The New Birth

A pastor-friend and I were discussing how we should understand (and not understand) the meaning of the new birth or being born again as taught by Jesus and his Apostles in Scripture. It was a fruitful conversation.

More recently, I’ve tended to favor or emphasize the New Birth as a corporate objective historical reality first and foremost. And there’s plenty of biblical warrant for viewing it that way. Lots of biblical talk about sociopolitical turmoil and society upheaval as birth pains. And in this thinking, an individual’s new birth is a matter of subjectively getting caught up in that corporate objective historical reality. It’s akin to the historia salutis of salvation accomplished by Christ in history compared with the ordo salutis of salvation applied by the Spirit in the individual.

I can see some contrarianism to American baptistic revivalist evangelical notions of the born-again experience at work in my shifted view. And that doesn’t bother me all that much. But I don’t like that I sense my shifted view is going so far as to undermining my confidence in a significant change in the individual that marks a real event.

My pastor-friend said we can have both. And we can especially have the new birth of the individual as a substantial reality (i.e. the meaningful retention of present Reformed and New Calvinist notions of regeneration or effectual calling) without the revivalist baggage. To do so, we have to reject the assumptive importation of revivalist notions about altar calls, radical conversion experiences, etc. into the biblical text when it speaks of us being born of God. There’s no actual biblical expectation of what the event looks like to us. The individual’s new birth by the Spirit is substantial and definitive in some way. But it’s an invisible reality. It’s known by its results. It’s the resulting reality to which we look. But it’s not a spectacle with some particular characteristics to which we look.

The new birth is a status to be believed about ourselves to remind us in Whom we have our origin. And the reality of the new birth reveals to us that it is a necessary work of the Spirit of God in us to grant us sight and entrance into the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is the Age of the Spirit, and its citizens must be born of the Spirit.

Rethinking the Golden Chain

Over the last several years, I’ve come to think differently about the theological bling of the New Calvinism and the self-styled Truly Reformed, i.e. the Golden Chain of Redemption, the Reformed ordo salutis (order of salvation) as it’s commonly taught.

A friend directed me to this Visual Theology – The Order of Salvation from Tim Challies as representative of the common New Calvinist presentation of the subject, and he asked me what I thought of it. What follows is an adaptation of my response.

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Alrighty. For starters, this article from the Theopolis Institute is about how Richard Gaffin accidentally “started a revolution” in Reformed systematics by inadvertently undermining the ordo salutis of modern Reformed systematics when he demonstrated it’s an aberration from early Reformed theology centered on union with Christ in which most of the steps of the ordo salutis are actually different facets of the single reality of union with Christ.

In recent years, I’ve come to embrace this more eschatological understanding of salvation as it’s applied in our lives. The central reality is our union with the resurrected Lord Jesus. Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of the Resurrection or World to Come, the age of the kingdom of God. Therefore, he is the inauguration of the future in the present. Our union with him causes us to share in everything he is and has as the New Man, and therefore the character of the future invades the present in our lives and out to this world. Our personal salvation is the salvation of the entire world in the future invading the present world both individually and corporately as the society of salvation (i.e. the Church of Jesus Christ).

This all clicked for me at some point when I was studying eschatology and thinking about the Already and the Not-Yet and reading The Bible and the Future by Anthony Hoekema. This is how I came to see Soteriology is Ecclesiology is Eschatology is Christology.

So, the ordo salutis Challies posted is exactly the one I would have written out for you if you would’ve asked me eight or nine years ago. And I learned it primarily from reading lots of New Calvinists. Of course, even then I’d have said conversion, justification, and adoption are temporally simultaneous, also justification and adoption are logically simultaneous as parallel aspects. And this is pretty much the ordo salutis you’d get from the staunchly “Truly Reformed” types and the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” types.

So, here’s my critique, both good and bad . . .

I’m no longer convinced the typical biblical use of election language means what Challies says it means. I’d probably use the language of foreknown and foreordained (or predestined) to get a little closer. But all of those words when used in Scripture don’t have the truncated meaning that they do in Reformed systematics. I’d argue that anyone who’s in the Church either temporarily (and then apostatizes) or permanently (who perseveres to the end) can lay claim to this sort of language on account of participation in the Church, because that’s the way the apostles speak. In other words, there are covenantal aspects to this language that overlap or mix with the decretal aspects.

The same thing ends up being the case for a lot of the other terms. This has been a critique in quite a few Reformed circles, i.e. the biblical words used in that systematic ordo salutis have truncated and technical meanings that aren’t exactly the same as what we discern in Scripture. And we have to really check ourselves to keep from reading only the Reformed systematic meanings back onto Scripture.

The language of calling also has covenantal and ecclesiological connotations since “calling” (Gr. kaleo) and the “assembly” or “church” or “called-out ones” (Gr. ekklesia) are related. But I do agree that there’s this thing known as effectual calling in Reformed systematics.

I’m actually a little suspicious of this thing we call regeneration on two counts. First, even though it’s been popular to use “regeneration” this way in Reformed systematics for a few hundred years, it’s simply not the meaning of regeneration (Gr. palingenesia) in Scripture. In Scripture, there’s “the Regeneration” (Matt. 19:28) referring to the Eschaton, and there’s the “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5) which I believe is a baptismal reference. I think the Regeneration has primacy of meaning and is synonymous with the New Creation or the World to Come, etc. As it’s individually applied, our own regeneration is something a little closer to what is often meant by “progressive sanctification” (i.e. the lifelong process of being remade or refurbished after having been marred and mangled by sin). Second, I do question or wonder if there is really this definitive, absolute, black-and-white, internal change of natures that is called the “new birth” or being “born again” in typical evangelical theology, or if we’ve individualized and internalized something that’s actually a historical and ritual reality. I usually think something like this (though not a change of nature) is, in fact, included in the “new birth” as Scripture uses that language. Other words for it could be quickening or enlivening. But I’d still contend there are inescapable connections between these words and inclusion in the Church as a sociological identity in Scripture. I’d almost want to use the language of “circumcision of the heart”, but that has complications too.

I’m not a fan of using the language of conversion in reference to a single act of confession and renunciation or to a discreet episode (often during a moment of crisis). Scripturally and historically, “conversion” is like repentance; it’s an ongoing repetitive reality referring to our growth in wisdom and godly conduct. It also concerns changing our allegiance and then strengthening it.

Justification is definitely a truncated concept in modern Reformed theology and much of Protestant theology more generally. It’s often only a discrete, definitive legal declaration by God at a certain moment in the ordo salutis in an person’s life. It often comes across as generally very impersonal like a financial transaction and has very little connection with a deeply personal peace in fellowship with God. And there’s often no acknowledgement in Reformed systematics of progressive (“are being justified”) and future (“will be justified”) aspects of justification that are found in Scripture. There’s not much of a place afforded to descriptive righteousness, i.e. “the one who does what is righteous is the righteous one.” We should be able to speak of walking in paths of righteousness and going in the way of righteousness as Scripture does. I think Reformed systematics employs the language of sanctification to do the work that the language of righteousness is meant to do.

The language of adoption is another one of those instances where some biblical authors give it ties to membership in the covenant community or the Church.

In recent years, I’ve started to agree with the Lutherans that Calvinists generally have no clue what sanctification really means. Sanctification or holiness is a ceremonial status indicating or measuring our ritual proximity to God. You can definitely see in the Letter to the Hebrews that the author doesn’t use “sanctification” language the way Reformed systematics does. I’d be more inclined to talk about our “growth in good works” like a Lutheran rather than “progressive sanctification” like a Calvinist. However, I don’t deny progressive sanctification or that biblical language of holiness does relate to conduct.

I wouldn’t define perseverance quite like Challies does (“those who are justified are kept to the end”), because I’ve already noted I wouldn’t use justification precisely the way he does. I’d just say phenomenologically that perseverance is about maintaining faith in Christ to the end. There’s generally no real appreciation in a heavily decretal view of perseverance for what those who apostatize had once enjoyed and experienced (Heb. 6:4-6).

