Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Trinity and Salvation...

Much of the Church catholic celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday this past week.  It's the one Sunday of the year where many congregations confess the Athanasius Creed.  To read this creed, go to this link.  Additionally, there is a good resource to check out regarding this creed.  Issues, Etc. recently did a four part series discussing the Athanasius Creed with Pastor Wil Weedon.

I also want to give credit to Tim Chester and his book "Delighting in the Trinity."  He does a really good job of covering the history of how the Church has developed its view of the Trinity, and he writes in such a way that reveals to the reader how important the doctrine of the Trinity really is.  I would recommend anyone wanting to get an introductory look at the doctrine of the Trinity to check out this book.
Chester, in my opinion, summarily nails the deal about salvation when he writes:
Christ's death of the cross can be seen as His victory over Satan and as a moral example.  These approaches see salvation as a transaction between God and Satan and between God and humanity.  But at its heart salvation is a transaction within the Trinity.  The Son offers Himself to the Father as our substitute.  God both judges and is judged.  And the Spirit applies this transaction to our lives.
The Godhead:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, work in union.  It is the Father that gives the world His Son.  The Son who gives us His Holy Spirit.  And in reverse, it is the Holy Spirit that reveals God's Word, Jesus Christ, and it Jesus Christ who says that he who knows Him also knows the Father.  What incredible stuff (for lack of  a better theological word)!  It is God and God alone in the Trinity that works out our salvation!

Without the Holy Spirit, we would not know Christ.  Without Christ and His work on the cross, we could not be reconciled to the Father and be in relationship with Him.  And it is God, His Word, and the Spirit hovering the waters in the middle of creation.  The doctrine of the Trinity is paramount.  The relationship between the atonement and the Trinity operates in both directions.  The Trinity is the foundation of the atonement and the atonement is the ultimate revelation of God's trinitarian character.

It is God that saves us.  Not us.  In His love, He sent His Son to reconcile the all humanity to the Father.  It is the Holy Spirit, whom the Son sent, that quickens and gives us faith at the hearing of His Word.  It is God, as the Trinity, that provides salvation.

Almighty and everlasting God, who has given to us, Your servants, grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity, we implore You that You would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; who lives and reigns, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Holy Trinity)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Got my geek on today...

Taking a break from any kind of serious thought...

Well... I just returned from the new Green Lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds and wanted to share my thoughts.

First of all, I must admit, this was my favorite comic book hero growing up.  Most kids liked Superman, Batman, or Spiderman.  Me...  I had to be the odd kid out.  Green Lantern.  And I really have no idea what drew me to him than any of those other superheroes from the comics.  I guess I thought having a green power ring that could make me fly and make all kinds of cool gadgets sounded appealing...  *shrugs shoulders*  So I am gonna be a bit biased in my review.

So, anyways... I just got back from the movie and I wanted to give my review of it.  In a word... Entertaining.  Very entertaining.  It was everything I thought a Green Lantern movie could be.  This movie would have been bad just a decade ago.  But the advances in CGI technology was required for a movie such as this.  Don't get me wrong... it could have been much better, but it was very good when compared to comic book movie genre.  It is no Iron Man or the Dark Knight, but it was better than the recent restart of Superman, and the earlier Batman movies with Michael Keaton, etc.  The movie was built well, but  as many comic book movie types, there is only but so much time to create a storyline, develop characters, and put in some great CGI effects and fight scenes.  It's a balancing act, and Green Lantern did well enough.  Hopefully, it will do well enough in the box office to support a sequel.  But I'm not holding my breath.

For a couple of reasons. 

First, as I said before, most have heard of Spiderman, Superman, or Batman... but not too many have heard of Green Lantern.  He's not an icon by any stretch of the imagination.  So I can't imagine too many casual movie-goers making it a priority to check out this film.  It will be a movie skipped my the overall mainstream movie going audience.  It will appeal mainly to the geek/ nerd types, like myself.

Secondly, while the movie is very good and entertaining, I am not sure it will have the kind of appeal in which those that will watch it will be talking about "how great the movie was, and you've just gotta see it."  There is nothing classic about the film.  Just a good summer action superhero flick.  There will be the GL geeks (like me) who see it a couple of times, but I generally don't think there will a mass of people checking out the film.

Now to list some of the pros and cons.

The pros:
Ryan Reynolds performs well.  He does a very good job pulling off the role of Hal Jordan.  The character is developed well as far as their was time to give it justice.

Peter Sarsgaard was his typical brilliant self.  He did an incredible job as Hector Hammond.  I wish they could have given him even more screen time.  The movie developed his story fairly well, but they could/ should have done even more...  Due to forcing a larger picture into the story and having to create an entire background for Green Lantern, his character/ story was limited.

Mark Strong was the perfect choice as Sinestro.  He did an amazing job.  But his role was even more limited.  (Slight spoiler alert coming--)  The movie ended in such a way that if there is a sequel, Sinestro will play a much larger role.  And that is the central part of the Green Lantern story that this movie was trying to build up to.  If there is enough commercial success, I think a sequel will be infinitely better due to Mark Strong playing Sinestro.  Again... great casting choice to use the talents of Mark Strong for Sinestro.

