Be A Window, Not A Wall

Be a window,

Not a wall.

Some stand tall,

Yet all eventually fall.

Some loom large,

While others seem small.

 

We’ve all heard the call,

But a few of us are still afraid to fall.

We’ve all failed,

But Christ has prevailed.

 

Windows let the Son shine through,

Yet walls shield people from seeing the real you.

Windows are open and transparent,

But walls are closed off and hide what sin has bent.

Windows crack and shatter,

While walls pretend to have everything together.

 

Be more like a beautiful flower,

Than this structurally unsound tower.

Let the light into every area of your life,

Before darkness hurts like an ill-intentioned knife.

If you want to grow,

Then the walls need to go.

 

There is no guilt or shame,

In the power of Christ’s name.

Be honest above all,

No one expects you to be Saint Paul.

Be a window,

Not a wall.

 

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Advertisements

The Thief and the Cross

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. Originally, I was planning on writing this much sooner in the year, but was too busy helping my church run our youth group winter camp that I had to push it off. So I figured that publishing it this weekend would be an ideal and relevant time.

By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

Bart-d-ehrman-2012-wikipedia
Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (1) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (2), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (3).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock with which the rest of this blog-post will rely on as a foundation moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

What is also of note is how artists depict where the three are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (4).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (5) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (6).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (7), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (8) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (9), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the one thief continuing to mock Him, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

Gamelin2_t01
Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (11)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (10), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (12).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 23:40
  2. Luke 23:42
  3. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  4. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  5. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  6. James 4:6-8b
  7. Luke 23:34
  8. Luke 23:35-37
  9. Matthew 27:44
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  11. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  12. Luke 23:40-43

Don’t Judge Me By The Color Of My Eyes

Photo: John w/ his two sons.

A while ago, my older brother John wrote a really powerful Facebook post about the state of racism in the world. He considered the matter and concluded that racism is nothing more than a categorical error. The idea that because of a sole variable (i.e. the color of one’s skin), those that share that variable are different than those who do not have that variable (i.e. those of a dissimilar skin color).

Even if both groups shared almost every other variable (i.e. culture, DNA, religion, etc), they were and are still identified by a variable that bears little to no significance when compared to more appropriate labels of identification like one’s birthplace or cultural upbringing. With his permission and in light of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day, I wanted to share his thoughts with you (1). So, let’s see what he said:

“I’ve heard so much talk lately about “black” people and “white” people. Unfortunately, every single post has missed the point entirely. We live in a world where we’ve been taught to categorize by color. A process that if not taught to you since you were born, would make absolutely no sense. In fact, you would find it ridiculous because if you step back and think about it, color does not represent anything.

You would never consider categorizing people by eye color. It would be so stupid to even try. Close your eyes for a second and try to imagine a world where people were categorized by eye color. The whole idea is just stupid, right? Well, open your eyes. This is your reality.

So why don’t you even give it a second thought when someone says “white” or “black” people? The very moment that you define someone by their skin is discriminatory. That is the birth of racism. Allow me to explain.

The deep rooted problem lies in our fundamental thinking process that we all are guilty of being indoctrinated into believing. Somewhere in our messed up ideology we discarded categorizing other people by real connections like culture and heritage. Instead, we have substituted appropriate labels with something more superficial and shallow: the color of our skin.

The way we use the word color itself is ridiculous. Everyone’s a different shade of brown. Have you ever actually seen a person with white or black skin? Me neither.

Also, the word “race” is entirely incorrect in the context that we use it in when talking about people. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race. I’ll say it again. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race: the human race.

If you really break it down, there is only one thing that people of the same skin shades have in common: the way society views and treats them. This is the only thing that creates the bond between people who look similar and separates those who look different. But the way society treats you has entirely nothing to do with you.

Now we’re back to agreeing that there is really no difference, except the one that we created in our minds. So I leave you with this: as long as you yourself define people by categories of skin “color,” you are reinforcing racism. If you want to change society, then you must first change the way you think.”

If you change the way you think, then you will naturally change the way you speak. Don’t judge others by the color of their eyes or skin, but instead judge them by the inner condition of their identity. Now before you go, here is some more food for thought from two very important men in history speaking on the same subject:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – Christ Jesus (NRSV John 7:24)

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. John also gave me permission to make minor edits that help fit the format of a blog-post, as well as fix any grammatical errors present in his original Facebook post.
  2. For more from John Cribari, here’s his personal training business: https://lessons.com/ca/simi-valley/personal-training/cribari-training
  3. Disclaimer

The Book That Made Your World: Review and Summary Part 2

Photo Cred: (1)

*Note: this is the final installment of a 2-part series on The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi. If you have not read Part 1, go here.*

books-reading-series-narnia-159778

Chapters 10 – 11: Language & Literature | Photo Cred: (2)

The Bible also changed the way the West developed both our language and our literature as time went on. For instance, due to the efforts of several key missionaries like William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward, India finally had a national language, instead of hundreds of languages and their nuances that were dependent on their geographical or demographic state.

When it came to literature, the Bible has influenced countless writers varying from William Shakespeare to even the immigrants on the Mayflower that sailed to find home in the New World. This is largely due to it having a ring of truth that other famous works of literature simply lacked. Compared to the Iliad or the many poems of Rabindranath Tagore in his work Gitanjali, the Bible resonates because it stands the test of time as true. The Book of books forever changed the way we communicate through whatever medium we choose to do so. It defined how we tell stories because it is the collection of stories that together tell one, ultimate story. The story of God and His plan to save us from ourselves.

pexels-photo-256262

Chapters 12 – 13: Education & Science | Photo Cred: (3)

In light of this, there was also the profound effect that the Bible had on both the development of the university system and on the scientific method as a whole. As history shows, a good portion of cathedrals and monasteries became universities as Christians at the time believed that we ought to relearn our knowledge of nature. A knowledge that supposedly Adam and Eve had before the Fall as they daily walked with God. Even modern day universities were founded by Christians like Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and even Yale.

In regards to science, a firm belief in the Bible and God was the very cornerstone of the study in general.  John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, once said concerning the debate over science and religion that “far from belief in god hindering science, it was the motor that drove it.” At first, science was referred to as natural philosophy and natural history as it branched out from theology. This is because “the scientific perspective flowered in Europe as an outworking of medieval biblical theology nurtured by the Church. Theologians pursued science for biblical reasons” (P. 223).

