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The quest for the divine…

December 23, 2013

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John Dickson on appropriate moral authority

December 22, 2013

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The engaging intensity of Captain Phillips

November 23, 2013

This movie surprised me. I didn’t think it would be as good as it was. When I saw what it was about I thought it might be interesting to go and see, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to do so.

Coming out of the movie, the reason I found myself surprised was because of the intensity of how the story was told. Captain Phillips is highly engaging from start to finish. Even though you know how it’s going to end (based on the fact that it’s a true story), you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next.

The story starts out with Captain Rich Phillips (played by Tom Hanks in a masterful performance) flying to Salalah in Oman for his next assignment as captain of the ship, Maersk Alabama. This next trip will be to Mombasa in Kenya, traveling around the Horn of Africa, an area notorious for raids on ships by Somali pirates.

In the meantime we are taken to the desperate lives of would-be Somali pirates, impressionable young men willing to do anything to get in on the mega-cash on offer from their bosses. I have learned from those who have experienced poverty that it makes you do things you wouldn’t do in your right mind. It is said that desperate times produce desperate measures. These young Somalis, easily seduced by the promise of big dollars, will kill to get the money they want to get them out of the miserable existence.

The selection of the team of pirates to do the next job seemed almost farcical. It reminded me of the way you used to pick teams for a game of footy at lunchtime in primary school. People were basically shouting, “pick me, pick me!” as the captain moved amongst them seeing if they were up to the task.

The suspense in this movie really starts when the four pirates chosen for the task make their way out to the Maersk Alabama, traveling as it is like a black sheep away from the rest of the flock, away from other ships in the area, and therefore vulnerable to attack. Phillips soon realises that the four people coming out to him are pirates, and starts using his considerable guile to outwit the potential attackers. Knowing his ship hasn’t got the speed to outpace the pirates, we soon see that Phillips is not naïve about what he needs to do in this situation. Cunning as a serpent, he eventually tricks the pirates into giving up the chase. The battle has been won…for now.

Phillips’ crew soon remind him though that the pirates will be back, and sure enough, they are. And this time they don’t back off. Thus starts the life and death game of how to survive four men with machine guns taking over your cargo ship. This is where Captain Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama realise that this is for keeps.

As the movie takes its twists and turns, with Phillips using more cunning to communicate with his hidden crew to outwit the pirates, the suspense grows as we cannot be sure how this is going to end. Soon though we see the US Navy get involved, and as with many things American, this is where it gets bigger than Texas. Read more…

Remembering CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley and…oh yeah, JFK

November 22, 2013

WH/HO PortraitIf you’re after a good trivia question for upcoming Christmas BBQs, try this one: Which two other famous people died on the same day as JFK, 22 November 1963? The answers are CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley. Most readers will be well aware of CS Lewis, but not as many will be aware of Huxley.

The latter is the author of the influential book, Brave New World. The story is about a futuristic society in which happiness is chemically engineered. It’s a famous work which takes the line that happiness can be achieved through external influences. Such a contrast to the Christian worldview of Lewis, which says that happiness is only achieved through surrender to the Spirit of God as revealed in Jesus. And a contrast again to Kennedy, the first Catholic president and by all accounts, a man who desired peace in the world, would have pulled combat troops out of Vietnam, and above all, the person we can thank for life still existing on this planet due to his role in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Peter Kreeft has written a highly acclaimed tale of an imaginary conversation between Lewis, Huxley and Kennedy somewhere in the afterlife on the day they died. The book, called Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley, takes a look at the worldviews of these three people who influenced their worlds in their own distinct ways. I haven’t read this book but I plan to buy it. Now would seem the perfect time of any to read what seems like a fascinating story.

The continuing allure of the Kennedy story

I’ve always been fascinated by the JFK assassination. Like millions of others around the world, I find the continuing mystery surrounding his death to be incredibly alluring. Everything about the story, a young President with movie star looks, his wife with equally stunning looks and elegance, the optimism he brought to America, and the national and global struggles that he oversaw during his brief presidency, make for a script that the most creative film producer would probably never have dreamed up.

Read more…

God's gentle, correcting sense of humour

November 3, 2013

jesus_ecce_homoI reckon God has a good chuckle at our self-assured theological convictions at times. In my case, I think God changes me and moulds me more into his character by using his sense of humour in a gentle, correcting, loving way.

A few years ago I went through a period where I would be critical of a particular denomination. When I saw the type of books that this denomination had in their bookstores and some of the churches I’d been to, and what I’ve heard come out of the mouths of some of its ministers, I have been adamant that I would never want to be part of a denomination that was so wishy-washy about what they believed in the name of being inclusive.

Read more…

The myth of personal freedom

October 31, 2013

young man and sunsetEthos have published my latest article on the myth of personal freedom. It also looks at the cult of success that exists in many of our churches.

Check out the article here.

Are the New Atheists the new outcasts?

August 11, 2013

outcastsThe New Atheists have been around for quite a few years now. They have been pilloried by Christians of many persuasions. Often the criticism has been justified because of the generally misinformed commentary they have made on issues of Christian faith.

For a long time though, many atheists have felt pilloried by society as well. They have felt left out and misunderstood by much of society. Atheists of a more mild persuasion – as many are – have been tarred with the same brush that has been applied to Richard Dawkins and other outspoken atheists like him.

How would Jesus respond to the New Atheists today? I certainly don’t think his first priority would be to organise a debate about whether or not God exists. As has been mentioned elsewhere, Jesus had no need of an apologetic. His apologetic was the “greatest of these”: love. How did Jesus love the pilloried ones? He ate and rank with them. He accepted them just for who they were. It goes without saying then that the approach of Jesus is the approach that we best take.

It is perhaps an indictment on the church in Australia that some atheists have started mimicking the church and organising their own meetings. When NT Wright was in Australia recently, he made the point that the church is possibly the only organised group in society that meets together regularly for the purpose of mutual edification and the promotion of the common good. In our individualised culture, such fellowship is sorely needed. I believe it is hugely enhanced when there is a sense of acknowledging a transcendant power that is greater than ourselves. That is not to take away though from the need for community generally. We are relational creatures, and it is in relationship that we find our true sense of self.

What would a Christlike response to the atheist movement look like? Well, it certainly wouldn’t criticise or mock them for copying the Christian church. It would love by welcoming without any ulterior agenda. It wouldn’t welcome solely for the purpose of trying to convert. It would welcome and show the love of Christ regardless of the response. And if one wanted to commit to the way of Jesus, then great.

The Jesus of the gospels is always our example, inspiration and empowerment when seeking what an appropriate act of love looks like. The atheist movement is possibly one of the equivalents in our society of tax collectors, publicans and sinners. A response of Christlikeness is the way to love them.