Thursday, January 08, 2015

Spurgeon's first preaching "assignment"

I just saw, and loved, Through The Eyes of Spurgeon. Great film, joy to watch. I recommend it heartily. I would pick a nit, here. The film suggests that "Bishop Vinter" lied to Spurgeon and his companion, telling each that the other would preach. The real story is much more charming. In Spurgeon's own words, relating the incident not long after his sixteenth birthday:
There is a Preachers’ Association in Cambridge, connected with St. Andrew’s Street Chapel, once the scene of the ministry of Robert Robinson and Robert Hall. A number of worthy brethren preach the gospel in the various villages surrounding Cambridge, taking each one his turn according to plan. In my day, the presiding genius was the venerable Mr. James Vinter, whom we were wont to address as Bishop Vinter. His genial soul, warm heart, and kindly manner were enough to keep a whole fraternity stocked with love; and, accordingly, a goodly company of zealous workers belonged to the Association, and laboured as true yoke-fellows. My suspicion is, that he not only preached himself, and helped his brethren, but that he was a sort of recruiting sergeant, and drew in young men to keep up the number of the host; at least, I can speak from personal experience as to one case 
I had, one Saturday, finished morning school, and the boys were all going home for the half-holiday, when in came the aforesaid “Bishop” to ask me to go over to Teversham, the next evening, for a young man was to preach there who was not much used to services, and very likely would be glad of company. That was a cunningly-devised sentence, if I remember it rightly, and I think I do; for, at the time, in the light of that Sunday evening’s revelation, I turned it over, and vastly admired its ingenuity. A request to go and preach, would have met with a decided negative; but merely to act as company to a good brother who did not like to be lonely, and perhaps might ask me to give out a hymn or to pray, was not at all a difficult matter, and the request, understood in that fashion, was cheerfully complied with. Little did the lad know what Jonathan and David were doing when he was made to run for the arrow, and as little did I know when I was cajoled into accompanying a young man to Teversham. 
My Sunday-school work was over, tea had been taken, and I set off through Barnwell, and away along the Newmarket Road, with a gentleman some few years my senior. We talked of good things, and at last I expressed my hope that he would feel the presence of God while preaching. He seemed to start, and assured me that he had never preached in his life, and could not attempt such a thing; he was looking to his young friend, Mr. Spurgeon, for that. This was a new view of the situation, and I could only reply that I was no minister; and that, even if I had been, I was quite unprepared. My companion only repeated that he, in a still more emphatic sense, was not a preacher, that he would help me in any other part of the service, but that there would be no sermon unless I delivered one. He told me that, if I repeated one of my Sunday-school addresses, it would just suit the poor people, and would probably give them more satisfaction than the studied sermon of a learned divine. I felt that I was fairly committed to do my best. I walked along quietly, lifting up my soul to God, and it seemed to me that I could surely tell a few poor cottagers of the sweetness and love of Jesus, for I felt them in my own soul. Praying for Divine help, I resolved to make the attempt. My text should be, “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” and I would trust the Lord to open my mouth in honour of His dear Son. It seemed a great risk and a serious trial; but depending upon the power of the Holy Ghost, I would at least tell out the story of the cross, and not allow the people to go home without a word.
[C. H. Spurgeon, C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Compiled from His Diary, Letters, and Records, by His Wife and His Private Secretary, 1834–1854, vol. 1 (Cincinatti; Chicago; St. Louis: Curts & Jennings, 1898), 200–201.]


Friday, January 02, 2015

Gurnall: encouragement for Christians amid the battle's ebbs and flows

"This gives a strong cordial to our fainting faith, in the behalf of the church of Christ. If all the devil’s wits and wiles will not serve him to overcome one single soldier in Christ’s camp, much less shall he ever ruin the whole army.

These are days of great confusions in the Christian world; and the chief fear of a gracious heart is for the ark, lest that should fall into the enemy’s hand, and when this palladium is taken, the city of God (his church) be trod under the feet of pride. I confess Satan seems to get ground daily; he hath strangely wriggled into the bosoms and principles of many, who, by the fame of their profession and zeal, had obtained, in the opinion of others, to be reckoned among the chief of Christ’s worthies in their generation.

"...And now, Christian, may be their confidence, together with the distracted state of Christ’s affairs in the world, may discompose thy spirit concerning the issue of these rolling providences that are over our heads; but be still, poor heart, and know that the contest is not between the church and Satan, but between Christ and him; these are the two champions.

