Fanny Crosby: The 19th Century Wonder Woman

I admit that I have not seen the new Wonder Woman movie yet, but I have seen a viral video in which it inspired a brave young lass to dress up…as something…and attempt all manner of swordplay with a toy sword and awkward acrobatics. I have also read lots of reviews of Wonder Woman; you can read Phill Lytle’s excellent review right here. While I fully intend to see Wonder Wonder, all the hubbub has put me in mind of an actual and probably far greater Wonder Woman of days gone by. While Wonder Woman herself is a daughter of Zeus, I am referring to a daughter of the one true God in heaven. I refer to no other than one of the greatest hymnists who has ever lived: Fanny Crosby. Fanny is mainly known by history as a great blind hymnist, but it might be that she would not want to be remembered for only her hymn writing. She regarded this as only part of her life and ministry, but certainly not all of it. And she was right to think that; her life and ministry included much more. During her life in addition to her status as The Queen of Gospel Music, she would serve as a teacher of the blind, a much in demand public speaker, and a full time minister among the homeless.

The Early Years

Crosby was born on March 24, 1820 in Southeast Putnam County, New York, in a small community called Gayville. About six weeks after she was born Crosby caught a bad cold. In the absence of the community doctor, a well-meaning neighbor stepped in claiming to have medical knowledge and know-how. He applied hot poultices (wet washcloths) to Fanny’s eyes in a misguided attempt to draw out the infection. The man succeeded only in permanently blinding her. (At this time her parents didn’t know it was permanent and fully believed her sight would return after a time.)

When Fanny was almost one her father John Crosby died. That is when Fanny and her mother Mercy moved in with Fanny’s grandmother, Eunice Crosby. Eunice Crosby would do much of the mothering of Fanny until she was five. During this time she did everything she could to strengthen her granddaughter’s powers of memory and to help her see the world without eyes. As an adult, Fanny would recall how “Grandma…brought the Bible to me, and me to the Bible. The stories of the Holy Book came from her lips and entered my heart and took deep root there” (This is My Story, This is My Song, Fanny Crosby).

The Formative Years

When Fanny was about five her mother took her to New York to see Dr. Valentine Mott, a famous eye doctor. After inspecting Fanny, he informed Mrs. Crosby her daughter would never see again. This devastated Mrs. Crosby. However, Fanny herself was secretly relieved. She would never be able to see her blindness as anything but a gift from God.

Shortly after this disappointing visit Fanny’s mother acquired a job in North Salem, Westchester County just south of Gayville. They still lived close enough to Gayville that Eunice Crosby was able to visit several times a week, but when Fanny was eight or nine they moved again after her mother landed a job in Ridgefield, Connecticut. This was much too far away for her grandmother to come visit all the time.

During these years, God had another kind caretaker took Eunice Crosby’s place in Fanny’s spiritual and mental education. We know this goodly individual only as Mrs. Hawley. Under Mrs. Hawley’s care by ten years of age Fanny could recite by memory the Pentateuch, Proverbs, the four Gospels, numerous poems, and portions of a number of books. Her mental library would only grow as she got older. Eventually, she did not have to have someone read the Bible to her; she could just recite any passage she wanted. Fanny never thought this an extraordinary feat. She sincerely believed that a blind person could do everything a person with sight could do—and sometimes even better. In one of her autobiographies she says, “It has always been my favorite theory that the blind can accomplish nearly everything that may be done by those who can see. Do not think that those deprived of physical vision are shut out from the best that earth has to offer her children” (Fanny Crosby, Memories of Eighty Years).

From an early age she was developing an extraordinarily descriptive mind and a keen writing ability. She wrote her very first poem when she was eight. When she was in her teens she submitted works of poetry to a nearby paper. This paper was published by the soon to be famous P.T. Barnum. It was also during these formative Ridgefield years that Fanny’s desire for formal education began to grow.

The Student Years

In 1834 Fanny and her mom left Ridgefield and returned to Westchester County. In November of that same year they first saw an advertisement for the New York Institution for the Blind. On March 3, 1835, Fanny set off for New York with a traveling companion to enter the institute. After enrolling in and beginning attendance of the school, Crosby quickly became known among the faculty, staff, and student body for her poetry. It was during these early student years that she first became well respected among the literary community of New York and in demand for her poetry skills.

A superintendent of the school named Mr. Jones foresaw the danger of this still young student being ruined by vanity from all the high praise. He therefore cautioned her against letting this vanity get the best of her. At the same time he commanded her to not write poetry for the next three months. He did this partly to temper her growing vanity and partly to test her commitment to writing poetry. After proving herself (and learning to temper her vanity) she was encouraged to write to her heart’s content. This is when a literary mentor named Hamilton Murray stepped in. Murray was a member of the Board of Managers of the institution who had great writing sensibilities and skill. He took her under his wing and taught her to write better. With his guidance, Crosby was able to branch out into other areas of writing. For instance, with his help she put her mind to writing poetry for campaigns and other political events.

The Teaching Years

In 1843, Fanny graduated from the institute. During that same year she became a teacher there. It was also during that same year that her health began to decline somewhat. Nevertheless, she still took a number of students to on planned trip to Washington D.C. While there, she recited some of her poetry to the politicians. This trip to Washington was such a success that Crosby would later take a second group of students to the U.S. capitol.

By 1845, she was gradually getting more and more into song lyric writing. During that year a man named George F. Roots came to the school to teach music. In 1853, the two composed a cantata called “The Flower Queen.”

Fanny was also began publishing books of poetry during these teaching years. In 1844 she published her first official book of poems: “The Blind Girl and Other Poems.” This book also contained her very first hymn which she called “An Evening Hymn.” In 1851, she would publish another book of poetry called “Monterey and Other Poems.”

Some really big events happened in Fanny’s life in between these two books, in 1848 and 1849, the land was stricken by cholera. Like thousands throughout the country, many of the students died. It was so bad that during August of 1848, Crosby was ordered to retire to the country so she too would not get sick. This was not an uncommon practice at this time; many city dwellers were departing the city to avoid the close quarters that fostered the disease. She did retire to the country, and it was not only a salvation for her physical self; it was a life changer for her spiritual self as well. During her time away from the institution, she received a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. This was not something that had just happened all of a sudden. Several years earlier in 1845 she had first met her spiritual mentor, Theodore Camp. He was instrumental in bringing her to Jesus on November 20, 1850 at a revival at the Broadway Methodist Tabernacle.

