Annual Christmas Comic 2015! Merry Christmas from GFTM!

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

ChristmasComic_2015

Read past Christmas comics: 2014, 2013+, Early 2000’s

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The Walking Dead, Common Grace & Hell: Why Aren’t Things Worse?

As bad as life is for our heroes on The Walking Dead, could things be worse?

**Spoiler Alert: This article speaks about The Walking Dead TV series in general, mentioning briefly some events in Seasons 4 & 5.**

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

The Walking Dead, Lost Hope & God’s Providence

walking-dead-zombie

BAD TO WORSE

Often, when I’m watching The Walking Dead, the following thought comes to mind:

Well, things could be worse.

And I don’t mean for the characters. I mean for the real world. As bad as things are – or can be – or have been – the characters on The Walking Dead certainly have it worse than the majority of us.

Americans, even those considered disadvantaged in the U.S., are much better off than most of the world. Let’s be honest, many of the issues we struggle with in the U.S. are what have been popularly (and accurately) called “First-World Problems.” Please understand I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s real struggles, but – if you’ll allow me to state the starkly obvious – things would certainly be much worse for those in the U.S. and other privileged countries if a zombie outbreak erupted.

But, it can be argued, even those in poor countries have it better than The Walking Dead characters. For instance, the poor often have to struggle just to acquire food; the characters on The Walking Dead have to struggle to acquire food and avoid becoming food by equally hungry zombies. So, it could be said to those in the Third World – the Global South – Hey, things could be worse.

The only situation where the world of The Walking Dead might be preferred over real life is in the most extreme situations, where human evil and oppression is at its worse or a land continually ravaged by war or — as often is the case — both. (It’s interesting to watch our Walking Dead heroes’ difficulty at adjusting to domestic life in Alexandria, showing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder like so many soldiers returning home from war.)

As we talked about in earlier articles, the threat from the living in The Walking Dead is worse than the threat from the mindless dead. Often the evil of the other living humans that our heroes encounter is on the same plane as the evil of Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler. After all, the treatment of people in places like Terminus – including being imprisoned in miserable conditions and having their throats systematical cut in a literal human slaughterhouse – is not unlike what one would experience at the hands of Nazis or ISIS.

But still, why aren’t things worse?

I’m not trying to be flippant about suffering at the hands of evil. Where it’s difficult to think of any situation of individual suffering being worse than, say, being starved and tortured in a concentration camp or scourged, pierced with nails, hung on a cross, and left to die, the question I’m asking is,

Why aren’t things worse overall, throughout the whole world?

Yes, pockets of incredible evil and suffering no doubt exist (and have existed) throughout the world, but it would be inaccurate to say such suffering exists everywhere at all times.

In other GFTM articles about The Walking Dead, we’ve spoken about how God restrains evil through the establishment of government and innate moral law. Further, in the last GTFM Walking Dead article, we spoke about God’s providence over his creation, that God didn’t just create the universe and now has nothing to do with it, but that he’s actively involved in sustaining and preserving it. Through Jesus Christ, God the Son, “all things hold together” (Col.1:17), and “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb.1:3).

Simply, this means if God withdrew from his active involvement, things would without-a-doubt be worse. In fact, as funny as it sounds, after fighting tooth-and-nail through a swarm of zombies and barely escaping alive, Rick Grimes could release a deep breath and say, “Well, things could be worse”— and he’d be right.

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GOD’S WITHDRAWING

Accuse me of simplifying things, but let’s think of it this way: the more God withdraws, the worse things get. Now, let me really over-simplify things: Let’s break the idea of God’s withdraw into 3 possible levels of withdraw to illustrate — the higher the number, the more God withdraws:

LEVEL 1: God withdraws and allows evil and suffering.

LEVEL 2: God withdraws and all life dies.

LEVEL 3: God withdraws and everything ceases to exist.