The final positive that I will mention... the CGI effects to highlight Hal Jordan's power ring was done really well...  They created some wonderful effects for the ring to create.  Not a simple bat or sling shot.. but a scene where he creates a matchbox car race track with a spiral to stop a falling helicopter for one...  It was a well done scene...  Several other moments where the writers were fairly creative in finding unique ways of highlighting the power ring.  The movie didn't go over the top with the CGI.  The movie didn't try to make that the focus... they did try to create a story, and use the CGI to complement it... not make the CGI the story itself.  And that's a good thing.

The cons...

The lead actress, Blake Lively, was mediocre at best...  that may be in part due to having to focus the storyline elsewhere, and couldn't really develop her character...  but again, she filled the role of Carol Ferris (the love interest), but did nothing to create any kind of interest in the character.  The Carol Ferris character develops in the overall Green Lantern story, but the writers of the movie had to pick and choose....  They wisely chose Jordan, Hector Hammond, and to a small degree, Sinestro..  They bypassed Carol Ferris, and Blake Lively did nothing to help.

The second con, and probably the biggest disappointment, in my opinion, is the lack of Sinestro in the movie.  He played a fairly significant role, but would have loved to see his character developed even more.  He is the key antagonist to Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern story.  I am assuming the creators of the movie are hoping there is a sequel.  Sinestro will then play a key role, and with the leads being Mark Strong and Ryan Reynolds...  that film could be incredible.  Hopefully there will a second movie, and Sinestro

The final drawback to this movie is the soundtrack.  Very weak, in my opinion.  It certainly doesn't stand out, and in many ways, the soundtrack shouldn't stand out... but it should provide the empty space in which the movie can be accentuated...  If you haven't seen the movie Tron Legacy... you ought to.  This movie and the soundtrack meshed perfectly.  While it didn't get very good reviews from the mainstream critics, it was entertaining film.  My point in bringing it up is that the soundtrack really made the movie what it was.  It really enhanced the movie.  It drew you into the action sequences, it moved the 'slower' scenes, etc., it created the feeling that you were part of the movie, in a sense.  In contrast, the soundtrack to Green Lantern was completely unremarkable.  It did nothing for the movie...  If anything, it hurt the movie.  I only noticed

All in all, me being a Green Lantern fan, I would love to see a lot of people go check out the film.   It's a good enough story and is a really good introduction to who and what a Green Lantern is.  Ryan Reynolds is a fun actor to watch.  Quick witted and has really good timing...  He is perfectly cast as Hal Jordan.  Sarsgaard does an amazing job as Hector Hammond.  All in all, it's a fun, entertaining summer flick.  One that I would definitely recommend checking out.  (If only for selfish reasons, and hoping there is a sequel that has the potential of being a very, very good Green Lantern movie).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I think it is good to read and listen to those who you don’t necessarily agree with. One can learn things that you wouldn’t necessarily have learned if you didn’t take in another’s viewpoint.

I say this to specifically point out that I continue to read blogs of those who see things differently than I do in regards to ecclesia(ekklesia) and how church should look.  In some ways, I see the same issues the anti-institutional guys see.  Seeker-sensitive churches that are all-consumed with being relevant and concerned with growth instead of preaching and proclaiming Christ and His death and resurrection.  That is the very reason I left the local church a few years ago.

I was in the same place many of these individuals are.  I couldn't stand church.  I would go almost completely out of obligation.  Not that I felt I had to please God, but something of the sort.  At the time, I couldn't have accurately explained the reason.  But I know exactly why now.  Almost every sermon I heard would mention Jesus, and would briefly talk about how He died on the cross for my sins.  But immediately after that, I would hear about all the social justice issues that I needed to take part in.  How I should sell my house, uproot my family, and move into a different part of town to take part in mission with God and what He was doing.  How the church needed me to do more.  To be sure, often these imperatives were stated subtly, but there were times where they were much more overt.  All of this in the name of 'church growth.'

There is much wrong in the evangelical church today.  Not all, but certainly much.


It isn't the system that is necessarily the bad thing.  All of these bad things occur in a system, but the system, in and of itself, is not the problem.  Sin is the problem.  The same issues can and do occur in non-institutional settings.  We are sinners in need of a Savior.  While there are many bad things that occur in the institutional church, I see many things unhealthy on the other side.  I see many who blog about the merits of House or Simple or Non-IC church who emphasize what the believer needs to be doing instead of receiving.  This is NOT to say that we do not bear fruit that the Holy Spirit grows in us.  We bear fruit of good works that signal that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives.  But the emphasis shouldn't be on how to build a better church, but about being faithful to what God has given us and acknowledge that He gives the growth.

I want to share a bit of scripture that I think many in the non-IC crowd will use to show what the church should be about, but is more promise than command, in my non-scholarly/ layman's view:

6So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6-8

 Jesus says that you WILL be my witnesses.  Not that you ought to be or that you need to be witnesses.  Our faith is a gift of God's.  We are all dead in trespasses and sins.  Only God through His Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and brings us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  He certainly works through His Church, but it He that gives the increase, not the Church that can increase itself.  It is His work.  Not ours.

So while I do have much to empathize with those have grown tired of the institutional church, for there are many things wrong with it,  they are emphasizing the wrong syllable, so to speak.  The focus shouldn't be on how to fix the Church, for we aren't able to...  for Christ is the one who is the author and perfecter of our faith.  The focus is to continue to trust God and His Word.  That He will never leave us nor forsake us.  And He will bring the increase.  Whether that be in our own faith or visible growth in the Church.