Would the Great Scientists of the Revolution Be Devout Christians if they Lived Today? Part I

It has been my experience that materialist proponents of the natural sciences become rather irritated when someone brings up the fact that most of the great fathers of modern science were Christian theists. Typically, I will raise this point whenever someone claims that a theistic worldview is irrational or that the idea of a Maker of all things is anti-science. The response I receive is almost always something along the lines of: “Yes, those were brilliant men of science, but there was so much they did not know—that we now know—about the natural world. If they lived today, it’s likely that none of them would be religious. It’s pointless to bring them up in defense of the compatibility of science and faith.” 

There are several problems with this response, but the one that I find most glaring is the unfounded presumption that scientific and mathematical thinkers such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Boyle believed in a creator God based upon a lack of scientific knowledge. This betrays an ignorance about the actual writings of these great thinkers, writings which clearly show that it was their discoveries—an increase in understanding—that incited their expressions of praise and reverence for an ingenious, omnipotent Maker. During their time, it increasingly appeared that the cosmos was crafted in a manner that allowed it to operate according to a preordained set of universal mathematical laws. The pursuit of knowledge about the workings of the natural world was seen as deciphering God’s “book of nature”—both its language and its content.

The huge leaps made in natural philosophy (what we now refer to as the natural sciences) during the Scientific Revolution served to heighten wonder and scholarly appreciation for the rationality of creation and mankind’s exclusive ability to understand it. None of the reasons for faith cited by the heroes of the Revolution have in any way been undermined by subsequent scientific advancement. In fact, they have been strengthened immensely! 

In this series, I will be discussing the scholarly and personal writings of several key figures of the Scientific Revolution in order to make my case. 

Johannes Kepler

keplerJohannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a German mathematician and astronomer who formulated a new mathematical theory of heliocentric (sun-centered) planetary motion that, unlike Copernicus’, harmonized exceedingly well with the astronomer Tycho Brahe’s extensive compilation of stargazing records. Kepler, who was Brahe’s protégé, found that by representing the planetary orbits as ellipses rather than perfect circles, the observational data could be mathematically represented more simply and with greatly improved predictive accuracy. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion (published in his 1609 New Astronomy and his 1618 Harmonies of the World) transformed the field of astronomy into a sophisticated theoretical science.

Kepler was convinced that the universe operated according to laws put in place by its Maker, much like a clock is fabricated by a clockmaker. This went against an ancient Greek idea bout nature having some kind of active “soul” in it producing its motions:

My aim is to say that the machinery of the heavens is not like a divine animal but like a clock (and anyone who believes a clock has a soul give the work the honour due to its maker) and that in it almost all the variety of motions is from one very simple magnetic force acting on bodies, as in the clock all motions are from a very simple weight. [i]

Yet, the idea of a clockwork universe that ran with autonomy, according to laws of nature, only strengthened Kepler’s theistic convictions.

Both a brilliant natural philosopher and a devout Christian of the Lutheran tradition, Kepler was thoroughly convinced that God had intentionally ordered the universe in a way that could be comprehended by the human intellect. This belief is particularly evident in his private correspondence with fellow scholars and other associates. In a letter to the Baron von Herberstein dated May 15, 1596, Kepler declared that

God, like a human architect, approached the founding of the world according to order and rule and measured everything in such a manner, that one might think not art took nature for an example but God Himself, in the course of His creation took the art of man as an example. [ii]

There are two notable things about this statement; first, that Kepler expresses his belief that God created the cosmos according to a rational, mathematical plan, and second, that the mind of God and the mind of man must be somehow analogous. He states this idea more plainly in what are perhaps his most famous words:

To God there are, in the whole material world, material laws, figures and relations of special excellency and of the most appropriate order…Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts. [iii]

Later in the same passage, he chastises those who would say it is very presumptuous to imagine that God’s mind is anything like man’s:

Only fools fear that we make man godlike in doing so; for the divine counsels are impenetrable, but not his material creation. [iv]