The Latter Years

Fanny met her future husband, Alexander Van Alstyne when he was a student at the institution in 1855. (He was 11 years younger than her.) After he graduated from school, he became a teacher and became engaged to Fanny. Three years later the couple resigned and very shortly thereafter got married.

Little is known regarding their married life, but there are three facts that are pretty clear: First, although very amicable and still doing some things together, they lived apart and had separate lives for the majority of their married life. Second, a few years after they were married they had a daughter who only lived for less than a day. Third, they would remain married until he died on July 18, 1902.

In 1858, the year she had resigned from teaching and gotten married, the stage of her hymnist career was set. During this year Fanny published “A Wreath of Columbia’s Flowers.” This would be her final book of poems before starting to write hymns. This next phase of her writing career was instigated in December 1863 after she was asked to write a hymn for the Dutch Reformed Church. She did so well on this project that an arrangement was made for her to meet the famous hymnist William B. Bradbury on February 2 of the next year. A historic years-long collaboration ensued. It was not long afterward that she became known to evangelists and pastors on both sides of the Atlantic as Aunt Fanny and the Queen of Gospel Music. Many of these ministers commonly used her work in altar calls. The world famous evangelistic team Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey utilized her songs in this way throughout the 1870s and onward. The greatness of Fanny’s hymns comes from their ability to be understood and to touch the lives of ordinary people.

By the time she died in 1915, Fanny would pen at least 9,000 hymns. Although she mostly signed them with her given name, she wrote a lot using psuedonymns. She is believed to have used almost 200.

It was also during these years of growing worldwide fame that Fanny became a much in demand public speaker at churches and charitable organizations. It is said that she was exceptionally gifted at this role.

The Last Years

By the 1880s, Fanny was both living and working in the slums. Her work in the missions here gave her the opportunity to evangelize common people on a personal basis.

At the same time she kept busy with her writing life. During these last years, she would write two autobiographies: “Fanny Crosby’s Life-Story, By Herself” in 1903 (out of print) and “Memories of Eighty Years” (retitled Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography) in 1906.

Fanny died at the age of 95 sometime during the night between February 11 and 12, 1915. On her tombstone are the words, “She hath done what she could” (from Mark 14:8). Of the thousands of hymns Fanny penned, most have been forgotten, but those used in churches around the globe throughout the decades have been priceless tools in touching lives for Jesus and continue to be so. Fanny Crosby was a true Wonder Woman for the cause of Christ—a Wonder Woman for the ages.




The Definitive Guide to Awkward Silences

So you’re out and about, gallivanting around town with someone, anyone. It may be a good friend, a mere acquaintance, a close family member, a distant relative, whatever. Anyway, there is the dreaded lull in the conversation and you’re thinking, “Oh great, this is awkward. Now they’re going to hate me forever because I haven’t done my part to fill every millisecond of silence with some sort of jovial conversation. And they obviously already do hate me because they are awkwardly silent as well. What’ll I do! What’ll I do! Say something! SAY SOMETHING!” Hang on, my friend, things may not be as grim as you imagine. There may be a good reason for their silence. Here are five kinds of awkward silences and their logical reason.

1. The Awkward Silence of Feasting – Talking between bites is fine and dandy, but I prefer to spend most of my time while eating concentrating on my food. I know I’m not alone in considering feasting a very, very serious business indeed. However, there are those who have the gift of concentrating on eating while holding a continuous conversation without showing everyone the matter wallowing around in their face. Unfortunately there are also those people who do both of these things, but don’t possess this gift. These poor souls just can’t talk (but insist on doing so on a constant basis) without displaying the food in their mouths to the world. If you are such an individual, you are very well advised to primarily restrict yourself to consumption concentration.

2. The Awkward Silence of Contemplation – Sometimes what you construe as an awkward silence might just be the other person thinking. There are those who have been known to do strange things like this from time to time. There are dozens of us! Dozens!!!! There is so much to think about: Thoughts and thoughts in thoughts and thinkers’s of thoughts and thinkers’ of thoughts in thoughts in thoughts. It never ends. I’m putting private prayer in this category.

3. The Awkward Silence of Concentration – This is related to contemplation but is more specific. While in contemplation you are considering a thought or group of thoughts in your head; with concentration you are honing in on something in the real world like a book, a movie, Bigfoot in the backyard, etc., etc., etc. Maybe your awkward silence right now is a result of reading this article. If so, bless your heart all to pieces, my friend.

4. The Awkward Silence of Friendship – It is often the case that when people are best friends or close family for a long time, the awkward silences turn into comfortable silences. At least that is often the case. Maybe you are one of those souls where no amount of familiarity can instigate the awkward silence of friendship. If this is the case, I feel for you, but know that this is a community of welcoming and acceptance. We embrace all levels of awkwardnicity. Other than that, I don’t know what to say. This is awkward.

5. The Awkward Silence of Awkwardness – Okay, there’s no way to get around this one. Sometimes an egg is just an egg. There’s no confetti or chocolate inside. Sometimes the awkwardness is mutual. In other words, you are right to be as full of despair and anguish as you originally thought. Kidding. It’s never the end of the world. Or is it?

There you have it. There is usually a mixtures of two or more of these visages of awkward silences. For instance, for me it might be the awkward silence of feasting and concentration if I’m eating lunch while watching Bigfoot play with the cats in our backyard.




Five Classic Curmudgeons of TV and Film

Movie and Television history is profuse with amazing and unforgettable crusty old men. Mean, cranky, ancient, eccentric – got to love those aged dudes and their disdain of all these hippies (everyone under 50) and newfangled contraptions. In our adoration of these wise, gray-haired, ne’er-do-wells, we have decided to highlight five iconic crusty old curmudgeons from either film or TV lore. Note: This is not necessarily a “best-of” list. These are simply the five cantankerous old coots that we have chosen to write about. – Ben Plunkett

 

Arthur Spooner – The King of Queens
by Gowdy Cannon

Frank Costanza could go from 0 to outrageously psychotic in two seconds. Arthur Spooner could get there, just a bit more slowly. And sometimes that was actually funnier. Arthur was Carrie’s dad, but it was his interactions with son-in-law Doug that showed how uninhibited Jerry Stiller was as a comedic actor and that caused me to cry tears from laughter. From the simple way he called him “Douglas” to their insane, petty, over-the-top, roll-on-the-floor-laughing showdowns in the kitchen, Arthur Spooner was just different enough from Frank, yet just enough the same. My favorite moments:

–Arthur tries some of Doug’s kids breakfast cereal and gets the prize 3D glasses. Doug is clearly upset because the cereal is his but he tries to be an adult about it. But he can’t because Arthur won’t stop acting juvenile. So Doug acts childish in return and the back and forth ends with Arthur ripping up the glasses and Doug destroying the still-full box of his own cereal as Carrie walks in.

