Monday, May 31, 2010

Resurrection of LOST

It’s been a week. If you haven’t seen the season finale of LOST by now, then chances are you won’t, but just so no one complains: Spoiler Alert—this post reveals key details about the show and its ending. Do not read it if you don't want to know such details.

LOST was good, and then bad, and then weird, and finally, in the final season, it proved to be ultimately spiritual—one might even say Christian.

If you haven’t seen the show and are wondering what it was all about, here is everything you need to know in a nutshell: plane crashes; weird things happen to people in crash and lots of chaos/adventure ensues; some people leave the island only to realize that they are more lost than ever before, those characters return to the island only to discover one of the good guys is now a bad guy only he isn’t really the good guy rather a bad guy in the good guys body; characters stand together to fight evil bad guy; some people die, some people live, but they all meet up in the afterlife. Got all that?!

And what of the season finale? Here’s what happened there: Jack (the main character) and Hurley (the fat guy) stayed behind to save the island while the others escapes. Jack gave his life so that mankind could live, and Hurley became the protector of the island. At the end of the show, viewers learned that this parallel (sideways) world they had been watching throughout the season was actually a purgatory of sorts, and they had to find key memories that would trigger them to reunite with each other so they could meet one final time before going to heaven. Really, it all makes sense if you watch the show from start to finish—I swear!

And Jack, it turns out, was a Christ figure all along; he died for mankind, and even got pierced on the side right before he died—I’m really surprised he didn’t bleed water.

I have bittersweet feelings about how the show ended; it didn’t answer all the questions I had—it didn’t even answer some of them. What the show proved in the end was that the mysteries of the island never really matter—the show was always about characters and redemption. I thought this was a bit cheap—for six years I had tuned in and the writers basically kept saying “keep watching and you’ll figure it all out” and then in the end basically said you don’t really need to figure it all out; I felt in this sense I had been cheated—they had fed me what now seems to be gimmicks to get me to keep watching.

The show never fully explained who Jacob was (only where he came from) and why the island needed a keeper and what exactly the island was for that matter; it never explained why women couldn’t get pregnant; it never explained the significance of the numbers; it never explained why Jacob needed a replacement; and to tell you the truth I’m still confused over how Locke became evil and why he became evil (although this was explained, but not explained well). But what came through in the series finale more than anything was that the creators never planned on explaining everything—life is a mystery I guess, and in some ways it makes sense, although it is still disappointing.

Six years ago, I would have said the show is about people on an island battling for their lives and trying to find a way off. And now? Now it makes sense that it was really a show about man versus science/logic—his desire to prove that there is a reason for everything. What each of the characters have to discover in their own way is that you cannot solve and reason everything—until you drop your guard and reason that faith is the only guide we truly have, we were always going to be slaves to the world.

In the end, LOST wasn't out to entertain us—it was out to teach us a moral lesson: that we are all lost and we will stay that way until we have the courage to stand up and say we won’t let logic rule our life. There is a place for logic and reason, but it was never on the island. It was the perfect resolution to the characters, but that's it.

Am I discouraged by the ending? A little—but in the end, it was still a fun ride.

Anyone else have thoughts on the show?

Monday, May 24, 2010

On the Lighter Side of Things

Friday, May 21, 2010

Go to Church, Win a Thousand Bucks!

Before I begin, next week I'm taking a week-long break from blogging so I will not be posting here next Friday.

Now, on with today's blog post.

As you may know, church numbers are currently at an all-time low. We've read the reports about how more people my age consider themselves more "spiritual" than "religious." So what should the Church do? How can we spread the Gospel to today's world?

How about offering them $1,000? That's exactly what this church in Chicago is doing.

Money quote (no pun attended): "I wanted to teach the parallel between faith and finance."

*Record scratch* Wait, what?

