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My Concerns With The Passion of the Christ
January 23, 2004
The Passion of the Christ goes against everything I believe in. Or more accurately, it goes against everything I was raised to believe in. In the tradition I was raised (Canadian Reformed Church) movies were generally regarded as a sinful form of entertainment. Going to a theatre was to bring oneself into the “playground of the ungodly.” Portraying Christ in any way, even in a picture in a child’s story Bible was considered wrong. And of course Catholicism and Ecumenicism were wrong. It seems to me that The Passion of the Christ contains all of those elements.
Movies are bad. I occasionally go to the movies and enjoy doing so. I try to be discerning with what I watch, but do not regard movies as a medium as evil. Similarly I do not consider theatres a bad place to go. So this does not concern me much. A movie with a Christian theme and message can be edifying.
Portraying Christ is wrong. I am undecided about this. Though I do find it very difficult to watch someone portray Jesus, I do understand that there can be value in this and that the Bible does not seem to specifically say it is wrong. Provided that He is portrayed accurately and respectfully I think I can live with this.
Catholicism is wrong. I believe strongly that Catholicism represents a false gospel – a gospel that conflicts with the “5 solas” that Protestantism traditionally holds so dear and that many Protestants died defending. Mel Gibson is Catholic and holds to Catholic teachings and doctrine. During filming a priest attended the location every morning to hold mass and celebrate the Eucharist. There is no doubt that Gibson is making this movie as an expression of his beliefs. It is a necessary conclusion, then, that his beliefs could come into conflict with Protestant beliefs.
Despite that, the Catholic view of the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life is based on the same texts as the Protestant view. If the movie holds very closely to the account as presented in the gospels, there is little reason to think it will showcase Catholic teachings. If the Biblical account is followed with accuracy, it should not matter much whether the movie-maker is Protestant, Catholic or any other religion. The prominent concern I have in this regard is how they present and portray Mary. In the gospel account she receives very little attention and plays only a small role. In this regard a reviewer has said “It truly is a great depiction of the passion of Christ with the theological emphasis on Mary’s role in the Church, the wickedness of Satan, and the Eucharist in connection with the crucifixion itself.” Reviews that include such information do little to increase my confidence. It is possible, of course, that the reviewer is interpreting what he has seen through his theological presuppositions and that a Protestant viewer would see things far differently. Still, it seems obvious that this movie will do nothing to show where Catholic doctrine is wrong and Protestant doctrine is right.
Ecumenicism is wrong. I take a strong stand against Catholicism, not because I dislike Catholics, but because to ally Protestantism and Catholicism is to ally ourselves with a false gospel and to deny the principles that led to the Reformation. This movie has already crossed denominational boundaries. The Passion Outreach site lists quotes from many church leaders, all of whom endorse this movie. The list begins with Protestants such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren and James Dobson, but then turns to Catholic Archbishops and professors. Interestingly, the bulk of the Protestants listed have in the past made it obvious that they lean towards ecumenicism. I wonder if they showed the movie to Reformed Christians like MacArthur, Sproul and Piper. I wonder what their view of it would be.
Probably my greatest concern is that there is no distinction made between denominations. If this movie is to become the outreach opportunity that many are saying it will be, it seems there is likely to be as many people being evangelized by Catholics and Protestants. Even more alarming is that no one seems to care.
I am not ashamed to say that this movie makes me nervous. I see the potential for this to be a wonderful opportunity for evangelism. There is little doubt that many people will see this movie and be stirred by it. They will be stirred emotionally and perhaps spiritually. Is it not the job of the church to reach out to these people and to provide them answers to the questions they are sure to have? Or is this just another example of Christian pragmatism where we feel that the end justifies the means? Could it be that we care less about what is Biblical than what brings results? I continue to have more questions than answers at the moment.