Friday, 30 June 2017

The Road Review

The Road isn't on the top 1000 films of all time.  However, the Road was inspired by Cormac McCarthy's book of the same name, which I have just finished reading.

The Road follows an unnamed father (Viggo Mortenson) and son (Kodi Smit-Phee) as they walk across a post-apocalyptic America, trying to reach the coast.  On the way they meet other refugees, thieves and cannibals who inhabit the road

Judging from that description, you'd think The Road is a downbeat and disturbing film and you'd be right.  I was incredibly depressed after I had finished watching it, which works to its advantage.  It pulls no punches when exhibiting the darker side of humanity.  One particular chilling scene sees the father and sons tumble across a group of people who are being kept imprisoned to be eaten by cannibals.  This was a frightening scene and rightly so.  This is what a post-apocalyptic world would be like and it would be insulting to portray it any other way.

However, it isn't dark throughout.  While the more light-hearted moments are few and far between, they do exist particular in reference to the father and son's relationship.  The son acts a moral compass helping to anchor the father's fleeting humanity.  For example even after the father and son are robbed by a thief (Michael Kenneth Williams,) the son pleads with his father not to kill the thief.  There are also flashbacks showing the father's life of pre-apocalypse, including moments with his wife (Charlize Theron) who opted out.  These moments were important in providing something for the audience to latch onto.

For the most part, John Hillcoat's adaptation was very faithful to to the book.  It captures the horrific moments, but also the more human.  However, he also stayed faithful to the book's infuriating vagueness.  Apart from an old traveller called Ely (Robert Duvall), and Ely could just be an alias, there are no named characters in the film.  Furthermore, the film is also vague about the location or what the actual apocalypse was.  We know it's America, but we don't know where.

Now I can understand why Cormac McCarthy did this, and by extension, why John Hilcoat adapted it so loyally. Firstly, by making it so general, it could apply to anyone.  The unnamed father is an everyman who could be any father.  The desolate American landscape could just as easily be somewhere in Europe.  And this is what makes it so scary.  Secondly, any revelation about the apocalypse could detract from the central theme of the film: how to preserve your humanity in such an unforgiving environment.

I understand and respect this, but I'd argue, as one IMDB reviewer argued, "you start to disassociate from the main characters." I felt this about the book too.  The fact that we know practically nothing about the characters made it difficult for me to identify with them.  It stopped them from becoming real.  They could have been just "anyone," rather than special, memorable characters.

Overall, while The Road is irritatingly vague and general, it still also teaches powerful lessons about what it means to be human.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

28 Weeks Later Review

As promised, here is the review of the sequel of 28 Days Later: 28 Weeks Later.  Unsurprisingly, it didn't make the cut onto the top 1000 films of all time.  I also watched this film with my dad.

Set 24 weeks after the events of its predecessor, 28 Weeks Later features an entirely new cast and narrative.  Don Harris (Robert Carlyle) is one of the few survivors of the virus outbreak in London.  He becomes the Caretaker of District One (the Isle of Dogs in London,) where he reunites with his children Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton.) When it emerges that Andy has a genetic abnormality, which means he could be immune to the virus, it is imperative that he is taken out of London.

While 28 Days Later was inventive and entertaining, 28 Weeks Later was generic and disappointing.  The narrative is weaker and the characters are more annoying.  However, before I begin criticising the film, let's start with what was good about it.

28 Weeks Later began explosively and far more in line with its predecessor.  We are introduced to a small group of characters including Don and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) hiding out in a little cottage.  Not before long, they are overcome by the Infected and all, but Don, die.  This includes Alice whom he abandoned to save himself.  This was a great beginning to the film.  It was chaotic, intense and fast-paced.  Even though, we only spend a few minutes with the characters, we got to know them well and we felt their conflicts.  However, from here, the film devolves into an absolute mess.

Firstly, I think there is a lack of a clear protagonist.  You might think that Don would be the protagonist, as Robert Carlyle has star billing.  However, halfway through the film, he becomes infected and then fades into the shadows.  This is when his children begin to take centre stage.  I understand that the film was supposed to follow Don's journey, especially as one of the Infected.  His wife is discovered alive with the same genetic immunity that she has passed onto her son.  She is brought into the safezone and Don goes to see her.  He kisses her, and in their passing of saliva, she infects him.  He kills her, as the guilt of leaving her behind, manifests itself into a murderous rage.
 From there, he then stalks and tries to kill his children, as they then become the object of his rage.

