Monday, January 30, 2017

Writers & Movies

Writers & Movies

Many Bible stories have been made into movies, some successful, and some not. I tried once to watch one called ‘Noah’, but was horrified to see how little resemblance it had to the Genesis story! I was left wondering why the writers didn’t stick more closely to the Bible. Of course, not every writer sees the Bible as I do, i.e., as God’s infallible and inerrant Word. Indeed, writers who write books and articles attempting to disprove the Bible’s reliability are legion. Invariable they attempt to show the reader that the Bible is full of contradictions. Then there’s the plethora of writers who convincingly demonstrate the exact opposite!

The Bible was written by around forty writers writing over a period of around fifteen hundred years. Beginning with Moses writing the first five books of the Bible around 1400 BC and ending with the completion of the New Testament, probably before AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple. However, Genesis 5:1 needs to be noted, ‘This is the written account of Adam’s family line.’ The words ‘written account’ or ‘the book of the genealogy of Adam’ suggest the possibility that Moses inherited a ‘book’ dealing with the histories of Adam and his descendants all the way down to Noah and the Flood. For, Genesis 10:1 begins differently. There’s no mention of the word ‘written’: ‘Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood'.

Who, ultimately, were the Bible’s writers writing about? We know the New Testament writers wrote about Jesus, but what about the Old Testament’s writers? Speaking to some Jews Jesus said, ‘You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they that speak of Me’ John 5:39. And, after His resurrection, Jesus spoke to a couple of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, ‘“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures’ Luke 24:44. Thus, Jesus also believes in the veracity of Scripture, and that He is the primary subject!
Jesus even referred to Jonah and the fish, that story that is so hard for some to swallow: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ Matthew 12:40. And, keeping in mind the ‘Noah’ movie with its invented storyline, Jesus says, ‘But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be’ Matthew 24:37-39. Thus Jesus treated Jonah and the fish, Noah and his ark, the Flood etc., as historical events featuring historical people. Therefore, if you are a writer and you are thinking of writing a screenplay about a Bible story, you ought to keep in mind what Jesus Himself thinks about the Bible, Old and New Testaments and their stories: they speak of Him!

Why needlessly get Christians offside by false portrayals of Bible stories? But more importantly, why get Jesus offside?    

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Robert Burns & Hyper-Calvinism

There’s no doubt that Rabbie Burns  (1759-96) had an aversion to Calvinism. I see this aversion in his own writings. Also, I’ve just finished (re-)reading James Barke’s quintet novelization of Rabbie’s life story, in which he brings out Rabbie’s anti-Calvinism loud and clear. However, it tends to be a caricature of Calvinism that’s being attacked by him – what we theologically-minded folk call “hyper-calvinism”.

William Fisher (buried in Ochiltree Cemetery) of “Holy Willie’s Prayer” fame (or infamy) is a prime example of hyper-calvinism (which, of course, has as much to do with Calvinism as Arminianism!) Also, James Barke in “The Wonder of All the Gay World” (the third volume of Barke’s Burns quintet) makes a big deal out of Rabbie supposedly demolishing the morality of one of the Bible’s heroes of faith, ie, King David, (adulterer, murderer etc.) Barke (and maybe Burns himself) seem totally oblivious to the fact that, unlike Freemasonry, Christianity (and certainly Calvinism) is not a system of morality! King David, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses et all are pathetic examples of morality. As am I! These all show our need of a Saviour, ie, that perfect human being, Jesus Christ! In other words, all human beings (apart from Jesus) are immoral. This is what Calvinism teaches.

Though Burns does seem to warm towards “Daddie Auld”, a Presbyterian minister in Machline, “Holy Willie” (as portrayed by Burns) is a gross distortion of Calvinists. Holy Willie is a straw-man argument that has served to help Calvinists like me get verbally whacked in Scotland! Eg, on two different trips to Scotland, I have been verbally abused by militant Atheists. Upon my being introduced as a Presbyterian minister, they have felt the need to declare their hatred for God while gnashing their teeth and swearing at me – before I have even uttered a word! Also, I was amazed at the way some Scots spit at the mere mention of the name “John Knox”. When pressed, they are unable to articulate why they hate Knox, but only that they hate him! For all that, Calvinist Knox is still one of my Scottish heroes! I’m presently enjoying reading “John Knox” by Jane Dawson, (a book that a friend kindly sent me as a gift).

