:
  1. It only provides negative examples of the media and its content (apart from a couple of exceptions which I will come to shortly). The presenters list and show examples of movies and television that portray violence, sex, nudity, witchcraft, secularist thought, and many more. There is almost no mention of the vast amount of positive content available in all media forms.
  2. It is US-centric. Although mention is made of other parts of the world, this is primarily to make the point that American culture is ubiquitous, particularly the media that is viewed around the world. It is true that American culture is deeply influential. But it would have been good to provide examples of independent film making, documentaries, and television programming in various countries that would illustrate that there are alternatives to American-derived entertainment.
  3. Gods of Entertainment comes from the perspective of the religious right in America which believes that the original Christian values of its founders are being eroded. The documentary sets up a narrow definition of Christian values and implies that anything that doesn’t fit that definition is questionable.
  4. There isn’t one dissenting voice in the entire documentary. A few commentators who clearly support the agenda of the documentary makers are interviewed. Any documentary on a controversial issue should provide opportunity for dissenting opinion so that a balanced view can be had. This omission implies that there is a clear agenda behind this documentary. Well... there is a clear agenda. But that agenda only becomes clearer the further into the documentary one watches. It starts out with what appears to be a balanced, objective approach. By the time the film finishes, it has turned into a call for nominal Christians to become real Christians by obeying God in the area of media discernment. There is nothing wrong with trying to persuade people to one’s point of view. But it is disingenuous to imply that one is making a balanced assessment when one isn’t.
  5. The documentary makers have a black and white view of what is good and evil. J K Rowling and Harry Potter are evil. Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ are good. This dualistic approach completely ignores the controversies within the Christian community itself around both of these productions. An honest presentation of this controversy is essential in thinking through issues such as this.
  6. There is an interesting use of language in the promotional material for this documentary. Caryl Matrisciana, the presenter and producer of the documentary, is described as a ’veteran filmaker’, and ’a leading expert in world religions and paganism’. A Dr Ted Baehr is described as a ’media pundit’. Then there is ’theology authority’, Pastor Dave Shirley. All of these accolades should be taken with a grain of salt. Pastor Dave Shirley, for example, does not have a theology degree as far as I can tell. He has a Bachelor of Biblical Education and a Masters Degree in Education. The website where I found this information about him states that ’He commonly teaches Revelation, History of Redemption, Christian Living, and Greek. He is the Senior Pastor of the campus church, Calvary Chapel Hot Springs, located at the Calvary Chapel Bible College, Murrieta, California.’ These qualifications and activities surely do not make him a ’theological authority’. Dr Ted Baehr is actually the creator of MovieGuide, self-described as ’a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles, by influencing entertainment industry executives and helping families make wise media choices.’ The reality is that all of the people interviewed come from an essentially fundamentalist Christian perspective who hold to a conspiracy theory about media owners out to deliberately eradicate Judeo-Christian values from America. The language used to describe these interviewees implies that they are objective and authoritative. The reality is far from that.
  7. There is only one Christian who is directly tied to movie making interviewed and he worked on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. This movie is held up as a landmark movie (which it was) and Mel Gibson as a hero who stood up to the media moguls, who rejected his film, by paying $30 million US to fund it himself. But this completely ignores the flood of controversy surrounding this film including allegations of anti-semitism. And despite the overt attempt to make it biblical, The Passion of the Christ is alleged to have been based on the writings of a Catholic mystic and her visions.
There are a large number of Christians working in Hollywood who have not been given a voice in this documentary and who would disagree with the approach taken in Gods of Entertainment. Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi, both Christians who are also movie industry professionals, have recently published a book entitled Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture. These authors live inside the movie-production system and know what they are talking about. Here’s what they say about the approach of Christians like those who feature in Gods of Entertainment:
Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and CultureWe [Christians] obsess about "the culture" endlessly; we analyze and criticize. But we can’t figure out anything to do but point an accusatory finger at Hollywood. If this were a scene from an old-time movie serial, our culture would be tied to the train tracks, Hollywood would be twirling its moustache, and we’d be in the corner with a petition sign. Blaming Hollywood for our cultural woes has become a habit. And, as Bob Briner observed in his 1991 book Rearing Lambs, it’s a bad one. Casting Hollywood as the enemy has only pushed Hollywood farther away. And the farther away Hollywood is from us, the less influence we have on our culture. We’ve left the business of defining human experience via the mass media to people with a secular world view. Is it any surprise that when we turn on the TV, we see people act like they have a secular worldview? Nor have we endeared Hollywood by blaming them. Ever notice how Christians in movies tend to fall into two categories: psychos and inbred psychos? If you’ve never had a Christian friend--or, for that matter, even met a Christian--and if all you know of them is angry, hateful protests, you might think that they’re angry, hateful people. How ironic that we, who were called to be examples of love for the world, have come to represent all that is cold and hateful in the popular imagination. And is there not some truth in it? In pushing away secular Hollywood, haven’t we turned our backs on the very people Christ called us to minister to--the searching and the desperate, those without the gospel’s saving grace and truth? Blaming Hollywood has to be considered a failed tactic that needs to be abandoned. (pp. 8-9)
If you are looking for a balanced, accurate view of mass media, then Gods of Entertainment is not the place to find it. There are some points made that are true and valuable. But there is so much that is biased and skewed that, overall, it is not really worth the time watching unless you want something that will confirm what you already think. My Rating: ** (out of 5) Related Links

