Lincoln, Life of Pi

Both movies will be nominated for multiple major categories during the Golden Globes and Academy Awards season. Though both movies are over two hours long, they kept my attention and interest throughout.

Life of Pi is a cinematic experience akin to Avatar. The tiger, whose name is Richard Parker, is a marvel of CGI, and is worth the price of admission. If you love cats, go see it. I found the movie interesting for portraying a pleuralistic view of life–so prevalent and popular today–that all religions lead to God. This should give us a long-suffering patient sensitivity toward non-Christians, instead of pushing our religion on them.

Lincoln is totally captivating and mesmerizing the way Daniel Day-Lewis portrays him. He is surely the quintessential American hero and a man of the ages. Though he was a flawed man, Lincoln is the type of leader that inspires others to follow him. These were some attributes of his leadership:

  • Honesty, Transparency and Candor. There was no hint of duplicity about him. What he said was who he was. Though he was a brilliant and skilled politician, he was not manipulative or clandestine in his interactions with others.
  • Human touch. Though he was greatly loved and admired by those he led, he did not carry himself with an air of his own greatness or superiority. He communicated a genuine spirit of humility with a gentle and tender human quality about him.
  • Humor. No matter how serious and heated the subject matter that was being discussed, he found some story to tell that caused others to laugh and lighten up. A humorless leader takes himself too seriously and is quite a put off.
  • Honor and Integrity. He was a man of integrity. He was not trying to impress himself upon others. It was who he was. Any leader who tries to impose himself on others would stifle and oppress them. Lincoln communicated honor without trying.
  • Honoring others. This was crucial. He knew how to win others, even his opponents. He did not do so with his towering sense of his own superior stature. Rather, he persuaded them and appealed to them without coercion. Thus, others felt honored and respected by him.

Lincoln was a Christ-like figure. Go see the movie and be inspired to be such a leader of a man for the glory of God.


  1. I have heard two different narratives of Lincoln. Christian pastors portray him as a man deep in his Christian faith. While secular historians have characterize him as a deist with theistic bents and strong respect for the divine. Which is true?

  2. Joe Schafer

    Hi Gerardo. It’s possible that both of those portrayals of Lincoln are true, perhaps at different times in his life, or even simultaneously. He was a complex person.

    Those Christian pastors to which you refer are perplexed by Lincoln because he messes with their categories. Lincoln was an obviously great man, a man of character, virtue and courage. There was a real godliness about him, and it’s natural that evangelicals would want to claim him as one of their own. But if you have a theology that says a person cannot manifest signs of God’s work or accomplish anything of eternal value unless he mentally agrees with certain doctrines, then Lincoln poses a real challenge. You have to either claim that Lincoln’s accomplishments aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, because he wasn’t a “real” Christian — and no one really wants to say that — or you have to selectively sift through what is known about Lincoln and remake him into your idea of what a real Christian looks like.

  3. Joe,
    Great points. Not saying that the man can’t be great unless he is Christian. Just wondering from what world view did he receive the inspiration to do the thigns he did.

  4. Joe Schafer

    That’s one of the great questions that make Lincoln so fascinating and enigmatic. He had almost no formal schooling, yet he became one of the nation’s greatest legal minds. He never served in the military, yet he became a great commander-in-chief. How did that happen? I have no clue. But radio commentator Michael Medved has just released a two-hour presentation where he tries to address that.

    Perhaps some secret Santa out there will take note: this would make an awesome gift for Gerardo!

  5. I just watched “Life of Pi” over the weekend. I’m glad I did. I can hear right-wing conservatives crying foul, claiming this is a Satanic movie meant to destroy America. But I found Life of Pi to be an excellent faith narrative.

    In fact, the whole movie is a grand example of a personal narrative. I love how faith is honored in many contexts, and how reason and logic play a key role. That’s how it should be.

    The Life of Pi teaches me that in this world of bitterness where even the animals devour each other, and in this generation where many people of faith have displayed hatred and division, there is ample opportunity for faith to shine brightly and there is still enough room for humanity in this world.

  6. Joe Schafer

    Thanks, Brian. Haven’t seen Life of Pi yet, but Sharon did and she really liked it.

    Have you seen the new PBS series on the Abolitionists that began last Tuesdsay night? It tells the story of those within the church who tried to awaken the Christian conscience with regard to slavery. They paid a heavy price for it. They were marginalized, demonized, slandered and ultimately cast out of their churches. I missed the first episode, but I think it can be viewed online.

    • I heard about that series, but haven’t been able to start watching it. I plan to keep it on my list of “must-see” media though. I like to wait until such things become available on Netflix or Hulu or something so I can watch them at my own pace or together with Mary.

      I can see that the abolition of slavery has prime relevance to today’s generation. It has come up numerous times the past 2 years for me in some form or another, as I discuss today’s hot button topics with people.

