Why Sleep?

Why do we sleep?

Of course, it’s a biological necessity. I’m not sure of the technical details, but it’s to recharge and refuel so that our muscles get time to heal and we can get back up to speed. If one tries to not sleep, it will not end well for oneself. Although death and taxes are often cited as the only inevitable things, sleep is also inevitable, even for an insomniac. Challenging this necessity, as most college students learn, does not end well. We lose our ability to be coherent and collapse, often in spasms of seemingly unprompted giggles (at least, this has been my college experience). Sleep is unavoidable, so thus, we sleep.

But as Christians, we may probe more deeply, because we know that someone designed our biological necessities. Although some mysteries of biology appear inscrutable, our Creator most likely did have a reason in mind in every choice he made in creation. Sleep is no exception.

So God must have had a reason. Why do we sleep, then? We were created in the image of God, and he never sleeps. Surely an omnipotent God could have designed a universe in which we do not sleep. Though that sounds like endless monotony to us, that is likely because of our memories of all-nighters. We didn’t have to be designed with this biological restriction. Just think of how unfair it is!

We miss seven hours (well, perhaps less for some) every day passed out, living out incomprehensible and confusing adventures solely in our minds which we will likely not even remember. Why? Isn’t that dreadfully inefficient? We’re called to glorify God with every moment of our lives, and yet an entire third is excused for drooling! Surely we could have cut down on those shocking large numbers of unreached people groups, evangelized our coworkers, worshipped God, and enjoyed his creation so much better if we were given our time back! I personally spend between 9 and 12 hours at work most of the week, and would very much benefit from another seven to spend with books and studying for school. As it is, I have to stop, park my head on my pillow, and just drift away. And if I don’t, the other hours are misery.

So, again, why sleep? Wouldn’t we do so much more without it? I think the answer to this question is deeply telling. Why would we spend much of our time doing nothing and recooperating? Because we are finite creatures.

Ultimately, sleep instructs us that we are just not that crucial. If we check out for seven hours a day the world keeps on turning. God is still awake, still ruling, still in control, and still accomplishing his purposes, while we contribute nothing. That’s not how we like to think of our lives. We like to think we’re crucial and that a whole lot depends on us. We like to obsess over productivity and worry about what we’ve contributed. And the Bible does occasionally urge in that direction – think of the call to preach the gospel in Romans. But it also encourages us to trust God that “it is finished,” and exhorts us to enter God’s Sabbath rest in Christ.

So why sleep? Because God never does. Because we can trust Him to accomplish his purposes and prepare us to do the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do. We need not panic about our lack of involvment, but instead prayerfully follow the path he has marked out for us. We ought to demonstrate our trust in the sovereignty of God by sleeping when we need to, confident that his purposes will not fail.

Captain America – The First Avenger

I thought about throwing this in with the Love Wins post, but it didn’t really fit the whole tone. I saw Captain America tonight, and thought I’d try my hand as an amateur movie critic!

The main thought I walked away with after Captain America was that it’s just old-school. It reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie and checked off most of the clichés in the book: (slight spoiler alert, by the way) Totally evil and creepy villain finds an artifact, makes an overpowering, faceless and doomy army with its mystical power in a mostly inexplicable way, and a wheat-fed gunslinger uses good ol’ American guts and courage to swashbuckle, jump, and otherwise do extraordinarly goofy stunts through every manner of vehicle chase until disaster is averted. The character development is pretty minimal, as is the interpersonal drama. And yet I didn’t mind at all. It was light-hearted, even in the parts where it was sad, and was often hilarious. (Tommy Lee Jones stars as a stereotypically lovable army general, and a German doctor whose name I’ve forgotten also provides some of the best moments) One could easily forgive what might be seen as faults in a modern movie for the exchange of just having a ripping good time.