I get that the film tried to portray him as the next level of "Infected." They wanted to demonstrate him as having a humanity of some type, as he has enough latent memory to remember his children.  They want us to sympathise with him and pity him.  However, I don't think this worked.  We spend too little time with the Infected Don to properly identify with his journey.  We don't see him struggle enough with any humanity that he might left, and thus his conflict doesn't come through clear enough.  This is a shame, as it was a good idea, but wasn't demonstrated well.

Don's children were also quite annoying.  They generate conflict by making stupid mistakes.  They sneaked out of the safe zone to return to their old home, where they find their mum and bring her back.  While her mum is immune to the virus, she is also a carrier, and she then infects Don.  If Tammy and Andy hadn't sneaked out, then this wouldn't have happened.  Also a "safe zone" isn't very safe, if two children can sneak out, virtually undetected.  If they can sneak out, what could sneak in?

Having said this, while Andy and Tammy were annoying at first, I think they gradually become more likeable.  Right at the end of the film, Tammy kills her infected father, which came as a refreshing surprise.  This demonstrated her inner strength and turmoil, and I just wish that this came through earlier.

One reason why 28 Days Later was so good was that it had a very small cast, which we got to know well.  This was forfeited in favour of a large, sprawling cast and too many special effects.  There were a lot of characters, but very few were actually interesting.  I'd argue that Don was the most interesting character, but he was very much squandered.  Instead, there were explosions and gunfire, which became very tedious after a time.  Yes you did get medical officer Scarlett, (Rose Byrne) who is determined to get the children to safety, and soldier Doyle, who deserts his post to help Scarlett, but as my dad rightly identified, they were just stock characters.  We learnt all that we needed to know about them, but not enough to make them three-dimensional.

Finally, we come to the camerawork.  I read IMDB reviews, which argued that the "shakey-cam" footage was overused.  But I'd disagree with this.  Director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, used a shakey-cam, as he wanted to shoot this film as a documentary; he wanted to make it real as possible.  And I think that it worked.  The camerawork was frenetic and chaotic and did raise the suspense.  It harked back to the excellent camerawork of 28 Days Later.

28 Weeks Later was a disappointing sequel to the brilliance that was 28 Days Later.  Instead of interesting characters, it relied too heavily on explosions and special effects.  Maybe it is worth watching once, but only once.

28 Days Later Review

While 28 Days Later is 653 on the top 1000 greatest films, that's not why I'm reviewing it.  Recently, my dad and I have finished watching the hit BBC series Peaky Blinders, which stars Cillian Murphy, as Birmingham gangster, Tommy Shelby.  Knowing that Murphy plays the protagonist, my dad wanted to watch 28 Days Later.  As I've already seen it and know it's a great film, I was only too happy to oblige.

Set in central London, 28 Days after a virus turns most of the population into zombies, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma.  He soon befriends the emotionally damaged Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns.) Their quest to find salvation draws them to a group of soldiers led by Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston.)

One of the strongest facets of the film is its use of zombies.  I know that there's debate over whether they can actually be called humans, as they aren't reanimated humans, but I'm going to refer to them as zombies.  The zombies were scary and original with their jerky movements, strange screeches, but mostly, how they run, rather than limp to their victims.  This is what separates them from other zombies and what sets 28 Days Later apart from other zombie horror films.

Director, Danny Boyle was also clever in his sparing use of the zombies.  Only a handful of them appear in the film, which kept them fresh and exciting.  If they had been used too much or had appeared in hordes, then their effect would have been diluted.  The viewer would become too used to them.  And, of course, it also emphasises how in zombie horror, the biggest threat is not the zombies, but the surviving people.

And there was no greater threat than the villainous Henry West who promised his men "women," in exchange for their loyalty.  While this isn't anything new, it doesn't make it any less horrific.  And Christopher Eccleston played the part well.  Major West was deeply flawed in his loyalty to his men and how he truly believed that he was doing the right thing.

Danny Boyle also did brilliantly at creating a suspenseful atmosphere.  The first few minutes of the film, showing a desolate London, was very creepy for somebody like me, who knows the hustle and bustle of London all too well.

Further, I also read that Danny Boyle used a special camera lens, which added a slow-motion effect.  This mixed with a range of quirky camera angles, helped to add to the film's creepy atmosphere.