Level 1 requires the most explanation, so let’s start with Level 2. If God sustains all things, he could simply cease to do so and life would end. Perhaps all vegetation dies, leading to mass starvation; perhaps the sun burns out; perhaps oxygen ceases to be oxygen; or perhaps our hearts simply stop pumping.

Next, let’s not jump right to Level 3 in this thought experiment. Let’s go to Level 2.5. Perhaps gravity stops working and we all float out into lifeless space. Perhaps the planets reel out of their orbits and collide.

Now, at “Level 3,” if God completely ended his active involvement, all that he has created would simply cease to exist. Much like God created everything out of nothing, everything would return to nothing.

Level 1 is what we experience today. For a deeper discussion of why there is evil and suffering in the world, read an earlier GFTM article called “Disasters, Disease, & Death — Why is there Natural Suffering?” But to keep it quick and simple here, we should note that the Bible confirms both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Suffering and evil is due to human sin, which God allows. Why does he allow it? One possible answer is love cannot exist without freewill. Logically, with the freewill to love comes the freewill to do evil. Further, due to sin, a curse weighs on all of creation, which leads to natural disasters, diseases, and death.

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COMMON GRACE

But we can’t talk about all this without mentioning God’s mercy and what theologians call God’s common grace. Since I wrote about common grace before in the article mentioned above, I hope you don’t mind if I lazily quote myself:

Common grace is the doctrine that due to sin, the world should be much worse than it is, yet God shows mercy and allows us to still enjoy the good things of this earth he created.

Common grace means even nonbelievers benefit from God’s good creation and mercy, which can include everything from their innate sense of morals, to meaningful relationships, to the beauty of nature, to food, music, and sex. The difference though between the believer and nonbeliever is that the believer recognizes these good things are from God and they worship the Creator instead of the creation.

Concerning God’s mercy, we see it in the Bible even when the world was first plunged into the curse due to sin: Adam and Eve were warned that the outcome of sin is death (both physically and spiritually), and though death is now a normal part of life, God didn’t kill them immediately. Moreover, even when God kicked them out of the garden, he showed the lovingness of a Father by making them clothes from animal skins (Genesis 3:21).

The Bible goes on to tell the story of the continuing corruption of God’s good creation by man’s sinfulness, yet throughout we see God showing mercy. Even when he destroys most of mankind with the flood, he spares Noah and his family; even when he allows sinful Israel to be taken into captivity by Babylon, he preserves a remnant. And this brings us right back to common grace. If God withdrew all of his blessings from us, the world would be a much more horrible place (whether because of human evil or natural catastrophe) or just a desolate, lifeless rock floating in space — or, most likely, nothing would exist at all.

WHAT DOES GOD OWE US?

God is not obligated to do anything for us. He gave us our very lives, which he didn’t have to do. All good things we experience are blessings from him (James 1:17). When he withdraws blessings, we experience suffering.

We see this continually in the Old Testament with God and Israel. God blessed Israel in many ways, making them his own people to represent him on earth, yet when Israel turns away from him, breaking the covenant they made with God, God withdraws his blessings, allowing pagan nations to harm, even conquer, Israel. It should be noted that God didn’t cause the evil actions of the pagan nations, but he willingly removed his protection from Israel and allowed the pagan nations to follow their own sinful desires.

The situations of God’s withdraw from ancient Israel may have been to different degrees or for different lengths of time, but God often preserved Israel, and this was due wholly to God’s mercy and grace. He was within his rights to fully and completely withdraw his blessings.

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WHAT IS HELL?

This withdraw of God’s blessing is foreshadowing hell. The Bible gives little details about hell, and most peoples’ ideas about hell aren’t based on the Bible but the medieval epic poem Inferno from Dante’s Divine Comedy, whether they realize that or not. There are no descriptions in the Bible of demons torturing people in hell, but Jesus is clear that hell is a place where no one wants to be. He calls it a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt.13:42; Luke 13:28).

