Monthly Archives: April 2014

Movies Reviews

There are plenty of “Biblical” or “Christian” movies lately. Noah, God’s not Dead, Heaven is for Real…  There are many reviews and opinions posted as Christian point of view – some good, some bad.

Many of the Facebook friends recommend or criticize these films. The major arguments are – this part is scripture; that part is not.

What do they mean? When someone says, “This is scriptural”, what he/she means is “this is the way how I would interpret the Bible.”

“This is not scriptural” actually means “This is not how I see it according to my understanding of the Bible.”

In any adaptation from any book into a movie, the storyteller needs to modify some parts of the story in order to fit the surroundings. It may not fit how some readers’ ideas of the events. It may even have to modify the story. It is the nature of storytelling.

Individual’s life experience has an effect how someone interpret an event. How we interpret an event should be our own. Why should we judge another person’s personal feelings or experience in a dream or near death experience? When we read a story, we react differently because we are individuals. One may call a particular elucidation scriptural; another person may call it heresy.

It is a movie. Do we have to take it so seriously?

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The Centrality of Christ

As I wrote on my last blog,

“I believe the Bible points us to Christ. Christ is the focus of the Bible. Interpretation of the Bible has to filter through the lens of Christ. Teachings that bring people towards Christ should be encouraged. Teachings that lead us distract from Christ should be avoided.”

On the surface, it is an easy concept for those who claimed to be Christians to agree. Since “Christian” means “Christ follower”, their beliefs, lifestyles, and behavior should be Christ-centred.

There are books written about the Centrality of Christ. I will take it to another level.

If Christ is the centre, the teachings or the interpretations of the Bible have to reflect this over-arching principle. If I use this principle to view any ancient and modern teachings from the church, I gain a different insight from the Bible.

I would like to learn from Jesus like if I had lived in the first century. The apostles and those who personally heard the sermons from Jesus had a better understand of Him than anyone of us today because of the language, cultural, geographical and tempo barriers.

I believe Jesus was the best and only representation of God to humankind. Christ appealed to them though His presence. They learned firsthand by His words, deeds and miracles. Jesus taught them how the Old Testament teachings were actually focused on Him.

He was truly the centre of the Old Testament, the Bible of the time. That was significant!

His teachings and deeds superseded and fulfilled all the teachings of the Old Testament. All previous practices on the Sabbath, cleansing, animal sacrifices, and Jewish self-imposed segregation from the Gentiles… paled or became worthless compared to Christ Himself.

There are significant consequences to how I response to the principle of the centrality of Christ.

If Christ is the centre, we should put Christ in the centre as we interpret the Bible. We should see all the events, teachings, and prophecy as Christ would have intended for us to learn.

Instead of arguing whether a certain record is historically, literally, or factually true, we should learn how we can use that record to draw us and other closer to Christ.

Instead of trying to prove the universe is less than ten thousand years old, literal six, twenty-four-hour day creation, we should look at the beauty of God’s creation. I have not heard of anyone be drawn closer to Christ by hearing an argument of literal six-day creation story.

Let the marvelous work of God speak to us, inspire us and draw us closer to Christ.


Foundation of Faith

My faith should not look like a house of cards. My trust in God (Christ) has to build on a solid foundation. I try to discern what are essential, what are supportive, and what are the outlining elements of my faith.

The essential basis of the Christian belief is the Bible. One may interpret the Bible differently, but the record of the Bible should be the source of what I belief in Christ.

Here is the problem. Since I pointed out the Bible is the source of my faith, what does the Bible point to? It is not the book that I have to worship. If I worship a book, then the book becomes my idol. I do not believe idolatry, superstitions, fortune telling, looking from signs, etc. are healthy for my psyche.

I believe the Bible points us to Christ. Christ is the focus of the Bible. Interpretation of the Bible has to filter through the lens of Christ. Teachings that bring people towards Christ should be encouraged. Teachings that lead us distract from Christ should be avoided.

I will discuss the consequences of this approach in some later days.


Noah, the Flood and Calculus

I saw the trailer of the movie Noah. It inspired me to ask my students in my calculus class a question as a bonus assignment.

If it rained for forty days and forty nights, the water filled up to the peak of Mount Ararat, how much water fell on earth by using the disk method of calculating volume of revolution in calculus.

Some of the equations may not display correctly on the browser.

Here are the assumptions and numbers:

The earth is an ellipsoid with an equatorial radius of a=6378.1 km and polar radius of b=6356.8 km.

Mount Ararat has a height of 5.137 km.

