Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quotes for the Day

“If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.”

- John Owen


“We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is God for us, for our satisfaction—not because we have learned to think of him this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace. In the marketplace, everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.”

- David Wells

(See Preach the Gospel to Yourself)

Monday, January 29, 2007

An Ineffable Union

Fighting for a Biblical view of marriage is no picnic. How quick I am to look at the world through sin-stained eyes. Too often I have treated the image as the shadow and the shadow as the image.

Blogger Ched Spellman writes the following:

Could there be something more intimate than this [marriage between a man and a woman]? As it turns out, there is. Paul exhorts his readers in 1 Cor 6:16 not to indulge in sexual immorality, because the one who dabbles in prostitution become “one body” with the prostitute, referencing the Gen 2:24 text. One of Paul’s reasons for fleeing from immorality then is because “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor 6:17). When you are joined to another human being (i.e. through marriage), you become “one flesh.” However, when you are joined to Christ (i.e. through salvation), incomprehensible as it may seem, you become “one spirit” with him!

The entire post is excellent! Read it here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Randomness

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys jump-starting your day with a heavy dose of despair, I recommend a trip to your local Weigel’s. On my way to work this morning I stopped to get some gas, and through the loudspeakers I was serenaded with a country song entitled, “I Let Her Die.” (At least, I’m assuming that was the title of the song; the singer repeated that phrase over and over again.) The song was stuck in my head all the way to work.

**********

Everyone at the Christian Media Center is updating his/her biography. My submission was short and sweet:

I came. I saw. I was. Oh, and I ate. (Not that I’m dead yet or anything.)

My boss didn’t find it acceptable. I’m not sure why.

**********

One of my coworkers came across an unopened Passion of the Christ promotional package today. It contained, among other things, a sheet of music from the original score (composed by John Debney), autographed by Mr. Debney himself! And I get to keep it (probably)! This definitely makes up for having “I Let Her Die” stuck in my head all morning.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lyrical Meditation, Yo!

I have found a unique way to meditate on gospel truths. It’s engaging, affecting, and—dare I say it?—even entertaining. What I am referring to is Scripturally-informed rap music. Yes, you heard me right. Ol’ Capper is now a hip-hopper. Just call me Capdog.

Granted, I’m no rap connoisseur. I’ve never really liked rap music, except maybe one or two songs from one particular artist whose name I will not divulge (although it sounds like a kind of candy.) Things started changing when I was exposed to Christian rap artist Curtis Allen, a.k.a. Voice. His music piqued my interest in “Reformed rap.”

Well, a couple weeks ago a friend from church introduced me to an album by rapper Timothy Brindle, entitled Killing Sin. What John Owen did for literature, Brindle has done for hip-hop. The CD is absolutely amazing. In fact, it may be my favorite Christian album EVER! No, I am not exaggerating. With all due respect to Voice, Brindle’s work is far superior. Killing Sin is marked by slick production values, catchy rhythms and melodies, and lyrics that are both startlingly eloquent and theologically rich.

The typical worship song format involves two or more verses, a chorus, and maybe a bridge and/or tag. Even when the content is doctrinally sound, there’s not a whole lot of room for in-depth exposition. But through the use of rap, and aided by Brindle’s poetic mastery, the music on Killing Sin provides a heavy dose of Scriptural truth. And every single song is excellent—from the hilarious opening track to the closing song on the excellencies of Christ. Though the topic of the CD is simple, the tracks don’t just rehash the same truths over and over again. The album provides a rich theological and musical tapestry. Some of the tracks even begin with short snippets of John Piper sermons.

If I had anything critical to say, it would be that Brindle needs some help with his album cover art design (which is not exactly stellar), but that’s a petty concern when all is said and done. You can check out lengthy sound clips from each track of Killing Sin here. Then, go purchase it here. The music will serve your soul and inspire you to fight indwelling sin by prizing the promises of God.

Word.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Justin and Jack

Justin Taylor is an accomplished theologian. I mean, check out his résumé:

An M.A.R. from Reformed Theological Seminary
Director of Theology/Executive Editor, Desiring God Ministries
ESV Bible Project Manager at Crossway Books

And that’s just a partial list. JT has been affected by God’s grace in ways that have greatly benefited the body of Christ. He is a godly man, worthy of honor and respect.

That is why I recommend his work, including this especially important post on his blog.


(On a somewhat related note: check this out.)

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 5)

“Whoever would be wise should read the Proverbs; whoever would be holy should read the Psalms.” (Richard Steele)

Psalm 86:8-13 (which I am currently trying to memorize) basks in how the glory of God trumps the superficial glory of all lesser things. Verses 8-10 explain it like this:

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

Imagine a soldier who treats his enemies better than his allies. He continually seeks to build relationships with those who are out to destroy the army to which he belongs. You would think the enemy would appreciate his traitorous acts and treat him like a prince as further incentive for his allegiance. You would also think this traitor’s commanding officer would have him executed the moment he finds out what is going on. That’s not how it works in the spiritual realm, though.

You see, I am that traitor. Too often I discard the magnificent promises of God for the cheap promises of sin. I will often treat an idol as a priceless treasure to be sought at the expense of the glory of God. And yet, sin’s promises never deliver as advertised. No mater how much I attempt to ally myself with idols, they will never reciprocate my affections. Sin is out to destroy me, regardless of whether I snuggle up next to it or seek its death.

