By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Marvel Studios
After an exhausting battle with Captain America and the Avengers, Scott Lang, known as Ant-Man, finds himself under house arrest. But no sooner does he settle in before he finds himself in yet another adventure, as he assists his old mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, in rescuing his wife from a mysterious place called the Quantum Realm by building a gate to get there. Ant-Man and friends are in for a bumpy ride, though, as two other characters, with very different motives, seek to obtain that same gate.
Ant-Man and the Wasp was definitely a surprise for many critics and audiences, as it was slightly less conventional than your average superhero movie with black-and-white protagonists and antagonists. Everyone is fleshed out in the film as all having very believable motives for wanting the same thing. The movie turns into a game of cat-and-mouse as our characters scramble for access to the quantum realm in a comedic way. The film’s biggest weakness was that it did not really feel like Ant-Man’s film; the movie was really about Hope, the Wasp, and finding her mother. Even the side characters had bigger goals and arcs than did Scott. There was, perhaps, something there in Ant-Man’s journey in the film that could have been fleshed out a little better, while not at the expense of the rest of the story, but it seemed like a missed opportunity. Overall, Ant-Man is not a complete waste of time, and holds audiences over after its amazing predecessor, Infinity War.
All the characters are in some need of redemption. Firstly, the film centers around the restoration of a lost loved one back from a mysterious realm. At the same time, our main character, Scott Lang, is seeking to be accepted by the people he loves after a series of poor decisions; Ant-man also struggles with his identity as a superhero, not as powerful as he wants to be; and to make matters worse, his romantic relationship with Hope (Evangeline Lily) is suffering. The cherry on top of all this is an angry character searching for a shot at normalcy, after a tragic explosion has rearranged the molecular structure of her body. What’s really interesting is that there is no actual “villain”, though there is a character who has plunged headlong into love for money, having passed his moment of redemption, and now pursuing a criminal life.
There is much truth here to contemplate for the believer. When Christ restores us, he restores multiple areas of our lives. The film shows a myriad of people who are, together, caught in a web with their own losses and agendas. The redemptions in the film even parallel many redemptions in the Christian Gospel: Christ brings together loved ones in eternity, restores broken romantic relations, restores human identity through sanctification, and establishes normalcy in a life mauled by the effects of the fall. He even holds out his arms for those who still reject righteousness for money while it remains the day of grace. The godly may meditate on this film and remember that just as sin affected all areas of life, so also does the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Van Til once said, “The sweep of redemption is as comprehensive as the sweep of sin.” What was brilliant about this film is that depicts life as it often is: a compilation of hurting people seeking their redemption. The Christian worldview responds by saying that all forms of redemption are echoes of that eternal reality that is in Christ Jesus.
Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 86-87.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Focus Features
When a Presbyterian seminarian sees the mindlessness of children’s entertainment, he steps up to the task of providing educational television for a generation in need through a program famously known as Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is a documentary following the life of Fred Rogers, his family and friends as they break the rules of television to teach children how to cope with suffering in real life scenarios such as death, war, divorce, racism, and so on.
The film has a wonderful depth as it covers much breadth of the life and thought of this remarkable individual. None of the pacing is breakneck speed, though some viewers may want more details on certain topics; the runtime is still comfortable for the average viewer, while giving a mostly satisfactory insight into the man, Fred Rogers. There were certain editing choices that didn’t make much sense: there were no transitional titles, which maybe would have helped viewers understand that they had moved on from one topic to the next; some of the final product seems to try to make a point stylistically, but comes off confused rather than clear, especially the last scene; and since much of the footage is from the 70’s it is a little fuzzy and pixelated, but this was probably out of the director’s hands as it is much older footage. Lastly, from a Christian perspective, I do wish we had been given a little bit more of an objective take on his life, because it definitely seemed like a liberal agenda concerning homosexuality was slightly shoehorned into the film. There are a lot of things concerning Rogers’ thoughts on homosexuality and how he would respond to the movement today that we just don’t know, and the creators’ bias was too obvious.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this feature. I felt that, other than the above mentioned things, I observed a pretty objective take on a very interesting man. The music added a wonderful tone to the film, the rhythm was unusually great for a documentary, the message was very clear, and we saw a biography full of “warts” (Rogers’ weaknesses). I highly recommend all believers go see this tear jerker, and prepare to come away with some wonderful insights into what true humanity looks like.
An Example of True Humanity
The documentary presents a man who tried to obey the Second Great Commandment to love his neighbor as he loves himself. A quote that appears in the film and trailer is “Love is at the root of everything: all learning, all relationships… love or the lack of it.” What was especially compelling was his desire to affirm the value of every human being. When psychologists or pastors try to bring up human dignity, it is often bogged down by a theological framework that lacks God. But for Fred Rogers, his love for people was motivated by, what seems to be, a healthy understanding of the imago dei. He seemed to grasp with balance that human beings have inherent value because they are created in the image of God. This doesn’t detract from the fact that we have twisted that value because of our own sin, but unfortunately the film doesn’t give us those details about Mr. Rogers’ theology. What does come out in the film about his love for people, we should affirm wholeheartedly. Christ was the most human being to ever live, and we see that in the way he loved God and others. But what is striking, at this point, is that true humanity is the context in which the divine is made known to us. And when Little Christs grab ahold of the vision for the world that Jesus had, we find ourselves becoming more divine and more human; these realities are not at odds.
As the film progresses, we continue to observe the life of a true human: a life that was bent out in love for others. The godly observer cannot help but notice someone who, though befuddled with anxieties and insecurities, reminds us much of the life of Jesus we see in the gospels. At one point in the film, an interviewee asks the question, “What would Fred do?” I wondered at this question. Now, obviously, the godly should be more concerned with the question, “What would Jesus do?”, but we do not know the intentions behind this remark. Technically, it isn’t a bad question, especially when we consider Paul’s words, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, emphasis mine). When one observes the life of Mr. Rogers as presented in this film with charity, we see someone who was not perfect, but still embodied the kindness of his Lord. He loved all people as they were, and reserved absolutely no judgment toward anyone. We do wish for more theological insight into Rogers’ life and thought, but what we end up with is still a mostly honest take on someone who claimed Christ and loved like him.
There is so much to consider from the film that I have left out of this review, but for now the question is clear: are we being good neighbors to those around us? This film is a wonderful wake up call for those of us in the church whom the world is currently in desperate need of, and I think Mr. Rogers helps us off to a good start: “The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Marvel and Disney Studios
When an insane and powerful alien seeks to obtain the power to control the universe through the means of the six infinity stones, our beloved superheroes must team back up to stop their greatest enemy yet.
To be completely honest, I did not expect much from this feature, but it seems as though Marvel Studios is staying on their toes, as they break the convention of their films thus far, and end this spectacle in a way that leaves audiences stumbling out of the theater. It is worthy to commend the Russo brothers for this amazing feat, as probably very few could have maintained such balance with number of characters as they did. The composition and editing were on par, as always; the dark tone nuanced perfectly with the humor; and the stop motion design for Josh Brolin’s character, Thanos, was absolutely breathtaking. Some are pointing out plot holes in the story and critiquing certain character motivations, but all that is to be expected with a project of this size and may not always be the immediate fault of the directors. The themes of despair and hope are littered throughout the film for both believers and unbelievers to discuss. Yet, as is often the case, the unbeliever has no grounds for taking a stand against our powerful villain, outside of the Christian worldview.