Here is the solution:

Equation of an ellipse: x^2/a^2 +y^2/b^2 =1 or y=b/a √(a^2-x^2 )

ellipse

dV=πy^2 dx, ∴V=2π∫_0^a▒b^2/a^2 (a^2-x^2 )dx

I will not type in all the detail of the calculation,

for a_2= the radius of the earth plus the height of Mount Ararat,

and a_1 = the radius of the earth,

volume of water should be approximately 2.623×10^9 km3 or 2.623×10^18 m3

The mass of the water should be approximately 2.623×10^21 kg.

For forty days and forty nights, it is a total of 960 hours, the rate of rain fall is 535.1 cm/hour or 8.9 cm/min.

Volume of water coming down from heaven is 2.732×10^15 m3/hour.

Noah does not need an ark. He needs a submarine!


The Nexus of Reasoning

As I mentioned in my previous post, I went to a Bible study training on Friday. I am reflecting on some of the discussions.

I heard this argument by the young earth creationists repeatedly.

“It is a compromise on the teaching of God’s Word.”

“Believing in a relatively “young Earth” (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.”

“If I don’t believe in six literal days of creation, how can I believe in Jesus’ resurrection in three days?”

I can list many more. I am not going to use my blog space for their arguments. One can just search on the Internet “young earth creationist” and investigate.

I have no problem listening to their belief. I live in a country where freedom of religion is guaranteed. They have their rights to believe in what they deem correct.

It is the nexus of the consequence of the six-day creation doctrine that I have objection. Since they believe the literal interpretation of every single word in the Bible, these are some of the consequences from Genesis chapter one and two.

  • God created Adam before Eve. Therefore, man is ahead of woman. Man is ordained to be the leader in the household, church and society.
  • God created Eve as the helpmate for Adam. Therefore, the helpmate can never be the decision maker.
  • God created the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Divorce is not permissible.
  • God ordered Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Continuous and unrestricted growth was God’s plan for the human race.
  • God rested on the seventh day. We have to cease all work on the Sabbath if we have to follow God’s example.
  • God gave Adam authority to name all living creatures. Therefore humans have authority over all animals and nature as a whole. Nature and the environment should be under the control (dominion) of the human race. Nature is here for our disposal.

One can see the fallouts of such logic.

The Chinese character for sin (罪) is a symbol for four wrongs or alienations. I can see all four alienations as outcomes of this interpretation.

  • Alienation from self – When man views himself as he is the first being, he is separated from reality that he is only a small part of a much bigger cooperative.
  • Alienation from others – When man views himself as the head of another gender, he puts half of the human race as subordinates.
  • Alienation from nature – When man views himself as the master of nature, he starts to abuse the environment and everything living in it.
  • Alienation from God – When man views his ideas and interpretation of the Bible as the ultimate truth, he lost the real message that God wants to teach them.

What a shame.


Make a Conclusion with Emotion

I am a Christian. I am not ashamed in admitting my faith.

I just feel at odds with some of my Christian friends. It may be my upbringing. I always feel that believing in Christ should involve one’s emotion as well intellectual rationale. When the emotional aspects collide with the rational evidences, I would try hard to side with the scientific and logical evidences.

On the emotion side, I need to focus our thoughts on a supreme being who can love and comfort me in times of need. I can ask Him to answer our prayers, forgive my sins, and worship Him through my emotional connection.

On the intellectual side, I believe there is the law of physics (chemistry, biology and other sciences), which the universe has to obey.

These are some of my cognitive understanding of God.

I believe apart from a few miracles that God or Jesus performed; God uses established laws of physics to make Him known.

“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.”[1]

I believe God made Himself known though the universe He created. When I say “the universe”, I include all the natural laws that govern the universe.

God is consistent. God will not create something look like a square but in fact it is a circle to confuse us.

“God does not play dice with the universe.” – Albert Einstein

I went to a workshop of leading Bible Study groups last evening. The leader used Genesis 1 and 2 as examples of how to read the Bible “correctly”.

The workshop leader is no doubt a Fundamentalist. In the first five minutes of a three-hour discussion, he concluded a “day” in Genesis 1:2 meant a 24-hour day. Of course, he used some “proof-text” from other part of the Bible to form his argument. I honestly do respect such a person is so dedicated to their belief. He belief causes his emotion to supersede any intellectual reasoning.

First, he omitted the historical context. The stories were told though oral tradition before they became a written record. Even I believe the Bible is God-breathed, I am not the original audience of the storyteller. In order to appreciate the origin intent of the storyteller, I have to know the historical context of the story.

