Saturday, 20 May 2017

Discrepancies in Jesus' Life? Talk fit for hell? Be Perfect?

Religion

How do animals and women fit in? Why do evil and viruses exist?

How big was the flood and why doesn't God intervene?

What is the Trinity to other religions? Where does Jesus fit in? Does purgatory exist?

No further word from God? Only containing God's words? What about the errors?

Can it have different meanings? May a bible story be legend? Help from outside the bible...?

How dangerous is wealth? What about forgiving the unrepentant? Can euthanasia be Christian? What makes a church a sect?

Is Jesus the one to follow? Did Jesus rise bodily? Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How is Christ coming back? A synthesis of traditions?

Am I a real disciple of Jesus? What do I do when I am tempted? Why should Christians suffer? Why are other Christians a problem?

Creationism? Evolution? Other populations than Adam's? Who was Cain's Wife? Does God feel threatened? Was he harsh on Pharoah?

No images? No art? Show no mercy?

24. Matthew and Luke - Jesus' genealogy.  Is it difficult to understand the discrepancies between Matthew and Luke, in their listings of Jesus' ancestral line?

This question addresses a common issue that non-believers have with the bible - the contradictions concerning the life of Christ.

Bewes begins by explaining the key differences between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  He argues that Matthew works forwards with a greater emphasis on the lineage of Joseph, whereas Luke works backwards with a stronger focus on Mary's 6.line.  Luke goes as far back as Adam, whereas Matthew stops at Abraham.  Bewes lists a few reasons for this.

Firstly, he argues that Jesus was a real human man - and not a Greek mythological figure.  Secondly, Jesus is the Messiah - the King of the Jews, hence why Matthew references David.  Thirdly, Luke goes as far back as Adam, because Jesus is the world saviour of the human race.  Lastly, Luke's line ends in God himself, as Jesus is publicly introduced as the Son of God.

I don't have much to say about this except, that I agree with it.  The answer is simple and logical enough and I think that Bewes explains it all.  Having researched the scripture myself, Bewes' argument checks out.

26. Irreconcilable infancy stories? It seems impossible to make Matthew's and Luke's stories of Jesus' birth and infancy fit with one another, especially at Luke 2:39.

And yet another issue with the contradictions of Jesus' life.  But as Bewes argues that "patient study reveals an integrated picture."

Bewes argues that confusion emerges at 2:39, where "it reads as though the holy returned immediately to Nazareth and not to Bethlehem, where - Matthew tells us - there took place the visit of the Magi, followed by the flight to Egypt and eventual return."

Bewes argues that this isn't the problem, as the advantage of having four Gospel writers is that they fill in the gaps for each other.  "The problem is that chronologically, Luke appears to assume an immediate return to Nazareth."

Bewes solves this problem by clarifying that Luke was writing religiously and not chronologically.  In his Gospel, he strives to demonstrate Jesus' life in how it takes place in relation to the law of God.

Richard Bewes' clarification is helpful, as I think that unwitting readers, like me, would not initially make this distinction.  They would just assume that the Gospels are writing chronologically.  But having once again researched the scripture, Bewes' argument holds water.  Matthew 2:19-22 reads

"After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said 'Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.'

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel."

Luke 2:39 reads:

"when Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth."

Now that I know about this distinction, Bewes' argument makes sense.  Furthermore, my Christian friend Naomi argues that the Gospels don't contradict each other.  They just emphasise different aspects of Christ's life.

28.  Matthew 5:21,22 - Talk fit for hell? I don't understand Christ's words that someone who says 'You Fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  Isn't that very extreme?

The scripture that Bewes is addressing discusses "three escalating grades of offence, and the liabilities they incur.  He's contrasting the rigid external observance of God's law with the spirit of the law and its inner meaning.  So adultery in the heart is still adultery."

Bewes continues to explain that while the old teaches that "murder is wrong," Jesus takes it deeper.  Obviously, you wouldn't be dragged before the courts if you called someone a fool or if you were angry with your brother, these are just illustrations of what could be happening internally in a person.  This is what worries God.

If we call somebody a fool in jest or without any hateful attentions, then this isn't a problem.  The problem arises if you curse them while you have hate in your heart.  To quote Bewes, you would be wrong in "pronouncing someone else a cursed fool, in the sense of wanting to see them dead." Bewes argues that Jesus was establishing a principle.  Simply having murderous intentions is morally incorrect.  "Murder in the heart is murder in the sight of God."

Again, I would agree with this.  Naomi has told me that simply having immoral feelings is akin to breaking a commandment or law, although she used "lust," as an example, rather than murder.  However, I would argue that it is obviously easier to punish and police physical murder, rather than thoughts and feelings.

29. Matthew 5:48 'Be Perfect?' I feel very far indeed from being 'perfect,' as Jesus commands us to be.  It seems impossible.  What did he mean?

