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Blood work

Free eBook this Easter

Hi everyone,

Here at Thinking Matters, we love free stuff, and here is something that is just that…FREE!

Reformation Trust is making the ebook edition of Anthony Carter’s Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, completely free.

What does it mean to be redeemed by the Blood of Christ? Check out this book and see. It is true that this book is not on the subject of apologetics, however, it is still important as thinking Christians for us to understand our own faith.

Enjoy!

 

This post is courtesy of Ligonier Ministries.

The Unique Gift of Christmas

“No other religion–whether secularism, Greco-Roman paganism, Eastern religion, Judaism, or Islam–believes God became breakable or suffered or had a body. Eastern religion believes the physical is illusion. Greco-Romans believe the physical is bad. Judaism and Islam don’t believe God would do such a thing as live in the flesh.

But Christmas teaches that God is concerned not only with the spiritual, because he is not just a spirit anymore. He has a body. He knows what it’s like to be poor, to be a refugee, to face persecution and hunger, to be beaten and stabbed. He knows what it is like to be dead. Therefore, when we put together the incarnation and the resurrection, we see that God is not just concerned about the spirit, but he also cares about the body. He created the spirit and the body, and he will redeem the spirit and the body.

Christmas shows us that God is not just concerned about spiritual problems but physical problems too. So we can talk about redeeming people from guilt and unbelief, as well as creating safe streets and affordable housing for the poor, in the same breath. Because Jesus himself is not just a spirit but also has a body, the gift of Christmas is a passion for justice.

But Christians have not only a passion for justice but also the knowledge that, in the end, justice will triumph. Confidence in the justice of God makes the most realistic passion for justice possible.”

Tim Keller in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway Books, 2008).

Watchmen

Watchmen is set in an alternative America during Nixon’s third term as president in 1985. The main characters are masked-heroes struggling, each in their own unique way, with their purpose after vigilantes were outlawed in 1977. They are drawn together again when the Comedian is assassinated, and each confronts the wretched state of humanity that is pulling the threat of nuclear holocaust ever closer.
The Christological themes are not altogether absent, but they are obscured by the films more prominent concerns. They are like shadows cast by the convergence of a ubiquitous hamartia[1] and a deep existential longing for redemption. The world is steeped in sin; child prostitutes and drug-dealers line walkways, brutal gang violence and psychotic criminals overflow the streets, pollution, greed in business, distrust in politics, all driven by the inertia of the corrupt condition of the human heart combine to create an imminent “doomsday” scenario. In this world there are still heroes who have hope, and strive for peace and justice. They are by no means perfect, but each in their effort to overcome and to right the status quo demonstrate qualities that we could likewise attribute to Christ.[2]

The Comedian is part just and part unjust. Embittered by the emptiness of the American Dream and the savagery of human nature he becomes a brutal cynic. Seeing the rot and wickedness of the world clearly, he fashions his persona into a parody of it. When told of the difficulty of discerning whether he is joking or being serious, he replies with rancor, “I am the joke.” The movie begins with his death and revolves around the mystery of his murder, his back-story and the discoveries he made which he led to his repentance and demise. The Comedian’s death is initially taken to mean we live in a sad world.[3] But his death comes to mean something else – that savage human nature gets the last laugh after all, for there is no real transformation.[4]

Our main narrator is Rorschach[5], whose namesake’s patterns adorn his mask. Haunting the city streets he uncompromisingly seeks and speaks the truth. Distributing justice mercilessly, his biting social commentary is dark and as deep as his melancholy. His mask shows criminals the corruption of their soul when they gaze upon it, shortly before they receive their just punishment. Reflecting on his back-story and the evil he sees in front and behind the mask, his insight is valid.

“ . . . If God saw what any of us did that night he didn’t seem to mind. From then on I knew – God doesn’t make the world this way. We do.”

The shadow Rorschach casts is Christological. Of his last journey, seeking to right the wrongs of the world: a final plight that will lead to his death, he says, “I live my life free of compromise, and step into the shadow without complaint or regret.” And it is this, “not even in the face of Armageddon,” for which he is killed: his body the last corpse on the foundation of a newly forged peace.

Nite Owl is the Batman of Watchmen, his secret identity is Daniel Dreiberg, a geeky, middle-class version of Bruce Wayne. He spends his time reminiscing about days gone by, afraid to take up the suit he once put down.[6] Like Christ he enters into the peoples suffering, becoming one of them. In desperate times he holds on to hope, and gives that to others. He is the only person with ties of friendship to all the rest, breaking through their solitary existence. Accordingly, he is constantly taking up the role of peacemaker.

