Martin W. Bender
I come from a religious tradition that sets itself firmly against creeds and confessions. A common saying among restorationists was, “We have no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no name but the name Christian.” Imagine my surprise when reading through a thoroughly confessional book I came across the exact hermeneutical paradigm I was taught in a restorationist Bible College. It really isn’t all that surprising.
Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei by Ronald S. Baines
This book is going to be at least a little challenging because it openly questions some of my favorite thinkers. D. A. Carson, that crazy Canadian, is shown to hold a position somewhere in between impassibility and Open Theism. He dismisses the arguments for impassibility saying texts that seem to demonstrate a change in God’s emotional state is filtered out as simple anthropomorphisms. He also rejects Open Theism stating its adherents similarly dismiss passages that seem to indicate impassibility. Chapter two seeks to demonstrate Carson is incorrect in his glib treatment of those holding to the impassible God.
There are two foundational ideas in interpreting scripture. First, unclear passages should be understood in light of clear passages. This is called the analogy of scripture. It is clearly taught in the London Baptist Confession of the Faith (1.9) as well as in certain independent Bible colleges (wink). Second, clear passages of scripture should be used to create a sense of the theological meaning of the entire text. This is called the analogy of faith. These two principles are the foundation for the next several chapters which will articulate a biblical defense of impassibility.
The Old Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God by Steve Garrick with Ronald S. Baines
Does the Bible clearly teach the divine impassibility of God? Well, that’s up for debate. Certainly, there are passages that seem to indicate changes in God’s emotions, but wouldn’t such changes necessitate mutability as an aspect of God’s nature? In order to argue against this, the authors use passages that relate directly to the nature of God to establish his utter transcendence over all of creation including time.
The name of God spoke to Moses receives the greatest amount of attention. When the Lord says, “I am who I am” he is not merely naming himself, but revealing to the reluctant leader of the exodus a sense of his nature. The authors argue the name God gives to Moses indicates both his immutability and his interaction with creation. The idea of immutability seems fairly clear: “I am who I am” and by contrast, I’m not anything else. There is definitely an implicit rejection of becoming inherent in the divine name. The fact God reveals his name, and thusly a sense of his nature, reveals both his transcendence and his immanence. “Rather than seeing God’s transcendence as related to his essence and his immanent relations with his people stemming from covenantal properties, scripture portrays both as directly originating in the eternal God. Put another way, it is because God is transcendent that he is also immanent” (98).
Other passages are used to argue similar points but none are as convincing or as well developed as the nature of God revealed in his name. All the selections demonstrate the unchanging nature of God as a feature of his divine attributes. This sets the stage for a continued argument against the idea God is capable of change.
The hermeneutical argument used by the authors seems to be the primary basis for all they will write. I’m comfortable with this as it articulates the same hermeneutic principles I use and teach in my congregation. The challenge will be making convincing interpretations supporting their conclusion: God does not have changes in passions. Thus far, their argumentation seems a little lacking as their understanding of the nature of God is derived primarily from drawing quite a bit on a single text. I agree the Tetragrammaton is profoundly important as a baseline for understanding God but they may be drawing a little much from that single passage. Certainly, they are limited to what they can use effectively in their space but I hope for a little more fleshing out of the doctrine in upcoming chapters.
Thus far, I still hold to divine impassibility.
Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).
Martin W. Bender
When I want to learn about a new video game I usually watch a Let’s Play of the game on YouTube. In these videos, someone is commenting on the game as they play. I was thinking I’d do the same thing, but in blog format for heavier theological works I’m reading. So here are some thoughts on the introduction and first chapter of Confessing the Impassible God.
An Introduction to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Why is this Doctrine Important by James M. Renihan
This is a collection of essays on the concept of God’s impassibility. The idea is that God does not have passions or emotions in the human sense. He is without change in any way, form, or fashion and as such, does not experience emotion. This is an essential doctrine in Classical Theism and this collection comes from a Confessionally Reformed Baptist perspective. I don’t happen to be a Confessionally Reformed Baptist, but I do hold to Classical Theism and am interested in recent objections to the position.