–Arthur asks Doug how many stamps he needs for tickets he is mailing. Arthur doesn’t like Doug’s answer so Doug insults Arthur’s mooching off his family. It ends with Arthur destroying Doug’s sandwich and Doug destroying Arthur’s mail.

–Arthur asks Doug to pass the “catsup”. Doug won’t until he says “ketchup”. Arthur refuses so Doug pours an insane amount of ketchup on Arthur’s burger, demanding that Arthur call it “ketchup” as both yell back and forth until Arthur cedes. “And that’s how we learn”.

(And my personal favorite)

–Doug is answering a political survey over the phone when Arthur comes in and tries to make a phone call on the same line. He realizes what Doug is doing, insults his answers and this begins an exchange of severe putdowns between the two (including “Why don’t you tell him you’re enormous?” and “Why don’t you tell him you live in our basement?”) that ends with Doug asking “Why don’t you tell him your total salary last year was $12?” To which Arthur replies: “That was after taxes!” I don’t know why that Arthur line is so funny. Maybe the look on his face. Or the volume of the conversation. Or how inane the comment is. But I hurt from laughing at it and I’ve seen it several times.

As far as cranky old curmudgeons, Arthur Sponer takes a backseat to no one.

 

Carl Fredricksen – Up
by Phill Lytle


Merriam Webster defines crotchety as: subject to whims, crankiness, or ill temper. Thesaurus.com gives us these synonyms for crotchety: Cantankerous, crusty, grouchy, grumpy, and ornery. When we first meet the older Carl Fredricksen, he is all these things and more. He has grown sour after the passing of his beloved Ellie. He is prone to outbursts of anger, is mean-spirited to Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer.”, and doesn’t seem to enjoy much about his life anymore. In other words, every second he is on screen is a joy for the audience. His complaints are hilarious. His lack of patience with Russell, and anyone else for that matter, never ceases to amuse. Buried deep down in Carl is a noble, honest, and good man. It takes some time for the audience to find it, but the journey is no less enjoyable during the search.

Favorite moments and lines:

Already exasperated with Russell’s constant talking and enthusiasm, Carl says, “Hey, let’s play a game. It’s called “See Who Can Be Quiet the Longest”. The line is perfectly delivered by Ed Asner, one of the great curmugeonly actors of all time. But the response by Russell takes the joke to another level, one that makes us laugh, but also reveals a great deal about our main characters, “Cool! My mom loves that game!”

Once they have nearly reached their destination by air, they are forced to continue the rest of the way on foot. Carl, wanting things quiet delivers this little nugget of gold to Russell, “Now, we’re gonna walk to the falls quickly and quietly with no rap music or flashdancing.” I’ve always loved that the two things Carl mentions are rap music and flashdancing, as if those were obviously things Russell would be involved in.

Finally, early in the film, when the builders are trying to get Carl to leave his home, he spots one of the businessmen in the distance. The man is wearing a suit, looking distinguished and professional. Carl yells at him, “You in the suit! Yes, you! Take a bath, hippie!” I think that one speaks for itself.

 

 

Merlin – The Sword in the Stone
by Ben Plunkett and Phill Lytle

He is, perhaps, the progenitor of all curmudgeons. Merlin is both cranky yet full of vigor. Quick tempered yet a great teacher. Ornery yet kind and caring. The first time we meet this magical old hermit is right after young Arthur literally drops in on him and Merlin is literally waiting. Along with Merlin’s even more curmudgeonly pet talking owl, Archimedes, Arthur is prepared for his rightful place of king. Every kid I knew wanted to have a mentor like Merlin, someone who could transform us into a fish or a squirrel. Someone who could teach us about the world. Someone to take note of us and invest in our lives. Someone who would fly off the handle and disappear to Bermuda when he got angry…

Favorite moments and lines:

Merlin tries to explain the way of the world to young Arthur, telling him that everyone faces adversity, “Oh, bah! Everybody’s got problems. The world is full of problems.” Merlin gets his beard caught in the door and yells, “Oh, blast it all! There, now! You see what I mean?”

When Merlin transforms Arthur and himself into squirrels, an older, lady squirrel becomes quite enamored with Merlin. Growing every more frustrated, yelling “Madame!” at key points of discomfort, Merlin finally decides enough is enough, “By George! I’ve had enough of this nonsense! ALAKAZAM!” He transforms himself back into a human being, leaving the female squirrel confused and upset. “There! Now you see? I’m an ugly, horrible, grouchy old man!” Even Merlin recognizes that he belongs on this list.

While he could be a very grouchy curmudgeon, Merlin also had times of great wisdom, like when he taught Arthur the lesson of love during his very squirrely adventure: “Ah, you know, lad, that love business is a powerful thing,” said Merlin.
“Greater than gravity?” asked Arthur.
“Well, yes, boy. In its way, I’d, uh… Yes, I’d say it’s the greatest force on earth.”

 

 

Frank Costanza – Seinfeld
by Ben Plunkett


Ah, Frank Costanza. Prone to psychotic outbursts. Hilariously and boisterously confrontational. No wonder his son George is a mess (with the very capable assistance of the almost equally psychotic Estelle, of course). The senior Mr. Costanza was portrayed to perfection by Jerry Stiller, whose acting, I imagine, was key to making Frank one of the most iconic crusty old curmudgeon’s of all time. But like all of Seinfeld, there was seriously great, hilarious, and memorable writing going down. A handful (but not nearly all) of Frank’s most memorable quotes and moments:

– “Serenity Now!”

– In my mind the episode “The Strike” is the perfect Seinfeld episode in just about every way. It is in this episode that much to George’s chagrin, Frank’s creation, the alternative holiday Festivus, is revealed to the world.

– “This is Frank Costanza. You think you can keep us out of Florida? We’re moving in lock, stock and barrel. We’re gonna be in the pool. We’re gonna be in the clubhouse. We’re gonna be all over that shuffleboard court. And I dare you to keep us out!”

– Festivus wasn’t the only case of Frank thinking outside the box. In the episode “The Doorman” in another insane fit of invention Frank collaborates with Cosmo Kramer to invent the Bro/Mansierre to assist older fellas in holding up their increasingly sagging chests.

