I had a friend yell at me because I have not yet seen any of the Narnia movies. It’s true. I haven’t seen them. And I don’t plan to. I like movies, order don’t get me wrong, cheap and I like faithful movie adaptations of novels. But I cannot bring myself to watch the Narnia movies. I don’t want to compromise the picture of Narnia I have in my head. One of my favourite memories of reading the Narnia series was letting my imagination run away with itself. In my imagination I entered the land of Narnia. I could smell it, taste it, feel it. I don’t want anything to disturb those memories.

There is an interesting article about how the Narnia movies miss the point of C.S. Lewis’ stories. And seeing the trailer for Dawn Treader, I wonder if they’ve missed the point in this new movie as well.

Steven Boyer, in writing about how the movies get it wrong, says this:

The Peter we meet in the film version of Prince Caspian is a very different Peter from the one we saw grow up in the earlier film and certainly very different from the one in Lewis’s story. In the first place, it is hard to describe Hollywood’s Peter as anything other than a bumbler. He is not part of the deliverance that comes from the blowing of Queen Susan’s magic horn. He is instead part of the problem, a stupid, proud, boorish, arrogant fool who speaks and acts with ridiculous vanity and, far from delivering others, needs to be delivered himself. His arrogance and vanity are explicitly highlighted in the film:

• We first encounter Peter as the cause of a brawl in a London subway, which he started simply because someone bumped him.
• Once in Narnia, Peter sets out to lead the other children and gets hopelessly lost, but he keeps insisting (with stereotypical male vanity), “I’m not lost,” “We weren’t lost,” etc.
• When he finally assumes command of the Narnians and then is confronted by Lucy, who tries to talk sense into him and get him to wait patiently for Aslan, he condescendingly replies, “I think it’s up to us now. . . . We’ve waited for Aslan long enough.”
• In the enemy castle, in the midst of their failed attack, Peter stupidly and obstinately refuses to call for retreat, crying out instead, “No, I can still do this!”—which prompts Susan to ask, “Exactly who are you doing this for, Peter?”
These instances could easily be multiplied. At every point, the Peter of Hollywood’s Prince Caspian is the problem, not the solution. The high king of Narnia seems to have devolved into a young, handsome version of Homer Simpson…
In Lewis’s telling of all of the Narnia tales, the children’s experiences as kings and queens in Narnia consistently transform them into nobler, more virtuous people in their own world. They are not spoiled children wanting to be kings again; they are noble kings who carry that very nobility back into their non-royal roles as schoolchildren.
But not so in Hollywood. To be a king at all is to hunger for power forevermore, like a tiger that has tasted human blood and ever afterwards is a “man-eater.” To lose imperial power by being transported back to England is to become a bitter, sullen, acrimonious brat. That is just what Peter has become, and his folly is the driving force behind most of the action in the movie.

I was struck by Peter’s above-noted comment, “I think it’s up to us now. . . . We’ve waited for Aslan long enough.” A certain king in the Old Testament said the same thing about waiting for the prophet Samuel to come and offer the sacrifice, that the foolish king chose to go ahead and do it himself. In Scripture, this impatience led to the withdrawal of the Lord’s favour, and ultimately to disaster for the royal house (1 Samuel 13:1-14).

And so, not only do I not want to see the Narnia movies for fear of smashing the picture in my head, I am also hesitant to see them if they miss the whole point of the Narnia series altogether.

Random Blog Posts and Stuff

Mark Driscoll is causing controversy again (surprise, viagra surprise), find this time over whether or not a man can stay home with the kids while the wife works. John Stackhouse and Ben Witherington both take Driscoll’s exegesis to task. Brian LePort ponders the relevance of Driscoll having been a graduate of Western Seminary. Marc Cortez summarizes the issue here.

My question: if a trusted mentor of Mark Driscoll points out his exegetical error, discount would Mark apologize for his remarks? (I say a trusted mentor since I doubt he would listen to much, if any, of the blog chatter on this issue, even it does come from several highly respected academics).

Ever wonder why Christianity is always Catholic on television? TV Tropes has the answer!

…maybe it’s because the costumes of Roman Catholic clerics are so quaint and distinctive, perhaps it’s the fascination of the mystery and ritual, perhaps it’s that our sex-obsessed society is bewildered by the thought of men taking a vow of chastity, or that ornate Catholic churches make the best sets, or the usefulness of the sacrament of confession as a narrative device. Or maybe it’s just hard to associate Southern Baptists with Ominous Latin Chanting. Another possibility is that Catholicism is simply a more visible form of Christianity in the bicoastal urban milieu in which most writers work. Not to mention that a not-inconsiderable number of writers are Catholics or ex-Catholics themselves, and may just find it easier to write what they know.

