Posts Tagged 'God'

Book Review: The Golden Compass

So here’s my take on The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It’s a little rambly. (If you want to read a great article about this book check out Christianity Today’s take on The Golden Compass.)

Honestly Guys, I really liked the book. It was tremendously well written. The characters were engaging and unique. The plot like was intriguing and packed with action. His use of simile and metaphor throughout the book is beautiful.

I probably think the book only had one problem with it: the slams on religion.

I‘m not just saying that because I’m a Christian. When I went to college I actually earned a BA in English and I’m speaking as a guy with a literary background.

Hear me out.

Essentially you have this excellent book, it’s multilayered in it’s meaning and subtle in it’s approach – at least throughout most of the book. I found this so refreshing for a fantasy novel. A lot of fantasy will straight up take a break from the story to go on and on about the history of the characters or to spell out very blatantly and in a boring manner the unique rules of that fantasy world. (*cough* Fellowship of the Rings *cough*) Pullman doesn’t bore you with this drivel. Instead he uses the characters and plot to reveal fantasy elements.

For example, he doesn’t take you on some ridiculous tangent to explain the fantasy rule: a Daemon must maintain a close physical proximity to their human. Rather he reveals this quite cleverly through the story. At one point Pan (Lyra’s Daemon) starts to “pull”(move outside of the normal physical closeness) and Lyra describes how retched she feels. It’s more engaging because you are told about an experience rather than a simple sharing of facts.

Enter the theology bashing. Honestly, a lot of it is clever and subtle like the rest of the book. For example, Pullman doesn’t come right out and say, “The Church is Bad,” at least not early in the book. Instead he does things like introducing a character who is a clergyman and that character has some really negative traits. It’s like an underhanded and slight way of bashing on the Church.

Then, in the closing chapters of the book, that all of a sudden changes and out of nowhere you get a face full of dissertation.

Lyra asks her father a few questions and he launches into a several page monologue on theology and original sin. It was completely out of place in this story. Most of the book is fast-paced, emotional and very real. This was the boring junk you expect out of fantasy. It’s not even that huge of a bash on the Church because he gets so specific about what original sin is and what it isn’t he’s really only bashing a subsection of the church who holds to that theology. (Keep in mind this is just a review of The Golden Compass. I haven’t read The Subtle Knife or the Amber Spyglass, which I heard are more deliberate in the selling of atheism.) I almost laughed out loud when in the monologue this character quotes the Bible and Pullman’s re-written it to include daemons. This was so dorky and cheesy. It didn’t fit with the rest of the book which is pretty hip for a fantasy novel.

The Golden Compass, from a literary point of view, would have simply been better with the final monologue omitted.

Unfortunately you couldn’t do that without sacrificing the entire story. Throughout the book Pullman is a genius about setting up very subtle foreshadowing that pays off big time later one. He does it over and over again very masterfully – except for the main point of the book!

It’s like he set up all the clues a hints and they’re all pointing at something and when it came time to write the final chapters he just ran out creativity and was like, “Oh well, I’ll just be lazy and have this one character tie up all my loose ends in one chapter through the use of a long boring monologue.”

I call this the Star Trek syndrome. Ya know – they’d invent some type of complicated situation and you never thought they’d get out of it and your totally intrigued with what’s going to happen. In the end all the problems get solved simply and easily because some science guy invents a weird device and launches in a monologue to explain some made-up science fiction reason why it works. It’s unimaginative at best.

So for all my ranting I really enjoyed the book.

Go check out the Christianity Today Golden Compass Article.

Leave a comment. I’ll talk more about this with you.

I’m Reading The Golden Compass

Given the amount of discussion that was generated by my last Golden Compass post I decided to read Philip Pullman’s book. I picked it up from the library earlier this week and I’m about 75% of way through it.

My first impressions:

This is not even close to being a Children’s book.

  • At 350 pages of small print it’s way longer than any of the Chronicles of Narnia.
  • The main character in the book is 11, but I’d say the target audience is far closer to 13 -17.
  • In fact, the library sticker on the side says, “Young adult.”

I’ll write a full review when I’m done.

I doubt I’ll see the movie as everyone seems to agree how artistically terrible it is.

The Golden Compass: Humility and Killing God

A startling amount of buzz and controversy has surrounded the upcoming release of New Line Cinema’s The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman. Blog posts galore and email chain letters have succeeded in spreading the word along with a very slick flash website and movie blog.

The Golden Compass is the first is book in a trilogy written by author Phillip Pullman. These books were inspired by The Chronicles of Narina, which Pullman hates because their Christian allegory. In his Children’s fantasy trilogy Pullman is seeking to promote atheism and attack organized religion.

Naturally many Christians are upset by this.

I am too, but I’m also asking:

How can we as followers of Jesus have a humble attitude about this? (Phil 2:5 -8)

How can we exploit this movie and use it for good? (Rom 12:21)

The Controlling, Domineering, Murdering Church

Pullman very overtly rejects religion because it has “involved persecution, massacre, slaughter on an industrial scale.” New Line Cinema has sought to water down the overtly anti-Christian themes in the novels. They don’t want to make a movie that offends but instead are seeking to spread a general “critique of all dogmatic organizations.”