– “He stopped short. You think I don’t know what that’s about? That’s my old move! I used it on Estelle forty years ago! I told everybody about it! Everybody knows! (demonstrates the move) Mmm! I stopped short.”

 

Lt. Mark Rumsfield – The ‘Burbs
by Phill Lytle


I’ve long considered The ‘Burbs to be one of the Tom Hanks’ greatest films. I realize I am in the minority, but I am not alone. I’ve met many people that believe the film is wildly underrated. What makes the film work so well is not just the fantastic performance by Hanks, but the wonderful and eccentric supporting cast. No one steals more lines and earns more laughs than Bruce Dern as Lt. Mark Rumsfield. Rumsfield is a retired military man, yet still living in constant vigilance and readiness for war. He is opinionated, suspicious of everyone, and ready to jump to the worst conclusion possible at the drop of a hat.

Favorite moments and lines:

Unfortunately, most of his dialogue is salty, after years in the military, and I will not reprint it on REO. (The film is rated PG-13, so the saltiness is not as extreme as it could have been.) Just watch the movie and enjoy his well directed vitriol and sarcasm. But, for the sake of this article, here are a couple I can mention:

Rumsfield takes great pride in his yard. Unfortunately, he has a neighbor (Walter Seznick) down the block whose yard far surpasses his own. His reasoning why his yard can’t compete with Walter’s, “That old fart. He’s got the best lawn on the block. And you know why? Because he trains his dog to crap in my yard.” A bit coarse and rough around the edges, but straight to the point.

When a group of our main characters head over, uninvited, to the new neighbor’s house, Rumsfield does his best to make everyone uncomfortable with questions, poking around, and examining as much of the house as he can. His interaction with the new family, the Klopeks, is delightful in its boldness and rudeness. One particular exchange has always cracked me up. Introducing himself to the youngest of the Klopek family, “Rumsfield’s the name. Don’t think I caught yours, sonny?” Hans, responds nervously, “H-H-Hans.” Rumsfield responds in the most natural manner possible, “Hans! Oh-ho! A fine Christian name. Hans Christian Andersen! What are you, Catholic?”

That should give you a good idea what to expect from Lt. Mark Rumsfield and an indication why he made our list.




Five War Movies to Honor the Fallen

No one on the REO staff has served in the military. We have never had to risk our lives in service of our country. Yet, we recognize the bravery, courage, and sacrifice that so many of our citizens have displayed throughout the history of our nation. We recognize and we admire those men and women who have fought and died to protect those of us on the home front. There is little that we can do to honor that ultimate sacrifice. Our words amount to so very little in the end. Even so, we will forever be grateful.

So that we do not forget, the REO staff has selected a handful of movies to commemorate this Memorial Day. These films range in style and focus; some telling the story of a few soldiers, while others tell the story of many. Some were made decades ago and some are much more recent. All of them capture the nobility and sacrifice of the soldiers that fought and died so we can have freedom. Take some time this weekend to remember those who have given their all so that we can be free.

 

The Longest Day – by Benjamin Plunkett

The Longest Day recounts the hours immediately preceding and then every single hour on the day of the Invasion of Normandy. I have loved The Longest Day ever since I was a kid. However, it has not always been my favorite. I do not deny that I have had a long illicit love affair with war movies in general. It has not been until the last ten years or so that this has taken first place among the library of war movies that I love. There are a number of reasons it is a war movie to be deeply appreciated. Two are tops in my mind:

1) A huge international cast of some of the most famous actors of all time. Some of the most recognizable actors of yore appear in this movie, all-time greats like John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, and Rod Steiger. While that is a very impressive lineup, it is only a sampling of the amazing cast from the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. This means that multiple languages are spoken throughout the course of the film, which, of course, means plenty of subtitles.

2) The meticulous attention to historical detail. The examples of this in the film are legion. And many of the scenes are said to have been among the most complicated scenes to shoot in movie history. To do this multiple directors and units collaborated on the project to make it painstakingly accurate. Two that are particularly impressive: The paratroopers dropping in Mere Eglise and the assault on Ouistreham (which was supposedly the most complicated shoot in the whole thing).

This blurb barely scratches the surface of this great war movie. Its place as a historic educational tool is massive. D-Day was one of the greatest and proudest days in the history of mankind. This is one of the best ways to learn about that very historic event.

 

The Thin Red Line – by Phill Lytle

“This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might’ve known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?” – Private Edward P. Train in The Thin Red Line

Meditative. Poetic. Profoundly spiritual: Qualities rarely used to describe a war film, but they serve as the perfect descriptors for Terrence Malick’s World War II masterpiece. There will be many who will walk away from this film bored or disengaged, but for those fortunate enough to understand the unique cinematic language, the film contains unexpected and unrelenting rewards. Malick uses narration, inner dialogue, and sublime visuals to move beyond the words and actions of the soldiers who fought and died. He allows their spirits to speak to the horror, the passion, and the humanity of war. The Thin Red Line transcends the usual movie treatment, presenting instead an exploration of our deepest questions and longings viewed through the prism of combat and war.

 

Saving Private Ryan – by Mark Sass

Very few movies truly redefine a genre. Saving Private Ryan was one such film. At the very least it revolutionized audio/visual techniques, style, and tone for war sequences in film. Prior to Saving Private Ryan no war movie had ever looked so real on screen. The film made a commitment to communicating the horrors of war like no other. At times the movie was visceral to a degree that was difficult to watch. However, the realism of the film encompassed much more than only violence. Audiences didn’t merely watch the film; they experienced it. Several scenes stood out in this regard, but none so like the 22 minute sequence on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. Unlike many other war movies nothing was glamorized, toned down, or embellished in this film. To this day many regard the Omaha Beach scene as the most realistic depiction of war ever put on film. Audiences got the smallest taste of the true nature of war from the film. And that was very different from how other movies portrayed it. For this reason it’s difficult to say this was an enjoyable movie. No, it’s better said the movie was one to appreciate and respect. Saving Private Ryan told a story that was worth telling. The plot masterfully jumped between the events of WWII and present day in a way that captivated the viewer. Familiar emotions for the genre such as courage, heroism, and sacrifice permeated the film. Led by Tom Hanks, the entire cast delivered top notch performances from beginning to end. The acting, cinematography, editing, music, FX, and everything in between, all came together to deliver a film of the highest quality which will never be forgotten. Saving Private Ryan might be the pinnacle of director Steven Spielberg’s long and illustrious career.