We see that Kepler’s idea of God’s natural revelation is centered upon the fact that the natural world is governed by rational laws that are discoverable by man, who, by investigating nature can think God’s thoughts after him. Kepler made these kinds of statements often. In a letter to his former astronomy professor, Michael Maestlin, he wrote,

God, who founded everything in the world according to the norm of quantity, also has endowed man with a mind which can comprehend these norms. For as the eye for color, the ear for musical sounds, so is the mind of man created for the perception…of quantities. [v]

He connects this idea with the Christian doctrine of man in a passage from his work, Conversations with Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger, where he says that geometry “shines in the mind of God” and that a “share of it which has been granted to man is one of the reasons why he is in the image of God.”[vi]

Kepler considered his life’s work—unlocking the mysteries of planetary motion—as an act of worship. He said,

I had the intention of becoming a theologian…but now see how God is, by my endeavors, also glorified in astronomy. [x]

By investigating God’s natural revelation, the natural philosopher, who is made in God’s image, illuminates some of the divine wisdom made manifest in the creation. He said,

The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics. [xi]

Kepler called the universe “our bright Temple of God” and described astronomers as “priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature.”[xii] Even Kepler’s self-written epitaph reflects his conviction that mind, with its mathematical aptitude, bears the image of the divine:

Once I measured the skies,

Now I measure the earth’s shadow.

Of heavenly birth was the measuring mind,

In the shadow remains only the body. [xiii]

Since Kepler’s time, our understanding of the deep mathematical structure of the cosmos has exploded. Moreover, based upon the intellectual rigor of fields such as theoretical physics, it is more amazing than ever that mankind possesses the higher cognitive aptitude to illuminate the fundamental nature of the universe. 

[i] Letter to J. G. Herwart von Hohenburg, 16 February 1605, Johannes Kepler Gesammelte Werke, ed. M Caspar et al., Munich, 1937, vol. 15, 146.

[ii] Carola Baumgardt, Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), 33-34.

[iii] Baumgardt, 50.

[iv] Baumgardt, 50.

[v] Gerald Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 68.

[vi] Johannes Kepler, Conversation with Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger (New York: Johnson Reprint Corp., 1965), 43.

[vii] Baumgardt, 41.

[viii] Johannes Kepler, Harmonies of the World, trans. by Charles Glenn Wallis (Annapolis: St. John’s Bookstore, 1939), Kindle loc. 259.

[ix] Alister McGrath, Re-Imagining Nature, 82.

[x] Morris Kline, Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 31.

[xi] Quoted in Morris Kline, Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 31.

[xii] Baumgardt, 44.

[xiii] James Voelkel, Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 130.

 

G.K. Chesterton on Art and the Image of God

In The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton argues that man, as a species, is different in kind, not just degree, from all other living creatures. Man’s origin, he says, is one of the three grand mysteries of the cosmos, along with the birth of the universe itself and the emergence of the first life. Endowed with rationality and free will, mankind exploded onto the scene and “a third bridge was built across a third abyss of the unthinkable…not merely an evolution, but rather a revolution.”[1]

Chesterton rejects the “gray gradations of twilight” suggested by materialist accounts of evolutionary gradualism in favor of a human nature that was mature at first appearance. (Note that this idea does not necessarily rule out man’s biological evolution, only the gradual emergence of a fully human creature, body and soul.) He describes the character of ancient cave art in order to support his assertion. Instead of the crude, simplistic scratchings of a less intelligent being, these are “drawings or paintings of animals; and they were drawn or painted not only by a man but by an artist.”[2] “So far as any human character can be hinted at by such traces of the past,” says Chesterton, “that human character is quite human and even humane.”[3] Man alone seeks meaning in the world, and evidence suggests that this has been the case all along. Philosopher Roger Scruton has similarly observed: “From the earliest drawings in the Lascaux caves to the landscapes of Cezanne…art has searched for meaning in the natural world.”[4]

