The Grove Is On Fire

A Non-Review Of Moses (and Other Epic Bible Films)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Here's my non-review of the new Ridley Scott Moses film "Exodus: God and Kings". It's a non-review because I haven't seen it, and don't have any intention of going to see it unless loads of my young people go and watch it. If you want a real review that talks about the film's problems you can read one here.

If I was a cheap hack1, then the obvious place to start would be comparing Christian Bale's Moses to Christian Bale's Batman. And why not? Moses' origin story is pretty superhero. A child of the persecuted slave people, rescued by miraculous providence and raised in the house of his enemies. He grows strong and well educated and then when he's in the peak of his strength he sees his people being abused and chooses to side with them in secret. I think that at this stage of his life Moses has the Batman narrative going through his head. He shall become the secret protector of the people, hidden in the shadows, working to overcome the oppressive corrupt government and liberate the people. Except of course, he immediately fails. He's seen avenging the Israelites, neither they nor the Egyptians take kindly to his actions. and he runs away to live in the desert as a shepherd for forty years. All of a sudden it's no longer a superhero film.

Okay, so maybe that's a false start to his superhero origin. The actual start to his superhero career really happens forty years later, when a lowly shepherd with a mysterious past finds a burning bush in the middle of the desert, a bush that gives him supernatural guidance and power, but at what cost? Oh wait, that's not what happens either. What happens is God meets him in the desert and Moses attempts to coward his way out of God's plan. He does go back to Egypt, but it's not in awe and thundering terror. It's in timidity and fear. He strides into Pharaoh's court and booms "Let my people go". Except with less striding and more fearful approaching. And with less booming and more standing behind his brother Aaron and getting him to speak instead. It's not very superhero, or even just regular hero, and that's because Moses isn't the hero of the story.

You're never going to tell the story of the Bible right if you make it so the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are the heroes. They're never the true hero of the story. It's always God who is the hero. To be more precise, it's always Christ who is the hero. He is the one who sends the darkness, who strikes down the first born, who parts the waters (Psalm 105:25-45). He's the one who brings His people up out of Egypt by crushing Pharaoh. Moses is not the hero, Christ is.

This is perhaps, why so many bible films struggle to be any good. God essential to the story, so they put him in, but the god they want in the story inevitably doesn't look like Christ. And once God doesn't look like Christ, you've left the biblical story far behind. Imagine a race of aliens creating an artificial earth and going "this sun looks pretty important, so let's put a similarly sized object in the sky" and as their artificial earth orbits this sun-sized lump of rock, they wonder why it can't sustain life. Make a film of the Bible where you get the triune God right, then you can worry about the rest of the characters motivation.

1 Alright, if I was a cheap hack who was writing a review for an actual publication.

Parable of the Polygons - A Playable Post On The Shape Of Society

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

This is a brilliant examination of how society segregates itself. Play through it and it shows why even societies that like diversity end up so segregated. It's the kind of thing that you can share with your young people as a discussion starter. What's interesting, especially given the recent news about the church being the best place for social integration in Britain, is that a society won't start to integrate unless it actively desires to be diverse. It's not enough to not be racist (or classist, or whatever-ist), but even a little desire to be a diverse body seems to make all the difference.

Dead Book Society: The Glory of Christ

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I bit the bullet and reviewed the Glory of Christ, by the incredibly smart, incredibly pastoral, incredibly whatever the opposite of pithy is, John Owen. It's worth reading like a diamond seam is worth mining. It'll take you serious effort, but be abundantly rewarding.

The Apprentice

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What's the underlying narrative in the Apprentice? Spoiler: It's not the real gospel.

The Illuminati and Jesus Christ

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

So, apparently secret devil worshipping companies control most of the energy drinks on the market. Having had the misfortune of drinking some of these, I can see why you'd think that but it's probably not true. The illuminati does not secretly run the soft drink companies. I've got good reasons to believe they also didn't fake September 11th, give the Queen Mother her remarkable long-life, and ensure the end of Britney Spears pop career. But have you ever tried persuading someone who really believes in this stuff that the illuminati don't exist? You can't.