Bewes argues that Jesus means exactly this.  He wants us to strive for perfection, even if that aim is unrealistic.  Bewes acknowledges that despite how Christians make perfection their aim, they know that they will never achieve it.  What I think is most important is the aim for perfection.  Although good intentions aren't the be all and end all, I think it is important to have some type of goal, which would inspire you to be a good person.  I think this is what aiming for perfection can provide.  It can offer a moral framework to follow.

But as always, I could be wrong.  So criticise me in the comments below, join the conversation.  Start a debate.  Just keep it mature.  Keep it respectful.  Keep it intelligent.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wild Strawberries Review

Number 115 on the top 1000 films of all time is the Swedish drama, Wild Strawberries.

Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom) is a 78 year old scientist who has become distant, cold and withdrawn.  He has grown apart from his family and has few if any personal relationships.  However, when he goes on a car journey to receive an honorary degree, he begins reminiscing about his past life and soon rediscovers himself.

(https://resizing.flixster.com/dNmIPF5RAEps0nlG0ZCosbGQ8WE=/206x305/v1.bTsxMTIxMzU2OTtqOzE3NDA5OzEyMDA7MTUzNjsyMDQ4)

Much of Wild Strawberries is told in flashbacks and dream sequences, making it expressionistic and abstract.  I liked a lot of this imagery, as it helped to develop a lot of Borg's character.  One particular sequence saw a clock with no hands, a strange man without a face and Borg seeing himself in a coffin.  It wasn't too difficult to infer that despite his hard exterior, he is a deeply troubled and lonely man, and the expressionistic imagery did well to convey these ideas.

(https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-V-v-C7ZYg2U/V6xl2yw7mOI/AAAAAAAAHQg/LPp9l141Pp4-LmNG4D_vWmI_wtlSen_IwCLcB/s1600/Wild%2BStrawberries%2B1.jpg)

Having said this, I found the film quite difficult to follow.  Although I did like the abstract imagery and the underlying themes, I think that the film jumped too often between the dreams and the on-screen action.  This resulted in everything seeming a bit vague and under-developed to me.

 I didn't like the characters that much either, as they seemed like caricatures of themselves, especially Sara, Viktor and Anders.  The three hitch-hikers were overly-stereotypical and not entirely realistic.  Sara claimed to be a virgin, but also made a number of sexually suggestive comments.  This didn't match up for me.

(http://art-sheep.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/yaHE2X1pUqbj67yqYGKVoLFpo1_500.jpg)

 Furthermore, the vast majority of the characters were little more than plot devices to drive on Sjostrom's narrative.  They weren't fully-formed characters in themselves.  For example, the hitch-hiker Sara has the same name, as Borg's unrequited love.  Another scene sees a couple squabble intensely, which I feel is supposed to be a metaphor for Borg's own failed relationships.

(https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/67/38/2f/67382f7c83ceef3bc2894ea6d5aa319f.jpg)

Ultimately, this film I wasn't too keen on.  I found it similar to Ikiru, but I think that it had a lot of unrealised potential.  The underlying themes and imagery were strong, but the narrative and characters were not.

Monday, 8 May 2017

No images? No art? Show no mercy?

Religion

How do animals and women fit in? Why do evil and viruses exist?

How big was the flood and why doesn't God intervene?

What is the Trinity to other religions? Where does Jesus fit in? Does purgatory exist?

No further word from God? Only containing God's words? What about the errors?

Can it have different meanings? May a bible story be legend? Help from outside the bible...?

How dangerous is wealth? What about forgiving the unrepentant? Can euthanasia be Christian? What makes a church a sect?

Is Jesus the one to follow? Did Jesus rise bodily? Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How is Christ coming back? A synthesis of traditions?

Am I a real disciple of Jesus? What do I do when I am tempted? Why should Christians suffer? Why are other Christians a problem?

Creationism? Evolution? Other populations than Adam's? Who was Cain's Wife? Does God feel threatened? Was he harsh on Pharoah?

On a more streamlined edition of my analysis of Richard Bewes' book, the Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions, I will be tackling two very different passages.

12: Exodus 20:4 - No Images, no art? I have been told by devotees of other religions that if paintings or carvings of human beings or any other creatures are made, then we Christians are disobeying our own commandments.  Is this true?

The first of these passages focusses on the Second Commandment of the bible:

"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." Exodus 20:4

The question asks whether Christians are disobeying their own commandments if they worship paintings or carvings of human beings.  And this question has greatly intrigued me.  The Protestant Reformation was partially borne out of how Martin Luther didn't agree with the numerous sacraments present in Catholic worship, amongst other reasons.  All of these statues were barriers between man's relationship with God.

