On Books and Movies

“Oh, the book was better than the movie.”

It’s a commonly heard phrase whenever a film adaptation of a book is released.  Scads of book fans flock to the theaters to see (and judge!) how the the director has envisioned the same material that they have already experienced.  Usually it’s objectively true that the book is far more complex thematically and philosophically than the film adaptation.  You can only cram so much into a 2-3 hour film, after all.  At the same time, there’s more to be said here.

A film is a fundamentally different medium than a novel.  Not only in the way it’s presented, but also in what it asks the audience to do.  In fact, a book does not have a mere audience, for a reader is not a passive viewer or listener, even in the case of one listening to a book in audio format.  The medium of the word, whether written or spoken, is essentially different from visuals.

When an author writes a book, what is asked of the reader is that they be a co-creator with the author.  Oh for a muse of fire!  But the reader’s imagination is just such a muse.  Or it can be.  When an author paints a scene with words, he relies on the reader to fill in all the color and texture, to see the movement in the mind, to hear the voices spoken by actors in their head.

Reading a story is a participatory act.  The author hands you the unfinished materials and submits it in part to your imagination.  “Here, lets create this together,” she says.  And it takes a practiced and imaginative reader to effectively do so.

A film is entirely different.  In film, the director, together with the actors, the lighting crew, the cinematographers, the set builders, the effects department, and the music score composers ask something different.  They ask that you sit passively and watch their vision.  Sure, your mind may consciously engage with the thematic aspects of a movie, but the movie is what it is.

It is a completed work of art.  Self-contained and self-sufficient.  The film I see on the screen is the same film you see on the screen.  We may have different reactions to what we have seen, but we have seen essentially the same thing.  This is what makes film such a fun medium.  The viewer gets to see how someone (or someones) else imagines a thing, which is a thing that cannot be experienced apart from the visual.  And film has come a long way in being able to visually present what could before only be imagined.

Film watching is, by and large, a passive event.  “Here is how we all have imagined this story.  See how we have interpreted the word,” the filmmakers say to the viewer.  And they all ask that you submit for the next couple hours to the vision they have created.

It’s also fun to watch the end credits on a huge summer blockbuster.  If only to remind myself just how many hundreds (or thousands) of people with specialized skill sets it requires to visually represent what one person’s mind can imagine simply by reading words on a page.

The Worship of Angels

Blog is finally up!  So this is a repost, as I am adding it here.  I am indebted to Pastor Wes Baker and Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society on the last Trinity House session’s reading list for a great deal of the following.

Colossians 1:15–16
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Paul begins by telling us that Christ is preeminent above all things.  He is the firstborn of creation.  The “firstborn” speaks not so much of Christ’s origin (though being the eternal Son, He is indeed the first in order as well), but of his status as the heir of all things, worthy of a double portion.  For all things are through him.  So why does Paul’s mind turn immediately to “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”?  Why not name the heavenly bodies of the stars or the various grand features of creation?  While it is true that Christ is creator and preeminent above all those things as well, that is not the burden that Paul has for the Colossian church in this letter.

The four categories Paul names must be read in light of what has immediately preceded them in the text.  Namely, things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.”  Thrones are the visible earthly continuous manifestations of invisible dominionsRulers are individuals, visible persons, behind whom influential and invisible authorities stand.  Christ is creator of, and therefore rightful ruler all these powers that exercise rule over the earth.  Paul’s cosmic worldview, also evident in Ephesians 6 (we wrestle not with flesh and blood, that is, against the rulers and thrones, but against spiritual forces in heavenly places), is based in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 32:8-9
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the LORD’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

Here, each nation was allotted to a “son of God.”  And while “sons of God,” may sometimes mean His covenant people, this reference must mean angelic powers in the same sense as Job 1:6, for we are told that Jacob is then reserved for YHWH Himself.  Each nation has an angelic force behind it, and in most cases, it is become a demonic force.  Each angel was given by YHWH an earthly dominion to rule.  Satan himself is called “the god of this world,” (2 Corinthians 4:3) and the demonic hosts (and therefore the nations) are under his command.  We can see in the temptation of Christ that Satan offers Him the dominion over this world—a way to dominion that does not include the cross—which would be temptation indeed only if it was in some way the devil’s to offer.

It is with this worldview that Paul refers to the thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities.  The “worship of angels” in Colossians 2:18 is integrally connected.  Are we tempted to worship angels today?  In the sense of Colossians, most certainly!  We may not bow down to a spirit named Lucifer, or Wormwood, or Screwtape, or even Gabriel, but we are tempted to bow down to the will of the Roman Empire, or the United States, or the United Kingdom, or Russia, or wherever we may live.  If the State would be God, then inasmuch as we equate the will of our government with the will of God, we are in danger of worshiping angels in the way Paul speaks of it.  That is, we are in danger of submitting ourselves to the dominions and powers which stand behind thrones and rulers, rather than submitting to the kingship of Jesus Christ.  A certain kind of patriotism or nationalism can easily become that worship of angels that Paul is warning us against.

