I invite you to look at--

My Website where you will find: ordering information and chapter summaries for The Beauty of God for a Broken World; audio sermons; a few poems and hymns; and some other essays.

My Videos where you will find a few two-minute videos on various subjects related to The Beauty of God for a Broken World.


Monday, July 26, 2010

In Praise of Science Fiction

To judge books and movies by their covers, a great deal of current science fiction seems to rest on two stable pillars—boobs and blasters. This is cheap fodder for the gut, but it often lacks what science fiction is best suited to provide—that, is stimulating food for the mind.

One of the easiest ways to make this point is to compare Isaac Asimov’s I Robot with the movie of the same name. The book is a series of challenging intellectual puzzles based on Asimov’s famous “three laws of robotics.” The movie has more in common with Rambo or Terminator than it does with anything Asimov ever wrote.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good action movie. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic that is hard to surpass. (Certainly, its sequels are not its equals.) But all action movies typically offer is a temporary escape from the ordinary business of living. There is nothing wrong with that from time to time, as long as we don’t start living for the next escape.

The better science fiction, however, raises the life’s big questions: What does it mean to be human? Are there other intelligent beings in the universe, and what forms might they take? How might human beings behave if placed in an alien environment? Can we change the present by visiting the past? Where are we headed, both as individuals and as a species?

Consider briefly science fiction’s concern for the future. The suggested scenarios vary widely, of course. Will evolution take a negative turn leading to The Planet of the Apes? Will we be dominated by a super-computer that becomes a virtual deity? Will aliens be our friends or our nemesis?

Asimov’s most enduring vision pictures a galactic civilization that is threatened by chaos. His Foundation Trilogy, its sequels and its prequel suggest that the distant future will be guided through the chaos by the force of mind rather than by technology. In these books, he brilliantly unifies his early I Robot with a later series of robot mysteries solved by the detective Lij Bailey.

From a Christian perspective, the important thing about good science fiction is not the specific future it envisions but the fact that it asks us to look ahead. The current furor over global warming and an increasing concern about a devastating collision with a huge chunk of space rock may have a similar effect.

Without something to draw our attention to the future, we easily develop a constricted view of life. We get up, eat breakfast, go to our jobs, fuss at our co-workers, go home, have supper, numb our minds with an hour or two of television, drop into bed and get up the next day to do it all over again.

If science fiction (or even fictional science, which one side or the other of the global warming debate must be) causes us to think about the future, it has done us a service. Certainly, most people think about the future in these ways without ever giving heed to the Bible’s infallible prediction of what is to come. But no one who is oblivious to the future can be saved. One of the essential doctrines of the New Testament is that Jesus, who died, came to life again and will return to judge the living and the dead.

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

Though this future alone is true, other imagined futures do not thereby become irrelevant. Just as the pagan myths of a dying, rising god found their ultimate fulfillment in Christ, so the hopes and fears embodied in the most provocative science fiction find their fulfillment in the twin destines of all human beings. Heaven is more exciting than the best of our dreams; hell is more dreadful than the worst of them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Royal Marriage

Psalm 45 celebrates the marriage of an idealized Israelite king. In view of the New Testament’s use of this Psalm (Hebrews 1) and the frequent scriptural use of the marriage metaphor to describe God’s relationship to His people, we read the psalm as a celebration of Christ’s relationship to His church.

Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him (v. 11).

What does it mean for the church to bow before her heavenly husband? An ancient earthly example may help us sense the flavor of this verse. Bathsheba was King David’s favorite wife. God had chosen her son Solomon to be King after David, and David had conveyed this promise to Bathsheba and Solomon. However, in David’s old age, one of his other sons, Adonijah, proclaimed himself king without David’s knowledge. This immediately put the lives of Bathsheba and Solomon in danger. If nothing were done, Adonijah would kill them as soon as David died. So Bathsheba went into the king’s bedroom to ask him to straighten things out (which he did). This is how she came—

So Bathsheba went in to the king in the bedroom. Now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering to the king. 16 Then Bathsheba bowed and prostrated herself before the king. And the king said, "What do you wish?" (1 Kings 1:15-16).

After David had spoken with Nathan the prophet about the situation, he called for Bathsheba to come back in.

Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and prostrated herself before the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever” (v.31).

Think about this. David and Bathsheba might have been married two decades by this time. She was his favorite wife. Her son was the designated heir. But when she comes in before the king, she kneels down and bends over until her face is on the floor. David is her lord. David is her king as well as her husband. That is what Psalm 45:11 means when it says, Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.

We must never become so familiar with Jesus Christ that we treat Him like one of our buddies. You and your neighbor may just walk into each other’s houses without knocking—there are some people who do that—but you cannot do that with the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though He loves you, and He wants to spend time listening to you and talking to you, He is still too great a king for you to treat Him with casual disrespect. He is never too busy for you. Your smallest troubles or blessings are not beneath His notice. He wants to hear about them. But still, He is the King, and like Bathsheba, when you come into His presence, humble yourself before Him. He is worthy of your worship because He is a glorious husband and He will transform His people by His grace into a glorious bride.