The introduction includes criticisms of impassibility by the doctrine’s opponents. Jeff Pool rejects Classical Theism altogether arguing that divine immutability and impassibility are not biblical. Clark Pinnock is quoted at length from The Most Moved Mover and The Openness of God stating that many Calvinists reject impassibility and thus hold to an augmented immutability. Richard Rice points to the various occasions in scripture when God is said to be experiencing emotion of one sort or other.
The purpose of the book can be summed up in the quote, “A reformulation of the doctrine of God is underway within evangelicalism, and a trickle of professed Reformed confessionalists within the broader evangelical world are adopting the reformulations in whole or in part. This is deeply troubling, and has profound, far-reaching implications for Reformed theology.”
As an observer outside of the Reformed tradition, I am concerned about the growing influence of Open Theism, Process Theism, and Molinism. I’m not sure how the doctrine of impassibility fits into the discussion but hope my reading will clarify some of my thoughts on the subject.
Chapter One: Analogy and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility by Charles J. Rennie
If divine impassibility is denied the doctrines of God’s immutability, aseity, simplicity, and timelessness inevitably fall apart. The question then is whether or not the Bible teaches God is immutable, self-sufficient, simple, and timeless. As stated above, impassibility is the doctrine that God does not experience changes in his inner emotional state. Rather, that God is eternally constant.
Does God experience potentiality? Classical Theism posits God is an eternal actuality. He is in no way potential. This is different from creation that has actuality and potentiality. Man can change to be something other than what we are, but is it possible for God to become? Open Theists argue God does have potentiality and has an experience of emotional change in much the same way as us. This, of course, monkies with atemporality and calls God’s sovereignty into question.
It is important when reading scripture that God is wholly other than his creation. So when the Bible speaks of God’s love it is not the same experience as the love I experience as part of creation. The same is true of God’s other attributes. I possess life, but not life in the same category as God possesses. Such distinctions are important for us to make as we are attempting to describe a transcendent being. God sees, but not as man sees. So when the Bible depicts God having a change of emotion it is important for us to realize God is being described in terms of “visible operations” rather than his “invisible nature.” The reason for this can be broken down by the threefold way of knowing God.
God can be known by his creatures through three basic categories: causation, negation, and eminence. Causation shows what God is like through the effects. Creation is an effect of God. Creation is orderly, so we can know God is orderly. Causation states the effect is like the cause. Negation states God is not like his creation. The example of a stature is used. A statue of a dog has more similarities to an actual dog than an actual dog has with the statue. So a contingent being is like the necessary being that created it, but the necessary being is unlike the contingent being. Eminence is the idea that God is infinitely greater than creation’s conception of him. There is not a degree of difference between creation and creator that can be measured, the difference is infinite. Aquinas is quoted, “… the ultimate human knowledge about God is that one knows that one does not know God, inasmuch as one knows that what God is exceeds everything we know about him.”
The conclusion of the chapter states, “The doctrine of divine impassibility could be alternatively referred to as the doctrine of God’s absolute perfection; God is not undergoing a process of perfection, nor could he be. He is infinitely and incorruptibly perfect in his eternal essence.” While this assertion was by no means proven in the chapter it does show where later essays will take the argument. I hope the implications of the doctrine of divine impassibility will be discussed in depth as the book continues.
Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility edited by Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, and James M. Renihan
Martin W. Bender
The question of what the church ought to be doing is on the minds of Christians. Should the focus of the church’s actions be on evangelism? Discipleship? Helping the needy? All have a scriptural warrant, but which takes precedence? This is the question Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert attempt to answer in What is the Mission of the Church?
Their answer to the question is the Great Commission. The church ought to focus its attention on the communication of the Gospel to both itself and to the greater world. This seems like the obvious answer, but many see the church as God's means to demonstrates his benevolence. They are careful to point out that the church does have a responsibility to care for those who are in need. This is a common idea that pervades the Bible. When the church focuses on social justice to the exclusion of the Great Commission trouble occurs.