      Some of the fundamental issues is the same: what is the gospel? how do we read Scripture? If our “gospel” is sin management, we find it so very difficult to accept people who are different or to see any reason to change the status quo even if that means enslavement of our African brothers and sisters. Or if we read Scripture as a map meant to guide every aspect of our generation’s society, we end up tearing down our society and starting to rebuild ancient Greece or Rome or Jewish society, or worse yet, we rebuild Babylon’s society if we spend too much literal time in the Old Testament and miss the OT narratives about Jesus.

      Abolition is also highly relevant to our topics here on this blog. I drew much inspiration from William Wilburforce and John Newton in the movie “Amazing Grace”, for example:

    • Joe Schafer

      You can watch episode #1 of The Abolitionists now at

    • Joe Schafer

      BTW, Brian, with respect to the slavery issue, I fully agree with you. It is frighteningly easy to build a case, based on the Old and New Testaments, that slavery is biblically acceptable and normal. And it is very hard to build a case for abolishing slavery on biblical texts alone. This is the best example that I know of to demonstrate that biblicism, or Bible-only-ism, doesn’t work.

      Perhaps some clever person can write an article, “The Biblical Case for Slavery,” to demonstrate the limitations of trying to build your doctrines and practices only on the plain-sense meaning of Scripture.

      Peharps it’s already been done.

    • I would love to oblige, Joe. And perhaps I’ll have time to submit an article later this week to initiate such a conversation. I find it very relevant.

      Such “bible idolatry” (as I call it) might even be related to concepts of “finite” and “infinite”. Perhaps a finite reading of the bible leads to incomplete and even wrong conclusions. I find these days that I need to rid myself of my arrogant tinker-toy theologies and pursue the infinite journey and messages of God. Surely God is more joyful to walk with us on a journey of life than to see us sit down content with our little ideas.

      I found this review of Pi fascinating:

      One of the striking comments in the review is about Georg Cantor:

      “In the late 19th century, the great German mathematician Georg Cantor took on infinity not as a means to an end, but as a subject worthy of rigorous study in itself. He demonstrated that there are many kinds of infinite sets, and some infinities are bigger than others. Hard as it may be to swallow, the set of all the possible decimal numbers between 1 and 2, being unlistable, turns out to be a bigger infinity than the set of all whole numbers from 1 to forever, which in principle can be listed.

      In fact, many of Cantor’s contemporaries didn’t swallow, dismissing him as “a scientific charlatan,” “laughable” and “wrong.” Cantor died depressed and impoverished, but today his set theory is a flourishing branch of mathematics relevant to the study of large, chaotic systems like the weather, the economy and human stupidity.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, the story about Cantor is an interesting one. It reminds me of the recently discovered story about a Greek mathematician who discovered that the square root of 2 was irrational. (Basically, he proved the existence of irrational numbers, which, as Cantor showed, are an uncountably infinite set, which is a much larger infinity than that of the rational numbers.) The Greek mathematician was martyred for his discovery. Peter Enns posted an article about this, titled

      What You Say Seems Strange to Us,
      So You Are Wrong and You Must Die

    • Hippasus is my new hero!

      “I believe with all my heart in the harmony we proclaim,” Hippasus protested. “I have only shown that the square root of two cannot be represented as a ratio. The harmony of the cosmos is more complex than we ever dreamed.”

    • By the way, Cantor’s proofs that the rational numbers are countable and the real numbers are uncountable are so easy that they can be explained in a few minutes and understood even by a non-mathematician. It’s amazing that nobody had thought about that before Cantor. And the proof that the square root of 2 is irrational is also very easy. We learned it in school. Sometimes, unexpected and profound thruths can be proven very easily. But sometimes it’s also very difficult. For instance the proof that pi (to come back to this blog entry) is a transcendental number. And Goedel has shown that there are always mathematical sentences which have no proof. So you can kind of only assume them “by faith”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris,your observations are interesting. Did you study mathematics in your university?

      Your mention of Goedel reminded me of something that I read not long ago. It was in the book What We Believe and Why by George Byron Koch. He summarized one of Goedel’s findings in this way (roughly stated): “Every system of rules will raise questions that cannot be answered within that system. Those questions can only be answered from the outside.” Koch applied that principle to the laws of the Old Testament. He argued that Jesus fulfilled the OT law, not by keeping all the details of the law perfectly, but by displaying perfect love which transcends the law. I’m not explaining it very well, but it was interesting and compelling.

    • Yes, it was my main subject at university. The “application” or even only an analogy to the OT is very (too) far-stretched, maybe because the English word “rule” can be interpreted in different ways.

      I would explain the theological point much easier: The OT rules actually in their core explain that we shall love God and our neighbour. They are completed by the NT that explains that on the other hand, God also loves us, and loves us even if we fail to conform to the OT rules. This in turn can give us the motivation and strength to fulfill the true meaning of the OT rules, namely to love God and our neighbour.

