Thursday, May 24, 2012

Michael Tully Spirit Blade 3 Interview 1 (SBU Podcast)

Thursday, May 24, 2012 2:53 PM

About half of my week was taken up with recording, so there will not be an In Search Of Truth segment on today's show. Instead I'm going to play the interview I recorded this week with Michael Tully, the voice of Raan Galvaanik.

Also on the show, Ken From Honolulu's review of Alien Versus Ninja.

Free Spirit Blade Card Game Download Link at-

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Michael Tully Recording Complete!

I've just returned from taking Michael Tully back to the airport this morning. I'm now sitting at my laptop in a daze over the tornado of activity we had in my office over the last two days. It's amazing the amount of work we crammed into two days of non-stop activity.

Tully (I've called him by his last name since we were in college together) arrived on Monday morning at 6:40 and we were back at my place and recording before 8am. Although he took a nap later in the day, I used the time to post on the blog and get some more work done. After he woke up again, we continued recording until after 10pm, taking breaks only for meals.

Yesterday, we were back in my office recording by 8am again and continued recording until around 4:30 when Tully officially finished his work as Raan Galvaanik for Spirit Blade 3 (and for the Spirit Blade Trilogy as a whole!). But his work still wasn't finished.

From 4:30 until 8:30, Tully recorded background lines for crowd scenes, etc. (Probably the most fun we both had the entire time he was here!) He also recorded some material for the Spirit Blade Adventure Card Game (more info on the audio components of the game coming soon!) where he reprises his role as Raan Galvaanik.

We finally finished off the day with two recorded interviews (both audio AND video this time!), one without spoilers that I'll release before Spirit Blade 3 is finished, and another with all kinds of spoilers, which I'll release after Spirit Blade 3 is finished and available.

I recorded a lot of audio and video while we recorded and worked, and there is a ton of great material I can't wait to share with you guys. But after two extremely long days of constant mental focus... my brain is fried. So editing and sharing some of that footage will have to be a treat for another time.

Stay tuned for this week's podcast, which I plan to release tomorrow. I plan to share some audio from my time with Tully that I hope you'll enjoy!

-Paeter Frandsen

Monday, May 21, 2012

Recording Raan!

At 6:50 this morning I picked up Michael Tully, the voice of Raan Galvaanik, from the airport. After a predictable amount of laughing and screwing around, we settled in and started recording his material for Spirit Blade 3. By 11:30am we had already completed all of his singing for the project, which puts us nicely ahead of schedule. (When recording "Dark Ritual", the songs took most of the first day!)

It's almost 3pm now and Tully is napping in the guest room. We've recorded his first scene and will dive into his second after he's up again. (16 more to go!)

So far things are going great and I'm really confident that we'll have plenty of time to record the remaining scenes, with time left over to relax and hang out some while he's here. (We've also had fun making some videos in between recording in my office. I look forward to sharing them with you!)

I'm going to try and squeeze in some time to finish putting the card game playtest kits together while he's napping. They should be online before the end of the week, but only if I keep at it! So bye for now!

-Paeter Frandsen

Friday, May 18, 2012

Battleship Movie Review (SBU Podcast)

Friday, May 18, 2012 9:27 PM

Biblical reasons why some of us need a Summer Of Free!
A review of the free web series, The Booth At The End.
Mindspike's review of the movie "Battleship"!
Plus, Whiteboy's review of "The Walking Dead" video game!

Follow Mindspike and the "Atomic Earth" sci-fi boardgame at

"Kill Me, Heal Me"
Written by John L. Cooper
(c)2001 Photon Music (BMI). All Rights Reserved.
Used by permission.

Cowbell sound effect by pj1s at

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Submit Questions, Comments or Content(written or audio file) to:
call 206-350-1226 and leave a message for me to play on the show!

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The Booth At The End (Web Series Review)

This original web series stars Xander Berkeley(Nikita, 24) as a mysterious man who takes meetings in a diner, offering clients literally whatever they wish in exchange for a "task". The task is always challenging and often criminal, but sometimes it's also a challenging act of goodness. And whatever the wish, the man somehow has the power, or authority, to grant it upon completion of "the task".