I also think that the characters were written well.  There was only a handful of them, which allowed us to really get to know them.  Murphy played Jim well.  At the beginning of, he is completely out of his depth and overly-reliant on the far tougher Selena.  However, by the film's conclusion, Jim has adapted to the brutality of the world, saving Selena from being raped, by gouging out one of the soldier's eyes.

And then we come to Naomie Harris who gave a great performance as Selena.  The emotionally damaged, ruthless pragmatic Selena set a new precedent for female characters in horror films.  In the first fifteen minutes of seeing her, we see her mercilessly kill her friend Mark, suspecting him of being infected.  The emphasis here is on "suspecting," she doesn't know for sure, but decides not to take the risk.  Yet under the cold exterior is a vulnerable, yet brave woman, which comes out later on in the film, particularly within her growing relationship with Jim.

I read that Danny Boyle, Naomie Harris and screenplay writer, Alex Garland, had developed a backstory for Selena, which explained why she was so emotionally damaged.  She had to kill her parents to stop them infecting her little brother, only to find out that he was infected as well, forcing her to kill him too.  This never made it to screen, but I wish it had.  It would have been really interesting to delve into her backstory.

Finally Brendan Gleeson was great as Frank.  He was deeply loyal to his daughter, Hannah, and his death scene was one of the saddest of the film.

Although, there were a couple of moments, which didn't make sense, such as the roads being clear instead of gridlocked or a supermarket being fully stocked, instead of raided, if I am to criticise the film for anything, it would be its ending.

The climax where Jim rescued Selena and Hannah from the soldiers was thrilling to watch, but from there, I think things were a bit rushed.  Before West meets his death at the hands of one of his infected soldiers, he shoots Jim.  This is when the film rushes through his recovery, instead picking up 28 days later, with a fully recovered Jim, Selena and Hannah, in a remote cottage.  I think the film could have used a few more minutes showing what happened during these missing days.

My last criticism notwithstanding, 28 Days Later is a great film and a must-watch for fans of zombie horror.  And don't worry, I will be reviewing 28 Weeks Later next.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Greater works? The 'Greater' Father? Did God die? Are Christians judged?

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?

Condoning Force? The Unknown date? The third or sixth hour? When did Jesus die?

It is time for the last installment of The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions.  Across 15 articles, we've examined the place of women and animals in Christianity, attitudes towards homosexuality and why discrepancies exist in the Gospels.  Time to round off this series with four last questions.

41. John 14:12 - Greater Works? Is the age of miracles past, or ought we to be expecting increasing miracles, on the basis of John 14:12?

John 14:12 reads, "very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."

Richard Bewes says that this scripture was once quoted to him by a man who had interpreted it "as an encouragement to expect greater physical miracles than Jesus ever performed."

However, Bewes argues that this scripture should be interpreted in terms of its context:

"the coming of the Holy Spirit in power." Bewes asserts that when the power of the Holy Spirit has been globalised, Christians worldwide will accomplish miracles greater than Christ's, but not in a physical, bt a spiritual capacity.

I find Bewes' answer very evasive, so this is my response.  I think that the age of miracles is past or at least the age of divine miracles.  Rather, I think that the capacity to perform a miracle, lies in the everyday person.  We can all perform miracles in little or large displays of kindness.  For me, this tackles one of the biggest issues that I've always had with religion: relying on an external force to act on our behalf.  We can take control of our own lives by performing our own miracles.

42. John 14:28 - The 'Greater' Father? 'The Father is greater than I.' This is often quoted by those who want to disapprove the deity of Christ.  What is behind these words?

As per usual, Bewes' response to this question comes down to semantics.  John 14:26 reads:

"the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

According to Bewes, this is yet another example of how "New Testament texts combine all three persons of the Trinity in a single sentence." However, we need to remember that they all have different functions.  Bewes asserts that "our salvation is authorised by the Father, achieved by the son and activated by the Holy Spirit."

This context shows that Jesus isn't speaking ontologically, but functionally.  It is not Jesus' function to send the Father to do anything.  Rather, it is the God that sends the son, and it is the Father that the son will return.  And it is in this sense that the Father is greater.

Not that I know for certain, but I feel that whoever asked this question was a Muslim, Jew or somebody that doesn't recognise Jesus' divinity.  And I think that Bewes' explanation puts them in their place.

44. Acts 20:28 - Did God die? The phrase in Acts 20:28 that God obtained his Church 'with his own blood; has provoked some of my unbelieving friends to ask sarcastically, 'Then did God die? Where does the answer lie?"

Acts 20:28 reads "keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseas.  Be Shepherds of the Church of God, which he brought with his own blood."

