Saturday, December 19, 2015

The visual power of music

Matthew Continetti writes The Star Wars Symphony, a December 19th article on NRO, and he nails it!!
Star Wars was created, in many respects, by the sounds and the score, much more than the script. As I said on a Facebook post, the score is so evocative that you could practically write the screenplay from the music alone.

This is a delightful characteristic possessed not only by Star Wars episodes 4-6, but also by the entire Lord of the Rings franchise. The music makes the movie.

There are no spoilers in Continetti's article. Read, enjoy, understand.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What's happened to American academics?

One would like to think that advanced educational attainment is not a dominant factor in causing people to lose all common sense, but after this week I am beginning to wonder.

I found myself having a cordial but firm disagreement with a young lady who possesses a Masters and Bachelors in History and who teaches history in a local community college. She was admonishing a young college student who is in my church regarding Islam. She made the claim that “Muslims are not violent. ISIS is not Muslim if you study their history. ISIS is to Islam in the same manner the KKK is to Christianity. Can't label billions for the actions of a few.

Certainly I agree with her that you can’t label the billions for the actions of a few. But I am astounded that a woman who teaches history would have such an unhistorical knowledge of the background of Islam. A native of Mecca, Muhammad’s new religion was not accepted—at first—by the other tribes around him. They were polytheists and he was selling monotheism. He fled from Mecca to Medina, where he had greater success in building a following. Mecca itself later converted under the threat of the sword in the early seventh century. The rapid expansion of Islam in the entire Mediterranean region occurred primarily by military conquest, or the threat thereof. Islamic violence is not breaking news, it is a deep-rooted part of their history and finds vigorous theological support in the Quran. ISIS is perhaps the most faithful representation of Islamic roots that we have seen in the modern day.

She is correct that most Muslims today do not pursue violent jihad. Some have reinterpreted the Quran to view jihad as a personal spiritual battle in their pursuit of personal Islamic purity. But it will be unhelpful from both a national policy and personal relational standpoint to revise the history of Islam. Relationships built upon falsehoods are inherently unstable and unsustainable.

The second moment of dismay with academics this week also had to do with Islam. According to an article by Jessica Chasmar appearing in the Washington Times(12/16/2015), a “Christian” tenured Wheaton College faculty member said this:
“I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity. I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

I agree with her that we need to love our neighbor, including and especially our Muslim neighbors at a time like this. And I can grant her the stated reason of “human dignity,” though I would frame it a different way: we should love our neighbor because Christ commands us to and because all humans bear the image of God.

But her other reasons are simply incoherent. By definition a Christian is one who places their faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins. Muslims don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross, period. Which sort of puts a kibosh on the resurrection, too, you know? In other words, they deny the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Soooo, in what way exactly can she stand in “religious solidarity” with them?

Secondly, they are indeed people of the book. But it’s the wrong book. This is not trivial sectarianism. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING we know about God and redemptive history comes from the Bible. You don’t lose part of it in the Quran—you lose all of it. Soooo, how can this “Christian” professor make such a claim, tell me again?

Third, I am to understand that we worship the same God? Really? In fact, there is no resemblance, neither superficial nor at greater depth. The true God, the Christian God, exists as one God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That truth is abominable to the Muslim. Both Christians and Muslims claim that their God is merciful, so that might be a similarity—until you dig deeper, anyway. Then you find that the true God of the Bible is merciful because it is His nature to be merciful and He always acts in perfect accord with who He is. Allah is not so. Allah is pure will. Islam does not think in terms of the attributes of its deity, only in terms of his will. Allah is only merciful if he decides to be so, and he may decide not to be. There is simply no correlation to be made between the true God of the Bible and the god of Islam—unless one is entirely ignorant of one or the other—or of both.

I applaud this professor’s desire to love her neighbor and to avoid disenfranchising her Muslim friends, and I stand with her in that regard. But if you stop and think about her words for just a moment you’ll realize she has dishonored both Christian and Islamic belief by trying to forge a non-existent via media between two irreconcilable belief systems. I certainly can’t stand with her there.

America once had a great educational system. But the words of these two educators make me wonder, what’s happened to American academics? They are not getting even the most basic facts right.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Intractable problems

Sin has immensely complicated matters in a fallen world, to the point at which in some cases there are not only no easy answers, there may not be any good answers. The expression of Christian love toward Syrian refuges may put at risk my neighbor. How is that loving? But refusing mercy to Syrian  refugees is not loving either. It is a conundrum, and I shouldn't be too quick to condemn people on either side of the issue.

There is only One who is able to bring resolution to a world intractably complicated by fallenness. In this Christmas season, I am glad that I belong to Jesus Christ, who has become to me wisdom, righteousness, and redemption.

Here's an article worth reading on the subject.