I have viewed two movies in two weeks, and that’s not a regular pattern for me. I’m more for books than films, but I was keenly interested in these two movies for obvious reasons. One was Exodus: Gods and Kings by Ridley Scott. The second was Battle of Five Armies, the final installment in The Hobbit trilogy produced by Peter Jackson. Exodus was originally written by Moses. The Hobbit was originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien. I went to see Exodus with my wife on a much needed date night last Friday. I went last night to the 10:30pm showing of The Hobbit with a group of young men from our church (our third year in a row). I enjoyed both movies, but perhaps The Hobbit more due to the theological train wreck of the theophanies in Ridley Scott’s rendition of Exodus.
The Exodus is a nonfictional story that contains sudden twists and turns of the miraculous. However, it was reduced in many ways to a fictional tale with naturalistic phenomenon. The Hobbit is a fictional story that in many ways communicates the truths of the most heart gripping nonfictional story the world has ever known. I left the theater after watching Exodus with a yearning to read the real story found in the second book of the Bible. I was reminded that all of the power and graphics of Hollywood can’t compete with the heart pounding story of redemption recorded in Exodus. I walked away from the theater early this morning with the reminder that imaginary tales of elves, wizards, orcs, dwarves, a fire breathing dragon, a mountain of gold, and a hobbit can purposely entice the heart and mind to search out the deeper meaning of life. This deeper meaning is filled with sudden providences, miracles, and the happy ending. Although this deeper meaning surrounds us, often it remains hidden in plain view begging to be discovered.
As we think critically about these stories, we must be reminded that we long for a good story. Our heart yearns for the happy ending. It is by nature that we want to experience what Tolkien coined as “eucatastrophe” – the “good catastrophe.” Tolkien explains eucatastrophe in “On Fairy Stories” as
the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium [gospel], giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
In many ways, Exodus and The Hobbit provide that for us. The record of the Exodus was written by Moses over 3,000 years ago. The story of The Hobbit was written in the 1930s as a children’s book. Yet, both stories have a modern relevance that appeals to children and adults. The relevance is centered in the message. Both contain the message of hope. Moses is the prophet that points us to Christ in the Exodus. The twists and turns of The Hobbit point us to the overarching providence of God to bring about the sudden and often veiled happy ending that seemed impossible. This is the message of the gospel. This is our hope. True hope transcends luck.
In the narrative of the Exodus, it wasn’t luck that brought the nation of Israel across the Red Sea on dry land. It was something far greater! God rules this world and the worlds that exist beyond the walls of this world. R. C. Sproul has accurately described the power of God, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” Every drop of water in the Red Sea was under the transcendent sovereign control of YHWH. Although Ridley Scott appealed to luck, it was God who brought about the happy ending. In The Hobbit, Tolkien weaves into the story the theme of luck. However, he is merely using it as a teaching tool to bring home the heart of his message. Peter Jackson does a good job of capturing this in the final scene that came from the final page of the book as Bilbo and Gandalf converse.
“You don’t really suppose, do you,” the wizard asks the hobbit, “that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?” Gandalf continues, “You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” To this Bilbo replies with happiness and humility, “Thank goodness!”
We can learn much from a reluctant prophet deliverer named Moses. God intends for us to learn the story of redemption. God has also given us an imagination and gifted people such as J.R.R. Tolkien with an ability to harness this imagination in “fairy stories” to teach us lessons that far transcend the graphics of a movie screen or the pages of a fictional tale involving a strange footed short standing hobbit. Perhaps we can learn poignant lessons about “dragon sickness” or the importance of perseverance as we follow the story. The most important thing we can learn is the nearness of our ubiquitous God who exists in perfect strength and is able to bring about the happy ending, to vanquish the foe, to defeat the dragon, and to do that which seemed impossible such as parting the Red Sea. That is exactly what He did with His Son Jesus Christ. When darkness prevailed, the resurrected Christ burst forth with gospel saving light!
Longing for the happy ending on the final page of history – already accomplished by the Son and recorded by the Spirit in a book – the Bible!