Moral proximity is the concept that most resonated with me. It is the idea that an individual’s responsibility to help another person is limited by their relationship to that individual as relationship, time, ability, and location. One of the members of my congregation asked me how she should respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. I looked her in the eye and said, “Nothing.” It wasn’t the answer she was looking for, but there was nothing physical for her to do. Outside of prayer and sending cash there were no other options. Her moral proximity to the situation was so far removed there was no way for her meet this pressing need. Herein lies the problem for today’s Christian. There is no lack of opportunity for good moral action, but there are physical limitations.
My friend Todd is working daily to help flooding victims in Louisiana. Jeremy, an old army buddy of mine, was able to drive from Florida to Louisiana to do the same. They both have an incredible opportunity to help people in need and work for the good of others. Meanwhile, I sit in Georgia doing nothing physical to help their efforts. Should I feel guilty about this? Is my church failing in their God-given task of helping others by not responding to this disaster? I think not. We live in a particular context with real limitations on how to carry out God’s work in the world. The work of the church is the communication of the Gospel. Sometimes the best way to do that is by helping flood victims but for most of us, the best way is to share the good news of Jesus Christ.
This book is good if you are questioning what the church should be doing. It will be helpful for me as I attempt to move my congregation from a mainline, social justice mentality toward a Gospel focused evangelical paradigm. It reads quick and has many resources listed for further study. I did find it funny that on the same page where they said the book would not be footnote heavy there was half a page of footnotes. I liked the book and will recommend it to some of my congregants.
The Two Bearded Preachers love Major Payne and don't apologize for it. Killing is my business, ladies, and business is good! After discussing the finer points of the best film of 1995, Justin and Martin take on books like Heaven is for Real and other heaven tourism stories. They spend a little time on the deep-rooted materialism of American culture and even talk about the role of drugs in today's Christian mysticism. This episode has it all including references to Footloose and a lovely recipe for crystal meth. Can you guess which of the duo identifies with John Lithgow? Find out right here in episode 50!
Martin W. Bender
I have resigned myself to the fact that I’ll not be finishing 100 books this year. I kept up the pace for the first few months, but Spring and Summer took a drastic toll on the number of pages I was getting through. I’ve not given up on reading entirely, though. In fact, I just finished a book I received free from Ligonier Ministries: R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian. I’ve got to say, I do enjoy a free book.
Everyone’s a Theologian is one of those short works of systematics specifically written to introduce the reader to the idea of organizing the whole of scripture topically. My favorite work in this little genre is John Frame’s Salvation Belongs to the Lord, but you probably knew that since I’m a Frame fanboy. R.C. Sproul uses his time in much the same way as Frame, sharing just a little bit of information on the main categories of systematics without getting terribly deep at any point. The book is easily accessible to adult readers but is probably a little advanced for high school students. I’ll likely use it for quick reference here and there but will look to larger systematic works for deeper study.
Dr. Sproul writes from a Reformed perspective (he is Presbyterian after all) and EaT follows that line of thinking very closely. Unsurprisingly, there are references to the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms as well as the Westminster Confession along with regular scripture references to support his theological positions. Those antagonistic to the Reformed tradition will find Sproul unapologetic and likely will find this book lacking sufficient grounds to support its claims. To them, I would point out that the book isn’t attempting to defend the Reformed perspective, but systematics as a way of understanding the Bible. In this it succeeds, but for those seeking a defense of the Reformed faith I’d steer toward another work.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the book. I think it will work well for what it intends and accomplishes the goal of getting the reader to think about Christianity in terms of systematics. It would be a good tool to lead an adult Bible study through provided the readers understand the specific perspective from which the author comes. For the price I paid, I couldn’t be happier with the book.
Did you ever want to know how Santa gets his job of giving presents to the children of the world done in a single night? Well, Martin gives an explanation in this YouTube exclusive. Follow the link to end the mystery.