Now, Paul tells us, no longer are we to be enslaved to those authorities and dominions.  All things, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, being created by our Lord Jesus Christ, rightfully belong under His dominion.  Once, we Gentiles were under the dominion of these “elemental spirits.”  We were not of the heritage of Jacob, but under the dominion of the devil.  No longer:

Colossians 2:13–15
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Christ is not only creator.  He was always creator of these things, and had a Divine authority over them, and yet YHWH allowed them to exercise rule in the earth.  But now, things are different.  The nations are no longer given over to demonic powers, for Christ has disarmed those rulers and authorities by His death and resurrection.  He is become the firstborn, not only of creation, but the firstborn from the dead, “so that in all things He might be preeminent.”  By conquering the grave, Jesus has put rulers and authorities to open shame.  We are freed in Him from the dominion of sin and death.  Therefore can Paul say that we are heirs with Christ:

Colossians 1:11–12
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

So the state of affairs in Deuteronomy is no longer the case.  Because Christ has risen from the dead, He is the one who has dominion.  Through His co-heirs and those He has qualified to be called “brethren,” He continually brings those nations under their rightful ruler.  And He will reign until all those enemies have been put beneath His feet.

Heirs According to Promise

Galatians is the epistle of release from the Law.  Chapter 3:15-29 tells us that we are heirs with Christ, the seed of Abraham, who was promised the land, which, as Miguel Echevarria noted in an ETS lecture this morning, is the whole earth, not merely a strip of earth in the Middle East.  Central to this is Christ as the one seed, along with observations from Psalm 2:8.

“Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.”

However, I couldn’t quite track with Echevarria’s conclusions as to the status of that inheritance, which he took to be delayed until the eschaton.  He splits Galatians 4:1-7 into two parts (4:1-2 and 4:3-7), the first speaking of Israel under the law, and the second speaking of us as still as under a guardian, awaiting the full inheritance.

I am quite certain that is not the picture Galatians gives us.  Isn’t the point of Galatians that we are no longer under the Law as guardian?  Rather, I think 4:1-7 tells us that “we,” being in the one seed of Abraham, were once in the position of slaves, under the Law in solidarity with Israel, although rightfully heirs.  But now that Christ is come in the fulness of time, and has redeemed us from under the Law, we have received the adoption of sons.

This inheritance is a present reality, seeing as we are no longer under a guardian.  Therefore, we must now no longer act like slaves, but as mature heirs according to the promise.

A Prima Facie Biblical Case for Covenant (Infant) Baptism

Infant Baptism Meme

I am posting simply Bible passages here, walking through the Biblical argument with minimal commentary or exposition.  I’ll let the text speak for itself, and comment only to point out and emphasize things in the text.  These are not the only supporting texts, nor is this post exhaustive.

The Covenant begins with Abraham.  Circumcision as a covenant sign begins here with the Abrahamic covenant, not with the Mosaic administration:

Genesis 17:1-14
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

It is called an “everlasting covenant.”  Hence, even with the end of the Mosaic administration, the Abrahamic covenant does not end there.  This is also evidenced by other passages, which I’ll get to.  But just keep in mind that circumcision is properly a feature of the Abrahamic covenant, not the Sinaitic.

Circumcision of the heart is not a concept exclusive to the New Covenant, but was commanded and anticipated in the Old Covenant from the very beginning:

Deuteronomy 10:15-16
Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Deuteronomy 30:6
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

Jeremiah 4:4
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

Jeremiah 9:25-26
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

Note that when Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of circumcising hearts, it specifically mentions children.  Offspring are put together with the adults to whom the promise is given.  Keep this in mind for later as well.

Rather than lapsing into obsolescence, the Abrahamic covenant continues on and is fulfilled in Christ, and in all believers through Christ:

Galatians 3:7-9, 16-18, 25-29
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

As God promised Abraham, all nations are blessed through him.  The promise finds its fulfillment with the inclusion of the Gentiles into the covenant:

Ephesians 2:11-13, 19-21
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Just as circumcision was for the infants of the covenant for Abraham, children are not excluded from the covenant with the coming of the New.

Acts 2:39
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

The bloody sign of circumcision is no longer.  But there still remains a covenant sign that corresponds to circumcision.  And remember that circumcision of the heart was promised specifically for offspring in Deuteronomy 30:6:

Colossians 2:11-12
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

The apostles, in keeping with this covenant, baptized whole households with no qualification given:

Acts 16:14-15, 30-34
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.  Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Jesus uses the example of an infant as the state in which one must come to him to enter the kingdom.  The kingdom is for infants and of them:

Luke 18:15-17
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Finally, Paul assumes the holiness of the children of believers when he argues for the sanctification of an unbelieving spouse by a believing one:

1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

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