Francis Oakley has taken the time to observe and validate this claim between the laws of nature (science) and its origin in a Bible-believing culture in his essay entitled Christian Theology and Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature (The American Society of Church History, 1961). Later Mangalwadi asserts that “science was born in the university-an institution invented by the church” (P. 229). Some notable founders of science who were also Christians include Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Robert Boyle, Albertus Magnus, Francis Bacon, and many more as pointed out by Elaine Howard Ecklund in her book Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think (2010).

JW_engraving_600

Chapter 14: Morality | Photo Cred: (4)

Morality is another way in which the Bible sculpted the Western way of living, in that there was a return to a more civilized society every time a movement was led by the Holy Spirit and not by the hearsay of men. One notable time that Mangalwadi points out is John Wesley and his impact on England and the surrounding area as a preacher and social activist. Reminding people that there is a moral law written on the tablet of our hearts. This effect can also be seen when comparing Holland and India in the way the Bible’s influence, or the lack thereof, helped shape these two very different countries.

family-outdoor-happy-happiness-160994

Chapter 15: Family | Photo Cred: (5)

In this day and age, the idea of family is under serious investigation and scrutiny in the West. This is due to the rise in awareness of the LGBT+ movement that preaches that all sexual expressions of love are love. That no matter the combination of sexual partners, it still counts as equal to the original idea of what a family looks like.

In the Christian worldview, the monogamous family structure is central to what is directly taught in Scripture. Because of this model of the ideal family structure of one man and one woman in a mutually consensual relationship raising the next generation, the West thrived. As the culture carried on this idea generation by generation, they could rightly live in light of the original intent of God’s grand design. The Bible gave Western society a firm foundation to build a better world and that foundation was a proper understanding of the most functional family structure: the monogamous family.

clasped-hands-comfort-hands-people-45842

Chapter 16: Compassion | Photo Cred: (6)

Shifting his focus, Mangalwadi then pinpoints another key in the difference between those places that are influenced by the Bible and those that are not with the fact that compassion is an essential outpouring of Christian living. Unlike America for example, India has the karmic belief that the needy do not need to be helped because they have received what they sowed. Justice has had its way and the best thing is to let the needy sort out their karmic threads on their own without the aid of the more fortunate.

Yet Christ taught numerously that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves, to help the poor, to serve the downtrodden, and to not neglect the needs of the weakest links in our own societies. Compassion is a key outpouring of God’s Word penetrating the hearts of humans as they live out what Christ taught. It is for this reason that Christians have made the most homeless shelters, hospitals, and orphanages than any other religious system in history by a long shot.

cyrus-mccormick-1

Chapter 17: Wealth | Photo Cred: (7)

Concerning wealth, Mangalwadi argues that capitalism is a direct result of the Bible’s influence on the West in the economic sense. He believes that because of this influence, it created brilliant inventors like Cyrus McCormick who would go one to revolutionize the way farmers tended to their crops with the invention of horse-driven reapers . Mangalwadi argues that his influences of both growing up in a home that had strong Protestant influences such as John Calvin and his Puritan upbringing made McCormick the man that history knows him as now. Later on in his life, McCormick continued to influence the world by promoting the Bible in the local newspapers and when he changed the name of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago to the now McCormick Seminary. True wealth stems from true wisdom and true wisdom is rooted in true worship unto the triune God.

Later on in the chapter, Mangalwadi makes the statement that “ambition is good, but it becomes greed when separated from moral absolutes (P. 321).” The idea of a free market economy and saving wealth for later, instead of either hiding it or throwing it away on quick pleasures was unheard of in these older days. Greed was far more commonplace as the rich would hide their wealth, instead of redistributing it back into the free market. As Ayn Rand would say and Mangalwadi would agree, “happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” This specific chapter covers a lot of other ground too like foreign markets and the history of capitalism in the West, but you will have to read the book yourself to find Mangalwadi’s argument on the relation between the Bible and its influence in those areas as well.

Huguenot_Monument

Chapters 18 – 20: Liberty, Missions, & the Future | Photo Cred: (8)

Jumping off of the free market section of the book, Mangalwadi ends by highlighting a few other key places that the Bible has influenced: the idea of liberty, Christian missions, and what lies ahead in the future. On the biblical idea of liberty, Mangalwadi makes the case that only the Bible could drive people like the Huguenots (French Calvinists) to construct the Huguenot monument in South Africa to commemorate their newfound freedom from the Wars of Religion where the strong, woman holds firmly a Bible in her left hand. There is a reason Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics didn’t stir the hearts of the downtrodden to keep fighting for freedom. Only the Bible could invoke this sense of longing to be free like Adam and Eve once were in the garden of Eden.

On the subject of missions, Mangalwadi tells the story of how the introduction of the Gospel of John revolutionized an extremely remote tribe called the Hmars who lived in the dense forests that rest on the border between Myanmar (Burma) and India. The effect of missions work such as that done for the Hmars tribe is evidence of the effect that the Gospel can radically change even the most primal tribes of people and turn them into much more civilized people with the tools necessary to keep up with an ever changing world.  

Finally, the book ends with where the West is going now that these biblical principles are being abandoned in favor of other, more tolerant, worldviews. A direction that, if continued, could lead to a social and spiritual decay that we cannot recover from. Mangalwadi ends with an urgency to remind people of how the West was built in the first place. On the very spine of the Christian Scriptures leading and guiding us from darkness and into the light.

In summary, the Bible is the most influential book of all time and Mangalwadi does a pretty good job of showcasing that in this book. There is a lot of good information in this book and it’s worth the read for any who are curious on the Bible’s impact on history. Suffice to say, the Bible is the book that made your world. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishal_Mangalwadi
  2. www.pexels.com
  3. www.pexels.com
  4. https://sites.smu.edu/cdm/bridwell/jwl/
  5. www.pexels.com
  6. www.pexels.com
  7. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/cyrus-mccormick-6675.php
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org
  9. Disclaimer

 

To the Bride and Groom

Photo Cred: www.pexels.com

Recently, my friend David got married and it got me thinking about marriage in general. If someone was to tell me something I needed to know before I ever got married, in order for a successful marriage, what would I need to hear? What is something every couple needs to know and have in mind before their wedding day? Well, I would want realistic expectations and some sort of idea of what will happen regardless of what that marriage turns out to be in the future. Something that needs to be known before “just married” becomes “married.”

