Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 Films

Part 2 of my review of Trinitarian Theology after Barth will have to wait. Some things are much more important, like good film!

Most of my friends know that I have an affinity for foreign film. Of course, when it's bad, it's pitiful. But when it's good, it's phenomenal. I recently saw Neils Arden Oplev's film adaptation of Larsson's Millenium Trilogy. The films are entitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (GDT), The Girl Who Played with Fire (GPF), and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest (GKHN). I watched all three films over the span of twenty-four hours. They were enthralling. The first installment, GDT, might quite possibly be the most disturbing film I've ever seen. I could barely sleep so I figured I should just watch the second part, GPF, since there is little else to do at 3 AM. After that was finished, I began to panic since GKHN has not yet been released on Netflix instant streaming. By the providence of God, a local indie theatre was playing GKHN for that weekend only! It was the first time I have ever gone to the theatre alone, but enduring such a social faux pas was entirely worth it. While GKHN was a bit of a letdown considering the fact that relationship between leads Rapace and Nyqvist all but vanished, Rapace's acting still left me mesmerized. Her performance was one of the best I have ever seen. She embodied her character so well, it was borderline disturbing. I am constantly amazed at how much foreign film delivers compared to the average American cinematic experience (Sophie Scholl, The Sea Inside, Tell No One, Summer Hours, Paradise Now, Children of Heaven, The Class, Once, The Counterfeiters, Cache, Maria Full of Grace, Water, La Vie en rose, to name a few).

Thankfully, 2011 offers a host of foreign films that seem promising. I am only going to list three because it is so much work to put up these nice little photos! These are my top three choices:

1. Des Hommes Et Des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) - Thanks to my friend, John C. for pointing me toward this gem. This 2010 French drama won the Grand Pix from the Cannes Film Festival. One can only pray that it will be released in cities beyond LA and NYC after Feburary. The cinematography in the trailer is breathtaking and I am excited to view a film that reveals a neglected issue that will become much more pressing for future inter-religious dialogue. I also wonder if the film will deal with issues of force and violence. While some arguments for pacifism are compelling, they are often left wanting especially in light of realities such as this.

2. Leaving - Okay, I should offer a few disclaimers. I am fully aware that this film offers nothing but a well-worn cliche that is morally bankrupt. However, Kristin Scott Thomas is one of the best actresses of our time (yes, I'm thinking English Patient). I make it a point to see every film she makes, especially her French films. I will most likely be angry and frustrated after viewing her in a role that condones the embodiment of selfishness (nothing short of a classic Kate Winslet role). But something about Ms. Thomas still makes you want to go along for the ride.

3. Biutiful - Starring Javier Bardem, this Spanish film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu portrays a struggling single father. While it has received mixed views (despite also being featured as an official selection at Cannes), Bardem won my affection after viewing The Sea Inside. His role landed him the Best Actor nomination at this years Academy Awards, and I can't wait to see if the movie delivers.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Trinitarian Theology After Barth (Part 1)

Every so often, I browse the new books section at the GCTS library. I'm usually disappointed. But this past Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised; I stumbled across a recent collection of essays entitled Trinitarian Theology after Barth, eds. Myk Habets and Phillip Tolliday. Contributors include Paul Molnar, Bruce McCormack, Ben Myers, and John Webster. Since I'm a fan of Molnar's work and he writes the opening chapter, I decided to begin with his essay entitled "The Role of the Holy Spirit in Knowing the Triune God." After I checked out this book and made my way out of the library, I quickly read this opening paragraph:
If contemporary theologians were to make explicit the role of the Holy Spirit in enabling our knowledge of the triune God, then there could be wide agreement that natural theology of whatever stripe is not only unhelpful, but is directly excluded from any serious understanding of theological epistemology.
I immediately let out a huge sigh of relief. Finally, after almost years of questioning and confusion, I found someone who agrees with my hesitations about the classic formulation of natural theology. I have heard what seems like countless scholars, peers, and professors argue for the validity and justification of natural theology in conjunction with the indispensible role of the Holy Spirit. However, unless these same westerners want to deny the filioque clause, I have never understood how the work of the Holy Spirit does not automatically negate the possibility of natural theology. Does not the entire word natural assume that human beings have some innate capacity - by whatever degree - to comprehend the existence of God? It has always seemed to me that once talk of the Holy Spirit enters the equation, the word natural should necessarily vanish. For this reason, I have always believed that those who say they believe one can have knowledge of God apart from special revelation (the Holy Scriptures, knowledge of Christ, etc.) either 1) only pay lip service to the role of the Holy Spirit or 2) deny the filioque clause thus believing that individuals can come to know the Father apart from the Son.

Getting back to Molnar's essay, he goes on to point out that some scholars, such as John Courtney Murray, argue that "we can know that God is but we cannot know what he is" (5). There are no shortage of Christian philosophers who believe and passionately argue that one can believe God's exists without knowing who this God is. Such philosophers usually have an abundance of literature that label God with names like "the first Cause" or the "Ultimate Being" thus stripping Him of all the names God has given of Himself through His self-revelation. Molnar asserts that to separate the question of God's existence from His identity "is the first mistake that follows from failing to realize that our knowledge of who or what God is comes positively to meet us in Christ and thus through his Spirit as an act of God" (7). In effect, the question becomes what role the Son possesses in relation to the Father if the Son is ultimately unnecessary for knowledge of God. Furthermore, such an affirmation of knowledge of God apart from the encounter with Jesus Christ inevitably separates the work of the Spirit from the Son. To me, this paves the way for a type of inclusivity that I fear is unintended by most who advocate such a way forward.