The Man's motives, power and origins are a mystery that is never revealed. So I wouldn't watch in hopes of finding out who or what the mysterious man is, or who he works for. What's more interesting and telling is the lengths people are prepared to go to get what they want, or what they think they want. I cringed as I watched people do, or nearly do, some of the most horrible things to bring about what they most desire.

There are some major philosophical and theological ramifications based on who The Man really is and who he works for. For example, one client wants to feel closer to God and The Man claims he can deliver on that as well! The series is extremely compelling from a character standpoint, intriguing from a sci-fi/fantasy standpoint, and worth talking about from a philosophical standpoint.

The performances are wonderful almost across the board, and truly drive the experience. Xander Berkeley in particular is fascinatingly unreadable.

It's a web series, so naturally you shouldn't expect any special effects sequences. In fact, every single scene takes place in the same booth of the same diner. Yet because of the writing and performances, I felt as though I had been with each of these characters as they went away from the diner and continued to live their lives.

Although it doesn't appear the series will continue, it ends on an unresolved note that could either be seen as a cliffhanger or a post-modern "what do YOU think will happen next" sort of ending, which can be satisfying enough for those who are more used to unresolved endings.

All five episodes of the series are available to watch right now, and strung together they could easily serve as a "free movie rental" for a Summer Of Free weekend! (Total run time of all five episodes is about 114 minutes.)

You can check out "The Booth At The End" FOR FREE at-

It's unrated by the MPAA, but falls in the same category as most prime time network television dramas in terms of content. 

Quality: 9.0/10

Relevance: 9.0/10

For information on the scoring system used for this review, visit
Listen to this review this weekend on The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Search Of Truth, Why Some Of Us Need A "Summer Of Free"


"The Summer Of Free" is about more than just getting stuff for free. My hope is that it can be a tool to help you and me view and make use of our money in ways that better serve God's purposes.
In my own experience, I can "geek out" about a new game or hobby so much that I end up spending more money than I had originally planned to. If I don't break that pattern quickly, I can find the money allotted for entertainment "in the red", forcing other categories, like savings, groceries, or any number of other important things to pick up the slack.

Over time, a pattern like this will put a crunch on my finances as a whole. As a result, when an opportunity shows up to give to a ministry endeavor or help a friend or family member out financially, the cost to do so seems higher than it otherwise would, making the decision to be generous more difficult.

The Bible has a lot to say about finances. Howard Dayton, author of "Your Money Counts", says that "the Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, fewer than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions."

This is probably because God knows that our money is where the rubber hits the road for our faith. (Can God REALLY give me a fulfilled life even if I don't spend money on myself the way I usually do?)

I've collected a number of verses related to finances and possessions. Hopefully taking a brief look at what God says about finances will remind us of how God wants us to see our money and our hobbies. It's at that point that "The Summer Of Free" can become a great tool for keeping our spending down as we get our finances back under control and ready for God to use more effectively for his eternal purposes.


Luke 16:10-11(ESV)- One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

God has incredible rewards waiting for those who follow Jesus in this life. But those rewards in eternity will reflect how well we manage what God has given us now. (See also Matthew 25:14-30)

Matthew 6:24-34(ESV)- No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Sometimes it can feel like our lives will just plain suck if we don't get that new game, see that new movie or read that new book as soon as it comes out. Our passions can become so wrapped up in our geek hobbies that when we aren't able to enjoy them when we want to it can have a greatly negative effect on our moods. (I'm ashamed to admit that's true of ME, anyway. Pretty silly when you think about it.)

But Jesus wants us to have a better perspective on our possessions and the things we invest in. He reminds us that God is good and will provide us with the fulfillment we're always searching for if we trust in and follow him.

Psalm 24:1(ESV)- The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

Colossians 1:15-17(ESV)- 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.

The truth is that EVERYTHING belongs to God. Not just 10% of our income. Everything we have should be dedicated to serving and celebrating the God who made it all.

Luke 14:33(ESV)- So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Luke 22:35(ESV)- And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment."

Although it may seem that verses like Luke 14:33 command believers to live in poverty, this interpretation isn't consistent with other verses like 22:35. I believe the scriptural principle consistent with both types of verses is that we not cling to our possessions or our time. We should not feel entitled to anything, ever. It is all a gift from God. The resources we have should be constantly viewed in a context of either serving or celebrating God. Sometimes a lack of possessions will serve this purpose. Sometimes having possessions will serve this purpose.

