Tuesday - Beauty in Life and Film

Thoughtfully Exploring

Today students dug into the good work of discussion and exploration. 

Students heard from Joshua Damu Smith, he is a professor at Biola and just joined the Torrey Honors faculty. Students know him as a generous and thoughtful teacher. He spoke powerfully in exhortation with both student tracks on 1 John. You can hear his talk to the first time students below!

One of our emphasis at this camp is also developing student’s prayer life. We treat prayer as an essential part of student’s development throughout the week. Each year we have a member of our staff who is hired as a counselor. Their role is to pray for the camp and lead two sessions on prayer for students. 

Julie Barrios is our counselor this year and she lead a beautiful and meditative prayer session. She shared how prayer is a natural state for us: we were made to commune with and talk to God, yet because of the fall we are distracted and find ourselves distant. 

Here is what Julie prayed:

“Lord, you have chosen to dwell in these students.

You care about them. Their likes and dislikes, 

Help them connect with Him who dwells there.

God seeks you – run to him like a little child." 

 Peter David Gross’ talk to the alumni challenged them to apply lessons learned at Wheatstone to their own lives and communities. 

  • What is keeping you from having a mind awake?
  • How will you build community when you go home?
  • What does it mean to grow up? 
  • What makes a good friend?

Then came Dr. John Mark Reynolds’ yearly talk on "Beauty in The Mind of God." This is an artful and complex talk which is accompanied by a dynamic powerpoint. 

The key proposition is: is beauty an objective truth? If so, what implications does that have for faith and society? If not, what does the resulting subjectivity do to our perceptions of ourselves, each other and the the natural world?

Beauty actually has a strong Biblical presence and mandate. See: Psalm 96:6, Exodus 28:2, Psalm 27:4 for starting reference. He argues for an objective view of beauty: with it we can learn to appreciate hidden and apparent beauty, treasure our bodies and live jollier and happier lives. Cultivating  beauty means: 

  •  Listening to artists, especially artists in the church
  • View an increase in knowledge about beauty as possible and highly delirious
  • Avoid Utility as the highest good, unless beauty is also counted as useful
  • Strive to live harmonious, orderly lives


The crowning event of the day is the Tuesday film viewing. Student groups got to choose between Arrival (2016), Wall E (2008), and The Third Man (1949). We pick films as a way to give students another kind of text in a new medium to think through thoughtfully. Viewing a film in the context of our theme pushes students away from consumerism and shows them film too can act as a philosophical text.

These three films were chosen for their relevance to the themes of shadows, light, darkness and uncertainty. Groups went to their film together and participated in a discussion afterward.

(Light spoilers ahead for the three films)

Wall E |  is a 2008 Pixar film that follows WallE a waste compacter robot who is cleaning up a trash-apocalypse which has rendered earth uninhabitable. His daily routine is interrupted by Eve, a sleek explorer robot sent from humanity’s mothership: the Axiom. Eve is looking for signs that earth is habitable again and in doing so meets Walle. The two embark on an interstellar adventure to regenerate humanity after 50+ years sequestered in space. (pc: Digital Spy)


Students discussed:

  • The role of love in the story
  • Who is human?
  • What does this film have to say about human blindness?
  • How does the theme of regeneration play in the film?
  • How is love transformative?

Arrival | 2016 is a science-fiction, first encounter story that follows a linguistic professor asked to help communicate with aliens that have touched down on earth. She must collaborate with a fellow physicist. Together they need to solve the mysteries of not only the alien’s inscrutable language, but also why the aliens came and what effect they are having on the international community. (pc: cinemamontreal.com)


Students discussed:

  • How do we arrive at conclusions?
  • How do we use and attain knowledge?
  • What is the film’s view of time?
  • How would knowing about future pain affect your decision to love? 

The Third Man | 1949 A brilliant and arresting film noir, the story follows Holli Martins, an American pulp-fiction writer, who arrives in Vienna, Austria at the request of an old friend: Harry Lime. He arrives  to find that his friend has died only a few hours before under mysterious circumstances. Martins attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery, naively bouncing between Lime’s old cohort and the Russian and British Police. The truth turns out to be far more terrible and perplexing than either Martins or Anna, Lime’s paramour, could imagine. (pc: learningandcreativity.com

third man.jpg

Students discussed:

  • Who is Harry Lime?
  • How do the black and white colors influence your viewing of the film?
  • What is the overall tone of the film?
  • Who is human at the end of the film?
  • Do the characters change why or why not?

These film discussions are informal: reactions are shared, students disagree and the "film as text" leaves a lasting impression that can later be picked up during discussions in the following days. Tuesday challenges students to change and grow in response to the big moments of beauty, prayer and joy that we put them through.

May we we all seek to go further up and further in.