Friday, July 21, 2017

review: Joshua

simply not good

I'll deal with this book from two perspective, the story and the theology

Story
Judging from how much the author uses the word in positive ways, one might be safe to assume that one of his favorite words is “simple”, and in keeping with that, this story is by and large a very simple story. If the author had kept the story on the same small scale he started it with, this simple approach may have worked, but he doesn't, things keep getting on a larger and larger scale as the story goes on, but this simple approach begins to sink into simplistic because of it.

For example, the owner of a TV station, after listening to Joshua speak for a few minutes, decides, seemingly at the drop of a hat, to have a TV crew interview Joshua, pp 112-114, an interview that ends taking up about an hour of TV time, pp 138-140. This stretches belief to the breaking point. Then, towards the end, the controversy surrounding this small-town guy somehow becomes so bad that he's summoned to Vatican City to answer for his controversies, and at this point belief completely snaps and tumbles into something more fantasy-like than anything Tolkien wrote.

Another way the simplistic approach to this story shows itself is in how the other characters respond to Joshua, especially the positive responses. It's understandable that the words and actions of the main protagonist in a novel will to a large degree reflect the views of the author, that's not a problem; but when the other characters constantly keep going on about how deep and profound this protagonist's most silly and shallow statements are, how beautiful all his ideas are,and all other such examples of overblown hyperbole, one gets the impression one isn't reading a story intended to be a fair presentation of ideas, and I can't even call this book something like propaganda, but it comes off as if one is reading what the author might think having a fan club would be like, as he surrounds himself, through his protagonists, with people who will accept everything he says without any real criticism or even serious questioning, and who will constantly shower even his most mundane and trite utterances with unconditional praise.

Theology
Judging from how much the author uses these words in negative ways, one might be safe to assume that among his least favorites words are “doctrine” and “theology”, with “authority” and “conservative” not far behind.

As the reader soon learns in the story, Joshua is the personification of the author's idea of how Jesus would be if he returned to earth in the modern day; thus, the teachings of Joshua are meant to represent the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

The problem is, the teachings of Joshua have little in common with the teachings of Jesus.

For example, there is this statement, from p 73 and taken from a much longer statement, “Jesus came to teach people that they are God's children and, as God's children, they are free, free to grow as human being, to become beautiful people as God intended”. Now, just right off, I can think of a time when Jesus said to some people that “You are of your father, the devil”, John 8:44; in Ephesians 2, Paul writes about a time when the believers in Ephesus used to be “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”; I John 3:10 offers a contrast between those who are children of God and children of the devil.

And what does the Bible say about why Jesus came? Luke 19:10 records Jesus' statement, in the context of conversing with the tax collector Zacchaeus, that “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost”; Matthew 20:28 and Matthew 10:45 record Jesus saying that He, the Son of Man, has come “to give his life as a ransom for many”, that Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for sins, so that we can be forgiven by grace through faith.

This is only one example of how far off this author's Joshua is from Jesus, but it is a strong one. It shows that this author, through his title character, is preaching a false gospel, and practicing great deception by pretending to preach this false gospel through his reimagining of Jesus.

I have a hard time seeing how this work has become some kind of Christian classic, much less why any Christian studio would make a movie based on this book. There is no real Christian content to this book, merely a thin film of Christian-like ideas covering over some completely foul teachings. This book is fit only to be avoided.

Friday, July 14, 2017

review: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; A great story with some iffy ideas

One of the tricky things about dealing with things FMA is that, somehow and for reasons unknown to me, there are two FMA series, the original Fullmetal Alchemist and the later series called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

The review will be of the FMA: Brotherhood series, not the original. But that shouldn't be seen as a slam of the original. Although I think Brotherhood is a slightly better series overall, both are first-rate series.

Summary
When they are still young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric plan to use their skills in alchemy to bring their dead mother back to life. But this act violates the rule of alchemy against human transmutation, and in trying to perform this act, not only do they fail to resurrect their mother, but they also pay a harsh price. Edwards loses two limbs, an arm and a leg, and Alphonse loses his entire body, becoming a soul bonded to a suit of armor. A few years later, Ed joins the Amestrian military to become a State Alchemist, thinking that this will allow he and Alphonse the opportunities to learn more about The Philosopher's Stone, an object of great alchemical power that may help them restore their bodies.

That's the basic premise of the story, but one of the great strengths of FMA:B is that the viewer very quickly learns that there is whole lot more going on, and the story dives into themes and topics such as political corruption, personhood, genocide and revenge, immortality, guilt and redemption, and trying to play God. There's even a bit of romance, if you're willing to be patient with it.

What to Say, What to Say
With so much going on, another tricky part is deciding what to write about.

A lot could be written simply on one secondary character, an Ishvalan man known as Scar. Given the corruption in the nation of Amestria, is his hunt for State Alchemists a quest merely for revenge, or is it the closest to justice that he and his people could hope for? Do his attempts to fight these State Alchemist, many of whom had been involved in the war to exterminate his people, make him a murderer, or more like a gunman in a story of the old American west facing his enemies at high noon on the dusty streets of Dodge City? Or does he cross a line when he attacks State Alchemists who weren't a part of that war?

Or are the Elrics and their allies like Colonel Mustang, people who are committed to not killing other humans, hypocrites for allying themselves with General Armstrong and her soldiers from Briggs, because they are people much less hesitant to take lives when they think it necessary? Is it a strength or a weakness in the overall story that two such different ideologies about taking human life are presented on the side of the “good guys”, and neither is plainly supporter or condemned?

And there's what Shou Tucker did that has made him, a very minor character, into one of the most hated characters in all of anime, though to be fair, he played a bit more of a role in the original FMA.

Guilt and Regret
The things that are part of most of the main characters are guilt and regret. Many of the military people who were a part of the Ishvalan War knew that they were guilty of doing horrible things during that war, and they regret having done those things. The Elric brothers know they are guilty of violating the rule against human transmutation, and they do not try to excuse their actions.

And then, there is how God is portrayed in this series, assuming that the being several of the characters encounter at the gateway of truth is analogous to God. This is a being who judges, who takes away, who bargains, who even seems to mock, but who can also be beaten as if he were little more than the host of a TV game show.

The god of this series is, then, not really a redeemer, not really a being who gives when the people have proven that they themselves have nothing to give back to him, not really a being who offers help to those who know they are helpless, or forgiveness to rebels, or life to those who are dead. As good as this series is, perhaps it's best takeaway is the thankfulness that the true God is very much different from the god of this series

Conclusion
As with all things, view with discernment and wisdom, but keeping that in mind, go watch this series! It's one that well worth seeing. And, contrary to my normal practice, I'd recommend watching it dubbed, not subbed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

lestrangeness 5

I don't think he understands that the account of Paul shaking off a snake into the fire is not about revival, especially about whatever people like him mean when they talk about "revival".


a bit of music: 7!!, Orange

You don't need to have seen Your Lie In April to appreciate this, because there is really good singing and music here. But it does add something if you do know the series this song is from.