Either way we should be willing, at a moment's notice, to set aside our property and sense of entitlement in favor of other people, or service to God. We should not be a drain on the resources of others or cripple our ability to use our possessions and finances in service of others.


Debt is one way that our money's potential for good can be crippled, and so scripture commands us not to be in debt.

Romans 13:8(ESV)- Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Proverbs 22:7(ESV)- The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

1 Corinthians 7:23(ESV)- You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

We owe everything to God and should be able to use all that we have in service to him. But if our resources are tied up in debt, they are unable to be committed to serving God or helping others.
Debt is such a huge part of our economy in the United States. It's hard to imagine life without those monthly car and mortgage payments. (Although purchasing a house or property could be argued to be an investment, rather than debt.) But it is possible!

I'm horrible with money. That's why my wife does all the number crunching for the family budget and for Spirit Blade Productions, even though we still discuss together where our money is being used and why. Without her, I'd be in a mess of debt, I'm sure of it. But because of her, I've seen the tangible blessings that come about from handling money in a godly way.

By handling our money responsibly, we've been able to avoid any credit card debt (while reaping tons of the free benefits that many credit card companies offer!) and leverage our resources in such a way as to be able to purchase our next car (which we're badly in need of thanks to my junker) without any financing! We've also been able to give and lend money to family and friends in need and support ministry endeavors in ways I NEVER would have thought possible when I was younger.

I don't share any of that to boast. (Like I said, I would be a financial wreck without my wife.) Rather I hope it's a source of encouragement to anyone who might feel overwhelmed by debt or other financial issues. Managing money can be a blessing that we can enjoy and pour back to God, rather than a stressful subject at the dinner table.

In the end, the biggest issue is probably "contentment". We should each ask ourselves, "Am I counting on a new game, movie, car, software, hardware, book or other cool nerdy collectible to fulfill my sense of contentment?" If so, we will ALWAYS find ourselves in debt as we chase after the wind.

Philippians 4:11-13(ESV)- Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

We often look at verse 13 and emphasize the "all things" part, as though the main point here is that God can empower us to do anything and everything. And while he can, I suspect the emphasis would be better placed on "through him". The secret of Paul's contetnment, regardless of his circumstances, was to do everything in life WITH JESUS. Trusting in his strength, his promises for our fulfillment, and his wisdom in how we should approach the various difficulties or pleasures of life.

That's a life-long journey involving a growing prayer life and understanding of the Bible, which together allow Christ to be "present" in our minds, moment by moment.

We can see a little progress happening week to week or month to month. But as we're growing in our ability to be content and to control our spending, we still may need some geeky "fixes" now and then that won't drain our resources. And that's where I hope "The Summer Of Free" will be a source of both fun and help to you and me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Priston Tale 2, A "First Five" Review (My First 5 Impressions Of The First 5 Hours)

Some brief background on my tastes: I'm almost exclusively a console gamer. I hate dealing with changing system requirements and compatibility issues. I much prefer kicking back with a gamepad to crouching over a mouse and keyboard. I also dislike MMOs because some (used to be most, though fewer as time passes) charge monthly subscription fees and playing with numerous strangers means having to deal with people who just want to tick others off. (I'd rather pay for a game just the one time that's designed for me to enjoy without human nature screwing things up.)

Priston Tale 2 is a completely free to download and play MMO RPG, and since I generally avoid MMOs like the plague, it's also the first fantasy MMO I've ever tried. I'm an MMO noob. Even so, I dig fantasy RPGs, and I understand that some MMOs downplay the multi-player aspect and allow you to have a fairly solo experiene if you want. At least for awhile. So Priston Tale 2 was worth a try for me. Here are my first five impressions of my first five hours playing the game.

1. The visual design was very nice. It definitely comes from a Japanese game culture. Character models and the general look of the world have a bit of that anime quality to them, though not greatly so. If you're okay with the look of monsters in your average Final Fantasy game, you'll feel at home here. Otherwise some enemies may feel a little "cute" for your tastes. An additional minor complaint is that monster models are re-used a little too often. First you fight the green version of a monster. Then in another field, you fight the red one. (He's stronger than the green one.)

