Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Denial (Fallen Son)

Denial is the first in the five stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross understood that a person often deals with grief when experiencing extreme loss, these were her steps in overcoming that grief.

Denial opens with Wolverine and Bucky meeting in an abandoned barber shop. "I don't buy it." Wolverine says. Even though Bucky was a first-hand source, a witness to the death of Cap', Wolverine is convinced that the kid only saw what the enemy wanted him to see. Even though all inquiries pointed to the fact that Steve Rogers died, Wolverine wouldn't accept it.

He ends up recruiting Dr. Strange and Daredevil. They help him break in to a SHIELD helicarrier. They leave when Wolverine discovers that Cap's dead body is there. He is dead. Iron Man and the Atom arrive to arrest Wolverine (due to the Civil War he is one of the hearoes wanted at large). They let him go. As Wolverine tells Tony himself, "You want me to go back and tell them. Anybody who had hope. Who are in denial... That I've got proof."

The meeting of Wolverine and Bucky echoes how the room must have been where the disciples were hiding (behind locked doors). They all knew what happened, but might not have wanted to admit it. Then, suddenly, Christ appeared. He shows them his hands and his side pretty much saying, "Yeah, I died." But, also proclaiming, "I came back, I won." Jesus didn't make it hard for us to remember that he actually did die, instead of making us search for proof he delivered it to us.

Later, Thomas denied that Christ would have come, saying that he would not believe it until he is able to see and touch the sacrificial wounds of Jesus. Instead of Thomas needing to later break into a helicarrier in order to see whether or not his leader was truly dead, Jesus came to the room a second time in order to prove that yes, he was dead, but also to prove that he now lives. (John 20:19-29)

Even though the followers in the room might have lost their hope for Christ, it was renewed by his return. Lent is a time to remember the humility of God in his sacrifice. We may grieve in Christ's death, but we may also rejoice in it. Because, even after it had all been said and done; Christ showed to us that he was stronger than even death itself. Nothing could beat him.

John 19:30

I'm sorry if this devotion has been led astray from the common Lenten themes, dwelling in Christ's death. But, it's difficult to do so when Christ remains so alive. Perhaps, I should have had a **Spoiler Alert** for the season, but it is important to know both sides of Christ's life; the before and after crucifixion.

Arguably, the Five stages theory has been disproved. Even though it is natural to grieve over somethings, it is not always the case. According to George Bonanno, some people who have lost something are too resilient to grieve. If there is no grief then there aren't five stages to pass through. Isn't this where we are as Christians? Even though we may want to grieve or feel guilty for what we have done, Christ says "it is finished." It is not necessary to dwell on our sin and our trespasses once we are told that we should dwell on Christ instead. If we only remember that we are the one's who killed him, we may forget that he is the one who saved us. Focus needs to remain on God, not us, for he is the one who truly has the power to save or condemn (and he chooses to save).

Still, even though it may be unnecessary, often times we do go through these stages of grief. The heroes did when America's son fell and Christians may because God's Son fell. They give us points to reflect on in our lives and in Christ's life. And, they will be a useful pattern to follow through the rest of Lent.

To be continued...

Make sure to check in next time
as we discuss the second stage of grief "Anger:"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fallen Son Series

       In 2007, Captain America was assassinated. This shook the hearts and  lives of many superheroes. Even though this may have led to the end of the Marvel Civil War era, as the heroes realized that their lives weren't worth the cause, it was impossible for the men in tights to see the bright side of Cap's death; as characters like Peter Parker, James Howlett, and even Tony Stark mourned their loss.

          Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of Lent and the time that we most strongly remember what Christ did in order to save us. Jesus, starting with being temped in the desert and leading up all the way to death on the cross, sacrificed himself for us. He became God's fallen Son, taking upon himself all of our sin in order that we may be freed from it.

         Cap's death brought up a whole chain of mourning comics. Lent is our mourning period for Christ, the time we realize that what happened was a horrible price to pay. The ash placed on some of our heads is to help us remember what we have done. It was our sin that Christ bore.

