Scripture is Sufficient

One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture
Edited by Jeremiah Johnson
Grace to You, 2019, 199 pp.

5 Stars

I had the pleasure and blessing of reading this collection of articles, which expound on the sufficiency of God’s Word. This book was published by Grace to You to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John MacArthur’s ministry.

The Roman Catholic church entered into great error when it subordinated God’s Word to its “Sacred Tradition.” Most pseudo-Christian sects/cults likewise appeal to some type of extra-biblical “revelation” or authority in addition God’s revealed Word. The writers in this collection make clear that the Bible is our sole authority in matters of faith and practice and is fully sufficient to equip God’s servants:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The articles and authors are as follows:

  • Based on God’s Word Alone – R.C. Sproul
  • Why You Can Believe the Bible – Voddie Baucham
  • The Finding of an Old Book – Jack MacArthur
  • The Sufficiency of Scripture – John MacArthur
  • Not Ashamed of the Gospel – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The Standard of Sound Words: A Mandate for the Pulpit – Steven Lawson
  • In Praise of God’s Word – Mark Dever
  • Evangelicals, the Challenge of Modernity, and the Quest for a Christian Worldview: Lessons from a Century of Hope and Disappointment – R. Albert Mohler*
  • The Folly of Adding to Scripture – Conrad Mbewe
  • We Must Obey God Rather Than Men: Scripture, Authority, and the Reformation – Nathan Busenitz
  • Hearing from Heaven: How God Speaks Today (And How He Doesn’t) – Justin Peters
  • The Foolishness of the Cross – Phil Johnson

I appreciated all of the articles, especially “Hearing from Heaven” by Justin Peters. My blog deals in discernment ministry issues and I appreciate Peters’ calling to defend God’s Truth amidst the rampant error and deception outside and inside the church. Peters is not afraid to name the names of false teachers and apostates, as did the apostle Paul in his epistles.

*As a cautionary note, I don’t endorse Albert Mohler’s bent towards political activism/Christian nationalism and his eager willingness to ally with non-Christian “co-belligerents” (e.g., Roman Catholics) in cultural/morality wars. We’ve already seen how this type of accommodation and compromise in the interest of preserving “Christian America” ultimately leads to embracement of the Catholic church and betrayal of the Gospel (see Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Bill Bright, etc.).

Order “One Foundation” from Amazon here.

Robin flies the coop as quickly as he arrived

At the conclusion of last month’s issue, the Legion was planning on sending two teams to investigate why Ultra Boy’s father and Mordru the Merciless both desired Aquaman’s trident, while Superboy was eagerly anticipating bringing Damian Wayne aka Robin to the 31st century. Let’s now pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Travis Moore, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger and Travis Moore, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, January 2020

5 Stars

Plot

The story begins with Superboy transporting Robin to to 31st-century Metropolis in the misguided hope that the Boy Wonder can help with the Legion’s investigation into all of the intrigue involving Aquaman’s trident. A contingent of Legionnaires – Cosmic Boy, Colossal Boy, Shadow Lass, and Mon El – arrive on the planet Rimbor and attempt to find out why Crav Nah, the powerful leader of the planet and also Ultra Boy’s father, desires the trident. The meeting quickly turns into a violent confrontation and Mon El subdues Crav. In the meantime, another Legion contingent – Saturn Girl, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy, and Triplicate Girl – travels to Planet Gotham, where Mordru is being held prisoner, to try to ascertain why the wizard wants the trident, but without success. They are summoned back to Legion headquarters where Crav has been transported. The angry Rimborian warlord had freed himself from his bonds and was making short work of the entire Legion until Superboy KOs him. The Legion deems that Robin must be returned to the 21st century immediately and that the very confused and disgruntled Superboy MUST sit through the orientation the Legion had originally prepared for him back in LSH #1. The story ends with Crav in a Legion holding cell and disturbing news that Aquaman’s trident has been stolen from one of the team’s secure vaults.

Commentary

Bendis is doing a nice job with this story line although it was a little disappointing to see Superboy go to all the trouble of transporting Robin to the future for zero effect. It’s interesting from my Silver Age perspective to see these old characters actually act human, like frazzled Cosmic Boy’s lack of confidence as the Legion’s leader and Superboy’s frustration with being out-of-the-loop. I’m looking forward to seeing how Bendis is going to resolve the Legion’s first “intergalactic incident” involving the arrest of Crav. U.P. Madame President Brande is already quite annoyed with the Legion and this is only going to increase tensions. I’m also looking forward to a formal introduction to the new Legion via Superboy’s orientation. As an answer to a question I had last month, it appears Planet Gotham is one of the planet pods of the artificial New Earth.

Postscript: In a conversation with a group of other Legionnaires, Chameleon Boy intimates that Damian Wayne/Robin could possibly grow up to be a very dastardly, Hitler-like character. That’s entirely predictable seeing he’s the grandson of Ra’s al Ghul.

Excellent preface to 2020 Kazan Fest

Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey
By Michel Ciment
Bloomsbury, 1988, 238 pp.

5 Stars

I can still vividly remember watching a particular movie on television as a young teenager back in the early 1970s. The flick was, “Splendor in the Grass” (1961), and I was so startled by the unconventional, un-Hollywood-like ending that I took special note of the name of the director, Elia Kazan, in the closing credits.

Over the many decades that followed, I’ve enjoyed watching all of Kazan’s nineteen films and reading the many books written by him or about him.

“Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey” is an interesting collection of disconnected articles and notes written by Kazan regarding his directing career. The text is supplemented with many interesting photographs, some of which I’ve never seen before. Be aware that this volume is intended more for Kazan fans who are already knowledgeable about the director and his films. It’s no place to start for a neophyte.

French film critic, Michel Ciment, previously presented a collection of interviews with Kazan, “Kazan on Kazan” (1973), in which the director spoke briefly about each of his films. See my review here.

Reading “Elia Kazan: An American Odyssey” was a timely prelude to the upcoming launch of my Elia Kazan Film Festival, 2020 Redux series. I was happy to be able to purchase this handsome volume from an Amazon used-book seller at a very cheap price. Bloomsbury used to do an excellent job with these semi-coffee table books back in the day.

This Wednesday: Kazan’s excellent directorial debut, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

Everybody wants that trident!

Legion of Super-Heroes #2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, December 2019

5 Stars

Plot

Issue #1 of the “new,” re-launched Legion of Super-Heroes ended with the Legion surrounded by a gang of angry Horrazian pirates eager to reclaim the contraband trident of Aquaman. In the midst of the battle, Ultra Boy slips the trident to Superboy, who attempts to escape, with the leader of the pirates, Tortor, in hot pursuit. Saturn Girl, with her power of telepathy/mind control, is able to induce the combatants into a stupor, but Superboy and Tortor are too far away to be affected. Saturn Girl then focuses all of her powers on the two adversaries and a mysterious flood of water – somehow brought into existence by the trident – subdues the Horrazian leader.

Elsewhere, at United Planets headquarters, the Legion’s diplomatic liason, Rose Forrest, attempts to smooth things over with the U.P. President, whose last name is Brande. Hmm. That’s a name that rings a bell with Legion fans. The negotiations between the two get off to a rocky start and devolve from there. Rose returns to Legion headquarters and informs the team of the tense tête-à-tête. It’s clear Madam President is not happy about Superboy’s presence in the 31st century or about the Legion’s possession of the trident.

The Legionnaires amble down to their “consumption hall” for a strategy meeting over dinner. Ultra Boy (aka Jo Nah) reveals his father is a powerful and dangerous leader on his civil-war-torn home planet of Rimbor. Both the elder Nah and Mordru were after the trident until Ultra Boy intercepted the Horraz pirates and took possession of the thing himself. A contingent of Legionnaires decides to travel to Rimbor to attempt to smooth things over with Jo’s dad before things escalate while another contingent heads to Planet Gotham to try to find out what Mordru had planned for the trident. Superboy is so excited about the existence of Planet Gotham that he makes the journey back to the 21st century to inform his buddy, Damian Wayne aka Robin. Looks like the Boy Wonder is headed to the 31st century!

Comments

We can predict a cataclysmic brouhaha ahead with the U.P. President, Ultra Boy’s father, and Mordru all in competition for Aquaman’s trident. I’m still a bit fuzzy regarding Gotham Planet. Is it one of the several domed cities of New Earth or is it off by itself somewhere? This was a good story with some excellent dialogue from Bendis. Also, I’m so pleased with Sook’s masterful illustrations. The Legion hasn’t been drawn this well since Curt Swan did the duty back in the 1960s.

Trivia alert: I forgot to point out Ultra Boy’s Biblical connection in my review of LSH #1. His civilian name is Jo Nah and he supposedly acquired his super powers after being swallowed by a space energy beast, which exposed him to strange radiation while inside.

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In this excerpt from Superboy #98 (1962), Ultra Boy explains the origin of his penetra-vision. Note Jo Nah being swallowed by the space beast. It would later be revealed that Ultra Boy had all of the powers of Superboy, although he was limited to using one power at a time.

The woman who “defied the Puritans”?

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans
By Eve LaPlante
Harper Collins, 2004, 312 pp.

4 Stars

As I prepared the draft for my annual “Happy Thanksgiving” post, it occurred to me that I didn’t know all that much about the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. Were they Puritans? I did some investigating via Wikipedia, which eventually led to this book. Turns out both the Pilgrims and Puritans of early-17th-century England embraced Calvinism/Reformed theology, but the Pilgrims desired to completely separate from the Anglican church with its vestiges of Roman Catholic sacramentalism, while the Puritans chose to remain in the state church and attempt to “purify”/reform it from within. But the Puritans faced increasing persecution within England. Lawyer, John Winthrop, led the first Puritan mass migration to Massachusetts in 1630, establishing the Bay Colony and serving as governor for 12 of the colony’s first 20 years. The founders touted the colony as a divinely covenanted “New Jerusalem;” a semi-theocracy, where citizenship and church-membership were inseparable.

Francis Marbury was a Puritan pastor who walked the tightrope of conformity within the Anglican church in England. His daughter, Anne, witnessed his many travails throughout her childhood and was emboldened by his example. Anne married Will Hutchinson in 1612 and they journeyed the 25 miles from Alford to Boston (England) each Sunday to hear non-conforming Puritan minister, John Cotton, preach. Cotton, facing persecution from the Anglican hierarchy, immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1633 and the Hutchinsons followed him the next year.

Cotton emphasized God’s grace and election to a preeminent degree compared to other Puritan pastors in the Bay Colony who also taught salvation by God’s grace alone, but also strongly emphasized works as evidence of salvation in a semi-theocratic community where conformity to the established civil-religious order was absolute. The other pastors of the colony taught “preparationism” (see here) and Cotton rejected that theology as a “covenant of works.” Cotton believed certain of the elect had the gift of determining who had been redeemed and who hadn’t. His church in England and the one in Massachusetts consequently had separate services for the redeemed elect and the unredeemed. Hutchinson began holding mid-week Bible studies, initially attended only by women, but subsequently by men as well, at which she reinforced Cotton’s “grace alone” sermons and strongly criticized the other pastors. A controversy erupted and spread throughout the colony and in 1637 Governor Winthrop ordered Hutchinson to stand before the civil court where she was convicted of heresy and sentenced to banishment. In an ecclesiastical trial the following year, the Puritan ministers of Boston excommunicated her. The Rev. Cotton, in an unadmirable act of self-preservation, increasingly distanced himself from his disciple during both proceedings and eventually became one of the main witnesses against her.

Winthrop is credited with coining the term, “Antinomianism” (Greek: “against law”), to disparagingly describe Hutchinson’s “free grace” teachings, although Hutchinson did not endorse licentiousness as she had been accused. The troubling circumstances involving Hutchinson came to be known as the Antinomian Controversy of 1636-1638 (see here). In addition to her theological non-conformism, she was criticized for usurping the role of male ministers. Her opponents claimed she was either a witch or demon possessed.

The Hutchinsons subsequently immigrated to Providence, Rhode Island, a colony founded by Roger Williams guaranteeing religious freedom. After Will died, rumors spread that Massachusetts was attempting to annex Rhode Island. Fearing for her safety, Anne Hutchinson fled to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (Manhattan, New York City). In 1642, she settled her family on a farm near Pelham Bay in modern day Bronx, but was murdered by a band of Siwanoy Native Americans the following year.

This book was a fascinating look at the early-Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay Colony including their theology and their governmental/social structures. The author attempts to portray Hutchinson as a proto-feminist, but that is a role she would not have accepted. Controversies over Antinomianism continue today. Popular TBN prosperity gospeler, Singaporean, Joseph Prince, advocates a form of free grace/hyper grace Antinomianism whereby he teaches his followers they needn’t feel convicted by or confess sin after their “redemption.”

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Postscript: Harvard College was founded in 1636 in response to the “Antinomian Controversy” in order to properly train ministers to prevent the type of “heresies” propagated by Hutchinson. The Puritan churches (eventually named “Congregational” churches, a term coined by John Cotton) began drifting into liberalism/modernism apostasy in the mid-19th century. Don’t expect to hear any semblance of the genuine Gospel at Harvard Divinity School today.

After six long years, DC Comics brings back the Legion of Super-Heroes

After a hiatus of six long years and then a lengthy preliminary introduction spanning five preludes over three months, DC Comics finally relaunched the Legion of Super-Heroes as a monthly comic on November 6th. Climb aboard our time capsule as we journey to the 31st Century in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ryan Sook, Inks: Ryan Sook and Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics, November 2019

5 Stars

Plot

The action begins with Ultra Boy chasing a Horraz spaceship through the massive sewers of Planet Gotham. After the craft crashes, UB spots its stolen booty: a capsule. But what’s inside? A powerful alien suddenly appears to take possession of the contraband. Could it be…? Yes, it’s Mordru the Merciless, one of the Legion’s most powerful adversaries! A contingent of Legionnaires – Karate Kid, Star Boy, and Wildfire – arrive at the scene and help Ultra Boy to ward off Mordru and claim the capsule. When they open it they discover…gasp…the trident of Aquaman!

Next, we join the rest of the Legionnaires as they welcome Jon Kent/Superboy as the team’s newest member with plenty of high-fives all around. The Legionnaires give Superboy an aerial tour of Metropolis and inform him the entire city is the Legion’s headquarters. Wow! Remember back in the Silver Age days when that tiny, yellow faux spaceship shell served as the team’s clubhouse? The Boy of Steel then learns that the Old Earth was destroyed, including its oceans, in an enormous cataclysm and the artificial, ocean-less New Earth was created by engineers enlisted from across the galaxy. The Legion is then summoned back to their headquarters where Ultra Boy and his contingent inform them of the recovery of Aquaman’s trident. Immediately after one of the Legionnaires wonders out loud if the trident could possibly play a part in restoring the Earth’s oceans, a gang of Horraz criminals attacks Legion headquarters intent on reclaiming the trident. Is this curtains for Superboy on his very first day in the Legion? In the final scene, the President of the United Planets expresses her outrage at the Legion’s defiance of U.P. directives by bringing Superboy to the 31st Century, not to mention their possession of Aquaman’s stolen trident!

Commentary

It’s hard to believe the Legion is back after six-years. Bendis did a nice job with the appearance of Mordru and the dangling mystery of what the recovery of Aquaman’s trident is going to mean for the artificial Gotham Planet. The Legion is immediately off to a bad start with the administrators of the United Planets, a familiar theme for Legion readers. Sook, Von Grawbadger, and Bellaire do a tremendous job with the artwork. I’m thoroughly impressed with issue #1 and I hope many DC readers will climb aboard the Legion star cruiser.

Catholicism’s Flying House!

The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World
By Karin Vélez
Princeton University Press, 2019, 292 pp.

4 Stars

About a month ago, as part of my Throwback Thursday series, I republished a post about the so-called Holy House located in Loreto, Italy. Catholic tradition has it that the small (13′ x 31′), stone structure was the childhood home of both Mary and Jesus in Nazareth in Judea and that angels miraculously transported the building, first to Trsat (in modern Croatia) in 1291. The inhabitants of that city were said not to have accorded the holy relic the proper degree of veneration, so the angels moved it to Recanati, Italy in 1294, and to an initial and then final location within Loreto in 1295. My those angels were quite capricious!

I had learned that a scholarly work on the “flying house” had recently been published and I discovered that our library had a copy much to my delight. Well, delight quickly turned to frustration as I began reading the book. The acadamese was as thick as pudding and I suspected the book was an expanded doctoral dissertation. A quick internet search confirmed that to be the case. Anyway, either my brain adapted to the affected pomposity or the author gradually toned it down because the last three-quarters of the book read pretty easily.

Okay, back to the “flying house” itself. The author barely examines the actual origins of the flying house myth, which she attributes to imaginative Catholics who had immigrated from Dalmatia (Croatia) to Recanati and Loreto. However, Vélez provides some fascinating information regarding the following:

  • Medieval Europe was awash with religious relics attributed to Jesus and Mary and claimed to have been brought from the Holy Land. Bishops and parish priests vied for the most spectacular relics. However, few relics could compete with the supposed house that both Jesus and Mary had allegedly inhabited.
  • The Holy House of Loreto myth was spread via the writings of influential 16th century Catholic writers. The pilgrimage destination of the Basilica della Santa Casa encompassing the Holy House, which was encased in an elaborate, carved marble “screen,” was largely completed by the end of the 16th century.
  • In that superstitious era, great spiritual powers were associated with relics. Pious pilgrims journeyed for hundreds of miles to view and possibly touch the relics. Vows were made and monies were contributed to the churches. It was big business. Evangelicals (and most modern Catholics) have no idea how popular pilgrimages once were as part of Catholicism. Many of the pilgrims to the Holy House scraped and collected dust from stone walls as a religious souvenir until the practice was prohibited. In a religion devoted almost exclusively to the sensory/tactile, a visit to the Holy House was to walk in the footsteps of the divine.
  • Another important relic, a painting of Mary attributed to Gospel writer, Luke, was initially displayed within the Holy House. Pilgrims journeyed to Loreto to view the painting as much as the Holy House. Inexplicably, the darkened painting was at some point replaced with a darkened statue of Mary and baby Jesus with no explanation. Luke was also claimed to have painted the famous Mary and Jesus icon located at Jasna Góra monastery at Częstochowa, Poland. Existing painted icons attributed to Luke number at least 28 (see here) although they are clearly different artistic styles.
  • Ignatius Loyola and the early Jesuits were champions of Marian veneration (i.e., worship) and adopted the Holy House of Loreto (174 miles from Rome) as their paramount Marian shrine. As part of their efforts to spread Catholicism throughout the world, they erected imitations of the Loreto flying house at several of their mission sites. While many of the painting and statue icons in Europe were purposely darkened to suggest antiquity as part of the relics charade, such as those at Loreto, in marked contrast no attempt was made to darken the icons created in Asia and the Americas because they clearly fell outside of the Medieval relics sham.

Despite its uniquely outrageous claim to contain the actual physical home of Mary and Jesus, the Basilica della Santa Casa was eventually eclipsed by other Marian shrines as pilgrimage destinations, such as those at Lourdes and Fatima. As a Catholic grammar school student, the nuns regaled us with tales of Lourdes and Fatima, but I don’t recall ever hearing about the Holy House of Loreto. No doubt the plausibility factor chipped away at confidence in the authenticity of this relic. Lourdes’ and Fatima’s apparition mythologies were safe and unassailable by comparison.

Although this book got off to a very slow start, I ended up really appreciating “The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto” for how it “deconstructed” Catholic relic “mythohistory” by example of the bogus flying house. The Holy House mythology and all of its trappings stands in marked contrast to the Gospel message of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

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Above: In this fanciful mural, Mary with baby Jesus sits atop the Holy House as angels fly it up, up, and away.
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An ornately carved, marble shroud encases the alleged “Holy House” within the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy
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Pope Francis meditates inside the bogus “Holy House.” Note the icon of Mary and infant Jesus above the “altar.”
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The capricious flight of the “holy house” from (1) Nazareth, Palestine to (2) Trsat, Croatia, to (3) Recanati, Italy, to (4) two locations in Loreto, Italy.

DC Comics brings back the Legion of Super-Heroes with ambitious relaunch: Part Two

DC Comics geared up for the auspicious relaunching of the Legion of Super-Heroes with five prelude books spanning August through October. Last week, we briefly reviewed the first three lead-ins (see here), and today we’re going to review the final two.


Capture25Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium: Part 1 of 2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino, Andre Lima Araujo
DC Comics, September 2019

2 Stars

Over the decades, DC Comics has created multiple universes, continuums, dimensions, and alternate realities. How to keep track of them all? A comic book reader these days needs a Sheldon Cooper-ish IQ to keep it all straight. One of the problems writer Brian Michael Bendis had in relaunching the Legion was in somehow connecting the team to the various future “realities” and dimensions. He attempts to do so, with the help of four different artists, via the character, Rose Forrest, who struggles with a split-personality. Her other identity, Thorn, is an angry, vigilante super-anti-hero. In the first sequence (drawn by Jim Lee), the very unstable Rose seeks help from President Supergirl. In the next sequence (penciled by Dustin Nguyen), she commiserates with an ersatz-Batman. Rose/Thorn then appears (courtesy of artist Andrea Sorrentino) in a desolate post-apocalyptic future that has something to do with something called “The Great Disaster” and a character named “Kamandi.” Finally, Rose journeys to a future reality featuring Tommy Tomorrow and the Planeteers (compliments of penciller, Andre Lima Araujo). Only an absolute comic book geek could possibly make heads or tales of all of these stops along the disjointed DC multiverse. But onward I pressed because I was confident that all of this chaos had something to do with the Legion.

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Capture26Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium: Part 2 of 2
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Nicola Scott, Jim Cheung, Jeff Dekal, and Ryan Sook.
DC Comics, October 2019

2 Stars

In Millennium: Part 1, we followed tortured soul, Rose/Thorn, as she journeyed from one dissatisfying DC alternate future to the next. Part 2 continues along the same agonizing path. In the first segment, Rose travels to the 25th century and encounters an overenthusiastic Michael Jon Carter who would go on to become Booster Gold (drawn by Nicola Scott). In the following sequence, Rose meets up with OMAC after “The Great Disaster” (pencils by Jim Cheung). Next, we see Rose freefloating in the depths of space as she attempts to overcome Thorn, her violent second identity (art by Jeff Dekal). And then, finally, FINALLY, Rose somehow comes to grips with her raging inner-turmoil and shows up in 31st Century at the founding ceremony of the Legion of Super-Heroes (pencils by Ryan Sook).


Comments: One of the main reasons why the Legion franchise progressively lost readership over the decades was because it was the mothership of the depressing “Sad Astronaut” genre. While the first three Legion preludes in “Superman” and “Supergirl” were optimistic and coherent, these two Millennium preludes were the epitome of “Sad Astronaut” bleakness and incoherent navel gazing. The only optimism in these two Millennium preludes is the last few pages of Part 2 when Rose shows up at the Legion’s doorstep. I sure hope Bendis keeps things positive and buoyant moving forward.

“I’m bewildered by the “Sad Astronaut” genre and there’s a lot of it in comic books.” – Brian Michael Bendis

Hmm. We’ll see. On the plus side, Nicola Scott’s artwork in Millennium: Part 2 is extraordinary and Ryan Sook, the Legion’s new regular penciller, isn’t far behind. After decades of uncomplimentary artistry adorning Legion tales (e.g. Keith Giffen), it will be sweet having a top-flight illustrator presenting the stories.