If you’re in southern Saskatchewan, or want to come to southern Saskatchewan for a week, Dr. Guretzki is teaching a week-long modular on the Theology of Karl Barth, the first week of January. It’s going to be a great class! Check out the syllabus over at Guretzki’s blog.

For your Friday viewing pleasure, check out this cute cat hunting its prey.

Even More Canadian Christian Blogs

The full list of Canadian Christian blogs can be found here.

A couple of new ones to add to the list:

The Eagle and Child by Marc Vandersluys. Marc is an M.Div student out at Providence Seminary in Manitoba.

Who Wants to Be a Registrar? by Grant MacMillan. Grant works at Trinity Western University (and Briercrest prior to that).

Blogging Through Bloesch

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in Chapter eight “The Biblical-Classical Synthesis”, Bloesch discusses the difference between grace and merit. Of particular interest is his comparison of Heroism and Sainthood.

…”celebrates human virtue.”

…”witnesses to divine grace.”

…”calls people to achieve their maximum potential.”

…”asks that people simply do what is required of them by God, even if this means being content with leading lives of humdrum existence outside the limelight.”

…”has a natural affinity with a theology of merit.”

…”in the biblical sense can be truly appreciated only in a theology of grace.”
(Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty, pg 228)

Has the North American church gotten heroism and sainthood mixed up? How?
In an age of super-star celebrity pastors, how do we extol the virtues of sainthood over heroism?

A Fresh Perspective on Creation

I’ve been following RJS’ posts over at Jesus Creed as she works through the book, recipe Theology After Darwin.

Now because the posts come from a scientific perspective, search I admit that many times I am in over my head. I am not a scientist. I am not even scientifically-minded. But the conversation is important, so I muddle through. I also know that I don’t have all the answers. Do I believe that God created the world? Absolutely. Do I know how or when He did it? Nope.

Theologically, I tend (though not absolutely) to lean towards the Eastern Orthodox paradigm of Creation–Incarnation–Re-creation, rather than the Reformed paradigm of Creation–Fall–Redemption, (mostly because the EO paradigm seems to keep the emphasis on God rather than focusing on humanity). God is the Creator God. This I affirm and see evidence of every day.

Evangelicals in North America, I think, are struggling too much over the “how”. Why can’t we focus on the “why”?

Anyway, I came across this in my reading yesterday, and it just gave me a different perspective on the issue of creation.

This is from The Magician’s Nephew. Uncle Andrew and the others are witnessing the creation of Narnia.

When the great moment came and the Beasts spoke, [Uncle Andrew] missed the whole point; for a rather interesting reason. When the Lion had first begun singing, long ago when it was still quite dark, he had realized that the noise was a song. And he had disliked the song very much. It made him think and feel things he did not want to think and feel. Then, when the sun rose and he saw that the singer was a lion…he tried his hardest to make himself believe that it wasn’t singing and never had been singing — only roaring as any lion might in a zoo in our own world…
And the longer and more beautifully the lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed. Uncle Andrew did. He soon did hear nothing but roaring in Aslan’s song. Soon he couldn’t have heard anything else even if he wanted to. And when at last the Lion spoke and said, “Narnia awake,” he didn’t hear any words: he heard only a snarl.

C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, pg 116-117.

Christianity in Quebec

There’s an interesting article in this weekend’s Globe and Mail about Quebec’s interesting relationship with Catholicism. Even though Quebec is almost thoroughly secular, diagnosis there is a place for the Church, if only from a “it’s a part of our heritage and culture” perspective.

Currently less than 15% of the population attend church regularly, but 83% identify as Catholic.

From the article:

Roman Catholicism in the province is the tribal faith of empty churches with a newly minted saint for a kind of mascot.
“Quebeckers are faithful to a religion they no longer believe in,” says David Seljak, chair of religious studies at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ont., who did his doctoral dissertation on the church in Quebec “And as conservative evangelists have discovered, they’re absolutely conversion-proof…Scholars who study religion in Quebec agree that Roman Catholicism has become cemented into the province’s folkloric history. It’s likely more cultural heritage than religion, but exactly what it is remains a mystery.”

Polka Dot Door

I loved Polka Dot Door as a kid.

Just read the news that Denis Simpson died this week.

