Why Magician’s Nephew will be the next Narnia movie

Well, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie didn’t do so well, even worse than Prince Caspian.  Still, as we blogged about earlier, Walden Media is forging ahead with The Magician’s Nephew.  In an interview with Christianity Today, the head of that studio explains why:

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe opened in December 2005 to a massive audience, earning more than $1 billion in box office ($745 million) and DVD sales ($332 million) combined. Critical reviews were good (76 percent positive at Rotten Tomatoes), and the franchise was off to a great start.

But then came the next two films—2008′s Prince Caspian and 2010′s Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Caspian brought in less than half of the domestic box office that LWW had drawn, and VDT only about a third as much. Critical ratings at Rotten Tomatoes dropped from 76 percent positive for LWW to 67 percent for PC to a tepid 50 percent for VDT, which releases to DVD and Blu-Ray this week

With the dropping numbers, we asked Flaherty if the franchise was in trouble, and if not, which of the Chronicles would be the next film? The Silver Chair comes next in the sequence of books, but Flaherty said Walden and 20th Century Fox, which distributes the movies, have mostly decided on The Magician’s Nephew—Narnia’s “origins story”—for their next project. (Narnia scholar Devin Brown says Lewis himself would agree with that choice; see his reasons here.)

Why do The Magician’s Nephew next?

It’s a creative decision in terms of what story we felt has the best opportunity to draw the largest audience. The box office has pretty closely followed the sales pattern of the books.

Prince Caspian sells about half of the books of Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, and it did about half of the box office. Caspian sells about a third more books than Dawn Treader, and it did about a third more box office. That pattern continues to decline with Silver Chair being the weakest book in the series in terms of consumer demand.

We just think the origin tale of The Magician’s Nephew is a great one, and it brings back the characters that have proven to be the most popular—a lot of Aslan and the White Witch. It explains the origin of the lamppost and the wardrobe. The order of these books is something that few people agree on anyway. While Silver Chair certainly continues Eustace’s adventure, we never knew when Magician’s Nephew would come in the sequence of films. We never assumed it would be last, and we never assumed it would be first.

A lot of people say The Magician’s Nephew is their favorite.

In book sales, it is right behind The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. If you look at the superhero stories or any great franchise in recent years, they all have an origin story. We’ve yet to make our origin story. But rather than lead with Magician’s Nephew, we’re following Lewis’s lead on this—that it’s a lot more interesting if you’ve been teased with these things, like the wardrobe, rather than explain it right up front. Once people are familiar with the lamppost, the wardrobe, Narnia, and Aslan, Magician’s Nephew is a lot more powerful, to go back and explain where all of this came from.

via The Lion, the Witch, and the Box Office | Movies & TV | Christianity Today.

Demonizing the Republicans

Kathleen Parker gives some good examples of demonizing your opponent:

So why do Republicans hate art, the elderly and children?

Hint: Same reason parents hate their children when they say, “No.” We could just leave it at that, but this is too much fun.

The demonizing of Republicans for trying to seriously address our desperately ailing economy surely begs for a new metaphor. The GOP has become the army of Mordor, fat-gobbed predators who feed on children while destroying all that is beautiful in their relentless pursuit of greed.

Or so one would infer from the fiery rants emanating from the bowels of Capitol Hill and Hollywood.

“Why are the Republicans trying to kill the arts?” Chris Matthews on “Hardball” asked actor Kevin Spacey, who was in Washington to protest cuts to the arts. Elsewhere, actor Tim Robbins compared proposed cuts to an “old miserly man snatching a crayon out of a baby’s hand.”

He hoped that “more adult minds will prevail.”

Indeed.

Everyone is calling for adults these days. President Obama insisted that Congress “act like grown-ups,” adding that we don’t have time for games. I’m not sure where these adults are going to come from since almost no one seems to want to be one. Meanwhile, the vocabulary of evil and apocalyptic imagery has punctuated criticism of the GOP’s proposed 2012 budget, not to be confused with the 2011 budget.

It is helpful at this juncture to recall that Democrats failed to produce a budget last year, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress. But back to the end times:

Jonathan Chait at the New Republic declared the proposed GOP budget “wildly cruel,” while Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) projected a biblical “no room at the inn” scenario with “lights out, doors wide open and the drumbeat playing as people are being rolled out of nursing homes in wheelchairs, with crutches, some on beds.” . . .