          Just as Cap fell in the line of duty, Christ took our bullet in the spiritual war for us. Unbeknownst to Satan, God was even able to use this to his advantage. Instead of staying gone, losing to death, Jesus Christ defeated it. Captain America also came back eventually, just as most "dead" characters do. But, both his death and Christ's meant something. Cap died to end the Civil War while Christ died to win salvation. Cap came back alive to continue to fight the good fight beside us while Jesus came back to let us know that we won!! He became alive again in order that we too may live (Rm 5).

          At the same time as we mourn, we cannot forget that the Son of God succeeded!!! He redeemed us, making us worth something. His blood washes away our ash and our sin (Rev 7).

God's Peace,
Have a Thankful and Reflective Ash Wednesday!!!

          All of the same stages of mourning that the Fallen Son series covered are also laid bare in certain areas of the Bible (perhaps they will be follow up devos for Lent):


Monday, February 20, 2012

Christianity Without Christ? (Slice)

Christianity Without Christ?

Paul Tillich, the noted existentialist theologian, traveled to Asia to hold conferences with various Buddhist thinkers. He was studying the significance of religious leaders to the movements they had engendered. Tillich asked a simple question. "What if by some fluke, the Buddha had never lived and turned out to be some sort of fabrication? What would be the implications for Buddhism?" Mind you, Tillich was concerned with the indispensability of the Buddha—not his authenticity.

The scholars did not hesitate to answer. If the Buddha was a myth, they said, it did not matter at all. Why? Because Buddhism should be judged as an abstract philosophy—as a system of living. Whether its concepts originated with the Buddha is irrelevant. As an aside, I think the Buddha himself would have concurred. Knowing that his death was imminent, he beseeched his followers not to focus on him but to remember his teachings. Not his life but his way of life was to be attended to and propagated.

So, what of other world religions? Hinduism, as a conglomeration of thinkers and philosophies and gods, can certainly do without many of its deities. Some other major religions face the same predicament.

Is Christianity similar? Could God the Father have sent another instead of Jesus? May I say to you, and please hear me, that the answer is most categorically No. Jesus did not merely claim to be a prophet in a continuum of prophets. He is the unique Son of God, part of the very godhead that Christianity calls the Trinity. The apostle Paul says it this way:

"[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible... He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together... For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."(1)

Moreover, Jesus himself prayed, "[Father] you have given [me] authority over all people to give eternal life to all whom you have given [me]. And this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."(2)

As many have observed, Christianity is Christ. Indeed, Englishman John Stott writes, "If Jesus was not God in human flesh, Christianity is exploded. We are left with just another religion with some beautiful ideas and noble ethics; its unique distinction has gone."(3) At the very heart of Christianity, Jesus is the word and the incarnation. And it changes everything.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) Colossians 1:15-20.
(2) John 17:2-3
(3) John Stott, Basic Christianity (London: Intervarsity Press, 1971), 8.

Original source:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Is Human? (Slice)

What Is Human?

"What does it mean to be human?" has been the inquiring theme of more than a few journals, conferences, and special reports. It is a question that is considered from anthropological, theological, and biological perspectives, from within medical, ethical, and spiritual circles. Yet regardless of the examiner, any plumbing of the depths of the nature of humanity is a discovery that the implications are as far-reaching as the subject itself.

Generation after generation, voices that have spoken to the question of human nature often reflect something of the paradoxical character of humanity. Plato described human life in terms of the dualistic qualities he observed. While the mind is representative of the intellectual soul, the stomach is an appetitive beast that must be tamed. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote of the human propensity for both compassion and cruelty at once. "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."(1) Speaking in the 17th century, Blaise Pascal made note of further dueling extremes present within humanity. "For after all, what is man in nature? A nothing in relation to infinity, all in relation to nothing, a central point between nothing and all—and infinitely far from understanding either... He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed."(2)

What does it mean to be human? The seeming paradoxes in and around us make the question difficult to answer. We sense at times within us contradiction and inconsistency—a desire to be a good friend beside the wherewithal to manipulate or exploit, the intention to be a good neighbor beside the tendency to walk away without helping. I find it reminiscent of Aslan's response to the children in Prince Caspian: "'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.'"

As a Christian, I understand my own inconsistencies by the explanation given in the Christian story. Humans are bearers of God's image, made with the intention and care of a good Creator. But it is a reflection that has become blurred. The image of God in humanity is an image tarnished. We have been made in God's image, but it is an image that needs restoration, reviving, resuscitation.

