Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Movie Review: Is Genesis History?

March 16, 2017

I’ve stopped doing movie reviews by and large, since I’m apparently hyper-critical.  However this movie bears mentioning, and actual encouragement to see it.

Is Genesis History? provides an examination of common assumptions about our world that are grounded in an evolutionary/natural selection model.  The movie asks the question, is the evolutionary/natural selection model, which predicates that the earth is millions and millions of years old and that all of the animal and plant species we see today evolved from much simpler organisms over time supported by the physical evidence in our world?

The movie is a series of interviews with a variety of scientists who are Christian and believe that the best interpretation of the data available in the world around us is the Genesis explanation, which states that creation came into being in six days and that the earth might be much, much younger than the evolutionary/natural selection model asserts.  They offer intelligent and compelling arguments showing how the answers most of us were given in school about the world and how it came to be are unsatisfactory at best, and completely contrary to what we actually see in the world.

Normally I wouldn’t go to see a movie like this, but last week at happy hour, a recent Westmont Grad who is preparing to go to medical school mentioned that she had seen it and it made a favorable impression on her.  She doesn’t hold to a six-day creation perspective despite being a strong Christian, and is much more comfortable with some sort of theistic evolution answer, where God gets the ball rolling but evolution is the tool He uses.  She thought the movie raised some really good questions that gave her good food for thought.  I’m pleased to report that her assessment was very fair.

Is Genesis History? is not an attempt at debate.  No counterpoints are raised, no experts are interviewed to explain how they refute the assertions made by the experts in the film.  That’s not the film’s purpose.  The film intends to show that there is some good reason to doubt the prevailing ideas about the universe and our little corner of it, and to suggest that Genesis might really be taken seriously not in contradiction to science, but in an alternate interpretation of physical data.  It isn’t the Bible or science, but the Bible as a guiding lens for how science interprets the data it has.

The biggest question that was raised in my mind against their interpretations of data has to do with the Flood.  I believe the flood narrative, and I believe that it means what it says – a worldwide flood.  My question is that the various experts in this movie proposed a theory that says that the dinosaurs lived before the Flood, and went extinct with the Flood.  Yet Genesis 6 & 7 give the impression that representatives of every type of living creature were present on  the ark with Noah and his family (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:8-9, 14-16).

Did God determine which animals would be saved and which would not?  Did some of the animals that were saved on the ark die on the ark?  Genesis doesn’t state specifically that every animal or species on the ark was saved.  I like the answer that the experts in the film give, but if we want to take Genesis seriously (and we should!), then how do we come to grips with this issue?  I’ll be doing some more research to see if they answer that question on their web site.


Mea Culpa?

February 13, 2017

Having recently read Silence, I’ve been wrangling over whether or not to see the movie.   This essay should encourage me to do so.

My reasons for being wary of the movie are multiple.  I don’t consider myself a film buff.  The book was fascinating precisely because of the interior glimpses of the protagonist, and I’m not sure if that can or will translate onto screen.  There’s the unpleasantness of scenes depicting human suffering and cruelty – not in a popcorn-guzzling fake way, but actual, real human suffering and cruelty.

But as someone who frequently hears people lamenting about the state of our entertainment industry, and as someone certainly not immune to haranguing on the issue myself, I would do well to take this article’s point to heart.  Hollywood follows the money.  My money.  Perhaps I should be more willing to shell out to support Christian or ‘wholesome’ movies to encourage more of them to be made.

Or maybe I should just convince you to.

Resurrecting Rogues

December 27, 2016

We went to see the new Star Wars movie today, part of our annual Christmas-time tradition of going as a family to a movie theater.  Yes, it’s a good movie.  Far better than the last four installments, and frankly even better than I remember Return of the Jedi.  Rogue One inclines me to go back and watch at least A New Hope again to see the interplay, because I think they did a really good job of linking to that next (story-chronology-wise) film.

What I didn’t expect as part of that linking, was to see actors and actresses digitally reproduced for Rogue One as they appeared – roughly – in A New Hope, despite the latter being filmed 40 years ago and at least some of those actors being deceased.  Although Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin is the most obvious example of this, there is one other example at the very end.

