If size matters, the new theme park in northern Kentucky, the Ark Encounter, is a massive success. The center-piece of the park, which opened in mid-July, is a full-size replica of Noah’s ark, over 500 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. It is, according to the Ark Encounter website, the “largest timber-frame structure in the world.” The first phase of the park also includes “Ararat Ridge Zoo (with a petting zoo), a 1,500-seat restaurant, a gift store under the Ark, and a zip line.” Future attractions will include “a pre-Flood walled city, the Tower of Babel, a…
What Has Hollywood to Do with Jerusalem?: Production Values and Proclaiming the Gospel in the “Ark Encounter” and Ben Hur
This one comes to us from Lindsey Hepler.
When I was eighteen years old, during that awkward summer between graduating from high school and starting college, I took a trip to London with my parents. By a stroke of luck and happenstance, my two sisters were away on their own adventures, so I got to be the only child for a week. It was a fantastic trip—complete with a 24 hour jaunt to Paris, a meal so memorable, I still think about it, and two days at Wimbeldon—for the men’s and women’s finals, no less. My parents are avid tennis players,…
As someone who has intentionally watched every episode of The Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert and followed the trajectory of a man who came out of one of the best examples of American satire into the “normalcy” of late night, I find the best moments of his new incarnation are when religion pops up. Thursday (Aug. 25) was scattershot with Philippians verses which started with Sen. Tim Kaine–who was a Jesuit missionary for several years–and continued when Mbird favorite, Tony Hale, called out their “Bible games.” What follows is Tony Hale potentially being the only guest to seemingly out-Bible Stephen Colbert. The moment is full of hilarity especially when placed in the context of Hale’s creation of The Haven, a meeting place in NYC for Christian artists who were outcasts from the church in his earlier days. Check it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
From Fleming Rutledge’s masterful new work, The Crucifixion, this comes from her chapter “The Godlessness of the Cross” (ht LM):
Yet at the most fundamental level—and this can’t be emphasized too strongly—the cross is in no way “religious.” The cross is by a very long way the most irreligious object ever to find its way into the heart of faith. J. Christiaan Beker refers to it as “the most nonreligious and horrendous feature of the Gospel.
The crucifixion marks out the essential distinction between Christianity and “religion.” Religion as defined in these pages is either an organized system of belief or, alternatively, a loose collection of ideas and practices, projected out of humanity’s needs and wishes. The cross is “irreligious” because no human being individually or human beings collectively would have projected their hopes, wishes, longings, and needs onto a crucified man.
A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…
Because I am an immediate devotee to anything Mark Burnett produces, I suffered through an entire season of Fox’s Coupled this summer. If you aren’t familiar with this romantic tale, then pat yourself on the back for being a better person than me. The premise is simple: twelve single women get to filter through a lot of men to see if they can ultimately be “coupled” off. You know the drill: island location, loads of Mai Tais, one affront to feminism after another.
There was one character that had me rapt for the entire season. Her name is Alexandra “Alex” Clark,…
In case you missed it during the Olympics, NBC will have a new Thursday night sitcom this fall: The Good Place (I went to high school with Michael Schur!). It’s about an abominable woman (Kristin Bell), who, by some cosmic error, ends up in Heaven.
Not surprisingly, the show appears (admittedly from the 2-minute trailer) to propagate the notion that good people go to the “good place” and bad people go to the “bad place” (although I hold out hope that the creator of Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be a bit more insightful). Of course, this is the Law, not the Gospel. It is Karma, not Grace. In contrast, the New Testament affirms that the only Good Person went to the bad place so that bad people could go to the good place.
When I was growing up with my three siblings, my dad drove us all to school every morning, and picked us up every afternoon. There was a school bus, but he liked spending that time with us, and we liked it, too, and so we piled into his car on chilly Wisconsin mornings, and he dropped us off at our respective schools on his way to work.
Every morning, he gave us a rousing pep talk. I suspect it was as much for him as it was for us. On Mondays, the pep talk went something like this: “It’s…
Just when you thought the NYC Conference videos were finished!
You Are Invited: This Wednesday Aug 24th at 7:30pm to the final installment of our summer film series, “Religious Hope From the Movies”, at the Avon Theater in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. To whet your appetite our host, Paul Zahl, produced the following blurb:
I’ve never met someone who didn’t fall for this movie. We’re talking about a Hollywood Western entitled Stars in My Crown, which was released in 1950 and starred Joel McCrea. Stars in my Crown was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who made many movies you’ve heard of, such as Cat People (1942) and Out of the Past (1947).
Interestingly, Stars in my Crown was Joel McCrea’s favorite movie in which he acted, and Jacques Tourneur’s favorite movie that he directed.
You’ve got to come see this movie with us next Wednesday at the Avon Theater in Stamford.
Well, it presents a Christian minister who is the essence of grace in practice. Somewhat episodic, Stars in my Crown tells the story of a sincere, delightful, and persistent minister who is faced with problem after problem after problem in the small town where he has planted a church — from the strong resistance of the local doctor, who is a rationalist, to a power play from the town’s “big man” (and also the Klan) against an African-American senior, to an inward assault upon the minister’s own faith and confidence when a typhoid epidemic brings his ministry to a standstill.
Stars in my Crown is one of the few mainstream movies — together with the French movie Leon Morin, Priest (1961), and a small handful of others — that depicts a minister or priest with accuracy, empathy, and sympathy — in short, with Christian understanding.
At 7:30pm PZ will introduce the movie — which we featured, by the way in Mockingbird at the Movies (2015) — and right after the movie’s over, we have a special guest. Our special guest is Peter McCrea, son of Joel McCrea, who will talk about his father’s spirituality, and why it is that Stars in My Crown was his dad’s favorite.
Hope you can come.
This morning’s devotion comes to us from Ben Phillips.
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? (John 5:44-46, ESV)
There is a very strong courtroom motif throughout the Gospel of John. At the end, John actually frames his account of Jesus’ life like a courtroom eyewitness testimony (21:24). Here it is certainly true: Jesus is dealing with the legal accusations of a group of Pharisees who have objected to his healing miracles. Earlier in this chapter Jesus very boldly claims, “the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (5:22). In God’s courtroom, Jesus is not the defense attorney; he is the Judge. Jesus goes on to state here that Moses (the Law) will serve as the prosecution.
It must be understood that while God’s Law shows us the divine moral ordering of the universe, it also always accuses sinners of their sinfulness. The Law shows no one is right with God—and that was the Pharisees’ problem. And ours too. The fact that they—and we—overlook the truth about our legal standing means that we end up missing our need for a savior.
When we hear talk about God’s holiness or glory, very often the response is pie-eyed delight, not run-and-hide Edenic fear. Many contemporary worship songs go on and on about God’s holiness and grandeur, but they also fail to recognize the fact that God’s holiness shames us. Next to the perfect, the imperfect is obliterated. It’s true.
But the Gospel of John tells us something else entirely. Way back in the introduction to the Gospel, John writes that “The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17).
The Gospel tells us that Judge Jesus is also Jesus the Condemned. The reason Jesus can make a non-condemning ruling and declare sinners righteous is that the price for not keeping the Law has been paid in his own blood—the judge takes all the blame himself, freeing us from the defendant’s chair.