The Book of Eli is a Blind Mad Max

Eli: Its in the back of the TV
Carnegie: Go check the TV!
Henchman: The what?

The Hughes’ brothers 2010 dystopic Western The Book of Eli attempts to be many things; many more things than I will do here in this little write up. What follows are several completely unrelated. spoiler-ridden, and very loose reactions I had after watching Eli tonight.

Growing up, I briefly got into a Western series entitled Legacy – a Western, teen-fic series baptized with Christian overtones. The Preacher, if I’m remembering this right, was the archetypal “Man in Black” that spoke softly (but when he did he quoted Scripture) and carried a hot six-shooter. Driven to get the girl and bring the order of law to a town being controlled by a greedy tyrant, he… well, you get the idea. Preacher always had a Proverb or (eisegeted) phrase of Christ’s to quote to the bad guy, right before the plot drove the Preacher to resolve the tension by killing the bad guy and galloping away on his trusty steed.

It was the perfect amount of testosterone with a spiritual veneer for me as a young teen. However, even then I reacted to a strong dichotomy between the Preacher’s penchant for quoting the Sermon on the Mount right before turning the other cheek barrel of his shotgun on the baddie. One of the best times was when Preacher brought his Bible and his revolver into the pulpit, extinguishing the baddie by shooting him through(!) the wooden lectern.

That same schizophrenia pervades Eli. Continue reading

Bumper Sticker Theology

“There was; when He was not” – Arius
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs.” – John Tetzel
semper eadem” (always the same) – Romish Counter-Reformation
“I can write the Gospel on a dime.” Dwight L. Moody
“Once saved always saved.” (large swaths of) American Evangelicalism
“Let go and let God.” Am. Evangelicalism
et cetera ad nauseum

Clearly, there have been some less than helpful slogans running through the corridors of church history. However, aren’t the solas more or less slogans? Reformed churchmen have utilized pithy sayings as well. So how should we think about sloganeering? Useful if it has the right theology (pragmatic)? Fight fire with fire? Or is there another means for addressing this phenomenon?

Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories”

One of the most quoted and celebrated critical pieces of Tolkien’s is his apologia for the fantastical fiction, “On Fairy-Stories.” Here, Tolkien clarifies what it is about Marchen that draws the reader out of their normal reality to “recover” more their own reality than they would have ever dreamed. He explains several of his most important compositional tools – such as eucatastrophe and mythopoiesis – and brings critical scholarly work and discussions of trolls together in a way that can hold the attention of even this reader.

Originally a contribution to a fetschrift for a colleague (which was edited by C.S. Lewis), the article appeared in various formats, including The Tolkien Reader (1966). It is now republished in a (critical) edition by Flieger and Anderson.

On a not wholly related note, but nevertheless still within the Faerie!, is the intriguing article by Jeffrey Mallinson in the Journal Of Religion and Popular Culture: “A Potion too Strong?: Challenges in Translating the Religious Significance of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Film.” Now that we are somewhat sufficiently chronologically removed from the films, I’ve enjoyed looking back at some of Mallinson’s arguments. You can read his article here.

On Fairy-Stories

I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Continue reading

Brakel on Typology

Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635 – 1711) was a prominent Dutch theologian and pastor at the end of the High Orthodoxy in the Netherlands. His magnum opus is The Christian’s Reasonable Service, which is (overall) a marvelous combination of dogmatic and practical theology, certainly in the vein of the Nadere Reformatie tradition. For excellent treatments of the Dutch churchman see Bartel Elshout’s resource-rich site.

Brakel is very careful in describing typology. He argues that, unless clear boundaries are given, every star, tree and worm will turn into a type of Christ at the hands of less-than-skilled interpreters. So he lays down the following rules for a type: “If one is to designate something as a type, the following must be true:”

  1. It must have been appointed by God to be a type.
  2. Types had been given to the church of the Old Testament in order that during that time frame she would thereby look unto Christ and believe in Him.
  3. Types were a necessary component of Old Covenant worship such that those who did not use these types for their intended purpose were in sin.

“When these three criteria are absent, however, one may not appoint or designate something as a type” (Volume IV, p. 382).

At first glance, these seem like excellent rules. Continue reading