 

Sergeant York – by Gowdy Cannon

When I was a teenager I did not like history. Yeah, I was a doofus. I didn’t like black and white movies. I didn’t like war movies. So when Mr. Marshall Thompson, my 10th grade American history teacher, showed our class a movie that was both, and that I loved, he basically did the impossible.

Based on his personal diary and with the demand that Gary Cooper play the lead, Alvin Cullum York let Hollywood give us his story in a truly remarkable and unforgettable way. I bought the VHS and watched it over and over. I would go around randomly saying “Killn’s agin the book” and “I’m fer the book” in high school and college. I did my character presentation for Mr. John Carter in U.S. History in college on him. (And to this day I regret not doing Sergeant York’s turkey call when classmate and future best friend Joshua Crowe tried to prompt me to during the Q&A time.) I love “Give Me That Old Time Religion” because of this movie. Every time I am driving into Nashville on the interstate and see something off of an exit dedicated to him, I still smile.

A tale of not just war heroics but of a man’s personal and riveting journey, notably of the struggles that come with the Christian faith and its convictions, I think most people can enjoy this film. Even the knuckleheads who do not normally go for movies of its age and genre. I am thankful to it for teaching me how good those types of movies can be.

 

Band of Brothers – by Phill Lytle

Though not a film, no list of this type would be complete without including the HBO adaptation of Stephen E. Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. First released in 2001, Band of Brothers is a ten-part epic mini-series that follows the formation, training, and World War II experiences of “Easy Company”, part of the Parachute Infantry Regiment of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Due to its longer run time, Band of Brothers is able to do something that no film can: it can tell a long, sweeping, fully immersive story that features dozens of main characters, locations, and battles. The viewer is able to spend time with these brave men. We are able to get to know them, understand their strengths and weaknesses. See them perform heroically time after time.

Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, every detail is handled with care and respect. These were real men that are portrayed on screen by an assortment of incredibly gifted and committed actors. There are interviews with the actual soldiers before and after episodes, which adds another layer of authenticity and power for the series. For my money, there is no greater picture of the war than Band of Brothers.

 




500WoL: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Are you tired of these Harry Potter reviews yet? Are you as fed up as the poor Sirius relegated to spending his days in a dilapidated old house that he loathes? Are you as fed up as Harry was for pretty much this whole book? Well, humor me for three more journey’s into the magical world of Hogwarts, will you? I’ll be upfront with you about something. While I thoroughly enjoyed most of The Order of the Phoenix, I do consider it the least among the five Harry Potter books I have now read. And I think it is a lesser work for three reasons.

First, it’s too long. In my review for The Goblet of Fire, I said that while I think smaller literary works are usually better because the author has honed it and taken out all or most of the fat, I do concede that long works can be great and also well-honed. The long Goblet of Fire is an example of this. With very few rough spots and fatty tissue, Rowling honed it to a sharp edge from beginning to end. The Order of the Phoenix, not so much. It was too long and too full of fat and fluff. Thus, it was a bit duller of edge. I think Order of the Phoenix would have been just fine and dandy with 100 to 150 less pages.

There are a couple of other lesser reasons I place this in a decided last place of these first five. Second, there is much less imaginative detail than in the preceding books. There is some, I know, but less. Loved the imaginative description of their cleaning the worn down 12 Grimmauld Place, the inherited home of Sirius Black. But there weren’t as many imaginative details after this. Way too little of the ghosts, too little candy and Quidditch and magic and wonder and the fat lady. The third reason was Harry’s almost continual bad attitude throughout the book. It is totally realistic for a boy of his age and in his very problematic situation in life to experience such angst, I suppose. But it doesn’t add to the enjoyment when a book’s main protagonist is so unlikable most of the time.

Despite these bad things and despite my putting it at the bottom of the list, I absolutely do not consider this a bad work or that I have wasted my time. Thoroughly enjoyed it and you will too. Saying it is the worst doesn’t seem right. Instead, lets say it is the least of the best. Plus, it contains several very key elements of the overall story and centaurs, giants, lots of intriguing side plots, and the sadistic Professor Umbridge. Not to mention the string of very authentically moving moments after about page 500. I consider these most touching moments in the series so far. But be warned: Here you’re going to face dangers more ominous than O.W.L exams. So gird your minds, boys and girls, gird your minds. That is all.




What Has Valentinius to Do With Christianity?

The title is a play on the most famous quote by the second century heresiologist, Tertullian, who said, “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Terullian said this because during that time there was much errant Greek thought invading the church. One of these Greek ideals was probably Gnosticism. “Probably” because although Tertullian definitely battled it, there isn’t 100% surety that Gnosticism originated from Greek thought. It is only thought to have been born at the beginning of the first century influenced by this Greek thought.

The two main strings of Gnosticism have been classified as Iranian and Syrian. These strings trickled into other areas of thought and religion, chief among these being Christianity. In fact, this was one of its earliest areas and would sadly have a successful run at it. The kind of Gnosticism that invaded the church came to be known as Gnostic Christianity. It became so prevalent that many people both inside and outside the church thought it was just normal Christianity. This false teaching was adopted by several different Christian teachers and turned into one of the most problematic heresies of early Christianity. There were several main teachers of Christian Gnosticism who developed there own branch of this heresy. The two Christian Gnostic teachers that had the biggest influence were Marcion and Valentinius. And probably the most influential of these two was Valentinius, who became so influential in the church that he very nearly became bishop of Rome.

It might be uncomfortable to think of heretical teachers like Valentinius having a profound positive impact on Christianity, but in a way he and other heretics did. These false teachings had some very positive results. They were instrumental in goading the church to collect an authoritative canon that likewise goaded it to more fully and authoritatively evaluate and form orthodox Christian doctrine based on that canon. But this collected canon of the New Testament would not become reality until the third century. For the many years prior to that, it was much harder to maintain a consensus throughout the worldwide church about the actual teachings of the Gospel. Until then there were primarily only letters and writings claiming divine authority floating about. The fact that this was the case and that there was no definite canon during these years made it so much easier for false teachings to creep into and thrive in local church doctrine. So who was this man who introduced such falsehood to Christian doctrine and what did he teach?

Valentinius and His Gnostic Christian Doctrine

Valentinius was born in Egypt sometime in the end of the first century and was educated in Alexandria. It was during these Alexandrian years that he set up the Eastern branch of Valentinian thought. He would later set up the Western branch after he moved to Rome. The primary difference between these two branches is how they viewed the body of Jesus and this was a big issue with them since anything of the flesh is evil and exactly what the “spiritual” needed to be saved from. The Eastern branch resolved this by saying that Jesus had to die to save Himself as well. The Western branch resolved this with the docetic view, which said that Jesus only seemed to be a man and he only seemed to suffer and die.

