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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Closer to the truth: The X-Files meet God (sort of) or what the movie Knowing reveals about God, faith, Human Nature and the End of Mankind

My family and I just watched the movie Knowing. I don’t want to get into the plot and ruin the movie from anyone who hasn’t watched it. I don’t often recommend people watching a movie but this one is a must especially for those of the Christian faith. Instead I want to share some of the things that we Christians know that are evident in the movie and can serve as a point of discussion with others. In fact, I even thought it could serve as preview of a series of sermons on the End times. So this is a call for all preachers.
The movie is a mixture of a plot from the X-files with answers from the Bible. In fact, the basic premise is based on the passage in Ezekiel 1. Even thought this passage has nothing to do with the End times, it is used in the movie to support the idea of a higher power (i.e. the Sun) that eventually brings forth judgment to humanity. Read it before you watch the movie.]
Here are some concepts presented in the movie that are inline with Christianity:
1. Humanity has become evil and needs a new beginning. The movie shows how most humans when faced with tragedy behave like animals. It shows their basic selfish nature. We Christians agree with this clearly.
2. Humanity is incorrigible. No matter how many “signs” or warnings they get, they are unwilling or incapable to change on their own.
3. Humanity is not the result of chaos and chance but is the result of order. The main character in the movie, a scientist, believes in randomness until he gets the message from the Higher Power. It takes sometime though, and he even tries to disprove it but he ends up accepting it and in the end becomes convinced that there is purpose and meaning to life.
4. Those who are of faith or have been changed accept that death is not the end but the beginning. This is the case in the movie. It is interesting to note that the main character’s dad was a pastor. Both of them have been estranged due to the disagreements of beliefs. The son saw him as weird for his beliefs until he himself understands his fate. They both are reconciled. For once, Christians are portrayed as confident in contrast to those outside who until the end act like animals when faced with tragedy (e.g. Noah’s Ark).
5. There is a Higher Power. The movie is convoluted. We are led to believe aliens are the power behind everything (X-Files connection) but then we see it is The Sun but leaves us wondering (thus God is sort of). But for us Christians it is clear.

Having mentioned some truths revealed here are some misconceptions presented in the movie that can be used as a point of discussion with others (like I did with my family)

1. God is not the Sun or vice versa. He is not an impersonal force. After watching the movie I went back and read Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 19-20. It is interesting to note how fire, light and the sun is used in relation to God.
2. Humanity cannot have a new beginning by changing the environment. The person has to be changed from within (Redemption) and not from without. The tree of life cannot guarantee a perfect world (e.g. Genesis 1-3) Even if it was possible, procreation would bring the possibility of evil arising again (e.g. Revelation 20).
3. There aren’t any innocent beings. In the movie there are selected few (the children) who are chosen to start over. Christians believe that human nature is essentially predisposed to do evil. No one is innocent.
The movie ends with hope. We Christians believe in Hope. And this movie gives an opportunity to share it clearly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The End of Evangelicalism

Up till now, I have been hesitant to speak about what I believe will happen to the Evangelical movement. Evangelicals are all of those who believe in certain essentials among the most important is the belief that salvation is by faith alone. I often refer them to as the Church. I have been a Christian for over 20 years and have seen the evangelical church progress (or regress) to a state where I believe that it will be irrelevant. The more I visit churches, talk to supposed Christians and study the trend I have become more convinced that the Church or Evangelicals will fade away in the vast sea of our culture. Church members are almost indistinguishable from those outside the church in their daily living. Many confess to be Christians but in reality there is no essential difference. They are ignorant of their beliefs (see Barna's Report here) and are unable to explain why they believe what they believe. Churches no longer teach; they entertain. They teach pop psychology. They make you feel good but that is about it. And those churches that do have solid teaching have become fat. They have become dogmatic, judgmental and isolated. Their beliefs will die with them because they haven't learned how to confront the culture in a relevant way. Our young people are not being taught how to live out their faith in a post-modern society. The culture has become a powerful force influencing all of their lives and the Church does very little to counter act it. What is the future of Evangelicals? Today I read this article and found myself agreeing with Michael Spencer in almost everything he says. He writes: "I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century."
I also believe it is the Third World Church will bring a rebirth to America's Christianity. Just like Michael Spencer, I'm not a prophet. I may be totally wrong. I really hope so.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mind Over Emotions

We are emotional beings. We are rational beings. Both are powerful. Both can work with each other. Both can work against each other. Both can be in harmony.
I have often been seen as someone who lacks emotion due to the fact that I don’t often show publicly what I am feeling. But those who are close to me know that I do have emotions. They are there. I just don’t feel compelled to show them; it makes me uncomfortable. It might be a guy thing. Yet, as I the years have passed I have felt the growth of emotions to the point where it is not hard to feel the tears in my eyes when I am watching a movie or I am speaking to someone who I care deeply. Why is this so? I am sure there is a logical explanation, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.
I want to talk about the importance of putting mind over emotions. Personally, this hasn’t been hard for me. I’ve always been a logical person always weighing my decisions on reason and not emotion. I remember how I decided that I wanted to marry my wife. It took intensive rational thinking and after three days I was ready to propose. Of course I felt emotions. I was enveloped in them. But I made a choice guided by reason as well.
But I have observed so many times how people make decisions based on what they feel. They sacrifice what they believe for what they feel. They put emotion over principle. They put emotions over mind. This is dangerous. Letting emotions guide us and control us lead us to make decisions that we may later regret. I remember giving counsel to a young woman about the spiritual abuse her church was imposing on her and others and how she rejected what I said based on her close association to the pastor only to later realize that her emotions had blinded her. Her emotions were put over her reason and it led her and others astray. Emotions are dangerous when given free will. They must be guided by reason.
When we don’t put our mind over emotions, we run the risk of being manipulated by others. It’s easy. A few weeks ago I was sitting in church listening a sermon on the prodigal son. I though the interpretation of the parable did not do justice to the text. But even worse, we saw a video that modernized the parable. As I watched it I felt more contempt until the music started playing. Then I started to feel like I wanted to cry. Some tears felt from my eyes. Many around me were crying even men! For a moment I forgot what I “thought” about the sermon and gave in to my emotions. They are powerful. They can blind us from reason. They can justify anything. That’s why it’s important to balance them with our reason.

Have you heard the expression “Common Sense”? Well, our sense is derived from our reason. But these days it means very little. We need some Enlightenment. But it can only come when we put mind over emotions.