From the article:

Beloved Canadian actor and singer Denis Simpson — the host of the children’s show Polka Dot Door and one of the founding members of the band The Nylons — died Friday after suffering a brain hemorrhage in Toronto.
He was just shy of his 60th birthday.
Simpson was born in Jamaica, cialis grew up in Toronto, and eventually became a Vancouver fixture.

And I remember him even better from Ross Petty’s Panto “The Cinderella Gang” where he played one of the ugly stepsisters. Unfortunately I can’t find a clip from that, even though it was televised. ( I do have it on VHS taped off TV, maybe I should convert it to DVD one of these days).

So instead, here is a clip from Polka Dot Door. RIP Denis.

Too Much Religion in Science Fiction?

Tiffany Vogt over at Airlock Alpha has an article up suggesting that current science-fiction is short on the science and too long on religion. Citing Lost, remedy Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, look she suggests that religion can be an element, but not the overarching theme:

Angels, purgatory, limbo and monotheistic/polytheistic religious wars -– each has its place in science-fiction, but they are merely an element. They should not be the core of a science-fiction story. Relying too heavily on these elements in the place of true science-fiction only serves to alienate the very audience that such shows seek to engage…It is time to get science-fiction back on track. Where is the science? In today’s sci-fi, we want to be challenged by the possibilities of what lies ahead if such things as time travel, alternate universes, alien life and the rise of artificial intelligence come to fruition. Give us more of that.
That is, after all, what science-fiction is truly about. We want to see Cylons and smoke monsters. Do not kill the science in “science-fiction.”

Now I will admit that my sci-fi tends towards the Star Trek Universe, Babylon 5 (and its spin-offs) and Firefly, so I can’t comment directly on Lost or BSG. But I do think that Tiffany is missing the fact that alot of sci-fi has at its core religious themes.

Good sci-fi looks at questions about humanity: What is good and evil? What is the soul? How do we learn to get along with each other? What is the afterlife? What is sin? What is death? What is the good life?

True, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was pretty atheistic, but have you noticed that the less Roddenberry had direct control over the franchise, the more elements of religion were explored? It started with Star Trek: TNG (think about Worf and the Klingon religion, particularly the episode where Kahless, the Messiah of Kronos, returns), and hit full-tilt with DS9 and Captain Sisko being practically a god to the Bajoran people (he was emissary to the prophets aka the “worm-hole aliens”).

Babylon 5, written by J. Michael Straczynski, has religious themes and elements all throughout the show. From different species, cultures and religions having to learn to get along through channels of diplomacy (the whole reason for the creation of the Babylon 5 station), to explorations into the nature of the soul (Delenn being attacked by the soul-hunter), to the ultimate battle of order versus chaos (Vorlons versus the Shadows, a direct reference to the Babylonian creation myth and the entire reason that JMS used the name “Babylon” for the series), Heck, Captain John Sheridan is accused of having a Messiah-complex, and Commander Sinclair becomes Valen, the spiritual leader of the Minbari.

Firefly, though cut short by the evil suits at Fox, had some beginning strands of religious themes. Captain Reynolds was a religious man, but after the battle of Serenity Valley, became hard towards any notion of God. A Shepherd (like a monk) joins the crew and questions his faith and why he exists. River and Simon are strung up to be burned at the stake by a conservative religious planet because River has the gift of second-sight and must therefore be a witch. (No word on whether or not she had turned anyone into a newt.)

All of these shows, while having lots of futuristic technology, aliens, transporters and space ships, had at their core an analysis of humanity. And religion plays a big role in how humanity thinks, behaves and feels.

Add to that the many classic novels that have had religion at their core, like Niven and Purnelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye and especially Frank Herbert’s Dune, and the notion that good sci-fi should be nonreligious becomes increasingly unsupportable.

In response to questions about the themes of religion in B5, Straczynski said this:

If you look at the long history of human society, religion — whether you describe that as organized, disorganized, or the various degrees of accepted superstition — has always been present. And it will be present 200 years from now… To totally ignore that part of the human equation would be as false and wrong-headed as ignoring the fact that people get mad, or passionate, or strive for better lives.

So I’m all for fire-fights and Borg invasions; I’m all for clone wars and snazzy technology that we in the 21st century can only dream of. But to deny the “heart” of science-fiction is to make these shows nothing more than a chance for CGI departments to experiment with visually stimulating special effects. Sci-fi that doesn’t look at questions of humanity, including religious themes is nothing more than “sound and fury signifying nothing.”