Basic Valentinius doctrine says that the first eternal being was First-Being or Profundity. He eventually united with Thought to produce the emanations (aeons) called Mind and Truth. And this production process kept on going with Mind and Truth producing two more emanations, and then those two emanations uniting to produce two more emanations, and so on and so forth. This went on until 26 emanations had been produced after First-Being and Thought. This genealogical strand of First-Being, Thought, and their 26 offspring was called The Fullness. Every one of these succeeding pairs along The Fullness grew more and more discontent, each succeeding emanation more so than the one before it, because each had less knowledge of and contact with First-Being. This discontentment come to a head in Wisdom (Sophia), the 26th emanation. Her prideful decision to fight to build her way back up to First-Being only resulted in her fall from grace. First-Being tried his best to restore Wisdom to her correct place in an attempt to keep the perfection of The Fullness. It didn’t work and therefore the entire line of The Fullness was compromised. As the first phase of a strategy to restore the former holiness of The Fullness, First-Being also produced directly from Himself the emanations of Christ and Holy Spirit. Together the two brought a joy to The Fullness that resulted in the emanations collectively producing Jesus.

In the meantime, Wisdom’s passion remained below the Fullness and produced the evil Demiurge who created earth. The Demiurge is the God of the Bible who is actually and unknowingly much lower than the lowest emanation of The Fullness. To save us from him, Wisdom’s passion, with the help of Savior, produced the spiritual seed of earth. They intended for the committed goal of this spiritual seed to ascend above this evil Earth to The Fullness with the help of Jesus.

The Disciples of Valentinius

Valentinius taught his false doctrine until his death in A.D. 160, after which his students continued to spread it. These students clearly made their own tweaks to their teacher’s doctrine. You can see these tweaks in a set of Gnostic writings called the Nag Hammadi Scriptures. They are called this because they were discovered buried near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. It is believed they were buried by Egyptian monks around AD 367 after Athanasius ordered the monasteries of Egypt to rid themselves of all apocryphal works.

The Nag Hammadi contains 13 codices (a codex is an ancient book), each of which have a number of different writings. There are slightly over 50 writings in all. These writings clarify and expand on Valentinian doctrines to some degree and offer some of the aforementioned interesting tweaks. Probably the most famous of these writings is The Gospel of Truth, which some experts think was penned by Valentinius himself. Irenaeus, perhaps the greatest heresiologist of all time, first mentions this writing in his five-volume work Against the Heresies as an example of the great Valentinian threat to Christianity. Irenaeus was just one of a group of Christian heresiologists who arose during the second century to dispute Gnostic Christianity and other heretical teachings in the church. Iranaeus focused his war largely on the Gnostic Christians and primarily the Valentinians. Concerning Gnostic Christianity, Irenaeus concluded that “Against them one might justly exclaim: ‘Oh you nonsense-blabbering pumpkins! You blameworthy and untrue sophists!’”

No, Valentinianism was not the only heresy or even Gnostic line to encourage the church to collect a final New Testament canon and to fine tune its orthodox doctrine, but it did have a huge role in that inspiration. And for all of its supposed knowledge, Valentintianism mimicked its own doctrine by itself being a definite fall of wisdom.




The Time-Traveling Spaniard Bigfoot Bernardino Big and the Continuing Quest for Dr. Pepper

In Five Grossly Inaccurate Recollections of Important Big Family Dates and What Actually Happened I related some historical Big tales as they are inaccurately known among the public at large. All of that was information given to me by Bill Big. Well, new information has come to light about the Spaniard Bernardino Big. I recently discovered his diary and found that before settling down he was indeed a time traveler. During his journey in Texas, he stumbled upon a strange time traveling device, a glowing orb, which changed his life forever. In the course of his travels he tried out all manner of popular merchandise of the individual times like felt top hats, bell bottoms, and Dr. Pepper. This last would quickly find a place in his heart, a memory to be cherished forever. After a time, however, all the time and space gadding about got old and he went back to his native space-time continuum. Only he made a mistake with the controls and when he returned was a few weeks after he left rather than just a few minutes. By that time, all of his countrymen had long gone, giving him up for dead. So that is the state we first found him, a long-lost traveler in a caffeine withdrawal rage. His diary tells us that shortly after this event he had had it with wandering about aimlessly and began a five-visit quest to relive Dr. Pepper glory. Sadly, though, he had quite forgotten which timeline possessed this carbonated nectar of life. That meant he was going to have to do more moving about in time here and there and everywhere. So off he went.

Visit One: 986 A.D. – Old Leif Erikson and his merry band of Vikings reported sighting sighting a big old monster who they described as an ugly, hairy beast with big black eyes. In his diary, Bernardino took great umbrage at this horrific description but admits it was probably accurate at the time. He had just left his Texan visit (which was his ninth visit since the very beginning) and was still on the caffeine withdrawal quest for the refreshing taste of Dr. Pepper. By this time he was veritably aquiver with this withdrawal. Leif, who actually chatted with him for a bit, informed Bernard that he knew not of this strange, mythical substance. So after after the Vikings sailed off home, he pouted for a bit then jumped again.

Visit Two: 1828-1829 – One of Bernard’s longest visits was in Georgia’s Okenfenokee Swamp throughout an unusually dry winter. He stayed so long because he cottoned to the solitude of swamp life. “Cottoned to” was a phrase he picked up from the various hunters and explorers who ventured through the swamp now and again. Although he didn’t know it, he was a regular old Yoda on Dagobah, he was, and managed to elude detection until some guys discovered his footprints he had carelessly left behind. Next thing you know all hell breaks loose and Bernard’s little piece of paradise comes to an end. Those dudes all hauled back and brought back a bunch of fired up Bigfoot hunters. Well, they found old Bernard, but their recollections of the event were vastly exaggerated. The only true part of their recollection is that just as many others in the Big line, Bernard was very tall. Other than that, bogus. Although it is true that they did eventually find the “monster,” they claim it viciously attacked them in a mad fury. In reality, Bernard was just standing there, kind of embarrassed since he had just taken a mud bath and wasn’t dressed and cleaned to receive visitors. The hunters, on the other hand, weren’t embarrassed at all, just scared and very, very nervous. When a cone dropped from a nearby cypress tree, the skittish hunters unloaded their guns into the poor, defenseless bulb. Bernard took the chaotic moment to leave this timeline. He grabbed the nearby time traveling device and said sayonara to his beloved swamp home before skedaddling into space and time.

