Friday, June 27, 2014

What could have been

Elsewhere I wrote at length about how much I enjoyed John Milton's books, Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, with riders forewarning how the English used in it is simply ancient. So you can imagine my disappointment when I heard that plans were shelved to make a Paradise Lost movie. They said the visual effects required to film that one were going to push up its cost and make it unprofitable. (Funny, that never stopped 'Avatar'.)

Profit was the motive, which assurance failing, rendered the whole enterprise useless in the producers' eyes. But what a wonderful chance for evangelism was thus lost! How about if they had lost a few million dollars ad gained the kingdom of heaven a few million souls? Then they'd have had treasure in heaven.

Nevertheless, it was going to be made in Hollywood, and big-name movie stars had been cited in leading roles. At this, two alternative scenarios cross my mind.

FIRST. If I have learned anything from watching Hollywood adaptations of Christian narratives, I wouldn't trust Hollywood with such sensitive foundational doctrines as the origin of sin, the war in heaven, the creation of the world, the temptation and fall of man. Judging by one enthused critic who declared that it was going to be a cross between Lord of the Rings and 300, sublime spiritual subtleties would be sacrificed in favor of a haze of dramatic special effects, battle scenes, cinematic acrobatics. Out with Milton's incisive wit, cue arrogant quips, for the trailer. Any number of unbiblical teachings would have made their way into the movie. (Look at the recent Noah movie for comparison.) For example, early on, "Paradise Lost the movie" assumed a "sympathy for the devil" shade in critic's opinions. Therefore the very real possibility is that Hollywood's Paradise Lost, if it ever came to fruition, would have been, like so many movies out of Hollywood, a disguised ode to Satan.

OTHERWISE, it could be that Hollywood took a real good look at Paradise Lost and realized that no amount of ingenuity could transform it to anything other than the powerful evangelism tool it had the potential to become. Even if it had been heavily adulterated into a gore-fest, it would have forced them to address the great spiritual WHY of the fighting, even superficially. It would have excited curiosity-relevant-unto-salvation in its viewers. For all its faults, Paradise Lost (the book) paints a vivid picture of the love, righteousness and truth of GOD contrasted with the pride, wickedness and lies of Satan. However we (should) all know that Hollywood is not about the kingdom of heaven. So, because a kingdom divided against itself can not stand, Hollywood scrapped Paradise Lost movie altogether.

These thoughts above are what I think. Otherwise the nearest I've come to a scripturally sound audio-visual reconstruction of events culminating in the fall of man was Cosmic Conflict by Amazing Facts. The visual effects, script, and acting fall far short of Hollywood capacity, but they did their best and shared what light they have. And it's real bright light, I tell you!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Escoffier on Modernity and the Embarrassment of Christians

My online wanderings led me to a article on Dalrock's blog, to which reader Escoffier submitted the comment that follows below. (I am not the first to post this comment as a standalone blogpost, just sharing with whosoever happens upon it here.) In short, it is an exposition of the paradox of embracing both labels "modern" and "Christian", and the compromises it leads many unwary into making. Enjoy! Learn!

I want to add a supplementary / alternative reason to explain this embarrassment over the text of the Bible. It’s been touched on but not really fleshed out.

That is, that these nominal Christians under discussion are all moderns first and Christians second (if second). Worse, they don’t even know they are moderns, or what it means to be a modern, or what modernity is.

Modernity, to say the least, conflicts with the Bible. It was designed to, on purpose. Yet it has been so successful in taking over nearly all conscious and sub-conscious thought that hardly anyone any more recognizes it for what it is. That includes most contemporary Christians, to whom “modernity” is simply synonymous with “reality” or even “morality.”

There’s a particular strand of modernity that’s particularly relevant here, namely historicism, and specifically rational historicism (as opposed to radical or irrational historicism). This is the idea of “progress.” “Progress” is cooked into the original conception of modernity, but it came to take on a different meaning much later. Originally, it more or less just meant “We can improve the material condition of man on earth; human beings have a lot more power than either the Bible or classical philosophy will admit.”

Rational historicism takes this idea much further and posits a unidirectional progress, which is worked out through impersonal forces (the so-called historical dialectic) over which man may be an unwitting instrument, but which he didn’t design, doesn’t direct, and can’t control. “History” is nonetheless rational, moving “forward” (with occasional, necessary steps back) to ever-“better” states and eventually to an end state in which all dialectical conflicts are resolved, all moral and political problems solved, and final wisdom achieved (if not necessarily accessible to all). In pop-culture terms, the Star Trek universe is basically the cartoon version of this end state.

Nearly everyone today believes in this “arc” at least in a simplified way. The present is believed to be inherently more enlightened that the past. We Don’t Do That Anymore Because We Know Better. And the future will be inevitably more enlightened than the present.

The source of this impression is ultimately perverted or corrupted or mistaken philosophy, but one does not need to have studied philosophy at all to have been affected, even “convinced.” The astounding success of modern natural science and its offspring, technology, serves to “prove” to such people that “progress” is real and that the present is superior to the past. Technological progress is assumed to be coeval with moral and political progress.