I mean, realistically, it shouldn’t be unexpected.  Probably 90% of everything in the movie was digitally created or added in terms of scenery, backdrops, extras.  Frankly, before getting lost in the story – fairly immediately – I pondered how the stunning opening visuals of the new movie didn’t hold the same grandeur for me, knowing that they’re all computer generated.  Part of the immersion into another galaxy is lost for me knowing how little of it is created in our galaxy but rather in a digital galaxy on a hard drive.  But, the story was compelling enough so that such thoughts were short-lived.

Until Peter Cushing appeared on screen.  Since he died 22 years ago, I know that’s not him.  Even were he still alive he wouldn’t look as he did in 1977.  Yet there he is, very realistic and life-like and, had I not known all of the above, perhaps I would never be the wiser that he is as much computer generated wizardry as the backdrop of stars and Death Star behind him.

My immediate reaction was one of curiosity.  Not as to how they did it, but rather what the implications of doing it are.  Does Cushing have an estate, or family that would benefit from royalties or payment for the appearance of his likeness in this movie?  Does the movie studio get to use his likeness for free then?  Did anyone have to give permission for Cushing to appear in this movie, post mortem?  Star Wars fans are well aware that Sir Alec Guiness really disliked Star Wars and his role in it.  Could the studio use his likeness in future films, forcing Guiness to keep appearing in a franchise he loathed?

What’s to keep a studio from reusing famous faces indefinitely?  And what does this mean for actors and actresses, or frankly, for any of us?  What if a director spotted my face in a restaurant, snapped a pic on his phone, sent it to his animators and said ‘put this guy in the film‘?  Would I have any recourse?  Do I deserve compensation?

My wife sent me this article from The New York Times which discussed very few of these things.  The tone of the people quoted reminded me of stories where scientists pursuing questionable procedures are quoted.  Inevitably, they respond with something along the lines of Yes we know this is very complicated and controversial so you can trust us that we’ve thought it all through very carefully.  Which is not reassuring in the least.   I’m glad that thought was given.  But the idea that one small group of scientists or directors have the right to decide what is and isn’t acceptable, based on their own personal struggles and considerations of the topic is ridiculous.

Ultimately, they dismiss the concerns because it was really, really important to them and to their story to do it this way.  I would argue quite the contrary.  Tarkin’s presence would of course be expected in this film at some level, but there was certainly a lot of additional drama and therefore screen time that wasn’t necessary to the storyline at all.   And the fact that you wanted to do this to tell your story is not a justification for doing it.  Nor is the assurance that it’s really expensive and hard to do so not many other people are likely to do it, including us.  The fact that they were willing to go to the time and difficulty and expense of doing it obviously shows that these are not, in and of themselves, deterrent factors.

I was pleased to hear that they received permission from Cushing’s estate, at least.

In a rather unexpected twist of fate, I find myself in agreement with a Huffington Post editorial for a change.  It should not be in the hands of later generations to resurrect the image of a deceased actor or actress.  It is unfair to the dead, and ultimately another blurring of our own acceptance of and coming to grips with mortality in general.  This editorial also rings the same bells, though neither editorial propositions a very compelling rationale for their position.

Here’s my theological rationale:  something in us reacts against the idea of using the dead for these purposes because part of us resonates with the idea that they aren’t really dead and gone.  Oh, they’re not here with us, for certain.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Therefore it’s more than just a memory we do offense to – we do offense to their reality.

If we truly die, if there is nothing beyond death, then that’s it and like an expired copyright others are free to cannibalize us and our works to the extent that the law allows or prohibits.  We can try to ensure that our families are compensated in some fashion, but that’s more of a formality than anything, and certainly one prone to eventual revocation should circumstances make that convenient.  There are no moral obligations to consider, because nothing like morality or appropriateness or ethics exist beyond our conceptualization – or reconceptualization – of them.

But if we aren’t truly dead and gone, absorbed back into atomic nothingness; if there is a corpus of ethical and moral standards that we have been entrusted with as stewards, not creators, then our misgivings have a root.  It’s not just the economics we balk at, not just the potential for misappropriation, but the possibility of actual offense.  Not against an idea or a memory but against a person – a person who may be dead but who continues to exist in a meaningful sense – every bit as meaningful as when they were alive.

If we remember that our theology isn’t separated somehow from the rest of the issues we try to make sense of, these other issues begin to make more sense.  It isn’t a matter of respect for the living or the dead, but rather for a person, who might be living or might be dead, but exists just as definitely either way.  What’s more, Christian theology indicates that we don’t simply continue to exist, we continue to exist in relationship.  What we look forward to is a time to come when we are together again, more together than ever before.  Our actions to one another continue to have meaning and weight.  And while I have no doubt that if we do take advantage of somebody after they are dead, and we meet together again in glory there will be forgiveness for that, it still dictates how we treat that person up until that reunion.  Not as an asset to be exploited but as a creation of God the Father, redeemed by God the Son, and – God-willing – brought to faith by God the Holy Spirit.





