Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

This is hardly a theological book as most will know. However it a thought provoking classic that makes for good roundtable talks so hence why it is reviewed here. This is a political satire of the highest tier (pun intended for those who speak German). The flow of the book is very fast paced and you’ll blow through the book in no-time. Despite being all animals the characters becoming engaging and it is a fun story.

The basic plot is that animals treated poorly on a farm revolt against their human overlords. The pig Napoleon assumes leadership and institutes a new rule called animalism. The leadership gets corrupted over time and eventually Napoleon becomes the dictatorial ruler over the farm and is not much different from the previous human rulers.

This bought ought to be a mandatory book not just in literature but also in politics class. George problematizes revolutionary forms of government and have good thoughts about power and it’s tendency to corrupt. Animal Farm is a spot on satire of the Soviet Union – particularly under Stalin – but it’s so much more than that. As any good satire it stays relevant and applicable in many other conditions. Regardless of where you are on the political scale read this book and be challenged by it.

Freedom must always be highly valued and not be taken for granted. 10/10

Movie Review: Martin Scorsese’s Silence

By: Dominic Silla

Spoilers: If you have yet to see the film, I would recommend doing so first and then coming back to read this review.

When I head that my seminary was going to be hosting a screening of the new film “Silence” (based on the book by Shusaku Endo) direct by Martin Scorsese I was quite excited that I was finally going to be able to see what everyone was talking about. The idea of seeing the movie brought up within me a mixed bag of emotions and feelings, from who the director was to the subject matter of persecution of Catholic believers. The movie was bound to be an emotionally charged one and to that end, it certainly accomplished its mission.

As the movie opens one is left wondering what is going to happen, where as other films open with a score of some sort or some type of action, the move opens with none of that, just silence. Then you hear crickets and then, you begin to see persecution of Jesuit priests, boiling water from hot spring being slowly dripped onto their skin. This sets the tone for the beginning of the movie, but I was certainly surprised that this is not where the movie sits. It is one thing to make a film about Christian persecution, it is another to provoke conversations and deep thought from almost every moment and I think this is where Scorsese really accomplishes his feat of art.

In a great many movies they are meant to be viewed from the perspective of a spectator. In “Silence” you are forced to connect with the people on screen. The way this is most evident on the front end is what would you do? I’m sure many of us are willing to die for things we believe in. You would die before you give up your treasured beliefs. But what about others? Would you allow them die for what you believe to be true? Do not be too quick to answer. I would recommend that you think on it, wrestle with it, assess what you hold to be true and how it is important and is it enough to make the decision for you.

On a deeper lever though, we identify on a spiritual level. In the character of Kichijiro, we see a man who is continually turning away from God and apostatizing, and yet theologically is this not what we do when we sin against our Lord? This is the thing I was forced to deal with personally. How many times had I purposefully acted against the command of my God? How many times do I sin each day? And yet, this is part of the miracle of God’s grace. By the third time this happened in the film and Father Rodrigues is getting quite tired of giving Kichijiro absolution for his continued failure of will to withstand persecution Matthew 18:22 came into my head. How many times does one forgive this one who continues to apostatize the faith? How many times a day am I forgiven for my own sins. [1]

This film truly does give one pause and force one to think deeply of the themes within. I had the privilege of not only watching the movie for free at my seminary but to be able to stay afterward for a post-movie discussion with Makoto Fujimura. He is the author of “Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering” and advised on the production. His incites into the making of the move and the themes within were indeed eye-opening. Though the movie most definitely has a Roman Catholic bent (the main characters are Jesuit priests), the theme of God’s grace within this film and the book by Endo feature so strongly that he had at points been accused of holding a theology that was more Protestant than Catholic. Endo, himself a Catholic, responded to such things with a simple “Thank You”.[2] It is again, on this very note, that the film speaks to the necessity for conversation. Why do we believe what we believe? What separates us doctrinally? How do we better understand the gospel, which so many have died for within the particular frame of the Japanese Christians up close, but more widely all Christian martyrs in the history?

At one point in the film Fr. Rodrigues, under an interrogation of sorts quotes the Church Father Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. This is a concept that Christians down the ages have assented to and held to, but to repeat what was said above here, how do we wrestle with such ideas and experiences on a personal, intimate, on the ground level. We have been sheltered in the west from persecution like the kind we see in this film, and I think that it behooves Christians to come to terms and discuss such things.

