Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Beast Honors: Harvey Korman

Harvey Korman is dead at age 81. Korman was of course most widely known from being a regular on "The Carol Burnett Show" from 1967 through 1978, for which he won several Emmy awards and a golden globe award. I know him best from his portrayal of the hilarious "Hedley Lamarr" in Mel Brook's classic Blazing Saddles. He delivered the classic lines of "now go do that voodoo that you do so well!" and my personal favorite, "I'm through being Mr. Goodbar." Korman also appeared in Brook's History of the World Part 1 and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. He was a talented actor and will be missed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Beast Reviews: Iron Man and Indiana Jones

Actually, to say I am reviewing the films is not really accurate, I don't have the time or the energy to give a complete detailed account. So, here are my brief thoughts.

Iron Man

Iron Man is probably the best comic book adaption I have seen on film to date. I still have a soft spot for the original 1989 Batman with Michael Keaton, but everything about Iron Man works. The "set up" for the movie depicting how Tony Stark becomes Iron Man is beautifully done and unlike other comic book movies, actually pulls you into the movie rather than have you wondering when the fun stuff is going to begin. Not enough good things can be said about Robert Downey Jr - he just absolutely nails the role. It is not an easy thing to portray a character who is clearly an arrogant, selfish, sexist, elitist jerk and still create sympathy with the audience. Yet even when Stark sends his date for the night out the front door in the morning, we still love the character. By the way, this concept is huge in horror movies and is also something that my fav director Michael Mann pulls off in almost every film he makes. We are actually partially rooting for Tom Cruise and Robert DeNiro in Collateral and Heat even though they are vicious killers!

So, I fully recommend Iron Man to all action movie fans out there. Andi even loved it, and she is way more of a Jane Austen kind of gal.

The Beast Paw Rating: 4 out of 4 paws.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I managed to see the fourth entry in the epic Indiana Jones series over memorial day weekend. I was with family and there was 7 of us that viewed the film. The opinions ranged from really enjoying the movie to really hating the movie and everywhere in between. The opening sequence of the movie is extremely rough, with bad acting, forced lines, and a lackluster action sequence. Indiana does not make an epic reappearance. Granted, I loved how Spielberg parody's his opening shot from Raiders using the Paramount mountain. Once the movie gets going, it definitely picks up the pace and there are moments of it seeming to be an Indiana Jones movie. But just not enough of them. In the end, you are left feeling like you are watching a neat tribute to a previous series of great movies. Go see Iron Man first.

The Beast Paw Rating: 2 out of 4 paws

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's A Girl!

Here are some pictures of my baby girl! I am beside myself and have just taken another step in my ongoing journey to better understand the goodness and power of God. Andi and I are now ready to turn our attention to the nursery!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Conversing with Postconservatives

Over the course of the next few weeks I will be dialoguing with a book that deals with postconservativism. Roger E. Olson is a Rice University Ph.D graduate and professor at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is a self-proclaimed postconservative and has written a book called “Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology.” This subject is of immense interest to me so I will be spending some time wrestling with the issues Olson raises in his books. My goal is to approach his method with an open mind while not sacrificing what I consider to be non-compromising issues; it should be noted that I consider myself to be a conservative evangelical. I will be using terms that might not be familiar to the general Lair readership out there, so I will try to define things as I go along.

Olson writes a rather lengthy introduction to his book, almost 30 pages, in which he outlines the thrust of his argument. In fact, the introduction can serve as a Cliff Notes version of the entire book. His thesis is very simple and he clearly states it in the first sentence of the introduction: “The thesis of this book is simple but controversial: it is possible to be more evangelical by being less conservative.” Olson, rightly so, spends a good deal of time defining what he means by “conservative evangelical.” He contends that the word “evangelical” and “conservative” have been inextricably linked both in the popular mind and among scholars that to be evangelical is to be socially, politically, ethically, and theological conservative. He is right. Last year I had an email exchange with my sister-in-law in which I was describing my position as an evangelical but not necessarily a fundamentalist, at least in the way that term is commonly defined. Her reply asked how I could be an evangelical and not be a fundamentalist. Of course, I am mixing words here as well, for being a conservative is certainly not equal to fundamentalism, but nevertheless, the words evangelical, conservative, and fundamentalist all seem to overlap in popular thought. Olson quickly mentions how there have always been authentic evangelical leaders who have been liberal politically and socially, citing current writers Tony Campolo and Ron Sider. From the inside, evangelicalism has become a diverse group with varying outlooks. Olson says that “simply to define oneself as evangelical is no longer sufficient; there are too many types and styles of being evangelical in the world.” So, in order to “pin down” what kind of evangelical one is, many have added the modifier “conservative” before the name evangelical. All of my professors at SBTS would call themselves conservative evangelicals.

Olson gives a brief history of the phrase “postconservative evangelical” by which he begins to establish the difference between that and conservative evangelicalism. Put simply, postconservativism is an attempt to move beyond the limitations of conservative theology without rejecting everything about it. What then follows is an exposition on what conservative evangelicalism is all about and the common features it holds. Tradition is the key word for Olson in defining conservative evangelicals. Olson’s definition is that “conservative evangelical theology is the style of doing theology that relies heavily on authoritative tradition and rejects or consciously neglects the critical and constructive tasks of theology except insofar as ‘critical’ means rejecting new formulations and revisionings of beliefs.” A list of common features includes 1) a tendency to treat correct doctrine – or orthodoxy – as the essence of Christianity and evangelical faith. 2) Revelation is primarily propositional. By this he means that conservative evangelicals believe it is possible to move from biblical exegesis to sound doctrine without the aid of other sources, such as philosophy or culture. 3) Elevates tradition to the status of magisterium for evangelical theology identity. 4) Conservative evangelical theology is done in the grip of fear of liberal theology.

