Caspian becoming a reality

Posted by tom | Jan 23, 2006

Basking in 'Witch' riches 'Narnia' could end up Disney's biggest grossing live-action pic tells the story of Narnia becoming a 'richer' reality day-by-day and Prince Caspian coming on-line. But not without some heated conversation within the Christian media subculture. More of my thoughts on this later, as I [Tom] am pressed for time while at home 'watching' Eden (this post brought to you by a very sweet nap) and taking a 'break' from ministry after a packed winter retreat focusing on Daniel 1-3 (come back for more later).

P.S. Hoping to find The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe 2 disc set in Hayley and Ellen's Easter Basket. Available on April 4 ;-)

Narnia Sites: Teens and Collegians

Posted by tom | Dec 21, 2005

Just became aware of Narnia Teen Site. Lots of good stuff no matter your age. Pass it along

Also, check out some great interviews at C. S. Lewis and InterVarsity and some superb book resources from IVP.

The Kong and the Lion

Posted by tom | Dec 20, 2005

Although Some fans exhausted by manic 'Kong' and The footprint of 'Kong' looms smaller, King Kong came out about double that of this weekend's Narnia's take, aided by the turnout of several of my friends who seemed, for the most part, to enjoy their experience. But The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe's opening was stronger than Kong's by about 15 million. So is this important?

My enthusiasm for Narnia at our recent GCF Christmas party, led one student to ask if Disney paid me while another was ready to go to theatre. Our conversation at GCF focused on Father Christmas' gift giving (which by the way was very vocationally driven) AND Peter, Susan, and Lucy's receiving (which by the way was applied by faith in a difficult context). But as I commented earlier, I find myself drawn to the true myth glimpsed in and through Lewis' work and not the film itself. The more I reflect upon it, the books provide much more opportunity for the imagination to wander at leisure and wrestle with the material presented, eg., the purpose of gift-giving and the how to embrace gifts given to us by God/others. This is in a large part to the difference in the form of communication, but the film does provide a window for the story to come alive (for some) and invite others into it for the first time . . . maybe even a baptism (or re-direction) of the imagination at an early age.

Christmas on a Sunday or any day?

Posted by tom | Dec 19, 2005

Came across A Christmas Sunday forces churches to alter schedules with notables including James Bibza, Rock Dillaman, and Stan Ott. In the same Sunday paper, there was a forum regarding The season and its reasons. The titles speak for themselves Merry Christmas, however you celebrate and O, come, all ye faithless

Looking for the time to blog a reaction but at present I'm too immersed in being Christ with the family/people of God. None-the-less the incarnation is not only about being the Light, but also being the Word directed by the Spirit of God every day, in every way . . . so Lord willing, commentary coming later.

Secular Democracy Goes on Trial

Posted by tom | Dec 18, 2005

Secular Democracy Goes on Trial is a pointed piece which brings attention to concerns related to atheism/secularism as guiding ideologies that churned in my mind as I took part in a CMU faculty discussion group's consideration of Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism with faculty at CMU.

The destructive potential of modern nationalism should not surprise us. Traditional religion hardly played a role in the unprecedented violence of the 20th century, which was largely caused by secular ideologies - Nazism and Communism. Secular nationalism has been known to impose intellectual conformity and suppress dissent even in advanced democratic societies. In America, it was at least partly the fear of being perceived as unpatriotic that held back the freest news media in the world from rigorously questioning the official justification for and conduct of the war in Iraq.

As for traditional religion, outside Saudi Arabia and Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban it has rarely enjoyed the kind of overwhelming state power that modern nationalism has known. Then why reflexively blame religion for the growth of intolerance and violence? Perhaps, because it is easy - and useful. Certainly, all the talk of Enlightenment, Reformation, a clash of civilizations and the like does help build up ideological smokescreens, obscuring the more complex political and economic battles of the world.

By setting up abstract, simplistic oppositions, the Rushdie affair helped metaphysics cloud the realm of geopolitics. The Pamuk affair, on the other hand, promises to help create intellectual clarity. But this will not only require renouncing the urge to populate the world with religious fanatics, dangerous "others." It will also require a willingness, as Mr. Pamuk has so bravely expressed, to question the myths of our own complacently modern and secular societies.

Grant the people of God the grace to celebrate the incarnation of Christ by not only questioning the myths which so easily entangle us, but also by muddling forth in our call to be the Light of Christ. Fill us with wisdom and tact as we prepare to enter a New Year of Mission, dependent upon God alone!