The anthropological evidence that has arisen since Chesterton’s time further supports his argument about human distinctiveness and the sudden appearance of human nature. Prominent evolutionary anthropologist Ian Tattersall is convinced that no human ancestor “produced anything, anywhere, that we can be sure was a symbolic object” and “even allowing for the poor record we have of our close extinct kin, Homo sapiens appears as distinctive and unprecedented…there is certainly no evidence that we gradually became who we inherently are over an extended period, in either the physical or the intellectual sense.”[i] The materialist explanation involves a sudden, dramatic genetic revolution that produced what some evolutionists have termed “the dawn of human culture,” an event which included the rapid emergence of language and symbolic activities such as art. Tattersall admits that how or why this “almost unimaginable transition” from hominid to human beings with symbolic capacities occurred is a matter of pure speculation. Darwin claimed that man gained such cognitive aptitudes through a process of sexual selection followed by social and cultural evolution; but Tattersall points out that this

explains neither why the highly social apes haven’t developed a more complex theory of mind over the time during which they have been evolving in parallel with us,  nor why the archaeological record seems to indicate a very late and essentially unheralded arrival of symbolic consciousness in just one lineage of large-brained hominid. [ii]

But getting back to Chesterton–his point goes beyond the fact that artistic activity can only be carried out by creatures with rationally-informed will; the inherent desire to create art for its own sake—the “impulse of art” as he calls it—further highlights the singularity of man. Unlike any other creature of the animal kingdom, man is a rational creator who creates not only for utilitarian purposes, but for the simple joy of celebrating the wider world through his artistry. Chesterton is convinced that, as part of the wide gulf of separation between man and brute, “art is the signature of man.”[5] With his trademark wit-laced wisdom he argues that:

The very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest, and cannot get any farther, proves that he has not a mind as man has a mind…But when he builds as he does build and is satisfied and sings aloud with satisfaction, then we know there is really an invisible veil like a pane of glass between him and us, like the window on which a bird will beat in vain. But suppose our abstract onlooker saw one of the birds begin to build as men build. Suppose in an incredibly short space of time there were seven styles of architecture for one style of nest….Suppose the bird made little clay statues of birds celebrated in letters or politics and stuck them up in front of the nest…we can be quite certain that the onlooker would not regard such a bird as a mere evolutionary variety of the other birds…[6]

As with the sudden appearance of human nature, such a bird would be a true revolution, not just a slightly more advanced bird. Thus, the same should be said for man, whose unique characteristics appeared from seemingly out of nowhere and sharply distinguish him from all other living things.

Several years prior to the publication of Everlasting Man, Chesterton had suggested that artistic creativity is among the hallmark differences between man and beast. In Orthodoxy, he argues that similarities between man and some lower animals is not what should surprise us; rather, the astonishment should come from the fundamental differences: “That an ape has hands is far less interesting to the philosopher than the fact that having hands he does next to nothing with them; does not play knuckle-bones or the violin; does not carve marble or carve mutton…the chasm between man and other creatures may have a natural explanation, but it is a chasm.”[7] In this passage, as in Everlasting Man, Chesterton emphasizes the fact that, even if mankind’s history includes biological gradualism, it is the existence of the wide chasm, which includes artistic inclination, that needs philosophical explanation—the “why” rather than the “how.”

Chesterton highlights the fact that, unlike naturalism, the Christian worldview can adequately account for the remarkable revolution that is mankind by way of the doctrine of the imago Dei. Man alone, as the crown of creation, bears the image of the good Creator and thus has within himself the capacity and desire to create beautiful and meaningful things for their own sake. When it comes to art, says Chesterton, “a monkey cannot do it; and when a man does it, he is exercising a divine attribute.”[8]

Endnotes:

[1] G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Seaside, Oregon: Watchmaker Publishing, 2013), 15.

[2] Ibid., 17.

[3] Ibid., 17-18.

[4] Roger Scruton, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction, (New York: Oxford University press, 2009), 65.

[i] Ian Tattersall, Masters of the Planet (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 142.

[ii] Ian Tattersall, Masters of the Planet (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 214.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Ibid., 22.

[7] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, in The Everyman Chesterton (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011), 389-390.

[8] G.K. Chesterton, “Are the Artists Going Mad?” The Century Magazine, Vol. 105 No. 2 (December 1922), 277.