Unfortunately, I started writing this entry much later than I planned. I'll have to continue this at a later date.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

God's promise.

I was deeply encouraged by this:

"If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died - more than that, who was raised - who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
'For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height not depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be ale to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

- Romans 8:32-39 [emphasis added]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The loss of the particular.

A friend of mine on twitter commended Kari Jobe for her worship ministry. As a student at an evangelical seminary, I've heard Jobe's name mentioned before. I've even bought one of her songs (maybe two?) and think she has a wonderful voice. I know a lot of people who have benefited from her music and her talent for singing, not to mention her seeming commitment to Christ.

I did some research on Ms. Jobe this morning and ended up at her facebook page where the above music video was posted. When you play it the first time, you are very touched by the words. Who wouldn't want to worship a God who intimately cares for His creatures? And who wouldn't want to worship a God who still cares for His creatures even when they do everything against His wishes?

When the song was almost finished, I had the same impression as I did when I was exposed to the charismatic movement (IHOP - International House of Prayer). There are an incredible amount of songs about how the Lord makes us feel. But I've noticed two profound weaknesses with songs like these.

First, they almost always use the word "You." As a monotheist, I have no problem with the unity of the Trinity. In fact, I think Gregory of Nyssa would wholeheartedly embrace this constant affirmation of God's unity even in distinction. But God still has chosen to reveal Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He truly is the Triune God and we should understand that the works of God are Triune. At the risk of sounding like I'm asking for too much differentiation, I wish there would be more specific speech about God's triunity that He has provided for us. As Dr. Corduan used to tell us repeatedly, there is only one "what" yet three "who"s.

Second, there are few songs that speak about how the Triune God makes these "feelings" possible. Few songs reference God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, God the Son who was sent by the Father for us and for our salvation, and God the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. It seems like these general statements about the feelings one gets from this God offer nothing of particularity. What differentiates the feelings expressed in these songs from those of any other religion? The external works of the Triune God not only reveal the identity of the God the Church worships but also bring confidence that we are faithfully witnessing to His revelation. At the risk of sounding cynical, I wanted to ask Ms. Jobe, "how do you know that God is for you?" "How do you know that He will never abandon you?"

My main concern is not apologetic. My main concern is for the Church and its sometimes lack of thoughtful speech and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ when we write music. I hope future leaders might recognize some of these weaknesses and how it might negatively effect our perception of the Triune God.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The List.

A few items:

- I am weary of scholars or professors who are dogmatic in affirming Mosaic authorship. I am equally weary when other scholars or professors dogmatically deny Mosaic authorship. There simply is not enough evidence either internally or externally to argue either way with such confidence. I wish most would ultimately affirm agnosticism even if they find one option more theologically appealing or convincing.

- I've decided to enter into an in-depth study of the book of Romans. Despite the fact that I never finished Koine Greek during my time at GCTS, I just picked up another commentary (Cranfield) in addition to Dunn and Moo. I already fundamentally disagree with one of Dunn's two main arguments which will guide his entire exegetical project. As I've said before, I feel woefully inadequate to say that I disagree with such a seminal biblical scholar such as Dunn. However, perhaps I'll get the courage to post my thoughts on this matter in the coming weeks.

- I picked up Eugene Robinson's Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America. While I have largely been exposed and confined to communities where caucasians are the majority, my parents live in a town that is almost 3/4 black (I never know what the politically correct term is when it comes to racial groups, so forgive me if that term isn't acceptable to anyone reading this post). I've long been influenced and fascinated with black culture and I am thrilled to read this book that promises to probe more deeply into the black identity (or the "splintering" therein).

- The month of January has been and is going to be very busy! I have to finish my two applications to two masters programs, take two classes by Feb. 1st (and spring classes start before this date), finish a book review, continue with my part-time jobs (yes, plural), and not live in my house for the next two weeks as I do all of this. I'm housesitting for a while and it is more difficult than I imagined to transition from my own house into another. However, I really enjoy the time away, it is like vacation.

- I'm debating about whether or not I want to take Negative Theology (NT) at HDS in the spring. Even though I would really enjoy the class, I can't say that I miss the commute to HDS. Moreover, I am taking another Barth seminar this semester at GCTS and we are covering I.2 of the CD. In the Barth seminar at HDS, we didn't touch one page of volume 1. Some argue that the CD can be read backwards, but I don't find this view convincing. As such, I have found that my lack of exposure to volume 1 has proven to be a disadvantage. Plus, Busch's biography is assigned and who doesn't want to keep reading such an amazing work? In short, I don't know if I have time to keep up with the Western fathers reading, the Barth seminar, and one other class if I take the NT class. Decisions Decisions.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Resolution #1 = Completed!

For over four months, my bookshelves have been in shambles. Even my Barth bookshelf (top left) began to look very disorganized. Therefore, I decided to start this year off right and fulfill one of my resolutions before the stroke of midnight: organize my bookshelves. It doesn't look as neat and slick as I'd like, but that is due to the fact that I don't have enough bookcases nor the space to get another one in my apartment. Anyhow, I had to share my success because I am so happy about the accomplishment displayed above (!)

Also, please observe the proud place that Barth's Church Dogmatics holds on the top shelf of the first bookcase (though I think he'd be proud of the fact that all of Calvin's commentaries are even above him in red at the very top of the right bookshelf). I was unable to fit KB's Epistle to the Romans on the same shelf so it lays sideways on the top of the CD. I couldn't help but chuckle at the irony of the No preceding the Yes, even in my bookshelf. Then I realized that even such a thought officially makes me incredibly sad.

P.S. The carpet came with the apartment. I did not purchase it nor can it be removed. I mourn this fact daily (but how can one complain when they have the best landlords ever?).