Ultimately, I have a high opinion of this film and I think it is incredibly useful as a discussion tool. I also think that it is one of those unique movies that you can watch multiple times and pick up on new things each time to delve into and think on. A great film and great theme’s with-in for the viewer to wrestle with, what more can the viewer ask for?

 

 

 

Post-Script

A little bit about me, I am a Reformed Christian studying at Westminster Theological Seminary. While there is much that, as a Reformed Christian, that I disagree with, I think that there is a great deal of places where the two parties can come together and discuss or even discuss within their own specific groups. It is also important to note that there will be ideas within the movie that one disagrees with, that is a good thing. It means you are thinking critically of the subject matter and reckoning with it. This movie, and I would venture to say the book before it is a work of cinema, was and is deep seated with culture and should be treated as such. The movie gets people thinking and talking and that is an accomplishment in my book.

[1] I also think that this is a tie in to the gospel. Christ did not die to give me grace for my particular sin(s), He died to give me grace for my sin. As a human being I am one who is sinful to the core, and yet by the indwelling of Christ and the quickening of my soul by the Holy Spirit, I am made into a new creation.

[2] I am not speaking of my own opinion of Catholicism or Protestantism here, commenting on what Endo was himself accused of and how he responded.

Book Review: “The Church in History” By B.K. Kuiper

 

 

Reviewed By: Dominic Silla

 

Upon the recommendation of my pastor, once he learned of my avid interest for the history of the Church, he recommended to me this book as a well written, comprehensive, yet brief (only 400 Pages in total) overview of the historical life of the Christian Church! Written by Mr. Barend Klaus Kuiper in 1951, this high school textbook has seen an number or revisions, corrections, and new editions since then, (six in total I believe) with the most recent reprint in 2000 (at least the copy I have was reprinted then). Published by Eerdmans Publishing Co. the text itself is supported and promoted by the ‘Christians Schools International’. The book was published in Grand Rapid’s, Michigan and it’s price runs between $8 and $20 on Amazon.

There are hundreds of texts on Church history, probably dozens that could be used for a teaching a high school class, so why should one recommend or use this one? Why read this particular text? Being a Reformed Christian myself, the first part that influence me to recommend this book to other readers is that it is history written from a Reformed perspective. Considering the author was a professor of “Dutch Calvinist History” at Calvin College, this is unsurprising to me. While attempting to represent history fairly and honestly, there is no doubt that the author of this text pays special attention to and records a definite Calvinistic bent to history.

Beginning with the foundation of the Christian Church, the author carefully takes the reader through both the timeline of events in the history of the Church and the rise of specific doctrines that have arisen within Christendom down the centuries. From the creedal definitions of the Trinity at Nicaea, to the rise of the doctrine of purgatory; from the popularization of Arminian theology under John and Charles Wesley to the fight to the death between orthodoxy and modernism, this text covers the breadth and width of the history of the Church.

While obviously not every single event, character, or doctrine that one could learn about within the confines of the history of the Church can be covered I would say this text is an excellent primer to anyone seeking to find a place to begin in the study Church history. While many greater texts in Church history can be found, many going into much greater depth than this history, one could do a much worse job. My only two criticisms of this work would have to be first that the text is somewhat dated. Most of the statistics specifically mentioned in the later parts of the book dealing with the modern age are pulled from the 1980’s and the USSR is mentioned as still being a problem. As a result of the dating there arise several numerical errors, and dating errors where the wrong date is mentioned, but these are not pervasive throughout the book.

Secondly, the textbook seems at times to be somewhat culturally insensitive. What do I mean? At times the language used to describe other cultures or persons as inferior or not so important to the grand stage of history comes across as somewhat offensive. In this modern age, where racial and ethnic tensions are very near the surface, if any revisions are to take place in the future, a more attentive hand could be used to fix some of the language and how the general reader would perceive it. However, this may just be the result of importing my modern ideals into the text.

In closing, I would say that this book is worth the read, even as just a primer, but one should not stop here but carry on in their study of Church History! Many more texts, many more in-depth studies remain to be seen. Off the top of my head, Philip Schaff’s 8 volume series “History of the Christian Church”, though dated, is a careful and extensive study of the history of the Church. Another fine work is “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch. Studying Church history, tells us where we come from and helps point out to us where we might or ought to go, and I think this book is a great place to start!