Friday, April 08, 2005

The Passion of the Christ: A Blessing in Disguise? Part 2

Many have said that the benefit of Mel’s movie is that it gets people talking about Jesus. The unfortunate thing, I have found, is that because of the wrongly placed emphases in the movie, people are generally quick to talk about the wrong things about Jesus. People are quick to talk about the violence in the movie, if the Jews are really to blame for Jesus’ death, and did the crucifixion really happen that way?

In the true gospel story, however, it was not the violence that was front and centre (a concept foreign to the maker of movies like Braveheart and the Patriot). While the brutality Jesus experienced was most likely more horrible than anyone ever reading this post will ever have to go through, that was not the point. The depiction of the suffering of Christ in the movie was at the very least superfluous, if not distracting.

The point of the cross was not how bad the pain was for Jesus. The point of the cross was that he had to die. But removed from the rest of the biblical plotline, audiences everywhere walk away saying, “What did he do that was that bad?” Or else, “Man, the Pilate guy sure was a wimp.” Some even leave saying, “Those crazy Jews, why did they kill an innocent guy?”

I understand that it is impossible for Mel to make a movie that depicts the whole story of redemptive history, but to focus on the cross without giving any background rationale for it makes the evil seem pointless and people leave with more questions than answers.

God created the world, and the world was good. But when man was tempted to disobey God’s command, he did it. Adam, our first representative, chose to sin. He thought what he wanted outweighed what God commanded. He thought that he knew the way he could be happy and that God’s command was keeping him back from that.

But like God had warned Adam, in the day when he sinned, he would surely die. Sin brings death. That was what God told Adam from the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned, God killed an animal so he could cover their nakedness (ie. their shame). It was a picture that to cover their guilt, death would have to come.

They were cast out of the Garden where they lived with God, because sin cannot be in the presence of God. The whole rest of the Old Testament functions as witness to this fact… Even before the Law was given on Mt. Sinai. That’s why Paul could write in his letter to the Romans that from Adam until Moses sin and death still reigned.

So what about the Law? Could it save? No! The power of the Law was sin and death. As Paul said, “I wouldn’t have known what it was to covet if the Law hadn’t said ‘Do not covet’.” The Law functioned to stir people up to more sin, and to make their transgression obvious! Which of us hasn’t had an experience like this? We have no inclination to do something until we’re told not to do it. Then, once we know that we can’t do it, that’s exactly when we want to do it! And our sin becomes all the more obvious.

So we (each and every one of us) stand guilty before God and unable to live in his presence. Our representative (Adam) fell, and all of us fell in him. But then each of us, once we were born and able to choose right or wrong, chose wrong and bore testimony to the fact that we are fallen creatures. We prove our judgment to be right when we act the way that we do when we make our own choices.

So what can save us? Is it good works? If we do enough good things to outweigh the bad things? Clearly not. Isaiah says that our “good works” are like dirty, old, used menstrual rags before a holy God. Somehow I don’t think that’s the effect we wanted them to have. And the simple fact of the matter is that even if God is saddened by our sin, he cannot simply forgive by ignoring the facts any more than we would want Paul Bernardo’s judge to acquit by ignoring the facts. That’s not fair and it’s not just. But God is a God of mercy, is he not?

How can his mercy and his justice come together to accomplish his purpose of glorifying himself in redeeming an innumerable people from all over the earth? That’s why we have the cross. That’s why Jesus had to die.

To be continued…

Blog has moved already...

Ahh... how sad...

Just a few days old and already obsolete.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, my blog has moved here.

That address is:

I have already made new posts over there and I will post no more here, so check out that one.

Thanks! JLF

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Passion of the Christ: A Blessing in Disguise?

This is to be part one of a few posts with regards to the movie the Passion of the Christ (the Gospel according to Gibson). To say the least, the movie is (1) Roman Catholic, (2) highly speculative, and, (3) has its emphases in the wrong places. Anyone can nit-pick, however, and the film’s flaws have been well documented elsewhere. I recommend (amongst others) this article as a primer for where the biblical, thoughtful Christian should have problems with the movie. That being said, it is not the intention of these posts to slam the movie.

What has moved me to write this series of posts is a recent conversation I had with a friend from work. He approached me–point blank–wondering about the truthfulness of the events depicted in the movie. To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh boy, now where do we start in identifying what was right from what was wrong? How do we separate the fictitious from the factual?”