Since God is omnipresent, we know that God is not absent from hell in a sense, but hell is clearly a place where God’s blessings are absent. In hell, God has totally withdrawn his blessings. Whatever other characteristics hell has, this we can be sure of.

As we discussed in earlier GFTM Walking Dead articles, once government is removed from practicing law, order, and justice, chaos and evil are free to reign. Further, in hell, there will no longer be a sense of coming divine judgment to curb evil. The innate sense of morals we have will finally be completely deadened. In hell, those there will be unrestrained to follow their evil desires. It will be every person for himself; a land of absolute autonomy, which means a land of absolute selfishness.

(Often people protest against the doctrine of hell, saying it’s unjust for God to infinitely punish finite sins. Why do people assume sinning will stop in hell?)

Admittedly, some of my portrayal of hell may be mistaken, but I’m sure of this: In hell, all of God’s blessings will be entirely removed, and even without horned demons, pitchforks, and medieval torture racks, this idea is utterly terrifying.

NEXT: Who are the walking dead? We are.

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

The Walking Dead, Lost Hope & God’s Providence

Dante Illuminating Florence with his Poemk, by Domenico di Michelino

 

The Walking Dead, Lost Hope & God’s Providence

Can a fictional TV show cause lose of hope in real viewers? Who are the real walking dead? Why does the sun rise everyday?

 

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks about The Walking Dead series in general, but focuses mostly on Season 5, Episode 10.***

walking-dead_rick_zombies

Can a Fictional TV Show Cause Real Lose of Real Hope in Real Viewers?

In an on-going story about a zombie apocalypse, where the characters are surrounded by the bleak reality that much of the world is dead, much of the remaining living have embraced evil and brutality, and much of the personal bonds our heroes form with others are snuffed out by death faster than you can shout, “Carl!” in a southern accent, hopelessness is inevitable.

In fact, I image one of the hardest parts of writing a series like The Walking Dead is keeping the tension going without the audience, not just the characters, loosing all hope.

I know of at least one friend whose wife refuses to watch the show anymore because she said it was simply too depressing. With a story concept like The Walking Dead, writing conflict into the script isn’t the challenge; the challenge is keeping the audience from being overcome by the bleakness.

Because, let’s face it, if there will ever be a TV show in history that loses viewers because they’ve grown too hopeless to continue watching, it’s The Walking Dead.

The only way to keep the audience (and characters) from plunging into an abyss of depression is to occasionally have an episode where some hope – no matter how small – breaks into an otherwise desolate desert of despair. When thinking about this, I can’t help but think about Episode 10 of Season 5, titled “Them.”

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Religious Undertones on Secular TV

The episode begins – like so many episodes – with the characters reeling from more deaths in their group. This time it’s the death of Tyreese and Beth, and understandably the two characters most affected by those deaths are the sisters of the deceased, Sasha and Maggie. What makes this episode unusual are the religious undertones.

Maggie’s father Hershel was open about his Christian faith, but the living – not the undead – needlessly killed him, like his youngest daughter Beth. Whatever amount of faith Maggie had she clearly renounces it in this episode. She tells Father Gabriel, “My daddy used to be religious. I used to be.”

Father Gabriel tries to reach out to Maggie, offering to be a sympathetic ear, but Maggie rips into him for failing miserably in doing one of the main things a shepherd is to do: protect his flock. (Could Maggie be taking her anger at God out on the one character left that represents God in some way?)

Later, Father Gabriel, utterly defeated, throws his priest’s collar into a fire. Does this action mean he is denouncing his work as a man of God or is he denouncing his faith all together, like Maggie?

But if Father Gabriel did, in fact, denounce his faith at that moment, it’s not long before he embraces it again. As the group is struggling desperately with thirst, it begins to rain. Based on the expressions on some of their faces, you can almost hear thoughts asking: Is some higher power looking out for us?

There is no doubt this is what Father Gabriel is thinking, because he says, looking up into the falling rain, “I’m sorry, my Lord.” He recognizes that all good things come from God (James 1:17). But not so fast — what could be life-giving rainfall abruptly changes into a dangerous thunderstorm!

