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Movie Review: The Passion of the Christ (Part Three)
February 27, 2004
This site has never experienced traffic like it has had over the past two days following my review of The Passion of the Christ. At the time of writing this twenty five people have posted comments about the story and I have received many more comments via email. Surprisingly it seems many people agree with my assessments in so far as I say that the movie is the gospel on a macro level but anything but the gospel on the micro level. It seems other people also worry about the way this movie blurs distinctions between Protestant and Catholic, the Bible and Tradition, Scripture and mysticism.
The question I have been pondering since Wednesday is this: how should the church react to this movie? Do believers have a responsibility towards this movie? In light of the movies obvious problems, what do we do? These questions have troubled me deeply.
I have a few thoughts on this I would like to share:
First I would like to say that I harbor no resentment towards Christians who watch this movie and even enjoy it and are inspired by it. That really should go without saying, yet I feel that I should point it out.
God uses weakness. Few people would believe that the events of September 11 were set in motion by God as an opportunity to reach unbelievers. Yet the events did cause people to flock to the churches as they felt pain and sorrow and emptiness. It was a very spiritual time that God used to draw people to Himself. God was able to use a terrible situation for His glory.
In Acts we read about Paul preaching to the Athenians and he did two surprising things. One of them was to quote the popular pagan poetry of the day and use it to help the people understand what he was preaching. The second thing he did was refer to the unknown God. Again, he used paganism to make a point. He did not endorse paganism, yet he used it to meet the people where they were at.
I do believe God can and will use this movie. I find it difficult to believe that the movie in and of itself will bring people to faith, but I do believe it will raise questions and stir hearts. We know that the Holy Spirit begins to stir the hearts of those He calls. He may do so through times of great joy, but more often it is through times of sorrow. This movie stirs the emotions, leaving people sorrowful though they may not know why. Though “weak,” God can use this to draw people to Himself.
If God is stirring the hearts of people through this movie, however weak it may be, is it not our responsibility as Christians to provide answers to people who may be asking questions? We know that the window of opportunity may be short, for hearts that are open close quickly and then become more hardened.
The difficult task for me is reconciling a movie that I believe is filled with blatantly wrong theology with the fact that God may still use it for His glory. How am I to react? To praise the movie without reservation would be wrong, for I cannot, in good conscience, say that this movie accurately presents the story of Jesus’ death. I cannot unreservedly recommend that people see this film. I fear the pragmatism of our day that would say the results will prove this movie to be in line with God’s will, for the Bible clearly shows it is not.
The more I pondered the movie the more I realized that the movie itself was not the source of my despair. Mel Gibson has made a movie that presumably presents an accurate representation of his faith. His faith and my faith stand opposed to each other as the faith of a convinced Catholic and convinced Protestant should. I came to realize that what bothered me most about the film was that person after person has insisted that it represents an unbiased and accurate presentation of the gospels, yet this was simply not the case. The Protestant churches were willing to overlook the obviously anti-Protestant theology in order to use it to reach people. I truly believe for many people the rightness or wrongness of this movie took a back seat to the perceived results.
So what are we to do? We have a terribly flawed movie and yet we know that God may use it.
Certainly we need to be prepared to help people answer the questions they may have. We need to be able to discern what the movie presented accurately and what it did not. We need to encourage people to understand why Jesus had to suffer and die and to explain just who is responsible for His death. We have to face the possibility that we will need to help people understand that much of the movie was fictitious, borrowing from extra-Biblical writing to provide many of the important details of the movie. We need to understand and explain the resurrection, without which this story is incomplete. None of this presupposes that we need to support or endorse the movie – just that we are aware of it and aware of the content.
Perhaps most important is to stand for truth. Realize that this movie is not the Bible. Believe and understand the value of the Scriptures, the written, living, breathing Word of God which isn’t 80% true, isn’t 99% true but is 100% true and absolutely perfect. Ask God to send people with questions in your direction. Ask people if they have seen the movie and ask their thoughts on it. Point them to Word which has the power to do what no movie can.
We do not need to be part of the problem, but we can all be part of the solution. Ultimately we can be part of God’s plan for the furtherance of His kingdom.