Zombie Church Apocalypse

September 27, 2016

I’m a fan of the zombie movie genre. What is impressive is that, despite several generations of zombie movies and books, the people in the movies are always caught by surprise.  Very few of them survive the zombie outbreak despite the fact that many of them presumably are familiar with the basic concept.  Our capacity to remain rooted where we are despite intellectually understanding the need for drastic action is apparently rather impressive.

That came to mind yesterday listening to our District President discuss the state of the Church in our part of the country.  In the last 16 years, out of roughly 330 congregations, we’ve gone from 10 congregations not being able to afford to Call a permanent, full-time pastor to well over 40.  We continue to mirror the steady decline of American Christianity.  So we gather in conferences like this one to exhort each other to keep preaching the Good News.  Which is what we do.  We listen to the statistics, we nod our heads sagely and shake them in disappointment.  And then we go back to our offices and sanctuaries and do the same thing this week that we did last week, and the same thing next week as we did two weeks ago.  Our capacity to remain rooted where we are despite intellectually understanding the need for drastic action is apparently rather impressive.

We know what will happen if we don’t move.  But we’re stuck, rooted in our routines and traditions, unable to even imagine what something different would look like.  Unable to come to grips with the loss and destruction of much of what we’ve loved, and certainly our comfort.  We continue to placate ourselves and one another that maybe it’s not really as bad as all that.  Maybe they’ll find the cure.  Maybe it won’t come down to leaving what I’ve known all my life for something radically different that ensures I remain alive.

Those are the folks who inevitably end up eating brains or taking a bullet to the head by the end of the movie.  Tragic, of course, but what can you do?  There isn’t enough time to grieve.  Grief becomes a luxury that pales compared with the very real work of staying alive.  And the Church will continue to watch congregations falter and collapse.  Tragic victims of many different circumstances, but likely all at some level to do with not being willing or able to act radically enough, quickly enough, to stay alive.

I don’t know for sure that this is the common thread.  It’s comforting to think so because then it means that perhaps I and my congregation will not suffer the same fate.  But it’s possible to act decisively and quickly, but in the completely wrong direction.  It’s possible to turn a blind corner and be overwhelmed.  Motion itself is not the answer.  And so I can’t take easy comfort in being willing to move, but I still ought to try.  So I tell myselves and others that any movement at all towards the future is better than standing still where we are.

I just need to remember that when I get back to my office.  And continue to figure out how to communicate that to the people around me in my congregation.  The world is changing.  The odds of us being able to remain the way we like and are comfortable with are pretty slim.  Let’s figure out what we need to survive, and what will help us rebuild.

A Tetris Movie?

July 1, 2016

So apparently there is a plan to make a movie based on the video game Tetris.  Video-game based movies are all the rage, seeking to capitalize on several generations of gamers who love the games and will go to see the movie.  Usually, these movies at least work in theory because they’re based on story-oriented games.  Video games that tell a story and involve the player in the story in some way.  It doesn’t mean that the movie will be good, but it at least makes sense.

But to make a movie about a video game without a story?  A video game that simply (well, not simply!) challenges the player to arrange geometrical blocks into interlocking lines as much and as quickly as possible?  How do you make a movie (other than a historical or biographical kind of movie) out of a game like that?  And how, moreover, do you justify not just making a single movie but a  trilogy?

I love the game – it’s still in my mind a perfect game that never gets old or tiring and is always slightly different and challenging every time you play it.  But I can’t imagine going to see a movie about it!


Movie Review: Vaxxed

May 24, 2016

Since posting about the controversy at the Tribeca Film Festival surrounding the screening of the movie Vaxxed, I hoped for the opportunity to see it.  Fortunately it came to our area for a one-week limited engagement, and my wife and saw it Monday night.

