The Gospel according to Hollywood

hollywood

A theme of Salvation runs through several Hollywood movies. From Maleficent to Snow White and the Huntsman to Independence Day, there is a common story. In spite of the different plots and characters, one finds an unmistakable unifying theme which basically goes like this: Something is wrong with the world. It could be  a spell cast by a powerful witch, an alien invasion or a social condition. There simply is a defect in the way things are. At some point, a Saviour or Deliverer emerges. This could be a superhero, another powerful  (but good) creature, or a new technology. It meets the challenge, there is a battle, and the Hero wins.  Evil is defeated. Once more the beauty and goodness of the world is restored and man lives happily ever after.

This is probably oversimplified, but I think you get the gist. The theme is compelling. It reveals that deep awareness in the human heart that all is not as it should be. We observe the brokenness in homes and families, crime and violence in our cities, heartbreak and pain in relationships, greed and corruption in business and government. We sense  intuitively that it shouldn’t be this way. And so we long for deliverance, for change and, let’s face it, for Salvation.

Because the problem is seen as social, cultural  or environmental in nature, we often seek the change from the Government. We see them as issues that can be resolved through legislation. Bribery is wrong; control it by sentencing anyone convicted of it to 10 years in jail. What about robbery? A jail term of 6 years with hard labour. In other cases, the corruption is seen as a result of a particular individual’s influence. Maybe a king or an emperor. The solution? Change the leader. As a good and powerful king attains power, the fortunes of humanity are reversed and the world is saved.

The problem with the story as told by Hollywood is not that it is untrue. Far from it. So much of it is. The evil in the world is complex, with physical, cultural and environmental dimensions. And this sickness has been on for ages. Also, there is no doubt that leadership (good or bad)  is a significant factor in the course of human history. What would our world have been without people like Moses, King David, Charlemagne, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King Jr? Or who can ignore the negative impact that men like Hitler (Germany), Stalin (the USSR) and Idi Amin (Uganda) have had on their respective societies?

The problem with the Hollywood story is that it is incomplete and one-sided in its depictions. And because of its deficiency, it is inadequate as a story or worldview. Rarely does Hollywood consider man as a spiritual being who must maintain fellowship with His Maker. When it does portray man’s spiritual nature, it often incorporates  some form of nature worship or pantheistic worldview.

The defect we perceive in the world stems from the human heart. The Christian worldview holds that every human is at heart corrupt and sinful. This belief itself is derived from the Bible and is validated by our own experience. We can perceive unkind and unloving thoughts within ourselves. We sometimes make mean and cruel utterances. And we often act selfishly and arrogantly. These are not behaviours induced by our environment or forced upon us by society. They emerge from our very hearts and are reflections of a deformed nature. If this is the problem, therefore the solution must be to get that deformed nature corrected. And this is what the Christian worldview offers in the Gospel. God transforms our hearts through His Spirit, reconciling us to Himself through faith in Jesus. As many more people experience this change and allow it to alter their thinking and their lives, society is affected. Selfish husbands and fathers become loving and caring. Greedy employers and bosses are transformed into godly mentors and leaders. Corrupt government officials begin to use public funds properly in promoting the well-being of their constituents. In this way, society is gradually but truly changed, for it has been first renewed at the source.

Introducing…Lecrae

lecraeI keep a distance from rap music. The reasons are pretty obvious: It tends to glorify violence, promote sexual immorality and idolize money and material possessions. As a whole it seems to promote a culture of pleasure seeking and immorality. However, the rhyme is an aspect I find interesting. There is this tingle of excitement I feel when two or more lines are made to rhyme.  Wouldn’t it be great to reform the genre such that we retain the good and reject the depraved in it? A generation of musicians have emerged doing exactly that, among which one of the most prominent is Lecrae Moore (popularly known as Lecrae).

Lecrae’s lyrics are deep, powerful and depict a Christian worldview – an unusual trait in his musical genre. His music is an example of what it means for Christians to transform cultural art forms. The prevalent mindset in the Church today is either withdrawal from culture or accommodation to a secular outlook, both of which fall short of the biblical mandate to take every thought captive and to seek mind renewal. In the midst of this unbiblical response to the world, Lecrae is a refreshing exception.

Lecrae was raised by his mother, went to church with his grandmother, but concluded that church was for old people. Early on he turned to drugs and women. He became notorious  for his lawless lifestyle and even earned himself a nickname –  ‘Crazy Crae’.

He  came to Christ through the influence of a group of Christians he met in school. According to him, those guys really looked different. They looked like him, dressed like him, and shared the same intellectual world with him, only that they were truly loving and caring. He had always believed Christians to be a dour, legalistic bunch, but here were a group of Christians who didn’t fit that label.  Gradually he came to believe in Christ and his life was forever changed.

The bio on his website describes him as ‘an artist that redefines mainstream popular culture. Thematically, one can find inspiration, faith and honesty in his music. This is an artist who has retained the art form while shaping it with a genuinely Christian content.’

Some lines from one of his songs, Don’t Waste Your Life, reflect this Christian outlook:

We’re created for Him
Outta the dust he made us for Him
Elects us and he saves us for Him
Jesus comes and he raises for Him
Magnify the Father why bother with something lesser
He made us so we could bless Him
To the world we confess Him
Resurrects Him
So I know I got life
Matter fact better man I know I got Christ
If you don’t see His ways in my days and nights
You can hit my brakes you can stop my life
Then I lost my rights
I lost my life
Forget the money cars and toss that ice
The cost is Christ
And they could never offer me anything on the planet that would cost that price.