What Richard Bewes, and my Christian friend Naomi, stressed was how it is fine to create these idols, but not to "bow down to them or serve them." If these statues and figures were created for the purposes of adornment or teaching, then there is nothing wrong with this.  We run into trouble if we begin worshipping these idols, or we respect them more than we do with God.  This is a logical argument and one I agree with.  While I can understand the Protestant concern of idolatry, I think we'll run into trouble if we stigmatise the appreciations of Christian-inspired art.  As we've discussed in previous articles, Christianity has had a massive effect on popular culture.  The vivid imagery in Revelation inspired the art work of William Blake, while John Milton took strong inspiration from Genesis for his magnus opus, Paradise Lost.  If it is wrong to appreciate this artwork, then the great cultural tradition that existed around Christianity just wouldn't exist.  We can appreciate it without worshipping it.

18. Deuteronomy 7: 1-3 Show no mercy? God's commands to Israel, to obliterate the nations in Canaan, sounds like a nationalistic programme of ethnic genocide.  How can we escape coming to this conclusion?

This is a very interesting questions, as it addresses one of the major concerns I had while reading the bible.  How could an omni-loving God endorse the slaughter of the Canaanites? How could this type of genocide be acceptable? How is it okay for the Israelites to kill the Canaan men and rape their women? Isn't one of the Ten Commandments "thou shalt not kill?"

Firstly, the commandment is actually "Thou shalt not murder." Murder is not the same as killing people.  This distinction is very important.  Soldiers have to kill in war and they're not murderers.

The crux of Richard Bewes', as well as Naomi's response, is that the Canaanites committed terrible acts.  They regularly practised idolatry, sexual promiscuity and child sacrifice.  Their destruction was just desserts for their crimes.  The Canaanites and Ammonites were given chance after chance to repent for their sins, but instead they continued to forsake and reject God.  Their continued disobedience incurred God's wrath.  This would then serve as a warning for the rest of us.

Richard Bewes also argued that we have to consider the bigger picture.  The 'Promised Land' was much more than a strip of land.  It served as the right to the Israelite's inheritance of the new heaven and new earth that would be brought about by Christ's return.

Do the actions of the few or even the many justify the destruction of the "all?" Is it better to wipe out a group of people and start again than punish the minority? Bewes is arguing that this ethnic genocide was justifiable through how the Canaanites had so turned from God.  They had rejected his love and had turned to sexual depravity and child sacrifice.  This would then serve as a warning to anyone else willing to break the rules.  I don't think this is right.  Initially reading about these ethnic genocides is what led me to have such a distaste for the Christian God.  I couldn't understand how an all-loving God could condone this.  In war, there are rules about killing civillians.  Yet God disregards these rules completely.  He is a force onto himself.  How am I supposed to respect and worship a God who condones the death of the innocent? I think it was an ethnic genocide.

As always, my opinions are just that.  Opinions.  They might be wrong so be sure to correct and challenge me.  Just keep it mature.  Keep it intelligent.  Keep it respectful.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Barfi! Review

Number 114 on the top 1000 greatest films of all time is the Indian comedy-drama Barfi!

Barfi! is set in the 70's and tells the story of its titular character Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) who is a deaf and mute prankster.  The film depicts his relationship with two different women: his first love, Shruti (Ilena D'Cruz) and his true love, the autistic Jhimil (Priyanka Chopra.) Meanwhile, Barfi is relentlessly pursued by policeman Subhansu Duttu (Saurabh Shukla.)

(http://www.moviesape.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/barfi.jpg)

Barfi! is the fifth Indian film that I have seen after 3 Idiots, Rang De BasantiLike Stars on Earth and Laagaan: Once upon a Time in India and Indian cinema still continues to impress me.  This is also the first Indian film that I've watched, which hasn't starred Aamir Khan.

(http://images.desimartini.com/media/uploads/2015-5/4240339-aamir-khan.jpg)

When Anurag Basu was directing Barfi!, he paid homage to the silent movie stars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and I definitely recognised this.  A lot of the film's comedy was physical and slapstick.  There were great chase sequences set to music and involving a good number of props.  These scenes wouldn't have been out of place in a silent film and they were a great homage to films like City Lights and Modern Times.  On a couple of occasions, I also spotted posters displaying The Tramp.

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/00/Charlie_Chaplin.jpg)

Another reason why the film worked so well was of the brilliant performances of the three lead actors.  Ranbir Kapoor made Barfi a likeable, charming character, especially considering that he doesn't speak at all.  Instead, he uses his body to great effect, just like Chaplin and Keaton.  Kapoor was a brilliant comic actor, as he didn't use any standard sign language, but his own behavioural patterns.

