Monday, April 18, 2011

We Saw Atlas Shrugged

We went to see the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, Friday evening at Chicago’s AMC theater at River North. It was a fascinating evening. This was the opening weekend of a very limited release.

The venue was very impressive. The theater itself had seating for 950 according to the placard on the wall. It was comfortably full; I’d say at least 700. The most interesting thing about the crowd was that it was at least 80% 30s-and-under; mostly couples and groups of couples. We actually felt like the “oldies” in the group!

The attendees had obviously read the book. There was lively discussion about its contents, about the movies adaptation of its story line and the general philosophy/approach of Rand overall. I would say that if this is the so-called “tea-party-crowd,” then the Tea Party is in pretty good shape.

The movie itself was a bit of a disappointment for me. The acting was ok, I didn’t get the “made for TV” feeling mentioned in some of the critical pans (remember the critics have to be “politically correct” in assessing this most unpolitically correct movie). The not-big-name-actors made it rather refreshing, as the “no-namers” held their own.

My less than satisfying feeling came mainly from the fact that it turns out this is a “Part 1” of what seems to be a planned 3-part effort. You don’t get very far into the book with this part and “who is John Galt” is never answered--the movie ends with the igniting of “Wyatt’s Torch” (a point of info for those who’ve ready the book). If the other two parts get made, this will be resolved but with low budget movies that have taken decades to get this far, that is not a sure thing. I’d have like to have had more resolution of the overall story of the book.

It is a movie well worth seeing. And a book well worth reading. I read the book in the ‘60s and had actually forgotten about it until hearing about the movie. I’m pleasantly surprised it is still being read—and from our observation of the crowd, studied and appreciated.

Which brings me to a point that needs to be made: In our current cultural clamor to reconstruct a society which once again will celebrate individual achievement and enlightened self-interest, we need to be informed about those to whom we give our ear.

Ayn Rand was the “mother” of the Objectivist movement. She (as well as this movement) was outspokenly atheistic and demonstratively anti-religion. Although she/they saw “religion” mainly in terms of Catholicism, she/they rejected out of hand the idea of faith and revelation as the basis for any epistemology (i.e, view of knowledge), code of ethics/values or view of reality. This needs to be understood clearly by those believers who seem to be enamored by her work. Her basic philosophy is anti-god-in-any-and-all-forms.

The Objectivist school bases its understanding of social and societal construct solely on human virtues, reason and intellect, while denouncing as impossibly irrelevant any idea of faith or God. To them the idea of “pride as a virtue” is paramount; the idea it may be a “sin” is scandalous.

For Rand and her followers, both then and now, the watchwords are not faith, God, service; but rather: reason, nature, happiness, man. The absolute, which must guide everything, is the principle of reason; every other idea must meet this test. It is in this approach--in this fundamental rejection of faith--that their philosophy lies. For them, faith is simply “belief in the absence of evidence.”

And it is the propagation of this philosophy that lies at the heart of this novel. When Rand first discussed the publishing of her work with Random House, she reports that she told them, “This work is an extreme, uncompromising defense of capitalism and free enterprise and presents a new philosophy…a new morality….A direct affront to Judeo-Christian values.”

Thus the book works from a premise of abandonment of God, the belief that we have a right to exist for ourselves, opposition to the concept of “sinful” man, the pursuit of happiness as a worthy and ultimate goal coupled with the need for a lack of compassion, charity and humility.

So, my friends, in your search for those to help buttress your economic/political/social model or an idealized Americana, be aware that the Rand model will broach no allowance for a deity, divine revelation or a sinful/in need of redemption man, nor the idea of self-sacrifice as a virtue. No. This is a totally sufficient man, with no need of a belief in an unknown and unknowable “other” and no goal beyond a worthy pride.

It is their view that because this world is of vital importance, the definitive motive of man's action should be the pursuit of happiness. Because the individual, not a supernatural power, is the creator of wealth, a person should have the right to private property, the right to keep and use or trade his own product. And because man is basically good, they insist, there is no need to leash him; there is nothing to fear in setting free a rational animal.

Thus is the ideal of the author of Atlas Shrugged. It is an ideal doomed to fail. See Romans 1:19-25.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Larry Got It All Wrong!

I don't watch this guy but someone sent me a link to an MSNBC commentator having a melt down last week. Lawrence O'Donnell seems to have flipped out over the Book of Revelation. You can see his extended rant here if you wish. In part he declares:

"The Book of Revelation is a work of fiction describing how a truly vicious God would bring about the end of the world. No half-smart religious person actually believes the Book of Revelation. They are certain that their God would never turn into a malicious torturer and mass murderer beyond Hitler's wildest dreams."

Well, golly-gee-bob! Its wonderful to know that Mr. O'Donnell is so much nicer than the God of the Bible--he would never do such things! Yea, I bet! Odds are he has never personally spent as much as 15 hours in actual examination of the evidence as to whether the Bible is true or not--just going on the word of others to substantiate personal prejudice; but such lack of real investigation seems common in our day for people in Larry's position. It is even more natural for those who are so filled with their own self righteousness.