He was interviewed on The Albert Mohler Program on 16th July 2009 where he expressed his views on the hip-hop genre. According to Lecrae, Hip-hop music came out of people who are economically and socially frustrated. And you can feel this rage in earlier artists within the genre. It developed as a means of expressing their frustration and disappointment.  Overtime, the music took on and people began to enjoy it. And then the money started pouring in. With this they began to celebrate and exalt the money in the music, thus giving rise to the exaltation of self and sensual pleasure in the genre.

The music itself is not the evil. Elements within it could be evil such as the exaltation of self and the promotion of immorality. However, certain aspects such as talking in iambic pentameter over beat, making words rhyme, are positive features that should be redeemed by Christians.

I hope his career inspires many more believers to bring their faith to bear on diverse sectors of modern life.

 

The Justice of God

The justice of God is an essential corrective to a sentimental notion of divine love. The God who loves us is a God too holy to behold sin, and who will not overlook iniquity. How then can he so freely pardon sin?

This is where the attribute of justice comes in: He punishes sin to the full in the person of his son, Jesus Christ,  so he might offer the widest and most generous pardon to mankind!

God’s justice secures his moral integrity. He does not passively allow evil deeds to be carried out with impunity. He beholds all our actions and will bring everything to judgement.

The  Justice of God is an aspect of his righteousness, which is described as

‘that perfection by which He maintains Himself as the Holy One over against every violation of His holiness. In virtue of it He maintains a moral government in the world and imposes a just law on man, rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience’

God is righteous. He is not a passive onlooker in the drama of human history. He oversees all that is being done, and will give out rewards or punishment accordingly.

The scripture speaks of this quality in Ps. 99:4; Isa. 33:22; Rom, 1:32.

 

Living Words – J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937)

‘We look not for a continuation of spiritual conditions that now exist, but for an outburst of new power; we are seeking in particular to arouse youth from its present uncritical repetition of current phrases into some genuine examination of the basis of Machenlife; and we believe that Christianity flourishes not in the darkness, but in the light. A revival of the Christian religion, we believe, will deliver mankind from its present bondage, and like the great revival of the sixteenth century will bring liberty to mankind. Such a revival will be not the work of man but the work of the Spirit of God.’

Living Words – Abraham Kuyper (1837 – 1920)

kuyperIf the battle is to be fought with honour and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power. And this powerful life system is not to be invented nor formulated by ourselves, but is to be taken and applied as it presents itself in history. When thus taken, I found and confessed, and I still hold, that this manifestation of the Christian principle is given us in Calvinism. In Calvinism my heart has found rest. From Calvinism have I drawn the inspiration firmly and resolutely to take my stand in the thick of this great conflict of principles.

The Power of God

Infinite. Limitless. Boundless. These words describe the extent of God’s power as revealed in the Bible.

 Power is the ability or authority to do something. It is also used to mean the control and influence exercised over others. We display power in our daily lives. When we take a stroll outside, when we wash our clothes or cook, these all are instances of power in operation. Supervising a team of executives in the office is also demonstrates power, as well as running an entire organization. In all these, and other instances, we reflect God’s own infinite and unbounded ability.

Power is inherent in God as the ability to do all his holy will. It is designated by the term omnipotence, which is His limitless capacity to effect or bring about all that He desires. It is clear from scripture that God is holy, hence he will never desire or do anything which is opposed to his own holy character. God’s omnipotence therefore means that He can carry out any activity or perform any task He desires, in keeping with his holy character.

 The Bible speaks of this attribute in several places:

 ‘If He takes away, who can hinder Him?

Who can say to Him, “What are You doing?” ’(Job 9:12)

By me kings reign,

And rulers decree justice.’ (Prov 8:15)

‘And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.’ (Deut 8:18) 

‘Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” ‘(Jer 32:26-27)

‘But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ‘ (Matt 19:26)

‘For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,'(Rom 1:20)

‘… and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power’ (Eph 1:19).

God demonstrates his sovereign power in his 3 great works of Creation, Providence and Redemption.

Creation

According to the Bible, God established the universe out of nothing. This was a demonstration of immense creative power. This is referred to in Rom 1:20; 4:17; Isa 44:24.

Providence

This is God’s work of preserving and governing all that he has made. It is an ongoing activity. From day to day God sustains the universe, ensuring that nothing falls out of place. So when we wake up in the morning, when we close a business deal, when a farmer tills the soil, all these are possible because God is working to uphold the universe. And in doing this he demonstrates his limitless power. Heb 1:3; Isa 45:7; Jer 5:22; Amos 4:13

Redemption

The work of redemption was a display of sovereign power. In it, God exercised authority over Satan and defeated sin. When Jesus lay in the tomb, it was by the power of God that he was raised to life. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit continues to work in the life of believers, sanctifying and conforming them to the image of Christ.  1 Cor. 1:24; Rom 1:4,16; Eph 1:19,20; 3:20; 2 Pet 1:3; 2 Cor 9:8.

A Hymn on Work

Behold us, Lord, a little space
From daily tasks set free,
And met within Thy holy place
To rest awhile with Thee.

Around us rolls the ceaseless tide
Of business, toil, and care;
And scarcely can we turn aside
For one brief hour of prayer.

Yet these are not the only walls
Wherein Thou may’st be sought:
On homeliest work Thy blessing falls
In truth and patience wrought.

Thine is the loom, the forge, the mart,
The wealth of land and sea,
The worlds of science and of art,
Revealed and ruled by Thee.

Then let us prove our heavenly birth
In all we do and know;
And claim the kingdom of the earth,
For Thee, and not Thy foe.

Work shall be prayer, if all be wrought
As Thou would have it done;
And prayer, by Thee inspired and taught,
Itself with work be one

John Ellerton (1826 – 1893)