I've speculated as to why conspiracy theories are so prevalent among young people before, but I've not thought too much about how to tackle it. My approach has been to laugh about it and tell them why they're wrong. Clearly a winning approach to any argument. But I was re-reading "Roland Allen's Missionary Methods" and came across this quote about idols and spirits;

"...In heathen lands it might still perhaps be the wiser course to preach constantly the supremacy of Christ over all things spiritual and material, than to deny or deride the very notion of these spirits. Some of our missionaries know, and it were well for others if they did know, that it is much easier to make a man hide from us his belief in devils than it is to eradicate the belief from his heart. By denying their existence or by scoffing at those who believe in them we do not help our converts to overcome them, but only to conceal their fears from us. By preaching the supremacy of Christ we give them a real antidote, we take to them a real Saviour who helps them in their dark hours."

Maybe the illuminati is real. Christ rules over them. What harm can a shady cabal do against those who have Christ as their brother on the throne? Christ is supreme over all governments and rule, whether seen or unseen, physical or spiritual, satanic cult or satanic devils.

Sacred Sociology

Monday, 10 November 2014

Sociology isn't philosophically neutral, but pursues a vision of the "good life and society" as one that "throws off the restrictive, repressive constraints placed on the gratification of individual pleasures and frees everyone to satisfy any pleasure that she or he so desires".

Sociology has a worldview it's trying to push even when it pretends it's neutral. And so it goes with the field of youth work.

Session Plan: Bethlehem Experience - Wise Men Still Seek Him

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

If you're looking for a session plan for a kids club1 this one seems pretty good.

The participants go on a fifteen minute journey which outlines the Christmas story as told in the Gospels. During this interactive adventure they will meet Mary; two excited shepherds; a group of endearing animals, and nasty King Herod! They will also get to have tea in the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

1 I know this is a youth work website, but the chances of a youth worker having to run the kids Christmas party are hardly slim are they?

Halloween: Trick or Treat?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Looking for a halloween video to use? This is still the best one.

Podcast: Being Above Board In Our Evangelism

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

If you are an avid listener to podcasts or if –like me– you occasionally think to download a few then forget about them for months, this Podcast on evangelism with people you have power over, specifically young people and children is well worth listening to, particularly if you've ever struggled with sneaking in a God slot at the end of a youth club that the young people are semi-forced to listen to.

Athanasius on Virginity

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Here's a two line comment Athanasius (297ish - 373 AD) makes in On The Incarnation when giving evidence on how Christ's coming has transformed the world.

Again, who among men, either after his death or while yet living, taught about virginity and did not account this virtue impossible for human beings. But Christ our Saviour and King of all has so prevailed with his teaching on this subject that even children not yet of lawful age promise their virginity which transcends the law.

Athansius' point is this; no-one else has come into the world, taught that virginity is a good thing, and found their teaching obeyed. In fact, no-one's really even tried because they know it's impossible. But Christ comes and teaches that virginity is good and it happens. In fact, even children are going above and beyond the law of no sex outside of marriage, but giving up sex entirely for the rest of their lives. Athanasius himself is one of these people, having given up sex for the sake of the gospel. This is an extraordinary, miraculous thing.

Virginity is not a normal thing for the world. Most try and get out of it as fast as possible. It's the practice of people all over the world to disdain it. So, when teaching young people about sex outside of marriage and virginity and all the rest of it, don't treat it as a minor thing. Teach it as the abnormal major thing that is, a thing only possible because Christ has come, died, rose again, and promises a better life eternally. Your young people (and young adults and older people) will get abuse because they hold on to it, where instead they should be given great honour. This abuse though, is part of their witness that Christ Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe.

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The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. - Psalm 24:1