As I have observed other marriages in my life, I have noticed five things that every marriage faces. Five obstacles that can repair or ruin this intimate relationship. These obstacles are communication, finances, intimacy, society, and worldview. Every couple will face one, if not, all five of these types of obstacles during the duration of their marriage. So for those of you who are either a) going to be married or b) just got married, then this blog-post is for you.

1) Communication

The obstacle of communication revolves around the issue of who matters more in this conversation: me, you, or us. The answer is us, not you or me. It’s called a team effort for a reason: teams communicate well because they have to, in order to win. Likewise, spouses communicate well, in order to maintain their marriage.

In marriage, everything you and your spouse do in life from now on will be communicated one way or the other. There are always going to be two types of marriages: those that communicate well and those that communicate poorly. Which marriage do you want?

By taking the effort to communicate well with your spouse on little things, you won’t have to worry when big situations come up. You will have all of that discipline to not only speak openly, but also to listen actively. All good marriages have a great sense of communication. Does yours? Will yours? If not, say something to your spouse or spouse-to-be and work on being better before it’s too late.

2) Intimacy

The obstacle of intimacy is a matter of understanding love and then living that out practically. Love at its core is sacrificial. Christ was sacrificed because of God’s love for us, even while we were in sin. The husband is commanded to follow this example and sacrificially love his wife.

Likewise, Christ respects His Father in Heaven. The wife is commanded to follow this example and respectfully love her husband. The answer to the obstacle of intimacy in marriage is sacrificially loving your lover with consistency. Better to have loved too much than to have never loved someone enough.

3) Finances

The obstacle of finances is a problem rooted in a combination of faithfulness, honesty, and wisdom. If you are faithful with little, then you can be faithful with much. Whether that be saving, spending, or investing, your faithfulness in finances will translate into honest use of your money as one couple. This faithfulness and honesty will in turn become wisdom in all of your financial endeavors.

I’ve seen countless couples who have a horrible marriage because of the tensions of bad financial decisions. This can lead them to either go broke or divorce. Don’t be them. Prepare ahead of time for the financial emergencies and general costs of marriage before they happen. Save, spend, and invest wisely while you have the advantage at the beginning of your marriage, not after you have already dug your financial ruin like everybody else. Be wise by making financially wise decisions in marriage.

4) Society

When two families join together and become in-laws to one another, this can be both bad and good. The obstacle of society is the social pressures of maintaining the expectations of those closest to you. This could be your in-laws, your family, your friends, or even your “public image” on social media.

First and foremost, live out the expectations for marriage as instructed by God before you ever listen to anyone else. Everyone else’s opinions on your marriage can wait as you listen to the LORD’s instruction. God’s expectations should be your standard for how your marriage should look and be perceived by others.

On the other hand, when two families unite through marriage you will inherit newfound responsibilities that you should certainly prepare for now rather than later. These are natural and should be celebrated new changes in your new life together. Nevertheless, marriage is two people married under God and it doesn’t have any wiggle room for control-freak family members, friends, or nosy neighbors to nitpick your every decision. If you follow God first and then listen to others, you’ll be just fine.

5) Worldview

The obstacle of worldview is a problem that deals with how the home will be run. How does your worldview align with your spouse? Do you share the same worldview or do they differ? Are you both Buddhist or Christian? Atheist or Muslim?

You need to be aware of the fact that if you both have differing worldviews, it will be much harder to run the home as a team because of the disagreements that can arise in different ideologies. It is crucial to keep in mind how each other’s worldview will impact the other as you both grow closer together. Your combined worldviews are the foundation for the way your new life together will turn out. If you have no foundation, how can you even begin to build a home? Start with a firm foundation and work from there. Know your spouse and allow yourself to be known by your spouse. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

 

Thank You, Nabeel Qureshi

Photo Cred: (1)

Dear Dr. Nabeel Qureshi,

Recently, the world has been at a loss for words on your tragic passing from this life into the better life to come for all who follow Christ. You had a long fight with stomach cancer and now you have entered into eternal rest with our LORD. Those that knew you mourn your loss, but also know that you are in a far greater place than we could ever imagine.

With that said, your recent transition from this earthly life into eternal life has caused me to reflect on your impact on my life. How I was first introduced to you through Dr. David Wood and his ministry on YouTube that uses apologetics to reach the Muslim community. A ministry that might just have the greatest bromance in apologetic history as well. The friendship that you and David had in the LORD was unparalleled. You both displayed what it truly means to have a brother in Christ.

It was these moments and more that you showed all of us how to speak the truth in love in a practical way. Like when you had a formal debate with the famous Muslim apologist, Dr. Shabir Ally (2). A highly respectable figure within academia and a great debater, to say the least. Even then, you stayed civil and Christ-like in spite of the challenge of debating such an accomplished public speaker like Ally.

The greatest lesson you showed me was to always have compassion and love for those who do not know Christ. To build a bridge and reach people where they are at was so inspiring. To love people like Christ did was evidence enough of how much Jesus has changed you to be more and more conformed to His image. I have never met you on this side of eternity, but I can’t wait to meet you on the other side.

In short, thank you. Thank you for being a role model to apologists on how to intellectually engage others in love. Thank you for showing us believers what it truly means to live both a life of conviction concerning the great commission and joy in the grace of our LORD. Thank you for showing non-believers what it means to truly love your enemies as you loved those that hated you for leaving Islam. Thank you, Nabeel Qureshi. You may have lost the battle with cancer, but Christ has won your soul. Rest in peace, Dr. Qureshi. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. David Wood (Facebook)
  2. https://youtu.be/FWpqqqZn7Kg
  3. Disclaimer

Christian Reconstructionism: Not So Right

Photo Cred: Austin Cline (1) | Updated: 4/3/2018

As of late, I have noticed a strange phenomenon growing in the political climate and it is one that concerns me because of its implications on American society and Christianity as a whole. That phenomenon is the Christian Right and its underlying belief by some within the movement in an ideology called Christian Reconstructionism. Before addressing the problem, let me properly define it and then get into why Christian Reconstructionism is a dangerous ideology that should not be upheld by Christians or those on any political platform.

