Angels and Demons. Where are they in the Film?

I entered the film Angels and Demons as a virtual Dan Brown virgin. I was excited about the movie because I knew that Brown was a good plot twister. Plus, the spiritual realm has always fascinated me. So much so, that I have devoted a large part of my studies to gods, angels, demons and Satan. I expected to see Angels and Demons in a movie with that title but left the theater disappointed. (The next paragraph contains spoilers.)

The film and book are about something else entirely. The pope suddenly and dramatically dies. But before a new pope can be elected the Vatican is informed that a secret anti-Roman Catholic group of scientists, known as the Illuminati, has obtained the newly created anti-matter (the God particle) and plans to destroy the Vatican before midnight. But before that happens, they will kill the four candidates for the papacy, one every hour. Enter Indiana Jones, I mean Robert Langdon, to save the day. Langdon teams up with the co-creator of anti-matter Vittoria Vetra to stop the Illuminati before all hell breaks lose. But this hell won’t involve any demons, at least not literally.
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See the May-June 2009 Issue of Bible Study Magazine with John D. Barry

In this video, I give you a preview of the May-June 2009 issue of the publication I edit and manage -- Bible Study Magazine. Enjoy! (And don't forget to click the HQ button for the hi-def version. If you can't view the video below, click here to watch it on YouTube.)

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A Good, Bad and Ugly God

A God in control is comforting, but inauthentic. We are happy with this God until “you know what” hits the fan and our world falls like the Tower of Babel. A God in control would have to guide everything—the good, the bad and the ugly. But a God who created a good human race that went bad and ugly is a completely different story. This God isn’t responsible for our mistakes, our suffering or our pain.

Theological Control—Nice, but Absurd

I define theological control as God predetermining the path of the world. This God acts from a distance, deciding the fate of each person and consequently the fate of the world. I oppose this view of God and propose another.

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Jesus Uncensored

Was Jesus a white, Dutch pacifist with blond, curly hair and a flowing robe, like he is portrayed in many movies? Or was he a bearded, Middle-Eastern rabbi who made nearly every religious and political figure of his day infuriated? Why did Jesus die? Could it be that he was perceived as a zealous, sacrilegious leader of a revolt? Who is the uncensored Jesus?

This is a message that I delivered at a mission in my hometown. There is a lot of coughing during the audio since most of the audience is ill from spending most of their time in the cold on the street. Jesus came to these people -- that is the topic of the message. Please pray for my friends without a home. And enjoy the message!

I Have a Problem with God

I am troubled because I feel blessed and cursed, simultaneously. Does God bring the good and the bad? If he does, I have a problem with God.

I hear at church, “God is in control. Do not fear.” Really, is he in control? Because what I see is a world out of control. John Calvin is going to roll over in his grave when I say this, but God is not in control. Because that God would have to be fine with evil to be in control of this mess.

Paul says that the creation and our very selves are subject to the corrupt world:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18–25 ESV)
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John Barry on Periodical Radio: The Philosophy Behind Bible Study Magazine

Check out my interview on Periodical Radio with Steve Black (to download it, go here). In the interview I discuss the philosophy behind the publication I edit and manage—Bible Study Magazine—and the vision that continues to drive it forward. Enjoy!

Fundamentalism: The Serial Killer of Biblical Interpretation

Many fundamentalists thrive on violently murdering honest biblical interpretation. I have seen it happen to others and myself: a sound scholastic reading of the Bible is presented and is denied because it doesn’t fit within religious parameters. Let’s talk about the fundamentalists, the serial killers of sound biblical interpretation, and see whose the real literalist: me or them?

First, let’s define fundamentalism:
1. A movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching
2. A movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Now, from Merriam-Webster’s definition, I could almost (not quite) classify myself as a Christian fundamentalist. However, I don’t think the fundamentalists I know really understand what it means to be a literalist. If we are literalists, then we need to realize a few things, like the fact that God has spoken in other ways besides for His written Word (the Bible is not our only source for knowing about our God). Most fundies I know would say, “No way! God's ultimate plan of redemption is in the Bible and therefore there is no need for Him to speak anywhere else.” Well, there is a few problems with this kind of strict Bible-only view of God’s revelation. Let’s use the Bible as our starting point to show why this view murders honest biblical interpretation.