Anyway, back to the subject we are discussing (ie, Rabbie’s aversion to Calvinism). From what I can see, Rabbie never attacked Calvinism! I qualify this bold statement by stating the following: It was that gross distortion called hyper-calvinism that was the subject of the indelible and vitriolic ink that filled Robert Burns’ immortal poison-pen. Therefore, from this Calvinist, kudos to Rabbie for showing the hypocrisy of hyper-calvinism!

Footnote: To become a Freemason, Rabbie would have had to declare a belief in an albeit undefined Supreme Being to gain entrance into the inner workings of the Masonic Lodge. This declaration qualifies him, at the very least, to be called a Deist.

In his “Holy Willie’s Prayer” Burns paints the Mauchline Parish Church’s Elder, William Fisher, as a religious hypocrite. Apparently, he would literally spy through bedroom windows and visit pubs etc., collecting intel (read “gossip”) and report it back to the Church’s Session (ie, Board of Elders), and the local Presbytery (ie, an administrative court consisting of a body of elders and ministers). The hypocrisy is that at times he himself would be guilty of indulging in the debauchery he was condemning.
In the poem, “Holy Willie’s Prayer”, Burns, while acknowledging Calvinist teachings, (such as Original Sin, Predestination and Election), shows that “Holy Willie” is offside with his Church’s Session and with the Presbytery, when these failed to admonish a friend of Burns, one Gavin Hamilton, for travelling and working, instead of reading his Bible, on the Sabbath. This serves to illustrate that Fisher was in conflict with the Church. Eg, “Holy Willie” prays the following:
“Lord, hear my earnest cry and pray’r,
Against that Presbyt’ry o’ Ayr;
Thy strong right hand, Lord mak it bare
Upo’ their heads;
Lord visit them, an’ dinna spare,
For their misdeeds.”
Fisher viewed Burns and Hamilton as “non-elect”, and as such, and in accordance with his Hyper-Calvinism, had no love whatsoever for them, nor showed any grace towards them, believing that he was operating in accordance with God’s view of them. Hyper-Calvinism does not hold the Calvinist Doctrine of “Common Grace”, which teaches that God’s grace extends to all people that on earth do dwell, and not just His elect. Apparently Gavin Hamilton eventually died in a ditch…

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Love & War

‘All’s fair in love and war.’ I respectfully disagree with this adage! I do understand the need for deception in war. Propaganda or ‘fake news’, as it’s being styled nowadays, has its place. For who wants an enemy knowing what you’re really up to? But what about ‘rules of engagement’? These are needed if atrocities are to be avoided, and also the propaganda war to be won. Therefore, all’s not fair in war. But what about in love?

What is love? We know what war is. War is enmity. But where does enmity come from? The Bible has an answer for everything! ‘Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?’ James 4:1. Wars, according to the Bible, come from desires that battle within each of us! But what about love? Where does love come from? ‘God is love’ 1 John 4:8b. God is the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Therefore, love begins with the Triune God. From all eternity to all eternity the Father loves the Son and the Spirit, the Son loves the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Each Person in the Godhead loves the Other Members of the Godhead. Thus, God loves God and He loves His Neighbour (i.e., the Other Persons in the Godhead) as Himself.

The Triune God created humans in His own image. ‘He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created’ Genesis 5:2. Do you have ‘desires for pleasure that war in your members’? Yes? Do you wrestle with cravings?  E.g. for sex, certain foods and drinks, and other things that bring you pleasure? Well, that’s not the way God created you! There are no lusts, cravings, i.e., covetousness in the Godhead. God keeps His 10th Commandment!

Like the Members of the Godhead, all ten of the Commandments interconnect and interpenetrate the others. This is because the Decalogue is an expression of the character of God in whose image we were made. The Decalogue is summed up thus: Love God and your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31 with Deut. 6:4-5 & Lev. 19:18). We don’t do this. According to the Bible, this is where wars come from!

Obviously God didn’t create us like this. Where, then, did it all go wrong for us? It happened in the Garden when Adam sinned against God, i.e., when he broke God’s 10 Commandments that He had written on his heart (e.g. Rom. 2:14-15) by eating the fruit God had forbidden him to eat. See if you can spot the beginning of wars in the following verses spoken between God and Adam right after he’d eaten the forbidden fruit: ‘And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate”’ Genesis 3:11-12. War within? ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ War with God and with neighbour? ‘The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, SHE gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ Don’t forget the Serpent’s primary role, i.e., Satan, the father of lies, the false propaganda-ist, the ‘fake news’ reporter (John 8:44; 1 John 3:12): ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’ Genesis 3:1b.

The Gospel is about reconciliation – first with God, then with neighbour and with self! The Spirit working with the Word in your heart changes war into love – love for God, neighbour and self as God’s image.