Thanos and Planned Parenthood
Nihilism, simply defined, is the belief that life has no ultimate meaning. Thanos is a nihilist, leading him to find life as a burden, and beings inhabiting planets as mere statistics that should be wiped out if they endanger their environment. There are even pictures all in the comics in which the word “nihilist” is engraved on his head. This is a sure sign of insanity, correct? Anyone who roots for Thanos should be put away. Yet, there is something striking as the godly begin to dig a bit deeper: those who believe that life has no meaning are contradicting themselves if they long for Thanos’s demise.
Planned Parenthood supporters, who also see life as meaningless and murder as a mere means to a greater good, need not root for the Avengers in this one. If their worldview does not value human life, they, instead, should side with the Mad Titan. See, the creators of Infinity War are in agreement with the Christian worldview here, regardless of if they are inconsistent with their own. But what is so wrong, according to the Christian worldview, with killing half of the human population to save the planet? It’s as simple as this: we are not God. The human race should not take matters into its own hands. Instead of fretting over whether or not we will survive overpopulation, we must trust God to provide our needs. But worldviews outside Christianity do not have such a framework to uphold hope against such seeming “odds”. In Christ, however, believers have a firm foundation to put their trust in so that, instead of delivering ourselves out of despair by committing murder, we know that as finite creatures, we did not spin the universe into existence, and therefore we have no right to make those calls; in other words, Christ is the First and the Last, and as sovereign ruler, only he decides how and how long we survive. If atheists are rooting for the Avengers and yet support the killing of the unborn, then on what basis is Thanos wrong in their worldview?
Christians on the fence, some may ask, “How could you bring a child into a world full of so much evil? Wouldn’t you rather take a child’s life than allow her to grow up in such a horrible environment?” Based on that logic, why don’t we resort to mass genocide in poorer countries to save humans from poverty? The fact is, a Darwinian worldview is the framework that individuals such as Adolf Hitler used to support the slaughter of millions. For them, though some may not word it this way, it is the survival of the fittest.
We even struggle with this on an individual level, as Christians. In the nitty gritty of life, we may also be quick to distrust God’s providence and seek to take matters into our own hands, if even in things like lying or theft. The truth is rough on our flesh here, but its a message we need to pray the Spirit sinks into our hearts: self-deliverance is actually more depressing and stressful than trusting God. Don’t wonder at how Paul was able to say with seeming ease, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11b-12). He gives the answer in the following, oft misquoted, verse when he says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (v. 13).
Thanos doesn't compare to God. To even attempt a comparison would do injustice to the name of the Lord. God is an infinite fountain of self-sufficiency. When he takes or gives, it is not to change anything about him. Thanos conquered to become something; our Lord is. The point? Some purple alien, no matter his powers, is still just a creature, in this fictitious world. Creatures have no right to play God, no matter if they are Thanos or Margaret Sanger.
Image Credit: Focus Features
When an unlikely friendship from childhood rekindles in their teens years, two girls begin to understand the darker side of each other, and humanity. Crooked, slight, pointed, and oddly humorous, Thoroughbreds is a wonderfully fresh entry into the teenage thriller genre, and a surprising directorial debut from Cory Finley. I was impressed by all the performances of Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), Amanda (Olivia Cooke), and Tim (the late Anton Yelchin). These three characters are fleshed-out, honest, and nasty. What truly delighted me about this film was its ability to subvert expectations with taste. The framing, score, editing, and cold acting gave the film a very unique and darkly, comedic tone. Though at times this picture may seem like it is trying too hard to be cool, overall the experience has a strong pay-off for any film lovers who appreciate a good blend of substance and style.
Our plot’s rubber meets the road when Amanda’s psychopathic lack of empathy is exposed and discussed by our two main characters. This is juxtaposed very well with Lily’s extreme sensitivity and desire to please others. Christians should not be fooled into thinking this project glorifies evil, but rather utilizes a very dark situation to expose our own evil natures.
Are We All a Little Psychopathic?
Unless I missed something, one of the main points of the entire film is the entropy and exposure of evil humanity when placed in certain contexts. The girls’ emotional and mental states place them on two opposite ends of a spectrum, and the as narrative progresses, it becomes increasingly clear why Lily is so extremely fond of Amanda. In short, Amanda is capable of doing things, like murder, that Lily would love to, but society will not allow. It is scary when stated this way, since contemporary social science will tell us that empathy, alone, sets Lily apart from Amanda. Yet, we see that Lily further prizes Amanda for her psychopathy; for her, this friendship is an opportunity to get away with a horrible act.
What if the reason we do not murder is because of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, or simply because we do not want to get caught? What if our empathy is much smaller than we assumed? What if the opportunity to do evil presented itself to us; would we seize it, like Lily? Now, all Christians at this point are emphatically responding, “We do not murder because we love God and obey his commandments!” Yes, and that is only because of God’s Spirit in us (Romans 8:12-13). My questions above, obviously, assume the opposite: what if God’s Spirit had not brought you from death to life, and then you were placed in Lily’s shoes?
The sad part about our theology today is that we, like a parrot, can repeat back solid doctrine, but we do not realize, in our hearts, what we are truly saying. We all know that we are bad and need God to save us, but how bad are we really? Could we really say that, apart from God’s common and special grace, we are murderers and adulterers at heart? If we would say otherwise, we might be surprised to find that our Lord disagrees. In the Sermon on the Mount, he indicates the exact opposite: anyone even angry with his brother will be subject to judgment, and anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has committed adultery (Matthew 5). As My Epic says in their song “Lashes”, we often don’t care for innocence, just the appearance.
May God grant us repenting graces to see the evil in our hearts, and believing graces as we cling to Christ for aid.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Warner Bros.
When the British and French allies are surrounded by German forces on the island of Dunkirk, they must escape home, or home must come for them. Director Christopher Nolan, many are saying, has created his magnum opus in his latest title. He has waited till the proper moment to make his passion project, being it is such a dark moment of history, but the wait was worth it: Dunkirk is a masterful, creative, and thought provoking story of despair and hope, told at breakneck speed. The film’s greatest achievements are also the dislikes of some. The short runtime calls for a creative timeline, which people may find confusing; the situation makes the whole movie feel more like a third act, and for some this is too fast-paced; and, finally, the focus on survival calls for a lack of character. Some audiences have complained about this lack, though I feel this aspect of the film is the strongest, and is actually a theological point: sometimes, all we need to know about people is that they are trying to survive.
We Are All Trying To Survive
Dunkirk takes a “show, don’t tell” approach to its story; instead of characters sitting around describing themselves through dialogue, Nolan decides to show who they are based on the decisions they make in dire moments. This is classic cinema. And when is the “show don’t tell” approach more appropriate than in a film like this, when there is no time to shoot the breeze? Disaster, survival, and war movies are great opportunities to show how characters act rather than tell the audience about them through dialogue. The main theme brought out in this “show” approach is that all human beings are trying to survive at all costs.