In the company of Pascal and Solzhenitsyn, I find Christian doctrine to provide the only framework that makes sense of the contradictions within us. But far more than this, it is also the only framework that redeems the tension within us, the tension between my identity as a child of God and a daughter of humanity. New Testament writers have assured the promise is ours: "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven." For Christ is not only at work redeeming a fallen humanity, cleansing us from the sin that corrupts our nature. Christ came to unite humanity with God so that we can be truly human.

This is far more hopeful news than other worldviews or self-help plans impart. For if true humanity is a humanity fully united to its creator, then the possibility is ours. Acting on our own power and authority, independent of God, we merely expose our alienation from God and from our true selves. We fail to know what it means to be fully human. But united to Christ through faith we are united to another nature entirely. Writes one disciple, "[God] has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:4).

While Christ is the one who makes our resuscitation possible, the one who restores in us the image of God, the process of reviving is also something we actively take hold of as human beings united to the Son. In other words, to live as children made in God's image and united to Christ is not a static hope, but an active calling. "So then," in the words of Paul, "just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6-7).

What does it mean to be human? Perhaps we only begin to answer this immense inquiry when we turn to the one who shows us the very meaning of the word.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 (New York: Harper Collins, 2002), 75.
(2) Blaise Pascal, Pensess (New York: Penguin, 1995), 61.

Original source:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Green Will

"You are chosen..." 1 Peter 2:9

      Hal Jordan had never wanted the ring. In fact, he had never even heard of it or the Green Lantern Corps before Abin Sur crash-landed on Earth. In his dying breaths, the green ring (programed to choose the best organism in the sector to replace a deceased GL) passes from Abin's hand to Hal's. The ring had chosen him.

       Even though Hal couldn't understand what was going on. Beings from out of this world and beyond his comprehension had become active in his live. Even though Earthlings were looked down upon by the universe as weak and simple the ring chose one anyway. In a way the ring gave Hal purpose with it's calling, instead of being nothing to the universe he soon became something. Without Christ we too are worth nothing. But, we may rejoice because He redeemed us, through Him we are now worth something.

        In the same way that the ring chose Hal, a Christian is chosen as Christ's. Certainly we don't have the prerequisite of being able to "overcome great fear" (even though with God we can), but God chooses us for purposes even if we can't understand them. We have been called to step up to the plate and serve God, just as Hal grows in responsibility and serves the Corps.

      Many times it is hard. We may want to do immoral things, but God gives us the law as a curb. We know what we need to do and what we should do (love neighbors, worship God, follow his commandments), we just have to take up the responsibility to do it.

     The lanterns are powered by individuals with extremely powerful wills. Often times it seems to be God's will vs. our will. As God is good, perhaps his will is our will more often then we think. He leads us to green pastures to sit by still waters. He's a shepherd who knows how to care for his sheep (and actively does). Sometimes we feel like we've fallen off his path, like we're running away from his will. But, God can still use all things for good.

     This is one of my favorite verses: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it's the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Free Will Contrasted to Divine Will

In the time of reformation, leaders arose. Ideas of Martin Luther, Erasmus, and the Jesuits seemed to be challenging everything about the Holy Roman Catholic Church. One of the biggest debates was over the identity of free will. By referring to mainly the Bible and contrasting philosophies I will attempt to share a solid philosophy on free will compared to God’s will. This view is different than any of the Sixteenth Century views, yet it possibly bares echoes of them all.

First, I must argue against the Jesuit philosophy. Even though alternate dimensions are an entertaining idea and add great aspects to science fiction TV series and books, they seem irrelevant for our world’s salvation. The Jesuits think that each possible decision that man makes through his free will must create a whole new dimension. Each decision leads to a new dimension. God infallibly watches all dimensions so that he may know man’s future.  With the premise that God has limitless knowledge, we should be able to assume that even if there was only one world God would know everything about it. God would not have to be dependent on the fact that there are multiple worlds to be able to know everything about one of them. Over all though, whether the other dimensions exist or not is another debate; much like the argument for extraterrestrial life. To disprove this philosophy, it is important to understand that God’s will is bigger than anything we could imagine. It is so vast that it does not require the need for other possible realities to exist to be able to have foreknowledge.

