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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Truth

Are You A Red Pill Kind of Person?

Want to feel a little bit older? The Matrix is seventeen years old this year. That’s crazy! I just re-watched the movie last night and am stunned by how well it has held up over the years. Beyond the aged cellphones, this sci-fi classic looks like it could have come out in the past couple years rather than almost two decades ago. Quite a feat for the Wachowski siblings.

Now, the philosophical and religious themes are not hidden very deep, but I today I want to talk about how we can use some of the themes from The Matrix to question how we go about our lives today.

matrix

The basic premise of the film, that the world we consider “real” is just a constructed universe, a prison for the minds of enslaved humanity, is taken right out of the early Gnostic worldview. These mystics believed that the creator of the universe was a malevolent divine being, the Demiurge, who usurped power from the true Supreme Being before creating a fundamentally flawed reality. Freedom from this evil, material world came through learning secret truths that would ultimately set you free upon death.

However, orthodox Christianity also believes that our current world, though created perfectly by a perfect God, is in a fallen and miserable state. We, citizens of Heaven, do not truly belong here, but are freed by our hero, the Christ. Once we become aware of the difference between the fallenness of “the world,” and the reality of “Heaven,” we start to see our existence in a very different light. We even believe it is our duty to help free others from the lies of this world and bring them into the real Kingdom.

The question I pose to you today may seem simple at first, but I want to spend some time unpacking it. I want you to think about the question long and hard, because your answer may truly change your life.

Would you take the red pill?

If you haven’t seen the film, the hero, Neo, when faced with questions about the nature of reality, is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The blue pill would set him back in blissful ignorance, and the red would pull him further down in his search for Truth.

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When we begin to see the world in its true, fallen state, coming to grips with the extent of the enemy’s lies can be overwhelming. Our first questions are met with answers that only lead to more questions. If we follow these questions, we are forced to face more and more questions, and often are given fewer and fewer answers. It is frustrating and terrifying.

If we decide to search for Truth, we must be willing to accept that things we believe are true may not be. We have to hold what we know lightly, or be crushed when we learn that our knowledge is false. Morpheus, Neo’s mentor, claims that they do not free a mind after a certain age for fear of mental rejection. We don’t always have that option.

Digging into the Truth means finding good and evil inside ourselves, our loved ones, and our society. We can praise our heroism one day, then be faced with the reality of deeply ingrained and deeply evil social structures the next. The values we grew up with may turn out to be, at best, morally neutral, and at worst, downright harmful. Do you risk that?

It’s hard to live a red pill life. You have to be willing to live in a grey zone. Competing goods do not always allow us to make the best decision, or to even know what the best decision is.

It’s far easier to live a blue pill life. You can continue on as you are, comfortable, determined, pleasant. We have a deep aversion to suffering, and would rather opiate ourselves into a comfortable, blind oblivion than swallow the truth that we may need to change. The blue pill makes us feel good about ourselves, our lives, and our choices.

The red pill does not.

The red pill takes us down Alice’s rabbit hole to places unknown, uncomfortable, and unpleasant. But it will lead to the Truth, and the truth, as Jesus told us, will set us free.

Because, in the end, the blue pill is a prison. Like the Matrix, we are slaves to our own self-indulgence and self-worth. We are not free to live the life that God would have us live if we are afraid of chasing down the Truth. We may be comfortable, safe, and even happy, but we are not free.

So, this week, I ask you: Do you DARE to take the red pill? Do you have the courage to ask questions about what you believe? About what really is real? About why you are here?

In the end, the choice is yours. Choose wisely.

 

The Truth about Santa Claus

Well, my plan to write a lot over December failed miserably. It turns out that having term papers to write and finals to prepare for took a lot more of my time than I was expecting. Coupled with preparing our new family for the Christmas season led to Epic Theology taking a back seat for a few weeks. But we’re back, and hopefully on track now.

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Many devout Christians that I know struggle with the idea of Santa Claus. As new parents, they have to decide if they will raise their children with Santa Claus or without. Many feel that Santa is the symbol for the commercialization of a holiday that is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To further propagate this de-Christianized Christmas by making the holiday about a fat man in a red suit jars with their faith. Yet, to be the only 8-year-old in class who doesn’t believe brings its own challenges. So, how do we plot a course through this maze of Christmas turmoil?

I was raised believing in Santa Claus, but he was never the main event of Christmas. I was told that St. Nick worked for Jesus, bringing presents to people on Jesus’ birthday because Christ was in heaven and didn’t need any presents. I was excited to open presents on Christmas day, but I was also excited about the children’s pageant at church or the lighting of the advent wreath at home. Even as a child, I knew that Santa, while fun and exciting, was not as important as Jesus.

But is there any real merit in the jolly old elf? I think so. Santa is a symbol for far more than Coca-Cola and shopping malls. He is a symbol of hope, joy, and generosity.

There is something incredibly magical about the hope that someone loves you enough to sneak into your house to leave you exactly the present you were wishing for. The idea that someone you have never met face-to-face has your happiness in mind, and spends all year preparing for it, gives a glimpse into how we are loved by God. He has the best gifts ready for us, and is willing to come to us to deliver them. I think we sometimes lose how amazing that truth is, but we can relearn by watching children with Santa Claus.

It is very easy to allow the joy to be sapped out of the holiday season. Gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, gifts to transport across the country, along with parties, events, games, and relatives, all add up to a lot of effort over Christmas. I know many people who allow themselves to get incredibly stressed right up to Christmas Eve, and then expect the magic of the day to take over. This is silly. We need to realize that joy, the kind that is symbolized in the jolly, round tummied Santa Claus, is a choice that we can maintain throughout the season. If all of December is a joyful event culminating in the magic of Christmas Day, imagine how much less stress would enter into our lives.

Finally, Santa reminds us each year that it truly is better to give than to receive. Watching the faces of loved ones as they open the gift that I have spent time and resources to get for them is such a blessing to me. Even the Bible affirms this truth: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35). Christmas is the time where we should be thinking not about ourselves, but about others. We bake and cook and shop to please those we love. And hopefully, we can go beyond this to help those we may not love, but need our help anyways: the homeless, the hungry, the noisy neighbours next door. Our generosity, like that of St. Nicholas, and Jesus Christ, should have no bounds.

In the end, what will we teach our son about Santa Claus? We haven’t decided yet. I am not opposed to those who decide not to join in with the myth of Santa, especially for religious reasons. But I know that Christmas magic will be palpable at our house. We aim to blend the sacred and the celebratory to give Jesus Christ a birthday that is memorable each year. Christmas is my favourite time of year, with Santa serving the Lord Jesus right beside the rest of us.

How about you? What do you teach your kids about Santa Claus? Do you think Kris Kringle can be redeemed for the faithful? Chime in!

Merry Christmas to all of our readers who celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all those who do not!

Blessings

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