Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEWS AND NEWS

Book Reviews

Silence by Shusaku Endo. Picador Modern Classics. 256 pages. Rep Mti edition 2017
***

The new film Silence, from director Martin Scorsese is based on this 1966 novel of historical fiction written by Japanese author Shusaku Endo. Scorsese, who writes the Foreword, had wanted to make a film of this book for many years. In the Foreword he writes about the problem of Judas, a theme that will come up throughout this book.
The novel is primarily written in the form of a journal and also in the third person by its central character, Father Sabastian Rodrigues, a Portuguese missionary. Father Rodrigues and his companion Father Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1639; the Christian church is underground to avoid persecution. Rodrigues has travelled to Japan to investigate reports that his former teacher and mentor, Christovao Ferreira, has committed apostasy.  The priest had not been heard from since 1633 when he was last seen in Nagasaki.
Their contact in Japan is a drunken man named Kichijiro. He denies when asked if he is a Christian. He is the Judas character in this book. He will show up again and again in the story.  Just when you think you can trust him, he will disappoint you, and then he shows up again. Can he be trusted? Or, will he betray the priests and turn them into the Japanese authorities? The Judas theme is key to this book. Father Rodrigues will often refer to Jesus’ words to Judas, “What thou must, do quickly” (John 13:27).
Father Rodrigues will also compare his situation with that of Jesus. The magistrate, Inoue, who is responsible for the interrogation and torture of all captured Christians, is the Pilate character in the book.
The book includes themes of faith, doubt, silence (of God, the sea, land, night and people), solitude, pain, betrayal, strength, weakness and martyrdom. Does God even exist? He has been silent in the midst of the persecution of the Japanese Christians.
The subject of apostasy is another key to this story. The Japanese not only want the peasant Japanese Christians to deny their faith by trampling on an image of Jesus (referred to as a fumi-e), no, they want priests themselves to commit apostasy. If they don’t, the peasant Christians will be tortured to death.
The book is well-written and very descriptive. You can feel the heat, rain, and the insects that Father Rodrigues encounters in “the swamp”, as Japan is referred to in the book. Tension builds as Father Rodrigues encounters his former teacher Father Ferreira.
SPOILER ALERT!  *** Ferreira has indeed apostatized, taken on a Japanese name, taken on another’s wife and children, and is writing a book to refute the teachings of Christ. He tells Rodrigues that he was to get him to apostatize. He goes on to tell Rodrigues why he had apostatized. ***
We go on to read about what happens to Rodrigues. Will he apostatize? Will he ever hear the voice of God, or will he remain silent?
As I read this book I wondered if I would be able to keep from denying Christ if my wife was being tortured. I pray that I would.

Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God by Charles Spurgeon. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 170 pages. 2016. 
****

This is the second book I’ve read from the new Rich Theology Made Accessible series, the first one being on prayer by John Calvin.  The book includes ten wonderful sermons by the great Reformed Baptist Charles Spurgeon, preached from the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit in London where he served for 38 years. Among the topics covered in these sermons that will encourage believers are care, anxiety, peace, fear and rest. My only suggestion for improvement would be an Introduction to the book, giving the reader some context to these wonderful sermons – when they were preached, why these particular sermons were chosen, etc. I highly recommend this wonderful collection of sermons by Spurgeon, which are great for devotional reading. Continue reading


Leave a comment

THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

David Washington / Kingdom Covenant Church

BEING SALT AND LIGHT:

  • How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city. One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.”
  • A Two-Minute Clip on Homosexuality Every Christian Should Watch. Watch this short video from Sam Allberry—editor for The Gospel Coalition, speaker for RZIM, founding editor of Living Out, and author of Is God Anti-Gay?—addressing the Church of England General Synod in London recently.
  • Love is Not a Secondary Matter. Steven Lawson writes “It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing.”

