Archive - February, 2007

Amazing Grace – Downplays Christianity

Amazing Grace movie.bmp
Like many of you, my wife and I ran out this weekend to watch Amazing Grace. While the film was quite moving and artistically superb, I must (sadly) agree with Charlotte Allen’s critique: Amazing Grace masks the theologically-driven nature of Wilberforce’s mission. As Allen notes:

“It is rare that a Hollywood film takes up a subject like William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the British parliamentarian who devoted nearly his entire 45-year political career to banning the British slave trade. Alas, a lot of people watching “Amazing Grace,” Michael Apted’s just-released film, may get the impression–perhaps deliberately fostered by Mr. Apted–that Wilberforce was a mostly secular humanitarian whose main passion was not Christian faith but politics and social justice. Along the way, they may also get the impression that the hymn “Amazing Grace” is no more than an uplifting piece of music that sounds especially rousing on the bagpipes.”

I would have liked to have seen more discussion on the connection between slavery and sin, and between a Christian worldview and the dignity of God’s image-bearers. Allen explains:

This idea of slaving as sin is key. As sociologist Rodney Stark noted in “For the Glory of God” (2003), the abolition of slavery in the West during the 19th century was a uniquely Christian endeavor. When chattel slavery, long absent from Europe, reappeared in imperial form in the 16th and 17th centuries–mostly in response to the need for cheap labor in the New World–the first calls to end the practice came from pious Christians, notably the Quakers. Evangelicals, not least Methodists, quickly joined the cause, and a movement was born.

The heart of Allen’s conclusion:

“Nowadays it is all too common–and not only in Hollywood–to assume that conservative Christian belief and a commitment to social justice are incompatible. Wilberforce’s embrace of both suggests that this divide is a creation of our own time and, so to speak, sinfully wrong-headed.”

Charlotte Allen’s entire essay is a worthy read.
(HT: Denny Burk)
Update: I previously failed to give credit to The Rebelution for the picture above.

John Piper’s Criteria For a Wife

There are four:

“That was the first criterion I had for a wife—female. The second was: She treasures Jesus Christ. The third was that she like me. The fourth was that she be willing to go wherever God calls us. (Remember the conversation on the couch in your apartment that first summer when I named the hardest places I could think of, and you and said, Yes? I had not even asked you to marry me yet.)”

From a letter to his wife Noel on her most recent birthday.

Five Love/Lust Languages

David Powlison provides an insightful and penetrating review of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Excerpt:

Up to a point, 5LL can be informative, correcting ignorance about how people differ from each other, and making you more aware of patterns of expectation that you and others bring to the table. . . . But speaking love languages is surely not the whole story. In fact, it is practical, immoral wisdom—manipulation or pandering or both—when it becomes the whole story. Part of considering the interests of others is to do them tangible good. But then to really love them, you usually need to help them see their itch as idolatrous, and to awaken in them a far more serious itch! That’s basic Christianity. 5LL will never teach you to love at this deeper, more life-and-death level. Chapman’s reasons for giving accurate love to others, his explanation of what speaking another’s love language does, his ultimate goal in marriage, and his evaluation of the significance of love languages are deplorable.

(HT: JT)

Walden Media – Amazing Grace movie

Micheal Flaherty, President of Walden Media, pens this month’s article in Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. Walden Media, founded only several years ago, is dedicated to “recapturing imagination, rekindling curiosity, and demonstrating the rewards of knowledge and virtue.” They have produced films like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and the upcoming Amazing Grace film, which chronicles the efforts of William Wilberforce to abolish the slave trade (and, eventually, slavery itself).
His article speaks of reviving the popularity of reading good literature, and the connection between Walden’s movies, great people, and significant historical events. It contains this classic quote from C.S. Lewis on the value of children reading books that contain some frightening content:

Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the…atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

Gender Selection and Medical Ethics

Albert Mohler offers a wise response to a question raised in today’s NY Times: If people want to choose their baby’s sex before pregnancy, should doctors help?

Unsung Heroism of Military

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(HT: Bill Lynch)

Chosen for Life – Sam Storms

Having first read this book in 1998 (when it had already gone out of print), I am delighted that Crossway has now produced this updated and expanded volume. This book is the most lucid, accessible, and convincing defense of divine election I have ever seen. Sam Storms had a huge influence in my life when I was wrestling with the very question he takes up: Does God elect people because they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, or does God elect people in order that they will believe in Christ?
This foundational question is truly at the heart of the who-does-what-in-salvation issue that we find so baffling. When Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” What does the “this is not your own doing” refer to? The grace or the faith? Does God merely make salvation possible for everyone, and then wait to see who comes to get it? Or does He actually see to it that a vast array of humanity receives the entire package of salvation? This book will help you see that unless God is the one who makes the decisive difference in our embracing Christ, we are left with a system in which we, ultimately, cause ourselves to differ from those who reject Christ. Essentially, though we might not consciously say it this way, we earn our salvation with God’s help. And others don’t.
Conversely, the doctrine of unconditional election (the theological nomenclature for what this book is about) is among the most humbling and worship-producing truths a Christian can know. It teaches that God chose us for salvation (elects us) irrespective of any faith that He foresaw us exhibiting. In other words, He choose us without our meeting any prior conditions. Sam Storms makes this truth clear and understandable, with appropriate overlap between theology and doxology. If this is at all new to you, or if it is something you wrestle with, then this is the book for you. And if you already familiar with these matters, you will be blessed by this refreshing and penetrating insight into the truth that “we love, because he first loved us.”
The book is now available for order here.