Finally, the heart of Olson’s message, which he will spend the rest of the book describing, is that “postconservatives tend to regard the essence of authentic Christianity and evangelical faith as transforming experience and a distinctive spirituality rather than correct doctrine. In other words, orthopathy (right experience) is prior to orthodoxy in defining true Christianity.

Much of my engagement with Olson’s arguments will come from his subsequent chapters, but I will make two comments here.

First, I agree that conservative evangelicals are not perfect. Where I believe Olson makes a fundamental mistake is by combining authentic conservative evangelical beliefs with its tendency to misstep. In other words, it is true that conservative evangelicals consider revelation as primarily propositional as he mentions in #2 above. Those who identify themselves as conservative evangelicals would have no problem affirming that description. However, Olson’s next point is that they elevate tradition to a place of authority, even above Scripture at times. No conservative evangelical would affirm that point. Now, that is not to say that Olson is wrong; indeed many of us, and perhaps all of us have been guilty of such a crime. However, Olson needs to be clearer as he lists “common features” between those things conservative evangelicals would affirm as their position and those things that might very well be true, but are not who conservative evangelicals would want to be. In other words, conservative evangelicals would say that if we have elevated tradition to that status, we need to fix it. In Olson’s defense, he would counter and say that conservative evangelicals might give lip service to the fact that tradition does not hold as high of a place as Scripture, but that they never do anything about it, therefore they are by default affirming that position.

Second, I disagree with Olson that right experience is prior to right thinking/teaching. This will be the primary point of departure between us. As Olson defines himself more in later chapters, this place of separation will become more evident, but for now, I belief that the only way we can affirm proper action/experience is by placing it against proper belief/teaching. Olson would deny this, but there is a taste of existentialism in his position.

To conclude the introduction, I found it a bit ironic when, during the last paragraph of the introduction, Olson is identifying some areas that set him apart from typical conservative evangelicals. One of those areas is that he supports women ministers in the church. What evidence does he give for such a belief? He writes that “I grew up with women ministers all around me!” So what? If postconservativsm does not elevate tradition to authority, then that should make little difference. Anyway, we will tackle chapter 1 in a couple of days. Blessings!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

Ever since I watched my first video of Evel Knievel attempting his famous jump over the Caesar Palace fountains, I have been fascinated with motorcycle jumpers. If I had even an inkling of a daredevil streak in me (which I absolutely do not) I would have gone into motorcycle jumping, no doubt about it. Watching old Evel Knievel videos is still a great thrill for me. (Incidentally, his son, Robbie Knievel, will be attempting a jump at King's Island similar to the one his father made in 1975 over 14 buses - see below).

Motorcycle jumping has certainly changed over the years. The athletes today are incredibly educated about their sport. Whereas Evel would go on feel, jumpers today tend to be more calculating in their jumps. Hey, I don't blame them, use whatever resources you have to ensure a safe jump. Nevertheless, that was one of the things so exciting about Evel, he just came up with crazy ideas and did them.

Anyway, the point of this post is to explain something about jumping records. In motorcycle jumping, keeping track of world records is quite a chore, it seems that every major jumper these days is claiming to be the world record holder of something. But here is my pet peeve for jumping records - THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RAMP TO RAMP JUMPS AND RAMP TO DIRT RAMP JUMPS. Everyone got that? Most people, even commentators who should know better, tend to just blend the two together, but they are very separate and different kinds of jumps. The first video below is Evel jumping 14 buses at King's Island. Notice his landing ramp, it is the conventional ramp style. The second video below is a beautiful jump by professional jumper Ryan Capes (notice the video says he "smashes the world record for longest jump"). But notice the difference between the landing ramps for Evel and Capes. The difference between the traditional ramp and the dirt ramp does make a substantial difference in the kind of jump you can attempt. A cool jumpers website, www.johnnyairtime.com lists the world records for jumping and they correctly have two categories, one for "ramp to ramp" and another for "ramp to dirt ramp." Unfortunately, their numbers are out of date. As best as I can tell, the current distance record holder for a ramp to ramp is Jason Rennie at 253 feet. The current distance record holder for a ramp to dirt ramp is Robbie Maddson at 321 feet.

Now that the record has been set straight concerning the difference between these two kinds of jumps, I hope your days is a little brighter. Enjoy the videos!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Death in the Family

We have had a death in the family, Andi's grandfather passed away on Thursday. We are traveling to Panama City, FL for the funeral this weekend. Please keep Andi, her family, and our travels in your prayers. See you next week.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Finals Week

I am in finals week, so you won't see much of me around the Lair this week. I did see Iron Man this past weekend and loved it, I will have a full review soon. If you have seen the movie, leave a review here. I would love to read your thoughts.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Iron Man

With over 100 reviews at rottentomatoes.com, Iron Man is at a 95% fresh rating. That is unbelievable. I will be viewing the film this weekend, I will let you know my thoughts.