The way Challies (and pretty much everyone else who teaches the Reformed ordo salutis) uses glorification is pretty much completely wrong. Just look around in Paul’s writings. Even in the “Golden Chain” itself (the closest thing to be found in Scripture to a compact ordo salutis) in Romans 8:29-30, it’s in the past tense: “those whom he justified, he also glorified.” We’re already glorified. And we’re constantly being more glorified: “we all are being changed from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). And we will be yet more glorified in the future. If you want to talk about our individual future condition in the Resurrection, or Regeneration (Matt. 19:28), or Restoration (Acts 3:21), I’d talk about the consummation of our salvation. The aspect of glorification is one facet of our present state that’s parallel to our justification, conversion, regeneration, etc. (as I’ve described them above).

The biggest problem with this decretal ordo salutis is that it’s virtually useless pastorally. It can’t really be connected to an infallible certainty we have about ourselves or each other. It only provides us with categories for hypothetical individuals called the decretally elect and the presumptuously reprobate. Sometimes, less is more. We could just as easily say God is sovereign over all of salvation (and really mean what we say when we say that). And there’s a need to connect soteriology with ecclesiology so that salvation has a context. The Triune God isn’t saving a detached set of individuals; he’s saving a people with a structured social reality and shared corporate purpose.

So there’s my fairly contrarian rant on the matter. 😉

God Creates Dinosaurs VI

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the films. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution
“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018)

Fallen Kingdom parallels The Lost World (1997) just like Jurassic World (2015) paralleled Jurassic Park (1993). Each movie of the pair features a character or two who turned from a life as an entertainment-based capitalist-consumerist to a guilt-ridden naturalist-preservationist and animal-rights advocate regarding the dinosaurs. Both suffer from the same problem of not questioning their fundamental mistake: it wasn’t their business to create dinosaurs in the first place, and once the deed was done, it doesn’t make preservation of dinosaurs noble or moral.

And while The Lost World and Fallen Kingdom each have a misguided guilt-driven wannabe hero seeking self-redemption (i.e. John Hammond and Claire Dearing), they each have an antagonist doubling down with an even more ruthless capitalist-consumerist plan for the dinosaurs (i.e. Peter Ludlow and Eli Mills).

Mills: “Claire, I admire your idealism. But we both exploited these animals. At least I have the integrity to admit it. … You exploited a living thing in a cage for money. How is that any different?”

Mills has a point here. At the end of the day, exploitation is exploitation, whether people experience it with a smile of delight or a wince of disgust. Keeping with the metaphor of my thesis, sexual liberation is just a deluded “happy” form of our sexual self-exploitation. In Jurassic World, the dinosaurs are the happy pampered park inhabitants who exist for the pleasure of tourists, like a lifestyle of casual sex. In Fallen Kingdom, I see Ken Wheatley’s crew capturing, roping, crating, caging, intimidating, transporting, and abusing a bunch of dinosaurs, and I can’t help but see something a lot like international sex trafficking.

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The metaphor that forms my thesis starts feeling a bit convoluted or confusing at times when applied to Fallen Kingdom, because a point has come where the metaphoric and the literal begin to be one and the same. Nowhere do the metaphoric and the literal meet with greater clarity than Maizie Lockwood—a child clone of the dead daughter of a sad lonely dying old man. Not the embodied icon of the self-sacrificing love of her parents. But an isolated child who’s the product of capitalist-consumerist reproductive technology for the satisfaction of a wealthy recluse who doesn’t have the ethical sense to know the difference between whether he could do a thing and whether he should do a thing.

Benjamin tells Claire that he’s “trying to save us” with his grand philanthropic gesture to relocate the dinosaurs. And his final stated reason they have to do this is that it’s “for the children” as an abstraction. It’s peak irony. Real individual children are the victims of the sexual revolution, whether as collateral causalities, consumer commodities, or sacrificial offerings to cultic careerism.

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It was a dark and stormy night on Isla Nublar …

The opening scene is fertile ground for imagery and becomes pregnant with meaning. The dark watery gates to the Jurassic World lagoon open, and the mini-sub enters. Working backward from the monstrous life that is to be created from dead remains at the bottom of the lagoon, it functions as a metaphor for a womb. And a barren womb as hoped by the mini-sub driver who assures his partner.

Driver: “Anything in here would be dead by now.”

Beginning here in the lagoon, there is a reversal of the origins of the sexes that took place in the beginning. God put the man who he created into a death-sleep. God took a rib out of the man, and from that rib, God builds a woman. But in Fallen Kingdom, it is arrogant, avaricious, and hubristic man who takes a rib from the dead remains of the Indominus Rex, and from that rib, man builds an Indoraptor.

As I presented previously, the female Indominus Rex is an Anti-Eve, an Anti-Mother and destroyer of all living. And from her death, there arises a male Indoraptor that is an Anti-Adam, an Anti-Father and destroyer to make the earth barren. They’re completely twisted from their natural purpose as living things that were created and commanded by God to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.

Weaponizing dinosaurs is like the sexual revolution in that it changes the teleology of a thing. The sexual revolution is about man rending asunder the divine design for human sexuality and reconfiguring it for ends which it was never designed to serve and cannot serve with any genuinely good and healthy fruition.

The monstrous manufacturing of the Indominus Rex, and even more so the Indoraptor, is Frankensteinian scientific madness and horror. And the movie embraces this by taking on the genre of a horror movie as the Indoraptor is debuted, escapes, and wreaks havoc and carnage until it’s impaled to death.

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In an argument of the time and cost of the work to further perfect the Indoraptor, Henry Wu tells Eli Mills what the fundamental problem is with the Indoraptor they have.

Wu: “It needs a mother!”

The bottom-line problem is still one of family dysfunction and breakdown. Mad science won’t impart empathy, obedience, and other civilizing traits to this monster. It can’t fill the gap that only real parenting can fill.

And here we have Blue who has grown up from being a good daughter under Owen Grady and takes on motherliness in a variety of ways in the movie. She protects Zia and Franklin like two hapless kids in danger. She marks and confronts the Indoraptor as a threat to her adoptive family—Owen, Claire, and Maizie who have formed up as a family following the recurring theme in this movie series where functional family units survive and overcome.

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I’ll conclude with the remarks of an older wiser seasoned Ian Malcolm testifying before a government committee.

Malcolm: “I think that we should allow our magnificent, glorious dinosaurs to be taken out by the volcano. … This is a correction.”

The listening crowd hisses and mumbles, “Murderer.” But Malcolm is right. As I presented previously, the takedown finale of the Indominus Rex is a metaphor. The sexual revolution will come to a disastrous end. It will be challenged and pecked at by genuine wise Reason (Blue the Velociraptor). It will be bucked and pummeled by tested and tempered Tradition (Rexy the Tyrannosaur). And it will finally be dragged down to the depths and drowned by rugged and relentless Nature (Shamu the Mosasaur). The sexual revolution is against all of these things. And Nature, the created order with its created meaning and purpose, is the most fundamental of the trio. In Fallen Kingdom, Nature has taken a new form, Mt. Sibu the active volcano. And it is offering a guilt-free opportunity to just step back and allow it to set things right. And Malcolm tells us why we should do so.

Malcolm: “We amassed a landmark technological power, and we’ve consistently proven ourselves incapable of handling that power … Now we’ve got genetic power. How long is it going to take for that to spread around the globe? And what’s going to be done with it? It ain’t gonna stop with the de-extinction of dinosaurs … I’m talking about manmade cataclysmic change … Change is like death; you don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates. … We’re causing our own extinction.”