Make Narnia #1 this weekend

Posted by tom | Dec 17, 2005

Disney and friends have encouraged me to help make Narnia #1 again, in the face of "King Kong" and other challengers. I'm not sure how to respond. I have to admit that I was excited about 'Narnia' draws wide following and being an advocate for seeing the film on the front end (note: I even tried the Sweepstakes 1x, but didn't win anything).

But I'm not as sold on making sure the numbers and the money comes in . . . the film speaks to those who will listen. For some this is cracking open the door of God's Presence in their lives and for others it is a part of a longer journey. It is good to have followers of Christ working and having their work express the Light of Christ in the media and arts, but that's not necessarily making it big according to the standards of the world. For me, the conversations around Narnia, Lewis, and finding Joy are of higher value than making the focus of my weekend hitting the theatre with a friend to cash in and keep Narnia on top (for those who haven't heard any conversation check out The Lion, the Witch and the Metaphor).

By-the-way, I'm not expecting a huge showing for King Kong . . .


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Posted by tom | Dec 9, 2005

Hope the snow melts for our 9:30am Narnia outing tomorrow (a partnership with Bellefield Presbyterian Church, Church of the Ascension, and Shadyside Presbyterian Church), followed by a lunch which will include a presentation by Geneva College's Terry Thomas (one of my Higher Education Professors, fellow Grove City College alum) exploring a follower of Christ's understanding of imagination/wonder, informed by some of Lewis' insights and including a first reaction to the film.

Pray for the interactions at the theatre, the debrief afterward, and future conversations regarding the meaning of Christmas.

Here's a clip from the NY Times Review:

The supposed controversy over the religious content of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" may be overhyped, but a particular question of faith nonetheless hovers around the movie, which was produced by Walden Media and distributed by Disney. Anyone who grew up with the Narnia books is likely to be concerned less with Lewis's beliefs than with the filmmakers' fidelity to his work, which was idiosyncratic and imperfect in ways that may not easily lend themselves to appropriation by the shiny and hyperkinetic machinery of mass visual fantasy. But if a few liberties have been taken here and there, as is inevitable in the transition from page to screen, the spirit of the book is very much intact.

Mel Gibson Plans TV Miniseries on Holocaust

Posted by tom | Dec 8, 2005

I have a gut reaction, but I do not have the words to articulate it at this time. Maybe the conclusion of Mel Gibson Plans TV Miniseries on Holocaust speaks for itself.

Reached at her home in Newport Beach, Ms. Van Beek, who said she was in her early 80's, said she had not seen Mr. Gibson's last movie because it seemed "too traumatic."

"I don't know him, all I know is he's a staunch Catholic, and the people who saved our lives are Catholic," she said. "I respect everybody's beliefs."

"I know his father doesn't believe in the Holocaust - but maybe when there's money involved, maybe they don't care," she added. "His father will probably say this is not real, this is a novel."

Bible and Culture

Posted by tom | Nov 30, 2005

We are in a strangely dangerous position. I got through one conference where many of the people did not share my theology. One girl said to me, ''You're the weirdest mixture I've ever met in my life." I said, "I can understand that, but just in what particular degree is the mixture so weird?" She said she had never thought that it was possible to be conservative in theology and so progressive in every other area.

And I am convinced that this is precisely what God needs today: People who will be true to the Word of God, who will have absolute standards, and yet will try to recognize that there are peripheral things that are not basic to the truth that they preach. We have much light from anthropology that can help us here. (You should read some anthropology and sociology.) This subject becomes more and more important as people travel so much more and see so many more TV programs.

--May it be so. FYI: Eric Fife's 1967 Urbana presentation on Bible and Culture can be found here. The next Urbana Student Missions Convention will be December 27-31, 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri. Hope to see you there :-)

Video Games Are Their Major

Posted by tom | Nov 22, 2005
Video Games Are Their Major, So Don't Call Them Slackers . . . what a glimpse into a particular CMU subculture, not to mention the dream of many of the undergrads in general :-)

Most of the game programs are so new that track records hardly exist, but Mr. Gordon said that the master's-level program in entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon had been the most successful in embracing a multidisciplinary approach and producing work-ready students. That program, which helped pioneer the field when it began in 1999, is led by the odd couple of Donald Marinelli, a drama professor, and Randy Pausch, a computer scientist.

"When students want to come in and complain that they can't work with people from other disciplines, we tell them to come in and tell us both about it," Mr. Pausch said.