I start out by admitting that I want this movie to be good.  I’m a sympathetic viewer.  While I acknowledge the potentially great good that vaccines may have in the past done, may do currently, and hopefully will do in the future, I’m also skeptical anytime someone tries to ram a point of view down my throat.  The tremendous growth of autism in our culture is far more than just better diagnostics.  There must be a reason for what is truly an epidemic.  To rule any possible cause out of bounds immediately seems the height of foolishness if not arrogance, particularly when that cause is the injection of materials into a child’s body.  I am not anti-vaccination, but I am distrustful of a perfect storm of government mandates and for-profit pharmaceutical/bio-engineering interests.

As such, let me also point out that those who dismiss this movie as anti-vaccination are uninformed at best, malicious at worst.  This film is not anti-vaccination.  It states that repeatedly.  It deliberately limits the scope of discussion to a single  vaccination – the combined measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine.  It does not raise questions about these as separate vaccinations, but only when combined into a single shot.  It does point out the curious matter that the single vaccinations have been discontinued by the manufacturers, leaving parents the only options of doing without the vaccine or receiving only the combined form.  I find that worth investigating all on its own.

All that being said, I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be, and I wasn’t as convinced as I hoped to be, mostly because the film doesn’t clearly and simply lay out the data in a no-nonsense approach.  Rather, it spends the vast majority of time on what might be the logical fallacy of appeal to emotion.  Look at how these families and children are suffering, isn’t it awful?  Well of course it’s awful!  I paid to see the movie in the first place because I am very well aware of that suffering and how real and pervasive and long-term it is.  I’d go so far as to say anyone sitting in the theater to see this movie already knows that autism is a devastating condition.  How about focusing clearly and repeatedly on the actual point of the film?

And the alleged point of the film is to assert that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) manipulated and destroyed data for a 2004 study on a possible relationship between autism and the MMR vaccine.  As another curiosity, a search at the CDC website for “Vaxxed” returns nothing.  Apparently they don’t feel the need to address the issue raised by this film.  Interesting.

The film’s assertion centers on the release of data from a CDC insider, Dr. William Thompson.  The heart of the film ought to be the clear comparison of data between the official CDC report in 2004, and data purported to be untampered with that predates this report.  The movie alleges that – among other things – data was eliminated in order to eliminate any statistically significant relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.  While the movie does talk about the data, it could have done a much better job of it.

Ultimately, the film should ensure that every person that walks out of the theater could explain it to others.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel that I can.  The film alleges that the CDC reduced the sampling population – the number of participants included in the report – in order to minimize any relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism.  I think there was more to it than that, but I’m not confident enough to explain it.  And for this reason alone, I think the film fails to do what it should have done.

Since Monday night, I’ve been searching out rebuttals to the film.  How are people arguing against what the film has to say?  It’s not hard to find articles and sites dedicated to this purpose.  Here’s a current Washington Post article on the matter.  It details seven things the film doesn’t say that it feels are important.  Two of them have to do with Andrew Wakefield and the discrediting of him personally that has occurred in the professional medical community.  One has to do with the film’s removal from the Tribeca Film Festival.   The article seems to think that this is a significant fact about the film that in some way discredits it.  Anybody who saw Robert de Niro’s interview on the Today Show will likely recognize that there were a lot of factors contributing to the film’s removal, none of them proof of or refutation the film’s premise.

But interestingly, this article – nor any of the other reading I’ve done – refutes the basic premise of the movie, which is that the CDC tampered with the data.  Most articles point to Wakefield’s discrediting, to questionable motives on his part, to editing choices in the film.  None of them (at least that I’ve found) refute the main allegation of CDC tampering.  And frankly, if you can’t refute that, then you haven’t refuted the film’s main purpose.  IF the CDC is guilty of tampering with data to favor a particular outcome, we have a very serious and very dangerous situation on our hands that needs to be thoroughly investigated and people held accountable.  IF the CDC can be shown to be not guilty of this, then the movie can be chucked out as mistaken at best,  malicious at worst.

The movie ends with several specific action items for viewers to follow through on.  The only one I remember is writing our congressional representatives to ask that Dr. William Thompson, the whistleblower, be formally deposed by Congress under oath, and that the same thing happen for five other key players at the CDC from the 2002-2004 timeframe.  This seems like a reasonable course of action.  A Senator has been provided with the documentation demonstrating the alteration of data, yet Congress has not moved to act on this.

I can’t understand why they wouldn’t.  If you’re going to have a movie out alarming people, the least you ought to be able to do is determine if the film’s main allegation is true – did the CDC alter/eliminate data to hide a correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism rates?  Why would they not do this?  Can someone explain it to me?

