I was just a few years out of high school. I was working a summer job, having finished another year of college, and needing money for the resumption of classes in September. One of my co-workers at the shop was also a college student, a year younger than me; an acquaintance from high school; one of those small rural high schools where everybody knows just about everybody.
Sometime in the course of that summer, this acquaintance made it known to me he was going to have a party at his house. His parents were going to be away for an extended period of time, and he was going to take advantage of the opportunity to have a beer party.
The context of this intended party would involve a number of people like him and me who had recently graduated from our local high school, but were not yet of the legal age of 21 which, in our particular state, was the minimum age for the legal possession of and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages. Understand dear reader that one of the reasons for waiting for over forty years to tell this story is that the statute of limitations for any violation of the laws of the state detected in this saga has long since ran out. Nevertheless, names will not be used so as to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.
The other context coming into this story was a personal one for me. Over the past several years of college I had encountered that existential crisis of philosophy, life, and faith that in the end, much to my own surprise, took me into a conscious embrace of the Christian faith. There was much about that personal world view change that I had yet to work out in my own daily life.
The appointed day came. Through the provision of some legally of-age friends of my co-worker, the stage had been set. I cannot remember if I ever really thought about just not going at all. It would be an occasion of seeing some people I had not seen since high school. At the time I more or less left the whole under-age alcohol thing in an ethically grey area; a place that at this point in my life over forty years later, I would not be able in conscience to go to.
It was late in the afternoon when I drove down the dirt road to the farmstead where my acquaintance lived. I suppose looking back, the location was relatively ideal for the purpose intended; a dirt road with not much traffic; the farmhouse some distance from any neighbor’s ears and eyes. I turned in the driveway, parked off on the lawn by the barn. It was a warm summer evening, but not overly humid or hot; the sky clear and blue with a few fluffy clouds here and there; the sun slowly sinking towards the western horizon. I don’t remember how many people were there. The people who were there were familiar faces; some I had known most of my life. There we were, young adults pushing the boundaries in a way many of us had not done up unto that time. There was a keg of beer there. There was some bottled premium beer. There was also some hard liquor, Crème d’ menthe, and what else I do not remember; probably whiskey and rum or whatever.
I sampled the brew from the keg. I walked around and watched what was going on. Imagine a bunch of little kids greedily grabbing for some chocolate candy. Add ten or so years to their lives, and substitute the alcoholic beverages for the chocolate. I will admit my memory could possibly have distorted some things over the past forty pluse years, but that is how I remember it.
I don’t know if I stayed there even a full hour. At some point as I was watching it all, the question hit me right between the eyes.
“What am I doing here?”
Looking back later, I could see that the purpose of the whole affair stated or not, was to get soused; that is out right drunk. And even if those there did not consciously have that intent, there was a certain inevitability that such was where many of them would end up, unless they had more discipline over their alcohol intake then I gave them credit for.
At that point of epiphany, I knew I did not belong there, and needed to just leave. I went into the house to the kitchen. The teakettle was on the stove. I made sure there was water in it, and set it on the burner and switched the burner on. In a cupboard I found the instant coffee.
One of my acquaintances made a surprised comment, “Bill’s making a cup of coffee!” Another friend replied to him, “He’s the only smart one here…”
I finished the coffee, rinsed the cup and set it on the counter. I went out into the yard, got into the car and drove away.
Thankfully there was no public fallout from my friend’s booze party; no automobile accidents on the way home by inebriated guests; no surprise visit to the farmstead by the local constabulary with resulting embarrassment and public scandal. As far as I know most if not all who were at that party went on to become responsible and mature adults. Oddly enough, the guy who hosted the whole affair ended up in the Christian ministry. Such are the mysterious ways of grace.
Copyright © June 2014 by J. William Newcomer All rights reserved.