Second, he omitted the linguistic context. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. He was using an English translation. No matter how careful and accurate of the translator, the Hebrew used in the Old Testament was over three thousand years old. The meaning of same Hebrew word used today could significantly differ from the word used three thousand years ago. How can one fully identify the full and true meaning of a passage with such time gap?

Third, most importantly, he omitted the cultural mindset of ancient Jewish literature. The ancient Hebrew cosmology, the earth is flat. The sky is a firmament, which has another layer of water above it. God, heavens and angels reside above the water.

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universe

I can list more reasons why I cannot accept a young universe of less than ten thousand years old. I may post them later.

What are the problems of such interpretation? I can think of plenty. That is for another day.

 

 

[1] Romans 1:20


Change

The only people who like change are babies with wet diapers.

We do not like change. We love the “good ole days”. We feel nostalgic and yearn for the better days in the past.

Were the “old days” really better? Our attitudes change over time, some for the better, some not. Over half of my co-workers had no problem lighting up their cigarettes in the office a few decades ago. It was allowed. No one questioned about second-hand smoke.

Change took place. Smokers have to stand outside the building when they lit up. Bad weather is not an excuse, rain storm, snow, or freezing rain… for non-smokers, this is a good change. The “old days” were not good. Progress made.

Only a few decades ago, inter-racial dating was considered unbiblical. Bob Jones University did not drop its ban of inter-racial dating until March 3, 2000 on Larry King Live. This is a segment of conversation between Larry King and Bob Jones III on Larry King Live.

JONES: Well, being a Bible believing institution, Larry, we try to base things on Bible principle. The problem we have today is that our principle is so greatly misunderstood. People think we don’t let them date because we are racist, in other words to be racist you have to treat people differently. We don’t. We don’t let them date, because we were trying, as an example, to enforce something, a principle that is much greater than this.

We stand against the one-world government, against the coming world of anti-Christ, which is a one world system of blending, of all differences, of blending of national differences, economic differences, church differences, into a big one ecumenical world. The Bible is very clear about this.

We said, you know, way back years ago, when we first had a problem, which was — by the way, we started this principle, back in the mid-’50s, I was a college student at BJU at the time and it was with an Asian and Caucasian is — we didn’t even have black students for another 15 years. So it was not put there as a black thing, I think people need to understand that.

KING: So the fear of one world relates back to two people dating?

JONES: Now, we realize that a inter-racial marriage is not going to bring in the world the anti-Christ by any means, but if we as Christians stand for Christ and not anti-Christ, and we see — we are against the one world church. We are against one economy, one political system.

We see what the Bible says about this, so we say, OK, if they’re going to blend this world — and inter-racial marriage is a genetic blending, which is a very definite sort of blending — we said as — let’s put this policy in here, because we are against the one world church and, way back, 17 years ago when I was on your program, I was saying on programs all across America, we are not going to the Supreme Court fighting for our rule and our — we are fighting for our right to it. There is a religious freedom issue, that’s all we ever fought for.

Jones called it, “We tried to base things on Biblical principle.” However, he could not back it up by the Bible he read. In this case, this stand was based on his personal opinion and attitude. The policy might have changed. I do not know whether the attitude of those who hold a fundamentalist view has changed over the last fourteen years.

We all grow up with ideas or principles of right and wrong since childhood. We determine our present moral and ethics values through the teachings or influences from our families, teachers, friends, etc. In most cases, those learned values were embedded in our limbic system of our brains which controls our emotions and behaviours. As we grow older, we accept and act based on those moral codes as our guide. It is not easy for us to forgo those codes once they are entrenched in our minds. In most cases, those moral codes are good guiding principles that prohibit us to steal, commit murder, etc. which are essential to our social structure. These codes also direct our values such as relationships, priority, beauty, rites and rituals, and even the food we eat. It becomes our culture.

Here lies the problem of the Fundamentalists. Some of their guiding principles are

  • All scientists are wrong. The universe is 6000 years old.
  • All homosexuals will go to hell.
  • For some, races have to be separated. Interracial marriage is against God’s desire.
  • Men are born to lead the households and churches. Women are subordinates and should serve and obey. They should not lead, teach, and control.
  • Alcohol is evil. No Christian should drink any alcoholic beverages.

I can list many more rules and dogma. They can list pages of Bible verses to support their views. I will not waste time to discuss my counter-arguments. It is just pointless to argue with their view, since their minds are already made up and they will not change.