Richard Bewes is adamant that these "words are an irrefutable painter to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ - for it was his blood that was shed upon the cross for the sins of the world." The rest of Bewes' argument focusses on how it was the "external son who died upon the cross."

Yet I feel that Bewes undermines his whole argument by concluding "Did God die? Our respectful answer should be 'You tell me.  Who is this? Jesus, who died on the Cross - for you?"

I think that non-believers would respond to this in two ways.  Firstly, they'll argue that Jesus didn't exist.  As he didn't exist, it's impossible for him to die.  Secondly, if they do accept his existence, then they would only acknowledge him as a human being, and not a divine being.  The fact that he dies demonstrates that he is a mortal human and not a divine God.

I think that in some sense, God did die.  And by God, I mean Jesus.  The Holy Trinity is all intrinsically linked and what affects one affects the other.  As Jesus is the Son of God, part of God died when Jesus did.

46. Romans 14:10 - Are Christians judged? How true is it that Christians must face the judgement sent of God? Didn't Jesus teach that believers escape the judgement?

Bewes argues that the evidence for Christians facing God's judgement is massive.  He clarifies that "it is not that we shall be saved for the last.  We have already passed from death to life."

He continues by asserting that "there are enough indications in Scripture that the Christian will face the searchlight of Christ's enquiring gaze at the last date: How did you spend your days for me? How did you use your opportunities? How did you grow in character and discipleship?

Bewes then points to 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, which reads

"By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should build with care.  For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown foe what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person';s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved - even though only as one escaping through the flames."

Bewes argues that this scripture is addressed towards the early church leaders.  He asks "how are they building the work of God? Is the foundation secure? Will it end up like gold, or only as straw? For those who teach others, there are 'rewards,' but there is also a possibility of ''loss' - though not of salvation."

From what I know of Christianity, I would like to believe that everyone will be judged when they die.  This promise of being judged will then serve as motivation to live a good life.  It discourages complacency or arrogance, as Christians will constantly strive to improve themselves and help others.  This is why I don't like the idea of predestination.  I don't like how a person's fate is picked out before they're even born, and they can't do a thing to change it.  This has the danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If a person thinks they're damned to hell, then why should they try to be a good person?

And this concludes my fifteenth and last article concerning biblical questions.  I've enjoyed writing these articles and I think I've learnt a lot more about Christianity and I hope you have too.  However, I am still not an expert and as always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.  Just keep it mature.   Keep it respectful.  Keep it intelligent.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Condoning Force? The Unknown date? The Third or Sixth Hour? When did Jesus die?

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?

32. Matthew 11:12 - Condoning Force.  Please explain: 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.' Is this persecution or what?

Richard Bewes' response to this comes down to a matter of semantics.  He argues that it isn't persecution.  Rather he argues that John the Baptist was a forceful preacher.  He inspired many to flock to jesus, but "not so much a with a physical violence, but with the violence of people in earnest." He concludes by arguing that "those with with everything against them, won the Kingdom by the violence of their determination."

Bewes is essentially arguing that Jesus' followers won the Kingdom, not through physical violence, but rather the power of belief.  My response to this is twofold.  Firstly, I think it's a inspiring story about the strength of faith.  But secondly, and, more importantly, I can't help but think of the violence that the Israelites carried out in taking the Promised Land in the first place.  I know that the Canaanites were immoral and deserved it, but I don't think I could ever get behind any argument that supports genocide.

35. Matthew 24:36 - The Unknown Date - Why didn't Jesus know the date of his return? How does this affect his deity?

Richard Bewes' answer to this is very straightforward.  He argues that Christ's main responsibility was "only to say and teach those things that he had been sent to say."

He was not to know any information about his second coming, as he only knew as much as he was supposed to.  Bewes concludes that while each member of the Trinity is of the same essential nature, they do not carry out the same functions.  This means that Jesus' deity should not be devalued.  Rather, this knowledge was in God's domain, which I think makes sense.

37. Mark 15:25 The Third or Sixth Hour? The Gospel of Mark states that Jesus was crucified at the third hour.  Even modern versions do not deviate.  From the other Gospels we knew that the crucifixion took place at the sixth hour.

Bewes has a purely technical explanation for this: a simple typographical error.  He argues that within "the earliest Greek manuscripts, the numerals Third and Sixth would have looked very similar.  'Third' is shown by a simple gamma letter - like a capital L upside down.  'Sixth' is shown by exactly the same figure - like a continental seven back to front.  It is called the Di-gamma."