You know those fashionable, conflicted anti-heroes that populate the screen these days? Yeah, the worst thing “Cap” does is disobey orders to rescue 400 men…and then he gives himself up to discipline anyway. It’s actually a refreshing breath of fresh air to have a guy with real values on the screen, and the “a weak man knows the value of strength” theme was also encouraging. Rogers sacrifices himself freely, puts everyone else and his country first, is brave to the point of stupidity, and lets his actions speak louder than his words. He’s a man’s man, a hero of the past who needs to go back to being the hero of today…

…which is why the Avengers movie (featuring Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and some other cool guys only nerds have heard of) will be so much fun.  At the end of the movie (spoiler alert again), when the Captain steps out into the 21st century, having been frozen for 70 years (never mind the science, the movie doesn’t) one really feels the wonder in his eyes. He’s stepped into a whole new, different world, and so has the audience, after the time warp that was Captain America. Watching the American Hero play on the same team as the quite modern (and hilarious) Iron Man and the fairly alien Thor is likely to be the best part of that entire movie, even including the big superhero battles. I’m excited. If you do go see Captain America, which wouldn’t be a bad move by you, wait until after the very last credits. There’s a great little preview after them of what I now think should be my second most anticipated movie of next year, behind (obviously) The Hobbit. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America all made solid movies separately (although I did think Iron Man 1 was better than solid, love that movie) – I’m hoping they can move past solid to fantastic together.

Book Review: Love Wins

(I took my Mom’s suggestion in the comment on the last post and wrote a book review on Word, and now I’m posting it here!)

So, the book that caused an evangelical firestorm and got everyone talking…or not. I anticipated there being a much bigger fallout from this book than actually happened, and certainly so did the Christian blogging public. (for two excellent samples that are better than my review in every respect except brevity, see Tim Challies: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/love-wins-a-review-of-rob-bells-new-book  and Kevin DeYoung: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/ )

I’m not really sure what the reason is for the lack of interest, but perhaps it shows that Bell’s assertion than there are many, many people asking the same “questions” he’s asking may be more of an assumption than a proper conclusion. Still, the one central question that the book is built around, each and every Christian must grapple with at some point:

Can God both really be sovereign and send people to hell? As in eternal, forever, torment? The sort that I don’t even want to make jokes about?

I’ll pull no punches in giving Bell’s opinion, even if he likes to avoid saying it: No. In fact, he spends a significant amount of his book lambasting people who would believe and teach such a thing, often in what I felt was an emotionally manipulative way. In his concluding chapters, he simply states that a God who says that his desire is to see everyone saved and yet doesn’t get everyone saved isn’t a great God. That God doesn’t win, he loses. Honestly, I’m not sure how the question of “is Bell a universalist?” even survived among people who read the book. He absolutely, positively is.

The book itself is a slim tome, written in a breathy, trendy style, uncluttered by footnotes (and as far as I can gather, actual research) and even with big print clocks in at under 200 pages. As a theology student, I’m a little suspicious of any book that promotes a significant overhaul of the way we see the entire Bible that I can read in under two hours.

To be fair, authors whom I certainly trust such as D.A Carson have also written highly readable books. But his exegesis is great. As a good exegete-r (I don‘t know if that‘s a word), he treats the Bible as a unit, as though it was built to fit together and each piece has a delicate influence on each other. Bell rips out chunks, still bleeding, from their natural context and slams his own hermeneutic upon them, like trying to use the story about the rich young ruler to prove that it’s not about getting “saved,” while ignoring the next several verses where the disciples ask “who then can be saved?” and Jesus replies, “with God nothing is impossible.” Or saying that when Jesus says that it will be worse for Capernaum than Sodom and Gomorrah, it’s a proof of how there’s still hope for those who died in Sodom and Gomorrah. There’s a simple problem with both those examples: He takes his idea and goes mining in the text for whatever might resemble support to his idea. True theology reads the Bible first and then develops the ideas.

Overall, though, the hokey writing and the weak arguments and the impassioned arguments against God aren’t that important, they’ve all been done before. The challenging part about this book is that he does ask a good question: How can God send people to hell? His answer is that he doesn’t, not really. But the Bible’s answer is different.