Here again, the metaphoric and the literal begin to meet and be one and the same. The sexual revolution has been aided every step of the way by the particular applications of technologies that have enabled the circumvention and redeployment of human sexuality from its God-given purposes. And it’s becoming a proposed and desired gateway for some to pursue the transformation of future generations of humans into something other than human. As C.S. Lewis argued in The Abolition of Man, the grand project of seeking ultimate freedom over ourselves, over the restrictions of our own nature, so that man can remake himself any way he sees fit will end with man having only the fallen rebellious desires of his morally corrupt nature to guide the foolish project. Thus this transhumanism will enslave man to his fallen desires and destroy man.

My Social-Salvific Ritual Framework

This is a summary of my interpretation (or adaptation?) of the ritualistic framework for soteriology that I’ve learned from reading Peter Leithart’s materials. I favor it, because I think it does a good job modeling ordinary human social and developmental reality and the perspective from which the biblical authors were writing.

This soteriological framework is fundamentally sociological. Salvation ordinarily occurs in a context. It takes a social form. It’s a community with a past and a future—its history and destiny. It has an objectivity that comes before the individual who is initiated into it and who internalizes it via ritual. Salvation takes the form of the Church, the Family and Household of God prepared by God for God. The Church is the community and context of salvation outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

In this sociological framework, induction and participation in this social environment is grounds for being named according to its character and benefits. It is the community of those who are the called, the adopted, the justified, the sanctified, and the glorified.

Holy Baptism at the Lord’s Font is our rite of initiation in this community. And covenant renewal worship culminating at the Lord’s Table, feasting on the Lord’s Supper is our rite of renewal in this community. These rites formalize our relationship with Christ and our identity in Christ in a manner similar to that of other ordinary human social rituals.

The development of individual faith in this context begins with the Faith. One is brought into the Faith, and the Faith is inculcated into the one through the regular ministry of the Word and the Sacraments. This is a common ancient understanding of what it means to be a believer. A faithful one is he who is abiding in the Faith.

In this framework, salvation works from the outside in. The grace of God gets at a man from the outside in through the Gospel preached into the ears, the water poured on the skin, the bread and wine consumed in the mouth, the love of the brethren bestowed in daily life in fellowship.

And, in fact, it’s the freedom of God in his invisible mysterious ways that determines in what way these graces and blessings will impact the individual. A man is like the earth that drinks in the rain falling upon it. And it’s the freedom of God that determines what sort of growth that ground will yield. Are these graces and blessings nurturing life and perseverance? Or are they feeding hardness and apostasy? Time will tell as God wills.

In my view, the difference between this ritualistic framework and a standard systematic theological framework (e.g. the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards) is that the latter framework restricts itself to the individual’s subjective appropriation of salvation. It limits the scope of the substance to the “internal” world of the individual. It makes the attribution of participation in the benefits of salvation generally improper to apply to those not internalizing salvation unto eternal life. A standard systematic view will speak of such people (i.e. the presumptuous reprobate) as mere “external” or “legal” participants. This isn’t wrong according to its own logical construction and its accuracy regarding decretal election and salvation applied to the individual. But it doesn’t reckon well with the biblical language about those who apostatize. Such souls are spoken of in ways that indicate significant participation in the blessings and person of Christ.

This ritualistic sociological framework enables those who believe in Reformed decretal soteriology to maintain decretal election unto preservation while acknowledging a real and significant participation by those who do not persevere but apostatize. I think this view comports better with the notion of “those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, and had become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and had tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” but fell away. Indeed, all such blessing wasn’t internalized and didn’t save such a soul to the end. But a profound participation occurred, because such attribution indicates as much. And that’s because the apostate’s prior participation was in the communal life of salvation. That communal participation rightly deserves to be called (and is called in Scripture) a participation in salvation.

This sociological framework gives weight to the threat of excommunication, whether it’s the excommunication imposed by duly ordained authorities upon a congregant who’s in serious and recalcitrant sin, or the subtle and slow self-excommunication of a man who comes to believe he no longer needs to participate in the life of the Church to be in good standing and spiritual health with God.

Given this sociological framework, various scriptural statements regarding the efficacy of baptism make sense in light of one’s initiation into the communal context of salvation:

  • Baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21)
  • Baptism justifies (Romans 6:7)
  • Baptism forgives and washes away sin (Acts 2:38; 22:16)
  • Baptism unites with Christ (Romans 6:3-4)
  • Baptism clothes in Christ (Galatians 3:27)
  • Baptism regenerates (Titus 3:5)

These effects don’t need to be explained by appeals to “baptism” as a metonym or a code word indicating something else, nor to a magical power in the water that doesn’t always stick, nor to charitable presumption and attribution as the way of satisfying conformity with a theology of decretal election and perseverance. Baptism straightforwardly does these things because the fundamental frame of reference is induction into the society of salvation where the reality is inculcated in the individual.

This sociological and ritualistic framework has a lot of explanatory power. I hope you’ve gained something from considering it.

Victims, Perpetrators, and the Good Scapegoat

I’m convinced that in this time and place in culture the message of Jesus as the Scapegoat of God who ends the pattern of violence in the world is needed as desperately as the more familiar message of Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The Pattern Perpetuates

I’ve sat through more than one training course for creating safe spaces for children in public environments. One thing you learn in these training courses is a common factor about the backgrounds of most child abusers: they were abused as children themselves. As the truism goes, most abusers of children were abused as children themselves. But thankfully, the other half of the truism is that most abused children will not grow to be abusers themselves. In the kindness and mercy of God, humans can find resilience and develop antifragility. And such victims can grow to be more keen toward and vigilant against such injustices than the average person. The outcomes are uncertain and remain long hidden.

There is potentially great folly in trotting out the victims of grievous sins and crimes and establishing them publicly as the unimpeachable figureheads of their own causes. Doing such things with genuine victims is a dangerous gamble that sometimes pays off and other times proves amass tragedy upon tragedy. The folly in doing so is one side of a two-sided coin. The victim of something heinous has higher than average possibilities for two things: 1.) being an ardent effective advocate for the cause of defending and preventing future victims of the same injustices, and 2.) being the next generation of victimizer in a vicious cycle of perpetuating further injustices.

And those are not mutually exclusive possibilities. An individual can enact both of them simultaneously. It is the temptation of a life lived as a professional victim—victimizing other with vindictive bitterness.

The professional victim is someone who is consumed by victimhood as a mark of identity and a source of power in a reversal of circumstances. Fueled by bitterness, professional victims go beyond mere cries for empathy to emotionally blackmail other people. Playing the victim card is used shut down personal responsibility and thwart actual justice. This is the truth behind the truism: hurting people hurt people. Some hurting people merely hurt others by accident. Some hurting people become so embittered that they hurt others on purpose while not even viewing it that way. One can be a professional victim, and one can be an advocate of professional victims.

Victimization is real. Traumatization is real. Traumatized victims need sympathy and wise pastor care that shows due sensitivity while smartly ministering a long-term course of resilience. All this is deeply true. But professional victimhood is a sad reality as well.

Victimizers are not bizarre monstrous aberrations of our species, which is an otherwise benign and good-natured lifeform. They come from somewhere. They are the product of something. The general willful ignorance of the relationship between being victims and becoming perpetrators in our culture is an exercise in insanity.

And how dare I say “they” as if “they” isn’t all of us in the final analysis?

We thoroughgoingly Augustinian Christians let no one off the hook. We darn well know every last one of us is both a victim and a perpetrator of our own sin upon ourselves and others. In truth, each of us is simul victima et commissor—at the same time, a victim and a perpetrator. And there’s only one way to break that cycle.

As my friend put it:

If you do not take your victimhood to the Cross, you will victimize someone else in your bitterness and contempt for your oppressor.

Christ is the Great and True Victim sent from on High. And he is the ultimate Girardian Scapegoat for a whole world’s worth of misdirected anxieties, shame, blame, bitterness, resentment, and so forth. All of that victimization pours out from the mass of victimized perpetrators called the offspring of Adam.

We must bring our victimhood to Christ, where it is nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb with our Lord. And we must daily reckon ourselves to be vindicated conquerors in the one who sits enthroned at the right hand of God and is conquering all his enemies.