Why can't anyone take a joke anymore? Is there something so serious going on that we can't laugh a little at the congruency issues in someone's discography? This and other topics are discussed as Justin and Martin seek to solve every problem in life, ministry, and the world. Included in this episode is a crotch tracking video camera, a secret society of pastoral persons, and some of the greatest innovations the world has ever seen. By no means should you share it with your friends on account of all the secrecy. Shhhh...
Martin W. Bender
I recently finished listening to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Conference on iTunes U. It discussed the issues surrounding the complementarian/egalitarian debate taking place among evangelicals. The fundamental question being asked is whether there is a qualitative difference between men and women. I realize it seems boring, but it is an area that will increasingly need to be addressed by American Christians as the distinction between male and female is being questioned in our society.
The general answer is yes, there is a difference between the sexes. It seems obvious, I know, but at this point in history, one has to make definitive obvious statements. One of the lectures focuses specifically on this issue using the creation account in Genesis 1-3 to clearly point out men and women are different and have different roles in life. The rejection of gender roles is a rejection of the created order. Before the fall both Adam and Eve had particular roles to play in creation that had been given to them by God. They were dissatisfied with them then just as many still are today, but a rejection of God’s decrees doesn’t negate them, it just makes us look silly.
Another lecture of note discussed homosexuality. Oddly enough, the seemingly separate debate on the nature of homosexuality has many parallels to the question of gender roles between men and women. The most significant shared issue is the rejection of the created order as discussed above. The arguments created to allow for the rejection of the male/female distinction bear striking similarity to those used argue for the viability of homosexuality from the Bible. Essentially, the male/female distinction and the rejection of homosexuality are identified as specific issues for congregations Paul is writing to and are therefore not necessarily applicable to the church today. Such arguments fail to take into account the rest of the Scriptures’ teaching on these issues and fails to make a distinction between didactic and illustrative statements. The lecture goes into it a little bit further.
Perhaps the greatest reason for the debate as it stands is the question of whether or not women should hold authoritative or teaching positions in the church. This is best discussed when a panel of women is asked whether or not they are in violation of Paul’s exhortation that he does not permit a woman to teach a man in 1 Timothy 2:12. They explain that they do not see themselves as in a teaching or authoritative capacity, but are attempting to help explain the feminine perspective of biblical womanhood. This is significant because a panel at a conference is not the same context as the worship service at a church. The discussion of the issue is ongoing and perpetuated by the arguments of secular feminism which has heavily clouded the conversation.
For more information about the issue check out Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Are Martin and Justin really so heartless that they wouldn't help a duck in trouble? How can one describe the social impact of the middle finger to an eight-year-old? Is there a reason why adults are so untrusting? These questions and others are answered in this week's episode of the Two Bearded Preachers. Be sure to share with your bird loving friends.
Martin W. Bender
Having spent the past few years listening to a variety of podcasts on a regular basis I now find myself a little bored of news and discussion about pop culture (except of course for what can be found here every Thursday). In light of this, I have taken to listening to courses on iTunes U instead of my normal schedule of jokers and smokers that I had been enjoying of late. So far I have listened to courses on philosophy, preaching, the New Perspective on Paul, and have just finished a rather long collection on church history.
Having finished about seventy forty-five minute lectures on church history in last two weeks I can say with confidence I have only the slightest grasp of the most important issues on the subject. There is so much to gain from understanding the manner in which the church has come to us and yet, for some strange reason, there is surprising little interest. A solid grasp of church history helps us to know the reasons for much of what happens in the church today, and yet we dismiss it as boring or of little value. Below you’ll find some of the reasons I think church history should be studied by all Christians.
Those are just three quick reasons why we need to study church history. There are more. I hope that as I continue to learn about the history of the church I will come to a greater understanding and love of the Christian faith.
I recommend listening to:
Have you ever had to give your child "the talk"? In this episode, Justin tells the tale of how he told his son about the birds and the bees with minimal embarrassment. Martin shares some of the things that are only learned during basic training. Both describe how they learned about one of God's greatest gifts to humanity as they try to explain the reasoning behind the preacher comb over. It's all here in this week's episode. Don't forget to share on social media.