 2. Learning to play was a bit of a chore. Actually, a big chore. It's clear the game was not created by people who speak English as their first language. The in-game tutorial actually screwed up the functionality of my game, so I turned it off and referenced a series of videos they've made available to watch in-game instead. I also took a little extra time to see if the game could be played with a controller. (It's not designed for a controller, but using Joy2Key I still gave it a shot.) So your time adjusting to and learning the controls may be faster and easier than mine. There is still quite a bit about the various abilities and options in the game that I don't understand, but my ignorance doesn't seem to be hurting my experience much yet.

3. Gameplay is very much a fight-loot-upgrade affair. If all you want to do is go on a bunch of quests with just enough story to hold a string of monster fights together, you'll be happy here. So far, quests basically consist of "Can you go and kill this many monsters for me and bring me their ears so I can make a potion?" There are a few with stories going a little deeper, but this game is played for the point-and-click monster combat, which plays very simply and reminds me quite a bit of Neverwinter Nights.

4. The sound is alright. Nothing very memorable, except for the birds. I don't know why, but there is a chorus of noisy birds, a cacophany even, that fills the background almost like white noise as you travel the countryside. The music is nice, so I went into options to turn the background effects down. Nothing happened. The birds only turned down when i turned the music down. For some reason, they've got this aspect of background effects sharing the same track as the music. Wha?

5. The game's story is... not there. I have no idea what this game is about, who the big bad is, or even if their IS a big bad. As far as I can tell, everything in this world is peachy, except for the folks that need you to go and kill monsters for them now and then. There might be something about an empire or something. Can't remember if they're good or bad. Probably bad. That's usually how these things work. But the story will probably not be a draw for anyone.

Normally, one of the first things I pay attention to when discovering a new fantasy world is their theological/philosophical framework. While sci-fi tends toward naturalism and atheism, fantasy often leans toward polytheism and relativism. Whether game story writers intend it or not, their views often show up in their world and characters, sometimes going so far as to "force" players to adopt a philosophy in game that they wouldn't have in the real world.

Priston Tale 2 may have a wonderfully creative theology behind it, but due to the clunky translation and lack of engaging story, any potential theological back story for the world is literally "lost in translation".

Considering that the game is free, a somewhat mediocre final product is acceptable to me, especially if I'm just looking for a game to tide me over for a few weeks until something better comes along. If that describes your situation, give Priston Tale 2 a try. After a little bit of time spent pushing through the non-intuitive elements to figure out the basics, it does a nice job of scratching that fighting/looting itch with an enjoyable, if not diverse, visual presentation.

Quality: 7.0/10
Relevance: 5.0/10

System Requirements:
Pentium 4 - 1.8GHz
512mb RAM
Nvidia FX 5700
3 ~ 4GB or Higher Storage
Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7
Direct X 9.0 C or Later
Internet: Cable / DSL or Better

My System:
AMD Phenom(tm) II P650 Dual-Core Processor 2.60 GHz
4GB RAM AMD M880 with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
3.72 GB Storage
Windows 7
Direct X 11
Internet: Cable

Friday, May 11, 2012

DC Universe Online and Priston Tale 2 Reviews (SBU Podcast)

Friday, May 11, 2012 8:20 PM

The Summer Of Free begins on today's show, with my review of two free MMORPGs, DC Universe Online and Priston Tale 2!
Plus, a look at the nature of "faith" as described in the Bible, as opposed to how we usually think of the word.

Share your opinions about the podcast at

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I'd love for you to be a part of this podcast!
Submit Questions, Comments or Content(written or audio file) to:
call 206-350-1226 and leave a message for me to play on the show!

For Community, Free Stuff and TONS more, explore the rest of the growing "Spirit Blade" universe at-

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DC Universe Online: First Five Review (My First 5 Impressions Of The First 5 Hours)

I'm not a fan of MMOs. I hate the monthly subscription concept. Call me traditional, but I like to pay for a game once, and for that game to be complete. I also dislike the idea of having my play experience spoiled by someone who just feels like anonymously ticking off other people.

But if there were ever an MMO I would give a try, it would be DC Universe Online. And when it went free to play, and I suddenly had a new laptop that could run it, I had to give it a go. So here are my first five impressions of the first five hours of gameplay (although I've played WELL over five at this point!)