But it is never explained why this should be so. Actually, certain modern philosophers did try to make such a case, but they hardly proved it and their case is open to serious theoretical difficulties which have been pointed out by other philosophers. However, that whole dialogue may as well never have happened as far as the average modern person is concerned. He is simply unaware of it and takes on faith that the present is morally superior to the past.

This, then, is a significant source of the embarrassment. The modern Christian (modern first, Christian second) is embarrassed by the evident conflicts between his nominal faith and his actual, if unconscious, modernity. Modernity trumps. So the offending Scriptures have to be dealt with one way or another. There are many possible ways: insist that it doesn’t say what it seems to say, come up with Rube Goldberg interpretations to square it with modernity, call it “metaphoric,” say that it was right for that time but not our time, and so on. The latter is a kind of “Living Constitution” framework for the Bible. It assumes that God has left to us the task of “updating” Scripture as the “times change.” The changing of the times is held to be the true constant, and really the true God, but only implicitly.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Of Touchlines and Final Whistles

I've got many other failings, but I LOVE football.

I mostly watch football so that I can play better football. (Subsequently this ongoing World Cup should leave me ten times better.) Thinking about football is the thing that once made me stare so dreamily at the horizon that my nearby friend thought I was fantasizing about some girl, and asked who that girl was. I laughed the question off as my thoughts soared back to football heaven. 

The opportunity to play football is what justifies my patience with a coach who always strives to humiliate me. My love for football is bigger than my hatred of his behavior, so I play football no matter. I respect the guy, I love my team mates, I prefer the left wing, we are unbeaten five games into the district league... What's to cry for?

But - there's always a but. There's got to be a limit to my love for football. There's a time for everything. Priorities change. One day I'll have to hang up my boots for good (instead of buying ever more pairs!) and that day, as I can already foresee, will be an extremely sad day for me, whether it's tomorrow or many decades hence. But even before that, in the immediate short term, I am heavily invested in football playing in terms of time and resources; and I can't help but wonder... is this thing destroying or helping me? But my favorite practice shorts have the word "Believe" stitched into the embroidery, so I do just that.

The one thing I am anxious for my soccer playing not to destroy is my walk with God. For it would be better to enter into life without a soccer career, than having a soccer career to be cast into hell. These thoughts have occasioned many struggles of conscience so far. Pending their resolution, I prefer the left wing despite being right-footed. And I don't appreciate the final whistle, since I can never seem to have enough of running around the opposing right back and making his outpost an ever-turbulent succession of breathless doldrums.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dear Readers

I struggle to see to it that this "Life and Times" blog is neither a slough of despond nor a jeremiad of unending lamentations. But what material does the world give me? Ridiculous miscarriages of justice multiply left and right. Bright notes of optimism turn out to be hype and hot air. The world is ending. Will this blog be that place that anaesthetizes readers with distractions? It would be like watching cartoons while the house burns down around me.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kenya could Learn from Libya

Elsewhere I posted about my severe disillusionment with the international system and its diplomatic framework. Recent events in Kenyan politics have brought these things to the fore of my mind once again.

It is said the Cold War ended when the USSR disintegrated and the Berlin Wall collapsed. Of course by now we have moved past the subsequent rhetoric of multilateral international order in the 90s. And everybody knows how the War on Terror has shaped subsequent power dynamics - you are either with them or against them. 

Despite this illusion of progress, the eternally primary "national interest" motive for diplomats representing international powers has never changed at all. Whereas the war between ideologies is presumably over, dominance is an ideology all on its own. And we can see nations striving for dominance in traditional military and economic spheres and in areas that were never before considered, like electronic spying.

Here we are in Kenya, proud of our geostrategic importance and keen to fully exploit it for Kenya's best advantage. If only it were that simple. The prestigious Western suitor and the practical Eastern suitor are interested as well, they have wooed and wooed and could very well come to blows by proxy. "All's fair in love and war" they say. From the look of things we have officially taken sides and the jilted lover is bristling with jealousy/revenge. Combining this diplomatic minefield with the various tribalistic tripwires that pollute our politics, we have a potential bloodbath in the works.

Am I being alarmist? No. I have simply seen what happened to Libya, following what was declared to be a popular revolution of citizens against a tyrant. The only winner of that war has turned out to be the foreign power. Granted, there were probably a few valid democracy-minded activists involved in the Libyan resistance. The existence of that singular squabble provided enough leverage for globalist sharks to put a foot in, fund and arm mercenaries to bring down the government, destroy Libya's society. Then they donned the executive suits and corporate colors of investors and arrived to reconstruct the oil industry. 

Kenya! We have collectively refused to repair our tribalist rifts, we have disguised them as party politics to avoid addressing the quagmire. How much easier would it be for a like minded rapacious looter to prise open Kenya's cracked national edifice and reach for the resources beneath? On the basis of our tribal politics alone there will always be discontents lugubriously milling around, ready to mingle these intractable squabbles with actual governance grievances. Let such remember: should foreign powers decide to get involved and champion their cause, the outsider's primary interest will be their own - to the exclusion and detriment of all but the most brazen sellouts.