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I recently saw Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight in theaters, twice actually.  It has been a LONG time since I thought I film so well done that it was worth seeing in theaters a second time.  When I say “well done”, I don’t necessarily mean it was an easy trip for the spirit.  It was a rather dark film, and at times hard to watch.

Let me first say that I was blown away at the sheer caliber this film brought to the table under the guise of a comic book spin off.  Granted, the first Batman film Nolan put together was very well done, but this film took the initial momentum provided in the first film, and then proceeded to blow it out of the water.  It was that good.

I’m not going to bore the reader with an unnecessarily long summary of the film, I recommend the reader see the film for themselves, for the plot itself would take most of this entry’s length.

The aspect of the film I wish to highlight, the item I found particularly intriguing, was that of morality; to say it straight, The Dark Night approached ever so close to a Shakespearean morality play, closer in caliber than any other film of it’s genre.

For brevity’s sake, I wish to highlight only one key player in this morality play- the Joker.

There was something about the Joker which left a very bad taste in my mouth.  It was not the fact that his sadistic nature was so brilliantly acted by the late Heath Leger, nor even the fact that the Joker’s level of violence and perversion caused many (including myself) to turn away from the screen at certain points in the film.  No, the bad taste was left for the simple reason that the Joker was inexplicably, and completely, human.  To clarify, many villains in super hero films come across as frightening characters, but inevitably unbelievable as reality ultimately gives way to fantasy.

Now, a swift outcry the above statement will undoubtedly incur is one of disagreement.  How was the Joker a picture of humanity?  If anything, he was a picture of inhumanity, right?  First, I agree, the Joker was a picture of inhumanity, and to clarify, I am not saying that his human nature was anything to be aspired to.  But perhaps that’s the point?  As we look at his character, what do we see?  Rebellion?  Aggression?  Sin?  Let us look at the Joker in his own words:

“You have all these rules and you think they’ll save you.”

“The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

“It’s not about money… it’s about… sending a message. Everything burns.”

“I’ll show you, that when the chips are down, these uh… ‘civilized people’, they’ll eat each other.”

“See, I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.”

“Madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little…push.”

(to Batman) “You just couldn’t let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won’t kill you, because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”

(to Harvey Dent/Two-Face) “You know what I am, Harvey? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one. I just do things. I’m a wrench in the gears. I hate plans. Yours, theirs, everyone’s. Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans. Schemers trying to control their worlds. I am not a schemer. I show schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.”

(to Harvey Dent/Two-Face) “Look what I have done to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple bullets. Nobody panics when the expected people get killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plans are horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics. But when I say one little old mayor will die, everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I am an agent of chaos. And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey? It’s fair.”

“Why so serious?”

Do we see any recurring theme?  The Joker is a self-proclaimed agent of chaos and hater of order/rule, this much we see.  Yet the irony lies distinctly in the fact that the Joker does not believe himself to be crazy.  In fact, he distinctly states this in the film.  However, based on his brutal actions, how is this statement rationalized?  The key here is that of morality, and if we read between the lines, we will see a philosophical treatise being promoted by the Joker, namely, in a world where morality can only be designed and dictated by the morally depraved, there are only two the logical alternatives, and they are chance or self-rule.  The problem with these two alternatives is that they lead to a system which is, ultimately, unlivable.  Chance (promoted in the film by Harvey Dent/Two-Face) is indeed a fair system in as much as everyone gets the same treatment, but it is also a faulty system, for it is unable to fix the inherent problems within its own system, namely, injustice.  Granted, injustice is also a problem when morals are created by immoral people, but the key difference is that in their system, injustice can be addressed, and even corrected.  In a system of chance, a flip of a coin is still and flip of a coin.  Self-rule, the other alternative, is another viable presented option.  Yet in this system, morality is no longer understood in terms of society, but in terms of the individual, and justice is therefore made null, for my scale of morality may be severely obtuse to your own.

The Joker succeeded in being a active and vibrant proponent of his own philosophy, of this much I am sure, and as we peered into his dark heart, perhaps we saw our own?  The chaos of his heart, the chaos of our own.  The rebellion of his heart, the rebellion of our own.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Thought they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” – Romans 1:28-32

Who is Paul describing here?  It’s not the Joker, for believe it or not, he is describing the hearts of all of those apart from Christ!  In the Joker, we see the utter rebellion of our own hearts against the law of God.  In the Joker, we see our sinful heart’s innermost desire, autonomy from all else, where all that is left is a system of chance acting on chaos.  We would be gods ourselves, answering to no one, and in a world with no ultimate authority, the only sensibe way is to live without rules.