Richard Bewes posts that "somewhere in the long process of copying from manuscript to manuscript, one copyist forgot to put in the tiny cross-bar, and the Di-Gamma was inadvertently changed into a gamma."

Bewes clarifies that this simple mistake has made little impact on the doctrine or the beliefs of readers.  I like this simple, logical explanation, as it emphasises one reason why I think small contradictions and discrepancies appear in the bible: human error.  Because of people making mistakes when copying from manuscript to manuscript.  Although, as we have already seen, these little mistakes haven't majorly affected the religion.

40. John 13:1 - When did Jesus die? There seems to be disagreement between John's Gospel and the other Gospel writers, over when the Passover and the Last Supper took place, the day before Jesus died? Why this discrepancy?

Like most of these questions, Richard Bewes answers this one by highlighting how the Gospels serve to fill each other in.

Bewes argues that while Matthew, Mark and Luke agreed that the Last Supper occurred on the Jewish Passover, the day before Jesus' death, John teaches that the Last Supper appears to happen earlier than the Passover.  But Bewes offers a different way of interpreting this.  He believes that we should compare the words 'Jesus Knew' with 'before the feast of the Passover.' The meaning then changes to how it reads in the Twentieth Century New Testament:

"Before  the Passover Festival began, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave the world and go to the Father.  He had loved those who were his own in the world, and he loved them to the last."

This signifies that Jesus knew it was time for him to die, which is how it was understood by early Christian thinkers.  I think this is a sensible and logical explanation.

As per usual, I welcome all comment s and criticisms.  Just keep it mature.  Keep it intelligent.  Keep it respectful.

Manchester-By-The-Sea Review

I'm taking a break from the top 1000 greatest films to review a film that my friend recommended me.  This is the film that snagged Casey Affleck the Oscar for best actor: Manchester-By-The Sea.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a depressed, damaged, socially awkward handyman living in Boston, Massachusetts.  Having become withdrawn and resentful since the death of his children and break-up of his marriage, 8 years earlier, his world becomes rocked when his older brother dies of a heart attack.  Things become more complicated when Lee discovers that his brother has named him the legal guardian of his 16 year old son who lives in Manchester-by-The-Sea.

(http://www.heyuguys.com/images/2016/11/Manchester-By-the-Sea-UK-Poster.jpg)

Casey Affleck was well-deserving of the best actor award.  His portrayal of Lee Chandler was sympathetic, when it could have been bitter and unlikeable.  Affleck gave the character a humanity.  Chandler is a tragic character and it was easy to feel sorry for him.  But this was also down to his strong characterisation.  His tragic past was the most logical motivation for him taking so reluctantly to his new guardianship role.

(https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2017/01/04/16/manchester-by-the-sea.jpg)

Lucas Hedges was also great as Lee Chandler's nephew, Patrick.  Just like Chandler, I feel that it would have been too easy to have made his character bitter and resentful.  However, again he was very sympathetic, as he navigates his teenage life without a father figure.  The scenes with Patrick also provided some much needed comic relief.  Considering just how depressing the film is, this comic relief was greatly appreciated.

(http://whysoblu.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/manchester-3.jpg)


I've read IMDB reviews of this film that have argued that while Casey Affleck and the other actors were great, the script was half-baked and I would agree with this.  A lot of Lee Chandler's backstory is told through flashbacks.  I think that by switching back and forth between the flashbacks and the present-day timeline a little difficult to follow.  Having said that, this only applies to the first half of the film.  As it progressed, things did become clearer.


(http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/images/uploads/reviews/manchester-by-the-sea-body1.jpg)

Secondly, I would argue that film was mostly flat throughout.  There were a few dramatic incidents such as discovering how Lee's children died or Patrick's breakdown, but there was no payoff or climax.  Other than a lot of arguing, nothing much happened.  Obviously, I wasn't expecting explosions or a car chase, but I was hoping the film would end a little more dramatically.

However, even if it was a little undramatic, I did like the film's ending.  *SPOILERS AHEAD* 



Lee eventually turns over guardianship of Patrick to his friend George, as Lee cannot get over the guilt he feels for the death of his own children.  This was very sad, but also a satisfactory and logical conclusion, considering the tragic nature of Lee's character.

Ultimately, this is a good film with some great performances by Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges.  Despite its shortcomings, it worth watching at least once.  It's too damn depressing to watch a second time.


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.