The Pattern Terminates

Christ in the role of scapegoat has some parallels or counterparts to the role of shepherd. In some respects, it’s only a matter of the point of view. Christ is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep as he himself teaches. In the eyes of his sheep, that’s who he is and what he does.

But in the eyes of the religious leaders during the days of his flesh, he was the scapegoat, the man clearly to be blamed for everything and who needed to die so the nation would survive as Caiaphas prophesied. Christ was the one upon who the unbelieving religious leadership and their riotous mob heaped their collective anxieties, paranoia, suspicions, prejudices, projected guilt, and systemic shame.

In his book The Scapegoat, author René Girard unpacks his “mimetic theory of violence” and the scapegoat mechanism. He explores ancient mythological tales and shows their parallels to what happened to Jesus in the Gospels. The myths and the Gospels are both persecution narratives.

The ancient myths were told from the perspective of the persecutors as they perceived their victim to be the indisputable source of all societal ills, plagues, failing crops, and so forth. Therefore, the victim’s death is obviously justified. It’s virtually his civic duty to die in light of his heinous transgression against the peace and welfare of the community. Of course, the ‘culprit’ must be compelled to confess his guilt so all is neatly in order before he’s properly executed. And with his death, peace and abundance are restored.

However, the Gospels tell the persecution narrative from the perspective of the victim and his allies. The hysterical mob’s anxiety-laden irrationality (otherwise disguised as solemn, serious, and severe sensibility in the self-delusion of the persecutors) is shown plainly for what it is. An innocent man bears the blame and frustration of the people.

In Girard’s framework, the scapegoat mechanism as it commonly functions isn’t seen for what it actually is by those writhing in the throes of mimetic violence. But in the case of Christ and in the shadows of the Old Testament, the scapegoat is called out by name. It abides as an understood reality in the liturgical life of ancient Israel. It was known that a ritual of “scapegoating” was being enacted as a source of comfort to the community, and this was a rite instituted by God for the assurance of the people (Leviticus 16).

On yom kippurim (the “day of coverings”) two goats were brought forward in the sight of the whole assembly of Israel, and lots were cast regarding the goats. One goat was “for Yahweh”, and it was slain. Its blood was sprinkled upon the kapporet (the “mercy seat” or “footstool of placation”), overshadowed by the wings of golden cherubim and resting atop the Ark of the Covenant in the most holy place deep within the heart (or rather at the very summit) of the tabernacle.

The other goat was “for Azazel” (meaning “for utter removal”), and it was expelled alive from the camp of the people of God, never to return. All year every year, the follies and weaknesses of the people flowed up the ceremonial system as a great accumulator of sin and unrest, gathering upon the high priest as the ceremonial head and representative of the assembly in the eyes of Yahweh. On the Day of Coverings, the high priest pressed his hands on the goat for Azazel and confessed over it all the failings of the people, ritually heaping the holy community’s guilt upon the scapegoat. All the community’s attendant anxieties psychologically flowed with the impartation of their guilt onto the scapegoat. The goat was then lead out into the wilderness to Azazel, to utter expulsion. The people were ritually assured as they saw their sins and fears carried away into the wilderness.

Christ the Incarnate Son in himself is the entirety of the worship and offering system of the Old Testament in its fulfillment. We see this in a number of ways. For instance, he is both the Lamb of God who’s slain and the Great High Priest who offers his own blood up to God to purge our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness. Likewise, he’s the Great High Priest gathering up our sins and anxieties, and he’s the True Scapegoat, heaping the failures and attendant anguish upon himself and bearing it away from us. It’s important to understand the Good Scapegoat’s service as being more than the bearing away of our judicial guilt. It’s also the expulsion of psychological anxiety. We are called to cast all of our anxieties upon him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So, this is our Great High Priest’s ministry of compassion to us and his pastoral care for us as the Good Shepherd who cares for the Flock of God.

In this, we’re called to imitate our Lord. The Church, the Body of Christ, are those who by God’s grace bear the anxieties of others in our ministry as we are given for the life of the world. And we must come to Christ, the Head of the Body, with all our gathered anxieties. The Good Scapegoat will bear them all away into utter expulsion, and he’ll give us blessed assurance that we have peace with God and with one another.

A Profane Stench in Holy Nostrils

A few thoughts on abominations in Scripture and selective appeals to them, specifically against homosexuality, by a prior generation of Christians that was not entirely free of worldly thinking and desires.

Moral Conceptions

The word “abomination” (Hebrew: tōēvah) refers to a stench in the nostrils or the cause of the gag reflex. This is the so-called Yuck Factor in modern culture. And thus the biblical references to the land “vomiting out” its inhabitants. An abomination to God is a generic or common object or practice that evokes moral disgust. A related idea is a “detestable thing” (Hebrew: sheqetz). It refers to a consecrated object or space that becomes defiled and evokes moral disgust. (Unfortunately, the words tōēvah and sheqetz are not translated consistently in English Bibles.)

The human Yuck Factor is analogous to that of the Divine. It’s a genuine moral emotion experienced as disgust. Moral Foundations Theory in psychology has been exploring this concept which finds expression in moral notions of sanctity and degradation. This is the holy and the profane. Notions of ascent to the pure, the ethereal, and the transcendent in contrast with descent into the contaminated, the debased, and the abysmal.

We do have to consider carefully that sin has marred our humanity. So, for us, the Yuck Factor can be a matter of our prejudicial fears more than actual convictions or properly formed moral sentiment in a consistent biblical ethic.

It has been observed that the Yuck Factor is losing (or has essentially lost) its cogency in arguments about sexual ethics. Insofar as the Yuck Factor was an expression of personal prejudice, good riddance. However, it’s not as if the notion and function of a Yuck Factor has vanished. The present cultural generation is merely redeploying this moral emotion for other ends—quite possibly toward ends that are not in line with biblical ethics (God’s holy law). The new situation of prejudicial fear may prove more warped and destructive than the prior situation of prejudicial fear.

Sexual Applications

Traditional Christians (among many others) regard a number of deviant sexual acts to be abominations. This has merit in Scripture. Focusing on sexual tōēvah, there are some acts called abominations to Yahweh in Leviticus 18. The infamous one in recent generations is sexual relations between two men (18:22 cf. 20:13). In a similar manner, sexual relations between humans and animals is “confusion” or “perversion”. However, the bookend of this section (18:24-30) reveals all listed sexual sins to be abominations.

So, sexual tōēvah includes:

  • incestuous sexual relations
  • sexual relations during a women’s menstruation
  • adulterous sexual relations
  • dedication or sacrifice of offspring to false gods
  • same-sex sexual relations
  • bestial sexual relations

The common logic to these sins is their status as violations of the created order and the mandate in Genesis 1-2.

Abomination in Levitical Scripture is complex. It includes things Christians do not regard as abominations under the New Covenant. For instance, it is a Levitical abomination to eat unclean animals (Deut. 14:3-21). There are pedagogical reasons for this in the logic of the ceremonial holiness code. It will not suffice to wave a dismissive hand and say, “Since shellfish is fair game, sexual sin must be on the menu as well.” This theological revisionist tactic doesn’t respect the integrity of Scripture.

It’s not in my intended scope to sort out the ceremonial and ethical threads in the warp and woof of the Old Covenant. But regulations about sexual immorality carry over into the life of the church (Acts 15:28-29). And specific behaviors such as adulterous and homosexual acts are named. This is ample justification to understand Levitical sexual ethics as relevant and binding.

Recent Inconsistencies

Professing Christians in recent generations have been partial in their condemnations. While generally giving adultery a pass, we have fixated on homosexuality. And more so, we have shifted from condemning the act to condemning the person as an abomination. And many Christians have become lackadaisical about the meaning of marriage and sexuality. Along with the culture, many Christians lack an understanding of natural (creationistic) marriage.