Then there is Ozy, the fastest and smartest man in the world. His response to superhero exile was to go public, receive the admiration of the masses and turn his incredible intellect and wealth to the task of saving the world, ostensibly from ecological disaster,[7] and secretly from the savagery of the human heart. Given his vision[8] to unite the world “not in conquest, but by conquest of the evils that beset [men]” he plays the part of an anti-Christ. He is without scruples in his ambition.[9] Ozy is short for Ozymandias, a name taken from the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, the words of which are inscribed on a statue in his artic palace.

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look upon my works, ye mighty and despair.”

Watchmen’s acquisition of these words is as ironic as Shelley’s, for the very next lines read,

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”

The message is that nothing lasts; even the mighty deeds of men will decay. The movie ends with Rorschach’s journal about to be read, and with the truth Ozy’s grand plan[10] will lay in ruins, just as Shelly’s fictional Ozymandias lies in ruins.

It would be easy to make Dr Manhattan a type of the God-man in scripture.[11] Jon Osterman, in a laboratory accident has his body pulled apart and refashioned with amazing abilities, making him Dr Manhattan.[12] He is however the image of Nietzsche’s ubermensch.[13] He is an atheist. Often compared to God, he always says he is not – “If he exists, I am nothing like him.”

However, he seems to allow that he is the closest thing to God there can be,[14] though far from perfect. Since his accident he moves from apathy to antipathy, becoming the consummate nihilist. Accused of loosing touch with humanity he struggles to find a reason to save the world.[15] Not until he is convinced by a miracle that life is indeed precious, does he make an effort to save humanity. Only he arrives too late. Ozy has detonated a nuclear bomb with radiation that points to Dr Manhattan as the cause. Like Christ, Dr Manhattan stoically takes the blame, and as a scapegoat “ascends” to another galaxy forever. In this he ensures that the peace forged in the wake of this tragedy endures. The Christological parallel goes beyond his sacrificial substitution. Night Owl says that the peace will remain as long as people believe that Dr Manhattan is watching them.[16]

The message of Watchmen hiding under the covers of nihilism seems to be if there is going to be salvation there needs to be sacrifice[17] from a god-like being. If salvation is going to be permanent and genuine there needs to be a perfection of humanness – something no hero had – not even Dr Manhattan. [18] The Silk Specter says, “Jon would say, ‘Nothing ever ends.’” This reveals the danger from the human predicament is not over: until human nature is made right there can be no utopia – things will continue as they always have. And in this we can discern a longing for redemption, a longing we know is only satisfied in the true God-man, the perfect human, Jesus Christ.


Footnotes

[1] A fatal flaw leading to a downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.

[2] They are not Christ figures, but they can be interpreted meaningfully as Christ symbols.

[3] Night Owl agrees that there aren’t many laughs around these days, because “…the comedian is dead.” The idea is now there is no one left to make us laugh at ourselves. And as long as we could laugh at ourselves, we could forget our truly miserable state.

[4] The real practical joke in the end is that man is not idealized (genuinely made better), but deformed (even more deceived, twisted).

[5] The name of the inventor of the ink-blotch picture cards used in psychotherapy

[6] He recalls that when looking through his special goggles, “no matter how dark things got, everything was as clear as day.”

[7] His solution is to discover alternative energy sources and freely provide them, thus eliminating the need for war over resources, and saving the world from the inevitable nuclear holocaust.

[8] He draws his inspiration from Alexander the Great

[9] A sinister version of the wizard behind the curtain

[10] To deceive the world so they would unite in peace.

[11] Dr. Manhattan becomes an extraordinary genius. With the power of his thoughts he is able to create and destroy, see the past and the future simultaneously, move things with his mind and telelport himself or others. When he won the Vietnamese war for America the Viet Cong wished to surrender to him personally, revering him as a god.

[12] A name “to strike fear into the hearts of America’s enemies.” Also a name to reflect his ability to manipulate atomic structures.

[13] A super-man, physically and mentally superior, that will arise out of the masses and create new human values. Strong values like “might is right” unlike the weak values given by Christianity such as sacrificial love, compassion and equality.

[14] The original Night Owl describes his arrival in his book as “the dawn of the superhero.” His physicist friend comments on the television;

“You see at the time I was misquoted. I never said, “The superman exists, and he is American.” What I said was, “God exists, and he is American.” Now if you begin to feel an intense and crushing feeling of religious terror at the concept, don’t be alarmed. That indicates only that you are still sane.”

