Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Meaning of "Belief"

We are often told, in matters of Christianity, that one must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Generally speaking, it seems most people, Christian or otherwise, take this to mean that only Christians may enjoy Heaven. That is, only those who beleive that the literal facts of Christ's unique character (he was God), and his death and resurrection, may escape hellfire. This is also problematic for many, for membership within a particular faith does appear to be, in and of itself, a moral issue. Even if one willingly apothesizes from the Christian faith, even though he makes a conscious choice, and willingly rejects the Bible, it does not seem partularly wicked or harmful, other than for perhaps making God angry. If he truely rejects faith based on what he honestly thinks is reason, where is the harm , outside of angering a supposedly benevolent God? The unfortunate picture I had for years was of a God who seemed petty and jealous, punishing us for any lack of attention. This, I've come to realize, is a terrible and devisive untruth.

C.S. Lewis was an inclusionist who beleived it possible that there are some humans who are or will be saved without knowing it. How so? Because although they not beleive in or even be aware of the facts regarding Jesus, they are ernestly and diligently seeking the Truth. This explains well the situation of those who simply have not heard of Christ, or were brought in a non-Christian culture and taught the what were simply the wrong ideas. What are we to make of the atheist who resides in a throughly Christian culture, but is convinced that the events described could not have happened based on reason, yet whom honestly desires Truth, and who commits acts of genuine virtue simply for their being virtuous?

We are told, of course, that works will not buy one's way into heaven. And indeed this is true. But the case I have described is of a person who is NOT attempting to do any such thing, as they do not even beleive in Heaven's existence! One may also do good works in order to impress others with one's supposed virtue; in fact this is quite common. I suspect even that one "atheist charity" I noticed somewhere might have been for this very purpose--atheists need to brighten their reptution before the religous world will begin to take them serioiusly. I am not to judge, but it's true that beleivers have a far better record of giving to charity than atheists. This is something the polls can attest to, and most atheists will even reluctantly admit. They often state that there is not one act of kindness that you NEED religion for, but that is not really the point. The point is, are athiests or people of faith the more generous? So far the answer has favored the faithful. Here is some evidence:

Concervapedia is admittedly very slanted; but this is one area of study to which athiests are not able to offer any solid refutation.

However, the situation I described was of an athiest who worked virtue for virtue's sake. And does the Bible have to say about those who do good works?

For when the Gentiles (non-Jews) which have not the law, do by nature
the things contained within the law, these, having not the law, are a
law unto themselves: which shew (show) the work of the law written in
their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their
thoguhts the mean while excusing or excusing one another..Rom 2, 14-15

One's good works are an index to what resides within one's heart. That is the inportance of good works, ans why they cannot be separated form one's faith. Can such as person, then be said to truely "beleive", in sense of having a saving faith in the Truth? They surely must.

Here is a post (got permission to use it) form Sabbath Keeper's Forum, on the topic of the meaning of "beleif":

We read this word "believes" and a definition comes to mind and we
read on. But in other translations we are left to our own educational
expereince about just what this word means in general terms. Then we
use that to attempt to understand what the writer is speaking of here.
Here it is "believes in Him". But what does "believes" mean in this
articulation? Well, the Amplified Bible details it for us in
parenthesis. It says the "believes" means "adheres too, trusts in, and
relies upon Him, giving himself up to Him". To me, this really puts
the meat on this word or phrase "believes in Him".

Those who believe in Him adhere to Him; they "stick to Him". If I take
super glue and stick your hand to your cell phone, it’s going to be
there for some time. Everywhere you go and in everything you do, that
cell phone will be stuck to your hand. All uses of your hand will be
affected by that cell phone being stuck to it. As in this example, the
evidence that we are stuck to Jesus is that we are with Him and He is
with us everywhere we go. He affects all we say and do.

Trust is an incredible gift. It's kind of like an unhatched egg. Trust
has so much potential for the future, yet it must be cared for and
handled with care. We all know that if the egg is broken, all the
king's horses and all the king’s men cannot put it back together
again. Trust, when broken, is extremely difficult to re-establish in a
relationship. It is near impossible.

