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Posts Tagged ‘twilight’

December brings a whole host of DVD releases as Hollywood tries to get as many into stores as possible prior to Christmas. Check out my thoughts on the movies I’ve seen or had reliable recommendations on. Again, if you want to know how I evaluate movies and media, check my Film & TV Mini-Manifesto.

Eclipse (Dec 4)


Twihards and TwilightMOMs will be stoked for this release in the battle of Team Jacob vs Team Edward with a nice battle tossed in at the end for the dudes including some dismembering and decapitation of various unnamed vampires. Definitely the best film of the series (yes, I’ve seen all 3) and probably the most fast-paced and least painful for bros. You know my thoughts on Twilight overall from “The Edwardian Conflict” and The Gospel According to Twilight” and, again, the movies can barely do the books justice. Look for the picture of glorified divinity in the good vampires and the concept of the eternal family. Ultimately, Team Jacob can only offer a finite relationship while Team Edward represents eternity and glory. Let’s move on.

Inception (Dec 7)


This is easily the best movie I’ve seen all year in a year of some really good ones (Shutter Island, Get Low, Crazy Heart). It’s a tour de force that you’ll have to watch multiple times. Nolan is simply phenomenal in how he doesn’t settle for some action flick with an original concept but pushes into the heart of man. I can’t speak highly enough of this film and how I see the gospel woven into the very framework. My post on the father themes in this movie is the most popular post by far of my blog (1/3 of the total hits in November!). Read it here. Read here for a fuller preview prior to viewing.

24: Season 8 (Dec 7)


I had to call this release out. Is this Jack’s last hurrah? Is it just a prequel for a big release movie? Season 8 became fascinating to me once I connected the dots that this was the final season of the series. No one is safe. No line is too far for Jack Bauer. I hated how it finished but I really loved it once I had a chance to think about it. Jack Bauer represents who we want to be while at the same time manifesting the darkness inside of us that we all know is there. My reflection on the series and finale are here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Salt (Dec 7)


I have not seen this film but felt like I should plug it simply because I have not heard a bad thing about it. The previews only show scenes from the first half of the movie and it looks like the previews way overplay the sex – from what I can tell it’s a very clean movie but for language. Watch James Harleman’s thoughts on the film below. I look forward to seeing this movie.

Other releases include the final installment (hopefully) of the Shrek saga (Dec 7), the highly rated (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) war documentary Restrepo (Dec 7), the looks-disappointing A-Team (Dec 14), the heavily recommended
Despicable Me (Dec 14), and Wall Street 2: Greed Again? (Dec 21. The original was one of my dad’s favorite flicks).

UPDATE (1/3/11)

Salt: My wife and I enjoyed this film. By the middle of the film, I had no idea what to expect. I loved the husband and his humble confidence as well as his relentless pursuit after her to win her.  I loved how everything wasn’t necessarily tidied up at the end.

Restrepo: Simply incredible documentary that will enthrall you and break you. It follows a platoon of soldiers deployed in the insanely intense Korengal Valley of Afghanistan for a year. The scene in which one soldier is killed (off camera) and seeing the response of the other soldiers will change how you think about war. This is a must see documentary, very well done, very objective, and will increase your respect and honor for what our soldiers endure. Beware of the language if you’re sensitive to that, I’m not sure if I’ve heard more f-words in any movie (even Tarantino’s films) ever. This film is worth watching though, I highly recommend it.

Update (1/28/11)

Despicable Me: I enjoyed and laughed frequently in this movie. Steve Carell is so funny as Gru and Jason Segel is so over the top as Vector I laughed whenever he came on screen. The end is predictable and I appreciate how they don’t even try to explain the origin of the minions.

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Books I briefly review in this post (click to jump to a specific book):

My Top 5

Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

Here I Stand by Roland Bainton

Hidden Smile of God/Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert


Other Interesting Reads

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Freakonomics/Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner


Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” Ephesians 4:13-15

This might be the best parenting book I have ever read. I’m not exaggerating! Priolo is helpful and practical and yet not overwhelming. Here are his key points:

  1. Use the Bible in instructing your children!
  2. Teach in the moment!
  3. Convict using the Word. Use Scripture to demonstrate to your children where and how they are in sin.
  4. Correct: Intentionally hone in on your children’s sin and work with them to seek change.
  5. Setting good habits for your children is not to be underestimated and requires grace giving training.
  6. Use of the rod must always include reproof, always with the Word of God.