Anyway, having actually studied the Bible personally for over 40 years I have no doubt about its accuracy. In fact, I am certain that those who read and study the prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be blessed, just as the first three verses of its first chapter declare.

I received the above rant while preparing for a weekend retreat with the elders and deacons of Shorewood Bible Church. What a different group of men, indeed! Although we come from varied backgrounds we have one thing in common: we have come to faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and rejoice in the truth of His word. Now there is in our heart a passion to share that wonderful grace with others.

It is a humbling experience to be a part of such a team of godly men; men whose great ambition is to provide one of our nation's greatest meto area with the magnificent opportunity to have a personal, intimate acquaintance with the God Mr. O'Donnel so fears and to enjoy His love and life--the only real life worth living. This is a purpose in life worth having and fulfilling. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

Larry got it all wrong. Let's pray that one day he might actually hear the gospel of God's love and grace to us in Christ and have his heart "strangely warmed," too. Then he too would have something worth telling the nation!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Science and Genesis 1:1

We can look at science and say the Bible is amazingly scientific. To show you how amazing it is, in 1903 a man died by the name of Herbert Spencer--he actually died on my birthday (of course, my birthday came a long time later!). Herbert Spencer was a scientist.

He was heralded by the world, he was given all kinds of prizes as a ground-breaking scientist. His greatest achievement was categorical. It was Herbert Spencer who announced to the scientific world that everything that exists in the universe falls into five of five...time, force, action, space and matter. That's what he said and he said it in that order...time, force, action, space and matter. Nice going, Herbert.

How about this? "In the beginning," that's time, "God," that's force, "created" that's action, "the heavens," that's space, "and the earth," that's matter. Right there in the first verse.

It's all right, Herbert, you were trying to find it without that verse. Hope others won't.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm Back--Sorta

It has obviously been a good while since I have posted here. Not that I haven't thought about it, but I can only get so many things done in a day. Frankly, one thing that has taken my energy is my FaceBook page. If you want daily up-dates, that's probably the place to go now. Type in my name, look for my picture among all those who share it and Friend me.

If you don't do fb, well, then there might be enough here to keep you abreast of things. I started blogging after I began my cancer treatments. It was a general way to answer questions about how I was doing. I never intended this to be a "study" site. Now that fb is filling that role, my blog largely got crowded out. I haven't lost interest; just took another route to fulfill that purpose.

So, what to do with this site. I think the best thing will be to put some of my random thoughts here; things that don't really fit on fb. I can link them to fb so folks there can know about them. A blog gives more space and liberty, so I will put some energy back here.

For example: today I finally completed the type setting/editing/lay out for a new study guide. I've been doing a series for TV called Through the Bible In Seven Hours. It is an adaptation of our 7 Mondays seminar. I prepared a study guide to offer viewers and didn't realize how demanding its production was going to be!

Matt Walker made a nice cover for it and now we are getting it printed. The programs start airing in March, I believe, so we'll be sending them out (free of charge to views, by the way) in the next few weeks. Actually, we have already gotten calls for it from our cable version of the broadcast! That really got Debbie excited, since she doesn't have it yet to send out! Next week. Be patient one more week!

I'll be in Michigan next week to make the last two programs (two shows equal one hour, so the series is 14 weeks long) and need to deliver the first 500 then.

Actually, if my car wasn't in the shop I'd have the printing almost done today. But it is in for some needed repairs. My '03 has 134k miles; Cynthia's '01 has 155k. Both have lots of Duck Tape and bailing wire on them!

Tomorrow I'll get the cover printed and then we'll bind them on Thursday and Friday. Busy, hands-on week! It is good to have a number of volunteers to help with such tasks.

I also should tell you that over the past four or five months I've lost 40+ pounds--on purpose. So if you see pictures of me with a lighter look, it is not a health issue but one of purposeful determination. Cynthia has lost almost as much as I have and looks great--lots better than me, of course. A number of you have asked me what/how we did this and I'lltry to explain it soon. It was, actually, the easiest and most effective thing we've ever done to loose weight.

One more thing: I'm enjoying receiving emails/web items from some of saints in the Philippines. Years ago, Nancy Leach began sending our teaching tapes to Filipinos who were studying for the ministry--she actually did this for some time before I knew about it. These tapes have had a wide circulation over the years and those who studied them took the doctrinal edification to heart and have made amazing progress. When Dan Gross spent some years there they had a rallying point and made good advancements. Today there is an active fellowship of what they term "Pure Grace" believers.

The so-called grace movement has been in the Philippines since the 1950's but in more recent years it was formed into a denominational type system. Naturally, when you have such a development you have to either "join" the system--and tow the line--or work from the "outside." I have visited the Republic of the Philippines (RP) twice and discovered that there is a vibrant, lively grace movement independent of the denominationalized group. It is among these saint that what they term "pure grace" doctrine has taken solid root and is producing marvelous fruit.