In this episode, Justin and Martin answer some questions about violence, biblical masculinity, and Beverly Hills 90210. Hear Justin try and justify his unnecessarily aggressive perspective on life. Listen to Martin's case that Justin is, in fact, a violent psychopath bent on destruction. They also discuss the rationality behind Justin's preacher comb over as some listeners attempted a hairdo intervention. This is undoubtedly podcast gold.
Martin W. Bender
Jacob Needleman asks a timeless question in his book Why Can’t We Be Good? Namely, why do all people fail in doing good and avoiding evil. The problem of wickedness in the world is identified by everyone from the philosopher to the kindergartener. Every person sees in others and in themselves a fundamental flaw: we don’t live up to our moral standards (let alone God’s). Needleman attempts to explain this problem in light of philosophy and religion and offers up a response which on the surface seems plausible, but ultimately fails when applied.
Needleman’s answer to the ethical dilemma demonstrated daily in human living is that people have to potentiality to be good, but fail to do so because they are not yet fully human. He sees a difference between humanity as it is and what it is becoming. Man’s morality is, in essence, a glimpse of what we are in the process of becoming and tragically, part of that process is failing in the ideals that formulate our ethical standards. He traces this idea in history by linking it to values displayed in the Abrahamic religions. In doing so he demonstrates a fundamental flaw in his understanding of Christian anthropology.
Christianity’s view of mankind is that it is by nature evil. This is a result of Adam’s sin in the garden and as a consequence, the nature of man has fundamentally been changed from innocence to guilt. It is this gross misunderstanding of the Christian teaching on human nature that leads me to doubt his application of Jewish and Muslim thought as well. Needleman glosses over the concept of original sin completely, dismissing the explanations of Moses, Jesus, and Paul about human nature leaning instead upon humanistic optimism loosely tied to the traditions of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed.
Why Can’t We Be Good? Seeks to place the love an individual has for God, others, and themselves as the root of all moral behavior. Such a thought doesn’t seem terrible at face value, but fails to see that love, as a source for morality is rooted in God’s love for his people rather than the individual’s love for him. The Creator is primary in all things thus morality is rooted in the triune God rather than the perceived potentiality for goodness in man. Each individual is not on a path toward becoming good, rather some are proclaimed good on the basis of Jesus’ undeserved death.
The idea of love for the Other Needleman uses to argue for the eventual goodness of humanity did spur a thought I believe will be helpful in another area. In the soteriological argument between human free will and divine determinism (Arminianism and Calvinism, Pelagianism and Augustinianism, Monergism and Synergism, etc.) frequently the question of the individual’s love for God arises. The challenge being that love that isn’t freely given (from man to God) is meaningless. The problem with this objection is that it places the creature’s love for his Creator above the Creator’s love for his creature. Meaning that God’s love for his people is somehow secondary to their love for him. Such a thought seems ridiculous in light of passages like Galatians 2:20 and 1 John 4:19.
Back to the book, Needleman provokes deep thinking on the nature of man, the interaction of individuals within society, as well as what could prompt a person to endeavor to become this idealized person who is morally good. His misuse of Christian themes due to his gross misunderstanding of Christian anthropology is unsettling and could cause immature believers to adopt a humanistic understanding of morality. In light of this, I don’t recommend Why Can’t We Be Good? Unless one has a good understanding of the biblical teaching on the nature of man.
 Now, before you go all crazy on me understand that I am still thinking this argument through. It came to me last night while finishing the book.
It's time for the Olympics and the Two Bearded Preachers are barely aware of it. Listen as Justin and Martin try to sound like they know what they're talking about as they discuss the greatest sporting event outside of American Football and NASCAR. Before they get to that though they discuss how they deal with stress when their extended families are losing their minds. As if that weren't enough you'll also hear Justin tell a story about how he threw caution to the wind and let his congregation create his sermon illustration. Oh, and Justin wears a speedo.
The 2016 Summer Olympics have all eyes pointed to Rio as once again we send American athletes to compete with their counterparts from all over the world. The idea behind the modern Olympics is that through cooperative efforts between nations a period of peace can be experienced in our world. That was the thought when the games were brought back into prominence in 1896. 120 years later we realize the hope of world peace is much further off than was imagined.
