God’s Not Dead

not deadI haven’t been impressed by a lot of Christian films.
Sometimes the theology within the story can be dodgy, as can the acting. However I recently enjoyed these three.

The first of the “trilogy” has Josh, a young student forced to defend his belief in God to his philosophy class, when he refuses to give in to the lecturer’s demand that they all sign a statement declaring that God is dead.

By doing so, the lecturer claims the class can leave aside vain discussion of religious thought and move straight on to the “valid” aspects of philosophical ideas.

Facing opposition from friends and family, Josh takes on the challenge despite the likelihood, no matter how strong a case he makes, that he will be failed for that course, undermining the desired direction of his education.

not dead 2The second film has a couple of overlapping characters from the first film giving a continuity between the two.

This time a high school teacher finds herself in court because she quoted Jesus when answering a student’s question in history class; despite the fact that the questioner brought up Jesus in a discussion of Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

For some reason the student’s parents see the court case as a means of advancing their daughter’s educational future, if only through the financial gain they hope to receive as compensation.

The student herself is appalled by her parent’s choice, but due to her age is prevented from having a say in the matter.

Within this film, several real life Christian experts are called upon to give evidence regarding the historical facts of Jesus’ existence, as well as the validity and reliability of the gospel accounts as reliable historical documents.

After watching this film, viewers need to wait until the end of the credits where a post-credit scene sets up the story of the third film.

not dead lightDuring the third installment of the series, on-going character Pastor Dave, finds himself at odds with the law when the ongoing survival of his church building is threatened.

The building is currently on part of a school campus, having in the past being associated with the school, originally built on church land, which was ultimately sold to the educational institution.

A tragic act of vandalism sets up circumstances to enable the school board of to demand the church be demolished so they can make use of the cleared land.

Pastor Dave has been a familiar character across this series of films, usually a minor role, in this one he takes prominence as his faith is challenged. He is faced with choices that will determine how his faith will be lived and demonstrated to those around him.

Each of the films has a different approach to a common theme: to what extent is Christian faith being opposed by an increasingly antagonistic secular culture.

While the films themselves are fictional representations, the situations portrayed are inspired by real life cases where Christians found themselves in courts having their right to believe and practice their faith opposed. In the credits of the first two films, lists of more than twenty (I lost count after that) actual cases are provided.

I had only one or two small quibbles with content of the films, but those minor objections probably reflect the reality of Christian expression (religious clichés, the constant citing of bible verses in everyday conversation), so those issues are more about the way Christians often speak or act than with the films themselves.

Across the films the Christian band The Newsboys make appearances of various lengths and importance. In the first one they have a more dominant role in the story, and of course, the film’s titles come from one of  their songs.

Overall the three films were entertaining, informative and challenging, and they have made me aware of some potentially interesting resources to follow up from some of the writers who played themselves within the films. So far I’ve tracked down two books I’m looking forward to reading in the next week or two.

mmmcold case

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Dawkins’ Delusion

Here Richard Dawkins, the great God-denying champion and promoter of atheism, admits to the possibility of Intelligent Design behind the creation of life on earth.

Just don’t call that creative intelligence “God” – and don’t suggest that the creative intelligence might take an interest in, or expect the creation to be accountable to the one who created it.

Dawkins also shows that he can’t progress beyond the kindergartenesque question, “If God created the universe, then who created God?” Stuck in this kind of thought bubble, he insists that IF there is some kind of intelligence responsible for life on earth, that intelligence itself must be the product of a long process of evolution.

But why? Isn’t it reasonable to expect Dawkins to justify such a categorical assumption with some kind of evidence? *

The silliness behind the question “who created God” can be seen when we recognise that science now agrees with what scripture has said for thousands of years, that the universe had a beginning.

But the same scriptures that revealed a beginning to the universe also tell us that God had no beginning, He is eternal, everlasting, therefore with no need to be “created”.

