Saturday, February 25, 2012

Margaret Thatcher: "The Iron Lady"

The other day I went to see The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  (I decided to skip the popcorn as an act of forbearance I feel Margaret Thatcher would approve of.) It goes without saying that Streep deserves the Oscar for her performance, especially for her portrayal of the elderly Thatcher remembering her past life while interacting with her dead husband Dennis played by Jim Broadbent. There was absolutely no recognizable trace of Streep as the former Prime Minister struggling to retain her memories as she slowly and inevitably loses her battle with Alzheimer's. The movie's makeup artist shares a great deal of the credit for Streep's performance and deserves an Oscar as well. Streep's portrayal of Thatcher in her years as Prime Minister is impressive, but she does not quite disappear as well into that part of the role. She has the voice, but she does not look like what Thatcher looked like then.   Thatcher's iron determination to advance her conservative ideology carried the day against her Labor Party opponents as well as the weak, dry as Melba toast colleagues in her own party. Only someone as determined as she could have overcome the opposition to her, opposition to her rooted in the dislike of women in government and rooted in class snobbery as she was a grocer's daughter. There is a great scene that takes place during the Falklands war where U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig treats Thatcher condescendingly; after she takes him down more than a few pegs, she offers to pour him tea or coffee saying,"Now, shall I play mother?" I would have to see the movie again to decide whether her political beliefs were treated fairly. Admiration for Thatcher could cause one to overlook criticism of her in the film. One critic claimed that the movie showed her to be lacking in intellect. The film shows her to be what she was, not an original thinker, but one who has absorbed the best thinking of the past and knows what is valuable to preserve against current political and social mantras. One interesting observation from Thatcher which comes out in the film is that today people are more interested in being than in doing. That reflects her interest in ideas; the value ideas had for Thatcher was in their usefulness for the betterment of others. Of course this is a work of fiction. Yet Streep's portrayal captures an important truth that is probably true in Thatcher's own life. Streep's Thatcher is one who so lived her life that she was still able to respond to her decline with strength and dignity. While sorry for her decline, I could not but be inspired in the way she faced it. Life is really a preparation for death. The onscreen Thatcher, inspired by her father, among others, lived hers so as to face death with courage. I think that is probably true of the real life Margaret Thatcher.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Morning Devotions

2Pet. 3:9- "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

This verse is used as a proof text to refute the theology that God elected a select few to be saved while condemning the rest of humanity to eternity in hell. It is just one of many examples from God’s Word revealing His will for all men and women. All throughout His Word, God beckons our rebellious race to repent and follow Him. God told Ezekiel, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezk. 33:11) God is not referring to a group of people whose eternal destiny is already predetermined by an unchangeable decree. No! God is urging All to repent. He was urging all of Israel in Ezekiel’s time, and is urging all subsequent generations of Jews and Gentiles who hear or read this passage of scripture. Paul declared that it is God’s desire that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1Tim. 2:4).

Yet in using 2Pet. 3:9 as a proof text against an incorrect theology of election, let us not forget Peter’s message: repentance. God does desire salvation for all men and women. But salvation begins with repentance, the turning away from all deliberate acts of rebellion against God’s commands. God is indeed long suffering towards mankind, giving us time to repent. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). In the original Greek, Peter was saying that God is giving everybody enough room to repent, giving us all ample opportunity to change our thinking and our ways. While we have ample opportunity, will we fulfill God’s purpose for us through repentance? If we are already believers, will we not cast aside all that hinders our walk with God? Repentance is for believers too. And will we not meditate upon the character of God who desires salvation for all and praise Him for His longsuffering toward us?

Scripture quotations from the NKJV.

Friday, February 17, 2012

R.T. France On Inerrancy

The Biblical scholar R.T. France has died. Fred Sanders, a student of France, posted a tribute to his teacher at The Scriptorium Daily. In his piece, Sanders links to a seven page article by France on inerrancy, which can be seen here. France's article addresses issues such as the use of non-canonical material in determining the meaning of scripture passages and the apparent discrepencies between the Gospel writers' accounts of events and the sayings of Christ.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Morning Devotions

Is. 58:10- "If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness as the noonday."

Essential elements of the gospel message have been tragically separated in our day. As western culture modernized, the pace of life rapidly increased. The Church responded by withdrawing from engaging the world, by retreating within itself. The Church exclusively focused upon orthodox doctrine and personal purity. Some Christians realized that a third vital element of the gospel message was being ignored: the alleviation of the burdens of those on the bottom rung of society. Soon this missing element of the gospel message became for some the sole message, giving birth to the humanistic message of “the social gospel.” The social gospel was not concerned with doctrine or holiness. It's only concern was meeting the physical needs of the poor. The message of the Church experienced a two, or sometimes, three way split: dead orthodoxy, a private holiness, and a secular humanitarianism. No wonder the Church is viewed as irrelevant by the world around us. Our task is to unify these elements of the gospel message, revitalizing these elements as they are put in their proper order. What order am I referring to? Doctrine comes first, for all holiness and Christian mission originates with correct doctrine. Our view of God will determine our eternal destiny. It is correct doctrine which first teaches us concerning the holiness of God. It is correct doctrine which teaches us who Jesus is. It is correct doctrine that allows the lost to know just who it is they are to have faith in and who it is they are to bow down to as Lord. Correct doctrine allows us to distinguish between true and false spiritual experiences. If holiness is loving God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, we could not love Him so without correct doctrine telling us who He is. After all, we cannot love whom we do not know. Holiness originates from doctrine, and from holiness comes what John Wesley termed “social holiness.” Our love of God leads us to love those whom the world esteems the least. We seek to deliver the vulnerable from conditions and habits that oppress them, not only helping them better themselves, but making them disciples of Christ as well. Social holiness is one of the Church’s greatest instruments in transforming societies and individuals. By ignoring this important element of the gospel message, the Church has lost much of its prophetic voice. Isaiah 58 conclusively demonstrates this. All of Israel’s religious exercises meant nothing because injustice ruled the land. “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and strike with the fist of your wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.” (v. 3-4). What is the proper fast according to God? “Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burden, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (v. 6-7). Those who practice social holiness allow the image of God in them to be seen by all: “Then your light shall shine forth like the morning, your healing will spring forth speedily, and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’…” (v. 8-9). This verse speaks of our witness for God being seen by all. But there is a condition if this promise is to be fulfilled: “…If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and the speaking of wickedness…” (v. 9). If social holiness is practiced from a pure heart, our message will be complete, we will reach a completeness of soul that doctrine and private piety alone does not give (v. 10-12). The Lord speaks of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of rest. But the Israelites turned it into a time to pursue their own pleasures, pleasures that kept others in bondage. Repentance would have brought true rest to the Israelites, and the promises of God’s Word would have been experienced in their lives.

All scripture quotations are from the NKJV.