(http://womansera.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/barfi.jpg)


While Kapoor was great in his role, Chopra was fantastic.  She really researched her role to ensure that it was as authentic as possible.  And this definitely showed.  She received universal acclaim, which was deserved.  Chopra could have taken the easy way out and could have portrayed Jhimil in a a stereotypically offensive way.  But she didn't.  Her portrayal of Jhimil was sensitive and sympathetic.

(http://images.indianexpress.com/2016/09/priyanka-chopra-barfi-759.jpg)

In 1970's India, autism was treated as little more of a disease.  Jhimil's parents treat her as an embarrassment and her peers laugh at her.  There was a beautifully poignant scene, where Jhimil is singing, but other children are laughing at her.  She screams to them to stop, which was saddening.  I think the best part about Jhimil was that I didn't pity her.  I felt sorry for her, but I definitely didn't pity her.  She was strong and single-minded, even if her autism stopped her from effectively communicating herself.

(http://static.koimoi.com/wp-content/new-galleries/2012/09/Box-Office-Barfi.jpg)

Another reason why Jhimil worked so well was her relationship with Barfi.  She loves him unconditionally and the scenes portraying their fledgling romance were some of the most touching in the film.  The two characters complimented one another with their respective conditions.  Jhimil becomes deeply attached to Barfi, becoming distressed whenever the two are separated, while Barfi helps Jhimil to better understand herself.

(http://www.thebetterindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/barfi.jpg)

Finally, we come to the character of Shruti.  Originally, Shruti was in love with Barfi, but her parents convinced her to marry someone of higher status and wealth.  This resulted in her moving away from Barfi.  Six years later, she returns and reconnects to Barfi, much to the chagrin of Jhimil who runs away.  Despite how Shruti can finally be with Barfi, she knows how much he loves Jhimil and so helps him find her.  I think it would have been all too easy to portray Shruti as a bitter, resentful villain, but instead she was sympathetic and likeable.

(http://i.ndtvimg.com/mt/movies/2012-08/barfi-rockstar-ranbir.jpg)

One final mention should be given to Saurabh Shukla who portrayed the hapless police officer Dutta.  He added a lot of comedy to the film, especially within his pursuit of Barfi.  But just like Shruti, it would have been too easy to portray him as the villain, which he wasn't.

Overall, this was a great film, which perfectly balanced its comedic and emotional themes.  The characters were well-developed and the performances were brilliant.  Definitely one to watch.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Creationism? Evolution? Other populations than Adam's? Who was Cain's Wife? Does God feel threatened? Was he harsh on Pharoah?

Religion

How do animals and women fit in? Why do evil and viruses exist?

How big was the flood and why doesn't God intervene?

What is the Trinity to other religions? Where does Jesus fit in? Does purgatory exist?

No further word from God? Only containing God's words? What about the errors?

Can it have different meanings? May a bible story be legend? Help from outside the bible...?

How dangerous is wealth? What about forgiving the unrepentant? Can euthanasia be Christian? What makes a church a sect?

Is Jesus the one to follow? Did Jesus rise bodily? Jesus and the Holy Spirit? How is Christ coming back? A synthesis of traditions?

Am I a real disciple of Jesus? What do I do when I am tempted? Why should Christians suffer? Why are other Christians a problem?

The last section of Richard Bewes' book The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions takes a different turn.  Bewes aims to explain the fifty most difficult passages within the bible.  Likewise, to my previous articles, I'll be offering my views on some of these passages.

1. Genesis 1 - Six 'days' of creation? Are we now to understand the days of Creation in the light of scientific advance?

One of the most controversial facets of Christianity is how the universe began.  Did God create it? Or was it the Big Bang? Is there a way to rationalise one by the other?

Richard Bewes argues that you cannot balance the two against each other.  He believes that this is because of the fluid nature of science.  Science is built on cumulative knowledge with old theories constantly being disproved and replaced by older ones.  In contrast, the biblical account of Creation has remained the same for millennia.  "Millions of modern readers accept and are inspired by Genesis 1 just as much as the ancient peoples were."  Bewes concludes by asserting that if we try to match up creationism with scientific theory, then we would run into trouble, as science, unlike Genesis, would eventually move on.

I agree with Bewes that science is fluid.  It is indeed built on ever-changing research.  However, there are scientific paradigms.  There are theories and laws, which cannot be questioned.  Like gravity.  Like Heliocentricism.  Like natural selection.  Like the earth being spherical.  If you question these ideas, then you'll be ridiculed and stigmatised, just like the Flat Earth society.  While I can understand why Bewes argues you can't correlate Creationism and scientific advice, I don't believe or agree with it.  Not all of science is fluid.

2. Genesis 2:7 - Can Evolution be accommodated? 'The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.' Could this imply an evolutionary process?

In relation to religion, Evolution is just as controversial as Creationism.  Did we evolve from single-celled beings or did God create us?