And I don’t even have to misuse Greek exegesis (something Bell does) or pull anything out context to show how clear it is what the Bible says – just read the New Testament, with its many warnings that sinful people not atoned for by Christ will not enter the kingdom of heaven, with a “judgement seat of Christ,” with a lake of fire in Revelation, with Romans 9. I don’t say this lightly, because I hate the idea of hell very much. It’s not because I think Bell’s bad at the argument game or because I think it’s the smart thing to say. If there was any possible way to get around the truth of the Bible without compromising it, I would do it. But the reality is that human rebellion is ultimately deserving of human condemnation and that God has not chosen to save everyone. That’s His plan, and it works out for His glory. It doesn’t mean we’re helpless – just because God saves only some doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the some. God has never said to anyone “oh, you wanted to repent? Too bad, I didn’t pick you.” Anyone reading this can freely choose to believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins and spend eternity with Him. But you have to make that choice, because there is wrath and judgement to come. That’s what His word says. And when Rob Bell denies that, he contradicts God.

Technology Fast

Before this summer (as you may have noticed) I had great, ambitious plans to get well ahead in Greek, read lots of excellent books, do some serious Bible study, and some other cool things (now that I have a driver’s license I could, y’know, just drive to Jasper on a weekend if I wanted to) like blogging and adventures. Sadly, not many of these have happened. I’ve read a bit, but below my school reading standards – and that’s what I read on top of my schoolwork! For some reason, this summer, it’s just not happened.

I’ve been thinking about it, and aside from the key problem, laziness, I think what’s been restricting me is that I’ve developed what might safely be called an addiction to the internet. I simply spend huge amounts of time poking around the internet for things of interest. This is not necessarily bad in small doses and I’ve definitely found interesting things, (stumbleupon.com is magical) but the problem with the internet is that it’s not really designed to be good for you. For the best possible treatment of modern technology, I would entreat you to read Tim Challies’ book The Next Story, a stellar volume that outlines the effects of technology on one’s spiritual and emotional life, relationships with others, and so on.

But I’ll give you a short form of how I see it: the internet is a place full of constant distraction, designed to turn your brain off and keep you in a flurry of happy motion, looking for intellectual stimulus. If I had to pick a way to get rid of six hours as fast as possible, I’d just go on the internet. It seems to set one’s mind in a constant state of distraction and fragmentation, and it frequently happens that I get on the computer, open up Facebook, Twitter, sports pages, blogs, e-mail, and chatting with my friends and completely forget that I was on there for a point, like e-mailing someone back (I’m sure some of you have noticed how miserable I’ve gotten at that) or writing a blog post. It also seems to make one lazy – although I have many theological blogs with great depth and food for thought in my Google reader, I’m never really happy to pay attention to them on a computer. There’s always the next post that’s new and fresh – why would I stick it out and actually try to understand just one?

So overall, though it is my fault, I think the internet’s been a significant contributor to my lack of intellectual activity this summer, and, unlike at school, I don’t have a helpful roommate to bug me to get to work. So I’ve decided that until I get back to school (a mere six weeks from now!) I’m going to take an internet fast of sorts, which means that the only time I’ll be on the computer is once in the evening to do an e-mail check and make sure I’m not missing anything there. I think I’ll be surprised at how little I miss elsewhere!

So, that pretty much means temporary retirement for this blog (as if it was hopping already) until September, except for one exception – I signed up to get a free album from a guy named Matt Papa if I reviewed it, so if that happens, I’ll need to honor the agreement. On that note, adios ’til September! (by the way, anyone who thinks this is a good idea is free to join me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who browses too much.)

Thriving at College – Book Review

A little while ago, a new box from Amazon showed up on the table – a happy experience I’m sure has thrilled many of your souls. These books weren’t for me, but for the church book table. Still, I got my hands on one of them and read (probably too quickly) through it in a couple days. My dad had yet to preview it and its contents are likely somewhat more useful for myself than him, since the book was Thriving at College by a physics professor named Alex Chediak.