6157kb7Jk-L._UX250_
R. J. Rushdoony | Theologian Source: http://www.amazon.com

Christian Reconstructionism is a theonomic movement that really began in the early twentieth century by a man named R. J. Rushdoony and flourished during the 1980s in American politics as it seeped into the Republican Party as a major driving force (2). They are similar to a political action committee (i.e. PAC or Super PAC), but instead of using primarily money to influence the political process they twist Scripture to push their ideology. Rushdoony’s philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism was largely influenced by the fact that his family were victims in the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and his strong resistance to the New Deal proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930’s, which led him to creating this new form of Christian political involvement.

The basic philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism is the idea that any given nation must be run as a theocracy by Christians, for Christians. Just to be clear, let me define a few terms before moving forward. A theocracy is a form of government where a nation is ruled by the divine order of some type of deity. A theonomy is how a theocracy is run by any given governing institution in power. The difference between the two terms would be “what it is” versus “how it is” from what I could gather online. A couple examples of theocratic government include, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and Islam in the Middle East. So, why is this scary? Why is this such a problem that people still have this mentality, albeit only a small minority? Well, let’s quickly look at those two examples for a refresher on the negative side effects to a theocratic government.

Church
Source: https://strangenotions.com/is-the-catholic-church-a-force-for-good/

When it came to the Catholic Church, they essentially ruled Europe during the Medieval Ages and had complete control up until both the Reformation and later the Enlightenment that flipped the world upside down. As PBS put it, “the church reinforced the political authority of the states, and the states reinforced the authority of the church (3).” What this meant was that they worked together to enforce law. The government enforced the law of the land, while the Catholic Church enforced the law of the LORD. If one broke either law, then they broke both forms of law and thus would not only receive punishment in this life, but also in the life to come afterwards.

Because of this political snare, the common people were apart of the faith in fear of the tyranny that loomed above them. If they did not believe in the Catholic faith, then they were subjected to torture or even death like those that were implemented during the Spanish Inquisition. This fear drove the commoner to live in utter submission to whatever the government said. Likewise, the government lived in utter submission to whatever the Catholic Church said because in those days, spiritual concerns superseded material matters.

Regarding Islam in the Middle East, it is much more extreme when compared to the Catholic Church not only by the length of time, but also by the amount of death and torture inflicted onto non-believers throughout history. These modern methods include, but are not limited to forcing homosexuals to jump off of buildings to their death, genital mutilation of women, stoning, and so on. Nevertheless the same goal for both forms of these theocratic governments was to sustain control over the region and in these two cases, through whatever means necessary. For the purposes of this blog-post, I’ll leave further research into both of these abuses of theocratic forms of government to you to look into on your own.

Going back to where we started, this is what a theocratic government would look like if the Christian Reconstructionist had their way and that is why it is a danger to the American way of life. Under theocratic rule, every American would have to be Christian or suffer the severe consequences for believing otherwise. Not only that, but a very specific type of Christian that upholds certain beliefs like rejecting antinomianism (opposite of legalism), upholding presuppositionalism (opposite of evidentialism), and affirming postmillennialism to name a few.

progressive-revelation
Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/progressive-revelation.html

The Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, would become the new rule of law and it would be barbaric to say the least in its application to 21st century civilization. Things such as interracial marriage, individual autonomy, and even modern women’s rights would be abolished. In other words, the philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism reapplying the Old Testament Law as the new law in American society is the equivalent of reapplying the use of horses instead of modern-day tractors for farming. They had their use and importance in history, but their need in today’s society is no longer applicable as the world has advanced beyond that phase of human civilization (4). 

At the time, the Old Testament Law was amazing when compared to the horrific cultures that surrounded the region. Other nearby nations like the Hittites and the Canaanites were utterly wicked in the sight of the LORD, so God commanded the Israelites to live differently in almost every way than these other cultures lived. This is why the Old Testament Law existed in the first place: to fulfill the Hebrew’s part of the Old Covenant. If the Israelites obeyed God, then they would be blessed beyond belief under this covenant. If they didn’t keep the covenant, then they would receive the repercussions of their actions in full (5).

Fast-forward to the times of Christ when the Old Covenant is turned obsolete as Jesus introduces the New Covenant not just with the Hebrews, but with all of mankind (6). Hence, the Christian Reconstructionist’s major selling points on their particular philosophy are in direct conflict with crucial biblical truths in Scripture. The Old Covenant is no longer necessary and yet the Christian Reconstructionist advocates the reintroduction of the old way of relating to God.

As history can attest, when the political and the spiritual are unnaturally bent into a particular agenda we all lose. When it comes to Christian Reconstructionism, this just happens to be one of many attempts to do just that. Forcing someone to live a certain way in spite of their convictions in order to show them what you believe is a better way is not loving, but tyranny. In the name of freedom, there must be flexibility. In the specific case of Americans, what could be better than each and every one of us freely doing as we will to do, without infringing on the dignity inate in others. Sharing ideas rather than controlling them to fit within certain boundaries that favor one sect, while simultaneously oppressing another.

So what is the solution to a theonomous culture? Well, there are only two other options: a heteronomous culture (totalitarianism) and an autonomous culture (libertarianism). For the sake of brevity, America began as a theonomous culture with the mutual belief in the natural law of God giving us unalienable human rights, but has overtime become an autonomous culture where the rights of the individual matter more than the rights of the collective group. Act, believe, and think how you want, but without stepping on the toes of another person’s freedom to do the same.

As I clearly noted earlier, American politics and Christian Reconstructionism are simply not compatible. The movement would only cause more harm than help in the grand scheme of things. When choosing between compromise and extremism in the game of politics, compromise is always the better way out. Compromise is the reason that we as Americans can proudly say that we freely pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://fax.libs.uga.edu/wwpost/
  2. http://www.religioustolerance.org/reconstr3.htm
  3. http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/catholic-church.html
  4. The idea that I am referring to in this section of my blog-post is called progressive revelation. It is a common concept in both Christianity and Islam. Read more about it here.
  5. Deuteronomy 30:15-20
  6. Luke 22:20

Who Is Chris Cribari?

Updated: 10/12/2018 | Photo Cred: Daniel Walton

For those of you that are new to this blog and since I’m closing in on 50 blog-posts pretty soon as of this blog-post, I figured it might be time to reintroduce myself to new visitors to this site. Who am I exactly? Well, here is a little about myself and what makes me who I am today.

I grew up Southern California for the first ten years of my life and then my family moved to Colorado in July of 2007 for my Dad’s job where I have lived ever since. I was raised by my parents in the Calvary Chapel Movement, along with my four siblings. My four siblings are Rachel, John, Corban, and Nathan. My parents grew up in very broken homes, which directly influenced their strong emphasis on a family established on Christ first and foremost.