Gamesmanship can be entertaining when the stakes are small. But as the president correctly noted, the economy is not child’s play. As painful as the truth is, we can’t continue to live beyond our means. Every category of spending will have to take a hit, and we’ll have to figure out how to make the sucker float with a minimum of suffering. In the meantime, we might relax our reflexes just a tad and give hysteria a rest.

via Demonizing the GOP, losing the budget battle – The Washington Post.

Evangelicalism and Pietism

The noted Christian historian Mark Noll says that a revolution has taken place in our understanding of the history of American evangelicalism.  Citing the scholarship of British historian W. R. Ward, who died recently, Noll says that the origins of American evangelicalism are now understood to lie not in Puritanism or frontier revivals but in 17th century German Pietism:

Never from within the Anglo-American community of historians working on the modern history of Christianity has there been such an encompassing challenge to received historiography, nor such a well-documented appeal to reorient evangelical history away from the narrow precincts of the North Atlantic to the broad plains of Central Europe. The challenge that Ward’s scholarship mounted for the rest of us very ordinary historians was extraordinary. Ward’s achievement provided what not even German scholars have attempted, which is a general interpretation of the history of evangelicalism from within the standpoint of German history and German historical scholarship.

The Central European roots of evangelical religion have changed perceptions of evangelical origins in at least five ways. First, by situating evangelical history against the backdrop of 17th-century European political history, Ward demonstrated that distinctly evangelical beliefs and practices emerged in response to political pressure from powerful states, such as those in the Habsburg empire, or powerful state-churches, both Protestant and Catholic. What he summarized as “the almost universal history of revival as resistance to assimilation” led Ward to Central European beginnings for such essential evangelical themes as the opposition of “true Christianity” to formulaic, systematic, or imposed orthodoxies; and to small-group enclaves as the necessary nurturing medium in which “true Christianity” could flourish. By showing how the political power of nation-states and state-churches played a defining role in the earliest evangelical movements, he showed all scholars the often covert political protests found in almost all evangelical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, and probably later as well.

Second, Ward insisted on the foundational significance of 17th-century events and circumstances for evangelical history. By so doing he made a convincing case that accounts of Anglo-American evangelicalism are necessarily stunted if they do not include figures like Johann Arndt, Jakob Böhme, and Pierre Poiret (who are almost never mentioned) as well as those like Philip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke (who occasionally appear as mere anticipations of what came later).

By insisting on the importance of 17th-century politics and 17th-century European religious history for all later evangelical history, Ward, thirdly, also showed how necessary it is to connect events in the 18th century back to the era of the Reformation and Catholic Reformation. Reformers like Spener returned to Luther for inspiration; in him Spener and like-minded Pietists discovered precedents that would come to mark all evangelicals. Even more, Ward showed that complex lines of influence continued to link mystically minded Catholics and pietistically inclined Protestants straight through the 17th and 18th centuries, and that those links can be best explained by common patterns of reaction to the orthodox state-church establishments that defined European religion after the Reformation.

Fourth, Ward insisted that reforming, revivalistic, anti-statist, and small-group Protestantism was always and everywhere a pan-European phenomenon governed minimally, if at all, by national and linguistic boundaries.

via Rewriting the History of Evangelicalism | Books and Culture.

 

Today the Civil War started 150 years ago

Today, April 12, is the 150th anniversary of the fall of Ft. Sumter, which officially began the Civil War in 1861.

Civil War Trust: Civil War Sesquicentennial Home.

That’s really not long ago, in historical terms.  The lifetime of two old men.  What a tragedy, certainly the lowest point of American history.  With what zeal Americans on both sides slaughtered each other.  Our bloodiest war was with each other.  What a scandal was slavery in this land of the free, and what a sacrifice it took to end it.

On the Ryan plan

Charles Krauthhammer defends Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which Democrats are decrying in apocalyptic terms for the way it slashes the budget, even though that will not be enough to balance the budget until 2040!  That’s how bad our deficit is!

The conventional line of attack on Ryan’s plan is already taking shape: It cuts poverty programs and “privatizes” Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich.

Major demagoguery on all three counts.

