Posts Tagged 'Theology'

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.

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?

Funny Sarcastic Worship Leading Video

I saw this hilarious video over at Doug’s Blog:

10 Ways for Worship Leaders to Hinder the Church

(Direct YouTube video link.)

I love how Doug makes a classy move at the end and gives some encouragement.

I totally agree with the sarcasm of his statements on pushing the limits.

Taking strategic risks is one thing. You need to go out on a limb to get the fruit right? At the same time the guy who always lives on the edge eventually falls off. We need to be compassionate and loving as we encourage people forward in their spiritual walk.

Do you think Doug’s list helps or hinders the church?


 

Follow me on Twitter