The Olympics do, however, offer us a chance to imagine what the world would be like if countries were able to cooperate with one another consistently. There would be great accomplishments and advances in technology, art, and science. Unfortunately, the ultimate end would be destruction. In Genesis, there is an account of what happens when humanity is united together. You probably know it as the Tower of Babel. This is when the people chose to ignore the cultural mandate to fill the world and subdue it and instead built cities and a tower to their own glory.
The Tower of Babel account lets us know that when we work together we can accomplish great things, but because our nature is fallen, those great accomplishments are really great offences to our God. Real peace will only be experienced in our world when Christ returns and makes all things new. Until that time, we as the church, the bride of Christ, eagerly away the coming of our Lord and Savior. What a wonderful day that will be.
In this episode, Justin and Martin talk about baptism practically and theologically as Justin shares about some of the strange experiences he has had as a youth minister. They also talk about a recent trip to Disney World where the ride operators are good, but only in the Magic Kingdom. The discussion then turns to the most wonderful time of the year: back to school. You'll hear about how Martin's town is voluntarily segregated, how little Justin walks during the week, and the perils of big government. It's been said before, but this episode really has it all.
Oh, and there are some jokes too.
Martin W. Bender
Last week I was able to take the kids to the mountains for a few days and we decided to go camping with my sister and her family. North Georgia has a ton of great places to camp, hike, and explore so we made the most of the opportunity. I love camping but haven’t been deliberate in going since I’ve started having kids, but now that they are a little older it’s time to get back into it.
One thing I wanted to try on this trip was using a hammock instead of a tent. Hammock camping is becoming the norm for backpackers and the like which makes sense, a hammock and rain fly are a lot lighter than any tent. So I stopped off at the Bargain Barn (it’s like a Bass Pro but without all the fuss) and picked up an Eno Single Nest, some tree straps, and a tarp for cover.
We camped at Doll Mountain. It’s a great place to camp with a bunch of sites, access to Carter’s Lake, and even a bathroom with running water. I know it isn’t very hardcore but cut me some slack, one of my kids was not into the camping idea at all.
Setting up the hammock was remarkably easy. A strap around a tree followed by a carabiner, repeat the process, and the hammock is ready for sleeping. I also ran some 550 cord over the hammock to support my tarp. The tarp took longer than the hammock, but it all took less than ten minutes, not too shabby for the first time trying it out. It wouldn’t be long before I was snoozing away in the ultralight campsite.
At least that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I’m very much a stomach sleeper. I had a really difficult time falling asleep in the hammock because I couldn’t turn over onto my back. I was perfectly comfortable but just couldn’t seem to drift off into dreamland. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances as well. Leia had been out of town for a while by this point and I hadn’t been sleeping that great. Due to the heat, I had been drinking a lot of water (if you get my meaning). And I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sights and sounds. All that might have added to the trouble I had falling asleep.
The second day we spent in the water swimming, making rafts, and the ever popular ice cream run. By the time the kids had gone down for the night and the fire was burning low I was sure I’d knock out almost immediately. This time I was sure to do a few things: first, I put my flip flops in the hammock pocket. This meant I would be able to find them quickly without getting up. Second, I used a sheet to keep myself a little warmer (even though it was wicked hot during the day I got pretty chilled as the night wore on). Third, I turned to sleep almost totally on my side. These little changes made a huge difference in my ability to sleep in the hammock. The second night I was out like a light.
So, will I do hammock camping again? Absolutely. There’s a minimal learning curve to get things just right, but now that the first trip is out of the way I think it’ll get much easier. Some things that I’ll do a little differently are using a ratchet strap to hang my tarp, bringing a flat pillow, and maybe setting up some sort of mosquito netting. All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and think Leia will be willing to try it herself. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Episode 43 is here and the Two Bearded Preachers get into it a little bit over a subject that reasonable men wouldn't argue over. They talk about Justin's vacation, higher education, and procreation in one of their most heated discussions to date. Should preachers focus their education on theological subjects or focus on practicality? You'll hear them both weigh in and make bad arguments for both positions. They also discuss the possibility of Pokemon Go becoming a dating app. This episode has it all including koalas, so be sure to share it.