1. Character creation is a bit narrow and pre-packaged. I could also find no way to examine how your selected powers and skills would advance over time. Functionality of powers isn't that varied. Differences between different attack abilities seem mostly cosmetic. If you've got an idea for a really cool character with a unique mix of powers or skills, you won't be able to create them here. The one advantage of the limitations in character creation is that it's basically impossible to create a character who won't do well.

2. The world is probably the biggest selling point. Being able to explore my favorite comic book universe at will is amazing. Despite only featuring Metropolis and Gotham City at the start, the world feels large and open. It's also extremely detailed, with little easter eggs everywhere that DC fans will eat up. Want to visit Crime Alley, where Bruce Wayne's parents were killed? Go for it! You'll even find a pair or roses lying on the pavement, a hint that Bruce Wayne may have just been there honoring their memory. There are also built in "tour" quests that follow a series of automated "Booster Gold" terminals around the cities, introducing you to the multitude of locations and their histories. The graphics look great, even though I have them on the lowest settings. (Some texture popping, as you approach far away buildings, but I don't mind that at all.) I can't imagine why anyone would choose a movement power other than flying for this game, unless you want to miss out on the expansive view available.

3. The voice acting is very well done by a cast that will likely make many nerds giddy. A number of voice actors from previous animated incarnations of DC characters have returned for this project, and their presence is more than welcome. (My understanding is that this game will be the last time Mark Hammil ever does the voice of the Joker. A real shame, as he does such a fantastic job with the iconic character.)

4.The action is sweet and feels great with a controller. Beating up baddies and button mashing my way to victory has rarely felt better. (I should note, however, that a controller is really the only way to play this game. I tried it out with a mouse and keyboard, and the experience was beyond awkward. It was terrible and impossible for me to enjoy.) Although marketed early on as an action game, it's an action RPG. GREAT news for me, since I suck at action games. If I can't beat a baddy because my gaming skills are lacking, I can always fall back on level-grinding my way through.

5. The game still isn't without the annoying trappings of MMOs. Even in a non PvP server I've gotten one or two requests to fight somebody. (Which you don't even have to acknowledge.) Another time several players decided to team up and block access to a room that is commonly needed by all players, just standing there to block movement, knowing they couldn't be attacked in the non-PvP server. I had to wait about 10 minutes before they were booted from the server, though other players seemed to have been waiting much longer. (This has only happened once, though, and I have two characters at about level 12 now.) And when you reach about level 10, most missions basically require you to team up with others in order to be successful, or spend insane amounts of time level grinding. (Bad guys yield very little XP. Completing missions is the primary way to earn it.)

There is very little that might provoke meaningful thought on spiritual matters. It's mostly a thoughtless "beat-em up" superhero game. The only point I thought was interesting was that in creating a magic-based character it is assumed that, like Wonder Woman, you derive your power from "the gods". The DC Uinverse does not normally assume this of all magical characters, so the forced limitation in character concept felt a little lame for a preferably monotheistic fellow like myself.

 If you play the game on PC, feel free to look me up. I'm not very good at using the chat interface yet, so please forgive any perceived ignoring. So far my two characters include "Vincent Craft" when I play solo and "Paeter" when I play with my buddy. (Though I've already snagged the name of CFOS and suspect he will emerge in the world of villains sometime soon.)

A really fun game that I probably would have even paid for eventually. You don't need to spend any money to enjoy the entire game, although I gladly forked over 10 bucks for the light-based (Green Lantern) powers. And considering that it's completely free, if your system will run it, you've got nothing to lose in trying it out!

Quality: 8.5/10
Relevance: 5.5/10

Minimum System Requirements:
CPU / Processor:      P4 3.0GHz  or AMD equivalent
 RAM / Memory:      1GB
 Video Card:      nVidia 7800+, or ATI (AMD) 1950 or greater
Storage / Hard Drive:      30GB of free hard drive space
Operating System:      Windows XP SP3 (32-bit)
 Internet Conntection:      Broadband Internet Connection required

System I Played On:
AMD Phenom(tm) II P650 Dual-Core Processor 2.60 GHz
AMD M880 with ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250
3.72 GB Storage
Windows 7
Direct X 11
Internet: Cable

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Search Of Truth, The Nature Of "Faith"

I'd like to take another brief detour from our continuing look at the book of Acts to examine a word we're all familiar with in popular culture, but one which I think we terribly misunderstand when it comes to the biblical concept. That word is "faith".