I was convicted through Priolo that I have not been using the Word to make things clear to my older 3. I have even been lazy and have been using unbiblical terms and language, like “frustrated” or even “fussing.” I also think I can take short cuts during times of discipline with my kids and short change them in teaching them and helping them grow. I appreciated how Priolo’s book managed to simplify parenting for me. Parenting and life in general, can feel so incredibly complex most of the time. It’s not complex. Biblically, it’s not. In parenting, Scripture is the primary source and guide. It’s not an option to not use it. Scripture is not simply a tool but a bit more than that. Priolo even outlines how in the NT the use of the Word to bring about change and godliness parallels the Holy Spirit’s work in us. Compare Ephesians 5:18-6:9 and Colossians 3:16-4:1. I highly recommend this book and wish that I would have read it 5 years ago!

‘Oh, it’s not that He [The Holy Spirit] is unable to work if you don’t cooperate. It’s that He has not promised to work apart from the Bible.”


Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

“The human heart is indeed a factory that mass-produces idols. Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced… What we need is a living encounter with God.”

This book surprised me. I read Prodigal God at the end of 2009 and was just destroyed by it and the fresh complete exegesis of Luke 15:11-32. Counterfeit Gods might be better. Keller walks you through different idols we tend to wrestle with in modern America and parallels these struggles with men and women of the Old Testament. Keller gives you a new perspective on Abraham, Jacob, Leah, Jonah, and others. His final chapter with his closing thoughts on Jacob is alone worth the cost of the book. Keller is thorough when it comes to the idols we battle and then he keeps coming with the gospel in response.

“Idolatry distorts our feelings. Just as idols are good things turned into ultimate things, so the desires they generate become paralyzing and overwhelming.”


Here I Stand by Roland Bainton

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” – Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, 1571

Bainton gives us an informative, seemingly complete, and very entertaining biography of Martin Luther. What a stirring and yet encouraging read! If you only have a cursory knowledge of Martin Luther as the catalyst of the Reformation and maybe even the story of how God saved him, or even if you know more about Luther, you have to read this book. Bainton paints Luther as one of us, a man who definitely sought God with all he had but a man with sin, not perfect, who struggled often just as we do. Luther was not the #1 catalyst of the Reformation. Jesus was. Luther can’t even be accurately cast as the #2 catalyst of the Reformation, you have to give that credence to the Vatican who so vehemently and publicly responded to Luther’s 95 theses that it more than blew up in their faces and we were given an unprecedented access to the Bible and renewed faith in Jesus as the center of our salvation and hope.  Luther’s life is a story of a man very much in touch with his own sin and Jesus’ death for it all whom God used in a huge way, a man whose thoughts reverberate with us to this day.

The Hidden Smile of God/Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper

“The question is not whether we die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit.”

These two books are #2 and #5 in John Piper’s “The Swans are Not Silent” series which are based on annually given biographical sermons at Desiring God’s Pastor’s Conference. The Hidden Smile of God deals with the topic of the fruit of suffering and depression in the lives of John Bunyan (late 1600s, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress), William Cowper (late 1800s, poet, friend of John Newton), and David Brainerd (early 1700s, knew Jonathan Edwards). Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ deals with the cost of bringing the gospel to the nations in the lives of William Tyndale (early 1500s England), Adoniram Judson (1800s, first American missionary), and John Paton (late 1800s, Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides cannibals). Both are worth the read simply to get an introduction to these men of God and their trials and struggles. Judson and Paton are 2 of my heroes, men who laid down their lives in pioneer missions. Hidden Smile surprised me in how much it encouraged me. Bunyan was an unbelievable testimony to the Holy Spirit and Cowper and Brainerd are helpful in the reality of their struggles with melancholy and depression.

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.”

-William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”


What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert

“The Bible is the story of God’s counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever.”

God, man, Jesus, response. The Gospel is that simple but you can’t leave any of those out and still call it the Gospel. Gilbert does a great service with this book, systematically simplifying the Gospel for us and then digging into the essentials. It was a good refresher for me in what the Gospel is and in the importance of sharing the words of the Gospel with others. You cannot read this book and then decide to sit back and keep the knowledge to yourself. Gilbert stirs you in the essential truths of the gospel and to walk in confidence in living it and sharing the gospel with those who do not know it or understand it. This book is a short read and good giveaway to others, good both for building up a believer and for a friend wanting to understand the heart of the Bible.

“There could be nothing healthy at all in Christians who couldn’t care less how we define and understand the gospel.”


Other Interesting Reads

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

“Everything belonged to him [Kurtz] – but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.”

I finally picked up this book, the masterpiece that Conrad is known for, about a man’s journey to the heart of Africa in search and in expectation of a confrontation with one man, Kurtz. This story is about his journey but truly about Kurtz, the man he is to meet and confront and Kurtz’s descent into darkness and madness. The first 40 pages dragged a bit for me, it was very difficult to get into, but then the book takes off and you, like the narrator, are just anticipating the meeting with Kurtz and seeing him face to face. An extremely good read. We identify with the narrator, Marlowe, but like him, we grow to identify with Kurtz. Would we do differently than Kurtz? In the deepest part of our hearts, the darkness in our flesh, I think we have to be honest and say we find a Kurtz. That’s the beauty of this story. You’re fascinated with Kurtz but the journey is Marlowe’s.

