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

The Necessity of Beauty

We live in a terribly efficient world. Time and space must be practical, functional. All the frills that remove from the bottom line, that aren’t absolutely necessary to what we are producing, must be discarded. Consequently, many people sit in maximally utilized, monochrome office space just functioning. We are like machines putting out products. The last thing a functional machine needs is beauty. Beauty is not productive. Beauty is not efficient. It is wasteful; a luxury at best. Our money can be spent better elsewhere.We live in a terribly efficient world. Time and space must be practical, functional. All the frills that remove from the bottom line, that aren’t absolutely necessary to what we are producing, must be discarded. Consequently, many people sit in maximally utilized, monochrome office space just functioning. We are like machines putting out products. The last thing a functional machine needs is beauty. Beauty is not productive. Beauty is not efficient. It is wasteful; a luxury at best. Our money can be spent better elsewhere.

The church has not escaped this cultural trap. Many of us Protestants meet in warehouses and strip malls, sometimes out of necessity to be sure, but sometimes because it is efficient. The money we make is better used to feed the poor or send to foreign missionaries. Both inside and out our architecture and art scream that beauty is not important to us.

In the midst of a hungry and lost world, God is wasteful; or so it would seem from our generally accepted standards of wastefulness. In the middle of the wilderness, with a people who didn’t even have a permanent place to call “home,” God tells Moses to make his brother, Aaron, garments for glory and beauty (Exod 28.2). These garments were made of the most expensive fabrics, rare and carefully crafted stones, and woven throughout with gold threads. What a waste. Couldn’t these things have been sold and given to the poor? While the world is dying and going to hell, God has his people making a glorious tent and beautiful clothes for a high priest.

God doesn’t do anything that isn’t necessary. The beauty he prescribes is necessary for his people and the world. There is no waste in beauty.

We were created to make things beautiful. In the beginning God told man to take dominion over the earth, making it fruitful in every way. God gave man the pattern in creating a beautiful garden. Man, in turn, was to make the world a place of glory and beauty. We and the world were to move from glory to glory; from beauty to beauty. Beauty is the fruit of a people who are maturing in righteousness. The movement of the Scriptural story attests to this truth. In the beginning man is naked and in a relatively undeveloped world. The last images of Scripture are of a beautifully clothed people in a fully developed city, a city that is the product of the dominion of Christ and his people.

Jesus himself reveals this progress in his own life. We hear in Isaiah that he begins with “no beauty that we should desire him.” But in the Revelation, he is a glorious figure. We and the world are transformed in the likeness of Christ’s transformation. We are moving from beauty to beauty.

Transformation of the world into the beautiful is the calling of the Christian church as she matures. Developing beauty is non-optional for the faithful.

Beauty reflects our progress in time, but beauty also reflects our future, revealing our hope, what we will be. Beauty draws us into this future and gives us hope. If you have ever been overwhelmed by beauty, you know what I mean. Beauty overwhelms us; not in a condemning way or in a way that leaves us at a distance. Beauty draws us in and calls us up to be better than we are. We are inspired by beauty. In the midst of an ugly world, beauty is one aid among many to refresh the soul.

Making things beautiful is an exercise in faith. Creating beauty declares that there is more to this life than an efficient, machine-like existence. Creating beauty says that we serve a beautiful God, and we are becoming more and more like him.

Though beautiful art and architecture can never do it by itself, beauty is integral in calling the Christian community to faith. God creates garments of glory and beauty for Aaron so that he and the people he represents will “live up to them.” Beauty says, “This is who you were made to be. Now, live beautifully.” Show the world this beauty, and they will be drawn to it.

Charles Klamut summarizes all of this very well when he writes:

‘Beauty will save the world.’ That remains to be seen. But beauty has saved me, and continues to do so. My experience is that I need saving; it is not a luxury. Beauty saves. Or, to put it more precisely, beauty points me to the One who saves, who is Beauty itself. Beauty is a necessity, not a luxury. Beauty moves us, awakens us, provokes us, bringing freshness and newness to hearts that have too easily grown old and stale. A luxury is something extra, added on after duties are complete. But beauty is not something extra, it is what comes first. Because without beauty, the duties prove too hard and, eventually, seem pointless. An old, tired soul cannot move itself, cannot sustain itself. It ultimately fails in its tasks.  Beauty renews the soul, pointing us ever back to our origins and our destiny, making life begin again. May God never leave us bereft of anointed artists, prophets, and poets of the transcendent, who will keep wounding our hearts with nostalgia for the infinite destiny which alone matches the proportions of our great hearts.(Fr. Charles Klamut; http://www.hprweb.com/2013/01/beauty-a-necessity-not-a-luxury/ )

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By In Culture, Theology

Sola Fide: The Problem With the Sinner’s Prayer

I am a Reformed Protestant, and I don’t believe we are saved by faith alone. Neither do I believe we are “once saved, always saved.” Do those statements seem strange to you? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to one of the great distortions of Protestant and evangelical theology. Read on, and I’ll explain.