In Rom 1:19–20, when Paul is convincing the Romans why idolatry and worshiping  Graeco-Roman gods is wrong, he does not appeal to Scripture, but to creation: “For what can be known about God is plain … because God has shown it to [everyone]. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So [idolaters] are without excuse” (ESV). When anyone makes a choice to not follow the true God, Yahweh, as He is revealed through His Son, they are without excuse, not because He revealed Himself in the Bible, but because He revealed Himself in creation.

Oh, but the serial killing of this belief about how God speaks continues on—just look at how many times Acts 17 has been brushed over, or excused. Paul during his sermon at the Areopagus (commonly known as Mars Hill) quotes the Greek poet-philosophers Epimenides of Crete and Aratus (Acts 17:28) to explain the true God, Yahweh, and His plan of redemption through His Son. He also claims that the inscription to an unknown god on one of their altars is a reference to Yahweh (Acts 17:23). Paul synchronizes (on a very simple level) the religious beliefs of the Areopagus philosophers (and the Greeks in general) with Christianity. For Paul, God has revealed Himself in many different ways.

The above examples show that most fundies are actually not literalists. Because if they were, they would have a lot broader understanding of how God reveals Himself.

So, am I a biblical literalist? In the sense that I interpret the Bible based on what it actually says, Yes! But, am I a fundamentalist? Not in the sense of affirming a set of principles outside the Bible that deny things like God’s revelation happening in creation and other literature as well. But I am a fundamentalist in the sense that I affirm the basic set of principles God has commanded me in the Bible. The Bible is fundamental to Christian life and teaching, but as the above examples show, most fundies interpret the Bible within their set tradition and in doing so often don’t allow for it to be read literally. Please make the serial killing of honest biblical interpretation stop.

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One of the Most Controversial, Best Documented Biblical Events

Check out my guest post about this on Logos Bible Software's blog. In the post, I use Star Wars as an analogy to explain one of the best documented, most controversial events in the Bible and archaeology—the Assyrian King Sennacherib's invasion of King Hezekiah's Judah in 701 BC. There is a new hope, an empire striking back, and the return of a Jedi (the angel of the LORD). Bible Study Magazine, the magazine I write for, edit, and manage, has a

Beyond the Priest Collar and Polo Tie: Overthrowing the Pulpit Nuts

There are as many nuts behind well lit pulpits as there are in dark alleys. Seeing beyond the priest collar, and the polo tie is the difference between re-emerging from the womb and entering a tomb.

Visionaries, miracle workers, prophets—they are all shrouded in mystery. We encounter one, and we wonder: Are they authentic or phony? Full of truth or fiction? What are the signs of a prophet we can trust—an Isaiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist? Answer: Where they came from and where they are going. Let’s look to Ezekiel as an example and then converse about all the nuts claiming to be prophets.

Ezekiel says, “In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (Ezek 1:1 ESV).

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Preview the Mar-Apr 2009 Issue of Bible Study Magazine with John D. Barry

Check out this video, where I introduce you to the hot-off-the-press Mar-Apr 2009 issue of Bible Study Magazine. This issue features my interview with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, titled "Bible Study Anywhere," as well as 11 tips from Driscoll on Dinner Time Bible Study. There is also an article by Conversant's Christy Tennant on "Hollywood Bible Study." Plus, in this issue we answer the questions: "Did Jesus believe in Reincarnation?" and "Does the Author of Ecclesiastes need Prozac?"

(There is an HD option on the video, so don't forget to click it. Also, if you stick around until the end, you will see some good outtakes)

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The Infinite God is everywhere, are you looking? I am dedicated to finding God in all aspects of life – the Bible, the news, and the arts. Because I find that the most fulfilling journey of all is searching for heaven here on earth.