There are a few things that all people, Christian and non, surely believe in: everyone sins, dies, and wants to live; this last point is emphasized in Dunkirk. We should not miss an important conversation at the end of the film: the citizens rejoice when the soldiers make it home. Yet, a distraught soldier remarks, “But all we did is survive,” to which a civilian responds, “That’s enough.” How does the church take this? On the one hand, survival is enough; on the other, it is not. We know that all people have a built in hope, yet it is not sufficient to bring about any lasting significance to human existence. Certainly, survival is a great starting place, but it is not salvific. This is important when it comes to evangelism. The need for survival is “enough” to know about someone, especially when sharing the gospel. One can surely undervalue getting to know someone, however we must not forget that no matter someone’s background, every person is sinful, will die, and wants eternal life; the gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to all these.
Dunkirk is helpful in identifying that the most obvious thing to know about our main characters is their desire to live, and that makes them human, regardless of whether or not we know them personally. The church needs to remember that, in good times and bad, all people want to live, and our job is to show them that the desire for survival points to something greater and eternal. Let us make haste to call all peoples of different backgrounds to the fulfillment of the longing to live; let us call our neighbors to our one true hope: “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Sony
*Some spoilers ahead*
After a long life of driving for a top-notch criminal, Baby must make a decision between one final heist that looks unpromising and a girl that he loves. Edgar Wright, any would admit, never makes a sloppy movie. Among the highest ranks, with titles like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, Wright manages to make comedic action flicks with unrelenting pace and important messages.
Baby Driver, make no mistake, is his magnum opus thus far, excelling in every one of his graces, and many new ones. Baby has almost no flaws, failing in only few things: Foxx’s character is over-the-top; and maybe we would like to know more about Baby. But that’s it, for me. There is no style over substance, the characters are all fleshed out quite well (even when we do not ask for it), and Wright successfully removes any baggage the heist genre now brings. Most impressive, technically speaking, is the choreography: every shot in the film is to the rhythm of Baby’s music playlist on his iPod; gunshots, car doors, walking, are all to the beat of rock-and-roll. BD has a way of luring the audience into a musical, colorful, criminal world, yet never distracting from Baby’s struggle to escape a dark situation.
To the Stars Through Difficulty
Highlighted by the camera-work, a side-character makes clear a distinct message of the film when she says to Baby that in order to get to the rainbow, one must first go through the storm; later, the events of the film take a dark turn framed with an actual storm. Can any not hear the gospel screaming out from the screen at this point? Christians have heard it hundreds of times: all things for good for those who love God. However, let’s not miss an opportunity to dwell on this truth: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with [Christ” (2 Timothy 2:12). No one knew suffering like Christ, and the call to those who are in him is to not wonder at suffering, but embrace it. Though done with spunk and style, Baby Driver successfully shows how the end of true pleasure is paved with a means of pain.
The state flag of Kansas has the Latin phrase etched on it “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” which means “To the Stars through difficulty/hardship”. No stars are symbolized, but the film does end with a rainbow in the backdrop, symbolizing the prophetic nature of the previous remarks on suffering paying off. Furthermore, the already Biblical nature of rainbows will only continue reminding Christians of this, as the first bow given to Noah was a sign of a covenant, a symbol of hope. Christ and all who are in him, like Baby, hold out for hope, heading to the stars through difficulty.
Image Credit: Marvel Studios
After a mysterious spider bite gives him superpowers, high-schooler Peter Parker slowly masters the art of heroism, attempting to continue winning the attention of Iron Man and the Avengers. But that road does not come easy when everyone looks down on the young and inexperienced. When the web-slinger discovers criminal weaponry deals, tapping into forces that could threaten New York, Parker attempts to take matters in his own hands, but not without a price.
This new adaptation to the Marvel Universe is a breath of fresh air for any who loved the Sam Raimi films, though much different. This new flick reminds audiences why they originally fell in love with the young character. Most agree that the Marc Webb films, with Andrew Garfield, distracted from the heart of the story, which is not so here. Jon Watts has dabbled in some pictures here and there, but it is good seeing him get Tom Holland (Spider-Man), with an outstanding crew of writers to make the film charm the audience more than other Marvel films. One of the film's weaknesses, among a few others, is shallow background from our main characters (Keeton’s villain, and even Spider-Man himself). However, the dialogue, pacing, and message spin a web so fantastic, these are truly minor flaws.
The Heroism of Friendliness
It is hard to miss Holland’s spunk, Spider-Man’s trademark, even as he fights off bad-guys. Integrity overflows from Parker as he helps the elderly, waves to passers by, and does backflips on command. But don’t let that strike you as a weakness; a moment from the film may indicate that such kindness actually sets this kid apart from many other heroes. At one point in the film, a citizen thanks Spider-Man for offering himself to be shot at instead of him. He called Spider-Man “bold” (he actually used another word I’ll spare you from). There it is: kindness stood out to that citizen as bold, even though Peter is only 15. Sometimes, that’s how it is: love and kindness is the heart of true heroics.
At the end of the day, our hero is such a lovable character because he has something we all want in a protagonist, and it’s in his nickname. Tony Stark asks, "Can't you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?" My question: is that bad? Why does niceness come off as weakness? Is friendliness a deficiency? No. In fact, Spidey’s strength is not just webs and agility, but warmth and generosity. It takes real guts and boldness to lay down your life for someone else, or at least be willing to. Praise God for heroes, pastors, and Christians like that. And praise God for Christ who, if I may contend, is such a wonderful hero because of his pity and kindness. Jesus Christ is, of course, the friendliest neighborhood hero of all.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
In our previous review of Dawn of Planet of the Apes, we saw that Caesar, and every other great leader, can be admired as reflections of our perfectly independent leader, Jesus Christ. In a general sense, insecure leaders always attempt to become great, even if at the cost of other’s lives. Jesus cannot become any greater than he already is. This fact ensures others' safety. Christ will protect, even if at the cost of his own life. Insecure leaders take lives to gain; Jesus gives his own life for others’ gain. In the spirit of the latest adaptation to the Apes franchise coming out this weekend (War for the Planet of the Apes), let's take another look at Dawn. For this second discussion, let’s observe how Caesar and Christ are different: our Lord is not, like the good ape, thwarted by the tribe's disobedience.
Saving the Sheep from Themselves
We see Caesar as faithful and just beautifully throughout the film. Caesar was faithful, and he shows us a leader and a friend that will never leave the side of those who are in need. For some time, Caesar kept his family, his tribe, and the humans quite safe and at peace; this leader will make wise decisions. There came times, then, when his justice led him to rid the bad apes from the tribe. Caesar would not simply sweep crimes under the rug; the just leader, punished the criminals, lest he be assisting crime. In the end of the film, Koba, the ape, attempts to kill Caesar and take his throne. Caesar then, ensuring the others’ safety, justly kills Koba. This is good news! And yet: if Christ is a better Caesar, then how often are we worse Kobas?
