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By In Film, Theology

Scripture Things in ‘Stranger Things’

When Stranger Things Season 1 debuted last year, it was an instant viral sensation. Set in the 1980s, the show masterfully tugs on the nostalgic heartstrings of all those who love coming-of-age, science fiction, adventure dramas. Those of us who loathe contemporary sci-fi — for its substance-less story lines and cartoony CGI — found refuge in Stranger Things‘ mere 8 episodes. They took us back to a simpler yet more mysterious time. The show took many of us back to our childhood, right back to E.T., The Goonies, Stand By Me, and more. Its synth-based score only added to the nostalgia, captivating our imaginations with every sound.

It was only natural that fan-theories would develop around the show. Countless blogs and comment boxes have been filled with questions, predictions, and debate. A small portion of these theories involve biblical imagery and theology. Some are quite good; others are quite a stretch. In anticipation for the release of Season 2, I decided to re-watch Season 1 and try my hand. Below are my thoughts and observations from a biblical perspective. You may think some of them are quite a stretch, but hopefully some of them are quite good.

Before we begin, a disclaimer. I’m in no way presuming to know the intentions of the writers or directors. I suspect most of my observations are purely coincidental. We all exegete content from a particular lens and it may not be the same lens worn by the writers. Still, that doesn’t stop us from seeing what we want to see. If your imagination is shaped by the Bible, you’ll see traces of it everywhere. (more…)

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By In Culture, Theology

Do our troubles never cease?

The following has been adapted from a sermon preached in Houston on September 3, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.

There’s a recurring theme in our service today. We sang Psalm 46, which speaks of roaring waters and hills being thrown into the sea. Our reading from Jeremiah 15 spoke about deceitful brooks and waters that fail. And after the sermon we’ll sing Psalm 124, which speaks of tidal waves and surging floods.

You may think I chose these hymns and scriptures because of what we’ve been going through this past week. But actually, the scriptures are the lectionary readings for today, and the hymns were picked weeks ago – long before I knew anything about Hurricane Harvey.

How providential it is, that what was planned in advance for worship has relevance to our current events. That is the Spirit of God at work. So before you label me “cheesy” or “cliché,” know that it wasn’t my intention. It was someone else’s, and for good reason.

We should talk about our current events. We need to hear God’s word about these things. After all, it has consumed our thinking. It has greatly inconvenienced us in one way or another. Maybe it’s caused you fear, sadness, or anger. If not you, we know that’s been the case for others. (more…)

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By In Theology

Two Births of Jesus

One night in Nazareth, God became man in the virgin womb of Mary, a young lady betrothed to Joseph. Three trimesters later, Jesus was born on Christmas day. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes (Lk. 2:7). Gentile worshipers brought him gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt. 2:11). The infant’s life was threatened by an evil king, but he escaped death (Mt. 2:13-15).

Thirty-three years later, Jesus had his life threatened again by evil rulers (Mt. 26:65-68). Instead of escaping, he volunteered to die (Jn. 10:18). At his death in Jerusalem, Israelite worshipers prepared spices and oils for him (Lk. 23:55-56; Jn. 19:39-40). He was wrapped in fine linens and buried in a virgin tomb, a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea (Mt. 27:57-60; Lk. 23:53). Three days later, he was reborn on Easter Sunday.

As we celebrate the nativity of our Lord, let us recall the glorious providence of God. Let us remember that not only does Christ’s first coming look forward to his second coming, but that his birth out of the womb foreshadows his birth out of the tomb. King Jesus conquered death and now sits on heaven’s throne. We join his mother in singing these words from the Magnificat: (more…)

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By In Culture, Pro-Life

Your self-righteousness isn’t keeping you safe

The recent shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando has been labeled the deadliest mass shooting in US history. It’s reported that the gunman killed 49 people and injured at least 53. Most Christians have responded to this tragedy with love and compassion for the victims and their families. Numerous churches and pastors have denounced the violence and are standing in solidarity with the LGBT community.

But as usual, the craziest and most extreme of any group is the loudest. Two pastors have made headlines for their remarks on the Orlando shooting. One says,

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. I’m kind of upset that he [the shooter] didn’t finish the job!”

Another pastor says,

“I’m not sad about it; I’m not going to cry about it … the victims were going to die of AIDS and syphilis and whatever else; they were going to die early anyway … The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive.”

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By In Culture, Film

The absurdity of sin in ‘Fargo’ Season 2

The Coen brothers have a reputation for exploring biblical morality in many of their movies, Hail, Caesar!  being their most religious yet. The writers of the Fargo television series have remained faithful to the Coen tradition. Seasons 1 & 2 serve as a cautionary tale of how belief fundamentally shapes moral behavior. This review focuses on Season 2 and concludes with a summary of both seasons. The review for Season 1 can be found here.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Season 2

Season 2 is a prequel to Season 1, set in 1979. Lou Solverson is our hero, a young cop with a wife named Betsy and a daughter named Molly. Other than these characters, a connection to Season 1 isn’t immediately discerned. Many have said that the series could be watched in reverse without giving away spoilers. This much is true and will prove relevant to our conclusion.

In episode one, Waiting for Dutch, we catch a glimpse of Ed and Peggy Blumquist holding hands to pray before a meal. The Blumquists are religious to some extent, though we learn that it has no root in their lives. Ed has big dreams of owning a butcher shop and raising children, but he is oblivious to his wife’s needs and desires. Peggy is plagued with stress and anxiety. She’s a compulsive hoarder who yearns for satisfaction in what she perceives to be an unsatisfactory life. She isn’t happy at home, at work, or in Luverne, Minnesota.

fargo-prayer-1024x591 (more…)

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By In Culture, Film

The consequence of evolution in ‘Fargo’ Season 1

Religion and philosophy are common themes on FX’s Fargo series. Seasons 1 & 2 serve as a cautionary tale of how belief fundamentally shapes moral behavior. Together the seasons offer a grim analysis of our cultural landscape, but one that doesn’t leave us without hope. This review focuses on Season 1 only. Click here for Season 2 and series summary.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Season 1

The year is 2006 and Lorne Malvo is a professional killer with no conscience. He is presented as a master of manipulation and intimidation. Malvo kills who he wants, when he wants – and with great ease. When he finds himself confronted by law enforcement, Malvo always manages to get free. Magically so, seemingly able to escape enclosed basements, control minds, and create fake identities ex nihilo.

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By In Culture, Politics

Peter Leithart to speak at Morthland College in Southern Illinois

The Founders Institute of Public Policy will be hosting two lectures by Dr. Peter Leithart this week in Southern Illinois. Leithart is the president of the Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. Both events are free to the public; see schedule below.

Thursday, October 8, 7 p.m.
Washington Hall at Morthland College
202 East Oak St., West Frankfort, Illinois

Immigration After Obergefell — Obergefell v. Hodges is the latest in a string of Supreme Court decisions that have made it clear that American law no longer rests on Christian foundations. The old Protestant establishment is dead, and that means that Christians must assess and respond to public questions in a new framework. Using immigration as his key illustration, Dr. Leithart argues that the church must become an “alternative public” and that Christians must retrain ourselves to think about and respond to public issues more as churchmen than as American citizens. (more…)

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