I came to faith in Christ when I was 9 in the summer of 2006 and have been a Christian ever since. My parents strong belief in Christianity had a great impact on my path towards the Christian faith, but the decision was all my own. I privately accepted Christ walking home from my friend David’s house where we were watching Playboy DVD’s after school. I publicly came to Christ at Calvary Chapel Oxnard’s Summer VBS a few weeks later when my VBS group leader explained the Gospel to me after I questioned him as to whether or not it was true.

I am and always have been an avid storyteller, along with an active listener to people’s stories. I started writing my first stories in either second or third grade and continue to write to this day. At home, I have stacks of partially-written novels, poems, sermon ideas, and short stories either on flash-drives or busting out of years-old binders. Writing allows my soul to speak truthfully, in spite of my high-spectrum autism disorder as diagnosed by Stanford University.

This is also why I love cinema and going to the theater so much. When Blockbuster was still a thing, my siblings and I would watch our VHS movie collection to death as we rewatched our favorites all the time growing up. This collection that we had as kids contained the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), the Wallace & Gromit series (1990-1995), a pair of Jurassic Park movies (1993; 2001), a few Val Kilmer movies like The Ghost in the Darkness (1996), The Saint (1997), and The Prince of Egypt (1998), along with a few dozen other films.

When we got a little older, we boys got the privilege of watching my Dad’s infamous movie collection that holds some of the best films I’ve ever seen. This collection consisted of mostly war movies like Braveheart (1995), Gladiator (2000), Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Patriot (2000), and We Were Soldiers (2002). It also had other genre movies like A Beautiful Mind (2001), Bandits (2001), Equilibrium (2002), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007), The Matrix (1999), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and the Phantom of the Opera (2004). It might just be a box of DVD’s, but it holds some of my favorite memories as my Dad showed us boys what men he wanted us to be through the medium of film.

When I have time to train, I occasionally compete in Strongman too. I was introduced to the sport by my mentor Andrew Morrison and have loved it ever since. I have competed four times and I am preparing for future competitions as well. Through my time training, I’ve met some of the world’s strongest men like Brian Shaw, Mike Burke, Robert Oberst, and Stan Caradine. My favorite Strongman lifts are Atlas Stones, Deadlift, and Log Press.

My theological stance is Molinist, while my preference on church function leans heavily towards Anabaptist. I favor the elder-run church model versus the Moses model as seen in the Calvary Chapel Movement. As the old saying goes, power corrupts. For me, the more powerful one is the more likely they are to be corrupted. Therefore, more accountability before God and His church is necessary for the Great Commission. I currently attend and serve at church in Colorado called LifeGate Denver as a youth pastor.

My favorite apologists are John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Although some honorable influences also include Alvin Plantinga, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Ross, James White, Michael L. Brown, Nabeel Qureshi, Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, R. C. Sproul, and Voddie Baucham. My parents taught me the basics of Christianity when I was young and from there I have continued to develop my own systematic theology as I mature in the faith.

If I specialized in a subject within Christian apologetics, then it would either be philosophy or world religions. With that said, I’d like to know more about every subject if I’m perfectly honest. I’m mostly self taught, but I have had mentors in my life that have sharpened my worldview to be more coherent and concrete.

I attended the Colorado Film School for a while and have an education in screenwriting, along with directing for the screen. I continue to use my education in my career as I am currently the Director of Creative Content for AvidMax and produce their video media. I’m in the process of researching for two books that I am writing. The first book is a fictional novel that focuses on a married couple’s grieving a stillborn birth and the problem of suffering. The other book is like Mere Christianity for the modern world.

I started this blog for a few reasons. It gave me the opportunity to speak freely about whatever has been on my mind. People have also asked and encouraged me to write, so that inspired me as well. Most importantly, I believe God put me on this planet to write for Him.

This blog started in June of 2015 and will continue to go on as long as God wills. I’m Chris Cribari and this is just a frame of my life. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

The Book That Made Your World: Review and Summary Part 1

Updated: 9/16/2017 | Photo Cred: (1)

After taking over a month off, I finally have another blog-post finished. Except this one here was commissioned by a friend at my local church, Peace Mennonite Community Church (2), and this friend, Marjorie, asked me to do a book review, along with a short summary of The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi (3). To be honest, I had never heard of him or his oddly titled book, but I went for it and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part. There were a few minor issues I had with the book, but they are too minut to mention every single one in detail.

Primarily, my issues with the book were either grammatical spelling errors (i.e. “bcome” vs. “become”) or jumps in logic to unproven conclusions. Yet, those issues were brief and were my only nitpicks with the book itself. There was also the fact that it reads like an encyclopedia of information as it goes from subject to subject like a textbook of sorts. Then again, I guess there was no way around that problem either considering the subject matter in the first place.

Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World is a very informative take on the Bible’s influence in twenty key areas of the human experience. From the origins of science to the concept of compassion and forgiveness in the face of utter barbarism in the early first century. Its aim was to show how the Bible has shaped the West in some of the most profound ways imaginable, even in some ways unexpectedly. In that respect, the book succeeds, but it does tend to lack the artistic appeal of more expressive writers.

Related image

Chapter 1: The West Without Its Soul | Photo Cred: (4)

The book begins with how the Bible was crucial in the conceptual development of the human soul. Comparing both Johann Sebastian Bach and Nirvana’s lead singer, Kurt Cobain, we see a stark contrast in their lives and striking similarities. Bach’s biblical upbringing versus Cobain’s Buddhism, which led to his belief in Nihilism later in life.

For Bach, his worldview produced some of the most celebrated classical music of all time that gave a sense of hope to its audience as they admired the art of his compositions. For Cobain, his worldview led to producing music that bears nothing meaningful or worthwhile in substance. The soul can express itself best through music and music allows us to see into the souls of one another. The Bible shapes our souls into redeemed wretches, while its absence allows our souls to rot in utter decay. On the one hand, everlasting life and on the other hand, a life that left too soon.

Related image

Chapter 2: Service | Photo Cred: (5)

The next chapter focuses on the biblical value of service when compared to other worldviews. Drawing from his own experiences growing up in India, Mangalwadi explains how someone who lives out the statutes of the Bible in a real-world way will see their whole outlook on life change as they do less for themselves and more for others in the name of Christ. While others worry about getting to the other side where the grass is always greener, Christ compels His followers to seek out those whose grass is not so green and to help them flourish as they soak in the love of the Son. The world promotes self-love for our own good, but Christ commands selfless love as we serve others for the greater good.