Jesus can, in ways Caesar cannot, save and change criminal sheep. Our Lord is both just and faithful to criminal sheep. Caesar can only do a sort of balancing act with justice and faithfulness, but he cannot “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) in the same Jesus can. Christ brings justice and faithfulness together at the cross, by suffering our punishment for us. At the cross, Jesus justly paid the hellish debt that rebellious sheep owed, faithfully securing their heavenly inheritance. God upheld his Law and the consequences for breaking it, while also demonstrating integrity in his promise of safety toward Abraham’s believing offspring. Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled both God’s Law and his promise to the church, proving that he is a just judge and faithful friend.
Good men might die for good men, but the best men dies for criminals. Caesar, the ape, shows a leader that dies for a good person, but God shows his love in that “while we were yet [Koba, the ape], Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Oh, how my soul loves knowing that when the wolf is coming, Jesus will not run way... even when I am the wolf.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
From a few of the creators and writers that brought Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph to the big screen, comes another great, original idea. Big Hero 6, is about a young Hiro Hamada, struggling to find his identity and come to grips with the path to a career in science. His elder brother, Tadashi, a current college student enrolled in a prestigious school, inspires him to and guides him in following his dreams of scientific invention. After losing Tadashi in a tragic fire, Hiro is left with a robot built by his older brother, called Baymax, specifically designed to care for the physical needs of humans.
Aside from the size of audience and earnings, the warmness of the story speaks volumes to the film’s success. A concern some may have is the seemingly short runtime for the size of narrative; though a little squeezed together, Big Hero 6, is honorary for its familial message, comedy, and engaging action.
Baymax’s caring nature stands out quite obviously as a main theme in the film. Seeing Hiro always fueled by a different agenda, however, reminds the sinner of his own selfishness. Baymax’s caring nature mixed with his objectivity forces Hiro to face his impetuous behavior. Some lines of comparison may be drawn between said relationship and the one between Christ and his little sheep.
Misusing Our Healthcare Assistant
Christ Jesus came to save sinners, and make them to glorify his Father (1 Timothy 1:15, John 15:8); Baymax was created to take care of Hiro’s health, even if at the expense of his own robotic life. The Word of God already tells us what’s good for us: save us from sin for the glory of God. Indeed, Christ teaches us to pray “Father, hallowed be Thy name.” It is all about the glory of God, not us. When we try and bend Christ to serve our selfish wills, we are like Hiro using Baymax for something other than his purpose. There is a scene in which Hiro attempts to reprogram Baymax to destroy another character; the robot then reminds him that his purpose is to help people, not destroy them.
Baymax had in fact been satisfactory in his caring for Hiro. In a pivotal ending scene, reality sinks in for Hiro when Baymax asks one final time if his health care assistance had been satisfactory, and because Hiro had made changes to his definition, he could finally answer that he was satisfied. When we doubt if God has been good to us, is that because God has actually gone back on his promises, or because we misunderstood his promises? Christ’s purpose is to make much of his Father and satisfy us with his goodness; the means to that end may be very painful, and we ought not question if God loves us when it is. We generally think and act like Jesus came to save us from financial debt; however, the Bible says he came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). We pretend that God is to make us famous; the Bible says he is to make us like Christ. May we stop attempting to reprogram Christ, and finally confess, “We are satisfied with your care for us.”
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Warners Bros.
9/10 - The Great Adaptation
The Great Gatsby is full of messages, themes, and meaning that have woven into our culture. I was glad, two years ago, to get swallowed up with the rest of so many millions in beholding this wonderfully tragic story. Yet, I had never read F. Scott Fitzgerald's original masterpiece so as to investigate how well of a job Baz Lurhmann had actually done in adapting it. After recently doing so, I am very pleased to say that literally everything Fitzgerald's composition is, so is Lurhmann's, and much more.
The Great Gatsby is the spectacle of two lovers forbidden from each other by wealth, circumstance, and jealousy. It is interesting, however, that such a horrifying story is back dropped with some of the most exciting party scenes in literature and film history. Still, as readers and audiences of both the film and the book watch the impassioned and youthful events unfold, the storytellers’ schemes reveal as satirical poking at the meaninglessness of it all. I think the point is that unintended pleasure is vain, no matter how royal. And, though presented as superior in value, Gatsby's treasure, Daisy Buchanan, is just as meaningless as the 1920’s party-life. Maybe more so.
Merriment for God’s Sake
Some persons are like chickens with severed heads, seeking satisfaction by surviving. Like to breathing water, we misuse creation to our detriment. We do not know how to party and marry. We party and marry as though parties and marriage are gods. And no matter how high are aspiration or dream, we will soon find the goal will always fail our desires. Hung over, fired from a job, or dead on the street, every individual on planet earth will realize the meaninglessness of their dreams.
Our problem is that we do not understand ambition and merriment. Vain aim made Gatsby's death tragic, that’s all. Gatsby's aim was to live happily, ever after with Daisy, and for what? Since his joy terminated on a silly relationship, his life was a waste. The problem is not that he loved Daisy, but that his love was an end in itself. We do not stop seeking pleasure, but look to the one who knows fullness of pleasure in God. Jesus’ merriment was, and is, never an end in itself, but is all found in his eternally satisfying Father.
If death is avoided, it's vain; yet embrace it, and death becomes gain. Who wants to go out like a roach kicking on its back? My heart aches over how many "Christians" live for themselves, for vanity, merely surviving. We must not move for the sake of motion, surprised when gunned down by jealous lovers, but work, fellowship, and partake in merriment with motives for God.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Marvel Studios
In this second installment to the mega-hit franchise, director Joss Whedon brings back the beloved super hero team for a fight against the forces of evil, but this time the stakes are higher and more personal. In an attempt to shield (pun intended) the earth from future villains, Tony Stark teams up with Bruce Banner to build protective artificial intelligence, but his plan backfires when the program grows into an almost undefeatable foe, with an agenda to annihilate human life.
Though some of the camera shots were a little too close for comfort, Age of Ultron had great action sequences, similar and superior to the first film. Unlike its predecessor, however, was the missing pieces. Rumor has it that the film was chopped up in post-production, and many scenes were missing, explaining the off-pace. The film was an enjoyable installment of the series as the audience gets more character, a deeper delve into this large universe, and an satisfying setup for oncoming danger in future films.
The Avengers begin to experience the shaky ground of disunity in the fight against Ultron. But, what could disunity mean for the team when Ultron is Kindergarten and the bigger villains come? Audiences everywhere are ready to see the terror of Thanos; yet, if the Avengers are not united, they will fail to defeat him. This beloved group cannot afford afford a Civil War amongst themselves with inconceivable threats on the horizon. Does this not remind us of the church vs. her enemies?
United by the Truth
All of the pastoral epistles, are crucial to consider concerning how the church ought to stand firm against her enemies. These are the letters on how, practically, the church will victoriously promote truth against error. Interestingly, Paul warns Pastor Timothy that first danger is within the church: there are some who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7 ESV). The danger is members within the church quarrels over true things, yet failing to understand Truth.
We often mistake true things for Truth itself. Usually these arguments turn into mindless semantical quarrels rather than pursuit of actual Truth, since true things stem from truth. What’s important to understand is that arguing over words and phrases for “unity’s sake”, as some say, has the appearance of unity and godliness, but it actually can create disunity. In the third trailer of Age of Ultron, our villain says the way to defeat the Avengers is from the inside out, which almost brings me to tears. Is that not exactly how the devil works? Oh, he is coming with full force, but he knows that the best way to weaken the defenses of the church against the heresy he is bringing is to form heresy on the inside by instigating arguments over truth.