Pastor Josh Buice
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Resources and Reviews:
Bilbo’s Last Goodbye – David Mathis
Moses Without the Supernatural – Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” – Albert Mohler
How to Ruin a Moses Movie – Joe Carter
This morning, I posted a tweet on Twitter about The Twilight Saga: New Moon. I saw that it was a trending topic, so I clicked on the link in order to read what people were saying about it. Since the movie will be in theaters this Friday, many people are talking about it. One tweet was particularly interesting to me. It read: “Today I’ll be decorating for christmas/new moon party and then I have my cuz basketball game tonight @ 6!!! WAY TO GO GRAY!!!” I found it interesting that someone would throw a party that would combine both Christmas and New Moon. I then remembered what the Word of God says about light and darkness in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV):
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Jesus is the Light of the world (John 9:5; John 12). He came into this sin filled and dark world of fallen humanity as God’s bright and shining Light of Grace and forgiveness. However, the Word of God tells us that the world did not receive Him (John 1:5, 11). Jesus Christ came on a salvation mission and redeemed a people unto Himself. The Bible records the fact that everyone who has been saved by Grace is now the child of God and an heir to the throne of God. This transformation that took place in our hearts was a miraculous work of God’s Grace that literally changed us into a new creature in Christ. This transformation caused us to have new desires and a new outlook on life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The new birth that took place at regeneration transformed our dark heart that once loved sin into a heart that is alive in Christ. Our new heart opposes sin and desires to live for Christ. Therefore, as a new creation in Christ, our ultimate desire should be to shine the light of Christ’s glory into a sin filled world. Sinclair B. Ferguson once said, “How do we bring glory to God? The Bible’s short answer is: by growing more and more like Jesus Christ.” Healthy Christian Growth, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA. 1991, p. 2). As a Christian, the will of God is for us to remain in a constant pursuit of holiness. Romans 12:1-2 provides us a clear charge to be transformed by the renewing of the mind – in Christ.As our culture continues to saturate itself in things such as vampires, Harry Potter, and New Moon – should the Christian embrace such books, literature, games, and movies? Do Christians have liberty and freedom in Christ to enjoy such things? I believe the answer is clearly recorded down in Holy Scripture in Galatians 5. In that chapter, Paul is writing to the Galatians who were being attacked by Judaizers with a false gospel that literally choked the life out of the church in that city. Paul spoke to them in the latter part of the chapter about Christian liberty and freedom in Christ. However, he also warned them to refrain from using their Christian liberty as a license to sin (Galatians 5:13-26)!
In that passage of Scripture, Paul outlines some of the sins of the flesh (that the Galatians and ourselves have all embraced):
Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
As we read this passage of Scripture, we should pay close attention to what it says about witchcraft in verse 20. Notice that it lumps that sin in with other sins like adultery and murder! Then Paul goes on to say that anyone who practices such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That is no little statement by the Apostle Paul. That is a powerful warning that every Christian who is dabbling in things such as Harry Potter and the New Moon should repent immediately.
It should be noted that God has always opposed witchcraft. In Deuteronomy 18:9-10, God commands His people to refrain from it! He calls it an abomination! In Isaiah 8:19, God again warns against such practices as communicating with the dead. It should also be pointed out that in Revelation 21:8, the Apostle John warns that all sorcerers will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone. Therefore, the totality of God’s Word stands opposed to witchcraft and the evil that surrounds such practices.
After the description of the life before Christ by Paul in Galatians 5, Paul then describes the life in Christ. He points out that the Christian will manifest the fruit of the Spirit. As we read the list from Galatians 5:22-23, we see that the true Christian will demonstrate a life that reflects Christ – not a sinful corrupt world. Christians are people of light – not darkness. Therefore, we should stand opposed to the darkness of sin – no matter how popular or attractive it may seem in books and movies. Be a bold Christian and stand for Christ – not the world. Never use your freedom in Christ as a license to sin.
Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Pastor Josh Buice
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Updated Resource: Mark Driscoll on Twilight
This weekend, my wife and I did something out of the ordinary – we went out for dinner and a movie. We normally do not have this privilege due to challenge of finding babysitters when family lives 3.5 hours away. The other extra difficult challenge is finding a clean wholesome movie to watch. So, after hearing much about the highly anticipated movie Fireproof, Kari and I decided to get a babysitter and go out to enjoy a clean movie together. I must admit – the evening was well worth the sacrifice and the time with my wife was wonderful!Regarding the movie – Fireproof is the third movie produced by the Sherwood Pictures (a ministry born out of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany Georgia). While the first two films (Flywheel and Facing the Giants) were less popular and operated on a lower budget, Fireproof was a drastic improvement. Kirk Cameron, the very popular teen actor from the hit series Growing Pains, stars as one of the lead characters of the movie. Rather than telling the entire story and ruining the movie for those of you who have not seen it – I will simply provide some comments on strengths and weaknesses of the film.Weaknesses of the FilmWhile many people will not pick up on this weakness, the fire scenes in the movie are less than realistic. Since my Dad has been a fireman for 32 years, I asked him his opinion on those scenes, and he let me know that the portrayal of a burning home in the movie was not realistic – although at times it was suspenseful. Like many movies in years past, it is very difficult to provide a realistic view of the interior of a fully involved house fire on the big screen since it would become one black blob and that would completely do away with the suspense of the scene. Therefore, many times the fire and light smoke is all that is portrayed – and that is simply less than realistic!Some of the supporting actors and actresses in the film are less professional than you may see in a Hollywood film, but that is to be expected considering the budget. The Sherwood organization enjoys using many of the same people from their previous movies in their films, so if you have seen the other two films you will recognize some of the supporting actors and actresses.Strengths of the FilmThe main strength of the movie centers on the problems of marriage riddled with pride, pornography, and selfishness. As the main plot unfolds, several surprises are exposed near the end which provide a sweet ending that leaves the tear-jerker fans happy. Although the movie is not a tear-jerker throughout the entire film, it does provide a good balance between intensity, suspense and emotion to create a good well balanced film.Another strength is found in the way that the Gospel is presented in the movie. The Gospel of Christ is actually presented more accurately in this film than in the previous two films produced by Sherwood. This film does an excellent job of demonstrating how a marriage can be healed through Jesus Christ!The way that Scripture is used in Fireproof is more accurate than it was in the previous two films produced by Sherwood Pictures. I recall that many Scriptures were used out of their context in the movie Facing the Giants, but in Fireproof – the use of Scripture was more accurate and within the proper context. Anytime we as Christians use Scripture – whether it is in a greeting card or in a movie – it should always be in the proper context. It is my opinion that Fireproof did a much better job in this area.Insider InformationOne of the scenes near the end is a kissing scene between Captain Caleb Holt and his wife Catherine Holt. While the movie was being produced, Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea both felt a bit uncomfortable as Christians kissing one another. Therefore, Kirk Cameron brought his wife in for the stand in role and kissed her as opposed to Erin. When was the last time you heard of this happening in a Hollywood movie?Another piece of insider information is related to a supporting actor in the film. One of the main supporting actors is a well known Southern Baptist Evangelist named Bill Stafford. He plays a comical role in the film that reoccurs throughout the movie – and once you see the movie it will be obvious which role Stafford plays. If you know who Bill Stafford is, you will recognize him right away when his face appears on the screen. I found myself elbowing my wife saying, “That is Bill Stafford” – followed by loud laughter!Challenge to all MenI would like to personally challenge all men to take your wives to see Fireproof. First of all, we as Christians need to support Christian films such as Fireproof when we have the opportunity. Second of all, the movie is a great film for your marriage as it demonstrates the effects of sin upon a marriage and it allows you to cherish your own marriage even more as you watch the movie next to the one that God has blessed you with!ConclusionIn conclusion, I say that Fireproof is a great film that all Christians should see. It provides a good view of what the Gospel can do in the lives of lost people and in a failing marriage. While some aspects of the movie were less professional than a Hollywood movie with a budget of tens of millions of dollars, Fireproof came off with a drastic improvement from the previous two films by Sherwood Pictures while providing a great marriage enrichment and evangelistic opportunity in the local theaters across America. It was quite refreshing to leave a movie without having my Lord slandered and my faith mocked.Click here for information about Sherwood FilmsClick here for information about FireproofGod Bless,Rev. Josh Buice