I thought I managed pretty well in my first year in college. I avoided major credit card debt, didn’t set anything on fire, was clean and tidy and vaguely responsible at least half the time (thanks Benoit!) and even had people around who liked me (thanks Scott.) But this book set my standards much higher. Chediak describes ten (I think…I did read it quickly) mistakes that one may make in college. They generally involve imbalance in one’s life – too much recreation or too much study, too many friends or too few, too many girls around or just totally ignoring them, and so on. Chediak seems to genuinely understand and love sincere college students. The book is not a cry to deaf ears to avoid the temptations proffered at college, but a handbook for those who genuinely desire to derive the most benefit from their college experience.

Generally it reminded me very much of going to the chiropractor for someone like me who’s been well-advised by others – nothing new inserted, no dramatic surgery, but just popping all the things that got out of line back into line. I’d recommend it for anyone starting or in the midst of college. Perhaps the most compelling part is when he puts the various parts of his recommendations together in a picture of two college students when graduating. I rolled my eyes when I first saw it, as such comparisons are usually exaggeration of the goofiest kind. However, it simply showed the very fine line between leaving college having squandered it by incorrect priorities and by having a Godly vision of how to use the years properly. I recommend the book to anyone in college as a helpful perspective on how to use the years for the glory of God.

In other news, I saw a couple movies, so here are quick reviews:

Pirates 4: was actually okay. Not my favourite, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. It seemed like they didn’t really know what its tone was supposed to be, though, whether it was a rollicking ride or a serious epic, and Blackbeard felt contrived. I thought the missionary guy was a good insertion, and he did a solid job portraying Christianity, although certainly not perfect. (of course some may argue that point – feel free, I like comments) The thing I was most disappointed about was the music – it was dreadful! As the proud owner of the last three soundtracks, I can testify that they inserted very little new music and used the old themes in the most poorly suited places. There’s one amazing point in the third movie where Davy Jones’ ship pops up and tears apart a small fleet as if they were made of wet paper, and the sad, dramatic thundering of the music indicates that we’re supposed to be intimidated (and we are). This same theme shows up at most inopportune moments in the fourth one, and other themes are similarly abused. Hans Zimmer, I expected more.

Kung Fu Panda 2: Funny, fun, and totally forgettable.

They Know What You Did Last Night

I was listening to a country station on the way home from frisbee tonight (haters gonna hate) and heard this line:

But they know you by your first name

And they know what you did last night

It was talking about a friendly small-town community, which, with all its drawbacks, still provides a homey friendliness and total knowledge of each other. Of course in this case that means gossip, which is another problem entirely, but I still found it attractive for some reason. It’s so opposite to how our lives work today.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons as to why we’re much more private now. However, the main one that comes to mind for me is the internet. It used to be that if you wanted to spend time with someone or have a serious conversation, you usually had to move to them, making it an obvious commitment to even build friendships. Phones eroded that somewhat, (although I don’t really remember the popularization of the telephone…ask my Dad!) and the internet smashed it into bitty pieces and made a mosaic out of it. Now we can talk to whoever we want whenever we want – generally without observation if one desires. This also opens up vast vistas of various other things one may avail oneself of, many good and likely far more bad, again without the watchful eye of a family, community, or close friends.

Quite simply it scares me. I believe it was Plato who told a story about a man with a golden ring that turned him invisible. (deja vu anyone?) This ring thus enabled him to go wherever he wanted, take whatever he wanted, and do whatever he wanted. Rather than remaining steadfast, he stole treasure, killed the king, and took over the entire country. The invisibly corrupted him.

If you’d like a little proof, just go pick a YouTube video – any one of them will work – and read the comment. What is the average IQ of those people? 15? It sure seems like it. I would suggest, though, that most of these people are perfectly normal and probably don’t have that many mental challenges. They’ve just been felled by their invisibility. No one knows who they are on the internet. Why bother filtering one’s comments? Just lay it all out there!

I could go on for a while about the problems, of course, but I bet you’ve already made a few more connections in your mind. The one I most want to point out, though, is the danger of relatively anonymous relationships on the internet.