Image result for journey

Chapters 3 – 4: Quest and Self | Photo Cred: (6)

Mangalwadi continues into more particular ways in which the Bible has influenced and helped make the modern West by going into the quest of life, along with our role in that quest as free creatures. The Bible helped give humans the ultimate quest in life: to be known by God, to know God, and to make God known. In the same respect, it also gives us a true sense of self as we now know that we are neither equal to God nor to a dog, but rather exist in the middle of the spiritual and the natural. We are free creatures that create like our Creator and yet are the cherry on top of Creation itself. He asserts that “I am a creative creature” and a free one at that too as we journey on our unique quests into the unknown reaches of what truly makes us human. As we draw close to God, we at the same token draw close to a proper understanding of ourselves in light of His light: the Word of God.

Image result for george lemaitre

Chapters 5 – 6: Humanity and Rationality | Photo Cred: (7)

From here, Mangalwadi touches on our humanity and rationality as self-conscious beings. When it comes to humanity in particular, the Bible was the very spark that ignited the Renaissance, along with the reintroduced idea of human dignity. Even in the most cruel cases of people living in rejection to God in history, our human dignity cannot be erased from the human consciousness. It remains an ever-present element in our lives as a mark that we were made for more.

For rationality, the greatest movements post-11th Century Europe all involved in some shape or form, a strong emphasis on learning, especially through reading and writing. This can be traced back to Augustine, Boethius, William Tyndale, and other brights that sought to bring the truths of Scripture to the commoners who lived in ignorance. It was men like these who brought about new generations of free thinkers that could now test the claims of the corrupt and powerful.

Image result for lateen sail

Chapters 7: Technology | Photo Cred: (8)

When it came to the advancements of technology throughout the ages, notable scholar Ernst Benz clearly pinpoints the four key ways that a Judeo-Christian worldview helped the development of technology on a worldwide scale. His reasoning is summarized below by Mangalwadi:

“First, the Bible emphasized intelligent craftsmanship in the world’s design. Second, the Bible suggested that human beings participate in divine workmanship by being good artisans themselves. Third, the Bible taught that we follow divine example when we use the physical universe for righteous ends. And fourth, the Bible challenged the West to use time wisely, because each moment is a valuable, one-time opportunity (P. 97).”

In short, most of the most important inventions of the last several centuries can be attributed to a Biblical worldview that fueled the passion of many inventors over time. These inventions include the lateen sail, the wheeled plow, the horse as a tool in the workforce, the water mill, the windmill, the crank, the wheelbarrow, the flywheel, the pipe organ, the mechanical clock, eyeglasses, and dozens of other inventions that are the basis of Western technological advancements.

Chapter 8: Heroism | Photo Cred: (9)

The idea of a hero has changed as the culture in Western society has transformed with the passing of time. The classical hero exemplified the traits that would be expected of the Greco-Roman mentality and that meant powerful leverage over others, whether politically, militarily, or any other barbaric means necessary to control those beneath you. The medieval hero was the next idea of heroism and they sought glory, skill, prowess, loyalty, generosity, and courtesy. This eventually led to what is known as religious chivalry and this was basically the equivalent of placing a spiritual mask onto a sinful practice.

That is, fighting for the LORD would guarantee salvation, which was a lie. This idea has evolved into what is known today and what I like to call “good-person salvation.” The idea that because someone “lives a good life” and is a “good person,” that they will inherit eternal life in Heaven. As this idea flourished over the years, it was the Reformers of the 15th and 16th centuries who brought back the idea of true heroism. A heroism based off of Christ himself and His selfless sacrifice for his enemies. This is the backbone behind what most people refer to in Western society as a real hero: someone who is sacrificial, loving, true, and giving to those in need.

Image result for reformation

Chapter 9: Revolution | Photo Cred: (10)

A true revolution is one that either goes back to the way things were or changes the culture into something better. The Protestant Reformation was one of the most influential revolutions because it did both. This revolution was different in a sense from other revolutions because it started from the top and worked its way down. Starting in universities and growing in pubs all across Europe, this revolution stood firmly on God’s Word as its source of reform. The reformers consisted of a team of ragtag “heretics” who just wanted the Word to be the final say in the World, even greater than the Pope. The result of the revolution? Two Bible translations for the commoner, the Geneva and the KJV, along with the most powerful force in any society: an informed public.

Well that’s just half of my review and summary of The Book That Made Your World! Stay tuned for Part 2 and the rest of my thoughts on this book. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. www.revelationmovement.comhttps://www.facebook.com/VishaMangalwadi; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-HDVxmzfkt5Ws_GfCOC_Gw/featured
  2. http://peace-mennonite.org/
  3. http://amzn.to/2wlAnCZ
  4. http://movies.ndtv.com/photos/forever-27-kurt-cobain-would-have-been-46-yesterday-10981
  5. http://www.nlb.gov.sg/sure/a-good-deed-goes-a-long-way/
  6. https://rgyan.com/blogs/omens-while-starting-for-a-destination/
  7. http://thelibertariancatholic.com/raising-your-child-with-the-bible-you-may-be-raising-an-atheist/
  8. https://hhswhi.wikispaces.com/Lateen+sail
  9. http://halfey.moe/post/the-melancholy-of-one-punch-man-attack-on-one-punch-man
  10.  https://thecompassmagazine.com/adventism/reformation-and-the-remnant-a-review

Of Monsters and Men: Trollhunter (2010) | Film Analysis

So this was one of three papers I wrote in college at the Colorado Film School regarding film analysis and because I enjoyed writing them so much, I decided to upload all three eventually here on my blog for you all to enjoy.  The first one was already posted in February, which is called “The Dark Knight: A Scene Analysis,” there is this one regarding the Norwegian film Trollhunter (2010), and then the last one called “Causation, Karma, and Kung Fu: Dragon (2011) Film Analysis” that I plan on uploading later during the summer. I wrote this in one of my favorite classes, Contemporary Global Cinema, and this was a lecture style class on foreign cinema that was taught by the always down-to-earth Andrew Houston. It was originally published on October 5th of 2016, but this is an updated version of the original paper. With that said, here is my film analysis of Trollhunter:

Although there are many films one could analyze concerning foreign cinema, I have chosen to critically analyze the cult-favorite Trollhunter (2010), which became an international hit essentially overnight. But why did such an obscure, Norwegian film become the hit that it was and still is years after its initial release date? How has it managed to remain on Netflix since September 23rd, 2011 and has been available for over six years (1)? Well, let’s figure it out by starting from the very beginning with the concept itself, namely trolls.