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO CURRENT CULTURE:

  • Scandalized by the Substitute: A Response to Young and Gungor. Owen Strachan responds to musician Michael Gungor who called the atonement “evil” and “horrific” on Twitter and Paul Young, author of The Shack, who calls God a “cosmic abuser”.
  • A Teenage Girl’s Response to Teen Vogue’s “Post-Abortion Gift Guide”. Randy Alcorn writes “I encourage you to watch this powerful video response from 16-year-old Autumn Lindsey. She is part of the target demographic for Teen Vogue.”
  • As a Christian, I Favor National Security AND Refugee Care. Scott Sauls writes “Mr. President, we commend and support you for prioritizing our safety and protection in such volatile times. We can only imagine the burden that this must be, and you carry it in ways that nobody else does. And yet we similarly plead with you, sir—on behalf of the millions of souls who are most at risk—that we not turn away the vetted and vulnerable refugee. While charity may start at home, it must never end there, especially in this country of ours that we call the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s champion freedom, sir. And, for the love of God, let’s be brave.”
  • Flipping Sides on Roe v Wade: Norma McCorvey’s Repentance. Clint Archer writes “The dramatic 180 degree turn of attitudes and behavior provides an apt illustration of the nature of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind and the necessary difference in behavior that accompanies it.”
  • Same-Sex Attraction. The White Horse Inn writes “What should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.”
  • What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church. Russell Moore writes “We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.”
  • Why the Transgender Debate Is About Redefining Reality. Joe Carter writes “If you want to change a society, you merely need to get the public to shift an idea from the category of “unthinkable” to “policy.” You’ll know you’ve been successful when the formerly unthinkable has become public school policy.”
  • The Two Things We Must Say About the Transgender Debate. Kevin DeYoung writes “The Christian response to the transgender debate depends on whether we are talking about the debate or about a transgender person. I understand the two cannot be completely divorced, but they are not the same thing either.”
  • David Platt’s Guide to Navigating Unprecedented Social Change. Collin Hansen writes “With the re-release of Counter Culture, and in our context of tremendous racial and political turmoil, Davd Platt joins him on The Gospel Coalition Podcast to discuss our era’s rapid pace of social change, churches that care as much about slavery as marriage, and the implications of our behavior for international missions.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

My Review of Get Out

get-outGet Out, rated R
***

Get Out is a creative, well-made film about race combined with satire, horror and comedy that will make you want to scream at the main character during the film, “Get Out”!
This film is written and directed by Jordan Peele (Comedy Central series Key & Peele), who has cited the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead film as an inspiration for making his feature film writing-directing debut because that film had an African American protagonist and dealt with serious racial issues inside the framework of a horror movie. He has also stated that he first got the idea for the film during 2008 Democratic primary discussions about whether an African American or a woman was more deserving of the presidency. He then went on to explain that he further conceived the movie as a twist on the 1975 movie The Stepford Wives, in which suburban husbands replace their rebellious wives with compliant robots.  This satire on interracial relationships cost just $4.5 million to make and is receiving an incredible 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com by film critics. The film is produced by Jason Blum who also produced Split, which recently was the number one film for three consecutive weeks.
Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario), stars as 26 year-old Chris, an African-American photographer who has been dating Rose, (Allison Williams, Girls television series) who is white, for five months. The couple is visiting Rose’s parents – neurosurgeon Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) and psychiatrist Missy Armitage (two-time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener) – at their beautiful but remote lake house estate, for the first time. Chris is nervous about their reaction to him being an African-American, but Rose assures him that it won’t be a problem as her parents are not racists. And initially it appears that she is right, as he initially begins to feel welcome.
But then Chris begins to get increasingly uncomfortable, beginning with Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). He notices that the other African-Americans in the home – groundskeeper Walter (Martin Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) – are acting strange.  Then Missy is intent on wanting to hypnotize Chris. Later, we see Chris attending an awkward party with the family’s friends, all white, along with one black man Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield) who is also acting strangely. Chris then calls his best friend TSA Agent Rod (LilRel Howery) – who adds a good deal of humor to the film – to express his concerns. Does he have reason to be concerned or is he just paranoid?
Race plays a central role in this film at a time when race relations in our nation are unfortunately as poor as they have been for a long time. Rose’s parents would not consider themselves to be racists, but they use racial stereotypes, as they try to connect with Chris. All of their white friends at the party are also interested in Chris because of his race. Why?
This creative genre blending film (horror, comedy, satire) was very well done. As a white man, I felt uncomfortable watching it, which is probably what Peele would want me to feel. Michael Abel’s music score is very effective in building the suspense.
The film is rated “R” for violence, bloody images, and a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s name and sexual references.


