Insights from the movie The Grey

The Miami heat are on a 26 game winning streak. That’s somewhat impressive but lost in all the media hype is the fact that this Sunday marked the longest preaching streak of my young “career” at 4 weeks in a row. Now Lord willing this will pale in comparison when our new church plant gets going, but some people have begun to compare these two amazing streaks (at least one person has….). 

Yesterday I alluded to a movie where a band of Alaskan plane crash survivors are picked off one by one by a pack of wolves. The movie is called The Grey. It is a quite disturbing film, but one also jam packed with deep existential questions and competing philosophies.

One of the closing-though not final so this is not a spoiler alert-scenes depicts a hardened and formally agnostic Liam Neeson yelling at God, if He’s there, to do something, deliver him, and reveal Himself. He releases a number of expletives directed at God, not referring to Him as a father, but as Mother ________ (and we’re not talking about the mother hen gathering her chicks imagery-Matt 23:37) demanding that he prove Himself.

The scene is moving. It really is. He has just uttered his first prayer in the movie crying out to Jesus to help him with a task and Jesus says, “no.” You want to hear an answer. At least I did. It seems, “Ok God, here’s your chance!” But there is no response from the heavens. Perhaps God doesn’t respond to expletives? After all, everyday there are crazy winged creatures flying around His throne declaring Him, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isaiah 6). 

Perhaps, but the answer is much more complex than that. And much more simple. Now I don’t know the director’s intent, but this non-reponse from God is actually quite biblically consistent. I don’t think this director leaves us with a movie devoid of God. There is much more than the plethora of “f-worded terms of endearment” behind God’s non-response. Here are a number of them.

1.) Jesus never responded to “prove yourself” demands. He didn’t do it with Satan. He didn’t do it with folks who demanded signs. That is just not how He rolls in the bible, so we should not think it should be any different in the real world, or in the cinema for that matter.

2.) Miracles in and of themselves, never, by necessity, lead or have led to a person believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Never. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Pharisees saw that miracle and wanted Jesus dead. Immediately. They wanted Lazarus dead too! But it is not just a Pharisaic response, but also a Gentile response. In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled lad. The country folks don’t turn to immediate faith in Jesus, but consider Paul and Barnabas to be Hermes and Zeus respectively. They can barely stop the locals from offering sacrifices! Likewise, God speaking audibly or doing a crazy miracle today will not make anyone by necessity, become a Christian. Data has to be interpreted through the grid of a worldview. A “proof” of God’s existence doesn’t make someone repent, rest upon on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Miracles were/are never sufficient in and of themselves to produce saving faith.

3.) God has already revealed himself in Creation and Conscience. According to the bible, the existence of this physical world tells some of the story. Psalm 19 reminds us that the heavens declare God’s glory and something about Him.  Romans 1 reminds us that the existence of the invisible God can be discerned from the visible world. Ecclesiastes 3:11 explains that God has put the idea of “eternity” in the hearts of men.

4.) God has already revealed himself through the person of Jesus, who is the “image of the invisible God.” Now of course only one generation in a small part of the world actually laid eyes upon this Jesus. But those eyewitnesses of his resurrection didn’t just risk life and limb to spread this news, all of them lost life and limb with only one exception. Regardless if you believe Jesus is who he says He is, God’s answer to the demand he prove Himself will always be the same: I already have. Don’t miss it.

 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….Hebrews 1:1-3

So when you’re tempted to demand God prove Himself, and then base your faith upon whether He does or doesn’t prove Himself to you satisfactorily, remember He already has proved Himself in Jesus.

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A Dolphin Tale: Should we save Dolphins? part II

This is a continuation of a post on my previous post on why or why should we not take the time to save wounded dolphins.

1.) We are called to have dominion over creation. This doesn’t mean that we rule over it in the sense of ruthlessly destroying creation the way much of humanity has done when they decimate fish and animal stocks. Instead we are to cultivate the creation, and included in that creation, are God’s creatures. I remember when my buddy threw a rock at a crab after I prompted him to do so when on foreign study in Israel (at En Gedi-where David hid from Saul). Someone came up afterwards and said to him, “S$#$% you and your dominion-over-creation thinking.” That really isn’t true dominion type thinking. Neither he nor I were actually acting consistently with our belief and worldview.

2.) From a Darwinistic worldview, it does not make sense to me why you should help sick animals. Even cute ones like baby dolphins. The healthy ones are supposed to survive and produce stronger offspring. Helping sick animals only stops that process that made the dolphins what they are. Yet I would imagine many of these marine biologists are complete Darwinists, so to me, that seems a bit on the irrational side. Again, this is just how I see it from that worldview, but would welcome thoughts from someone who fully lives according to that worldview.

