Recent posts

These are my most recent posts. You'll find plenty more from the menu above.

Media in a post-truth world – part 1

This post was first published on Engaging Media, the website of the Lausanne Media Engagement Network. Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘post-truth’ as its Word of the Year for 2016. Editor Casper Grathwohl said, Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time. . . ....

Despite present appearances, God is in control

I spent last week on the edge of Berlin teaching on the Bible and Culture course, as I’ve done for the last eight years. It’s a four-week programme for IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) staff and graduates from Europe and Eurasia. This year, we had 35 participants from the UK across to Kazakhstan. I taught the book of Daniel for the whole of each morning. That’s an immense privilege,...

Seven stories we keep telling

Over the course of around twenty years of analysing films, books and other media, I have often been struck at the ways in which storytellers keep telling the same kinds of tales over and over again. That’s not to say that the narratives they construct are inevitably wearied or hackneyed; far from it. There is extraordinary diversity in the way that the themes have been explored. Yet, it remains the case that, under the surface, most if not all stories are versions of a limited number of key themes.

Freedom Fighter: Amazing Grace

This is an old article of mine that was published on Culturewatch (which later became the Film & Bible Blog from Damaris) in 2007. I am gradually republishing many of my Culturewatch articles here, especially since the demise of Damaris Trust and its websites. What's prompted me to republish this article on Amazing Grace today is that I'm teaching on Bible & Culture this week, and we had a film...

Old Testament Timelines

My Old Testament timelines are now available in five languages on Slideshare. If you spot any errors, please let me know! The two different chronologies for the patriarchs are because there are two significantly different ways of dating the Exodus. You'll need to look at the evidence and draw your own conclusions! Note that these are still a work in progress, but they're available now for those who want them in...

Discovering the brokenness of the world

I've just come across this fascinating and insightful quote by film critic Michael Chabon, in the introduction to Matt Soller Seitz's The Wes Anderson Collection, about the brokenness of the world: The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.” There follows...

Gift Horse

The tenth sculpture to occupy the long-vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse. The plinths in the other three corners of the Square have been occupied by their statues from the outset. The one in the north-east corner supports a statue of George IV on horseback. The north-western one, built in 1841 for a statue of William IV on horseback, remained empty as the project ran...

Is God a moral monster?

The Old Testament raises some tricky questions of morality for people living in the contemporary world, at least in the west. The alleged 'genocide' of the Canaanites is one that I hear frequently. It isn't only people who are not Christians who have questions about it; Christians often feel embarrassed about these parts of the Old Testament. However, I am am convinced that there are some very good responses to these issues. I tried to outline a few responses in the first of a series of four sessions tackling difficult questions during Above Bar Church's Discipleship School in the autumn of 2014.

A Fresh Start – Noah

Darren Aronofsky is a visionary and ambitious film-maker who constantly grapples with big themes in his work. Noah continues in this line as it explores significant – and very relevant – tensions within humanity: between benevolent care for the environment and greedy exploitation, between duty and self-interest, and of course, between good and evil. Aronofsky, along with co-writer Ari Handel, explores these issues and others in spectacular, epic style in the context of one of humanity’s oldest stories. This post was first published in Film & Bible Blog. © Tony Watkins 2013.

Philomena

This post was first published in Film & Bible Blog. © Tony Watkins 2013. For discussion material on this film, see Sophie Lister’s Damaris Film Blog discussion guide and the supplementary questions in the published version of this article in the Film & Bible Blog Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) has lived with a secret for five decades. As a devout Roman Catholic, she has wrestled with the question of whether...

Pulled in Different Directions – Gravity (part two)

In the previous post, I explained the allusive nature of film, and the fact that films can be open to more than one way of reading them. The first way of reading Gravity is to see it as an impressive, but straightforward action movie with no deeper meanings – that is, reading it denotatively. The second is to see it in naturalistic terms as the triumph of the human spirit...

Pulled in Different Directions – Gravity (part one)

This post has been delayed as I've been away and without internet access for the last week. Part two will be published in a little while.   The final day of the Keswick Unconventional Film Club was, for me at least, the most fun of the week. Having found myself in a little Twitter debate about it a day or two ago, I was already reflecting on at least one...