Great to see this receiving national media attention. Randy is a creative genius and by-the-way, great to meet on the basketball court. Here's a link to CMU's Entertainment Technology Center. I find the Hazmat trainer of particular interest.

Into the Land of Imagination

Posted by tom | Nov 14, 2005

From the Christian History Archives: Clyde Kilby's reflections on C.S. Lewis' journey Into the Land of Imagination . . .

Every normal person is blessed with imagination. Imagination operates ceaselessly and is capable of tying together even grotesque elements of matter and spirit. The apple which is said to have fallen on Isaac Newton's head launched him into a set of meanings which culminated in his laws of gravitation and motion. In his theory of relativity Einstein combined complicated mathematical equations with images of trains rushing into distant space. The best scientists know that great discoveries are not made simply by experiment and reason but sometimes in mental gyrations as great, even as delightfully humorous, as Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole . . .

Owing to the Great Mistake of Eden, life tends habitually to settle into the prosaic and ordinary. Indeed, is it not symbolic of fallen man that a steady smell of roses leaves them odorless? Imagination is necessary to the worthwhile life . . .

Some devout Christians fear imagination is inevitably evil, yet the Bible is almost embarrassingly imaginative. Lewis insists that the reader of the Bible, without losing sight of its primary value, must always remember that it is literature. Most emphatically, he says, the Psalms must be read as poetry. We remember such highly imaginative passages as Let the floods clap their hands, let the hills be joyful together, and Christ as a great storyteller describing a man who built his house upon sand and a sower who went forth to sow. He compared the kingdom of heaven to a grain of mustard seed and described Himself as the true vine. God, the greatest of imaginers, gives all men power to imagine, just as he gives them free will. Either can lead to steady and joyful devotion to Him or else to everlasting misery . . .


Science and faith on campus today

Posted by tom | Nov 13, 2005

On Friday, one of our engineering students asked for prayer for science. The rhetorical gulf between the scientific and the religious continues to grow in the day-to-day interactions on campus, to some degree provoked by the media's fascination with the topic and an embracing of polarizing perspectives which fail to foster a shared pursuit of truth through intentional, humble dialogue.

But followers of Christ are not stepping away from engaging the campus with a Biblical perspective on work in the University. On Thursday, David Snoke, a physics professor at Pitt, delivered a presentation on Can a Physicist Believe in Miracles. This first presentation in a Christian faculty forum series was a bold statement regarding how a follower of Christ's belief in miracles challenges secularism/pluralism and the fortress mentality of some which cling to an axiomatic faith. He looked at the common objections

1. It's not scientific to believe in miracles
2. To believe in miracles is a curiosity killer
3. To believe in miracles yields a chaotic picture of the world
4. Why believe in the Biblical miracles in particular?

David defined a miracle as a mighty act of God accompanied by a Word of God. A miracle is not a random strange thing happening, but a rare, well identified act for the particular purpose of demonstrating God's lordship over nature. Much more was said, most importantly in my mind, he pointed out that the relationship between science and Christianity is a 2 way street. If Christians want to speak to the whole world, then uncomfortable questions will arise. Furthermore, our Biblical data is not equal to our theological theories. As new data from the creation becomes available we may need to adjust our theology within the range of Biblical data, this interaction enables us to speak to/with the world.

For more of David's work, click here.

For a hot topic on the relationship between science and faith check out Our Faith in Science, which declares Buddhism's and science's shared search for the truth and for understanding reality, encourages neuroscience's research of Buddhist meditation and . . .


Mutual Submission Soundbite

Posted by tom | Nov 11, 2005

I find the response to Terrell Owens (T.O.) by the Eagles quite encouraging. A team demands team players, not a collection of superstars who do whatever they want. Individuals can have great accomplishments, but whether in the university, the nuclear/extended family, the local congregation, a civic club, or kids soccer team . . . Community demands mutual submission, respect for one-another, focused on a shared end. May, by His Grace, the People of God testify to this reality and may we also not be afraid to exercise discipline upon those which seek their own ends instead of the good of the team. For more on T.O. click here.

Listening In . . . on campus

Posted by tom | Nov 6, 2005

According to Listening In

"The Department of Justice wants 24/7 access, whenever they need it, and they want remote access. We find that too extremely burdensome in terms of money, staff, and technology," said Maureen McFalls, Director of Government Relations for Carnegie Mellon and the coordinator of Carnegie Mellon's response to this issue. According to an ACE press release, the cost to universities could be upwards of $7 billion, or at least $450 extra on each student's tuition bill."