How the Avengers are going to survive when Thanos brings the real party in Infinity War (projected 2019). Not surprisingly, arguing over the best ways to be super heros is counterproductive and will lead to defeat. The remedy to such dissensions is a reminder of the end goal of their heroism. The great end and purpose of justice in the world is a sufficient to clear the dust of division. Focusing on shortcomings will be the Avengers downfall, and ours as well. Often, the way to fix error is not to quibble over falsehoods or sins, but behold the Truth together. Loving the Truth together, not arguing about true things or who is more right, will push out error in due time. The Kingdom come on Earth is cannot be forgotten. Our eyes fixed on ultimate goal, by God’s grace, will keep us to the end. Friends, I pray that we will look to Jesus, who is truth; if our sight terminates of true things, forgetting Truth himself in our hearts, we will lose against our enemies.
I am not saying theology does not matter. I love theology. I love correct theology. I want theological purity in the church. I am not saying we should not care about theology and purity. In fact, the opposite. I am simply suggesting that if our joy terminates on the arguments for correctness and not Christ himself, who is our joy, we will not ultimately achieve said purity. Firstly, the terrible enemy against the church is the church is herself; therefore we must be diligent to focus on the great end for which we have assembled, Christ and his Kingdom on Earth, that we may stand against outside attacks.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Sony Pictures
When a restless and heartbroken computer genius, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg), seeks revenge, he teams up with his business minded best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Garfield), to create a fashionable website, designed exclusively for students at Harvard University. Soon after their friendship explodes into a mass of betrayal, deceit, and greed; thus birthing the smash hit Facebook.com. David Fincher has once again crafted a dark story, but this time mostly with dialogue, gestures, and facial expressions, with the aid of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, Moneyball). Truly, Sorkin’s fast-paced wit paired with Fincher’s dark, cinematic framing and style is a match made in heaven; one wonders if the world will ever be blessed by this marriage again. The Social Network, hailed as one of the best films of 2010, proves the director has a special pallet for each project, setting him apart as one of the best directors working today. His latest, Gone Girl (2014), is further evidence that audiences should stay tuned for future adaptations.
How Friendships Fizzle
As a film, the fictitious side of this tale are better with every viewing, yet one may wonder at the silliness of it all. Zuckerberg seeks to mock the haughty, but in so acting is he not haughty? The events that the film are based upon remind me a bit of our main characters in the book of Job from the Old Testament. You have Job’s friends, the accusers, and Job, the accused; they assert Job is evil, forcing him to defend himself. Though, as the story continues, Job's arguments become just as proud as his friends (which may explain God’s rebuke at the end of the book).
How do Christians approach the disagreements that seemingly vary in the millions? Some disagreements seem to have no starting point, "We started with A, and are here at B, but it all seems like semantics." Christians can, and sometimes do, spend years trying to investigate every single disagreement until they get to the absolute bottom of it. In turn, these dissensions end in church splits and lawsuits over social media websites.
How Slanders Settle
Concerning our disagreements and wrestling over words, is there a fixed point upon which we can stand in order to move past our quarrels? Is there some guide or measuring rod to guide us to resolution? The truth is, there is no commonality on our limited planet that will bridge the gap between human battles: What we finite beings need is an unlimited, eternal force that will shatter the barriers between those divided. If Zuckerberg and Saverin want to be friends again, they need not to decide who is right or wrong, necessarily. In the end, Job and his friends were both wrong when God comes on the scene and has the final word. Zuckerberg should have been open with his partner about the business from the get-go, and Saverin is wrong to look down on him for it. The answer to these arguments is to gaze at the Savior. We humans are sometimes terrible friends because we are unacquainted with the best Friend there is. Seems like I say this in every article: chin up and look to Jesus Christ, who demonstrates exemplary friendship.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
When a young woman’s father is irrationally imprisoned by a beast in his castle, she takes his place. She soon finds out this beast is really prince whose appearance is under a curse due to his pride and greed. Beauty and the Beast, stars Emma Watson (The Harry Potter Series), Dan Stevens (Downton Abby), and many more brilliant actors and actresses (Evans, McGregor, McKellen, Thompson). This film is the reimagining of the seemingly age-old tale so many English speaking people have loved for many years. It is, in my opinion, as good as the cartoon, if not better. All the originality of the first is there, while also filling in gaps in the story, song arsenal, and dialogue. However, my sympathy very slightly goes out to the complaints that it is a cynical, unnecessary, unoriginal rehash of the same story. I quite enjoyed the color and creativity Beauty and the Beast, both in set-designs and warmth of acting. I am convinced most others will too. And as far as theology? It’s hard to miss.
Christ’s Superior Substitution
There is a lot of gospel in this picture; however, one piece of that always stuck out to me in the animated classic, and is here as well, is the substitution of Belle’s father by her sacrifice. Her father was imprisoned in the prince’s castle for rummaging through the garden and taking one of the flowers. The now-accursed-prince sentences the thief to a lifetime behind bars, in the upstairs dungeon. Upon discovery of her father’s whereabouts, Belle tricks the beast and her father by into thinking she merely wants to say a final goodbye, surprising them by flinging her father out of the jail cell and slamming herself shut in his stead. This is no belabored point: Belle’s sacrifice shews forth for us a type of our Lord Jesus’ substitution in the place of believers on the cross. Christ was flung into a prison cell and the church was flung out.
Here is where we get the term substitutionary atonement; herein lies the idea that Christ, on the cross, died the sinner’s death for him. God is holy, and we broke his Law; God is just, so we are under his curse; God will punish all sin, and we are all facing that punishment, that sentence. Yet Christ was treated as though he broke God’s Law, he fell under the sinner’s curse, and he was punished in the place of many. Christ was an absolute substitute for any who will believe in him and trust his punishment as sufficient payment for their sentence. Christ substitutes himself in the sinner’s place enduring the eternal wrath of God. Though he suffered in our eyes for only three hours ‘till he breathed his last, we will never fully comprehend the full weight of what happened to our Lord spiritually when his Father forsook him. We do know that he paid our price in full; therefore, since our debt was eternal, Christ suffered an eternal weight of suffering in the payment of our sentence. Since Jesus endured all of his Father’s infinite wrath, our Lord suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell. Christ’s sacrifice is much more beautiful than Belle’s simply because her father’s sentence was momentary, and the sinner’s is eternal.
It follows, therefore, that, if Belle’s act of substitution is praiseworthy, much more is Christ’s, for he paid an infinite price! Let us render unto Christ the praise that is due him for his infinite payment, especially this Resurrection Lord’s Day. And indeed the debt is paid, for Christ drank death dry, and has sat down at his Father’s right hand as King of Heaven and Earth. Indeed, the payment is no more, for, “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, esv)
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
*spoiler free review*
It is fitting to re-lease this review in light of the continued adaptations of the Disney Classics, in Beauty and the Beast. Was it good? It was Cinderella. This is great news in light of the many failed attempts in recent years at retelling Disney classics, such as Burton’s remake of Alice in Wonderland. Starring Lily James (Wrath of the Titans), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), and Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), and directed by Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), Cinderella is a simple reimagining of the beloved tale. With Blanchett stealing every scene, breathtaking cinematography, and the clear message of persevering through adversity, this film reminds its audience why the original became a classic. Though some of the dialogue and execution are bumpy, it doesn’t disappoint. This picture surprised some viewers who are used to studios trying to be creative. However, if others are interested in something “new”, they may look elsewhere.