Imagine for a moment an episode of your favorite sci-fi show about space exploration.  At some point there is almost always an episode where the main character, or another protagonist, visits a planet, or encounters an "alien of the week" who is very religious. The subject of faith comes up and the protagonist, in response to the religious person's declaration of faith, says something along the lines of "well, I'm a man of science". Or maybe the religious person expresses faith in something in a way that is written to seem completely illogical or without any basis in fact. It's assumed that faith, by its very nature, is blind and unreasoning.

In general, popular culture (and therefore our favorite fiction) seems to value "faith" in theory but paradoxically doesn't seem to have much practical use for it. Even I will agree that faith is virtually useless and pointless... if faith matches the definition our fiction has given it.

I can't speak for how other religious texts or even other Christians view the word "faith", but I can at least say that the way the word is used in the Bible does not imply a brainless, emotional belief in something despite all reason and evidence to the contrary. Logical discernment of truth is valued in the Bible.

Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)- "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Acts 17:11 (ESV)- Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Paul even acknowledges that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, the logical conclusion is that his entire message is bogus!

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 (ESV)- But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

Dr. William Lane Craig tells a story in "The Case For Faith" about how he needed surgery on his eye. He and his wife researched all of the specialists in the U.S. to find the best doctor they possibly could for the procedure. Basing their decision on qualifications, educational background, patient success ratios and likely everything else you'd expect, they finally made a decision. They chose a doctor to trust. They chose a doctor to "put their faith in".

C.S. Lewis tells a story in "Mere Christianity" of how he fears that the anesthetic in a medical procedure will not work. Yet he acknowledges that this is an irrational fear, since the doctors caring for him are experts. (His fear was based on the illogical kind of "what if" that I blogged about  a couple of weeks ago.) In this case, his faith in the doctors was not BASED on emotion, but was used to OVERCOME emotion so that he could go through with a procedure that would help him.

Maybe most of the religious people you know seem to have a foolish, blind faith. But faith itself does not indicate whether or not it is reasonable. It can be either reasonable or blind. But it certainly isn't blind by default. Just like trust is not blind by default. Having faith does not require that we inhibit logical thinking.

If we are searching for truth about anything, we should constantly be unsatisfied with agnosticism or ignorance. If we are completely content to settle on the position "I don't know", then our search for truth has ended. There are many things we will never be able to know in this life.  But "agnosticism" is also often used as an intelligent sounding way of saying "I'm ignorant and uninterested in the truth".

Unless we're comfortable saying that, we ought to be constantly aiming to have a "position" on matters of God and the Bible. Our positions may be held with a loose grip. They may change (and should change) in light of better evidence or reasoning. But if we say we want to know the truth, we should dislike taking an unqualified position of "I don't know" and prefer to say "my current position is (fill in the blank)."

I say "unqualified" because MOST things in life we can't truly KNOW. You don't know if anything you're planning to do at any given second will actually work out before you have a lethal seizure. But based on the best information available, you can have confidence that certain things will play out as you predict.

Applying this to faith, we should not demand the evidence for something be "iron-clad" before we choose to believe in it. Less evidence may result in a weaker commitment to belief in something, but it shouldn't rule out belief itself.

Dr. Craig uses a phrase I like when it comes to determining what I believe. He says that we should aim to make our position (belief) about something conform to the best explanation of the available evidence.

For example. A dead body is found. It has holes all over it and is surrounded by blood. Bloody footprints lead to the next door neighbor's house, where a bloody knife is found matching the nature of the wounds on the body and bloody shoes are found in the closet that the neighbor was known to wear all the time.

Multiple witnesses confirm that the neighbor hated the victim and repeatedly threatened to kill her. The neighbor's fingerprints and DNA are all over the crime scene and the victim's blood is all over the neighbor's boots and knife (which also contain the neighbor's fingerprints).

It would not be unreasonable to believe that the neighbor killed the victim. If someone did not believe this was the case, I'd have to ask them what scenario BETTER explains the evidence. We should demand the same of ourselves when examining the claims of the Bible.

If Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, we should have another scenario in mind that we think fits the evidence. He and his followers were liars/crazy, the account was legendary and exaggerated over time, etc. Otherwise we should be willing to say, "I don't know why I don't believe he rose from the dead. I just don't and am content to remain ignorant." (By the way, I don't think any of those alternatives come close to fitting the evidence available, but they are still popular ideas floating around.)

In the courtroom, the jury has the benefit of pleading ignorance. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But if we're going to say that we really want to know what the truth is about Jesus, or the Bible, we can't come into the search for truth with a default position we plan to take unless convinced otherwise.

Granted, this is hard to do. We all come into the search for truth with some built-in biases, but we should aim to recognize these biases and keep them from influencing us as much as possible.
We all have faith in a multitude of things. The meaning of the word doesn't change when it comes to faith in God. Religious faith can be every bit as well-reasoned and thought-out as faith in our car or the chair we plan to sit in.

The ideal faith in God is confident and unwavering. But we don't need to wait until our faith reaches that point before we decide to trust him.

Personally, some aspects of my faith I believe in very strongly. Other aspects I believe in with some hesitation, but still do so because I can't see a better explanation for the available evidence. The nature of faith is that there will always likely be some degree of uncertainty. Maybe a high degree sometimes! But faith, like trust, is an activity that welcomes the participation of the mind.

Talk about this post or anything else on your mind on our forums!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers Movie Review (SBU Podcast)

Saturday, May 05, 2012 4:42 PM

The Avengers movie review and a look at how God can work good through evil people and circumstances.

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The Avengers (Movie Review)

I'm a huge comic book fan and despite being a far greater DC comics fan, I've enjoyed following The Avengers in the Ultimate Marvel comics universe. Like millions of others, I became very excited when Nick Fury told Tony Stark about "The Avengers Initiative" in that first bonus scene at the end of the first Iron Man movie. But over the years I've learned not to get my hopes up for comic book movies. Despite many really good ones coming out in recent years, I've come to the conclusion that film is not the highest potential expression of the superhero genre. Comic books are, probably followed closely by animation. The limitations of live action productions always leave the most epic superheroes falling short of their true potential.

And let's not forget Hollywood's ability to screw up a really good thing. Especially when it comes to superhero flicks that add more and more characters to their stories. The original Batman movie franchise, the Spider-man movies, X-men 3... they all suffered as they tried to add more and more characters into the mix, sacrificing character itself in exchange for more warm bodies getting screen time. So I went into The Avengers as a hopeful fan prepared to be let down by two hours of empty visual effects sequences.

The basic story picks up more or less where the Thor movie left off. Loki still feels he has the right to rule and decides he wants to rule earth. The rest of the details aren't really important. Story doesn't seem to be a chief concern here. Instead, the story serves as a motive to bring together Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye, and watch them butt heads or work together, exploring the unusual and unique chemistry that results. In my opinion, this is what superhero team stories should be about. Every now and then a deep, complex story is nice, but the fun part of superhero teams is seeing these separate characters share a world, a room a conversation and a fight.

This is where The Avengers shines brightest. The first part of the movie briefly re-introduces us to each of the main characters, wonderfully recapturing the feelings we had when we last saw them. Slowly, characters are paired up and eventually all are working together...eventually. Some great conflict happens before then, which also serves to bring out the differences, strengths and weaknesses of each character and their approach to problem-solving and life in general.

Some of the best moments in this film are not due to CG explosions or crazy action, but surprising and clever moments of dialogue between characters or actions that they choose to take. (Two of the best feature the Hulk's actions. I won't spoil them. Believe me. You'll know them when you see them.)

Every character gets a chance to shine on numerous occasions, and even the non-powered characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye turn out to bring very unique and useful talents to the party.
Not all of these character moments worked perfectly. A few character choices or lines show up that are really just there to be clever or cool, but don't actually make sense for the characters to say or do in context. But on the whole the characterizations are excellent.

The music is also character-driven, which I appreciated. A surge of emotion went through me at one point when Captain America leaped into fearless action, accompanied by the more traditional sounding and inspirational horns that were commonly heard in his own film.