The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer

Yes, I did plow through all 4 books this past Spring. My thoughts are here and here for my recommendations and why I think this series is so polarizing and so engrossing.

Freakonomics/Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

“Knowing what to measure and how to measure it makes a complicate world much less so. If you learn to look at data in the right way, you can explain riddles that otherwise might have seemed impossible. Because there is nothing like the sheer power of numbers to scrub away layers of confusion and contradiction.”

Freakonomics can be summed up by one word: incentive. What are we motivated by? What incentives work? How does this affect our society? From cheating sumo wrestlers and teachers to prostitution to gang finances and accounting, the first book is a fun and interesting read about practical economics. I love how the notion of innocent altruism is simply wrecked by research and experience. We were made to seek reward! The question is in what? Not in this world. The authors don’t give a solution but definitely infer how many different ways of satisfaction we seek and how it never ends. Freakonomics to me is all about how the world is broke and unsatisfying and yet how thirsty and seeking we truly are. Super Freakonomics did not measure up to the first for me. It did not have the same depth and just was not as fun of a read as the original. Read the first, don’t bother with the second.

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In my previous post, I more or less introduced the Twilight series and tried to give a decent overview for you, including some foreshadowing of some Gospel themes. In this post, I’d like to dig into some Gospel themes and engage spiritually with this series.

Let’s get one issue straight first. I am primarily discussing the books, not the movies. The movies are what they are; the themes are there but, as with any movie, they don’t have the depth or the emotional engagement of the book. The movies are pretty harmless, a little scary, but extremely cheesy and watered down.

A key reference for my thoughts is a talk given by James Harleman, a pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Download or listen to his talk on Twilight, as part of their Film and Theology series: here.

The Gospel of Twilight?

I alluded to a few things in my first post. The vampire motif is turned on its head by Stephanie Meyer. In the past, vampirism has been used as a picture of our sinful nature and slavery to it. See Louis in “Interview with a Vampire” or Morbius in the Spiderman comics and you understand the”Why do I do what I don’t want to do?” picture of vampirism.  It’s a curse with seemingly no way out. The vampire, whether they like it or not, is a danger to those around them and literally sucks the life out of them. Their very core is broken and cursed – just like our sinful nature.  You see some of that in this series, but it’s not the intent. Meyer’s intent seems to be to use vampirism as a picture of divinity.  Edward and his family have an ideal Bella wants–divinity and eternity added to her love for Edward so their love will not end. Some from the Cullen family wrestle with their vampirism, wondering what will happen if they die (they can be killed) and if it’s a curse. Edward wonders if you lose your soul. Carlisle has confidence and optimism in their goodness. However, in all this wrestling, the end reveals Meyer’s intent: the vampire is a picture of divinity and eternity and is the key to eternal happiness. Once Bella is changed, everything goes well and she is ultimately satisfied (once they’re safe and free at least). This is where Meyer’s Mormonism can be seen.  God is a side note, with little relevance in the story. The ultimate ending is a divine family, living happily ever after for all of eternity. For the Cullens, eternity is not complete without their daughter–eternal divine family is the satisfaction.

The Key: Viewpoint of the Story

So where is the Gospel of the Bible? The true attractiveness of the story lies in the narration of the story. Outside of a small portion of Breaking Dawn, we are given a first person account of Bella and Edward’s love story as it is told from Bella’s perspective.  Is Bella missing something before she meets Edward? Yes. Is she lost? Yes. Is she satisfied? No. Is she divine and eternal? No. Each storyline is threaded with her need for Edward. Part of the danger of this series is that Bella and Edward’s relationship is not simply codependent, it’s necessary and glorified! Their codependency is elevated beyond the codependency itself. Once she gives her heart to him, she needs him and is sold out, given only to him. But he is dangerous to her unless she is changed and until they are united in a covenant relationship. Bella is transformed into her glorious vampire body and they fully experience their love for one another for eternity.

Do you see something there? This is beyond a typical love story. There are plenty of love stories out there but why does this one tend to grip women’s hearts so much? Because it is otherworldly and because only Jesus can play the part of Edward! Why do guys hate this series?  Because they’ll never be the noble, perfectly handsome, infinitely strong, wise Edward of the book. Women get sucked in because there is nothing like this in the world. Or is there? We as Christians know there is. This story is Christ and the Church. Jesus loves us like this. Jesus will one day give us glorified bodies in heaven. Jesus is God – He never tires, never sleeps, never forgets, never changes in his love for us. Jesus in TRUTH has an otherworldly love for us.