3.) God does seem to genuinely care about animals, aside from the general verses which speak of him providing food for ravens (Luke 12:24). In the book of Jonah, God “reasons” with Job and rhetorically asks him, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” Should I destroy the animals too? It is possible that we learn something of God’s concern for animals-though I wouldn’t build a theology around it!

4.) Difference between man/animals. I’m actually not a big dolphin fan because they have eaten way too many snook and redfish in front of me and ruined some quality fishing opportunities. But I do appreciate them and enjoy pointing them out to folks who have not grown up with them in the way that I have. There is a creator-creature distinction between us and God. Yet creation is further divided between man/woman, and under us are creatures (Psalm 8). People are more important than animals.  Many people don’t believe this, and that is consistent with a Darwinist worldview.

But the Christian worldview does not allow such equality. Sometimes our love of animals (and I do love them) can literally cross the line where animals are elevated above people. Love your dolphins, cats, and dogs, but be very careful that a good thing can become a bad thing when it replaces the ultimate command-loving God and loving other PEOPLE. If you love your pets more than you love your neighbors, then you are not having dominion over creation; in fact the reverse has become true.

A Dolphin Tale: Should we save dolphins?

After the hit movie “Dolphin Tale,” the little Clearwater Marine Aquarium has instantly become a smash hit of a tourist destination. You can actually see  a webcam of Winter the dolphin-though I don’t think you can facetime or skype her yet. If you haven’t seen the movie, and I’ve only seen about half, it is the story of a dolphin washing up on shore, disabled and entangled in the rope of a crab trap. It’s tail is gangrenous and falls off (in the movie its amputated), but the animal learns to swim without it. Then they grant it a prosthetic tail which is used for training purpose (I think in the movie its a permanent appendage).
Everyone from my 3 year old to 6th grade nephews have seen the movie and wanted to visit “Winter.” Everyone. It was packed when I visited the place with my family and in-laws over the Xmas break. Packed but well worth the visit.
Our visit left me with a few thoughts, but one which my wife reminded me today: what place does animal rescue, particularly of dolphins-but more generally of sea creatures-play in a Christian worldview? Is it inconsistent with a Christian worldview, or is it inconsistent with a non-Christian worldview? Or inconsistent with both?
Only about one beached/trapped/injured dolphin in a 1000 actually survives being transferred from the wild to aquarium. And when they do, it’s a lot of work. I watched an amazing video, not of Winter, but of another dolphin called Hope. They have to actually give these baby dolphins baby formula (Winter was found as a baby, not like you see in the movie-we still can’t time travel unfortunately so you can understand that one..), blend it with herring, and teach them to drink it. They spend all hours of the day. There was footage of the workers feeding dolphins on Xmas Eve. Just  50 yards away, we could see the fruit of their effort as Hope did tricks and frolicked and jumped in his tank. And splashed my son. He still talks about it.
The story of Winter is heartwarming and inspiring for many vets who’ve paid dearly for their service in the war. So, I want to pose the question in a more general way, are such efforts to save and rehabilitate animals consistent with a Christian, or non-Christian, worldview?
In order for this post to not get too long, and to spend a little more time thinking about the question, I’ll try to break it up a bit.
Sometimes answering questions by asking other similar questions can help be of great service. Can a person be a scientist for the glory of God? Can they study physics, marine biology, astronomy? Of course. In a Reformed Christian worldview, as espoused in the Protestant Reformation, there is no distinction between secular and spiritual work.
For instance, I’m a pastor. You can be a scientist. And we can both honor Christ. One is called to be spend more time studying, preaching, teaching God’s Word. The other is called to spend more time studying God’s World. His Word points us to Jesus, and His World can point us to Jesus too. Just ask the Magi-they followed stars. 
So if scientists can study God’s World and learn how God’s World operates-and teach us who are not scientists-then why would it be outside that worldview to think they can learn and study how the world operates in order to save dolphins and other sea creatures. They are applying what they know of God’s World to help preserve God’s creatures. If I believe it is good to be a scientist for God’s glory, then I think its more than consistent-but a logical next step-to use that knowledge to preserve His creatures.
Even though that’s only one reason, I’ll stop here and try to get to a few more reasons why I think (with a few parameters) such a dolphin rescue is consistent with a Reformed Christian Worldview.