Musings On the Holy Spirit, Water, and Sacrament

It’s thunder-storming this afternoon. I love thunderstorms, especially when they come after a week of oppressive summer heat. As water droplets rain down from the silver sky, greens are more vivid in their wetness–almost glowing. The landscape outside my office window is soaked by the gentle downpour; everything seems fresher, cleaner. And my heart is so full of the Holy Spirit it’s difficult to articulate. Today, I can’t help but think of the Lord Jesus and all the ways in which water reminds me of Him.

Several months ago, a sweet friend remarked to me, “Isn’t it something when God gives us a theme week?” That comment has stuck with me, because I realized in that moment how often, in the past two years, the Holy Spirit has gotten my attention through themes—some subtle and some blatant. One of the more significant ones has been water. There’s a long backstory about this that begins with the rainy summer afternoon a couple of years ago when I was walking through my neighborhood Kroger parking lot. In one of those rare, preternaturally clear moments, I received my first indication that my family and I were meant to visit the local Anglican church. Much, much more Holy Spirit craziness happened in the months following to confirm this direction. The interesting thing is, the major themes leading up to that dramatic transition have continued.

Today was one more installment in the ongoing theme of water.

This morning, the worship at my church opened with a song I’ve loved since it came out several years ago. The lyrics compare God’s love with the most violent rainstorm, a hurricane.

Water

I was standing at the very end of a row, singing the words; to the right of me, in the center aisle stood the baptismal font. My eyes were particularly drawn to it during the song, to the consecrated water glistening among the sleek river stones in the white scallop-shell basin.  I stared for a moment, pondering the sacramental cleansing of baptism.

Water

Each week, after the time of song, the Anglican liturgy includes a reading from the Gospel, and today it was the story of Jesus’ encounter with the solitary woman at the water well:

John 4

When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

“Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food.

“How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

11 “Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.”

13 Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.14 But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

Water, water, water.

What strikes me about this passage is that it speaks of baptismal water, drinking water, and the living water of salvation all within a few verses. I wondered: How could anyone, after having read this account, ever look at water in the same way again?

Jesus’ relationship to water, in his life and in his teaching, was profound. The water He turned into the finest of all wine at Cana; the Holy Spirit descending upon Him at His baptism; the water imagery in his words, such as his conversation with the Samaritan woman; His calming of the sea; His walking on water; His washing of the Disciples’ feet; the water that flowed from his side after He died on the cross. I understand Christ’s use of the simple, everyday things of human existence as a clear sign of the sacramental nature of the Christian life–the tangibles, like water, that the Holy Spirit uses as “outward signs of inward grace” as we Anglicans like to phrase it.

Following the sermon (which, by the way, was not about water) we proceeded, as usual, into the Eucharistic Liturgy. After my turn at the table, I returned to my seat on the end of the row. I love watching my brothers and sisters going forward in single file to receive the elements; nothing makes me feel as integrated with the body of believers as joining them in this precious weekly sacrament. Today, I watched as some reached into the font as they passed by and then made the sign of the cross—a physical prayer with fingertips wet with the consecrated water.

Water

And finally, in what was a novel occurrence (at least for me), our Bishop then announced that a woman from the congregation had been given a word from the Holy Spirit and was going to be permitted to speak it out to us.

It was all about…water.

About how the Lord desires us to ask Him to pour his Holy Spirit refreshment on us. She used the illustration of the Israelites thirsting in the desert, the image of parched mouths and dry, rocky ground. And she echoed my thoughts about the Gospel reading from earlier in the morning.

Water, water, everywhere, and so very much to drink. 

 

Anger, Ecstasy, and Lament Unfiltered: Reading the Psalms as Humane Literature

No doubt, there are significant elements of subjectivity involved in our experience of the written word. A myriad of factors influence how we receive a piece of literature, including (but not limited to) our worldview, educational background, past experiences, cultural context, and maturity. A work may be experienced quite differently at various stages of one’s life. The Psalms are a perfect example of how true this has been for me. 