According to Richard Bewes, Genesis 2:7 doesn't necessarily disallow evolution.  Rather it argues that it has to be allowed:

"to make its own point, namely, that - in physical terms - we derive from the very materials that make up this earth and its contents.  It needs to be balanced by Genesis 1:27 that tells us of the image of God in which we have been made.  The two statements complement each other, and stand forever, irrespective of how evolutionary theories themselves may develop.  [...] What unites us, of course, is our common belief in an original creation, and the truth that the whole human race comes from single stock (Acts 17:26) Our past mistake has been in spending fruitless hour defending a position, rather than proclaiming the massive truth - that men and women are not simply collections of biochemical reactions.  We have been brought into this world as god-like beings - made for eternal fellowship with the Creator!"

I'm not sure how much I subscribe to Bewes' argument.  To me, it sounds like he is dancing around the question, rather than answering it directly.  He's saying that Evolution can and cannot be accommodated without coming down on either side of the argument.  Rather, he concentrates on a bigger philosophical issue.  It isn't how we exist that's important, it's why we exist.  We're more than just atoms and molecules.  We're "god-like beings - made for eternal fellowship with the Creator!"

I also don't agree with Bewes.  From my understanding of Christianity, human beings can never be "god-like beings." There is only one God, which you should follow.  You shouldn't aim to be better than him.  You shouldn't aim to be god-like.  You can't expect to be god-like.  To do so would be assuming you have an authority over him.  That you know more than him, which is impossible.

3. Genesis 4:14 - Other populations than Adam's? Cain - on his banishment to be a wanderer on earth, following his murder of Abel - laments, 'whoever finds me will kill me.' Doesn't this indicate other early populations on earth, besides Adam's?

This question addresses a major concern that I have always had with Creationism.  If Adam and Eve were the first and only human beings, how did they reproduce enough to become 8 billion people? The bible itself doesn't explain it.  Instead, there's a long genealogy of xx begetting xx.

This issue is addressed in more detail within the next question, but for now, Bewes offers a variety of timid explanations, but nothing really definitive.  Firstly, he argues that Cain's killers could be wild animals instead of people.  He also asserts that maybe Adam and Eve weren't necessarily the first human beings, but the first of "the highest type of the human race, and had been preceded by the production of inferior races, now widely scattered." Bewes also argues that these killers could be referring to future populations.

 However, Bewes' final and "most natural explanation" is that "Cain's fears were groundless." From his perspective, he couldn't have known whether anybody else existed, other than Adam and his family.  He couldn't have known whether there were other people around who could have attacked him.  "Thus the sign and promise that God gives Cain is a gracious accommodation of the fugitive in his ignorant fears."

I'm not too convinced by these arguments.  Wild animals makes sense, but the second one doesn't.  I think it contradicts a major part of Genesis.  I have always been taught that Adam and Eve were the first human beings.  There wasn't any inferior humans before them.  If there were, this would indicate major problems within the teachings of Genesis.  Furthermore, Richard Bewes' description of

"Adam's creation [being] not that of Genesis 1:27, but of the highest type of the human race, and [having] being preceded by the production of inferior races, now widely scattered,"

sounds dangerously close to evolution.  Adam and Eve were the first homosapiens.  Everyone else that came before were just neanderthals.  As for Bewes' "most natural explanation," this sounds a little too unfounded for me.  It sounds like he is basing his ideas on "what if" scenarios, rather than anything tangible.  For me, this makes it too difficult to subscribe to.

4. Genesis 4:17 - Who was Cain's wife? With Cain and Abel as the two brothers - and there being no other peoples outside Adam's family - how was it, then, that Cain, on being banished to the land of Nod, finds a wife there? Who was she?

As we've already discussed, I have always been sceptical about this section of the bible.  Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel are the only humans.  Who did Cain reproduce with? The bible doesn't explain this.  He just has a wife out of nowhere.  The only logical explanation is that Cain intermarried with another of Adam and Eve's children.

And this is the explanation that Bewes provides.   Firstly, he clarifies that Cain did not find a wife in Nod.  Rather he had sex with her in Nod.  But secondly, he argues that Cain and Abel were only the first children of Adam and Eve.  Over their long lives, they had countless other sons and daughters, one of which Cain married "when necessity demanded some intermarrying at a time when the race yet to increase."

Although I can understand this in the short-term, I don't see how it can apply in the long run.  This also isn't the only case of incest in the bible.  After Lot and his daughters escaped from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they get him drunk and rape him, to ensure the continuation of their family.

6. Genesis 11:5-7 Does God feel threatened? "If...they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language...' This reads like the panic action of a threatened tyrant, but surely God is not like this?

