In an age of visually oriented communications such as TV, movies and the internet, the power of symbols is not lost on content makers such as advertisers and movie producers. This is particularly true when you combine pop icons with these symbols to make a lasting impression. Case in point: diamonds. The point was indelibly etched in the courting rule book when the iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe sang:
Since then, aside from the numerous remakes2 from beauties trying to channel the appeal and success of Marilyn, we’ve had regular reminders that “diamond’s are a girl’s best friend.” They come right around this time of year – in time for the Christmas shopping season, to reminded you that if you really want to express your love to a lady, the proper way to do it is with a diamond. This year it was done with a twist – taking a form of nature documentary and using penguins instead of people3, but the message was the same.
There are multiple lessons for Christians here – aside from the well known fact that advertisers can use beautiful women to sell their wares. They are as follows:
1. God first used signs & symbols, and continues to use them
During the creation week, God said:
And as the children of Israel were about to enter the promised land, God gave them these instructions:
So God was the first to use signs and symbols.4 And of particular interest is his command to his people to have a symbol of his word, his instructions to them for proper living displayed prominently both on their person , and on their houses. This command was fulfilled with the placing of tephillim (Phylacteries in the New Testament (Matt 23.5)) on the wrist and forehead; and a mezuzah on the house. Why? Because what advertisers have learned, God already knew: the power of a constant reminder in the form of a symbol. His purpose is clear: to impress the importance of His word upon His people, God used symbols – the tephillim and mezuzah – which both symbolized his word and contained portions of it.
Another symbol, mentioned briefly in my article Physical Evidence that Jesus Existed, is that of the Chi Rho (the first two Greek letters in “Christ”). History records how God used the symbol to inspire General and soon to be Roman Emperor Constantine to trust in Christ, not the pagan gods on the eve before what would be a decisive battle for the victor. Constantine’s victory at the Mulvian bridge over his rival Maxentius led to Constantine extending his power, allowing him to legalize Christianity in the Roman empire, ending (eventually) the widespread persecution of Christians and setting the stage for accelerated growth of the church.
A final example: Jesus indicated that his return will be preceded or accompanied by “the sign of the Son of Man” (Matt 24.30). Thus signs and symbols have been in use by God to further the faith since the beginning, and continue to be in use. Clearly we have as a precedent God’s own use of signs and symbols in furtherance of the faith.
2. God redeems and claims symbols for his own use
The cross is arguably the most recognized symbol in the world. For Christians it represents Christ’s passion and redemption, hope and eternal life. Even for non-believers it is a well recognized symbol of Christianity. But it was not always that way. The cross is after all an instrument of death. And not just any death, a death of torture – a slow death of literally excruciating pain. (The root of excruciate is crux – meaning cross). The cross was used not only to execute, but to intimidate. In that regard it also excelled because it became one of the most feared forms of execution in the ancient world.
Even so, God took that instrument of death and torture, and turned it into a symbol of hope, and of the true faith. That transformation from sign of intimation and death; to sign of hope for the faithful has not been lost upon historians: Continue Reading
The IMDB storyline synopsis of HBO’s recent1 documentary ends with the statement, “the film takes a balanced look at this 150-year-old debate.” It appears the film wants to take a balanced look, and they certainly had the opportunity, but if they were trying to achieve a balanced look, they failed miserably. Either the writers are so steeped in anti-Christian evolutionist doctrine that they couldn’t see their own bias, or they willfully withheld important data that is relevant to the discussion. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.
If they were seriously trying to present objections of those who “Question Darwin” why have they chosen to only present the case from the point of view of Bible believing Christians (of which I, of course, am one)? Such objections stem primarily from the fact that evolution is in direct contradiction to Biblical teaching. But that is not the only source of objections. Why did they not also present the case of scientists who do not believe in evolution from a scientific point of view? Surely the existence of scientific objections to Darwin is not a newsflash to the writers of a documentary on Darwin. There is an entire site highlighting the hundreds of scientists who have signed their names to the statement:
The site is Dissentfromdarwin.org and you can look up all the scientists who dissent yourself. Instead, the picture that is painted is that only fundamental, Bible believing Christians who, as the narrator tells us, “… believe their Bible is the Word of God, the ‘literal truth’ …”2, don’t believe in Darwinian evolution. That only Christians object to Darwin is clearly not the case and so that is a misrepresentation. The fact that they have omitted any reference to any scientific objections to Darwin points to what this documentary is really about: questioning Christians who question Darwin.