Leave a comment

FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

CHRISTIANS SHAPING CULTURE:culture

your-work-matters

  • Why Work Matters. Watch this message from Trip Lee as he discusses why every job and task is important in God’s Kingdom.
  • To Be a Diaper Changer. Nick Batzig writes “To be a diaper changer to the glory of God is a glorious thing. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).”
  • Women, We’re Co-Workers, Not Competitors. Bethany Jenkins writes “When we see that Jesus is our identity, we have new eyes to appreciate others’ contributions rather than fearfully guarding our own choices. When our goal is to advance his kingdom, not our own, we can rejoice in all sorts of work being done since we’re on a shared mission. Women making different choices are co-laborers, not competitors. It’s a team effort, so it’s a team sense of joy.”
  • Career. Calling. What’s the Difference? Hugh Whelchel writes “Rather than equate vocational calling with a specific occupation or career, we are called to be Christians in whatever situation we find ourselves. Vocational calling stays the same as we move in and out of different jobs and careers. It is directly related to the discovery of our God-given talents. We develop and hone these talents into useful competencies for the glory of God and the benefit of others, often in various jobs or occupations.
  • On Christian Retirement. Hugh Whelchel writes “A Christian never retires from serving God through his or her vocational call. While we may have moved into a new season in our lives, God still calls us to grow and invest our gifts and talents in the work that he is doing in the world.”
  • Essential Keys to Finishing Your Race Well. Dave Kraft shares these essential keys for the Christian leader to finish well. He writes that he regularly teaches these, and by His grace, seeks to practice them in his own life and work.
  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell encourages us to be an everyday learner. We should keep learning and keep earning so that we can be returning.
  • It’s Not Only Athletes: What Platform Has God Given You? Randy Alcorn writes “But regardless of what vocation or position or role in a family God gives us, when God gives His people a platform to stand on, and a voice that can be heard, He expects them to represent Him faithfully. When they achieve something, whether as a farmer, factory worker, teacher, nurse, clerk, or salesperson, He calls upon them to give Him glory.”
  • Ken Costa on How to Discover Your Calling, Hope in the Workplace, and Connecting with Millennials. Carey Nieuwhof talks to Ken about integrating faith at work, finding your calling, Alpha and what millennials are looking for.

Continue reading


1 Comment

THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small

Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Last week I had a great time in Atlanta with team members located there. We enjoyed the Escape Room as a team building exercise. Tammy and I worshipped at Passion City Church where Crowder led worship. We enjoyed the city and the people we met there, but definitely not the traffic.
  • Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban. Jeremy Weber writes “More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement.”
  • Most Refugees Who Enter the U.S. as Religious Minorities are Christians. Katayoun Kishi writes “A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.”
  • The Boy Scouts Succumb to Radical Gender Ideology. Denny Burk writes “I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.”
  • 7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World. Kevin DeYoung writes “Perhaps a look at the negative will point us in a positive direction. Let’s briefly consider seven ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world.”

CHRISTIAN AUTHORS & FILM:

  • Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength. Wesley Hill writes “Before Brené Brown appeared on the TED stage, before spiritual counseling and small group ministry in evangelical parachurch ministries had encouraged believers to disclose more of their doubts and insecurities, before movements like the charismatic Cursillo and the contemplative Taizé and Renovaré had gone mainstream, Nouwen was already advocating a spirituality that took its cue from Christ’s nail-scarred risen body.”
  • C.S. Lewis’s View of Women, and How He’s Impacted My Thinking. Randy Alcorn writes “The following questions and answers are from my contribution to Women and C. S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture, edited by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key. I highly recommend this unique and well-reviewed book, which has excellent contributions by 26 others, including Alister McGrath and Kathy Keller.”
  • Trapped: A Short Film on Teen Unplanned Pregnancy. Randy Alcorn writes “Most prolife films are short clips or movie length, and unfortunately, the short ones don’t allow viewers much time to experience the emotions or to ponder. This one, on the other hand, has a large amount of silence, allowing for contemplation. The fact that the air doesn’t get filled with words helps listeners draw their own conclusions based on the obvious facts.” Watch the 20-minute film.
  • silenceOn Silence and More. Steven Garber writes “The best stories always tell the truth of the human condition, the truth about who we are, so the heart of a good story is that we can see ourselves, both the glory and the ruin of the human heart. And that is the main reason Silence is a story for all of us, if we have ears to hear.”