I can understand where this reader is coming from.  The first time I read the bible, I had this perspective of God, as an arrogant, self-obsessed dictator who feeds off validation.  However, Bewes argues that while God's actions have been interpreted like this, this is not the truth.  Rather his actions are of a parent who wants the best for his child.

The question addresses the Tower of Babylon where the people tried building a tower to reach God in heaven, rather than carrying out his commandments.  In punishment, God scatters them and makes me speak all different languages, to prevent them from uniting like this again.  According to Bewes, God did this was to prevent an evil person or power to exercise unlimited power without restraint.  Although God wants us to work together, if we leave him out of the process, then frustration and ruin will surely ensue.

I agree with Bewes' argument to an extent.  I have heard the comparison of God being a parent to a misbehaving child before.  All he wants is the best for his child, but he keeps being disobeyed, so he has to punish him to enact his authority.  But, I still think God is quite arrogant.

10. Exodus 4:21 - Unfair on Pharoah? I feel sorry for Pharoah, faced by Moses and the plagues of Egypt.  Why did God 'harden Pharoah's heart' so that he could not repent?

This is another example of why I find God arrogant.  One of Moses' most important missions was freeing the Israelites who had been enslaved by the mighty Pharoah of Egypt.  Moses promises plague after plague, if Pharoah doesn't release them.  However, Pharoah refuses to do this, because God repeatedly hardens his heart.  I have always thought this to be a gross display of power.  It's God's way of showing off his omnipotence.

Richard Bewes argues that Pharoah doesn't deserve our pity.  Even though, he wanted respite from the plagues, he wasn't prepared to repent.  Pharoah is given ten chances to repent, but God knew that he never would.  "Every time Pharoah hardened his heart against the revealed truth of God's message, it was a further tightening of the noose upon him."

I don't subscribe to this.  To me, it sounds like Bewes is shifting the blame away from God onto Pharoah, forgetting that it was God who hardened his heart in the first place.  Look at his wording, Bewes says that it was "every time Pharoah hardened his heart," not God, but Pharoah.  Observe Exodus 9:12, where God unleashes the plagues of boils and hail:

"And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharoah, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses."

Exodus Chapter 10 begins like this:

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharoah: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him"

During the plague of Locusts, Pharoah says this:

"Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against you.  Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only." Exodus 10:16-17

This is God's response:

"But the Lord hardened Pharoah's heart, so he would not let the children of Israel go." Exodus 10:20

As we can see from this scripture, Pharoah is willing to repent, but God hardens his heart.  I still don't understand why he does this.  I don't understand why God would want his followers suffering in slavery, any longer than necessary.  To me, it still seems like a grotesque display of power.

However, I could very well be wrong.  If you think I am, then please comment below.  Just keep it mature.  Keep it respectful.  Keep it intelligent.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Robot Wars Grand Final Recap

Episode 5

Episode 4

Episode 3

Episode 2

Episode 1

Welcome to the Robot Wars grand final.  The past five weeks have been building up to the crowning of the second Robot Wars champion.  Our finalists are:

Aftershock: the reincarnation of last year's finalists Shockwave.  They are armed with a vicious 3,500 RPM. 23 kg vertical flywheel

Eruption: a flipper robot that has sent all of its opponents flying from the arena.  It can flip with over a tonne of force.

Concussion: complete newbies to the Robot Wars arena.  They are armed with a drum spinner and took out last year's finalist Thor on their way to the final.

Ironside 3: yet another spinner with an 18kg spinning bar mounted on the top of their robot.

Carbide: King of the Spinners.  Carbide were last year's runners-up and were armed with a destructive 23kg horizontal spinner bar that span at 2,300 RPM.  That's about 250mph.

The sixth place in the final was given to a wildcard robot chosen by the judges out of the runners-up of this series.  This means that they were picking from Thor, Pulsar, Cherub, Sabretooth and, last year's champions, Apollo.  Firstly, I don't like how it was up to the judges over who went through.  I think all five robots should have had one massive melee and the last man standing would go through to the final.

But alas, things did not happen like this.  The judges picked a runner-up and unsurprisingly that runner-up was Apollo.  I think Apollo was picked just for sheer entertainment factor.  They had a powerful flipper and I think the judges were hoping for another rematch between them and Carbide.  I'm not sure Apollo was the right choice, but that's just me.  Do you agree with the judge's decision? I think it would have been interesting to see Pulsar again and see Eruption go up against five very different spinners, instead of four.

But that's enough talking...

LET THE WARS BEGIN

The structure of the final remained the same.  Firstly, there were two group battles with three robots each.  The first robot to be immobilised were out and the winners would go through to the mini league, with the top two robots fighting one last chance to decide the winner.