See, trust involves an investment of the heart. It places extreme
value on fidelity. It provides one with security and it protects at
all cost, the value of the trust. Our believing in the Lord Jesus
Christ should have all kinds of things in place, in confident rest,
rest in Him and His unfailing love for us. Our love for Him should be
unfailing as well. He invested His heart, and so much more, into us.
Therefore, He has the right to expect us to invest our heart and so
much more in Him.

The last of these adjectives expresses one "giving himself to Him".
Please note that it is the believer, that gives himself to Christ.
Believing is giving, much like in a marriage. You give your very life
up, for, and too the other person. To me, that is why Paul said "I am
crucified with Christ". Christ gave all His life for me, and expects
me to give my life to Him in the same complete way, nothing held back.
No other loves! No other gods! When a person dies on the cross, that
entire person dies. We die to the old sin nature completely and
finally, and in the consummation of our giving ourselves to Christ, He
becomes alive in us. It is from that point on, not us living inside of
us, but Christ Himself supernaturally fused with our spirit. Selah.

We can "rely" on Him. In another place Paul tells us that He is ever
faithful to our relationship, even if we are not, because as God He
simply cannot be otherwise. Praise the Lord God Almighty.

Oh the depths of His riches and glory. I could go on and on about this
verse, but I think you are getting the picture by now. As a Body, for
each part to read this word "believes", we could all have a slightly
different understanding. But we really need to understand this word
and it's importance together, and be in one accord. Not only does the
Amplified Bible help in this way, but the Holy Spirit uses it to
unfold revelation after revelation, if only we will slow down, spend
time with Him and even meditate on what is being said in His Word.

It is my prayer, that you have come to a better place of understanding
our belief and it's value to us, and to God. It's more than just "I
know about". It is personal, intimate, bonded unity with the Creator
of all things. Oh how many adjectives we could use, and not even come
close to what "HE IS". Belief is so much more than just a whimsical
word, it is a new life entered into by leaving an old life behind. To
God be the glory, now and forever amen. – Lahry Sibley

Friday, May 14, 2010

Atheists and Christmas

Attention those out there reading blog:

I've corrected the embarrassing typo errors in the blog on Phillip Pullman and C. S. Lewis. And the Freethinker Child story is finally completed.

Recently, atheists have received a reputation of being anti-Christmas. From what I've read, some non-beleivers are just fine with the Christmas holidays; they celebrate and exchange gifts, though they pften place more emphasis on the pagan elements like Santa Claus and Christmas trees. But generally they aren't bothered by the religious trappings either, just because they don't happen to believe. Others, however, feel more harshly, and scorn the Christian elements. They take part in the festivities, but perfer to call it Yuletide or Winter Soltice, and loathe to wish anyone a "Merry Christmas". There are some atheists (not sure the percentage) who forgo the holiday altogather because of its Christian core. Never mind that Christians themselves often complain over the commercialization of the holiday, and some extremists even condemn Santa as Satan. Christmas is "Christian", and therefore even such as Santa Clauss and Christmas trees are scornfully viewed as "religous icons." They forbid their own children from sharing in the Christmas spirit as much as any devout Jehovah's Witness.

This sort of extreme negative reaction to the holidays is not common, but, though atheists may harber a diverse array of opinions about Christmas, the number Christmas-haters among committed atheists appears to be disproportionally high. Of todays leading atheist intellectuals, Christopher Hitchens, has, in particular expressed his deep personal revulsion at Christmas. At this point, I want to make a distinction between a "Scrooge" and a "Cromwell." A Scrooge is someone who keeps Christmas in his own way, and allow others to keep it in theirs. In a word, he loathes Christmas, but only wants to be left alone. A Cromwell, on the other hand, is someone who seeks to impose his own anti-Christmas sentiment on others by means of the state. The Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell's initial opposition to Christmas was actually somewhat justified in light of the drunknesness and excessive indulegence Christmas celebration had become at the time. His solution--which outlawing even the baking of a mince pie during the season, however, is one few would not consider extreme. But of course, there is not doubt the Cromwell beleived he was fully serving Chirst and has the country's best interests in mind.
While thier ideology runs completly opposite that of Cromwell, today's ideological athiests doubtless have nothing but the best intentions regarding their opposition to Christmas. Are atheists the new Cromwells? Well, not necessarily. Most, as already said, would qualify more as Scrooges, although I am not sure about Hitchens. We've all heard about the "War on Christmas" by the politically correct Left, but I beleive it's generally blown out of proportion. However, there is no doubting the loathing some of the atheist persuasion feel regarding the holiday, and it comes as no surprise that such ideological opposition is in the name of supposed tolerance. Which brings me to the topic at hand. The the other day, I was doing research for my page George C. Scott's famous renditon of Dickens' A Christmas Carol:

While doing so I found a review site which appears to be done by someone who is an avowed athiest, and seemingly very liberal, but not one whom I'd call very consistent in his/her liberalism. It's a well written review, but hardly one partial to the Christian faith:

The reviewer gives Scott's Carol, a rousing endorsement, and I couldn't agree with him more about the following line:

As you might expect, the most watchable version was the one in which Scrooge was played by George C. Scott. The power of George C. absorbs the character of Scrooge and he is absolutely perfect in the role.

The fact hat he highly recomends the films, and especially Scott's performance, almost leads me to beleive his take on the tale itself might possibly be satire. But to prove a point about how Dickens Carol could indeed be misconstrued by those of the anti-Christian persuasion, I'll assume here that it's serious. The reviewer writes:

The message of this story is that it is okay to use the despicable practices of torture and terror to promote your religious agenda. It is okay for a law-abiding and legitimate businessman to be brutalized for his lack of religious beliefs.

Notice he assumes from the start that Carol is ideological, and that the Spirits' mission is cram Christianity down's Scrooge's throat. In a way, he's got a point. Dickens' Carol is a story with a message that is in fact a throughly Christian one, part of the reason it's considered the greatest Christmas story of all time outside of the Nativity story. However, this is in way that is often overlooked or downplayed by modern Christianity. The reviewer defends the unrepentant Scrooge by saying:

There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Scrooge is doing anything underhanded or illegal, he merely loans money to people who borrow it from him of their own free will, and he tries to collect it when it is due.

Okay, so it's true that Scrooge shows no sign of being a dishonest or crooked business man. In fact, I've always pictured Scrooge as a ruthlessly honest individual in both his personal contacts and his financial dealings. He is no liar, cheat, or charlatan. As the reviewer rightly points out, when it comes to Christmas, Scrooge merely wants to be left alone. So what is his great sin? Quite simply: selfishness. Profit has become an idle to him, and this is precisely the reason that Bible warns agaisnt it. Though Scrooge goes out of his way to harm no one, he also shuts himself out to the poverty and hardship around him. Jesus talked repeatedly of the necesseity of doing good and helping others. As Christians, we are in fact commanded to do this. The reviewer goes on to say:

In an unforgettable night of terror, Scrooge is abused mentally and physically by uninvited spirits, as he deprived of sleep, humiliated, and threatened with death unless he “redeems” himself and becomes a believer in Christmas. This central theme is no different from what is practiced by modern day Christianity. The only thing that Scrooge was guilty of was his genuine desire to separate himself from the spectacle and hypocrisy of Christmas. His only crime was that he wanted to be left alone.

Actually, the spectacle is much different than is preached by modern day Christianity. Why? Because much of modern Christianity has dumbed down the message of Jesus. Over and over again those seeking to convert others downplay the message of good works, insisting in fact, that one need do nothing in order be accepted by the Lord, that good works constitute "Buying one's way into heaven." This is done to make Christianity look easy and a free ride compared with other faiths. Taken to its extreme form, this sort of preaching nearly makes a mockery of the actual teachings of Christ. I say this because I recall a lady in my Pastor's Bible study group, who happened to say, when Dickens' A Christmas Carol came up in the discussion, that the message of Carol was not a Christian one because promoted salvation through works. But it does not promote salvation through works. Nor, as the atheist reveiwer suggests, is it in the least true that Scrooge was merely bullied into good behavior by three ghosts. It should be obvious to anyone who has bothered to examine the story with any depth at all that Scrooge revisits his past in order to rekindle that quiet sensitive youngster he once was, then witnesses the hardship of those he has shut out from his world in his present. By the end of the story, Scrooge truely wants to change. Although the vision of his own possible future is indeed terrifying to him, even this is because of the great remorse he feels at that point in the story. His reaction on Christmas morning is one of joy and reformation, a true change of heart, not that of a cowed, bullied man, suffering fro,m intimidation and sleep-deprivation. The following text expert form Carol makes this clear:

"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoon of himself with his stockings. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!