So, that’s where I’m at currently.  Still investigating rebuttals, but so far there has been NO rebuttal of the film’s allegations of CDC misconduct.  That is the only issue at play, for me.  Only by determining if that is true, can we determine whether or not concerns about the MMR vaccine are valid or not.  Only by determining if the data has been manipulated can we know whether we can trust the CDC or not.  I’d like to think that we can, but a penchant for history and a lifetime fascination with human behavior both individually and collectively tells me that such a position is dangerous.



Movie Review: The Drop Box

May 21, 2016

My wife introduced our family to The Drop Box this past week after hearing about it from a friend and watching it herself.

This documentary tells the story of  a South Korean pastor who has sparked some controversy in his country by creating a drop box at his church for unwanted babies.  Anyone can leave their baby in this box – day or night – and know that their child will be taken care of.  The alternative that faces many (primarily teenage) mothers is abandoning their newborns to die on the streets.

It’s a well crafted documentary that clocks in at about an hour and 20 minutes long.  I could be a little tighter and compact, perhaps, but it is not boring.  Through the movie we meet the 15 children that Pastor Lee and his wife have personally adopted – the majority of them heavily handicapped in various ways.  We hear briefly from social services leaders and community leaders offering their thoughts on Pastor Lee’s unorthodox decision.  We get a brief taste of the amount of work and sacrifice Pastor Lee and his wife make on behalf of these children.

But most of all, this movie is an eloquent and simple affirmation of life.  Every life.  All life.  Life as a gift from God and therefore capable of transforming people even if that person is unable to speak or move.  When the cult of death yells so convincingly and incessantly these days, demanding the right to kill people or to let people kill themselves, this movie offers a powerful statement that life is good.  Always.  Maybe not easy or simple or convenient, but always good.

See this movie and see what one person is capable of doing.  See this movie and be reminded (or taught for the first time) how important all life is, and how dangerous it is when we begin to marginalize life, creating metrics to determine when life is worthwhile and when it isn’t.


Mum’s the Word

April 1, 2016

I find it fascinating the diversity of things that we can watch movies about.  Film festivals are a good way to experience this firsthand, since many of the films are so small that they’ll never make it to more than a handful of theaters.  A couple of years I volunteered at our local film festival and was impressed by the diverse lineup.

A larger-scale film festival is Tribeca.  There are films about abortion, about virginal basketball legends, about coming of age in New York City.  Films about refugee camps and endangered species.  Films that deal with hot-topic issues like public opinion regarding police, as well as lighter films covering famous disc jockeys or chronicling the efforts of an Asian female rap group.

But one thing we can’t talk about is vaccinations, apparently.  Tribeca had planned to screen a controversial film by anti-vaccine crusader and former doctor Andrew Wakefield.  However due to what was probably a huge amount of controversy, Tribeca reversed the decision and is refusing to screen the movie.  While Wakefield’s research has been discredited (at least in theory, however Wakefield claims that his research *has* been duplicated successfully – in other countries), he continues to stand by his assertions that vaccinations may be contributing to health issues.  I find it interesting that we can talk about anyone and anything – no subject is taboo – unless it questions the status quo of a massive, worldwide industry.

Minding Your Words

January 30, 2016

I feel bad for Sir Alec Guinness.  There’s the dead thing to start with, but that isn’t necessarily all that bad a deal (he and his wife became Catholics in the 1950’s).  It isn’t just that despite an impressive body of work and a lengthy and highly successful film career, he’s remembered these days primarily for a role he detested – Obi-wan Kenobi.  Well, it is sort of that – and more specifically the fact that he continues to be dragged into the franchise even though he’s dead.

Guinness’ voice appears in one of the scenes of the new Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens.  He isn’t credited for it on IMDB, but fans certainly recognized his voice uttering the protagonist’s name, Rey.  This was accomplished – considerably post mortem – by taking Guinness’ line from the first film, A New Hope, “Don’t be afraid”, and cutting the af and the d off the beginning and end of afraid.  Impressive, and of course it sets the hard-core Star Wars fans all a-twitter, and I’ll admit that there’s an element of coolness to it.  If Guinness hadn’t convinced George Lucas to kill off Obi-wan in the first movie specifically to avoid being in further installments, it would be even cooler.  He ended up being in the next two films despite being dead, so I suppose the precedent for this most recent vocal appearance is well-established.

