good books

A Good Book

My wife and I do not own a television. We decided at the start of our marriage that the danger of wasting time watching television was too great. We preferred to leave more time free for ourselves to speak to each other if we felt so inclined. (So far we have stuck to our resolution, though I note that we both read quite a lot of novels for relaxation.) However, we do go to the cinema now and then. I am not a 'film buff', nor I am a great fan of modern cinema (I prefer the 'golden oldies'). But I can remember the titles at least of some of the films I have seen in recent years: Unforgiven; Lord of the Rings [Pts. 1 and 2]; Deconstructing Harry; Independence Day; Wild Wild West; Chicken Run;  Swordfish; East is East… I can even remember scenes from some of these!

All of which leads into my Good Book for this week, newly-arrived on BGST shelves: Hollywood Worldviews. Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), by Brian Godawa. Godawa is a screenwriter who knows how to interpret movies (he understands the way they convey their ideas) and has clearly watched large numbers of them with a discerning eye. He begins by discussing the question of story. Every film has a story-line, and the story normally turns around the issue of redemption: the hero/heroine undergoes experiences which in some way transform their thinking or their behaviour, so that by the end they are more integrated, wiser, better people; or, alternatively, the point of the film is that they are not redeemed in these ways. Of course, films vary widely in their view of what constitutes redemption, and this leads onto the question of worldview, to which the second section of the book is devoted. Godawa notes how many contemporary films reflect existentialist views (life is meaningless and we must make our own way in it as best we can) or postmodernist views (there is no objective reality; what we call reality is merely our personal interpretation of the world around us). He devotes two chapters to films influenced by these worldviews and also has a good chapter discussing other ideas (e.g., concerning Fate, materialism and artificial intelligence) which have also surfaced in recent films. The last section of the book is taken up with Spirituality, also a prominent movie theme. The three chapters in this section deal with the way Christianity is presented in recent films (mostly it is caricatured, but there are honourable exceptions); with films featuring angels, demons, or reflecting particular visions of heaven and hell; and with films which address the topic of faith. There is a conclusion on how to watch movies 'with eyes wide open' (what to look out for; how to watch critically and reflectively). An appendix assesses the frequent sex, violence and profanity of modern films by the yardstick of how the Bible handles these topics. (Some ways of handling these matters are clearly exploitative and contrary to Scripture, others more sensitive and thought-provoking.) There are helpful sections at the end of most chapters, suggesting films that readers might watch along with their friends, followed by questions to provoke discussion.

This is the kind of book that I would like to think a BGST graduate might one day write: culturally informed, but forthright in assessing modern culture in the light of biblical truth. Many of us watch films, and so do many of our non-Christian friends. Maybe reflection on the issues discussed in this book will help us to become more discerning film-goers. Perhaps, too, it will give us some ideas on how to use modern films as a bridge for evangelism. You probably won't agree with everything in this book, but I believe you will find it worthwhile and thought-provoking.
(Reviewed by Dr Philip Satterthwaite)

Dr Quek spoke on April 1 from Eph. 6:18-24. He highlighted three points to be noted from the passage with the present world situation (the War in Iraq) and domestic situation (the SARS epidemic) in mind. (1) PRAYING - thank God, when we are at our wits' end and even if we have our wits around us, we need to pray without ceasing for we live in a world filled with troubles, uncertainties, and challenges. (2) WATCHING - it is significant to note that the Apostle Paul was only following our Lord Jesus' injunction that we are to watch and pray. When we pray we are often in need of being alert to the dangers that surround us and that is because we have an Enemy who is out to stumble us. And (3) LOVING - in everything we do and every situation we face love needs to be paramount. We need to love others, even our enemies. It is easier to feel sorry and sad for those who are suspected of having the SARS virus. It also goes without saying that as Christians we must love the people of Iraq, many of whom are either zealously misled to follow a cruel dictator or are living in fear and hatred of him. We are not the combatants in the War in Iraq. We will not be able to fight that war or any war if we cannot adopt the tough stance of a brigadier-general belonging to the Coalition forces. That person was seen on CNN saying that at this moment the dagger is at the throat of the enemy. That kind of talking smacks too much of a bloodthirsty spirit. How can we put a dagger to the throat of someone and say at the same time hat we love him and are praying for him? We can't. We must pray for a quick end of the war and beseech the Almighty God to accomplish it in the way He chooses to end the War.

Dr Quek ended his Chapel talk by describing the situation in Iraq where out of a total population of 22 million there are about 600,000 Christians. The majority of these belong either to the Chaldean Catholic Church or the Orthodox faith. Protestants and Evangelicals are mostly Presbyterians and Anglicans. Let's pray for these brethren of ours who like others are traumatised by the current war.

  1. Course commencing next week. The Educational Ministry of the Church by Dr Ng Peh Cheng, 8 April, 7-10pm.

  2. Anonymous donor. We wish to express our thanks to the anonymous donor of a gift of $2,200.

  3. Faculty Appointment. Dr Philip Satterthwaite. At 10.00 a.m. on April 7th Dr. Satterthwaite will be giving a paper entitled 'True and False Prophecy during the Divided Monarchy (with especial reference to 1 Kings 22)' at the Ichthus Research Seminar. The paper aims to examine texts relating to the period of the Divided Monarchy to see what they have to say about the discernment of true and false prophecy. This seminar, which has met regularly for the past 18 months, is held at Singapore Bible College, 9-15 Adam Road, Singapore 289886. All are welcome to attend. The fee is $10, or $5 for members of the seminar and students. For further details, please contact Singapore Bible College (Tel. 64664677) or Dr. Satterthwaite (Tel. 63538071).

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Ms Irene Teo 31/3
Mr Benny Fang 1/4
Mr Rupert Tsang 2/4
Ms Soo Hsi En 3/4
Mr James Larry Steward 4/4
Mr David Lim Hung Heng 6/4

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This page is updated on 3 Apr 2003 by Leong Kok Weng
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