(1) The reforms of the poverty programs are meant to change an incentive structure that today perversely encourages states to inflate the number of dependents (because the states then get more “free” federal matching money) and also encourages individuals to stay on the dole. The 1996 welfare reform was similarly designed to reverse that entitlement’s powerful incentives to dependency. Ryan’s idea is to extend the same logic of rewarding work to the non-cash parts of the poverty program — from food stamps to public housing.

When you hear this being denounced as throwing the poor in the snow, remember that these same charges were hurled with equal fury in 1996. President Clinton’s own assistant health and human services secretary, Peter Edelman, resigned in protest, predicting that abolishing welfare would throw a million children into poverty. On the contrary. Within five years child poverty had declined by more than 2.5 million — one of the reasons the 1996 welfare reform is considered one of the social policy successes of our time.

(2) Critics are describing Ryan’s Medicare reform as privatization, a deliberately loaded term designed to instantly discredit the idea. Yet the idea is essentially to apply to all of Medicare the system under which Medicare Part D has been such a success: a guaranteed insurance subsidy. Thus instead of paying the health provider directly (fee-for-service), Medicare would give seniors about $15,000 of “premium support,” letting the recipient choose among a menu of approved health insurance plans.

Call this privatization if you like, but then would you call the Part D prescription benefit “privatized”? If so, there’s a lot to be said for it. Part D is both popular and successful. It actually beat its cost projections — a near miraculous exception to just about every health-care program known to man.

Under Ryan’s plan, everyone 55 and over is unaffected. Younger workers get the insurance subsidy starting in 2022. By eventually ending the current fee-for-service system that drives up demand and therefore prices, this reform is far more likely to ensure the survival of Medicare than the current near-insolvent system.

(3) The final charge — cutting taxes for the rich — is the most scurrilous. That would be the same as calling the Ronald Reagan-Bill Bradley 1986 tax reform “cutting taxes for the rich.” In fact, it was designed for revenue neutrality. It cut rates — and for everyone— by eliminating loopholes, including corrupt exemptions and economically counterproductive tax expenditures, to yield what is generally considered by left and right an extraordinarily successful piece of economic legislation.

Ryan’s plan is classic tax reform — which even Obama says the country needs: It broadens the tax base by eliminating loopholes that, in turn, provide the revenue for reducing rates. Tax reform is one of those rare public policies that produce social fairness and economic efficiency at the same time. For both corporate and individual taxes, Ryan’s plan performs the desperately needed task of cleaning out the myriad of accumulated cutouts and loopholes that have choked the tax code since 1986.

Ryan’s overall plan tilts at every windmill imaginable, including corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies. The only thing left out is Social Security. Which proves only that Ryan is not completely suicidal.

But the blueprint is brave and profoundly forward-looking. It seeks nothing less than to adapt the currently unsustainable welfare state to the demographic realities of the 21st century. Will it survive the inevitable barrage of mindless, election-driven, 30-second attack ads (see above)? Alternate question: Does Obama have half of Ryan’s courage?

via After Ryan’s leap, a rush of deficit demagoguery – The Washington Post.

Meliorists vs. Traditionalists, vs. Confessionalists

Gerald McDermott at First Things offers a fascinating discussion of a current battle going on in evangelical theology:

Evangelical theology has long been divided between those who emphasize human freedom to choose salvation (Arminians) and those who stress God’s sovereignty in the history of salvation (the Reformed). Now this old division has been overshadowed by a larger division between new opposing camps we may call the Meliorists and the Traditionists. The former think we must improve and sometimes change substantially the tradition of historic orthodoxy. The latter think that while we might sometimes need to adjust our approaches to the tradition, generally we ought to learn from it rather than change it. Most of the Meliorists are Arminian, and most of the Traditionists are Reformed, though there are exceptions on both sides.

This new division has developed from challenges by some of those who call themselves “post-conservatives.” Led by Meliorist theologians like Roger Olson and the late Stanley Grenz, they argue that “conservative” theology is stuck in Enlightenment foundationalism, which seeks certainty through self-evident truths and sensory experience, sees the Bible as a collection of propositions that can be arranged into a rational system, believes doctrine to be the essence of Christianity, and, because it does not realize the historical situatedness of the Bible, constructs a rigid orthodoxy on a foundation of culture-bound beliefs. Responding in part to evangelical excesses in the inerrancy debates of the 1970s, post-conservative theologians developed an understandable distaste for rationalistic, ahistorical, and un-literary readings of Scripture.