Many Christians have an exaggerated sensitivity to homosexuality. And it’s shaped and nurtured by the underlying thought-forms of the surrounding culture. The result is Christians taking a position at the opposite pole on a misguided axis of thought. This misguided thinking is post-Freudian psychology about sexuality. It defines various humans as species according to sexual desire with pleasure as its end. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are Freudian ideas, not biblical ones. Christians have adopted a baptized version of fulfilling heterosexuality within revisionist marriage.

And even a prior generation of sensitivity against homosexuality is giving way to a current generation of sensitivity toward homosexuality as the logic of revisionist marriage and the consumeristic rhythms of everyday life continue to unfold work themselves out in the lives of Christians.

The church must recover her understanding of the institution of natural marriage. She must recover her understanding of male and female. She must be a shrewd and tempered prophetic voice in defense of these things. Marriage is not a casual, private, and sterile-by-default arrangement for emotional fulfillment. Male and female are natural realities, procreative teleological descriptions, and liturgical functions with daily consequences.

Other Applications

But enough about the distorting sexualization of the church in our post-Freudian culture. Suffice it to say that many Christians of a particular generation have a distorted fixation on the sinfulness of gay people and practices. And those who will deploy the Yuck Factor will also frequently overlook other abominations worthy of contempt. Christians need to show more evenhandedness and clarity in our prophetic ministry. We need to be sound students of Scripture and labor to correct our distortions.

For starters, here’s a list of abominations worthy of consideration:

  • Civic apostasy (Deut. 13:12-18), i.e. public worship of false gods, as well as individual apostasy (Deut. 17:2-5)
  • Occult practices (Deut. 18:9-12), i.e. forbidden means of discerning the will of God
  • Sex-role confusion (Deut. 22:5), e.g. women in combat are a violation of taking up a man’s ‘military gear’
  • Dishonest weights and measures, i.e. currency and commodity units (Deut. 25:13-16; Prov. 11:1; 20:10; 20:23)
  • Idols (Deut. 27:15; 32:16; etc.)
  • Devious people (Prov. 3:32)
  • “There are six things Yahweh despises; more so, seven that are an abomination to him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16-19)
  • Sacrifices performed by unrighteous people (Prov. 15:8; 21:27), as well as their ways (Prov. 15:9) and their thoughts (Prov. 15:26)
  • One who justifies the wicked and condemns the righteous (Prov. 17:15)
  • Prayers of one who turns his ear away from the law of God (Prov. 28:9)

Most of the abominations on this list are everyday occurrences in our culture. Many have been institutionalized. All are immoral in Scripture from beginning to end. To be fair, faithful Christians still speak out against many of these abominations. But these don’t get the special attention that selective sexual abominations do.

Consider dishonest weights and measures. How often are these used in daily commerce? Are entire monetary systems built on them? Does anyone apart from staunch libertarians advocating for the gold standard even care to ask?

If not literal weights and measures, how about figurative ones? Double-standards in our judgments are likewise dishonest. As far as double-standards, there’s a lot of grumbling about them from all sides. This is a widespread abomination.

Are there any false gods getting public service?

Has anyone been stirring up strife between brothers?

Do we care about this stuff as much as who is sleeping with whom?

We should.

Further Considerations

One could response by arguing:

  1. Not all sins are equal in their ramifications.
  2. Sexual sins are of a sort that is far more grievous than those offered in the preceding list of abominations.
  3. Some sexual sins are more grievous than other sexual sins.

On the first point about variability in the resulting repercussions, I agree. Paul writes,

Flee from sexual immorality; every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins toward his own body.

– 1 Corinthians 6:18

Note the italicized correction of the otherwise common rendering “against” in this passage. The text could be evidence of the unique heightened ethical severity of sexual immorality. But, it indicates the heightened consequential severity of sexual immorality. Sexual sins misuse the body, the dwelling place of our personal presence and of the Holy Spirit. It’s the form of sin which strikes closest to home in our bodies; it causes the most severe disturbance. And that deserves special pastoral consideration.

But on the second point, is there a categorical special ethical severity to sexual sins? Are they unique hyper-abominations? No, that’s not the case.

By using ‘abomination’, Scripture already indicates they are worse than other sins. There’s nothing in Scripture to elevate sexual abominations into a special ethical class. It may be healthier to see the other abominations as equally repugnant in the eyes of the Lord our God. Or at least as far more repugnant and alarming than we regard them. And that the church has neglected to acknowledge them as such. Freudian sexualization has trained us to read the Scriptures with this hypersensitivity. We need retraining (re-formation) according to the word of God.

And on the third point, are some sexual sins more grievous than others? As much as some may resist it, yes, some are more grievous than others. Or rather there are a number of factors that increase the grievousness of sins. Factors including violations of the natural order, the relative stations in life of those involved, the extent of public scandal, and so forth. Discerning the heinousness of a particular sin is complicated. Sins do not have a set ranking in the abstract.

An aging generation of reactionary and insecure Christian fundamentalists needs to stop it. We need to stop being selectively fixated and disgusted by gay people. To stop thinking of gay persons as abominations while not compromising our sexual ethics. And we need to stop pretending the Yuck Factor is a consistent moral conviction we’ve been upholding. We need to start being serious about various overlooked abominations. Abominations which fill the land with violence and offend God Almighty.

And a younger generation of skittish and burnt Christians with no Yuck Factor need to learn. We need to learn to understand human sexuality and ethics from Scripture and not give up on them. And we need to renounce the unnatural forms of marriage and sexuality offered in our culture.

God Creates Dinosaurs V

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the films. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution
“Jurassic World” (2015)

Jurassic World is a self-conscious homage to Jurassic Park—from background advertising for Jurassic Tennis, to Lowery Cruthers’ mint-condition T-shirt purchased on eBay, to an Agusta A109 flying past the rock monolith in the ocean and into the same jungle ravine.

This recapitulation includes background plot elements. In Jurassic Park, John Hammond’s daughter is getting a divorce. So, Hammond’s grandchildren Tim and Alexis Murphy are sent away to the island. In Jurassic World, Claire Dearing’s sister is getting a divorce. So, Dearing’s nephews Zach and Gray Mitchell are sent away to the island. Although the park in both movies is seen and advertised as a place for the family in the abstract, the park is where we encounter particular children as concrete individuals with names, faces, and personal histories scarred by the breakdown of family.

The sexual revolution promises to entertain families—or rather individuals broken free of family ties of the past, the present, and the future. In reality, it destroys families in its provision of unsatisfying pleasures decoupled from natural purposes and deformed by vicious desires run amok.

Even the background conversations in Jurassic World are filled with content about various family relations that are strained, broken, or recovering. Zara Young is repeatedly on her phone with her friends discussing her fiancé, her conflicts with him and his friends over planning his bachelor party, and their wedding details. Lowery Cruthers and Vivian Krill can be overheard discussing the surrogate father figure in Lowery’s life or who Vivian is dating while wondering if this is an office friendship that’ll become an office romance.

In the end, we simply cannot escape family. It comes back around to remind us what it is we’re opposing in a losing war over the reality that “God creates dinosaurs”—that God’s design for the reality of family can’t be thwarted without dire consequences.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The vibrant color-coding of the clothing continues from Jurassic Park to Jurassic World and signals to us very basic motifs in the characters.

In Jurassic Park, the elementary color signalling is as follows:

WhiteControlJohn Hammond
BlackChaosIan Malcolm
GreyUrbanismDonald Gennaro
BrownWildernessRobert Muldoon
BlueMasculinityAlan Grant
PinkFemininityEllie Sattler

Even the secondary characters follow the color-coding. Henry Wu and John “Ray” Arnold wear white as agents of control working for John Hammond. Dennis Nedry wears grey as representing urbanism along with Donald Gennaro—giving an impression of cold metal, artificiality, sterility, corporations, finance, regulations, legal bureaucracies, profits, and so forth. Tim Murphy wears blue like Dr. Grant his hero. Lex Murphy is characterized as a tomboy wearing pink and blue. And the functional family of Alan, Ellie, Lex, and Tim are all caked in brown mud displaying their encounter with the wilderness—impressing the sense of warmth, soil, fecundity, savagery, struggle, survival, and so forth.