Apollo Vs Eruption vs Aftershock

The first group battle saw champions Apollo seeking to defend their crown.  The battle began quietly with all three robots sizing each other up.  Aftershock went in for a tentative attack on Apollo, but Apollo managed to flip them up and over.  Aftershock went skittering across the arena, with their spinning disc damaging the arena floor.  They managed to self-right and slammed into Apollo, leaving them with a massive scar down their back.  However, as the arena floor was damaged, it had to be fixed before the fight could continue.

The fight resumed and all three robots were very timid.  That was until Aftershock and Apollo slammed together.  Apollo were sent flying away and were rendered immobile.  They were champions no more.  Aftershock and Eruption were through with Eruption having done nothing.  But in the post-match interview, they explained that this was tactical.  They didn't want to risk their machine becoming damaged.  I think they were just scared.

Concussion Vs Carbide vs Ironside 3

Time for three very different spinners to face off.  Concussion had a spinning drum.  Carbide had a horizontal spinning bar that was mounted inside the machine, while Ironside's spinning bar was mounted on top of the machine.

Concussion, perhaps sensing they were the weakest robot, went straight for the pit release.  Unfortunately, Carbide went straight for them.  With one blow, Concussion were looking worse for wear.  Carbide then targeted Ironside 3 knocking out their self-righting mechanism.  However, Ironside 3 still had enough life in them to hit Concussion one more time.  Poor little Concussion could not stand up to this onslaught and one final almighty blow from Carbide were enough to immobilise them.  Concussion were out.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on how well Concussion have done despite being complete newbies.  And they have done well and more, they're good sports too.  I hope to see them again next series.  But for now, Carbide and Ironside 3 are through to the head to heads.

Eruption Vs Ironside 3

Time for only non-spinner to fight the first of the powerful spinners.  Ironside 3 began this fight by tactically running away, which I've noticed is their main tactic.  However, Eruption didn't allow them a chance to escape.  They flipped Ironside halfway across the arena.  Ironside managed to get a few blows in before they started running away again.  Eruption pursued them towards the arena wall, where one more flip inverted Ironside.  With their self-righting mechanism out of action, Ironside couldn't self-right and they had lost.  Impressive display by Eruption.

Aftershock Vs Carbide

This battle saw the two most powerful spinners come together in one epic tousle.  Aftershock had the faster spinner, but Carbide's was heavier.  The two of them went straight for it, charging towards each other.  But only Carbide left unscathed.  Aftershock had a severe case of Aftershock, as they bounced away.  Their armour pannelling had been sheared off and their electronics were hanging out.  Carbide slammed into Aftershock again.  This attack sent Aftershock's side armour pannelling flying into the arena side wall, where it became embedded.  The arena wall is polycarbonate, bulletproof glass, which is there to protect the live studio audience.  However, there is a second arena wall, meaning that nobody was actually hurt.

Carbide Vs Eruption

Even though Eruption won their last fight, they still received some damage to their flipper.  However, they were able to repair this damage.

Carbide had one tactic in this fight.  Go for Eruption's sides, where their armour was the weakest.  And this is exactly what Carbide did.  They slammed into Eruption and were sent flying away.  They slammed into them and were sent rocking away.  Eruption managed to withstand both of these blows.  But then Carbide hit them again and then hit them on their flipper.  Eruption's CO2 was venting and their armour was buckelling.  They were out.

Aftershock Vs Ironside 3

Aftershock were so badly damaged after their fight with Carbide that they didn't have enough time to weld their armour back on.  Instead, they taped it on with duct tape.  You heard me right.  Duct tape.

Despite this, they began the battle very strongly.  They crashed into Ironside sending it flying through the air and bouncing down.  However, the force of Aftershock's weapon ripped away the duct tape, exposing their insides.  Bad driving then sent them crashing into the arena wall, where their weapon short-circuited.  Ironside 3 took full advantage of this weakness and pushed them onto the arena spikes, which toppled Aftershock.  Unable to self-right, they had lost.

Carbide Vs Ironside 3

Carbide were through to the final at this point and were keen to take as little damage as possible.  Carbide absolutely dominated this battle.  They got the first blow in on Ironside and the sparks flew.  It was like being at a fireworks display.  It was awesome.  Carbide then hit Ironside again, prompting Ironside to employ their usual tactic of running away.  But Carbide slammed into them again.  And again.  And again.  The sparks continued flying and Ironside's weapon was stopped.  They were almost caught by the house robots, but managed to escape.  However, they escaped only to be bashed once more by Carbide.  Ironside 3 were immobilised and out.


Aftershock Vs Eruption

With Carbide already through to the final, Aftershock needed to beat Eruption to have any chance of going through to the final.  If Aftershock won, then there would be a 3 way tie between them, Eruption and Ironside 3, and the judges would then pick a winner to go through.  I again don't like the judges interfering like this.  In the event of a tie, I think there should be a 3 way melee, and the winner would go through to the final.  It's Robot WARS, after all.  Not Robot "oh let the judges pick a suitable robot to go through."