"Anyone who sincerely considers these matters one by one will understand the magnificence of the gifts that are given by God. For from Jacob came all the priests and Levites that minster at the altar of God: from him comes the Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; from him come the kings and rulers and governors in the line of Judah; and his other tribes are held in no small honor, seeing that God promised that "your seed seed shall be as the stars of heaven." All therefore, were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions that they did, but through his will. And so we, having been called through his will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety; or works that we have done in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which the Almighty God has justified all who existed from the beginning; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
(1 Clement, paragraph 32)
"The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts And English Translations" (3rd edition); Michael W. Holmes; (Baker Academic, 2007)
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." (Galatians 5:13-15)
Bitter, angry, and vicious personal attacks. Ad-hominum argumentation. As I look on from a distance and see these things, what am I to think of you and the movement and person you purport to defend? I choose not to insert here any links to your "controversy". And I refrain from doing so more to protect you from the embarrassment of your own words. (I use plural pronouns here.) No my friends, this is not about the recent issues at the Gospel Coalition, but is something else entirely, of which most of you who read this have little or no knowledge, and for such unawareness you should be thankful. Where I had hoped for an increasing maturity, I find immaturity still reigns, and even if I thought one side did better at forbearance than the other, the back biting and scathing opprobrium speaks volumes. You bite and devour each other. Beware lest you end up destroying each other.
May God yet have mercy on you.
All stories told assume a larger story of which which the specific story is a part of. It is that larger story which gives context and meaning to the people and events of the story being told. It is this Meta-Narrative issue that is particularly highlighted in Darren Aronofsky's March 2014 film release "Noah".
I knew from seeing the very first trailer release for "Noah", that it was going to be a film that at some point I would want to see. I never expected that this would be a film that closely followed the Biblical narrative of Noah and the flood in the book of Genesis. Subsequent reviews and rantings and ravings confirmed that.
I did not really follow how well "Noah" did at the box office. My general sense was that after the usual initial flash of a new "epic" film, it faded to the obscurity of the cheap re-run theaters where I just this week finally went to see "Noah" for myself. We live in a day when so called epic films have very little staying power in the mind of our media soaked and sated pop culture; that shallow culture that seems incapable of taking time to really think deeply about what it is seeing and hearing, and so quickly rushes on to the newest and "greatest" info spot factoid that grabs its attention. Only time will tell if Aronofsky has made a film that becomes a classic.
It was because of the previous reviews and controversy and hype that I went into the theater with low expectations. This film has some strengths. The depiction of the wickedness of the humanity of the world that perished, though colored by Aronofsky's own meta-narrative context, was not sugar coated, and illuminated the depravity of that per-deluge world. It was finally nice to see a Noah who was not portrayed as some kind of half senile bumbling old man. The passing down of the oral tradition from generation to generation is clearly illustrated; that oral tradition that later would be written down by Moses under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The horror of the destruction is not muffled, and the film, in my mind correctly ties the incident of Noah's drunkenness to the resulting post-traumatic distress he had to deal with after the flood.
Darren Aronofsky clearly took liberties with the Biblical story. There are a number of points where the film departs from the facts as told in Genesis. Those have been more then adequately covered in the essays of other reviewers. I would like to focus on what is the one thing missing from Aronofsky's view of the greater meta-narrative that, in my mind, is a crucial and critical departure from the Biblical meta-narrative, and that is the loss of the place of the promise in the story. I would also submit that it is the loss of this critical point, the promise, that explains much of the factual departures from the Biblical story that Aronofsky made.
Consider the words spoken by God to the serpent; the proto-evangelium:
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
Add to that meaning of Noah's own name:
"Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29)
It was the purpose of God in the bigger story of the Genesis account, the purpose of redemption, that is absent from the film, and it is that loss which is the most disappointing thing about Aronofsky's telling of the Noah story. He gives us a Noah whose purpose in what he does is at best foggy and muddy; a Noah who seems to have no sense of the promise and meaning of his own name; a Noah who instead of believing the promise as Hebrews 11 describes him, is a Noah who despairs to the point of considering total xenocide; who as another "Adam" is put into the place of making a choice which way future humanity will or will not go. So it is that Aronofsky ends up giving us an essentially pagan Noah.
I leave it to others more qualified then myself to speak to the quality of the acting and the cinematography, as well as the special effects.