Now maybe I've got the wrong Bible translation but I don't remember Jesus holding any contests to which of His followers will win money. I remember something about Jesus feeding five thousand people with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. I remember Jesus telling a rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. And I think I remember something about a poor widow giving away her last two coins. But I don't remember anything about Jesus giving a thousand bucks to whoever was sitting in the right seat.

You have to wonder, too, who is attending that church for the Gospel, and who just wants the money.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A People's History of Christianity: The New Testament Apocrypha (Part Three)

Below is part two of the three post blog on the New Testament Apocrypha; it covers the Apocalypse. You can read part one Here.

Finally, I will consider the last major section of the NT Apocrypha, the Apocalypse. For many of the same reasons that Revelations was so hard to adopt into the NT canon, these books also are hard for many to accept. The Apocalypse texts are also the most important to the future world of art; the images the authors created with words would later be painted by several artists. These books, like the acts of the apostles, were also important to the growth of Christianity, because of the strong themes found in them.

To assert there is hell is not as strong as to describe what hell looks like, and such descriptions were strong enough to give grown men nightmares—which is exactly what the Apocalypse of Peter and Paul did. In these books hell was not just hell—hell was where people were hung, “by their tongues,” and where lakes were made from “discharge and excrement;” unlike the NT, people were violently tortured in the apocryphal hell—an incredibly powerful message to someone who did not believe. Both books make clear, though more so in Paul, that there is a heaven, and it’s a place a person would not want to pass up.

What the Apocalypse also shows is a profound love for Judaism within Christianity—such is the case for The Ascension Of Isaiah. It, like Peter and Paul, wants show the unbeliever that hell is their destiny, but it also wants to show that Isaiah had seen Christ when he ascended into heaven. To do this the author uses a unique writing style—he writes the Apocalypse just like the OT. Except for the reference to Christ this book could easily be mistakes for a OT work.

If these books were so influential to Christians there is still the question of why they did not make it into the canon. It is not the hardest question to answer—some books because they were written too late, some because they contained too many issues the church fathers considered heretical, some because they did not provide truth or facts. All these books, however, contained the answer to the questions historians would later come to ask—who were the early Christians.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hey Kids, It's Tea Party Jesus!

If you're like me, you love websites with funny pictures and/or quotations (think LOL Cats, Nic Cage and the dinosaur, and "I'mma let you finish"). Well, there's a new blog called Tea Party Jesus that pairs pictures of Christ with crazy quotes from self-proclaimed "Christians." Here are a few examples:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ten Ways Christians Tend to Fail at Being Christian

In case you missed it, the Huffington Post had a great blog last week called, "Ten Ways Christians Tend to Fail at Being Christian." If you missed it, check it out! It's a great read.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A People's History of Christianity: The New Testament Apocrypha (Part Two)

Below is part two of the three post blog on the New Testament Apocrypha; it covers the Gospels. You can read part one Here.

Apocrypha Gospels

Where the infancy narratives are concerned with showing what went on before the ministry of Christ, the gospels are concerned with showing what happened after the resurrection of Christ; the exception to this are the gospels of Hebrews, Ebionites, and Mark—each short fragments that add to the gospel, as with Mark, or are parts from lost gospels.

The other gospels give resolution to characters and issues found in the NT gospels. The Apocryphon Of James for example is like the Gospel of John telling a eyewitness account of an apostle, but not the account before the resurrection, rather after. While it may or may not have been James the apostle writing the gospel, it was somebody who was well versed in James’ thought. It at times reads like, and in fact many passages are similar to, the NT letter of James. For example in the gospel the author writes, “If you contemplate the world, how long it is before you and also how long it is after you, you will find that your life is one single day and your sufferings, one single hour. For the good will not enter the world. Scorn death therefore, and take concern for life” (emphasis given); this is similar to what is written in the letter of James 1:21, “Flee therefore from the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” If the letter was written by the same James who wrote the letter this would seem to be reflecting what he had learned from what Christ had told him.