Both the material cause of the split between Rome and the Reformers (Sola Fide, or “faith alone”), and the formal cause (Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone”), suffer from widespread distortions and misunderstandings, even among Protestants who claim to espouse these principles. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I want to debunk some popular myths about these two of the Five Solae.

The Pseudo-Sacrament of Conversion

Let’s start with Sola Fide, as it’s commonly embodied in evangelical circles: as a sort of confession of guilt and pledge of allegiance to God known as “the sinner’s prayer.” It usually goes something like this: (more…)

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By In Podcast

Episode 17: Rusty Reno, First Things Economics with David Koyzis

In this episode of the Kuyperian Commentary Podcast, Dr. David Koyzis and Pastor Uri Brito discuss an article published by First Things‘ editor R. R. Reno in which he is cautiously raising questions about “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.”

Dr. Koyzis published his written thoughts on the subject “Trees and Three-Legged Stools: Reno and Gregg on Novak’s legacy” with the appropriate background information here.

The two outline the three-decade long history of this economics discussion and ask the question, “How would Abraham Kuyper view these issues today?”

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By In Culture, Family and Children

Caution: Some Slopes Really Are Slippery

“That’s a slippery slope argument.”

An actual person on social media, in the year 2017, said this to me after I predicted the Boy Scouts’ new separate-but-equal arrangement for girls will last about as long as a Kit-Kat bar in a hot car.

The progressive memory is evidently around 2.5 seconds long, because 3.0 seconds ago culturally, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were opposed to gay marriage, people with male genitalia were men, people with female genitalia were women, and intentionally spreading AIDS was known to the state of California to cause felony charges.

boy_scoutsThe first obvious point is that some slopes really are slippery. (more…)

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By In Culture

If Men Were Angels

The Constitution as an Expression of Individual Freedom

In his lionhearted defense of the Constitution, James Madison declared, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary…” (The Federalist No. 51) Madison argued that human nature and its tendencies toward the abuse of power demanded a tripartite constitution to restrain human governments. Yet the triumph of the American Constitution is greater than merely actualizing this Montesquieuan balance of power. Rather, the U.S. Constitution represents a revolution toward self-government. By its recognition of delegated powers, our Constitution not only protects individual freedoms, but expresses all political authority as derived from the cooperation of self-governing institutions. Today, in our time of political polarization, Americans must recover their founders’ constitutional hierarchy of authority. An inversion of the medieval hierarchy with the individual at its crest as the sole-grantor of powers for its servant: the constitutionally-restrained Federal government. Today, as communities fear overreach by the President, the Congress, and even the Judiciary – a return to the Constitution’s emphasis on self-government is the only remedy. (more…)

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By In Theology

Look To Your Baptism

Martin Luther is often quoted as using his baptism as a weapon in his battles with the devil. “I have been baptized,” he would tell the devil in order to make him flee. Who God told him he was and what God promised him in his baptism was Luther’s anchor that kept him moored so that he would not be ultimately dashed to pieces by the virulent waves of doubt that assaulted his soul.

We may not generally resort to our baptism as Luther did, but we should. We shouldn’t be afraid of the water. In baptism God told us that we belong to him. In baptism God united us to his Son in the church. We have been anointed with the Spirit with whom Jesus, our Head, was anointed in his baptism and ultimately his coronation. Luther was doing nothing that Paul himself didn’t do when dealing with the churches. In 1Corinthians 12 Paul appeals to their baptism to fight the factionalism in the church. Similarly in Galatians 3 Paul tells the Christians of Galatia that all those who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ–whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female–and all are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to God’s promise. In Romans 6 Paul uses baptism to encourage the Roman Christians that sin no longer has dominion over them. Peter also uses baptism to assure the Christians scattered throughout the Empire that they have a good conscience before God through the resurrection of Jesus (1Pt 3.21). The writer of Hebrews speaks about us being washed with pure water and, therefore, having boldness to draw near to God (Heb 10.22). When we look to our baptism, we are not looking to mere water or believing in some sort of hocus pocus. We are looking to what God said about us. We are looking to his Word that he sealed to us in the water by his Spirit. This is why the writers of the Scriptures can appeal to it the way they do and exhort people to walk in faithfulness according to their baptism.

This week as you go through the daily routines of life and/or face some unusual circumstances, you do so as a person who has been baptized into the Triune name. You face whatever you face as someone whom God has claimed for himself and promised that he is working every circumstance for your salvation. You know, therefore, that whatever you face, whether it be good or ill, God is in it working for you and not against you. The call to you is to walk in faith, trusting what God said about you. The call to you is to live like a baptized person ought to live; whether in unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ or resisting the other sins that no longer have dominion over you. Whatever it is, you can stand firm in the waters of your baptism because there God has given you his word.

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