And through it all, God’s faithfulness remains constant. If I was God and I saw the idolatrous pursuits of Cap Stewart I would have forsaken him a long time ago. And yet God is the only one wholly dedicated to my good. Even His chastisement has redemptive purposes. The Lord stands alone as the only source of all human need, including the greatest need of all: salvation. If God has appeased His wrath toward me by punishing His Son in my place (thus reconciling me to Himself for eternity), how will He not lavish on me every good thing that I need for life and godliness (Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3)? What amazing grace!

May my prayer be like that of Isaac Watts:

Lord, I would walk with holy feet
Teach me Thine heav’nly ways
And my poor scattered thoughts unite
In God my Father’s praise

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not Exactly the MPAA

I’ve been told that my movie rating system needs an explanation. So, here it is…

My number rating system is pretty straightforward. A rating of 1 (or sometimes 0) means “horrible” and 10 means “a masterpiece.” What’s not as clear is that there are usually two areas in which I give a number rating. First is the Artistic Merit rating. This number represents a consideration of the film as a work of art. It reflects the cumulative effect of all aspects of a film: scriptwriting, acting, production design, cinematography, musical score, and so on. If I believe it is a well made film, it will receive a high Artistic Merit rating.

The second rating is the Personal Marks score. (Yes, my two ratings are initialed AM and PM. Ain’t I clever?) This represents how much I liked the film, regardless of its artistic merit. Sometimes I may enjoy a movie that isn’t the greatest piece of filmmaking (or vice versa) and I like to make a distinction between the two. “Fun to watch” doesn’t always equal “good art.” Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is one example. It’s hilarious and a blast to watch, but as a piece of art it stinks worse than Sean Penn’s humor.

On occasion, I might evaluate a third category: Theological Soundness. Thr3e, reviewed earlier today, actually got two such ratings: a +10 and a –10. The +10 represents the film as portraying life from a Christian worldview without a hidden agenda (i.e., using the medium of film as nothing more than a lame excuse for a sloppy “proselytizing message movie” that the masses can’t enjoy). It also gets a –10 rating because the underlying theological belief on which the story is based is nothing short of gross doctrinal error.

So that’s how I rate the movies I review. I hope that clears things up.

THR3E (2007) – Film Review

Hi, this is Cap the Filmmaker. I’ve been following the progress of the movie Thr3e ever since the project was greenlighted by Namesake Entertainment. The film is based on the Ted Dekker novel of the same name. You can check out the trailer here.

The following is the official plot synopsis: “When a young seminary student is targeted by a psychopathic killer, he joins forces with a criminal psychologist whose brother was murdered by the same madman. Together they must unravel the killer's riddles and catch him before he strikes again, but the closer they get, the more twisted the path becomes. This heart-pounding thriller will keep you guessing up until the final shocking scene!”

Though the film doesn’t open until Friday, I was privileged enough to receive an advanced-copy DVD (yes, legally). The first thing that stood out to me was the exceptional cinematography and desaturated colors. This looks like a slick Hollywood product, not a cheap, cutesy Christian film. Furthermore, the prologue is one of the most riveting openings I have ever seen in a movie made by Christian filmmakers outside Hollywood. The acting is good all around, and while the storyline isn’t always the most logical, the overall tone of the film keeps the viewer’s interest for—

Hi, this is Cap the Film Critic. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait to speak any longer. The Filmmaker dude is about to make me queasy. Sure, the prologue to this film is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, the setup creates the need for an epilogue that is one of the most ridiculous film closures I have ever seen in a film made by Christians outside Hollywood. There are also several lame explosion effects that are used intermittently throughout the production. Could someone have raised just a little more money so they could actually blow a few things up? Then there’s the occasional problem with ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), which makes it very obvious when dialogue was dubbed over the original recording. And why couldn’t the story have been tighter? One of the most riveting scenes doesn’t propel the story forward at all, showing that Christian screenwriters still have a lot of work to—

Hi, this is Cap the Theologian. I’m tired of waiting my turn. The thing is, I’m torn about Thr3e. On one hand, the filmmakers accomplished something few Christians have: they produced a film based on a Christian worldview that is both obviously not secular and yet not manipulatively proselytizing. There is no blatant salvation message and no one prays the sinner’s prayer. Instead, the Christian worldview is an organic part of the story and not an unnaturally forced element of the plot. For that, I am extremely grateful. We desperately need more films like this.

On the other hand, the core doctrinal premise of the film—and this is a problem with the source material—is a gross misinterpretation of a key biblical principle taught by the Apostle Paul. I wish I could go into further detail but that would spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, the theological implications of Ted Dekker’s story are staggeringly unbiblical. I wish Dekker’s semi-Pelagian theology would take a flying leap off—

Hi, this is Cap the Filmmaker again. Okay, so the underlying premise of the film is not in tune with sound doctrine. Namesake Entertainment definitely needs to improve the strength of its theological department. Well, there is no such department, but maybe that’s the problem. Anyway, what the movie espouses is nothing new. People won’t walk away from the film with their worldview irrevocably skewed. Thr3ee is still an engaging story, albeit with plot holes and inconsistencies. It may not be up to par with The Visitation (Namesake’s best production thus far), but it is helping to raise the bar for Christians in the film industry. That is enough of an accomplishment to warrant my recommendation.

Artistic Merit: 5
Personal Marks: 9
Theological Soundness: +10/-10

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and terror. [Make no mistake: this is a(n) (appropriately) dark film that deals with the evil of human nature. It doesn’t glorify violence or evil at all, but it doesn’t sugar coat it either. This is, in fact, a sugar-free movie.]