God is :

“the eternal God” (Gen 21, Deut 33, Rom 10)

“from everlasting to everlasting” (1 Chr 16, 1 Chr 29, Neh 9, Ps 41, Ps 90, Ps 103)

“the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King” (Jer 10)

“everflasting Father” (Is 9)

“from everlasting” (Hab 1)

“the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1)

The question about “who created God, is therefore based on a false premise – that a creator God also needed to be created.

Towards the end of this video segment, Dawkins is asked what he would say, should he die and find himself face to face with God. Dawkins refers to a quote from Bertrand Russell who when posed a similar question stated he would ask God “Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?”

My response to both Dawkins and Russell would be to ask – has God been hiding? Or have they (and countless others) been refusing to see what God has made obvious?

 

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, , so that people are without excuse.” (Rom 1)

 

“Professing to be wise, they became fools” (also Rom 1)

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* My friend Chris says he has read two of Dawkins’ books and tells me that he considers Dawkins’ best quote to be: “We must stop asking the question WHY?”.

 

 

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the testimony of former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi.

I’d come across Qureshi several times over the past year or two, mainly seeing that he had some YouTube videos. For some reason I didn’t pay any attention to him or his videos when I was looking for testimonies of Muslims turning the Jesus.

seeking findingThe book is excellent. It covers his early life growing up as a Muslim, his attempts to prove the truth of Islam to a Christian friend, and then how his own studies led him to consider the truth of Jesus.

He faced a difficult struggle before he could finally turn away from his life-long religion to embrace and accept the gospel, but God was patient and revealed Himself to Qureshi, over time.

I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else’s testimony in which they spent years of diligently searching and studying everything they could to try to find the truth.
While he started out trying to prove the Islamic  “truth” he’d been raised to believe, ultimately his desire for THE truth led him to recognise Jesus.

But there is so much more within the book than just one man’s experience.

While it may not have been intended, I found the book showed how many Christians aren’t very different to Muslims regarding the reason they believe.

It seems that Muslim belief tends to be passed on from authority figures instead of being gained from a personal interaction with their “scriptures”.
I’d suggest that most professing Christians do exactly the same thing – relying entirely on the teachings of others instead of seeking, finding and understanding the certainty of truth for themselves. If we follow that approach how can we be sure that our beliefs are any more valid than those of the Muslim, the Buddhist, the atheist or anyone else?

Qureshi’s early experiences of Christians tended to show that their knowledge of the basics of what they believed (and why) was mostly lacking, and thereby hindering their ability to communicate the gospel.

Sadly in September 2017 Qureshi died after a struggle with stomach cancer. The edition of his book that I’ve been reading has some additional chapters in which his wife and his friends remember his legacy.

One of those friends says this about Nabeel, something that addresses the issue of loving the truth enough to seek it (Him) out:

Proverbs 1:7 says “fools despise wisdom and instruction” but Nabeel loved both, even when they challenged his long-held beliefs. Like any of us, he didn’t enjoy finding out he was wrong, but he was not willing to blindly perpetuate hand-me-down ideas. He had to know that what he believed, what he built his life on, was based on reality, not speculation or tradition.

 

 

#ShoutYourAbortion and the Devaluing of Children

An almost excellent article from the Morning Meditations blog, that would have been improved by resisting the detour into partisan politics.

Morning Meditations

shout banner Image found at Kickstarter

I’m going to get into a lot of trouble, at least in certain circles, for writing this, but it’s been bothering me for a while now and, as my long-time readers know, I process my thoughts and feelings by writing.

Believe it or not, back in the day, I used to be an agnostic/atheist and a Democrat. It seemed to be the default setting for most of the people I hung out with after High School (a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). I didn’t think much about my politics or social opinions for a long time, and certainly didn’t do anything to challenge them.

Then I got married, and several years later, my wife became pregnant. Yes, we were at a stage in our lives when we wanted to start a family, so it was quite intentional. Like I imagine most…

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