I spent a good bit of time working on this over the last week, and I hope you’ll find it helpful.
Last week saw the premiere of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, and with it a (predictable) storm of controversy from the evangelical community. Reviews have ranged from predictably critical to outright disdain to hostile readings, and from strongly (though not unreservedly) positive to more restrained restrained affirmation of the film on aesthetic and spiritual grounds to especially measured theological and artistic engagement. In short, the responses spanned exactly the range one would expect from the evangelical community, which is itself deeply divided on the purpose, value, and meaning of the arts—decades of conversation on the topic notwithstanding. Noah works as a sort of theological-artistic Rorschach test. We seem to find it in what we expect given its origins and our disposition.
Rather than offer another review (which would add nothing to the conversation at this point), or decry once again the predictable evangelical response to the arts, or even critique reviews with which I disagreed, I thought it might be useful instead to ask where we stand today and point to a few places we might grow from this.
I think you’ll find the rest of the piece salient and helpful.
This bit by Alastair Reynolds is an excellent summary of the position to which I have slowly come over the last few years of reflection on the question of physical death before the Fall. It shows the influence of patristic thought in the best way possible, and also demonstrates a great handle on the bigger picture of salvation history in the whole of the canon.
A few salient quotes. First, on moral and physical perfection:
Perfection was not the creation’s natural state, but its intended destiny (and salvation is not a ‘rebooting’ of creation to its primary state, but the restoring of creation to the future that God originally intended for it)….
With perfection, our wills will be so capable of apprehending our good that we will no longer be capable of willing to do evil, not by virtue of some external compulsion, but by virtue of mature wills and natures and their appropriate mutual correspondence.
And then from the conclusion, which I positively loved:
First, Christ’s obedience is not about ‘innocence’ but about ‘perfection’. Christ brings humanity to the height and fullness of its divinely intended moral stature. He gives us, not merely innocence or obedience, but full maturity.
Second, humanity was always intended to die and rise again to a more glorious form of life. Christ death and resurrection achieves this destiny.
Third, as the last Adam, Christ will pacify and tame the entire creation, ruling until every enemy is placed under his feet.
Fourth, as we are in Christ, the bad character of death is minimized. We are not unclothed to be left naked, but in order to be more fully clothed, to have death swallowed up in life. We are still subject to the hostile attacks of the world and to the possibility of death within it, but Christ is the Tree of Life and we have unrestricted access to him. Death is no longer the alienating power that it once was.
This is a great read, start to finish. “Death Before the Fall”
My latest piece over at Mere Orthodoxy (and the first such in too long):
It has been common these past few years to speak of “incarnational theology” as a way of describing the Christian mission to the world: we ought to “incarnate” Christ to the world as Christ “incarnated” the Godhead to us. There is much to appreciate in this sentiment…. Yet for all that, I think that applying the language of incarnation to believers is a serious mistake.
The Incarnation matters, and it matters as more than a means of getting Jesus to the cross so that he could die for our sins. We evangelicals too often reduce everything to penal substitutionary atonement. Yes, the atonement is incredible and amazing. It is one of the central affirmations and joys of the Christian faith: our sins are paid for! Glory to God! But Jesus did more than that, and he is worthy of yet more praise. He did not stop at paying the price for our sins while leaving our bodies subject to corruption. He did not content himself with performing a judicial act while leaving our wills broken, certain to turn again to the same sin that led to our death in the first place.
I think this is the best thing I’ve written so far this year; I hope you find it stimulating.
Christ and Pop Culture has some great follow-up on the link I posted last week:
If you run in certain Facebook circles, you’ve likely already read that North Korean leader Kim Jung-un has called for the execution of 33 North Korean Christians. According to the widely circulated reports, these 33 people were detained after it was discovered they had ties to Kim Jung-wook, a South Korean missionary whose arrest for religious activity last year has made international headlines….
But here’s the thing: No one can verify this call for executions actually took place.
A great example of journalism done right, and of how Christians ought to carry ourselves in the public square. It matters whether our facts are right or not— even when the “message” might be right either way. The whole thing is worth your time.
Great piece here from Alan Noble, who is increasingly showing himself to be one of the sharpest guys around.
It seems inevitable that our country will try to combat generational poverty and all its great harms by investing heavily in early childhood intervention. We already see signs of the State moving towards such programs with President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address and Mayor de Blasio’s expanded pre-K. Tragically and despite enormous costs, de Blasio’s pre-K initiative in New York will most likely have very modest results, particularly since it begins intervention at age four, so late in the child’s mental development. The question for the church is, will we allow the state to take the initiative, or will we take up this task and engender the kind of deep, redemptive healing that the state can only dream of?
The Washington Times reports:
North Korea tyrant Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered that 33 Christians believed to be working alongside South Korean Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook be put to death.
N.b. the source is Breitbart, which I usually take with a very large grain of salt—but this is not exactly surprising for Kim Jong-un or North Korea, so it is deserving of further investigation and prayer in any case.
Pretty damning of the current (lack of a) regulatory regime, if you ask me:
According to a recent study by Ookla Speedtest, the U.S. ranks a shocking 31st in the world in terms of average download speeds. The leaders in the world are Hong Kong at 72.49 Mbps and Singapore on 58.84 Mbps. And America? Averaging speeds of 20.77 Mbps, it falls behind countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay.