Heaven by Randy Alcorn

December 28, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Theology | 1 Comment

Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  I have been reading this book all year long and wanted to get a review in by the end of the year.  I don’t know exactly how to rate this book without dividing the theological content from the way it is presented.  For content, I would give this book an A+, but for style, I wasn’t impressed with the excessive wordiness and length, a C at best.  The former made this book impossible to quit reading, the latter made it hard to finish, and that’s why it has taken me most all year to work through it.

Let’s begin with an example of the negative.  Alcorn takes 9 chapters and 90 pages to explain that our eternal home is this earth restored what God intended it to be.  He makes his case well with scripture and historical perspective but seems to go on and on beyond both necessity and interest.  I believe he could have said the same thing in two or three chapters.

However, on the theological content side, you don’t want to miss what’s in this book; it is instructive, interesting and even exciting.  After setting it aside, sometimes for weeks, I always had to pick it up and continue, because, in spite of the unnecessary length, what I’d read always came back to excite me.  The ideas presented made it the most thought provoking, inspiring book of the year.

Alcorn’s study of heaven separates the temporal dwelling of those who have died in Christ from the eternal home we will inherit.  This is a division some studies of heaven ignore, and though we use the word “heaven” for both, they are dramatically different.  After a brief discussion of the intermediate heaven, Alcorn describes the eternal home of believers.  They will be resurrected and then will inherit the earth, remade to be what God originally intended it to be.

Christians in North America often have a mistaken idea that heaven is some ethereal place that is not physical, only spiritual, but this idea is totally foreign to the scriptures.  We think heaven is our existing as disembodied spirits floating on clouds and playing harps for all eternity, and, as Alcorn points out, it’s no wonder we don’t’ get very excited about it.  Instead, heaven is the fulfillment of all our righteous longings, right here on this earth, recreated  in God’s perfection, and Jesus will be right here with us, graciously granting us those desires.

Alcorn’s heaven is one of physical beauty, complete with plants, rivers, animals, pets, arts, culture, and a variety of joyful activities, all without sin and all perfectly given to the glory of God.  That’s a heaven I can get excited about!

If this concept of heaven doesn’t sit well with you, then you may be more influenced by North American media than by scripture and the historical understanding of it.  This book would be good for you to read.  If you’re one who can’t get too excited about living in light of eternity, then this book can give you some of that missing excitement.  Take the time to read it; it will dramatically change your perspective.

On a side note, those who hold a dispensational theology will not like Randy Alcorn’s interpretations of some biblical passages, because what he applies to the eternal kingdom, they have often applied to the millennial kingdom.  But, ironically, Alcorn’s interpretation is the more literal of such passages.

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”  Psalm 37:29

“This is my Father’s world; the battle is not done; Jesus who died will be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one.”

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Movie Review: Dawn Treader

December 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

We went to see The Chronicles of Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader over the weekend, and we all enjoyed it.  Here is our short first-impressions review.  Most, if not all, of the major vignettes from the book were included in the movie; however, many of them were changed in detail and order.  There were numerous elements not in the original added to make the film a continuous narrative rather than the almost-disconnected stories found in the book.  I knew with Dawn Treader this would be an issue; the book, as written, would not make a very good movie.  Overall, I think the producers did a good job with the themes they added to connect the story.  Although stretching the idea too far, they magnified a theme from the Dark Island to create a mist that would eventually rule the world with evil, but the crew of the Dawn Treader could stop it, and the major part of their travels is dedicated to that end.  They also added the idea of personal temptation and the strength to overcome it.  I thought they did an especially good job with Lucy’s jealousy of her older sister, an idea that does come from the original book.

We were disappointed that they left out the part of Eustace trying to unskin himself as a dragon before he let Aslan do if for him, one of the best scenes in the seven-book series.  However, to their credit, they have Eustace mention later that he couldn’t do it himself, no matter how hard he tried.  We were disappointed that some of the vignettes ended in ways totally different than the book, when, it seems to me, there was no reason to do so.  How the crew got out of the slave trade in the Lone Islands is a prime example.  Finally, we were disappointed in the 3-D effects.  When you go see this film, don’t bother to pay the extra for it; this film will be just as good viewed flat.  We were especially looking forward to the battle with the sea serpent in 3-D, but that simply wasn’t spectacular at all.

On the positive side, the producers kept the redemption theme in place and, in spite of my complaint above, did show that Eustace had to be changed by Aslan to be a new person.  One of Aslan’s great statements, a line many evangelicals thought would be left out, is left intact.  When they are ready to leave Narnia, he tells the children that he is in their world with a different name. Finally on the positive side, I think they nailed the character of Eustace.  Will Poulter who plays the part was an excellent brat when the role called for it.  Yet the character change, brought on by his encounter with Aslan, is unmistakably portrayed.

I hope this film generates enough revenue to call for the production of The Silver Chair.  Not only is that my favorite book in the series, after Wardrobe, but it would be good to see Eustace again.  Besides, The Silver Chair introduces Puddleglum, one of Narnia’s great heroes and one of my favorite characters.  I’d love to see him on film.

For a different perspective on the added story of the mist, see Douglas Wilson’s review here. Wilson is a well-known pastor, and his son is a popular author of children’s fantasy books like the 100 Cupboards, which I reviewed here.

Remembering Lot’s Wife

December 7, 2010 at 9:47 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Swimming | 1 Comment

I’m writing this while sitting on a school bus for the first time in many years, going with the high school swim team to a meet.  My volunteering for the team has taken up more and more of my time.  With two days of practice and two meets this week, I’ve been busy, and busy minded.  I have spent a lot of mental energy on swimming.  So my mind has been occupied with temporal things.  In the midst of this I read Luke 17:32, where Jesus said “Remember Lot’s wife.”  The Old Testament character Lot was told to flee from the wrath coming upon the city without looking back, but his wife did gaze back and, famously, became a pillar of salt.  Jesus’ words seem like a funny quote in their context.  But it struck me this week that one of the things Jesus is telling his followers is not to gaze back at temporal things – things that will eventually be destroyed – from which we should flee.  I so easily get caught up with things that don’t really matter.  But how do I keep from doing that?  I can’t totally remove myself from temporal things without removing myself from life as I know it.  So I take it to mean that I must not find my life in such things.  Yet when my entire metal energy is given to temporal things rather than eternal things, then I am close to that line.  How can I encourage young swimmers and still invest in the eternal.  I am asking God to help me use this opportunity for eternal things and not just temporal swimming skills.  I don’t know how to do that in a context where I can’t openly share Christ, but I trust he will open the doors.

 

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