In Reformed and Always Reforming: The Post-Conservative Approach to Evangelical Theology, Olson suggests that this brand of evangelical theology is fundamentalist in spirit because it chases heretics out of its “small tent.” He calls his “post-conservative” brand of evangelical theology the “big tent” version.

Olson divides the conservatives—which we would call Traditionists—into two camps, “Biblicists” (a derogatory term suggesting simple-mindedness) and “Paleo-orthodox” (another derogatory term, implying a refusal to face modern realities). The Biblicists, who include Carl Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, J. I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, Norman Geisler, and D. A. Carson, see revelation as primarily propositional and doctrines as facts. But most importantly, Olson claims, they regard doctrine as the “essence” of Christian faith.

The Paleo-orthodox include Baptist D. H. Williams, the Reformed author-pastor John Armstrong, Anglicans such as the late Robert Webber and Christianity Today’s editor David Neff, and the Methodists William Abraham and Thomas Oden. For them, the ancient ecumenical consensus is the governing authority that serves as an interpretive lens through which Christians are to interpret Scripture. The critical and constructive task of theology is conducted in light of what the ecumenical Church has already decided about crucial doctrinal matters.

Olson’s division of conservatives into these two camps is partly right and partly wrong. It is true that when interpreting Scripture some conservatives look to the last few centuries of evangelical reflection for authority, and others look to the Fathers. But the post-conservative suggestion that both the so-called Biblicists and Paleo-orthodox are foundationalist is dubious. Few among the Biblicists just named—and none of the Paleo-orthodox—would affirm the possibility of intellectual certainty based on self-evident truths or sensory experience. Neither group would say doctrine alone is the essence of faith, but all would insist that experience should never be privileged over doctrine.

Meliorists such as Olson think that another basic problem with Traditionists is that they give too much weight to, well, tradition. They believe Biblicists pay too much attention to the evangelical tradition, and Paleo-orthodox to the premodern consensus. These traditions, Olson asserts, have been wrong in the past. “All tradition is in need of correction and reform,” he says, and evangelicals should reject any appeal to “what has always been believed by Christians generally” because tradition by nature protects vested interests.

The creeds, for example, are to Olson simply “man-made statements.” They all need to be re-examined for possible “revisioning of doctrine” based on a fresh reading of Scripture. Nothing is sacrosanct, everything is on the table. Only the Bible is finally authoritative. And even the Bible is too often mistaken for revelation itself, which consists more of the “acts of God” in history than the words of Scripture. Meliorists tend to reject the idea that the actual words of the Bible are inspired, and often prefer to speak of “dynamic inspiration,” in which the biblical authors but not their words are inspired. For most Meliorists, the Bible’s authority is primarily functional. God speaks through it when He chooses, and only at those times can we say the Spirit speaks through it with authority.

via Article | First Things.

The problem with the meliorists is that they are, essentially, liberal, jettisoning, in effect, any authority beyond what they want.  Furthermore, they believe that Christianity is getting better (which is what the Latin word “melior” means), so that Christians of the past had it wrong, but contemporary Christians can discover what it really means.   This strikes me as absurd and destroys the catholicity and historicity of the church.

But there can be a problem with traditionalists too.  These evangelical traditionalists, at least the paleo-orthodox, need a basis for determining which traditions they embrace and which ones they don’t.  To just embrace tradition as the means of interpreting the Bible would likely lead to either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, and I’m not  how an evangelical paleo-orthodox traditionalist would know which one to choose. The answer, of course, would be to follow the inerrant Bible, but to also specify what they believe the Bible teaches.

That is, they need confessionalism.  As usual, debates among Bible-believing, Gospel-trusting Christians are reduced to the Reformed/Arminian distinction, as if those were the only two alternatives.  Lutheran confessionalism is not mere traditionalism, since it sets forth a theology that affirms both a major continuity with the earlier church, while also setting forth criteria for sorting out Biblical doctrine from non-Biblical teachings, whether of the past traditions or emerging heresies.

 


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