I seem to be a Compatibilist. I believe we both have God’s will and free will. It seems to be another Christian paradox, such as the ones discussed in G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. One fallacy that repeatedly sticks out in the Fatalistic arguments is the implication that God’s will is on the same level as man’s will. Though God can bring himself down to us (and he did as Christ Jesus), we can never bring ourselves up to him (body, mind, or soul). In faith, it is clear (as Luther believes) that it can only be God’s will that brings us to him but our will may still reject him.

These things being said, I take that stance that man does have free will in his daily life, even though God knows what man will choose. This is much like when God is depicted as a father. If a father knows his son well enough (just as God does for he made our bodies, minds, and souls and knew us even in our mother’s wombs Psalm 139:13) he should be able to guess what his son will do in any situation. A father will know by his son’s character whether he would choose to drink or not, whether he would drive safely or not, among other things he would even recognize whether his son had a habit (such as getting a cheeseburgers every time they go to the restaurant) and whether he would implement it or not. This isn’t a complete comparison because God is so much more than an earthly father. There is a chance that the father may be wrong, the son could give in to pressure or choose differently than expected, but God knows us so much better than anyone else could that he would also expect the rarities. Perhaps, by knowing the true person as God has formed them he has a clearer understanding of who we are than we ever could have. Besides knowing our every inner-working, God is outside of time. God, being alive and active in our lives is not like the father who spawns a child and then runs off never to know them again. He is the father who is there at the birth of his son and continues to be there for him. Due to the fact that God is also outside of time, he also knows us as we were formed, as we grew, as we matured, and as we grow old all simultaneously. We do not give God enough credit if we do not allow him the ability to know who we are and what we will chose. By being all-knowing, God does not need access to alternate possible dimensions. Even though he knows that we have already chosen a path (because he is outside of time), he would already know which path a person is going to take.

In Judges 7:9-15, God tells Gideon to arise in the middle of the night and take the enemy’s camp. God also says that if Gideon is afraid he should go down to the camp first, if he does go down to the camp he will hear what the enemy is discussing and he will become encouraged to overtake the camp. Gideon could choose whether or not to go down to the camp first before he attacked (God in his knowledge of Gideon must have known that he was scared and would need to go down to the camp for encouragement), and he did. As God foretold, Gideon overheard a soldier’s dream and became ready for battle. Still, if Gideon would have chosen to solely trust attack without going to the camp first God would have also understood Gideon and understood why.

There is another example in 2 Samuel 11:1-24. It is less direct, but still speaks truth. David sees Bathsheba and covets her. He finds a way to be with her and even though God punishes David by killing his firstborn, he also blesses him with his next heir, Solomon. Even though David and Bathsheba sinned, God knew that this would lead to one of the wisest men in the Old Testament. It was the couple’s choice to give in to pleasure above the command of God, but the birth of Solomon had always been God’s will. Perhaps if David hadn’t sinned, Bathsheba’s husband would have died all the same and they would have ended up together. In any case, God is able to have his will done through man whether they choose to directly follow his commands or not. Another thing to remember is that God is not limited by time itself. Even though he may work through time, he is not captive to it. He knows what has always been and what always will be much like a script writer watching his play come to life. Even more than the script writer, God knows the cast. He made each individual casting call and knows each member personally enough that he can tell when they are going to mess up their script or adlib. His will would have been done with any decision that David or Bathsheba had chosen. Was it not the Lord who protected Bathsheba through child-birth and created the baby Solomon? Just as in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph realizes that God had even worked through the actions of his brothers, God has worked through David and Bathsheba’s adulterous ways.

It would be a mistake to flatten God’s will to be on the same level as man’s. He is able to change everything with his will while man is only able to change the things around him in given circumstances. Man could never fully choose to fulfill all of God’s will, while God can choose to fulfill man’s will.

In the end, God’s will is done. Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” God’s will works through situations that we find ourselves in and through other people. Usually, it is not as direct as we would want it to be. But, his ability to have foreknowledge and will does not mean that we cannot have free will. Have we not been created in his image, in the likeness of God? Perhaps like creativity we have will to an extent even though it is not as capable or vast as God’s.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Watchmen Blasphemy

For more of the original Watchmen GO HERE.