Visit Three: 7856 – Here Bernardino landed in an alternate universe, which he had seldom done before. It was usually in his own homegrown universe. Anyway, in this far distant time and in this universe, Bernardino blended into the crowd since it was inhabited by all manner of Bigfoot civilizations. There were also races of flying unicorns and talking geraniums. Despite his being entirely covered in mud, within minutes of his arrival he was inundated with applications to join any one of at least a dozen different Bigfoot tribes. It was all quite fascinating and Bernardino was sorely tempted to stay, but alas, he longed for Dr. Pepper and the loving comfort of his native timeline so he pushed the button and off he went.

Visit Four: 1973 – This is the year the public started going crazy with Bigfoot and UFO sightings. Only two of these touted sightings (one of bigfoot, the other of a UFO) are actually true. And what is even crazier is that both of these happened on the same night and in the same location. Here is what is claimed to have happened that fateful night in Pennsylvania: A couple of teenage girls were out in front of their friends house waiting for a ride home when all of a sudden a nine-foot-tall Bigfoot with white fur emerged from the woods across the street. They claimed the beast was also carrying a glowing orb. The two ran back inside to tell their friend’s dad. He went to investigate and reported that while in the woods he saw a UFO. Here’s what actually happened: After arriving in 1973, the nude, still mud-covered Bernardino found himself in an empty house. It took him a couple of hours, but he somehow managed to figure out how the new-fangled inside bathroom stuff worked. He basically knew how these things worked thanks to his earlier visits to the 20th century. So he took a shower and cleaned off the mud. Afterwards, he covered his nakedness with the only thing he could find that even remotely fit: A pair of white long johns. Anyway that’s what his description sounds like. Bernard just figured clothes is clothes, you know. Afterwards he traipsed through the surrounding woods with the glowing orb to figure out where and in what time he had ventured. In the darkness he crossed a strange gray pathway and in the process scared off two girls. In the woods beyond a strange light beamed down on him. That is when the alien craft alighted beside him. Berbard stated that indescribably hideous beings came out. He said every one bore striking resemblances to Justin Bieber who he had actually encountered on an earlier visit. The Bieber beings told Bernard that they had been searching for precious time-travel device and had been stuck in 1973, the worst year ever, until they found it again. Bernard agreed to graciously return it to them on the condition that they return him to his original time and space.

Visit Five: 1519 – Yeah, that’s right. Bernardino was born and raised right in the timeline where we first met him. He had jumped from 1519 already two times. The very first time was at his home in Bilbao, Spain where he was part of a crew that set off for the new world. After a months-long sea voyage, they began to pave a path of death and destruction through Mexico. It was during the journey through what we now call Texas that Bernardino found the glowing orb in the sand. The orb, it had all manner of dials and numbering on its surface. When he accidentally made his first jump he wasn’t sure how to operate the blasted thing. After a few jumps he got a hang of it and eventually figured out how everything worked. Now at the end, sadly not having achieved his greatest desire, the alien Bieber beings, per his request, delivered him to his Balbao home. But seeing his great sadness and being filled with great pity, the Bieber beings graciously bestowed upon him a parting gift of a bottle of Dr. Pepper, a sacred liquid to their kind and their most valued possession.




The Tick Tock

A little away
the clock tick tocks
the time where
we know He knows
it tick tocks
the clock rocks

away
when all was lost
He left the stars
where love is lush to
touch our hands,
our heads, our souls,

standing
in His thunder
underneath in
the nothingness
of our ticking,
in the sea of our tocking,
in the ticking, the tocking,

away
when life was lost
and deliverance
crossed into our
land where love is losing,
where He touches our hands, our heads, our souls,
where He views this sphere so

away
ticking, tocking,
our sides
plumped with bumps
and clumps and thorny lumps
far away
from His sigh
of mercy,
of death, His death,
of life, His life,
of the tick tock
the clock rocks
today.




500 Words or Less Reviews: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

The Harry Potter books have been climbing in page length ever since The Sorcerer’s Stone. The biggest gulf is between The Prisoner of Azkaban and the present book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Like the  massive fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I will review at a later date), the 734-page The Goblet of Fire is a veritable Monster Book of Monsters. I freely admit that I am a very slow reader and that it would normally take me six months to read a book this size. It says a heaping helping about it that I finished it in just over a month.

I’ll go ahead and say it: The first 145 pages are a masterpiece, with the Weasley’s reigning supreme. I could have spent the entire book with that family—especially Mr. Weasley. His encounter with the Dursley’s in the fourth chapter (“Back to the Burrow”) is one of the funniest incidences…ever. But this is not the only reason these pages are awesome. There is a nearly seamless flow and flawless writing from section to section: The dark opening with Voldemort and Pettigrew; the Dursley and Weasley encounter; the International Quidditch Cup; and the debacle with and introduction to the Death Eaters. Yeah, for this bit Rowling surely summoned the superhuman writing powers.

But like Superman, Rowling has her kryptonite: tedious information relation. What makes it especially ridiculous in Goblet of Fire is that it is done this time by Lord Voldemort, making him come across like the stereotypical villain who has to reveal his whole long story so the hero has time to foil his plans. That is pretty much exactly what happens here. While I loved the scene, it was kind of ruined with Voldemort makes his tedious rant: “First I blah, blah, blah” then I “blah, blah, blah” then “This really long thing happened” and “blah, blah, blah, etc., Mwahahahaha!” All of this leaving Harry ample time to formulate and carries out his escape plan.

I more often go in for the view that with works of writing less is more. The writers of smaller works have successfully honed their craft, cutting out all fat of any kind. This certainly does not mean that a longer work can’t be great. The Goblet of Fire is a perfect example of this happening. Rowling is one of those authors who absolutely needs room to spread her creative wings and shows that more can really be more. The abundance of space here not only allows her to completely flesh out the central Triwizard Tournament plot but also to flesh out more amazing side plots than you can shake a stick (or wand) at.

But like all of the preceding books, the fault I mentioned was still far, far outweighed by the greatness. In part because of the first 145 pages, but also almost every single paragraph, character, and plotline of the following 589 following pages, this is definitely my favorite of these first four classics.