In the greenness of childhood, with little life experience and zero knowledge of the character and purpose of Hebrew poetry, the book of Psalms seemed mostly irrelevant to my life. I viewed it as one more book of ancient Jewish writing, buried somewhere near the middle of the Bible, perhaps mildly interesting because of its poetic structure and mention of musical instruments. Later, as a teenager, the descriptions of God’s attitude towards the sinful exemplified my perception of Him as a harsh master whose eagle-eye remained fixed upon me day and night, waiting for me to fail so that he could unleash His retributive wrath:

11:5-7 His eyes watch; He examines everyone. The LORD examines the righteous and the wicked. He hates the lover of violence. He will rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked; a scorching wind will be their portion. For the LORD is righteous; He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face.  

Later in life, still woefully unlearned on the literary character, purpose, and context of the Psalms, my family and I experienced a difficult two-year season in which misfortune seemed to rain down incessantly. A parent was terminally ill, a housing crash crippled us financially, my husband’s job was miserable—the list went on. I felt genuine anger towards God, and I was drawn to passages such as:

10:1 LORD, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?

Where was the life of bounty spoken of in Psalm 25:12-13, which seems to guarantee a good life to those fear the LORD? Was I not being good enough to earn God’s blessings? I read the chapters that spoke of kindness and prosperity surrounding those who trust in the Lord (such as Psalm 32:10) and felt jilted, because I took all such verses as absolute promises rather than the reflective words of a lyricist. My relationship to the Book of Psalms, to be honest, was one of confusion, sadness, and bitterness.

Ten years have passed since that painful and discouraging period, and as I read the Psalms in this phase of life, I do so, I believe, with much more spiritual and theological maturity, born of that suffering. I now appreciate them for the sometimes gritty expressions of our humanity that they are. In other words, I’m able to read Psalms as humane poetry and appreciate the various perspectives of the psalmists, who wrote these verses during times of great joy, confusion, or even utter sorrow. I, like the psalmists, have at times felt far from God, but also like them, I’ve seen how God beautifully redeems excruciating circumstances and how our souls are enriched through hardship.

Two types of psalms have become especially dear to me: those that celebrate the visible wonders of creation, and those that express deep lamentation and repentance for personal sinfulness.

The creation psalms speak strongly to my intellectual passion for natural theology. Paul’s words in Romans 1:20 about man being without excuse because of the visibility of God’s wisdom and power exhibited in the created order are enhanced by the far more ancient passages, such as Psalm 19:

19:1-4 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.

In my dissertation research, I’m particularly concerned with the mysterious resonance between the creation, the mind of the Maker, and the mind of man; Psalm 8 applies:

8:3-5 When I observe Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? You made him little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor.

God has instilled His image within us! What a gracious and glorious gift to be able to commune with Him through reflection upon His creation, our place in it, and our ability to discover its secrets with our God-given rationality.

To some it may seem odd that I also find great depths of spiritual richness in the psalms that express grievous lament over sin. While it is true that Christ has set the believer free from the bonds of sin, we must also recognize that we still fail and are called to a life of ongoing repentance. 

My ecclesiastical journey has brought me to a liturgical/sacramental tradition that emphasizes both the importance of continual repentance and the unmerited gift of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. The Psalms are part of our Daily Office and our Sunday worship liturgy. Particularly during the season of Lent, I experience the paradoxical joy that results from the practice of genuine, focused remorse over my sin alongside thankfulness for the redeeming work Christ did on my behalf. Psalm 51 is one of my favorite verses about repentance, and I quote it in prayer often: 

51:10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I encourage you to take a fresh look at the Psalms and contemplate their timeless truths and quintessential humanity. 

 

Man’s Search for God–Closer to Truth

I’m a huge fan of Closer to Truth, an extraordinarily well-done series on PBS hosted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. Kuhn is an agnostic who is passionate about the Big Questions, such as the existence of God, the nature of mankind, and human free will. He has interviewed top scholars from around the world representing very diverse perspectives on ultimate reality. I have a deep appreciation for Kuhn’s open-mindedness and insightful questions. Once in a while his personal biases come through, but he seems to work hard to be very fair-minded (such a rarity!!). The best moments on the show, in my opinion, are when you can tell the person he is interviewing has said something he finds striking and unsettling to his agnosticism.