The group seeks shelter in an old barn. As soon as they enter the barn, Maggie spots a much too conveniently-placed Holy Bible. They also find a woman who has become a zombie. Maggie and Carol note that the woman had a gun and could’ve shot herself before dying and becoming a zombie. Carol says, “Some people can’t give up.”

So, the lady in the barn with a Bible didn’t give up hope like so many others they have encountered; is this what the writers of a secular, horror-based TV show were really trying to say? (Or am I over-thinking things as us English teachers are trained to do?)

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Are We the Walking Dead or Not?

The overarching question of the episode appears to be: Will the characters lose hope and give up or continue on?

Later, Rick says something interesting; he says, “…we are the walking dead.” But Daryl vehemently refuses this idea. “We ain’t them. We are not them,” he says. Now, Rick explains what he means by this, but it appears they’re both thinking in different ways about the comment. (More thoughts about this in the next article.)

But it’s not long before the internal conflicts within the characters are played out: Daryl discovers walkers – a lot of them! – trying to stroll right into the barn. He slams the doors shut and pushes up against the door to hold them back. But our heroes don’t despair; they don’t huddle into balls and mourn, waiting for death. They, instead, rush to help Daryl brace the doors. United, they all push against the onslaught of the dead as lightning fills the sky. The symbolism is clear: They will continue to rage against the dying of the light. They will not join the dead.

The scene cuts to morning. The sun is bright. The rain has stopped. Our heroes are alive; most are sleeping. Maggie and Sasha exit the barn to find many walkers crushed by fallen trees or ripped apart by the storm. Is there a suggestion of divine protection here? After all, the first thing they saw as they entered the barn was a Bible. Was the storm, in fact, a blessing in disguise, which saved them from the coming zombie horde? Did a divine hand protect the barn?

Sasha says, “Look at this. Should’ve torn us apart.” Maggie replies, “It didn’t” – some dialogue with clear double-meaning.

 walkingdead_sasha

The Sun Always Rises

Maggie and Sasha proceed to watch the sunrise, a universal sign of hope. No matter how bad things are, the sun always rises. But why does it always rise? The sunrise not only reminds us of the beauty of God’s creation, but it also reminds us of God’s unchanging nature and divine care for his creation.

First, the writers of the Bible teach not only that God made all of creation, but that all know of him because of his creation:

 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1–2)

 (Also see Romans 1:18-20, which we looked at in the previous Walking Dead GFTM article.)

Secondly, God preserves all of his creation:

 

You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

 

God’s promise to sustain his creation and preserve life can be traced as far back to immediately after he destroyed much of life on Earth with the Flood:

 

…the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)

 

Theologian Wayne Grudem calls this God’s preservation, which is part of God’s providence over his creation. He explains it as “God keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them” with “active, purposeful control.” He writes, “God, in preserving all things he had made, also causes them to maintain the properties with which he created them,” and if God didn’t do this, then “all except the triune God would instantly cease to exist.” (Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994 P.316)

What makes Christians unique from other faiths is Christians also believe God has made himself known through his Son. Along with the Holy Spirit, this Son has existed with God eternally. In fact, this Son, who came in the flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, is God. Here, we have the unique Christian belief of the Trinitarian nature of God: three distinct, coequal, coeternal personal beings all sharing the one divine nature.

The New Testament teaches us all things were created through God the Son, and not only that, but all things are sustained through the Son and all life is preserved by him. In John 1, where John refers to the Son as “the Word,” we see the Trinitarian connection between the Father and Son, as well as the Son’s role in creation:

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

 

God, though separate from his creation, is intimately involved in sustaining and preserving it. This attribute of God the Father is shared by God the Son:

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

 

Clearly, the Bible does not teach Deism; God didn’t create the universe, wind it up like an old watch, and now he just sits back and lets it tick. Even if we remove all instances recorded in both the Old and New Testaments of God breaking into history, such as during the Exodus or the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Bible still clearly teaches that God is not a “hands off” deity.