"Stand now, O ye army of saints, still by faith, to see the all-wise God wrestle with the subtle devil. If you live not to see the period of these great confusions, yet generations after you shall behold the Almighty smite off this Goliath’s head with his own sword, and take this cunning hunter in the toil of his own policies; that faith, which ascribes greatness and wisdom to God, will shrink up Satan’s subtilty into a nigrum nihil, a thing of nothing. Increduli timent diabolum, quusi leonem, qui fide fortes despiciunt quasi vermiculum.—Bern. Unbelief fears Satan as a lion; faith treads on him as a worm. Behold, therefore, thy God at work, and promise thyself, that what he is about will be an excellent piece; none can drive him from his work.

"...A pinch may come, when it is as vain to say, Help, O king, as Help, O beggar; man’s wisdom may be levelled with folly, but God is never interrupted. All the plots of hell and commotions on earth, have not so much as shaked God’s hand, to spoil one letter or line that he hath been drawing. The mysteriousness of his providence may hang a curtain before his work, that we cannot see what he is doing; but then ‘when darkness is about him, righteousness is the seat of his throne for ever.’

"O where is our faith, sirs? let God be wise, and all men and devils fools. What, though thou seest a Babel more likely to go up, than a Babylon to be pulled down, yet believe God is making his secret approaches, and will clap his ladders on a sudden to the walls thereof. Suppose truth were prisoner with Joseph, and error the courtier, to have its head lift up by the favour of the times, yet dost not remember that the way to truth’s perferment lies through the prison? yea, what though the church were like Jonah in the whale’s belly, swallowed up to the eye of reason, by the fury of men; yet dost not remember the whale had not power to digest the prophet?

"O be not too quick to bury the church before she be dead. Stay while Christ tries his skill before you give it over; bring Christ by your prayers to its grave, to speak a resurrection word.

"Admirable hath the saints’ faith been in such straits; as Joseph’s, who pawned his bones that God would visit his brethren, willing them to lay him where he believed they should he brought. Jeremiah purchaseth a field of his uncle, and pays down the money for it; and this when the Chaldean army quartered about Jerusalem, ready to take the city, and carry him with the rest into Babylon! and all this by God’s appointment, Jer. 22:6–8, that he might show the Jews by this, how undoubtedly he, in that sad juncture of time, did believe the performance of the promise for their return out of captivity.

"Indeed God counts himself exceedingly disparaged in the thoughts of his people, (though at the lowest ebb of his church’s affairs,) if his naked word, and the single bond of his promise, will not be taken as sufficient security to their faith for its deliverance."

[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 75–76.]

Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Music - Sultans of Swing... on ukulele?

"Eclectic" means it can even go beyond my taste. Not a big fan of this song, the original group, or the ukulele... yet what this gent does is pretty wonderful. Thanks to reader Randy Talley for the tip:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Warfield's masterful statement on the Trinity in the NT

In case you've never read it, here is superb theologian/scholar Benjamin B. Warfield's statement on how we find the doctrine of the Triune God in the New Testament:

It is an old saying that what becomes patent in the New Testament was latent in the Old Testament. And it is important that the continuity of the revelation of God contained in the two Testaments should not be overlooked or obscured. If we find some difficulty in perceiving for ourselves, in the Old Testament, definite points of attachment for the revelation of the Trinity, we cannot help perceiving with great clearness in the New Testament abundant evidence that its writers felt no incongruity whatever between their doctrine of the Trinity and the Old Testament conception of God. The New Testament writers certainly were not conscious of being “setters forth of strange gods.” To their own apprehension they worshipped and proclaimed just the God of Israel; and they laid no less stress than the Old Testament itself upon His unity (Jn. 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5). They do not, then, place two new gods by the side of Jehovah as alike with Him to be served and worshipped; they conceive Jehovah as Himself at once Father, Son and Spirit. In presenting this one Jehovah as Father, Son and Spirit, they do not even betray any lurking feeling that they are making innovations. Without apparent misgiving they take over Old Testament passages and apply them to Father, Son and Spirit indifferently. Obviously they understand themselves, and wish to be understood, as setting forth in the Father, Son and Spirit just the one God that the God of the Old Testament revelation is; and they are as far as possible from recognizing any breach between themselves and the Fathers in presenting their enlarged conception of the Divine Being. This may not amount to saying that they saw the doctrine of the Trinity everywhere taught in the Old Testament. It certainly amounts to saying that they saw the Triune God whom they worshipped in the God of the Old   p 143  Testament revelation, and felt no incongruity in speaking of their Triune God in the terms of the Old Testament revelation. The God of the Old Testament was their God, and their God was a Trinity, and their sense of the identity of the two was so complete that no question as to it was raised in their minds.
The simplicity and assurance with which the New Testament writers speak of God as a Trinity have, however, a further implication. If they betray no sense of novelty in so speaking of Him, this is undoubtedly in part because it was no longer a novelty so to speak of Him. It is clear, in other words, that, as we read the New Testament, we are not witnessing the birth of a new conception of God. What we meet with in its pages is a firmly established conception of God underlying and giving its tone to the whole fabric. It is not in a text here and there that the New Testament bears its testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity. The whole book is Trinitarian to the core; all its teaching is built on the assumption of the Trinity; and its allusions to the Trinity are frequent, cursory, easy and confident. It is with a view to the cursoriness of the allusions to it in the New Testament that it has been remarked that “the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much heard as overheard in the statements of Scripture.” It would be more exact to say that it is not so much inculcated as presupposed. The doctrine of the Trinity does not appear in the New Testament in the making, but as already made. It takes its place in its pages, as Gunkel phrases it, with an air almost of complaint, already “in full completeness” (völlig fertig), leaving no trace of its growth. “There is nothing more wonderful in the history of human thought,” says Sanday, with his eye on the appearance of the doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament, “than the silent and imperceptible way in which this doctrine, to us so difficult, took its place without struggle—and without controversy—among accepted Christian truths.” The explanation of this remarkable phenomenon is, however, simple. Our New Testament is not a record of the development of the doctrine or of its assimilation. It everywhere presupposes the doctrine as the fixed possession of the Christian community; and   p 144  the process by which it became the possession of the Christian community lies behind the New Testament.

[Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 142–144.]

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Music - Bela Fleck's Christmas music feast

It's been a very Flecky, banjo-y month, so we close with a really terrific assortment of Christmas songs by banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck. Enjoy!

Music starts about 0:58.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The rapture, unmanned cars, and absurd scenarios

I am reading through Craig Blomberg's commentary on Matthew, with varying degrees of enjoyment and profit.

Commenting on Matthew 24:40-41, he said this:
Some have seen a “secret rapture” in view here (in which believers mysteriously disappear from earth, leaving everyone else to wonder what happened), which often leads to absurd scenarios (e.g., the modern-day notion of cars suddenly without drivers). But the only coming of the Son of Man described so far has been the climactic universal return of Christ in v. 27. The imagery of vv. 38–41 does not suggest anything different.
[Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 366.]
When the scare-quotes are used for "secret rapture," you know you're reading a detractor of the doctrine.

But what really catches my eye is his snorting at "absurd scenarios," like "cars suddenly without drivers." I pair that with brothers I hear sneering that they "don't believe in the rapture."

You don't? Then you're almost assuredly not a Christian.

Note: I did not say pre-tribulation rapture, or mid-tribulation rapture, or any other particular position on the timing of the rapture. Yet that's what I hear, again and again: "I don't believe in the rapture."

But if you're a Christian, you do believe in the rapture.

What is "the rapture"? It's the resurrection of believers, which involves raising the dead and glorifying those who are alive at that time (see 1 Cor 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Non-pretrib theologian Wayne Grudem defines it thus:
rapture: The “taking up” or snatching up (from Latin rapio, “seize, snatch, carry away”) of believers to be with Christ....
[Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1253. Grudem concludes the sentence "when he returns to the earth," which is the point of contention.]
All Christians believe in this. This is not a point of division.

When does this happen, in relation to the Tribulation? Ah, that is where we part company.

But back to sneering Dr. Blomberg. If in conversation, I'd ask him: when Jesus comes and living believers are caught up to meet Him in the air... do cars exist? And, if they do, is it possible that some Christians will be driving cars? And if they are, and the Lord catches them away to meet him in the air...?

Well, if Dr. Blomberg thinks that an unmanned car is an "absurd scenario," then one can only assume that he thinks some sort of notice will be given in advance. Perhaps something like, "The rapture will occur in five minutes. Will genuine regenerate Christians please pull over to the side, park, and get out of their cars?"

Tell me: which one is the absurd scenario, again?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gurnall on how Satan induces paralyzing guilt

In a wonderful section which I'll only partly reproduce, Gurnall talks about how Satan troubles the Christian by trying to sound like the Holy Spirit, and pointing the Christian to the greatness of his sin. "He vexeth the Christian by laying his brats at the saint’s door, and charging him with that which is his own creature," Gurnall says — in other words, Satan both fathers, and accuses the believer for, these sins (William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg: 1845, 57). He also makes a great big fuss about the terrible nature of the saint's sins, though "not," Gurnall notes, "that he hates the sin, but the saint."

