God is Sacrificial Love

Titian_1558_Ancona_CrucifixionIf God is love, as we’re told, then what kind of love is he? In the quest to know that which is beyond all knowing—another one of those oxymorons so characteristic of religion—we find a set of pictures that for any serious adult proves ultimately unsatisfying.

Brotherly love, fatherly love, even passionate love have all been employed to express God’s essence through platitudes and poetry, paintings and precepts. God with his hand on our shoulders; God carrying us in his arms; God pining away below our windows, vexing tarts that we are. Speaking for myself, these images long ago began to cloy. To the limited extent that they can voice the truth about the transcendent, any effect they take is all worn out. The fuzz is off the velvet.

And yet, there is one image that does not lose its appeal—that beckons the beholder further in rather than tires him with what only settles and sates. One image is always fresh, with the power of pulsing blood, of throbbing lesion; and therein seems to lie the answer to what kind of love God is. [Read more…]

The Greater Evil: Proscription or Compulsion?

Chinese MuslimsThere’s a new law in China, and it’s aimed at weakening a faith. As the Chinese government is not one to bother with currying world opinion, those who speak for the authorities are quite aboveboard regarding exactly what they’re about and why:
If a people are made to do something, they will soon enough not begrudge having to do it. Forbid a man and he will resent you; compel a man and he will grow accustomed to you.
It’s not uncommon for the jailed to fall in love with their jailers—Stockholm Syndrome, it’s called. But I venture that in most cases, it’s those who use the strongest tactics against their prisoners who win the most hearts. Lock them up and they stay strong; wear them down and win them over.
But back to the law: the new Chinese mandate requires all restaurants to serve alcohol, including those operated by Muslims. [Read more…]

Cry Melodies

15315927305_b92c26cd0b_zThis post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.           — Jeremiah 1:5

The role of music in life is so great that to make a point about it is to risk staleness. In fact, it’s one of the best indicators of a priori awareness. “We all know that,” silently remarks the hearer, when some correlation between melody and mind, song and soul, is pointed out.

But most of the things we know about music tend to be related to the reactions it elicits. Music enlivens us, calms us, inspires us, undoes us—we react to it; it sets our feet going. Our lives are set to a metronome. Marches, waltzes, head thrashes, mosh pit jumps, whatever its mode, music plays us as much as we play it. Physically, we become the wind chime, the Aeolian harp, as the notes blow past and cascade through the pipes and strings of our bodies. [Read more…]

A Good Fight: Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night)

Two_days,_one_nightIf a pair of writer/directors exists that can rival Joel and Ethan Coen for a body of work with profound depictions of humanity, it is another set of brothers. The films of the Dardennes, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have consistently been among the best of modern offerings and were a main feature in an essay I wrote on European film for Image a few years back (“Portraits of the Sonata: Desire and Transformation in Modern European Cinema,” No. 61, Spring 2009).

La PromesseL’Enfant, and especially Le Fils, match any expectations one could have with regard to artistic portrayals of humanity’s struggle for decency and dignity, and one of the Dardennes’ latest works, Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) proves that their touch has not waned in the thirty-odd years they’ve written and directed for the screen.

The film features the magnificent Marion Cotillard. In an Oscar-nominated performance, she plays Sandra, a Belgian mother of two children who has just learned that while she was absent, her employer offered her co-workers a choice: they could either have a one thousand euro bonus, or Sandra could keep her job. [Read more…]

Tale of the Lucky and the Star-Crossed

Lady Awaiting InspirationThey say that luck is where hard work meets opportunity. But often the ones who say that are those who are the greatest beneficiaries of luck. It seems a way by which the fortunate can reclaim a portion of the credit for the things that have befallen them:

“Yes, X happened, and it was indeed fortuitous, but had I not stood ready to seize the moment and make the most of it—had I not prepared my body and mind for just such a chance—nothing would have come of it all.”

And in a sense, a portion of that seems so. Even when the stars align, the sea parts, and before us lies the golden way, only those who have the presence of mind to capitalize upon the moment, to swoop in and storm on to claim the happy day, can smile when they later tell the tale.

At times, the teller is humble. He admits that what has come his way is inexplicable, all talent and effort aside. “What I got from life was more than I would have dared ask for,” a great singer once said. The profligacies of fate are not always lost on its beneficiaries, and the best of time’s favorites acknowledge that to be the case. [Read more…]


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