The same basic color signalling continues in Jurassic World. And color combinations are employed creating meaningful mixtures of these motifs. Interestingly, there’s no pink in the movie, only two mixed uses of lavender that have motherly connotations.

Claire Dearing dresses in all white. She controls her “assets”. She embodies control. She prints out an agenda for a date. She practically screams control. In fact, she even literally screams, “You are not in control here!” Only once her priorities change and she becomes concerned with her nephews does she reveal her lavender undershirt—a subtle signal of motherly concern appearing. As events progress and her motherliness grows, she sheds the white blouse altogether.

Owen Grady dresses in blue and brown signalling his combination of masculinity and wilderness in strength, struggle, and survival. In his most ruggedly untamed moment, he’s wearing two shades of brown, is smeared with grease and sweat, and talks about animals and their urges and instincts. Owen embodies competent masculine agency contrasted with Masrani’s domesticated chic and Hoskins’ domineering chauvinism.

Simon Masrani wears grey and lavender. His grey suit is an accurate and appropriate signal of associations with the world of finance and business. And his lavender shirt fits his rather motherly demeanor toward his park, which is like his child. He is focused on the guests having a good time and the dinosaurs enjoying their life at ease in play. He dotes over his treasured child-like park and wants to spoil it. “Spare no expense.”

Vic Hoskins wears beige (brown) and black signaling a mixture of savagery and chaos. He’s the embodiment of warped and toxic masculine agency. He revels in carnage and blood-lust. He pillages and plunders. He’s disdainful toward women, womanliness, and motherhood. In an abstract sense, he’s a rapist, defiler, and usurper—spoiling all that is pure and taking away all virginity and innocence.

Henry Wu wears black and grey. He’s surrounded by amber-yellow ornamentation and occupies white and grey surroundings. He operates as chaotic urbanism in a context of controlling urbanism. And his black-and-yellow motif is classic nature signalling for all manner of creatures that are dangerous and poisonous.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Simon: “Oh, it’s white! You never told me it was white.”

Claire: “Do you think it’ll frighten the children?”

Simon: “Children? This’ll give the parents nightmares.”

Masrani draws attention to the coloration of the Indominus Rex, and the connotations immediately rush to mind. She’s the product of unprecedented levels of genetic control and manipulation. She’s inordinately aggressive. She has exaggerated predator features and behaviors. She kills for sport rather than food. She’s killing her way to the top of the hierarchy. If the de-extinction of dinosaurs is an allegory for the sexual revolution, then this sort of artificial hybridization for non-natural entertainment and military ends is a frightening allegory for the violent weaponization of sexuality in rebellion.

The Indominus Rex is white. And she’s a she. And she’s also the dark alter-ego of Claire.

“You made a genetic hybrid. Raised it in captivity. She is seeing all of this for the first time. She does not even know what she is. She will kill everything that moves. … She is learning where she fits in the food chain, and I’m not sure you want her to figure that out.”

While Owen describes the Indominus Rex, the camera glares right into the face of Claire, creating a connection between a woman disconnected from nature in almost every way and a mutant hybrid she-monster artificially built against nature in almost every way.

One could readily interpret the Indominus Rex as the embodiment of warped and toxic feminine agency—womanhood, sisterhood, and motherhood hideously transmogrified. A jealous woman who eats her sister. A woman who cares nothing for husbands of any sort and will have nothing to do with children in any form. An Anti-Eve. Not the mother of all living but the destroyer of all living. A Witch-Queen. The demonic Lilith of myth.

One could also readily interpret the Indominus Rex as an allegory for a more ruthless or subversive version of corporations. Corporations inherently supplant natural households. And as corporations exist in a culture that is increasingly nature-neutralizing, they begin to realize that the natural family itself is a hindrance to optimal corporate operations. A new corporatism will eat everything that moves in this family resort destination.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m just going to pin these thoughts here for your own imagine to run with them:

  1. Owen Grady is a noble patriarch with four daughters. And he teaches them virtue.
  2. Simon Masrani is a benevolent Walt Disney. And the dinosaurs are his princesses.
  3. Vic Hoskins is a malevolent Harvey Weinstein. And the dinosaurs are his victims.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“We want to be thrilled.”

“Bigger. Faster. More teeth.”

One of the realities of thrill-seeking is the problem of diminishing returns and the need for escalation in stimuli. This reality has played itself out in many different ways in the sexual revolution as it becomes increasingly revolutionary and extreme as time passes. Nature is fought further and further. The consequences become increasingly severe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Zach Mitchell is a lost boy seeking to be found. A loner going his own way. He assumes he’s on his own in life. He’s waiting to escape from his parents’ custody. His cold truth-telling to his brother Gray is that “there comes a point when you have to grow up”. And it’s clear that “grow up” for Zach means focusing on yourself and your survival.

Zach doesn’t see himself as a son. And he has no aspirations for being a father. Zach’s a wannabe womanizer. He has no affections for the girlfriend he leaves behind to travel to the park. He leers at and flirts with girls. He has a teenage male’s sex drive, yet he knows only what the sexual revolution has told him to do about it. He’s cynical and embittered.

Zach is aimless and purposeless as a young man in a world that no longer knows what to offer or do with young men, because the present culture marred by the sexual revolution fears and despises virile male agency. And therefore the present culture abandons male agency to the frustration of young men. But Zach finds purpose when the circumstances force him to take responsibility for his younger brother’s survival. He finds courage. He finds brotherhood. And that’s an excellent start.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once again, I have to give my father-in-law credit for his movie analysis skills. He nailed the meaning of the climactic showdown with the Indominus Rex.

Owen’s three remaining velociraptors, like prodigal daughters, come to their senses and return to allegiance with their father. The Indominus Rex seeks to destroy them, because they’ve abandoned her and her agenda. Ultimately, only Blue survives the onslaught.

In the midst of the conflict, Claire runs to unleash a new ally against the Indominus Rex and all she represents—an ally with “more teeth” that can be brought to bear. She leads the Tyrannosaur into the conflict. The Tyrannosaur is a challenge for the Indominus but the former ultimately takes a beating and is almost killed until Blue rejoins the fight.

Blue and Rexy together form an effective team and are able to beat down and drive back the Indominus Rex into a standoff. And then a third critical bystander becomes an active combatant. The Mosasaur clamps down on the Indominus Rex, drags her into the lagoon, and drowns her.

This is the allegorical triumvirate that kills the Indominus Rex:

  1. Blue the Velociraptor is Reason.
  2. Rexy the Tyrannosaur is Tradition.
  3. Shamu the Mosasaur is Nature.

The weaponized sexual revolution represented by the Indominus Rex is savagely opposed to reason, tradition, and nature (all of which comport with one another). Reason finds the vulnerabilities in all that is irrational. Tradition holds established ground against all that is dangerously unproven or provably dangerous. And Nature scourges and condemns all that is woefully disordered and in rebellion against its created purpose. Reason launches off of Tradition’s back to strike while Tradition plows with its respectability. And when an opportunity presents itself, Nature is the gargantuan enforcer that comes crashing down and puts an end to it all.

In the end, we simply cannot escape nature. It comes back around to remind us what it is we’re opposing in a losing war over the reality that “God creates dinosaurs”—that God’s design for the reality of nature can’t be thwarted without dire consequences.