I was pretty excited going in to see this film because the gospel is usually obvious in children’s stories. They are more “basic”, dealing with general ideas such as love, betrayal, survival, law, grace, and so on. Already knowing the simple story of Cinderella, a mere farm girl unconditionally loved by royalty, this was sure to refresh my hard heart.
The Lack of an Ache
The contemporary church, by and large, embraces the idea of Christ as a groom and the church as the bride; sadly, it seems she neglects such a picture in her thought and life. This is odd, seeing we love to talk about God’s love; and yet talk of Christ as groom has escaped the heart of so many evangelicals. Instead of, “Make haste, Lord”, some live lives that say, "Just a little longer." I've actually heard some joke about how the Lord should wait to come ‘till after they experience making love. I’m reminded of the coldness of my own heart as the prince relentlessly pursues Cinderella throughout the film. And for what? She, a meaningless farm girl, pursued by the royal heir? He “had to see her again”. Could she do without him?
A Better Spouse
Oh, that our hearts would leap at the thought of the coming of the King! Jesus is a better spouse. Jesus is not "good also". Jesus is better than any spouse we could try to fill our void with. It is Christ's nature to be better than any husband or anything imaginable. It is his nature to be better: not only is he better than a thing, he is better. The point for now is simple: Cinderella reminds us to see King Jesus Christ as better, and wait for him, like a farm girl, in the dusty attic of this life. Let us hasten to cry, “Make haste, my beloved!”
Let English Puritan, John Owen, have the last words on longing for our Lord Jesus Christ, from a passage on Song of Solomon. Now, the context speaks of seeking for consolation from the grace of Christ on earth, yet the principle of longing for him as a bride for a groom does apply greatly to our time:
“Truly a pressed soul… must be inquiring after Him: ‘Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? This is my condition: I have had sweet enjoyment of my blessed Jesus - He is now withdrawn from me. Can you help me? Can you guide me to my consolation?...’ All these labors in His absence sufficiently discover the soul’s delight in the presence of Christ."
Communion with God, in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991), 2:16-17.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was even more surprising than its predecessor, Rise. Directed by the ambitious Matt Reeves, and starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, and Gary Oldman, this film is a presentation of ideas and art on so many levels. Unlike the majority of cookie-cutter action films today, this piece subtly engages social and political issues, and develops in a multi-faceted way. This review is released in the spirit of excitement for the third installment to the Apes franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes, coming summer 2017.
A theological point is hard to miss: the independent leadership of Caesar likened to that of Christ. After seeing the film, I meditated on John 10, and this article will draw out two points from that text concerning the independent leadership of Jesus Christ that Caesar the ape shows us. As you read, keep in mind the tyrannical form of leadership in John E. Dupont, from my review of the film Foxcatcher (this review is soon to be released).
 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd.
(John 10:11-14 ESV)
Jesus is Not a Vacuum
There are two types of leaders in this text: hired hands and good shepherds. Jesus shows us that hired hands can only be bribed, and I believe this is because they are not the source of all good and the fountain of eternal life. Since their goodness is limited, their entire leadership is spent attempting to add to their lack of leadership and to make it limitless. For instance, when hired hands permit judgment it is because they were unsure of their control; those bribed into leading will punish the sheep to gain control and beat praise out of them.
Caesar pictures Christ, however, in that he cannot be bribed; he is not a vacuum. This is because his source of all good cannot be added to: the Spirit and Words of his Father are always his delight. Caesar never hurt fellow apes who threatened his position, and there was no need to; the ape did not need to convince himself he was the leader. Christ is not bribed by gifts because all gifts come from him, as he is the very door to all good gifts. For instance, when Jesus judges the wicked he is never trying to convince himself he is in control. Jesus is God, whether or not he is praised; he is never thwarted or caught off guard. He is unmoved, unrivaled, overflowing with goodness, and enthroned at the Father’s right hand. He cannot gain because he cannot lack, and vice-versa.
Therefore, His Leading is Independent
Since tyrants are hired, their leadership is dependent. Their leadership comes with a price. They lead only if the sheep love them or give them gifts. If the sheep do not respect those bribed into leadership, they seek their money’s worth; they care for money, not sheep. However, Caesar reminds us that Jesus was not purchased into leading us; rather he purchased us with his own blood (1 Peter 1:19). Caesar never backed out of leading and loving the apes when the apes stopped following him. His leadership was unconditional and independent. Jesus does not lead because we bought him, but because he bought us. The church can be confident that he is perfectly sound in his judgment and will do her only good because he only has the ability to care for her since he loves her and not only her gifts. Though tyrants seek gain at the cost of the sheep's’ life, Christ seeks the sheep’s good, at the cost his own life.
So the question is: do we trust our unmoved and unconditional King. So many apes disagree with Caesar at points in the film, but continued to trust him; this strong ape instills a sense of trust from the followers. Christ is always stirred in pity for his wayward sheep. This is the great shade the church may hide under in this scorching, tyrannical world: Jesus Christ is the great and unchanging shelter through the ages; believers’ enemies are his enemies, his scepter drawn and ready to dash them to pieces (Psalm 2). Come, and lay on the breast of King Jesus while he scans the whole Earth, daring anyone to threaten his sheep.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
When twelve alien space crafts land in seemingly random parts of the world, the military hires Linguist Professor, Louise Banks (Adams); and Mathematician, Ian Donnelly (Renner), to figure out the aliens’ purpose. Louise embarks on a journey of politics almost-war that will change and redefine her entire life.
Most critics are calling Arrival the best film from Denis Villeneuve so far. He has gone above and beyond in showing his skill in crafting an intriguing story, yet never at the expense of meaning and symbolism. We see this in his previous pictures Enemy, Prisoners, and Sicario, on which I wrote last year. Arrival is his first sci-fi, which is exciting since he is currently making the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner; he has well-proven his ability to tell amazing stories, even with a larger budget.
One of Villeneuve’s greatest achievements with this film is the many weighty themes throughout, such as, the paradox of time, language barriers, enjoying life in light of death, and much more. I have linked below a very helpful spoiler video in understanding the many themes of Arrival, by Rami Mahdy from The AtZ Show. Most exciting is the incredible message of communication with one another. As our main character learns to communicate with the aliens, she realizes that the aliens long for the humans to communicate with one another.
The Importance of Communication
Without getting into any spoilers, suffice it to say that Arrival’s largest contribution to our theology is our need to communicate with one another. Again, our need to communicate with each other better is emphasized as Louise Banks learns to communicate with the aliens. What is the significance? Perhaps the significance in communicating with each other while communicating with the aliens is the fact that we cannot have one without the other. Let me word it this way: if we want to understand the aliens, we must understand each other; if we want to understand each other, we must understand the aliens. I cannot delve too deeply without spoiling the film, so I will tread lightly, but just in case, I advise you see Arrival before finishing this article. I hope these comparisons will cause us to be a people who love God’s Communication toward us.