You probably anticipated a show where the two bearded brothers talk about the greatest augmented reality game ever: Pokemon Go. But did you think they would tie their conversation into the greater issue of racial violence in the same episode? And who could have anticipated that Arnold would be able to bring the apocalypse to a close after the hot mess we got ourselves into? Only true fans, that's who. Justin and Martin discuss it all in this week's wonderful episode. Enjoy.
NES Classic has been announced and it is none too soon.
Quick on the heels of Pokémon Go’s ridiculously successful release comes the announcement bound to thrill old school gamers and leave their children wondering what all the fuss is about. The NES Classic is a mini version of the NES that introduced an entire generation to video gaming. This new old system will have none of the frustration caused by the original system (remember blowing into the cartridges?), but will also have a remarkably reduced library as it is being released with only thirty games. The bonus, however, is that it comes with a controller with the same look and feel as its now ancient counterpart.
This is a great decision by Nintendo as third parties have been producing emulators and secondary systems to play those old games for years. There’s something really nice about playing the games that were so exciting to us as children with our own kids. As I write this, my Anna, Dave, and Sarah are taking turns playing battle mode on Mario Kart 64 through the Wii (I was playing them for a while, but they are no competition). These games hold up. They are still fun and come November we’ll be able to wax nostalgic about killing Ganon for the first time or explain how building an Excite Bike track is way better than playing the canned courses. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
The Two Bearded Preachers talk about how Hillary Clinton is above the law, they aren't, and how the church should help those who suffer from addiction in this episode. Justin explains how he can maintain his innocence in prison, Martin worries about how his rights are being removed socially, and they both reminisce about their time in Bible college. It isn't nearly as convoluted a conversation as it sounds. They just talk about Ross running for mayor, Hillary escaping justice, Justin escaping rape, recovering from addiction, and ordering weed through the mail. It all makes perfect sense if you think about it. Check out this great edition of your favorite podcast.
Martin W. Bender
Yesterday, Dave and I played a little Pokémon Go. The concept of the game is simple: walk around, find some Pokémon, train them, dominate your enemies. On our outing around the block we missed some of the critters that were nearby, but eventually found a Pinsir, Doduo, and a Rattata. Sure they’re all fairly common, but going out and catching Pokémon just like Ash and the gang was pretty fun.
Pokémon Go is practically just a skin over Ingress. The game mechanics and graphics are nearly identical, but with Pokémon characters added in. PG will almost definitely be more popular as it allows the millennial generation to live out their childhood dreams of catching them all. I’ve always liked the Pokémon video games and this one certainly has a similar feel. It may hold my interest a little longer than Ingress because there is the possibility of catching a Pikachu.
Pokémon Go is the first bit of augmented reality to have mass appeal. This means you will probably see people walking around your neighborhood staring at their phones talking about imaginary animals and looking around desperately for something they lost. I realized I must look crazy to my neighbors as I was walking back and forth on the road gazing intently at my phone screen. It was worth it to get that Pinsir, though.
This game may mark a change in casual gaming (I realize at the moment it isn’t very casual) that puts people in contact with one another who otherwise wouldn’t meet. As I play around with the game more I hope to meet some folks in real life and whoop up on them with my ferocious team of digital mons. In the same way the Wii and mobile gaming appealed to a huge audience of casual gamers I hope games like Pokémon Go will shift our understanding of gaming from the isolated event it largely is today to a far more social interaction.
Martin W. Bender
Today I took the kids up to Statesboro to watch Finding Dory. I hadn’t looked at any reviews or seen trailers for the film, but I knew the general story line: the gang from the first movie try to find Dory. Simple enough.