So he will focus us on what a wretched job we do of walking with God, how half-hearted we are, how poor our obedience, how half-baked our works. I'll quote at length two of Gurnall's proposed remedies in pointing to the fallacies of Satan's arguments, because they're pretty wonderful:
First, He will persuade thee that thy duty and thyself are hypocritical, proud, formal, &c., because something of these sins are to be found in thy duty. Now, Christian, learn to distinguish between pride in a duty, and a proud duty; hypocrisy in a person, and a hypocrite; wine in a man, and a man in wine. The best of saints have the stirrings of such corruptions in them, and in their services; these birds will light on an Abraham’s sacrifice; but comfort thyself with this, that if thou findest a party within thy bosom pleading for God, and entering its protest against these, thou and thy services are evangelically perfect. God beholds these as the weaknesses of thy sickly state here below, and pities thee, as thou wouldest do thy lame child. How odious is he to us that mocks one for natural defects, a blear eye or a stammering tongue? Such are these in thy new nature. Observable is that in Christ’s prayer against Satan, Zech. 3:3, ‘The Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’ As if Christ had said, Lord, wilt thou suffer this envious spirit to twit thy poor child with, and charge him for, those infirmities that cleave to his imperfect state? he is but new plucked out of the fire, no wonder there are some sparks unquenched, some corruptions unmortified, some disorders unreformed in his place and calling. And what Christ did for Joshua, he doth incessantly for all his saints, apologising for their infirmities with his Father.
Secondly, His other fallacy is in arguing from the sin that is in our duties to the non-acceptance of them. Will God, saith he, thinkest thou, take such broken groats at thy hand? Is he not a holy God? Now here, Christian, learn to distinguish and answer Satan. There is a double acceptance. There is an acceptance of a thing by way of payment of debt, and there is an acceptance of a thing offered as a token of love and a testimony of gratitude. He that will not accept of broken money, or half the sum for payment of a debt; the same man, if his friend sends him, though but a bent sixpence, in token of his love, will take it kindly. It is true, Christian, the debt thou owest to God must be paid in good and lawful money; but, for thy comfort, here Christ is thy paymaster; send Satan to him, bid him bring his charge against Christ, who is ready at God’s right hand to clear his accounts, and shew his discharge for the whole debt. But now thy performances and obedience come under another notion, as tokens of thy love and thankfulness to God; and such is the gracious disposition of thy heavenly Father, that he accepts thy mite: love refuseth nothing that love sends. It is not the weight or worth of the gift, but ‘the desire of a man is his kindness,’ Prov. 19:22.
[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 59–60. Bolding added]
Love this book. Also available in a paperback set.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Music - Victor Wooten's Christmas jam from 2009

As with classic Chicago, each musician in Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is amazingly talented. Not one whit less than Bela himself, Victor Wooten is an absolutely amazing bass player.

Sorry this is an audience recording, with all the rude and inconsiderate chatter, but hear Wooten's Christmas jam from 2009:


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Briefly? We're never safe

Gurnall expounds another time — or a pair of times — which Satan finds advantageous for the attack:
Fifthly, After great manifestations of God’s love, then the tempter comes. Such is the weak constitution of grace, that it can neither well bear smiles nor frowns from God without a snare; as one said of our English nation, Totam nec pati potest libertatem nec servitutem; it cannot well bear liberty nor bondage in the height: so neither can the soul; if God smile and open himself a little familiarly to us, then we are prone to grow high and wanton; if he frown, then we sink as much in our faith; thus the one, like fair weather and warm gleams, brings up the weeds of corruption; and the other, like sharp frosts, nips and even kills the flowers of grace. The Christian is in danger on both hands, therefore Satan takes this advantage, when the Christian is flush of comfort, even as a cheater, who strikes in with some young heir, when he hath newly received his rents, and never leaves till he hath eased him of his money; thus Satan lies upon the catch, then to inveigle a saint into one sin or other, which he knows will soon leak out his joy. Had ever any a larger testimony from heaven than Peter, Matt. 16:17; where Christ pronounceth him blessed, and puts a singular honour upon him, making him the representative for all his saints? No doubt this favour to Peter stirred up the envious spirit sooner to fall upon him. If Joseph’s party-coloured coat made the patriarchs to plot against him, their brother, no wonder malice should prompt Satan to show his spite, where Christ had set such a mark of love and honour; and therefore we find him soon at Peter’s elbow, making him his instrument to tempt his Master, who soon espied his cloven foot, and rebukes Peter with a ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ He that seemed a rock even now, through Satan’s policy, is laid a stone of offence for Christ to stumble at. So David, when he had received such wonderful mercies, settled in his throne with the ruin of his enemies, yea, pardoned for his bloody sin, now ready to lay down his head with peace in the dust; Satan steps in to cloud his clear evening, and tempts him to number the people; so ambitious is Satan, then chiefly, to throw the saint into the mire of sin, when his coat is cleanest.
[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 48.]
So to the question "When may I safely lay down my guard and take off my armor?", the answer would be, "Never in this life."