André Øvredal, who wrote and directed Trollhunter, is quoted saying that the idea came to him as far back as 1999 (2) when he conceptualized and came up with the idea of what he would want to make a feature film about: a guy that hunts trolls. Then in 2005, Øvredal revisited his idea and began to develop it into the film he always wanted to create as he wrote for several years before anything ever got off the ground. Once production was done and the film was made, it took the world by storm. Along with this craze came all sorts of critics giving Øvredal some well-earned praise on an international scale. From there, the concept became a cinematic hallmark of Norway and a call back to Norway’s heyday as the film is as popular as ever in its native land. Yet, the question remains: why did Trollhunter do so well? How did it resonate globally with so many people that it grossed 1.5 times its budget in a country not known for large scale blockbusters (3)?

Is it perhaps that a movie of this nature has never been made? Before assuming such a bold proposition, let’s look at the facts. The film is constructed in a “found-footage,” mockumentary style with a satirical edge that presents the film to Norwegians as comedic, while international audiences believing it to be an action thriller. A strange and perplexing effect indeed as I, along with other American audiences, noted in first and second viewings. At first viewing, I thought it to be a well-crafted sci-fi, action thriller that focused on the mythology of trolls. On second viewing and the viewings proceeding the second one, I found it to be extremely funny and brilliant, with a sense of wit to it.

It could be received so well, due to its absolute originality, in that it hearkens back to the film language of The Blair Witch Project (1999). But instead of attempting realism, this film uses that method to mock its subject matter subtly and other shaky-cam made movies in the process. When the aforementioned, The Blair Witch Project came out, audiences flocked to theaters to catch a glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime experience that that film marketed itself to be. The public was on a buzz because for a small amount of time, people truly believed that The Blair Witch Project was actually a documentary and not a hoax. Did this same effect happen to viewers of Trollhunter?

Possibly, but not probably due to the vast suspension of belief one must take as the viewer to go along with the film’s preposterous plot of a conspiracy of troll sightings in Norway’s wastelands. When the film premiered at Sundance during one of the Park City midnight premieres, there was a veil of mystery as all attendees that saw this movie had no idea what was going to appear as it was a mystery screening. Not a soul knew what was coming or playing until the movie’s end credits rolled. This may have affected the perception of the first initial audience at Sundance as there were a lot of glowing reviews right out the gate, especially in Norway. Even Øvredal had this thinking when he notes, “I think that the sense of humor wouldn’t come through if you shot it as a regular film.” Nevertheless, while this structure for the film and the hype surrounding it may be the reason, I would argue it is only part of this puzzle and was not the primary reason as to why it was internationally acclaimed.

Maybe it is the cast, which consists largely of comedians playing serious roles, including Otto Jespersen who is known as the biggest comedian in Norway and Hans Morten Hansen who holds the record for the “World’s Longest Stand-Up Performance” that clocks in at 38 hours, 14 minutes (!). If it is the cast, that at first glance seems miscast, yet works wonderfully in the final cut, then how did Øvredal know this was going to work? Why comedians for a dramatic actors job? Easy, comedians usually make great dramatic actors when given the right role. From Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) to Peter Sellers in Being There (1979), comedians can deliver powerfully resonating performances when the right film comes along from far left field. Øvredal is quoted saying that the actors were purposefully cast for their comedic abilities, especially Jespersen in multiple interviews for the press tour, in order to add a layer of humor to the final product.

The final result? A film that is littered with dichotomies that should not work, but do. As mentioned earlier, it is filmed as a documentary in the “found-footage” subgenre, yet mocks such methods and hence is a “found-footage mockumentary.” It is jam-packed with comedians in very serious roles who add both wonder and wit, yet never break character during the movie. Adding to those factors, is how seriously the absolutely bonkers plot is treated, right down to the realistic production design and the overall visual aesthetic that screams realism, yet reveals an extremely mythological story at the forefront. Through the framework of nonfiction, Øvredal takes us, the audience, through a whimsical journey into fairy tale fiction for the modern era.

So back to square one: why was this movie so successful? Well, we have briefly paid attention to certain variables that made this film pop out to the public eye such as its unique film language, the mysterious marketing campaign, the cast of comedians playing dramatic roles, and the various well thought out dichotomies that are fine-tuned to fit the narrative needs of the story unfolding before our eyes. I would argue that these are only effects of the true, root cause as to why this film was so successful on a global scale. Trollhunter was and is so successful because it tells a universal, typical monsters-under-the-bed children’s story like every classic fairy tale.

From the ludicrous schemes of the higher powers that be the government holding back the truth to the fantastical creatures that lurk in the backyards of the locals in Norway, this film plays out like the imagination of a child through the perspective of adults. It represents high concept themes of corruption in government, belief in a higher power whether mythic or religious in nature, and so on with a tilted, humorous angle that an innocent child might have in a situation like this. Before understanding this first cause of sorts that sparked Trollhunter’s success, we must understand what exactly a children’s story is, specifically fairy tales of old.

A fairy tale is a short story told through either oral tradition or in writing of a fantastical fable that explains to children the moral truths of day-to-day life. For this film in particular, there are three main fairy tales that were strong influences for Trollhunter throughout the film: The Boy Who Had An Eating Match With A Troll, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and Soria Moria Castle. There are other references to fairy tales within the narrative of Trollhunter, but these are the main three. So if fairy tales are usually aimed at children and Trollhunter is a film that brings fairytales to light for a mostly adult audience, what is the moral truth that Øvredal is trying to show us?

After some reflection on the thematic threads of the storyline, the moral truth of Trollhunter is twofold: 1) to never stop pursuing the truth like a child never stops seeking answers from their innocent inquiries about life and 2) to not let faith fade into fiction. For now, we will look at the first clause before exploring the second clause. So, the pursuit of truth. How does Trollhunter present this theme of seeking to find the truth without hesitation in pursuit of said truth?