Despite the film's wonderful focus on character, it does assume you've seen all of the previous Marvel movies. Plot threads and character arcs from each hero's  movies are picked up again without much exposition to help out. A potential down point for newcomers, but a reward for those who have invested in the previous films. And a storytelling philosophy I agree with.

Of course all his talk about character shouldn't leave you with the impression that the action and visuals fell short. Although the movie does take time out for stretches of plot and character development, there is a ton of great action in this flick. In fact it may prove to be the most visually entertaining flick of the summer. At the end of the day, there were no pioneering moments in the visual presentation, but action was plentiful and as fantastic as you'd expect based on what we've seen before now. If you're looking to get that sci-fi action itch scratched, this movie will do a great job for you, and then some.

I have to be a little critical of the sound mixing, which at some points made it difficult to here dialogue. Several times I missed lines following a laugh line, but that's more the audience's fault than the movies. But there were a number of other times when competing ambiance or music, combined with a quick and slightly less articulate delivery of a line, made it hard to decipher what was just said.

Three moments in the movie come to mind that could potentially stimulate worthwhile thought about spiritual matters.

At one point the villain, Loki, tells a crowd of people he's forced to kneel before him that they were "made to be ruled" and that freedom is a bad thing. In response, an old man stands to his feet in noble defiance. I would agree that being enslaved to another human (or even a super-powered alien) is wrong. But it would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater to fight against the idea that we were made to be ruled. Biblically speaking, we were. The difference is that God is the perfect ruler, and we will find far greater fulfillment in submission to him than we will by answering only to our own desires.

Loki, Iron Man and Thor become involved in a conflict at one point, and before Captain America leaps into the fray, Black Widow warns him that he's out of his league and that Thor and Loki are like gods. Captain America responds by saying, "There's only one God, Ma'am. And I don't think he dresses like that." The added use of the word "ma'am" helps place Cap's sentiment in an earlier time, when Americans were culturally monotheistic, as opposed to the hybrid relativistic polytheism becoming more and more popular. I don't think this line is an indication that the captain is a Christian, necessarily. But it struck me as thought-provoking, given that anyone else saying "there's only one god" would likely be considered intolerant or closed-minded. By contrast, Cap's line seemed as though it was meant to showcase his bold a fearless confidence and sense of both truth and morality. He's being portrayed as a "man out of time", but this line wasn't played in a way that made him look antiquated. It made him more "solid" somehow. (And was also good for a little laugh at the expense of Thor's and Loki's costumes.)

Finally, I seem to remember Loki taunting Black Widow for the sins of her past, mocking her for coming up with her own code of ethics that will allow her to downplay her past wrongs. This strikes me as another example in this movie of truth being placed in the mouth of the villain. Maybe Joss Whedon (writer and director) feels that though it's okay to come up with your own code of ethics, and that's why he put this rant against doing so in the villain's mouth. Or maybe he agrees with Loki here and is trying to make his story more morally complex by making the villains right about some things and the heroes wrong about some things. Whatever his motive, the idea was noticed. Although just barely.

Which is really why I can't give this movie a good Relevance score. It had some interesting things to say, and presented them in compelling ways, but they were just small blips on the radar of this epic 2-hour and 20 minute movie. Nicely presented but quickly forgotten.

The Avengers isn't the mind-blowing, revolutionary movie experience that some excited fans may tell you it is. But it's an extremely fun and exciting movie that you'll be kicking yourself if you don't see ASAP.

P.S. Stay until the VERY END of the credits. There are TWO bonus scenes!

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.

Quality: 9.5/10
Relevance: 5.5/10

For information about the scoring system used here, visit

Listen to this review this weekend at The Spirit Blade Underground Podcast!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spirit Blade Special Edition Commentary, Part 1!

Part 1 of the Spirit Blade Special Edition Commentary is available now on our Media Page!

In this first part of the commentary I talk a little about what this commentary as a whole will focus on (compared to my commentary for the original edition of Spirit Blade) and describe the various changes made in the first scenes, including the song "Destiny".

Some of the biggest insight is in relationship to casting my wife, Holly, as Ebony. Apart from being my wife, why did she get that part? What concerns did I have about her performance? Find out in this first segment of the commentary!

You can listen to it in the player below or use the direct download link. Enjoy!

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