Further, because the creation accounts in Genesis shows God is a God of order, and because of the Christian belief of a God who sustains the order of the universe, Christianity gave rise to modern science. The Christian worldview accounts for the immaterial laws of nature and the constants of the universe. The worldview of pagan and pantheistic religions do not lend themselves to the ideas of modern science. In fact, neither does naturalism; a theory based on a premise of materialism and random chance doesn’t give us the idea of consistency in nature needed to do science. The concepts taught in the Bible do.

(I realize everything I just stated in the above paragraph is extremely controversial; this article, “Why Christianity is the Worldview that Best Supports Science,” gives a good overview of the argument or watch this 10-minute video of Dr. Greg Bahnsen that touches on some of it.)

No matter how bad things get – in real life or in a fictional TV show – we can be sure the sun will rise. We can be secure in our knowledge that God will sustain us.

Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised!

(Psalm 113:2-3)

Now, the questions are: Why aren’t things worse? And: Was Rick right – are we the walking dead? We’ll explore these questions NEXT

Other GFTM articles on The Walking Dead:

The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

WalkingDead_hershel

The Walking Dead & God’s Innate Moral Law

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***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks of The Walking Dead primarily in general, but events in Season 5, Episode 2 are discussed.***

In the last GFTM article where we looked at The Walking Dead from a Christian worldview, we explored how the Bible teaches that God restrains evil through governments (though those governments, being human, are imperfect). Once government collapses, evil is left to reign unrestrained.

Another way God restrains evil is through humankind’s innate morality.

So, the question is, is this innate moral law enough to suppress evil in a world of anarchy and chaos?

Are Humans Worse Than Zombies?

As discussed before, a major theme in The Walking Dead and nearly every post-apocalyptic TV show, movie, or book is the “good” man or woman struggling to hold on to his or her goodness in a world full of evil. Even in stories with people struggling to survive in post-apocalyptic environments – whether it be because of zombies or just lack of food – the main threat inevitably becomes other humans.

As The Walking Dead continues into Season 5, this is undeniable. In fact, the advertisements for the new season even read,

“Fight the dead. Fear the living.”

 

Further, in Season 5, Episode 2 (titled “Strangers”), we find this brief exchange:

Gabriel: “People are just as dangerous as the dead.”

Rick: “No, people are worse.”

 

Clearly, once law and order are gone, the darkness that is in people’s hearts is free to overflow like water behind a destroyed dam. Yet though we witness the internal struggles of Rick, Carl, Michonne, Tyree, Carol, and others to not be dragged completely down into the sludge – some characters teetering on the edge, maybe even going over it, but then pulling back again – they still manage to hold on to their humanity.

In fact, this often has a redeeming effect on them. Simply look at Michonne’s change from a woman who was quite crazy (to put it bluntly) and animal-like when they met her – wandering about with a samurai sword and leading two armless, jawless zombie slaves with her – to a person who actually smiles now – who actually makes an effort to bring others back from the brink, as seen in her relationship with Carl late in Season 4.

Despite the rest of the world succumbing to darkness, Rick Grimes’ crew often grasps on to what is right, even when it’s nearly impossible to do. This is, after all, why they are the heroes. Heck, it can even be quite easily argued that Daryl has become a better man because of this whole zombie nonsense.

But why? Why hold on to moral law in a world of lawlessness? Why do the right thing when everyone else openly pursues evil?

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The biblical, Christian worldview can answer this question:

Romans 1:18-20
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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 they are without excuse.”

Romans 2:14-15
“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”

We are all created by God and made in his image (Genesis 1:27) and we live in his creation, meaning whether we claim we believe in God or not, we know him and we live in his reality.

What the above verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us is that everyone knows there is a God, and everyone has God’s law written on their hearts. They may deny God’s existence; they may suppress God’s truth because they love their sin; they may even be able to numb their conscience; but they all know God and know his Higher Law. Thus, they are without excuse.