      One point in Goedels first theorem is important: The set of (mathematical) rules must be non-trivial and consistent. This means it must at least be capable of describing simple arithmetics, and no contradictions between the rules may consist. Then, the theorem says, there are always statements which can be expressed in this system, and are true, but cannot be proven based on this set of rules. And then there is the second theorem which basically says: You can’t even prove that your system of rules is consistent.

      I think it’s a hint to Mathematicians that the world is more that they can prove from simple axioms. Just as the Physicists got the hint that the world is more than cause and effecte , there is no “Laplace daemon”.

    • Chris, this sounds like the start of an article for ubfriends :)

  7. Joe Schafer

    Chris, thanks for your explanation of Goedel’s theorems.

    You said, “God loves us even if we fail to conform to the OT rules.” Now, as I read the Bible, I get a strong impression that God never intended for the OT laws to be rigidly obeyed, except perhaps in the immediate context where they were given. And, in some cases, God even gave the Israelites some laws that would befuddle them and cause them to fail.

    Ezekiel 20:25 says: “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live…”

  8. Sure, Joe, the OT also contains many indications that obeying the rules, offering etc. is not the real thing that God wants. It also contains many passages that can be understood as pointing to Jesus. And it has many passages showing how God loves his people, but only in Jesus we see how deep and universal this love is, and that it’s really a matter of the heart, not of outward obedience and keeping rules and regulations. It was really not clear to the people at that time and even after Jesus’ death and resurrection Peter struggled with it (Acts 10:13-15). John 1:17 summarizes the difference very well: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Even today I know an Evangelical church in my home town that does not allow female members to wear jeans or any kind of trousers based on Deut 22:5. They still don’t get it.

  9. Joe/Chris, this is the gospel talk I’ve been waiting to hear. The word fulfillment needs to be brought in here. People get caught (and I used to as well) in a false dichotomy between Jesus who said he did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5:17), and Paul who said Jesus was abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations (Ephesians 2:14-16). A misunderstanding of the word fulfillment leads to such confusion.

    Jesus fulfilled the Law (and the Prophets too!). In order for this to be the fulfillment Jesus talked about, the commandments of the Law and the Prophets had to be abolished. God’s Law still stands, but for a new purpose (and maybe it is the same purpose as always?). The Prophets words are still around, but only to tell us more insight in Jesus, who He is, what He did and will do, etc.

    On a related note, I discovered through my life narrative process these past several months that the UBF system and many Evangelical systems, are attempts to rebuild the Law and the Prophets, but in a “Jesus-base” way. Those systems do some good, but fall apart over time because God never intended to rebuild what Jesus fulfilled. In the UBF system, you do not sacrifice animals, but you do sacrifice your “self” (conscience, emotions, dreams, etc), going beyond what self-denial requires.

    Because Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets through love and grace and truth and all the work on the cross, as well as through his life, ministry and resurrection and ascension, many things can happen. Women can be leaders and preachers and teachers in the church. Homosexuals can find freedom and peace. Slaves can be set free from their masters. Jew and gentile can be friends. And many other works of reconciliation.

    I believe this is the point of Galatians. And taking into account Colossians, Ephesians and the masterpiece, Romans, adding in Hebrews– we find these things to be true. Then we begin to understand why people were SO very upset at Jesus, and how ordinary Jews who upheld morals and honor would turn into nasty crowds. We understand why Stephen was stoned, and on and on.

  10. Joe Schafer

    Brian, I agree with your assessments. I was just surprised to find a verse in the OT that explicitly says some of the laws were “no good.” It appears to contradict verses that say “The law of the Lord is perfect” etc. I’m continually reminded how complex the Bible is.

    • Complex indeed! And magnificent! When I look at Scripture through the lens of grace, centered on the work of Christ on the cross, acted out through love, I stand in awe at the bible’s wondrous beauty.

    • I’m finding that there are amazing treasures in Scripture. For example, it is good to ponder the fact that the Israelites had the gospel preached to them, just as we did (Hebrews 4:1-6). God preached the gospel to Israel before Jesus came. That will blow the mind of most Evangelicals…

  11. Sharon Schafer

    Just want to post a link to an article from Deeper Story, another blog I like. It sums up the value of a website like this. Thanks everyone for participating on UBFriends!

  12. Joe Schafer

    Sharon, thanks for sharing that article. It’s an amazing piece. For me, it underscores
    * why UBFriends has been so valuable, and why this website must not be micromanaged, censored or shut down, and
    * why those who read, write and comment at this website need to go the extra mile to be welcoming, patient and gentle toward those with whom they presently disagree

  13. Joe Schafer

    Today I ran across this interesting three-minute video interview about Abraham Lincoln’s “battle with God.”