      As you may know, DC is going to be releasing a series of Watchmen prequel comics. Some people have asked my opinion on this. Even though I am not surprised, I am slightly appalled.

       Even though the Watchmen universe is a great universe and Rorschach is one of my all-time favorite superheroes; Watchmen was enough. It had a main running philosophy that argued against those who would lie (utilitarianistically) so that people may be united. It pushed for the sharing of the truth (in order that people may choose to make their own decisions). It was a great story. I really liked the reality behind the heroes (it ran parallel to comic strips like Kick Ass and Marvel Noir) in this dimension. Even though I would love to see a comic series in a similar dimension with similar characters, these characters were meant to tell this story. They did. Job well done. The only reason I believe that they're coming back with prequels is to get people more excited about comic books (good) but mainly to make money (should not be a main driving point).

P.S. There's a whole different writer and everything, so the main plot/themes are probably scratched.

Concerning the Covers: Rorschach's cover is ok, this new guy looks dumb (and shouldn't be involved if not in the main Watchmen comic [they should have done Hooded Justice or Mothman]), Nite Owl would never be that lazy (he'd have more of a ready stance), the Comedian looks like the Comedian, Ozy's cover's probably the best, Silk Specter looks alright, the minutemen should have shown all of the members of the Minutemen (there are some cool ones including Mothman), Dr. Manhattan's cover looks inappropriate:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nightcrawler: Priest, Prophet, Mutant

"Nightcrawler-- Priest, Prophet, Mutant

            Introduced in 1975, one of the most popular characters from the X-Men comics is a German circus acrobat named Kurt Wagner (a.k.a. Nightcrawler). Blessed with extreme agility and the ability to vanish in a puff of smoke and teleport miles away, Nightcrawler also has one of the most distinctive appearances of any of the X-Men characters, sporting blue skin and fur, yellow eyes, pointed ears, fangs, a prehensile tail, and three-fingered hands and feet. His appearance is very much demonic, making Nightcrawler’s devout Catholicism all the more fascinating. Though Nightcrawler’s freakish appearance is very much accepted during his upbringing in the Bavarian circus, he often finds himself at the mercy of angry mobs whenever straying from his circus peers, and it was after being rescued from one such mob that he joined Professor Xavier’s X-Men and came to America. Called a demon and a monster, Nightcrawler might have the most in-depth understanding of the persecution that mutants face, and yet, he will not allow his will or his faith to be crushed. Despite opposition from many in the religious community, he serves as an ordained Catholic priest, even though he finds it difficult to attend or preside over mass due to the terror his appearance often insights. Still, Nightcrawler remains an effective counselor, preaching the love of God for those born different, encouraging humans to love mutants and encouraging mutants like Magneto to be patient with the humans.

(X-Men 2)

              Perhaps what makes Nightcrawler so endearing is how utterly complex a character he is. A fan of classic films, Nightcrawler fancies himself a bit of a swashbuckler, often imitating his hero, Errol Flynn, when he goes into combat with the X-Men. Of course, while his beliefs make him pacifistic at his core, he must reconcile fighting alongside the X-Men as a service to the greater good, seeking to protect humans and mutants from whatever threats might arise from those seeking to oppress and conquer. Additionally, while many of the mutants are capable of passing for human, Nightcrawler’s appearance is a constant source of turmoil for him, but he continually finds affirmation in his religion, recognizing that, through his mutation, God has granted him special abilities and unique insights into the ordering of the world. He has every right to hate the people around him, yet he sees all people as children of God and preaches that same love and tolerance to his fellow X-Men when they grow tired of fighting the good fight. His religious rhetoric and comments about God’s love are a welcome antidote to the hate that the X-Men sometimes receive from religious groups like the Purifiers and the Church of Humanity. In fact, his uncrushable faith might be Nightcrawler’s most impressive ability, and it is evidence of just how much comfort people can find in God when the majority tells them that they are misfits or abominations. While religious people have an unfortunate history of being just as hateful as any other group, God loves the oppressed and the oppressor alike, going so far as to live among us as Jesus Christ and die a humiliating death to reconcile humanity to God. Nightcrawler might embody that spirit more than any other X-Men character. In his own words,

Looks like someone's been reading their Peter Abelard."

Original source:
Another article on Nightcrawler's faith and origin story:

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