Next Up: The Legion of Super-Heroes #1! Yay!

Throwback Thursday: 20 Former Nuns Who Left Roman Catholicism and Accepted Jesus Christ

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. This week, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 28th, 2015 and has been revised.

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The Truth Set Us Free: Twenty Former Nuns Tell Their Stories of God’s Amazing Grace
By Richard Bennett
Solid Ground Christian Books, 2010, 237 pp.

5 Stars

In this valuable book, Richard Bennett,* ex-Catholic priest and director of the Berean Beacon ministry, presents the testimonies of twenty former-nuns who left behind the false gospel legalism and ritualism of Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. The personal accounts average only about eleven pages each so there’s not a lot of detail about Catholic theology, but each testimony is a blessing.

When Christians refer to “cults” they usually have Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in mind, but can there be a practice more “cultish” than a convent full of virginal women who believe they are married to Jesus Christ, replete with wedding rings? The inspiration for the Catholic convent was the convent of the vestal virgins of pagan Rome.

All of the twenty ex-nuns in this book joined their religious “orders” with high expectations, believing they were pleasing God by earning their salvation through self-denial and ritualism, but they found no joy or contentment in the convent. All were introduced to the Word of God and were saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. These women gave up the only life they knew to follow Christ, but what Christian can look back with regret at the corrupt things of this world when the glory of our Savior is before us?

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” – Philippians 3:7-9

I attended a Catholic grammar school for eight years back in the 1960s and was taught by nuns belonging to the order of the Sisters of Mercy. Our parents assumed the nuns were shining examples of love and contentment, but we students witnessed those women as they really were; troubled souls who sometimes vented their frustration, anger, and cruelty on their charges. Sisters Imelda, Annunciata, Tarcisius, Gemma, Mary Ann, and Virgina, whatever became of you??? By God’s grace, were you somehow able to see through through the religious legalism and ritualism you taught to us and find the Savior?

Convents are few and far between these days. The great majority of Catholics can’t even bother to attend obligatory mass on Sunday let alone take up a religious vocation. In 1965, there were 180,000 nuns in the United States, but by 2006 the number had declined dramatically to only 67,000. By 2014, the number had further dropped to 50,000.

These twenty ex-nuns with their testimonies are bold, uncompromising witnesses to lost Roman Catholics and to accommodating and compromising evangelicals who embrace the RCC with its false gospel as a Christian entity.

Copies of “The Truth Set Us Free” are available from Solid Ground Christian Books here.

*The Lord’s faithful servant, ex-priest, Richard Bennett, went home to the Lord on September 23rd, 2019.

DC Comics brings back the Legion of Super-Heroes with ambitious relaunch: Part One

DC Comics originally introduced the Legion of Super-Heroes way back in 1958 and the venerable franchise featuring a team of 30th, then 31st Century super-powered teenage crime-fighters from planets across the galaxy bounced around the DC Universe with several re-boots until it was shelved in 2013 due to low readership. In the last couple of years, members of the Legion made appearances in several titles, giving hope to fans for a relaunch. This past June, DC announced that it was finally returning the Legion, with Brian Michael Bendis as the writer. But it wouldn’t be a hurried revival. To build anticipation and an audience, DC would gradually reintroduce the Legion storyline in five books over a ten-week period prior to the publication of Legion of Super-Heroes #1 on November 6th. I picked up the five prelude books as they were published and am finally getting around to reading and reviewing them. Below are short reviews of the first three prelude books, which will be followed by reviews of the last two next week.