It is not my intent to tell you, the reader, if you should or should not see this film. Each of you are capable of making that decision for yourself. Whatever film you do or do not see, I encourage you to ask yourself the question, "What is the larger meta-narrative behind this version of this story?" The meta-narrative of the Bible contains as a crucial part of that narrative, the promise, and it is that promise that, in my mind, makes all the difference in the universe.
“In the Christian East, a “theologian” is not someone who has thought hard about theological categories and labored at their construction. A theologian is someone who has drawn near God and experienced His transforming presence in a palpable way. This is what Peter means by becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4 KJV). A theologian is someone who has “seen the Uncreated Light,” a reference to the light that shone forth from Jesus on Mt. Tabor (Mark 9:2-3), and which illuminated the burning bush without consuming it (Exod. 3:2). Being a theologian is akin to being a mystic—though I hate to use that word, because in the West mysticism seems like an odd calling for odd people, while in the East it is the whole purpose of Christian life and the calling of every person: union with God, theosis, In the fourth century Evaggrius of Pontus said, “A theologian is one whose prayer is true.”
Today some of you have the job description “theologian” and may be thinking that you did not even have plans to see the Uncreated Light. How refreshing it would be to understand your calling as being a source of light for others, a living example of what God can do with a fully yielded person, someone whose deep meditation on the things of God has led tp personal transformation and even holiness. That’s the old meaning of the term “theologian”. Contrast this with a framed print I saw in the vesting room of the National Cathedral in Washington. It showed a shining candle surrounded by darkness, and the test read: “I was wandering all alone in a dark forest, with only the light of a candle to guide me, and along came a theologian and blew it out.””
Excerpt from: Frederica Mathewes-Green, “The Old Testament Trinity”; God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice; Edited by Timothy George, Baker Academic, (2006)
“First, Owen lived before the concept of a theologian was scaled down to its current, intellectualized, and relatively narrow dimensions, Two centuries ago Enlightenment thinkers set up the curriculum for theological student’s in universities and seminaries as consisting of four distinct fields of inquiry: history and exegesis of the Bible, analysis of the church’s beliefs, church history, and ministerial practice. The new thing in this arrangement, the separation of the studies from each other, opened the door to specialization, which has been acidly but not unfairly described as getting to know more and more about less and less. Specialization produced exegetes who were not theologians, dogmaticians who were not exegetes, and practical theologians to whom past patterns of Christian life and pastoral care were a closed book. Unity was lost, fragmentation set in, and theology as a study came to mean no more than exploring facts and arguments in any or all of these departments from some personal standpoint or other, never mind what. This, of course, exactly fulfilled the freethinking intellectual ideal of the Enlightenment. Today, we children of the Enlightenment are so used to it that we can hardly believe mainstream Christians ever thought of theological study differently. But they did.
From the first Christian centuries down to, and past,Owen’s day, people conceived of theology as wisdom and in personal rather than academic terms: that is, as wisdom of those in whose head and heart, through the power of God’s Word and Spirit, true understanding of God’s revealed truth had taken root. The idea of a theologian was of a wise, godly pundit. Gregory Nazianzus and John Calvin were both called “the theologian” in their own lifetime, and in each case the title meant all of the above. On this view, real theologians embodied the unity of thought and modeled the reality of worship, obedience, and care that together amount to what the Bible means by knowing God. They would use exegesis to buttress their exposition of the faith: their exegesis would reflect and responsibly relate to, their believing sate of mind. They would read historical theology as narrating the wars of the Word in and with the world, and church history as recoding successes and failures in faithfulness to the gospel. The application of truth to life would be their constant concern. Intellectually and attitudinally, the theologian’s wisdom would thus be a single ball of wax, the product of all the disciplines of divinity and devotion operating together in one man’s life. In this sense John Owen aimed to be, and truly was, a theologian.”
Excerpted from: J.I. Packer, “A Puritan Perspective: Trinitarian Godliness according to John Owen”; God the Holy Trinity: Reflections on Christian Faith and Practice; Edited by Timothy George, Baker Academic, (2006)
As I read this, I could not help but think of a man who passed away a little over a year ago, who in his life and ministry was a true theologian of the caliber described above. Rest in peace Dr. James Grier.