Philosophers a long time ago realized if we have an innate sense of a Higher Law, then there must be a Higher Law-Giver. Again, the Bible confirms this. In fact, the Moral Law is not something God created apart from himself, but it proceeds from God’s very nature. God is perfectly good, just, and holy. Thus, God’s own nature is the source of good.

Morals Without God

Even when I was a self-professed atheist I recognized that one couldn’t make sense of morals without God. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that atheists don’t have morals. They certainly do. Indeed, what I’m saying is that atheists can’t make sense of their morals – they can’t justify them – if there is no God.

The fact that self-professed atheists still hold to morals in what they believe to be a mindless, meaningless universe that is only here by random chance shows that, in fact, they’re made in the image of God. The fact that atheists make stout, absolute moral claims, despite many believing morals are subjective (or only a convenience to assist survival), displays that they know there is a Universal Law, though their denial of Christ has perverted their sense of it.

Recently, a self-professed atheist tweeted me in response to something I had tweeted about this very subject. Essentially, he claimed the Bible promotes rape and murder. Now, anyone who has a decent understanding of the Bible knows this is not true, but to prove the point of my earlier tweet, instead of giving him a Bible lesson, I simply asked him to explain why, according to an atheistic worldview, rape and murder is wrong.

Here is some of the interaction. I polished up some of the “tweet-speak” to make it more readable:

 

Ben: “In what universe are rape and murder moral? The Bible says to do both.”

Me: “So, are you saying rape & murder are immoral? According to what standard?”

Ben: “According to the standards of anyone.”

Me: “Why is this a standard to everyone? Where does this value come from?… [Furthermore, you said,] ‘standards of anyone.’ Anyone?? [There’s] sure lots of rape & murder out there… Does majority define truth? If everyone said you were a duck, are you a duck?”

Ben: “Murder isn’t illegal because its ‘immoral,’ it’s illegal because no one wants to get murdered. Same with rape and stealing.”

Me: “So other people don’t want to be murdered. Why should I care? Survival of the fittest, baby. See my point?”

Ben: “No, because in today’s society there are consequences for your actions, and you’d most likely be killed as well, by police.”

Me: “So we shouldn’t do rape or murder because we’ll get arrested or killed but they’re not wrong to do. That’s what you’re saying.”

Ben: “Right and wrong are just subjective. Everybody believes whatever the **** they want to believe. So if you want to go rape and murder people, that’s not my problem, so I don’t give a ****.”

Me: “Right. Just wanted to be clear. So you have no grounds for making any moral judgment. Rape, murder, racism, “homophobia,” sexism, killing babies, killing in the name of religion, slavery, genocide – are all OK according to your worldview, right?”

Ben: “No, according to the Bible those are all OK. The Bible actually tells you to do those things.”

Me: “[Even] if it does [which it doesn’t], according to your worldview that’s no problem. So, there’s nothing to argue about. Everything is subjective, so who cares?”

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Christianity on Secular TV

Interestingly, Episode 2 of Season 5 introduced a Christian character, an Episcopalian priest named Gabriel. I’m always curious to see how secular TV portrays Christians, since Hollywood often portrays them as either crazy or evil.

It’s also interesting to watch Hollywood’s assuredly poor understanding of Christianity and the Bible. Once, I remember looking over at my wife during an episode of Lost after Mr. Eko made some “Christian” statements and asking her, “What Bible is he reading?”

What pop culture does with the Bible is essentially what cults do too: They pick and choose Bible verses, take them out of context, and use them how they want to use them, making them say whatever they want them to say. So, it’s always interesting (and entertaining and infuriating) to see how Hollywood uses Scripture, whether it be in horror movies about demonic forces or political dramas like an infamous scene from The West Wing where the president uses the ol’ Why do Christians follow some of the Bible but not everything in the Old Testament? argument, showing an utter void of understanding of biblical theology (just like real-life politicians, including our presidents).

