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Saturday, 8 April 2017

Inquiry and the question "What is Truth"

   Using "inquiry" as a teaching method has become trendy in recent years.  "Inquiry" in this sense means using students' questions and interests to drive instruction.  In fact, using questions to teach has been a natural part of human development.  Think of any personal experience you've had with a curious pre-schooler and the barrage of questions she asked.  The Greek philosopher Socrates used questions to teach the young people of Athens, while Jesus asked and was approached with hundreds of questions recorded in the Bible.
   One of the questions that Jesus was asked came from the Roman governor Pontius Pilate during Holy Week.  When Jesus told him that he can come into the world to testify to the truth and that "everyone on the side of truth listens" to him," Pilate asks, "What is truth?"
   We are not sure if Pilate was trying to make light of the serious topic, as in "What does truth have to do with anything?"  He may also have been moved by Jesus' succinct and non-political aims.  Either way, Pilate does not expect an answer.  In our world today people may wonder about truth but they don't expect to find it.  This is the dilemma of the agnostic.  For those who teach "inquiry" from that worldview, I imagine it must be unsettling at times to appear to be leading students to truth even when one does not believe there is any absolute truth.
   So, even though Jesus does not address Pilate's question directly, we can find 25 special declarations of truth in John's gospel that Jesus introduces with the formula "I tell you the truth" (or as we may remember from the KJV "Verily, verily, I say unto you").  Here is just a sample of things to take particular notice of:

  • Before Abraham was born, I am!
  • Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
  • Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am my servant also will be.
  • The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
  • Whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Something to think about: Why is truth so important?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Four Short Movie Reviews

   In the past few months I have watched some movies on video and at a screening that I think would be worthwhile for the audience that is interested in the topics on my blog.  I am recommending them to adults as they all raise topics that could be difficult for children and young teens to process.  While some scenes in each film may be upsetting, they are presented with realism rather than for shock value.

The Cross and the Switchblade (1970, rated PG)
   When I was just a child I remember hearing David Wilkerson, a preacher who reached out to gang members and addicts, preach live in my small town church in Canada.  He had with him a group of young men from his "Teen Challenge" ranch, and they shared testimonies of God's power helping them overcome a previously destructive lifestyle.
   The film tells the story of how this pastor found himself in New York City among the toughest gangs whose identities were closely tied to racial hostility.  The Mau Maus and the Bishops intend to ruin an church-like event Wilkerson has organized by turning it into a full-out fight between the gangs, but some of the gang members are touched by the gospel message and the fact that Wilkerson trusted them to take up the offering and not keep the money for themselves.  Hardened gang member Nicky Cruz, played by Erik Estrada, resists the preacher at first.  However, he also surrenders to God and becomes a Christian pastor himself (the latter not shown in the film).

Mr. Holmes (2015, rated PG)
   Even though I have read every short story and novel written about Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as a spin-off series for teens and young adults Boy Sherlock Holmes by Shane Peacock, I don't usually watch movies based on the character because the plots of the movies tend to be sensationalized, violent and not true to the stories I hold dear.
   The film Mr. Holmes is not directly based on any of the detective stories written by Doyle, but it imagines what this brilliant man may have been like in his later years.  What memories would he have of his past career?  How would he keep himself both busy and cared for?  How would he be affected by the reality of aging?  All of these are explored in a way that is true to the character Sherlock Holmes.  The film also shows in a poignant way how each life touches others.
Woman in Gold (2015, rated PG-13)
   This film was recommended by Bob Waliszewski of Focus on the Family's PluggedIn media service, and is among his favourite movies.
   Woman in Gold  is based on a true story and deals with the reality of Nazi art theft during the second world war.  An American senior citizen of Austrian-Jewish background, Maria Altmann, discovers that the well-known painting of her aunt hanging in an Austrian museum rightfully belongs to her. Seeking justice rather than a fortune, she hires a lawyer to try right the wrong.  As she does so, she has to face her memories of the dark times she and her loved ones endured.

She has a name (2016, rated PG-13)
   I watched this film at a special screening sponsored by International Justice Mission.  It tells the painful story of sexual slavery as it continues to exist in Thailand and other Asian countries. It was difficult to watch, but it incites the viewer to take action against such exploitation.  The film was produced and directed by talented individuals with a social conscience who live in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.
   She has a name is not a documentary.  Though some parts are based on true events and cases, it is a fictional story of two different girls in Thailand.  One is trapped in an exploitative situation and is known only as "Number 18."  An American man trying to rescue her and others like her is trying to gather evidence and must earn Number 18's trust during visits that have to appear to the brothel owners as a regular transaction and yet are pure and noble.  He is determined to help her and to restore to her a name and dignity. The second girl is Mae, who is living at a recovery centre for rescued underage sex trade workers.  She also has a hard time trusting those who wish to help her, but in the end she tells her story so that the depth of this kind of abuse can be exposed and fought with greater conviction.