The Divine Messiah: Jesus, the God-Man

What Christians Must Agree Upon

There are some issues of doctrine that are more debatable than others. We can agree to disagree on these debatable “side issues” and go on living as brothers and sisters. That is because these are “side issues” of other things that are bedrock truths, fundamentals. For instance, the atonement of Christ is a fundamental, but throughout the Christian world there are differences of opinion of how exactly it works. No, we don’t have to agree about these “side issues” to remain in Christian fellowship with each other, but that is not the case for issues of fundamental Christian doctrine. These are things that absolutely must be accepted by a believer in order for that believer to be considered an orthodox Christian.

The second of the famous Five Fundamentals concerns the virgin birth of Christ. This is a crucial point for several doctrinal reasons. In my opinion, the top of these reasons is exactly what it indicates about the dual nature of Jesus: That He had both a human nature and a divine nature. In other words, he wasn’t just a human messiah as was expected, he was a human who was the divine messiah.

What the Jews Expected About the Messiah

The arrival of a Jewish messiah was not at all unexpected by the Jews. They expected it to happen. For many years it had been recognized that the Scriptures prophesied that one would be coming. The Jewish people had been waiting a very long time for God to send them a messiah, someone to save them from earthly oppression. But Jesus wasn’t what they expected at all. He wasn’t a truly great man messiah as was anticipated, he was just an extremely poor carpenter’s son. Furthermore, He was God, a divine messiah.

Jesus’ human background definitely qualified him as this messiah. His lineage through both Mary (Luke 3) and Joseph (Matthew 1) directly traced back to David and therefore gave him divine right to the benefits of the Davidic Covenant, which can be found in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. In the second half of that passage God promised to raise up a man in the line of David to rule forever. So from this human perspective, Jesus appears to have been the perfect recipient of this promise.

Like I said, they were just expecting a man—a great man—but, still, just a man. And they really didn’t think this promised messiah was going to die for their sins. They did not get that the very Son of God was be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of all humanity for all time nor that the only one who could possibly do this was God in human form. The very idea would have been both ridiculous and blasphemous to them. No, their idea was that this great man, this great warrior-king, would conquer the foes of the nation and literally rule upon a literal throne. Instead, rather than accept Jesus as the divine Messiah, many resented and completely rejected Him. Even many of those who listened to and followed Jesus while he was alive did not really seem to have really understood Jesus or what He was doing.

The Heresies About the Nature of Jesus, the Messiah

This misunderstanding of the human and divine nature of Jesus went on for centuries in the church. For a very long time there have been those who didn’t like or recognize how Scripture shows that Jesus was both human and divine in His natures. That straying Christian thinking has resulted in several famous heresies. The study and refutation of heresy would become honed throughout the second century. In their search for greater knowledge, they obscured the knowledge God has given. Some examples of heresies that focused on either the human or divine nature of Christ and made every effort to explain the other away:

Ebionitism –  A Jewish Christian group that arose in the early second century. They taught Jesus was a very important man, but not divine.

Arianism – This heresy arose in the fourth century. Arians denied the divinity of Jesus. They postulated that He was simply the first creature who was ever created and that at best was only partly divine.

Gnosticism –  Christian Gnostics rationalized that since all flesh is evil, God could not have become a man. They believed God only seemed to become a man and he only seemed to die.

Apollinarianism – Apollinarianism postulated that Jesus was God merely dressed in the soul and body of a human. It stated Jesus did not have a human spirit, but received His knowledge through the Logos.

How We Know What the Bible Really Says About His Dual Nature

The impregnation of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit shows that this is the supernatural way God chose to enter the world as the divine messiah, but it is certainly not the only place in the Bible that talks about or refers to Jesus being the divine messiah. There are many other places in the Bible that indicate Jesus and His work of salvation.

And then you have to consider His claims. Jesus claimed to be without sin (John 8:46). He claimed to be God (John 10:30–33; John 8:58). He claimed He was “The Way, The Truth, and The Life” (Rev. 1:8, “I Am” (John 8:58) and the “Son of God” (Matt. 16:15-17). But His claims also revealed His humanity when He claimed to be hungry (Matt. 21:18), to be thirsty (John 19:28), and to be weary (Matt. 8:20).

We have only to read the Gospel accounts to see Jesus claimed vast, almost superhuman knowledge of human affairs, the Scriptures, the workings of the demon world, the afterlife, and the end of time. It is true that the prophets of the Old Testament also expounded in an extraordinary way that revealed knowledge of many future events, but while sharing the messages of God they did not claim to be God. Jesus did.

His claim to be God is huge.  C.S. Lewis famously said, “This man we are talking about was (and is) just what He said or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend…however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”  Like a lot of Lewis’s thinking, this is flawless logic.

There are so many reasons that we should be eternally grateful for a divine messiah rather than just a human messiah. One of these reasons is the choice Jesus faced on that fateful night in the Garden of Gethsemane. On that night His human nature fully dreaded the future and longed for escape, but in the end His will ceded to His divine nature which longed to follow the Father’s plan of salvation whatever the cost (Matt. 26:36-39).

The Hypostatic Union

And when we accept the dual nature of this poor Israelite son of a carpenter, we are acknowledging what historic church leaders termed the hypostatic union. In the early centuries of the church, there were three primary ecumenical councils who studied to form a definite understanding of what the Bible said regarding the issue of Jesus’ nature. There was the Council of Nicea, which discussed and decided on the biblical teaching of Jesus’ divinity. There was the Council of Constantinople which discussed and decided what it said about His humanity. There was the Council of Chalcedon which brought all this study together to define the doctrine of the unity of the person of Jesus. This was what they found the Bible to teach: “(1) He [Jesus] had two natures—a human nature and a divine nature. Each of these exists in its completeness and integrity. (2) Jesus Christ is one person.” This is what they would term the hypostatic union. (Hypostasis means “substance” in Greek.)

From this understanding they drew up the Chalcedonian Creed. The Chalcedonian Creed affirmed Jesus was “of one substance with the Father as regards His Godhead, and at the same time one substance with us as regards His humanity…recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.”  The orthodox understanding of the church is that Jesus’ person contained two full natures, but he was not half God and half man.  He was all God and all man at the same time. (Another technical and more modern word used to describe this nature of Christ is theanthropic.)

It is true, Jesus did not necessarily have to express His own deity. It is true, the rest of the Bible declares it for Him. However, He did know and He did express it. Jesus the man fully knew that He was God. His God-ness defined Him. There’s a lot about God the Son I do not understand, but I am convinced of this: The all-powerful God who is our divine messiah has provided salvation for all mankind.