We have, by the way, a number of graduates of GSB there. My last visit was highlighted by an moving commencement service (along with three day Bible conference!) for a large number of graduates. If you have any acquaintance with the Filipino people you couldn't help but be impressed by their quick intellect and intense determination. Our many friends there have progressed onward with the doctrines of grace--going beyond simple mid-Acts dispensationalism into the "grace life" it is designed to instill in us. These emails have been a benediction to my heart as they give abundant witness to how carefully, fully and clearly some of these brethren have become in defending and proclaiming these grand grace truths!

Very few things really impress me. One thing, however, that always catches my attention is a spirit determined to press toward the mark regardless of what others do, whether supported by others or not. Watching some of these brothers debate issues like the trustworthiness of the King James Bible, prayer, healing and do so with real thoughtful insight coupled with a gracious spirit; well, it is doing my heart good!

And the really great thing is I do not actually personally know most of these men! I remember meeting only a couple of them--and at that over a decade ago! They are not following "Jordan," they're following the apostle Paul! The grace-denominational brethren have opposed them, threatened them, villified them ("they are infected with the virus of Jordanism!"--a scary, deadly thing, indeed!!), etc. to no avail. God give us more like them!

Anyway, that's enough for now. You can see that when I get started I can go on and on and on!

C/ya soon,

Phil. 1:21

Monday, February 1, 2010

Christopher Hitchens Is Right!

Noted atheist, Christorper Hitchens, was recently interviewed by a Unitarian minister, Marilyn Sewell, for The Portland Monthly Magazine. In the discussion, Hitchens laid down some seriously good theology. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Talk about nailing it. You can call yourself anything you like, but if you don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead, you are not “in any meaningful sense” a Christian.

What a delicious ironies that an outspoken atheist grasps the central tenet of Christianity better than many Christians do. What you believe about Jesus Christ really does make a difference.

Interestingly, too, is Hitchens’ grasp of a further fact, as he goes on to declare: “Christianity, remember, is really founded by St. Paul, not by Jesus. Paul says, very clearly, that if it is not true that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then we the Christians are of all people the most unhappy.”

You can read the entire transcript of the interview here.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

Christmas night often finds folks in a bit of a melancholy mood. After weeks of anticipation, the celebrations have flashed by and are suddenly gone, fading into the night.

This is natural, understandable and probably the best teaching moment of the whole season. As long as the beautifully wrapped gifts remain unopened and the celebrations still future, they appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when all are opened and the merriment past, we sense we are still longing for something more, something lasting.

I had one of those teachable moments with my granddaughter, Hanna, yesterday. After opening gifts and eating a good meal, she was sitting on the stair in a rather pensive mood. I sat next to her to talk about what she was feeling. I’ve learned that children don’t know what is happening to their emotions or why, so I generally don’t ask the “Why?” question but rather explain the “What” to them.

I pointed out to Hanna that she was learning a lessons many grown-ups haven’t yet grasp:

1. Gifts and events can’t fill you soul. They are expressions of generosity but are not designed to satisfy. They’re designed to point us to the Giver.

2. Putting our hopes in gifts will leave us empty inside. We will ask, “Is that all?” because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not His things.

3. It is more blessed to give than receive. What makes you feel richer, getting the presents you wanted or making someone else happy with something you gave to them? A greedy heart lives in a small, lonely world. A generous heart lives in a wide world of love.

I hope she remembers some of grandpa’s sagged advice! I learned it from someone; I pass it along in hopes it helps others as much as it helps me.

It is just the way of God’s grace to let the glitter and flash of celebrations (even in His honor) pass and then even in the melancholic void they leave teach us once again, “It’s not I, but Christ.”


Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Saying, "Merry Christmas!"

I think I've changed my mind. Through most of my adult life I have resisted the “Merry Christmas” club. Not because I have anything against gift giving or having great family times, but the whole thing is born of pagan folly. This year, however, I’ve begun to look at it a bit differently.

“Christmas” is simply “Christ” (our Savior) plus “mas” (a coming together, as in the Catholic “mass”), and originated in the Roman Catholic attempt to assimilate pagans and their culture under the control of their Church. Hence my problem with the term/event.

As an aside, it is important to remember that the real miracle of the coming of Christ was not His birth/nativity (although there were certain miraculous things involved in that too!), but the real miracle took place at His conception. Being born of a virgin makes Him unique, indeed! Luke 1 gives the historical details necessary to locate the time of the conception of Jesus Christ as being in late December. Hence the pagans attempt to commandeer that season for their own corrupted ends.

But now it has become “politically incorrect” to use the “Merry Christmas” greeting. Employees, for example, are told not to mention “Christmas,” but instead to say, “Happy Holidays.” But herein lies a bit of humor: The word “holiday” comes from “holy” (as in, holy is the Lord) plus “day.”

I find it ironically amazing that our language is so rooted in Biblical tradition that even the attempts to root out every reference to the Savior falls so flat on its face. Oh, the worldly wise don’t get it, but I’m sure the God of Heaven finds such things amusing (as should we)!

So I’ve put “merry Christmas” back into my vocabulary—just for the fun of it. Cynthia has been saying it to store employees just to see their reaction! When they respond, “happy holidays,” we just ask if they are believers too! Its made the shopping lots of fun.

Merry Christmas!