Posts Tagged ‘Tim Keller’

familyIf you’ve followed this site much at all, you know that The Family Man is a film I watch every year around Christmas time.  I know, I know…Nicholas Cage is the star, but this was before he got to be the Nicholas Cage who stars in Left Behind.  For those of you who’ve only grown up with this Nicholas Cage, I need to remind you that he won an Oscar for Best Actor.  And, I would also say that his acting is good in this film.  Therefore, if you haven’t seen this film, give it a shot.

With that endorsement, however, comes a warning.  There is some questionable content, but I would argue that the content isn’t needless – it’s illustrative of the overall message.  The movie shows the emptiness of worldliness, but it must do so by accurately depicting worldliness.

However, a specific aspect of this film I enjoy is its depiction of marriage.  I was helped to see this through a conversation I had with a friend.  While I was sharing my enjoyment of this film, my friend exclaimed that he didn’t like it.  As I inquired further, I discovered that his dislike was due to the fact that the husband and wife “argued too much.”  I would simply say that this is part of the reason I do appreciate it.  Many Hollywood films sanitize marriage, love, and relationships to such a degree, the audience ends up being lied to – given a false hope for what marriage should be.

Listen to the opening words of Tim & Kathy Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage:

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage.  At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card.  While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental.  Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.  No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true.

This is the strong point of The Family Man.  It gives a truthful and glorious picture of marriage.  The exhaustion, the frustration, the joys and the blessings are on full display in this movie.  While husbands and wives can grow in areas of their marriage, marriage is work and TFM is a film that shows this.  However, TFM doesn’t only display the difficulties, but the blessings that come about because of the work.

So, anyone can understand why we long for a sanitized image of marriage.  Scripture tells us that marriage was designed to communicate Christ’s love for his church. (Eph. 5:22-33)  Our desire for the “perfect marriage” will only take place in the new heavens and the new earth.  This, again, is why I appreciate TFM.  It reminds us that marriage will not be heaven on earth.  Yes we get tastes of that, but it reminds us that we still need redemption and – I don’t know about you – but I like films that point us to our need for that.

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I’m sure you scratched your head and said, ‘Elizabethtown? Never heard of it.’ At least that’s what the box office results tell us about this film. However, minus Susan Sarandon’s over-the-top monologue that didn’t work and a somewhat sappy romance with mediocre acting, I actually enjoyed the film for a few reasons.

First, I’m a big Cameron Crowe fan. He’s a great director who always uses great music (the second reason I like the movie) to tell his stories. I also like the movie because it’s a film that causes one to reflect on life and death. We live in a world that doesn’t spend much time reflecting on much of anything, so a film that gets me to think about the one shot we have at this life makes it a worthwhile film.

The film begins with the story of Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), athletic shoe designer, whose product is about to be released to the entire world. But what the world doesn’t know, is that his shoe is a disaster. It’s a disaster that will cost his company close to a billion dollars – “That’s a lot of million”, Drew Remarks. He continues to repeat the phrase, “I’m fine.”, but the reality is, he’s far from it. He eagerly anticipates the world’s introduction to his incredible failure in the form of a shoe. As he’s reflecting on his failure, he makes this statement, “In that moment, I knew success, not greatness, was the only god the world served.”

Although we all don’t worship the god of success, by the world’s definition, it is a god that is highly worshiped and does tend to rear its ugly head in most of our lives from time-to-time.

Anyone knows that we can make gods out of anything – food, possessions, money, etc. Tim Keller says that something becomes a god when a good thing is turned into an ultimate thing. Much of what the world worships, and what the character of Drew Baylor was referring to, is success in the form of dollar bills.

Many times in Scripture Christians are told to focus on that which is unseen. Paul tells us, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Cor. 4:18] He is reminding us of many truths in this one verse.

First off, we are prone to focus on this world. We love money, nice houses, cars, comfort and pleasure. None of those things are bad in and of themselves, but when they become ultimate things they are sinful. Secondly, Paul is telling us in this verse that we are all going to die. We are going to leave what is seen and we are headed to an unseen reality that is more real than our current life. Lastly, and building off of the second reality, is that we must be willing to sacrifice. I don’t mean that you necessarily need to sacrifice money and possessions, rather, I mean that you might need to sacrifice your standing in the eyes of the world. Scripture is clear that we will have different priorities than the rest of the world. We will stand out, look different, and act different, because we have our eyes set on great things that might not look all that successful in the world’s opinion.

The world’s definition of success is not the Christian’s definition of success. Hollywood continues to crank out movies that are a box office success, but that does not mean they are great movies. I would actually argue that many great movies aren’t made because they won’t be ‘successful’ movies.

While Elizabethtown wasn’t Crowe’s best film, it did remind me of this great truth. Greatness does not always equal success, but success for a Christian is defined differently because of our focus on the next life. For the Christian, our success was achieved by Another, and it is this success that shifts or focus to His Coming Kingdom.

I am not the first to have issues with the Motion Picture Association of America.  I am also not the first (or last for that matter) to write a critique of this association.  However, my beef is more of a frustration with Christians and how they use the MPAA, than with the organization itself.  This entry will be the first of a four-part blog that will hopefully assist us in biblically considering some pitfalls that may arise from the MPAA.

An issue I have with the MPAA is the fact that it caters to our “inner Pharisee” if you will.  Every human being on the face of this earth struggles with a desire to oversimplify things.  If you remember, our first parents (Adam and Eve) were created to live in a perfect existence, but they sinned against God.  Post-sin, everything is difficult, skewed, unclear.  Prior to this sin, everything was easy.  There was no grey area to wade through, there was no evil – it was all very good.  As Tim Keller said at The Gospel Coalition this year, “We all know that we should be perfect.”  This idea of perfection causes us to oversimplify things and the MPAA caters to that.

While the MPAA assists us in the area of discernment, I believe it has actually caused many of us to oversimplify our sin.  Some Christians see the ‘R’ rating and think, “No way!”  The opposite is true as well.  There are those who see ‘Rated-G’ and think, “That film is void of sin!  They must have plucked that one straight out of the garden!”  Although I exaggerate about the degrees to which we consider a film to be good or evil, there is no doubt that the MPAA plays a major role in the films we choose to watch.

This is very unfortunate for a few reasons (you can think of some more).  First, many Christians have made the rating system some type of self-righteous law.  They have become Pharisees and believe that there is more holiness in ‘G’ to ‘PG’ rated films and that there is more evil in ‘PG-13’ and ‘R-rated’ films.  It is no doubt true that there is more mature content with the PG-13 and R films, but we first must stop viewing the ratings as inspired from God.  Although we don’t say that, many Christians think and act in those terms.  We must understand that the people who determine those ratings may not even share the same biblical worldview that we do.  Would you let a complete stranger tell your child what movie they can or can’t see?  This is what we do every time we make a decision based solely on the rating system.

As this post is simply an introduction to begin thinking biblically instead of letting the MPAA think for us, know that this issue is more complex than a simple rating.  We must do the difficult job of using discernment with film and that simply is not cultivated by the MPAA.  Please check back tomorrow for part 2 of 4, as we deal with another concern with the MPAA.

[part 2]