Michael Caine

I wonder what’s gonna happen to Harry Brown now?

This weekend I was planning to be at UCCF’s Biblical Evangelism Conference, which I believe is essentially a weekend of training on giving evangelistic talks from the Bible (though the snow meant I ended up not going). In keeping with that, I though it might be worth commenting on two quotes I came across a while ago from quite different sources.

The first is from a BBC interview which Mark Lawson conducted with Sir Michael Caine.  At one point (3:42 into the linked clip) Michael Caine says

If the audience is sitting there saying ‘Oh, isn’t Michael Caine a wonderful actor!’ then I’ve done it all wrong. They should be saying ‘I wonder what’s gonna happen to Harry Brown now?’

Michael Caine wants to be transparent, a mere window into the character he is portraying. His only intention is to reveal to us Harry Brown. There is a strong parallel with how Jesus lived, perfectly revealing His Father.

As I and others learn about giving evangelistic talks, this is how we need to speak. We are not to point to ourselves, but to another. If the audience is sitting there saying ‘Oh, isn’t Tim a wonderful speaker!’ then I’ve done it all wrong.

During the 1880s a group of American ministers visited England, prompted especially by a desire to hear some of celebrated preachers of that land.

On a Sunday morning they attended the City Temple where Dr. Joseph Parker was the pastor. Some two thousand people filled the building, and Parker’s forceful personality dominated the service. His voice was commanding, his language descriptive, his imagination lively, and his manner animated. The sermon was scriptural, the congregation hung upon his words, and the Americans came away saying, “What a wonderful preacher is Joseph Parker!”

In the evening they went to hear Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The building was much larger than the City Temple, and the congregation was more than twice the size. Spurgeon’s voice was much more expressive and moving and his oratory noticeably superior. But they soon forgot all about the great building, the immense congregation, and the magnificent voice. They even overlooked their intention to compare the various features of the two preachers, and when the service was over they found themselves saying, “What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus Christ!”

Spurgeon: a new biography by Arnold Dallimore, p216

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The immortal Sir Michael Caine

In today’s Metro newspaper there is a brief interview with Sir Michael Caine, who is currently promoting his latest film, ‘Is Anybody There?’. I’ve not seen the film, but what really grabbed my attention was Michael’s answer to the interviewer’s pertinent question about death.

Do sombre films about dying make you think about your own mortality?
I never think about my own mortality. No, no, you must never do that. I always have so many plans for what I’m doing. I’ve behaved my entire life as if I’m immortal.

Clearly Michael Caine doesn’t like to think about death, but it is the only certain thing in his life. Whether or not he will win an oscar for his performance is unknown. Whether or not he will be in the next batman film is unknown. That he will die is known. It saddens me that he deliberately and consciously chooses not to ponder or prepare for this eventuality.

It’s not an uncommon way of living. In day to day life, I suspect most of us behave as if we’re immortal. Death is not something we like to think about, so we simply don’t think about it. Maybe this is because people want to avoid the unpleasant. Maybe many think there is nothing we can do about death, so there is no point wasting time thinking about it. Neither are good reasons to not think about one’s own death.

We should never avoid the unpleasant simply because it is unpleasant. Many things which are beneficial to us are unpleasant. The child who refuses to eat vegetables will end up with a vitamin deficiency. The person who refuses to exercise finds themselves unable to run for a bus. While there is obviously no point in looking for unpleasantness for its own sake, avoiding it for its own sake is equally foolish.

Poor as the first reason is, the second is much worse. There is something we can do about death. But first we must consider what death is. Death is the absence of life. No surprises there. But what is life? Jesus said life was more than having a heartbeat, more than filling and emptying our lungs with a multiplicity of gases. He taught that life is knowing God. If He was right, then death is not knowing God, and its nature changes radically. It doesn’t take a genius to see that we don’t inherently know what God is like, let alone know Him personally (just look at the many and varied gods people have worshipped over the years). Rather than knowing we will die, we find out we are already dead! But Jesus said more than that. He said He could give people eternal life – an eternity of knowing God. Indeed, this is the very reason Jesus was born and died, and the means by which we are enabled to know God’s love.

You can read the full interview online. ‘Is Anybody There?’ can be bought cheaply online.