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Christmas tracts

In short: does anyone know any really good ones — readable, pointed, Christ-centered, from the perspective of the doctrines of grace, affirming God's sovereignty in salvation?

Share, and (this is the part people forget) explain why you like the tract. Anecdotes are especially welcome.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Love, the master-affection in God and man

I am reading through Gurnall, and was struck by this passage:
The dear love he beareth to his saints engageth his power. He that hath God’s heart cannot want his arm. Love in the creature commands all the other affections, sets all the powers of the whole man on work; thus in God, love sets all his other attributes on work; when God once pitched his thoughts on doing good to lost man, then wisdom fell on projecting the way; almighty power, that undertook to raise the fabric according to wisdom’s model. All are ready to effect what God saith he likes. Now the believing soul is an object of God’s choicest love, even the same with which he loves his Son, John 17:26.
[William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 15.]
Then, being Gurnall, he goes on to develop this in three sub-points:
  1. God loves the believer as the birth of his everlasting counsel
  2. God loves his saints as the purchase of his Son’s blood
  3. God loves the saints for their likeness to himself
It's all worth reading, as is the book (also available in a paperback set).


Thursday, September 04, 2014

"The Identical" — movie review

Movie: The Identical
Length: 107 min
Rated: PG
Starring: Amanda Crew, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Ray Liotta, Joe Pantoliano, Blake Rayne
Director: Dustin Marcellino

I was offered screening tickets on this movie, which will be released tomorrow, September 5, 2014. The trailer looked iffy, to a jaded and oft-blackened eye. Was this going to be yet another by-the-numbers parody of fundamentalist Christians, written by people who neither personally know nor like any actual Christians? Would the son be all deep and conflicted and "I just gotta follow my dream, Daddy!", and would the father be all "Then roast in Hell, demon-child, with that Hellish rock and roll of yours!"? The trailer sure looked like it could be.

Boy, I'm glad we didn't see that movie.  Oh, sorry — should have said "spoiler alert."

At any rate, despite the trailer, "The Identical" had possibilities, and it had "Date Night" written all over it, so the missus and I escaped to the showing. We were both braced but, as usual, set ourselves to maintain open minds.

The opening scenes were a very strong frame-setter, taking us back to the Great Depression in black and white footage. We are introduced to a couple (the Hemsleys) trying to make a living in a jobless economy, and eventually dealing with the birth of twin boys. Enter pastor Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and his wife Louise (Ashey Judd), conducting a "revival" in the area. Father attends, and is struck by an idea by inspiration.

Now, here is a typical juncture that touches on my slightly conflicted feelings about the movie. The first words from this southern preacher are very clearly about God's love for people of all races. Whew, one obvious and well-traveled stereotype dodged. Then the preacher slides aside to share personally about his and his wife's disappointment in a recent miscarriage, frustrating their desire to have a child. They're both in tears, and he asks all there to pray for them.

You see? It's a sweet moment, in itself: human, personal. Pastor and wife are treated like multi-dimensional human beings, and likable ones at that. That's very much in the "plus"-column, and at variance from the usual "all-Fundamentalists-are-shallow-hypocritical-hateful-cartoonish-racists" script.

And yet, there's not the least preaching of the Gospel per se, despite the "revival" setting. Not a whiff.

More on that later.

Regardless, this plants an idea with the twins' dad, which eventually is accepted by their mom: give one of the twins to pastor and wife to raise. The Wades are reluctant at first, and they actually try to give money to the destitute Hemsleys to help them (— another welcome step aside from the stereotypical portrayal of all pastors as greedy takers). In the end, the Wades accept the boy, and the Hemsleys conduct a fake funeral to explain the twin's absence.