But Jesus has at least one major difference from Edward. Jesus suffered for relationship with us. Jesus chose to yield his divine nature, become human to get us, to pursue us, and ultimately to pay the price for our transformation. Unlike Edward, Jesus doesn’t need us. Jesus is fulfilled within the love of the Trinity. However, His love overflowed toward us. He was willing to die for us and did it joyfully.  He chose the worst way ever devised to die and to demonstrate His love for us, so we would never doubt his love ever again.

Do you want love like what Bella and Edward share, a passionate, otherworldly, divine, eternal love? Don’t despair or try to escape into a world of fantasy like Twilight. Truthfully there is a love like that for you–in Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

As Harleman says at the end of his message about Twilight: Forget Team Jacob or Team Edward. How about Team Jesus?

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Before I dig in to this to far (as in, a dude discussing Twilight), let’s get the facts straight:

1. I read all 4 books in the Twilight series. I read them for a few reasons: to be a student of my wife (who read the series), to connect and process them with  her, and to try to figure out exactly why this series has been so insanely popular.

2. I have 4 daughters age 4 and under. Translation: people don’t hesitate to remind me that someday my girls will all be teenagers. So let’s just say I have a vested interest in understanding women as best I can and the way most teen girls think!

3. I would not recommend the reading of these books to my teen or preteen daughter (if I had one). In fact, I would hesitate to recommend this series to most of the single women I know who love Jesus. The truth is that these books can definitely act as emotional porn for women – the ideal man, the ideal love story, how Bella is fought for, it can be engrossing for the female mind.

Now let’s dig in. This series has been immensely popular. Many wives I know have all read the entire series. The movies and books have made a ton of coin. Locally there were around 10 midnight showings opening night, and I bet all of them were packed. The fans of the series can be obsessive. From teen girls that have read the books 20 times, to fans visiting the actual town of Forks, to everyday moms, obsessive might be too light of a description. This book has genuinely struck a chord with women and that cannot be denied. Outside of the Twihards, many others mock the series and parody it like crazy, men detest it, feminists deplore the themes, movie critics absolutely destroy it, and Christians have strong responses and concerns about the connection with the occult as well genuine worry about their teen daughters. So what is the deal? Why so obsessed? Why so fired up? Why so revolted? Everybody seems to have an opinion.  To close this post, I’ll touch on a few key themes and then in Part 2 hit upon the gospel themes and where I think Stephanie Meyer’s Mormonism comes into play.

Key Themes

The Feminine Question. Why do women like this story? [SPOILER ALERT] Bella is an unassuming, not so confident, pretty innocent, non-supermodel, teen girl who is swept off her feet by an older, wiser, chaste, extremely strong, extremely handsome, emotionally deep (in the books as least) Edward. He fights for her, protects her, goes to all lengths for her. He even fights for her purity and understands his limits and the depth of his own evil within. He has the capability to do all of this. He falls short in practically nothing. He woos her, seeks to win her heart, marries her, becomes a caring father, saves her life, and they live happily as a divine-like family in love for eternity. Like an arrow, this is straight to the heart of the questions that, in general, women wrestle with: Am I beautiful? Am I worth someone fighting for? Am I lovely?

Non-Traditional Vampires and Werewolves. In this movie, the vampire theme is distorted from the historical legacy. Yes, they need blood to survive. Yes, they are eternal beings who can be killed. Yes, they are extremely powerful. However, the main vampire “family” (the Cullens) in Twilight are like vegetarians, seeing their human blood lust as an evil they must live with but can abstain. Each vampire has a special ability of some sorts – compassion, mood control, reading minds, and even seeing the future. The vampire motif in this series is sort of a like a fallen divineness – changed, made eternal, given a new ability, yet still very flawed and still very dangerous.

Finally, the werewolves are the antithesis to the vampires. They spawn as a counter to the vampire to protect humans. They have extremely hot body temperatures as opposed to the ice cold bodies of the vampires. They are built to kill vampires and have an innate hatred for the “blood suckers”. These werewolves are the “good guys” and are not made from getting bit by a werewolf but from birth.

The Big Picture and Family. The love story begins when Bella and Edward meet, the human killing vampires bring the conflict, the werewolves rise up, more vampires try to destroy what the Cullens have in their family, marriage and parenthood happen, and one final confrontation arises to bring about freedom and eternal happiness as a family. This story is about more than just Edward and Bella but also family and how happiness is ultimately rooted in a family.

In Part 2, we’ll dig a little deeper. What about this story repulses and yet is so attractive? Where is the gospel in all this? Where are the dangers?

Twilight Part 2: The Gospel According to Twilight?

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