God Creates Dinosaurs IV

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the films. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution
“Jurassic Park III” (2001)

Surprise. Surprise. The plot of the film revolves around yet another broken family in need of restoration to survive. Paul and Amanda Kirby are divorced and require reconciliation to save their son Eric. Paul and Amanda have succumbed to the enticing lies of the sexual revolution and divorced. This puts Eric in the position where Isla Sorna and its dinosaurs (as the metaphor of the sexual revolution) tempt and endanger him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The movie opens with Eric Kirby and his mother’s boyfriend Ben Hildebrand visiting Isla Sorna as if it was a great vacation destination. That proves to be a mistaken perspective as death and loss ensue. This sets up Site B as a metaphorical Pleasure Island. It’s a place of great allure, promising all the delights of the sexual revolution. A pleasure-seeking man and his boy protégé in pursuit of carnal desires become lost to the island.

Paul and Amanda recruit Alan Grant under the pretense of being wealthy and indulgent thrill-seekers thirsting to venture to the island. This reinforces the connotation of Site B as a metaphorical Pleasure Island.

This Pleasure Island consumes and kills every functionally unwedded, virile, self-assured, adventurous man who sets foot upon it. Hildebrand. Cooper. Nash. Udesky. Very nearly Billy Brennan who was seduced for a time.

Isla Sorna is the house of the adulterous woman from the Book of Proverbs. And fools lose themselves by going in to her house at the enticement of her delights. Pleasure Island and Proverbs become the motif of this movie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dr. Alan Grant is a curious character in this movie. In Jurassic Park, he learned how to be a father and to love fatherhood. But now we see he never married Dr. Ellie Sattler. He never married anyone. Is it because he returned to his old ways of disliking children? No. Grant engages with little Charlie Degler as he awaits Ellie. And he’s willing to address an entire auditorium of teenagers.

Grant continues to study velociraptors. When he speaks to the high school assembly, he insists such study happens in the ground. Real dinosaurs are in the rocks. Site B is of no interest to him. He too has learned the lesson that God creates dinosaurs.

“It is in the ground where real scientists make real discoveries. What John Hammond and InGen did was to make genetically engineered theme park monsters, nothing more and nothing less.”

And if the de-extinction of dinosaurs is a metaphor for the sexual revolution, this means Grant studies natural sexuality. Grant studies the divine order: the creationistic contours of marriage, sex, and procreation. Or at least the metaphor for them.

As he tells his student Billy Brennan:

“The bones will still be there when we get back. That’s the great thing about bones: they never run away.”

Bones in the rocks have fidelity. They don’t run away like adulterers and adulteresses.

Alan Grant is a man in a vocation of celibacy like a monastic scholar. He isn’t putting off marriage and clinging to bachelorhood like an indulgent man-child. He has embraced a devout calling. And in both poetry and irony, he now studies the institution of marriage (metaphorically) and teaches others likewise. This makes him a walking embodiment of the Book of Proverbs. He is a spiritual father teaching spiritual sons the path of life and warning them about the adulterous woman. Warning his sons about the dangers of the sexual revolution.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Paul and Amanda Kirby pretend to be thrill-seekers on their way to Pleasure Island. But in truth, they need a guide who is Mr. Proverbs. They know where they’re going. They know their son is lost in the house of the adulterous woman. Lost in the wilderness of the sexual revolution. They need a prudent son of Lady Wisdom to navigate this terrain.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When the group arrives on Isla Sorna by airplane, they encounter the Spinosaurus. They learn InGen was up to things on Site B that were never public. There’s something newer. Something bigger. Something secret. It kills a Tyrannosaurus (the old ruler) to solidify its dominance. The revolution marches on to greater degrees of radicalization. It has become militant in its radicalism. It stalks the survivors across the island and through the movie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The group (down two members) explores the abandoned dinosaur manufacturing facility. It’s the remains of an aborted industrial operation littered with the remains of aborted dinosaur fetuses. An apt exchange ensues:

Paul: “This is how you make dinosaurs?”

Alan: “No. This is how you play God?”

Things becomes horrific when the truth that God creates dinosaurs is abandoned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eric Kirby has survived. And he has survived thus far because he is a student of Alan Grant. He has read Grant’s book. His two books in fact! Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? Eric has also read Dr. Ian Malcolm’s book. So he knows the lessons of God Creates Dinosaurs.

The reunited and reconciled Kirby Family escape the island with the aid of Alan Grant, i.e. Mr. Proverbs. In the climactic final confrontation with the Spinosaurus, they call for help to escape. It’s not anyone at random they call. They call a family for help. And the family dynamics are crucial. Alan needs Ellie. Ellie Degler (née Sattler) is married to U.S. State Department official Mark Degler. And they have a son Charlie who answers the phone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Billy Brennan is a student of Alan Grant. He has heard Grant’s warnings. But in a moment of weakness, he steals velociraptor eggs. He abducts a velociraptor couple’s children. He tampers with a velociraptor family and the velociraptor community. He violently disrupts the family and the community for the sake of financial gain. He has given in to the same temptation as the people who made the park: disrupting the nature order for profit.

Billy has acted according to the sexual revolution. He yielded to the Harlot Folly and has gone into the house of the adulterous woman. And he knows it. He confesses this was a stupid mistake. And he pleads that this impulsive act was with the best intentions. Alan makes sure Billy knows how severe and unmerciful folly is.

“The best intentions. Pfff. Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions. As far as I’m concerned, you’re no better than the people who built this place.”

Billy took the severity of this to heart. Afterward, he walked with his gaze turned down as an ashamed son in the eyes of his monastic spiritual father. He seeks to redeem himself to his father and despite his father’s harshness by risking and giving his life to save the Kirby Family in the aviary.

Grant realizes he judged Billy too harshly. Mercifully, Billy survives. Wisdom has looked kindly on him, because it is wise to show mercy. Billy is restored and reconciled to Alan.

God Creates Dinosaurs III

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the movies. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution
“Jurassic Park: The Lost World” (1997)

The movie opens with a rich family and their yacht crew anchored and vacationing on the beach of Isla Sorna. Mr. and Mrs. Bowman are squabbling over little daughter Cathy. She leaves their sight and is attacked by compsognathuses.

The story transitions to Ian Malcolm responding to a summons. He witnesses another rich family feud over control of the InGen Corporation. It’s another fight over that which has been birthed and its fate. And as we know about InGen Bioengineering later in the movie, their motto is:

We Make Your Future

What an ominous comment from those in the business of manufacturing this metaphor for the sexual revolution.

Nephew Peter Ludlow is maneuvering to seize control away from Uncle John Hammond. InGen “has been on the verge of chapter 11 ever since that incident in the park.” Some in corporate leadership want to exploit the dinosaurs on Site B as assets to bail the company out of debt. The corporate moneymen want to get back in the business. And we all know “sex sells” as they say.

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Hammond’s new direction might not be the redemption he’s hoping to find. He’s “gone from capitalist to naturalist” in a very short time. And this may represent not so much a change for the better as a change for an other. When he presents his plans in light of his new philosophy, the following exchange ensues.

John: “Don’t worry. I’m not making the same mistakes again.”

Ian: “No, you’re making all new ones.”

Hammond made a name for himself with the de-extinction of dinosaurs. And that turned out to be a disaster. Now he wants to make a new name for himself with the preservation of dinosaurs. It’s as if what now is must be good and worth preserving simply because it is. As though somehow now it has the status of a thing resulting from the natural course of the natural order. Its mere persistence in our world has normalized it.

Ian, still the voice of warning about the unnaturalness of it all, says this move is no better than the last one. And he rebukes John for endangering more people after having caused the deaths of others.

“You want to leave your name on something? Fine. But stop leaving it on other people’s headstones.”

Following the symbology, perpetrating the beginning of sexual revolution was bad. And Ludlow’s vision for a second wave of sexual revolution is bad. But Hammond’s vision to preserve the results of the first wave as if they’re now good is also bad. Once a bad thing has gotten a foothold, that doesn’t make it a good thing.

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There’s the struggling family dynamic of Dr. Ian Malcolm, his daughter Kelly Curtis, and his independent girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding. They pull together as a family, and it saves them through the movie’s dangers in a manner similar to Dr. Alan Grant and the Murphy kids in Jurassic Park. Not much need to belabor that point.