 

Capture20Superman #14: The Unity Saga: The House of El, the Conclusion: Part One
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ivan Reis
DC Comics, August 2019

5 Stars

Superman/Kal-El and his father, Jor-El, are observing the ruins of Krypton from their spaceship when another ship appears bearing Zod, Jax-Ur, and Rogol Zaar, the destroyer of Krypton. Overcome with anger at the site of his former planet, Zod turns on Zaar, destroying their ship, which exposes the trio to deadly radiation. Superman and Jor-El watch momentarily, but Superman cannot allow the trio to die and intervenes. Supergirl and Superboy then show up and join in the fray. Units of the elite Thangarian Black Guard suddenly arrive and arrest everyone, but just as the dust is settling, the warlike Khunds invade Thangar. With the galaxy on the verge of absolute chaos and self-destruction, Superboy pleads for an inter-galactic governing body to resolve conflicts, in the mold of the United Nations. Superman seconds the motion, but the distrusting representatives of other planets are hesitant. At that moment, the Legion of Super-Heroes arrives from the 31st Century, honoring Superboy for initially inspiring the United Planets intergalactic federation, which continues to guide the galaxy in the future. In gratitude, the Legion invites Superboy/Jon Kent to become a member. But did the Legion jump the gun? It doesn’t appear a consensus had yet been reached regarding the proposed United Planets. Keep reading.*


Capture21Supergirl #33: The House of El: United: Finale
Writer: Marc Andreyko, Penciller: Kevin Maguire
DC Comics, September 2019

4 Stars

The plotline for this book is very similar to that of Superman #14, above, but the story is told from Supergirl’s perspective.

Supergirl and Superboy come to Superman’s aid in capturing Rogol Zaar, the destroyer of Krypton, but, like everyone else, are arrested by the Thangarian Black Guard. The Khunds suddenly attack Thangar and Superboy wistfully proposes a peaceful “time-out.” Superman expounds on the idea by suggesting some type of agency for intergalactic cooperation. As representatives of the galaxy’s planets mull over the proposal, the Legion of Super-Heroes suddenly arrive from the 31st Century to commemorate the historic origin of what would become the United Planets. In a subsequent private moment, Supergirl has a virtual conversation with Z’ndr Kol, an apparent romantic interest, and relates that the Legion has invited Jon Kent/Superboy to become a member. Supergirl then says her goodbyes to her cousin, Superman, and finally returns to Earth after her year-long crusade to bring Rogol Zaar, the destroyer of Krypton, to justice.


Capture22Superman #15: The Unity Saga: The House of El, the Conclusion: Part Two
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciller: Ivan Reis
DC Comics, September 2019

5 Stars

The book begins with Superman commiserating with Adam Strange following the events detailed in the two previous reviews. We then find out that the Legion did arrive prematurely* because of Brainiac 5’s miscalculation. But the Legion’s testimony to the success of the United Planets convinces the gathered planetary representatives to unite and to mark the occasion in perpetuity as “Unity Day.” Superboy then mulls over the Legion’s invitation to join them in the 31st century. Adam Strange informs Superman that his father, Jor-El, has been convicted of the crime of creating Rogol Zaar and sentenced to return back in time to Krypton at the precise moment before the planet was destroyed. A sorrowful Superman, along with Supergirl and Superboy, establish a truce with General Zod, his wife, Ursa, and their son, Lor-Zod. With the crisis over and the United Planets established, the Els return to Earth.


Commentary: I jumped into this Superman storyline, endstream, but Bendis made it relatively painless. I quickly picked up the drift of what was going on. Of course, I especially enjoyed the re-introduction of the Legion! Brainy’s time miscalculation was a humorous slant. Excellent stories! Regarding Unity Day, Bendis no doubt had in mind the complete disunity in American politics these days. Pencillers, Ivan Reis, Kevin Maguire, and the rest of the illustration team do a fantastic job! Comic art has advanced by leaps and bounds since the Silver Age.

Next up: Next week, we’ll be reviewing the remaining two preludes; The Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1 and #2.

Postscript: I was a fan of the Legion back in 1966-1968 and checked in every so often for 45 years until DC pulled the plug in 2013. See the index to my reviews of 35 Silver Age Legion of Super-Heroes tales here.

Trivia alert: It’s no coincidence that Superman/Kal-El’s surname is “El.” El is a shortening of Elohim, one of the Hebrew words for God, and Kal-El could be interpreted as “voice of God” or “vessel of God.” Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, were both Jewish. In several aspects, the Superman mythos resembles the story of Moses.