(If you’d like to know how to respond to both make-believe presidents & real presidents concerning the Christian understanding and use of the Old Testament, read my articles Making Sense of Old Testament Laws, Part 1 and Part 2.)

As one can expect, as Rick Grimes’ crew checks out Gabriel’s church in “Strangers,” we see “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54) in the sanctuary, which when not understood in context of the Lord’s Supper certainly sounds creepy, and certainly loosely fits with what both the zombies and the human cannibals pursuing our heroes do.

Another blogger did us a service by looking up verses seen on a verse board in the episode. All the verses have to do with the resurrection of the dead. Of course, the resurrection the Bible writers tell about is nothing like a zombie “resurrection” of the undead – but, hey, to be perfectly honest, if I was living through a zombie holocaust, I’m quite sure I’d be combing the Scriptures trying to make sense of what was going on as well.

But what this other blogger overlooked is one more verse used in the episode. The verse was in a framed picture quickly seen as our heroes searched the rooms of the church. Its message is quite fitting for The Walking Dead and is one we would all do well to remember:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
(Galatians 6:9)

 

NEXT: WHY AREN’T THINGS WORSE? & WE’RE ALL WALKING DEAD

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

Read the 1st article: “The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil” here.

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The Walking Dead & Unrestrained Evil

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***SPOILER ALERT: This article speaks of The Walking Dead primarily in general, but an event in Season 2 and the first episode of Season 5 are discussed.***

 

AMC’s zombie apocalypse TV show The Walking Dead, based on a comic book series of the same name, is not one of my all-time favorite shows, yet I find myself unable to stop watching.

I read the massive Compendium One collection of issues #1-48 of the comics before I knew the TV series was being planned, and I found much of the story-telling flat and didn’t feel compelled to continue reading the series. Though I do believe The Walking Dead makes a much better TV show than comic, the show has suffered spells plagued with lack of tension where you’re left wondering, How can a show about a zombie apocalypse grow stale?

All that being said, there’s something irresistible about a story continuing as a TV series long after the point where most zombie movies would’ve ended. Further, I’ve always found the post-apocalyptic genre fascinating since watching as a kid the post-nuclear holocaust movies of the 80’s, including films like The Road Warrior and Terminator. Throw in zombies on top of that, and how can I not watch?

Where I would not classify The Walking Dead in the same category as ground-breaking TV as far as story-telling, character development, or acting goes as The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, the creative forces behind The Walking Dead have created one of the most engrossing shows on television at this time, and they should be commemorated for putting together some truly gut-wrenching episodes. I mean, who can possibly forget in Season 2 when Carol’s lost daughter, Sophia, comes ambling out of Hershel’s barn with other zombies?

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COMMON THEMES

Whether it be William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies, the more recent Denzel Washington post-apocalyptic movie Book of Eli, or the zombie world of The Walking Dead, we find similar themes in all of these stories where civilization breaks down. Evil is left unfettered. Anarchy reigns. Survival of the fittest is the only law. And we see the “good man” (and woman) swimming against the crashing waves of this new, harsh world, trying to maintain goodness – a sense of compassion, a sense of right, a sense of justice, even a sense of humanness – yet often being sucked down by the riptide and barely keeping his head above the waters.

This theme is seen throughout the four completed seasons of The Walking Dead as well as a theme so prevalent in the first episode of the 5th Season (titled “No Sanctuary”) that it’s nearly smashed into your face.

Season 4 ends with Rick Grimes and his grimy crew locked in a storage container in Terminus. In “No Sanctuary,” we see the true colors of the people at Terminus as they line bound men up on their knees, knock them senseless with a bat, cut their throats, and let them bleed out into a tub in a literal human slaughterhouse. As in movies like Book of Eli and The Road, cannibalism is often symbolic of the ultimate breakdown of humanity.