Also a memorable scene in the Scott version, I might add. However, back to the reveiw:

Instead of being bitter, hopeless and suicidal over his small stature and crippling afflictions, he is cheerful and glib, and can induce more vomiting than a cattle car full of bulbous-headed midgets in clown suits. Tiny Tim teaches us that it is quite all right to be crippled and living under a death sentence because it reminds us of the Christ who healed the sick and lame. The fact that there is no Christ around to prevent him from dying a horrible death from the ravages of polio is conveniently never mentioned. The only salvation for Tiny Tim is Scrooge’s money; no gods required. He sings “Silent Night” and is continually saying “God bless us, each and every one”, as well as other cliched phrases that made me want to beat him to a lifeless, bloody pulp with the fat end of his crutch.

Do you get that in the first line? The reveiwer apartently thinks being bitter, hopeless and suicidal over one's affliction is a good thing while being cheerful and glib about it is to be admonished. Most kids who managed to be cheerful anad glib in the same situation as Tim would be commended for their courage--at least I'd rather hope so. Why does he find the reference to Christ so offensive? Possibly becasue it's just that--a reference to Christ. But Christ's teachings were to care for the sick and downtrodden--as Scrooge eventually does. So in that since, yes, Christ is there, as it is through His teachings and Scrooge's obedience to them that Tim is finally spared. Why phrases as "God bless us everyone" incites such violent urges in the mind of the review, is however, not something I would care to speculate on.

One last point he makes, in refence to the Albert Finney version in which Scrooge is actually shown a glimpse of himself in hell:

Mind you, this sentence of eternal torture is for merely choosing to be left alone and for not sharing the bizarre fantasies and hallucinations that possess the Christian brain at the end of December. This is a holiday that was stolen by the Christians from the Pagans, the celebration of the return of the sun; the winter solstice festivals. This scene is the greatest trailer for Christianity I have ever seen, showing the cruel depravity of the death cultists.

Again, not so. Scrooge does not "merely choose to be left own," although this is what he has convinced himself in the beginning. He has allowed himself to embrace a "survival of the fittest" mentality which proves destructive to both himself and to those around him. When one considers the following review line:

Only slightly less sickening are Bob Cratchit and his pandering wife. Typical breeders and deeply religious, the Cratchits are content to pump out their defective hellspawn despite their inability to adequately feed them.

It appears the reviewer himself embraces a sort of social Darwinism. Calling the children of the poor "defective hellspawn," is hardly an indicator of tolerance. Why does the author despise Christianity? His apparent problem wiht it appears not to be intolerance, but charity. Living for purely selfish reasons--I've heard it denied by atheists time and again that this could not possibly be reason for their atheism, so they say. It's all about reason and rationality--so they say. But it's even been occasionally admitted by atheists that Christians, in general, give substantiatively more than to charity than atheists do. I've been more than a bit critical of modern Christianity in this blog. But even so, Christians, so long as they're sincere, at least have one thing going for them that athiests don't--Jesus Christ.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ted Baehr's Inconsistency on Pullman and Lewis

The movie version of Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass was poorly received in the U. S. Why this is so, I’m not sure, as, aside from its ideological message, it has as much going for it as Lord of the Rings, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It had undoubtedly had something to do, however, with the large Christian majority here in America. By the time of the film’s release, word had long circulated of Pullman’s atheism, and his intended purpose in writing His Dark Materials. His anti-Lewis, anti-Narnia comments had already been widely quoted. While Pullman was very strident expressing these opinions early on, with the advent of the film’s release, he appeared to backpeddle some, professing that he was not attacking religion per se, but totalitarianism in general, and that the movie contained no anti-faith bias. Apparently he was wary of the chilly reception the film might receive in Christian America. Before the film’s release, to be sure, the atheistic nature of the source material had been in wide circulation on the Internet. Christians, especially Christian parents had been forewarned. The Catholic League even produced a booklet entitled The Golden Compass: Agenda Unmasked, available online in PDF format. In any event, word got around, and American moviegoers stayed away. In Europe and Britain, where secularism now predominates, the movie was reportedly far better received. However, it’s American audiences that count, apparently, as much to the dismay of Pullman and his fans, all plans for the sequels have been shelved.