DOCTRINE AND CHURCH LIFE:

Continue reading


Leave a comment

My Review of Silence

silenceSilence, rated R
***

Silence is a well-acted film that deals with the subject of apostasy (denying the faith).
The film is directed by Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese (The Departed), and is based on a 1966 historical novel written by Shusaku Endo. Scorsese was given the book in 1988, and has been wanting to make a movie of it ever since. Jay Cocks co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese.
The film is set in 17th century Japan. Father Cristovao Ferreira (Oscar nominee Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List) from Portugal, has gone missing while working as a Jesuit missionary in Japan. He hasn’t been heard from for years. Rumors are that he has committed apostasy (denied the faith). His former students Father Sebastiao Rodrigues (Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield for Hacksaw Ridge) and Father Francisco Garrpe (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) fail to believe that their teacher and mentor has apostatized. They finally convince Father Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) to let them go to Japan to try to find Ferreira. They will be aided by a drunken Japanese guide named Kichijiro (Yoshi Oida). He is a complex character, not the simple “cut and dry” Judas to Rodrigues that he may appear.
As the priests arrive in Japan, they find a church that has gone underground or hidden, in the midst of persecution. Christianity has been outlawed in Japan, but there are those who remain faithful, despite the lack of priests. Those who are caught and suspected of being Christians are forced to trample on wooden figures of Jesus, called fumie. Those who refuse (and even some who do actually trample on the image of Jesus), are tortured to death. The film depicts Christians being tortured – boiling water poured on them, hung upside down in a pit, tied to stakes in the ocean, etc. That makes this film difficult to watch.
The film is well acted, particularly by Garfield, who deserved an Oscar nomination for his work here, but had already received a Best Actor nomination for Hacksaw Ridge, perhaps taking away his chances for a nomination here. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, particularly his depiction of the landscapes of Japan, is excellent, earning the film it’s only Oscar nomination. You can also feel the heat and the irritation of the insects of Japan, as the Japanese persecutors constantly fan themselves.
The film is extremely thought-provoking, as it deals with themes such as silence (of God particularly), faith, persecution, fear, apostasy, and doubt. You’ll be talking about the ending as you leave the theatre. But the theme of apostasy is the key one in the film. Jesus said “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
The film, which had its premiere at the Vatican, is overly long at 2 hours and 41 minutes, and for the most part is pretty slow. The film cost $40 million to make, and will most likely have a limited audience, but was well done and is thought-provoking.


Leave a comment

My Review of Split

splitSplit, rated PG-13
***

Split features an outstanding performance from James McAvoy, and a triumphant return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan.
This low budget ($9 million) film has been the number one film in the country for the past three weeks and has already grossed over $102 million in the U.S. alone. It is directed by two-time Oscar nominee M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) in his follow-up to 2015’s The Visit, and stars James McAvoy as well….several different personalities. You see, he has 24 personalities, from 9 year-old Hedwig to a fashion designer named Barry. For the sake of this review, we’ll refer to him as Kevin. Betty Buckley stars as Dr. Karen Fletcher who works with Kevin on his dissociative identity disorder.
We see Kevin kidnap three teenage girls – Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen, Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy – as they are leaving a birthday party with one of the girl’s father. Kevin takes them to an undisclosed location. We see the girls interacting with several of Kevin’s personalities as they try to figure out how to escape, and over time we see them have some of their clothing removed.
Claire and Marcia are good friends, while Casey is the outsider, invited to the party only because everyone else in their class had been invited.  The film shows many flashbacks of Casey hunting with her father and creepy Uncle John (Brad William Henke).
This horror film is dark, and could have easily been rated “R” for violence. Other content issues include a small amount of adult language and the above mentioned removal of some of the girl’s clothes.
McAvoy was outstanding in his performance of the multiple personality Kevin, oftentimes switching from one personality to another in front of the camera at close range.
Filmgoers will be talking about something that happens at the end of the film that connects this film to one of Shyamalan’s earlier films and sets up his next one.