Martyred Velociraptors and Vegetarian Vampires: The Christian Roots of Redemption in Hollywood

Martyred Velociraptors and Vegetarian Vampires: The Christian Roots of Redemption in Hollywood


In most ways, Jurassic World is just Jurassic Park, but with more at stake. The story of human hubris punished by nature is the same. Most of the dinosaurs have appeared in previous films. But there’s one big difference, and I think it’s worth a note. As seen in the trailer, Chris Pratt’s character, a dinosaur trainer named Owen, has tamed the first film’s villainous velociraptors. Early in the film, a hapless Jurassic World employee falls into the raptor pit. Everyone writes him off for dead, but Owen rushes in, asserting his alpha role over the raptors and saving the goofball’s life. Later in the movie, the raptors become the heroes, riding alongside Owen as they go on the hunt.

At this point in the movie, and again later when yet another dangerous dinosaur from the first film returns as a semi-hero, I was struck that Batman was wrong.... [Read more]

"How Artists Do Theology: The Resurrection"

I blogged at Wesleyan Accent on seeing the theology of the resurrection through painting. 

During this Easter season, I’ve been reflecting on a number of artworks that depict Christ’s victory over death. One striking painting by Bramantino (1490) features Christ raised from the dead but still bearing the emotional and physical trauma of the cross. Jesus is alive again but seems to carry the knowledge of the torture he underwent into the new creation. It is a powerful painting, as Jesus’ haggard face seems to remind us that his suffering was no illusion, and that the way of the cross will be no easier for us.

But the most consistently moving painting, the one that I return to again and again, is Piero della Francesca’s “The Resurrection” (ca. 1460). [Read more.]

"Could Jesus Save Aliens?"

I blogged over at Wesleyan Accent about taking silly questions seriously in youth ministry.

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it 1000 times: “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Very true.

But it’s also true that once they know how much you care they’ll care how much you know.

So study hard, future youth pastors, because your students are going to have some interesting questions. And these questions will require you to draw on stuff you studied in seminary you never thought would matter. [Read more.]

"Cultivating Ears to Hear Beauty’s Call"

I participated in a colloquium on natural theology over at The University of St. Andrews' excellent blog Transpositions. 

Attending St. Andrews, I found myself one of the few defenders of natural theology, surrounded by a chorus of (very polite) Barthian “Neins!” It was, of course, with great amusement when I discovered that the one chink in Barth’s dialectical armor was his soft spot for Mozart. InChurch Dogmatics, Barth rhapsodizes, “[Mozart] heard, and causes those who have ears to hear, even to-day, what we shall not see until the end of time – the whole context of providence.” Bold words, to be sure, from a theologian whose entire theological project revolves around the ongoing necessity of God’s miraculous action to make Himself known. [Read more]

BLOG POST: "Emerge from the waters of your baptism"

Another recent post of mine is up on Wesleyan Accent. 

There aren’t many times in the life of the church where people sit down and say, “Please teach me doctrine.” As a theology nerd, I wish it would happen more. But it just doesn’t happen that much.

Now, this isn’t to say it never happens. In my ministry as a youth pastor I have students who are full of questions and are hungry for deeper answers. We’ll go out for chicken wings and spend hours talking about weighty matters. But these discussions over chicken wings don’t happen that often. Most of the time, our learning is set on cruise control. And the default speed isn’t that fast.

However, there is one time in the life of a family where almost everyone leans in and asks for some doctrinal training. There’s a time when they put the pedal down. And that’s confirmation[Read more]

BLOG POST: Taking the Trinity to Youth Ministry

A recent post of mine is up on the Wesleyan Accent blog.

In the Christian church we have dinner plate doctrines and collector’s plate doctrines. Dinner plate doctrines include Jesus’s death and resurrection, God’s loving character, God’s providential plan for us, and God’s guidelines for living. We get these doctrines out weekly, plop them down, and eat off them.

But some doctrines stay in the china cabinet or worse, up on the wall, where they gather dust: occasionally admired, rarely used.

The Trinity is, in my experience, the ultimate collector’s plate. A gilded, limited edition Charles and Diana Wedding commemorative. Purely for admiring. Never for serious use. In my experience, Christians never talk about the Trinity unless compelled for some reason, and then the discussion is preceded with a lot of hemming and hawing and insecurity posing as ‘mystery.’ And as soon as the occasion for discussing the Trinity is done with, we drop it and get back to topics that don’t cause theological panic attacks. [Read more]