“But I know my friends aren’t 40-year-old creepers in basements in Arizona! They’re so real!” Don’t worry, I’m not challenging that – to my knowledge I’ve never seen one of those and I think all it takes is a little bit of wisdom to not run into them. I have benefited greatly from meeting people on the internet and love them dearly. What I’m worried about is the artificiality of friendships that can spring up if one is not careful.

Talking on the internet means that one can present whatever image one feels like to the other person, to a certain degree. Obviously some immaturities are impossible to cover up completely, but in general, one’s presentation of personality is based on one thing…how one presents one’s personality. That’s about it. How else are you going to know who they really are? It’s not as much a question of what they say being true as it is how they present themselves. It’s much easier to act, for example, godly and spiritual if all you have to do is say vaguely godly and spiritual things to support your affirmation about yourself. But how is the other person going to know if you actually aren’t?

In the community mentioned in the opening paragraph, and in most of history, it was pretty easy to tell. Even to talk to someone else you’d have to know their friends, their family. The country song mentioned community fundraisers and 4H as places where everyone met up. There’s so much accountability there, whether intentional or unintentional, and faking is much harder to do. When everyone knows what you did last night, you have to be much more real about life overall.

To sum up, I think the internet is a great tool. But I would warn its users that they must be aware of the threat of being able to be invisible, anonymous, and whomever one would like to be on the internet. It’s not the dramatic scenarios I’m scared of. It’s the slow erosion of morals as one’s character becomes more and more a personal matter. It’s the loss of strong, genuine, criticizing raw friendships that reality brings. And it’s the hand-tailored crowd of self-made images that replace the reality behind them populating our relationships. Those are real dangers, however slowly and subtly they creep up, and we need to watch ourselves.

For more on technology, and a way better perspective than mine, I highly recommend Tim Challies’ book The Next Story, available for free (!) as an audiobook at http://christianaudio.com/the-next-story-tim-challies . It’s a short, readable (or listenable) book on technology in general and how Christian should regard this brave new world. To be honest, I don’t think most people were or are ready for the effects of the internet. I know I myself am just starting to figure it out. Mr. Challies’ book is a wonderful, Christ-centered first step to responding to its challenges.

Summer Reading

Scott made a list of books he’s reading this summer, and requested that I make one. Up until now, I had no list – more like a pile! – but I might as well at least give myself an idea.

Since time is rather an unpredictable thing, I’ll make it in three tiers:

Books I Most Probably Will Read:

George Whitefield – Arnold Dallimore (a classic I should have read quite a while ago)

The Next Story – Tim Challies (actually I’m halfway already – it’s pretty great. Ironically I’m reading it on an iPhone.)

Love Wins – Rob Bell (It looks easy to read and is a good exercise in criticism )

These Last Days – A Bunch of Smart Guys

Politics – Wayne Grudem (helpful and sensible and I already read half of it over Christmas. Same guy who did Systematic Theology)

Whatever Fiction My Mom Brings Home and Deems Worthy – People Whose Writing Is Less Intense Than the Theology

Books I Would Definitely Like To Read But Have Not Historically Shown the Stamina To Actually Tackle:

Evangelicalism Divided – Iain H. Murray

Believer’s Baptism – More Smart Guys

Roots Alec Motyer

The Temple and the Church’s Mission and We Become What We Worship – G.K Beale

The Trellis and the Vine – Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Total Pipe Dreams:

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (This would be my fourth time starting it. I did get to page 900 once though.)

Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin (Monergism says this used to be for new Christians. I’m glad people used to be smarter but you don’t have to rub it in!)

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Daniel B. Wallace (so far it’s not that bad, but I’m only at 140 of 850 pages, and the doomed look my roommate gave me when I mentioned it probably means something. We’ll see. I think I can I think I can….)

Some Shakespeare – (probably) William Shakespeare (I’ve never taken to him that well but you never know)

I’m probably trying beyond my actual capacities, and it needs more fiction, so if you have any suggestions, fire away! Also, I’m quite confident I messed up one or more hotlinks, so if you find them, mention them to me, and I might fix them.