Preaching Connection: Faith

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Movies for Preaching

Babette’s Feast (1987) – 1

Babette’s Feast (1987).  Written by Karen Blixen (short story) and Gabriel Axel (screenplay).  Directed by Gabriel Axel.  Starring Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Bergitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, and Jean-Philippe Lafont.  Music: Per Nørgaard.  Cinematography: Henning Kristiansen.  Rated G; 102 mins. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. It is a nameless place where nothing much happens, in part because it…

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Wide Awake (1998) – 2

Wide Awake (1998).  Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Joseph Cross, Rosie O’Donnell, and Robert Loggia. Rated PG.  88 mins.  Rotten Tomatoes 67%. In big ways, Thomas the Doubtful had it right.  Show me the evidence, please, in all of its gory glory.  Enough already with other people’s hopeful delusions.  After all, empirical…

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Reading for Preaching

Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

“God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers.  If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something that is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way around.  Anyone who is honestly trying to be...
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Mere Christianity, in The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics

“When we have understood free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me, ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’  The better stuff a creature is made of—the cleverer and stronger and freer it is—then the better it will be if...
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“Faith” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

God tells Abraham, age 100, and Sarah, 90, that they will have a baby.  Both laugh.  God tells them to name their son “Isaac,” which in Hebrew means “laughter.” “Why did the two old crocks laugh?  They laughed because they knew only a fool would believe that a woman with one foot in the grave...
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“Doubt” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith

“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep.  Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith.  They keep it awake and moving.”
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“Billions and Billions of Demons”

Atheist materialists often commit themselves to atheism.  They want the world to have no God and they want to live without having to worry about God.  Nobody is more transparent or candid about his commitment than Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to...
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Confessions

A middle-aged Augustine introduces himself to fellow Christian believers by letting them overhear his extended prayer to God.  His confessions are sometimes in the form of praise: he confesses God’s greatness and goodness.  And sometimes he confesses his sins: of self-deception, lust, conformity to the evil of peers.  Sometimes Augustine sounds anxious, as if his...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Mark 4:27 speaks eloquently of an ordinary miracle: “‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” So Norris imagines a wheat field and superimposed on it, a quote from...
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Our Knowledge of God

Do our doubts have a moral root? Are our “souls urged towards an irreligious life by a lack of self-control in the matter of pleasures and desires (Plato, Laws, 886a, b)?” Baillie’s comment: “Part of the reason why I could not find God was that there is that in God which I did not wish...
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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Virginia planters at the end of the 18th century were expected to live up to a code. They had to be skilled at riding, hiking, and dancing. They were expected to be adept at the small sword, cards, and fiddle-playing. (Thomas Jefferson was pretty adroit on his Amati violin.) They had long political discussions about...
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“Facing Reality,” in The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

“My son came home from school once staggered by a discussion of Abraham Lincoln, whom he revered. None of the other students could be persuaded that Lincoln went into politics for anything but the money. The grandeur of his speeches merely proved the depth of his cynicism. In the same way we can refuse evidence...
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Reaching for the Invisible God: What Can We Expect to Find?

“Monastics have a practice they call statio that means, simply, stopping one thing before beginning another. Rather than rushing from one task to the next, pause for a moment and recognize the time between times. Before dialing the phone, pause and think about the conversation and the person on the other end. After reading from...
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“Sermon 47”

When we are born, everything significant about us, whether good or evil, is uncertain; “death alone is certain. What is this that I say? A child is conceived; perhaps it will be born; perhaps it will be an untimely birth. So it is uncertain. Perhaps he will grow up; perhaps he will not grow up;...
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Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay

Midgley thinks Satan is a libertarian: he has exalted liberty over all else. He has what Elizabeth Anscombe calls the ‘intact liberty in the unsubmissiveness of my will.’ He wants (p. 137) “liberty to rule others, to have one’s own kingdom.” Relevant questions to him–which he himself sees–are “Is your dignity really more important than...
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“Staking All on Faith’s Object: the Art of Christian Assurance according to Martin Luther and Karl Barth”

Olmsted quotes an extraordinary exchange between Emil Brunner and Karl Barth, which opened their correspondence of many years. It shows that giants of theology may struggle with their faith just like non-giants: “Brunner’s first letter to Barth was written in July of 1916, and was in part a response to a sermon Barth had preached...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). The old monks aren’t scandalized by your doubts. They think of doubt as the seed of faith, “a sign that faith is alive and ready to grow.” Do you have any inclination to worship? That’s a sign of faith. A key to gaining faith: repetition. Say the...
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Our Knowledge of God

Is there a clear, sharp line that divides believer and unbeliever? Black and white difference? Or righter and wronger shades of gray? Jesus did divide sheep from goats, but it was also really characteristic of him to “recognize the germ of saving faith in men and women who were as far as possible below the...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

People think a mystic is someone ‘whose head is in the clouds and who can’t get places on time.’ Not necessarily. This is a person who experiences the presence of God–and sometimes through others, often through others. ‘A first-time mother or father, for example, engaged in giving their baby a bath, will suddenly realize that...
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Roger’s Version

Conversation between Roger (divinity prof, doubter) and Dale (science student, believer). Dale: “The Devil is doubt. He’s what makes us reject the gifts God gives us, makes us spurn the life we’ve been given. Did you know, suicide is the second cause of death among teenagers, second only to automobile accidents, which are often a...
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The Scarlet Ruse

“It made me remember the time I went to the performance of a Spanish dance troupe, hoping there was a ticket left at the box office. There was, way way down front. It was so close I could smell the dust they banged up out of the stage. I could see soiled places on the...
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Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Norris struggles with the very idea of a creed and appears to find the very idea somehow off-putting. A creed is a barrier. It’s a standard of orthodoxy, and that’s a red flag. She would rather they were pieces of story-telling, accounts of the life of Jesus, etc., or of “My father was a wandering...
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Harry Emerson Fosdick: Preacher, Pastor, Prophet

Fosdick said there are “three sorts of folk. There are the utter disbelievers. They will have none of religion. It is to them superstition and credulity, and God is as much a myth as the devils of an African witch doctor. But there are not many such. There are the great believers, who have grown...
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Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration

Cousins talks at length of the placebo effect and its importance (especially for control in testing of new drugs). Self-confidence seems somehow to be “picked up by the body’s immunologic mechanisms and translated into anti-morbid effects.” Sometimes all a patient needs is a placebo prescription—”a little slip of paper with indecipherable but magic markings. To...
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