Beyond the personal indignities, though, I’ve often thought how our ability to manipulate recorded data, whether audio or video, leads us into a murky and potentially dangerous time.  Someone with some relatively simple equipment and enough patience and, of course, a healthy compilation of recorded work, could literally make someone else say literally anything.  Snip, clip, paste, rearrange, and something that I never, ever, ever said is suddenly there in an audio clip for the world to marvel- or recoil – at.

Call me paranoid, but what can be done for entertainment purposes could certainly be done towards less noble ends.  Want to convict someone of threatening to kill somebody?  Want to damage the credibility of someone who holds a counter-cultural point of view?  Want to embroil someone in a legal fiasco that could ruin them financially?  All the potential is there in what we’ve already said.

My congregational leadership has asked for years if we can post my sermons online, and for years I’ve refused.  Firstly, we don’t have the ability to provide quality material – both in terms of what I’ve said and the recording mechanisms.  We don’t have anyone with a gift for sound or video (thank God!) editing.  Putting up poor quality audio clips of a poor sermon to begin with blesses nobody, I argue.  I’m not opposed to the idea, but part of me does worry for precisely this reason.  When I provide someone with a recording of my voice saying one thing, I have no control over what someone else might use that recording – along with other recordings of me – to make me say.

Food for thought in our digital age of data manipulation.  Fortunately Sir Alec isn’t around now to lament this manipulation of his legacy, and I trust he’s too busy where he is to care.  But for the rest of us, it might be wise to remember that we can’t necessarily trust everything that we see and hear anymore.  The skills to create a massive battle in space and to reconstruct the voices of the dead to speak again are among us, not terribly complex, and require frighteningly little equipment.

Saints Revisited

August 20, 2015

A few months back I blogged a fairly uncomplimentary review of the Bill Murray film St. Vincent.

I was prompted to a bit of further thought by this review, which focuses on the catholicity of the film’s basic theme and protagonist.  The reviewer picks up on exactly what the movie wants us to – that Vincent is a saint because he’s really a good guy underneath his gruff exterior.  His sainthood is deserved.  His goodness outweighs his badness by some indefinable quantity.  His badness is really probably just a result of some of what life has thrown him and therefore he shouldn’t be held accountable for it.

The idea of saints as special people lends itself to this definition, I think.  But our ideas of saints are rather limited in scope.  Our assumption is that sainthood is warranted if the good qualities outweigh the bad qualities in an individual.  But as I argued previously, that’s a rather arbitrary assessment of things that is a) impossible to quantify and, b) apart from Scripture, impossible to qualify.  To go one step further, this is not a Scriptural understanding of sainthood or our position before God through Jesus Christ.

That’s why I find Romans 5:6-11 so comforting.  If my confidence in God’s good favor towards me is based on my own self-assessment, what comfort or assurance do I have?  If my status before God is the result of how other people think of me, what comfort or assurance do I have?  As Vincent is fond of saying, What do you know about me?   I know that nobody around me really can have an accurate understanding of me.  So it’s easy for me to discount their opinions, whether they’re favorable or not.  And because even my self-knowledge is imperfect and hopeless biased, I will swing through wild arcs of hopeful confidence and abject despair if my own assessment is my metric.

But God doesn’t allow either of these metrics.  For while we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly.  In our worst moments, that’s when Christ died for us.  He did not offer himself in exchange for our moments of nobility, but offered himself in atonement for our moments of complete, abject, willful failure.  Paul’s term in this verse translated as ungodly has the same root word for what Paul says in Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men  What God reveals his wrath against is the very thing that Jesus dies to deliver us from.  Our worst, not our best.  Our rebellion, not our weak faith.

At the end of the film we feel good about Vincent because he seems transformed to a certain degree.  We like transformation, and one hopes that some of the events of the film would help to transform him.  But that isn’t what would make him a saint, in Biblical terms.  Only the sacrifice of Christ, and Vincent’s weak and highly imperfect and limited trust in that sacrifice can make Vincent a saint.

That’s why I still insist that the film that best deals with the very difficult reality of our simultaneous sinfulness and sainthood is Robert Duvall’s The Apostle.  If you haven’t seen it, go and rent it or stream it.  You won’t like Duvall’s character.  You’re not supposed to.  Yet I think Duvall understands the miraculousness and the unlikelihood of grace and what it can look like in a person’s life, and he’s done the best job I’ve found in portraying it on screen.

To God alone be the glory – that’s the way it is and always will be.