But our hearts have born testimonies against us, and we are left to plead our case against a righteous Judge, one that does not give in to partiality.  The punishment shall fit the crime, and the deserved punishment is death.

This is the truth.

Yet there is another truth, one which succeeds where the other fails.  This truth bears with it a most amazing realization, namely, the Joker himself (upon repentance) is not excluded from Mercy.  He is not excluded from Grace!

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:8-11

As for me, I have decided to follow Jesus.  I rejoice in the grace of God which is found in the life and death of His Son.  I rejoice that God raised Him up from the dead, so that we now have an advocate in heaven, pleading on our behalf.  Christ has taken my Joker’s heart, and is renewing it.  The decay, the rot, even the smeared face-paint are being gently washed away with the blood of the Lamb.

I recently completed one of the books on my reading list for this summer.  It was called The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias.  In his book, Zacharias responds to the attack made on a “Christian nation” by the famous “pop-atheist” Sam Harris.  Zacharias clearly and lucidly refutes Harris’ attack on God as “nothing more than a figment of one’s imagination.”  He also responds to Harris’ attacks on Christianity as “regularly practicing intolerance and hatred” along with affirming the “dependability of the Bible…[and] the power and goodness of God.”

Zacharias, who was not always a Christian, began his book with many personal statements on his own atheism, and his ultimate suicidal thoughts due to this worldview.  As a philosopher himself, he related best with the atheist philosopher Camus , who wrote, “There is only one serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.  Judging whether life is or is not worth living…”  Zacharias himself attempted suicide, but failed, and wound up in a hospital.  There he was given a Bible, read the gospel, and was saved.

After his own faith story, Zacharias spends the rest of the book explaining how the Christian religion stood up to his own philosophical inquiry as the best representation of reality.  His argumentation was powerful and direct, and can be summarized thus:

Every person possesses a paradigmatic approach to understanding reality.  The correct philosophic question is not, therefore, an intraparadigmatic assessment of truth, but an interparadigmatic assessment of truth.  If everyone possessed the same paradigm, it would be an intraparadigmatic case, but this is simply not the case.  Therefore, for example, to dismiss anothers worldview as “childish” based on an intraparadigmatic assessment is admissible only if you have interparadigmatically assessed your own worldviews truth.  In other words, to say the God cannot exist because all that exists is nature is a faulty argument because it assumes a naturalist worldview.  The question must therefore be, “Which paradigm best holds up as the most accurate assessment of reality?”

Zacharias then points to four foundations of reality which each paradigm must address in order to be recognized as the best assessment of reality, and they are: origins, meaning, morality, and hope.

I am not going to elaborate these points, for I want to give you, the reader, the option to pick up this book and read them for yourself.  But I will say that Zacharias give powerful arguments for Christianity as being the best assessment for reality based on these aforementioned foundations.

Overall, I found this book to be a short, but powerful tool for the Christian apologetic mind.  I would highly recommend this book, along many other titles by Zacharias (for a list, contact me).

9 out of 10 stars.

It’s summer, July actually, the months are flying by.

It is very strange to think that I will have no real “transition” in September.  No school.  Granted, I have experienced this once before, but at that time, it really didn’t hit me like it’s doing now.  For me, the seasons have now become differentiated around temperature, not school.  In other words, my “summer” will last as long as the temperature stays above 60 degrees.  It’s a nice thought.  I’m hoping for summer to stick around at least through October, but I live in the Midwest, so here’s wishing.

So back to summer.  It’s definitely wedding season.  I have attended three weddings so far this summer, and I have stood in all three, all as a groomsman.  I have thoroughly enjoyed that role, mainly because you don’t really have to do anything except look nice.  To a modest degree, that I can handle.

A friend once told me that groomsman are third-class wedding material; they are accessories.  Groomsman are accessories to the bridesmaids, who are in turn accessories to the bride.  In rank of order, that makes us number three.  I’ve always wondered where the groom fits in.

I would consider myself to have six close friends.  I suppose you can call them “best friends”, but that is a messy term, and more apt for playground politics.  This number does not include siblings or mentors, but simply peers of my gender with whom I have been blessed with good, long-lasting friendship.  To make an extensive story manageable, five out of the six have been married in the past eight months, all to beautiful, Godly women.  I was able to celebrate with most of them, and as previously noted, I stood in three of the weddings, which was truly an honor.