Without speaking to those responsible for this production, one can only speculate as to their motives. But based on what they choose to include (statements from Christians without any investigation as to whether they might be true) and what they chose to omit (objections from scientists who disagree with Darwin’s theory), and the amount of time they spent explaining how Darwin arrived at his theory vs. the amount of time spent showing Christians who “question Darwin,” the motives seems clear: to present Christians as slightly irrational, slightly backwards, science rejecting people whose opinions should not be taken to seriously in this matter. Unfortunately, too often Christians provide ample fodder for this distorted view.
A pastor3 is shown saying, “If in the bible I were to find a passage that says 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.” Brother, I understand what you’re saying. It is incumbent on the reader of the Bible to investigate further to work out apparent contradictions so as to resolve the contradiction and understand what the Biblical writer was saying. (Of course that clarification was not in the documentary.)
For instance, Jesus while standing in the magnificent temple that took 46 years to build is quoted as saying, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2.19) This was clearly misunderstood by his audience, the Jews. (As it would be by anyone in that context who didn’t know Jesus.) Thankfully John, the writer of the gospel explains what he meant – that he was referring to his body. So Jesus was in essence saying if you kill me, I will physically raise this body and make it live again in 3 days, which is proof of my claims. A prediction and a promise he made good on that first Easter Sunday by his resurrection from the dead.
So I understand the pastor to be underscoring the importance of working out apparent contradictions – though he chose, in my estimation, a poor example to illustrate the point. Arithmetic statements by nature and design leave little room for interpretation; and as such don’t illustrate the broad (though clear) range of meaning that verbal statements may convey, particularly when set in various contexts. So while his point is valid, it was used by this production to stereotype Christians as following blindly without a rational basis. As I state in What is Rational Faith Part 2, Christian Faith does not require a blind leap of faith.
From there, the depiction of Christians gets worse, with a Professor accusing Christians of lying to children because they teach as truth what’s taught in the Bible; things that contradict evolution such as creation and a young earth. His exact statement was:
Clearly, instead of looking at scientists today who “Question Darwin” and how they view Darwin’s theory against today’s evidence, the writers chose to channel the accusations of the new atheists, who accuse Christians of child abuse for teaching them religion.5 Instead of looking at the scientific questions, they chose to look at how Christians interpret the Bible, apparently appalled that Christians can take Genesis “literally”6, and even more appalled that such an approach can be persuasive, noting:
That fact is only surprising (and disconcerting) to those who have bought into Darwinism lock, stock and barrel. While the program does an admirable job of correctly articulating Christian views – since they directly quote Christians, and even shows scenes from Ken Ham’s Creation Museum – still it is quite apparent that they mean to question those views. With their disdain for the views of those who doubt Darwin apparent, their refusal to show scientists who doubt Darwin gives the show a strong appearance of suppressing the evidence. This point is underscored by the fact that they had comments from former college professor Dr. Jobe Martin, who has published evidences against evolution in titles such as Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution (I-III), but you don’t see any of his evidences; he provides history and commentary on Darwinism and its effects. Yet as philosopher of science and Intelligent Design advocate Dr. Stephen Meyer put it,
You won’t see any of the counter arguments to Darwin in this documentary however. In fact to the contrary, Darwin is presented as a hard working, state of the art (even if it is 19th century art) scientist who worked tirelessly to gather evidence for his theory. We are told of all the specimens he examined and the correspondences he had with other scientists. Darwin no doubt considered himself an objective researcher. (We’re supposed to believe that too.) We’re led to believe that his conclusions were valid based on all the research he did, however the documentary never bothers to mention or even question if the research that he conducted supported the conclusions he jumped to. The evidence suggests his research did not support his conclusions.
The documentary makes clear however that he suffered greatly at the loss of his favored daughter Annie, and couldn’t understand why there should be evil in the world. Outspoken creationist, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis graciously offers that if his theology professors had told him the source of evil was sin – not God, it may have changed his perspective. What is more likely the case, (since as the documentary tells us, Darwin once intended to be a clergyman) is that Darwin knew what the Bible said about the cause of evil, but didn’t care. It appears Darwin was determined to reject God in spite of the Bible’s explanation of evil in the world.
The documentary further wants you to believe Darwin let science direct his thinking, not his (anti-God) theology; and that he reluctantly came to the conclusion that evolution is true. We are supposed to believe that he was objective about it all because he is quoted as saying: Continue Reading