What I didn’t know was how much the story would develop the fairly one-dimensional character from the first film. Let’s face it, Finding Nemo is half coming of age story, half rescue mission. Imagine a Pixar produced mashup of Stand by Me and Taken. Dory does little more in the original than provide comic relief and an alternative perspective to nudge Marlin away from his tendency toward pessimism to a more optimistic view of the world. Finding Dory takes a decidedly different approach to storytelling, focusing almost solely on Dory with little help from Marlin and Nemo. In fact, Marlin and Nemo essentially become the damsel in distress to be rescued by Dory and her newly found friends. This significant difference keeps the story fresh and avoids the pitfalls of what could have easily been a simple rehash of the original.
Finding Dory feels more like a detective story than a rescue mission. Dory begins her search prompted by dreams of her parents and finds that her short term memory loss seems to be helped by having some family stability in her life. The journey she took between being lost and finding Marlin is exceptionally tragic and terrifying. The imagery of her being alone in the vast ocean is startlingly bleak, both in the scenes where she is a child and later as an adult. My sweet little daughter cried as Dory found herself alone in deep trying desperately to remember where she was and what she was doing. This makes her relationship with her parents and friends all the more important and real for the movie goer. There is a true sense of dread in the film that rivals many modern horror movies. In fact, if one were to remove the shells at the end of the second act it would be a horror film.
The film works so well because it plays on a different set of fears than the original. In Finding Nemo the great fear is the loss of family. This is seen in both the death of Nemo’s mother as well as the kidnapping. In Finding Dory the great fear is the loss of self, as Dory only understands who she is within the context of her relationships. This is why it is so satisfying to see her develop relationships wherever she goes. Certainly, she needs Hank, Destiny, and other’s help to get around the aquarium, but working with them helps her to remain on task to regain that sense of self she loses as a result of her condition. Her continual search for community reflects humanity’s innately social nature and forces consideration of the communal nature of human interaction.
In a world where sequels are so often an attempt to make a second pile of money using the success of the original film, Finding Dory stands soundly on its own as an exceptional character study. The use of 3D avoided the temptation of having random objects flying at the screen and instead simply adds a field of depth that gives the viewer the experience of looking into an actual aquarium. Generally, I don’t like 3D, but Pixar used the technology well to fully immerse the audience in its undersea landscape. The animation is stellar and the short, Piper, shown before the film shows just how incredible animation and 3D technology has become since Avatar made 3D viable.
Finding Dory is an exceptional film. I loved it. I may go see it again tomorrow.
Is it ok for a preacher to run for mayor? Should the Forth of July only be called Independence Day? Can pets survive on their own? These and other riveting questions are answered in the 40th episode of Two Bearded Preachers! You'll hear tales of celebration, woe, and triumph as Justin explains his hairdo, Martin tells of Ham the porch dog, and both recount the high tempo summer. An amazing episode.
Martin W. Bender
I find myself a little torn on what to blog about today. I feel like I should say something about the Fourth of July since its Independence Day and all, but I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it. Most of my thoughts on the subject are probably pretty obvious from the conversations I’ve had with Justin on faith and politics. So I’ll skip the whole patriotism and American evangelicalism discussion for now.
Another topic that interests me is the current debate on eternal functional subordination taking place in the blogosphere. The argument is essentially about whether Jesus’ subordination is an eternal position within the Trinity or if it is limited to the incarnation. My initial thoughts are that it is eternal because I hold to the impassibility of God. It seems that a change in position, whether functional or otherwise, would violate the concept of God never changing. I’ll probably write a little about it later after I have read more on the subject, but at first glance, it certainly seems Jesus eternally maintains a functionally subordinate position to the Father.
Lastly, I’m interested in talking a little bit about how Leia is doing in her work in China. As many of you know, Leia had the rare opportunity to go to China to teach conversational English for a few weeks. She’s just started and is having a good time with it thus far, but at the time of writing, she’s only had one day in the classroom. I hope to write a little about how she’s doing in a week or two since her absence is pretty heavy on my mind.
I’ll probably get to all these issues soon enough, but for right now I’m going to spend a little time with the kids before we run off to another Fourth of July party and then record and episode or two with Justin later on this evening.