The financial burden is significant, but the monitoring is more disturbing to me. This seems like too much access to information, a little too much looking over the shoulder as one tries to have normal life at college.

U2 Rocks . . . Praise the Lord!

Posted by tom | Nov 4, 2005

I was encouraged when I opened up the Tartan's Pillbox to find these words at the end of U2 rocks the Mellon Arena

After queuing up a drum machine over the loudspeakers, Bono and the group closed out the first encore with With or Without You, leaving the crowd, as expected, begging for more. The group came back once again to perform All Because of You and Yahweh. As the hour became late and the older crowd either went home to bed or sat down to mend their ailing knees, the ever-youthful group belted out one last cry of hope in 40. Bassist Adam Clayton switched with guitarist The Edge as Bono belted, with every drop of hope and optimism left in his body,

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see and hear
I will sing, sing a new song.

As U2 continues to conquer the world, they leave in their path millions -- billions? -- of fans, worldwide adulation, and political, cultural, and religious unity. In the future, well, let's just hope they keep doing what they're doing. 'cause hell, whatever it is, they're doing it right.

May the fans be directed to the Christ to whom these words and the actions of Bono point. May we be encouraged in declaring the true Presence of Christ in our daily lives and professions/vocations.

$ Sets Direction for Higher Education

Posted by tom | Oct 31, 2005

The university as a business, recently touched on this with Tuition Rise Tops Inflation, but Rate Slows, Report Says, continues to receive press with Presidents of Colleges Cite Finances as Main Issue. Regretfully, I've seen this to be the case. My ideal of a president who sets overall academic direction for the institution, serves as a mentor to professors and students, teaches a class or guess lectures periodically, seems to have faded to the past. For my encouragement, please post examples where this is to some degree the case.

College presidents are more preoccupied with financial issues than educational ones, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The presidents said they believed they were judged slightly more on whether they had a balanced budget than for the quality of educational programs. Five of the six top concerns they cited related to money: rising health care costs, rising tuition, financial aid, technology costs and inadequate faculty salaries. The sixth was retaining students.

"While the job of college president is often still filled by former provosts, their top priority these days is more akin to that of a chief financial officer," The Chronicle says in its Nov. 4 issue, available this week.

Survey proposes degrees may be equal among universities

Posted by tom | Oct 29, 2005
Surprised to Survey proposes degrees may be equal among universities in the CMU's newspaper the other week. I think that CMU students learn much and their degrees are know to be of great value . . . they're willing to pay a lot for them. Hope to see some op-ed pieces addressing these areas in the coming week.


Posted by tom | Oct 28, 2005

Just being home in Cenral PA this past weekend, I had the opportunity to swing by Elizabethtown, PA. The visit reminded me that I had failed to post my thoughts on Elizabethtown (a film set in Kentucky which I recently had the opportunity to see).

To get to the point, there was a strong endorsement of small town familial community and love as an antidote to the driven, success oriented consumer culture. Regarding small town America, I do not equate this with the Christian Gospel/counterculture. Yes, this can create a context for redemptive moments, where the noise of our success culture is drowned out, but it is not the be all and end all to answers regarding the search for affirmation, meaning, and community in our contemporary situation.

As for love, it needed a better image to wrap-up w/than bloody salmon swimming upstream for sex and life. To wrap, I thought that the movie lacked the strength to hold its alternative vision of family/community and love to guide one through the crisis points of one's life.

This is not to say that watching Elizabethtown has not provided opportunities for conversation, such as the one we're having right now. But it is to say that despite the starpower and message of family, small town, and love, I do not find Elizabethtown a prophetic word for the mass culture or a cult classic for the evangelical subculture. Love, family, and small town community must be in the larger context of living day by day in the Presence of God and one can be about this just as much in urban life far away from family. These are pieces of and tools through which God expresses Himself in our world. Yes, sometimes we need to go away on a Sabbatical to hear the still small voice, but He is the healing balm where-ever we are in place and personal journey. There is no magic in small town or love.

Other thoughts on Elizabethtown can be found here. If you've seen the film, I'd be interested in yours.

Living in Christ day by day

Posted by tom | Oct 26, 2005

Below are some notes I took from a presentation shared by Christian Hallstein, Modern Languages/German Professor, with some of our CMU graduate students.

What does in mean to live in Christ day by day?