On a recent episode, Kuhn interviewed Dr. Sarah Coakley, an Anglican systematic theologian and priest who is Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and holds the established chair in philosophy of religion. Their conversation was so compelling, I couldn’t resist posting it. I encourage you to check out this and other episodes of Closer to Truth.

Motherhood and the Life of the Mind

Happy Mother’s Day!

For those of  you who are not subscribers to Christian Research Journal, my cover story from last year has now been unlocked for non-subscribers. Hooray! Click below. [I do highly recommend subscribing to CRJ; it has quality articles written by legitimate scholars on a wide range of timely topics. It’s not a magazine in the ordinary sense!]

FILM REVIEW: The Case for Christ

I took a much needed break from my research and writing cave this afternoon and went to see the The Case for Christ, which is based upon the best-selling book by Lee Strobel. The film tells the story of Strobel’s journey from committed atheism to Christianity, detailing (in much shorter form) the months-long investigation he carried out by reading widely and interviewing atheist, agnostic, and Christian scholars.

Image result for case for christ film

I must say up front that I get nervous when I hear about new Christian films. Some of them are so cheesy and poorly-acted that they’re an embarrassment, quite honestly. But, I had heard impressive praise from friends for the Strobel film (and he is, after all, my colleague 🙂 ), so I made a plan to see it at the theater.

**This is an honest review!**

I’m not going to rehash the plot–from the trailer you can get a great idea of the content. Instead, I’d like to comment upon why I think this is a beautifully-made film and one believers should support with ticket purchases and recommendations.

  1. The acting is excellent. Crucially, the actors who portray Lee and his wife Leslie did an outstanding job. What was a delightful surprise was that the secondary characters were every bit as believable and endearing. Alfie, the woman who shares Christ with Leslie early in the film, was my favorite, but the Christian in Lee’s office at the Chicago Tribune was a close second (he was hilarious).
  2. The portrayals of the various real-life scholars were compelling. The conversations Lee has with them are, by necessity, condensed down into a few main points, but this is handled very well. I think someone not knowledgeable in apologetics would be encouraged to learn more. The actor cast as a 1980 William Lane Craig was great.
  3. Skeptics are portrayed with the utmost dignity. The main atheist in the film, one of Lee’s older, father-figure friends, is intelligent and well-read. Lee goes to him for skepticism reinforcement from time to time. The agnostic psychology professor was presented as a thoughtful and elegant lady.
  4. I can tell you, as a child of the 80s, the set, costumes, hairstyles, and cars (!!) were spot-on. I spied an original Home Interiors owl print that my mom had in our house when I was in elementary school. 😀
  5. No Christianese!!! Thank you, Lord! Even the conversion prayer (which I was worried about) felt authentic; it wasn’t the mechanical, repeat-after-me “sinner’s prayer.”
  6. The deep humanity. You see the main character in his best and worst moments. Emotional scenes–especially those showing marital conflict–are realistic, not over-the-top. I love that the film makes clear that Lee’s atheism was about more than a perceived lack of convincing evidence for Christianity while not diminishing the fact that the actual evidence was a major factor in his conversion.
  7. Non-cheesy, chuckle-worthy humor in just the right spots.
  8. Realistic in terms of not shying away from themes such as over-indulgence in alcohol, slightly edgy language (not profanity), etc.
  9. Ecumenical (hooray!). One of the experts Lee visits is a Roman Catholic priest and former archaeologist who really knows his stuff about ancient manuscripts. However, it made me laugh when the priest pulled, from the dusty shelves of his church office library, the original P-52 fragment. Ha!! (I don’t think he calls it that, but the shape of that fragment is so iconic, there’s no doubt that’s what the filmmakers used.) One funny thing I noticed is that when the priest gives the count for surviving New Testament manuscripts, he uses the current total, which I’m pretty sure is significantly higher than the total was in 1980.
  10. Lee Strobel himself makes a brief cameo. See if you can spot him. 🙂

Go see it! Well worth your time. I’ll definitely be purchasing the Blu-ray when it becomes available.