April 28th, 2016
The late Christopher Hitchens spoke defiantly about his perceived dangers of religious faith, the events of 9/11 catalyzing his simmering thoughts on religion into a full-scale crusade in both book and lecture. You might even have called him a prophetic voice against atrocities committed in the name of divinity. But his invective against the heinous acts of so-called religious people often distorted his perception of where faith in God had produced unambiguous good. To justify the narrative he maintained, acerbically at times, Hitchens had to reflexively play the cynic, always assuming vice behind the virtue.
Larry Taunton, in sharp contrast to Hitchens, is an outspoken evangelical Christian, and the kind of person Hitchens was likely to loathe. Yet an unexpected friendship emerged between them, one that Taunton has recently documented in a book which Kevin Gladding took time recently to read and now here reviews for us. You can read his review here.
The following is from the final scene of a well-done documentary called Collision. The film followed the traveling debate between Hitchens and Pastor Doug Wilson as they found varied venues in which to hammer our their respective cases for atheism and Christianity. What objections one might have for Hitchens’ vitriol or for Wilson’s problematic recent history, their theological disputations here demonstrate muscular thought. Moreover you get a real sense that not only respect but friendship emerged.
On The City last week we shared the teaser trailer of a forthcoming conversation on prayer and the Psalms between pastor-theologian Eugene Peterson and U2 lead singer Bono. The story of how that conversation came to be may be as compelling as its content, but the full account debuted earlier this week and it is a treasure to view.
Meanwhile, if the conversation here sparks interest in further reading in learning from and praying the Psalms, David Taylor, the producer of the video below, has provided a robust list of resources you can find here. There’s some great music, too!
What we have between Peterson and Bono is what you might call a “Cross-cultural conversation”(HT for the phrase: Kevin Gladding). Each represents a distinct constituency and sensibility, while they both share common ground in the Cross that inspires and holds them. In some ways they speak a different language, but find common words in the language they’ve both learned from Jesus.
There’s an opportunity for another kind of “cross-cultural conversation” happening in Dallas (and elsewhere) in early May, one we might invite a few of you to participate in, should both opportunity and interest converge. It’s not in wide release, so you may not have heard of it. But Ewan MacGregor plays Jesus in an imaginative retelling of His wilderness temptations entitled, “Last Days in the Desert.” Film reviewer for Christianity Today, Alissa Wilkinson offers her review here.
The trailer alone confirms how much license the director took with the narratives upon which the film is based. It is, as we said, an imaginative retelling–heavy on the imaginative part. So we don’t alert you to its debut because of its theological acuity but moreso for how it provides a window into one cultural perspective on Jesus. We’d love for any number of you to see the film and give us your sense of it.
Given the smaller scale of the production, the film is depending on grass-roots interest to schedule screenings. As of today there is only one showing of the film on May 12th in the DFW area, and it’s at the Angelika Theater in Dallas. But that screening is already sold out. Perhaps more expressed interest will nudge the theater to schedule another.
Last Sunday’s picnic was a blast! Be sure to thank Sue Akovenko and her hospitality committee for all their labors!
And did you catch the photographic roundup from last Sunday’s picnic? Bill Harris put this catchy montage together. (Just make sure you’re in Google Chrome to both see and hear it in fulness.)
Finally, we come to The Table Sunday.
The Meal is His gift to us (among many), but for us to receive it as He intends, it requires something of us. As Paul makes plain in his letter to the church at Corinth, the nourishment of the Supper does not entail a perfection in us, for else it is a superfluous act. But its nature obligates us to consider what we’re doing when we’re eating and drinking.
Just as wisdom calls for us to take stock of everything we consume, lest we endanger ourselves, so we must reckon with what the Bread and Wine are, what they mean to tell us, and to what ends we partake of them. Eugene Peterson offers us a morsel here about the Eucharist worth reflecting upon prior to Sunday’s Meal:
The Eucharist stands as a bulwark against reducing our participation in salvation to the exercise of devotional practices before God or being recruited to run errands for God. It is hard to get through our heads, but the fact is that we are not in charge of salvation and we can add nothing to it.
The Meal speaks to that need in us that only His death could remedy. It furthermore champions the love with which it was served–the same love that proved itself stronger than death.
Set your mind on that truth for a while before you come Sunday.