Almost immediately, however, I had an about-face. Here was an opportunity to share with someone who has very little knowledge of the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection what really happened! And then it hit me… Whatever good the Passion of the Christ has done, it seems that it was done in spite of itself. Now, of course, anecdotal evidence I am sure can be provided (as it can be for just about anything). Someone might say, “I heard of a friend’s sister’s mother’s cousin who broke down in tears at that movie, and she never even went to church before!” or some other variant of that story. But the simple fact of the matter is that (1) we cannot be pragmatic (see Brad Powers’ paper on that topic) about how we present the gospel, and (2) God has used an ass to deliver a message before, but that doesn’t make it ideal.

There are also many positives to be drawn from the movie, however. Not the least of which is that Mel stood up for what he believes. Not many in our world today are willing to put their reputation on the line for their religion–Mel was. Moreover, his attempt to reach today’s audience authentically was admirable. Using pop culture’s current medium of choice, Mel brought the message of hope (as he sees it) to the world of today. Many evangelicals (this writer included) need to learn many lessons in the field of how to communicate the story of God’s salvation accomplished in Jesus more effectively to today’s culture.

The problem, as we have noted, is that Mel’s (Rome’s) gospel is no gospel at all. He has openly confessed that salvation is only in the Roman Catholic Church, and many of the details in the movie show how this belief works itself out.

The most important benefit of the movie is that it has given people like my friend and me opportunities to talk about Jesus. Thinking about, talking about, singing about my Saviour are the things that make me happiest in this world. He is my glory and my joy, and Mel gave me one more chance to do that with one more person. So buddy, when you read this, hang in there. Here’s to many more conversations (in person and online, God-willing) about Jesus and what he has done, is doing, and will do.

That’s it for now… to be continued…

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I had an opportunity today to realize just how powerful general revelation can be. Call me crazy, but working in Niagara Falls, I very rarely actually look at the falls. Today, however, during a break at work, I sat and watched one of the most elegant and beautiful displays of God's power in nature that the world knows for about 10 minutes. I couldn't help but be filled with a longing for God and for all his glory to be revealed in all its splendour and majesty. I think it was something along the lines of what CS Lewis called "homesickness". I was drawn... and I can't help but feel that I'm not alone.

It cannot be denied that there is some mystically divine draw, some special allure to the power and majesty of God that is revealed in nature. Millions of people every year stream to Niagara Falls. It is the honeymoon capital of the world! Why is that? Is it because there are casinos and nice hotels? No... those are there to capitalize on the people that were coming anyway. Rather, people come to Niagara Falls to fall in love, get married, spend their honeymoon, or just to get away, because of the special emotional and spiritual draw to such a place... to such a wonder.

The problem, of course with discussing this draw is similar to the problem of describing why a joke is funny. By the time you're done analyzing it, it is completely demystified, and the mystery is never done justice. It's like trying to explain why just looking at my wife still gives me such a thrill inside... it makes me quiver and smile and want to woo her all over again. But how can you explain why there is that pull? It is, to be sure, more than the sum of its composing parts.

But the effect cannot be denied. God has revealed himself and men the whole world over search for him. And what Augustine said so many hundreds of years ago still rings true in our world today: "You (God) made us for yourself, and our hearts have no rest till they find it in you." God himself is the true sovereign joy, he calls us to himself in things like Niagara Falls by giving us just a hint of the wonder and splendour and majesty and beauty and glory that are his... and we long for that joy. We long for that God, our maker, who knows us intimately, who longs to establish his glory by granting us that ultimate soul-satisfying joy that defeats and casts out any former joy we ever could have known in our sin! What a great God!

But... alas, then it was back to work. It's just interesting to me how it only takes a brief moment to notice all that and to fall all the more in love with our God. But yet how often we go through the day spending hours and hours on meaningless things and never even notice that the wonder all around us was there to be beheld if only we would pause and look...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Launching a "Blog"

To be honest, I never thought I'd be here. Me? Launching a "Blog"? Never! Just recently, in fact I had a conversation with several of my friends over how ridiculous the word "blog" itself is and how we are never going to participate in them for the sole reason that we hate the word.

But... never say never. At this point I'm not even sure what direction this page should go, or if anyone will ever even notice it's here. But, what the heck... might as well give it a shot.

As the blog address would indicate, I'm a Christian. I am reformed and baptistic. I attend Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto and hope to continue my studies at Toronto Baptist Seminary sometime in the near future. I love to read John Piper and DA Carson. Hopefully there will be some more posts of more interest to come.