Monday, August 13, 2007

'Called to Be Free'

Check out this absolutely amazing and inspiring story of the way in which the World Wide Church of God cult went through a massive upheaval when they discovered the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The leaders of this organisation decided that following the truth where it led was more important than preserving their organisation or hanging on to their power and prestige. It is a fascinating story told by those who lived through the transformation. It stands as an example for other organisations to follow who need to lay aside biblical untruth and take hold of the gospel. You can see the documentary here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Book Review: The Gospel According to Luke

gospel lukeChristian fundamentalism. Secularism. Sex. These three things don’t easily exist together. In fact, they are usually mutually exclusive. But Emily Maguire, in her novel The Gospel According to Luke, has brought them together in a powerful story of a clash of world views that is explosive and with lots of fallout.

Luke is a fundamentalist Christian pastor working in a youth centre. He is absolutely certain of the truth and knows that God has called him to this ministry. His purpose in life is to save souls for the kingdom. Across the road from the youth centre is a secular Family Planning Clinic where Aggie, a social worker is employed to help young women in crisis. She is an atheist. Her boss is gay.

Another Christian group is on the rampage, using violence and public shaming, to try to force the closure of the Family Planning Clinic on the basis that the clinic helps young women obtain abortions if necessary. And, according to the anti-abortion group, abortion is murder. It follows, then, that Aggie and the clinic are murderers.

The story opens with Aggie visiting Luke to try to discuss a leaflet that the youth centre has been distributing that, as far as Aggie is concerned, is designed to lure people into a cult. And then the unexpected happens - Luke and Aggie are deeply attracted to each other and fall in love. But they live on different "planets" and as they struggle to live according to their beliefs, their emotional worlds are ripped to shreds along with profound challenges to their identities.

Throw into the mix a young, single, abused, pregnant woman, Honey, who visits the clinic and wants to have an abortion and we have the makings of a riveting story that explores ’the battle between religious belief and secular society.’ (back cover)

As the story progresses, issues of sexuality, evangelism, homosexuality, faith, temptation, love, and living all raise their heads. It’s a compelling story that is never romanticised. Lots of questions are raised but the reader is left to explore them without simplistic answers being given. It’s a deeply disturbing but important novel.

Be warned: The Gospel According to Luke contains very coarse language and explicit descriptions of sexual behaviour.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

amazing grace

Amazing grace How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I was once lost But now am found Was blind But now I see - John Newton -

The hymn Amazing Grace is, perhaps, the best known hymn of all time. What is not so well known is that it was penned by a slave trader converted to Christianity - John Newton. The movie Amazing Grace, now showing at our cinemas, is not about John Newton although he is a character in the film. It is the story of the life of William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian in 18th century England, who fought to outlaw the slave trade in England. Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffud) is only 21 years old when he begins to speak out against slavery. John Newton (Albert Finney) is Wilberforce’s best friend who has withdrawn from the world, living in a church, living with deep regret about his involvement in the slave trade and the many who died. Wilberforce visits him for advice about whether he should become a man of God by entering a monastery or work as a politician to fight against slavery. Newton draws no punches - he tells Wilberforce that he must do everything he can to bring the slave trade to an end. So Wilberforce sets out to do just that. The economy of 18th century England is highly dependent on the slave trade. So Wilberforce does not have a popular message and England become divided over the issue. His whole life becomes an obsession to end slavery - nearly causing his death as his health declines. But he finds love when he meets Barbara (Romola Garai) who shares his passion to end slavery. Amazing Grace tries to be an epic movie but fails to reach the dramatic heights it should. It is enjoyable enough but the actors do not seem to be able to convey the power or depth of this truly great story. For me, it seemed more like what one would see in a television mini-series rather than great cinema. A story like Amazing Grace should leave us sitting in the cinema at the end inspired and moved. But it did none of those things for me. Amazing Grace is worth seeing because it is an important historical event that should resonate with contemporary issues around racism and presents a story where a Christian truly demonstrates what Christianity should be about - liberation - of the oppressed, the outcast, the disadvantaged. The Christian message is all about amazing grace. Often, though, that grace is obscured by human evil. The story of William Wilberforce is one moment in history where that amazing grace shone through and we need to celebrate it by practicing that amazing grace in our lives today. My Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review ’An unusually satisfying and inspiring historical epic from one of contemporary cinema’s best filmmakers.’ - William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Negative Review ’[Apted] also has an unfortunate penchant for bland stateliness, and never more so than in Amazing Grace, a well-intentioned piece of historical waxworks.’ - Peter Rainer/Christian Science Monitor Content Advice Thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language AUS: PG USA: PG Related Links