But the theme of “the good” fighting tooth-and-nail to not spiral down to “the evil” in this episode is mostly felt in the contrast between Rick Grimes’ clan and the Terminus clan through the opening and closing flashbacks of the episode. It’s revealed that Terminus had, in fact, been a true sanctuary for people at one time and the people there had been good, compassionate people. But then, another group attacked them. The people of Terminus were locked in the same storage containers they now trapped people in, and they were raped and brutalized. Somehow, they escaped, killed their captors, and decided they would never be victims again. Their new outlook is summed up in one telling line from the show:

“You’re the butcher, or you’re the cattle.”  

Interestingly, in most post-apocalyptic stories, even in a world where zombies surround the characters, the real danger is humankind. The true threat isn’t simply a harsh environment. In the genre, the search for food or shelter eventually falls into the background. Humans adapt; they learn to survive, even when living among the mindless undead. But then the true threat becomes other humans. We see this clearly in the zombie film 28 Days Later as well as The Walking Dead. Once civilization collapses, evil can reign unrestrained. All of these sorts of stories speak of the darkness that comes out of the human heart.

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HOW GOD RESTRAINS EVIL

As stories like The Walking Dead make clear, there are two things that restrain evil: government and the moral law. And though I assume secular shows like The Walking Dead are not consciously advancing biblical truths, these truths are, in fact, ordained by God.

 

Government

D.A. Carson in his book How Long, O Lord? states, “As a whole, the Scripture recognizes that civil authority restrains evil.” As he points out, the Book of Judges makes this resolutely clear. Anyone familiar with the pattern throughout Judges knows that the book is a continuous cycle that progressively spirals downwards into more and more chaos. The continuous refrain said throughout Judges also closes the book:

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

As Carson points out, “unless there is a responsible authority to curtail evil, individuals become more and more brazen in their greed, pillage, and violence.” It’s interesting how with a little tweaking, all of the above statements could be speaking about the world of The Walking Dead.

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Earlier in the Bible, when we read the Old Testament laws given by God to the ancient Israelite nation, they may seem needlessly severe, even harsh, but one has to recognize it was a much harsher time. Much of the progress towards a more civil, humane society in the West is due to 2,000 years of Christianity. Though the Old Testament law seems harsh to us today, it must be understood in the context of the ancient Near Middle East. God’s law was set in place to minimize bloodshed by giving due process, for instance, before executing someone for a crime. Other examples are the “cities of refuge” established by God as safe havens to prevent unnecessary blood feuds between families and tribes.

As God’s progressive revelation through history continues on to the followers of Jesus, the most explicit biblical teaching about God ordaining government to restrain evil is found in Romans 13:1-5:

 

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”

 

It must be noted that this by no means leads to the conclusion that all governments are good and just or even that a perfect government exists. The Bible is quite clear that all people are imperfect sinners, and, thus, all governments are likewise imperfect. D.A. Carson states, “Thus, while the Bible insists that both ideally and in practice the state retrains wickedness, it fully recognizes that the state may perpetrate it. That means that the state sometimes protects us from suffering, and sometimes causes it.”

Though there is much more that can be said about how Christians should respond to unjust governments, for our purposes here concerning The Walking Dead, we need not go further. Christians worship a God of order, not disorder, and without government – without structure in place to protect, police, and practice justice – evil spreads like a zombie-making plague.

 NEXT: Part 2: “The Walking Dead & Moral Law,” “Why aren’t things worse?” & “We’re All Walking Dead”

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More Christmas Comics! New 2013! Merry Christmas!!!

Here’s some more of my homemade Christmas comics, including the new one for this year!

Merry Christmas!

-Steve

PS. Click on the comic to enlarge it.  But you might still have to zoom in on your computer to read them….

2010

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2011

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2013

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Read more about Steve’s comments from the comic above in his blog articles:

When was Jesus Born? & The 3 Wise Men  Click here.

Where was Jesus Born?  Click here.

Check out more of my Christmas comics here.