Can’t we be humble and learn from this? Can’t we just admit, “Yes, it’s true, the Church has a record of being domineering, controlling and overly dogmatic. Many have murdered in Jesus’ name. We as Christians are sorry for our own actions, that actions of of Christian brothers and the lack of action we have taken to correct it.”

Admitting that we as people are broken doesn’t say that God is broken. On the contrary it affirms our need for God. God is perfect. We are not.

Boycott Religious Dialogue

The Catholic League has called for an official boycott of the movie.

Let me see if I understand this: There is a heavily promoted, high-budget major motion picture being released in December. It contains many references to religion and will most likely spark conversation and national debate on the topics of God, religion and the Church. People who seldom think about God and talk about him even less will now be engaged in a full fledged conversation.

And this is a bad thing?

Anyone who knows me knows I talk about Jesus all the time. I’ve experienced many people actually leave the room simply because I mention his name. These people hate to talk about religion and it has been very difficult to engage them in spiritual conversation. But when I have talked to them about The DaVinci Code we’ve been able to have a very engaging conversation about God and faith. This doesn’t make The DaVinci Code good. It means its a horribly researched, flagrant lie that I exploited to get to know some of my friends better.

Can’t we do the same thing with The Golden Compass?

Killing God

In the novels the characters finally find God and then they kill him.

The problem is they were just a bit late with this one.

Others have already killed God.

He rose from the dead.

Hillsong United Lyrics: True or False?

I’ll only ever give my all.

I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around this lyric and it just doesn’t work. I’ve been listening to Hillsong United’s Take It All non-stop for the last week. Musically I love this song, but I’ve been having trouble trying to reconcile the lyrics with what I know to be true about God. Until today, I was reading some blogs and I think I’m a little closer.

Warning: Thinking out loud post ahead. I may be wrong and I reserve the right to change my mind.

Sarah, first pointed it out to me by asking,

Are we really never ashamed of Jesus?

The Hillsong United lyrics “We’ll never be ashamed of You” and “I’ll only ever give my all” don’t seem congruent with non-perfect people. If we were prefect it seems we could sing these lines, but I’ve yet to met a Christian who never made mistake and only ever gave Jesus his all. It seems like at some point even the most authentic Christians give Jesus less than their all.

Bob from In the Clearing writes in Whitmanesque Worship

The reason I need a savior is that I have not loved God with my whole heart. If I say that now I do love him with my whole heart, I needn’t any longer speak of Jesus or long for Him, because in fact I no longer need him.

(ht: Shannon Lewis)

Bob’s argument is that we can’t with a good conscience sing, “I love you Jesus with all my heart” (or possibly even “I’ll only ever give my all.”) because it is a lie.

I disagree with this argument. I think we can sing it truthfully. (Just like the 10 verses of scripture that use “all my heart.”)

God calls us to love him with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Essentially to love God will all that we are, not simply our minds, but also our emotions and our actions as well. Worship works the same way. It’s multidimensional. So I worship God not only with my mind, but at times I worship God emotionally, even if it doesn’t make sense to my brain.

For example:

I love my wife. I mean I really love my wife more that I ever imagined I could ever love any other person. She is 15,000 times cooler than I even ever imagined a woman could ever be and I’m desperately, passionately, head-over-heals, crazy in love with her. This emotion is so powerful I don’t have words to describe it but I would definitely tell Sarah,

I love you with all my heart.

Do I mean it? 110% If we’re speaking emotionally. Now, in my actions do I love her with all my heart? Not even, close. I’m a pretty second-rate husband sometimes and I am way fortunate that my wife is so gracious. The the statement is true or false based on your perspective. Emotionally, it’s more than true, in action it is not.

How much more do I love God?

So can I logically worship God with my mind and sing “I’ll only ever give my all” ?

No, I don’t think so. That would be a flat out lie.

But emotionally would that line be a decent attempt to describe the indescribable way I feel about God?

Yeah.

Would it start to express what I want to say to God from the inner depths of my soul?

Yeah.

I believe in a huge God that wants to be worshiped with all of me. He’s big enough to be worshiped by my mind and my emotions. He’s even big enough to accept that worship even if I’m not using my mind and my emotions at the same time. If you’re like me when it comes to matters of emotion you start to use hyperbole. You exaggerate more and more trying to express what you feel. It’s not a lie. You fully mean every word of it and God knows that.

I’ll only ever give my all.

Jesus we’re living for your name and we’ll never be ashamed of you.

In our praise. In all we are today.

Take it all.

I mean those words. At least as much as David meant Psalm 26.

Don’t you?

Share Answered Prayer

How I Pray

I find myself praying all the time for different people, especially when they ask for prayer. When I commit to pray for someone I start praying right there at that very second. That way I don’t forget about it but also it puts the prayer in my head and my heart. The next time something reminds me of that person I find I remember to pray for them again because I already did.