 Marriages are a wonderful thing, and the more I experience them, the more I grow to revere the institution.  I find it wonderful and fitting that God Himself preformed the first marriage by giving Eve away to Adam.  I find it even more honoring that the apostle Paul give marriage the amazing office of representation for Christ’s relationship to the church.

Marriage has form and function.  The form of marriage is Christ-centered love.  The function of marriage is to live out the aforementioned truth as living witnesses of Christ.

Marriages are as missional as they are Christ-centered.  The mission of marriage is to radiate the love of Christ and the church through the radiation of love, compassion, grace, etc. towards each other.  This is an extremely powerful testimony, especially in an age where marriage is so strongly thwarted, namely, “one man to one woman for life.”  Now, I do not say this to say that Christian marriages are always perfect, for on this side of heaven, the only thing that was ever perfect was the person Jesus Christ.  This is why the charge of marriage, and the vows taken, must be ever so severe.  “Until death do us part” does not bring to mind a garden, but a battlefield.  Marriage brings struggle.  There will be temptation (Christ was tempted), heartache (Christ was rejected), tears (Christ wept), and pain (Christ was crucified).  But through all of this, we may still be of good cheer, knowing that He who holds marriage together has overcome these things, and has risen to glory, interceding to the Father for us.  He knows our struggles, and is able to grant us rest, both in His work on the cross and His words of life.  Therefore, in all these things, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angles nor rules, nor things present not things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But there is something else, another function of marriage, and we see this function in the very inception of the institution.

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone…”

To understand the weight of this statement, one must first understand the intimate love already found in the Godhead, the Trinity, before creation ever came into being.  It is a common misunderstanding to state that God created humanity so that He had someone to love.  Yet common as it is, it is also an extremely damaging statement, for it robs us of the truth of the nature of God, and it does so at the very inception, therefore polluting all that is to follow.  The truth of the matter is that God was already experiencing perfect love in Himself before the world began.  The reason He created was not so He could love, but that He may be glorified, with the utmost expression of this being his saving work of Christ on the cross.  Now, I am not saying that God didn’t intend to act in love with His creation, for to say this would be utterly false.  All I am saying is that it was not God’s impetus in creation.  His impetus was glorification, the means to this impetus was the grace and love shown to us, his children, and expediated through the working of His Son on the cross.

Therefore, we understand the existing love found in the Godhead, and now we find Adam.  The natural question to arise would be, “Would not direct communion with God be enough to suffice that which was lacking in Adam’s state?”  This question presents some misleading assumptions, namely, if the answer is “no” then God is lacking something in His perfection, but if the answer is “yes”, they why create Eve?  To understand this apparent dilemma, we must understand two things.  First, God created man as a social being, and secondly, a being most directly relates to their own kind.

To highlight the first point, Biblical commentator Matthew Henry writes, “Perfect solitude would turn a paradise into a desert, and a palace into a dungeon.”  Therefore, no matter how perfect Adam’s surroundings, the longing of his heart was for companionship.  But again the question is asked, “Was not communion with God enough?”  Here we must understand the second point, and an act of pitied grace from God on Adam.  It is made painfully obvious that Adam could not find a suitable helpmate among the animal kingdom, and this I believe points to the fact that man most directly relates to their own kind.  God communed with Adam, but He was also God, something Adam could never fully relate to.  It is a beautiful picture when God presents Eve to Adam and Adam states, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”  God had given Adam a counterpart, God had given Adam a helpmate, God had given Adam a wife.

However, perhaps there is something deeper happening here, something spiritual, something pointing to Christ.  I think there is.  As Adam yearned for a counterpart, someone after his own kind, we see that God brought Eve to him in marriage, but we also see a deep foreshadowing of another yearning, namely, a communion with God on Adam’s level, a communion with someone of his own kind, communion on a human level.  And so the astounding picture becomes clear- Adam was yearning for Christ!  Christ, who was 100% God and 100% man!  The perfect intercessor for perfect communion!  This beautiful mystery becomes all the more clear as we once again return to the parable that marriage is telling, namely, the relationship of Christ to the church!  As the first marriage was instituted in Adam, so also was the final marriage looked forward to!  And so, in marriage, we are not only charged to love one another as Christ loved the church, but we are also charged to never lose sight of the story that marriage is telling, namely, that we have a Beloved who is pursuing our hearts relentlessly, and who eagerly looks forward to His bride, the church, as we are presented to Him, in glory, at the marriage supper of the Lamb!

And so, the final charge:  LIVE THE PARABLE!

To close, I chose a passage of Scripture from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”