Monday, December 29, 2014

Spurgeon Calling

The popular Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young is often criticized for being written from the perspective of Jesus himself. The author’s words are presented in the devotional as the Lord’s personal words to the reader, and this gets some people bent out of shape. To them, it seems principially inappropriate for non-inspired human words to be presented as God’s words.

But regardless of the merits of the criticism, I wonder if those who disparage Jesus Calling for this reason would stand ready to equally criticize Charles Spurgeon, who occasionally employed the same stylistic device. For example, in his morning devotion of January 16, Spurgeon writes the following paragraph, presented as God’s words to the reader:
It is but a small thing for me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with my blood. What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help thee! It is the least thing I will ever do for thee; I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose thee. I made the covenant for thee. I laid aside my glory and became a man for thee; I gave up my life for thee; and if I did all this, I will surely help thee now. In helping thee, I am giving thee what I have bought for thee already. If thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it thee; thou requirest little compared with what I am ready to give. ’Tis much for thee to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. “Help thee?” Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of thy granary asking for help, it would not ruin thee to give him a handful of thy wheat; and thou art nothing but a tiny insect at the door of my all-sufficiency.
As another example, take the famous hymn “How Firm a Foundation.” This is a classic song, probably well-loved by the sorts of people who criticize Jesus Calling. And yet it’s written by a non-inspired man, and presented as God’s words to the hearer.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand. 
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. 
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
This isn’t an endorsement of Jesus Calling by any means. I haven’t read the book. My only point here is that if we’re going to be principially opposed to the stylistic device of presenting non-inspired human words as God’s words, then we ought to be opposed to it across the board, regardless of who’s doing it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Peter Jackson’s Fan-Fiction

I wrote out some thoughts in a Facebook discussion about some of the problems with Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.

I understand that it’s fantasy, but even a fantasy world needs to be properly “tuned” to itself. Sure, Middle-earth is a magical place, but gravity has always worked there. We shouldn’t be seeing a physics-defying escape from Goblin-town. We shouldn’t be seeing Bilbo fall down a massive chasm with no real harm to speak of. We shouldn’t be seeing Legolas bouncing along atop dwarf heads, or running up a staircase of falling stones. (In fact, we shouldn’t be seeing Legolas at all.) These sorts of shenanigans don’t belong in the world that Tolkien created. You don’t read anything like this in the book.

Moreover, the book is not filled with virtually non-stop action. The book is conservatively paced. But Jackson’s retelling wears the viewer out with one epic action sequence after another. And this sort of overused action makes for a boring movie. If everything is epic, nothing is epic.

I’m not saying that book-movies must follow the narrative of the book line-by-line in every detail. But I do think watching the movie should at least feel very similar to reading the book. It should feel like the same story.

Which is a huge part of what’s wrong with the Hobbit movies. They don’t feel like the same story. They feel wildly different. They’re bloated with what basically amounts to fan fiction. Stuff that Jackson and his writers made up out of their head. Stuff that they felt would make the story better. Characters who shouldn’t be there. Plot lines that shouldn’t be there. These don’t add to the story. What they do is make it feel like a completely different story.

Jackson wastes too much time trying to make me care about characters and sub-plots that are entirely foreign to the original story. But I wanted to see The Hobbit. I’m not interested in Jackson’s fan-fictional elf-dwarf romance sub-plot. There are internet sites for that sort of stuff.