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Painting The Stars

NYC - MoMA: Vincent van Gogh´s The Starry Night

“When I have a terrible need of – dare I say, ‘religion’? – then I go outside at night and paint the stars.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s quote serves as inspiration for the title of a new educational DVD/video series, titled:  “Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and Evolving Faith.”

(Disclosure:  I received this DVD from the publisher through my association with the Speakeasy blogging network.  My opinions are my own and have not been influenced by the DVD author/publisher.  I am not required to write a postive review.  There, I got that legal stuff out of the way early.)

The DVD case declares the intention of the producer as “Celebrating the communion of science and faith.” It does not do so from the perspective of some sort of “creation science” perspective, however.  For those with very conservative or fundamentalistic approach to theology and scripture, this video will do more than just dissapoint.  In fact, it will often anger.  In fact, as one who is slightly “left of center,” I still found much of the content challenging.

Perhaps the reason is that I have spent my career as a clergyman asking people of faith to not try and answer scientific questions with scripture references, usually taken out of context and misapplied anyways.  Rather I have suggested that the REAL important question about life are not the scientific ones.  Theology, I have said, does not so much address the HOW things came into being as much as the WHO is responsible and WHY creation has happened.

For the typically conservative typed churches I have served, this statement has usually been something of a stretch. But most have been open minded enough to meet me at that point.  This has allowed folks to accept a “six days of creation” understanding of the cosmos, while exploring deeper questions about the ONE who is responsible for creation.  It has prevented arguments over where the dinasaurs went and other issues that really don’t change lives and improve our world.

So when this DVD from “Living The Questions” arrived, I knew that I would hear some of the challenges that come from the far left…the kinds of challenges that, in my opinion, further muddy the waters over what is important (and, dare I say it, what is TRUTH).  If a relatively open-minded fellow like me finds the content “way out in left field,” then I know that this video series will probably not be a useful tool for my congregation.  I guess we “still have some evolving to do” (sarcasm intended).

Here’s one example.  A primary notion throughout the seven video series is that evolution is not merely biological, but also a cosmological, ecological, psychological, and theological.  In other words, EVERYTHING IS EVOLVING – even God.  When folks start going off in that direction, and begin conversations about the “Cosmic Christ,” while stating, as one theologian did, that ”everything is incarnation,” – well, that becomes rather frustrating.

One of the great challenges for ALL theology (left, right, liberal, conservative, emergent, post-modern, etc.) is to take seriously the HUMAN form of God in Christ.  To explore what that means for understanding the nature of God, ethics, etc.  How in the heck can you continue that conversation with everyday people of faith when something that sounds so pantheistic.  Oh, and how is the 17th century philosophy of Benedict de Spinoza (who argued that God and Nature are merely two names for one reality) anything that is fresh, new or evolving?

This stated, I knew what I was getting myself into when the opportunity came for me to request a review copy of the DVD. It features over a dozen leading progressive thinkers and theologian, including:

•Philip Clayton •Michael Dowd •Rachel Held Evans •Matthew Fox •Catherine Keller •Megan McKenna •Michael Morwood •Jan Phillips •Barbara Rossing •Bruce Sanguin •Bernard Brandon Scott •John Shelby Spong •Gretta Vosper

I was especially drawn to John Shelby Spong who was formerly a Rector in Richmond, VA, where I live.  I have heard him speak on several occasions and have always found him to be rather provocative.

The DVD is divided into seven chapters, each about twenty minutes in length.  I will say that a couple of the sessions were the longest twenty minutes of my life.  Still, the production values is very strong and the videos were very well made.

If you are from a liberal mainline church, or somebody that simply must be challenged to think WAY, way, WAY outside the box, you’ll probably enjoy and find use for this series.

To learn more about the video, or order a copy, please visit www.livingthequestions.com

 

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One Response to “Painting The Stars”

  1. Linda says:

    Thank you for standing up an acknowledging the offense of this film. My former church that I left due to their going in this direction – they are starting a class on this “Painting the Stars” (part 2) and continuing with Part 1. When I listened to this video today in order to find out what the new class was about, I felt like someone had smocked me in the chest. How dare they call this “Progressive Christianity”? It is Anti-Christian, making fun of us, Jesus, and heaven.

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