In the film, the aliens’ language is circular, whereas ours is linear. Our main characters say that language affects the way the mind operates, therefore, since their language is, for lack of a better word, eternal, their minds lack the barriers of time and space. There are obvious barriers between the human and alien language, since we are so linear and frail in our thinking and languages. This is not trite in our theological connections.
Discard, for a moment, the textually critical baggage that often comes with translations of the Bible and consider: God has spoken. When we come to the Word of the Living, eternal God, we are coming in contact with a God whose “language” and thoughts and, unlike the aliens, whole existence does not have any barriers of time or space. Let us wonder at the impossibility, without the Holy Spirit, to understand the mind of such a Holy and set-apart God.
But what does this have to do with communication with one another? Let me state an above statement, but replace “aliens” with “God”, and “one another” with “the church”: if we want to understand God, we must understand the church; if we want to understand Christ’s church, we must understand his Father. If we want to know and love our God, we must know and love his people; if we want to know and love his people, we must know and love their God. It is so simple that it is paradoxical. God’s Communication to us is holy, and to unlock its mysteries, we need to rally around it together; and yet, the only way we will truly rally together is by the power of the Word! We obviously need the Spirit of Christ to truly understand God together, but one of the ways the Spirit brings us together in through his Word in our investigation of it. The aliens are a prototype of our great God: their desire was for us to learn to get along, despite our differences by unlocking the mysteries of their language in unity. Linear as we may be, let us be a people who unlock paradoxical, circular mysteries in God’s Word together.
Arrival Ending Explained:
Symbolism and Language
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Warner Bro.s
Fun and Smart
It has been thirty years since we last saw Max fighting wild tribes in this post-apocalyptic earth, but now, the stakes are higher, the villains are fiercer, and everyone is much more mad. Max remains a lone warrior, haunted by his failures, and doing everything to remain loyal to no cause. In attempt to free himself from a vicious tyrant, he gets sucked into, yet another, whirlwind of loyalty and insanity.
Mad Max, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, is basically everything anyone could ask for from an action movie. This will probably catch most by surprise because action plots have disintegrated, as has the audience. At the moment, I cannot put my finger on any specific faults with the film as a whole, considering everything I think director George Miller set out to do. The structure of the film, and every structure that pieces it together, is super fun and intelligent. I highly recommend this well-plotted, well-choreographed film, for both the general and stricter critics.
Especially impressive is the weighty message that we are all wandering the wasteland of life, looking for redemption from haunting failures. The movie ends with a quote that symbolizes the film’s desert landscape as Max’s broken past, and the groups search for, what they call, the Green Place as his seeking for redemption. “Where must we go…We who wander this Wasteland... In search of our better selves?” (The First History Man). Mad Max illuminates our haunting failures. And Jesus’ grace is always most highly exalted where sin is most haunting.
The Thirstier the Man...
There is not one person on planet Earth who, in the quiet moments of life, isn’t haunted by some sort of failure, pain, or the reality that life could be better. Everyone is looking for a “Green Place”, like the fugitives in the film; but Max keeps reminding us that he is looking for more than a superficial hope. He is looking for redemption from his mistakes. Everyone enjoys a glass of cold water; but anyone would agree that the thirstier a man, the greater the water will taste. For the church, Max and Furiosa, our main characters, represent individuals who will appreciate the Green Place more than those traveling with them, not because they are better, but because they are worse.
Now, I realize that this may seem like semantics, but I think the general point is that while some of the group wants a good land, others want it more because of their darker pasts; some of the group would appreciate the water of a good land, but others would tremble with gratitude because greater experienced pain. Max wants redemption because he failed his previous “Green Place”. He failed his family. Therefore, I submit this to you: one’s spiritual vigor and vitality should not communicate that he or she is a better Christian, but a worse one and in need of much weightier hope. Only wicked sinners can receive and truly appreciate the greatness of redemption.
...The More Excellent the Water
Now, notice that the water is exalted as excellent, not thirst. The truth is, when Jesus saves sinners, he gets the glory, not the sinner; the worth of Jesus’ rich water of life is seen as most excellent, not the sinner’s thirst. This is a problem with much heresy taught today. We often exalt our need of grace over and against Christ. Everything I write is designed to help Christians see the glory of the grace of Christ, not our need. Rest in Christ, not how much you need him.
Are we not all searching in this barren wasteland for the sweet water of the removal of our wicked pasts? But so many find the grace of Jesus to simply be the answer to their record of debt and do not boast in the excellency of their Lord and Savior! Friends, if you are searching for redemption, look no further than to Jesus Christ, God incarnate; and if you find it, never take it for granted. If Christ has given you the redemption you long for, rest in that wealthy grace until you die. I hope to God that the triumphal procession I lead does not boast in thirst but in the royalty of Jesus Christ, the river of living water. I plead with you to come and drink, and be nothing more than a sinner that treasures the wealth of Jesus more than anything else on planet Earth:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17 ESV)
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios
*No spoilers here*
Race, and All Our Differences
When an aspiring bunny joins the police-force in the city of Zootopia, she finds herself unraveling one of the most decisive cases in the history of the great city. Scrambling, for the sake of her job, to find out where so many mammals have disappeared to, Judy and Nick, the fox, the most-unlikely partners, find themselves solving a mystery for the city's safety... and their own identity. From the creators of Frozen and Big Hero Six comes a fresh adventure. Everyone seems to really like what we are seeing from Walt Disney Animation Studios, but it’s not like we didn’t know they had it in them. It seems as though they may even be giving Pixar a run for their money. We'll have to wait and see. But this was refreshing: a great voice cast, fun visuals, and absolutely Grade-A storytelling. There did seem to be a bit of a cop-out toward the end of the movie, with your run-of-the-mill sap story for our hero that ended very predictably. And there were a couple of editing issues with the voices, all cardboard and unmixed; but I cannot express enough my respect for this simple, yet intelligent, storytelling: easy and fun enough for children, and commentary enough for adults. And what a commentary it was.
No one has to wonder where Disney stands politically. And I have no qualms with that; it isn’t my place to defend the film screen, only the pulpit. Storytelling wise, there were certain parts at which I felt that if the message was any more in-your-face, they would have turned to the camera and said the purpose of the movie. Aside from that, it is very interesting to see one of the ways the world handles one of the most important issues in history.
The fall of humans created in the image of an others-centered, all-loving God spun them downward into selfishness and competition. I believe that Zootopia mainly addresses racism, but touches on a plethora of issues, because racism is at the heart of a plethora of issues. Our race has so much to do with our identity, so if race divides humans, cultural issues, hobbies, goals, and so much more follow soon thereafter. The way Walt Disney Animation Studios wants to answer these problems stirs us to run to the Scriptures, where God has specifically instructed his people on how to deal with these issues. So let’s state the problem, then their answer; then we will state the problem again, and reply with God’s answer.