1. Use of time: learn to rest in what I've accomplished instead of comparitivism, the Scriptures invert our environment's understanding of success. (Like David "My times are in your hands" Psalm 31:15a)

2. Secular vs. sacred: not a problem as the secular = "the fallen," "unreformed;" God reigns over all the earth, our ultimate purpse is to be agents of God which bring the world into conformity with His desires (Col 3:23 Whatever your task work heartily as you're serving God not man; Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, and the people therein)

3. God will show us what to do and how to do it if we keep listening for His Spirit: live one's life in a posture of listening, do not be anxious about what to say or do; eg., Elijah hearing the still small voice in the cave (I Kings 19:12), But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say (Mt 10:19)

4. Some applications coming out of q/a: treat everyone with fairness, be an encourager, develop relationships over time, speak counsel at opportune times

Tuition Rise Tops Inflation, but Rate Slows, Report Says

Posted by tom | Oct 21, 2005

Another Higher Education Update:

Average college tuition grew more quickly than did overall inflation again this year, although the rate of increase slowed after a period of explosive growth, according to an annual survey released here Tuesday by the College Board . . . Total expenses - including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses - now average $15,566 for an undergraduate student attending a public university in his own state, the survey said. Total expenses at private universities now average $31,916.

For more click here

The Politics of the Kingdom

Posted by tom | Oct 18, 2005

Another thought provoking piece from the archives of Mars Hill Audio

In this biblical-theological essay, Dr. Edmund Clowney discusses how the Church must resist the temptation to become subservient to earthly political powers and programs. This essay was originally published in the late 1980s as a rebuke to liberation theology and to certain less coherent but no less enthusiastic Christian political movements on the right.

Dr. Clowney was for many years the president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (where Ken Myers studied under him), and spent his last years as one of our neighbors in Charlottesville. He died in March. Long-time readers of Christianity Today will be interested to know that one of Dr. Clowney's first writing gigs (in the 1950s) was as the pseudonymous humor columnist Eutychus, whose regular satire in the Eutychus and His Kin feature lampooned many of the more curious features of the evangelical subculture. The Politics of the Kingdom is an altogether more serious work, and is available in its original booklet form for purchase, or you may download it for free.

Common Grace

Posted by tom | Oct 14, 2005

Our weekday breakfast fellowship recently discussed common grace. When going through my archives I found this piece by Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio on the topic. Would love to have your thoughts/reactions.

"I am convinced that if what Christianity was and what culture was were properly understood, a discussion about the doctrine of common grace would be almost unnecessary. One of the reasons the doctrine of common grace has become a lost teaching, an unfamiliar idea, is that modern Christians, especially evangelical Christians, have made some crucial mistakes in their thinking about Christianity and culture." -- Ken Myers from Christianity, Culture, and Common Grace, online (via PDF file).

Narnia Sneak Peek

Posted by tom | Sep 27, 2005
Please pray for insight as several members of the grad fellowship will join me for tonight's Narnia Sneak Peek at the New Stanton Alliance Church. We're looking for oppportunies to partner w/some local congregations and sister ministries for several late semester outreach endeavors related to the December 9 release of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Stay tuned for reactions to the sneak peek and some reflections on the C.S. Lewis as an author, apologist, and scholar.

Distinguishing marks of the Class of 2009

Posted by tom | Sep 22, 2005

Want to enter the world of undergraduate class of 2009? Check out the


Here are a few teasers for a class in which most students were born in 1987 (note: if you think the list is missing something, post it here):

1. Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead.
4.Wayne Gretzky never played for Edmonton.
6. With little need to practice, most of them do not know how to tie a tie.
7. Pay-Per-View television has always been an option.
8. They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.
9. Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.
11. Philip Morris has always owned Kraft Foods.
13. They learned to count with Lotus 1-2-3.
15. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker have never preached on television.
17. "Whatever" is not part of a question but an expression of sullen rebuke.
19. Condoms have always been advertised on television.
25. Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars.
29. The Starship Enterprise has always looked dated.
37. They have grown up in a single superpower world.
41. Les Miserables has always been on stage.
48. Snowboarding has always been a popular winter pastime.
54. They never saw the shuttle Challenger fly.
66. They never saw a Howard Johnson's with 28 ice cream flavors.
75. They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.

College Students Getting Done Faster

Posted by tom | Sep 19, 2005
It's good to read that College Students are getting done faster. Although one needs to keep in mind that this headline means that more and more state college students are finishing in 4 instead of 5, 6, or 7 years. May all those which enrolled this year receive direction for the best use of time, money, and energy to their own development and to the blessing of their neighbor/neighborhood.
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