Often I find myself praying,

God help this situation… or is that already taken care of?

Many people ask for prayer, but few seem to get back with you and tell you how God has answered that prayer. I love when people keep me informed with news like,

God said, ‘yes’ here’s what happen…

God said, ‘no’ here’s how I’m dealing…

God is saying, ‘wait’ right now keep praying…

Some Answers

This past week I received several answers from friends that were extremely encouraging. Some were simple “the situation went well” emails but it was so nice to be in the loop instead of still wondering.

I have been praying for one friend who has a very serious medical condition for several weeks. I received multiple email updates as the situation changed and even when it didn’t change. Then yesterday I got an email sharing that amazing recovery had occurred. The doctors described it as “atypical.” One doctor said,

Keep having your congregation and your friends pray, because those prayers are working. [my friend’s] response is unbelievable, and even though I prescribed some medicine, there’s something bigger at work here, and I know that.

In this case the answer was “miraculous healing” which is cool. Although that’s not always the case. I believe all the answers to prayer, even “no” and “wait” are in fact miracles even if they don’t seem that way to us. I love to hear back from people either way.

For those who have been praying over my job search

  • Praise God my voice is improving every day. Pray for healing, my throat is sore from doing some vocal exercises wrong. I think I have it figured out now.
  • Praise God there’s been some exciting developments in my search. Although I’m still in talks and haven’t received a definite “this is the the right place” just yet. I’m still sending out resumes.
  • Thank God for all the awesome people who have been helping me out by pointing churches to my website.

How about you?

Do you like hearing answers to prayer?

A Broken and Contrite Heart

Tunes: Relient K, Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been

Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart…”

My heart is so shattered. In the wake of a failed marriage I sought to fill the void with every kind of community and ministry that I could get myself involved in. Now I do 10 million things and individually, they are all good, but collectively, serving the Church is killing my faith. I feel God calling me to “cut” ministries out of my life, but it’s so difficult.

I’ve dug roots into the deep recesses of a soil that doesn’t want to let me go.

I’m trying to keep everything in context. I’m been wrestling with my future path. When I moved to Saginaw I thought I’d only be here for a few months and that turned into a year, and now God may want me here longer. God has put so many roadblocks to me going to seminary I have to wonder if I am really called there.

For a long time I have felt a call to go to worship school to be a church musician. This was very evident to me in Texas where my church didn’t have a worship team, and as my guitar lay in the corner collecting dust I felt blackness with in my soul.

I was the wicked servant who buried his talent in the ground claiming that the master would reap where he had not sowed. When I started a guitar class and my high school students lead worship, a new light dawned. I felt this again when I got back from worshiping with Michael Gungor at Acquire the Fire. Then when I went to this worship conference last week my heart was pulverized by the Spirit and open to his leading. This last week I’ve been praying over what God wants me to do in the long run and I feel such a strong calling to be a full time Church musician.

This is a scary thing. The options have always been: pastor or youth pastor. I guess I’ve never doubted whether I would be a good pastor or youth worker. God has confirmed over and over again that I’m good at all the stuff that is required of these two vocations. But I’ve always doubted my musical ability.

When I lived in Texas my ex-wife’s camp held a Christian music festival called “Lutherstock” where people like Lost and Found and Agape would play but they would have local bands open. My wife was talking to me about who should play the next year and I said, “Billy Chia.” She laughed. She thought I was being sarcastic. In all fairness I make jokes and I’m sarcastic all the time and people always tell me, “Billy, I can never tell when you’re being serious.” Well this is the price I paid for not letting my “yes be yes” and my “no be no.” I was serious about playing Lutherstock but my ex-wife just didn’t think I had the talent.

Blah, I hate feeling this way. I hate the uncertainty. Submission is so hard. I wonder if I just want to do music because I’ve done the whole theology/Biblical languages thing in college and as much as I’m looking forward to the experience of Seminary, I’m not looking forward to the classes. I’ve been there/done that. And my time in Texas satiated my need be a youth minister. Is music just my new ephemeral passion that’s going to fade in the long run? I mean in a way that’s silly, I was doing music way before I was ever involved in the Church. It was the one gift I brought to the Church that I didn’t learn there. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13, around the same time I felt a call to be a pastor.

Deep down inside there’s a voice that says, “Ya know what Billy, God’s really gonna be happy regardless of what you do as long as you are serving him. It’s not really his ‘will’ for you to be a youth pastor, or ordained pastor, or worship leader, or graphic designer. In essence it’s your call, just do it to his glory and you’ll be good to go.” That’s even harder to deal with. I make so many crazy mistakes and do so many stoopid things I don’t want to be in charge of choosing what to do when I grow up. I mean for goodness sakes I’m 26 and a ½ and I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I need to grow up already. Jonny, I’ve stayed golden for too long and it’s time for Ponyboy to move on.


 

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