But, Grace Makes all the Difference
The problem in our culture, and most fundamentally the world as a whole until Jesus comes back and restores us and Earth, is division between each other based on differences in skin color, national languages, hobbies, political stances, etc. These differences cause friction, and, according to Zootopia, conversations begin to look like this, “You are strange because you are different than me.” The answer, as far as I can tell, according to this film, is, “I’m not strange. Let me prove it to you.” Let me repeat that, and say in a different way. “You think I am different? I will go out of my way, and spend all my energy to prove myself to you that I am not.” See the issue with the logic? It is circular, and a bit insane, if insanity is defined as doing the same thing and expecting different results. It is circular because if the problem is bringing up differences, relying on those very differences to disprove arguments is hypocritical. If I am upset that you are bullying me over my taste in music, then boasting about how awesome my music is, and maybe even beginning to make fun of yours, makes me just like you. In the end, I would have no right to be upset at your bullying over differences since I have just become your bully over differences.
Now, according to the Bible, if you are different than I am in some way, the answer is grace. Okay, that might seem too simple, so let me explain. The problem restated, and the Bible's answer: “You and I come from two completely different backgrounds. Instead of arguing about these differences at all, let’s look outside of ourselves and be distracted by a greater thing, and find that in common. In turn, that commonality will prove greater than any 'uncommonality'.” Perhaps you are already thinking of it, but ask yourself what exactly is this “greater thing” we must look to outside of ourselves? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord; that despite anything we have done or any background we come from, God has forgiven us completely and eternally in Jesus Christ, and welcomes us into fellowship with him; that Jesus blood is what I love, and it’s what you love, therefore we love each other.
Ayn Rand said once, “Admiration is the rarest of pleasures.” What an incredible statement. And since we Christians believe that Christ’s sweet grace the best thing to admire, that it is the rarest of pleasures, we believe that admiring that together will make all the difference with our differences. Zootopia reminded me of when John told his dear children to have Christ’s sin cleansing blood in common with each other. In fact, let’s let him have the last word: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV).
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
A Worthy Western
On a fur trading expedition a fur trapper barely survives a bear attack, and must fend for himself in the wild after being left for dead by his team. Terror ensues, and the return home downward-spirals into bloodlust and madness. I quite enjoy Allejandro Iñárritu’s films, and might would say that this is his best so far. What I like most about his movies is their very distinct message; this crafty director seems to have a pallet for each piece’s own creative world and their pictures of the gospel. Needless to say DiCaprio and Hardy's performances were beyond exceptional; the shots were inexpressibly gorgeous, symbolic, and intentional; and the praiseworthy effort behind the film is not easy to miss. One of the best parts of the feature was the obvious theology; no one should miss it: taking vengeance into our own hands is wrong. Case closed.
God is a Better Judge
The Revenant made me think of Romans 12, when Paul said that vengeance was the Lord’s and that he would repay all evil. And that thought almost perfectly transitions to chapter 13 where Paul continues his practical exhortation to submit to the governing authorities that God, in his infinite wisdom, has put in place. Through these texts, God has been teaching me slowly that, firstly, his judgment must go somewhere and cannot be swept under the rug. I mean that God's wrath will either go into his Son or the sinner, and there is no need to wonder if I will be vindicated in the end. Second, I reason that there is no room for my limited, human judgment if God’s eternal justice must be served.
A question that usually raises itself, then, is where to pray that God's wrath goes. The Bible tells me that either Christ or the criminal will absorb punishment; I cannot have any satisfactory punishment of my own. But life is tough, so the only other option is prayer and meditating on God’s Word. I must pray. If I go through suffering on this earth and do not pray, I will lose my mind. So in prayer, what do I do with feelings of justice and anger? Though still not sure what to make of this, I feel more comfortable praying that Jesus Christ absorb the wrath of all of my enemies and that my Father would forgive them, rather than praying judgment upon them. I don't think this is different from when Paul said in 2 Timothy 2 that perhaps God would grant them repentance. For those circumstances in which persecution is so unjust, simply shut thine mouth and trust the Lord who has willed it, and pray that he would put punish his Son in an enemy’s place. And that, folks, is one way to turn the cheek.
If we don’t get this, then work, church, school, and life in general will be overwhelming. The world is full of only selfish people; sometimes there seems to be hope, but it only lasts for a few moments in the scope of all time, and usually even kindness has evil intentions. No one is absolutely unconditionally loving, so be prepared to be sinned against. As John the Beloved said it, “Beloved, don’t be surprised when the world hates you.” Christian, the truth is that God is a better judge than you, so no matter where you pray that he puts his justice, the point is that he is dealing with it and you aren’t. We must submit to him and not our anger; just ask DiCaprio's character, we can't handle it.
By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Courtesy: Universal Studios
Point, Not Plot
When a group of sneaky communists steal a famous actor from Capitol Studios, the filmmakers struggle to make ends meet without their beloved moneymaker, fumbling to to get him back. Josh Brolin leads this all-star cast in a very thought provoking social commentary on government, a seeming love-letter to old Hollywood, directed by the Coen brothers.
I understand why some people walked away upset with this film. I fear, though, that many simply misunderstood it, and am very curious to see how Hail, Caesar! will be spoken of in the coming years, after repeated viewings; hopefully it's just ahead of its time, like the Coens’ earlier O Brother, Where Art Thou? This latest picture was so confident in what it was trying to accomplish, that it didn't attempt to connect with its audience at all, it's true weakness. I heard enough complaints about it before I even went in, so I was very prepared to look past story arc or character development and listen to the message of the film. I advise audiences to watch out for the point, not the plot: in a world of “lefts” and “rights”, sometimes many struggle to make heads or tails of politics. This movie intelligently asks some questions, never seeming to take a stand.
The One Word We Cannot Seem to Remember
There's a scene at the end of the movie in which the Communists ironically decided to support their leaders, which is “feeding the beast” with capital, the exact thing they accused Capitol Studios of doing. And whether it's in conversation with one another, business relationships, or church committees, human beings are really good at pointing out error in someone else when we, ourselves, struggle with that same thing.
Now, I'm not sure if Joel and Ethan Coen intentionally proclaimed a Protestant message of faith alone in Christ alone, by grace alone. In fact, I’m quite sure they did not. But I do think that that message painfully obvious. There is a scene at the end of the movie in which George Clooney's character is dressed in a Roman soldier’s costume, a representation of capitalism, and recites his line about how Jesus Christ was the only person who didn't judge partially between Roman soldier or peasant, i.e. capitalist or communist. Whether you are left or right, Jesus Christ is the one man who sees past our imperfections and flaws and looks at the heart. It is no mistake that his character finishes his line by saying that faith is what we all desperately need and lack. It’s also no mistake that the word “faith” is the only one he couldn’t remember. That seems to be something we all tend to forget about.
On that note, I'd like to leave you with a little phrase: disinterested benevolence. This precious idea comes from Jonathan Edwards, which states that true Christian character is when we are disinterested in our own selfish gain and are purely interested in benevolence and good works toward our fellow neighbor. Faith frees us from arguing our point of view, whether left or right, because it is centered on a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the only one who ever impartially looked at all capitalists and communists.