This becomes the frame for a sort of "What if Elvis Presley's stillborn identical twin had lived, and had been raised by different parents?" story. Drexel, the boy raised by his birth parents, becomes a famously successful rock singer, whose style and look and trajectory is very like Presley — down to concerts, TV spots and corny movies.

And what of the other twin, Ryan? There are pleasantly authentic scenes of Pastor Wade trying to get little Ryan to memorize his Bible (only singing the verses works for him), and attend church. Again, the parents are sympathetic and likable, but no specific Gospel is preached. One never really finds out what Ryan believes. (In fact, one never finds out a great deal of what the preacher-father believes.) Ryan tries Bible school, but he doesn't feel "the call." What Ryan does feel is love for rock and roll. He goes to a "speakeasy," sings, and eventually (post-military-stint) finds a career doing concerts, playing unknown twin brother Drexel's music. Ryan looks and sounds so much like Drexel that, in fact, that he is billed as... wait for it... "The Identical."

Both twins are played by newcomer Blake Rayne. He's adequate and plenty likable, and one isn't surprised to learn that he won an Elvis impersonator competition.

So, what'd we think of the movie?

We liked it, basically. And we recommend it. It really is a "family-friendly" movie. There isn't a bad word or salacious syllable or image in it. We chuckled a number of times.

While we never really learn what Ryan thinks about Jesus or the Gospel, he does love and appreciate his parents who raised him, and they love him. To the end, Liotta and wife are sympathetic characters, and virtually every stereotype is dodged. The only truly odd thing about them is that Liotta's character ages dramatically — but his wife stays pretty much the same.

Yet, as characters, they are easy to sympathize with. Usually it is obvious that the screenwriters viscerally hate what they think Christians are in general, and what they think clergy are in particular. In this case, none of that could be found here.

The Identical won't make the starry annals of all-time great moviemaking, but it is fun and pleasant. There are a number of genuine laughs. Loved the presence of Seth Green and Joe Pantoliano, both of whom are a lot of fun and clearly had a good time with their roles.

The survey I was given after the screening asked questions along the lines of whether I'd recommend taking church groups or in other ways making the movie a church activity. My answer was no. I was astonished to learn that pastors have developed some sort of teaching to parallel the movie. I don't see it as having any very particular Gospel or Biblical tie-in whatever.

That said, it would make for a pleasant family watch, with a very 50s feel. After that, you could discuss what was missing (HEL-LO! THE GOSPEL), and the fact that for all his obvious love for his son, Dad seemed a lot more concerned that Ryan feel "the call," and a lot less concerned that he have saving faith in Christ.

Final word: worst possible reading. This has been a charitable review. However, the advertising really stresses the follow your dreams theme, and injects the notion that if God is in your dreams, nothing can stand against them. This, thankfully, is not as heavy-handedly preached in the movie. I don't even recall Ryan making that connection once... and that's a good thing.

While non-Christians apparently love that message, I think the promoters are unwise to stress it insofar as they want to reach out to Christians. Because that idea is in fact peddled today as a substitute for the Gospel, and it bears no resemblance. The Gospel is about my ruin in sin, my alienation from God, and the truly amazing work of God in Jesus Christ to reconcile sinners to Himself. None of that is in the movie. That the Christians are likable, real people is a refreshing change in a movie, and that's worth something.

But it isn't the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Here's how it works in the aftermath of a sad but not-entirely-surprising fall

I'm here to help you.
  1. If a man becomes a celebrity-pastor too hastily; and if he publicly and doggedly displays and defends traits that, if unaddressed, will (A) ruin him and (B) harm those he should be serving and (C) set a horrible example for those emulating him, it's wrong to say anything about any of that equally publicly.
  2. If men who should know better promote this celebrity pastor and his ministry, thus effectively giving cover to his besetting sins, it's wrong to warn of possible dire consequences, let alone express concern for the ministries of the worthy men who enable him.
  3. If the man does indeed crash and burn, it is wrong to say anything about it other than what a tragedy it is and how you hope he feels better soon. Specifically, it is wrong to mention that it was completely predictable, wrong to note that it could have been prevented, wrong to lament that those who had the man's ear evidently did not effectively issue corrective warnings — and really, really wrong even to hint that you yourself had tried to say something in a timely manner, and that it might have helped if those now dabbing their eyes with tissues had joined in when it might have counted for something, and express the hope that they might reassess how they approach such things.
Because if those people admitted their error and really did reform, things like this might not happen so often, ministries might be saved and saints protected, and fundamental needed systemic change might occur... which, come to think of it, would be a really great thing...

But anyway:


You're welcome.