[15] The Silk Specter II says to him “you know how everything in this world fits together except people.” and says the world for him is like walking through mist where people are just shadows in a fog. This is confirmed by his response on the talk show, revealing his radical physical reductionist view of human persons. When falsely accused of causing people cancer he says, “Even if it’s true, it’s irrelevant. A live human body and a deceased human body have the same number of particles. Structurally there’s no difference.”

[16] This seems to offer the answer the question, as the poet Juvenal put it, “Who watches the Watchmen?” tagged on a shop window in the opening sequence. To God we are all accountable. In a world without God, there is no one to prevent the gross misconduct of the powerful authorities.

[17] The incredulous words of Ozy to a distraught Nite Owl, “Dan, Come on. A world united in peace – there had to be sacrifice.”

[18] Rorschach accuses Dr Manhattan, “Suddenly you discover humanity? Convenient. If you’d cared from the start, none of this [mass destruction] would have happened.”

Dr Manhattan, as powerful as he is, is not able to change to human nature. This task was also beyond the reach of Ozy. He had to create the world’s biggest practical joke with mass murder to achieve his utopia, and even this was, as the poet Shelley writes, impermanent. It was built on a lie. If the two greatest men in the world cannot come close to righting the human predicament by changing human nature, it follows something a lot closer to perfection is needed than them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – a Christian novel?

 – WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS – 

 

The furor over J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in Christian circles is now a cause for shame-faced admissions of mistake. One is reminded of a similar stir caused by the release of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, seen then to be an advertisement for the occult and guilty of leading children astray. While many were crying foul, others were convinced that Rowling was writing from within the Christian worldview. With Rowling revealing herself a Christian after the release of the seventh book, perhaps it is time to cede her the award for the greatest Christian fiction novel ever written.

These books show the wonder and beauty of creation. They are full of life, love and laughter, fantasy and fun. Just consider the game Quidditch, the joy of soaring unfettered in the air with the wind in your hair; the delight of discovery; the cute and cuddly Pinkie-Puffs; the humour of Fred and George Weasley; the myriad of magical creatures that Hagrid adores, all set in the beautiful grounds of Hogwarts.

In these books is the awful reality of sin, evil and suffering. See the creeping shadow of a man possessed, sucking the blood of a dead unicorn; the Dementors breeding despair, administering the kiss of death and sucking out their victims’ souls; the corruption of human government where “Magic is Might”; the cruel bigotry towards House-Elves, Goblins and Centaurs; the pride of Percy and the tears of Mrs. Weasley tormented by a Boggart.

In these books is a longing for redemption. The deprivation of family imbues Harry with a sense that something is wrong with the world, and this acute awareness drives him to protect his friends when in jeopardy. Consider his love of life, tempered by the willingness to give it up for the ones he loves. He sees the world around him as it is, and this brings a constant challenge to overcome injustice and cruelty with courage, grit and determination.

The underlying message becomes explicit when Harry visits the graveyard in Godrick’s Hollow and finds his and Dumbledore’s family burial-plots. Engraved in stone are the words, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and “The last that shall be destroyed is death” – two scriptures that encapsulate the Christian themes of the series: death and redemption.

Rowling deals with these sensitively, expressing in her imaginary world truths that parallel our own. Where death is like moving just beyond the veil and the reality of an afterlife is shrouded in mystery. Where defeating Death means for one wizard reaching for immortality, and for another wizard reaching out to greet Death as a friend. Where one boy, destined and set apart at birth, freely gives his life for his friends.

Almost every character receives redemption. Kreature is radically transformed in a manner akin to conversion. The despicable Snape unexpectedly becomes “the bravest man I ever met.” Dumbledore’s death is at first a defeat, but eventually revealed as his greatest victory. His deeply human flaws are covered by his wise choices. In the climactic conclusion emerges a staggering analogy. Harry freely sacrifices himself to save the wizarding world. He is then resurrected; the magic in his blood protecting all from the Dark Lord whose power is broken – rendered useless. The world is made anew as the sun rises and light floods the Great Hall.

For the literary novice, the fantasy can be seen as a lure into witchcraft. For the more sophisticated reader, the series – and in particular this final instalment – has been the most charming portrayal of powerful and profound Christian truth. There are few books as satisfying and enjoyable as Harry Potter.