In actuality, that is the main plot thread of the film, for the character of Thomas played by Glenn Erland Tosterud, along with his friends Johanna (Johanna Mørck), Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen), and somewhat Malica (Urmila Berg-Domaas) near the second half of the film. The movie begins with Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle searching across Norway for a lone-wolf type of bear poacher that has been illegally killing wild bears past the prescribed rate set by the government. So our three heroes embark on an unexpected journey to find this obscure poacher for a documentary they are making for a college assignment of theirs. Bottom line: they wanted to know the truth regarding the infamous bear poacher.

But once the bear poacher is found by the three students, he rejects being in their documentary and does all that he can to evade their pursuit of him. Despite the setback, they are unwilling to give up, Thomas especially, and the three follow him to his next hunting expedition only to find out he is not a bear poacher, but a troll hunter. After this startling realization of the truth, Thomas becomes ever more adamant in understanding this newly revealed truth about the world. This pilgrimage for truth leads to Thomas and the rest of his crew in helping the troll hunter named Hans (Jespersen) expose the cover up of the troll epidemic growing insurmountably out of control in Norway’s wastelands.

Yet again, in the pursuit of truth there will always be outside forces pressuring the seeker to stop their search. Simply put, Kalle the camera operator is killed in action due to his Christian blood being detected by a pack of trolls in a cave that smell his God-filled scent. So Thomas and his crew of just Johanna and Hans hire a new Muslim camera operator named Malica, which is actually an indirect jab at Islam as they comically discuss whether trolls can smell Muslim blood. For within this film’s mythology and Norwegian mythology all together, the reason trolls could smell the blood of Christians is because of a misinterpreted and bad exegetical understanding of the Biblical letter of 2 Corinthians, specifically 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 that uses an allegorical, not literal aroma illustration to separate early Christians from the rest of the world in God’s perspective from eternity. Hence, if it is true that trolls can only smell the blood of Christians because they have repented of their sins and believe that Jesus is God (4), then from the Norwegian worldview Muslims and other theistic associated belief systems do not truly believe in the true God since Trolls do not smell their blood for it does not give off a “sweet smelling aroma.”

Some other Norwegian sources also say a number of other reasons trolls can smell the blood of Christians. These include, but are not limited too: jealousy that the Christians that came to Norway during the Medieval Ages stole the people’s worship from trolls to worship the triune Christian God, trolls are some form of demonic force that has been expelled by the triune God to live in darkness, or that they used to be humans/are humans that were never “Christianized” by the advancement of the religion during the time these fairy tales were penned. Whatever the case may be, the point being is this: trolls can smell the blood of Christians because they truly believe Jesus is God and that He rose from the dead, while other religions do not believe like the Christians do. Hence, the movie runs with this claim found scattered in all sorts of troll stories from time past and makes for an interesting clash of differing worldviews within certain cultural predispositions towards these belief systems.

In the pursuit of truth, it is truth that kills Kalle in the basic sense as he believes in the true, triune understanding of God as a Christian, according to Norwegian culture. In the pursuit of truth, it is Hans who allows the three students to follow him and expose this cover up. In the pursuit of truth, it is why this movie began in the first place as the faith that Thomas has, along with his crew is tested as everything that they thought to be true is false and vice versa regarding the bear killings that are directly linked to the troll sightings.

As a child grows into adulthood, there is a period of time known as “childhood innocence” that precedes the teenage years and eventually adulthood. Like Patrick Rothfuss once said in his literary work, The Name of the Wind, “When we are children we seldom think of the future. This innocence leaves us free to enjoy ourselves as few adults can. The day we fret about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind.” The intended audience for the majority of fairy tales, as already stated earlier, are children during this age of innocence. If Trollhunter jumps off from this precedent regarding the intended audience that has grown up, then how does childhood innocence play into the narrative strings of the story and in what way? How does the film’s version of childhood innocence fit with the idea that faith must never fade into fiction as noted above?

When our journey into the unknown world of bear poaching begins and the mystery with the poacher hunting more than the allotted amount, we find our protagonist Thomas with his companions still in this age of innocence. For they think that there is simply a bear poacher, that is Hans, who is killing more than everyone else during the hunting season and they want to know why that is the case. Most likely, presuming that it is for either prideful, sport reasons or something in the vein of seeking fame and fortune from the populace. Yet their innocence in this situation is challenged when confronted for the first time that this is a lie set by the government to distract people from the truth of a troll problem running rampant in Norway.

Not only that, but the stories that they were told as children take a reverse course in this film versus reality. For here in this movie, the more fantastical the story becomes, the more true it becomes (i.e. the fable that trolls can smell the blood of Christians leads to the death of Kalle because of his faith in Christ), while the more plausible in reality, the less true it becomes (i.e. that there is a rabid bear poacher killing off the bear population leads to a government cover up of a darker kind). In the real world, with the advancements of knowledge in various fields of study like philosophy, science, mathematics, and so forth, there is the elimination of the supernatural as the likelihood of such persons, places, or things is relinquished to oblivion by our own exit from innocence into experience. Our belief in Santa Claus ends as our belief in logic and truth flourishes through the maturity of mankind over the years as we understand more and more about how the universe we inhabit works like a series of fully-functioning gears in a sequential motion of expansion to its inevitable end.

By the end of the movie, Thomas, Johanna, and now Malica have had their innocence fade as their faith has only flourished under these extreme circumstances of troll hunting with Hans in the name of telling the truth. What a poignant end to a film that follows a group of people trying to stop tire-eating, trolls. After some investigation and a little theoretical speculation regarding certain aspects of the film, we must indeed conclude that the primary reason for the success of Trollhunter is the monsters-under-the-bed theme underpinning that explores a return to childish things that may have been forgotten by some. Something of a subconscious resurgence through the form of a cinematic experience.

From the literal monsters (trolls) hiding under a bed (government conspiracy) to teach children (the audience) an essential truth: the risk for the pursuit of truth is worth the payoff as is the firm convictions of faith we all have in a postmodern society that rejects such objective realities as false illusions. With all that said, perhaps the film is trying to evoke us to remember a time when anything was possible and nothing could stop that free thinking.

This is why the movie succeeded internationally. It reignited a sense of awe and humor into something that lay dormant for years since our own innocence faded from reality to mere fragmented memories: imagination. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://www.flixlist.co/titles/70170065
  2. http://collider.com/andre-ovredal-interview-troll-hunter/
  3. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=trollhunter.htm
  4. Romans 10:9