That is a shame, really. Dakota Blue Richards will never get to play Lyra in some of the most dramatic scenes in the trilogy (unless, of course, the day finally comes when computer graphics can created people indistinguishable from live actors), and some truly extravagant scenes will be sorely missed. Concerned Christians have every right to voice their opinions, and expose the Pullman’s agenda, of course. This is not censorship, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet the sequels have nonetheless been effectively prevented from made, at least for the foreseeable future, thanks mostly to the efforts of American Christians. Are there any foreign filmmakers willing to pick up the trilogy?
In browsing around online, I’ve found a number of critical reactions to Pullman's movie, but one that showed an inordinate amount of bias was the one written by “Dr.” Robert Theodore “Ted” Baehr, for his Movieguide site:
There are several reason that I call Dr. Baehr’s review of the film, in particular, “biased.” I cannot fault or disagree with his aversion to the film’s atheistic elements. Though they have been toned down to avoid controversy, the elements are there nonetheless. The Magisterium officals are very obviously clergyman, for example. And I've yet to hear an actual Chrisitian seriously refer to athiests as "feeethinkers", as one of said clergyman does at one point. But when one looks at Dr. Baehr’s reviews for Narnia, and other Christian-based entertainment, one can see that his own worldview has led to criticism of the almost all elements of the film, some of which are mostly or entirely unmerited. For example:

Regrettably, at points the art direction and special effects look phony and just a little too computer generated. If we just evaluated THE GOLDEN COMPASS on artistic merit, it would be the script, not the just the production values, that would be worth an essay on bad filmmaking and bad scriptwriting. Thus, the movie contains too many boring, didactic speeches and too many scenes where the expository dialogue doesn’t move along the plot. Even so, people probably will forget how dull the first two-thirds are, because the battle sequences are engaging.

Phony special effects? At no during the film did I notice any of the effects to be any less “phony” than those of the previous year’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And what did Dr. Baehr have to say regarding that film?

The production quality is much greater than the sum of its parts. The camerawork is superb. The computer generated images are enchanting. Aslan comes to life in a magnificent way (he is a real lion!), as do all the creatures of Narnia. The four children are very good, especially Lucy, and the only regret is that Peter and Susan are not given meatier lines. Ms. Swinton would have been a better White Witch if she had been allowed to be more seductive, but her costume often cocoons her personality. The music is good, though not great. The direction is very exciting and entertaining, though it lacks nuance and depth. But, aside from critical nitpicking, the movie is spectacular! C. S. Lewis never wanted a movie made of his books, but one can even imagine that he would be proud of this production, and so everyone involved deserves high praise.

I agree with everything Baehr has to say in the above paragraph, as well as in the review below:

Save, maybe, for the fact that Tilda Swinton is slightly seductive, which is about as much as she could be allowed to be. In this version, the White Witch appears much kinder than in previous versions, in which she is depiected as almost cartoonishly evil, and you end up wondering how Edmond, even though he’s a just a kid, could be so easily taken in. She is even a bit flirtatious with him in this current version, which, while it would be ineffective on a child, would effectively prove enticing to a pre-teen.

The reason Lewis did not want any movie (other than a possible animated version, like the one shown back in 1978) to made of his works, by the way, was because he felt that no movie could ever do justice to the rich and fantastic imagery in his stories. But that was, of course, long before the arrival of today’s incredible CGI effects. There is no doubt in my mind that Lewis would be terribly pleased. The PBS Wonderworks version of Wardrobe shown back in the late eighties was a handsome production, but the production values—including the fact that Aslan looked like a huge stuffed toy—would have been precisely what Lewis had feared. The producers of that version went the same route they did with The Box of Delights. While the interplay of live actors, faker costumes, and hand-drawn animated sequences worked well for that, as the whole story took place in a dream, Narnia is entire secondary world. However, some of the best dialogue, which was almost all kept intact in the PBS version, is often cut from the big screen version. Most unfortunately missing are the dialogue with the beavers regarding Edmund’s betrayal, and the discussion of the White Witch’s non-human origins. Not to mention the meal cooked by Mrs. Beaver, which according to Lewis involved “a gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot.”
But back to Dr. Baehr’s reviews. I found the character of Iorek Byrnison, the noble armored polar bear warrior of Compass to be every bit as impressive, and very much equally as awesome onscreen as that of Aslan. It’s notable can’t see at all how much of the action in Compass –which includes Lyra’s rescue by the Gyptions, the battle between the armored bear kings, the liberation of the children form Bolvanger, and the ensuing battle with the Tartars, and many others—could possibly be construed as boring, or that the scenes leading up to them are any less engaging than the first two-thirds of Wardrobe. The chief issue that Baehr raises in his review, however, involves the heroine’s morality. In another passge:

Although the heroine and her friends are portrayed as the people the audience supports, a little objective examination of who they are would make any discerning viewer question why they’re rooting for them. Lyra is known for her lying so much so that her bear friend calls her “silver tongue.” In the story, this is a positive adjective. Even pagan and other non-Christian societies have disliked liars, however, so it’s very strange that Lyra, the story’s heroine, should be commended in this way. In fact, Lyra’s lying is often a useful pragmatic device to solve the story’s plot problems.

Another problem with the story are the confusing character motivations. Mrs. Coulter, for instance, who turns out to be Lyra’s mother, reaches out to Lyra a couple times, including saving her from having her daemon separated from her and killed. In return, Lyra tricks her mother into opening a tin can containing a deadly poisonous mechanical insect. Her mother doesn’t die, but Lyra doesn’t seem to care and, in truth, wants to get rid of her mother. While Lyra is opposed to all authority, including her mother, she easily befriends strangers and accepts their authority and their directives.

Thus, the more one thinks about the world of THE GOLDEN COMPASS, the more one realizes how upside down and inside out it is. Do parents really want their children hate them, rebel against them and want to kill them? Mrs. Coulter may be the villain, but all she really tries to do in this movie is to save her daughter’s life.

The final paragraph is very misleading. What Baehr isn't telling his readers is that Ms. Coulter is the lady in charge of the Oblation Board, which is engaged in the kidnapping and execution of innocent children in horrifyingly unethical experiments run by the Church. A terrible slam on religion to be sure, but one that one within which Mrs. Coulter is culpable for quite a bit more than trying to save her daughter. In the book we see Mrs. Coulter entice a child with chocotyl (a hot drink) and send him off to his eventual death by intercision, much the way the White Witch entices Edmund into betraying his siblings. Mrs. Coulter is scarcely any less evil. In the film, one of the experimenters remarks on “how eager she ( Mrs. Coulter)was to see (the children and their deamons) pulled apart.” It is true that when she sees that Lyra (her own daughter) is about to suffer the selfsame fate, she rushes to intervene, saving her in the nick of time. This is itself be commendable for what it’s worth, but it also demonstrates very clearly a case where parental love is merely an instinct, and as such is, in this case at least, ultimately selfish. Dr. Baehr seems to have forgotten that Christ admonished those who loved their sons or daughters, or mothers or fathers, for that matter, more than Him. Lyra is one who appears to be the most “Christian” here, although Pullman himself would perhaps be reluctant to admit to this. The mechanical insect appeared to be the only way Lyra could escape in this instance. Endangering her mother, then, wasn’t her intent—her intent was to save the other children, which she accomplishes heroically. Lyra’s destruction of the vile intercision device, liberation of the captive children, and her bravely staring down the leader of the Tartars and ravenous wolf-daemons is something Baehr conveniently glosses over. One might as well pose the question: if your parent was Hitler or Stalin, would you or should you remain loyal to them?
The issue Baehr has the most difficulty with is that of a habitual liar as the heroine. Is lying (bearing false witness) absolutely wrong in every conceivable instance? That has been a matter of much philosophical debate. Emmanuel Kant argued that it was. Some modern Christians (including some of my friends on Sabbath Keepers Forum) would agree. There are certain instances in which telling a technical untruth (say to Nazi Green Police who are searching for hidden Jews) appears to work for the human good rather than for evil. On the other hand, lying is generally committed for purely selfish motives, and even well-intentioned lies often wind up causing harm to others. This is called situational ethics, and some opposed Christians would define it as “justifiable sin.” Part of my take on situational ethics would be summed up thusly, for my own post of Sabbath Keepers:

Situational ethics definitely do exist, and they in no way contradict
moral absolutes. Why does God has a prohibition on lying? Becuase in
general lying causes harm to ourselves and others. But I've presented
two stiautions where lying might save someone's life, and cause no one
harm. It's hard to imagine a scenario where commiting adultry or
stealing is necessary to save someone's life. But let's just suppose
that some extortionist threatened to blow up a hosptial or day-care
center, or threatened a person's family unless they committed adultry.
Adultry is, virtually by definition, n act of betrayal, and it is done
for reasons that entirely self-serving and involve disregard for
others--especially one's own spouse and children. But in such a
hypothetical situation, the "adulterer" would not be acting out of
selfishness or lust at all but purely for altruistic reasons.
Now, maybe I'm wrong here, and committing what is technically adultry
here would lead to even greater evils, but I'm at a loss to know how
or why. You seem to be taking a position that some things are wrong
merely because "rules are rules are rules." But morality cannot be
determined according to technicalities such as this. God does not want
you to obey his rules "because I say so!" and that's it. That would
make no moral sense.

The Bible may be the written Word of God, but the Word is alos writ inot one's heart:

For when the Gentiles (non-Jews) which have not the law, do by nature
the things contained within the law, these, having not the law, are a
law unto themselves: which shew (show) the work of the law written in
their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their
thoguhts the mean while excusing or excusing one another..Rom
2, 14-15

It is probably no coincidence that Pullman, as a devout, ideological atheist, invented a heroine of essentially good-hearted nature, whose personal morals are seemingly rather loose. Lyra Belacqua qualifies as something of a picturesque heroine. As such, she compares with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, tow other picturesque children’s heroic protagonists who were also invented by a devout atheist. Pullman views religion as repressive and authoritative, as a cruel enemy of human freedom. But he is mistaken in seeing God’s morality as depending on nonthinking obedience to technicalities; adherence to technicalities is a flawed human concept, not one invented by God. Another excerpt from Baehr’s review:

What’s bad about the movie, therefore, is not overt atheism. That comes in the later books in the three-part series. What’s bad is that it creates a heroine who is selfish, willful and stubborn to such a degree that she does not express love, kindness, joy, peace, or any of those other wonderful virtues that help us put others before ourselves. The Good News of the Gospel is a message of love and forgiveness, not a message of control. It is a personal relationship with a living God, Jesus Christ, who loves us so much that He has laid down his life for us and has given us new life where we can experience real joy, real happiness and real fulfillment. Every one of the virtues Lyra disdains is a virtue based in love. Her lying hurts others, but telling the truth in love helps others. If, for instance, we could not trust anyone, society would fall apart. Trust, honesty, integrity, and the other virtues flow from our love of one another.

Is Baehr talking about the same movie that I saw? No love, kindness, peace or joy? All the action of the entire plot center’s around Lyra’s quest to save her friend and the other missing children. Surely love and kindness-qualities seemingly absent from both her parents—are in fact both Lyera's most enduring qualities and strongest motivators. In the context of the movie and its situational ethics, Lyra’s lying actually proves beneficial to others; her willful deception of the usurper King Ifor Rakenson enables Iork to gain his rightful place as king. Her deception of the guard a Bolvangar, and later of Mrs. Coulter, liberates the kidnapped children. Baehr’s assessment of that, as I’ve tried to demonstrate, is flawed. But perhaps,in the case of the battling bears, Baehr is refering to villainous Rakinson who is killed in combat, and perhaps she could have found a more peaceful solution? Lyra, however, disdains not a single of the virtues listed by Baehr.

It must be said of Baehr’s ideological inconsistency in light of both Pullman’s and Lewis’s fantasy world that there are some Christian writers out there who are equally critical of Lewis, mostly for the pagan elements of his novels, in spite of the Christianity at the core of the Narnia story (one of the most odiaous being David J. Stewart, who is also a Classic OSAS defender). But it is obvious for Ted Baehr’s reviews that he is engaged in a culture war, and culture may or may not conform to the actual teachings of Christ.