Onto the actual fight.  Eruption started on top.  They flipped Aftershock into the pit release button, inverting them in the process.  As Aftershock bounced down, their mighty spinning disc damaged the arena floor yet again.  However, quite weirdly, they were allowed to continue fighting, even though the arena hadn't been repaired.

The second half of the fight was far more even.  Aftershock got a blow in on Eruption, pushing them onto the arena spikes.  Eruption were toppled, but quickly managed to self-right.  Both robots then drove into the CPZ, where they did this bizarre dance of death with Dead Metal.  I'm not sure why Eruption and Aftershock did this, probably inexperienced driving.

 Once they had escaped, Aftershock hit Eruption, but Eruption then flipped Aftershock across the arena.  Aftershock recovered with great style.  Aftershock managed to get another blow in before being flipped over again.  For a minute, it looked like they were down and out, but they recovered.  Aftershock then put more pressure on Eruption, scaring them enough to activate the pit release.  But then, Aftershock then disappointingly conked out.  I think Aftershock were on top for most of the battle.  They rained blow after blow onto Eruption's flipper and armour.  It's just a shame that Aftershock broke down.

Eruption vs Carbide

And we have arrived at the grand final of the second season of Robot Wars.  The most powerful spinner of this new Robot Wars - Carbide and the most powerful flipper - Eruption.

3...2...1 ACTIVATE

Carbide began this fight the stronger.  Slamming into Eruption's flipper and making the sparks fly.  Both robots ricocheted away, before Carbide came onto the attack again.  They crashed into Eruption, shredding their armour.  Carbide's spinning bar continued to tear into Eruption's armour an there was little the flipperbot could do.  They tried getting a few flips in but missed.  All this allowed for was for Carbide to get more hits in.  However, Carbide then started getting a little complacent, as Eruption were able to flip them.

But Carbide quickly learnt from this and continued battering Eruption.  CO2 began venting and deep gashes were appearing in Eruption's bodywork.  Electronics were hanging out.  Wires were trailing.  Metal was buckling.  Eruption was a beaten machine.  And Carbide was a very worthy winner.  Runners-up last year, winners, this year.  Well done to the Carbide team and also to runners-up Eruption.

Compared to the original Robot Wars, the robots here are so much more powerful.  Spinners, even the legendary Hypno-Disc or S7 X-Terminator, were never this powerful.  Carbide is a ferocious machine and brilliant winners.

Dim the lights,

scream your applause,

Carbide are your new champions

on Robot Wars.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

L.A Confidential Review

Number 112 on the top 1000 films of all time is the Neo-Noir Crime flick L.A Confidential (1997)

Set in the 1950s, L.A Confidential follows the intertwining lives of three very different LAPDs.  Firstly, there is Det. Lt Ed Exxley (Guy Pearce) an ambitious young cop who vows to remain an honest cop.  Then there is Officer Wendell "Bud" White, (Russell Crowe) a copper who is prepared to do anything to get get his man.  He is also particularly tough on wife-beaters.  Lastly, there is Dt. Sgt Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) who in his spare time works as a technical advisor on police show Badge of Honour.  When a shoot-out in a diner leaves White's partner dead, all three cops believe that there is more to the massacre than meets the eye.  Supporting characters include police Captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) high-class prostitute Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) and sleazy journalist Sid Hudgens. (Danny DeVito)

I've watched a few crime films from the '50s like Double Indemnity, and I think that L.A Confidential did a great job at recreating the atmosphere.  This was obviously down to the brilliant production design and use of props.  For example, Jack Vincennes was never seen without a cigarette in his hands.  But it was always present due to the brutal attitudes of the police officers.  This film was set 13 years before Miranda Rights came into effect, explaining why the police were able to get away with such nastiness.

Like many of the films on this list, L.A Confidential was boosted by strong performances.  Director Curtis Hanson chose Kevin Spacey for the role of Jack Vincennes, as he felt the character was a movie-star among cops  Thus he needed an actor that had movie-star charisma.  This is exactly what Spacey has.  To this role, he brought the same charisma and magnetism that he brought to his roles in American Beauty, The Usual Suspects and Se7en.  Danny DeVito was also great as journalist Sid Hudgen.  He was sleazy, dirty-handed and entertaining to watch.  The evolution of each character felt right as well.  White progressively became softer, as he embarked on a relationship with Lynn Bracken, and Exxley had to employ more dirty tactics, in his pursuit of the truth.

Overall, this was a good film with strong performances, a tangible atmosphere and plenty of plot-twists,  It wasn't the easiest to follow, but this made me like it more.  I was trusted to put everything together myself, rather than have it handed to me.