Friday, April 25, 2008

Movie Review: U2 3D

U2 3D [Theatrical Release]I became a fan of the band U2 last night. Until then, I knew of U2’s existence, popularity, and interest in social justice issues but hadn’t really sat down and listened to any of their music. Then the band’s new movie U2 3D arrived in my local cinema and I started reading very positive reviews. One was by a reviewer who was "into" classical music and opera singing. He said he went along to the movie and was "blown away" (my paraphrase). That intrigued me. So, last night, I decided to go and check out the movie. I, too, was "blown away". U2 3D is a concert movie filmed as the band traveled on their 2006 "Vertigo" tour through South America. It is the first live-action movie to be filmed, edited, and shown entirely in 3D using the most number of cameras in any one 3D project. The result is a stunning 92 minutes of music showing just what the 3D medium is capable of. U2 3D is pure concert -- no interviews, no "behind-the-scenes", no narration. From beginning to end I felt like I was actually at the concert and the 3D format is truly phenomenal as I traveled around the stage and up close with the musicians as they were playing. The views from the perspective of the massive audience really made me feel like was there. The cinematography is superb, the band and its music inspirational and exciting, and although the concert has been constructed from seven different concerts, it felt like I was only at one. U2’s lyrics are profound, ironic, and contemporary. There is a very powerful, intimate moment when Bono’s outstretched arm hovers over the audience (including the cinema) as the song, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" becomes a call for world peace between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. U2 3D is only being released in 3D and Imax cinemas so it may not be shown in your cinema if they do not have the technology. But if it comes near you, make sure you go to see it. Even if you are not into rock music, this movie is a must-see. Not only was it entertaining, but the message of the band about social justice hits home with immense power. This movie experience is one of the highlights of my movie year so far. It transcends anything done before. I’m rushing out to find some more of their music! My Rating: ***** (out of 5) Positive Review ’U2 3D takes the well-traveled concert film to exhilarating new heights.’ - Michael Rechtshaffen/The Hollywood Reporter Negative Review ’What it brings to the filming of a rock concert other than novelty remains to be seen.’ Joel Selvin/San Francisco Chronicle USA: G AUS: G

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Book Review: A Theology of Inclusivism

Back in 1987, I came across an article in Christianity Today written by Neal Punt that radically altered my understanding of salvation. Neal’s article, All Are Saved Except introduced his understanding of what he then called biblical universalism. Now, 20 years later, after much dialogue, development, and a heresy trial, Neal Punt writes a definitive explanation of what he now calls evangelical inclusivism. I have travelled with him on this 20 years -- not directly, but in reading all his published books on the topic and his online material. It has been worth the journey! Punt’s starting point is to ask which of the following options is biblical:
  1. All people are lost except those the Bible explicitly states are saved.
  2. All people are saved except those the Bible explicitly states are lost.
Traditionally, the first of these has been the answer to the question of who is saved. Punt presents a compelling and persuasive argument that the Bible teaches the second. On the surface, this shift may seem trivial. It is not. There are profound practical implications for our theology and spirituality. The best way of summarising Punt’s argument is to reproduce his statement of the argument in the introduction of his book:
EVANGELICAL INCLUSIVISM is the teaching that all persons are elect in Christ except those who the Bible expressly declares will be finally lost, namely, those who ultimately reject or remain indifferent to whatever revelation God has given of himself to them, whether in nature/conscience (Rom. 1 & 2) or in gospel presentation. Evangelical inclusivism is based upon these four biblical facts:
  1. The so-called "universalistic" texts speak of a certain-to-be-realized salvation as Calvinists have consistently maintained, and they do so in terms of all persons as Arminians have always affirmed [Punt includes a cross reference to the relevant chapter of his book which I have omitted here and following].
  2. All persons, except Jesus Christ, are liable for and polluted by the imputed sin of Adam (inherited sin). However, the Scriptures neither teach nor imply that anyone is consigned to eternal damnation solely on the basis of their sin in Adam apart from actual, willful, persistent sin on the part of the person so consigned...
  3. We must accept the so-called the so-called "universalistic" texts as written. We may allow only those exceptions that are necessarily imposed upon these passages from the broader context of the Scriptures as a whole...
  4. Jesus "saved" sinners, once for all, by making the supreme sacrifice 2,000 years ago. We speak of this as "objective" salvation. The Bible means something altogether difference when it says Paul set out to "save some" (1 Cor. 9:22). The Holy Spirit "saves" sinners by using human agents to bring the gospel to them. We refer to this as "subjective" salvation. A great amount of confusion results when this distinction is lost sight of... [bold formatting is in the original]
When Punt’s perspective is adopted (and I believe it is absolutely biblical) then we immediately have some answers to some very profound questions that people ask. For example, What happens to children who die at birth? Will they be saved? What about people who never explicitly hear about Jesus Christ and don’t have the opportunity to become Christians? Are we saved by grace alone? or are we saved by grace plus works? The questions go on and on. These and other questions are resolved by adopting Punt’s approach. Personally, I don’t like any of the terms for this view that Punt has come up with so far. The latest one is evangelical inclusivism. The problem with the word evangelical is that it has connotations associated with a particular group of Christians. That might be ok for some, but it does come with considerable baggage in my opinion. My preference would be for biblical inclusivism. Whatever the term, Punt’s book is essential reading for anyone and everyone who has an interest in who will be saved and lost -- and isn’t that all of us? If you want to develop a theology of salvation which is truly based on grace, then A Theology of Inclusivism is an essential book. Related Links Note: I tried to find some extended online arguments against evangelical inclusivism but was unsuccessful. If anyone knows of any, please let me know and I will add them to this post.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

'The ethics of mixing science and religion' (New Scientist Short Sharp Science Blog)

Amanda Gefter asks an interesting question in her blog for New Scientist: ’Would you take $1.6 million from an organisation whose motives you didn’t agree with?’ Entitled, The ethics of mixing science and religion, she discusses the nature of the Templeton Prize and whether it is justifiable that scientists accept money when they may not necessarily agree with the agenda of the Templeton Foundation. It’s worth a read -- brief but thought-provoking.