This gospel also shows what James was confused with, and how Jesus taught him so he would no longer be confused. For example, the author of the gospel writes, “Grant us, therefore, not to be tempted by the wicked devil,” and Jesus’ response is, “‘What is your merit when you do the will of the Father if it is not given to you by him as a gift, while you are tempted by Satan?’”; this is similar to what James writes in 1:13-14, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘ God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” The elder James of the NT understands temptation in the letter, but in the gospel he is confused.

The gospel of James discusses what happened to the apostles when Christ came back—The gospels of Bartholomew and Nicodemus explain where Jesus went. In Hebrews Paul makes some reference to battles of angels, and hell, but it is not clear what he is referring to; Bartholomew and Nicodemus show what was on the minds of early Christians, and maybe what was on the mind of Paul as he wrote Hebrews. They each tell us, brutally at times, that there is a war going on in hell, and Satan is behind it. When Christ is crucified he goes down to hell, and frees the patriarchs of the Old Testament.

Like the apocryphal text already mentioned, both Bartholomew and Nicodemus rely heavily on the Old and New Testament. From the Old Testament each mentions the patriarchs in hell, and Nicodemus explains that Enoch and Elijah are the only ones not there. From the New Testament there are the resolution of Pilate, and the more detailed account of whether Nicodemus was a follower of Christ.

So far I have explained what happened before the baptism of Christ, and what happened after the resurrection of Christ, but I have made little mention of the ones who spread the good news, and founded the Christian church. The final half of this paper will discuss what happened to the apostles, and why they are of equal importance to the other apocryphal text.

In the NT the only book that gives a complete account of the apostles is the Acts Of the Apostles; this is likely a reason why the apocryphal acts were popular—early Christians wanted to know more about the men who had established Christianity. Popularity of the apostles was not the only reason for the works, however; telling the stories of what happened to them was one way they could spread Christianity throughout the empire, and in fact one of the similarities between all the acts is each has a evangelical message.

One common reason not to believe in Christ during the time the works were written, was that they, the people, felt they were not worthy. There may have been a Christ who did miracles and rose from the dead, but he was only for the Jews; their sins were too great to ever be forgiven. Each of the acts in their own way would have helped people understand how they could also become Christians.

The Acts Of John best shows how Christians were using stories to help spread the message of Christ. It portrays a humble John who helps many of the characters realize why they too are able to obtain something so great. It shows a older John who is patient, and probably not carrying the nickname son of thunder any longer. In contrast to the John of the NT who is philosophical, wanting to know everything, and having a quick temper, this John is patient; in one story a man paints John like a god, and John, instead of being quick tempered for doing such a sinful act, turns the situation around to Christ and converts the man.

The Acts of Peter, Paul, and Thomas, are also evangelical, but are written to help people who are already Christians. Each carries the theme of being chaste, a popular value for the early Christians who thought the end was coming soon. Peter also shows the famous upside down death of the apostle that has since been popular in art and legend. Thomas gives to the early Christians an image of what the kingdom of heaven is. Paul gives the popular literary motif of Christians doing evil. Each shows the reader how to live a more Christian life.

Finally, The Acts Of Andrew is written for Christians who struggled. Like John it is evangelical, and seeming to be directed at sinners, but equally it gives reasons for the Christians who were enduring the trials of persecution. 1 Peter 3:15 says to always “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you,” the Acts Of Andrew certainly do just that. Romans and non-Christians during the time this was written were enduring many trials, and the question everyone was asking was why—Andrew answers this.

The emphasis of these texts was not to raise support for a doctrinal issue during the time, though they did do this; the emphasis was to spread the news of Christ. While most of the writing does not come close to the quality of writing found in the NT, they did help Christianity grow. Without them it would be hard to say how many people would not have become Christians.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam

Since I didn't grow up in a really religious home, sometimes I feel like I missed out on a lot: vacation Bible school, youth groups, Sunday school, etc. But then there are things that I'm glad I missed out on, like Little Marcy:

Instead I grew up with this:

So I guess having a secular upbringing does have some perks.