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Dr. Sarah Harding is a prominent figure for exploring key motifs of the sexual revolution in our society. She tests female agency and the struggle and status of women coming into the working world that was shaped by men of prior generations.

Harding has a feminist chip on her shoulder. She sees herself as a heroic challenger in the academic world. Her colleagues are rivals. Their work is an outdated obstacle. She wants to prove dinosaurs were nurturing parents rather than vicious lizards. And this is laid out along lines where men being men are the purveyors of the old view. So there is either an irony or a fitting inevitability in this situation. A woman who’s not pursuing motherhood herself is arguing for idyllic motherhood in her research. And this irony sets up a further irony (the reversal between human and dinosaur) in the fabric of the movie.

There’s a moment where Sarah’s struggle in her male-dominated working world becomes most clear. Sarah, Ian, and Nick are in the mobile headquarters dangling off the cliff. The vehicles plummet to the ocean below. The three ascend the rope in the pouring rain and darkness. Sarah takes the lead. She’s the first to reach the ledge. She pulls herself up over the rim. And who’s there waiting at the clifftop? Bending down (condescending) with an outstretched hand to pull her the rest of the way? Roland Tembo. The great white hunter. The man. And his company of men. The flashlight’s in her face, i.e. the spotlight is on her. And her look is one of frustration, exhaustion, and failure.

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So, let’s face it. There’s only one intact functional natural family featured in this film. And it’s the Tyrannosauruses. The parental behavior of Mama and Papa T-Rex drives much of the plot in the movie.

Harding draws special attention to the importance of tyrannosaurs as good parents. She wants to stick it to fellow paleontologist and rival Dr. Robert Burke by name. He’s the one who called the T-Rex “a rogue who would abandon its young at the first opportunity.” By a happy coincidence, Burke’s on the island advising the InGen rivals who are rounding up dinosaurs. The parental behavior of the tyrannosaurs leads to Burke’s eventual death by Mama T-Rex. A poetic end to a man of the old order destroyed by his foolishness?

That parental behavior proves to be very reliable throughout the film. Roland relies on it to trap his prize, Papa T-Rex. Ian and Sarah rely on it to recover the rampaging father on the streets of San Diego. It gets Peter Ludlow killed as Daddy teaches Junior how to hunt.

One of the final visuals of the movie is Mama, Papa, and Baby Tyrannosaurus reunited at last. They’re together in a field like it’s a picturesque afternoon picnic in the park. Happy T-Rex family life has been restored.

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It’s not in the movie, but there’s a noteworthy point about animal parenting in the novel. The velociraptors are the premier examples of dinosaurs lacking parenting. They have no social skills. These lab-grown clones never had a family and a community to impart their natural order to them. And they’re killing each other because of it.

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Roland Tembo the big-game hunter gives the moral of our story. His long-time hunting companion Ajay Sidhu has been killed by velociraptors. The hunter has tranquilized the male tyrannosaur he intended to kill. He turns to leave. He and Ludlow exchange words.

Peter: “There’s a job at the park in San Diego if you want it.”

Roland: “No, thank you. I believe I’ve spent enough time in the company of death.”

Roland has seen what happens with these de-extinct dinosaurs and figured out where all of this will lead. The pursuit of ongoing sexual revolution is a death wish.

God Creates Dinosaurs II

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the movies. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution
“Jurassic Park” (1993)

In the beginning, Dr. Alan Grant is averse to having kids. He’s not fond of being around them. He’s annoyed by them. He finds fatherhood to be inconceivable (pun intended) in his case.

Then, John Hammond’s grandkids (Tim and Alexis “Lex” Murphy) enter the picture. The kids are spending the weekend with Grandpa, because his daughter is getting a divorce.

The guests all set out on the park tour. The power goes out. And the tour vehicles idle in the tropical storm by the tyrannosaur paddock.

InGen attorney Donald Gennaro flees the free tyrannosaur in terror. He abandons the Murphy children in the SUV. Lex reacts by repeating in a panic, “He left us. He left us.” This is an obvious allusion to the traumatization caused by the divorce of her mom and dad. “He left us. He left us.” Every man in charge of the kids flees to save himself.

After the road attack, Lex is still hysterical. “He left us. He left us.” Dr. Grant has to man up, look her in the eyes, and assure her, “But that’s not what I’m going to do.”

Dr. Grant spends the rest of the movie living into the calling of a surrogate father to Lex and Tim. In doing so, he becomes more competent. He gains confidence and affection for children. He teaches them the ways of life as they navigate the wilderness of the park. He protects them all the way to the end. In the end, Lex and Tim nap safe and sound in Alan’s welcoming arms on the helicopter to the mainland.

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Then we have the curious conundrum of Dr. Ian Malcolm. He’s the mouthpiece in this movie giving us the moral of the story. And yet he’s no hero in this narrative. His life is that of a man who’s bought stock in the enterprise of free sex and easy divorce. And his crippled condition later in the movie links him to his lecherousness and serial infidelity.

Does he have children?

“Me? Oh, hell ya. I love kids. Anything at all can and does happen.”

Is he married?

“Occasionally. Yeah, I’m always on the lookout for a future ex Mrs. Malcolm.”

Malcolm loves having children. But he doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about giving them a stable home life. He’s a guy who can’t make marriage work. And he gets injured and has to rely on others to save him.

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And then there’s the case of Dr. Ellie Sattler. At times, she’s the voice of motherhood.

She taunts her partner Alan about his disdain for children. And she expresses her desire to be a mother. She takes a shine to Lex and Tim and continues her games prodding Alan with the help of the kids.

Ellie and John have a heart-to-heart over melting ice cream and fond old memories. They express (stereo)typical male and female modes of responding to the crisis. John wants to act and regain control of the chaos. Ellie wants to feel her way through the chaos rather than trusting in cold reasoning.

And yet there are occasions where another voice comes out of Dr. Sattler’s mouth.

Malcolm makes his quip.

God creates dinosaurs.
God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates dinosaurs.

Sattler adds to it in a manner that amends the original meaning.

Dinosaurs eat man.
Woman inherits the earth.

In Genesis 5:1-2 (cf. Genesis 1:26-28), we read the following.

In the day that God created man [i.e. Adam], he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them mankind [i.e. Adam] in the day they were created.

But Sattler extracts Woman out from Man as though Woman can stand apart in this way. Her quip is the “Woman destroys God” equivalent to Ian’s comment “Man destroys God”.

On two occasions, Sattler ventures out to do something dangerous.

The first time is when she goes with game warden Robert Muldoon to rescue the group stranded in the park. She announces she’s going. And no one thinks anything of it. It is what it is. Ellie is being a helper. Good work.

The second time is when she goes to turn the power back on. She and Hammond have an awkward moment about who should be the one to go. It draws attention to the question of “sexism in survival situations”. And by doing so, the viewer is forced to consider the events that follow in light of that question.

What is the significance of Muldoon providing cover for Sattler in the jungle?

What of the three velociraptors all being female?

And what about Muldoon’s “clever girl” and subsequent death in this context?

And what is the significance of an old man and a crippled man arguing over who’s right in guiding Sattler to her goal?

And most chillingly of all, what is the significance of Sattler electrocuting Tim Murphy in ignorance and inadvertancy?

A woman with good intentions who went out to do a man’s work endangered the children unbeknownst to her.

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At the climax of the movie, the sexual revolution eats itself alive as tyrannosaur collides with velociraptor. Alan, Ellie, and the Murphy children escape the Rex vs. Raptor rumble under the rotunda and race to the Jeep out front with Hammond behind the wheel. Grant (as the dad in this functional family) and Hammond (the visionary architect of this theme park) have an exchange.

Alan: “Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.”

John: “So have I.”

They’ve rendered their collective judgment on this allegory for the sexual revolution after nearly being destroyed by it. And being more like natural family was their salvation.